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In September, 1830, Mr. Adams notes in his Diary a suggestion made to him that he might if he wished be elected to the national House of Representatives from the Plymouth district. The gentleman who threw out this tentative proposition remarked that in his opinion the acceptance of this position by an ex-President “instead of degrading the individual would elevate the representative character.” Mr. Adams replied, that he “had in that respect no scruple whatever. No person could be degraded by serving the people as a Representative in Congress. Nor in my opinion would an ex-President of the United States be degraded by serving as a selectman of his town, if elected thereto by the people.” A few weeks later his election was accomplished by a flattering vote, the poll showing for him 1817 votes out of 2565, with only 373 for the next candidate. He continued thenceforth to represent this district until his death, a period of about sixteen years. During this time he was occasionally suggested as a candidate for the governorship of the State, but was always reluctant to stand. The feeling between the Freemasons and the anti-Masons ran very high for several years, and once he was prevailed upon to allow his name to be used by the latter party. The result was that there was no election by the people; and as he had been very loath to enter the contest in the beginning, he insisted upon withdrawing from before the legislature. We have now therefore only to pursue his career in the lower house of Congress.

Unfortunately, but of obvious necessity, it is possible to touch only upon the more salient points of this which was really by far the most striking and distinguished portion of his life. To do more than this would involve an explanation of the politics of the country and the measures before Congress much more elaborate than would be possible in this volume. It will be necessary, therefore, to confine ourselves to drawing a picture of him in his character as the great combatant of Southern slavery. In the waging of this mighty conflict we shall see both his mind and his character developing in strength even in these years of his old age, and his traits standing forth in bolder relief than ever before. In his place on the floor of the House of Representatives he was destined to appear a more impressive figure than in any of the higher positions which he had previously filled. There he was to do his greatest work and to win a peculiar and distinctive glory which takes him out of the general throng even of famous statesmen, and entitles his name to be remembered with an especial reverence. Adequately to sketch his achievements, and so to do his memory the honor which it deserves, would require a pen as eloquent as has been wielded by any writer of our language. I can only attempt a brief and insufficient narrative.

In his conscientious way he was faithful and industrious to a rare degree. He was never absent and seldom late; he bore unflinchingly the burden of severe committee work, and shirked no toil on the plea of age or infirmity. He attended closely to all the business of the House; carefully formed his opinions on every question; never failed to vote except for cause; and always had a sufficient reason independent of party allegiance to sustain his vote. Living in the age of oratory, he earned the name of “the old man eloquent.” Yet he was not an orator in the sense in which Webster, Clay, and Calhoun were orators. He was not a rhetorician; he had neither grace of manner nor a fine presence, neither an imposing delivery, nor even pleasing tones. On the contrary, he was exceptionally lacking in all these qualities. He was short, rotund, and bald; about the time when he entered Congress, complaints become frequent in his Diary of weak and inflamed eyes, and soon these organs became so rheumy that the water would trickle down his cheeks; a shaking of the hand grew upon him to such an extent that in time he had to use artificial assistance to steady it for writing; his voice was high, shrill, liable to break, piercing enough to make itself heard, but not agreeable. This hardly seems the picture of an orator; nor was it to any charm of elocution that he owed his influence, but rather to the fact that men soon learned that what he said was always well worth hearing. When he entered Congress he had been for much more than a third of a century zealously gathering knowledge in public affairs, and during his career in that body every year swelled the already vast accumulation. Moreover, listeners were always sure to get a bold and an honest utterance and often pretty keen words from him, and he never spoke to an inattentive audience or to a thin house. Whether pleased or incensed by what he said, the Representatives at least always listened to it. He was by nature a hard fighter, and by the circumstances of his course in Congress this quality was stimulated to such a degree that parliamentary history does not show his equal as a gladiator. His power of invective was extraordinary, and he was untiring and merciless in his use of it. Theoretically he disapproved of sarcasm, but practically he could not refrain from it. Men winced and cowered before his milder attacks, became sometimes dumb, sometimes furious with mad rage before his fiercer assaults. Such struggles evidently gave him pleasure, and there was scarce a back in Congress that did not at one time or another feel the score of his cutting lash; though it was the Southerners and the Northern allies of Southerners whom chiefly he singled out for torture. He was irritable and quick to wrath; he himself constantly speaks of the infirmity of his temper, and in his many conflicts his principal concern was to keep it in control. His enemies often referred to it and twitted him with it. Of alliances he was careless, and friendships he had almost none. But in the creation of enmities he was terribly successful. Not so much at first, but increasingly as years went on, a state of ceaseless, vigilant hostility became his normal condition. From the time when he fairly entered upon the long struggle against slavery, he enjoyed few peaceful days in the House. But he seemed to thrive upon the warfare, and to be never so well pleased as when he was bandying hot words with slave-holders and the Northern supporters of slave-holders. When the air of the House was thick with crimination and abuse he seemed to suck in fresh vigor and spirit from the hate-laden atmosphere. When invective fell around him in showers, he screamed back his retaliation with untiring rapidity and marvellous dexterity of aim. No odds could appall him. With his back set firm against a solid moral principle, it was his joy to strike out at a multitude of foes. They lost their heads as well as their tempers, but in the extremest moments of excitement and anger Mr. Adams’s brain seemed to work with machine-like coolness and accuracy. With flushed face, streaming eyes, animated gesticulation, and cracking voice, he always retained perfect mastery of all his intellectual faculties. He thus became a terrible antagonist, whom all feared, yet fearing could not refrain from attacking, so bitterly and incessantly did he choose to exert his wonderful power of exasperation. Few men could throw an opponent into wild blind fury with such speed and certainty as he could; and he does not conceal the malicious gratification which such feats brought to him. A leader of such fighting capacity, so courageous, with such a magazine of experience and information, and with a character so irreproachable, could have won brilliant victories in public life at the head of even a small band of devoted followers. But Mr. Adams never had and apparently never wanted followers. Other prominent public men were brought not only into collision but into comparison with their contemporaries. But Mr. Adams’s individuality was so strong that he can be compared with no one. It was not an individuality of genius nor to any remarkable extent of mental qualities; but rather an individuality of character. To this fact is probably to be attributed his peculiar solitariness. Men touch each other for purposes of attachment through their characters much more than through their minds. But few men, even in agreeing with Mr. Adams, felt themselves in sympathy with him. Occasionally conscience, or invincible logic, or even policy and self-interest, might compel one or another politician to stand beside him in debate or in voting; but no current of fellow feeling ever passed between such temporary comrades and him. It was the cold connection of duty or of business. The first instinct of nearly every one was opposition towards him; coalition might be forced by circumstances but never came by volition. For the purpose of winning immediate successes this was of course a most unfortunate condition of relationships. Yet it had some compensations: it left such influence as Mr. Adams could exert by steadfastness and argument entirely unweakened by suspicion of hidden motives or personal ends. He had the weight and enjoyed the respect which a sincerity beyond distrust must always command in the long run. Of this we shall see some striking instances.

One important limitation, however, belongs to this statement of solitariness. It was confined to his position in Congress. Outside of the city of Washington great numbers of the people, especially in New England, lent him a hearty support and regarded him with friendship and admiration. These men had strong convictions and deep feelings, and their adherence counted for much. Moreover, their numbers steadily increased, and Mr. Adams saw that he was the leader in a cause which engaged the sound sense and the best feeling of the intelligent people of the country, and which was steadily gaining ground. Without such encouragement it is doubtful whether even his persistence would have held out through so long and extreme a trial. The sense of human fellowship was needful to him; he could go without it in Congress, but he could not have gone without it altogether.

Mr. Adams took his seat in the House as a member of the twenty-second Congress in December, 1831. He had been elected by the National Republican, afterward better known as the Whig party, but one of his first acts was to declare that he would be bound by no partisan connection, but would in every matter act independently. This course he regarded as a “duty imposed upon him by his peculiar position,” in that he “had spent the greatest portion of his life in the service of the whole nation and had been honored with their highest trust.” Many persons had predicted that he would find himself subjected to embarrassments and perhaps to humiliations by reason of his apparent descent in the scale of political dignities. He notes, however, that he encountered no annoyance on this score, but on the contrary he was rather treated with an especial respect. He was made chairman of the Committee on Manufactures, a laborious as well as an important and honorable position at all times, and especially so at this juncture when the rebellious mutterings of South Carolina against the protective tariff were already to be heard rolling and swelling like portentous thunder from the fiery Southern regions. He would have preferred to exchange this post for a place upon the Committee on Foreign Affairs, for whose business he felt more fitted. But he was told that in the impending crisis his ability, authority, and prestige were all likely to be needed in the place allotted to him to aid in the salvation of the country.

The nullification chapter of our history cannot here be entered upon at length, and Mr. Adams’s connection with it must be very shortly stated. At the first meeting of his committee he remarks: “A reduction of the duties upon many of the articles in the tariff was understood by all to be the object to be effected;” and a little later he said that he should be disposed to give such aid as he could to any plan for this reduction which the Treasury Department should devise. “He should certainly not consent to sacrifice the manufacturing interest,” he said, “but something of concession would be due from that interest to appease the discontents of the South.” He was in a reasonable frame of mind; but unfortunately other people were rapidly ceasing to be reasonable. When Jackson’s message of December 4, 1832, was promulgated, showing a disposition to do for South Carolina pretty much all that she demanded, Mr. Adams was bitterly indignant. The message, he said, “recommends a total change in the policy of the Union with reference to the Bank, manufactures, internal improvement, and the public lands. It goes to dissolve the Union into its original elements, and is in substance a complete surrender to the nullifiers of South Carolina.” When, somewhat later on, the President lost his temper and flamed out in his famous proclamation to meet the nullification ordinance, he spoke in tones more pleasing to Mr. Adams. But the ultimate compromise which disposed of the temporary dissension without permanently settling the fundamental question of the constitutional right of nullification was extremely distasteful to him. He was utterly opposed to the concessions which were made while South Carolina still remained contumacious. He was for compelling her to retire altogether from her rebellious position and to repeal her unconstitutional enactments wholly and unconditionally, before one jot should be abated from the obnoxious duties. When the bill for the modification of the tariff was under debate, he moved to strike out all but the enacting clause, and supported his motion in a long speech, insisting that no tariff ought to pass until it was known “whether there was any measure by which a State could defeat the laws of the Union.” In a minority report from his own committee he strongly censured the policy of the Administration. He was for meeting, fighting out, and determining at this crisis the whole doctrine of state rights and secession. “One particle of compromise,” he said, with what truth events have since shown clearly enough, would “directly lead to the final and irretrievable dissolution of the Union.” In his usual strong and thorough-going fashion he was for persisting in the vigorous and spirited measures, the mere brief declaration of which, though so quickly receded from, won for Jackson a measure of credit greater than he deserved. Jackson was thrown into a great rage by the threats of South Carolina, and replied to them with the same prompt wrath with which he had sometimes resented insults from individuals. But in his cool inner mind he was in sympathy with the demands which that State preferred, and though undoubtedly he would have fought her, had the dispute been forced to that pass, yet he was quite willing to make concessions, which were in fact in consonance with his own views as well as with hers, in order to avoid that sad conclusion. He was satisfied to have the instant emergency pass over in a manner rendered superficially creditable to himself by his outburst of temper, under cover of which he sacrificed the substantial matter of principle without a qualm. He shook his fist and shouted defiance in the face of the nullifiers, while Mr. Clay smuggled a comfortable concession into their pockets. Jackson, notwithstanding his belligerent attitude, did all he could to help Clay and was well pleased with the result. Mr. Adams was not. He watched the disingenuous game with disgust. It is certain that if he had still been in the White House, the matter would have had a very different ending, bloodier, it may be, and more painful, but much more conclusive.

