July 10, 2011


Gordon Wood, ed., John Adams: Revolutionary Writings 1775-1783 (New York: Library of America, 2011) (From 'Thoughts on Government, Applicable to the Present State of the American Colonies': "Fear is the foundation of most governments; but is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men, in whose breasts it predominates, so stupid, and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it." Id. at 50. "LAWS for liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class of people, are so extremely wise and useful, that to a humane and generous mind, no expence for this purpose would be thought extravagant." Id. at 55. Since twenty-first-century American society is abandoning liberal education (for example, the gutting of the liberal arts in universities and colleges), then, by negative implication, we may sense that our society is something less than wise, humane and generous of mind. From "From the Autobiography": "The Chief Magistrate of the Town of Ferrol, is The Corregidor. For the Province or Kingdom of Gallicia, there is as Souvereign Court of Justice, which has both civil and criminal Jurisdiction. In all criminal Cases it is without Appeal, but in some civil Cases an Appeal lies to the Council at Madrid. There is no time allowed in criminal Cases for an Application for pardon, for they execute forthwith. Hanging is the Capital Punishment. They burn sometimes but it is after death. There was lately a Sentence for Parricide. The Law required that the Criminal should be headed up in a hogshead with an Adder, a Toad, a Dog and a Cat and cast into the Sea. But I was much pleased to hear that Spanish humanity had suggested and Spanish Ingenuity invented a Device to avoid some part of the Cruelty and horror of this punishment. They had painted those Animals on the Cask and the dead body was put into it, without any living Animals to attend it to its watery Grave. The ancient Laws of the Visigoth are still in Use, and these, with the Institutes, Codes, Novelles &c. of Justinian, the Canon Law and the Ordinances of the King, constitute the Laws of the Kingdom of Gallicia." Id. at 677-678.).