Adams on Government by Fear | Harper's Magazine

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Adams on Government by Fear

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All sober inquirers after truth, ancient and modern, pagan and Christian, have declared that the happiness of man, as well as his dignity, consists in virtue. Confucius, Zoroaster, Socrates, Mahomet, not to mention authorities really sacred, have agreed in this. If there is a form of government, then, whose principle and foundation is virtue, will not every sober man acknowledge it better calculated to promote the general happiness than any other form?

Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution that is founded on it.

John Adams, Thoughts on Government (1776) in: The Political Writings of John Adams, p. 85 (G.A. Peek, Jr., ed. 2003)

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