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On the 4th of March, 1833, Andrew Jackson was inaugurated President of the United States a second time. Of two hundred and eighty-eight votes, the whole number cast by the electors, he had received two hundred and nineteen, Henry Clay being the chief opposing candidate. Martin Van Buren, having been elected Vice-President by one hundred and eighty-nine votes, was inaugurated on the same day. The coalition formed in 1827 by Jackson with Van Buren had thus fulfilled its purpose. Jackson’s triumph was complete; he had superseded Adams, defeated Clay, crushed Calhoun, and placed Van Buren in the most auspicious position to be his successor in the President’s chair.

The infatuating influence of military success over the human mind, and the readiness with which intelligent and well-disposed men, living under a constitution of limited powers, while dazzled by its splendor, endure and encourage acts of despotic power, is at once instructive and suggestive. Violations of constitutional duty, known and voluntarily acquiesced in by a whole people, subservient to the will of a popular chieftain, may, and probably will, in time, change their constitution, and destroy their liberties.

When Mr. Adams said that “Jackson rode roughshod over the Senate of the United States,” he only characterized the spirit by which he controlled every branch and department of the government. In every movement Jackson had displayed an arbitrary will, determined on success, regardless of the means, and had applied without reserve the corrupting temptation of office to members of Congress. He had rewarded subserviency by appointments, and punished the want of it by removal; had insolently called Calhoun to account for his official language in the cabinet of Monroe, and dismissed three members of his own, acknowledged to have been unexceptionable in the discharge of their official duties, because they would not submit to regulate the social intercourse of their families by his dictation. These and many other instances of his overbearing character in civil affairs had become subjects of severe public animadversion, without apparently shaking the submissive confidence of the citizens of the United States. Their votes on his second election indicated an unequivocal increase of popular favor; the admirer of arbitrary power exulted; the lover of constitutional liberty mourned. The friends of despotism in the Old World, ignorant of the real stamina of his popularity, regarded it as unquestionable evidence of the all-powerful influence of military achievement in the New. But the infatuation which had been the exciting cause of General Jackson’s first election to the Presidency would soon have evaporated under the multiplied evidences of an ill-regulated will, had it not been encouraged and supported by a local interest which predominated in the councils of the nation. With no desire to establish arbitrary power in the person of the chief magistrate of the Union, the slave-holders of the South instinctively perceived the identity of Jackson’s interests with their own, and gave zeal and intensity to his support. The acquisition of the province of Texas, and its introduction into the Union as a slave state, with the prospective design of forming out of its territories four or five slave states, was a project in which they knew Jackson’s heart was deeply engaged, and for the advancement of which he had peculiar qualifications.

Such was the true basis of that extraordinary show of popularity which Jackson’s second election as President indicated. Accordingly, his first measures were directed to the acquisition of Texas. These, as Mr. Adams said at the time, “were kept profoundly secret,” but at this day they are clear and evident. The Florida treaty was accepted with approbation and joy by the government and people of the United States, under the administration of Mr. Monroe. But the extension of its boundaries to the Colorado, which had been hoped for during the negotiation of that treaty between Mr. Adams and Onis, was not attained. Afterwards, during the Presidency of Mr. Adams, when every engine in the South and West was set at work to depreciate his character, and destroy his popularity, John Floyd, of Virginia, in an address to his constituents, attributed the relinquishment of our claim to Texas to him, and said he had thus deprived the South of acquiring two or more slave states. The same charge was brought against him by Thomas H. Benton, of Missouri, who afterwards, when apprized of the facts, openly acknowledged, in the Senate of the United States, that it was unjust, and an error. The calumny had the effect for which it was fabricated; for Mr. Adams, out of respect for those through whose constitutional influence he had abandoned that claim, disdained to defend himself by publishing the truth.

The facts were, that slavery not being then permitted in Mexico, and the project of introducing it, by the annexation of Texas, not being yet developed, Mr. Adams deemed the extension of the territory of the United States to the Colorado so important, that when Onis absolutely refused to accede, he declined further negotiation, declaring that he would not renew it on any other ground. He did not yield until those deeply interested in obtaining Florida had, by their urgency, persuaded him to treat on the condition of not including Texas. Although desirous, from general considerations of national interest and policy, to obtain that province, it was well known that he would not engage in any conspiracy to wrest it from Mexico. His character and firmness in that respect lessened his popularity in the Southern States, and excited an inordinate zeal for Jackson.

Accordingly, Mr. Poinsett, of South Carolina, minister of the United States in Mexico, immediately after the inauguration of President Jackson, in 1829, being apprized of his views and policy, took measures to carry them into effect. Under pretence of negotiating for the purchase of Texas, he remained in Mexico, and so mingled with the parties which at the time distracted that republic as to become obnoxious to its government. The Legislature passed a vote to expel him from their territories, and issued a remonstrance intimating apprehensions of his assassination if he continued there; charging him expressly with being concerned in establishing “some of those secret societies which will figure in the history of the misfortunes of Mexico.” It might have been expected that a foreign minister would have repelled such an accusation with indignation. Poinsett, on the contrary, in a letter addressed to the public, admitted that he had been instrumental in establishing five such secret societies, but asserted that they were only lodges of Freemasons,merely philanthropic institutions, which had nothing to do with politics. For the truth of these assertions he appealed to his own personal character, and to the character of the members of the secret societies, who, he declared, had been his intimate friends for more than three years, vouching himself for their patriotism and private virtues. Even this authentication did not create implicit belief in the minds of those to whom it was addressed.

During these proceedings of Poinsett in Mexico the newspapers in the United States announced that the American government were taking proper steps for the acquisition of Texas. Intimations were also circulated of the sum Poinsett had been authorized to offer for it; and, to make sure of its ultimate attainment, in the summer and autumn of 1829 emigrants from the United States were encouraged by the American government to settle in Texas. To the Southern States the acquisition of that province was desirable, to open a new area for slavery. In open defiance, therefore, of a formal decree about this time issued by the rulers of Mexico prohibiting slavery in Texas, the emigrants to that province took their slaves with them; for they knew that the object of the American government was not so much territory as a slave state, and that upon their effecting this result their admission into the Union would depend. Such was the policy commenced and pursued during the first term of Jackson’s administration. It was the conviction of this which led Mr. Adams publicly to declare that, though “profoundly a secret as it respected the public, it was then in successful progress;” and to make it a topic of severe animadversion and warning, combined with language of prophecy, which events soon expanded into history. Every movement of Jackson was in unison with the policy and imbued with the spirit of the slaveholders. He manifested animosity to the protection of manufactures, and to internal improvement by his veto of the bill for the Maysville Turnpike, and to the Bank of the United States by his veto of the bill for extending its charter; and, after violently denouncing the spirit of nullification, he publicly succumbed to it by proposing a modification of the tariff, in obedience to its demands. But the most flagrant, act, and beyond all others characteristic of his indomitable tenacity of will, overleaping all the limitations of precedent and the constitution, was his removal, on his own responsibility, of the deposits from the Bank of the United States. After ascertaining that Duane, the Secretary of the Treasury, would not be his tool in that service, he, in the language of that officer, “concentrating in himself the power to judge and execute, to absorb the discretion given to the Secretary of the Treasury, and to nullify the law itself,” proceeded at once to remove him, and to raise Roger B. Taney from the office of Attorney-General to that of Secretary of the Treasury, for the sole object of availing himself of an instrument subservient to his purposes.

