John Quincy Adams took up his residence at Washington, and entered upon his duties as Secretary of State, in September, 1817.
During the eight years of President Monroe's administration, Mr. Adams discharged the duties of the state department, with a fidelity and success which received not only the unqualified approbation of the President, but of the whole country. To him that office was no sinecure. His labors were incessant. He spared no pains to qualify himself to discuss, with consummate skill, whatever topics legitimately claimed his attention. The President, the cabinet, the people, imposed implicit trust in his ability to promote the interests of the nation in all matters of diplomacy, and confided unreservedly in his pure American feelings and love of country. Perfectly familiar as he was with the political condition of the world, Mr. Monroe entrusted him, without hesitation, with the management of the foreign policy of the Government, during his administration.
In the autumn of 1817, the Seminole and a portion of the Creek Indians commenced depredations on the frontiers of Georgia and Alabama. Troops were sent to reduce them, under Gen. Gaines. His force being too weak to bring them to subjection, Gen. Jackson was ordered to take the field with a more numerous army, with which he overran the Indian country. Believing it necessary to enter Florida, then a Spanish territory, for the more effectual subjugation of the Indians, he did not hesitate to pursue them thither. The Spanish authorities protested against the invasion of their domains, and offered some opposition. Gen. Jackson persisted, and in the result, took possession of St. Marks and Pensacola, and sent the Spanish authorities and troops to Havana.
Among the prisoners taken in this expedition, were a Scotchman and an Englishman, named Arbuthnot and Ambrister. They were British subjects, but were charged with supplying the Indians with arms and munitions of war; stirring them up against the whites, and acting as spies. On these charges they were tried by a court martial, of which Gen. Gaines was President—found guilty—condemned to death, and executed on the 27th of April, 1818.
These transactions of Gen. Jackson caused great excitement throughout the United States, and subjected him to no little blame. The subject excited much debate in Congress. A resolution censuring him for his summary proceedings was introduced, but voted down by a large majority. In Mr. Monroe's cabinet, there was a strong feeling against Gen. Jackson. The President, and all the members, with a single exception, were disposed to hold him responsible for having transcended his orders. Hon. Wm. H. Crawford, who was in Mr. Monroe's cabinet at that time, in a letter to Mr. Forsyth, says:—"Mr. Calhoun's proposition in the cabinet was, that Gen. Jackson should be punished in some form, or reprimanded in some form."
Mr. Adams alone vindicated Gen. Jackson. He insisted that inasmuch as the Government had ordered him to pursue the enemy into Florida, if necessary, they were responsible for the acts of the American general, in the exercise of the discretionary power with which he had been clothed. Several cabinet meetings were held on the subject, in July, 1818, in which the whole matter was thoroughly discussed. Mr. Adams succeeded at length in bringing the President into the adoption of his views, which Mr. Monroe substantially embodied in his next annual message to Congress.
The intelligence of the execution of Arbuthnot and Ambrister, excited the highest indignation in England. The people viewed it as a violation of the rights of British subjects, and an insult to their nation, and were ready to rush to war. Lord Castlereagh declared to Mr. Rush, the American Minister, that had the English cabinet but held up a finger, war would have been declared against the United States. But so able and convincing were the arguments which Mr. Adams directed Mr. Rush to lay before the British Ministers, in defence of the proceedings of Gen. Jackson, that they became convinced there was no just cause of war between the two countries, and exerted their influence against any movement in that direction.
On the 22nd of February, 1819, a treaty was concluded at Washington, between the United States and Spain, by which East and West Florida, with the adjacent islands, were ceded to the Union. The negotiations which resulted in the consummation of the treaty, were conducted by Mr. Adams and Luis de Onis the Spanish Ambassador. This treaty was very advantageous to the United States. It brought to a close a controversy with Spain, of many years' standing, which had defied all the exertions of former administrations to adjust, and placed our relations with that country on the most amicable footing. In effecting this reconciliation, Mr. Adams deserved and received a high share of credit.
The recognition of the independence of the Spanish South American Provinces, by the Government of the United States, took place during Mr. Adams's administration of the State Department. The honor of first proposing this recognition, in the Congress of the United States, and of advocating it with unsurpassed eloquence and zeal, belongs to the patriotic Henry Clay. Mainly by his influence, the House of Representatives, in 1820, passed the following resolutions:—
"Resolved, That the House of Representatives participate with the people of the United States, in the deep interest which they feel for the success of the Spanish Provinces of South America, which are struggling to establish their liberty and independence.
"Resolved, That this House will give its constitutional support to the President of the United States, whenever he may deem it expedient to recognize the sovereignty and independence of any of said Provinces."
Mr. Adams at first hesitated on this subject. Not that he was opposed to the diffusion of the blessings of freedom to the oppressed. No man was a more ardent lover of liberty, or was more anxious that its institutions should be established throughout the earth, at the earliest practicable moment. But he had many and serious doubts whether the people of the South American Provinces were capable of originating and maintaining an enlightened self-government. There was a lack of general intelligence among the people—a want of an enlarged and enlightened understanding of the principles of rational freedom—which led him to apprehend that their attempts at self-government would for a long season, at least, result in the reign of faction and anarchy, rather than true republican principles. The subsequent history of these countries—the divisions and contentions, the revolutions and counter-revolutions, which have rent them asunder, and deluged them in blood—clearly show that Mr. Adams but exercised a far-seeing intelligence in entertaining these doubts. Nevertheless, as they had succeeded in throwing off the Spanish yoke, and had, in fact, achieved their independence, Mr. Adams would not throw any impediment in their way. Trusting that his fears as to their ability for self-government might be groundless, he gave his influence to the recognizing of their independence by the United States.
In 1821 the Greek revolution broke out. The people of that classic land, after enduring ages of the most brutal and humiliating oppression from the Turks, nobly resolved to break the chains of the Ottoman power, or perish in the attempt. The war was long, and sanguinary, but finally resulted in the emancipation of Greece, and the establishment of its independence as a nation.
The inhabitants of the United States could not witness such a struggle with indifference. A spirit of sympathy ran like electricity throughout the land. Public meetings were held in nearly every populous town in the Union, in which resolutions, encouraging the Greeks in their struggle, were passed, and contributions taken up to aid them. Money, clothing, provisions, arms, were collected in immense quantities and shipped to Greece. In churches, colleges, academies and schools—at the theatres, museums, and other places of amusement and public resort—aid was freely and generously given in behalf of the struggling patriots. Many citizens of the United States, when the first blast of the trumpet of liberty rang along the Ionian seas, and through the Peloponnesus, sped across the ocean, and, throwing themselves into the midst of the Grecian hosts, contended heroically for their emancipation. Among these volunteers, was Col. J. P. Miller, of Vermont, who not only gallantly fought in the battles of Greece, but was greatly serviceable in conveying supplies from the United States to that struggling people.
The deep sympathy which prevailed in every section of the Union, was soon felt in Congress. Many public men were anxious that the Government should take some important and decisive step, even to hostilities, in behalf of Greece. Eloquent speeches were delivered in the House of Representatives on the exciting topic. Mr. Clay electrified the country with his stirring appeals in behalf of the land in which was established the first republic on earth. Mr. Webster submitted the following resolution to the House of Representatives:—
"Resolved, That provision ought to be made by law, for defraying the expense incident to the appointment of an Agent, or Commissioner, to Greece, whenever the President shall deem it expedient to make such appointment."
In support of this resolution, Mr. Webster made a most eloquent speech, of which the following is the conclusion:—
"Mr. Chairman—There are some things which, to be well done, must be promptly done. If we even determine to do the thing that is now proposed, we may do it too late Sir, I am not of those who are for withholding aid when it is most urgently needed, and when the stress is past, and the aid no longer necessary, overwhelming the sufferers with caresses. I will not stand by and see my fellow-man drowning, without stretching out a hand to help him, till he has, by his own efforts and presence of mind, reached the shore in safety, and then encumber him with aid. With suffering Greece, now is the crisis of her fate—her great, it may be her last struggle. Sir, while we sit here deliberating, her destiny may be decided. The Greeks, contending with ruthless oppressors, turn their eyes to us, and invoke us, by their ancestors, by their slaughtered wives and children, by their own blood poured out like water, by the hecatombs of dead they have heaped up, as it were, to heaven; they invoke, they implore from us some cheering sound, some look of sympathy, some token of compassionate regard. They look to us as the great Republic of the earth—and they ask us, by our common faith, whether we can forget that they are struggling, as we once struggled, for what we now so happily enjoy? I cannot say, sir, they will succeed; that rests with heaven. But, for myself, sir, if I should to-morrow hear that they have failed—that their last phalanx had sunk beneath the Turkish cimetar, that the flames of their last city had sunk in its ashes, and that nought remained but the wide, melancholy waste where Greece once was—I should still reflect, with the most heartfelt satisfaction, that I have asked you, in the name of seven millions of freemen, that you would give them, at least, the cheering of one friendly voice."
