i've created the pantheon as a web page, adding emerson, thoreau, margaret fuller, and the quite amazing lydia maria child. i will begin to add links to texts by these folks and other materials, some of which i'll be typing in.
meanwhile, the paper keeps growing. in connecting the radicals to the transcendentalists, i've got emerson, from the journals, approving non-resistance and its attendant anarchism.
Of 'the principle of non resistance,' he says "Trust it. Give up the Government without too solicitously inquiring whether roads can be still built, letters carried, & title deeds secured when the government of force is at an end" (vol 1 711). He too saw Mott preach. He praises her courage and says "she makes every bully ashamed (vol 2 508-509).
you know, research can be amazingly stimulating and fun. just had a nice moment with regard to the new pantheon (see entry immediately below). so, one thing i am doing is putting emerson and thoreau (as well as alcott and fuller) in this group as a single political movement. now i think my best score up to this point has been documenting lucretia mott's anarchism; she is emerging as an important inspiration and directly linking figure. i think you could say that anarchism arises out of feminism as well as vice versa (cf. godwin and wollstonecraft). i notice that a number of thoreau's formulations in 'civil disobedence' resemble mott.
as it happens, we can document that thoreau saw lucretia mott preach, and can even more or less know the sermon she preached. he actually calls her a transcendentalist. she was born a decade before emerson.
from the emerging paper:
Indeed, the influence was direct. Thoreau saw Lucretia Mott preach in 1843, and wrote to his sister about it.
I believe I have not told you about Lucretia Mott. It was a good while ago I heard her at the Quaker Church in Hester St. She is a preacher, and it was advertised that she would be present on that day. I liked all the proceedings very well. . . At length, after a long silence, waiting for the spirit, Mrs. Mott rose, took off her bonnet, and began to utter very deliberately what the spirit suggested. Her self-possession was something to say [see?], if all else failed - but it did not. Her subject was the abuse of the Bible - and thence she straightaway digressed to slavery and the degradation of woman. It was a good speech - transcendentalism in its mildest form. (July 21, 1843, The Correspondence, 128)
'Mildest' here I believe is used in a somewhat Christian, lamb-of-God-type sense, because there is no doubt that Mott's preaching was fierce; we have a fair example of what Thoreau heard in her sermon of the same year "Righteousness Gives Strength to its Possessor" (Complete Speeches and Sermons, 35-52). But it is certainly significant that he regards her as preaching transcendentalism, throughout.
i am going to try to type in part of mott's 1843 sermon and post a link.
"It is always unsafe to invest man with power over his fellow being. Call no man master - that is the true doctrine." -- Lucretia Mott
ain't been blogging because i have been working on this paper about abolitionist saints, feminist ass-kickers, and anarchist freaks, essentially emerging out of abolitionism and post-puritan protestantism, say 1810-1840. these figures are unimaginably - incomparably - radical. they are anti-sexists, anti-racists, freaks for peace, anti-statists, and opponents of animal cruelty, for example. and i think you can associate them with emerson and thoreau - they were all well-known to one another - and with american anarchists such as josiah warren and lysander spooner, as soon as you don't let the fact that they are extremely christian blind you to the massive commonalities.
the figures listed below are anarchists in the sense that they are opposed to all forms of hierarchical power, including the state and capital. they are radical individualists: this is the most individualistic political movement in human history. but 'individualism' here does not at all mean self-seeking (indeed, all of these people conducted lives of tremendous self-sacrifice in service to oppressed people); rather it picks out a sense of the sacred inviolability of each human person and the source of moral authority in each human conscience. this is invariably represented as a condition of real union among persons, which is voluntary and incompatible with coercion. the abolitionists and non-resistants such as garrison and may, the transcendentalists such as emerson and alcott, the feminists such as mott and stanton: they all draw their conclusions from individualism.
one thing greatly to the credit of this group: it is the origin of american feminism. i am documenting that in the paper. figures as lucretia mott, sarah grimké, and maria weston chapman emerged out of this movement: these are the very earliest american public proponents of feminism, and they are among the first american women to insist on a voice in public affairs. but they are no less anarchistic than garrison or thoreau. this is where feminism and transcendentalism come from.
if i had to flourish one text to epitomize this group's political philosophy, it would be thoreau's 'civil disobedience' (1849), also the best statement of my political philosophy. this text also has the little advantage that it was written by the best american prose stylist of the 19th century. i believe the entire orientation is influenced by lucretia mott and other radical reformers.
but what i want to emphasize is that we should regard the feminists, abolitionists, pacifists, transcendentalists, and anarchists - whether religious or secular in orientation - as a single political movement, one of the most radical and inspiring in world history.
