The Canto opens with a thirty-line arrangement of material from a series of letters that Adams wrote to the Boston Gazette in 1773 in defense of an independent American judiciary. The three pages that follow are based on the “Novanglus” papers—a series of articles published in the Boston Gazette in 1775, wherein Adams (writing under the pseudonym “Novanglus”) set out a legal argument in support of American independence, in opposition to Daniel Leonard (writing under the pseudonym “Massachusettensis”) who argued the loyalist position. The first half of Canto 67 is thus devoted to Adams’s legal justification of the patriot cause in the years leading up to the American Revolution. In the second half of the poem, the focus shifts to the structure of government. Following his extended engagement with the “Novanglus” papers, Pound offers an arrangement of lines from Adams’s Thoughts on Government, an essay that was written in 1776, in an effort to propose a general plan for the government that could be put in place following the Revolution. This material is followed by a handful of lines based on correspondence relating to the Declaration of Independence and to Adams’s work during the Continental Congress in 1776. Canto 67 concludes with an arrangement of texts on the subject of constitutions: a brief passage based on a resolution passed by the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1779 and an extended arrangement of lines from Adams’s Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (1787).
Taken as a whole, Canto 67 thus offers a concise treatment of the period that begins with the early hostilities of the American Revolution and concludes with the debate over the Constitution. Rather than drawing attention to the most widely familiar events of these years, however, Pound uses Adams’s legal and political writings to focus on the struggle to establish a government based on just authority in the face of British imperial power and wealthy private interests. The Canto begins with a legal defense of the reasons for fighting—one based in English common and statutory law—before offering an exposition of the form of government that the Revolution has made possible. The fundamental idea that underpins the first part of the Canto is that of clear legal definitions as a means of establishing a firm and just basis for governmental authority (a central notion throughout the sequence, which is sometimes associated with the Confucian virtue of chêng ming [正名], the right naming of things). In the second part of Canto 67, where the central issue becomes the form of government, the emphasis of Pound’s writing shifts slightly and the fundamental notion becomes that of balance. Here, the focus remains squarely on balance in governmental institutions, but elsewhere in the Adams Cantos Pound uses the Chinese character chung (中) to express the idea of an individual’s mind being in harmony with the balance of nature.
David Ten Eyck. “Canto 67” Readings in the Cantos vol. 2, 2021
CANTO XXXI – [Adams and Jefferson in Paris]
CANTO XXXII – [the revolution was in the minds of the people]
CANTO XXXIII – Adams’s political principles