The committee having in charge the raising of a fund for the assistance of the Greeks, in New York, addressed a circular to the venerable ex-President John Adams, to which they received the following reply:—
"Quincy, Dec. 29, 1823. "GENTLEMEN:—I have received your circular of the 12th inst., and I thank you for the honor you have done me in addressing it to me. Be assured my heart beats in unison with yours, and with those of your constituents, and I presume with all the really civilized part of mankind, in sympathy with the Greeks, suffering, as they are, in the great cause of liberty and humanity. The gentlemen of Boston have taken measures to procure a general subscription in their favor, through the State, and I shall contribute my mite with great pleasure. In the meantime I wish you, and all other gentlemen engaged in the virtuous work, all the success you or they can wish; for I believe no effort in favor of virtue will be ultimately lost.
"I have the honor to be, Gentlemen, your very humble Servant, "JOHN ADAMS."
The sympathies of John Quincy Adams were ardently enlisted in behalf of the Greek Revolution. But with a prudence and wisdom which characterized all his acts, he threw his influence against any direct interference on the part of the Government of the United States. It would have been a departure from that neutral policy, in regard to European conflicts, on which the country had acted from the commencement of our national existence, alike injurious and dangerous. He knew if we once entered into these wars, on any pretext whatever, a door would be opened for foreign entanglements and endless conflicts, which would result in standing armies, immense national debts, and the long trail of evils of which they are the prolific source.
When an application was made to Mr. Adams, as Secretary of State, through Mr. Rush, our Minister at London, by an Agent of Greece, for aid from the United States, he was compelled, on principles above stated, to withhold the required assistance. The correspondence which grew out of this application is sufficiently interesting to find a place in these pages:—
"Andreas Luriottis, Envoy of the Provisional Government of Greece, to the Hon. John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State to the United States of America.
SIR:—I feel no slight emotion, while, in behalf of Greece, my country, struggling for independence and liberty, I address myself to the United States of America.
"The independence for which we combat, you have achieved. The liberty to which we look, with anxious solicitude, you have obtained, and consolidated in peace and in glory.
"Yet Greece, old Greece, the seat of early civilization and freedom, stretches out her hands, imploringly, to a land which sprung into being, as it were, ages after her own lustre had been extinguished! and ventures to hope that the youngest and most vigorous sons of liberty, will regard, with no common sympathy, the efforts of the descendants of the heir and the elder born, whose precepts and whose example have served—though insufficient, hitherto, for our complete regeneration—to regenerate half a world.
"I know, Sir, that the sympathies of the generous people of the United States have been extensively directed towards us; and since I have reached this country, an interview with their Minister, Mr. Rush, has served to convince me more strongly, how great their claim is on our gratitude and our affection. May I hope that some means may be found to communicate these our feelings, of which I am so proud to be the organ? We will still venture to rely on their friendship. We would look to their individual, if not to their national, co-operation. Every, the slightest, assistance under present circumstances, will aid the progress of the great work of liberty; and if, standing, as we have stood, alone and unsupported, with everything opposed to us, and nothing to encourage us but patriotism, enthusiasm, and sometimes even despair: if thus we have gone forward, liberating our provinces, one after another, and subduing every force which has been directed against us, what may we not do with the assistance for which we venture to appeal to the generous and the free?
"Precipitated by circumstances into that struggle for independence, which, ever since the domination of our cruel and reckless tyrants, had never ceased to be the object of our vows and prayers, we have, by the blessing of God, freed a considerable part of Greece from the ruthless invaders. The Peloponnesus, Etolia, Carmania, Attica, Phocida, Boetia, and the Islands of the Archipelago and Candia, are nearly free. The armies and the fleets which have been sent against us, have been subdued by the valor of our troops and our marine. Meanwhile we have organized a government, founded upon popular suffrages: and you will probably have seen how closely our organic law assimilates to that constitution under which your nation so happily and so securely lives.
"I have been sent hither by the government of Greece, to obtain assistance in our determined enterprize, on which we, like you, have staked our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor: and I believe my journey has not been wholly without success. I should have been wanting to my duty had I not addressed you, supplicating the earliest display of your amiable purposes; entreating that diplomatic relations may be established between us; communicating the most earnest desire of my government that we may be allowed to call you allies as well as friends; and stating that we shall rejoice to enter upon discussions which may lead to immediate and advantageous treaties, and to receive diplomatic agents without delay. Both at Madrid and at Lisbon, I have been received with great kindness by the American Representative, and am pleased to record the expression of my gratitude.
"Though, fortunately, you are so far removed, and raised so much above the narrow politics of Europe as to be little influenced by their vicissitudes, I venture to believe that Mr. Rush will explain to you the changes which have taken place, and are still in action around us, in our favor. And I conclude, rejoicing in the hope that North America and Greece may be united in the bonds of long-enduring, and unbroken concord: and have the honor to be, with every sentiment of respect, your obedient humble servant. "AND. LURIOTTIS. 'London, February 20, 1823."
MR. ADAMS TO MR. RUSH.
"Department of State, Washington, 18th August, 1823. "SIR:—I have the honor of inclosing, herewith, an answer to the letter from Mr. Luriottis, the Agent of the Greeks addressed to me, and a copy of which was transmitted with your dispatch No. 295.
"If, upon the receipt of this letter, Mr. Luriottis should still be in London, it will be desirable that you should deliver it to him in person, accompanied with such remarks and explanations as may satisfy him, and those whom he represents, that, in declining the proposal of giving active aid to the cause of Grecian emancipation, the Executive Government of the United States has been governed not by its inclinations, or a sentiment of indifference to the cause, but by its constitutional duties, clear and unequivocal.
"The United States could give assistance to the Greeks, only by the application of some portion of their public forces or of their public revenue in their favor, which would constitute them in a state of war with the Ottoman Porte, and perhaps with all the Barbary powers. To make this disposal either of force or of treasure, you are aware is, by our constitution, not within the competency of the Executive. It could be determined only by an act of Congress, which would assuredly not be adopted, should it even be recommended by the Executive.
"The policy of the United States, with reference to foreign nations, has always been founded upon the moral principle of natural law—Peace with all mankind. From whatever cause war between other nations, whether foreign or domestic, has arisen, the unvarying law of the United States has been peace with both belligerents. From the first war of the French Revolution, to the recent invasion of Spain, there has been a succession of wars, national and civil, in almost everyone of which one of the parties was contending for liberty or independence. In the first French revolutionary war, a strong impulse of feeling urged the people of the United States to take side with the party which, at its commencement, was contending, apparently, at least, for both. Had the policy of the United States not been essentially pacific, a stronger case to claim their interference could scarcely have been presented. They nevertheless declared themselves neutral, and the principle, then deliberately settled, has been invariably adhered to ever since.
"With regard to the recognition of sovereign States, and the establishment with them of a diplomatic intercourse, the experience of the last thirty years has served also to ascertain the limits proper for the application of principles in which every nation must exercise some latitude of discretion. Precluded by their neutral position from interfering in the question of right, the United States have recognized the fact of foreign sovereignty only when it was undisputed, or disputed without any rational prospect of success. In this manner the successive changes of government in many of the European states, and the revolutionary governments of South America, have been acknowledged. The condition of the Greeks is not yet such as will admit of their recognition, upon these principles.
"Yet, as we cherish the most friendly feelings towards them, and are sincerely disposed to render them any service which may be compatible with our neutrality, it will give us pleasure to learn, from time to time, the actual state of their cause, political and military. Should Mr. Luriottis be enabled and disposed to furnish this information, it may always be communicated through you, and will be received with satisfaction here. The public accounts from that quarter have been of late very scanty, and we shall be glad to obtain any authentic particulars, which may come to your knowledge from this, or through any other channel.
"I am with great respect, Sir, your very humble and obedient servant, JOHN QUINCY ADAMS."
MR. ADAMS TO MR. LURIOTTIS.
"Department of State, Washington, 18th August, 1823. "Sir: A copy of the letter which you did me the honor of addressing to me, on the 20th of February last, has been transmitted to me by the Minister of the United States at London, and has received the deliberate consideration of the President of the United States.
"The sentiments with which he has witnessed the struggles of your countrymen for their national emancipation and independence, had been made manifest to the world in a public message to the Congress of the United States. They are cordially felt by the people of this Union; who, sympathizing with the cause of freedom and independence wherever its standard is unfurled, behold with peculiar interest the display of Grecian energy in defence of Grecian liberties, and the association of heroic exertions, at the present time, with the proudest glories of former ages, in the land of Epaminondas and Philopoemon.