Anti-Authoritarian American Reformers, active circa 1820-1850
Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888) Transcendentalist, educational reformer, non-resistant, anti-capitalist, proponent of a vegan diet, and abolitionist. Lionized as a genius by Emerson and Thoreau, his reputaton has been waning since before he died. Samuel J. May's brother-in-law and Louisa May Alcott's father. Highly influenced by the feminists of his era. including Chapman, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, and Lucretia Mott. Co-founder with Garrison of the New England Anti-Slavery Society in 1830.
Adin Ballou (1803-1890) Universalist/Restorationist minister, abolitionist, absolute non-resistant. Ballou founded the Hopedale religious Community in Worcester County, Massachusetts in 1842. His book Christian Non-Resistance is an under-read but fundamentally influential scriptural argument for pacifism. Ballou corresponded with Tolstoy on this subject. One of the few abolitionist non-resistants to condemn John Brown's raid unambiguously and to remain a pure pacifist through the Civil War.
Maria Weston Chapman (1806-1887) Radical abolitionist, feminist, non-resistant, and educational reformer; opposed to all coercive social arrangements. Editor of a number of radical periodicals, including the Non-Resistant and The National Anti-Slavery Standard. Later reversed course on some issues and supported political abolitionism and freeing slaves by military force. Grandmother of the writer John Jay Chapman.
Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880): Pioneering author, feminist, abolitionist, advocate of Indian rights, and non-resistant. Associated in many of these capacities with Maria Weston Chapman, Angelina Grimké, Margaret Fuller and Bronson Alcott. Wrote perhaps the first book urging immediate, uncompensated emancipation in 1833. Helped Harriett Jacobs compose one of the most extreme and moving slave narratives, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Like Chapman, Angelina Grimké and others, qualified her non-resistance and associated anti-statism in the 1850s as Kansas exploded and John Brown geared up for a paroxysm of violence.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1886) Unitarian minister, like his father, and then beloved essayist, lecturer, and sage of transcendentalism. Like Thoreau, he despised fanaticism and stood to some extent aloof from reform movements. Yet he was certainly an abolitionist. He saw Mott speak and expressed his admiration. He endorsed (at least on occasion) non-resistance, and drew anarchist conclusions immediately. Knew and admired Garrison, though also worried about his tendencies toward fanaticism. Connected also to other figures through Samuel J. May. "Self-Reliance' and 'Politics', among many other essays, show his development of the radical individualism and vision of freedom common to al these figures, religious and secular.
Margaret Fuller (1810-1850): Central figure of transcendentalism and pioneering feminist. Wrote the key text "The Great Lawsuit: Man vs. Woman" in the early 1840s (later expanded into Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845)), secularizing the individualist feminism of Mott and the Grimkés. Supporter of a variety of reforms. The first professional book critic in America. Connected to the Italian and European revolutionaries of the 1848 wave, such as Mazzini.
William Lloyd Garrison (b. 1805-1879): Garrison was the leader of the radical wing of American abolitionism, arguing from a radical Protestant Christianity for the immediate abolition of slavery and the secession of the non-slave from the slave states. He was also an advocate of feminism and non-resistance, the latter on Biblical grounds. From his radical pacifism, Garrison concluded that human governments, all of which rest on force, are entirely illegitimate. Publisher of The Liberator, America’s anti-slavery and anti-war conscience. He burned copies of the Constitution, calling it “a pact with the devil.”
Sarah (1792-1873) and Angelina (1805-1879) Grimké: Sisters raised in South Carolina in a slaveholding family (their father was the Chief Justice of the state), but Sarah found herself disgusted by slavery. Converted to Quakerism on a trip to Philadelphia in 1819 (especially by Woolman's writings). The sisters' abolitionist lectures of the late 1820s were among the very first acts of public advocacy by American women. Sarah's Letters on the Equality of the Sexes (1837) is among the earliest American feminist texts, approaching the matter from a deeply religious individualism. Angelina married Theodore Dwight Weld in an egalitarian ceremony in 1838.
