The intelligence that Napoleon had left Elba soon caused great excitement and anxiety in Paris, which continued to increase until the morning of the 20th of March, when Louis the Eighteenth left the Tuileries. In the evening Napoleon alighted there so silently, that Mr. Adams, who was at the Theatre Francais, not a quarter of a mile distant, was unaware of the fact until the next day, when the gazettes of Paris, which had showered execrations upon him, announced "the arrival of his majesty, the Emperor, at his palace of the Tuileries." In the Place du Carousel Mr. Adams, in his morning walk, saw regiments of cavalry, belonging to the garrison of Paris, which had been sent out to oppose Napoleon, pass in review before him, their helmets and the clasps of their belts yet glowing with the arms of the Bourbons. The theatres assumed the title of Imperial, and at the opera, in the evening, the arms of the emperor were placed on the curtain and on the royal box.
A few days afterwards, Mr. Adams requested an interview with the emperor's Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Duke de Vicence, with whom he had been previously acquainted at St. Petersburg. He assured Mr. Adams that the late revolution had been effected without effort; that Fouche, the new Minister of Police, who received reports from every part of the country, informed him that there had not been one act of violence or resistance. He said, that if Napoleon had not returned, the misconduct of the Bourbons would have caused an insurrection of the people in less than six months; that the emperor had renounced all ideas of extended conquest, and only desired peace with all the world. Mr. Adams expressed a hope that the relations between France and the United States would become friendly and mutually advantageous, and said he was awaiting orders from his government, and should soon need a passport to England. The duke assured him of his readiness to comply with any request from him or from Mr. Crawford. All the other foreign ministers had already quitted Paris.
After Mrs. Adams had arrived from St. Petersburg, Mr. Adams, having been appointed American minister at the British Court, left Paris, with his family, on the 16th of May, 1815. About the time of his departure he observed: "War appears to be certain. The first thought of the inhabitants of Paris will be to save themselves. They have no attachment either to the Bourbons or Napoleon. They will submit quietly to the victorious party, and do nothing to support either."
On the 25th of May Mr. Adams arrived in London, and on the 29th had an interview with Lord Castlereagh relative to the treaty of peace, and the commercial relations of Great Britain with the United States. The Prince Regent, at a private audience, said the United States might rely with full assurance on his determination to fulfil all engagements with them on the part of Great Britain.
After the convention concerning commerce had been concluded, and Mr. Gallatin and Mr. Clay had departed, Mr. Adams removed his residence to Boston House, Ealing, nine miles from London, where he commanded time for his favorite studies, and reciprocated the civilities paid to him and Mrs. Adams. He continued to receive in public and private the distinguished attentions due to his official station and his personal character and attainments. The queen gave him a private audience, and in May, 1816, with Mrs. Adams, he was present at the marriage of the Princess Charlotte of Wales. His society was sought and highly appreciated by the most eminent men of all classes; and he availed himself, with characteristic assiduity, of all opportunities to acquire information, especially that relative to the science of government, and the political relations of Europe.
Some conversations and opinions his papers preserve tend to throw light upon his course and character. In reply to an inquiry made by Lord Holland concerning the forms and results of representation in the United States, Mr. Adams said that one consequence was that a very great proportion of their public men were lawyers. Lord Holland said it was precisely the same in England; that the theory of their representation in the House of Commons was bad, but perhaps no theory could produce a more perfect practice of representation of all classes and interests of the community. Even the close boroughs often served to bring in able and useful men, who by a more correct theory would find themselves excluded. Men of property could always make their way into Parliament by their wealth. Men of family might go into the House of Commons for a few years in youth, to get experience of public business, and to employ time for useful purposes; and there was no man of real talent who, in one way or another, could fail of obtaining, sooner or later, admission into Parliament. But a great proportion of the House of Commons were lawyers, and most of the business of the house was done by them. In the House of Lords all that was of any use was done by lawyers. The great practical use of the House of Lords was to be a check upon mischief that might be done by the Commons. Many bills passed through that house without sufficient consideration. The Chancellor is under a sort of personal responsibility to examine and stop them. His character depends upon it. He is at the head of the nobility of the country, and his consideration depends upon his keeping this vigilant eye on the proceedings of the Commons. All the ordinary business of the house, therefore, rests upon a lawyer.
Lord Holland observed that from what he heard the most defective part of our institutions was the judiciary; which Mr. Adams admitted.
In August, 1816, at a diplomatic dinner, given on St. Louis' day, by the French ambassador, the Marquis D'Osmond, Mr. Adams first met Mr. Canning, then recently appointed President of the Board of Control. At his request, he was introduced by Lord Liverpool to Mr. Adams. They both spoke of the great and rapid increase of the United States, and Canning inquired when the next presidential election would take place, and who would probably be chosen. Mr. Adams replied, Mr. Monroe. Lord Liverpool observed that he had heard his election might be opposed on account of his being a Virginian. Mr. Adams said that had been a ground of objection, but it would not avail. He afterwards remarks: "Mr. Canning, whose celebrity is great, and whose talents are probably greater than those of any other member of the cabinet, and who has been invariably noted for his bitterness against the United States, seemed desirous to make up by an excess of civility for the feelings he has so constantly manifested against us."
After reading the Gazette Extraordinary sent him by Lord Castlereagh, containing an account of the victory of Lord Exmouth, on the 27th of August, over the Algerines, and that the terms of capitulation had forced them to deliver up all their Christian slaves, to repay ransom-money, and to stipulate for the formal abolition of Christian slavery in Algiers forever, Mr. Adams observed, "This is a deed of real glory."
The Lord Mayor of London introduced Mr. Adams to Sir Philip Francis, then the supposed author of the letters of Junius. On this celebrated work, on a subsequent occasion, Mr. Adams remarked: "Sir Philip Francis is almost demonstrated to be the culprit. The speeches of Lord Chatham bear the stamp of a mind not unequal to the composition of Junius. Those of Burke are of a higher order. Were it ascertained that either of them were the political assassin who stabbed with the dagger of Junius, I should not add a particle of admiration for his talents, and should lose all my respect for his morals. Junius was essentially a sophist. His religion was infidelity, his abstract ethics depraved, his temper bitterly malignant, and his nervous system timid and cowardly. The concealment of his name at the time when he wrote was the effect of dishonest fear. The perpetuation of it could only proceed from the consciousness that the disclosure of his person would be discreditable to his fame. The object of Junius, when he began to write, was merely to overthrow the administration then in power. He attacked them in a mass and individually; their measures, their capacities, their characters public and private; charged them with every crime and every vice. Afterwards, he followed up his general assault by singling out, successively, the Dukes of Grafton and Bedford, Lord Mansfield, Sir William Blackstone, and the King himself. He magnified mole-hills into mountains, inflamed pin-scratches into deadly wounds, and at last abandoned his course in despair at the very time when he might have pursued it with the most effect. But while he was battering the ministry upon paltry topics, which had neither root or stem, he had declared himself emphatically and repeatedly upon their side on the only subject on which their fate and the destiny of the nation altogether depended—the controversy with America. The course he took in the early stage of that conflict, and his disappearance from the theatre of politics at the time when it was ripening into the magnitude of its nature, have marked Junius in my mind as a man of small things—a splendid trifler, a pompous and shallow politician."
