John Adams didn’t think much of Tom Paine or his famous tract, though he was cordial to his face. The arguments were not new, Adams said, and had been debated in Congress for months prior to the printing of Common Sense, though he conceded it did much to enthuse a segment of the general populace with the idea of complete independence from Great Britain.

To start with, Adams viewed Paine’s scriptural argument against monarchy "ridiculous," but I dunno, John… Ol’ Tom may have had a point here. When I open my King James, I see plenty of verses like these:
But you have now rejected your God… and you have said "No, appoint a king over us."
1st Samuel 10:19
…And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the LORD when you asked for a king.
1st Samuel 12:12
So in my anger I gave you a king and in my wrath I took him away.
Hosea 13:11

Certainly, then, the biblical endorsement of monarchy is hardly unqualified.
Adam’s main objection, though, was what Paine proposed to do after independence had been declared. Common Sensewas brimming with unbounded faith in "the people." It advocated a unicameral assembly made up of around 400 delegates, and a requirement of a three fifths vote to do anything.
In answer to Paine (but not explicitly so) Adams used the vehicle of a letter to a friend to outline his "Thoughts on Government." Here we find the first concise articulation of the American concept of separation of powers. "I think a people cannot be long free, nor ever happy, whose government is in one assembly." he wrote. "… A single assembly, possessed of all the powers of the government, would make arbitrary laws for their own interest, execute all laws arbitrarily for their own interest, and adjudge all controversies in their own favor." It would not have the "secrecy and dispatch" necessary for the proper use of executive power, and would obviously lack the expertise for judicial power. The executive should have a veto which can be over-ridden. He should have command of the Army, etc. Judges should be appointed with consent, and sit for life upon good behavior.
Each man’s vision was ultimately field-tested. Paine’s thinking led to the horrors French Revolution (which he supported) while Adam’s concepts have served us well for over 200 years. Yet consider this. Adams looked down upon Paine’s writing style as well, it being inflammatory and clearly directed at hoi poloi. Adams hardly considered himself an American aristocrat – he was the son of a New England dirt farmer for cryin’ out loud – but for him, Common Sense was far too "common." Let us look now, here in the 21st century, upon language viewed by Adams and several other founders as rather unrefined:
The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. ‘Tis not the affair of a city, a country, a province, or a kingdom, but of a continent… ‘Tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually involved in the contest, and will be more or less affected, even to the end of time, by the proceedings now. Now is the seed time of continental union, faith and honor."

What on earth would the founders think of the "crapulous mess" that passes for discourse in the public square today?
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