"Paris, July 15, 1822. "My DEAR SIR:—I avail myself of a good opportunity to remind you of your old friend and fellow-soldier, in whose heart no time nor distance can abate the patriotic remembrance and personal affections of our revolutionary times. We remain but too few survivors of that glorious epoch, in which the fate of two hemispheres has been decided. It is an additional monitor to think more of the ties of brotherly friendship which united us. May it be in my power, before I join our departed companions, to visit such of them as are still inhabitants of the United States, and to tell you personally, my dear Willet, how affectionately "I am your sincere friend, LA FAYETTE."
Intelligence of this desire to visit America having reached Congress, resolutions were passed placing a Government ship at his disposal:—
"Whereas that distinguished champion of freedom, and hero of our Revolution, the friend and associate of Washington, the Marquis de La Fayette, a volunteer General Officer in our Revolutionary War, has expressed an anxious desire to visit this country, the independence of which his valor, blood, and treasure, were so instrumental in achieving: Therefore—
"Be it Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That the President of the United States be requested to communicate to the Marquis de La Fayette the expression of those sentiments of profound respect, gratitude, and affectionate attachment, which are cherished towards him by the Government and people of this country; and to assure him that the execution of his wish and intention to visit this country, will be hailed by the people and Government with patriotic pride and joy.
"And be it further Resolved, That the President of the United States be requested to ascertain from the Marquis de La Fayette, the time when it will be most agreeable for him to perform his visit; and that he offer to the Marquis a conveyance to this country in one of our national ships."
La Fayette modestly declined this offer of a public ship. He sailed from Havre in the packet-ship Cadmus, accompanied by his son, George Washington La Fayette, and arrived in New York on the 15th of August, 1824.
His reception at New York was sublime and brilliant in the extreme. The meeting between La Fayette, Col. Willet, Gen. Van Cortland, Gen. Clarkson, and other revolutionary worthies, was highly affecting. He knew them all. After the ceremony of embracing and congratulations were over, La Fayette sat down by the side of Col. Willet. "Do you remember," said the colonel, "at the battle of Monmouth, I was a volunteer aid to Gen. Scott? I saw you in the heat of battle, you were but a boy, but you were a serious and sedate lad." "Aye, aye," returned La Fayette, "I remember well. And on the Mohawk I sent you fifty Indians, and you wrote me that they set up such a yell that they frightened the British horse, and they ran one way, and the Indians another." Thus these veteran soldiers "fought their battles o'er again."
From New York La Fayette proceeded on a tour throughout the United States. Everywhere he was received and honored, as "THE NATION'S GUEST." For more than a year, his journey was a complete ovation—a perpetual and splendid pageant. The people appeared delirious with joy and with anxiety to hail him, grasp him by the hand, and shower attentions and honors upon him. The gratitude and love of all persons, of every age, sex, and condition, seemed hardly to be restrained within bounds of propriety. As he passed through the country, every city, village, and hamlet, poured out its inhabitants en masse, to meet him. Celebrations, processions, dinners, illuminations, bonfires, parties, balls, serenades, and rejoicings of every description, attended his way, from the moment he set foot on the American soil, until his embarkation to return to his native France.
The hearts of the people in the most distant parts of the Western Hemisphere were warmed and touched with the honors paid him in the United States. A letter written at that time from Buenos Ayres, says—"I have just received newspapers from the United States, informing me of the magnificent reception of Gen. La Fayette. I have never read newspapers with such exquisite delight as these; and I firmly believe there never was so interesting and glorious an event in the civilized world, in which all classes of people participated in the general joy, as on this occasion. There is an association of ideas connected with this event, that produces in my soul emotions I cannot express, and fills my heart with such grateful recollections as I cannot forget but with my existence. That ten millions of souls, actuated by pure sentiments of gratitude and friendship, should with one voice pronounce this individual the 'Guest of the Nation,' and pay him the highest honors the citizens of a free nation can offer, is an event which must excite the astonishment of Europe, and show the inestimable value of liberty."
In June, 1825, La Fayette visited Boston, and on the 17th day of that month, it being the anniversary of the battle of Bunker Hill, he participated in the ceremony of laying the corner stone of the monument in commemoration of that event, on Bunker Hill. During his tour at the east, he visited the venerable ex-President John Adams, at Quincy.
But the time for his departure drew near. His journey had extended as far south as New Orleans, west to St. Louis, north and east to Massachusetts. He had passed through, or touched, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.
A new frigate, the Brandywine, named in honor of the gallant exploits of Gen. La Fayette at the battle of Brandywine, was provided by Congress to convey him to France. It was deemed appropriate that he should take final leave of the nation at the seat of government in Washington. President Adams invited him to pass a few weeks in the presidential mansion. Mr. Adams had been on intimate terms with La Fayette in his youth, with whom, it is said, he was a marked favorite. During his sojourn at the capitol, he visited ex-Presidents Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, at their several places of residence.
Having paid his respects to these venerated sages, "the Nation's Guest" prepared to take his final departure from the midst of a grateful people. The 7th of September, 1825, was the day appointed for taking leave. About 12 o'clock, the officers of the General Government, civil, military, and naval, together with the authorities of Washington, Georgetown, and Alexandria, with multitudes of citizens and strangers, assembled in the President's house. La Fayette entered the great hall in silence, leaning on the Marshal of the District, and one of the sons of the President. Mr. Adams then with evident emotion, but with much dignity and firmness, addressed him in the following terms:—
"GENERAL LA FAYETTE: It has been the good fortune of many of my fellow- citizens, during the course of the year now elapsed, upon your arrival at their respective places of abode to greet you with the welcome of the nation. The less pleasing task now devolves upon me, of bidding you, in the name of the nation, ADIEU!
"It were no longer seasonable, and would be superfluous, to recapitulate the remarkable incidents of your early life—incidents which associated your name, fortunes, and reputation, in imperishable connection with the independence and history of the North American Union.
"The part which you performed at that important juncture was marked with characters so peculiar, that, realizing the fairest fable of antiquity, its parallel could scarcely be found in the authentic records of human history.
"You deliberately and perseveringly preferred toil, danger, the endurance of every hardship, and privation of every comfort, in defence of a holy cause, to inglorious ease, and the allurements of rank, affluence, and unrestrained youth, at the most splendid and fascinating court of Europe.
"That this choice was not less wise than magnanimous, the sanction of half a century, and the gratulations of unnumbered voices, all unable to express the gratitude of the heart, with which your visit to this hemisphere has been welcomed, afford ample demonstration.
"When the contest of freedom, to which you had repaired as a voluntary champion, had closed, by the complete triumph of her cause in this country of your adoption, you returned to fulfil the duties of the philanthropist and patriot, in the land of your nativity. There, in a consistent and undeviating career of forty years, you have maintained, through every vicissitude of alternate success and disappointment, the same glorious cause to which the first years of your active life had been devoted, the improvement of the moral and political condition of man.
"Throughout that long succession of time, the people of the United States, for whom and with whom you have fought the battles of liberty, have been living in the full possession of its fruits; one of the happiest among the family of nations. Spreading in population; enlarging in territory; acting and suffering according to the condition of their nature; and laying the foundations of the greatest, and, we humbly hope, the most beneficent power, that ever regulated the concerns of man upon earth.
"In that lapse of forty years, the generation of men with whom you co-operated in the conflict of arms, has nearly passed away. Of the general officers of the American army in that war, you alone survive. Of the sages who guided our councils; of the warriors who met the foe in the field, or upon the wave, with the exception of a few to whom unusual length of days has been allotted by Heaven, all now sleep with their fathers. A succeeding, and even a third generation, have arisen to take their places; and their children's children, while rising up to call them blessed, have been taught by them, as well as admonished by their own constant enjoyment of freedom, to include in every benison upon their fathers, the name of him, who came from afar, with them and in their cause to conquer or to fall.
"The universal prevalence of these sentiments was signally manifested by a resolution of Congress, representing the whole people, and all the States of this Union, requesting the President of the United States to communicate to you the assurances of the grateful and affectionate attachment of this government and people, and desiring that a national ship might be employed, at your convenience, for your passage to the borders of our country.