In his annual message, at the opening of the session, Jackson announced to Congress that the Secretary of the Treasury had, by his orders, removed the public moneys from the Bank of the United States, and deposited them in certain state banks.

The spirit of Mr. Adams kindled at this usurpation, and he gave eloquent utterance to his indignation. Among the remonstrances to Congress against this act of President Jackson, one from the Legislature of Massachusetts was sent to him for presentation. In his attempt to fulfil this duty he was defeated three several times by the address of the Speaker of the House, and finally deprived of the opportunity by the previous question. He immediately published the speech he had intended to deliver, minutely scrutinizing the President’s usurpation of power. The removal of the deposits, and the contract with the state banks to receive those deposits, he asserts were both unlawful; and the measure itself neither lawful nor justan arbitrary act, without law and against law. He then proceeds to analyze the whole series of documents adduced by the Secretary of the Treasury, and by the Committee of Ways and Means in his aid, as precedents to justify the removal of the deposits, and concludes a lucid and laborious argument with, “I have thus proved, to the very rigor of mathematical demonstration, that the Committee of Ways and Means, to bolster up the lawless act of the Secretary of the Treasury, in transferring public moneys from their lawful places of deposit to others, in one of which, at least, the Secretary had an interest of private profit to himself, have ransacked all the records of the Treasury, from its first institution in July, 1775, to this day, in vain. From the whole mass of vouchers, to authenticate the lawful disposal of the public moneys, which that department can furnish, the committee have gathered fifty pages of documents, which they would pass off as precedents for this flagrant violation of the laws, and not one of them will answer their purpose. One of them alone bears a partial resemblance to the act of the present secretary; and that one the very document adduced by the committee themselves pronounces and proves to be unlawful.”

After some remarks upon the office of Secretary of the Treasury, and the legal restraints upon it, he proceeds: “I believe both the spirit and the letter of this law to have been violated by the present Secretary of the Treasury when he transferred the public funds from the Bank of the United States to the Union Bank of Baltimore, he himself being a stockholder therein. And so thorough is my conviction of this principle, and so corrupting and pernicious do I deem the example which he has thereby set to future Committees of Ways and Means, to cite as precedents for yet ranker rottenness, that, if there were a prospect of his remaining in office longer than till the close of the present session of the Senate, I should deem it an indispensable, albeit a painful, duty of my station, to take the sense of this house on the question. And, sir, if, after this explicit declaration by me, the chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means has not yet slaked his thirst for precedents, he may gratify it by offering a fifth resolution, in addition to the four reported by the committee, as thus: Resolved, that the thanks of this house be given to Roger B. Taney, Secretary of the Treasury, for his pure and DISINTERESTED patriotism in transferring the use of the public funds from the Bank of the United States, where they were profitable to the people, to the Union Bank of Baltimore, where they were profitable to himself.”

He then proceeds to show, in a severe and searching examination of the proceedings of this secretary, that the transfers were utterly unwarrantable; that he tampered with the public moneys to sustain the staggering credit of selected depositaries, and “scatter it abroad among swarms of rapacious political partisans.” After stating and answering all the charges brought by the Secretary of the Treasury against the Bank of the United States, and showing their falsehood or futility, he declares all the proceedings of the directors of the bank to have been within the pale of action warranted by the laws of the land; and, so long as they do this, “a charge of dishonesty or corruption against them, uttered by the President of the United States, or by the Secretary of the Treasury, is neither more nor less than slander, emitted under the protection of official station, against private citizens. This is both ungenerous and unjust. It is the abuse of the shelter of official station to circulate calumny with impunity.”

Mr. Adams next examines and severely reprobates the declaration of the President of the United States, that, “if the last Congress had continued in session one week longer, the bank would, by corrupt means, have procured a re-charter by majorities of two thirds in both houses of Congress;” and declares the imputation as unjust as it was dishonorable to all the parties implicated in it. He did not believe there was one member in the last Congress, who voted against re-chartering of the bank, who could have been induced to change his vote by corrupt means, had the president and directors of the bank been base enough to attempt the use of them. “That the imputation is cruelly ungenerous towards the friends of the administration in this house, is,” said Mr. Adams, “my deliberate opinion; and now, when we reflect that this defamatory and disgraceful suspicion, harbored or professed against his own friends, supporters, and adherents, was the real and efficient cause (to call it reason would be to shame the term), that it was the real motive for the removal of the deposits during the recess of Congress, and only two months before its meeting, what can we do but hide our heads with shame? Sir, one of the duties of the President of the United Statesa duty as sacred as that to which he is bound by his official oathis that of maintaining unsullied the honor of his country. But how could the President of the United States assert, in the presence of any foreigner, a claim to honorable principle or moral virtue, as attributes belonging to his countrymen, when he is the first to cast the indelible stigma upon them? ’Vale, venalis civitas, mox peritura, si emptorem invenias,’ was the prophetic curse of Jugurtha upon Rome, in the days of her deep corruption. If the imputations of the President of the United States upon his own partisans and supporters were true, our country would already have found a purchaser.”

“That this was the true and efficient cause,” Mr. Adams proceeds, “of that removal, is evident, not only by the positive testimony of Mr. Duane, but from the utter futility of the reasons assigned by Mr. Taney. Mr. Duane states that, on the second day after he entered upon his duties as Secretary of the Treasury, the President himself declared to him his determination to cause the public deposits to be removed before the meeting of Congress. He said that the matter under consideration was of vast consequence to the country; that, unless the bank was broken down, it would break us down; that, if the last Congress had remained a week longer in session, two thirds would have been secured for the bank by corrupt means; and that the like result might be apprehended the next Congress; that such a state bank agency must be put in operation, before the meeting of Congress, as would show that the United States Bank was not necessary, and thus some members would have no excuse for voting for it. ‘My suggestions,’ added Mr. Duane, ’as to an inquiry by Congress, as in 1832, or a recourse to the judiciary, the President repelled, saying that it would be idle to depend upon either; referring, as to the judiciary, to the decisions already made as indications of what would be the effect of an appeal to them in future.’

“These, then,” continued Mr. Adams, “were the effective reasons of the President for requiring the removal of the deposits before the meeting of Congress. The corruptibility of Congress itself, and the foregone decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, were alike despised and degraded. The executive will was substituted in the place of both. These reasons had been urged, without success, on one Secretary of the Treasury, Louis McLane. He had been promoted out of office, and they were now pressed upon the judgment and pliability of another. He, too, was found refractory, and displaced. A third, more accommodating, was found in the person of Mr. Taney. To him the reasons of the President were all-sufficient, and he adopted them without reserve.  They were all summed up in one,’Sic volo, sic jubeo, stet pro RATIONE voluntas.’

“It is to be regretted that the Secretary of the Treasury did not feel himself at liberty to assign this reason. In my humble opinion it ought to have stood in front of all the rest. There is an air of conscious shamefacedness in the suppression of that which was so glaringly notorious; and something of an appearance of trifling, if not of mockery, in presenting a long array of reasons, omitting that which lies at the foundation of them all.