For the most part Mr. Adams found himself in opposition to President Jackson’s Administration. This was not attributable to any sense of personal hostility towards a successful rival, but to an inevitable antipathy towards the measures, methods, and ways adopted by the General so unfortunately transferred to civil life. Few intelligent persons, and none having the statesman habit of mind, befriended the reckless, violent, eminently unstatesmanlike President. His ultimate weakness in the nullification matter, his opposition to internal improvements, his policy of sacrificing the public lands to individual speculators, his warfare against the Bank of the United States conducted by methods the most unjustifiable, the transaction of the removal of the deposits so disreputable and injurious in all its details, the importation of Mrs. Eaton’s visiting-list into the politics and government of the country, the dismissal of the oldest and best public servants as a part of the nefarious system of using public offices as rewards for political aid and personal adherence, the formation from base ingredients of the ignoble “Kitchen Cabinet,” all these doings, together with much more of the like sort, constituted a career which could only seem blundering, undignified, and dishonorable in the eyes of a man like Mr. Adams, who regarded statesmanship with the reverence due to the noblest of human callings.

Right as Mr. Adams was generally in his opposition to Jackson, yet once he deserves credit for the contrary course. This was in the matter of our relations with France. The treaty of 1831 secured to this country an indemnity of $5,000,000, which, however, it had never been possible to collect. This procrastination raised Jacksons ever ready ire, and casting to the winds any further dunning, he resolved either to have the money or to fight for it. He sent a message to Congress, recommending that if France should not promptly settle the account, letters of marque and reprisal against her commerce should be issued. He ordered Edward Livingston, minister at Paris, to demand his passports and cross over to London. These eminently proper and ultimately effectual measures alarmed the large party of the timid; and the General found himself in danger of extensive desertions even on the part of his usual supporters. But as once before in a season of his dire extremity his courage and vigor had brought the potent aid of Mr. Adams to his side, so now again he came under a heavy debt of gratitude to the same champion. Mr. Adams stood by him with generous gallantry, and by a telling speech in the House probably saved him from serious humiliation and even disaster. The Presidents style of dealing had roused Mr. Adamss spirit, and he spoke with a fire and vehemence which accomplished the unusual feat of changing the predisposed minds of men too familiar with speech-making to be often much influenced by it in the practical matter of voting. He thought at the time that the success of this speech, brilliant as it appeared, was not unlikely to result in his political ruin. Jackson would befriend and reward his thorough-going partisans at any cost to his own conscience or the public welfare; but the exceptional aid, tendered not from a sense of personal fealty to himself, but simply from the motive of aiding the right cause happening in the especial instance to have been espoused by him, never won from him any token of regard. In November, 1837, Mr. Adams, speaking of his personal relations with the President, said:

“Though I had served him more than any other living man ever did, and though I supported his Administration at the hazard of my own political destruction, and effected for him at a moment when his own friends were deserting him what no other member of Congress ever accomplished for him an unanimous vote of the House of Representatives to support him in his quarrel with France; though I supported him in other very critical periods of his Administration, my return from him was insult, indignity, and slander.”

Antipathy had at last become the definitive condition of these two men antipathy both political and personal. At one time a singular effort to reconcile them probably though not certainly undertaken with the knowledge of Jackson was made by Richard M. Johnson. This occurred shortly before the inauguration of the war conducted by the President against the Bank of the United States; and judging by the rest of Jackson’s behavior at this period, there was probably at least as much of calculation in his motives, if in fact he was cognizant of Johnson’s approaches, as there was of any real desire to reestablish the bygone relation of honorable friendship. To the advances thus made Mr. Adams replied a little coldly, not quite repellently, that Jackson, having been responsible for the suspension of personal intercourse, must now be undisguisedly the active party in renewing it. At the same time he professed himself “willing to receive in a spirit of conciliation any advance which in that spirit General Jackson might make.” But nothing came of this intrinsically hopeless attempt. On the contrary the two drew rapidly and more widely apart, and entertained concerning each other opinions which grew steadily more unfavorable, and upon Adams’s part more contemptuous, as time went on.

Fifteen months later General Jackson made his visit to Boston, and it was proposed that Harvard College should confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws. The absurdity of the act, considered simply in itself, was admitted by all. But the argument in its favor was based upon the established usage of the College as towards all other Presidents, so that its omission in this case might seem a personal slight. Mr. Adams, being at the time a member of the Board of Overseers, strongly opposed the proposition, but of course in vain. All that he could do was, for his own individual part, to refuse to be present at the conferring of the degree, giving as the minor reason for his absence, that he could hold no friendly intercourse with the President, but for the major reason that independent of that, as myself an affectionate child of our Alma Mater, I would not be present to witness her disgrace in conferring her highest literary honors upon a barbarian who could not write a sentence of grammar and hardly could spell his own name. A Doctorate of Laws, he said, for which an apology was necessary, was a cheap honor and ... a sycophantic compliment. After the deed was done, he used to amuse himself by speaking of Doctor Andrew Jackson. This same eastern tour of Jacksons called forth many other expressions of bitter sarcasm from Adams. The President was ill and unable to carry out the programme of entertainment and exhibition prepared for him: whereupon Mr. Adams remarks:

“I believe much of his debility is politic.... He is one of our tribe of great men who turn disease to commodity, like John Randolph, who for forty years was always dying. Jackson, ever since he became a mark of public attention, has been doing the same thing.... He is now alternately giving out his chronic diarrhoea and making Warren bleed him for a pleurisy, and posting to Cambridge for a doctorate of laws; mounting the monument of Bunker’s Hill to hear a fulsome address and receive two cannon balls from Edward Everett,” etc. “Four fifths of his sickness is trickery, and the other fifth mere fatigue.”

This sounds, it must be confessed, a trifle rancorous; but Adams had great excuse for nourishing rancor towards Jackson.

It is time, however, to return to the House of Representatives. It was not by bearing his share in the ordinary work of that body, important or exciting as that might at one time or another happen to be, that Mr. Adams was to win in Congress that reputation which has been already described as far overshadowing all his previous career. A special task and a peculiar mission were before him. It was a part of his destiny to become the champion of the anti-slavery cause in the national legislature. Almost the first thing which he did after he had taken his seat in Congress was to present “fifteen petitions signed numerously by citizens of Pennsylvania, praying for the abolition of slavery and the slave-trade in the District of Columbia.” He simply moved their reference to the Committee on the District of Columbia, declaring that he should not support that part of the petition which prayed for abolition in the District. The time had not yet come when the South felt much anxiety at such manifestations, and these first stones were dropped into the pool without stirring a ripple on the surface. For about four years more we hear little in the Diary concerning slavery. It was not until 1835, when the annexation of Texas began to be mooted, that the North fairly took the alarm, and the irrepressible conflict began to develop. Then at once we find Mr. Adams at the front. That he had always cherished an abhorrence of slavery and a bitter antipathy to slave-holders as a class is sufficiently indicated by many chance remarks scattered through his Diary from early years. Now that a great question, vitally affecting the slave power, divided the country into parties and inaugurated the struggle which never again slept until it was settled forever by the result of the civil war, Mr. Adams at once assumed the function of leader. His position should be clearly understood; for in the vast labor which lay before the abolition party different tasks fell to different men. Mr. Adams assumed to be neither an agitator nor a reformer; by necessity of character, training, fitness, and official position, he was a legislator and statesman. The task which accident or destiny allotted to him was neither to preach among the people a crusade against slavery, nor to devise and keep in action the thousand resources which busy men throughout the country were constantly multiplying for the purpose of spreading and increasing a popular hostility towards the great “institution.” Every great cause has need of its fanatics, its vanguard to keep far in advance of what is for the time reasonable and possible; it has not less need of the wiser and cooler heads to discipline and control the great mass which is set in motion by the reckless forerunners, to see to the accomplishment of that which the present circumstances and development of the movement allow to be accomplished. It fell to Mr. Adams to direct the assault against the outworks which were then vulnerable, and to see that the force then possessed by the movement was put to such uses as would insure definite results instead of being wasted in endeavors which as yet were impossible of achievement. Drawing his duty from his situation and surroundings, he left to others, to younger men and more rhetorical natures, outside the walls of Congress, the business of firing the people and stirring popular opinion and sympathy. He was set to do that portion of the work of abolition which was to be done in Congress, to encounter the mighty efforts which were made to stifle the great humanitarian cry in the halls of the national legislature. This was quite as much as one man was equal to; in fact, it is certain that no one then in public life except Mr. Adams could have done it effectually. So obvious is this that one cannot help wondering what would have befallen the cause, had he not been just where he was to forward it in just the way that he did. It is only another among the many instances of the need surely finding the man. His qualifications were unique; his ability, his knowledge, his prestige and authority, his high personal character, his persistence and courage, his combativeness stimulated by an acrimonious temper but checked by a sound judgment, his merciless power of invective, his independence and carelessness of applause or vilification, friendship or enmity, constituted him an opponent fully equal to the enormous odds which the slave-holding interest arrayed against him. A like moral and mental fitness was to be found in no one else. Numbers could not overawe him, nor loneliness dispirit him. He was probably the most formidable fighter in debate of whom parliamentary records preserve the memory. The hostility which he encountered beggars description; the English language was deficient in adequate words of virulence and contempt to express the feelings which were entertained towards him. At home he had not the countenance of that class in society to which he naturally belonged. A second time he found the chief part of the gentlemen of Boston and its vicinity, the leading lawyers, the rich merchants, the successful manufacturers, not only opposed to him, but entertaining towards him sentiments of personal dislike and even vindictiveness. This stratum of the community, having a natural distaste for disquieting agitation and influenced by class feeling, the gentlemen of the North sympathizing with the “aristocracy” of the South, could not make common cause with anti-slavery people. Fortunately, however, Mr. Adams was returned by a country district where the old Puritan instincts were still strong. The intelligence and free spirit of New England were at his back, and were fairly represented by him; in spite of high-bred disfavor they carried him gallantly through the long struggle. The people of the Plymouth district sent him back to the House every two years from the time of his first election to the year of his death, and the disgust of the gentlemen of Boston was after all of trifling consequence to him and of no serious influence upon the course of history. The old New England instinct was in him as it was in the mass of the people; that instinct made him the real exponent of New England thought, belief, and feeling, and that same instinct made the great body of voters stand by him with unswerving constancy. When his fellow Representatives, almost to a man, deserted him, he was sustained by many a token of sympathy and admiration coming from among the people at large. Time and the history of the United States have been his potent vindicators. The conservative, conscienceless respectability of wealth was, as is usually the case with it in the annals of the Anglo-Saxon race, quite in the wrong and predestined to well-merited defeat. It adds to the honor due to Mr. Adams that his sense of right was true enough, and that his vision was clear enough, to lead him out of that strong thraldom which class feelings, traditions, and comradeship are wont to exercise.

