Democracy An American Novel, by Henry Adams Essay

Democracy An American Novel, by Henry Adams Essay

Length: 941 words (2.7 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

In the late 1800’s, Henry Adams wrote Democracy An American Novel, in which he portrayed Washington society through the eyes of a wealthy young widow, Mrs. Madeline Lee, who is looking for the basis of American governmental power. In her search for the basis of power, Mrs. Lee encounters many facets of Washington society, such as the types of people who control the government. The novel moves beyond a simple plot and story and includes portrayals of the basic Washington types of people, Washington society, and Adams’ assumptions about American democracy. Adams’ main assumption was that a respectable government is practically impossible. Next, he believed the US political system naturally tended towards corruption and finally, he thought that politics and power inevitably tend to sap a person’s morals.

Adams’ assumption that a respectable government is not possible in a democracy underlies the entire book and culminates with Mrs. Lee and Senator Ratcliffe’s conversation about government corruption. Mrs. Lee asks, “Is a respectable government impossible in a democracy?” Senator Ratcliffe replies, “That no representative government can long be much better or much worse than the society it represents. Purify society and you purify government. But try to purify the government artificially and you only aggravate failure” (Adams 42). Speaking through Senator Rafcliffe, Adams is saying that representative governments not only represent the political views of the people, but also reflect society’s morals. Adams adds to this point with the views of the corrupt and cynical Bulgarian minister, Baron Jacobi. In reply to Senator Rafcliffe’s statement, Baron Jacobi declares that among the nations, the United States has elements of ...


... middle of paper ...


...oy a person’s morals and make politics a risky venture for anyone. Mrs. Lee discovered this when she realized that by believing that Ratcliffe was truly honest and working for the public good, she began to lose sight of right and wrong as well. Perhaps, Adams presents the best solution with the ending of his book; Mrs. Lee leaves Washington, its intrigues, corruption, and people. She ventures to Egypt to recover and regain her sense of right and wrong. In conclusion, if politicians could step away from politics for a while, perhaps they too might regain their sense of ethics and morality.



Works Cited

Adams, Henry. Democracy An American Novel. New York: Random House Inc., 2003. N. pag. Print.

Martin, Gary. The meaning and origin of the expression: Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Ed. Gary Martin. The Phrase Finder, 1996. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

American Revolution Gave Birth to Democracy in America Essay example

- ... When they attacked again on October 7, 1777, they were forced to retreat and lost the battle. This was the turning point in the American Revolution. Because of the American victory, the French then joined forces with America, giving support on land and at sea ("Battle of Saratoga," 2009). Ultimately, this relationship enabled America to win the war. In addition to France, there were many other lesser known participants in the American Revolution. Many women traveled with the armies to supply support as nurses, cooks, etc....   [tags: resitance to British colonial rule]

Better Essays
987 words (2.8 pages)

Democracy and Andrew Jackson Essay

- The seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson, was born on March 17, 1767 in Waxhaw, South Carolina. Growing up, he was educated in an “old field school” in South Carolina and at the age of 13, joined the army as a courier boy. After the American Revolutionary War, Jackson found himself as an orphan. Both of Jackson’s brothers and mother had either succumbed to death during the war or illnesses that they could not overcome, leaving Jackson at the age of 14 to live with relatives. After studying law in North Carolina, Jackson was admitted to the bar in 1787 and practiced until he became solicitor for present day Tennessee....   [tags: Governmental Leaders]

Better Essays
1195 words (3.4 pages)

Andrew Jackson 's The Era Of Good Feelings Essay

- After the decline of the Era of Good Feelings, Andrew Jackson emerged as an advocate for the common man. His following known as the Jacksonian Democrats, gained large popularity in the 1820s; with his growing support, Jackson won the 1828 election therefore securing political power for the Jacksonian Democrats. During Jackson’s time in office, the Jacksonian Democrats were guardians of the Constitution due to the use of veto power in order to preserve the values of the nation. The Jacksonian Democrats were also guardians of the American ideal of political democracy; they took efforts to provide equal power in politics for a larger population of Americans....   [tags: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams]

