John Adams Themes

David McCullough
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John Adams' mind was occupied with the question of self-government from his college days at Harvard until his death. His valedictory address was entitled, "Is civil government absolutely necessary for me?" One of the goals he set for the Continental Congress was establishing governments in every state to supplant the colonial administrations. He found Thomas Paine's Common Sense as "feeble" in its understanding of constitutional principles and set about counteracting this in his own writings. His Thoughts on Government was used a guide for projects in North Carolina, New Jersey and Virginia. Adams rejoiced that his generation had been chosen to decide on how it would be governed, rather than inheriting a system imposed from without.

The goal of government, Adams held, was to provide the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. This could best be achieved by creating 1) two distinct legislative bodies, which could check...

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This section contains 1,786 words
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Buy the John Adams Study Guide
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