As a billionaire settles into the White House and income inequality widens, Democrats have grown fond of recalling Franklin Roosevelt's ominous description of the "economic royalists" of Depression-era America.
But fear of American oligarchy is much older than the modern Democratic Party. It was harbored by the most brilliant political mind of the Founding generation: John Adams. Unlike Roosevelt, who was chiefly a political practitioner, Adams was a profound student and theorist of the power of wealth, a political philosopher who analyzed the danger of oligarchy with subtlety and rigor.
Throughout his career of thinking and writing - a career that coincided with a life of political leadership - Adams sought to convince his fellow Americans that the power of wealth was among the chief threats facing the republican order.
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