“The will of the President of the United States was the reason paramount to all others for the removal, by the Secretary of the Treasury, of the deposits from the Bank of the United States. It was part of his system of simplifying the machine of government, to which it was admirably adapted. It placed the whole revenue of the Union at any time at his disposal, for any purpose to which he might see fit to apply it. In vain had the laws cautiously stationed the Register, the Comptroller, the Treasurer, as checks upon the Secretary of the Treasury, so that the most trifling sum in the treasury should never be accessible to any one or any two men. With a removal of the deposits and a transfer draft, millions on millions may be transferred, by the stroke of the pen of a supple and submissive Secretary of the Treasury, from place to place, at home and abroad, wherever any purpose, personal or political, may thereby be promoted.

“To this final object of simplifying the machine two other maxims have been proclaimed as auxiliary fundamental principles of this administration. First, that the contest for place and power, in this country, is a state of war, and all the emoluments of office are the spoils of victory. The other, that it is the invariable rule of the President to reward his friends and punish his enemies.”

In the course of the years 1832 and 1833, Freemasonry having become mingled with the politics of the period, Mr. Adams openly avowed his hostility to the institution, and addressed a series of letters to William L. Stone, an editor of one of the New York papers, and another to Edward Livingston, one of its high officers, and a third to the Anti-masonic Convention of the State of New York, in which his views, opinions, and objections to that craft, are stated and developed with his usual laborious, acute, and searching pathos and power.

In October, 1833, Mr. Adams was applied to by one of his friends for minutes of the principal measures of Mr. Monroe’s administration, while he was Secretary of State, and also of his own, as President of the United States, to be used in his defence in a pending election. “I cannot reconcile myself,” said Mr. Adams, “to write anything for my own election, not even for the refutation of the basest calumnies. In all my election contests, therefore, my character is at the mercy of the basest slanderer; and slander is so effective a power in all our elections, that the friends of the candidates for the highest offices use it without scruple. I know by experience the power of party spirit upon the people. Party triumphs over party, and the people are all enrolled in one party or another. The people can only act by the machinery of party.”

About this time there was an attempt in Norfolk County to get up a Temperance Society, and a wish was expressed to him that he would take a lead in forming it. He declined from an unwillingness to shackle himself with obligations to control his individual, family, and domestic arrangements; from an apprehension that the temperance societies, in their well-intended zeal, were already manifesting a tendency to encroach on personal freedom; and also from an opinion that the cause was so well sustained by public approbation and applause that it needed not the aid of his special exertions, beyond that of his own example.

On the 12th of December, 1833, Mr. Clay sent a message to the President of the United States, asking a copy of his written communication to his cabinet, made on the 18th of September, about the removal of the deposits from the United States Bank; to which the President replied by a flat refusal. Mr. Adams remarked: “There is a tone of insolence and insult in his intercourse with both houses of Congress, especially since his reelection, which never was witnessed between the Executive and Legislature before. The domineering tone has heretofore been usually on the side of the legislative bodies to the Executive, and Clay has not been sparing in the use of it. He is now paid in his own coin.”

An intelligent foreigner, in relating a visit to Mr. Adams, in 1834, thus describes his powers of conversation: “He spoke with infinite ease, drawing upon his vast resources with the certainty of one who has his lecture before him ready written. He maintained the conversation nearly four hours, steadily, in one continuous stream of light. His subjects were the architecture of the middle ages, the stained glass of that period, sculpture, embracing monuments particularly. Milton, Shakspeare, Shenstone, Pope, Byron, and Southey, were in turn remarked upon. He gave Pope a wonderfully high character, and remarked that one of his chief beauties was the skill exhibited in varying the caesural pause, quoting from various parts of his author to illustrate his remarks. He said little on the politics of the country, but spoke at considerable length of Sheridan and Burke, both of whom he had heard, and described with graphic effect. Junius, he said, was a bad man, but maintained that as a writer he had never been equalled."

In March, 1834, Mr. Polk, of Tennessee, having indulged in an idolizing glorification of General Jackson, with some coarse invectives against Mr. Adams, the latter rose and said: “I shall not reply to the gentleman from Tennessee; and I give notice, once for all, that, whenever any admirer of the President of the United States shall think fit to pay his court to him in this house, either by a flaming panegyric upon him, or by a rancorous invective on me, he shall never elicit one word of reply from me.

’No; let the candied tongue lick absurd pomp,
And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee,
Where THRIFT may follow fawning.’”

On the 20th of February, 1834, Mr. Adams attended the funeral of Mr. Wirt, on which event he thus uttered his feelings: “For the rest of the day I was unable to attend to anything. I could think of nothing but William Wirt,of his fine talents, of his amiable and admirable character; the twelve years during which we had been in close official relation together; the scene when he went with me to the capitol; his warm and honest sympathy with me in my trials when President of the United States; my interview with him in January, 1831, and his faithful devotion to the memory of Monroe. These recollections were oppressive to my feelings. I thought some public testimonial from me to his memory was due at this time. But Mr. Wirt was no partisan of the present administration. He had been a formal and dreaded opponent to the reelection of Andrew Jackson; and so sure is anything I say or do to meet insuperable obstruction, that I could not imagine anything I could offer with the remotest prospect of success. I finally concluded to ask of the house, tomorrow morning, to have it entered upon the journal of this day that the adjournment was that the Speaker and members might be able to attend the funeral of William Wirt. I wrote a short address, to be delivered at the meeting of the house.”

It appears, by the journal of the house, that, on the 21st of February, 1834, Mr. Adams, of Massachusetts, addressed the chair as follows:

“MR. SPEAKER: A rule of this house directs that the Speaker shall examine and correct the journal before it is read. I therefore now rise, not to make a motion, nor to offer a resolution, but to ask the unanimous consent of the house to address to you a few words with a view to an addition which I wish to be made to the journal, of the adjournment of the house yesterday.

“The Speaker, I presume, would not feel himself authorized to make the addition in the journal which I propose, without the unanimous consent of the house; and I therefore now propose it before the reading of the journal.

“I ask that, after the statement of the adjournment of the house, there be added to the journal words importing that it was to give the Speaker and members of the house an opportunity of attending the funeral obsequies of William Wirt.

“At the adjournment of the house on Wednesday I did not know what the arrangements were, or would be, for that mournful ceremony. Had I known them, I should have moved a postponed adjournment, which would have enabled us to join in the duty of paying the last tribute of respect to the remains of a man who was an ornament of his country and of human nature.

“The customs of this and of the other house of Congress warrant the suspension of their daily labors in the public service, for the attendance upon funeral rites, only in the case of the decease of their own members. To extend the usage further might be attended with inconvenience as a precedent; nor should I have felt myself warranted in asking it upon any common occasion.

“Mr. Wirt had never been a member of either house of Congress. But if his form in marble, or his portrait upon canvas, were placed within these walls, a suitable inscription for it would be that of the statue of Moliere in the hall of the French Academy: ’Nothing was wanting to his glory; he was wanting to ours.’

“Mr. Wirt had never been a member of Congress; but, for a period of twelve years, during two successive administrations of the national government, he had been the official and confidential adviser, upon all questions of law, of the Presidents of the United States; and he had discharged the duties of that station entirely to the satisfaction of those officers and of the country. No member of this house needs to be reminded how important are the duties of the Attorney-General of the United States; nor risk I contradiction in affirming that they were never more ably or more faithfully discharged than by Mr. Wirt.

