That this prominent appointment was as flattering to Mr. Adams as it was unexpected, is naturally true. It was the more to his credit in consideration of the fact, that in those days elevation to offices of this importance was the award of merit and talent, and not the result of importunity, or the payment of party services. Mr. Adams was at this time in the twenty-seventh year of his age—a younger man, undoubtedly, than has since ever been selected by our Government to fulfil a trust so important. But the ability and discretion of the young diplomatist, and the success which attended his negotiations in Europe, so creditable to himself and his country, fully justified the wisdom of Washington in selecting him for this important duty.
Although the father of Mr. Adams was then Vice President of the United States, yet it is well known his appointment on a foreign mission was obtained without the influence or even the request of his parent. It is not strictly correct, however, as stated by several biographers, that he was selected for the mission to Holland without any previous intimation of the President's intentions to his father. This is made evident by the following extract of a letter from John Adams to his wife, dated Philadelphia, 27th May, 1794, conveying intelligence which must have made a mother's heart swell with honest pride and satisfaction:—
"It is proper that I should apprize you, that the President has it in contemplation to send your son to Holland, that you may recollect yourself and prepare for the event. I make this communication to you in confidence, at the desire of the President, communicated to me yesterday by the Secretary of State. You must keep it an entire secret until it shall be announced to the public in the journal of the Senate. But our son must hold himself in readiness to come to Philadelphia, to converse with the President, Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, &c., and receive his commissions and instructions, without loss of time. He will go to Providence in the stage, and thence to New York by water, and thence to Philadelphia in the stage. He will not set out, however, until he is informed of his appointment."
"Your son!" is the phrase by which the father meant to convey his own sense of how large a part the mother had in training that son; and to enhance the compliment, it is communicated to her at the desire of President Washington.
MR. ADAMS TRANSFERRED TO BERLIN—HIS MARRIAGE—LITERARY PURSUITS—TRAVELS IN SILESIA—NEGOTIATES TREATIES WITH SWEDEN AND PRUSSIA—RECALLED TO THE UNITED STATES.
Mr. Adams presented himself at the Hague, as Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States, in the summer or fall of 1794. Ten years before, he was there with his father—a lad, attending school—at which time the father wrote: "They give him a good character wherever he has been, and I hope he will make a good man." How abundantly that hope was likely to be fulfilled, the elevated and responsible position occupied by the son at the expiration of the first ten years after it was expressed, gave a promising and true indication.
On his arrival in Holland, Mr. Adams found the affairs of that country in great confusion, in consequence of the French invasion. So difficult was it to prosecute any permanent measures for the benefit of the United States, owing to the existing wars and the unsettled state of things in Europe, that after a few months he thought seriously of returning home. A report of this nature having reached President Washington, drew from him a letter to Vice President John Adams, dated Aug. 20, 1795, in which the following language occurs:—
"Your son must not think of retiring from the path he is now in. His prospects, if he pursues it, are fair; and I shall be much mistaken if, in as short a time as can well be expected, he is not found at the head of the Diplomatic Corps, be the government administered by whomsoever the people may choose."
This approbation of his proceedings thus far, and encouragement as to future success, from so high a source, undoubtedly induced the younger Adams to forego his inclination to withdraw from the field of diplomacy. He continued in Holland until near the close of Washington's administration. That he was not an inattentive observer of the momentous events then transpiring in Europe, but was watchful and faithful in all that pertained to the welfare of his country, is abundantly proved by his official correspondence with the government at home. His communications were esteemed by Washington, as of the highest value, affording him, as they did, a luminous description of the movement of continental affairs, upon which he could place the most implicit reliance.
The following extract of a letter from John Adams, will show the interest he naturally took in the welfare of his son while abroad, and also afford a brief glance at the political movements of that day. It is dated Philadelphia, Jan. 23, 1796:—
"We have been very unfortunate in the delays which have attended the dispatches of our ambassadors. Very lucky, Mr. John Quincy Adams, that you are not liable to criticism on this occasion! This demurrage would have been charged doubly, both to your account and that of your father. It would have been a scheme, a trick, a design, a contrivance, from hatred to France, attachment to England, monarchical manoeuvres, and aristocratical cunning! Oh! how eloquent they would have been!
"The southern gentry are playing, at present, a very artful game, which I may develope to you in confidence hereafter, under the seal of secrecy. Both in conversation and in letters, they are representing the Vice-President [John Adams,] as a man of moderation. Although rather inclined to limited monarchy, and somewhat attached to the English, he is much less so than Jay or Hamilton. For their part, for the sake of conciliation, they should be very willing he should be continued as Vice-President, provided the northern gentlemen would consent that Jefferson should be President. I most humbly thank you for your kind condescension, Messieurs Transchesapeakes. "Witness my hand, "JOHN ADAMS."
Another allusion to his son while abroad, is made by the elder Adams, in a letter dated Philadelphia, March 25,1796.
"The President told me he had that day received three or four letters from his new Minister in London, one of them as late as the 29th of December. Mr. Pickering informs me that Mr. Adams [Footnote: John Quincy Adams] modestly declined a presentation at court, but it was insisted on by Lord Grenville; and, accordingly, he was presented to the King, and I think the Queen, and made his harangues and received his answers. By the papers I find that Mr. Pinckney appeared at court on the 28th of January, after which, I presume, Mr. Adams had nothing to do but return to Holland."
During his residence as Minister at the Hague, Mr. Adams had occasion to visit London, to exchange the ratifications of the treaty recently formed with Great Britain, and to take measures for carrying its provisions into effect. (Alluded to in the above letter from John Adams.) It was at this time that he formed an acquaintance with Miss Louisa Catharine Johnson, daughter of Joshua Johnson, Esq., of Maryland, Consular Agent of the United States at London, and niece of Governor Johnson of Maryland, a Judge of the Supreme Court of the United States, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The friendship they formed for each other, soon ripened into a mutual attachment and an engagement. They were married on the 26th of July, 1797. It was a happy union. For more than half a century they shared each other's joys and sorrows. The venerable matron who for this long period accompanied him in all the vicissitudes of his eventful life, still survives, to deplore the loss of him who had ever proved a faithful protector and the kindest of husbands.
In the meantime, the elder Adams had been elected President of the United States, in 1796. The curious reader may have a desire to know something of the views, feelings and anticipations of those elevated to places of the highest distinction, and of the amount of enjoyment they reap from the honors conferred upon them. A glance behind the scenes is furnished in the following correspondence between John Adams and his wife, which took place at his election to the Presidency. [Footnote: Letters of John Adams, v. ii. pp. 242,243. Mrs. Adams' Letters, p. 373.]
MR. ADAMS TO HIS WIFE. "Philadelphia, 4th of Feb., 1797. "My Dearest Friend,
"I hope you will not communicate to anybody the hints I give you about our prospects; but they appear every day worse and worse. House rent at twenty-seven hundred dollars a year, fifteen hundred dollars for a carriage, one thousand for one pair of horses, all the glasses, ornaments, kitchen furniture, the best chairs, settees, plateaus, &c., all to purchase; all the china, delph or wedgewood, glass and crockery of every sort to purchase, and not a farthing probably will the House of Representatives allow, though the Senate have voted a small addition. All the linen besides. I shall not pretend to keep more than one pair of horses for a carriage, and one for a saddle. Secretaries, servants, wood, charities, which are demanded as rights, and the million dittoes, present such a prospect as is enough to disgust anyone. Yet not one word must we say. We cannot go back. We must stand our ground as long as we can. Dispose of our places with the help of our friend Dr. Tufts, as well as you can. We are impatient for news, but that is always so at this season. I am tenderly your J. A."
THE SAME TO THE SAME.
"Philadelphia, 9th Feb., 1797. "My Dearest Friend,
"The die is cast,[Footnote: Mr. Adams had, the day previous, been announced President elect of the United States.] and you must prepare yourself for honorable trials. I must wait to know whether Congress will do anything or not to furnish my house. If they do not, I will have no house before next fall, and then a very moderate one, with very moderate furniture. The prisoners from Algiers [Footnote: American citizens who had long been in captivity among the Algerines.] arrived yesterday in this City, in good health, and looking very well. Captain Stevens is among them. One woman rushed into the crowd and picked out her husband, whom she had not seen for fourteen years.