But it is time to resume the narrative and to let Mr. Adams’s acts of which after all it is possible to give only the briefest sketch, selecting a few of the more striking incidents tell the tale of his Congressional life.

On February 14, 1835, Mr. Adams again presented two petitions for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, but without giving rise to much excitement. The fusillade was, however, getting too thick and fast to be endured longer with indifference by the impatient Southerners. At the next session of Congress they concluded to try to stop it, and their ingenious scheme was to make Congress shot-proof, so to speak, against such missiles. On January 4, 1836, Mr. Adams presented an abolition petition couched in the usual form, and moved that it be laid on the table, as others like it had lately been. But in a moment Mr. Glascock, of Georgia, moved that the petition be not received. Debate sprang up on a point of order, and two days later, before the question of reception was determined, a resolution was offered by Mr. Jarvis, of Maine, declaring that the House would not entertain any petitions for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. This resolution was supported on the ground that Congress had no constitutional power in the premises. Some days later, January 18, 1836, before any final action had been reached upon this proposition, Mr. Adams presented some more abolition petitions, one of them signed by “one hundred and forty-eight ladies, citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; for, I said, I had not yet brought myself to doubt whether females were citizens.” The usual motion not to receive was made, and then a new device was resorted to in the shape of a motion that the motion not to receive be laid on the table.

On February 8, 1836, this novel scheme for shutting off petitions against slavery immediately upon their presentation was referred to a select committee of which Mr. Pinckney was chairman. On May 18 this committee reported in substance: 1. That Congress had no power to interfere with slavery in any State; 2. That Congress ought not to interfere with slavery in the District of Columbia; 3. That whereas the agitation of the subject was disquieting and objectionable, “all petitions, memorials, resolutions or papers, relating in any way or to any extent whatsoever to the subject of slavery or the abolition of slavery, shall, without being either printed or referred, be laid upon the table, and that no further action whatever shall be had thereon.” When it came to taking a vote upon this report a division of the question was called for, and the yeas and nays were ordered. The first resolution was then read, whereupon Mr. Adams at once rose and pledged himself, if the House would allow him five minutes’ time, to prove it to be false. But cries of “order” resounded; he was compelled to take his seat and the resolution was adopted by 182 to 9. Upon the second resolution he asked to be excused from voting, and his name was passed in the call. The third resolution with its preamble was then read, and Mr. Adams, so soon as his name was called, rose and said: “I hold the resolution to be a direct violation of the Constitution of the United States, the rules of this House, and the rights of my constituents.” He was interrupted by shrieks of “order” resounding on every side; but he only spoke the louder and obstinately finished his sentence before resuming his seat. The resolution was of course agreed to, the vote standing 117 to 68. Such was the beginning of the famous “gag” which became and long remained afterward in a worse shape a standing rule of the House. Regularly in each new Congress when the adoption of rules came up, Mr. Adams moved to rescind the “gag;” but for many years his motions continued to be voted down, as a matter of course. Its imposition was clearly a mistake on the part of the slave-holding party; free debate would almost surely have hurt them less than this interference with the freedom of petition. They had assumed an untenable position. Henceforth, as the persistent advocate of the right of petition, Mr. Adams had a support among the people at large vastly greater than he could have enjoyed as the opponent of slavery. As his adversaries had shaped the issue he was predestined to victory in a free country.

A similar scene was enacted on December 21 and 22, 1837. A “gag” or “speech-smothering” resolution being then again before the House, Mr. Adams, when his name was called in the taking of the vote, cried out “amidst a perfect war-whoop of ‘order:’ ’I hold the resolution to be a violation of the Constitution, of the right of petition of my constituents and of the people of the United States, and of my right to freedom of speech as a member of this House.’” Afterward, in reading over the names of members who had voted, the clerk omitted that of Mr. Adams, this utterance of his not having constituted a vote. Mr. Adams called attention to the omission. The clerk, by direction of the Speaker, thereupon called his name. His only reply was by a motion that his answer as already made should be entered on the Journal. The Speaker said that this motion was not in order. Mr. Adams, resolute to get upon the record, requested that his motion with the Speaker’s decision that it was not in order might be entered on the Journal. The next day, finding that this entry had not been made in proper shape, he brought up the matter again. One of his opponents made a false step, and Mr. Adams “bantered him” upon it until the other was provoked into saying that, “if the question ever came to the issue of war, the Southern people would march into New England and conquer it.” Mr. Adams replied that no doubt they would if they could; that he entered his resolution upon the Journal because he was resolved that his opponent’s “name should go down to posterity damned to everlasting fame.” No one ever gained much in a war of words with this ever-ready and merciless tongue.

Mr. Adams, having soon become known to all the nation as the indomitable presenter of anti-slavery petitions, quickly found that great numbers of people were ready to keep him busy in this trying task. For a long while it was almost as much as he could accomplish to receive, sort, schedule, and present the infinite number of petitions and memorials which came to him praying for the abolition of slavery and of the slave-trade in the District of Columbia, and opposing the annexation of Texas. It was an occupation not altogether devoid even of physical danger, and calling for an amount of moral courage greater than it is now easy to appreciate. It is the incipient stage of such a conflict that tests the mettle of the little band of innovators. When it grows into a great party question much less courage is demanded. The mere presentation of an odious petition may seem in itself to be a simple task; but to find himself in a constant state of antagonism to a powerful, active, and vindictive majority in a debating body, constituted of such material as then made up the House of Representatives, wore hardly even upon the iron temper and inflexible disposition of Mr. Adams. “The most insignificant error of conduct in me at this time,” he writes in April, 1837, “would be my irredeemable ruin in this world; and both the ruling political parties are watching with intense anxiety for some overt act by me to set the whole pack of their hireling presses upon me.” But amid the host of foes, and aware that he could count upon the aid of scarcely a single hearty and daring friend, he labored only the more earnestly. The severe pressure against him begat only the more severe counter pressure upon his part.

Besides these natural and legitimate difficulties, Mr. Adams was further in the embarrassing position of one who has to fear as much from the imprudence of allies as from open hostility of antagonists, and he was often compelled to guard against a peculiar risk coming from his very coadjutors in the great cause. The extremists who had cast aside all regard for what was practicable, and who utterly scorned to consider the feasibility or the consequences of measures which seemed to them to be correct as abstract propositions of morality, were constantly urging him to action which would only have destroyed him forever in political life, would have stripped him of his influence, exiled him from that position in Congress where he could render the most efficient service that was in him, and left him naked of all usefulness and utterly helpless to continue that essential portion of the labor which could be conducted by no one else. The abolitionists generally, he said, are constantly urging me to indiscreet movements, which would ruin me, and weaken and not strengthen their cause. His family, on the other hand, sought to restrain him from all connection with these dangerous partisans. Between these adverse impulses, he writes, my mind is agitated almost to distraction.... I walk on the edge of a precipice almost every step that I take. In the midst of all this anxiety, however, he was fortunately supported by the strong commendation of his constituents which they once loyally declared by formal and unanimous votes in a convention summoned for the express purpose of manifesting their support. His feelings appear by an entry in his Diary in October, 1837:

“I have gone [he said] as far upon this article, the abolition of slavery, as the public opinion of the free portion of the Union will bear, and so far that scarcely a slave-holding member of the House dares to vote with me upon any question. I have as yet been thoroughly sustained by my own State, but one step further and I hazard my own standing and influence there, my own final overthrow, and the cause of liberty itself for an indefinite time, certainly for more than my remnant of life. Were there in the House one member capable of taking the lead in this cause of universal emancipation, which is moving onward in the world and in this country, I would withdraw from the contest which will rage with increasing fury as it draws to its crisis, but for the management of which my age, infirmities, and approaching end totally disqualify me. There is no such man in the House.”

September 15, 1837, he says: “I have been for some time occupied day and night, when at home, in assorting and recording the petitions and remonstrances against the annexation of Texas, and other anti-slavery petitions, which flow upon me in torrents.” The next day he presented the singular petition of one Sherlock S. Gregory, who had conceived the eccentric notion of asking Congress to declare him “an alien or stranger in the land so long as slavery exists and the wrongs of the Indians are unrequited and unrepented of.” September 28 he presented a batch of his usual petitions, and also asked leave to offer a resolution calling for a report concerning the coasting trade in slaves. “There was what Napoleon would have called a superb NO! returned to my request from the servile side of the House.” The next day he presented fifty-one more like documents, and notes having previously presented one hundred and fifty more.

