John Adams and the Unpurchased Impact of Wealth
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John Adams and the Unpurchased Impact of Wealth. (2018). The Political Science Reviewer, 42(1), 305-309.


John Adams and the Fear of American Oligarchy.
By Luke Mayville. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016.
232p $29.95 hardcover

John Adams is one of the most important, and least read, theorists of the American Founding Era. His compact “Thoughts on Government” (1776) is widely cited and anthologized. But many scholars of the early republic are familiar with his sprawling multivolume work A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (1787–1788) only through short excerpts and by way of the political controversies the book occasioned. His Discourses on Davila (1790), which emphasizes what Adams called “the passion for distinction,” is more thematically unified and engaging to read but seems oddly disconnected from the debates over national power, federalism, political economy, and constitutional interpretation that preoccupied Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and other theoretically inclined figures of the age. John Adams was unquestionably a political actor of major importance during the revolution and again during the latter part of the 1790s. But many scholars of the period have shared Gordon Wood’s judgment in The Creation of the American Republic that, as a theorist, John Adams was perceptive but in a certain sense irrelevant.

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