March 26th, 2003


Politics should never be one's exclusive vocation


    "A Good Resume"

    How about this for a resume? John Adams was the second president of the United States. Before that, vice president. Before that, a diplomat who helped make peace with Britain. Before that, a diplomat who helped get land for America from the Dutch.

    Before that, a representative to the Continental Congress, and one of the most forceful advocates of independence from Britain -- a view that triumphed in 1776.

    Before that, Adams was a lawyer, and a farmer. He would farm the land again when his political career was over.

    Adams had definite views about the world of politics, which in those days was every bit as beleaguered by scoundrels and double-dealing as it is now, two centuries later. In a letter to his son Thomas, Adams said political life was discouraging but necessary. At the same time, politics should never be one's exclusive vocation. One should make one's way in the workaday world first, to help establish one's "independent character," as a way to immunize oneself against the temptations of power.

    Adams wrote that a "first maxim" should be to, "place his honor out of reach of all men. In order to do this he must make it a rule never to become dependent on public employments for subsistence. Let him have a trade, a profession, a arm, a shop, something where he can honestly live, and then he may engage in public affairs . . . upon independent principles. My advice to my children is to maintain an independent character."

    John Adams, you are a wise man.

    This is Common Sense. I'm Paul Jacob.