"I am, and ever shall be, yours, and no other's, J. A."
MRS. JOHN ADAMS TO HER HUSBAND.
"Quincy, 8th Feb., 1797. "'The sun is dressed in brightest beams, To give thy honors to the day.'
"And may it prove an auspicious prelude to each ensuing season. You have this day to declare yourself head of a nation. 'And now, O Lord, my God, thou hast made thy servant ruler over the people. Give unto him an understanding heart, that he may know how to go out and come in before this great people; that he may discern between good and bad. For who is able to judge this thy so great a people?' were the words of a royal sovereign; and not less applicable to him who is invested with the Chief Magistracy of a nation, though he wear not a crown, nor the robes of royalty.
"My thoughts and my meditations are with you, though personally absent; and my petitions to Heaven are, that 'the things which make for peace may not be hidden from your eyes.' My feelings are not those of pride or ostentation, upon the occasion. They are solemnized by a sense of the obligations, the important trusts, and numerous duties connected with it. That, you may be enabled to discharge them with honor to yourself, with justice and impartiality to your country, and with satisfaction to this great people, shall be the daily prayer of your A. A."
MR. ADAMS TO HIS WIFE.
"Philadelphia, 5th March, 1797. "My Dearest Friend,
"Your dearest friend never had a more trying day than yesterday.[Footnote: The day of his inauguration as President.] A solemn scene it was indeed; and it was made more affecting to me by the presence of the General, [Washington,] whose countenance was as serene and unclouded as the day. He seemed to me to enjoy a triumph over me. Methought I heard him say, 'Ay! I am fairly out, and you fairly in! See which of us will be happiest.' When the ceremony was over, he came and made me a visit, and cordially congratulated me, and wished my administration might be happy, successful, and honorable.
"It is now settled that I am to go into his house. It is whispered that he intends to take French leave to-morrow. I shall write you as fast as we proceed. My chariot is finished, and I made my first appearance in it yesterday. It is simple, but elegant enough. My horses are young, but clever.
"In the chamber of the House of Representatives, was a multitude as great as the space could contain, and I believe scarcely a dry eye but Washington's. The sight of the sun setting full orbed, and another rising, though less splendid, was a novelty. Chief Justice Ellsworth administered the oath, and with great energy. Judges Cushing, Wilson, and Iredell, were present. Many ladies. I had not slept well the night before, and did not sleep well the night after. I was unwell, and did not know whether I should get through or not. I did, however. How the business was received, I know not; only I have been told that Mason, the treaty publisher, said we should lose nothing by the change, for he never heard such a speech in public in his life.
"All agree that, taken altogether, it was the sublimest thing ever exhibited in America.
"I am, my dearest friend, most affectionately and kindly yours, "JOHN ADAMS."
On entering upon the duties of the Presidency, John Adams was greatly embarrassed in regard to the line he should adopt toward his son. True, the younger Adams had been entrusted by Washington with an important embassy abroad, and had acquitted himself with great credit in his responsible station; but the father, with a delicacy highly honorable, hesitated continuing him in office, lest he might be charged with unworthy favoritism, and a disposition to promote the interest of his family at the expense of public good. In this exigency, not daring to trust his own judgment, lest its decisions might be warped by parental solicitude, he resorted to the wisdom and experience of Washington. Writing him for advice on this subject, he received the following reply:—
"Monday, Feb. 20, 1797. "Dear Sir,
"I thank you for giving me a perusal of the enclosed. The sentiments do honor to the head and the heart of the writer; and if my wishes would be of any avail, they should go to you in a strong hope, that you will not withhold merited promotion from John Q. Adams, because he is your son. For without intending to compliment the father or the mother, or to censure any others, I give it as my decided opinion, that Mr. Adams is the most valuable public character we have abroad; and that there remains no doubt in my mind, that he will prove himself to be the ablest of all our diplomatic corps. If he was now to be brought into that line, or into any other public walk, I could not, upon the principle which has regulated my own conduct, disapprove of the caution which is hinted at in the letter. But he is already entered; the public, more and more, as he is known, are appreciating his talents and worth; and his country would sustain a loss, if these were to be checked by over delicacy on your part.
"With sincere esteem, and affectionate regard, "I am ever yours, "GEORGE WASHINGTON."
This letter is characteristic of the discernment and nobleness of Washington. Appreciating at a glance the perplexed position of Mr. Adams, and wisely discriminating between the bringing forward of his son for the first time into public service, and the continuing him where he had already been placed by others, and shown himself worthy of all trust and confidence, he frankly advised him to overcome his scruples, and permit his son to remain in a career so full of promise to himself and his country. President Adams, in agreement with this counsel, determined to allow his son to continue in Europe in the public capacity to which he had been promoted by Washington.
Shortly previous to the close of Washington's administration, he transferred the younger Adams from the Hague, by an appointment as Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal, but before proceeding to Lisbon, his father, in the meantime having become President, changed his destination to Berlin. He arrived in that city in the autumn of 1797, and immediately entered upon the discharge of his duties as Minister of the United States. In 1798, while retaining his office at Berlin, he was commissioned to form a commercial treaty with Sweden.
During his residence at Berlin, Mr. Adams, while attending with unsleeping diligence to his public duties, did not forego the more congenial pursuits of literature. He cultivated the acquaintance of many eminent German scholars and poets, and manifested a friendly sympathy in their pursuits. In a letter to the late Dr. Follen writes of that day as follows:—
"At this time, Wieland was there the most popular of the German poets. And although there was in his genius neither the originality nor the deep pathos of Goethe, Klopstock, or Schiller there was something in the playfulness of his imagination, in the tenderness of his sensibility, in the sunny cheerfulness of his philosophy, and in the harmony of his versification, which delighted me."
To perfect his knowledge of the German language, Mr. Adams made a metrical translation of Wieland's Oberon into the English language. The publication of this work, which at one time was designed, was superseded by the appearance of a similar translation by Sotheby.
In the summer of 1800, Mr. Adams made a tour through Silesia. He was charmed with the inhabitants of that region, their condition and habits. In many respects he found them bearing a great similarity to the people of his own native New England. He communicated his impressions during this excursion, in a series of letters to a younger brother in Philadelphia. These letters were interesting, and were considered of great value at that time, in consequence of many important facts they contained in regard to the manufacturing establishments of Silesia. They were published, without Mr. Adams's knowledge, in the Port Folio, a weekly paper edited by Joseph Dennie, at Philadelphia. The series was afterwards collected and published in a volume, in London, and has been translated into German and French, and extensively circulated on the continent.
Among other labors while at Berlin, Mr. Adams succeeded in forming a treaty of amity and commerce with the Prussian government. The protracted correspondence with the Prussian commissioners, which resulted in this treaty, involving as it did the rights of neutral commerce, was conducted with consummate ability on the part of Mr. Adams, and received the fullest sanction of the government at home.
Mr. Adams' missions at the Hague and at Berlin, constituted his first step in the intricate paths of diplomacy. They were accomplished amid the momentous events which convulsed all Europe, at the close of the eighteenth century. Republican France, exasperated at the machinations of the Allied Sovereigns to destroy its liberties, so recently obtained, was pushing its armies abroad, determined, in self-defence, to kindle the flames of revolution in every kingdom on the Continent. Great Britain, combined with Austria and other European powers, was using every effort to crush the French democracy, and remove from before the eyes of down-trodden millions an example so dangerous to monarchical institutions. The star of Napoleon had commenced its ascent, with a suddenness and brightness which startled the imbecile occupants of old thrones. His legions had rushed down from the Alps upon the sunny plains of Italy, and with the swoop of an eagle, had demolished towns, cities, kingdoms.
Amid this conflict of nations, the commerce and navigation of the United States, a neutral power, were made common object of prey to all. Great Britain and France especially, did not hesitate to make depredations, at once the most injurious and irritating. Our ships were captured, our rights disregarded. In the midst of these scenes, surrounded by difficulties and embarrassments on every hand, the youthful ambassador was compelled to come into collision with the veteran and wily politicians of the old world. How well he maintained the dignity and honor of his government—how sleepless the vigilance with which he watched the movements on the vast field of political strife—how prompt to protest against all encroachments—how skilful in conducting negotiations—and how active to promote the interests of the Union, wherever his influence could be felt—the archives of our country will abundantly testify. It was a fitting and promising commencement of a long public career which has been full of usefulness and of honor.