"The invitation was transmitted to you by my venerable predecessor, himself bound to you by the strongest ties of personal friendship; himself one of those whom the highest honors of his country had rewarded for blood early shed in her cause, and for a long life of devotion to her welfare. By him the services of a national ship were placed at your disposal. Your delicacy preferred a more private conveyance, and a full year has elapsed since you landed upon our shores. It were scarcely an exaggeration to say that it has been to the people of the Union a year of uninterrupted festivity and enjoyment, inspired by your presence. You have traversed the twenty-four States of this great confederacy—you have been received with rapture by the survivors of your earliest companions in arms-you have been hailed, as a long-absent parent, by their children, the men and women of the present age; and a rising generation, the hope of future time, in numbers surpassing the whole population of that day when you fought at the head and by the side of their forefathers, have vied with the scanty remnants of that hour of trial, in acclamations of joy, at beholding the face of him whom they feel to be the common benefactor of all. You have heard the mingled voices of the past, the present, and the future age, joining in one universal chorus of delight at your approach; and the shouts of unbidden thousands, which greeted your landing on the soil of freedom, have followed every step of your way, and still resound like the rushing of many waters, from every corner of our land.
"You are now about to return to the country of your birth—of your ancestors—of your posterity. The executive Government of the Union, stimulated by the same feeling which had prompted the Congress to the designation of a national ship for your accommodation in coming hither, has destined the first service of a frigate, recently launched at this metropolis, to the less welcome, but equally distinguished trust, of conveying you home. The name of the ship has added one more memorial to distant regions and to future ages, of a stream already memorable at once in the story of your sufferings and of our independence.
"The ship is now prepared for your reception, and equipped for sea. From the moment of her departure, the prayers of millions will ascend to heaven, that her passage may be prosperous, and your return to the bosom of your family as propitious to your happiness as your visit to this scene of your youthful glory has been to that of the American people.
"Go then, our beloved friend: return to the land of brilliant genius, of generous sentiments, of heroic valor; to that beautiful France, the nursing mother of the twelfth Louis, and the fourth Henry; to the native soil of Bayard and Coligne, of Turenne and Catinat, of Fenelon and D'Aguesseau! In that illustrious catalogue of names, which she claims as of her children, and with honest pride holds up to the admiration of other nations, the name of LA FAYETTE has already for centuries been enrolled. And it shall henceforth burnish into brighter fame: for, if in after days, a Frenchman shall be called to indicate the character of his nation by that of one individual, during the age in which we live, the blood of lofty patriotism shall mantle in his cheek, the fire of conscious virtue shall sparkle in his eye, and he shall pronounce the name of LA FAYETTE. Yet we, too, and our children in life, and after death, shall claim you for our own. You are ours, by that more than patriotic self-devotion with which you flew to the aid of our fathers at the crisis of their fate: ours by that long series of years in which you have cherished us in your regard: ours by that unshaken sentiment of gratitude for your services, which is a precious portion of our inheritance: ours by that tie of love, stronger then death, which has linked your name, for the endless ages of time, with the name of WASHINGTON.
"At the painful moment of parting from you, we take comfort in the thought, that wherever you may be, to the last pulsation of your heart, our country will ever be present to your affections; and a cheering consolation assures us that we are not called to sorrow, most of all, that we shall see your face no more. We shall indulge the pleasing anticipation of beholding our friend again. In the mean time, speaking in the name of the whole people of the United States, and at a loss only for language to give utterance to that feeling of attachment with which the heart of the nation beats, as beats the heart of one man—I bid you a reluctant and affectionate FAREWELL!!
At the conclusion of this address, Gen. La Fayette replied as follows:—
"Amidst all my obligations to the General Government, and particularly to you, sir, its respected Chief Magistrate, I have most thankfully to acknowledge the opportunity given me, at this solemn and painful moment, to present the people of the United States with a parting tribute of profound, inexpressible gratitude.
"To have been in the infant and critical days of these States adopted by them as a favorite son; to have participated in the trials and perils of our unspotted struggle for independence, freedom, and equal rights, and in the foundation of the American era of a new social order, which has already pervaded this, and must, for the dignity and happiness of mankind, successively pervade every part of the other hemisphere; to have received, at every stage of the revolution, and during forty years after that period, from the people of the United State's and their Representatives at home and abroad, continual marks of their confidence and kindness,—has been the pride, the encouragement, the support of a long and eventful life.
"But how could I find words to acknowledge that series of welcomes, those unbounded and universal displays of public affection, which have marked each step, each hour, of a twelvemonth's progress through the twenty-four States, and which, while they overwhelm my heart with grateful delight, have most satisfactorily evinced the concurrence of the people in the kind testimonies, in the immense favors bestowed on me by the several branches of their Representatives, in every part and at the central seat of the confederacy?
"Yet gratifications still higher awaited me. In the wonders of creation and improvement that have met my enchanted eye, in the unparalleled and self-felt happiness of the people, in their rapid prosperity and insured security, public and private, in a practice of good order, the appendage of true freedom, and a national good sense, the final arbiter of all difficulties, I have had proudly to recognize a result of the republican principles for which we have fought, and a glorious demonstration to the most timid and prejudiced minds, of the superiority, over degrading aristocracy or despotism, of popular institutions, founded on the plain rights of man, and where the local rights of every section are preserved under a constitutional bond of union. The cherishing of that union between the States, as it has been the farewell entreaty of our great paternal Washington, and will ever have the dying prayer of every American patriot, so it has become the sacred pledge of the emancipation of the world; an object in which I am happy to observe that the American people, while they give the animating example of successful free institutions, in return for an evil entailed upon them by Europe, and of which a liberal and enlightened sense is everywhere more and more generally felt, show themselves every day more anxiously interested.
"And now, sir, how can I do justice to my deep and lively feelings for the assurances, most peculiarly valued, of your esteem and friendship; for your so very kind references to old times—to my beloved associates—to the vicissitudes of my life; for your affecting picture of the blessings poured, by the several generations of the American people, on the remaining days of a delighted veteran; for your affectionate remarks on this sad hour of separation—on the country of my birth, full, I can say, of American sympathies—on the hope, so necessary to me, of my seeing again the country that has deigned, near a half a century ago, to call me hers? I shall content myself, refraining from superfluous repetitions, at once, before you, sir, and this respected circle, to proclaim my cordial confirmation of everyone of the sentiments which I have had daily opportunities publicly to utter, from the time when your venerable predecessor, my old brother in arms and friend, transmitted to me the honorable invitation of Congress, to this day, when you, my dear sir, whose friendly connection with me dates from your earliest youth, are going to consign me to the protection, across the Atlantic, of the heroic national flag, on board the splendid ship, the name of which has been not the least flattering and kind among the numberless favors conferred upon me.
"God bless you, sir, and all who surround us. God bless the American people, each of their States, and the Federal Government. Accept this patriotic farewell of an overflowing heart. Such will be its last throb when it ceases to beat."
As the last sentence of the farewell was pronounced, La Fayette advanced and took President Adams in his arms, while tears poured down his venerable cheeks. Retiring a few paces, he was overcome by his feelings, and again returned, and falling on the neck of Mr. Adams, exclaimed in broken accents, "God bless you!" It was a scene at once solemn and moving, as the sighs and tears of many who witnessed it bore testimony. Having recovered his self-possession, the General stretched out his hands, and was in a moment surrounded by the greetings of the whole assembly, who pressed upon him, each eager to seize, perhaps for the last time, that beloved hand which was opened so freely for our aid when aid was so precious, and which grasped with firm and undeviating hold the steel which so bravely helped to achieve our deliverance. The expression which now beamed from the face of this exalted man was of the finest and most touching kind. The hero was lost in the father and the friend. Dignity melted into subdued affection, and the friend of Washington seemed to linger with a mournful delight among the sons of his adopted country.
