Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


John Adams and the State Constitutions of the Founding Era


Political Science Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Social and Behavioral Sciences


In this presentation I focus on two key features of John Adamss model for a republican constitution: a tripartite division of the legislative powers among a house of representatives, a smaller senate or council and a governor; and the need for balances and checks on power to prevent the government from becoming tyrannical.John Adams is an important figure in the half century of constitutional theory and practice that culminated in the ratification of the federal Constitution. In fact the all but one of the works under consideration in this presentation are letters composed upon the request of some of Adamss contemporaries for his views on what the model should be used for the constitutions of the newly independent states.Adams, like Cicero, believed that all human societiesare complex, and that the people who would form a republic were united by concord in a harmony of disparate parts, not by homogeneity. This view of the need for harmony and concord among the disparate parts of a people was practically important to Adams because of his evident concern about the religious pluralism of the colonial societies before, during, and after the struggle for independence, and because of his desire to promote religious toleration.

Conference Name

Midwest Political Science Association Conference

Conference Location

Chicago, IL

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