"But while cheering with their best wishes the cause of the Greeks, the United States are forbidden, by the duties of their situation, from taking part in the war, to which their relation is that of neutrality. At peace themselves with all the world, their established policy, and the obligations of the laws of nations, preclude them from becoming voluntary auxiliaries to a cause which would involve them in war.
"If in the progress of events the Greeks should be enabled to establish and organize themselves as an independent nation, the United States will be among the first to welcome them, in that capacity, into the general family; to establish diplomatic and commercial relations with them, suited to the mutual interests of the two countries; and to recognize, with special satisfaction, their constituted state in the character of a sister Republic.
"I have the honor to be, with distinguished consideration, Sir, your very humble and obedient servant, "JOHN QUINCY ADAMS."
The sentiments, in regard to the foreign policy of our Government, which Mr. Adams embodies in this correspondence, he had previously expressed in an oration delivered in the city of Washington, on the 4th of July, 1821, of which the following is an extract:—
"America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity; she has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless, and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and equal rights; she has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own; she has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when the conflict has been for principles to which she clings as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. She has seen that probably for centuries to come all the contests of that Aceldama, the European world, will be contests of inveterate power and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions, and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all—she is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example:—she well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume the colors, and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force; the frontlet on her brow would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre, the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit."
During Mr. Adams's occupancy of the state department, efforts were made by the American Government to abolish the African slave trade, and procure its denunciation as piracy, by the civilized world. On the 28th of Feb., 1823, the following resolution was adopted by the House of Representatives, at Washington, by a vote of 131 to 9:—
"Resolved, That the President of the United States be requested to enter upon and to prosecute, from time to time, such negotiations with the several maratime powers of Europe and America, as he may deem expedient for the effectual abolition of the African slave trade, and its ultimate denunciation as piracy, under the law of nations, by the consent of the civilized world."
In compliance with this resolution, Mr. Adams, as Secretary of State, issued directions to the American Ministers in Spain, Russia, the Netherlands, Colombia, and Buenos Ayres, to enter into negotiations with the Governments of these countries on this subject. Mr. Adams also maintained an able correspondence with the Hon. Stratford Canning, the British Minister at Washington, in relation to the basis on which a treaty should be formed with Great Britain for the suppression of the foreign slave trade.
Mr. Rush, the American Minister at the Court of St. James, was directed to enter upon negotiations in London, to this end. His instructions were written by Mr. Adams, with his usual sound judgment and enlarged views of national policy, and the claims of humanity. The convention was in due time completed, and signed by the Plenipotentiaries of both nations, on the 13th of March. 1824, and was sent by Mr. Rush to Washington for ratification. Mr. Monroe and Mr. Adams were ready to give it their sanction; but the Senate insisted on striking out a provision in the first article. The article commenced as follows:—
"The commanders and commissioned officers of each of the two high contracting parties, duly authorized, under the regulations and instructions of their respective Governments, to cruise on the coasts of Africa, of America, and of the West Indies, for the suppression of the slave trade, shall be empowered, under the conditions, limitations, and restrictions hereinafter specified," &c.
The Senate struck out the words "of America." This amendment the British Government would not assent to. Thus the negotiation on the slave trade, so near a consummation, fell to the ground.
Mr. Monroe's administration closed on the 3rd of March, 1825. It was a period of uninterrupted prosperity to the country. Our foreign commerce, recovering from the paralysis caused by the embargo, the non-intercourse act, and the war, spread forth its wings and whitened every sea and ocean on the globe. The domestic condition of the Union was thriving beyond the precedent of many former years. Improvements in agriculture were developed; domestic manufactures received a fair protection and encouragement; internal improvements, gaining more and more the attention and confidence of the people, had been prosecuted to the evident benefit of all branches of business and enterprize.
Another characteristic of the administration of Mr. Monroe is worthy of note. So judiciously and patriotically had he exercised the powers entrusted to him, that he disarmed opposition. Divisions, jealousies and contentions were destroyed, and a thorough fusion of all political parties took place. At his re-election for the second term of the presidency, there was no opposing candidate. There was but one party, and that was the great party of the American people. His election was unanimous.
In all these measures, Mr. Adams was the coadjutor and confidential adviser of Mr. Monroe. It is no derogation from the well-merited reputation of the latter to say, that many of the most striking and praiseworthy features of his administration were enstamped upon it by the labor and influence of the former. His success in maturing and carrying into execution his most popular measures must be attributed, in no small extent, to the ability and faithfulness of his eminent Secretary of State. And the historian may truly record that to John Quincy Adams, in an eminent degree, belongs a portion of the honor and credit which have been so generally accorded to the administration of James Monroe.
MR. ADAMS' NOMINATION TO THE PRESIDENCY—SPIRITED PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN—NO CHOICE BY THE PEOPLE—ELECTION GOES TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES—MR. ADAMS ELECTED PRESIDENT—HIS INAUGURATION— FORMS HIS CABINET.
James Monroe was the last of the illustrious line of Presidents whose claims to that eminent station dated back to the revolution. A grateful people had conferred the highest honors in their gift upon the most conspicuous of those patriots who had faithfully served them in that perilous struggle, and aided in constructing and consolidating the union of these States. This debt punctually and honorably discharged, they looked to another generation, possessing claims of a different description, for servants to elevate to the dignity of the presidential chair.
In the midst of a large class of public men who had in the mean time become conspicuous for talents and services of various descriptions, it is no matter of surprise that the people of the United States should entertain a diversity of opinions in regard to the most suitable individual to fill a station which had hitherto been occupied by men whose virtues and whose patriotism had shed the brightest lustre on the American name and character throughout the world. Candidates for the presidency were nominated in various sections of the Union. The eastern States turned their eyes instinctively towards JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, as one, among all the eminent competitors, the most fitted, by character and services, for the office of President of the United States. The members of the Legislature of Maine resolved—
"That the splendid talents and incorruptible integrity of JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, his republican habits and principles, distinguished public services, and extensive knowledge of, and devoted attachment to, the vital interests of the country, justly entitle him to the first honors in the gift of an enlightened and grateful people."
The republican members of the Massachusetts Legislature adopted the following resolutions:—
"Resolved, That the ability, experience, integrity and patriotism of JOHN QUINCY ADAMS; his manly efforts to defend the principles of that government under which, in God's providence, we hope to die; his unshaken fortitude and resolution in all political exigencies; his long, faithful, and valuable services, under the patronage of all the Presidents of the United States, present him to the people of this nation, as a man eminently qualified to subserve the best interests of his country, and as a statesman without reproach.
"Resolved, That a man who has given such continued and indubitable pledges of his patriotism and capacity, may be safely placed at the head of this nation. Every impulse of his heart, and every dictate of his mind, must unite promptly in the support of the interests, the honor, and the liberty of his country.
"Resolved, That JOHN QUINCY ADAMS is hereby recommended by us to the people of the United States, as the most suitable candidate for the office of President, at the approaching election."
A meeting of the citizens of Rhode Island passed the following among other resolutions:—
"Resolved, That, although we duly acknowledge the talents and public services of all the candidates for the presidency, we have the fullest confidence in the acknowledged ability, integrity and experience of JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, the accomplished scholar, the true republican, the enlightened statesman, and the honest man; and we are desirous that his merits should be rewarded with the first office in the gift of the people of the United States—that his future services may continue unto us those blessings which, under the present administration of the General Government, we have so abundantly enjoyed."
These were high encomiums. But who among the American people, now that the patriot has departed from earth, can survey his life, his character, and his services, and not acknowledge they were justly and richly deserved? Similar resolutions were passed in all the eastern and many of the northern States.
The west brought forward HENRY CLAY, one of the most popular orators and eminent statesman of the day. GEN. JACKSON, who had earned a splendid military reputation, was nominated in the southwest, and WM. H. CRAWFORD was selected as the candidate representing the southern portion of the confederacy. These were all men of eminence and of acknowledged talents. They were worthy competitors for the highest honors of the Republic.
The friends of Mr. Adams rested his claims for the presidency on no factitious qualities. They urged that his characteristics were such as to commend him to the confidence of every true republican and well-wisher of his country. While his attainments were not of the showy and popular cast possessed by many public men, they yet were of that solid, practical and valuable description which must ever receive the sanction of intelligent and reflecting minds.
The qualifications on which his supporters depended, and to which they called the attention of the American people, as reasons for elevating him to the head of the General Government, may be summarily enumerated as follows:—1. The purity of his private character—the simplicity of his personal habits—his unbending integrity and uprightness, even beyond suspicion. 2. His commanding talents, and his acquirements both as a scholar and a statesman. 3. His love of country—his truly American feelings, in all that concerned the welfare and honor of the United States. 4. His long experience in public affairs, especially his familiarity with our foreign relations, and his perfect knowledge of the institutions, the internal condition and policy of European nations. 5. His advocacy of protection to domestic manufactures, and of a judicious system of internal improvements.