In July, 1816, Mr. Adams showed Lord Castlereagh his authority and instructions to negotiate a new commercial convention with the British government, stating "that one object was to open the trade between the United States and the British colonies in North America and the West Indies, as great changes had occurred since the existing convention between the countries was signed. That convention equalized the duties upon British and American vessels, in the intercourse between Europe and the United States, and thereby admitted British vessels into the ports of the United States upon terms of equal competition with American vessels. But, since that time, the exclusive system of colonial regulations had been resumed in the West Indies with extraordinary rigor. American vessels had been excluded from all the ports, and some seizures had been made with such severity that there were cases upon which it would soon become his duty to address the British government in behalf of individuals who had suffered, and deemed themselves entitled to the restitution of their property. The consequence of these new regulations, as combined with the operation of the commercial convention, was, that British vessels being admitted into our ports upon equal terms with our own, and then being exclusively received in the British West India ports, not only thus monopolized the trade between the United States and the West Indies, but acquired an advantage in the direct trade from Europe to the United States, which defeated the main object of the convention itself, of placing the shipping of the two countries upon equal terms of fair competition. In North America the same system was pursued by the colonial government of Upper Canada. An act of the Colonial Legislature was passed at their last session, vesting in the Lieutenant-Governor and Council of the province the power of regulating its trade with the United States; and immediately afterwards a new tariff of duties was issued, by an order of the previous Council, dated the 18th of April, laying excessively heavy duties upon all articles imported into the province from the United States, with the exception of certain articles of provision of the first necessity; and a tonnage duty of twelve and sixpence per ton upon American vessels, which was equivalent to a total prohibition."
Lord Castlereagh said "that he had not been in the way of following the measures adopted in that quarter, and was not aware that there had been any new regulations either in the West Indies or in North America. In time of war he knew it had been usual to open the ports of the West India Islands to foreigners, merely as a measure of necessity; and it was not until the Americans attempted to starve them by their embargo acts that they were driven to the resort of finding resources elsewhere. But in time of peace it had been usual to exclude foreigners from these islands."
He then asked if the trade was considerable. Mr. Adams replied that it was. "Even in time of peace it was highly necessary to the colonies, in respect to some of the imports indispensable to their subsistence; and, by the exports, extremely advantageous to the interests of Great Britain, by furnishing a market for articles which she does not take herself, and which could not be disposed of elsewhere. At the very time of the embargo, the governors of the Islands, so far from adhering to the principle of excluding American vessels, issued proclamations inviting them, with promises even that the regular papers should not be required for their admission, and encouraging them to violate the laws of their own country by carrying them supplies. In time of peace it was undoubtedly not so necessary. Even then, however, it was so in a high degree. The mother country may supply them in part, but does not produce some of the most important articles of their importation,—rice, for example, and Indian corn, the best and cheapest articles for the subsistence of negroes. Even wheat and flour, and provisions generally, were much more advantageously imported from the United States than from Europe, being so much less liable to be damaged in those hot climates, from the comparative shortness of the voyage. Another of their importations was lumber, which is necessary for buildings upon the plantations, and which, after the hurricanes to which the islands are frequently exposed, must be had in large quantities."
Mr. Adams added, "that the American government did not on this ground now propose that these ports should be opened to their vessels. They did not seek for a participation in the British trade with them. Great Britain might still prohibit the importation from the United States of such articles as she chose to supply herself. But they asked that American vessels be admitted equally with British vessels to carry the articles which could be supplied only from the United States, or which were supplied only to them. The effect of the new regulations had been so injurious to the shipping interest in America, and was so immediately felt, that the first impression on the minds of many was that they should be at once met by counteracting legislative measures of prohibition. A proposal to that effect was made in Congress; but it was thought best to endeavor, in the first instance, to come to an amicable arrangement of the subject with the British government. Immediate prohibitions would affect injuriously the British colonies; they would excite irritation in the commercial part of the British communities. The consideration, therefore, of enacting legislative regulations, was postponed."
Lord Castlereagh, after expressing the earnest disposition of his government to promote harmony between the two countries, said "he was not then prepared to enter upon a discussion on the points of the question, but would take it into consideration as soon as possible."
Mr. Adams then said "that the American government was anxious to settle by treaty all the subjects of collision between neutral and belligerent rights which, in the event of a new maritime war in Europe, might again arise:—blockade, contraband, searches at sea, and colonial trade, but most of all the case of the seamen,—concerning whom the American government proposed that each party should stipulate not to employ, in its merchant ships or naval service, the seamen of the other."
Lord Castlereagh inquired "whether the proposal in the stipulation related only to native citizens and subjects; and, if not, how the question was to be escaped,—whether any act of naturalization shall avail to discharge a seaman from the duties of his original allegiance."
Mr. Adams replied, "that it was proposed to include in the arrangement only natives and those who are on either side naturalized already; so that it would not extend to any hereafter naturalized. The number of persons included would, of course, be very few." Lord Castlereagh inquired "what regulations were proposed to carry the stipulation into effect." Mr. Adams replied, "that if it was agreed to, he thought there would be no difficulty in concerting regulations to carry it into execution; and that the American government would be ready to agree to any Great Britain might think necessary, consistent with individual rights, to secure the bona fide fulfilment of the engagement." "But," said Lord Castlereagh, "by agreeing to this stipulation, is it expected we should abandon the right of search we have heretofore used; or is this stipulation to stand by itself, leaving the rights of the parties as they were before?" Mr. Adams replied, "that undoubtedly the object of the American government was that the result of the stipulation should ultimately be the abandonment of the practice of taking men from American vessels." "How, then," said Lord Castlereagh, "shall we escape the old difficulty? The people of this country consider the remedy we have always used hitherto as the best and only effective one. Such is the general opinion of the nation, and there is a good deal of feeling connected with the sentiment. If we now give up that, how will it be possible to devise any regulation, depending upon the performance of another state, which will be thought as efficacious as that we have in our own hands? He knew that the policy of the American government had changed; that it was formerly to invite and encourage British seamen to enter their service, but that at present it was to give encouragement to their own seamen; and he was in hopes that the effect of these internal legislative measures would be to diminish the necessity of resorting to the right of search." Mr. Adams, in reply, said, "that his lordship had once before made a similar observation, and that he felt it his duty to take notice of it. Being under a perfect conviction that it was erroneous, he was compelled to state that the American government never did in any manner invite or encourage foreign seamen generally, or British seamen in particular, to enter their service." Lord Castlereagh said "that he meant only that their policy arose naturally from circumstances,—from the extraordinary, sudden, and almost unbounded increase of their commerce and navigation during the late European wars; they had not native seamen enough to man their ships, and the encouragements to foreign seamen followed from that state of things." Mr. Adams replied, "that he understood his lordship perfectly; but what he asserted was his profound conviction that he was mistaken in point of fact. He knew not how the policy of any government can be manifested otherwise than by its acts. Now, there never was any one act, either of the legislature or executive, which could have even a tendency to invite British seamen into the American service." "But," said Lord Castlereagh, "at least, then, there was nothing done to prevent them." Mr. Adams replied, "That may be; but there is a very material distinction between giving encouragement and doing nothing to prevent them. Our naturalization laws certainly hold out to them nothing like encouragement. You naturalize every foreign seaman by the mere fact of two years' service on board of your public ships, ipso facto, without cost, or form, or process. We require five years' residence in the United States, two years of notice in a court of record, and a certificate of character, before the act of naturalization is granted. Thus far only may be admitted,—that the great and extraordinary increase of our commerce, to which you have alluded, had the effect of raising the wages of seamen excessively high. Our government certainly gave no encouragement to this; neither did our merchants, who would surely have engaged their seamen at lower wages, if possible. These wages, no doubt, operated as a strong temptation to your seamen to go into the American service. Your merchant service could not afford to pay them so high. The wages in the king's ships are much lower, and numbers of British seamen, accordingly, find employment on board American vessels; but encouragement from the American government they never had in any manner. They were merely not excluded; and even now, in making the proposal to exclude them, it is not from any change of policy, but solely for the purpose of giving satisfaction to Great Britain, and of stopping the most abundant source of dissension with her. It proves only the earnestness of our desire to be upon good terms with you."