In December, 1837, still at this same work, he made a hard but fruitless effort to have the Texan remonstrances and petitions sent to a select committee instead of to that on foreign affairs which was constituted in the Southern interest. On December 29 he “presented several bundles of abolition and anti-slavery petitions,” and said that, having declared his opinion that the gag-rule was unconstitutional, null, and void, he should “submit to it only as to physical force.” January 3, 1838, he presented “about a hundred petitions, memorials, and remonstrances, all laid on the table.” January 15 he presented fifty more. January 28 he received thirty-one petitions, and spent that day and the next in assorting and filing these and others which he previously had, amounting in all to one hundred and twenty. February 14, in the same year, was a field-day in the petition campaign: he presented then no less than three hundred and fifty petitions, all but three or four of which bore more or less directly upon the slavery question. Among these petitions was one

“praying that Congress would take measures to protect citizens from the North going to the South from danger to their lives. When the motion to lay that on the table was made, I said that, ’In another part of the Capitol it had been threatened that if a Northern abolitionist should go to North Carolina, and utter a principle of the Declaration of Independence’ Here a loud cry of ‘order! order!’ burst forth, in which the Speaker yelled the loudest. I waited till it subsided, and then resumed, ’that if they could catch him they would hang him!’ I said this so as to be distinctly heard throughout the hall, the renewed deafening shout of ‘order! order!’ notwithstanding. The Speaker then said, ‘The gentleman from Massachusetts will take his seat;’ which I did and immediately rose again and presented another petition. He did not dare tell me that I could not proceed without permission of the House, and I proceeded. The threat to hang Northern abolitionists was uttered by Preston of the Senate within the last fortnight.”

On March 12, of the same year, he presented ninety-six petitions, nearly all of an anti-slavery character, one of them for “expunging the Declaration of Independence from the Journals.”

On December 14, 1838, Mr. Wise, of Virginia, objected to the reception of certain anti-slavery petitions. The Speaker ruled his objection out of order, and from this ruling Wise appealed. The question on the appeal was taken by yeas and nays. When Mr. Adamss name was called, he relates:

“I rose and said, ’Mr. Speaker, considering all the resolutions introduced by the gentleman from New Hampshire as’ The Speaker roared out, ’The gentleman from Massachusetts must answer Aye or No, and nothing else. Order!’ With a reinforced voice ’I refuse to answer, because I consider all the proceedings of the House as unconstitutional’ While in a firm and swelling voice I pronounced distinctly these words, the Speaker and about two thirds of the House cried, ‘order! order! order!’ till it became a perfect yell. I paused a moment for it to cease and then said, ’a direct violation of the Constitution of the United States.’ While speaking these words with loud, distinct, and slow articulation, the bawl of ‘order! order!’ resounded again from two thirds of the House. The Speaker, with agonizing lungs, screamed, ’I call upon the House to support me in the execution of my duty!’ I then coolly resumed my seat. Waddy Thompson, of South Carolina, advancing into one of the aisles with a sarcastic smile and silvery tone of voice, said, ’What aid from the House would the Speaker desire?’ The Speaker snarled back, ’The gentleman from South Carolina is out of order!’ and a peal of laughter burst forth from all sides of the House.”

So that little skirmish ended, much more cheerfully than was often the case.

December 20, 1838, he presented fifty anti-slavery petitions, among which were three praying for the recognition of the Republic of Hayti. Petitions of this latter kind he strenuously insisted should be referred to a select committee, or else to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, accompanied in the latter case with explicit instructions that a report thereon should be brought in. He audaciously stated that he asked for these instructions because so many petitions of a like tenor had been sent to the Foreign Affairs Committee, and had found it a limbo from which they never again emerged, and the chairman had said that this would continue to be the case. The chairman, sitting two rows behind Mr. Adams, said, “that insinuation should not be made against a gentleman!” “I shall make,” retorted Mr. Adams, “what insinuation I please. This is not an insinuation, but a direct, positive assertion.”

January 7, 1839, he cheerfully records that he presented ninety-five petitions, bearing “directly or indirectly upon the slavery topics,” and some of them very exasperating in their language. March 30, 1840, he handed in no less than five hundred and eleven petitions, many of which were not receivable under the “gag” rule adopted on January 28 of that year, which had actually gone the length of refusing so much as a reception to abolition petitions. April 13, 1840, he presented a petition for the repeal of the laws in the District of Columbia, which authorized the whipping of women. Besides this he had a multitude of others, and he only got through the presentation of them “just as the morning hour expired.” On January 21, 1841, he found much amusement in puzzling his Southern adversaries by presenting some petitions in which, besides the usual anti-slavery prayers, there was a prayer to refuse to admit to the Union any new State whose constitution should tolerate slavery. The Speaker said that only the latter prayer could be received under the “gag” rule. Connor, of North Carolina, moved to lay on the table so much of the petition as could be received. Mr. Adams tauntingly suggested that in order to do this it would be necessary to mutilate the document by cutting it into two pieces; whereat there was great wrath and confusion, “the House got into a snarl, the Speaker knew not what to do.” The Southerners raved and fumed for a while, and finally resorted to their usual expedient, and dropped altogether a matter which so sorely burned their fingers.

A fact, very striking in view of the subsequent course of events, concerning Mr. Adamss relation with the slavery question, seems hitherto to have escaped the attention of those who have dealt with his career. It may as well find a place here as elsewhere in a narrative which it is difficult to make strictly chronological. Apparently he was the first to declare the doctrine, that the abolition of slavery could be lawfully accomplished by the exercise of the war powers of the Government. The earliest expression of this principle is found in a speech made by him in May, 1836, concerning the distribution of rations to fugitives from Indian hostilities in Alabama and Georgia. He then said:

“From the instant that your slave-holding States become the theatre of war, civil, servile, or foreign, from that instant the war powers of the Constitution extend to interference with the institution of slavery in every way in which it can be interfered with, from a claim of indemnity for slaves taken or destroyed, to a cession of the State burdened with slavery to a foreign power.”

In June, 1841, he made a speech of which no report exists, but the contents of which may be in part learned from the replies and references to it which are on record. Therein he appears to have declared that slavery could be abolished in the exercise of the treaty-making power, having reference doubtless to a treaty concluding a war.

These views were of course mere abstract expressions of opinion as to the constitutionality of measures the real occurrence of which was anticipated by nobody. But, as the first suggestions of a doctrine in itself most obnoxious to the Southern theory and fundamentally destructive of the great Southern “institution” under perfectly possible circumstances, this enunciation by Mr. Adams gave rise to much indignation. Instead of allowing the imperfectly formulated principle to lose its danger in oblivion, the Southerners assailed it with vehemence. They taunted Mr. Adams with the opinion, as if merely to say that he held it was to damn him to everlasting infamy. The only result was that they induced him to consider the matter more fully, and to express his belief more deliberately. In January, 1842, Mr. Wise attacked him upon this ground, and a month later Marshall followed in the same strain. These assaults were perhaps the direct incentive to what was said soon after by Mr. Adams, on April 14, 1842, in a speech concerning war with England and with Mexico, of which there was then some talk. Giddings, among other resolutions, had introduced one to the effect that the slave States had the exclusive right to be consulted on the subject of slavery. Mr. Adams said that he could not give his assent to this. One of the laws of war, he said, is

“that when a country is invaded, and two hostile armies are set
in martial array, the commanders of both armies have power to
emancipate all the slaves in the invaded territory.”

He cited some precedents from South American history, and continued:

“Whether the war be servile, civil, or foreign, I lay this down as the law of nations. I say that the military authority takes for the time the place of all municipal institutions, slavery among the rest. Under that state of things, so far from its being true that the States where slavery exists have the exclusive management of the subject, not only the President of the United States but the commander of the army has power to order the universal emancipation of the slaves.”

This declaration of constitutional doctrine was made with much positiveness and emphasis. There for many years the matter rested. The principle had been clearly asserted by Mr. Adams, angrily repudiated by the South, and in the absence of the occasion of war there was nothing more to be done in the matter. But when the exigency at last came, and the government of the United States was brought face to face with by far the gravest constitutional problem presented by the great rebellion, then no other solution presented itself save that which had been suggested twenty years earlier in the days of peace by Mr. Adams. It was in pursuance of the doctrine to which he thus gave the first utterance that slavery was forever abolished in the United States. Extracts from the last-quoted speech long stood as the motto of the Liberator; and at the time of the Emancipation Proclamation Mr. Adams was regarded as the chief and sufficient authority for an act so momentous in its effect, so infinitely useful in a matter of national extremity. But it was evidently a theory which had taken strong hold upon him. Besides the foregoing speeches there is an explicit statement of it in a letter which he wrote from Washington April 4, 1836, to Hon. Solomon Lincoln, of Hingham, a friend and constituent. After touching upon other topics he says:

“The new pretensions of the slave representation in Congress of a right to refuse to receive petitions, and that Congress have no constitutional power to abolish slavery or the slave-trade in the District of Columbia, forced upon me so much of the discussion as I did take upon me, but in which you are well aware I did not and could not speak a tenth part of my mind. I did not, for example, start the question whether by the law of God and of nature man can hold property, HEREDITARY property, in man. I did not start the question whether in the event of a servile insurrection and war, Congress would not have complete unlimited control over the whole subject of slavery, even to the emancipation of all the slaves in the State where such insurrection should break out, and for the suppression of which the freemen of Plymouth and Norfolk counties, Massachusetts, should be called by Acts of Congress to pour out their treasures and to shed their blood. Had I spoken my mind on these two points, the sturdiest of the abolitionists would have disavowed the sentiments of their champion.”

The projected annexation of Texas, which became a battle-ground whereon the tide of conflict swayed so long and so fiercely to and fro, profoundly stirred Mr. Adams’s indignation. It is, he said, “a question of far deeper root and more overshadowing branches than any or all others that now agitate this country.... I had opened it by my speech ... on the 25th May, 1836 by far the most noted speech that I ever made.” He based his opposition to the annexation upon constitutional objections, and on September 18, 1837, offered a resolution that “the power of annexing the people of any independent State to this Union is a power not delegated by the Constitution of the United States to their Congress or to any department of their government, but reserved to the people.” The Speaker refused to receive the motion, or even allow it to be read, on the ground that it was not in order. Mr. Adams repeated substantially the same motion in June, 1838, then adding “that any attempt by act of Congress or by treaty to annex the Republic of Texas to this Union would be an usurpation of power which it would be the right and the duty of the free people of the Union to resist and annul.” The story of his opposition to this measure is, however, so interwoven with his general antagonism to slavery, that there is little occasion for treating them separately.