“If a mind stored with all the learning appropriate to the profession of the law, and decorated with all the elegance of classical literature; if a spirit imbued with the sensibilities of a lofty patriotism, and chastened by the meditations of a profound philosophy; if a brilliant imagination, a discerning intellect, a sound judgment, an indefatigable capacity, and vigorous energy of application, vivified with an ease and rapidity of elocution, copious without redundance, and select without affectation; if all these, united with a sportive vein of humor, an inoffensive temper, and an angelic purity of heart;if all these, in their combination, are the qualities suitable for an Attorney-General of the United States, in him they were all eminently combined.

“But it is not my purpose to pronounce his eulogy. That pleasing task has been assigned to abler hands, and to a more suitable occasion. He will there be presented in other, though not less interesting lights. As the penetrating delineator of manners and character in the British Spy; as the biographer of Patrick Henry, dedicated to the young men of your native commonwealth; as the friend and delight of the social circle; as the husband and father in the bosom of a happy, but now most afflicted family;in all these characters I have known, admired, and loved him; and now witnessing, from the very windows of this hall, the last act of piety and affection over his remains, I have felt as if this house could scarcely fulfil its high and honorable duties to the country which he had served, without some slight, be it but a transient, notice of his decease. The addition which I propose to the journal of yesterday’s adjournment would be such a notice. It would give his name an honorable place on the recorded annals of his country, in a manner equally simple and expressive. I will only add that, while I feel it incumbent upon me to make this proposal, I am sensible that it is not a fit subject for debate; and, if objected to, I desire you to consider it as withdrawn.”

Mr. Adams proceeds: “When the question of agreeing to the proposed addition was put by the Speaker, Joel K. Mann, of Pennsylvania, precisely the rankest Jackson man in the house, said ‘No.’ There was a general call upon him, from all quarters of the house, to withdraw his objection; but he refused. Blair, of South Carolina, rose, and asked if the manifest sense of the house could be defeated by one objection. The Speaker said I had requested that my proposal should be considered as withdrawn if an objection should be made, but the house was competent to give the instruction, upon motion made. I was then called upon by perhaps two thirds of the house,’Move, move, move,’and said, I had hoped the proposal would have obtained the unanimous assent of the house, and as only one objection had been made, which did not appear to be sustained by the general sense of the house, I would make the motion that the addition I had proposed should be made on the journal. The Speaker took the question, and nine tenths, at least, of the members present answered ‘Ay.’ There were three or four who answered ‘No.’ But no division of the house was asked.”

In a debate in the House of Representatives, on the 30th of April, 1834, on striking out the appropriation for the salaries of certain foreign ministers, in the course of his remarks, Warren R. Davis, of South Carolina, turning with great feeling towards Mr. Adams, said: “Well do I remember the enthusiastic zeal with which we reproached the administration of that gentleman, and the ardor and vehemence with which we labored to bring in another. For the share I had in those transactions,and it was not a small one,I hope God will forgive me, for I never shall forgive myself.”

In December, 1834, Mr. Adams, at the unanimous request of both houses of Congress, delivered an oration on the life, character, and services, of Gilbert Motier de Lafayette. The House of Representatives ordered fifty thousand copies to be published at the national expense, and the Senate ten thousand. Mr. Clay said that, in proposing the latter number, he was governed by the extraordinary vote of the house; but that, “if he were to be guided by his opinion of the great talents of the orator, and the extraordinary merit of the oration, he felt he should be unable to specify any number.”

In January, 1835, Mr. Adams, on presenting a petition of one hundred and seven women of his Congressional district, praying for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, moved its reference to a select committee, with instructions; but stated that, if the house chose to refer it to the Committee on the District of Columbia, he should be satisfied. All he wished was that it should be referred to some committee. He begged those members who could command a majority of the house, and who, like himself, were unwilling to make the abolition question a stumbling-block, to take a course which should treat petitions with respect. He wished a report. It would be easy to show that such petitions relative to the District of Columbia ought not to be granted. He believed the true course to be to let error be tolerated; to grant freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and apply reason to put it down. On the contrary, it was contended by Southern men that Congress had a right not to receive petitions, especially if produced to create excitement, and wound the feelings of Southern members. Mr. Adams advocated the right of petition. If the language was disrespectful, that objection might be stated on the journal. He knew that it was difficult to use language on this subject which slaveholders would not deem disrespectful. Congress had declared the slave-trade, when carried on out of the United States, piracy. He was opposed to that act, because he did not think it proper that this traffic without our boundaries should be called piracy, while there was no constitutional right to interdict it within our borders. It was carried on in sight of the windows of the capitol. He deemed it a fundamental principle that Congress had no right to take away or abridge the constitutional right of petition.

The petition was received, its commitment refused by the house, and it was laid on the table.

About this time Mr. Adams remarked: “There is something extraordinary in the present condition of parties throughout the Union. Slavery and democracyespecially a democracy founded, as ours is, on the rights of manwould seem to be incompatible with each other; and yet, at this time, the democracy of the country is supported chiefly, if not entirely, by slavery. There is a small, enthusiastic party preaching the abolition of slavery upon the principles of extreme democracy. But the democratic spirit and the popular feeling are everywhere against them.”

In August, 1835, Mr. Adams was invited to deliver an address before the American Institute of New York. After expressing his good wishes for the prosperity of the institution, and of their cause, he stated, in reply, that the general considerations which dictated the policy of sustaining and cherishing the manufacturing interests were obvious, and had been presented by Judge Baldwin, Mr. J. P. Kennedy, and Mr. Everett, with eloquence and ability, in addresses on three preceding years. If he should deliver the address requested, it would be expected that he would present the subject under new and different views. His own opinion was that one great difficulty under which the manufacturing interest of the country labors is a political combination of the South and the West against it. The slaveholders of the South have bought the cooeperation of the Western country by the bribe of the Western lands, abandoning to the new Western States their own proportion of this public property, and aiding them in the design of grasping all the lands in their own hands. Thomas H. Benton was the author of this system, which he brought forward as a substitute for the American system of Mr. Clay, and to supplant the latter as the leading statesman of the West. Mr. Clay, by his tariff compromise with Mr. Calhoun, abandoned his own American system. At the same time he brought forward a plan for distributing among all the states of the Union the proceeds of the sales of the public lands. His bill for that purpose passed both houses of Congress, but was vetoed by President Jackson, who, in his annual message of December, 1832, formally recommended that all the public lands should be gratuitously given away to individual adventurers, and to the states in which the lands are situated. “Now,” said Mr. Adams, “if, at this time, on the eve of a presidential election, I should, in a public address to the American Institute, disclose the state of things, and comment upon it as I should feel it my duty to do, it would probably produce a great excitement and irritation; would be charged with having a political bearing, and subject me to the imputation of tampering with the election.”

