Nobody Remembers the Jubilee Address of JQA
Nobody Remembers Thanks to an Email
I got this last week (thanks to ‘g’ man.) —John Quincy Adams, gave a very important history lesson in American government and what THEY meant by it, back in the day our government was created.
Everybody should give it a read, least we forget.
In fact, send it to Nancy Pelosi, since she is having trouble remembering even whose President.
Enjoy the mind of the man who had the highest IQ of any President then or now. (Wait…what’s Trump’s? )
John Adams’ son, John Quincy, was 9 when the Declaration of Independence was written, 20 when the Constitution was framed, and from his teen years, served in various capacities in both the Legislative and Executive branches of the government, including as President. His words on this subject should be instructive on the subject at hand.
In 1839, JQA was invited by the New York Historical Society to deliver the “Jubilee” Address honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Inauguration of George Washington. He delivered that lengthy discourse which should be read by all who love liberty, for it traced the history of the development of the ideas underlying and the actions leading to the establishment of the Constitution which structured the United States government. His 50th-year summation seems to be a better source for understanding the kind of government the Founders formed than those of recent historians and politicians. He addresses the ideas of “democracy” and “republic” throughout, but here are some of his concluding remarks:
“Every change of a President of the United States, has exhibited some variety of policy from that of his predecessor. In more than one case, the change has extended to political and even to moral principle; but the policy of the country has been fashioned far more by the influences of public opinion, and the prevailing humors in the two Houses of Congress, than by the judgment, the will, or the principles of the President of the United States. The President himself is no more than a representative of public opinion at the time of his election; and as public opinion is subject to great and frequent fluctuations, he must accommodate his policy to them; or the people will speedily give him a successor; or either House of Congress will effectually control his power. It is thus, and in no other sense that the Constitution of the United States is democratic – for the government of our country, instead of a Democracy the most simple, is the most complicated government on the face of the globe. From the immense extent of our territory, the difference of manners, habits, opinions, and above all, the clashing interests of the North, South, East, and West, public opinion formed by the combination of numerous aggregates, becomes itself a problem of compound arithmetic, which nothing but the result of the popular elections can solve.
“It has been my purpose, Fellow-Citizens, in this discourse to show:-
“1. That this Union was formed by a spontaneous movement of the people of thirteen English Colonies; all subjects of the King of Great Britain – bound to him in allegiance, and to the British empire as their country. That the first object of this Union, was united resistance against oppression, and to obtain from the government of their country redress of their wrongs.
“2. That failing in this object, their petitions having been spurned, and the oppressions of which they complained, aggravated beyond endurance, their Delegates in Congress, in their name and by their authority, issued the Declaration of Independence – proclaiming them to the world as one people, absolving them from their ties and oaths of allegiance to their king and country – renouncing that country; declared the UNITED Colonies, Independent States, and announcing that this ONE PEOPLE of thirteen united independent states, by that act, assumed among the powers of the earth, that separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitled them.
“3. That in justification of themselves for this act of transcendent power, they proclaimed the principles upon which they held all lawful government upon earth to be founded – which principles were, the natural, unalienable, imprescriptible rights of man, specifying among them, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – that the institution of government is to secure to men in society the possession of those rights: that the institution, dissolution, and reinstitution of government, belong exclusively to THE PEOPLE under a moral responsibility to the Supreme Ruler of the universe; and that all the just powers of government are derived from the consent of the governed.
“4. That under this proclamation of principles, the dissolution of allegiance to the British king, and the compatriot connection with the people of the British empire, were accomplished; and the one people of the United States of America, became one separate sovereign independent power, assuming an equal station among the nations of the earth.
“5. That this one people did not immediately institute a government for themselves. But instead of it, their delegates in Congress, by authority from their separate state legislatures, without voice or consultation of the people, instituted a mere confederacy.
“6. That this confederacy totally departed from the principles of the Declaration of independence, and substituted instead of the constituent power of the people, an assumed sovereignty of each separate state, as the source of all its authority.
“7. That as a primitive source of power, this separate state sovereignty, was not only a departure from the principles of the Declaration of Independence, but directly contrary to, and utterly incompatible with them.
“8. That the tree was made known by its fruits. That after five years wasted in its preparation, the confederation dragged out a miserable existence of eight years more, and expired like a candle in the socket, having brought the union itself to the verge of dissolution.
“9. That the Constitution of the United States was a return to the principles of the Declaration of independence, and the exclusive constituent power of the people. That it was the work of the ONE PEOPLE of the United States; and that those United States, though doubled in numbers, still constitute as a nation, but ONE PEOPLE.
“10. That this Constitution, making due allowance for the imperfections and errors incident to all human affairs, has under all the vicissitudes and changes of war and peace, been administered upon those same principles, during a career of fifty years.
“11. That its fruits have been, still making allowance for human imperfection, a more perfect union, established justice, domestic tranquility, provision for the common defense, promotion of the general welfare, and the enjoyment of the blessings of liberty by the constituent people, and their posterity to the present day.
“And now the future is all before us, and Providence our guide.”
In an earlier paragraph, he had stated:
“But this institution was republican, and even democratic. And here not to be misunderstood, I mean by democratic, a government, the administration of which must always be rendered comfortable to that predominating public opinion . . . and by republican I mean a government reposing, not upon the virtues or the powers of any one man – not upon that honor, which Montesquieu lays down as the fundamental principle of monarchy – far less upon that fear which he pronounces the basis of despotism; but upon that virtue which he, a noble of aristocratic peerage, and the subject of an absolute monarch, boldly proclaims as a fundamental principle of republican government. The Constitution of the United States was republican and democratic – but the experience of all former ages had shown that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived; and it was obvious that if virtue – the virtue of the people, was the foundation of republican government, the stability and duration of the government must depend upon the stability and duration of the virtue by which it is sustained.”