The administration of John Adams, as President of the United States, was characterized by great prudence and moderation, considering the excited state of the times. There cannot be a doubt he was anxious to copy the worthy example of his illustrious predecessor, in administering the government on principles of strict impartiality, for the good of the whole people, without respect to conflicting parties. Immediately on his inauguration, he had an interview with Mr. Jefferson, then Vice- President, and proposed the adoption of steps that would have a tendency to quell the spirit of faction which pervaded the country. That Mr. Jefferson, on his part, cherished a profound respect for Mr. Adams, his old co-laborer in the cause of American freedom, is evident from his letters and speeches of that day. In his speech on taking the chair of the Senate, as Vice-President, he expressed himself in the following terms:—
"I might here proceed, and with the greatest truth, to declare my zealous attachment to the Constitution of the United States; that I consider the union of these States as the first of blessings; and as the first of duties the preservation of that Constitution which secures it; but I suppose these declarations not pertinent to the occasion of entering into an office, whose primary business is merely to preside over the forms of this House; and no one more sincerely prays that no accident may call me to the higher and more important functions, which the Constitution eventually devolves on this office. These have been justly confided to the eminent character which has preceded me here, whose talents and integrity have been known and revered by me, through a long course of years; have been the foundation of a cordial and uninterrupted friendship between us; and I devoutly pray he may be long preserved for the government, the happiness and the prosperity of our common country."
The sincere attempts of President Adams to produce harmony of political action among the American people, were unavailing. The extraordinary events transpiring in Europe, exerted an influence on domestic politics, which could not be neutralized. "The enemies of France"—"the friends of England," or vice versa, were cries which convulsed the nation to its centre. The entire population was sundered into contending parties.
John Adams was a true republican. His political opponents charged him with monarchical tendencies and aspirations, but charged him most falsely. His life, devoted unreservedly to the service of his country through all its dark and perilous journey to the achievement of its independence—his public speeches and documents—his private letters, written to his bosom companion, with no expectation that the eye of any other would ever rest upon them—all testify his ardent devotion to the principles of republicanism. At the breaking out of the French Revolution, he yielded it his hearty support, and did not withdraw his countenance, until compelled, by the scenes of anarchy and of carnage which soon ensued, to turn away with horror and raise his voice against proceedings of savage ferocity. But while condemning the excesses of the French revolutionists, he was no friend of Great Britain. This is made evident by a multitude of facts. Read, for instance, the following extract from a letter, not written for public effect, addressed to his wife, dated Philadelphia, April 9, 1796:—
"I have read 'the minister's' dispatches from London. The King could not help discovering his old ill humor. The mad idiot will never recover. Blunderer by nature, accidents are all against him. Every measure of his reign has been wrong. It seems they don't like Pinckney. They think he is no friend to that country, and too much of a French Jacobin. They wanted to work up some idea or other of introducing another in his place, but our young politician [Footnote: J. Q. Adams.] saw into them too deeply to be duped. At his last visit to Court, the King passed him without speaking to him, which, you know, will be remarked by courtiers of all nations. I am glad of it; for I would not have my son go so far as Mr. Jay, and affirm the friendly disposition of that country to this. I know better. I know their jealousy, envy, hatred, and revenge, covered under pretended contempt."
While President Adams cherished no partialities for Great Britain, and had no desire to promote her especial interest, he was compelled by the force of circumstances, during his administration to assume a hostile attitude towards France. The French Directory, chagrined at the failure of all attempts to induce the government of the United States to abandon its neutrality and take up arms in their behalf against the Allied Sovereigns, and deeply incensed at the treaty recently concluded between England and the United States, resorted to retaliatory measures. They adopted commercial regulations designed to cripple and destroy our foreign trade. They passed an ordinance authorizing, in certain cases, the seizure and confiscation of American vessels and cargoes. They refused to receive Mr. Pinckney, the American minister, and ordered him peremptorily to leave France.
Mr. Adams convened Congress, by proclamation, on the 15th of June, 1797, and in his message laid before that body a lucid statement of the aggressions of the French Directory. Congress made advances, with a view to a reconciliation with France. But failing in this attempt, immediate and vigorous measures were adopted to place the country in a condition for war. A small standing army was authorized. The command was tendered to Gen. Washington, who accepted of it with alacrity, sanctioning as he did these defensive measures of the government. Steps were taken for a naval armament, and the capture of French vessels authorized. These energetic demonstrations produced their desired effect. The war proceeded no farther than a few collisions at sea. The French Directory became alarmed, and made overtures of peace.
Washington did not survive to witness the restoration of amicable relations with France. On the 14th of December, 1799, after a brief illness, he departed this life, at Mount Vernon, aged sixty-eight years. On receiving this mournful intelligence, Congress, then in session at Philadelphia, passed the following resolution:—
"Resolved, That the Speaker's chair should be shrouded in black; that the members should wear black during the session, and that a joint committee, from the Senate and the House, be appointed to devise the most suitable manner of paying honor to the memory of the Man, first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."
Testimonials of sorrow were exhibited, and funeral orations and eulogies were delivered, throughout the United States. The Father of his Country slept in death, and an entire people mourned his departure!
On assuming the duties of the Presidency, the elder Adams found the finances of the country in a condition of the most deplorable prostration. To sustain the government in this department, it was deemed indispensable to establish a system of direct taxation, by internal duties. This produced great dissatisfaction throughout the Union. An "alien law" was passed, which empowered the President to banish from the United States, any foreigner whom he should consider dangerous to the peace and safety of the country. And a "sedition law," imposing fine and imprisonment for "any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government of the United States, or either house of Congress, or the President."
These measures are not justly chargeable to John Adams. They were not recommended nor desired by him; but were brought forward and urged by Gen. Hamilton and his friends. Nevertheless upon Mr. Adams was heaped the odium they excited. The leading measures of his administration—the demonstration against France; the standing army; the direct taxation; the alien and sedition laws—all tended to injure his popularity with the mass of the people, and to destroy his prospects of a re-election to the presidency. The perplexities he was compelled to encounter during his administration, may be conceived on perusal of his language in a letter dated March 17, 1797:—
"From the situation where I now am, I see a scene of ambition beyond all my former suspicions or imaginations; an emulation which will turn our government topsy-turvy. Jealousies and rivalries have been my theme, and checks and balances as their antidotes, till I am ashamed to repeat the words; but they never stared me in the face in such horrid forms as at present. I see how the thing is going. At the next election England will set up Jay or Hamilton, and France Jefferson, and all the corruption of Poland will be introduced; unless the American spirit should rise and say, we will have neither John Bull nor Louis Baboon."
In 1800, the seat of government was removed to Washington. In taking possession of the President's house, Mr. Adams bestowed a benediction on it, which must ever meet with a response from all American hearts—" Before I end my letter, I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house, and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof!" A description of the house and the city, at that time, is furnished in a letter from Mrs. Adams to her daughter, written in November, 1800:—
"I arrived here on Sunday last, and without meeting any accident worth noticing, except losing ourselves when we left Baltimore, and going eight or nine miles on the Frederick road, by which means we were obliged to go the other eight through the woods, where we wandered two hours without finding a guide or the path. Fortunately, a straggling black came up with us, and we engaged him as a guide to extricate us out of our difficulty; but woods are all you see, from Baltimore, until you reach the city, which is only so in name. Here and there is a small cot, without a glass window, interspersed among the forests, through which you travel miles without seeing any human being. * * * * * * * * * The house is made habitable, but there is not a single apartment finished, and all withinside, except the plastering, has been done since Briesier came. We have not the least fence, yard, or other convenience without, and the great unfinished audience-room I make a drying-room of, to hang up the clothes in. The principal stairs are not up, and will not be this winter. Six chambers are made comfortable; two are occupied by the President and Mr. Shaw; two lower rooms, one for a common parlor, and one for a levee room. Up stairs there is the oval room, which is designed for the drawing-room, and has the crimson furniture in it. It is a very handsome room now; but when completed, it will be beautiful."
