The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Adams, John Quincy

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1188022The American Cyclopædia — Adams, John Quincy

ADAMS, John Quincy, sixth president of the United States, eldest son of President John Adams, born in Braintree, July 11, 1767, died in Washington, Feb. 23, 1848. The origin of his name was thus stated by himself: “My great-grandfather, John Quincy, was dying when I was baptized, and his daughter, my grandmother, requested I might receive his name. This fact, recorded by my father, has connected with my name a charm of mingled sensibility and devotion. It was filial tenderness that gave the name — it was the name of one passing from earth to immortality. These have been through life perpetual admonitions to do nothing unworthy of it.” John Adams, having been appointed minister to France, took with him as companion his son John Quincy, then in his 11th year. The voyage from Boston to Bordeaux was tempestuous; the travel by land from Bordeaux to Paris was rapid and fatiguing; but the young Adams, as appears from his father's published diary, conducted and sustained himself through both voyage and travels, and also during their residence at Paris, to his father's entire satisfaction. Placed at a school near Paris, he made rapid progress both in the French language and in his general studies. His health was perfect, and his father wrote to his mother that he attracted general attention wherever he went by his vigor of body, his vivacity of mind, and his constant good humor. After a stay in France of near a year and a half — several months of which were spent at Nantes waiting for a passage home — John Quincy Adams came back with his father in a French frigate. While at sea he taught English to his fellow passengers, the French ambassador to the United States, De la Luzerne, and his secretary, M. Marbois. The following is an extract from his father's diary, under date of June 20, 1779: “The chevalier de la Luzerne and M. Marbois are in raptures with my son. They get him to teach them the language. I found this morning the ambassador seated on the cushion in our stateroom, M. Marbois in his cot, at his left hand, and my son stretched out in his at his right, the ambassador reading out loud in Blackstone's ‘Discourse’ at his entrance on his professorship of the common law at the university, and my son correcting the pronunciation of every word and syllable and letter. The ambassador said he was astonished at my son's knowledge; that he was a master of his own language like a professor. M. Marbois said, ‘Your son teaches us more than you; he has point de grâce, point d'eloges. He shows us no mercy, and makes us no compliments. We must have Mr. John.’ ” Character is very early developed, and John Q. Adams retained much of this same style of teaching to the end of his life. After remaining at home three months and a half, John Q. Adams, now in his 13th year, sailed again in the same French frigate, as his father's companion on his second diplomatic mission to Europe. Arriving at Paris in February, 1780, he was again placed at school, where he remained till August. He then went with his father to Holland, where, after some months' tuition at a school in Amsterdam, he was sent about the end of the year to the university of Leyden. His father's secretary of legation, Francis Dana (afterward chief justice of Massachusetts), having been appointed minister to Russia, he took with him as his private secretary John Q. Adams, then in his 15th year. Having discharged the duties of this position for 14 months to Dana's entire satisfaction, the latter not having succeeded in getting recognized as minister, young Adams left St. Petersburg, and, travelling back alone, returned leisurely through Sweden and Denmark, and by Hamburg and Bremen, to the Hague, where he resumed his studies. In October, 1783, the treaty of peace having been signed, John Q. Adams attended his father on his first visit to England. Returning with him, he spent the year 1784 in Paris, where the whole family was now collected. His father having been appointed minister to Great Britain, he accompanied the family to London, but soon after, with a view to the completion of his education, returned home to Massachusetts. In 1786 he entered the junior class at Harvard college. He graduated in 1788, and immediately after entered the office of Theophilus Parsons, afterward well known as chief justice of Massachusetts. Here he remained for three years. In 1791 he was admitted to the bar, when he opened a law office in Boston, and in the course of four years he gradually attained practice enough to pay his expenses. He did not, however, confine himself entirely to the law. A series of articles which he published in the “Boston Centinel,” with the signature of Publicola — a reply to some portions of Thomas Paine's “Rights of Man” — attracted a good deal of attention not only at home but in England, where these papers were republished and ascribed to his father. In another series of articles in the same journal, signed Marcellus, published in 1793, he defended Washington's policy of neutrality. In a third series, signed Columbus, published the same year, he reviewed the conduct of Genet, the French ambassador, in relation to the same subject. These writings drew attention toward him, and in May, 1794, Washington appointed him minister to the Hague. Upon his arrival there he found things in such confusion, owing to the French invasion, that after a few months' residence he thought of returning; but, by the remonstrances of Washington, who predicted for him a distinguished diplomatic career, he was induced to remain. In 1795 he had occasion to visit London to transact some business with Thomas Pinckney, who after Mr. Jay's departure had resumed the embassy at that court. The American consul at London was Joshua Johnson of Maryland, brother of Thomas Johnson, one of the signers of the declaration of independence, and a