On the 25th of May, 1836, Mr. Adams delivered, in the House of Representatives, a speech on certain resolutions for distributing rations from the public stores to the distressed fugitives from Indian hostilities in the States of Alabama and Georgia. “It is,” said he, “I believe, the first example of a system of gratuitous donations to our own countrymen, infinitely more formidable in its consequences as a precedent, than from anything appearing on its face. I shall, nevertheless, vote for it.” “It is one of a class of legislative enactments with which we are already becoming familiar, and which, I greatly fear, will ere long grow voluminous. I shall take the liberty to denominate them the scalping-knife and tomahawk laws. They are all urged through by the terror of those instruments of death, under the most affecting and pathetic appeals, from the constituents of the sufferers, to all the tender and benevolent sympathies of our nature. It is impossible for me to withhold from those appeals a responsive and yielding voice.” He had voted, he said, for millions after millions, and would again and again vote for drafts from the public chest for the same purpose, should they be necessary, until the treasury itself should be drained.

In seeking for a principle to justify his vote, he could find it nowhere but in the war power and its limitation, as expressed in the constitution of the United States by the words “the common defence and general welfare.” The war power was in this respect different from the peace power. The former was derived from, and regulated by, the laws and usages of nations. The latter was limited by regulations, and restricted by provisions, prescribed within the constitution itself. All the powers incident to war were, by necessary implication, conferred on the government of the United States. This was the power which authorized the house to pass this resolution. There was no other. “It is upon this principle,” said Mr. Adams, “that I shall vote for this resolution, and did vote against the vote reported by the slavery committee, ’that Congress possess no constitutional authority to interfere with the institution of slavery.’ I do not admit that there is, even among the peace powers of Congress, no such authority; but in many ways Congress not only have the authority, but are bound to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states.” Of this he cites many instances, and asks if, in case of a servile insurrection, Congress would not have power to interfere, and to supply money from the funds of the whole Union to suppress it.

In this speech Mr. Adams exposes the effects of the slave influence in the United States, by the measures taken to bring about a war with Mexic. By the proposal that she should cede to us a territory large enough to constitute nine states equal in extent to Kentuck. By making this proposition at a time when swarms of land-jobbers from the United States were covering these Mexican territories with slaves, in defiance of the laws of Mexico by which slavery had been abolished throughout that republi. By the authority given to General Gaines to invade the Mexican republic, and which had brought on the war then raging, which was for the reestablishment of slavery in territories where it had been abolished. It was a war, on the part of the United States, of conquest, and for the extension of slavery. Mr. Adams then foretold, what subsequent events proved, that the war then commencing would be, on the part of the United States, “a war of aggression, conquest, and for the reestablishment of slavery where it has been abolished. In that war the banners of freedom will be the banners of Mexico, and your bannersI blush to speak the wordwill be the banners of slavery.”

The nature of that war, its dangers, and its consequences, Mr. Adams proceeded to analyze, and to show the probability of an interference on the part of Great Britain, who “will probably ask you a perplexing questionby what authority you, with freedom, independence, and democracy, on your lips, are waging a war of extermination, to forge new manacles and fetters instead of those which are falling from the hands and feet of men? She will carry emancipation and abolition with her in every fold of her flag; while your stars, as they increase in numbers, will be overcast by the murky vapors of oppression, and the only portion of your banners visible to the eye will be the blood-stained stripes of the taskmaster.”

“Mr. Chairman,” continued Mr. Adams, “are you ready for all these wars? A Mexican war; a war with Great Britain, if not with France; a general Indian war; a servile war; and, as an inevitable consequence of them all, a civil war;for it must ultimately terminate in a war of colors, as well as of races. And do you imagine that while, with your eyes open, you are wilfully kindling these wars, and then closing your eyes and blindly rushing into them,do you imagine that, while in the very nature of things your own Southern and South-western States must be the Flanders of these complicated wars, the battle-field upon which the last great conflict must be fought between slavery and emancipation,do you imagine that your Congress will have no constitutional authority to interfere with the institution of slavery, in any way, in the states of this confederacy? Sir, they must and will interfere with it, perhaps to sustain it by war, perhaps to abolish it by treaties of peace; and they will not only possess the constitutional power so to interfere, but they will be bound in duty to do it by the express provisions of the constitution itself.

“From the instant that your slaveholding states become the theatre of war, civil, servile, or foreign, from that instant the war powers of Congress extend to interference with the institution of slavery in every way by which it can be interfered with, from a claim of indemnity for slaves taken or destroyed, to the cession of the state burdened with slavery to a foreign power.

“Little reason have the inhabitants of Georgia and of Alabama to complain that the government of the United States has been remiss or neglectful in protecting them from Indian hostilities. The fact is directly the reverse. The people of Alabama and Georgia are now suffering the recoil of their own unlawful weapons. Georgia, sir, Georgia, by trampling upon the faith of our national treaties with the Indian tribes, and by subjecting them to her state laws, first set the example of that policy which is now in the process of consummation by this Indian war. In setting this example she bade defiance to the authority of the government of this nation. She nullified your laws; she set at naught your executive and judicial guardians of the common constitution of the land. To what extent she carried this policy, the dungeons of her prisons, and the records of the Supreme Judicial Court of the United States, can tell.

“To those prisons she committed inoffensive, innocent, pious ministers of the Gospel of truth, for carrying the light, the comforts, the consolations of that Gospel, to the hearts and minds of those unhappy Indians. A solemn decision of the Supreme Court of the United States pronounced that act a violation of your treaties and your laws. Georgia defied that decision. Your executive government never carried it into execution. The imprisoned missionaries of the Gospel were compelled to purchase their ransom from perpetual captivity by sacrificing their rights as freemen to the meekness of their principles as Christians: and you have sanctioned all these outrages upon justice, law, and humanity, by succumbing to the power and the policy of Georgia; by accommodating your legislation to her arbitrary will; by tearing to tatters your old treaties with the Indians, and by constraining them, under peine forte et dure, to the mockery of signing other treaties with you, which, at the first moment when it shall suit your purpose, you will again tear to tatters, and scatter to the four winds of heaven; till the Indian race shall be extinct upon this continent, and it shall become a problem, beyond the solution of antiquaries and historical societies, what the red man of the forest was.

“This, sir, is the remote and primitive cause of the present Indian waryour own injustice sanctioning and sustaining that of Georgia and Alabama. This system of policy was first introduced by the present administration of your national government. It is directly the reverse of that system which had been pursued by all the preceding administrations of this government under the present constitution. That system consisted in the most anxious and persevering efforts to civilize the Indians, to attach them to the soil upon which they lived, to enlighten their minds, to soften and humanize their hearts, to fix in permanency their habitations, and to turn them from the wandering and precarious pursuits of the hunter to the tillage of the ground, to the cultivation of corn and cotton, to the comforts of the fireside, to the delights of home. This was the system of Washington and of Jefferson, steadily pursued by all their successors, and to which all your treaties and all your laws of intercourse with the Indian tribes were accommodated. The whole system is now broken up, and instead of it you have adopted that of expelling, by force or by compact, all the Indian tribes from their own territories and dwellings to a region beyond the Mississippi, beyond the Missouri, beyond the Arkansas, bordering upon Mexico; and there you have deluded them with the hope that they will find a permanent abode, a final resting-place from your never-ending rapacity and persecution. There you have undertaken to lead the willing, and drive the reluctant, by fraud or by force, by treaty or by the sword and the rifleall the remnants of the Seminoles, the Creeks, of the Cherokees and the Choctaws, and of how many other tribes I cannot now stop to enumerate. In the process of this violent and heartless operation you have met with all the resistance which men in so helpless a condition as that of the Indian tribes can make.