The presidential contest in 1800, was urged with a warmth and bitterness, by both parties, which has not been equalled in any election since that period. It was the first time two candidates ever presented themselves to the people as rival aspirants for the highest honor in their gift. Both were good men and true—both were worthy of the confidence of the country. But Mr. Adams, weighed down by the unpopularity of acts adopted during his administration, and suffering under the charge of being an enemy to revolutionary France, and a friend of monarchical England, was distanced and defeated by his competitor. Mr. Jefferson was elected the third President of the Republic, and was inaugurated on the 4th of March, 1801. One of the last acts of John Adams, before retiring from the Presidency, was to recall his son from Berlin, that Mr. Jefferson might have no embarrassment in that direction.
MR. ADAMS' RETURN TO THE UNITED STATES—ELECTED TO THE MASSACHUSETTS SENATE—APPOINTED U. S. SENATOR—SUPPORTS MR. JEFFERSON—PROFESSOR OF RHETORIC AND BELLES LETTRES—APPOINTED MINISTER TO RUSSIA.
John Quincy Adams returned to the United States from his first foreign embassy, in 1801. During the stormy period of his father's administration, and the ensuing presidential canvass, he was fortunately absent from the country. Had he been at home, his situation would have been one of great delicacy. It can hardly be supposed he would have opposed his father's measures, or his reelection. Yet to have thrown his influence in their behalf, would have subjected him to the imputation of being moved by filial attachment rather than the convictions of duty. From this painful dilemma, he was saved by his foreign residence. He came home uncommitted to party measures, untrammelled by party tactics or predilections; and thus stood before the people, as he could wish to stand, perfectly unshackled, and ready to act as duty and conscience should direct.
Arriving in the United States with distinguished honors gained by successful foreign diplomacy, Mr. Adams was not allowed to remain long in inactivity. In 1802 be was elected to the Senate of Massachusetts, from the Boston district. During his services in that body, he gave an indication of that independence, as a politician, which characterized him through life, by his opposition to a powerful combination of banking interests, which was effected among his immediate constituents. Although his opposition was unavailing, yet it clearly showed that the integrity of the man was superior to the policy of the mere politician. But higher honors awaited him.
In 1803, he was elected to the Senate of the United States, by the Legislature of Massachusetts. Thus at the early age of thirty-six years, he had attained to the highest legislative body of the Union. Young in years, but mature in talent and experience, he took his seat amid the conscript fathers of the country, to act a part which soon drew upon him the eyes of the nation, both in admiration and in censure.
The period of Mr. Adams' service in the United States Senate, was one in which the position and the interests of the country were surrounded by embarrassments and perils of the most threatening character. The party which had supported his father had become divided and defeated. Mr. Jefferson, elevated to the Presidency after a heated and angry contest, was an object of the dislike and suspicion of the Federalists, The conflicts of the belligerent nations in Europe, and the measures of foreign policy they severally adopted, not only affected the interests of the United States, but were added elements to inflame the party contests at home.
In 1804, Bonaparte stepped from the Consul chamber to the throne of the French Empire. All Europe was bending to his giant rule. Great Britain alone, with characteristic and inherent stubbornness, had set itself as a rock against his ambitious aspirations, and prosecuted with unabated vigor its determined hostility to all his measures of trade and of conquest. In November, 1807, the British Government issued the celebrated "Orders in Council," forbidding all trade with France and her allies. This measure was met by Napoleon, in December, with his "Milan Decree," prohibiting every description of commerce with England or her colonies. Between these checks and counterchecks of European nations, the commerce of the United States was in peril of being swept entirely from the ocean.
During most of this perplexed and trying period, Mr. J. Q. Adams retained his seat in the United States Senate. Although sent there by the suffrages of the Federal party, in the Massachusetts Legislature, yet he did not, and would not, act simply as a partisan. This in fact was a prominent characteristic in Mr. Adams throughout his entire life, and is the key which explains many of his acts otherwise inexplicable. His noble and patriotic spirit arose above the shackles of party. He loved the interests of his country, the happiness of Man, more than the success of a mere party. So far as the party with which he acted advocated measures which he conceived to be wise and healthful, he yielded his hearty and vigorous co-operation. But whenever it swerved from this line of integrity, his influence was thrown into the opposite scale. This was the rule of his long career. No persuasions or emoluments, no threats, no intimidations, could turn him from it, to the breadth of a hair. It was in consequence of this characteristic, that it has so frequently been said of Mr. Adams, that he was not a reliable party man. This was to a degree true. He was not reliable for any policy adopted simply to promote party interests, and secure party ends. But in regard to all measures which in his judgment would advance the welfare of the people, secure the rights of man, and elevate the race, no politician, no statesman the world has produced, could be more perfectly relied upon.
This disposition to act right, whether with or against his party, was developed by the first vote he ever gave in a legislative body. While in the Massachusetts Senate, the Federalists were the dominant party. It was the custom in that State, to choose the whole of the Governor's Council from the party which had the majority in the Legislature. In May, 1802, Mr. Adams was desirous that a rule should be adopted more regardful of the rights of the minority. He accordingly proposed that several anti-Federalists should have seats in the Council of Gov. Strong, and gave his first vote to that measure.
On a certain occasion, Mr. Adams was asked, "What are the recognized principles of politics?" He replied, that there were no principles in politics—there were recognized precepts, but they were bad ones. But, continued the inquirer, is not this a good one—"To seek the greatest good of the greatest number?" No, said he, that is the worst of all, for it looks specious, while it is ruinous. What shall become of the minority, in that case? This is the only principle to seek—"the greatest good of all." [Footnote: Massachusetts Quarterly, June, 1849.]
A few months after Mr. Adams' entrance into the Senate of the United States, a law was passed by Congress, at the suggestion of Mr. Jefferson, authorizing the purchase of Louisiana. Mr. Adams deemed this measure an encroachment on the Constitution of the United States, and opposed it on the ground of its unconstitutionality. He was one of six senators who voted against it. Yet when the measure had been legally consummated, he yielded it his support. In passing laws for the government of the territory thus obtained, the right of trial by jury was granted only in capital cases. Mr. Adams labored to have it extended to all criminal offences. Before the territory had a representative in Congress, the government proposed to levy a tax on the people for purposes of revenue. This attempt met the decided opposition of Mr. Adams. He insisted it would be an exercise of government, without the consent of the governed, which, to all intents, is a despotism.
In 1805, he labored to have Congress pass a law levying a duty on the importation of slaves. This was the first public indication of his views on the subject of slavery. It was a premonition of the bold, unflinching, noble warfare against that institution, and of the advocacy of human freedom and human rights in the widest sense, which characterized the closing scenes of his remarkable career, and which will perpetuate his fame, when other acts of his life shall have passed from the remembrance of men. Although at that early day but little was said in regard to slavery, yet the young senator saw it was fraught with danger to the Union—conferring political power and influence on slaveholders, on principles false and pernicious, and calculated ultimately to distract the harmony of the country, and endanger the permanency of our free institutions. He labored, therefore, to check the increase of slave power, by the only means which, probably, appeared feasible at that time.
But a crisis in his senatorial career at length arrived. The commerce of the United States had suffered greatly by "Orders in Council," and "Milan Decrees." Our ships were seized, conducted into foreign ports and confiscated, with their cargoes. American seamen were impressed by British cruisers, and compelled to serve in a foreign navy. The American frigate Philadelphia, while near the coast of the United States, on refusing to give up four men claimed to be British subjects, was fired into by the English man-of-war Leopard, and several of her crew killed and wounded. These events caused the greatest excitement in the United States. Petitions, memorials, remonstrances, were poured in upon Congress from every part of the Union. Mr. Jefferson endeavored by embassies, negotiations, and the exertion of every influence in his power, to arrest these destructive proceedings, and obtain a redress of grievances. But all was in vain. At length he determined on an embargo, as the only means of securing our commerce from the grasp of the unscrupulous mistress of the seas. An act to that effect was passed in Dec., 1807. This effectually prostrated what little foreign commerce had been left to the United States.