judge of the United States supreme court. Mr. Joshua Johnson had formerly been a merchant at Nantes, where in 1779 the Adamses had made his acquaintance. He had by this time a grownup daughter, with whom young Adams now formed an intimacy, which resulted in marriage on July 27, 1797. Previously to this event, and shortly before the close of Washington's administration, John Q. Adams had been appointed minister to Portugal; but his father, on becoming president, changed his destination to Berlin. In thus promoting his own son, John Adams acted by the written advice of Washington, who expressed his decided opinion that young Adams was the ablest person in the American diplomatic service, and that merited promotion ought not to be withheld from him merely because he was the president's son. He arrived at Berlin shortly after his marriage, in the autumn of 1797. In 1798 he received an additional commission to negotiate a treaty of commerce with Sweden. While residing at Berlin, with a view to perfecting himself in the German language, he made a translation into English of Wieland's “ Oberon,” and would have published it but for the appearance about that time of a translation by Sotheby. In 1800 he travelled through Silesia, of which tour he wrote an account in a series of letters to his brother which were, published, though without the writer's knowledge, in the “Port Folio,” a weekly paper at Philadelphia. These letters were collected and published in a volume in London, and, being translated into French and German, had a wide circulation. On the accession of Mr. Jefferson to the presidency, John Q. Adams was recalled; but he had previously succeeded in negotiating a treaty of commerce with Prussia. Returning to Boston, he again opened a law office there. In 1802 he was elected from Suffolk county (which includes Boston) to the Massachusetts senate, and the next year was chosen by the legislature a senator in congress from Massachusetts. He owed this position to the federal party of Massachusetts, and for four years he continued to sustain their views; but on the question of the embargo recommended by Jefferson he separated from them. The Massachusetts election in the preceding spring had resulted in the success of the Jeffersonian party, who elected their candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, and a majority in both branches of the legislature. At the time when the embargo was proposed by the president to congress, it seemed probable that the question of Adams's reëlection to the senate would have to be decided by a legislature favorable to the views of the national administration; and the support which Adams gave to that measure was charged by the federalists to the hope of securing his reëlection and the favor of a party, whose predominance seemed at length established, not merely in the nation, but in Massachusetts also. This course on his part led to a warm controversy between him and his colleague in the senate, Timothy Pickering, who now made the same charges of treacherous selfishness against the son which he had formerly brought against the father. Pickering addressed a letter to Governor Sullivan of Massachusetts, in which he forcibly stated his objections to the embargo, which he represented as the first step toward a war with Great Britain, a step into which the administration had been led, as he maintained, by French threats or French seduction. This letter Pickering requested the governor to lay before the legislature, which Sullivan refused to do, on the ground that it was “seditious and disorganizing.” It found its way, however, into the newspapers, and Adams replied to it through the same medium. In this reply he expressed his conviction that the whole of the difficulties in which the United States were involved on the question of neutral rights, including the issue of Bonaparte's Berlin and Milan decrees, had originated in the unwarrantable maritime pretensions of Great Britain. He even went so far as to represent the late British orders in council, issued nominally in retaliation for the Berlin decree, as a first step on the part of Great Britain toward bringing back the United States to colonial subjection. Giving emphatic expression to suspicions and to an antipathy which, as to the Hamiltonian or Essex junto section of the federalists, he had imbibed from his father, he broadly hinted that Pickering and his special party friends were quite ready to side with Great Britain in the new enterprise which he ascribed to her of re-subjecting America. Although Sullivan had been reëlected governor, the embargo had operated to give the federalists a small majority in both branches of the Massachusetts legislature; and when the question of the choice of senator came up, Adams was dropped, and Lloyd, a Boston merchant, chosen in his place. Adams thereupon declined to sit for the remaining short session of his term, resigned his senatorship, and retired to private life. He had previously, however, secured, in addition to his practice as a lawyer, a new resource and employment, in the post of professor of rhetoric and belles-lettres at Harvard college. He entered upon this professorship in 1806, upon condition of not being obliged to reside at Cambridge, and for three years following discharged the duties of it, delivering lectures, the first, it is said, ever read in any American college, and conducting exercises in declamation. His lectures, which were printed in 1810, once possessed a considerable reputation, but are now entirely neglected. The winter subsequent to his resignation he visited Washington, nominally for the purpose of attending the supreme court. During this visit he sought and obtained a confidential interview with Jefferson, in which he distinctly brought against a portion of the federal leaders the charge of a treasonable design of dissolving the Union and forming a separate northern confederacy. The same charge, thus privately made, he not long after repeated in print, in a review of the