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John Adams' Thoughts on Political Science and Government

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“While all other sciences have advanced, that of a government is at a stand; little better understood; little better practised than 3 or 4 thousand years ago” – John Adams.

John Adams was, as the second president of the U.S, a very noteworthy leader of the American Revolution. Massachusetts-born and Harvard-graduated Adams was a brilliant, opinionated man; Starting as a lawyer, he was also a very blunt man nonetheless also extremely patriotic in his ideas about different governments. When Adams started to criticise Great Britain’s Authority in colonial America and its oppressing taxes, his reputation was enhanced, and he was now known as a courageous and generous man. From 1774 to 1796 , he moved from being a member of the Massachusetts Assembly to being elected as the second president of the United States, however, during his presidency, an undeclared war had broken out with France after economic issues, and Adams lost his re-election in 1800 . In 1813 , he writes a letter to Thomas Jefferson, discussing the ancient governments and how they compare to the American government at that time; In this letter, he states the quote ‘While all other Sciences have advanced, that of Government is at a Stand; little better understood; little better practised now than 3 or 4 thousand years ago.’ Moreover, even in today’s situation, we can ask ourselves that same question: How much has the government changed since it was invented in ancient Greece?

John Adams states that in comparison to the human science of the government, all the other sciences have excelled extremely fast and made so much progress the world cannot keep up with it. However, to what extent is this statement true and how does it compare with the differences in governments. In modern society, the sciences are what keeps us alive; it provides us with energy, food and any possible ideas about how humanity stays alive on Planet Earth. It is a separate side of us, we all want to know what is around us, and accordingly that is so special we gave it a unique name. Modern science. Contrast it with ancient science, in times where the sciences and church worked alongside and progress was made very slowly because of that. Ancient science is split from modern science through a time we call the Renaissance, where significant changes in power structures of current society led to revolutions reform of not only the sciences but also the politics, religion and social organisation. This 17th century contributed mainly to the evolution of scientific pursuit, altering the power motives of knowledge accessibility, philosophical and ideological trends.

Thinking about how the situation has changed around the globe, in the sciences and specifically human sciences, we notice how slowly changes can be but also how we can get surprised by minimal adjustments. The modern-day dictatorship has made significant changes to the style of government it represents. Aulus Postumius Albinus was the first person to introduce a fully working dictatorship, thus being the first person leading an empire through ‘The rule of one.’ Aulus took over the Roman Empire in the first decade of the fifth century B.C. when the Latin allies revolted; When the Romans selected him, they believed a dictatorship would mean absolute power to one person giving the dictator extreme responsibilities. Hence, this role was only given to leaders in emergencies as Rome, during the time of the Republic was led by two consuls.

Throughout two millennia, a dictatorship has been altered remarkably that we can barely see the basics of the original thought behind the whole concept. Modern dictatorship has been through Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, and is now used in multiple countries all around the world. To take two typical examples, Zimbabwe and North-Korea; Robert Mugabe, having dominated Zimbabwe’s politics for nearly four decades, Mugabe is a controversial figure. He has been praised as a revolutionary hero of the African liberation struggle who helped to free Zimbabwe from British colonialism, imperialism, and white minority rule. Conversely, in governance, he has been accused of being a dictator responsible for economic mismanagement, widespread corruption, anti-white racism, human rights abuses, and crimes against humanity and Kim Jong-Un rule at a base of firm rules put upon their citizens, where the people have no political opinion and barely any freedom. Looking at how different the current dictators are, the Romans did not intend for these dramatic changes in authority over the people.

Nevertheless, one type of government has hardly been altered; Looking at how similar the first government type in the history of humanity is to the modern days’ version, it emphasises the strength of the people wherefore it is also called ‘The power of the people.’ Democracy was created 8000 years ago; Cleisthenes was a statesman in Athens, Greece when it was still ruled by the wealthy , and the Greeks were still split up into Plebeians (The working people) and Patricians (The wealthy). He decided that everyone deserved the same amount of speech over the politics of Athens and that therefore everyone would earn equal rights in voting for a leader. Modern day democracy is very similar. However, every country in use of it today has begun using this type of government differently. England and the Dutch Republic became democracies after their participation in the wars against Napoleon, yet only starting with the wealthy being able to vote followed by the other men and not much late also the women. Throughout the 19th and 20th century , more and more democracy was applied to different continents although mainly western Europe where the representative element of the medieval parliament remained unchanged.

Caused by this strange mixture of government types, people had the right to vote for the people in the parliament, but they could not influence the matters of legalisation. Switzerland, on the other hand, is a very outstanding example with elements of direct democracy, where it was once a country with a government made out of representatives of different parts it is now made out of the people who have evident influences on the matter of legalisation. Comparing it back to ancient Athens, where the people all had a vote and voice, the modern-day democracy is divided up into the district and proportional representation voting; The former being closer to the old system of electing a representative, intimately relatable to an oligarchy. Where the latter is where the votes get thrown on a large heap and representatives are chosen from their popularity percentage.

Oligarchies might be the type of government that has had the most variations on the Greek template, in 800 B.C. most cities and towns near to Athens were ruled by oligarchies; Meaning a small group of people working together each working in a specific field. All decisions were made in this elite group, people had no influence at all in making decisions, however, each person could vote for one other person in town with the qualifications in politics to represent their voters. This process would eliminate any problems to do with legalisation as even within this group of people the idea with most votes would be presented to the people.

One simple problem of this whole type of government was that one person could always say that they wanted to be the leader of the smaller group of people, moreover, this would lead to mistakes during voting and therefore most likely problems within the town. Today, multiple countries use the same principles; Turkey is ruled by the wealthiest family in the country, the Koc family who own half of the oil refining businesses, banking and car manufacturers. Furthermore, South-Africa was ruled by Caucasian descendants of the Dutch settlers until, in 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected to take over the country after a long, difficult politic fight about races. Lastly, Iran is an oligarchy of clerics, business associates and relatives, however, it is also partially a monarchy after the country decided to elect a leader out of these oligarchs. Still, people today see the oligarchy as a basis of their government as it might be the most efficient and least trouble-causing type hence having it unchanged even up until now where every other government has been appreciated, however much of it has been altered for different countries to fit its principles.

Overall, it may be said that John Adams was correct in his statement to quite an extent; Saying that government may have barely changed is a challenging statement, where most people think that every type of government is an altered version of a basic is believable yet it is important to note that each type is in some cases combined to create an absolute version, an aged, developed form from which many countries take a piece and adapt it to their own national needs. Government: the most developed nonetheless complicated human science society might ever see. Discovered a few thousand years ago, it has been altered multiple times, however, it always stays around the same, simple principles created by sophisticated Greek men. Science has definitely advanced, but it has been so dramatic that the government cannot keep up or has it just been changing so slowly over time that humanity has simply not seen it change?

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John Adams’ Thoughts on Political Science and Government. (2022, August 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 24, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/john-adams-thoughts-on-political-science-and-government/
“John Adams’ Thoughts on Political Science and Government.” GradesFixer, 30 Aug. 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/john-adams-thoughts-on-political-science-and-government/
John Adams’ Thoughts on Political Science and Government. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/john-adams-thoughts-on-political-science-and-government/> [Accessed 24 Sept. 2022].
John Adams’ Thoughts on Political Science and Government [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Aug 30 [cited 2022 Sept 24]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/john-adams-thoughts-on-political-science-and-government/
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