Front Page Titles (by Subject) Adams, Factions, and a Balanced Constitution - Literature of Liberty, April/June 1979, vol. 2, No. 2
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Adams, Factions, and a Balanced Constitution - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, April/June 1979, vol. 2, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Adams, Factions, and a Balanced Constitution
“John Adams and American Constitutionalism.” American Journal of Jurisprudence 21 (1976): 20–33.
Of the major founding fathers, John Adams is the least well known. But Adams's contribution to the Constitution was significant and reflected his attachment to free, republican government for the United States. According to Adams, constitutional balance is the heart of an enduring free government. He sought to support the idea of balance with three strands of argument.
The first is philosophical and relates the idea of balance to the nature of both man and politics. Adams believed ambition or “this passion for superiority” to be the central feature of man's psychology when acting in the political realm. Adams saw the key task of the constitution designer as that of allowing ambition to serve the public interest by creating constitutional channels to both satisfy and press this ambition into the service of the public good. A balanced constitution would allow men to distinguish themselves, but would also obstruct self-serving schemes. Compromise would be a prerequisite to political achievement, and compromise would be accomplished only through appeal to the public good.
Secondly, Adams argued for constitutional balance that socioeconomic reasons supported. He felt that each part of the constitutional structure could reflect various socioeconomic features of society, and that this would create in the populace the necessary feeling of attachment and legitimacy to sustain a free government.
Finally, Adams argued from a mechanical model of social conflict depicting how without a balanced constitution there would be no way of controlling factions short of despotism. In particular, Adams saw the cleavage between rich and poor as a primary source of faction which a constitution must control. In Adams's view, the poor are too readily attracted to material gain and lawlessness, while the well-to-do too often are attracted to power. Both groups, Adams believed, are apt to plunder each other.
These considerations convinced Adams that the United States should have a balanced constitution which would establish an autonomous executive, a bicameral legislature, and an independent judiciary, rather than a “unified” government of the sort urged by the French philosophes and intended to express the “will” of the people. In this issue Adams saw a deeper question: In a republican form of government, what is to be represented? Adams's answer was clear—diversity, rather than the homogeneity of the general will.