A considerable period was then occupied in conversing with various individuals, while refreshments were presented to the company. The moment of departure at length arrived; and having once more pressed the hand of Mr. Adams, he entered the barouche, accompanied by the Secretaries of State, of the Treasury, and of the Navy, and passed from the capital of the Union. An immense procession accompanied him to the banks of the Potomac, where the steamboat Mount Vernon awaited to convey him down the river to the frigate Brandywine. The whole scene—the peals of artillery, the sounds of numerous military bands, the presence of the vast concourse of people, and the occasion that assembled them, produced emotions not easily described, but which every American heart can readily conceive. As the steamboat moved off, the deepest silence was observed by the whole multitude that lined the shore. The feelings that pervaded them was that of children bidding farewell to a venerated parent.
When the boat came opposite the tomb of Washington, at Mount Vernon, it paused in its progress. La Fayette arose. The wonders which he had performed, for a man of his age, in successfully accomplishing labors enough to have tested his meridian vigor, whose animation rather resembled the spring than the winter of life, now seemed unequal to the task he was about to perform—to take a last look at "The tomb of Washington!" He advanced to the effort. A silence the most impressive reigned around, till the strains of sweet and plaintive music completed the grandeur and sacred solemnity of the scene. All hearts beat in unison with the throbbings of the veteran's bosom, as he looked, for the last time, on the sepulchre which contained the ashes of the first of men! He spoke not, but appeared absorbed in the mighty recollections which the place and the occasion inspired.
After this scene, the boat resumed its course, and the next morning anchored in safety near the Brandywine. Here La Fayette took leave of the Secretaries of State, the Treasury, and the Navy, and the guests who had accompanied him from Washington, together with many military and naval officers and eminent citizens who had assembled in various crafts near the frigate to bid him farewell. The weather had been boisterous and rainy, but just as the affecting scene had closed, the sun burst forth to cheer a spectacle which will long be remembered, and formed a magnificent arch, reaching from shore to shore—the barque which was to bear the venerable chief being immediately in the centre. Propitious omen! Heaven smiles on the good deeds of men! And if ever there was a sublime and virtuous action to be blessed by heaven and admired by men, it is when a free and grateful people unite to do honor to their friend and benefactor![Footnote: National Intelligencer.]
JOHN ADAMS AND THOMAS JEFFERSON—THEIR CORRESPONDENCE—THEIR DEATH—MR. WEBSTER'S EULOGY—JOHN Q. ADAMS VISITS QUINCY—HIS SPEECH AT THE PUBLIC SCHOOL DINNER IN FANEUIL HALL.
The patriarchs John Adams and Thomas Jefferson still lingered on the shores of time. The former had attained the good old age of 90 years, and the latter 82. Mrs. Adams, the venerable companion of the ex-President, died in Quincy, on the 28th of Oct., 1818, aged 74 years. Although, amid the various political strifes through which they had passed during the half century they had taken prominent parts in the affairs of their country, Adams and Jefferson had frequently been arrayed in opposite parties, and cherished many views quite dissimilar, yet their private friendship and deep attachment had been unbroken. It continued to be cherished with generous warmth to the end of their days. This pleasing fact, together with the wonderful vigor of their minds in extreme old age, is proved by the following interesting correspondence between them, which took place four years before their decease:—
MR. JEFFERSON TO MR. ADAMS.
"Monticello, June 1, 1822. "It is very long, my dear sir, since I have written to you. My dislocated wrist is now become so stiff, that I write slowly, and with pain; and therefore write as little as I can. Yet it is due to mutual friendship, to ask once in a while how we do? The papers tell us that General Starke is off, at the age of ninety-three. ***** still lives at about the same age, cheerful, slender as a grasshopper, and so much without memory, that he scarcely recognizes the members of his household. An intimate friend of his called on him, not long since. It was difficult to make him recollect who he was, and sitting one hour, he told him the same story four times over. Is this life?—with laboring step
'To tread our former footsteps? pace the round Eternal?—to beat and beat The beaten track—to see what we have seen To taste the tasted—o'er our palates to decant Another vintage?'
"It is, at most, but the life of a cabbage, surely not worth a wish. When all our faculties have left, or are leaving us, one by one, sight, hearing, memory, every avenue of pleasing sensation is closed, and athumy, debility, and malaise left in their places, when the friends of our youth are all gone, and a generation is risen around us whom we know not, is death an evil?
'When one by one our ties are torn, And friend from friend is snatch'd forlorn; When man is left alone to mourn, Oh, then, how sweet it is to die!
'When trembling limbs refuse their weight, And films slow gathering dim the sight; When clouds obscure the mental light, 'Tis nature's kindest boon to die!'
"I really think so. I have ever dreaded a doting old age; and my health has been generally so good, and is now so good, that I dread it still. The rapid decline of my strength during the last winter, has made me hope sometimes, that I see land. During summer, I enjoy its temperature, but I shudder at the approach of winter, and wish I could sleep through it, with the dormouse, and only wake with him in spring, if ever. They say that Starke could walk about his room. I am told you walk well and firmly. I can only reach my garden, and that with sensible fatigue. I ride, however, daily; but reading is my delight. I should wish never to put pen to paper; and the more because of the treacherous practice some people have, of publishing one's letters without leave. Lord Mansfield declared it a breach of trust, and punishable at law. I think it should be a penitentiary felony; yet you will have seen that they have drawn me out into the arena of the newspapers. Although I know it is too late for me to buckle on the armor of youth, yet my indignation would not permit me passively to receive the kick of an ass.
"To return to the news of the day, it seems that the cannibals of Europe are going to eat one another again. A war between Russia and Turkey is like the battle of the kite and snake; whichever destroys the other, leaves a destroyer the less for the world. This pugnacious humor of mankind seems to be the law of his nature; one of the obstacles to too great multiplication, provided in the mechanism of the universe. The cocks of the hen-yard kill one another; bears, bulls, rams, do the same, and the horse in his wild state kills all the young males, until, worn down with age and war, some vigorous youth kills him. * * * * * * I hope we shall prove how much happier for man the Quaker policy is, and that the life of the feeder is better than that of the fighter. And it is some consolation that the desolation by these maniacs of one part of the earth is the means of improving it in other parts. Let the latter be our office; and let us milk the cow while the Russian holds her by the horns, and the Turk by the tail. God bless you, and give you health, strength, good spirits, and as much of life as you think worth having. THOMAS JEFFERSON."
MR. ADAMS' REPLY. "Quincy, June 11, 1822. "DEAR SIR:—Half an hour ago I received, and this moment have heard read, for the third or fourth time, the best letter that ever was written by an octogenarian, dated June 1st.
* * * * * * * * * *
"I have not sprained my wrist; but both my arms and hands are so overstrained that I cannot write a line. Poor Starke remembered nothing, and could talk of nothing but the battle of Bennington! ******** is not quite so reduced. I cannot mount my horse, but I can walk three miles over a rugged, rocky mountain, and have done it within a month; yet I feel, when sitting in my chair, as if I could not rise out of it; and when risen, as if I could not walk across the room. My sight is very dim, hearing pretty good, memory poor enough.
"I answer your question,—Is death an evil? It is not an evil. It is a blessing to the individual and to the world; yet we ought not to wish for it, till life becomes insupportable. We must wait the pleasure and convenience of the 'Great Teacher.' Winter is as terrible to me as to you. I am almost reduced in it to the life of a bear or a torpid swallow. I cannot read, but my delight is to hear others read; and I tax all my friends most unmercifully and tyrannically against their consent.
"The ass has kicked in vain; all men say the dull animal has missed the mark.
"This globe is a theatre of war; its inhabitants are all heroes. The little eels in vinegar, and the animalcules in pepper-water, I believe, are quarrelsome. The bees are as warlike as the Romans, Russians, Britons, or Frenchmen. Ants, caterpillars, and canker-worms are the only tribes among whom I have not seen battles; and Heaven itself, if we believe Hindoos, Jews, Christians, and Mahometans, has not always been at peace. We need not trouble ourselves about these things, nor fret ourselves because of evil doers; but safely trust the 'Ruler with his skies.' Nor need we dread the approach of dotage; let it come if it must. ******, it seems, still delights in his four stories; and Starke remembered to the last his Bennington, and exulted in his glory; the worst of the evil is, that our friends will suffer more by our imbecility than we ourselves. * * * * * * * * * "In wishing for your health and happiness, I am very selfish; for I hope for more letters. This is worth more than five hundred dollars to me; for it has already given me, and will continue to give me, more pleasure than a thousand. Mr. Jay, who is about your age, I am told, experiences more decay than you do. "I am your old friend, "JOHN ADAMS."
