John Adams: A Defense of the Constitions of the United States, Letter 18

Liberty Letters, John Adams, 1786

Aristocratical Republics: ITALIAN REPUBLICS OF LUCCA & GENOA


My dear Sir, THE government of this republic is said to be purely aristocratical; yet the supreme power is lodged in the hands of two hundred and forty nobles, with the chief magistrate at their head, who is called confalloniero, or standard-bearer, and has the executive power. This magistrate is assisted by nine counsellors, called amziani, whose dignity lasts but nine months; he has a life-guard of sixty Swiss, and lives in the republic’s palace, as do his counsellors, at the public expence: after six years he may be rechosen. The election of all officers is decided in the senate by ballot.


THE legislative authority of Genoa is lodged in the great senate, consisting of seniors, or the doge and twelve other members, with four hundred noblemen and principal citizens, annually elected. All matters of state arc transacted by the seniors, the members of which hold their places for two years, assisted by some other councils; and four parts in five of the senate must agree in passing a law. The doge is obliged to reside in the public palace the two years he enjoys his office, with two of the seniors, and their families. The palace where he resides, and where the great and little council, and the two colleges of the procuratori and gouvernatori assemble, is a large stone building in the center of the city. At the expiration of his time, he retires to his own house for eight days, when his administration is either approved or condemned; and in the latter case, he is proceeded against as a criminal. At the election of the doge, a crown of gold is placed on his head, and a sceptre in his hand, as king of Corsica; he is attended with life-guards, is clothed in crimson velvet, and styled Most Serene, the senators Excellencies, and the nobility Illustrious.

The nobility are allowed to trade in the wholesale way; to carry on velvet, silk, and cloth manufactures; and to have shares in merchant ships: and some of them, as the Palavacini, are actually the greatest merchants in Genoa.

The extent is about one hundred and fifty-two miles, the breadth from eight to twenty miles.

The Moral Liberal recommends David McCullough’s John Adams