In regard to internal improvements by the General Government, there was a difference of opinion between Mr. Adams and President Monroe. The latter was strongly impressed with the beneficial tendency of a well-digested system of internal improvements; but he believed the constitution conferred no power on Congress to make appropriations for such a purpose. It was in this view of the subject that he vetoed a bill which assumed the right to adopt and execute such a system, passed by Congress during the session of 1820-21. But anxious that internal improvements, confined to great national purposes, and with proper limitations, should be prosecuted, he suggested that an amendment of the constitution to that effect should be recommended to the several States.
Mr. Adams, however, had no doubts that Congress already possessed a constitutional power to prosecute such internal improvements as were of a national character, and calculated to benefit the Union, and to levy duties for the protection of domestic manufactures. During his entire political career he had deemed these to be two great points toward which the American Government and people should turn their especial attention; and he ever gave them his faithful advocacy and support. With consummate wisdom, he foresaw that the more completely our internal resources were developed, and the less dependent we were on foreign powers, the greater would be our public and private prosperity. He insisted that by an adequate protection of domestic manufactures, there would be an increased demand for our raw materials at home, and thus the several productive and manufacturing sections of the Republic would realize the benefits of a dependence on each other, and the Union would be consolidated and perpetuated for ages to come.
While a candidate for the presidency, Mr. Adams received a letter inquiring his views on the subject of internal improvement. The following is an extract from his reply:—
"On the 23rd of Feb., 1807, I offered, in the Senate of the United States, of which I was then a member, the first resolution, as I believe, that ever was presented to Congress, contemplating a general system of internal improvement. I thought that Congress possessed the power of appropriating money to such improvement, and of authorizing the works necessary for making it—subject always to the territorial rights of the several States in or through which the improvement is to be made, to be secured by the consent of their Legislatures, and to proprietary rights of individuals, to be purchased or indemnified. I still hold the same opinions; and, although highly respecting the purity of intention of those who object, on constitutional grounds, to the exercise of this power, it is with heartfelt satisfaction that I perceive those objections gradually yielding to the paramount influence of the general welfare. Already have appropriations of money to great objects of internal improvement been freely made; and I hope we shall both live to see the day, when the only question of our statesmen and patriots, concerning the authority of Congress to improve, by public works essentially beneficent, and beyond the means of less than national resources, the condition of our common country, will be how it ever could have been doubted."
On another occasion, Mr. Adams expressed himself on the subject of internal improvements in the following manner:—
"The question of the power of Congress to authorize the making of internal improvements, is, in other words, a question whether the people of this Union, in forming their common social compact, as avowedly for the purpose of promoting their general welfare, have performed their work in a manner so ineffably stupid as to deny themselves the means of bettering their own condition. I have too much respect for the intellect of my country to believe it. The first object of human association is the improvement of the condition of the associated. Roads and canals are among the most essential means of improving the condition of nations. And a people which should deliberately, by the organization of its authorized power, deprive itself of the faculty of multiplying its own blessings, would be as wise as a creator who should undertake to constitute a human being without a heart."
In addition to other claims, the friends of Mr. Adams urged his elevation to the presidency on the ground of locality. During the thirty-six years which had passed since the adoption of the constitution, the General Government had been administered but four years by a northern President. It was insisted with much force that the southern portion of the Republic had thus far exerted a disproportionate influence in the executive department of the nation. While the north, although far the most populous, and contributing much the largest portion of the means for defraying the national expenditures, would not claim to monopolize an undue degree of power in controlling the measures of administration, yet it could justly insist that its demands for an equitable share of influence should be heeded. These suggestions unquestionably possessed a weight in the minds of the people, favorable to the prospects of Mr. Adams.
The Presidential campaign of 1824, was more spirited and exciting than any that had taken place since the first election of Mr. Jefferson. It was novel in the number of candidates presented for the suffrages of the people, and was conducted with great zeal and vigor by the friends of the different aspirants. Strictly speaking, it could not be called a party contest. Mr. Monroe's wise and prudent administration had obliterated party lines, and left a very general unanimity of sentiment on political principles and measures, throughout the Union. The various candidates— Adams, Jackson, Clay, Crawford—all subscribed, substantially, to the same political creed, and entertained similar views as to the principles on which the General Government should be administered. The struggle was a personal and sectional one, more than of a party nature.
It had long been foreseen that a choice of President would not be effected by the people. The result verified this prediction. Of two hundred and sixty-one electoral votes, Gen. Jackson received ninety-nine, Mr. Adams eighty-four, Mr. Crawford forty-one, and Mr. Clay thirty-seven. Neither of the candidates having received a majority in the electoral colleges, the election devolved on the House of Representatives. This took place on the 9th of Feb., 1825.
On the morning of that day, the House met at an earlier hour than usual. The galleries, the lobbies, and the adjacent apartments, were filled to overflowing—with spectators from every part of the Union to witness the momentous event. It was a scene the most sublime that could be witnessed on earth. The Representatives of the People, in the exercise of the highest right of freemen, were about to select a citizen to administer the Government of a great Republic.
All the members of the House were present, with the exception of one, who was confined by indisposition. The Speaker (Henry Clay) took his chair, and the ordinary business of the morning was attended to in the usual manner. At 12 o'clock, precisely, the members of the Senate entered the hall, preceded by their Sergeant-at-arms, and having the President of the Senate at their head, who was invited to a seat on the right hand of the Speaker. The Senators were assigned seats in front of the Speaker's chair.
The President of the Senate (Mr. Gaillard) then rose, and stated that the certificates forwarded by the electors from each State would be delivered to the Tellers. Mr. Tazewell of the Senate, and Messrs. John W. Taylor and Philip P. Barbour on the part of the House, took their places, as Tellers, at the Clerk's table. The President of the Senate then opened two packets, one received by messenger and the other by mail, containing the certificates of the votes of the State of New Hampshire. One of these certificates was then read by Mr. Tazewell, while the other was compared with it by Messrs. Taylor and Barbour. The whole having been read, and the votes of New Hampshire declared, they were set down by the Clerks of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, seated at different tables. Thus the certificates from all the States were gone through with. At the conclusion, the Tellers left the Clerk's tables, and, presenting themselves in front of the Speaker, Mr. Tazewell delivered their report of the votes given.
The President of the Senate then rose, and declared that no person had received a majority of the votes given for President of the United States: that Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and William H. Crawford, were the three persons who had received the highest number of votes; and that the remaining duties in the choice of a President now devolved on the House of Representatives. He further declared, that John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, having received 182 votes, was duly elected Vice President of the United States, to serve four years from the 4th of March next. The members of the Senate then retired.
The Speaker directed the roll of the House to be called by States, and the members of the respective delegations to take their seats in the order in which the States should be called, beginning at the right hand of the Speaker. The delegations took their seats accordingly. Ballot-boxes were distributed to each delegation, by the Sergeant-at-arms, and the Speaker directed that the balloting should, proceed. The ballots having all been deposited in the boxes, Tellers were named by the respective delegations, being one from each State, who took their seats at two tables.
Mr. Webster of Massachusetts was appointed by those Tellers who sat at one table, and Mr. Randolph of Virginia by those at the other, to announce the result. After the ballots were counted out, Mr. Webster rose, and said:—
"Mr. Speaker: The Tellers of the votes at this table have proceeded to count the ballots contained in the boxes set before them. The result they find to be, that there are for John Quincy Adams, of Massachusetts, thirteen votes; for Andrew Jackson, of Tennessee, seven votes; for William H. Crawford, of Georgia, four votes."
Mr. Randolph, from the other table, made a statement corresponding with that of Mr. Webster.
The Speaker then stated this result to the House, and announced that JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, having a majority of the votes of these United States, was duly elected President of the same, for four years, commencing on the 4th day of March, 1825.
A committee was appointed to wait upon Mr. Adams, and announce to him the result of the election, of which Mr. Webster was chairman. On performing this duty, they received from Mr. Adams the following reply:—
GENTLEMEN:—In receiving this testimonial from the Representatives of the People and States of this Union, I am deeply sensible of the circumstances under which it has been given. All my predecessors have been honored with majorities of the electoral voices, in the primary colleges. It has been my fortune to be placed, by the divisions of sentiment prevailing among our countrymen on this occasion, in competition, friendly and honorable, with three of my fellow-citizens, all justly enjoying, in eminent degrees, the public favor; and of whose worth, talents and services no one entertains a higher and more respectful sense than myself. The names of two of them were, in the fulfilment of the provisions of the constitution, presented to the selection of the House of Representatives in concurrence with my own,—names closely associated with the glory of the nation, and one of them farther recommended by a larger majority of the primary electoral suffrages than mine.