This correspondence excited attention in Europe. The editor of the London Morning Chronicle prefaces it with the following remarks:—
"What a contrast the following correspondence of the two rival Presidents of the greatest Republic of the world, reflecting an old age dedicated to virtue, temperance, and philosophy, presents to the heart-sickening details, occasionally disclosed to us, of the miserable beings who fill the thrones of the continent. There is not, perhaps, one sovereign of the continent, who in any sense of the word can be said to honor our nature, while many make us almost ashamed of it. The curtain is seldom drawn aside without exhibiting to us beings worn out with vicious indulgence, diseased in mind, if not in body, the creatures of caprice and insensibility. On the other hand, since the foundation of the American Republic, the chair has never been filled by a man, for whose life (to say the least,) any American need once to blush. It must, therefore, be some compensation to the Americans for the absence of pure monarchy, that when they look upwards their eyes are not always met by vice, and meannesss, and often idiocy."
John Adams joined his fellow-citizens of Quincy, Mass., in celebrating the 4th of July, 1823, at the age of 88 years. Being called upon for a toast, he gave the following:—
"The excellent President, Governor, Ambassador, and Chief Justice, JOHN JAY, whose name, by accident, was not subscribed on the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, as it ought to have been, for he was one of its ablest and faithfullest supporters.—A splendid star just setting below the horizon." It would be difficult (said the Boston Patriot,) fully to describe the delicate manner in which this toast was received and noticed by the company. Instead of loud acclamations, which succeeded the other toasts, it was followed by soft and interrupted interjections and aspirations, as if each individual was casting up an ejaculatory prayer, that the two illustrious sages might pass the remainder of their days in tranquillity and ease, and finally be landed on the blissful shores of a happy eternity.
In September, 1825, President Adams, with his family, left Washington, on a visit to his venerable father, at Quincy. He travelled without ostentation, and especially requested that no public display might be manifested. At Philadelphia, Mrs. Adams was taken ill, and the President was compelled to proceed without her. This visit was of short duration. Called back to Washington by public affairs, he left Quincy on the 14th of October. It was his last interview on earth with his venerated parent. The aged patriarch had lived to see his country emancipated from foreign thraldom, its independence acknowledged, its union consummated, its prosperity and perpetuity resting on an immovable foundation, and his son elevated to the highest office in its gift. It was enough! His work accomplished—the book of his eventful life written and sealed for immortality—he was ready to depart and be at peace.
The 4th of July, 1826, will long be memorable for one of the most remarkable coincidences that has ever taken place in the history of nations. It was the fiftieth anniversary—the "JUBILEE"—of American independence! Preparations had been made throughout the Union, to celebrate the day with unusual pomp and display. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had both been invited to participate in the festivities of the occasion, at their several places of abode. But a higher summons awaited them! they were bidden to a "jubilee" above, which shall have no end! On that half-century anniversary of American Independence, at nearly the same hour of the day, the spirits of Adams and Jefferson took their departure from earth!! Amid the rejoicings of the people, the peals of artillery, the strains of music, the exultations of a great nation in the enjoyment of freedom, peace, and happiness, they were released from the toils of life, and allowed to enter on their rest.
The one virtually the mover, the other the framer, of the immortal Declaration of Independence—they had together shared the dangers and the honors of the revolution—had served their country in various important and responsible capacities—had both received the highest honors in the gift of their fellow-citizens—had lived to see the nation to which they assisted in giving birth assume a proud stand among the nations of the earth—her free institutions framed, consolidated, tried, and matured—her commerce hovering over all seas—respected abroad, united, prosperous, happy at home—what more had earth in store for them? Together they had counselled—together they had dared the power of a proud and powerful Government—together they had toiled to build up a great and prosperous people—together they rejoiced in the success with which a wise and good Providence had crowned their labors—and together, on their country's natal day, amid the loud-swelling acclamations of the "national jubilee," their freed spirits soared to light and glory above!
The venerable ex-President Adams had been failing for several days before the 4th of July. In reply to an invitation from a committee of the citizens of Quincy, to unite with them in celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of American independence, he had written a note, from which the following is an extract:—
"The present feeble state of my health will not permit me to indulge the hope of participating with more than my best wishes, in the joys, and festivities, and the solemn services of that day on which will be completed the fiftieth year from its birth, of the independence of the United States: a memorable epoch in the annals of the human race, destined in future history to form the brightest or the blackest page, according to the use or the abuse of those political institutions by which they shall, in time to come, be shaped by the human mind."
Being solicited for a toast, to accompany the letter, he gave—"INDEPENDENCE FOREVER!!" He was asked if anything should be added to it. Immediately he replied—"Not a word!" This toast was drank at the celebration in Quincy, about fifty minutes before the departure of the venerated statesman from earth.
On the morning of the 4th, which was ushered in by the ringing of bells and firing of cannon, he was asked if he knew what day it was?—"O yes," he replied, "it is the glorious fourth of July—God bless it!—God bless you all!!" In the course of the day he said, "It is a great and glorious day." The last words he uttered were, "Jefferson survives!" But the spirit of Jefferson had already left the body, and was hovering over the earth, to accompany his to higher and brighter scenes of existence!!
Mr. Jefferson had been sensible for some days, that his last hour was at hand. He conversed with his family and friends, with the utmost composure, of his departure, and gave directions concerning his coffin and his funeral. He was desirous that the latter should take place at Monticello, and that it should be without any display or parade. On Monday he inquired the day of the month? Being told it was the 3d of July, he expressed an earnest desire that he might be allowed to behold the light of the next day—the fiftieth anniversary of American independence. His prayer was heard and answered. He beheld the rising of that sun on the morning of the 4th, which was to set on a nation mourning the loss of two of its noblest benefactors, and its brightest ornaments. He was cheerful to the last. A day or two previous, being in great pain, he said to his physician—"Well, doctor, a few hours more, and the struggle will be over."
On the morning of the last day, as the physician entered his apartment, he said, "You see, doctor, I am here yet." On a member of his family expressing an opinion that he was better, he replied, with evident impatience—"Do not imagine for a moment that I feel the smallest solicitude as to the result." Some individual present uttering a hope that he might recover, he asked with a smile—"Do you think I fear to die?" Thus departed Thomas Jefferson. His last words were—"I resign my soul to my God, and my daughter to my country!"
President J. Q. Adams receiving intelligence at Washington of the illness of his father, started immediately for Quincy. Shortly before arriving at Baltimore, tidings reached him that the patriarch had gone to his rest. Mr. Adams pursued his journey, but did not arrive at Quincy in season to be present at the funeral. This took place on the 7th of July. It was attended by a large body of citizens, assembled from the surrounding region. The funeral services took place at the Unitarian church in Quincy, on which occasion an impressive discourse was delivered by the Pastor, Rev. Mr. Whitney. The pall-bearers were Judge Davis, President Kirkland, Gov. Lincoln, Hon. Mr. Greenleaf, Judge Story, and Lieut. Gov. Winthrop. During the exercises and the moving of the procession, minute guns were fired from Mount Wallaston, and from various eminences in the adjoining towns, and every mark of respect was paid to the remains of one who filled so high a place in the history of his country and the regard of his fellow-citizens.
On the 2d of August, Mr. Webster delivered a eulogy on the death of Adams and Jefferson, before the city authorities of Boston, and a vast body of people, in Faneuil Hall. President Adams was present. It was one of Mr. Webster's most eloquent and successful attempts. He commenced as follows:—
"This is an unaccustomed spectacle. For the first time, fellow-citizens, badges of mourning shroud the columns and overhang the arches of this hall. These walls, which were consecrated, so long ago, to the cause of American liberty, which witnessed her infant struggles and rung with the shouts of her earliest victories, proclaim now, that distinguished friends and champions of that great cause have fallen. It is right that it should be thus. The tears which flow, and the honors that are paid, when the Founders of the Republic die, give hope that the Republic itself may be immortal. It is fit, that by public assembly and solemn observance, by anthem and by eulogy, we commemorate the services of national benefactors, extol their virtues, and render thanks to God for eminent blessings, early given and long continued to our favored country.
