Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Good Marriage

In her book, The Old Revolutionaries: Political Lives in the Age of Samuel Adams (New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1980), Pauline Maier does a particularly fine job bringing Sam Adams to life. One of my favorite passages describes Adams on a good marriage (p. 39):

"'The Marriage State was designd to complete the Sum of human Happiness in this Life,' he noted [in a 1780 letter to Thomas Wells]. Where it proved otherwise, the fault was often in 'the Parties themselves, who either rush into into it without due Consideration, or fail in point of Discretion in their Conduct towards each other afterwards.' A good marriage required judgment on both sides, honor and justice, and above all concessions on minor points in the interest of a larger harmony. 'Of what Consequence is it,' he asked Wells, 'whether a Turkey is brought on the table boild or roasted? And yet, how often are the Passions sufferd to interfere in such mighty Disputes, till the Tempers of both become so sowered, that they can scarcely look upon each other with any tolerable Degree of good Humor.'"

The conclusion that Professor Maier draws is typical of her insights:

"All of this is strongly reminiscent of Adams's revolutionary politics -- his consistent patience, counseling the importance of avoiding haste in espousing war and independence; his mindfulness of the need for concession and consultation in achieving and maintaining unity within the revolutionary movement; his unwillingness to stand on pretence; his readiness to respect and even to prefer the judgment of the humble to that of the esteemed.'"

Both The Old Revolutionaries and Professor Maier's earlier book, From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765 - 1776 (originally published in 1972) are highly recommended.

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