Consider what John Adams wrote to his son:
Independence, my Boy and freedom from humiliating Obligations, are greater Sources of happiness, than Riches.
John Adams to John Quincy Adams, New York, July 9, 1789 (from J.P. Kaminski, The Founders on the Founders, p. 45)
What is the historical context? At this time, the Senate was debating the question of what titles it should confer on the leaders of the United States. Adams had previously written to Benjamin Rush to clarify his position:
I also, am as much a Republican as I was in 1775. I do not “consider hereditary Monarchy or Aristocracy as Rebellion against Nature.” On the contrary I esteem them both Institutions of admirable Wisdom and exemplary Virtue, in a certain Stage of Society in a great Nation. The only Institutions that can possibly preserve the Laws and Liberties of the People. And I am clear that America must resort to them as an Asylum against Discord, Seditions and Civil War and that at no very distant Period of time. I shall not live to see it—but you may: I think it therefore impolitick to cherish Prejudices against Institutions which must be kept in View as the Hope of our Posterity. I am by no means for Attempting any such thing at present. Our Country is not ripe for it, in many respects and it is not yet necessary but our ship must ultimately land on that shore or be cast away.
I do not “abhor Titles, nor the Pageantry of Government”—if I did I should abhor Government itself—for there never was, and never will be, because there never can be, any Government without Titles and Pageantry. There is not a Quaker Family in Penn, governed without Titles and Pageantry, not a School, nor a College, nor a Club can be governed without them.
“I love the People,” with you—too well to cheat them, lie to them or deceive them. I wish those who have flattered them so much had loved them half as well. If I had not loved them I never would have Served them—if I did not love them now, I would not Serve them another hour—for I very well know that Vexation and Chagrine, must be my Portion, every moment I shall continue in public Life.
John Adams to Benjamin Rush, New York, June 9, 1789
(from J.P. Kaminski, The Founders on the Founders, pp. 44-45)
This, of course, is totally counter-intuitive: a Founding Father advocating Monarchy, Aristocracy, Titles, and Pageantry? Of course, a Southerner will not be surprised to see a Yankee presciently advocating monarchy in the case of civil war.
We need to put these paragraphs together with the last one, though. Adams was dedicated to serving his country, even though he was resigned to his service being full of vexation and chagrin. He was totally pragmatic with regard to the necessity of using strong government to preserve “the Laws and Liberties of the People.”
This is what it is like to be an honest, dedicated leader of a loose association of fractious people, especially if those people are committed to seeking their own ends over their common goals. I don’t like it, but I have to say I think it is accurate.