“Of the immediate causes of the war we are not yet fully informed; but I fear you will find them, like the remoter causes, all attributable to yourselves.

“It is in the last agonies of a people forcibly torn and driven from the soil which they had inherited from their fathers, and which your own example, and exhortations, and instructions, and treaties, had riveted more closely to their heartsit is in the last convulsive struggles of their despair, that this war has originated; and, if it bring some portion of the retributive justice of Heaven upon our own people, it is our melancholy duty to mitigate, as far as the public resources of the national treasury will permit, the distresses of our own kindred and blood, suffering under the necessary consequences of our own wrong. I shall vote for the resolution.”

This speech, perhaps one of the most suggestive and prophetic ever made, appears in none of the newspapers of the time, and was published by Mr. Adams from his own minutes and recollections.

In September, 1836, Mr. Adams, at the request of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council of the city of Boston, delivered a eulogy on the life and character of James Madison.

On the 7th of January, 1837, Mr. Adams offered to present the petition of one hundred and fifty women for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. Mr. Glascock, of Georgia, objected to its reception. Mr. Adams said that the proposition not to receive a petition was directly in the face of the constitution. He hoped the people of this country would be spared the mortification, the injustice, and the wrong, of a decision that such petitions should not be received. It was indeed true that all discussion, all freedom of speech, all freedom of the press, on this subject, had been, within the last twelve months, violently assailed in every form in which the liberties of the people could be attacked. He considered these attacks as outrages on the constitution of the country, and the freedom of the people, as far as they went. But the proposition that such petitions should not be received went one step further. He hoped it would not obtain the sanction of the house, which could always reject such petitions after they had been considered. Among the outrages inflicted on that portion of the people of this country whose aspirations were raised to the greatest improvement that could possibly be effected in the condition of the human race,the total abolition of slavery on earth,that of calumny was the most glaring. Their petitions were treated with contempt, and the petitioners themselves loaded with foul and infamous imputations, poured forth on a class of citizens as pure and virtuous as the inhabitants of any section of the United States.

Violent debates and great confusion in the house ensued; but when the question, Shall the petition be received? was put, it was decided in the affirmativeone hundred and twenty-seven ayes, seventy-five nays. Mr. Adams then moved that the petition should be referred to the Committee on the District of Columbia. This was superseded by a motion to lay it on the table, which passed in the affirmativeayes one hundred and fifty, nays fifty.

On the 18th of January, 1837, the House of Representatives passed a resolution,one hundred and thirty-nine ayes, sixty-nine nays,“that all petitions relating to slavery, without being printed or referred, shall be laid on the table, and no action shall be had thereon.”

On the 6th of February, 1837, Mr. Adams stated that he held in his hand a paper, on which, before presenting it, he desired to have the decision of the Speaker. It purported to come from slaves; and he wished to know if such a paper came within the order of the house respecting petitions. Great surprise and astonishment were expressed by the slaveholders in the house at such a proposition. One member pronounced it an infraction of decorum, that ought to be punished severely. Another said it was a violation of the dignity of the house, and ought to be taken and burnt. Waddy Thompson, of South Carolina, moved the following resolution: “Resolved, that the Honorable 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 the house; and that he be instantly brought to the bar to receive the severe censure of the Speaker.” Charles E. Haynes, of Georgia, moved “to strike out all after Resolved, and insert ’that John Quincy Adams, a representative from the State of Massachusetts, has rendered himself justly liable to the severest censure of this house, and is censured accordingly, for having attempted to present to the house the petition of slaves.’” Dixon H. Lewis, of Alabama, offered a modification of Waddy Thompson’s resolution, which he accepted, “that John Quincy Adams, by his attempt to introduce into the house a petition from slaves, for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, committed an outrage on the rights and feelings of a large portion of the people of this Union, and a flagrant contempt on the dignity of this house; and, by extending to slaves a privilege only belonging to freemen, directly invites the slave population to insurrection; and that the said member be forthwith called to the bar of this house, and be censured by the Speaker.”

After violent debates and extreme excitement, Mr. Adams rose and said: “In regard to the resolutions now before the house, as they all concur in naming me, and charging me with high crimes and misdemeanors, and in calling me to the bar of the house to answer for my crimes, I have thought it my duty to remain silent until it should be the pleasure of the house to act on one or other of those resolutions. I suppose that, if I shall be brought to the bar of the house, I shall not be struck mute by the previous question, before I have an opportunity to say a word or two in my own defence. But, sir, to prevent further consumption of the time of the house, I deem it my duty to ask them to modify their resolution. It may be as severe as they propose, but I ask them to change the matter of fact a little, so that when I come to the bar of the house, I may not, by a single word, put an end to it. I did not present the petition, and I appeal to the Speaker to say that I did not. I said I had a paper purporting to be a petition from slaves. I did not say what the prayer of the petition was. I asked the Speaker whether he considered such a paper as included within the general order of the house that all petitions, memorials, resolutions, and papers, relating in any way to the subject of slavery, should be laid upon the table. I intended to take the decision of the Speaker before I went one step towards presenting, or offering to present, that petition. I stated distinctly to the Speaker that I should not send the paper to the table until the question was decided whether a paper from persons declaring themselves slaves was included within the order of the house. This is the fact.”

It having been stated in one of the resolutions that the petition was for the abolition of slavery, Mr. Adams said the gentleman moving it “must amend his resolution; for, if the house should choose to read this petition, I can state to them they would find it something very much the reverse of that which the resolution states it to be; and that if the gentleman from Alabama still shall choose to bring me to the bar of the house, he must amend his resolution in a very important particular, for he probably will have to put into it that my crime has been for attempting to introduce the petition of slaves that slavery should not be abolished; and that the object of these slaves, who have sent this paper to me, is precisely that which he desires to accomplish, and that they are his auxiliaries, instead of being his opponents.”

In respect of the allegation that he had introduced a petition for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, Mr. Adams said: “It is well known to all the members of this houseit is certainly known to all petitioners for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbiathat, from the day I entered this house to the present moment, I have invariably here, and invariably elsewhere, declared my opinions to be adverse to the prayer of petitions that call for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. But, sir, it is equally well known that, from the time I entered this house, down to the present day, I have felt it a sacred duty to present any petition, couched in respectful language, from any citizen of the United States, be its object what it maybe the prayer of it that in which I could concur, or that to which I was utterly opposed. I adhere to the right of petition; and let me say here that, let the petition be, as the gentleman from Virginia has stated, from free negroes, prostitutes, as he supposes,for he says there is one put on this paper, and he infers that the rest are of the same description,that has not altered my opinion at all. Where is your law which says that the mean, the low, and the degraded, shall be deprived of the right of petition, if their moral character is not good? Where, in the land of freemen, was the right of petition ever placed on the exclusive basis of morality and virtue? Petition is supplicationit is entreatyit is prayer! And where is the degree of vice or immorality which shall deprive the citizen of the right to supplicate for a boon, or to pray for mercy? Where is such a law to be found? It does not belong to the most abject despotism. There is no absolute monarch on earth who is not compelled, by the constitution of his country, to receive the petitions of his people, whosoever they may be. The Sultan of Constantinople cannot walk the streets and refuse to receive petitions from the meanest and vilest in the land. This is the law even of despotism; and what does your law say? Does it say that, before presenting a petition, you shall look into it, and see whether it comes from the virtuous, and the great, and the mighty? No, sir; it says no such thing. The right of petition belongs to all; and so far from refusing to present a petition because it might come from those low in the estimation of the world, it would be an additional incentive, if such an incentive were wanting.”