People sometimes took advantage of his avowed principles concerning freedom of petition to put him in positions which they thought would embarrass him or render him ridiculous. Not much success, however, attended these foolish efforts of shallow wits. It was not easy to disconcert him or to take him at disadvantage. July 28, 1841, he presented a paper of this character coming from sundry Virginians and praying that all the free colored population should be sold or expelled from the country. He simply stated as he handed in the sheet that nothing could be more abhorrent to him than this prayer, and that his respect for the right of petition was his only motive for presenting this. It was suspended under the “gag” rule, and its promoters, unless very easily amused, must have been sadly disappointed with the fate and effect of their joke. On March 5, 1838, he received from Rocky Mount in Virginia a letter and petition praying that the House would arraign at its bar and forever expel John Quincy Adams. He presented both documents, with a resolution asking that they be referred to a committee for investigation and report. His enemies in the House saw that he was sure to have the best of the sport if the matter should be pursued, and succeeded in laying it on the table. Waddy Thompson thoughtfully improved the opportunity to mention to Mr. Adams that he also had received a petition, “numerously signed,” praying for Mr. Adams’s expulsion, but had never presented it. In the following May Mr. Adams presented another petition of like tenor. Dromgoole said that he supposed it was a “quiz,” and that he would move to lay it on the table, “unless the gentleman from Massachusetts wished to give it another direction.” Mr. Adams said that “the gentleman from Massachusetts cared very little about it,” and it found the limbo of the “table.”

To this same period belongs the memorable tale of Mr. Adamss attempt to present a petition from slaves. On February 6, 1837, he brought in some two hundred abolition petitions. He closed with one against the slave-trade in the District of Columbia purporting to be signed by nine ladies of Fredericksburg, Virginia, whom he declined to name because, as he said, in the present disposition of the country, he did not know what might happen to them if he did name them. Indeed, he added, he was not sure that the petition was genuine; he had said, when he began to present his petitions, that some among them were so peculiar that he was in doubt as to their genuineness, and this fell within the description. Apparently he had concluded and was about to take his seat, when he quickly caught up another sheet, and said that he held in his hand a paper concerning which he should wish to have the decision of the Speaker before presenting it. It purported to be a petition from twenty-two slaves, and he would like to know whether it came within the rule of the House concerning petitions relating to slavery. The Speaker, in manifest confusion, said that he could not answer the question until he knew the contents of the document. Mr. Adams, remarking that it was one of those petitions which had occurred to his mind as not being what it purported to be, proposed to send it up to the Chair for inspection. Objection was made to this, and the Speaker said that the circumstances were so extraordinary that he would take the sense of the House. That body, at first inattentive, now became interested, and no sooner did a knowledge of what was going on spread among those present than great excitement prevailed. Members were hastily brought in from the lobbies; many tried to speak, and from parts of the hall cries of Expel him! Expel him! were heard. For a brief interval no one of the enraged Southerners was equal to the unforeseen emergency. Mr. Haynes moved the rejection of the petition. Mr. Lewis deprecated this motion, being of opinion that the House must inflict punishment on the gentleman from Massachusetts. Mr. Haynes thereupon withdrew a motion which was so obviously inadequate to the vindictive gravity of the occasion. Mr. Grantland stood ready to second a motion to punish Mr. Adams, and Mr. Lewis said that if punishment should not be meted out it would be better for the representatives from the slave-holding States to go home at once. Mr. Alford said that so soon as the petition should be presented he would move that it should be taken from the House and burned. At last Mr. Thompson got a resolution into shape as follows:

“That the Hon. John Quincy Adams, by the attempt just made by him to introduce a petition purporting on its face to be from slaves, has been guilty of a gross disrespect to this House, and that he be instantly brought to the bar to receive the severe censure of the Speaker.”

In supporting this resolution he said that Mr. Adams’s action was in gross and wilful violation of the rules of the House and an insult to its members. He even threatened criminal proceedings before the grand jury of the District of Columbia, saying that if that body had the “proper intelligence and spirit” people might “yet see an incendiary brought to condign punishment.” Mr. Haynes, not satisfied with Mr. Thompson’s resolution, proposed a substitute to the effect that Mr. Adams had “rendered himself justly liable to the severest censure of this House and is censured accordingly.” Then there ensued a little more excited speech-making and another resolution, that Mr. Adams,

“by his attempt to introduce into this House a petition from slaves for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, has committed an outrage on the feelings of the people of a large portion of this Union; a flagrant contempt on the dignity of this House; and, by extending to slaves a privilege only belonging to freemen, directly incites the slave population to insurrection; and that the said member be forthwith called to the bar of the House and be censured by the Speaker.”

Mr. Lewis remained of opinion that it might be best for the Southern members to go home, a proposition which afterwards drew forth a flaming speech from Mr. Alford, who, far from inclining to go home, was ready to stay “until this fair city is a field of Waterloo and this beautiful Potomac a river of blood.” Mr. Patton, of Virginia, was the first to speak a few words to bring members to their senses, pertinently asking whether Mr. Adams had “attempted to offer” this petition, and whether it did indeed pray for the abolition of slavery. It might be well, he suggested, for his friends to be sure of their facts before going further. Then at last Mr. Adams, who had not at all lost his head in the general hurly-burly, rose and said, that amid these numerous resolutions charging him with “high crimes and misdemeanors” and calling him to the bar of the House to answer for the same, he had thought it proper to remain silent until the House should take some action; that he did not suppose that, if he should be brought to the bar of the House, he should be “struck mute by the previous question” before he should have been given an opportunity to “say a word or two” in his own defence. As to the facts: “I did not present the petition,” he said, “and I appeal to the Speaker to say that I did not.... I intended to take the decision of the Speaker before I went one step towards presenting or offering to present that petition.” The contents of the petition, should the House ever choose to read it, he continued, would render necessary some amendments at least in the last resolution, since the prayer was that slavery should not be abolished!” The gentleman from Alabama may perchance find, that the object of this petition is precisely what he desires to accomplish; and that these slaves who have sent this paper to me are his auxiliaries instead of being his opponents.”

These remarks caused some discomfiture among the Southern members, who were glad to have time for deliberation given them by a maundering speech from Mr. Mann, of New York, who talked about the deplorable spectacle shown off every petition day by the honorable member from Massachusetts in presenting the abolition petitions of his infatuated friends and constituents, charged Mr. Adams with running counter to the sense of the whole country with a violence paralleled only by the revolutionary madness of desperation, and twitted him with his political friendlessness, with his age, and with the insinuation of waning faculties and judgment. This little phial having been emptied, Mr. Thompson arose and angrily assailed Mr. Adams for contemptuously trifling with the House, which charge he based upon the entirely unproved assumption that the petition was not a genuine document. He concluded by presenting new resolutions better adapted to the recent development of the case:

“1. That the Hon. John Quincy Adams, by an effort to present a
petition from slaves, has committed a gross contempt of this

“2. That the member from Massachusetts above-named, by creating the impression and leaving the House under such impression, that the said petition was for the abolition of slavery, when he knew that it was not, has trifled with the House.

“3. That the Hon. John Quincy Adams receive the censure of the
House for his conduct referred to in the preceding resolutions.”

Mr. Pinckney said that the avowal by Mr. Adams that he had in his possession the petition of slaves was an admission of communication with slaves, and so was evidence of collusion with them; and that Mr. Adams had thus rendered himself indictable for aiding and abetting insurrection. A fortiori, then, was he not amenable to the censure of the House? Mr. Haynes, of Georgia, forgetting that the petition had not been presented, announced his intention of moving that it should be rejected subject only to a permission for its withdrawal; another member suggested that, if the petition should be disposed of by burning, it would be well to commit to the same combustion the gentleman who presented it.

On the next day some more resolutions were ready, prepared by Dromgoole, who in his sober hours was regarded as the best parliamentarian in the Southern party. These were, that Mr. Adams

“by stating in his place that he had in his possession a paper purporting to be a petition from slaves, and inquiring if it came within the meaning of a resolution heretofore adopted (as preliminary to its presentation), has given color to the idea that slaves have the right of petition and of his readiness to be their organ; and that for the same he deserves the censure of the House.

“That the aforesaid John Quincy Adams receive a censure from the
Speaker in the presence of the House of Representatives.”