In these proceedings Mr. Jefferson was stoutly opposed by the Federal party. Massachusetts, then the chief commercial State in the Union, resisted with its utmost influence the Embargo Act, as pre-eminently destructive to its welfare, and looked to its Senators and Representatives in Congress to urge an opposition to the extreme. What course should Mr. Adams adopt? On the one hand, personal friendship, the party which elected him to the Senate, the immediate interests of his constituents, called upon him to oppose the measures of the administration. On the other hand, more enlarged considerations presented themselves. The interest, the honor, the ultimate prosperity of the whole country—its reputation and influence in the eyes of the world—demanded that the Government should be supported in its efforts to check the aggressions of foreign nations, and establish the rights of American citizens. In such an alternative John Quincy Adams could not hesitate. Turning from all other considerations but a desire to promote the dignity and welfare of the Union, he threw himself, without reserve, into the ranks of the administration party, and labored zealously to second the measures of Mr. Jefferson.
This act subjected Mr. Adams to the severest censure. He was charged with basely forsaking his party—with the most corrupt venality—with the low motive of seeking to promote ambitious longings and selfish ends. But those who made these charges in sincerity labored under an entire misapprehension of his character and principles of action. At this day, aided by the instructive history of his life, and by a perfect knowledge of his patriotism and devotion to truth and principle, as developed in his long and spotless career, it is clearly seen that in the event under consideration he but acted up to the high rule he had adopted, of making party and sectional considerations secondary to the honor and interest of the nation—an example which no pure and high-minded statesman can hesitate to follow.
The Legislature of Massachusetts disapproved the course of Mr. Adams. By a small majority of Federal votes, it elected another person to take his place in the Senate at the expiration of his term, and passed resolutions instructing its Senators in Congress to oppose the measures of Mr. Jefferson. Mr. Adams could not, consistently with his views of duty, obey these instructions; and having no disposition to represent a body whose confidence he did not retain, he resigned his seat in the Senate, in March, 1808.
Although Mr. Adams gave most of his days to the service of his country, yet he was fond of literary pursuits, and acquired, during his hours of relaxation from sterner duties, a vast fund of classic lore and useful learning. At an early day, he had become distinguished as a ripe scholar, and an impressive, dignified, and eloquent public speaker. His reputation for literary and scholastic attainments quite equalled his fame as a politician and statesman.
In 1804, on the death of President Willard, Mr. Adams was urged by several influential individuals, to be a candidate for the presidency of Cambridge University. He declined the proffered honor. During the following year, however, he was appointed Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, in that institution. He accepted the office, on condition that he should be allowed to discharge its duties at such times as his services in Congress would permit. His inaugural address, on entering the professorship, was delivered on the 12th of June, 1806. His lectures on rhetoric and oratory were very popular. They were attended by large crowds from Boston and the surrounding towns, in addition to the collegiate classes—a compliment which few of the professors since his day have received.
Mr. Adams continued his connection with the University, delivering lectures and conducting exercises in declamation, until July, 1809. "It was at this time, and as a member of one of the younger classes at college, that I first saw Mr. Adams, and listened to his well-remembered voice from the chair of instruction; little anticipating, that after the lapse of forty years, my own humble voice would be heard, in the performance of this mournful office. Some who now hear me will recollect the deep interest with which these lectures were listened to, not merely by the youthful audience for which they were prepared, but by numerous voluntary hearers from the neighborhood. They formed an era in the University; and were, I believe, the first successful attempt, in this country, at this form of instruction in any department of literature. They were collected and published in two volumes, completing the theoretical part of the subject. I think it may be fairly said, that they will bear a favorable comparison with any treatise on the subject, at that time extant in our language. The standard of excellence, in every branch of critical learning, has greatly advanced in the last forty years, but these lectures may still be read with pleasure and instruction. Considered as a systematic and academical treatise upon a subject which constituted the chief part of the intellectual education of the Greeks and Romans, these lectures, rapidly composed as they were delivered, and not revised by the author before publication, are not to be regarded in the light of a standard performance. But let any statesman or jurist, even of the present day, in America or Europe—whose life, like Mr. Adams's, has been actively passed in professional and political engagements, at home and abroad—attempt, in the leisure of two or three summers—his mind filled with all the great political topics of the day—to prepare a full course of lectures on any branch of literature, to be delivered to a difficult and scrutinizing, though in part a youthful audience, and then trust them to the ordeal of the press, and he will be prepared to estimate the task which was performed by Mr. Adams." [Footnote: Edward Everett's Eulogy on the Life and Character of John Quincy Adams.]
Mr. Adams's devotion to literary pursuits was destined to an early termination. On the 4th of March, 1809, Mr. Madison was inducted into the office of President of the United Slates. It was at that time far from being an enviable position. At home the country was rent into contending factions. Our foreign affairs were in a condition of the utmost perplexity, and evidently approaching a dangerous crisis. The murky clouds of war, which had for years overshadowed Europe, seemed rolling hitherward, filling the most sanguine and hopeful minds with deep apprehension. Russia, under its youthful Emperor Alexander, was rising to a prominent and influential position among the nations of Europe. Mr. Madison deemed it of great importance that the United States should be represented at that court by some individual eminent alike for talents, experience, and influence. John Quincy Adams was selected for the mission. In March, 1809, he was appointed Minister to Russia, and the summer following, sailed for St. Petersburgh.
In the meantime, our relations with Great Britain became every day more dubious. While striving, in every honorable manner, to come to terms of reconciliation, President Madison was making rapid preparations for war. The people of the United States, deprived by the non-intercourse act of the cheap productions of England, began to turn their attention and capital to domestic manufactures. At length the American Government demanded peremptorily, that the restrictions of Great Britain and France on our commerce should be abrogated; war being the alternative of a refusal. The French emperor gave satisfactory assurances that the Berlin decree should be withdrawn. The English government hesitated, equivocated, and showed evident disinclination to take any decided step.
"In this doubtful state of connexion between America and England, an accidental collision took place between vessels of the respective countries, tending much to inflame and widen the existing differences. An English sloop-of-war, the Little Belt, commanded by Capt. Bingham, descried a ship off the American coast, and made sail to come up with it; but finding it a frigate, and dubious of its nation, he retired. The other, which proved to be American, the President, under Capt. Rogers, pursued in turn. Both captains hailed nearly together; and both, instead of replying, hailed again; and from words, as it were, came to blows, without explanation. Capt. Bingham lost upwards of thirty men, and his ship suffered severely. A Court of Inquiry was ordered on the conduct of Capt. Rogers, which decided that it had been satisfactorily proved to the court, that Capt. Rogers hailed the Little Belt first, that his hail was not satisfactorily answered, that the Little Belt fired the first gun, and that it was without previous provocation or justifiable cause." [Footnote: Lives of the Presidents.]
Several attempts were made after this, to preserve the peace of the two countries, but in vain. England, it is true, withdrew her obnoxious Orders in Council. It was, however, too late. Before intelligence of this repeal reached the shores of the United States, war was declared by Congress, on the 18th of June, 1812.
It was a popular war. Although strenuously opposed by portions of the Eastern States, as destructive to their commerce, yet with the mass of the people throughout the Union, it was deemed justifiable and indispensible. A long series of insults and injuries on the part of Great Britain—the seizure and confiscation of our ships and cargoes; the impressing of our seamen, under circumstances of the most irritating description; and the adoption of numerous measures to the injury of our interests—had fully prepared the public mind in the United States, with the exception of a small minority, to enter upon this war with zeal and enthusiasm.
With occasional reverses, general success attended our arms in every direction. On land and on sea, the American eagle led to victory. The combatants were worthy of each other. Of the same original stock—of the same stern, unyielding material—their contests were bloody and destructive in the extreme. But the younger nation, inspirited by a sense of wrongs endured, and of the justness of its cause, bore away the palm, and plucked from the brow of its more aged competitor many a laurel yet green from the ensanguined fields of Europe. In scores of hotly-contested battles, the British lion, unused as it was to cower before a foe, was compelled to "lick the dust" in defeat. At York, at Chippewa, at Fort Erie, at Lundy's Lane, at New Orleans, on Lake Champlain, on Lake Erie, on the broad ocean, Great Britain and the world were taught lessons of American valor, skill, and energy, which ages will not obliterate.
This war, though prosecuted at the expense of many valuable lives, and of a vast public debt, was, unquestionably, highly beneficial to the United States. It convinced all doubters that our government was abundantly able to resent aggressions, and to maintain its rights against the assaults of any nation on earth. This reputation has been of great service in protecting our commerce, and commanding respect for our flag, throughout the world. But the chief benefit of the war was the development of our internal resources, which, after all, form the great fountain of the wealth, strength, and permanence of a nation. Deprived by the embargo, the non-intercourse act, and the ensuing hostilities, of all foreign importation of goods, the American people were compelled to supply themselves by their own industry and ingenuity, with those articles for which they had always before been dependent on their transatlantic neighbors. Thus was laid the foundation of that system of domestic manufactures which is destined to make the United States the greatest productive mart among men, and to bring into its lap the wealth of the world.
