Friday, December 19, 2014

Abigail Adams on Human Nature

During the Revolutionary Era, not all were on board to fight the British.  Some were called "Loyalists" and rightfully so because they pledged their allegiance to the British Crown.  Yet, even some Patriots questioned the effectiveness of a new government without British control.  In her November 27, 1775 letter to husband and "dear friend" John Adams, Abigail Adams voiced her concerns:


"If a form of Government is to be established here what one will be assumed?  Will it be left to our assemblies to chuse one?  And will not many men have many minds?  And shall we not run into Dissentions among ourselves?"


Here she notes her sentiments about the nature of man.  (Note, it rings similar to James Madison's later pronouncement in The Federalist No. 51 that, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."):


"I am more and more convinced that Man is a dangerous creature, and that power whether vested in man or a few is ever grasping, and like the grave cries, give, give.  The great fish swallow up the small, and he who is most strenuous for the Rights of the people, when vested with power, is as eager after the perogatives of Government.  You tell me of degrees of perfection to which Human nature is capable of arriving, and I believe it, but at the same time lament that our admiration should arise from the scarcity of the instances."

Check out this letter and more:

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 27 November 1775,” Founders Online, National Archives ( [last update: 2014-12-01]). Source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 1, December 1761May 1776, ed. Lyman H. Butterfield. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963, pp. 328–331.

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