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PROPOSAL TO CHANGE THE NAME
follows : In the government of this commonwealth, the legislative department shall never exercise the executive and judicial powers or either of them; the executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers or either of them; the judicial shall never exercise the legislative powers, or either of them; to the end it may be a government of laws and not of men.” It need not be supposed that all those who spoke of “the government of laws and not of men ” were consciously quoting Harrington, but we know that Adams himself attributed the English translation of this classical phrase to him. Other phrases and features of the constitution may perhaps be referred to the same source ; but guesswork is unprofitable. It is more important to emphasise the one certain fact that we have.
The opening words of the Frame of Government run as follows : “ The people inhabiting the territory heretofore (formerly] called the Province of Massachusetts Bay, do hereby solemnly and mutually agree with each other to form themselves into a free sovereign, and independent body politic, or State, by the Name of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.' During the discussion of this in the Convention we read that on a motion made and seconded, that the word Massachusetts' be expunged, and that the word 'Oceana' be substituted, the same was put and passed in the negative.” 2
We just read the bare entry in the Journal of the Convention and we hear no more about it. It may have been a satirical proposal accusing Adams of plagiarism, or it may have been a serious suggestion by some Harringtonian enthusiast, to whom the word Oceana naturally followed the word Common
*Cf. John Adams “Works," iv. 106. " Journal of the Convention," p. 43.
OF MASSACHUSETTS TO OCEANA
wealth. In the old days as colony, as province, and even as state, the title Massachusetts Bay had been used. But in the constitution which was now being proposed the word Bay was to be dropped and the title of Commonwealth was to be assumed. As this slight alteration was to be made it is quite intelligible that a larger alteration should be thought desirable. The only other State that had an Indian name was Connecticut. Oceana was a not unsuitable name for a maritime state, whose citizens gained their livelihood largely from the sea. And it was a
And it was a name that would show to the world the efforts which had been made by the authors of the constitution to establish the most perfect republican government they could.
But, whether satirical or serious, the proposal seems to show that people connected Adams' political ideas with Harrington and saw the influence of Oceana in the proposed constitution.
We can hardly say that there was a cult of Harrington in New England, but his name was held in peculiar veneration. James Otis, the first of the Massachusetts revolutionaries, spoke of
the great, the incomparable Harrington and “his Oceana and other divine writings."i Dr Stiles, in a sermon preached at Hartford in 1783 in order to eulogise New England, declared that she had
“ realised the capital ideas of Oceana.”3 John Adams was one of the most fervent devotees that Harrington ever had. We find his son, when President of the United States, turning to Harrington to look up some political point. H. G. Otis, mayor of Boston in 1830, appeals to the memory of “the Lockes and
Rights of the British Colonies,” and edition, p. 10.
ADAMS' DEFENCE OF THE
Sidneys and Miltons and Harringtons.” 1
In 1853 Rufus Choate, one of the leading lawyers and citizens of the day, in allusion to Harrington, besought his fellow members to spare the “historical phrases of the old glorious school of liberty ... as they would spare the general English of the Bible." 2 And the number of copies of Harrington's works which have found their way
into the Boston Public Library and Boston Athenæum is a further evidence of his popularity.
But we must return to our discussion of Adams. His work was not finished when he had planned the government of his native state, but he was called upon to leave the immediate scene of action in order to represent his country in European diplomacy. He found both in England and France a lively interest being taken in the experimental State Constitutions. The merits of the Constitutions of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts were respectively canvassed by supporters of single- and double-chamber government. To facilitate discussion and to arouse greater interest French translations were made of their frames of government. The old battle began again, and the arguments that had been used by Milton and Nedham or the supporters of the Long Parliament against Harrington or the Cromwellians were again repeated. Dr Price, whose pamphlets met with a wonderful popularity, was backed up by Turgot and Mirabeau in his eulogies of the concentration of power. Not only was double-chamber government laughed at, but the whole system of checks and balances and the idea of the government of laws was attacked with biting criticism.
i Colonial Society. of Massachusetts "Publications," v. 288 · Massachusetts Convention Debates, p. 120. • A copy of “Oceana" was in the library of Harvard as early as 1723.
CONSTITUTIONS OF THE UNITED STATES 197
The attack made little impression in America. Even Pennsylvania resorted to double - chamber government after four years. But Adams not unnaturally regarded European criticism as partially personal, for he took pride in the part that he himself had played in forming the State Constitutions. He therefore determined to take up his cudgels in their defence. The work which he produced was as monumental as it was disorderly, consisting of a. review of the systems of government in Europe since classical times and an account of the great political writers, philosophers, and historians as far as they threw any light on the theory of checks and balances.1
The first part of the “ Defence of the Constitutions of the United States was published in 1787 and transmitted immediately to America. It was read by the delegates assembled at Philadelphia to form the Federal Constitution, and it may have confirmed some in their allegiance to the system of checks and balances. But in the present connection it is important not so much for the influence which it may have exercised as for the additional light which it throws on the history of Adams' political ideas. Adams himself claimed that it also threw light on the political ideas of other American statesmen of the time. “ As the writer was personally acquainted with most of the gentlemen in each of the States, who had the principal share in the first drafts,” he wrote in the preface,“ the following work was really written to lay before the public a specimen of that kind of reading and reasoning which produced the
· The treatment is historical, and systems of government and writers are marshalled in much the same way as they were marshalled by Harrington to prove the theory of the balance of property, and the value of separating debate and result.
American constitutions.” 1 As far as the gentlemen to whom he refers are concerned, it is probable that Harrington's influence is exaggerated and the space which is allotted to him among the political writers is unduly liberal. But of Adams' own debt to Harrington there can be no doubt, and the “Defence affords fresh proof. The point, which was really at the root of Adams' advocacy of double-chamber government was Harrington's conception of the
natural aristocracy” which exists in all communities. His argument was this. These natural aristocrats, being born leaders, would at once become tyrants, if benevolent tryants, under a single-chamber system. The only way to avoid this contradiction of the republican principle of the “
government of laws" is to give them a chamber to themselves, where they will serve as a check to the more popular house. “ The great art of lawgiving,” he wrote later, sists in balancing the poor against the rich in the legislature.” 3 Adams was enough of a democrat to believe in the sovereignty of the people; and he felt that this was secured by the balance of property in America, nineteen-twentieths of the land being in possession of the people. But he was determined to save his country from the extreme form of democracy. Double-chamber government seemed to him one of the most useful safeguards against it, and in advocating it he made an effective use of the arguments which Harrington had employed for his own peculiar double-chamber system. In short, gather from this book that it was from Harrington
1 Adams, “Works,” iv. 293.
· Ibid. iv. 404 and 410-12. Besides Harrington's description of the natural aristocracy and the government of laws he quotes the passage about the two girls and the cake. See above, p. 51.
* Ibid. vi. 280.
• Ibid. iv. 359.