Samuel J. May (1797-1871): Schoolteacher at Concord, MA and then an eminent Unitarian minister. Preached reforms - including peace, feminism, and abolitionism - from Emerson's pulpit in 1831. Educational reformer advocating racially integrated and co-educational classrooms. Converted to the cause of peace by Noah Worcester. Founder with Garrison of the New England Anti-Slavery Society and the Non-Resistance Society. His Rights and Condition of Women in 1846 advocated total equality of the sexes. His sister married Bronson Alcott, so he was Louisa May's uncle.
Nathaniel Peabody Rogers (1794-1846), radical abolitionist and anti-statist or even 'no-organizationist', publisher of the New Hampshire abolitionist paper Herald of Freedom, subject of essays by Thoreau and Whittier. Began as a Christian non-resistant (and an anarchist on those grounds), but expressed more and more religious skepticism as his life went on. “Men better be without tongues and organs and powers, than not use them sovereignly. If it be not safe to entrust self-government of speech to mankind, there had better not be any mankind. Slavery is worse than non-existence. A society involving it is worse than none. The earth had better go unpeopled than inhabited by vassals.” nathaniel peabody rogers site
Lysander Spooner (1808-1887): Spooner was a deist, abolitionist, and individualist anarchist. His work The Unconstitutionality of Slavery (1846) was an amazingly accomplished exercise in legal interpretation, taking a position rejected by the Garrisonians, who held that the Constitution recognized slavery, and thus that the American government was illegitimate (Spooner agreed with the l;atter bit on independent grounds). In his time, he set up a private competitor to the Post Office, and tried to organize an incursion to free John Brown after the Harper's Ferry raid. Such works as No Treason (1867-70) and Vices Are Not Crimes (1875) are classics of libertarian thought. The central idea (as it was not for Warren or the transcendentalists) is concept of natural rights. lysanderspooner.org
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American ecccentric, radical, naturalist and genius. I would suggest that 'Civil Disobedience' (1849) is the best statement of this movement as a political philosophy. Saw Lucretia Mott preach in 1843, an experience which I believe is reflected in that essay and elsewhere. He expressed anti-statist sentiments in many places, including A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, "Life Without Principle," and so on. Cooperated with Garrison in helping escaped slaves hide and make their way to Canada.
Josiah Warren (1798-1874) Often held to be the founder of individualist anarchism, but also an anti-capitalist. Warren joined Robert Owen’s New Harmony Community (probably the first secular American ideal community) in the 1820s, rejected what he called its “communism,” and spent the rest of his career setting out and founding communities based on a radically individualistic metaphysics, in some ways similar to Thoreau and Emerson’s. He rejected the profit motive and yet insisted on the sanctity of property and conscience. Published “the first anarchist periodical” – The Peaceful Revolutionist – in 1833. Projects included the Time Stores; Utopia, Ohio; and Modern Times, New York, perhaps the wildest Temporary Autonomous Zone in American history. the josiah warren project
Theodore Dwight Weld (1803-1895) Weld served as assistant pastor to Charles Grandison Finney in the revivals beginning in 1825 that became known as the Second Great Awakening. Leader of the "Lane Rebels," a group of young radical preachers advocating free speech, free inquiry and abolitionism originating at the Lane Theological Seminary in Ohio. Advocate and agitator and preacher of abolitionism, feminism, temperance, and peace (but not anti-statism). Assisted John Quincy Adams in the petition controversy before Congress. Married Angelina Grimké in a ceremony without a clergyman, in which she did not promise to obey him. Author of American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses (1839).
Noah Worcester (1758-1837) A fifer in the Revolutionary Army, he fought at Bunker Hill. Worcester was a Unitarian minister in New Hampshire and founder of the American peace movement. Published A Solemn Review of the Custom of War, a fundamental text in the history of pacifism and opposition to war, in 1814. Founded the Massachusetts Peace Society in 1815.
Henry Clarke Wright (1797-1870) Associate of Garrison’s for much of his career and among the most unequivocal anarchists of the period. Co-Founder of the New England Non-Resistance Society. Began as a Christian non-resistant and wrote such tracts as Ballot Box and Battle Field, which condemned all human government as violence and claimed that voting itself was an act of violence as expressing cooperation with the state. Later at least qualified his Christianity and advocated a host of reforms.