writings of Fisher Ames, which he published in numbers in the “Boston Patriot.” Such was the origin of a charge which for the next ten or fifteen years strongly affected the administration of the government, and which, penetrating deeply into the popular mind, made the leading statesmen of New England objects at once of dread and hatred, deprived New England for a considerable period of its natural weight in public affairs, and had a decisive influence in curtailing to a single term the presidential office, to which John Q. Adams, himself afterward attained. That he was sincere in bringing this charge there is little room for doubt. The proof, however, which he presented at the time or afterward of the truth of this plot, was sufficiently slender. It was said to have originated with a few federal members of congress, in consequence of the annexation of Louisiana — a measure which Adams had himself opposed, being one of the six senators who voted against it — and the threatened destruction, by the addition of so much new western and southern territory, of the political influence of the northern and eastern states. These dissatisfied members of congress, so Adams alleged, had proposed to have a meeting at Boston, at which Hamilton was to have been present. It was admitted that Hamilton disapproved of the scheme, and yet his reasons for accepting Burr's challenge were cited as proof that he anticipated a civil war and the being called upon to take a leading part in it. Such seems to have been about the whole of this alleged plot, carefully concealed, as Adams admitted, from the great body of the federalists, and unknown even to the greater part of their leaders, including one so conspicuous as Ames. We shall have occasion at a subsequent period of Mr. Adams's life to refer again to this subject. It should be added now, however, that this revelation was among the reasons by which Adams pressed Jefferson to consent to the repeal of the embargo, for which he had himself voted, but which had provoked in all the maritime parts of the country, and especially in New England, a very violent hostility, and which could not be persisted in, as Adams thought, without leading to open and violent resistance, and so affording opportunity to the plotters against the integrity of the Union. Immediately alter Madison's accession to the presidency, he nominated Mr. Adams as minister to Russia. Since the time that Adams, while yet a boy, had visited St. Petersburg as private secretary to an unrecognized minister, the United States had had no ambassador at that court. The senate, not yet satisfied of the expediency of opening diplomatic relations in that quarter, though the same thing had been recommended by Jefferson, refused to confirm the nomination. However, a few months after, the nomination was renewed, and with better success. John Adams, who did not like being thus separated from his son, saw in this appointment only a sort of political banishment intended on the part of the Virginia politicians to remove a dreaded competitor out of the way. Yet in fact, by removing John Q. Adams from the immediate theatre of contention at home, it contributed not a little to his subsequent political promotion. He was himself, as we may judge, well satisfied to escape from the political commotion which he had raised; for when, after various unsuccessful attempts to fill a vacancy on the supreme bench of the United States, he was nominated and confirmed as a judge (for the New England circuit), in spite of the wishes of his father he declined the nomination, preferring to remain as ambassador at St. Petersburg, where he was now established with his family. He was well received in Russia. His official duties were not very arduous. Part of his leisure he employed in writing a series of “Letters,” since published, addressed to his sons, on “The Bible and its Teachings”; a pious work, but not otherwise of particular value or merit. The disputes and collisions between Great Britain and the United States having finally terminated in war, through the influence of Mr. Adams the emperor of Russia was induced to offer himself as mediator, and in July, 1813, Adams was joined by Mr. Bayard, and afterward by Mr. Gallatin, those gentlemen having been appointed in conjunction with himself to negotiate a peace. Great Britain, however, refused to treat under the mediation of Russia. She proposed instead an independent negotiation at London or Gothenburg, for which Ghent was afterward substituted. This proposition having been accepted on the part of the United States government, Mr. Adams arrived at Ghent in June, 1814, and after a protracted negotiation of six months, in which Jonathan Russell and Henry Clay were associated, peace was finally concluded Dec. 24, 1814. No attempt whatever was made to limit the maritime pretensions of Great Britain, in resistance to which the war had originated, and against which Mr. Adams, in joining the administration party, had so decidedly pronounced. The skill and eloquence of the American commissioners found ample scope in warding off the pretensions of Great Britain to portions of territory occupied by her, or at least to act as protector to the Indian tribes within the limits of the United States. Some attempt was also made to limit our fishing rights, and Mr. Adams was now instrumental, as his father had been before him, in maintaining unimpaired our enjoyment of the ocean fisheries. Previous to proceeding to London to execute a new commission to negotiate in conjunction with Clay and Gallatin a treaty of commerce, Adams visited Paris, where he witnessed the return of Napoleon from Elba and the brief empire of the hundred days. Here his family joined him after a long and perilous journey from St. Petersburg, and on the 25th of May he joined Clay and Gallatin in London; in conjunction with whom, on July 13, 1815, he signed a commercial convention with Great Britain. This business finished, Adams still remained at London as resident minister. — Upon