Mr. Adams said, with regard to his proposal of excluding each other's seamen, "that he was not prepared to say that an article could not be framed by which the parties might stipulate the principle of mutual exclusion, without at all affecting or referring to the rights or claims of either party. Perhaps it might be accomplished if the British government should assume it as one of the objects to be arranged by the convention." On which Lord Castlereagh said: "In that case there will not be so much difficulty. If it is a mere agreement of mutual exclusion, tending to diminish the occasion for exercising the right of search, and undoubtedly if it should prove effectual, it would in the end operate as an inducement to forbear the exercise of the right entirely."
Discussions with the same nobleman on other topics bearing upon the commercial relations between the two nations are preserved among the papers of Mr. Adams.
On the 16th of April, 1817, Mr. Adams received letters from President Monroe, with the information that, with the sanction of the Senate, the Department of State had been committed to him; a trust which he accepted with a deep sense of its weight and responsibility. In compliance with Mr. Monroe's request, he made immediate arrangements to return to the United States. On presenting his letters of recall to Lord Castlereagh, congratulations on his appointment were attended with regrets at his removal from his mission. Mr. Adams stated that the uncertainty of his acceptance of the office of Secretary of State had prevented an immediate appointment of his successor, but that he was instructed in the strongest manner to declare the earnest desire of President Monroe to cultivate the most friendly intercourse with Great Britain. He gave the same explanation to the Prince Regent, at a private audience, who replied by an assurance of his disposition to continue to promote the harmony between the two nations which was required by the interests of both. There was no formality in the discourse on either side, and the generalities of mutual assurance were much alike, and estimated at their real value. In reply to the inquiries of the Prince, the names of the members of Mr. Monroe's cabinet were mentioned. He was not acquainted with any of them, but spoke in handsome terms of Mr. Thomas Pinckney and Mr. Rufus King, and asked many questions concerning the organization of the American government. Lord Castlereagh, in his final interview with Mr. Adams, made numerous inquiries relative to the foreign relations of the United States, especially in regard to Spain, and again expressed the desire of the British government not only to remain at peace themselves, but also to promote tranquillity among other nations. Prince Esterhazy, in a parting visit to Mr. Adams, also assured him that the cabinets of Europe were never so universally and sincerely pacific as at that time; that they all had finances to redeem, ravages to repair, and wanted a period of long repose.
After taking leave of his numerous friends in office and in private life, Mr. Adams bade farewell to London, and embarked with his family from Cowes, in the packet-ship Washington, on the 17th of June, 1817, for the United States.
FIRST TERM OF MR. MONROE'S ADMINISTRATION.—STATE OF PARTIES.—SEMINOLE WAR.—TAKING OF PENSACOLA.—NEGOTIATION WITH SPAIN.—PURCHASE OF THE FLORIDAS.—COLONIZATION SOCIETY.—THE ADMISSION OF MISSOURI INTO THE UNION.
A tedious voyage of seven weeks was beguiled by Mr. Adams with Bacon's Novum Organum, the novels of Scott, and the game of chess, which last, in his estimate, surpassed all other resources when at sea. On the 7th of August he arrived at New York, with mingled emotions of gratitude for the past, and anxious forecast of the cares and perils of the scene on which he was about to enter. After a detention in that city by official business, on the 18th of August he reached Quincy, Massachusetts, and enjoyed the inexpressible happiness of again meeting his venerable father and mother in perfect health, after an absence of eight eventful years. In September, at Washington, he entered upon the duties of Secretary of State.
The foreign relations of the United States were, at this period, peaceful, except that questions concerning spoliations on American commerce and settlement of boundaries were depending with Spain, and the sympathy of the United States for her revolted colonies excited her jealousy and fear, which the seizure of Amelia Island, under the real or pretended authority of one of them, had tended greatly to increase.
Internally, the political relations of the country were in a transition state. The chief power, which Virginia had held during three presidencies, was now about to pass from her hands; there being no statesman among her sons who could compete, as a candidate for the successorship to Monroe, with the talents and popularity of rising aspirants in other states. Her policy therefore was directed to secure, for the next term of the presidency, a candidate friendly to the political dogmas she cherished, and to the interests and projects of the Southern States. The character and principles of Mr. Adams were not adapted to become subservient to her views, and she saw with little complacency his elevation to the office of Secretary of State, which was in popular opinion a proximate step to the President's chair. Yet it could not be doubted that his appointment had the assent, if not the approbation, of Jefferson and Madison, without whose concurrence Monroe would scarcely have ventured to raise a citizen of Massachusetts to that station.
The prospective change, in the principles and influences of public affairs, which the close of Mr. Monroe's term of office would effect, elevated the hopes and awakened the activity of the partisans of Crawford, of Georgia, Clay, of Kentucky, and De Witt Clinton, of New York. Crawford, who had been Secretary of the Treasury under Madison, and who was again placed in that office by Monroe, was understood to be the favorite candidate of Virginia. Clay, one of the most talented and popular politicians of the period, had been an active supporter of Monroe for the presidency. His friends did not conceal their disappointment that he was not invited to take the office of Secretary of State; nor did he disguise his dissatisfaction at the appointment of Mr. Adams. In New York, De Witt Clinton, in his struggles with Van Buren for ascendency in that state, by one of those mysterious changes to which political tempests are subject, had been at one moment cast out of the mayoralty of the city, and at the next into the governor's chair. His partisans, deeming his position and popularity now favorable to his elevation to the presidency, which he had long desired and once attempted to attain, placed him in nomination for that office.
Each of these candidates possessed great personal and local popularity, spirit and power adapted to success, and adherents watchful and efficient. To cope with all these rival influences, Mr. Adams had talents, integrity, fidelity to his country, and devotion to the fulfilment of official duty, in which he had no superior. Having been absent eight years in foreign countries in public service, he had no Southern or Western current in his favor; and that which set from the North, though generally favorable, being divided, was comparatively feeble, and rather acquiescent in his elevation than active in promoting it.
