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From Adams's perspective there were two main problems that must be addressed by all republican constitution-makers.The first was to find some kind of constitutional device by which to neutralize the vices, but also to draw out and up the talents of the exceptional few.
Oddly, Mc Cullough has almost nothing to say about Adams's political thought.
The contours of Adams's thought are best seen through a distinction that Adams himself made between the "principles of liberty" and the "principles of government." The first are concerned with the nature of justice and political right, and the second with constitutional design and construction.
Shunned by aristocratic old-world diplomats, Adams worked tirelessly, employing what he called "militia diplomacy"; he raced back and forth between Paris and The Hague, breaking all the rules of diplomatic etiquette, and pounding on doors until he was listened to.
Eventually, he succeeded in convincing the Dutch Republic to recognize American independence in 1782—and he negotiated critical loans with Amsterdam bankers.
On July 1, Congress considered final arguments on the question of independence.
John Dickinson argued forcefully against independence. When no one responded to Dickinson, Adams rose and delivered a rhetorical tour de force that moved the assembly to vote in favor of independence.Shortly after the battles at Lexington and Concord, Adams began to argue that it was time for the colonies to declare independence and to constitutionalize the powers, rights, and responsibilities of self-government.In May 1776, following Adams's leadership, Congress advised the various colonial assemblies to draft constitutions and construct new governments.To argue that Adams was America's greatest founding statesman, the true "Atlas of American Independence," is a bold claim.Mc Cullough's brief for Adams's greatness is persuasive.Unlike Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Jefferson, John Adams never had what he called "puffers," or what we today call PR men.During his lifetime, he had no James Carville to defend him from partisan political opponents, and after he was gone he had no Arthur Schlesinger to mythologize his life and character for posterity., "Yankee John" has finally found the "puffer" that he has so long deserved.Adams knew that genuine freedom is fragile, fleeting, and rare; few people have it and those that do must fight to keep it. At the core of Adams's theory were three basic but essential principles of government: first, representation instead of direct democracy; second, a separation of the legislative, executive, and judicial powers; and third, a mixture and balance in the legislature between the monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic social elements that Adams thought natural to all societies.These three principles were the foundation and framework on which he thought all constitutions must be constructed.It was, arguably, the most important speech in American history.Years later, Thomas Jefferson recalled that so powerful in "thought & expression" was Adams, that he "moved us from our seats." He was, Jefferson said, "our Colossus on the floor."Adams spent much of the 1780s in Europe as a diplomat and propagandist for the American Revolution.