"ADAMS and JEFFERSON are no more; and we are assembled, fellow-citizens, the aged, the middle-aged and the young, by the spontaneous impulse of all, under the authority of the municipal government, with the presence of the chief magistrate of the commonwealth, and others of its official representatives, the university, and the learned societies, to bear our part in these manifestations of respect and gratitude, which universally pervade the land. ADAMS and JEFFERSON are no more. On our fiftieth anniversary, the great national jubilee, in the very hour of public rejoicing, in the midst of echoing and re-echoing voices of thanksgiving, while their own names were on all tongues, they took their flight together to the world of spirits."
The conclusion of Mr. Webster's eulogy was equally impressive:
"Fellow-citizens: I will detain you no longer by this faint and feeble tribute to the illustrious dead. Even in other hands, adequate justice could not be performed, within the limits of this occasion. Their highest, their best praise, is your deep conviction of their merits, your affectionate gratitude for their labors and services. It is not my voice, it is this cessation of ordinary pursuits, this arresting of all attention, those solemn ceremonies, and this crowded house, which speak their eulogy. Their fame, indeed, is safe. That is now treasured up, beyond the reach of accident. Although no sculptured marble should rise to their memory, nor engraved stone bear record to their deeds, yet will their remembrance be as lasting as the land they honored. Marble columns may, indeed, moulder into dust, time may erase all impress from the crumbling stone, but their fame remains; for with American liberty it rose, and with American liberty only can it perish. It was the last swelling peal of yonder choir—'THEIR BODIES ARE BURIED IN PEACE, BUT THEIR NAME LIVETH EVERMORE!' I catch that solemn song, I echo that lofty strain of funeral triumph! 'Their name liveth evermore.'
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"It cannot be denied, but by those who would dispute against the sun, that with America, and in America, a new era commences in human affairs. This era is distinguished by free representative governments, by entire religious liberty, by improved systems of national intercourse, by a newly-awakened and an unconquerable spirit of free inquiry, and by a diffusion of knowledge through the community, such as has been before altogether unknown and unheard of. America, America, our country, fellow-citizens, our own dear and native land, is inseparably connected, fast bound up, in fortune and by fate, with these great interests. If they fall, we fall with them; if they stand, it will be because we have upholden them. Let us contemplate, then, this connection, which binds the prosperity of others to our own; and let us manfully discharge all the duties which it imposes. If we cherish the virtues and the principles of our fathers, heaven will assist us to carry on the work of human liberty, and human happiness. Auspicious omens cheer us: great examples are before us: our own firmament now shines brightly upon our path: WASHINGTON is in the clear upper sky. These other stars have now joined the American constellation; they circle around their centre, and the heavens beam with a new light. Beneath this illumination, let us walk the course of life, and at its close devoutly commend our beloved country, the common parent of us all, to the Divine Benignity."
During this visit at the East, at this time, President J. Q. Adams attended the annual examination of the public schools in Boston, and was present at the public dinner given in Faneuil Hall, to the school committee, teachers, and most meritorious scholars. In reply to a complimentary toast from the Mayor, Mr. Adams responded as follows:—
"MR. MAYOR, AND MY FELLOW-CITIZENS OF BOSTON:—A few days since, we were assembled in this Hall, as the house of mourning—in commemoration of the two last survivors of that day which had proclaimed at once our independence and our existence as a nation. We are now assembled within the same walls, at the house of feasting—at the festival of fathers rejoicing in the progressive improvement of their children.
"We have been told by the wisest man of antiquity, that it is better to go to the house of mourning, than to the house of feasting. How emphatically true would that sentence be, if the house of mourning were always such as this hall but so recently exhibited!—a mourning of gratitude—a mourning of faithful affection—a mourning full of consolation and joy. And yet, could the wisest of men now look down upon this happy meeting—of parents partaking together of the bounties of Providence, in mutual gratulation with each other at the advances of their offspring in moral and intellectual cultivation—would he, could he, my friends, have said that it is better to go to the house of mourning than to such a house of feasting?
"For is not the spirit of that solemnity, and of this, effectively the same? If that was the commemoration of the good deeds of your forefathers, may not this be called the commemoration of the future achievements of your sons? If that day was dedicated to the blessed memory of the past, is not this devoted to the no less blessed hope of the future? It was from schools of public instruction, instituted by our forefathers, that the light burst forth. It was in the primary schools; it was by the midnight lamps of Harvard hall, that were conceived and matured, as it was within these hallowed walls that were first resounded the accents of that independence which is now canonized in the memory of those by whom it was proclaimed.
"Was it not there that were formed, to say nothing of him 'fit for the praise of any tongue but mine,'—but was it not there that were formed, and prepared for the conflicts of the mind, for the intellectual warfare which distinguishes your Revolution from all the brutal butcheries of vulgar war, your James Otis, your John Hancock, your Samuel Adams, your Robert Treat Paine, your Elbridge Gerry, your James and your Joseph Warren, and last, not least, your Josiah Quincy, so worthily represented by your Chief Magistrate here at my side?
"Indulge me, fellow-citizens, with the remark, that I have been called to answer to myself these questions, before I could enjoy the happiness, at the very kind invitation of your Mayor and Aldermen, of presenting myself among you this day.
"In conformity to my own inclinations, and to the usages of society, I have deemed it proper, on the recent bereavement I have sustained, to withdraw for a time from the festive intercourse of the world, and in retirement, so far as may be consistent with the discharge of public trusts, to prepare for and perform the additional duties devolving upon me, as a son, and as a parent, from this visitation of heaven. To that retirement I have hitherto been confined; and in departing from it for a single day, I have needed an apology to myself, as I trust I shall need one to you. Seek for it, my fellow-citizens in your own paternal hearts. I have been unable to resist the invitation of the authorities of this my own almost native city, to mingle with her inhabitants in the joyous festivities of this occasion—and, after witnessing, in the visitation of the schools, hundreds and thousands of the rising generation training 'up in the way they should go;' to come here and behold the distinguished proficients of the schools sharing at the social board the pleasures of their fathers, and to congratulate the fathers on the growing virtues and brightening talents of their children.
"But, fellow-citizens, I will no longer trespass upon your indulgence. I thank you for the sentiment with which you have honored me. I thank you for the many affecting testimonials of kindness and sympathy which I have so often received at your hands; and will give you as a token of my good wishes, not yourselves, but objects dearer to your hearts. Mr. Mayor, I propose to you for a toast—
"The blooming youth of Boston—May the maturity of the fruit be equal to the promise of the blossom."
MR. ADAMS'S ADMINISTRATION—REFUSES TO REMOVE POLITICAL OPPOSERS FROM OFFICE—URGES THE IMPORTANCE OF INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS—APPOINTS COMMISSIONERS TO THE CONGRESS OF PANAMA—HIS POLICY TOWARD THE INDIAN TRIBES—HIS SPEECH ON BREAKING GROUND FOR THE CHESAPEAKE AND OHIO CANAL—BITTER OPPOSITION TO HIS ADMINISTRATION—FAILS OF RE-ELECTION TO THE PRESIDENCY—RETIRES FROM OFFICE.
In administering the Government of the United States, Mr. Adams adhered with rigid fidelity to the principles embodied in his inaugural speech. Believing that "the will of the people is the source, and the happiness of the people the end, of all legitimate government on earth," it was his constant aim to act up to this patriotic principle in the discharge of his duties as chief magistrate. He was emphatically the President of the entire people, and not of a section, or a party. His administration was truly national in its scope, its objects, and its results. His views of the sacred nature of the trust imposed upon him by his fellow-citizens were too exalted to allow him to desecrate the power with which it clothed him to the promotion of party or personal interests. Although not unmindful of the party which elevated him to the presidency, nor forgetful of the claims of those who yielded sympathy and support to the measures of his administration, yet in all his doings in this respect, his primary aim was the general good. Simply a friendship for him, or his measures, without other and requisite qualifications, would not ensure from Mr. Adams an appointment to office. Neither did an opposition to his administration alone, except there was a marked practical unfitness for office, ever induce him to remove an individual from a public station.