MR. ADAMS' ARRIVAL AT ST. PETERSBURG—HIS LETTERS TO HIS SON ON THE BIBLE—HIS RELIGIOUS OPINIONS—RUSSIA OFFERS MEDIATION BETWEEN GREAT BRITAIN AND THE UNITED STATES—PROCEEDS TO GHENT TO NEGOTIATE FOR PEACE—VISITS PARIS—APPOINTED MINISTER AT ST. JAMES—ARRIVES IN LONDON.
Mr. Adams arrived at St. Petersburg, as Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States, in the autumn of 1809. Twenty-eight years before, while a lad of fourteen, he was at the same place, as private secretary to Mr. Dana, the American Minister. The promising boy returned to the northern capital a mature man, ripe in experience, wisdom, patriotism, and prepared to serve his country in the highest walks of diplomacy. So truly had the far-seeing Washington prophesied in 1795:—"I shall be much mistaken if, in as short a time as can well be expected, he is not found at the head of the diplomatic corps, be the government administered by whomsoever the people may choose!"
The United Slates, though but little known in Russia at that period, was still looked upon with favor, as a nation destined, in due time, to exert a great influence upon the affairs of the world. Mr. Adams was received with marked respect at the Court of St. Petersburg. His familiarity with the French and German languages—the former the diplomatic language of Europe—his literary acquirements, his perfect knowledge of the political relations of the civilized world, his plain appearance, and republican simplicity of manners, in the midst of the gorgeous embassies of other nations, enabled him to make a striking and favorable impression on the Emperor Alexander and his Court. The Emperor, charmed by his varied qualities, admitted him to terms of personal intimacy seldom granted to the most favored individuals.
During his residence in Russia, the death of Judge Cushing caused a vacancy on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States. President Madison nominated Mr. Adams to the distinguished office. The nomination was confirmed by the Senate, but he declined its acceptance.
A circumstance occurred at this time, which attracted the attention of Mr. Adams. The Russian Minister of the Interior, then advanced in years, having received many valuable presents while in office, became troubled with scruples of conscience, in regard to the disposal he should make of them. He at length calculated the value of all his gifts, and paid the sum into the imperial treasury. This transaction made a deep impression on Mr. Adams, and probably led him to the resolution of never accepting gifts. In order to act with that freedom of bias which he deemed indispensable to the faithful discharge of public duty, he endeavored to avoid, as far as possible, laying himself under obligations to any man. When a certain bookseller once sent him an elegant copy of the Scriptures, he kept the book, but returned its full equivalent in money.
While sojourning at St. Petersburg, Mr. Adams wrote a series of letters to a son at school in Massachusetts, on the value of the Bible, and the importance of its daily perusal. Since his decease they have been published in a volume, entitled "Letters of John Quincy Adams to his son, on the Bible and its teachings." "Their purpose is the inculcation of a love and reverence for the Holy Scriptures, and a delight in their perusal and study. Throughout his long life, Mr. Adams was himself a daily and devout reader of the Scriptures, and delighted in comparing and considering them in the various languages with which he was familiar, hoping thereby to acquire a nicer and clearer appreciation of their meaning. The Bible was emphatically his counsel and monitor through life, and the fruits of its guidance are seen in the unsullied character which he bore, through the turbid waters of political contention, to his final earthly rest. Though long and fiercely opposed and contemned in life he left no man behind him who would wish to fix a stain on the name he has inscribed so high on the roll of his country's most gifted and illustrious sons. The intrinsic value of these letters, their familiar and lucid style, their profound and comprehensive views, their candid and reverent spirit, must win for them a large measure of the public attention and esteem. But, apart from even this, the testimony so unconsciously borne by their pure-minded and profoundly learned author, to the truth and excellence of the Christian faith and records, will not be lightly regarded. It is no slight testimonial to the verity and worth of Christianity, that in all ages since its promulgation, the great mass of those who have risen to eminence by their profound wisdom, integrity, and philanthropy, have recognized and reverenced, in Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of the living God. To the names of Augustine, Xavier, Fenelon, Milton, Newton, Locke, Lavater, Howard, Chateaubriand, and their thousands of compeers in Christian faith, among the world's wisest and noblest, it is not without pride that the American may add, from among his countrymen, those of such men as WASHINGTON, JAY, PATRICK HENRY, and JOHN QUINCY ADAMS." [Footnote: Preface to "Letters of John Quincy Adams to his Son, on the Bible and its Teachings."]
Mr. Adams was a practical Christian. This is proved by his spotless life, his strict honesty and integrity, his devotion to duty, his faithful obedience to the dictates of conscience, at whatever sacrifice, his reverence of God, of Christ, his respect for religion and its institutions, and recognition of its claims and responsibilities. Although a Unitarian [Footnote: Mr. Adams was a member of the Unitarian Church in Quincy, Mass., at his death.] in his belief of doctrines, yet he was no sectarian. In religion, as in politics, he was independent of parties. He would become linked to no sect in such manner as to prevent him from granting his countenance and assistance wherever he thought proper. He was a frequent attendant at Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches, and was liberal in his contributions to these and other denominations; it being his great desire to aid in building up Christianity, and not a sect.
The influence which Mr. Adams had obtained at St. Petersburg, with the Emperor and his Court, was turned to the best account. It laid the foundation of those amicable relations which have ever characterized the intercourse of that government with the United States. To this source, also, is unquestionably to be attributed the offer, by the Emperor Alexander, of mediation between Great Britain and the United States. This offer was accepted by the American Government, and Mr. Adams, in connection with Messrs. Gallatin and Bayard, was appointed by the President to take charge of the negotiation. The latter gentlemen joined Mr. Adams at St. Petersburg, in July, 1813. Conferences were held by the Commissioners with Count Romanzoff, the Chancellor of the Russian Empire, with a view to open negotiations. The British Government, however, refused to treat under the mediation of Russia; but proposed at the same time to meet American Commissioners either at London or Gottenburg. Messrs. Gallatin and Bayard withdrew from St. Petersburg in January, 1814, leaving Mr. Adams in the discharge of his duties as resident Minister.
The proposition of the British Ministry to negotiate for peace, at London or Gottenburg was accepted by the United States. Mr. Adams and Messrs. Bayard, Clay, Russell, and Gallatin, were appointed Commissioners, and directed to proceed to Gottenburg for that purpose. Mr. Adams received his instructions in April, 1814; and as soon as preparations for departure could be made, took passage for Stockholm. After repeated delays, on account of the difficulties of navigation at that early season in the northern seas, he arrived at that city on the 25th of May. Learning there that the place for the meeting of the Commissioners had been changed to Ghent, in Belgium, Mr. Adams proceeded to Gottenburg. From thence he embarked on board an American sloop-of-war, which had conveyed Messrs. Clay and Russell from the United States, and landing at Texel, proceeded immediately to Ghent, where he arrived on the 24th of June.
In the ensuing negotiation, Mr. Adams was placed at the head of the American Commissioners. They were men of unsurpassed talents and skill, in whose hands neither the welfare nor the honor of the United States could suffer. In conducting this negotiation, they exhibited an ability, a tact, an understanding of international law, and a knowledge of the best interests of their country, which attracted the favorable attention both of Europe and America. Their "Notes" with the British Commissioners, exhibited a dignified firmness and manly moderation, with a power of argument, and force of reasoning, which highly elevated their reputation, and that of their country, in the estimation of European statesmen. The Marquis of Wellesley declared in the British House of Lords, that, "in his opinion the American Commissioners had shown the most astonishing superiority over the British, during the whole of the correspondence." Their despatches to the Government at home, describing and explaining the progress of the negotiation in its several stages, gave the highest satisfaction to the people of the United States. It was declared in the public prints, that they sustained the honor of the Union as ably at Ghent as the patriotism and bravery of its defenders had been established by its seamen on the ocean, and its troops in their battles with "Wellington's Invincibles." A good share of these encomiums of right belongs to Mr. Adams, who, from his knowledge of foreign affairs, and experience in diplomacy, as well as acknowledged talents, took a leading part in the negotiations.
