Item of the Day: Mr. Adams Election Sermon May 29, 1782

Full Title: A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency John Hancock, Esq; Governour; His Honor Thomas Cushing, Esq; Lieutenant-Governor; The Honorable The Council , And The Honorable The Senate, And House Of Representatives Of The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts, May 29, 1782. Being the Day of General Election. By Zabdiel Adams, A.M. Pastor of the Church in Lunenburg. Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Printed by T. & J. Fleet and J. Gill, [1782]

 [Excerpted from pp. 17-20]

Republican governments are said not only to be destitute of energy, but to be slow and unperforming. This defect may be removed by allowing such prerogatives to a single person as are necessary to the vigor and dispatch of public measures. However, in large assemblies, where there is a diversity of interests and opinions, matters of importance will never be speedily discussed. This is an inconvenience to which we must submit, and it is the price we pay for our liberties. It ought to be remembred [sic] there is safety, tho’ there is expence in these slow and tedious discussions; and if we allow it a defect, we certainly can find no form of government, but what is chargeable with as great or greater.

In all free states the people have a right, not only to say who shall be their rulers, but also by what tenure they shall hold offices, and the steps by which they shall arrive at them.

In order to avoid the feuds and factions that the election of a chief magistrate would occasion in some large nations, the constitution provides, that certain families should rule by hereditary right. Though this establishment avoids some, it is exposed perhaps to greater inconveniences. By means hereof, they may oftentimes have for their first ruler, tho’ not a compleat ideot [sic], yet perhaps one separated therefrom, only by a thin partition. Further, when children are born heirs apparent to some high and important station in government, their education is commonly such, as to fill them with ideas of superiority, unfriendly to the rights of mankind. To govern well, we ought to be acquainted with human nature in the lowest walks of life.

In elective kingdoms, the election for the most part, is either for life or for a considerable number of years. The better way is to chuse our rulers frequently. The term ought to be known and ascertained; at the expiration of which we may omit them if we please. This is true if they conduct ever so well; and there is great reason for it, if they have been guilty of mal-administration. But tho’ frequent elections may be proper, yet it must be highly imprudent, frequently to change those who are qualified for their trust and disposed to do the duties of it. This observation is true of any officer, but more especially of those who are high in command. There may be reasons for electing the chief magistrate annually; but if a new person is yearly chosen, it will lessent the influence of authority, weaken the sinews of government, crumble the people into parties, and establish habits inconsistent with that spirit of submission which is highly necessary to the good for society. A monopoly of office should never be permitted; a rotation indeed excludes it; and changes at proper intervals, excite people to a laudable application to business and books, that they may become qualified for posts of eminence and distinction. But on the contrary, if the man who holds the first place in the government, knows that he shall enjoy it but a short space, let his deportment be ever so unexceptionable, he will hardly be warm in his office, get but a miserable acquaintance with his duty, acquire no facility in the performance of it, and lose a grand stimulus to excel. Unless therefore we were born governors, legislators, &c. it must be wise in a people to elect their principal officers for a succession of years, provided they answer the end of their elevation. In this way, we shall secure to ourselves more of the beneficial influences of government, than it is possible for us in the contrary practice.


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Filed under 1780's, Elections, Massachusetts, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Sermons

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