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Doc. 19.-letters of John Adams.

New York, May 26, 1789.
Dear sir :--I am this evening favored with yours of the 18. In answer to your question, I ask another. Where is the Sovereignty of the Nation lodged? Is it in the National Government, or in the State Governments? Are there more Sovereignties than one? if there is more than one there are eleven; if there are eleven there is no General Government, for there cannot be eleven sovereignties against one. Are not the Constitution and Laws of the United States, the supreme law of the Land? if so, the supreme Magistrate of the United States is the supreme Magistrate of the Land. This would be enough to determine your question. But if practice is consulted, the clergy here, of all denominations, pray for the President, V.-President, Senate and Rep's of the National Government, first: then for the Governors, Lt.-Governors, Senators and Rep's of the State Governments. This is a grave example, indeed, considering it is adduced to determine [147] a question about facts. The Governors of Pennsylvania and New York have decidedly yielded precedence, both to the President and Vice-President. The Governor of Pennsylvania has even yielded it to a Senator. The foreign Ambassadors and all Companies give place to the Vice-President next to the President, and to both before all the rest of the world. It is etiquette that governs the world. If the precedence of the President, and, consequently, Vice-President, is not decidedly yielded by every Governor upon the Continent, in my opinion Congress had better disperse and go home. For my own part I am resolved, the moment it is determined that any Governor is to take rank either of President or V.-P., I will quit and go home; for it would be a shameful deceit and imposition upon the People to hold out to them hopes of doing them service, when I shall know it to be impossible. If the People are so ignorant of the Alphabet as to mistake A for B and B for C, I am sure, while that ignorance remains, they will never be learned enough to read. It is Rank that decides Authority.

The Constitution has instituted two great officers of equal Rank, and the Nation at large, in pursuance of it, have created two officers: one, who is the first of the two equals, is placed at the head of the Executive; the other at the head of the Legislative. If a Governor has Rank of one, he must of course of both. This would give a decided superiority to the State Governments, and annihilate the sovereignty of the National Government. It is a thing so clear, that nobody this way has doubted it None will ever doubt it, but those who wish to annul the National Government.

I am, dear Sir, your affectionate friend,


New York, June 19, 1789.
Dear sir:--I am honoured with yours of the 30th of May, and find we are well agreed in opinion in all points.

Nothing, since my return to America, has alarmed me so much as those habits of fraud in the use of language, which appear in conver sation and in public writings. Words are employed like paper money, to cheat the widow and the fatherless and every honest man. The word Aristocracy is one instance, thoa I cannot say that there is no colour for the objection against the Constitution, that it has too large a proportion of Aristocracy in it. Yet there are two checks to the Senate evidently designed and prepared — the House of Representatives on one side and the President on the other. Now the only feasible remedy against this danger is to complete the equilibrium by making the Executive power distinct from the Legislative, and the President as independent of the other Branches as they are of him. But the cry of monarchy is kept up, in order to deter the People from recurring to the true remedy, and to force them into another which would be worse than the disease, i. e., into an entire reliance on the popular Branch, and a rejection of the other two. A remarkable instance of this I lately read with much concern, in the message of the Governor to the House. The attention and affections of the people are there turned to their Representatives only, and very artfully terrified with the phantoms of Monarchy and Despotism. Does he mean to intimate that there is danger of a Despotism? or of simple Monarchy? or would he have the People afraid of a limited Monarchy? In truth, Mr. H. [Hancock] himself is a limited monarch. The Constitution of Massachusetts is a limited monarchy. So is the new Constitution of the United States. Both have very great monarchical powers, and the real defects of both are, that they have not enough to make the first magistrate an independent and effectual balance to the other Branches. But does Mr. H. mean to confound these limited monarchical powers with Despotism and simple Monarchy which have no limits? Does he wish and mean to level all things, and become the rival of General Shays? The idea of an equal distribution of intelligence and property is as extravagant as any that ever was avowed by the maddest of the insurgents. Another instance of the false coin, or, rather, paper money in circulation, is the phrase “Confederated republic,” and “Confederated Commonwealth.” The new Constitution might, in my opinion, with as much propriety be denominated judicial Astrology. My old friend, your Lieut.-Governor, in his devout ejaculation for the new Government, very carefully preserves the idea of a confederated Commonwealth, and the independent States that compose it. Either his ideas or mine are totally wrong upon this subject. In short, Mr. A. [Samuel Adams] in his prayer, and Mr. H. in his message, either understood not the force of the words they have used, or they have made the most insidious attack on the new Constitution that has yet appeared. With two such popular characters at the head of Massachusetts, so near to Rhode Island; with Governor Clinton at the head of New York, and Governor Henry in Virginia, so near to North Carolina, there is some reason to be jealous. A convulsion with such men engaged openly, or secretly, in favor of it, would be a serious evil. I hope, however, that my fears are groundless, and have too much charity for all of them to imagine that they mean to disturb the peace of our Israel.

With great regard,

I am, Sir, your most obt.


--Boston Advertiser, June 19.

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