Monday, January 9

How John Adams and Thomas Paine Clashed Over Economic Equality

Hope your populism essay went well? I was reminded of our discussion yesterday when I read this article on how john Adams and Thomas Paine went head to head. Reminds me a bit of how Gladstone and Disraeli went ding dong. 
But you can see the populism perspectives here in this article. The chancellor of the British exchequer today, who incidentally read history at oxford, plans to resurrect a body last seen during Disraelis time to retire the government debt. 
Fascinating to see how political ideas and economic ideas dovetail. I'm always reminded of the old quote, if you want a new idea, read an old book. 
My search for a university goes on. Oxford is out. Cambridge doesn't allow part time PhDs. Brunel is considering my application. LSE, SOAS and UCL applications are pending. Let's see what happens. I even contacted Kings. I think the problem is that I'm crossing too many subject areas, legal, history, religious law and two geographies. Maybe I have to rethink this through if I don't get admission. 
Anyway. Have a lovely weekend kannu. I'm going for a gay parade this weekend, a 10 km hike. Also lecturing at the King's college here twice on Friday and Sunday night. And there's an MBS lecture on Monday. Keeping myself busy. I'm missing you all and you gadha haven't told me what you wanted from Singapore! 

How John Adams and Thomas Paine Clashed Over Economic Equality
(via Instapaper)

Here’s John Adams on Thomas Paine’s famous 1776 pamphlet “Common Sense”: “What a poor, ignorant, malicious, short-sighted, crapulous mass.” Then comes Paine on Adams: “John was not born for immortality.”
Paine and Adams may have been alone among the founders for having literary styles adequate to their mutual disregard. “The spissitude [sic!] of the black liquor which is spread in such quantities by this writer,” Adams wrote of Paine, “prevents its daubing.” Paine: “Some people talk of impeaching John Adams, but I am for softer measures. I would keep him to make fun of.”
They went on and on.
The Paine-Adams antipathy wasn’t just personal. Its sources lay in the founding generation’s deep political divisions over economic equality. Those who don’t know there was a founding political division over economic equality can thank the many historians — including even some biographers of finance-savvy founders like Superintendent of Finance Robert Morris — who feel more comfortable with philosophies of government, issues in constitutional law, and (if they get into economics at all) the legacies of Robert Walpole, Jacques Necker, and David Hume than with day-to-day American economic realities, and with the full range of 18th-century thinking from elite to working-class, on monetary and finance policy.
Things John Adams hated about “Common Sense” are revealing. One was the pamphlet’s widespread reputation as the tipping point for America’s declaration of independence from England. Adams thought that was nonsense. The only novel thing in “Common Sense,” Adams believed — and he meant it in a bad way — wasn’t what he cast as its belated, derivative call for American independence. It was what he blasted as Paine’s “democratical” plan for a new kind of American government, which flew in the face of the balanced republicanism that Adams loved. That part of the pamphlet was its only important part to John Adams, but it is often ignored or glossed over in favor of celebrating what Adams thought the pamphlet never did: persuade Americans to support independence.

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