John Adams: A Defense of the Constitiutions of the United States, Letter 16

Liberty Letters, John Adams, 1786

Aristocratical Republics: Swiss Cities of Schaffhause, Mulhouse, and Bienne


City of Schaffause

My dear Sir, THE sovereign is the city of Schaffhause. The citizens, about sixteen hundred, are divided into twelve tribes, one of which consists of nobles, and eleven are ordinary citizens.

The sovereignty resides in the little and grand councils.

The senate, or little council of twenty-five, has the executive power.

The great council, comprising the senate, has the legislative, and finally decides appeals.

The burgomasters are the chiefs of the republic, and alternately preside in both councils.

Besides these there are, the secret council, of seven of the highest officers; the chamber of justice, of twenty-five, including the president; the prætorian chamber, of thirteen, including the president; the consistory, of nine; and the chamber of accounts, of nine. The city has ten bailiwicks subject to it.

The City of Mulhouse

THE sovereign is the city: the sovereignty resides in the little and the grand council. The lesser council is composed of twenty-four persons; viz. three burgomasters, who preside by turns, each one six months, nine counselors, and twelve tribunes, who succeed by election, and are taken from the grand council.

The grand council is composed of seventy-eight, viz. the twenty-four of the lesser council, thirty-six members of the tribes, six from each, and eighteen taken from the body of the citizens, and elected three by each one of the six tribes.

The City of Bienne

THE republic of Bienne contains less than six thousand souls.

The regency is composed of the great council, in which the legislative authority resides, consisting of forty members; and of the little council, composed of twenty-four, who have the executive.

Each of these councils elect their own members, from the six confraternities of the city.

The burgomaster is chosen by the two councils, presides at their meetings, and is the chief of the regency; he continues in office for life, although he goes through the form of an annual confirmation by the two councils, when the other magistrates submit to the same ceremony. The burgomaster keeps the teal, and, with the banneret, the treasurers, and the secretary, forms the economical chamber, and the chamber of orphans.

This town sends deputies to the general diets. ordinary and extraordinary.


Table of Contents: A Defense of the Constitutions of the United States


Formatting, font, and spelling modernizations for this version of John Adams’ “A Defense of the Constitutions of the United States,” Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell. Copyright for the original version of this book is in the Public Domain because its copyright has expired.


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