On his appointment as Secretary of State, Mr. Adams remarked: "Whether it is for my own good is known only to God. As yet I have far more reason to lament than rejoice at the event; yet I feel not less my obligation to Mr. Monroe for his confidence in me, and the duty of personal devotion to the success of his administration which it imposes." Before the lapse of a year that administration was assailed in Congress and in the newspapers, and the attacks were concentrated on Mr. Adams. The calumnies by which his father's administration had been prostrated five-and-twenty years before were revived, and poured out with renewed malignity. Duane, in his Aurora, published in Philadelphia, and his coaedjutors in other parts of the Union, represented him as "a royalist," "an enemy to the rights of man;" as a "friend of oligarchy;" as a "misanthrope, educated in contempt of his fellow-men;" as "unfit to be the minister of a free and virtuous people." Privately, and through the press, Mr. Monroe was warned that he "was full of duplicity;" "an incubus on his prospects for the next presidency, and on his popularity." When these calumnies were uttered, as some of them were, in the House of Representatives, they naturally excited the indignation of Mr. Adams, and the anxiety of his friends. Being asked by one of them whether it would not be advisable to expose the conduct and motives of rival statesmen, in the newspapers, he answered explicitly in the negative, saying: "The execution of my duties is the only answer I can give to censure. I will do absolutely nothing to promote any pretensions my friends may think I have to the presidency." On being told that his rivals would not be so scrupulous, and that he would not stand on an equal footing with them, he replied: "That is not my fault. My business is to serve the public to the best of my abilities in the station assigned to me, and not to intrigue for my own advancement. I never, by the most distant hint to any one, expressed a wish for any public office, and I shall not now begin to ask for that which, of all others, ought to be most freely and spontaneously bestowed."
Among the difficulties incident to the office of Secretary of State, that of making appointments was the most annoying and thankless. They were sought with a bold and rabid pertinacity. Success was attributed to the favor of the President; ill success, to the influence of the Secretary. When the applicant was a relative his patronage was naturally expected; but, with every expression of good-will, he avoided all recommendation in such cases, saying that such claims must be presented through other channels.
The attention of the government was early drawn to the proceedings of the Seminole Indians, who had commenced hostilities with circumstances of great barbarity. Orders were sent to General Jackson to repair to the seat of war with such troops as he could collect, and the Georgia militia, and to reduce the Indians by force, pursuing them into Florida, if they should retreat for refuge there.
About this time the republic of Buenos Ayres sent an agent urging an acknowledgment of their independence. Their claim was in unison with the popular feeling in the South; but elsewhere throughout the nation public opinion was divided, as were also the members of the President's cabinet. Mr. Adams declared himself against such recognition, as it would interfere with a negotiation with Spain for the purchase of the Floridas. He urged, also, that McGregor, the adventurer, who, under a pretence of authority from Buenos Ayres, had taken possession of Amelia Island, should be compelled to withdraw his troops by a naval force sent for that purpose. On this measure, also, both the nation and the cabinet were divided. Mr. Clay, in the House of Representatives, took ground in opposition to the policy of the administration, avowing openly his intention of bringing forward a motion in favor of recognizing the independence of Buenos Ayres. To control or overthrow the executive by the weight of the House of Representatives, was apparently his object.
 A committee appointed by the House of Representatives, on McGregor's possession of Amelia Island, waited on Mr. Adams, and inquired concerning the proposed proceedings of the executive, and his powers in that respect. Mr. Adams took occasion to state and explain to them the effects of "the secret laws, as they were called, and which," he said, "were singular anomalies of our system, having grown out of that error in our constitution which confers upon the legislative assemblies the power of declaring war, which, in the theory of government, according to Montesquieu and Rousseau, is strictly an executive act. But, as we have made it legislative, whenever secrecy is necessary for an operation of the executive involving the question of peace and war, Congress must pass a secret law to give the President power. Now, secrecy is contrary to one of the first principles of legislation, but the absurdity flows from having given to Congress, instead of the executive, the power of declaring war. Of these secret laws there are four, and one resolution; and one of the laws, that of the 28th of June, 1812, is so secret, that to this day it cannot be found among the rolls of the department. Another consequence has followed from this clumsy political machinery. The injunction of secrecy was removed on the 6th of July, 1812, from the laws previously passed by a vote of the House of Representatives, and yet the laws have never been published."
In January, 1818, McGregor and his freebooters having been driven, by the authority of the executive, from Amelia Island by the United States troops, a question arose whether they should be withdrawn, or possession of the island retained, subject to future negotiations with Spain. Mr. Adams and Mr. Calhoun advocated the latter opinion. The President, Mr. Crowninshield, and Mr. Wirt, were in favor of withdrawing the troops. After discussion of a message proposed to be sent to Congress avowing the intention to restore the island to Spain, the subject was left undetermined, the President being embarrassed concerning the policy to be pursued, by the division of his constitutional advisers. On which Mr. Adams remarked: "These cabinet councils open upon me a new scene, and new views of the political world. Here is a play of passions, opinions, and characters, different from those in which I have been accustomed heretofore to move."
About this time the President received information that the Spanish government were discouraged, and that Onis, the Spanish minister, had received authority to dispose of the Floridas to the United States on the best terms possible. This intelligence Mr. Monroe communicated to Mr. Adams, and requested him to see the Spanish minister, and inquire what Spain would take for all her possessions east of the Mississippi. When Mr. Adams obtained an interview with Onis, he waived any direct answer to the question, and asked what were the intentions of the United States relative to the occupation of Amelia Island. Mr. Adams replied, that this was a mere measure of self-defence, and asked what guarantee Onis could give that the freebooters would not again take possession, to the annoyance of lawful commerce, if the troops of the United States were removed. Onis said he could give none, except a promise to write to the Governor of Havana for troops; but he admitted that, if sufficient force could there be obtained, six or seven months might elapse before they could be sent to Amelia Island. A continuance of the present occupation by the United States was thus rendered unavoidable. The consideration of the question of restoring it to Spain was postponed in the cabinet, and the message of the President to Congress was so modified as to state his intention of keeping possession of it for the present.
During the remainder of this session Mr. Clay took opposition ground on all the cardinal points maintained by the President, especially on the constitutional question concerning internal improvements, and upon South American affairs. His course was so obviously marked with the design of rising on the ruins of Mr. Monroe's administration, that one of his own papers in Kentucky publicly stated that "he had broken ground within battering distance of the President's message." In a speech made on the 24th of March, 1817, on the general appropriation bill, he moved an appropriation of eighteen thousand dollars as one year's salary and an outfit for a minister to the government of Buenos Ayres. This was only a mode of proposing a formal acknowledgment of that government. The motion was soon after rejected in the House of Representatives by a great majority, and his attempt to make manifest the unpopularity of the administration proved a failure.
