Books in Brief

John Adams’s Republic: The One, the Few, and the Many, by Richard Alan Ryerson (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press; 555 pp., $60.00).  This very excellent and elegantly written book by the editor of the Adams Papers between 1983 and 2001 draws on the second American President’s entire corpus of political writing, from his books and pamphlets to his letters and diary entries.  Adams was distrusted in his own time as an Anglophile sympathetic to aristocracy, or what we modern people call (after Pareto) “the elite”; today, his political thought is generally considered “irrelevant” both to the new American republic and to the United States in the 21st century.  Ryerson shows that Adams, contrary to contemporary opinion, is extraordinarily relevant to both, perhaps more to the latter than to the former.  John Adams believed in a stronger executive than the Constitution of 1787 allowed for, one endowed with, among other things, the single veto.  The executive to him represented “the One.”  He did not, as was commonplace even in his day, believe in universal suffrage, thinking rather that the vote should be the privilege of “the Many” as represented by a House of Representatives, or Delegates.  As for “the Few,” the aristocracy (which meant to him, as to Jefferson, a natural aristocracy),...

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