In the course of this debate Mr. Thompson, of South Carolina, said that the conduct of Mr. Adams was a proper subject of inquiry by the Grand Jury of the District of Columbia, and stated that such, in a like case, would be the proceedings under the law in South Carolina. Mr. Adams, in reply, exclaimed: “If this is true,if a member is there made amenable to the Grand Jury for words spoken in debate,I thank God I am not a citizen of South Carolina! Such a threat, when brought before the world, would excite nothing but contempt and amazement. What! are we from the Northern States to be indicted as felons and incendiaries, for presenting petitions not exactly agreeable to some members from the South, by a jury of twelve men, appointed by a marshal, his office at the pleasure of the President! If the gentleman from South Carolina, by bringing forward this resolution of censure, thinks to frighten me from my purpose, he has mistaken his man. I am not to be intimidated by him, nor by all the Grand Juries of the universe.”

After a debate of excessive exacerbation, lasting for four days, only twenty votes could be found indirectly and remotely to censure. In the course of this discussion circumstances made it probable that the names appended to the petition were not the signatures of slaves, and that the whole was a forgery, and designed as a hoax upon him. On which suggestion Mr. Adams stated to the house that he now believed the paper to be a forgery, by a slaveholding master, for the purpose of daring him to present a petition purporting to be from slaves; that, having now reason to believe it a forgery, he should not present the petition, whatever might be the decision of the house. If he should present it at all, it would be to invoke the authority of the house to cause the author of it to be prosecuted for the forgery, if there were competent judicial tribunals, and he could obtain evidence to prove the fact. He did not consider a forgery committed to deter a member of Congress from the discharge of his duty as a hoax.

In March, 1837, Mr. Adams addressed a series of letters to his constituents, transmitting his speech vindicating his course on the right of petition, and his proceedings on the subject of the presentation of a petition purporting to be from slaves. These letters were published in a pamphlet, and were at the time justly characterized as “a triumphant vindication of the right of petition, and a graphic delineation of the slavery spirit in Congress;” and it was further said of them, that, “apart from the interest excited by the subjects under discussion, and viewed only as literary productions, they may be ranked among the highest literary efforts of the author. Their sarcasm is Junius-likecold, keen, unsparing.” A few extracts may give an idea of the spirit and character of this publication.

Commenting on Mr. Thompson’s resolution, as modified by Mr. Lewis , Mr. Adams exclaims:

“My constituents! Reflect upon the purport of this resolution, which was immediately accepted by Mr. Thompson as a modification of his own, and as unhesitatingly received by the Speaker. He well knew I had made no attempt to introduce to the house a petition from slaves; and, if I had, he knew I should have done no more than exercise my right as a member of the house, and that the utmost extent of the power of the house would have been to refuse to receive the petition. The Speaker’s duty was to reject instantly this resolution, and tell Mr. Lewis and Mr. Thompson that the first of his obligations was to protect the rights of speech of members of that house, which I had not in the slightest degree infringed. But the Speaker was a master.

“Observe, too, that in this resolution the notable discovery was first made that I had directly invited the slaves to insurrection; of which bright thought Mr. Thompson afterwards availed himself to threaten me with the Grand Jury of the District of Columbia, as an incendiary and felon. I pray you to remember this, not on my account, or from the suspicion that I could or shall ever be moved from my purpose by such menaces, but to give you the measure of slaveholding freedom of speech, of the press, of action, of thought! If such a question as I asked of the Speaker is a direct invitation of the slaves to insurrection, forfeiting all my rights as representative of the people, subjecting me to indictment by a grand jury, conviction by a petit jury, and to an infamous penitentiary cell, I ask you, not what freedom of speech is left to your representative in Congress, but what freedom of speech, of the press, and of thought, is left to yourselves.

“There is an express provision of the constitution that Congress shall pass no law abridging the right of petition; and here is a resolution declaring that a member ought to be considered as regardless of the feelings of the house, the rights of the South, and an enemy to the Union, for presenting a petition.

“Regardless of the feelings of the house! What have the feelings of the house to do with the free agency of a member in the discharge of his duty? One of the most sacred duties of a member is to present the petitions committed to his charge; a duty which he cannot refuse or neglect to perform without violating his oath to support the constitution of the United States. He is not, indeed, bound to present all petitions. If the language of the petition be disrespectful to the house, or to any of its members,if the prayer of the petition be unjust, immoral, or unlawful,if it be accompanied by any manifestation of intended violence or disorder on the part of the petitioners,the duty of the member to present ceases, not from respect for the feelings of the house, but because those things themselves strike at the freedom of speech and action as well of the house as of its members. Neither of these can be in the least degree affected by the mere circumstance of the condition of the petitioner. Nor is there a shadow of reason why feelings of the house should be outraged by the presentation of a petition from slaves, any more than by petitions from soldiers in the army, seamen in the navy, or from the working-women in a manufactory.

“Regardless of the rights of the South! What are the rights of the South? What is the South? As a component portion of this Union, the population of the South consists of masters, of slaves, and of free persons, white and colored, without slaves. Of which of these classes would the rights be disregarded by the presentation of a petition from slaves? Surely not those of the slaves themselves, the suffering, the laborious, the producing classes. O, no! there would be no disregard of their rights in the presentation of a petition from them. The very essence of the crime consists in an alleged undue regard for their rights; in not denying them the rights of human nature; in not classing them with horses, and dogs, and cats. Neither could the rights of the free people without slaves, whether white, black, or colored, be disregarded by the presentation of a petition from slaves. Their rights could not be affected by it at all. The rights of the South, then, here mean the rights of the masters of slaves, which, to describe them by an inoffensive word, I will call the rights of mastery. These, by the constitution of the United States, are recognized, not directly, but by implication, and protection is stipulated for them, by that instrument, to a certain extent. But they are rights incompatible with the inalienable rights of all mankind, as set forth in the Declaration of Independenceincompatible with the fundamental principles of the constitutions of all the free states of the Union; and therefore, when provided for in the constitution of the United States, are indicated by expressions which must receive the narrowest and most restricted construction, and never be enlarged by implication. There is, I repeat, not one word, not one syllable, in the constitution of the United States, which interdicts to Congress the reception of petitions from slaves; and as there is express interdiction to Congress to abridge by law the right of petition, that right, upon every principle of fair construction, is as much the right of the South as of the Northas much the right of the slave as of the master; and the presentation of a petition from slaves, for a legitimate object, respectful in language, and in its tone and character submissive to the decision which the house may pass upon it, far from degrading the rights of the South, is a mark of signal homage to those rights.