In this state of things, could my refusal to accept the trust thus delegated to me give an opportunity to the people to form, and to express, with a nearer approach to unanimity, the object of their preference, I should not hesitate to decline the acceptance of this eminent charge, and to submit the decision of this momentous question again to their determination. But the constitution itself has not so disposed of the contingency which would arise in the event of my refusal. I shall, therefore, repair to the post assigned me by the call of my country, signified through her constitutional organs; oppressed with the magnitude of the task before me, but cheered with the hope of that generous support from my fellow-citizens, which, in the vicissitudes of a life devoted to their service, has never failed to sustain me—confident in the trust, that the wisdom of the legislative councils will guide and direct me in the path of my official duty; and relying, above all, upon the superintending providence of that Being "in whose hands our breath is, and whose are all our ways."
"Gentlemen, I pray you to make acceptable to the House, the assurance of my profound gratitude for their confidence, and to accept yourselves my thanks for the friendly terms in which you have communicated to me their decision."
The diffidence manifested by Mr. Adams in accepting the office of President, under the peculiar circumstances of his election, and his wish, if it were possible, to submit his claims again to the people, were unquestionably uttered with great sincerity of heart. He was the choice of but a minority, as expressed in the electoral vote; and in accordance with his republican principles and feelings, he would have preferred another expression of public opinion. But the constitution made no provision for such an arbitrament. He must either serve or resign. In the latter case, the Vice President would have discharged the duties of President during the term. Mr. Adams had no alternative, therefore, but to accept the office, agreeably to the terms of the constitution. Had either of his competitors been elected by the House of Representatives, they would have been, as he was, a minority President. Notwithstanding Gen. Jackson received fifteen more electoral votes than Mr. Adams, yet it is believed that in the primary assemblies the latter obtained a greater number of the actual votes of the people than the former.
"Although Gen. Jackson had a plurality in the nominal returns from the electoral colleges, the question is, whether he had a plurality in the popular votes of the States. In North Carolina, the Crawford men had a great plurality over either of the Jackson and Adams sections; but the two latter joining their forces, gave the electoral vote of the State, it being fifteen, to Gen. Jackson. Deduct this from Gen. Jackson's plurality—as it should be, if the principle of plurality is to govern—and it leaves him eighty-four, the same as the vote of Mr. Adams. But Mr. Adams had a great plurality of the popular vote of New York, and on this principle should be credited the entire thirty-six votes of that State, whereas, he received only twenty-six. This adjustment would carry Mr. Adams up to ninety-four, and leave Gen. Jackson with eighty-four. Besides, the popular majorities for Mr. Adams in the six New England States were greatly in excess of the Jackson majorities in the eight States which gave their vote for him; which largely augments Mr. Adams' aggregate plurality in the Union over Gen. Jackson's. Then deduct the constitutional allowance for the slave vote in the slave States, as given by their masters. It will not be pretended that this is a popular vote, though constitutional. Gen. Jackson obtained fifty-five electoral votes, more than half his entire vote, and Mr. Adams only six from slave States. It will therefore be seen, that on the principle of a popular plurality, carried out, and carried through, (it ought not to stop for the advantage of one party,) Mr. Adams, in the election of 1824, was FAR AHEAD of Gen. Jackson." [Footnote: Colton's Life and Times of Henry Clay.]
On the 4th of March, 1825, John Quincy Adams was inaugurated as President of the United States, and took the executive chair, which had been entered twenty-eight years before by his venerated father. The declaration of that father in reference to the son, when a lad—"He behaves like a man!"—had gathered strength and meaning in the lapse of years. The people of the American republic, taught by a long series of faithful and eminent services, in the fulfilment of the prophetic words, placed him in a position the most elevated and honorable, the most worthy the aim of a pure and patriotic ambition, that earth can afford!
The scene at the inauguration was splendid and imposing. At an early hour of the day the avenues leading to the capitol presented an animated spectacle. Crowds of citizens on foot, in carriages, and on horseback, were hastening to the great centre of attraction. Strains of martial music, and the movements of the various military corps, heightened the excitement.
At 12 o'clock, the military escort, consisting of general and staff officers, and several volunteer companies, received the President elect at his residence, together with President Monroe, and several officers of government. The procession, led by the cavalry, and accompanied by an immense concourse of citizens, proceeded to the capitol, where it was received, with military honors, by the U. S. Marine Corps under Col. Henderson.
Meanwhile the hall of the House of Representatives presented a brilliant spectacle. The galleries and the lobbies were crowded with spectators. The sofas between the columns, the bar, the promenade in the rear of the Speaker's chair, and the three outer rows of the members' seats, were occupied by a splendid array of beauty and fashion. On the left, the Diplomatic Corps, in the costume of their respective Courts, occupied the place assigned them, immediately before the steps which lead to the chair. The officers of the army and navy were scattered in groups throughout the hall. In front of the Clerk's table chairs were placed for the Judges of the Supreme Court.
At twenty minutes past 12 o'clock, the marshals, in blue scarfs, made their appearance in the hall, at the head of the august procession. First came the officers of both Houses of Congress. Then appeared the President elect, followed by the venerable ex-president Monroe, with his family. To these succeeded the Judges of the Supreme Court, in their robes of office, the members of the Senate, preceded by the Vice-President, with a number of the members of the House of Representatives.
Mr. Adams, in a plain suit of black, made entirely of American manufactures, ascended to the Speaker's chair, and took his seat. The Chief Justice was placed in front of the Clerk's table, having before him another table on the floor of the hall, on the opposite side of which sat the remaining Judges, with their faces towards the chair. The doors having been closed, and silence proclaimed, Mr. Adams arose, and, in a distinct and firm tone of voice, read his inaugural address.
At the conclusion of the address, a general plaudit burst forth from the vast assemblage, which continued some minutes. Mr. Adams then descended from the chair, and, proceeding to the Judges' table, received from the Chief Justice a volume of the Laws of the United States, from which he read, with a loud voice, the oath of office. The plaudits and cheers of the multitude were at this juncture repeated, accompanied by salutes of artillery from without.
The congratulations which then poured in from every side occupied the hands, and could not but reach the heart, of President Adams. The meeting between him and his venerated predecessor, had in it something peculiarly affecting. General Jackson was among the earliest of those who took the hand of the President; and their looks and deportment towards each other were a rebuke to that littleness of party spirit which can see no merit in a rival, and feel no joy in the honor of a competitor.
Shortly after 1 o'clock, the procession commenced leaving the hall. The President was escorted back as he came. On his arrival at his residence, he received the compliments and respects of a great number of ladies and gentlemen, who called on him to tender their congratulations. The proceedings of the day were closed by an "inaugural ball" in the evening. Among the guests present, were the President and Vice-President. Ex-President Monroe, a number of foreign ministers, with many civil, military, and naval officers.[Footnote: National Intelligencer.]
Mr. Adams's Inaugural Address is as follows:—
"In compliance with an usage coeval with the existence of our federal constitution, and sanctioned by the example of my predecessors in the career upon which I am about to enter, I appear, my fellow-citizens, in your presence, and in that of heaven, to bind myself, by the solemnities of a religious obligation, to the faithful performance of the duties allotted to me, in the station to which I have been called.
"In unfolding to my countrymen the principles by which I shall be governed, in the fulfilment of those duties, my first resort will be to that constitution which I shall swear, to the best of my ability, to preserve, protect, and defend. That revered instrument enumerates the powers and prescribes the duties of the Executive Magistrate, and in its first words, declares the purposes to which these, and the whole action of the Government instituted by it, should be invariably and sacredly devoted—to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to the people of this Union, in their successive generations. Since the adoption of this social compact, one of these generations has passed away. It is the work of our forefathers. Administered by some of the most eminent men, who contributed to its formation, through a most eventful period in the annals of the world, and through all the vicissitudes of peace and war, incidental to the condition of associated man, it has not disappointed the hopes and aspirations of those illustrious benefactors of their age and nation. It has promoted the lasting welfare of that country so dear to us all; it has, to an extent far beyond the ordinary lot of humanity, secured the freedom and happiness of this people. We now receive it as a precious inheritance from those to whom we are indebted for its establishment, doubly bound by the examples which they have left us, and by the blessings which we have enjoyed, as the fruits of their labors, to transmit the same, unimpaired, to the succeeding generation.
