Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 01.djvu/104

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Adam 90 Adam

little volume (1795)—fortunately preserved in the British Museum (c 43 a 8)—remains to attest, by its abounding markings, the spell it laid upon him, while such men as Bishop Heber, Dr. Thomas Chalmers, and John Stuart Mill, and others, have paid tribute to the searching power of the ‘thoughts.’ These ‘Private Thoughts’ have never been allowed to go out of print since their original publication. They are well known in the United States, and have been translated into Welsh, Gaelic, and several European and Eastern languages.

[Life by J. Stillingfleet, prefixed to posthumous works, 1785; Life by A. Westoby, prefixed to Exposition of Gospels, 1837, with some additional matter.]

A. B. G.

ADAM, WILLIAM (d. 1748), architect. [See Adam, Robert.]

ADAM, WILLIAM (1751–1839), politician and lord chief commissioner of the Scottish jury court, son of John Adam, architect, of Maryburgh, Kinross, who died in 1792, and nephew of Robert and James Adam [see Adam, James, (d. 1794), and Adam, Robert, 1728–1792], was born 2 Aug. 1751. He was called to the Scottish bar in 1773, and at the general election in the following year, before he had begun to practise, was returned to parliament for the now disfranchised borough of Gatton, in Surrey. For some time he was careful to mark his independence of both political parties; but at the beginning of the session of 1779 he definitely pledged his allegiance to Lord North, declaring that ‘although the ministers were not very competent, no persons more competent were to be found among their opponents.’ At the beginning of the November session in the year just named, Fox, in the course of his speech on the address, said he could imagine the prime minister turning round on his new defender and saying to him, ‘Begone! begone, wretch! who delightest in libelling mankind, confounding virtue with vice, and insulting the man whom thou pretendest to defend by saying to his face that he certainly is infamous, but that there are others still more infamous.’ The result of this hyperbole was a duel in Hyde Park (29 Nov.), when a good deal of courtesy and two pistol-shots were exchanged. Fox was slightly wounded, and his friends said that he might be thankful that Adam had only used government powder. It was insinuated out of doors that a deliberate attempt had been made to get rid of the whig leader, who about this time was at the height of his popularity. The idea was jocosely embodied in a doggerel poem, printed a few months later under the title of ‘Paradise Regain'd,’ where Satan, disguised as Cerberus, is represented as tempting Adam to remove his enemy the Fox, who had begun to encroach upon his domain. The poem concludes with ‘the joy of the Israelites’ at the survival of Fox:

                      The annu'tant fervent,
  The broker not less joyful; nor was Brookes,
  Kenny, or Goostree less in thanksgiving.

In the course of the following year Adam was appointed treasurer of the ordnance, and at the general election of 1780, transferring his candidature to the Wigton burghs, he was returned by that constituency as a supporter of Lord North. After their duel Fox and Adam became intimate friends; and Earl Russell, referring to this fact in his ‘Life and Times of C. J. Fox,’ says: ‘Mr. Adam had that openness of temper and cordiality of disposition which peculiarly suited Mr. Fox.’ Other testimony exists as to the urbanity and probity of Adam's character. During Lord Shelburne's administration (1782–3) he took a leading part in negotiating the coalition between North and Fox, and Shelburne, though he knew of this, came to him on one occasion as to a man ‘beloved by all parties.’ In the ‘Rolliad’ Dundas writes in his hypothetical journal: ‘Our lawyers somehow don't answer—Adam and Anstruther worth them all—can't they be bought?—Scotchmen!—damned strange if they can't.—Mem. to tell Rose to sound them. Adam severe on me and the rest that have betrayed Lord North.’ The fact is that Adam was almost alone in maintaining his allegiance to North and Fox. When the French revolution converted most of his friends into supporters of Pitt, and Fox was more and more isolated every year, Adam was one of the staunchest followers of the man to whom his bullet had been so nearly fatal. Meanwhile, he had been called to the English bar in 1782, and family reasons soon compelled him to devote much of his time to the practice of his profession. He had a wife and children; his uncles, whose wealth and influence had assisted him at the outset of his career, were now involved in misfortunes; his father, owing to the same cause, could do little or nothing for him. The treasurership which had been conferred on him by North was forfeited when North quitted office; and, though he regained it for a few months in 1783, the fall of the coalition again deprived him of it. Under these circumstances Adam's legal knowledge and acumen, aided by tact and industry, stood him in good stead. He figured henceforth chiefly as a legal member