Mr. Alford, in advocating these resolutions, talked about “this awful crisis of our beloved country.” Mr. Robertson, though opposing the resolutions, took pains “strongly to condemn ... the conduct of the gentleman from Massachusetts.” Mr. Adams’s colleague, Mr. Lincoln, spoke in his behalf, so also did Mr. Evans, of Maine; and Caleb Cushing made a powerful speech upon his side. Otherwise than this Mr. Adams was left to carry on the contest single-handed against the numerous array of assailants, all incensed and many fairly savage. Yet it is a striking proof of the dread in which even the united body of hot-blooded Southerners stood of this hard fighter from the North, that as the debate was drawing to a close, after they had all said their say and just before his opportunity came for making his elaborate speech of defence, they suddenly and opportunely became ready to content themselves with a mild resolution, which condemned generally the presentation of petitions from slaves, and, for the disposal of this particular case, recited that Mr. Adams had “solemnly disclaimed all design of doing anything disrespectful to the House,” and had “avowed his intention not to offer to present” to the House the petition of this kind held by him; that “therefore all further proceedings in regard to his conduct do now cease.” A sneaking effort by Mr. Vanderpoel to close Mr. Adams’s mouth by moving the previous question involved too much cowardice to be carried; and so on February 9 the sorely bated man was at last able to begin his final speech. He conducted his defence with singular spirit and ability, but at too great length to admit of even a sketch of what he said. He claimed the right of petition for slaves, and established it so far as argument can establish anything. He alleged that all he had done was to ask a question of the Speaker, and if he was to be censured for so doing, then how much more, he asked, was the Speaker deserving of censure who had even put the same question to the House, and given as his reason for so doing that it was not only of novel but of difficult import! He repudiated the idea that any member of the House could be held by a grand jury to respond for words spoken in debate, and recommended the gentlemen who had indulged in such preposterous threats “to study a little the first principles of civil liberty,” excoriating them until they actually arose and tried to explain away their own language. He cast infinite ridicule upon the unhappy expression of Dromgoole, “giving color to an idea.” Referring to the difficulty which he encountered by reason of the variety and disorder of the resolutions and charges against him with which “gentlemen from the South had pounced down upon him like so many eagles upon a dove,” there was an exquisite sarcasm in the simile! he said: “When I take up one idea, before I can give color to the idea, it has already changed its form and presents itself for consideration under other colors.... What defence can be made against this new crime of giving color to ideas?” As for trifling with the House by presenting a petition which in the course of debate had become pretty well known and acknowledged to be a hoax designed to lead Mr. Adams into a position of embarrassment and danger, he disclaimed any such motive, reminding members that he had given warning, when beginning to present his petitions, that he was suspicious that some among them might not be genuine. But while denying all intention of trifling with the House, he rejected the mercy extended to him in the last of the long series of resolutions before that body. “I disclaim not,” he said, “any particle of what I have done, not a single word of what I have said do I unsay; nay, I am ready to do and to say the same to-morrow.” He had no notion of aiding in making a loophole through which his blundering enemies might escape, even though he himself should be accorded the privilege of crawling through it with them. At times during his speech “there was great agitation in the House,” but when he closed no one seemed ambitious to reply. His enemies had learned anew a lesson, often taught to them before and often to be impressed upon them again, that it was perilous to come to close quarters with Mr. Adams. They gave up all idea of censuring him, and were content to apply a very mild emollient to their own smarting wounds in the shape of a resolution, to the effect that slaves did not possess the right of petition secured by the Constitution to the people of the United States.

In the winter of 1842-43 the questions arising out of the affair of the Creole rendered the position then held by Mr. Adams at the head of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs exceedingly distasteful to the slave-holders. On January 21, 1842, a somewhat singular manifestation of this feeling was made when Mr. Adams himself presented a petition from Georgia praying for his removal from this Chairmanship. Upon this he requested to be heard in his own behalf. The Southern party, not sanguine of any advantage from debating the matter, tried to lay it on the table. The petition was alleged by Habersham, of Georgia, to be undoubtedly another hoax. But Mr. Adams, loath to lose a good opportunity, still claimed to be heard on the charges made against him by the “infamous slave-holders.” Mr. Smith, of Virginia, said that the House had lately given Mr. Adams leave to defend himself against the charge of monomania, and asked whether he was doing so. Some members cried “Yes! Yes!”; others shouted “No! he is establishing the fact.” The wrangling was at last brought to an end by the Speaker’s declaration, that the petition must lie over for the present. But the scene had been only the prelude to one much longer, fiercer, and more exciting. No sooner was the document thus temporarily disposed of than Mr. Adams rose and presented the petition of forty-five citizens of Haverhill, Massachusetts, praying the House “immediately to adopt measures peaceably to dissolve the union of these States,” for the alleged cause of the incompatibility between free and slave-holding communities. He moved “its reference to a select committee, with instructions to report an answer to the petitioners showing the reasons why the prayer of it ought not to be granted.”

In a moment the House was aflame with excitement. The numerous members who hated Mr. Adams thought that at last he was experiencing the divinely sent madness which foreruns destruction. Those who sought his political annihilation felt that the appointed and glorious hour of extinction had come; those who had writhed beneath the castigation of his invective exulted in the near revenge. While one said that the petition should never have been brought within the walls of the House, and another wished to burn it in the presence of the members, Mr. Gilmer, of Virginia, offered a resolution, that in presenting the petition Mr. Adams “had justly incurred the censure of the House.” Some objection was made to this resolution as not being in order; but Mr. Adams said that he hoped that it would be received and debated and that an opportunity would be given him to speak in his own defence; “especially as the gentleman from Virginia had thought proper to play second fiddle to his colleague from Accomac.” Mr. Gilmer retorted that he “played second fiddle to no man. He was no fiddler, but was endeavoring to prevent the music of him who,

’In the space of one revolving moon,
Was statesman, poet, fiddler, and buffoon.’”

The resolution was then laid on the table. The House rose, and Mr. Adams went home and noted in his Diary, “evening in meditation,” for which indeed he had abundant cause. On the following day Thomas F. Marshall, of Kentucky, offered a substitute for Gilmer’s resolution. This new fulmination had been prepared in a caucus of forty members of the slave-holding party, and was long and carefully framed. Its preamble recited, in substance, that a petition to dissolve the Union, proposing to Congress to destroy that which the several members had solemnly and officially sworn to support, was a “high breach of privilege, a contempt offered to this House, a direct proposition to the Legislature and each member of it to commit perjury, and involving necessarily in its execution and its consequences the destruction of our country and the crime of high treason:” wherefore it was to be resolved that Mr. Adams, in presenting a petition for dissolution, had “offered the deepest indignity to the House” and “an insult to the people;” that if “this outrage” should be “permitted to pass unrebuked and unpunished” he would have “disgraced his country ... in the eyes of the whole world;” that for this insult and this “wound at the Constitution and existence of his country, the peace, the security and liberty of the people of these States” he “might well be held to merit expulsion from the national councils;” and that “the House deem it an act of grace and mercy when they only inflict upon him their severest censure;” that so much they must do “for the maintenance of their own purity and dignity; for the rest they turned him over to his own conscience and the indignation of all true American citizens.”

These resolutions were then advocated by Mr. Marshall at great length and with extreme bitterness. Mr. Adams replied shortly, stating that he should wish to make his full defence at a later stage of the debate. Mr. Wise followed in a personal and acrimonious harangue; Mr. Everett gave some little assistance to Mr. Adams, and the House again adjourned. The following day Wise continued his speech, very elaborately. When he closed, Mr. Adams, who had “determined not to interrupt him till he had discharged his full cargo of filthy invective,” rose to “make a preliminary point.” He questioned the right of the House to entertain Marshall’s resolutions since the preamble assumed him to be guilty of the crimes of subornation of perjury and treason, and the resolutions themselves censured him as if he had been found guilty; whereas in fact he had not been tried upon these charges and of course had not been convicted. If he was to be brought to trial upon them he asserted his right to have the proceedings conducted before a jury of his peers, and that the House was not a tribunal having this authority. But if he was to be tried for contempt, for which alone he could lawfully be tried by the House, still there were an hundred members sitting on its benches who were morally disqualified to judge him, who could not give him an impartial trial, because they were prejudiced and the question was one “on which their personal, pecuniary, and most sordid interests were at stake.” Such considerations, he said, ought to prevent many gentlemen from voting, as Mr. Wise had avowed that they would prevent him. Here Wise interrupted to disavow that he was influenced by any such reasons, but rather, he said, by the “personal loathing, dread, and contempt I feel for the man.” Mr. Adams, continuing after this pleasant interjection, admitted that he was in the power of the majority, who might try him against law and condemn him against right if they would.

“If they say they will try me, they must try me. If they say they will punish me, they must punish me. But if they say that in peace and mercy they will spare me expulsion, I disdain and cast away their mercy; and I ask them if they will come to such a trial and expel me. I defy them. I have constituents to go to who will have something to say if this House expels me. Nor will it be long before the gentlemen will see me here again.”

Such was the fierce temper and indomitable courage of this inflexible old man! He flung contempt in the face of those who had him wholly in their power, and in the same breath in which he acknowledged that power he dared them to use it. He charged Wise with the guilt of innocent blood, in connection with certain transactions in a duel, and exasperated that gentleman into crying out that the “charge made by the gentleman from Massachusetts was as base and black a lie as the traitor was base and black who uttered it.” When he was asked by the Speaker to put his point of order in writing, his own request to the like effect in another case having been refused shortly before, he tauntingly congratulated that gentleman “upon his discovery of the expediency of having points of order reduced to writing a favor which he had repeatedly denied to me.” When Mr. Wise was speaking, “I interrupted him occasionally,” says Mr. Adams, “sometimes to provoke him into absurdity.” As usual he was left to fight out his desperate battle substantially single-handed. Only Mr. Everett occasionally helped him a very little; while one or two others who spoke against the resolutions were careful to explain that they felt no personal good will towards Mr. Adams. But he faced the odds courageously. It was no new thing for him to be pitted alone against a “solid South.” Outside the walls of the House he had some sympathy and some assistance tendered him by individuals, among others by Rufus Choate then in the Senate, and by his own colleagues from Massachusetts. This support aided and cheered him somewhat, but could not prevent substantially the whole burden of the labor and brunt of the contest from bearing upon him alone. Among the external manifestations of feeling, those of hostility were naturally largely in the ascendant. The newspapers of Washington the “Globe” and the “National Intelligencer” which reported the debates, daily filled their columns with all the abuse and invective which was poured forth against him, while they gave the most meagre statements, or none at all, of what he said in his own defence. Among other amenities he received from North Carolina an anonymous letter threatening him with assassination, having also an engraved portrait of him with the mark of a rifle-ball in the forehead, and the motto “to stop the music of John Quincy Adams,” etc., etc. This missive he read and displayed in the House, but it was received with profound indifference by men who would not have greatly objected to the execution of the barbarous threat.

The prolonged struggle cost him deep anxiety and sleepless nights, which in the declining years of a laborious life told hardly upon his aged frame. But against all odds of numbers and under all disadvantages of circumstances the past repeated itself, and Mr. Adams alone won a victory over all the cohorts of the South. Several attempts had been made during the debate to lay the whole subject on the table. Mr. Adams said that he would consent to this simply because his defence would be a very long affair, and he did not wish to have the time of the House consumed and the business of the nation brought to a stand solely for the consideration of his personal affairs. These propositions failing, he began his speech and soon was making such headway that even his adversaries were constrained to see that the opportunity which they had conceived to be within their grasp was eluding them, as had so often happened before. Accordingly on February 7 the motion to “lay the whole subject on the table forever” was renewed and carried by one hundred and six votes to ninety-three. The House then took up the original petition and refused to receive it by one hundred and sixty-six to forty. No sooner was this consummation reached than the irrepressible champion rose to his feet and proceeded with his budget of anti-slavery petitions, of which he “presented nearly two hundred, till the House adjourned.”