In July, 1818, news came that General Jackson had taken Pensacola by storm,—a measure which excited universal surprise. But one opinion appeared at first to prevail in the nation,—that Jackson had not only acted without, but against, his instructions; that he had commenced war upon Spain, which could not be justified, and in which, if not disavowed by the administration, they would be abandoned by the country. Every member of the cabinet, the President included, concurred in these sentiments, with the exception of Mr. Adams. He maintained that there was no real, though an apparent violation of his instructions; that his proceedings were justified by the necessity of the case, and the misconduct of the Spanish commandant in Florida. Mr. Adams admitted that the question was embarrassing and complicated, as involving not merely an actual war with Spain, but also the power of the executive to authorize hostilities without a declaration of war by Congress. He averred that there was no doubt that defensive acts of hostility might be authorized by the executive, and on this ground Jackson had been authorized to cross the Spanish frontier in pursuit of the Indian enemy. His argument was, that the question of the constitutional authority of the executive was in its nature defensive; that all the rest, even to the taking the fort of Barancas by storm, was incidental, deriving its character from the object, which was not hostility to Spain, but the termination of the Indian war. This was the justification offered by Jackson himself, who alleged that an imaginary air-line of the thirty-first degree of latitude could not afford protection to our frontier, while the Indians had a safe refuge in Florida; and that all his operations had been founded on that consideration.
This state of things embarrassed the negotiation with the Spanish minister, who was afraid, under these circumstances, to proceed without receiving instructions. Mr. Adams endeavored, however, to satisfy Onis, by assuring him that Pensacola had been taken without orders; but he also stated that no blame would be attached to Jackson, on account of the strong charges he brought against the Governor of Pensacola, who had threatened to drive him out of the province by force, if he did not withdraw. In support of these views, Mr. Adams adduced the opinions of writers on national law. To the members of the cabinet he admitted that it was requisite to carry the reasoning on his principles to the utmost extent they would bear, to come to this conclusion; yet he maintained that, if the question were dubious, it was better to err on the side of vigor than of weakness, of our own officer than of our enemy. There was a large portion of the public who coincided in opinion with Jackson, and if he were disavowed, his friends would assert that he had been sacrificed because he was an obnoxious man; that, after having had the benefit of his services, he was abandoned for the sake of conciliating the enemies of his country, and his case would be compared to that of Sir Walter Raleigh.
Mr. Monroe listened with candor to the debates of the cabinet, without varying from his original opinion. They resulted in a disclaimer of power in the President to have authorized General Jackson to take possession of Pensacola. On this determination, Mr. Adams finally gave up his opposition, and acquiesced in the opinion of every other member of the cabinet, remarking on this result: "The administration are placed in a dilemma, from which it is impossible for them to escape censure by some, and factious crimination by many. If they avow and approve Jackson's conduct, they incur the double responsibility of having made a war against Spain, in violation of the constitution, without the authority of Congress. If they disavow him, they must give offence to his friends, encounter the shock of his popularity, and have the appearance of truckling to Spain. For all this I should be prepared; but the mischief of this determination lies deeper. 1. It is weakness, and confession of weakness. 2. The disclaimer of power in the executive is of dangerous example, and of evil consequences. 3. There is injustice to the officer in disavowing him, when in principle he is strictly justifiable. These charges will be urged with great vehemence on one side, while those who would have censured the other course will not support or defend the administration for taking this. I believe the other would have been a safer and a bolder course." A wish having been expressed that it should be stated publicly that the opinion of the members of the cabinet had been unanimous, Mr. Adams said that he had acquiesced in the ultimate determination, and would cheerfully bear his share of the responsibility; but that he could not in truth say it had been conformable to his opinion, for that had been to approve and justify the conduct of Jackson, whereas it was disavowed, and the place he had taken was to be unconditionally restored.
At this time Mr. Adams was laboriously collecting evidence in support of these views, and preparing letters of instruction to George Erving, dated the 19th of November, in which Jackson's conduct is fully stated, and the execution of Arbuthnot and Ambrister and the taking of Pensacola defended. Mr. Jefferson wrote to President Monroe expressing in the highest terms his approbation of these letters, and the hope that those of the 12th of March and the 28th of November to Erving, with, also, those of Mr. Adams to Onis, would be translated into French, and communicated to every court in Europe, as a thorough vindication of the conduct and policy of the American government. Writing about the affairs of Florida at this time, Mr. Adams observed: "With these concerns, political, personal, and electioneering intrigues are mingling themselves, with increasing heat and violence. This government is assuming daily, more and more, a character of cabal and preparation, not for the next presidential election, but for the one after, that is working and counterworking, with many of the worst features of elective monarchies. Jackson has made for himself a multitude of friends, and still more enemies."
In the latter part of December, 1818, when General Jackson visited Washington, a strong party manifested itself disposed to bring him forward as a candidate for the next Presidency. "His services during the last campaign," said Mr. Adams, "would have given him great strength, had he not counteracted these dispositions by several of his actions in Florida. The partisans of Crawford and De Witt Clinton took the alarm, and began their attacks upon Jackson for the purpose of running him down. His conduct is beginning to be arraigned with extreme violence in every quarter of the Union, and, as I am his official defender against Spain and England, I shall come in for my share of the obloquy so liberally bestowed upon him."
Mr. Adams had the satisfaction of receiving from Hyde de Neuville, the French minister, an assurance of his coincidence of opinion with him, and that he had written to his own government that the proceedings of General Jackson had been right, particularly in respect of the two Englishmen. Although there was a difference of opinion on the subject among the members of the diplomatic body, he declared that his own was that such incendiaries and instigators of savage barbarities should be put to death.
On one occasion, the President expressed to Mr. Adams his astonishment at the malignancy of the reports which some newspapers were circulating concerning him, and asked in what motives they could have originated. Mr. Adams replied, that the motives did not lie very deep; that there had been a spirit at work, ever since he came to Washington, very anxious to find or make occasions of censure upon him. That spirit he could not lay. His only resource was to pursue his course according to his own sense of right, and abide by the consequences. To which the President fully assented.
While these events were agitating the political world, Mr. Adams was called to lament the death of his mother, dear to his heart by every tie of affection and gratitude. His feelings burst forth, on the occasion, in eloquent and touching tributes to her memory. "This is one of the severest afflictions," he exclaimed, "to which human existence is liable. The silver cord is broken,—the tenderest of natural ties is dissolved,—life is no longer to me what it was,—my home is no longer the abode of my mother. While she lived, whenever I returned to the paternal roof, I felt as if the joys and charms of childhood returned to make me happy; all was kindness and affection. At once silent and active as the movement of the orbs of heaven, one of the links which connected me with former ages is no more. May a merciful Providence spare for many future years my only remaining parent!"
The policy of the friends and enemies of Mr. Monroe's administration was developed by the debates in the House of Representatives on the Seminole war, and the spirit of intrigue began to operate with great publicity. Some of the Western friends of Mr. Adams proposed to him measures of counteraction, on which he remarked: "These overtures afford opportunities and temptations to intrigue, of which there is much in this government, and without which the prospects of a public man are desperate. Caballing with members of Congress for future contingency has become so interwoven with the practical course of our government, and so inevitably flows from the practice of canvassing by the members to fix on candidates for President and Vice-President, that to decline it is to pass a sentence of total exclusion. Be it so! Whatever talents I possess, that of intrigue is not among them. And instead of toiling for a future election, as I am recommended to do, my only wisdom is to prepare myself for voluntary, or unwilling, retirement." On the same topic, in February, 1819, he thus expressed himself: "The practice which has grown up under the constitution, but contrary to its spirit, by which members of Congress meet in caucus and determine by a majority the candidates for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency to be supported by the whole meeting, places the President in a state of undue subserviency to the members of the legislature; which, connected with the other practice of reelecting only once the same President, leads to a thousand corrupt cabals between the members of Congress and heads of departments, who are thus made, almost necessarily, rival pretenders to the succession. The only possible chance for a head of a department to attain the Presidency is by ingratiating himself with the members of Congress; and as many of them have objects of their own to obtain, the temptation is immense to corrupt coalitions, and tends to make all the public offices objects of bargain and sale."
