Sunday, August 7, 2016

The benefit of complexity........

     The Report of the Minority of the Committee of Manufacturers Submitted to the House of Representatives February 28, 1833 bore very little resemblance to the report of a Congressional committee.  It was, rather, a single-minded effort to obliterate the edifice Adams believed that Jackson and his allies were seeking to erect in lieu of the American System.  Adams began by taking exception to a phrase from the [President Andrew Jackson's] annual message:  "The wealth and strength of its country are its population, and the best part of that population are the cultivators of the soil."  Adams insisted that the "cultivators" Jackson had in mind were not Jefferson's yeomanry but rather the wealthy landowners of the South who constituted America's feudal order.  He insisted that the entire system envisioned in the president's annual message was designed to serve that order.  Echoing Jackson's own language, he asserted that the president wished to reduce the federal government to "a simple machine."  Simplicity, Adams declared, "is the essential characteristic in all slavery," for all men were either masters or slaves.  The government of a free people is bound to be complex, for relations among them, the play of their interests, must be complex.  Here was a new weapon in Adams' rhetorical armamentarium:  the play on words, turning the word "simple" against itself, as he had earlier with "machine."

-James Traub, John Quincy Adams:  Militant Spirit

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