"In the compass of thirty-six years, since this great national covenant was instituted, a body of laws enacted under its authority, and in conformity with its provisions, has unfolded its powers, and carried into practical operation its effective energies. Subordinate departments have distributed the executive functions in their various relations to foreign affairs, to the revenue and expenditures, and to the military force of the Union, by land and sea. A co-ordinate department of the judiciary has expounded the constitution and the laws; settling, in harmonious coincidence with the legislative will, numerous weighty questions of construction, which the imperfection of human language had rendered unavoidable. The year of jubilee since the first formation of our Union, has just elapsed; that of the Declaration of our Independence is at hand. The consummation of both was effected by this constitution. Since that period, a population of four millions has multiplied to twelve. A territory bounded by the Mississippi has been extended from sea to sea. New States have been admitted to the Union, in numbers nearly equal to those of the first confederation. Treaties of pence, amity, and commerce, have been concluded with the principal dominions of the earth. The people of other nations, inhabitants of regions acquired, not by conquests, but by compact, have been united with us in the participation of our rights and duties, of our burdens and blessings. The forest has fallen by the axe of our woodsmen—the soil has been made to teem by the tillage of our farmers; our commerce has whitened every ocean. The dominion of man over physical nature has been extended by the invention of our artists. Liberty and law have marched hand in hand. All the purposes of human association have been accomplished as effectually as under any other Government on the globe, and at a cost little exceeding, in a whole generation, the expenditures of other nations in a single year.
"Such is the unexaggerated picture of our condition under a constitution founded upon the republican principle of equal rights. To admit that this picture has its shades, is but to say, that it is still the condition of men upon earth. From evil—physical, moral, and political—it is not our claim to be exempt. We have suffered, sometimes by the visitation of Heaven through disease, often by the wrongs and injustice of other nations, even to the extremities of war; and lastly, by dissentions among ourselves—dissentions, perhaps, inseparable from the enjoyment of freedom, but which have more than once appeared to threaten the dissolution of the Union, and, with it, the overthrow of all the enjoyments of our present lot, and all our earthly hopes of the future. The causes of these dissensions have been various, founded upon differences of speculation in the theory of republican government, upon conflicting views of policy in our relations with foreign nations; upon jealousies of partial and sectional interests, aggravated by prejudices and prepossessions, which strangers to each other are ever apt to entertain.
"It is a source of gratification and of encouragement to me, to observe that the great result of this experiment upon the theory of human rights, has, at the close of that generation by which it was formed, been crowned with success equal to the most sanguine expectations of its founders. Union, justice, tranquillity, the common defence, the general welfare, and the blessings of liberty—all have been promoted by the Government under which we have lived. Standing at this point of time, looking back to that generation which has gone by, and forward to that which is advancing, we may at once indulge in grateful exultation and in cheering hope. From the experience of the past, we derive instructive lessons for the future.
"Of the two great political parties which have divided the opinions and feelings of our country, the candid and the just will now admit, that both have contributed splendid talents, spotless integrity, ardent patriotism, and disinterested sacrifices, to the formation and administration of the Government, and that both have required a liberal indulgence for a portion of human infirmity and error. The revolutionary wars of Europe, commencing precisely at the moment when the Government of the United States first went into operation under the constitution, excited collisions of sentiments and of sympathies, which kindled all the passions and embittered the conflict of parties, till the nation was involved in war, and the Union was shaken to its centre. This time of trial embraced a period of five and twenty years, during which the policy of the Union in its relations with Europe constituted the principal basis of our own political divisions, and the most arduous part of the action of the Federal Government. With the catastrophe in which the wars of the French Revolution terminated, and our own subsequent peace with Great Britain, this baneful weed of party strife was uprooted. From that time no difference of principle, connected with the theory of government, or with our intercourse with foreign nations, has existed or been called forth in force sufficient to sustain a continued combination of parties, or given more than wholesome animation to public sentiment or legislative debate. Our political creed, without a dissenting voice that can be heard, is, that the will of the people is the source, and the happiness of the people is the end, of all legitimate government upon earth: that the best security for the beneficence, and the best guaranty against the abuse of power, consists in the freedom, the purity, and the frequency of popular elections: that the General Government of the Union, and the separate Governments of the States, are all sovereignties of legitimate powers, fellow-servants of the same masters—uncontrolled within their respective spheres, uncontrollable by encroachments on each other. If there have been those who doubted whether a confederated representative democracy was a Government competent to the wise and orderly management of the common concerns of a mighty nation, those doubts have been dispelled. If there have been projects of partial confederacies to be erected upon the ruins of the Union, they have been scattered to the winds. If there have been dangerous attachments to one foreign nation, and antipathies against another, they have been extinguished. Ten years of peace at home and abroad have assuaged the animosities of political contention, and blended into harmony the most discordant elements of public opinion. There still remains one effort of magnanimity, one sacrifice of prejudice and passion, to be made by the individuals throughout the nation who have heretofore followed the standards of political party. It is that of discarding every remnant of rancor against each other, of embracing, as countrymen and friends, and of yielding to talents and virtue alone that confidence which, in times of contention for principle, was bestowed only upon those who bore the badge of party communion.
"The collisions of party spirit, which originate in speculative opinions, or in different views of administrative policy, are in their nature transitory. Those which are founded on geographical divisions, adverse interests of soil, climate, and modes of domestic life, are more permanent, and therefore, perhaps, more dangerous. It is this which gives inestimable value to the character of our Government, at once federal and national. It holds out to us a perpetual admonition to preserve, alike, and with equal anxiety, the rights of each individual State in its own Government, and the rights of the whole nation in that of the Union. Whatever is of domestic concernment, unconnected with the other members of the Union, or with foreign lands, belongs exclusively to the administration of the State Governments. Whatsoever directly involves the rights and interests of the federative fraternity, or of foreign powers, is, of the resort of this General Government. The duties of both are obvious in the general principle, though sometimes perplexed with difficulties in the detail. To respect the rights of the State Governments is the inviolable duty of that of the Union: the Government of every State will feel its own obligation to respect and preserve the rights of the whole. The prejudices everywhere too commonly entertained against distant strangers are worn away, and the jealousies of jarring interests are allayed, by the composition and functions of the great national councils, annually assembled, from all quarters of the Union, at this place. Here the distinguished men from every section of our country, while meeting to deliberate upon the great interests of those by whom they are deputed, learn to estimate the talents, and do justice to the virtues, of each other. The harmony of the nation is promoted, and the whole Union is knit together by the sentiments of mutual respect, the habits of social intercourse, and the ties of personal friendship, formed between the representatives of its several parts in the performance of their service at this metropolis.
"Passing from this general review of the purposes and injunctions of the Federal constitution and their results, as indicating the first traces of the path of duty in the discharge of my public trust, I turn to the administration of my immediate predecessor, as the second. It has passed away in a period of profound peace: how much to the satisfaction of our country, and to the honor of our country's name, is known to you all. The great features of its policy, in general concurrence with the will of the Legislature, have been—To cherish peace while preparing for defensive war to yield exact justice to other nations, and maintain the rights of our own—to cherish the principles of freedom and equal rights, wherever they were proclaimed—to discharge, with all possible promptitude, the national debt—to reduce within the narrowest limits of efficiency the military force—to improve the organization and discipline of the army—to provide and sustain a school of military science—to extend equal protection to all the great interests of the nation—to promote the civilization of the Indian tribes; and to proceed to the great system of internal improvements, within the limits of the constitutional power of the Union. Under the pledge of these promises, made by that eminent citizen at the time of his first induction to this office, in his career of eight years the internal taxes have been repealed; sixty millions of the public debt have been discharged; provision has been made for the comfort and relief of the aged and indigent among the surviving warriors of the Revolution; the regular armed force has been reduced, and its constitution revised and perfected; the accountability for the expenditures of public monies has been more effective; the Floridas have been peaceably acquired, and our boundary has been extended to the Pacific Ocean; the independence of the southern nations of this hemisphere has been recognized, and recommended by example and by counsel to the potentates of Europe; progress has been made in the defence of the country, by fortifications and the increase of the navy—towards the effectual suppression of the African traffic in slaves—in alluring the aboriginal hunters of our land to the cultivation of the soil and of the mind—in exploring the interior regions of the Union, and in preparing, by scientific researches and surveys, for the further application of our national resources to the internal improvement of our country.
