Popular Basis of Political Authority

CHAPTER 2 | Document 11

Samuel Adams to Noah Webster

30 Apr. 1784Writings 4:305--6

I hope it will not be in the Power of any designing Men, by imposing upon credulous tho' well meaning Persons long to keep this Country, who may be happy if they will, long in a State of Discord & Animosity. We may see, from the present State of Great Britain, how rapidly such a Spirit will drive a Nation to destruction. It is prudent for the People to keep a watchful Eye over the Conduct of all those who are entrusted with Publick Affairs. Such Attention is the Peoples great Security. But there is Decency & Respect due to Constitutional Authority, and those Men, who under any Pretence or by any Means whatever, would lessen the Weight of Government lawfully exercised, must be Enemies to our happy Revolution & the Common Liberty. County Conventions & popular Committees servd an excellent Purpose when they were first in Practice. No one therefore needs to regret the Share he may then have had in them. But I candidly own it is my Opinion, with Deferrence to the Opinions of other Men, that as we now have constitutional & regular Governments and all our Men in Authority depend upon the annual & free Elections of the People, we are safe without them. To say the least, they are become useless. Bodies of Men, under any Denomination whatever, who convene themselves for the Purpose of deliberating upon & adopting Measures which are cognizable by Legislatures only will, if continued, bring Legislatures to Contempt & Dissolution. If the publick Affairs are illy conducted, if dishonest or incapable Men have crept unawares into Government, it is happy for us, that under our American Constitutions the Remedy is at hand, & in the Power of the great Body of the People. Due Circumspection & Wisdom at the next Elections will set all right, without the Aid of any self Created Conventions or Societies of Men whatever. While we retain those simple Democracies in all our Towns which are the Basis of our State Constitutions, and make a good Use of them, it appears to me we cannot be enslaved or materially injured. It must however be confessd, that Imperfection attends all human affairs.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 2, Document 11
The University of Chicago Press

The Writings of Samuel Adams. Edited by Harry Alonzo Cushing. 4 vols. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904--8.

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