Better Essays
3602 words (10.3 pages)

Causes of The American Revolution Essay

- The period before the American Revolution was characterized by a series of social as well as political shifts that occurred in American society as new republican principles took hold in the gentry of the colonies. That time era distinguished the sharp political debates between radicals and moderates over the role that democracy should play in a government. This broad new American shift to republicanism and a newfound support of democracy was a catastrophe to the traditional social hierarchy, which characterized an old mixed government in the Americas....   [tags: Essays on American Revolution]

Better Essays
986 words (2.8 pages)

Jacksonian Democracy Essay

- An ambiguous, controversial concept, Jacksonian Democracy in the strictest sense refers simply to the ascendancy of Andrew Jackson and the Democratic party after 1828. More loosely, it alludes to the entire range of democratic reforms that proceeded alongside the Jacksonians' triumph—from expanding the suffrage to restructuring federal institutions. From another angle, however, Jacksonianism appears as a political impulse tied to slavery, the subjugation of Native Americans, and the celebration of white supremacy—so much so that some scholars have dismissed the phrase "Jacksonian Democracy" as a contradiction in terms....   [tags: Political Science Politics]

Free Essays
1999 words (5.7 pages)

The Presidential Election Of 1824 Essay

- In the election of 1824 for the first time in history, the presidential election was not based off of a two-party system. Due to the Federalists lack of interest in democracy, after the war of 1812 the Federalist Party had dissolved. Federalism was no longer a force in United States politics. As a result of this abandoned political party, the presidential election of 1824 encompassed four candidates representing the same party, with different views. The four candidates included John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, William Crawford, and Andrew Jackson....   [tags: John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, United States]

Better Essays
868 words (2.5 pages)

The Education of Henry Adams Essay

- "His work seemed to him thin, commonplace, feeble. At times he felt his own weakness so fatally that he could not go on; when he had nothing to say, he could not say it, and he found that he had very little to say at best" (Adams 39). Having been born into the upper class, Henry Adams graduated from high school and then for him, "the next regular step was Harvard" (Adams 32). Through Adam's essay, "The Education of Henry Adams", it is clear that the education he received at Harvard was plagued by his negative mindset that was triggered by his social status and the history of his surname....   [tags: Henry Adams]

Free Essays
835 words (2.4 pages)

Abigail Adams : The American Revolution Essay

- Abigail Adams resolutely sent her husband a letter in March of 1776 detailing the affairs of the household and, most importantly, reminding him to bear in mind the women of the new Republic when delicately putting together a new code of laws. John Adams dismissed his wife’s plea, but Abigail’s letter has stood as both a warning and an indicator of future relations between two sexes. Her threat of a rebellion metamorphosed into a feminist revolution that has since found itself under the weight of increasing social controls over women....   [tags: American Revolution, John Adams, Woman]

Better Essays
1835 words (5.2 pages)

How the Wealthy Convinced the Laboring-class to Fight the American Revolution

- As the British and Colonists were engaged in the Seven Years War against the French and Indians, the colonists were slowly building up feelings for their removal from under the British crown. There had been several uprisings to overthrow the colonial governments. When the war ended and the British were victorious, they declared the Proclamation of 1763 which stated that the land west of the Appalachians was to be "reserved" for the Native American population. The colonists were confused and outraged and the now ambitious social elite were raring to direct that anger against the English since the French were no longer a threat....   [tags: Essays on American Revolution]

Better Essays
840 words (2.4 pages)

Sam Adams And The American Revolutionary War Essay

- ... In 1766, Adams was elected into the House of Representative 's. The next year he would convince his associate John Adam 's to open a law-practice in Boston. John Adams would recruit John Hancock this same year. Adam 's first major assault of Parliament was when he blasted the Sugar Act. This act would tax colonies with what Adam 's deemed as purpose of revenue. Adam 's stated, “trade regulation was within parliament premise, collection of revenue was not.” Later Adam 's would act again against parliament when the Stamp Act was initiated....   [tags: American Revolution, Samuel Adams, Massachusetts]

Better Essays
1081 words (3.1 pages)