"In this brief outline of the promise and performance of my immediate predecessor, the line of duty, for his successor, is clearly delineated. To pursue to their consummation those purposes of improvement in our common condition instituted or recommended by him, will embrace the whole sphere of my obligation. To the topic of internal improvement, emphatically urged by him at his inauguration, I recur with peculiar satisfaction. It is that from which I am convinced that the unborn millions of our posterity, who are in future ages to people this continent, will derive their most fervent gratitude to the founders of the Union—that in which the beneficent action of its Government will be most deeply felt and acknowledged. The magnificence and splendor of their public works are among the imperishable glories of the ancient republics. The roads and aqueducts of Rome have been the admiration of all after ages, and have survived thousands of years after all her conquests have been swallowed up in despotism, or become the spoil of barbarians. Some diversity of opinion has prevailed with regard to the powers of Congress for legislation upon objects of this nature. The most respectful deference is due to doubts, originating in pure patriotism, and sustained by venerated authority. But nearly twenty years have passed since the construction of the first national road was commenced. The authority for its construction was then unquestioned. To how many thousands of our countrymen has it proved a benefit? To what single individual has it ever proved an injury? Repeated, liberal and candid discussions in the Legislature have conciliated the sentiments, and approximated the opinions of enlightened minds, upon the question of constitutional power. I cannot but hope that, by the same process of friendly, patient, and persevering deliberation, all constitutional objections will ultimately be removed. The extent and limitation of the powers of the General Government, in relation to this transcendently important interest, will be settled and acknowledged to the common satisfaction of all; and every speculative scruple will be solved by a practical public blessing.
"Fellow-citizens, you are acquainted with the peculiar circumstances of the recent election, which have resulted in affording me the opportunity of addressing you at this time. You have heard the exposition of the principles which will direct me in the fulfilment of the high and solemn trust imposed upon me in this station. Less possessed of your confidence, in advance, than any of my predecessors, I am deeply conscious of the prospect that I shall stand more and oftener in need of your indulgence. Intentions upright and pure, a heart devoted to the welfare of our country, and the unceasing application of the faculties allotted to me to her service, are all the pledges that I can give for the faithful performance of the arduous duties I am to undertake. To the guidance of the legislative councils; to the assistance of the executive and subordinate departments; to the friendly co-operation of the respective State Governments; to the candid and liberal support of the people, so far as it may be deserved by honest industry and zeal; I shall look for whatever success may attend my public service: and knowing that 'except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain,' with fervent supplications for His favor, to His overruling providence I commit, with humble but fearless confidence, my own fate, and the future destinies of my country."
In entering upon the discharge of his duties as President, Mr. Adams proceeded to form his cabinet by nominating Henry Clay, of Kentucky, Secretary of State; Richard Rush, of Pennsylvania, Secretary of the Treasury; James Barbour, of Virginia, Secretary of War; Samuel L. Southard, Secretary of the Navy, and Wm. Wirt, Attorney General. These were all men of superior talents, of tried integrity and faithfulness, and well worthy the elevated positions to which they were called.
CHARGES OF CORRUPTION AGAINST MR. CLAY AND MR. ADAMS—MR. ADAMS ENTERS UPON HIS DUTIES AS PRESIDENT—VISIT OF LA FAYETTE—TOUR THROUGH THE UNITED STATES—MR. ADAMS DELIVERS HIM A FAREWELL ADDRESS—DEPARTS FROM THE UNITED STATES.
The election of Mr. Adams to the presidency, was a severe disappointment to the friends of Gen. Jackson. As the latter had received a majority of fifteen electoral votes over Mr. Adams, it was confidently anticipated, nay, virtually demanded, that he should be elected by the House of Representatives. This claim, it was insisted, was in accordance with the will of the people, as expressed in the electoral colleges, and to resist it would be to violate the spirit of the constitution, and to set at nought the fundamental principles of our republican Government. A sufficient reply to these positions is found in the fact, that Gen. Jackson did not receive a majority of the electoral votes, and hence a majority of the people could not be considered as desiring his election. The absolute truth, subsequently obtained on this point, was, that Mr. Adams had received more of the primary votes of the people than Gen. Jackson; and thus, according to all republican principles, was entitled to be considered the first choice of the citizens of the United States.
The position of Mr. Clay, in this contest for the presidency, was one of great delicacy and difficulty. He was precisely in that critical posture, that, whatever course he might pursue, he would be subject to misrepresentation and censure, and could not but raise up a host of enemies. Originally one of the four candidates for the presidency, he failed, by five electoral votes, in having a sufficient number to be one of the three candidates returned to the House of Representatives, of which he was then Speaker. In this posture of affairs, it was evident that upon the course which should be pursued by Mr. Clay, and his friends in the House, depended the question who should be elected President. As Mr. Crawford, on account of the critical state of his health, was considered out of the question, Mr. Clay was left to choose between Mr. Adams and Gen. Jackson.
In this posture of affairs, Mr. Clay saw, that however patriotic the principles on which he acted, and however pure the motives by which he might be governed in making his selection, he must inevitably expose himself to the severest animadversions from the defeated party. But he did not hesitate, in the discharge of what he believed to be a solemn duty he owed his country, to throw his influence in behalf of the man whom he believed the best fitted to serve that country in the responsible office of the presidency. Long before it had been foreseen such a contingency would occur, he had expressed his want of confidence in the ability and fitness of Gen. Jackson for the executive chair. But in Mr. Adams he saw a man of the utmost purity and integrity of private character—a scholar of the ripest abilities—a statesman, a diplomatist, a patriot of unquestioned talents and of long experience,—one who had been entrusted with most important public interests by Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, and also had received from these illustrious men every mark of confidence—whose familiarity with the internal condition and foreign relations of the Union was unequalled by any public man! Between men so dissimilar in their qualifications, how could Mr. Clay, with the slightest regard to the welfare of the nation, the claims of patriotism, or the dictates of his conscience, hesitate to choose? He did not hesitate. With an intrepid determination to meet all consequences, he threw his influence in behalf of Mr. Adams, and secured his election.
This decisive step, as had been clearly foreseen, drew upon the head of Mr. Clay the severest censures of the supporters of Gen. Jackson. Motives of the deepest political corruption were attributed to him. They charged him with making a deliberate stipulation or "bargain" with Mr. Adams, to give his influence, on the understanding that he was to receive, in payment, the appointment to the state department. The undoubted object of this charge was to ruin Mr. Clay's future prospects, and make capital to the advantage of Gen. Jackson in the next presidential campaign. It implicated Mr. Adams equally with Mr. Clay. If the latter had been so corrupt as to offer his support on the promise of office, the former was quite as guilty in accepting of terms so venal. There never was a more base charge against American statesmen—there never was one more entirely destitute of foundation, or even shadow of proof! It was at no time considered entitled to the slightest particle of belief by those who were at Washington during these transactions and had an opportunity of knowing the true state of things at that time. But there were many, throughout the country, too ready to receive such reports in regard to public men. Both Mr. Adams and Mr. Clay were greatly prejudiced by this alleged collusion—a prejudice which years did not efface.
This charge first appeared in a tangible form shortly previous to the election by the House of Representatives, in an anonymous letter in the "Columbian Observer," at Philadelphia. It was soon ascertained to have been written by Mr. Kremer, a member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. Mr. Clay immediately published a card in the National Intelligencer, denying, in unequivocal terms, the allegation, and pronouncing the author "an infamous calumniator, a dastard, and a liar!"
A few days after this, Mr. Kremer acknowledged himself the author of the letter in the "Columbian Observer," and professed himself ready to prove the corruptions alleged: whereupon Mr. Clay demanded that the House raise a committee to investigate the case. The committee was appointed; but Mr. Kremer, on grounds of the most frivolous description, refused to appear before the committee, or to furnish a particle of proof of the truth of the grave assertions he had uttered—thus virtually acknowledging their slanderous character.
Mr. Clay being in this manner denied the privilege of vindicating his innocence, and showing the depravity of his accusers, the matter continued in an unsettled state until the next presidential campaign, when it was revived in a more tangible form, and brought to bear adversely to Mr. Adams's administration and reelection. In 1827, Gen. Jackson, in a letter to Mr. Carter Beverly, which soon appeared in public print, made the following statement:—
"Early in January, 1825, a member of Congress of high respectability visited me one morning, and observed that he had a communication he was desirous to make to me; that he was informed there was a great intrigue going on, and that it was right I should be informed of it. * * * * * * * He said he had been informed by the friends of Mr. Clay, that the friends of Mr. Adams had made overtures to them, saying, if Mr. Clay and his friends would unite in aid of Mr. Adams's election, Mr. Clay should be Secretary of State; that the friends of Mr. Adams were urging, as a reason to induce the friends of Mr. Clay to accede to their proposition, that if I were elected President, Mr. Adams would be continued Secretary of State; that the friends of Mr. Clay stated the West did not wish to separate from the West, and if I would say, or permit any of my confidential friends to say, that in case I were elected President Mr. Adams should not be continued Secretary of State, by a complete union of Mr. Clay and his friends, they would put an end to the presidential contest in one hour. And he was of opinion it was right to fight such intriguers with their own weapons."
On a subsequent statement, Gen. Jackson asserted that the gentleman who called upon him with these propositions was James Buchanan, of Pennsylvania.