Looking back to the administration of Mr. Adams from the present day, and comparing it with those which have succeeded it, or even those which preceded it, the acknowledgment must be made by all candid minds, that it will lose nothing in purity, patriotism, and fidelity, in the discharge of all its trusts. He was utterly incapable of proscription for opinion's sake. With a stern integrity worthy the highest admiration, and which the people at that period were far too slow to acknowledge and appreciate, he would not displace his most active political opponents from public stations he found them occupying, provided they were competent to their duty and faithful in the discharge of the same. "It was in my hearing that, to a representation that a certain important and influential functionary of the General Government in New York was using the power of his office adversely to Mr. Adams's re-election, and that he ought to desist or be removed, Mr. Adams made this reply:—'That gentleman is one of the best officers in the public service. I have had occasion to know his diligence, exactness, and punctuality. On public grounds, therefore, there is no cause of complaint against him, and upon no other will I remove him. If I cannot administer the Government on these principles, I am content to go back to Quincy!'" [Footnote: King's Eulogy on John Quincy Adams.] Being in Baltimore on a certain occasion, among those introduced to him was a gentleman who accosted him thus—"Mr. President, though I differ from you in opinion, I am glad to find you in good health." The President gave him a hearty shake of the hand, and replied,—"Sir, in our happy and free country, we can differ in opinion without being enemies."
These anecdotes illustrate the character and principles of Mr. Adams. He knew nothing of the jealousy and bitterness which are gendered, in little minds and hearts, by disparities of sentiment. Freedom of opinion he considered the birthright of every American citizen, and he would in no instance be the instrument of inflicting punishment upon the head of any man on account of its exercise. High and pure in all his aims, he sought to reach them by means of a corresponding character. If he could not succeed in the use of such instruments, he was content to meet defeat. The rule by which he was governed in the discharge of his official duties, is beautifully expressed by the dramatic bard:—
"Be just and fear not. Let all the ends thou aim'st at, be thy COUNTRY'S, Thy GOD'S, and TRUTH'S. Then if thou fall'st, O Cromwell, Thou fall'st a blessed martyr!"
In the truly republican position which Mr. Adams took in regard to appointments to office, and which, it is humiliating to believe, was one means of his subsequent defeat, he but faithfully imitated the example of "the Father of his country." When Gen. Washington occupied the presidential chair, application was made for the appointment of one of his old and intimate friends to a lucrative office. At the same time a petition was received asking the same station for a most determined political opponent. The latter received the appointment. The friend was greatly disappointed and hurt in his feelings at his defeat. Let the explanation of Washington be noted and ever remembered:—"My friend," said he, "I receive with cordial welcome. He is welcome to my house, and welcome to my heart; but with all his good qualities he is not a man of business. His opponent, with all his politics so hostile to me, is a man of business. My private feelings have nothing to do in the case. I am not George Washington, but President of the United States. As George Washington, I would do this man any kindness in my power—as President of the United States, I can do nothing."
The period of Mr. Adams's administration, was not one which admitted of acts calculated to rivet the attention, or excite the admiration and applause of the multitude. No crisis occurred in national affairs—no imminent peril from without, or danger within, threatened the well-being of the country! Quietness reigned throughout the world, and the nations were allowed once more to cultivate the arts of peace, to enlarge the operations of commerce, and to fix their attention on domestic interests—the only true fountain of national prosperity. But though lacking in some of the more striking elements of popularity, the administration of Mr. Adams was preeminently useful in all its measures and influences. During no Presidential term since the organization of the Government, has more been done to consolidate the Union, and develop its resources, and lay the foundations of national strength and prosperity.
The two great interests which, perhaps, received the largest share of attention from Mr. Adams' administration, were internal improvements and domestic manufactures. A special attention to these subjects was recommended in his messages to Congress. And throughout his term, he failed not to urge these vital matters upon the attention of the people, and their representatives. He recommended the opening of national roads and canals—the improvement of the navigation of rivers, and the safety of harbors—the survey of our coasts, the erection of light houses, piers, and breakwaters. Whatever tended to facilitate communication and transportation between extreme portions of the Union—to bring the people of distant sections into a more direct intercourse with each other, and bind them together by ties of a business, social and friendly nature—to promote enterprize, industry, and enlarged views of national and individual prosperity—obtained his earnest sanction and recommendation. To encourage home labor—to protect our infant manufactories from a fatal competition with foreign pauper wages—to foster and build up in the bosom of the country a system of domestic production, which should not only supply home consumption, and afford a home market for raw materials and provisions, the produce of our own soil, but enable us in due time to compete with other nations in sending our manufactures to foreign markets—he yielded all his influence to the levying of protective duties on foreign articles, especially such as could be produced in our own country. The wisdom of this policy, its direct tendency to promote national wealth and strength, and to render the Union truly independent of the fluctuations and vicissitudes of foreign countries, cannot be doubted, it would seem, by those possessing clear minds and sound judgment, of all parties.
Under the faithful supervision of one so vigilant as Mr. Adams, the foreign relations of the Government could not have been neglected. The intimate knowledge of the condition of foreign nations, their resources and their wants, which was possessed by himself and by Mr. Clay, the Secretary of State, afforded facilities in this department, from which the country reaped the richest benefit. During the four years of his administration, more treaties were negotiated at Washington than during the entire thirty-six years through which the preceding administrations had extended. New treaties of amity, navigation and commerce, were concluded with Austria, Sweden, Denmark, the Hanseatic League, Prussia, Colombia, and Central America. Commercial difficulties and various arrangements of a satisfactory character, were settled with the Netherlands, and other European Governments. The claims of our citizens against Sweden, Denmark and Brazil, for spoilations of commerce, were satisfactorily consummated.
"As time advances, the evidences are accumulating on all sides, that the administration of John Quincy Adams was one of the most wise, patriotic, pacific, just, and wealth-producing, in the history of the country; and no small part of that benefit may justly be ascribed to the aid he received from his Secretary of State. Mr. Adams himself was a great statesman, bred in the school of statesmen, and all his life exercised in the business of state, with recognized skill, and approved fidelity. The seven years immediately preceding the administration of Mr. Adams, was a period of great commercial embarrassment and distress; and the seven years subsequent to his entrance on the duties of chief executive, was a period of great public and private prosperity." [Footnote: Cotton's Life of Clay.]
While Mr. Adams was thus seeking to foster and encourage the industrial and monetary interests of the country, he was not forgetful of the important claims of literature and science. President Washington, during his administration, had repeatedly urged on Congress the importance of establishing a national university at the capital; and he had located and bequeathed a site for that purpose. But his appeals on this subject had been in vain. In Mr. Adams's first message, he earnestly called on Congress to carry into execution this recommendation of the Father of his Country—insisting that "among the first, perhaps the very first instrument for the improvement of the condition of men, is knowledge; and to the acquisition of much of the knowledge adapted to the wants, the comforts, and the enjoyments of human life, public institutions and seminaries of learning are essential."
In the same message Mr. Adams recommended the establishment of a national observatory. "Connected with the establishment of an university," he said "or, separate from it, might be undertaken the erection of an astronomical observatory, with provision for the support of an astronomer, to be in constant attendance of observation upon the phenomena of the heavens, and for the periodical publication of his observations. It is with no feeling of pride, as an American, that the remark may be made, that, on the comparatively small territorial surface of Europe, there are existing upwards of one hundred and thirty of these light-houses in the skies; while, throughout the whole American hemisphere, there is not one. If we reflect a moment upon the discoveries which, in the last four centuries, have been made in the physical constitution of the universe, by the means of these buildings, and of observers stationed in them, shall we doubt of their usefulness to every nation? And while scarcely a year passes over our heads without bringing some new astronomical discovery to light, which we must fain receive at second hand from Europe, are we not cutting ourselves off from the means of returning light for light, while we have neither observatory nor observer upon our half of the globe, and the earth revolves in perpetual darkness to our unsearching eyes?"