Within a very short time there came further and convincing proof that Mr. Adams was victor. On February 26 he writes: “D. D. Barnard told me he had received a petition from his District, signed by a small number of very respectable persons, praying for a dissolution of the Union. He said he did not know what to do with it. I dined with him.” By March 14 this dinner bore fruit. Mr. Barnard had made up his mind “what to do with it.” He presented it, with a motion that it be referred to a select committee with instructions to report adversely to its prayer. The well-schooled House now took the presentation without a ripple of excitement, and was content with simply voting not to receive the petition.

In the midst of the toil and anxiety imposed upon Mr. Adams by this effort to censure and disgrace him, the scheme, already referred to, for displacing him from the chairmanship of the Committee on Foreign Affairs had been actively prosecuted. He was notified that the Southern members had formed a cabal for removing him and putting Caleb Cushing in his place. The plan was, however, temporarily checked, and so soon as Mr. Adams had triumphed in the House the four Southern members of the committee sent to the House a paper begging to be excused from further services on the committee, “because from recent occurrences it was doubtful whether the House would remove the chairman, and they were unwilling to serve with one in whom they had no confidence.” The fugitives were granted, “by a shout of acclamation,” the excuse which they sought for so welcome a reason, and the same was also done for a fifth member. Three more of the same party, nominated to fill these vacancies, likewise asked to be excused, and were so. Their letters preferring this request were “so insulting personally” to Mr. Adams as to constitute “gross breaches of privilege.” “The Speaker would have refused to receive or present them had they referred to any other man in the House.” They were published, but Mr. Adams, after some hesitation, determined not to give them the importance which would result from any public notice in the House upon his part. He could afford to keep silence, and judged wisely in doing so.

Amid all the animosity and rancor entertained towards Mr. Adams, there yet lurked a degree of respect for his courage, honesty, and ability which showed itself upon occasion, doubtless not a little to the surprise of the members themselves who were hardly conscious that they entertained such sentiments until startled into a manifestation of them. An eminent instance of this is to be found in the story of the troubled days preceding the organization of the twenty-sixth Congress. On December 2, 1839, the members elect of that body came together in Washington, with the knowledge that the seats of five gentlemen from New Jersey, who brought with them the regular gubernatorial certificate of their election, would be contested by five other claimants. According to custom Garland, clerk of the last House, called the assemblage to order and began the roll-call. When he came to New Jersey he called the name of one member from that State, and then said that there were five other seats which were contested, and that not feeling authorized to decide the dispute he would pass over the names of the New Jersey members and proceed with the roll till the House should be formed, when the question could be decided. Plausible as appeared this abstention from an exercise of authority in so grave a dispute, it was nevertheless really an assumption and not a deprecation of power, and as such was altogether unjustifiable. The clerk’s sole business was to call the names of those persons who presented the usual formal credentials; he had no right to take cognizance that the seats of any such persons might be the subject of a contest, which could properly be instituted, conducted, and determined only before and by the House itself when organized. But his course was not innocent of a purpose. So evenly was the House divided that the admission or exclusion of these five members in the first instance would determine the political complexion of the body. The members holding the certificates were Whigs; if the clerk could keep them out until the organization of the House should be completed, then the Democrats would control that organization, would elect their Speaker, and through him would make up the committees.

Naturally enough this arrogation of power by the clerk, the motives and consequences of which were abundantly obvious, raised a terrible storm. The debate continued till four o’clock in the afternoon, when a motion was made to adjourn. The clerk said that he could put no question, not even of adjournment, till the House should be formed. But there was a general cry to adjourn, and the clerk declared the House adjourned. Mr. Adams went home and wrote in his Diary that the clerk’s “two decisions form together an insurmountable objection to the transaction of any business, and an impossibility of organizing the House.... The most curious part of the case is, that his own election as clerk depends upon the exclusion of the New Jersey members.” The next day was consumed in a fierce debate as to whether the clerk should be allowed to read an explanatory statement. Again the clerk refused to put the question of adjournment, but, “upon inspection,” declared an adjournment. Some called out “a count! a count!” while most rushed out of the hall, and Wise cried loudly, “Now we are a mob!” The next day there was more violent debating, but no progress towards a decision. Various party leaders offered resolutions, none of which accomplished anything. The condition was ridiculous, disgraceful, and not without serious possibilities of danger. Neither did any light of encouragement break in any quarter. In the crisis there seemed, by sudden consent of all, to be a turning towards Mr. Adams. Prominent men of both parties came to him and begged him to interfere. He was reluctant to plunge into the embroilment; but the great urgency and the abundant assurances of support placed little less than actual compulsion upon him. Accordingly on December 5 he rose to address the House. He was greeted as a Deus ex machina. Not speaking to the clerk, but turning directly to the assembled members, he began: “Fellow citizens! Members elect of the twenty-sixth Congress!” He could not resist the temptation of administering a brief but severe and righteous castigation to Garland; and then, ignoring that functionary altogether, proceeded to beg the House to organize itself. To this end he said that he would offer a resolution “ordering the clerk to call the members from New Jersey possessing the credentials from the Governor of that State.” There had been already no lack of resolutions, but the difficulty lay in the clerk’s obstinate refusal to put the question upon them. So now the puzzled cry went up: “How shall the question be put?” “I intend to put the question myself,” said the dauntless old man, wholly equal to the emergency. A tumult of applause resounded upon all sides. Rhett, of South Carolina, sprang up and offered a resolution, that Williams, of North Carolina, the oldest member of the House, be appointed chairman of the meeting; but upon objection by Williams, he substituted the name of Mr. Adams, and put the question. He was “answered by an almost universal shout in the affirmative.” Whereupon Rhett and Williams conducted the old man to the chair. It was a proud moment. Wise, of Virginia, afterward said, addressing a complimentary speech to Mr. Adams, “and if, when you shall be gathered to your fathers, I were asked to select the words which in my judgment are calculated to give at once the best character of the man, I would inscribe upon your tomb this sentence, ’I will put the question myself!’” Doubtless Wise and a good many more would have been glad enough to put almost any epitaph on a tombstone for Mr. Adams. It must, however, be acknowledged that the impetuous Southerners behaved very handsomely by their arch foe on this occasion, and were for once as chivalrous in fact as they always were in profession.

Smooth water had by no means been reached when Mr. Adams was placed at the helm; on the contrary, the buffeting became only the more severe when the members were no longer restrained by a lurking dread of grave disaster if not of utter shipwreck. Between two bitterly incensed and evenly divided parties engaged in a struggle for an important prize, Mr. Adams, having no strictly lawful authority pertaining to his singular and anomalous position, was hard taxed to perform his functions. It is impossible to follow the intricate and acrimonious quarrels of the eleven days which succeeded until on December 16, upon the eleventh ballot, R. M. T. Hunter, of Virginia, was elected Speaker, and Mr. Adams was relieved from the most arduous duty imposed upon him during his life. In the course of the debates there had been “much vituperation and much equally unacceptable compliment” lavished upon him. After the organization of the House, there was some talk of moving a vote of thanks, but he entreated that it should not be done. “In the rancorous and bitter temper of the Administration party, exasperated by their disappointment in losing their Speaker, the resolution of thanks,” he said, “would have been lost if it had been offered.” However this might have been, history has determined this occurrence to have been one of the most brilliant episodes in a life which had many distinctions.

A few incidents indicative of respect must have been welcome enough in the solitary fight-laden career of Mr. Adams. He needed some occasional encouragement to keep him from sinking into despondency; for though he was of so unyielding and belligerent a disposition, of such ungracious demeanor, so uncompromising with friend and foe, yet he was a man of deep and strong feelings, and in a way even very sensitive though a proud reserve kept the secret of this quality so close that few suspected it. His Diary during his Congressional life shows a man doing his duty sternly rather than cheerfully, treading resolutely a painful path, having the reward which attends upon a clear conscience, but neither light-hearted nor often even happy. Especially he was frequently disappointed at the returns which he received from others, and considered himself ill-treated by every public man whom circumstances had brought into competition with him; they had returned his acts of kindness and services with gross injustice. The reflection did not induce him to deflect his course in the least, but it was made with much bitterness of spirit. Toward the close of 1835 he writes:

“Among the dark spots in human nature which in the course of my life I have observed, the devices of rivals to ruin me have been sorry pictures of the heart of man.... H. G. Otis, Theophilus Parsons, Timothy Pickering, James A. Bayard, Henry Clay, Jonathan Russell, William H. Crawford, John C. Calhoun, Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster, and John Davis, W. B. Giles, and John Randolph, have used up their faculties in base and dirty tricks to thwart my progress in life and destroy my character.”

Truly a long and exhaustive list of enmities! One can but suspect that a man of so many quarrels must have been quarrelsome. Certain it is, however, that in nearly every difference which Mr. Adams had in his life a question of right and wrong, of moral or political principle, had presented itself to him. His intention was always good, though his manner was so habitually irritating. He himself says that to nearly all these men Russell alone specifically excepted he had “returned good for evil,” that he had “never wronged any one of them,” and had even “neglected too much his self-defence against them.” In October, 1833, he said: “I subject myself to so much toil and so much enmity, with so very little apparent fruit, that I sometimes ask myself whether I do not mistake my own motives. The best actions of my life make me nothing but enemies.” In February, 1841, he made a powerful speech in castigation of Henry A. Wise, who had been upholding in Southern fashion slavery, duelling, and nullification. He received afterward some messages of praise and sympathy, but noted with pain that his colleagues thought it one of his “eccentric, wild, extravagant freaks of passion;” and with a pathetic sense of loneliness he adds: “All around me is cold and discouraging and my own feelings are wound up to a pitch that my reason can scarcely endure.” A few days later he had the pleasure of hearing one of the members say, in a speech, that there was an opinion among many that Mr. Adams was insane and did not know what he said. While a fight was going on such incidents only fired his blood, but afterwards the reminiscence affected his spirits cruelly.

In August, 1840, he writes that he has been twelve years submitting in silence to the “foulest and basest aspersions,” to which it would have been waste of time to make reply, since the public ear had not been open to him. “Is the time arriving,” he asks, “for me to speak? or must I go down to the grave and leave posterity to do justice to my father and to me?”