Lewis Perry, Radical Abolitionism: Anarchy and the Government of God in Antislavery Thought (Cornell University Press, 1973)
Valerie Ziegler, The Advocates of Peace in Antebellum America (Indiana University Press, 1992)
Kraditor, Means and Ends in American Abolitionism: Garrison and His Critics on Strategy and Tactics, 1834-1850 (Pantheon, 1969)
Some primary texts
Lucretia Mott, Her Complete Speeches and Sermons, Dana Green, ed. (Mellen, 1980)
Letters of Theodore Dwight Weld, Angelina Grimké Weld and Sarah Grimké, Gilbert Barnes and Dwight Dumons, eds. (De Capo, 1970)
The Practical Anarchist: Writings of Josiah Warren, Crispin Sartwell, ed. (Fordham, 2010)
i have been doing research and working on the wikipedia entry for my great-grandfather, herman bernstein (he's my mother's mother's father). what an unbelievable life! i thought i wrote fast. for one thing, the dude was super-jew. for example, henry ford, with whom he locked horns for a decade, called him 'the messenger boy of international jewry.' he was rolling across russia during the revolution, interviewing john reed and leon trotsky.
even a superficial skim of the list of his correspondence (housed at the yivo center for jewish research at the center for jewish history) reveals letters to and from Samuel Clemons (Mark Twain), Sholem Aleichem,Andrew Carnegie, Leo Tolstoy, William Howard Taft, George Bernard Shaw, Max Nordau, Louis Brandeis, John D. Rockefeller, Louis Marshall, Israel Zangwill, Henri Bergson, Arthur Brisbane, Mordecai Kaplan, Henry Morgenthau, Sr., Gifford Pinchot, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franz Oppenheimer, Felix Frankfurter, Warren G. Harding, William Randolph Hearst, Herbert Hoover, Constantin Stanislavski, Leon Trotsky, Arthur Balfour,Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Arthur Goldberg, Adolph Ochs, Romain Rolland, Julius Rosenwald, Benjamin Cardozo, Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, and Franklin Roosevelt.
as herman might have put it: jesus a vehicular christ.
when my mother (joyce abell, b. 1925) was 5, she was sent by her parents, alone, on a ship to albania, where herman was the ambassador. she still remembers the spectacle, the dresses etc., at the court of the magnificently attired zog, king of albania.
here are a few of the other writers in my lineage, on both or all sides, whether they arrived with the puritans in 1637 or came to ellis island from the russo-german border in 1893. some were protestants, some were catholics, some were jews (100% on my mom's side). most were atheists, though, whatever their heritage. some were communists and some were republicans and some (well...) were anarchists. novelist and short story writer grace sartwell mason (my great great grandfather's sister; one of her books is women are queer); herman's brother hillel bernstein, novelist and new yorker contributor; novelist etc murray gitlin (my grandfather and herman's son-in-law); my grandfather franklin sartwell, columnist for and editor for the washington times-herald and the washington post; my father franklin sartwell, jr., reporter and editor at the washington star, national geographic, science news, and defenders magazine; herman's son david, writer and editor for, and owner of, the binghampton sun. there are others!
anytime someone identifies the moment when america lost its innocence, just snicker. it's absurd. and if what they mean by 'innocence' is that americans used to 'trust their institutions,' or love the authority exercised over them, or whatever, then just figure the person who's saying that for an oppression-enthusiast with no acquaintance whatever with american history. perhaps we can recover our innocence as we recover our subservience, or perhaps they meant the same thing right up til 1973. it's very biblical or edenic: innocence = enthusiastic self-subordination to arbitrary authority. and no one questioned that until march 3, 1989 or something.
look, did samuel adams and thomas jefferson trust their institutions? how about the whiskey rebels? did nat turner, william lloyd garrison, and john brown trust their institutions? how about victoria woodhull and emma goldman? did ambrose bierce, mark twain, and h.l. mencken trust their institutions? thoreau, emerson, and fuller? what do you think about tecumseh and crazy horse? john l. and sinclair lewis? richard weaver, milton friedman, and murray rothbard? w.e.b. dubois and malcolm x? anyone who ever testified before the house unamerican activities committee? and ask yourself this: should they have? dude, whatever.