the accession of Monroe to the presidency (1817) he offered Mr. Adams the post of secretary of state, to fill which he returned home, after an absence of eight years. The reëstablishment of peace in Europe having removed former grounds of contention, a political lull had succeeded, and a new organization of parties now began to take place, especially on the subjects of protection to American manufactures and expenditures from the United States treasury for internal improvements. There still remained, however, to be disposed of, some questions of moment more immediately connected with Mr. Adams's position as secretary of state. Gen. Jackson, having been consulted on the subject by Monroe, had heartily approved of the appointment of Mr. Adams to that department. Adams no less warmly supported in the cabinet, against Mr. Calhoun's proposition of censure, the conduct of Gen. Jackson in invading Florida, hanging Arbuthnot and Ambrister, and taking military possession of St. Mark's and Pensacola. Those proceedings he also sustained with no less zeal in his diplomatic correspondence with the Spanish minister — an important correspondence, having reference to the boundaries of Florida and Louisiana, and the claims of America on Spain for commercial depredations. Though as a senator Adams had voted against the Louisiana treaty, on the ground that the federal constitution gave no power to acquire territory, he now as secretary of state pushed American claims under that treaty to the extremest lengths, insisting that this cession included not merely Florida to the Perdido, but Texas to the Rio Grande. Finally, in consideration of the cession of Florida, the United States agreeing to pay $5,000,000 for it, to be applied to the extinction of American mercantile claims against Spain, Adams compromised matters by agreeing to the Sabine, the Red river, the upper Arkansas, the crest of the Rocky mountains, and the parallel of 42º N. lat., as the boundary of Louisiana; and upon this basis a treaty was arranged. This treaty was his principal achievement as secretary of state. After some hesitation, Mr. Adams finally yielded to the policy warmly urged by Henry Clay of recognizing the independence of the late Spanish American colonies. An elaborate report which he made in his official capacity on weights and measures secured him the credit of extensive scientific acquirements. Toward the close of Monroe's first term came up the great question of the admission of Missouri as a slave state, and the extension of slavery or its prohibition throughout the unsettled territory north and west of Missouri. The Missouri compromise having at length, after violent agitations at Washington and throughout the country, received the sanction of congress, Monroe, upon being called upon to sign the bill, submitted two questions to his cabinet: First, had congress the constitutional power to prohibit slavery in a territory? and second, was the term “for ever,” used in the prohibitive clause of the Missouri bill, to be understood as referring only to the territorial condition of the district embraced in it, or must it be understood to extend to such states as might be erected out of it? These questions grew out of the circumstance that the southern members of congress had denied any power in congress to prohibit slavery in a state, and therefore any right to refuse to admit Missouri into the Union on the ground that her constitution established slavery. Those of them who supported the compromise admitted, however, a power of imposing conditions on territories, as necessarily implied in the power to erect them. On the first of these questions all the cabinet declared themselves in the affirmative. As to the second question, Adams thought that the term “for ever” must be understood to mean for ever, and that the prohibition of slavery, instead of ceasing with the territorial condition of the district, would under the act of congress extend to any states that might at any time be erected out of it. The other members of the cabinet, including Thompson of New York (except Adams, the only other northern man in it, and soon after made judge of the supreme federal court), were all of opinion that the “for ever” in question was only a territorial for ever, and that it did not and would not operate to prevent any states that might be organized out of this territory from establishing or prohibiting slavery as they chose. But to prevent this delicate point from being mooted, and to give to the cabinet an appearance of unanimity, at Mr. Calhoun's suggestion the second question was modified so as to read, “Is the proviso as it stands in the bill constitutional?” To this question all the members returned the brief answer “Yes,” and on the strength of their apparently unanimous opinion (ordered to be deposited in the archives of the state department, whence, like some other valuable historical papers, it has since disappeared), Monroe signed the bill. We owe this piece of secret history to an extract which has been published from Mr. Adams's diary, from which it also appears that he still strongly entertained the same sentiment of opposition to southern ideas, institutions, and predominancy, which had led him to vote against the annexation of Louisiana. But the time was not yet come for the open avowal of his opinions or for acting upon them. Least of all were the present crisis and Adams's position favorable to such a course. — No sooner had Monroe entered upon his second term of office (1821) than the question of who should be his successor began to be vehemently agitated. Of the five members of his cabinet, no fewer than three, Adams, Crawford, and Calhoun, were brought forward as candidates, as were also, outside the cabinet, Gen. Jackson and Henry Clay. Crawford obtained the congressional caucus nomination, according to the usage which then prevailed; but this nomination had no weight with the partisans of the other candidates. To support Adams, the federal party of Massachusetts — the only state in which that party could be said to maintain an organized existence, and even there it had lately lost the control of the state government — amalgamated with the democratic party of that state; and the same union took place throughout New England, and partially in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. All the federalists, however, did not come into this arrangement. Some of he more persistent among them refused to support Adams. The aged Timothy Pickering, his former senatorial colleague, made a violent attack upon him in a printed pamphlet, founded on his former separation from the federal party. As a general thing, however, the greater part of the old federalists throughout the country gave in their adhesion to Adams — a circumstance urged by his opponents as going to show that he was still but a federalist in a democratic disguise, and not entitled to the support of the democratic party. From the earliest history of the United States as an independent nation, Virginia and New England ideas had contended for predominancy and control. Notwithstanding his former abandonment of New England at the time of the embargo, in the present contest Mr. Adams represented the New England which was in fact synonymous with the federal idea. Of course he suffered greatly from that bitter dislike of New England, which in the preceding quarter of a century had been laboriously and assiduously instilled into the people not merely of the southern but of the western states, and which he had himself, as we have seen, contributed to aggravate. The election resulted in giving to Adams all the votes of New England, 26 votes from New York, 1 from Delaware, 3 from Maryland, 2 from Louisiana, and 1 from Illinois — 84 in all; while Jackson had 99 — those of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana, and 2 of the 3 votes of Illinois among the number. Crawford had 41, and Clay had 87, including the votes of Kentucky and Ohio. Calhoun, who had previously withdrawn from the contest, was chosen vice president almost unanimously. There being no choice by the people, the election came into the house, where, by the influence of Clay, Adams was chosen at the first ballot — 13 states voting for him, 7 for Jackson, and 4 for Crawford. Jefferson, in a letter a few days before to John Adams, had characterized the decision between John Quincy Adams and Jackson — the only two candidates really before the house — as involving the question whether he and his correspondent were to end their days “under a civil or military government.” It is probable that Jefferson's favorite candidate had been Crawford, who received the vote of Virginia; but by nobody had Jackson been more vehemently opposed as the backwoods, uncivilized, and military candidate than by the supporters of Crawford, who had painted in very strong colors the probable barbarizing consequences of Jackson's election. Crawford himself, in a subsequent letter to Clay, most decidedly approved of Clay's preference of Adams to Jackson. No sooner, however, had Adams entered upon the presidency (March 4, 1825), with Clay as his secretary of state, than a coalition was formed between the late supporters of Crawford and Jackson, with the understanding that Jackson should be their candidate, and with the resolute determination to break down the administration of Mr. Adams, and to prevent his reëlection. For this purpose no effort was spared. The Crawford presses, which had abused Jackson, now began to sing praises to him. Adams, considering himself the successor to Monroe in the regular democratic line, and wishing to impress that fact on the public, made few or no removals from office, and when vacancies occurred hardly ventured to appoint a single federalist — a proscription under which that party had labored now for a quarter of a century, and to which Adams's own charges and denunciations had in fact contributed. It was well known that as to this subject Jackson entertained very liberal views; in fact, that he had advised Monroe upon his accession to a much more liberal course in appointing federalists to office than Monroe had seen fit to adopt. Hence, especially in all those states where the opposition was predominant, many enterprising young federalists mustered to the side of Jackson, some of them even joining loudly in those charges of secret federalism against Adams, and in appeals to the long cherished prejudices against New England, which were conspicuous weapons in the party warfare of that day. The new party, assuming to themselves the title of democrats, refused to accord it to Adams and his supporters, to many of whom, indeed, it was not very agreeable, and who invented for themselves the new name of “National Republicans.” Some of these young federalists, transformed so suddenly into democrats and Jackson men, hit upon another party expedient no less effective. Even before the election they had gone to Jackson with the story of a secret bargain between Adams and Clay, to result in Adams's election and Clay's appointment as secretary of state; and the charge of bargain and corruption thus originated, and taken up even by Jackson himself, was loudly reëchoed after the election, to the damage of both Clay and Adams. The new administration endeavored to strengthen itself by assuming the championship of internal improvements, which had hitherto been Calhoun's specialty, and of protection to domestic industry, of which Clay had been a leading advocate, and which just before Adams's accession had carried the enactment of the tariff of 1824. Although the tobacco and cotton growing states were strongly opposed to protection, yet that idea was at this time far too popular in the middle states to be repudiated. The supporters of Gen. Jackson, at least in the northern and middle states, represented him and themselves as in favor of a “moderate” and “judicious” tariff, as opposed to the high tariff policy which they ascribed to Adams and Clay. In this position of