He has had at least the advantage of saying his say to posterity in a very effective and convincing shape in that Diary, which so discomfited and enraged General Jackson. There is plain enough speaking in its pages, which were a safety valve whereby much wrath escaped. Mr. Adams had the faculty of forcible expression when he chose to employ it, as may be seen from a few specimen sentences. On March 28, 1840, he remarks that Atherton “this day emitted half an hour of his rotten breath against” a pending bill. Atherton was infamous as the mover of the “gag” resolution, and Mr. Adams abhorred him accordingly. Duncan, of Cincinnati, mentioned as “delivering a dose of balderdash,” is described as “the prime bully of the Kinderhook Democracy,” without “perception of any moral distinction between truth and falsehood, ... a thorough-going hack-demagogue, coarse, vulgar, and impudent, with a vein of low humor exactly suited to the rabble of a popular city and equally so to the taste of the present House of Representatives.” Other similar bits of that pessimism and belief in the deterioration of the times, so common in old men, occasionally appear. In August, 1835, he thinks that “the signs of the times are portentous. All the tendencies of legislation are to the removal of restrictions from the vicious and the guilty, and to the exercise of all the powers of government, legislative, judicial, and executive, by lawless assemblages of individuals.” December 27, 1838, he looks upon the Senate and the House, “the cream of the land, the culled darlings of fifteen millions,” and observes that “the remarkable phenomenon that they present is the level of intellect and of morals upon which they stand; and this universal mediocrity is the basis upon which the liberties of this nation repose.” In July, 1840, he thinks that

parties are falling into profligate factions. I have seen this before; but the worst symptom now is the change in the  manners of the people. The continuance of the present Administration ... will open wide all the flood-gates of corruption. Will a change produce reform? Pause and ponder! Slavery, the Indians, the public lands, the collection and disbursement of public money, the tariff, and foreign affairs: what is to become of them?”

On January 29, 1841, Henry A. Wise uttered “a motley compound of eloquence and folly, of braggart impudence and childish vanity, of self-laudation and Virginian narrow-mindedness.” After him Hubbard, of Alabama, “began grunting against the tariff.” Three days later Black, of Georgia, “poured forth his black bile” for an hour and a half. The next week we find Clifford, of Maine, “muddily bothering his trickster invention” to get over a rule of the House, and “snapping like a mackerel at a red rag” at the suggestion of a way to do so. In July, 1841, we again hear of Atherton as a “cross-grained numskull ... snarling against the loan bill.” With such peppery passages in great abundance the Diary is thickly and piquantly besprinkled. They are not always pleasant, perhaps not even always amusing, but they display the marked element of censoriousness in Mr. Adams’s character, which it is necessary to appreciate in order to understand some parts of his career.

If Mr. Adams never had the cheerful support of popularity, so neither did he often have the encouragement of success. He said that he was paying in his declining years for the good luck which had attended the earlier portion of his life. On December 14, 1833, he calculates that he has three fourths of the people of Massachusetts against him, and by estranging the anti-Masons he is about to become obnoxious to the whole. My public life will terminate by the alienation from me of all mankind.... It is the experience of all ages that the people grow weary of old men. I cannot flatter myself that I shall escape the common law of our nature. Yet he acknowledges that he is unable to abstract himself from the great questions which agitate the country. Soon after he again writes in the same vein: To be forsaken by all mankind seems to be the destiny that awaits my last days. August 6, 1835, he gives as his reason for not accepting an invitation to deliver a discourse, that instead of having any beneficial influence upon the public mind, it would be turned as an instrument of obloquy against myself. So it had been, as he enumerates, with his exertions against Freemasonry, his labors for internal improvement, for the manufacturing interest, for domestic industry, for free labor, for the disinterested aid then lately brought  by him to Jackson in the dispute with France; “so it will be to the end of my political life.”

When to unpopularity and reiterated disappointment we add the physical ills of old age, it no longer surprises us to find Mr. Adams at times harsh and bitter beyond the excuse of the occasion. That he was a man of strong physique and of extraordinary powers of endurance, often surpassing those of young and vigorous men, is evident. For example, one day in March, 1840, he notes incidentally: “I walked home and found my family at dinner. From my breakfast yesterday morning until one this afternoon, twenty-eight hours, I had fasted.” Many a time he showed like, if not quite equal vigor. But he had been a hard worker all his life, and testing the powers of one’s constitution does not tend to their preservation; he was by no means free from the woes of the flesh or from the depression which comes with years and the dread of decrepitude. Already as early as October 7, 1833, he fears that his health is “irretrievable;” he gets but five hours a night of “disturbed unquiet sleep full of tossings.” February 17, 1834, his “voice was so hoarse and feeble that it broke repeatedly, and he could scarcely articulate. It is gone forever,” he very mistakenly but despondingly adds, “and it is in vain for me to contend against the decay of time and nature.” His enemies found little truth in this foreboding for many sessions thereafter. Only a year after he had performed his feat of fasting for twenty-eight hours of business, he received a letter from a stranger advising him to retire. He admits that perhaps he ought to do so, but says that more than sixty years of public life have made activity necessary to him; it is the “weakness of his nature” which he has “intellect enough left to perceive but not energy to control,” so that “the world will retire from me before I shall retire from the world.”

The brief sketch which can be given in a volume of this size of so long and so busy a life does not suffice even to indicate all its many industries. The anti-slavery labors of Mr. Adams during his Congressional career were alone an abundant occupation for a man in the prime of life; but to these he added a wonderful list of other toils and interests. He was not only an incessant student in history, politics, and literature, but he also constantly invaded the domain of science. He was Chairman of the Congressional Committee on the Smithsonian bequest, and for several years he gave much time and attention to it, striving to give the fund a direction in favor of science; he hoped to make it subservient to a plan which he had long cherished for the building of a noble national observatory. He had much committee work; he received many visitors; he secured hours of leisure for his favorite pursuit of composing poetry; he delivered an enormous number of addresses and speeches upon all sorts of occasions; he conducted an extensive correspondence; he was a very devout man, regularly going to church and reading three chapters in his Bible every day; and he kept up faithfully his colossal Diary. For several months in the midst of Congressional duties he devoted great labor, thought, and anxiety to the famous cause of the slaves of the Amistad, in which he was induced to act as counsel before the Supreme Court. Such were the labors of his declining age. To men of ordinary calibre the multiplicity of his acquirements and achievements is confounding and incredible. He worked his brain and his body as unsparingly as if they had been machines insensible to the pleasure or necessity of rest. Surprisingly did they submit to his exacting treatment, lasting in good order and condition far beyond what was then the average of life and vigorous faculties among his contemporaries engaged in public affairs.

In August, 1842, while he was still tarrying in the unwholesome heats of Washington, he had some symptoms which he thought premonitory, and he speaks of the next session of Congress as probably the last which he should ever attend. March 25, 1844, he gives a painful sketch of himself. Physical disability, he says, must soon put a stop to his Diary. That morning he had risen “at four, and with smarting, bloodshot eyes and shivering hand, still sat down and wrote to fill up the chasm of the closing days of last week.” If his remaining days were to be few he was at least resolved to make them long for purposes of unremitted labor.

But he had one great joy and distinguished triumph still in store for him. From the time when the “gag” rule had been first established, Mr. Adams had kept up an unbroken series of attacks upon it at all times and by all means. At the beginning of the several sessions, when the rules were established by the House, he always moved to strike out this one. Year after year his motion was voted down, but year after year he renewed it with invincible perseverance. The majorities against him began to dwindle till they became almost imperceptible; in 1842 it was a majority of four; in 1843, of three; in 1844 the struggle was protracted for weeks, and Mr. Adams all but carried the day. It was evident that victory was not far off, and a kind fate had destined him to live not only to see but himself to win it. On December 3, 1844, he made his usual motion and called for the yeas and nays; a motion was made to lay his motion on the table, and upon that also the question was taken by yeas and nays eighty-one yeas, one hundred and four nays, and his motion was not laid on the table. The question was then put upon it, and it was carried by the handsome vote of one hundred and eight to eighty. In that moment the “gag” rule became a thing of the past, and Mr. Adams had conquered in his last fight. “Blessed, forever blessed, be the name of God!” he writes in recording the event. A week afterwards some anti-slavery petitions were received and actually referred to the Committee on the District of Columbia. This glorious consummation having been achieved, this advanced stage in the long conflict having been reached, Mr. Adams could not hope for life to see another goal passed. His work was nearly done; he had grown aged, and had worn himself out faithfully toiling in the struggle which must hereafter be fought through its coming phases and to its final success by others, younger men than he, though none of them certainly having over him any other militant advantage save only the accident of youth.

His mental powers were not less than at any time in the past when, on November 19, 1846, he was struck by paralysis in the street in Boston. He recovered from the attack, however, sufficiently to resume his duties in Washington some three months later. His reappearance in the House was marked by a pleasing incident: all the members rose together; business was for the moment suspended; his old accustomed seat was at once surrendered to him by the gentleman to whom it had fallen in the allotment, and he was formally conducted to it by two members. After this, though punctual in attendance, he only once took part in debate. On February 21, 1848, he appeared in his seat as usual. At half past one in the afternoon the Speaker was rising to put a question, when he was suddenly interrupted by cries of “Stop! Stop! Mr. Adams!” Some gentlemen near Mr. Adams had thought that he was striving to rise to address the Speaker, when in an instant he fell over insensible. The members thronged around him in great confusion. The House hastily adjourned. He was placed on a sofa and removed first to the hall of the rotunda and then to the Speaker’s room. Medical men were in attendance but could be of no service in the presence of death. The stern old fighter lay dying almost on the very field of so many battles and in the very tracks in which he had so often stood erect and unconquerable, taking and dealing so many mighty blows. Late in the afternoon some inarticulate mutterings were construed into the words, “Thank the officers of the House.” Soon again he said intelligibly, “This is the last of earth! I am content!” It was his extreme utterance. He lay thereafter unconscious till the evening of the 23d, when he passed quietly away.

He lies buried “under the portal of the church at Quincy” beside his wife, who survived him four years, his father and his mother. The memorial tablet inside the church bears upon it the words “Alteri Saeculo,” surely never more justly or appropriately applied to any man than to John Quincy Adams, hardly abused and cruelly misappreciated in his own day but whom subsequent generations already begin to honor as one of the greatest of American statesmen, not only preeminent in ability and acquirements, but even more to be honored for profound, immutable honesty of purpose and broad, noble humanity of aims.