Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO J. H. TIFFANY. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes)
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TO J. H. TIFFANY. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes) 
The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 10.
Part of: The Works of John Adams, 10 vols.
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TO J. H. TIFFANY.
Quincy, 31 March, 1819.
Your political chart is a happy thought, and an invention as useful as it is ingenious. Accept my best thanks for the present you have made me of it, and for your obliging favor of March 18th, which came to my hand but yesterday.
As I have always been convinced, that abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction, and division in society, the time has been when I would have attended you with pleasure in your pursuit of correct definitions. Liberty and republic are two words which you have judiciously chosen; but my forces are exhausted, and my days wellnigh spent. I therefore can be of no service to you.
Dr. Price has defined civil liberty, as distinguished from physical, moral, and religious liberty, to be the power of a civil society to govern itself, by its own discretion, or by laws of its own making, by the majority in a collective body or by fair representations.
I would define liberty to be a power to do as we would be done by. The definition of liberty to be the power of doing whatever the laws permit, meaning the civil laws, does not appear to be satisfactory. But I would rather refer you to other writers than to any thing of my own. Sidney. Harrington, Locke, Montesquieu, and even Hobbes, are worth consulting, and many others.
Custom is said to be the standard of the meaning of words; and for the purposes of common parlance it may answer well enough; but when science is concerned, something more technical must be introduced. The customary meanings of the words republic and commonwealth have been infinite. They have been applied to every government under heaven; that of Turkey and that of Spain, as well as that of Athens and of Rome, of Geneva and San Marino. The strict definition of a republic is, that in which the sovereignty resides in more than one man. A democracy, then, is a republic, as well as an aristocracy, or any mixture of both.
The Federalist is a valuable work, and Mr. Madison’s part in it as respectable as any other. But his distinction between a republic and a democracy, cannot be justified. A democracy is as really a republic as an oak is a tree, or a temple a building. There are, in strictness of speech and in the soundest technical language, democratical and aristocratical republics, as well as an infinite variety of mixtures of both.