John Adams: A Defense of the Constitutions of the United States, Letter 8

Liberty Letters, John Adams, 1786

Democratical Republics: CANTON OF ZUG [Switzerland]

My dear Sir,

THE canton of Zug is small, but rich, and divided into mountains and plains. The sovereign is the city of Zug, and part of the country. It is divided into five quarters, which possess the sovereignty; the city of Zug is two, and the country three, Mentzingen, Egeri, and Bar. The government is very complicated, and the sovereignty resides in the general assembly of the five quarters, where each male person of fifteen years of age has admittance and a voice. It assembles annually, to enact laws, and choose their magistrates. Thus these five quarters make a body of a democratical republic which commands the rest of the canton. They furnish alternately the land amman, the head or chief of the state, who must always reside at Zug with the regency of the country, although he is chosen by the suffrages of all the quarters collectively. He continues three years in office when taken from the district of Zug, and but two when chosen from any of the others.

The council of regency, to whom the general administration of affairs is intrusted, is composed of forty senators, thirteen from the city, and twenty-seven from the country.

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The city, moreover, has its chief, its council, and its officers apart, and every one of the other quarters has the same.

It is a total misapplication of words to call this government a simple democracy; for, although the people are accounted for something, and indeed for more than in most other free governments; in other words, although it is a free republic, it is rather a confederation of four or five republics, each of which has its monarchical, aristocratical, and democratical branches, than a simple democracy. The confederation too has its three branches; the general assembly, the regency of senators, and the land amman; being different orders tempering each other, as really as the house, council, and governor, in any of the United States of America.

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