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The Age of Federalism$
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Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780195093810

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195093810.001.0001

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John Adams and the Dogma of “Balance”

John Adams and the Dogma of “Balance”

(p.529) Chapter XII John Adams and the Dogma of “Balance”
The Age of Federalism

Stanley Elkins

Eric McKitrick

Oxford University Press

The whole of John Adams's single term was absorbed with a single problem, a crisis in foreign relations. The crisis had arisen out of hostile actions by the French Republic, ostensibly in retaliation for America's having reached an accommodation by treaty with France's enemy England. The manner in which Adams handled the crisis has been seen in strikingly opposite ways. Adams came out after all his theorizing with one idea, and that was the idea of “balance.” He strongly approved of the federal constitution when a copy of it reached him in England, but he did so on grounds quite different from what most of the Framers had intended, or said they intended. His model of “balance” was the classical mixed government of king, lords, and commons as embodied in the English constitution—the constitution, that is, as it had been before being corrupted in the course of the 18th century—and adapted to republican conditions.

Keywords:   John Adams, foreign relations, France, constitution, America, balance, England

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