The Radicalism of the American Revolution - Part 3, Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Gordon S. Wood
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The American gentry are not strong enough at the outset of the Revolution to bear the burden of disinterested service in the army or Congress. Periodic retirement to recoup one's fortune is commonplace. From 1776 onwards, legislators urge republican governments to pay salaries - and to increase them regularly. The radical Pennsylvania constitution of 1776 abolishes all potentially corrupting "offices of profit" in favor of "reasonable compensation" for all public servants. Washington refuses a salary as commander-in-chief, and Jefferson holds fast to Roman principle. Others, principally Federalists, lacking Jefferson's wealth and Washington's scruples, must press for adequate pay. Govenor Morris, in 1778, questions whether even the wealthy should be required to sacrifice their family's subsistence for the public good. John Adams calls for all public officials to be paid and criticizes Pennsylvania's decision, saying patronage and abuse rather than profit are evil. The alternative is a monopoly of the rich, and consequent despotism...

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This section contains 1,437 words
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