It is humiliating to reflect that neither of these recommendations received an encouraging response from Congress. The latter suggestion, indeed, excited the ridicule of many of the opposers of Mr. Adams, and "a light-house in the skies," became a term of reproach in their midst. In this, however, it must be confessed, their ridicule was greatly at the expense of their intelligence, their public spirit, and their devotion to the highest interests of man. There are few reflections more mortifying to an American citizen, than that while so large a portion of the resources of the national Government have been exhausted in prosecuting party measures, rewarding partisan services, and promoting sectional and personal schemes, little or nothing has been devoted to the encouragement of the arts and sciences, and the cultivation of those higher walks of human attainment which exalt and refine a people, and fit them for the purest and sweetest enjoyments of life.
It was during the first year of his administration, that the attention of Mr. Adams was called to a proposed Congress of all the Republics on the American Continent, to meet at Panama. The objects designed to be accomplished by such a Congress have been variously stated. It has been believed by some to have been called for the purpose of opposing a supposed project, entertained by the Allied Powers of Europe, of combining for the purpose of reducing the American Republics to their former condition of European vassalage. Be this as it may, the Panama Congress, among its objects, aimed at the cementing of the friendly relations of all the independent States of America, and the forming of a kind of mutual council, to act as an umpire to settle the differences which might arise between them.
The United States was invited to send representatives to Panama. Mr. Adams, as President, in view of the beneficial influences which in various ways might flow from such a meeting, accepted the invitation, with the understanding that the Government of the United States would take no part that could conflict with its neutral position, in the wars which might then be in existence between any of the South American Republics and other powers. The acceptance of this invitation was announced by Mr. Adams in his first message to Congress. This was immediately followed by the nomination of Messrs. Richard C. Anderson and John Sargeant, as commissioners to the Congress of Panama, and Wm. B. Rochester, of New York, as secretary of the commission. These nominations were confirmed by the Senate; and an appropriation was voted by the House of Representatives, after strong opposition and much delay, to carry the contemplated measure into effect.
But the United States Government was never represented in the Panama Congress. The proceedings in the House of Representatives on this subject had been so protracted, that it was found too late for Mr. Sargeant to reach Panama in season for the meeting of the Congress, which took place on the 22nd of June, 1826. Mr. Anderson, who was then minister at Colombia, on receiving his instructions, commenced his journey to Panama; but on reaching Carthagena he was seized with a malignant fever, which terminated his existence.
During the second session of the nineteenth Congress, the subject of commercial intercourse with the British West India Colonies was thoroughly discussed. The British Parliament had laid restrictions so onerous on the trade of the United States with these Colonies, that it could be pursued to very little profit. Bills were introduced into both houses of Congress, for the protection of the interests of American merchants, trading with the British Colonies; but the Senate and House failing to agree on the details of the proposed measures, nothing was done to effect the desired object. Congress having adjourned without passing any law to meet the restrictive measures of Great Britain, President Adams, on the 17th of March, 1827, agreeably to a law passed three years before, issued a proclamation closing the ports of the United States against vessels from the British colonies, until the restrictive measures of the British Government should be repealed.
The policy pursued by Mr. Adams toward the Indian tribes within the United States, was pacific and humane. The position they held toward the General Government was of an unsettled and embarrassing character. Enjoying a species of independence, and subject to laws of their own enactment, they were, nevertheless, dependent on the Government of the United States for protection, and were, in fact, wholly at its disposal. Near the close of Mr. Monroe's administration, in a message to Congress, on the 27th of January, 1825, he proposed a plan to remove the tribes scattered through the several States, to a tract of country west of the Mississippi, and to unite them in one nation, with some plan for their government and civilization. This proposition meeting with a decided opposition on the part of many of the Indians, was modified during Mr. Adams's administration. It finally resulted in a plan of removing west of the Mississippi such individuals among the various tribes as would consent to go under the inducements held out; and allowing the remainder to continue in their old abode, occupying each a small tract of land. This policy has since been pursued by the General Government, and has resulted in the removal of most of the aborigines beyond the western shores of the Mississippi.
These removals, however, have been attended with no little difficulty, and at times have led to collisions which have assumed a serious aspect. An instance of this description occurred during the first year Mr. Adams occupied the presidential chair. In 1802, a compact was formed between the General Government and the State of Georgia, in which it was agreed, that in consequence of the relinquishment, on the part of Georgia, of all her claim to the land set off in the then new Mississippi Territory, the General Government, at its own expense, should obtain a relinquishment, from the Creek Indians, of all their lands within the State of Georgia, "whenever it could be peaceably done upon reasonable terms."
In compliance with this agreement, the United States had extinguished the Indian title to about fifteen millions of acres of land. At the close of Mr. Monroe's administration, over nine millions of acres were still retained by the Indians. The State authorities of Georgia became very anxious to obtain possession of this also. At the solicitation of Gov. Troup, President Madison sent two Commissioners to make a treaty with the Creeks, for the purchase of their lands, and the removal of the Indians beyond the Mississippi. But the Creeks, having begun to appreciate and enjoy the comforts of civilization, and the advantages of the arts and sciences, which had been introduced into their midst, refused to treat on the subject, and passed a law in the General Council of their nation, forbidding, on pain of death, the sale of any of their lands. After the close of the council, a few of the Creeks, influenced by a chief named M'Intosh, met the United States Commissioners, and formed a treaty on their own responsibility, ceding to the General Government all the Creek lands in Georgia and Alabama. When intelligence of this treaty was circulated among the Indians, they were filled with indignation. Their General Council met—resolved not to sanction a treaty obtained in a manner so dishonorable and illegal—and despatched a party of Indians to the residence of M'Intosh, who immediately shot him and another chief who had signed the treaty with him.
This surreptitious treaty was transmitted to Washington, and under a misapprehension of the manner in which it was secured, was ratified by the Senate, on the 3d of March, 1825, the last day of Mr. Monroe's administration. Gov. Troup, acting under this treaty, sent surveyors into the Creek Territory, to lay out the land in lots, which were to be distributed among the white inhabitants of Georgia, by lottery. The Indians resisted this encroachment, and prepared to defend their rights by physical force—at the same time sending to Washington for protection from the General Government. The authorities of Georgia insisted upon a survey, and ordered out a body of militia to enforce it.
On hearing of this state of affairs, President Adams despatched a special agent to inquire into the facts of the case. After due investigation, the agent reported that the treaty had been obtained by bad faith and corruption, and that the Creeks were almost unanimously opposed to the cession of their lands. On receiving this report, the President determined to prevent the survey ordered by the Governor of Georgia, until the matter could be submitted to Congress, and ordered Gen. Gaines to proceed to the Creek country with a body of United States troops, to prevent collision between the Indians and the Georgia forces.
On the 5th of February, Mr. Adams transmitted a message to Congress, giving a statement of these transactions, and declaring his determination to fulfil the duty of protection the nation owed the Creeks, as guaranteed by treaty, by all the force at his command. "That the arm of military force," he continued, "will be resorted to only in the event of the failure of all other expedients provided by the laws, a pledge has been given by the forbearance to employ it at this time. It is submitted to the wisdom of Congress to determine whether any further acts of legislation may be necessary or expedient to meet the emergency which these transactions may produce."
The committee of the House of Representatives, to which this message was referred, reported that it "is expedient to procure a cession of the Indian lands in the State of Georgia, and that until such a cession is procured, the law of the land, as set forth in the treaty at Washington, ought to be maintained by all necessary, constitutional, and legal means." The firmness and decision of President Adams undoubtedly prevented the unhappy consequences of a collision between the people of Georgia and the Creek Indians. A new negotiation was opened with the Indians, by direction of the President, which resulted in declaring the M'Intosh treaty null and void, and in obtaining, at length, a cession of all the lands of the Creeks within the limits of Georgia, to the General Government.
