Mr. Adams’ Views & Understanding of Constitutional Republicanism for Liberty – Today!

With all that is happening in modern lack of good governance this letter as Governor, Mr. Adams addresses the State Legislature and the Citizenry with great knowledge of how a Republic is to function to preserve Life, Liberty and Property (also considered happiness).  We must raise up statesmen and stateswomen for our states and nation to preserve Liberty.  Let Mr. Adams be an example for you.

TO THE LEGISLATURE OF MASSACHUSETTS.

JANUARY 19, 1796.

[Independent Chronicle, January 21, 1796]

FELLOW CITIZENS,

I CANNOT but congratulate you upon the many blessings which the bountiful hand of Providence has bestowed upon us since your adjournment.

We with our Fellow Citizens at large have observed a day solemnly to recognize these blessings; and if sincere obedience to our gracious Benefactor, shall accompany the gratitude which we then professed, we may humbly rely upon him that he will continue his divine favors to the citizens at large, and direct the public councils of our Nation and Commonwealth to such measures as shall be productive of the safety and welfare of all.

In my former address to this General Court I mentioned the duty required by the (state) Constitution, frequently to revise the laws, and amend such of them as may still be necessary to secure the lives, liberty and property of the citizens — The importance of civil commutative justice and the good policy of making adequate compensations to those who administer well — and the great advantages of cherishing the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them among the body of the people. Upon these I shall not now enlarge.

Agriculture and Commerce mutually depend upon each other. As foreign markets are supplied from our fields, it is an object of importance, that the transportation of heavy articles, and means of communication from one part of the State to another, may be rendered as easy and cheap as the nature of the country will admit. By the spirit of enterprize, which so remarkably animates the citizens, countenanced by the Legislature, much has been done and is still doing in various parts of the Commonwealth.

The improvement of Arts and Manufactures is of interesting moment. The encouragement of such manufactures in particular, as will diminish the consumption of Foreign Articles and exhibit a real balance in our favor, is the common concern of the whole Union — Such encouragement as will spread the spirit of Industry individually through the body of the people, will tend to increase their happy feelings of Independence, and give them an exalted idea of the truly noble character of Free Citizens. Industry naturally leads to sobriety of sentiment, rectitude of manners, a due observance of wise and constitutional laws, and of course to public and private virtue.

Fellow Citizens,

IT is wisdom often to recur to first principles. The people of this Commonwealth, as well as those of the United States, have voluntarily formed such constitutions of government, as they have judged well adapted to secure their own political safety.  These Constitutions are founded upon the same principles; and they avow the great and fundamental political truth that all power is derived from the people.

As these and all new forms of Government which recognize principles, never reduced to practice until the period of our illustrious Revolution must be in their nature experiments, the provision of a peaceable and constitutional remedy for such defects as experience may point out, is with great propriety established in our State and National Governments.  The citizens of this Commonwealth, have lately discovered their acquiescence under their Constitution as it now stands. But it still remains recorded in our declaration of rights, that the people alone have an incontestible, unalienable and indefeasible right to institute government; & to reform, alter, or totally change the same when their protection, safety, prosperity and happiness require it. And the Federal Constitution, according to the mode prescribed therein has already undergone such amendments in several parts of it, as from experience has been judged necessary.

The Government of the United States is entrusted solely with such powers as regard our safety as a nation; and all powers not given to Congress by the Constitution remain in the individual States and the people. In all good Governments the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary powers are confined within the limits of their respective Departments. If therefore it should be found that the Constitutional rights of our federal and local Governments should on either side be infringed, or that either of the Departments aforesaid should interfere with another, it will, if continued, essentially alter the Constitution, and may in time, I hope far distant, be productive of such convulsions as may shake the political ground upon which we now happily stand.

Under these impressions, I cannot forbear to mention to you a subject which has lately arrested the public attention and employed the pens of ingenious men of different sentiments concerning it. In discussing a subject so exceedingly momentous as a national Treaty, no personal attachment or prejudice, no private or selfish feelings, no arts of deception should be suffered to intermingle: Truth should be the object, and reason the guide.

By the Constitution of the United States, it is provided, that all Legislative powers therein granted, shall be vested in a Congress, to consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives. These several branches have, and exercise a positive negative upon each other: No Legislative act, therefore, can pass without their joint concurrence. But in another part of the Constitution, under the head of Executive, the President has the power with the advice and consent of the Senate, provided two thirds of the Senate present, concur, to make Treaties; and all Treaties which are made or shall be made under the authority of the United States, shall be among the Supreme Laws of the Land: The Senate therefore partakes with the Executive, so far as to advise and consent; but the most popular branch of Congress has no concern therein. I do earnestly recommend to you to turn your attention to those parts of the Constitution, at least, which relate to the Legislative and Executive powers, and judge for yourself, whether they may not be construed to militate with each other and lead to an absurd conclusion– that there actually exists in the Government of the United States, two distinct and decisive Legislatives.

I am far from being desirous that unnecessary alterations of our Constitution, should be proposed: but it is of great consequence to the liberties of a nation, to review its civil Constitution and compare the practice of its administrators with the essential principles upon which it is founded. We, fellow-citizens, are under the strongest obligations, from the solemnity of our mutual compacts, and even our sacred oaths, with a watchful eye at every point to defend and support our Constitutions; and to strengthen the essential principles upon which they are founded, when it shall be needful, falls in my opinion within those solemn obligations.

I hope, fellow-citizens, that what I am now about to say will not be deemed improper.

I have been accustomed to speak my mind upon matters of great moment to our common country with freedom; and every citizen of the United States has the same right that I have. I may never hereafter have an opportunity of publicly expressing my opinion on the Treaty made with the Court of London: I am therefore constrained with all due respect to our Constituted Authority to declare, that the Treaty appears to me to be pregnant with evil. It controuls some of the powers specially vested in Congress for the security of the people; and I fear that it may restore to Great Britain such an influence over the Government and people of this country as may not be consistent with the general welfare. This subject however it is expected will come before the Congress whose immediate province it is to discuss it, and to determine, so far as it may be in their power, as they shall think, for the safety and welfare of the people.

I shall use my best endeavor to dispatch the business which you shall lay before me. And it is my cordial wish that all your decisions may tend to the prosperity of the Commonwealth, and afford to you the most agreeable reflections.

 

SAMUEL ADAMS.

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