This was the Kremer charge made definite in circumstances and application; and if well grounded, was susceptible of plain proof. On the appearance of this statement by Gen. Jackson, Mr. Clay came out with a positive denial. He said:—
"I neither made, nor authorized, nor knew of any proposition whatever, to either of the three candidates who were returned to the House of Representatives, at the last presidential election, or to the friends of either of them, for the purpose of influencing the result of the election, or for any other purpose. And all allegations, intimations, and inuendoes, that my vote on that occasion was offered to be given, or was in fact given, in consideration of any stipulation or understanding, express or implied, direct or indirect, written or verbal,—that I was, or that any other person was not, to be appointed Secretary of State; or that I was, or in any other manner to be, personally benefitted,—are devoid of all truth, and destitute of any foundation whatever."
Here was a direct collision between Gen. Jackson and Mr. Clay. All now rested with Mr. Buchanan. His testimony would either prostrate Mr. Clay, or place him, in regard to this matter, beyond the reach of the foulest tongue of calumny. In due time Mr. Buchanan made his statement, in which he denied, in unequivocal language, having made any such proposition to Gen. Jackson. In his explanation he says:—
"I called upon General Jackson solely as his friend, upon my individual responsibility, and not as the agent of Mr. Clay, or any other person. I never have been the political friend of Mr. Clay, since he became a candidate for the office of President. Until I saw General Jackson's letter to Mr. Beverly, of the 6th ult., and at the same time was informed, by a letter from the editor of the United States Telegraph, that I was the person to whom he alluded, the conception never once entered my head, that he believed me to be the agent of Mr. Clay, or of his friends, or that I had intended to propose to him terms of any kind from them, or that he could have supposed me to be capable of expressing the opinion that 'it was right to fight such intriguers with their own weapons.' Such a supposition, had I entertained it, would have rendered me exceedingly unhappy, as there is no man on earth whose good opinion I more valued than that of General Jackson. * * * * * * * * * I owe it to my character to make another observation. Had I ever known, or even suspected, that General Jackson believed I had been sent to him by Mr. Clay or his friends, I should immediately have corrected his erroneous impression, and thus prevented the necessity for this most unpleasant explanation. * * * * * * * I had no authority from Mr. Clay, or his friends, to propose any terms to General Jackson in relation to their votes, nor did I ever make any such proposition."
This statement fully and triumphantly exonerated Mr. Clay, Mr. Adams, and their friends, from the charge of "bargain" and "corruption," which had been so boldly made and widely disseminated. The only witness ever brought upon the stand to support such an allegation, asserted, in a manner the most positive and decisive, the entire innocence of the parties implicated.
That Mr. Clay, in throwing his influence in behalf of Mr. Adams, was but following out a resolution formed long before he had any opportunity of communication with Mr. Adams or his friends, on the subject, is proved by the following extract of a letter from a gentleman in Lexington, Ky., to the editors of the National Intelligencer, dated March 21, 1825:—
"At different times, before Mr. Clay left this place for Washington, last fall, I had conversations with him on the subject of the choice of a President by the House of Representatives. In all of them, he expressed himself as having long before decided in favor of Mr. Adams, in case the contest should lie between that gentleman and General Jackson. My last interview with him was, I think, the day before his departure, when he was still more explicit, as it was then certain that the election would be transferred to that tribunal, and highly probable that he would not be among the number returned. In the course of this conversation, I took occasion to express my sentiments with respect to the delicate and difficult circumstances under which he would be placed. He remarked that I could not more fully apprehend them than he did himself; but that nothing should deter him from the duty of giving his vote; and that no state of things could arise that would justify him in preferring General Jackson to Mr. Adams, or induce him to support the former. So decisive, indeed, were his declarations on this subject, that had he voted otherwise than he did, I should have been compelled to regard him as deserving that species of censure which has been cast upon him for constantly adhering to an early and deliberate resolution."
It was thought, by some of Mr. Clay's friends, that he erred in judgment in accepting the office of Secretary of State, as it would tend to strengthen his enemies in their efforts to fix upon him the charge of corruption. Among those entertaining this opinion was Mr. Crawford, himself one of the three presidential candidates returned to the House of Representatives. In a letter to Mr. Clay he says:—
"I hope you know me too well to suppose that I have countenanced the charge of corruption which has been reiterated against you. The truth is, I approved of your vote when it was given, and should have voted as you did between Jackson and Adams. But candor compells me to say, that I disapproved of your accepting an office under him."
In replying to this letter Mr. Clay remarked:—
"I do, my dear sir, know you too well to suppose that you ever countenanced the charge of corruption against me. No man of sense and candor—at least none that know me—ever could or did countenance it. Your frank admission that you would have voted as I did, between Mr. Adams and Gen. Jackson, accords with the estimate I have ever made of your intelligence, your independence, and your patriotism. Nor am I at all surprised, or dissatisfied, with the expression of your opinion, that I erred in accepting the place which I now hold. * * * * * * * The truth is, as I have often said, my condition was one full of embarrassments, whatever way I might act. My own judgment was rather opposed to my acceptance of the department of state. But my friends—and let me add, two of your best friends, Mr. McLane of Delaware and Mr. Forsyth—urged us strongly not to decline it. It was represented by my friends, that I should get no credit for the forbearance, but that, on the contrary, it would be said that my forbearance was evidence of my having made a bargain, though unwilling to execute it. * * * * * * * * These and other similar arguments were pressed upon me; and after a week's deliberation, I yielded to their force. It is quite possible that I may have erred * * * * * * I shall, at least, have no cause of self-reproach."
In 1829, after Mr. Adams had retired from the Presidential chair, in reply to a letter from a committee of gentlemen in New Jersey, who had addressed him, he spoke of Mr. Clay as follows: "Upon him the foulest slanders have been showered. Long known and appreciated, as successively a member of both Houses of your national Legislature, as the unrivalled Speaker, and at the same time most efficient leader of debates in one of them; as an able and successful negotiator of your interests, in war and peace, with foreign powers, and as a powerful candidate for the highest of your trusts, the department of state itself was a station which by its bestowal could confer neither profit nor honor upon him, but upon which he has shed unfading honor, by the manner in which he has discharged its duties. Prejudice and passion have charged him with obtaining that office by bargain and corruption. Before you, my fellow-citizens, in the presence of our country and heaven, I pronounce that charge totally unfounded. This tribute of justice is due from me to him, and I seize with pleasure the opportunity afforded me by your letter, of discharging the obligation. As to my motives for tendering to him the department of state when I did, let that man who questions them come forward; let him look around among statesmen and legislators, of this nation, and of that day; let him then select and name the man whom, by his pre-eminent talents, by his splendid services, by his ardent patriotism, by his all-embracing public spirit, by his fervid eloquence in behalf of the rights and liberties of mankind, and by his long experience in the affairs of the Union, foreign and domestic, a President of the United States, intent only upon the welfare and honor of his country, ought to have preferred to HENRY CLAY. Let him name the man, and then judge you, my fellow-citizens, of my motives."
When Mr. Adams was on a tour in the western States, in the fall of 1843, in addressing the chairman of the committee of his reception, at Maysville, Kentucky, he said: "I thank you, sir, for the opportunity you have given me of speaking of the great statesman who was associated with me in the administration of the General Government, at my earnest solicitation; who belongs not to Kentucky alone, but to the whole Union; and who is not only an honor to this State, and this nation, but to mankind. The charges to which you refer, after my term of service had expired, and it was proper for me to speak, I denied before the whole country. And I here reiterate and re-affirm that denial; and as I expect shortly to appear before my God, to answer for the conduct of my whole life, should these charges have found their way to the throne of eternal justice, I WILL in the presence of OMNIPOTENCE pronounce them FALSE."
Before the world Mr. Clay and Mr. Adams stand acquitted of the calumny which their enemies endeavored, with an industry worthy a better cause, to heap upon them. The history of their country will do them ample justice. Their names shall stand upon its pages, illuminated by a well-earned fame for patriotism and faithful devotion to public interests, when those of their accusers will be lost in a merited oblivion.
Mr. Adams, having entered upon his duties as President of the United States, prosecuted them with all that diligence and industrious application which was one of the leading characteristics of his life. Unawed by the opposition and the misrepresentations of his political enemies, and uncorrupted by the power and influence at his control, he pursued the even tenor of his way, having a single object in view, the promotion of the welfare of the people over whom he had been called to preside.
In the meantime, the heart of the nation was being stirred by old and valued reminiscences. LA FAYETTE,—a hero of the revolution—the companion of Washington—whose blood had enriched American soil in defence of American freedom—had expressed a wish to re-visit once more, before departing life, the scenes of his early struggles and well-earned glories. This intimation was first given in the following letter to Col. Willet, an old friend and fellow-soldier of La Fayette, who was then still living in New-York.