As the friend and promoter of internal improvements, Mr. Adams was invited to be present at the interesting ceremony of "breaking ground," on the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, then about to be commenced, which took place on the 4th of July, 1828. On the morning of that day, the President, the Heads of Departments, the Foreign Ministers, the Corporations of Washington, Georgetown, and Alexandria, the President and Directors of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company, with a large concourse of citizens, embarked on board of steamboats and ascended the Potomac, to the place selected for the ceremony. On reaching the ground, a procession was formed, which moved around it so as to leave a hollow space, in the midst of a mass of people, in the centre of which was the spot marked out by Judge Wright, the Engineer of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company, for the commencement of the work. A moment's pause here occurred, while the spade, destined to commence the work, was selected by the committee of arrangements, and the spot for breaking ground was precisely denoted.
At that moment the sun shone out from behind a cloud, giving an appearance of the highest animation to the scene. Amidst an intense silence, the Mayor of Georgetown handed to Gen. Mercer, the President of the Canal Company, the consecrated instrument; which, having received, he stepped forward from the resting column, and addressed as follows the listening multitude:—
"Fellow-citizens: There are moments in the progress of time which are the counters of whole ages. There are events, the monuments of which, surviving every other memorial of human existence, eternize the nation to whose history they belong, after all other vestiges of its glory have disappeared from the globe. At such a moment have we now arrived. Such a monument we are now to found."
Turning towards the President of the United States, who stood near him, Mr. M. proceeded:—
"Mr. President: On a day hallowed by the fondest recollections, beneath this cheering (may we not humbly trust auspicious) sky, surrounded by the many thousand spectators who look on us with joyous anticipation; in the presence of the representatives of the most polished nations of the old and new worlds; on a spot where little more than a century ago the painted savage held his nightly orgies; at the request of the three cities of the District of Columbia, I present to the Chief Magistrate of the most powerful Republic on earth, for the most noble purpose that was ever conceived by man, this humble instrument of rural labor, a symbol of the favorite occupation of our countrymen. May the use to which it is about to be devoted prove the precursor, to our beloved country, of improved agriculture, of multiplied and diversified arts, of extended commerce and navigation. Combining its social and moral influence with the principles of that happy constitution under which you have been called to preside over the American people, may it become a safeguard of their liberty and independence, and a bond of perpetual union!
"To the ardent wishes of this vast assembly I unite my fervent prayer to that infinite and awful Being without whose favor all human power is but vanity, that he will crown your labor with his blessing, and our work with immortality."
As soon as he had ended, the President of the United States, to whom Gen. Mercer had presented the spade, stepped forward, and, with an animation of manner and countenance which showed that his whole heart was in the thing, thus addressed the assembly of his fellow-citizens:—
"Friends and Fellow-citizens: It is nearly a full century since Berkely, bishop of Cloyne, turning towards this fair land which we now inhabit, the eyes of a prophet, closed a few lines of poetical inspiration with this memorable prediction—
"Time's noblest empire is the last :"—
a prediction which, to those of us whose lot has been cast by Divine Providence in these regions, contains not only a precious promise, but a solemn injunction of duty, since upon our energies, and upon those of our posterity, its fulfilment will depend. For with reference to what principle could it be that Berkely proclaimed this, the last, to be the noblest empire of time? It was, as he himself declares, on the transplantation of learning and the arts to America. Of learning and the arts. The four first acts—the empires of the old world, and of former ages—the Assyrian, the Persian, the Grecian, the Roman empires—were empires of conquest, dominions of man over man. The empire which his great mind, piercing into the darkness of futurity, foretold in America, was the empire of learning and the arts,—the dominion of man over himself, and over physical nature—acquired by the inspirations of genius, and the toils of industry; not watered with the tears of the widow and the orphan; not cemented in the blood of human victims; founded not in discord, but in harmony,—of which the only spoils are the imperfections of nature, and the victory achieved is the improvement of the condition of all. Well may this be termed nobler than the empire of conquest, in which man subdues only his fellow-man.
"To the accomplishment of this prophecy, the first necessary step was the acquisition of the right of self-government, by the people of the British North American Colonies, achieved by the Declaration of Independence, and its acknowledgment by the British nation. The second was the union of all these colonies under one general confederated Government—a task more arduous than that of the preceding separation, but at last effected by the present constitution of the United States.
"The third step, more arduous still than either or both the others, was that which we, fellow-citizens, may now congratulate ourselves, our country, and the world of man, that it is taken. It is the adaptation of the powers, physical, moral, and intellectual, of this whole Union, to the improvement of its own condition: of its moral and political condition, by wise and liberal institutions—by the cultivation of the understanding and the heart—by academies, schools, and learned institutes—by the pursuit and patronage of learning and the arts; of its physical condition, by associated labor to improve the bounties, and to supply the deficiencies of nature; to stem the torrent in its course; to level the mountain with the plain; to disarm and fetter the raging surge of the ocean. Undertakings of which the language I now hold is no exaggerated description, have become happily familiar not only to the conceptions, but to the enterprize of our countrymen. That for the commencement of which we are here assembled is eminent among the number. The project contemplates a conquest over physical nature, such as has never yet been achieved by man. The wonders of the ancient world, the pyramids of Egypt, the Colossus of Rhodes, the temple at Ephesus, the mausoleum of Artemisia, the wall of China, sink into insignificance before it:—insignificance in the mass and momentum of human labor required for the execution—insignificance in comparison of the purposes to be accomplished by the work when executed. It is, therefore, a pleasing contemplation to those sanguine and patriotic spirits who have so long looked with hope to the completion of this undertaking, that it unites the moral power and resources—first, of numerous individuals—secondly, of the corporate cities of Washington, Georgetown, and Alexandria—thirdly, of the great and powerful States of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland—and lastly, by the subscription authorized at the recent session of Congress, of the whole Union.
"Friends and Fellow-laborers. We are informed by the holy oracles of truth, that, at the creation of man, male and female, the Lord of the universe, their Maker, blessed them, and said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it. To subdue the earth was, therefore, one of the first duties assigned to man at his creation; and now, in his fallen condition, it remains among the most excellent of his occupations. To subdue the earth is pre-eminently the purpose of the undertaking, to the accomplishment of which the first stroke of the spade is now to be struck. That it is to be struck by this hand, I invite you to witness.—[Here the stroke of the spade.] [Footnote: Attending this action was an incident which produced a greater sensation than, any other that occurred during the day. The spade which the President held, struck a root, which prevented its penetrating the, earth. Not deterred by trifling obstacles from doing what he had deliberately resolved to perform, Mr. Adams tried it again, with no better success. Thus foiled, he threw down the spade, hastily stripped off and laid aside his coat, and went seriously to work. The multitude around, and on the hills and trees, who could not hear, because of their distance from the open space, but could see and understand, observing this action, raised a loud and unanimous cheering, which continued for some time after Mr. Adams had mastered the difficulty.] And in performing this act, I call upon you to join me in fervent supplication to Him from whom that primitive injunction came, that he would follow with his blessing, this joint effort of our great community, to perform his will in the subjugation of the earth for the improvement of the condition of man—that he would make it one of his chosen instruments for the preservation, prosperity, and perpetuity of our Union—that he would have in his holy keeping all the workmen by whose labors it is to be completed—that their lives and their health may be precious in his sight; and that they may live to see the work of their hands contribute to the comforts and enjoyments of millions of their countrymen.
"Friends and brethren: Permit me further to say, that I deem the duty, now performed at the request of the President and Directors of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company, and the Corporations of the District of Columbia, one of the most fortunate incidents of my life. Though not among the functions of my official station, I esteem it as a privilege conferred upon me by my fellow-citizens of the District. Called, in the performance of my service, heretofore as one of the representatives of my native commonwealth in the Senate, and now as a member of the executive department of the Government, my abode has been among the inhabitants of the District longer than at any other spot upon earth. In availing myself of this occasion to return to them my thanks for the numberless acts of kindness that I have experienced at their hands, may I be allowed to assign it as a motive, operating upon the heart, and superadded to my official obligations, for taking a deeper interest in their welfare and prosperity. Among the prospects of futurity which we may indulge the rational hope of seeing realized by this junction of distant waters, that of the auspicious influence which it will exercise over the fortunes of every portion of this District is one upon which my mind dwells with unqualified pleasure. It is my earnest prayer that they may not be disappointed.