The letter and spirit of the United States constitution contains the contemplations of its founding fathers about what an ideal system of government ought to be. In his “Thoughts on Government,” John Adams who was one of the American founding fathers and drafter of the Supreme law presents subtle thoughts about what a good government ought to be. Adams believes that the role of the government consists in the desire to make all citizens happy. He attributes the source of this happiness to being virtuous, which involves the exercise of moral and intellectual excellence.
Adam’s he argued that virtue is not in itself sufficient; hence a government should also consider human self-interest too in undertaking its mandate. Adams believed in democratic elections that should be conducted frequently and regularly to enable rotation of office holders (Adams & Peek, 2003). In accepting changes in the office composition after every elections, Adams believed that the great political virtues of humility, patience, and moderation would be attained. He posited that without these fundamental political virtues, people in authority may exploit power to the disadvantage of the populace. In fact, he says that without them “every man in power becomes a ravenous beast of prey” (Adams & Peek, 2003). He also advocated for separation of power between various constitutional arms of government to leverage the possibility of self-interests. In the bicameral government, Adams believed that the arms of government would hold each other accountable.
Adams believed in the independence of the judiciary which is the custodian of justice that instils virtue. In the current American situation, virtue is sometimes illusionary and politicians openly instigate violence against a section of the society (Adams & Peek, 2003). In addition, elections sometimes do not turn out to be a virtuous process through which alternative administrations are installed but rather a constitutional process that must be undertaken cyclically. This pattern can be described as constitutional phobia that makes administrations act not without virtue but with the fear of constitutional actions against them (Adams & Peek, 2003). These practices openly contradict Adam’s conceptions of an ideal government.
Adams, J., & Peek, G. A. (2003). The political writings of John Adams: Representative selections. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub.
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