Hey, baby, Crusader AXE here. I know I owe a follow-up and I'm working away at it in between playing the guitar poorly and corresponding with my Russian ballerina stalker from the Kalashnikov factory, but somethings take precedence. Allen West has gone the full McCarthy down in Florida, claiming that he's heard that 80 members of the Democratic Congressional Delegation are card carrying communists. How quaint...while duelling pistols would have been in order back in the day these clowns long for, West should remember that Burr and Jackson won their duels. Anyway, congratulations to Crispin on winning the coveted Duns Scrotus Award for Philosophical Magic and enjoy. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should point out that the Defeatists did endorse Gus Hall, long time chair of the American Communist Party, back in 2008. Mr. Hall was very pleased, but couldn't make the nominating convention because Satan wouldn't let him out of hell, where he'd resided since 2000. Previously, we had endorsed a ticket of Cthulhu and Crispin. I'm kind of thinking Allen West and Levi Johnson's mom for this year's ticket, but we're open as always for suggestions. I gotta say, as I get older, Roger Miller gets A. Deader and B. Far More Profound...
Highjacking Crispin's site again with JJ Cale and Chuck Prophet, Thomas More and Thomas Hobbes, the Navajo, the Army, Paul Ryan and Tora Bora...it just doesn't get better than this. I think at times there's a better class of reader here than at the other places I babble...certainly the comments I get over at Veteran's Today give me a lot of pause. Anyway, this has been a complex piece to get my teeth into...for a variety of reasons. So, here we go...
The number of broken promises and bad judgments made over the last 30 years is incredible. Each bad judgment ends up causing more broken promises. However, the majority of the problems I see – crumbling infrastructure, lousy schools, increased long-term unemployment, mounting debt, lagging modernization, lack of a coherent energy plan and so on and on and on as well as what has happened to Native Americans, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsman, Civil Servants, Labor Unions, and on and on comes from the idea that we don’t have the wherewithal to pay for what we need to do. That is bullshit.
To be educated, a person doesn't have to know much or be informed, but he or she does have to have been exposed vulnerably to the transformative events of an engaged human life.
Can you say AN/PDR-27R? ALPHA-NOVEMBER-PAPA-DELTA-ROMEO-TWO-SEVEN-ROMEO?
I've been quiet even though there have been a lot of things I've wanted to chime in on. However, the murder of Trayvon Martin has provoked a response. When exactly did behavior by self-appointed guardians of the people as lousy as the B-Specials in Ulster in 1968, the Klan in 1954, or the Security Forces in South Africa become legal in Florida? Self-defense is a universal defense if there actually is a threat...a black teen armed with skittles doesn't cut it as a defense for murder or Manslaughter 1. Florida is now less civilized than South Africa -- hell, the stats would probably bear us out on this. Sad -- we're less a civil society than we were in 1980...but then, why does that surprise me?
Slante' friends, we need it.
the redoubtable douthat smacks jfk, the most overrated single individual in species history, with the possible exceptions of pablo picasso and james joyce. what people remember so intensely is the 'charisma.' whatever in the world that might be (perhaps a kind of supernatural sweat). i guess we just want someone sexy to tell us what to do: political leadership as s&m.
suddenly michele bachmann's bio seems important, and michelle goldberg gives a solid interesting run-through. there's this:
At Coburn, Bachmann studied with John Eidsmoe, who she recently described as "one of the professors who had a great influence on me." Bachmann served as his research assistant on the 1987 book Christianity and the Constitution, which argued that the United States was founded as a Christian theocracy, and that it should become one again. "The church and the state have separate spheres of authority, but both derive authority from God," Eidsmoe wrote. "In that sense America, like [Old Testament] Israel, is a theocracy."
Eidsmoe, who hung up the phone when asked for an interview, is a contentious figure. Last year, he withdrew from speaking at a Wisconsin Tea Party rally after the Associated Press raised questions about his history of addresses to white-supremacist groups. In 2010, speaking at a rally celebrating Alabama's secession from the Union, he claimed that Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun understood the Constitution better than Abraham Lincoln.