The American commissioners were treated with marks of highest respect, by the citizens of Ghent, and the public authorities of that town. On the anniversary of the Academy of Sciences and Fine Arts, at Ghent, they were unanimously elected members of the institution, and were invited to attend and unite in the exercises of the occasion. An oration on the objects of the institution was delivered. In the evening, a sumptuous banquet was served up to a numerous company. After the removal of the cloth, among the toasts given, was the following, by the Intendant of Ghent:—
"Our distinguished guests and fellow-members, the American Ministers: May they succeed in making an honorable peace, to secure the liberty and independence of their country."
This sentiment was received with immense applause. The band struck up "Hail Columbia," and the company was filled with enthusiasm. It was some minutes before the tumult sufficiently subsided to admit of a response. Mr. Adams then arose, and, in behalf of the American Legation, returned thanks for the very flattering manner in which they had been treated by the municipality of Ghent, and particularly for the unexpected honor conferred upon them by the Academy. After making some pertinent remarks on the importance and usefulness of the Fine Arts, he concluded by offering as a toast—"The Intendant of the city of Ghent."
The British Commissioners were Lord Gambier, Henry Goulburn, and Wm. Adams. The negotiations opened dubiously. The demands of the British Ministers were at first of such a character, that it was impossible to comply with them, with any regard to the honor or welfare of the United States. They insisted that the line separating the United States from the Canadas, should run on the southern borders of all the lakes from Ontario to Superior—that the American Government should keep no armed force on these lakes, nor maintain any military posts on their borders, while the British should have the privilege of establishing such posts wherever they thought proper, on the southern shores of the lakes and connecting rivers, and maintaining a navy on their waters—that a large part of the district of Maine should be relinquished and ceded to England, to permit a direct route of communication between Halifax and Quebec—that the right of search should be granted to British ships-of-war—together with many other terms equally unacceptable.
The letters of the American Commissioners to the Government at home, in the early stages of the proceedings, were couched in desponding tones. They gave it as their opinion that no terms of peace could be agreed upon. But the demands of the English Plenipotentiaries were met in a manner so decided, and reasons were offered for non-compliance so cogent and incontrovertible, that they were compelled to recede, and come to terms of a more reasonable description. Moreover the British nation was heartily sick of foreign wars, which plunged the Government into debt, sacrificed the lives of its subjects, crippled their manufactories, and secured them, in fact, nothing! At length, after a protracted negotiation of six months, articles of peace were signed by the British and American Commissioners, on the 24th of December, 1814.
The announcement of this event, at Ghent, was in a manner somewhat peculiar. Mr. Todd, one of the Secretaries of the American Commissioners, and son-in-law of President Madison, had invited several gentlemen, Americans and others, to take refreshments with him on the 24th of December. At noon, after having spent some time in pleasant conversation, the refreshments entered, and Mr. Todd said,—"It is 12 o'clock. Well, gentlemen, I announce to you that peace has been made and signed between America and England." In a few moments, Messrs. Gallatin, Clay, Carroll and Hughes entered, and confirmed the annunciation. This intelligence was received with a burst of joy by all present. The news soon spread through the town, and gave general satisfaction to the citizens.
At Paris, the intelligence was hailed with acclamations. In the evening the theatres resounded with cries of "God save the Americans."
In the United States the news of peace spread with the speed of the wind. Everywhere it excited the most lively emotions of joy. Processions, orations, bonfires, illuminations, attested the gratification of the people, and showed that, notwithstanding the general success which had attended our arms, they viewed peace as one of the highest blessings a nation can enjoy.
Recognizing in this important event the hand of a wise and gracious overruling Providence, the hearts of a great Christian nation turned in gratitude toward God. President Madison issued the following proclamation for a day of thanksgiving:—
"The Senate and House of Representatives of the United States have, by a joint resolution, signified their desire that a day may be recommended, to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity, as a day of thanksgiving and of devout acknowledgments to Almighty God, for his great goodness, manifested in restoring to them the blessings of peace.
"No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of events, and of the destiny of nations, than the people of the United Slates. His kind providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling place allowed for the great family of the human race. He protected and cherished them under all the difficulties and trials to which they were exposed in their early days. Under his fostering care, their habits, their sentiments and their pursuits prepared them for a transition in due time to a state of independence and self-government. In the arduous struggle by which it was attained, they were distinguished by multiplied tokens of his benign interposition. During the interval which succeeded, he reared them into the strength, and endowed them with the resources, which have enabled them to assert their national rights, and to enhance their national character, in another arduous conflict, which is now happily terminated by a peace and reconciliation with those who have been our enemies. And to the same Divine Author of every good and perfect gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.
"It is for blessings such as these, and more especially for the restoration of the blessings of peace, that I now recommend that the second Thursday in April next, be set apart as a day on which the people of every religious denomination may in their solemn assemblies unite their hearts and their voices, in a free-will offering, to their Heavenly Benefactor, of their homage of thanksgiving and their songs of praise."
Before leaving Ghent, the American Commissioners gave a public dinner to the British Ambassadors, at which the Intendant of Ghent, and numerous staff officers of the Hanoverian service, were present. Everything indicated that the most perfect reconciliation had taken place between the two nations. Lord Gambier had arisen to give, as the first toast, "The United States of North America," but he was prevented by the courtesy of Mr. Adams, who gave "His Majesty, the King of England"—on which the music struck up "God save the King." Lord Gambier gave as the second toast, "The United States of North America," and the music played "Hail Columbia." Count H. Von Sheinhuyer presented as a toast—"The Pacificators of the States—May their union contribute to the happiness of the Department which is confided to my government; and may their Excellencies communicate to their Governments the lively interest which those under me take in their reconciliation." Mr. Adams and Lord Gambier both begged the Intendant to certify to the city of Ghent the gratitude of the Ministers, for the attention which the inhabitants had shown them during their residence in their midst.
Having concluded their labors at Ghent by signing the treaty of peace, Mr. Adams, together with Messrs. Albert Gallatin and Henry Clay, was directed to proceed to London, for the purpose of entering into negotiations for a treaty of commerce with Great Britain. Before leaving the continent, Mr. Adams visited Paris, where he witnessed the return of Napoleon from Elbe, and his meteoric career during the Hundred Days. Here he was joined in March, 1815, by his family, after a long and perilous journey from St. Petersburg.
On the 25th of May, Mr. Adams arrived in London and joined Messrs. Gallatin and Clay, who had already entered upon the preliminaries of the proposed commercial convention with Great Britain. In the mean time, Mr. Adams had received official notice of his appointment as Minister to the Court of St. James. On the 3d of July, 1815, the convention for regulating the commercial intercourse between the United States and Great Britain was concluded, and duly signed. It was afterwards ratified by both Governments, and has formed the basis of commerce and trade between the two countries, to the present time. At the conclusion of these negotiations, Messrs. Gallatin and Clay returned to the United States, and Mr. Adams remained in London, in his capacity as resident Minister.
Thus had the prediction of Washington been fulfilled. In "as short a time as could well be expected," John Quincy Adams, as the well-merited reward of faithful services, had attained to the head of the Diplomatic Corps of the United States. His career had been singularly successful; and his elevation to the highest foreign stations received the general approbation of his countrymen. His simple habits, his plain appearance, his untiring industry, his richly stored mind, his unbending integrity, his general intercourse and correspondence with foreign courts and diplomatists of the greatest distinction, all tended to elevate, in a high degree, the American character, in the estimation of European nations.
The impression he made in the most eminent circles during his residence in London, as a statesman of unsurpassed general information, and critical knowledge of the politics of the world, was retained for years afterwards. Mr. Rush, who was subsequently Minister to Great Britain, in an account of a dinner party at Lord Castlereagh's, notes a corroborating incident: "At table, I had on my left the Saxon Minister, Baron Just. * * * * * * He inquired of me for Mr. Adams, whom he had known well, and of whom he spoke highly. He said that he knew the politics of all Europe." [Footnote: Rush's Residence at the Court of London.]