parties, all the free-traders north and south joined the opposition, including for the most part the powerful navigating interest of New England and the importing interest of New York, thus carrying over to that side a large additional section of the old federal party. Upon the internal improvement question, the opposition, notwithstanding that Calhoun was one of their principal leaders, took more decisive ground, going so far as to deny, as Crawford formerly had done in opposition to Calhoun, the constitutional authority of congress to vote money for that purpose. As additional means of affecting popular opinion, loud charges of extravagance were brought against the government, whose expenses, exclusive of the public debt, scarcely amounted to thirteen millions a year, and retrenchment and reform were loudly promised in case the opposition should triumph. This was for the people. To the politicians another more inviting lure was held out. From Adams's peculiar position in relation to those whom he found in office, he had, as we have seen, nothing in that way to promise his supporters. He did not even dare to remove men apparently hostile to him, while the opposition held out the prospect, in case of their triumph, of a general sweep of the present officeholders — at least of such as were not strongly on their side — and the distribution of their places as spoils to the victors — rewards, that is, for electioneering services. The debates of congress at this period were largely made up of electioneering harangues; and to give free scope to the remarks of John Randolph and other opposition senators, Mr. Calhoun started and acted upon the idea that as presiding officer of the senate he had no authority to call any senator to order. It was in vain to struggle against this combination, which, in the latter part of Mr. Adams's presidential term, had a majority against him in both houses of congress. Nor was his administration any more fortunate in its exterior relations. The congress of Panama, from which much had been hoped in the way of placing the United States at the head of a great American confederacy, was substantially defeated, as to any participation of the United States in it, by the delays induced by the opposition, while an unlucky quarrel with Great Britain as to trade with the West Indies ended in the entire suspension of that traffic. It appears also that an attempt was made by Clay and Adams to purchase Cuba — a measure which might have proved very acceptable at the south, but Spain totally refused to listen to their offers. As against the solid combination of the opposition, supported by the name and prestige of the old democratic party, the game had been a desperate one from the beginning. In the eastern states Mr. Adams was pretty well able to hold his own, and in those states, at the second election, he obtained about as many votes as before. But Kentucky and Ohio, in which the popular feeling against New England was greatly embittered, altogether failed him. Mr. Clay was unable to help him to a single vote. In this desperate emergency, finding his office slipping from under him, Mr. Adams made a most unfortunate effort to retrieve his falling fortunes, in the shape of a letter addressed to the electors of Virginia, in which he claimed their votes on the ground of his services twenty years before in exposing and frustrating the alleged New England plot, which we have already referred to, to dissolve the Union. This ill-judged letter, while it did not gain him a single vote, left him to retire to Quincy (1829) — where he had now become possessor of his father's estate, largely augmented by his own shrewd management — with a new personal and political quarrel on his hands, and with hard feelings and personal antipathies against him, which for a long time had been in abeyance, thus unseasonably revived by himself. Shortly after his return to Massachusetts a correspondence ensued between him and a number of the old federalists and their representatives, which did not tend to mollify matters. No new light was thrown on the alleged plot, though Mr. Adams is understood to have written a book or pamphlet on the subject, which however he refrained from publishing, on the judgment of some friends to whom he submitted it, that it would not better his case. After having successfully kept the political seas for nearly forty years, and that in very stormy times, Mr. Adams was at last stranded, as it seemed, high and dry on a political lee shore. He addressed himself for the moment to arranging the papers and preparing a life of his father; but the fragment of this work which his son has incorporated in his life of his grandfather does not make us regret that he soon abandoned it. He had been a versifier from his youth, and he now published a rhymed performance of some length, founded on the story of the conquest of Ireland (“Dermot McMorrogh,” Boston, 1832); but this palpably was not a field in which he was likely to gather laurels. — Though Mr. Adams had now reached an age at which many politicians have voluntarily retired, he had in his temperament too much of innate vigor and indefatigable activity, and too much of the stormy petrel in his character, to make him willing to leave that political vocation to which, both by nature and habit, he was so specially adapted. In fact, the great work of his life remained to be performed. The anti-masonic excitement consequent on the disappearance and alleged murder of William Morgan had, about this time, introduced a new element into the politics of western New York, whence it had spread into Vermont, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and in a less degree into other states. This excitement had taken a strong hold of the congressional district in which Mr. Adams lived, and he himself exhibited a deep interest in it. He signalized his zeal against secret societies by exerting himself to procure the abolition of some passwords and secret signs which formed a part of the ceremonial