The treaty with Spain, by which the United States acquired the Floridas, was signed by Onis and Adams on the 22d of December, 1819. To effect this treaty, so full of difficulty and responsibility, Mr. Adams had labored ever since he had become Secretary of State. His success was to him a subject of intense gratification; especially the acknowledgment of the right of the United States to a definite line of boundary to the South Sea. This right was not among our claims by the treaty of peace with Great Britain, nor among our pretensions under the purchase of Louisiana, for that gave the United States only the range of the Mississippi and its waters. Mr. Adams regarded the attainment of it as his own; as he had first proposed it on his own responsibility, and introduced it in his discussions with Onis and De Neuville. Its final attainment, under such circumstances, was a just subject of exultation, which was increased by the change of relations which the treaty produced with Spain, from the highest state of exasperation and imminent war, to a fair prospect of tranquillity and secure peace. The treaty was ratified by the President, with the unanimous advice of the Senate.
In 1819 a committee of the Colonization Society applied to the President for the purchase of a territory on the coast of Africa, to which the slaves rescued under the act of Congress, then recently passed, against piracy and the slave-trade, might be sent. The subject being referred to Mr. Adams, he stated in reply that it was impossible that Congress could have intended to authorize the purchase of territory by that act, for they had only appropriated for its object one hundred thousand dollars, which was a sum utterly inadequate for the purchase of a territory on the coast of Africa. He declared also that he had no opinion of the practicability or usefulness of the objects proposed by the Colonization Society, of establishing in Africa a colony composed of the free blacks sent from the United States. "The project," said he, "is professedly formed, 1st, without making use of any compulsion on the free people of color to go to Africa. 2d. To encourage the emancipation of slaves by their masters. 3d. To promote the entire abolition of slavery; and yet, 4th, without in the slightest degree affecting what they call 'a certain species of property in slaves.' There are men of all sorts and descriptions concerned in this Colonization Society: some exceedingly humane, weak-minded men, who really have no other than the professed objects in view, and who honestly believe them both useful and attainable; some speculators in official profits and honors, which a colonial establishment would of course produce; some speculators in political popularity, who think to please the abolitionists by their zeal for emancipation, and the slaveholders by the flattering hope of ridding them of the free colored people at the public expense; lastly, some cunning slaveholders, who see that the plan may be carried far enough to produce the effect of raising the market price of their slaves. But, of all its other difficulties, the most objectionable is that it obviously includes the engrafting a colonial establishment upon the constitution of the United States, and thereby an accession of power to the national government transcending all its other powers."
The friends of the measure urged in its favor that it had been recommended by the Legislature of Virginia. They enlarged on the happy condition of slaves in that state, on the kindness with which they were treated, and on the attachment subsisting between them and their masters. They stated that the feeling against slavery was so strong that shortly after the close of the Revolution many persons had voluntarily emancipated their slaves. This had introduced a class of very dangerous people,—the free blacks,—who lived by pilfering, corrupted the slaves, and produced such pernicious consequences that the Legislature was obliged to prohibit their further emancipation by law. The important object now was to remove the free blacks, and provide a place to which the emancipated slaves might go; in which case, the legal obstacles to emancipation being withdrawn, Virginia, at least, might in time be relieved from her black population.
A committee from the Colonial Society also waited on Mr. Adams, repeating the same topics, and maintaining that the slave-trade act contained a clear authority to settle a colony in Africa; and that the purchase of Louisiana, and the settlement at the mouth of Columbia River, placed beyond all question the right of acquiring territory as existing in the government of the United States. Mr. Adams, in reply, successfully maintained that the slave-trade act had no reference to the settlement of a colony on the coast of Africa; and that the acquisition of Louisiana, and the settlement at the mouth of Columbia River, being in territories contiguous to and in continuance of our own, could by no reason warrant the purchase of countries beyond seas, or the establishment of a colonial system of government subordinate to and dependent upon that of the United States.
In July, 1819, Mr. Adams, writing concerning the failure at the preceding session of Missouri to obtain admission as a state into the Union, from the restriction, introduced by the House of Representatives, excluding slavery from its constitution, thus expressed himself: "The attempt to introduce that restriction produced a violent agitation among the members from the slaveholding states, and it has been communicated to the states themselves, and to the territory of Missouri. The slave-drivers, as usual, whenever this topic is brought up, bluster and bully, talk of the white slaves of the Eastern States, and the dissolution of the Union, and of oceans of blood; and the Northern men, as usual, pocket all this hectoring, sit down in quiet, and submit to the slave-scourging republicanism of the planters."
Being urged to use his influence that the language and policy of the government should be as moderate and guarded as possible, from the consideration that both England and France were profoundly impressed with the idea that we were an ambitious, encroaching people, Mr. Adams replied: "I doubt if we should give ourselves any concern about it. Great Britain, who had been vilifying us for twenty years as a low-minded nation, with no generous ambition, no God but gold, had now changed her tune, and was endeavoring to alarm the world at the gigantic grasp of our ambition. Spain and all Europe were endeavoring to do the same; being startled at first by our acquisition of Louisiana, and now by our pretensions to extend to the South Sea. Nothing we can say will remove this impression until the world shall be familiarized with the idea of considering the continent of North America to be our proper dominion. From the time we became an independent people, it was as much a law of nature that this should become our pretension, as that the Mississippi should flow to the sea. Spain had pretensions on our southern, Great Britain on our northern borders. It was impossible that centuries should elapse without finding them annexed to the United States; not from any spirit of encroachment or of ambition on our part, but because it was a physical, and moral, and political absurdity, that such fragments of territory, with sovereigns fifteen hundred miles beyond sea, worthless and burdensome to their owners, should exist, permanently, contiguous to a great, powerful, enterprising, and rapidly-growing nation. Most of the territories of Spain in our neighborhood had become ours by fair purchase. This rendered it more unavoidable that the remainder of the continent should ultimately be ours. It was but very lately we had seen this ourselves, or that we had avowed the pretension of extending to the South Sea; and, until Europe finds it to be a settled geographical element that the United States and North America are identical, any effort on our part to reason the world out of the belief that we are an ambitious people will have no other effect than to convince them that we add to our ambition hypocrisy."
Concerning the discords which arose in the cabinet, on policy to be pursued, Mr. Adams remarked: "I see them with pain, but they are sown in the practice which the Virginia Presidents have taken so much pains to engraft on the constitution of the Union, making it a principle that no President can be more than twice elected, and whoever is not thrown out after one term of service must decline being a candidate after the second. This is not a principle of the constitution, and I am satisfied it ought not to be. Its inevitable consequence is to make every administration a scene of continuous and furious electioneering for the succession to the Presidency. It was so through the whole of Mr. Madison's administration, and it is so now."