“An enemy to the Union for presenting a petition!an enemy to the Union! I have shown that the presentation of petitions is one of the most imperious duties of a member of Congress. I trust I have shown that the right of petition, guaranteed to the people of the United States, without exception of slaves, express or implied, cannot be abridged by any act of both houses, with the approbation of the President of the United States; but this resolution, by the act of one branch of the Legislature, would effect an enormous abridgment of the right of petition, not only by denying it to full one sixth part of the whole people, but by declaring an enemy to the Union any member of the house who should present such a petition.

When the resolution declaring that I had trifled with the house was under consideration, one of the most prominent allegations laid to my charge was that, by asking that question, I had intended indirectly to cast ridicule upon that resolution, and upon the house for adopting it.  Nor was this entirely without foundation.  I did not intend to cast ridicule upon the house, but to expose the absurdity of that resolution, against which I had protested as unconstitutional and unjust.  But the characteristic peculiarity of this charge against me was, that, while some of the gentlemen of the South were urging the house to pass a vote of censure upon me, for a distant and conjectural inference of my intention to deride that resolution, others of them, in the same debate, and on the same day, were showering upon the same resolution direct expressions of unqualified contempt, without even being called to order.  Like the saints in Hudibras,

’The saints may do the same thing by
The Spirit in sincerity,
Which other men are prompted to,
And at the devil’s instance do;
And yet the actions be contrary,
    Just as the saints and wicked vary,

so it was with the gentlemen of the South. While Mr. Pickens could openly call the resolution of the 18th of January a miserable and contemptible resolution,while Mr. Thompson could say it was only fit to be burnt by the hands of the hangman, without rebuke or reproof,I was to be censured by the house for casting ridicule upon them by asking the question whether the resolution included petitions from slaves.”

About this time Mr. Adams received an invitation to attend a public meeting at New York during the session of Congress. He replied: “I do not hold myself at liberty to absent myself from the house a single day. Such is my estimate of representative duty, confirmed by a positive rule of the house itself, not the less obligatory for being little observed.”

In December, 1835, President Jackson transmitted to Congress a message relative to the bequest of four hundred thousand dollars, from James Smithson, of London, to the United States, for the purpose of establishing at Washington an institution “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men;” and submitted the subject to Congress for its consideration. A question was immediately raised whether Congress had power, in its legislative capacity, to accept such a bequest; and also whether, having the power, its acceptance was expedient. The message of the President was referred to a committee, of which Mr. Adams was appointed chairman. No subject could be better adapted to excite into action his public spirit than the hopes awakened for his country by the amount of this bequest, and the wisdom of the objects for which it was appropriated. The general tenor of the testator’s will excited numerous private interests and passions with regard to the application of the fund. Mr. Adams immediately brought the whole strength and energy of his mind to give it a proper direction. Although some of his recommendations were slighted, and an object near his heart, an astronomical observatory, was resisted by party spirit, his zeal and perseverance effectually prevented the bequest from being diverted to local and temporary objects, and his general views relative to Mr. Smithson’s design ultimately prevailed.

In January, 1836, Mr. Adams, as chairman of the committee, made a report, declaring that Congress was competent to accept the bequest, and that its acceptance was enjoined by considerations of the most imperious obligations, and suggesting some interesting reflections on the subject. The testator, he said, was a descendant in blood from the Percys and the Seymours,two of the most illustrious names of the British islands;the brother of the Duke of Northumberland, who, by the name of Percy, was known at the sanguinary opening scenes of our Revolutionary War, and fought as a British officer at Lexington and Bunker Hill, and was the bearer of the despatches, from the commander of the British forces to his government, announcing the event of that memorable day. “The suggestions which present themselves to the mind,” Mr. Adams adds, “by the association of these historical recollections with the condition of the testator, derive additional interest from the nature of the bequest, the devotion of a large estate to an institution ’for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.’” The noble design of Mr. Smithson Mr. Adams thus proceeds to illustrate:

“Of all the foundations of establishments for pious or charitable uses, which ever signalized the spirit of the age, or the comprehensive beneficence of the founder, none can be named more deserving of the approbation of mankind than this. Should it be faithfully carried into effect, with an earnestness and sagacity of application, and a steady perseverance of pursuit, proportioned to the means furnished by the will of the founder, and to the greatness and simplicity of his design, as by himself declared, ’the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men,’ it is no extravagance of anticipation to declare that his name will be hereafter enrolled among the eminent benefactors of mankind.

“The attainment of knowledge is the high and exclusive attribute of man, among the numberless myriads of animated beings, inhabitants of the terrestrial globe. On him alone is bestowed, by the bounty of the Creator of the universe, the power and the capacity of acquiring knowledge. Knowledge is the attribute of his nature which at once enables him to improve his condition upon earth, and to prepare him for the enjoyment of a happier existence hereafter. It is by this attribute that man discovers his own nature as the link between earth and heaven; as the partaker of an immortal spirit; as created for higher and more durable ends than the countless tribes of beings which people the earth, the ocean, and the air, alternately instinct with life, and melting into vapor, or mouldering into dust.

“To furnish the means of acquiring knowledge is, therefore, the greatest benefit that can be conferred upon mankind. It prolongs life itself, and enlarges the sphere of existence. The earth was given to man for cultivationto the improvement of his own condition. Whoever increases his knowledge multiplies the uses to which he is enabled to turn the gift of his Creator to his own benefit, and partakes in some degree of that goodness which is the highest attribute of Omnipotence itself.”

“If, then, the Smithsonian Institution, under the smile of an approving Providence, and by the faithful and permanent application of the means furnished by its founder to the purpose for which he has bestowed them, should prove effective to their promotion,if they should contribute essentially to the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men,to what higher or nobler object could this generous and splendid donation have been devoted?”

After further illustrating the renown of the name of Percy from the historical annals of England, Mr. Adams proceeds to urge other considerations, from among which we make the following extracts:

“It is, then, a high and solemn trust which the testator has committed to the United States of America; and its execution devolves upon their representatives in Congress duties of no ordinary importance. In adverting to the character of the trustee selected by the testator for the fulfilment of his intentions, it is deemed no indulgence of unreasonable pride to mark it as a signal manifestation of the moral effect of our political institutions upon the opinions and the consequent action of the wise and good of other regions and of distant climes, even upon that nation from whom we generally boast our descent.”

The report continues:

“In the commission of every trust there is an implied tribute to the integrity and intelligence of the trustee, and there is also an implied call for the faithful exercise of those properties to the fulfilment of the purposes of the trust. The tribute and the call acquire additional force and energy when the trust is committed for performance after the decease of him by whom it is granted; when he no longer lives to constrain the effective fulfilment of his design. The magnitude of the trust, and the extent of confidence bestowed in the committal of it, do but enlarge and aggravate the pressure of the obligation which it carries with it. The weight of duty imposed is proportioned to the honor conferred by confidence without reserve. Your committee are fully persuaded, therefore, that, with a grateful sense of the honor conferred by the testator upon the political institutions of this Union, the Congress of the United States, in accepting the bequest, will feel, in all its power and plenitude, the obligation of responding to the confidence reposed by him, with all the fidelity, disinterestedness, and perseverance of exertion, which may carry into effective execution the noble purpose of an endowment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”

The report concludes with recommending a bill, which passed in both branches, vesting authority in the President to take measures to prosecute, in the court of chancery in England, the right of the United States to this bequest.