"It was while Mr. Adams was Minister of the United States in London, that it was my personal good fortune to be admitted to his intimacy and friendship. Being then in London on private business, and having some previous acquaintance with Mr. Adams, I found in his house an ever kind welcome, and in his intercourse and conversation unfailing attraction and improvement. Accustomed as he had been from earliest youth to the society of the most eminent persons in Europe, alike in station and in ability, Mr. Adams never lost the entire simplicity of his own habits and character. Under an exterior of, at times, almost repulsive coldness, dwelt a heart as warm, sympathies as quick, and affections as overflowing, as ever animated any bosom. His tastes, too, were all refined. Literature and art were familiar and dear to him, and hence it was that his society was at once so agreeable and so improving. At his hospitable board, I have listened to disquisitions from his lips on poetry, especially the dramas of Shakspeare, music, painting, sculpture—of rare excellence, and untiring interest. The extent of his knowledge, indeed, and its accuracy, in all branches, were not less remarkable than the complete command which he appeared to possess over all his varied stores of learning and information. A critical scholar, alike in the dead languages, in French, in German, in Italian, not less than in English—he could draw at will from the wealth of all these tongues to illustrate any particular topic, or to explain any apparent difficulty. There was no literary work of merit in any of these languages, of which he could not render a satisfactory account; there was no fine painting or statue, of which he did not know the details and the history; there was not even an opera, or a celebrated musical composer, of which or of whom he could not point out the distinguishing merits and the chief compositions. Yet he was a hard-working, assiduous man of business, in his particular vocation, and a more regular, punctual, comprehensive, voluminous diplomatic correspondence than his no country can probably boast of; and it is thought the more necessary to note this fact, because sometimes an opinion prevails that graver pursuits must necessarily exclude attention to what used to be called the "humanities" of education—those ornamental and graceful acquirements, which, as Mr. Adams well proved, not only are not inconsistent with, but greatly adorn, the weightier matters of the law and of diplomacy. I could dwell with much satisfaction upon the memory and incidents of the days to which I am now adverting, but am admonished, by the length to which these remarks have already extended, that I may not loiter." [Footnote: Eulogy on John Quincy Adams, by Charles King.]
MR. ADAMS APPOINTED SECRETARY OF STATE—ARRIVES IN THE UNITED STATES—PUBLIC DINNERS IN NEW YORK AND BOSTON—TAKES UP HIS RESIDENCE IN WASHINGTON—DEFENDS GEN. JACKSON IN THE FLORIDA INVASION—RECOGNITION OF SOUTH AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE—GREEK REVOLUTION.
James Madison, after serving his country eight years as President, in a most perilous period of its history, retired to private life, followed by the respect and gratitude of the people of the United States. He was succeeded by James Monroe, who was inaugurated on the 4th of March, 1817.
Mr. Monroe was a politician of great moderation. It was his desire, on entering the presidency, to heal the unhappy dissensions which had distracted the country from the commencement of its government, and conciliate and unite the conflicting political parties. In forming his cabinet, he consulted eminent individuals of different parties, in various sections of the Union, expressing these views. Among others, he addressed Gen. Jackson, who, on account of his successful military career, was then rising rapidly into public notice. In his reply the general remarked:—
"Everything depends on the selection of your ministry. In every selection, party and party feeling should be avoided. Now is the time to exterminate that monster, called party spirit. By selecting characters most conspicuous for their probity, virtue, capacity, and firmness, without any regard to party, you will go far, if not entirely, to eradicate those feelings, which on former occasions, threw so many obstacles in the way of government, and, perhaps, have the pleasure and honor of uniting a people heretofore politically divided. The Chief Magistrate of a great and powerful nation, should never indulge in party feelings."
Admirable advice! Sentiments worthy an exalted American statesman! The President of a vast Republic, should indeed know nothing of the interest of party in contradistinction to the interest of the whole people; and should exercise his power, his patronage, and his influence, not to strengthen factions, and promote the designs of political demagogues, but to develop and nourish internal resources, the only sinews of national prosperity, and diffuse abroad sentiments of true patriotism, liberality, and philanthropy. No suggestions more admirable could have been made by Gen. Jackson, and none could have been more worthy the consideration of Mr. Monroe and his successors in the presidential chair.
In carrying out his plans of conciliation, President Monroe selected John Quincy Adams for the responsible post of Secretary of State. Mr. Adams had never been an active partizan. In his career as Senator, both in Massachusetts and in Washington, during Mr. Jefferson's administration, he had satisfactorily demonstrated his ability to rise above party considerations, in the discharge of great and important duties. And his long absence from the country had kept him free from personal, party, and sectional bias, and peculiarly fitted him to take the first station in the cabinet of a President aiming to unite his countrymen in fraternal bonds of political amity.
Referring to this appointment, Mr. Monroe wrote Gen. Jackson as follows, under date of March 1, 1817:—"I shall take a person for the Department of State from the eastward; and Mr. Adams, by long service in our diplomatic concerns appearing to be entitled to the preference, supported by his acknowledged abilities and integrity, his nomination will go to the Senate." Gen. Jackson, in his reply, remarks:—"I have no hesitation in saying you have made the best selection to fill the Department of State that could be made. Mr. Adams, in the hour of difficulty, will be an able helpmate, and I am convinced his appointment will afford general satisfaction." This prediction was well founded. The consummate ability exhibited by Mr. Adams in foreign negotiations had elevated him to a high position in the estimation of his countrymen. His selection for the State Department was received with very general satisfaction throughout the Union.
On receiving notice of his appointment to this responsible office, Mr. Adams, with his family, embarked for the United States, on board the packet-ship Washington, and landed in New York on the 6th of August, 1817.
A few days after his arrival, a public dinner was given Mr. Adams, in Tammany Hall, New York. The room was elegantly decorated. In the centre was a handsome circle of oak leaves, roses, and flags—the whole representing, with much effect, our happy Union—and from the centre of which, as from her native woods, appeared our eagle, bearing in her beak this impressive scroll:—
"Columbia, great Republic, thou art blest, While Empires droop, and Monarchs sink to rest."
Gov. De Witt Clinton, the Mayor of New York, and about two hundred citizens of the highest respectability, sat down to the table. Among other speeches made on the occasion, was the following from an English gentleman, a Mr. Fearon, of London:—
"As several gentlemen have volunteered songs, I would beg leave to offer a sentiment, which I am sure will meet the hearty concurrence of all present. But, previous to which, I desire to express the high satisfaction which this day's entertainment has afforded me. Though a native of Great Britain, and but a few days in the United States, I am for the first time in my life in a free country, surrounded by free men; and when I look at the inscription which decorates your eagle, I rejoice that I have been destined to see this day. A great number of the enlightened portion of my countrymen advocate your cause—admire your principles. And though we have, unfortunately, been engaged in a war, I trust the result has taught wisdom to both parties. In your political institutions you have set a noble example, which, if followed throughout the world, will rescue mankind from the dominion of those tyrants who jeer at the destruction which they produce—
'Like the moonbeams on the blasted heath, Mocking its desolation.'
"Gentlemen, in conclusion, I beg to express the delight which I feel, and propose to you as a toast—May the United States be an example to the world; and may civil and religious liberty cover the earth, as the waters do the channels of the deep."
A public dinner was also given Mr. Adams on his arrival in Boston. Mr. Gray presided, and Messrs. Otis, Blake, and Mason, acted as Vice Presidents. His father, the venerable ex-President John Adams, was present as a guest. Among other toasts given on the occasion, were the following:—
"The United States.—May our public officers, abroad and at home, continue to be distinguished for integrity, talents, and patriotism."
"The Commissioners at Ghent.—The negotiations for peace have been declared, in the British House of Lords, to wear the stamp of American superiority."
"American Manufactures.—A sure and necessary object for the security of American independence."
This occasion must have been one of great interest to the patriarch John Adams, then more than four-score years of age. Nearly forty years before, he had said of his son:—"He behaves like a man!" That son, in the prime of his days, had recently been called from foreign service, where he had obtained accumulated honors, to fill the highest station in the gift of the Executive of his country. The people of two continents would now unite with the venerable sage, in repeating the declaration—"He behaves like a man!" The patriarch stood upon the verge of the grave. But as the sun of his existence was gently and calmly sinking beneath the horizon, lo! its beams were reflected in their pristine brightness by another orb, born from its bosom, which was steadily ascending to the zenith of earthly fame!