The signature of the treaty for the acquisition of Florida, sanctioned by the unanimous vote of the Senate, had greatly contributed to the apparent popularity of Mr. Monroe's administration. But the postponement of its ratification by Spain soon clouded the prospect; and the question whether Missouri should be admitted into the Union as a slave or free state, in which Mr. Adams took a deep interest, immediately rendered the political atmosphere dark and stormy. "There is now," Mr. Adams observed, "every appearance that the slave question will be carried by the superior ability of the slavery party. For this much is certain, that if institutions are to be judged by their results in the composition of the councils of the Union, the slaveholders are much more ably represented than the simple freemen. With the exception of Rufus King, there is not, in either house of Congress, a member from the free states able to cope in powers of the mind with William Pinkney and James Barbour. In the House of Representatives the freemen have none to contend on equal terms either with John Randolph or Clay. Another misfortune to the free party is that some of their ablest men are either on this question with their adversaries, or lukewarm in the cause. The slave men have indeed a deeper immediate stake in the issue than the partisans of freedom. Their passions and interests are more profoundly agitated, and they have stronger impulses to active energy than their antagonists, whose only individual interest in this case arises from its bearing on the balance of political power between the North and South."
The debate on this subject commenced in the Senate. In the course of January and February, 1820, Rufus King, senator from New York, delivered two of the most well-considered and powerful speeches that this Missouri question elicited. The remarks they drew forth from Mr. Adams render it proper that some idea of their general course should be stated, although it is impossible that any abstract can do justice to them. Disclaiming all intention to encourage or assent to any measure that would affect the security of property in slaves, or tend to disturb the political adjustment which the constitution had established concerning them, he enters at large into the power of Congress to make and determine whatever regulations are needful concerning the territories. He maintained that the power of admitting new states is by the constitution referred wholly to the discretion of Congress; that the citizens of the several states have rights and duties, differing from each other in the respective states; that those concerning slavery are the most remarkable—it being permitted in some states, and prohibited in others; that the question concerning slavery in the old states is already settled. Congress had no power to interfere with or change whatever has been thus settled. The slave states are free to continue or abolish slavery. The constitution contains no provision concerning slavery in a new state; Congress, therefore, may make it a condition of the admission of a new state that slavery shall forever be prohibited within it.
Mr. King then enters upon the history of the United States relative to this subject, and to the rights of the citizens of Missouri resulting from the terms of the cession of Louisiana, and of the act admitting it into the Union. From this recapitulation and illustration he demonstrates, beyond refutation, that Congress possesses the power to exclude slavery from Missouri. The only question now remaining was to show that it ought to exclude it. In discussing this point, Mr. King passes over in silence arguments which to some might appear decisive, but the use of which in the Senate of the United States would call up feelings that he apprehended might disturb or defeat the impartial consideration of the subject.
Under this self-restraint he observed that slavery, unhappily, exists in the United States; that enlightened men in the states where it is permitted, and everywhere out of them, regret its existence among us, and seek for the means of limiting and of eradicating it. He then proceeds to state and reason concerning the difficulties in the apportionment of taxes among the respective states under the old confederation, and in the convention for the formation of the constitution, which resulted in the provision that direct taxes should be apportioned among the states according to the whole number of free persons and three fifths of the slaves which they might respectively contain. The effect of this provision he then analyzes, and shows that, in consequence of it, five free persons in Virginia have as much power in the choice of representatives, and in the appointment of presidential electors, as seven free persons in any of the states in which slavery does not exist. At the time of the adoption of the constitution no one anticipated the fact that the whole of the revenue of the United States would be derived from indirect taxes; but it was believed that a part of the contribution to the common treasury would be apportioned among the states, by the rule for the apportionment of representatives. The states in which slavery is prohibited ultimately, though with reluctance, acquiesced in the disproportionate number of representatives and electors that was secured to the slaveholding states. The concession was at the time believed to be a great one, and has proved the greatest which was made to secure the adoption of the constitution. Great as is this concession, it was definite, and its full extent was comprehended. It was a settlement between the thirteen states, and not applicable to new states which Congress might be willing to admit into the Union.
The equality of rights, which includes an equality of burdens, is a vital principle in our theory of government. The effect of the constitution has been obvious in the preponderance it has given to the slave-holding states over the other states. But the extension of this disproportionate power to the new states would be unjust and odious. The states whose power would be abridged and whose burdens would be increased by the measure would not be expected to consent to it. The existence of slavery impairs the industry and power of a nation. In a country where manual labor is performed by slaves, that of freemen is dishonored. In case of foreign war, or domestic insurrection, slaves not only do not add to, but diminish the faculty of self-defence.
If Missouri, and the states formed to the west of the River Mississippi, are permitted to introduce and establish slavery, the repose, if not the security, of the Union, may be endangered. All the states south of the River Ohio, and west of Pennsylvania and Delaware, will be peopled with slaves; and the establishment of new states west of the River Mississippi will serve to extend slavery, instead of freedom, over that boundless region. But, if slavery be excluded from Missouri and the other new states which may be formed in that quarter, not only will the slave-markets be broken up, and the principles of freedom be extended and strengthened, but an exposed and important frontier will present a barrier which will check and keep back foreign assailants, who may be as brave, and, as we hope, as free as ourselves. Surrounded in this manner by connected bodies of freemen, the states where slavery is allowed will be made more secure against domestic insurrection, and less liable to be affected by what may take place in the neighboring colonies.
At the delivery of these speeches Mr. Adams was present, and thus expressed his opinion in writing: "I heard Mr. King on what is called the Missouri question. His manner was dignified, grave, earnest, but not rapid or vehement. There was nothing new in his argument, but he unravelled with ingenious and subtle analysis many of the sophistical tissues of slaveholders. He laid down the position of the natural liberty of man, and its incompatibility with slavery in any shape; he also questioned the constitutional right of the President and Senate to make the Louisiana treaty; but he did not dwell upon those points, nor draw the consequences from them which I should think important. He spoke on that subject, however, with great power, and the great slaveholders in the house gnawed their lips and clenched their fists as they heard him."
"At our evening parties," he adds, "we hear of nothing but the Missouri question and Mr. King's speeches. The slaveholders cannot hear of them without being seized with the cramps. They call them seditious and inflammatory, which was far from being their character. Never, since human sentiment and human conduct were influenced by human speech, was there a theme for eloquence like the free side of this question, now before the Congress of the Union. By what fatality does it happen that all the most eloquent orators are on its slavish side? There is a great mass of cool judgment and of plain sense on the side of freedom and humanity, but the ardent spirits and passions are on the side of oppression. O! if but one man could arise with a genius capable of comprehending, a heart capable of supporting, and an utterance capable of communicating, those eternal truths which belong to the question,—to lay bare in all its nakedness that outrage upon the goodness of God, human slavery,—now is the time, and this is the occasion, upon which such a man would perform the duties of an angel upon earth."