of the Phi Beta Kappa, a literary society of which branches existed in Harvard and other colleges; and under these circumstances the anti-masons of his district brought him forward as a candidate for congress. He accepted the nomination, and was chosen without opposition, and continued to represent the district till his death, 17 years after. The mass of those who had been his supporters for the presidency had looked, since his failure of a reëlection, to Mr. Clay as their head and leader. Mr. Adams entered congress in December, 1831, without party or followers, but in a more independent position than he had ever yet occupied. Shortly after his return to public life he was nominated by the anti-masons as their candidate for governor of Massachusetts. The politics of Massachusetts were at that time in a very disorganized state, and a strong effort was made by the Everetts and other personal friends of Mr. Adams, and was favored by Mr. Webster, to induce the so-called national republican party to accept the nomination of Mr. Adams thus made. But for the feeling against him which his Virginia letter had aroused among the old federalists, this effort would probably have been successful. As it was, the national republicans as well as the supporters of the administration each nominated a separate candidate for governor. There was no choice by the people, but as the national republicans carried a majority in the legislature, their candidate, John Davis, was elected over Adams's head (1834) — a disappointment which tended to place him in a still more independent political position. He gave, however, a general support in congress to that party which had sustained his own administration. He strongly opposed the nullifiers; yet, as chairman of the committee on manufactures, he strove to discover some middle ground on which the vexed question of the tariff might be satisfactorily settled. On the question of the removal of the deposits he went with the party which now began to take the name of whigs — including in that denomination not merely the old national republicans, but a certain number, especially at the south, of deserters from the Jackson ranks. In the affair of the dispute with France in 1835, about the delay in paying the indemnity, which had been stipulated by treaty, for maritime spoliations in Bonaparte's time, true to his pugnacious temperament, he supported Jackson's proposition for issuing letters of marque and reprisal, no less energetically than he had formerly supported Jefferson's embargo; and by a very singular coincidence, this course, like that, cost him a seat in the United States senate. At this very time the Massachusetts legislature were employed in filling an approaching vacancy in that body. Mr. Adams's friends had brought him forward as a candidate, and he was more than once chosen by the state senate. The house, however, did not concur, but proposed John Davis instead. This question was still pending, with a fair prospect of a decision in Adams's favor, when his speech in favor of reprisals on France, which did not correspond with the sentiment of Massachusetts, caused him to be abandoned by his supporters in the state senate, and led to the election of Davis, who had before beaten him as governor. Thus again forcibly cut loose from all party connections, Mr. Adams was left at liberty to follow the bent of his own daring and energetic spirit. The abolitionists had now begun to appear on the political stage, but in the prevailing anxiety to avoid giving offence to the South, reference was seldom made to them on the floor of congress except with disclaimers of sympathy, if not with expressions of detestation. The measure principally employed by the abolitionists at that time was the presentation of petitions for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia and the territories. To get rid of this importunity, congress had adopted rules which were maintained by Mr. Adams to be inconsistent with the right of petition itself. In this emergency he stepped forward as the champion and guardian of that right. Though he had taken the position of being opposed to the legislation asked for by the abolitionists, as not seasonable or expedient for the moment, he still insisted on their right to be heard. Upon this point he fought for years a battle which drew all eyes upon him as the representative of a principle which found in him an unflinching advocate and indefatigable champion. This new and eminent position was one which Mr. Adams was perfectly adapted to fill. With an iron constitution, strengthened by an active and abstemious life, there was, during his long term of service in congress, not a single member who equalled him, notwithstanding his great age, in capacity for application and powers of endurance; certainly not one whose attendance upon the business of the house was so exact and unremitting. In acquired knowledge, whether by books or personal experience, he far surpassed any of his fellow members; and what was of greater consequence, his stores of knowledge were always at hand and ready for use. Though his voice was weak, in consequence of which the members usually crowded about him when he spoke, he never became exhausted with fatigue; and though his manner was not pleasing and had little variety, yet the peculiar views which he took, and the copiousness and novelty of his illustrations, always held his audience in profound attention. Though he had the appearance often, especially to strangers, of speaking in a passion, at least in ill humor, and of laboring under a degree of excitement, he was in fact perfectly self-possessed, and in the midst of the storms and tumults which he raised about him never lost in the slightest degree his own self-control. We have no space to dwell on the history of his congressional career, which would fill a volume; but we must not omit to notice his defeat, in February, 1837, of his opponents on the question of a censure upon him for sending up to the speaker a petition