Reading Eidsmoe, though, some of Bachmann's most widely ridiculed statements begin to make sense. Earlier this year, for example, she was mocked for saying that the Founding Fathers "worked tirelessly" to end slavery. But in books by Eidsmoe and others who approach history from what they call a Christian worldview, this is a truism. Despite his defense of the Confederacy, Eidsmoe also argues that even those founders who owned slaves opposed the institution and wanted it to disappear, and that it was only Christian for them to protect their slaves until it did. "It might be very difficult for a freed slave to make a living in that economy; under such circumstances setting slaves free was both inhumane and irresponsible," he wrote.
the idea that the united states was founded as a theocracy is just wacky. largely, it was founded by deists, enlightenment-age religious skeptics. some of the rest of this is not wacky at all. jefferson and madison and washington were all slave-owners who expressed their opposition to the institution of slavery and hoped that it would end. you could call that hypocrisy of course, but the claim itself is accurate, and they also reached for the justification that they didn't want merely to free their slaves because they needed to be protected, etc.
it sounds to some people strange to say that calhoun, for example, understood the constitution better than lincoln. but calhoun was easily the more well-versed of the two in the history of the constitution, the fed papers, etc., and also easily the more scholarly and intellectual. his late treatises a disquisition on government and a discourse on the constitution and government of the united states (check here) are among the most important works of republican political theory, or of political theory in the united states, written in the nineteenth century, despite the highly disturbing pro-slavery undertow.
it might seem obvious that nullification and secession are unconstitutional, but that is not obvious at all. jefferson argued that either was justified - and in keeping with the constitution - in the face of the alien and sedition acts, for example (check here). lysander spooner - an ardent abolitionist and legal scholar - agreed, even in the lead-up to the civil war (here), etc.
just for the heck of it, i might add that the most extreme and principled abolitionists were evangelical protestant christians. and i should think that even the biggest fans of abraham lincoln would or should admit that in order for him to justify and prosecute the civil war, the constitution had to be stretched virtually to breaking.
washpost keeps its batteries blazing on palin's bus, this time attacking her account of paul revere's ride. ok there was a little glitch that has revere warning the british, which was left instead to minutemen warned in turn by revere etc. but she got this much right: the brits were out there to disarm americans, often a difficult task. in this case the americans showed up armed in what was later emerson and hawthorne's back yard. let's put it this way: they weren't fighting to preserve medicare as they knew it.
henry adams is really an astonishing historian. he's way into the mechanics of legislation, the details of economy and demography: the dedication to the real detail is exemplary. and yet the characterizations are incredibly compelling and vivid. jefferson is beautifully delineated: fairly and definitively, with all the problems and all the compelling qualities. but also aaron burr or hamilton or napoleon or charles iv of spain and many fascinating figures now entirely forgotten.
the histories never take on a merely narrative or sing-song story quality in the contemporary fashion, but they nevertheless deploy characters in a compelling way, and track them through events in a manner that connects them and makes them comprehensible. and then there is the writing: full of sharp and felicitous and unique formulations, both clear and highly nuanced. and often very funny: gentle or ironical or even sarcastic; by turns cynical and deployed in the service of a kind of idealism.
one funny thing: he doesn't seem to want to write the name 'john adams'; it's always 'the previous president' and the like.
i'm teaching a course on 'american political thought' and i've been reading pretty hard in the founders. i've drawn the conclusion (not that many haven't drawn it before me) that john adams was, by a ways, the best, the most formidable, the most knowledgeable, the most scholarly, the sharpest-edged intellect among the founders. one extremely neglected just virtuoso moment is a defence of the constitutions of government of the united states of america (it's a defense of the state constitutions (including his own constitution for massachusetts), written before the national constitution was ratified). it's a three-volume response to a three-page letter from the french thinker/statesman turgot that constitutes an exhaustive history of republican ideas. he's got all the roman historians, machiavelli, harrington, locke, montesquieu, and many others all in their original languages. he's got the swiss cantons, the italian city-states, the dutch republics, an exhaustive sense of english political history, and then there are the incas, zoroaster, india etc etc: an absolutely exhaustive history of republican ideas.
no other founder could have done this; none could even have assayed it. jefferson was a formidable intellect, but by comparison a dilettante. franklin was delightful and sharp as a tack, but not a scholar on this level. it's an intimidating book - though adams can be quite a delightful writer - but still it deserves a lot better than it has gotten; it's out of print, and has rarely even been issued as a book; people who read it usually read it as part of the complete works. well i daresay it needs a revival and a new scholarly edition. but that itself is a vast and intimidating project.
and adams' thought is the most influential on the shape of the american constitution, though all these guys were separation of powers type republicans of one sort of another. and i love his marriage best of all: he loved the fact that abby kicked ass.
update: well i guess it's not out of print if you're ready to drop $250. geez.