Wednesday, May 2, 2012

To John Adams   10.28.1813
I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men.  The grounds of this are virtue and talents. Formerly bodily powers gave place among the aristoi.  But since the invention of gunpowder has armed the weak as well as the strong with missile death, bodily strength, like beauty, good humor, politeness and other accomplishments, has become but an auxiliary ground of distinction.

There is also an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth without either virtue or talents, for with these it would belong to the first class.

The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society.  And indeed it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society.

May we not even say that the form of government is the best which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government?  The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government and provision should be made to prevent its ascendency.

On the question  what is the best provision, you and I differ but we differ as rational friends using the free exercise of our own reason and mutually indulging its errors.  You think it best to put the pseudo-aristoi into a separate chamber of legislation where they may be hindered from doing mischief by their co-ordinate branches and where also they may be a protection to wealth against the agrarian and plundering enterprises of the majority of the people.

I think that to give them power in order to prevent them from doing mischief is arming them for it and increasing instead of remedying the evil.

Nor do I believe them necessary to protect the wealthy because enough of these will find their way into every branch of the legislation to protect themselves.
I think the best remedy is exactly that provided by all our constitutions,  to leave to the citizens the free election and separation of the aristoi from the pseudo-aristoi, of the wheat from the chaff.  In general they will elect the really good and wise.

A Randolph, a Carter or a Burwell must have great personal superiority over a common competitor to be elected by the people even at this day.

In some instances wealth may corrupt and birth blind them but not in sufficient degree to endanger the society.


But we have a faction, to whose hostile passions the torture even of right into wrong is a delicious gratification.
Their malice I have long learned to disregard, their censure to deem praise.
But I observe that some republicans are not satisfied that this small return should be made.
They will think more justly at another day but in the meantime I wish to avoid offence.

Thomas J    

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