Quote of the day 11th August 2020


Adams famously called a republic “a government of laws, not of men.” He was quoting James Harrington. The context is worth noting: “Empire of laws, not of men,” Harrington wrote, is “according to ancient prudence.” In contrast, “modern prudence” counsels that “some man, or some few men, subject a city or a nation, and rule it according to his or their private interest: which, because the laws in such cases are made according to the interest of a man, or of some few families, may be said to be the empire of men, and not of laws.” The empire of laws is concerned with right; the empire of men, with power.

(The words in italics immediately above are a passage from a review by Richard Samuelson of a book about John Adams. The review can be found here.)


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