purporting to come from slaves, as one of the most signal instances of his triumph. His undaunted bearing, his courage and determination, which no threats and no tumults could suppress, soon drew around him, as a moral aid and support, a body of external applauders and admirers; so that from this time forward he became the representative not merely of one of the districts of Massachusetts, but of a great embryo party, the party in fact of northern sentiments and ideas, a party which he himself had contributed his share toward burying under ground, but which he now labored night and day to help emerge again into life. Nor did Mr. Adams confine his labors on this question to congress. In the famous Amistad case — the case of certain newly imported Africans, who, while being transported from one port of Cuba to another, had made themselves masters of the vessel and had escaped to the coast of the United States — he appeared in the federal supreme court as counsel for the Africans, in opposition to the claim set up by their Spanish purchasers from whom they had escaped; a claim zealously urged not merely by the Spanish government, but covertly also by Mr. Van Buren, then president of the United States. Indeed, he seldom declined any occasion in his power of addressing an audience. The following may serve as a specimen: He left Boston one Monday morning to attend the opening of congress. That same evening he delivered an address before the young men's institute in Hartford, and the next evening a similar lecture before a similar institute in New Haven. On Wednesday evening he lectured before the New York lyceum; on Thursday evening he delivered an address in Brooklyn, and on Friday evening another lecture in New York, whence he proceeded next day to Washington to be present at the opening of congress on the following Monday. Though greatly engrossed by the subject of slavery, he did not confine his attention to it. Few leading topics came before the house on which he did not speak. In the organization of the house in December, 1839, which had been delayed for four days by the persistency of the clerk in undertaking to reject certain members from New Jersey who had certificates of election, but as the clerk thought improperly granted, Mr. Adams finally intervened with great energy and effect, and to general satisfaction. It was chiefly through his activity and perseverance that the Smithsonian institution was organized. In 1845 the obnoxious “gag rule,” originally enacted in 1836, was rescinded, and from that moment Mr. Adams somewhat relaxed his zeal and labors. He began, indeed, to feel at last the effects of age. His health had been somewhat shaken by a heavy fall in the house of representatives, caused by his foot catching in the floor matting, by which his shoulder was dislocated and a severe contusion inflicted on his forehead. It rendered him for the moment insensible, and though it did not prevent his appearance the next day in his seat, he suffered permanently from it. On Nov. 26, 1846, just as he was about to leave Boston for Washington, he experienced a shock of paralysis which kept him from his seat for the next four months. After this he attended congress regularly, but seldom spoke. On Feb. 21, 1848, he had a second attack while occupying his seat in the house. He was taken to the speaker's private room, where he remained in a state seemingly of unconsciousness, though with occasional incoherent utterances, till the 23d, when he expired. His last words are said to have been, “This is the last of earth; I am content.” — In addition to his voluminous speeches in congress, many of which were written out by himself, on various subjects, a great number of his acknowledged publications appeared in his lifetime. He left behind him a very voluminous diary, extending from his early youth to his death, one or two valuable fragments from which have already appeared. His journal, which is in the hands of his son, is regarded as a great political treasure. He wrote with great fluency, his manuscript seldom presenting an erasure, but he lacked altogether that idiomatic elegance, force, and simplicity so conspicuous in his father, instead of which his style is swelling, verbose, inflated, and rhetorical. He lacked also, though not without powers of sarcasm, the wit and fancy which sparkled in his father's writings, and still more that spirit of philosophical generalization into which John Adams constantly fell, but which was totally foreign to the intellectual constitution and habits of the son. John Quincy Adams had more learning perhaps, but John Adams had much more genius. In energy, spirit, firmness, and indomitable courage, John Q. Adams was his father's equal; in self-command, in political prudence, and even perhaps in capacity for hard work, his superior. Both will live for ever as representatives and embodiments of the spirit and ideas of New England during the periods in which they figured. In some respects John Q. Adams was far more fortunate than his father. The brilliant period of his career was toward its close. The longer he lived the higher he rose, and he died as such men prefer to die, still an admired and trusted champion, with harness on his back and spear in hand. Yet his whole political career, taken together, hardly presents to the close observer a character so uniformly brilliant and unspotted, and so free from the taint of selfishness, as that of his father. In personal appearance, and in general temperament and character, the resemblance between the father and the son was close. Both had very strong feelings and warm prejudices, though of the two John Quincy appears to have been the less vehement by nature, and also the better under control. Like his father, he was an economical housekeeper and judicious financier, and he died in possession of a handsome estate. — See “Life and Public Services of J. Q. Adams,” by William H. Seward (12mo, Auburn, 1849), and “Life of J. Q. Adams,” by Josiah Quincy (Boston, 1858).