Friday, May 6, 2016

fits of puritanical moralizing...........

      Boston was subject to fits of puritanical moralizing, and when, in late 1795, an ordinance was passed prohibiting theatergoing, Adams stood in opposition.  He loved the theater, and he recoiled at any attempt to impose private morality on the public.  He even defended actors who had mounted a play in defiance of the law, arguing in a published essay that this species of civil disobedience was justifiable when legislation violated individual rights.  Apparently a little bit of Tom Paine was tolerable in a just cause.  Nevertheless, the town council refused to change the law.  Adams later wrote to his father that he ought to keep away from politics, since "my sentiments in general are as unpopular as my conduct relative to the town police or to the theatricals."  He added, in  a touch that must have gladdened his father's heart, "I have no predilection of unpopularity as such, but I hold it much preferable to the popularity of a day which perishes with the transient topic upon which it is grounded."

-James Traub,  John Quincy Adams:  Militant Spirit

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