About this time Mr. Calhoun remarked to Mr. Adams, that he did not think the slave question, then pending in Congress, would produce a dissolution of the Union, but, if it should, the South would, from necessity, be compelled to form an alliance, offensive and defensive, with Great Britain. Mr. Adams asked if that would not be returning to the old colonial state. Calhoun said, Yes, pretty much, but it would be forced upon them. Mr. Adams inquired whether he thought, if by the effect of this alliance, offensive and defensive, the population of the North should be cut off from its natural outlet upon the ocean, it would fall back upon its rocks, bound hand and foot, to starve; or whether it would retain its power of locomotion to move southward by land. Mr. Calhoun replied, that in the latter event it would be necessary for the South to make their communities all military. Mr. Adams pressed the conversation no further, but remarked: "If the dissolution of the Union should result from the slave question, it is as obvious as anything that can be foreseen of futurity, that it must shortly afterwards be followed by an universal emancipation of the slaves. A more remote, but perhaps not less certain consequence, would be the extirpation of the African race in this continent, by the gradually bleaching process of intermixture, where the white is already so predominant, and by the destructive process of emancipation; which, like all great religious and political reformations, is terrible in its means, though happy and glorious in its end. Slavery is the great and foul stain on the American Union, and it is a contemplation worthy of the most exalted soul, whether its total abolition is not practicable. This object is vast in its compass, awful in its prospects, sublime and beautiful in its issue. A life devoted to it would be nobly spent or sacrificed."
On the 26th of February, Mr. John Randolph spoke on the Missouri question in the House of Representatives between three and four hours, on which speech Mr. Adams observed: "As usual, it had neither beginning, middle, nor end. Egotism, Virginian aristocracy, slave-purging liberty, religion, literature, science, wit, fancy, generous feelings, and malignant passions, constitute a chaos in his mind, from which nothing orderly can ever flow. Clay, the Speaker, twice called him to order; which proved useless, for he can no more keep order than he can keep silence." On the 1st of March the Missouri question came to a crisis in Congress. The majorities in both branches were on opposite sides, and in each a committee was raised to effect a compromise. This endeavor resulted in the abandonment by the House of Representatives of the principle it had inserted, that slavery should be prohibited in the Missouri constitution, and in annexing a section that slavery should be prohibited in the remaining parts of the Louisiana cession, north of latitude thirty-six degrees thirty minutes. This compromise, as it was called, was finally carried in the House of Representatives, by a vote of ninety to thirty-seven, after several successive days, and almost nights, of stormy debate.
On the 3d of March, a member of the house from Massachusetts told Mr. Adams that John Randolph had made a motion that morning to reconsider one of the votes of yesterday upon the Missouri bill, and of the trickery by which his motion was defeated. The Speaker (Mr. Clay) declared it when first made not in order, the journal of yesterday's proceedings riot having been then read; and while they were reading the journal, the clerk of the house carried the bill as passed by the house to the Senate; so that, when Randolph, after the reading of the journal, renewed his motion, it was too late, the papers being no longer in the possession of the house. "And so it is," said Mr. Adams, "that a law perpetuating slavery in Missouri, and perhaps in North America, has been smuggled through both houses of Congress. I have been convinced, from the first starting of this question, that it could not end otherwise. The fault is in the constitution of the United States, which has sanctioned a dishonorable compromise with slavery. There is henceforth no remedy for it but a reoerganization of the Union, to effect which a concert of all the white states is indispensable. Whether that can ever be accomplished is doubtful. It is a contemplation not very creditable to human nature that the cement of common interest, produced by slavery, is stronger and more solid than that of unmingled freedom. In this instance the slave states have clung together in one unbroken phalanx, and have been victorious by the means of accomplices and deserters from the ranks of freedom. Time only can show whether the contest may ever, with equal advantage, be renewed; but, so polluted are all the streams of legislation in regions of slavery, that this bill has been obtained by two as unprincipled artifices as dishonesty ever devised. One, by coupling it as an appendage to the bill for admitting Maine into the Union; the other, by the perpetrating this outrage by the Speaker on the rules of the house."
Mr. Calhoun, after a debate in the cabinet on the Missouri question, said to Mr. Adams that the principles avowed by him were just and noble, but in the Southern country, whenever they were mentioned, they were always understood as applying to white men. Domestic labor was confined to the blacks; and such was the prejudice that, if he were to keep a white servant in his house, although he was the most popular man in his district, his character and reputation would be irretrievably ruined. Mr. Adams replied that this confounding the ideas of servitude and labor was one of the bad effects of slavery. Mr. Calhoun thought it was attended with many excellent consequences. It did not apply to all sorts of labor; not, for example, to farming. He, himself, had often held the plough. So had his father. Manufacturing and mechanical labor was not degrading. It was only menial labor, the proper work of slaves. No white person could descend to that. And it was the best guarantee of equality among the whites. It produced an unvarying level among them. It not only did not excite, but did not admit of inequalities, by which one white man could domineer over another.
Mr. Adams replied, that he could not see things in the same light. "It is in truth all perverted sentiment; mistaking labor for slavery, and dominion for freedom. The discussion of this Missouri question has betrayed the secret of their souls. In the abstract they admit slavery to be an evil. They disclaim all participation in the introduction of it, and cast it all on the shoulders of 'old grandame Great Britain.' But, when probed to the quick upon it, they show at the bottom of their souls pride and vain-glory in their very condition of masterdom. They fancy themselves more generous and noble-hearted than the plain freemen, who labor for subsistence. They look down on the simplicity of Yankee manners, because they have no habits of overbearing like theirs, and cannot treat negroes like dogs. It is among the evils of slavery that it taints the very source of moral principle. It establishes false estimates of virtue and vice; for what can be more false and heartless than this doctrine, which makes the first and holiest rights of humanity to depend on the color of the skin? It perverts human reason, and reduces man endowed with logical powers to maintain that slavery is sanctioned by the Christian religion; that slaves are happy and contented in their condition; that between the master and slave there are ties of mutual attachment and affection; that the virtues of the master are refined and exalted by the degradation of the slave; while, at the same time, they vent execrations on the slave-trade, curse Great Britain for having given them slaves, burn at the stake negroes convicted of crimes for the terror of the example, and writhe in agonies of fear at the very mention of human rights as applicable to men of color."
"The impression produced on my mind," continued Mr. Adams, "by the progress of this discussion, is, that the bargain between freedom and slavery contained in the constitution of the United States is morally and politically vicious; inconsistent with the principles on which alone our Revolution can be justified; cruel and oppressive, by riveting the chains of slavery, by pledging the faith of freedom to maintain and perpetuate the tyranny of the master; and grossly unequal and impolitic, by admitting that slaves are at once enemies to be kept in subjection, property to be secured and returned to their owners, and persons not to be represented themselves, but for whom their masters are privileged with nearly a double share of representation. The consequence has been that this slave representation has governed the Union. Benjamin's portion above his brethren has ravined as a wolf. In the morning he has devoured the prey, and in the evening has divided the spoil. It would be no difficult matter to prove, by reviewing the history of the Union under this constitution, that almost everything which has contributed to the honor and welfare of this nation has been accomplished in despite of them, or forced upon them; and that everything unpropitious and dishonorable, including the blunders of their adversaries, may be traced to them. I have favored this Missouri compromise, believing it to be all that could be effected under the present constitution, and from extreme unwillingness to put the Union at hazard. But perhaps it would have been a wiser and bolder course to have persisted in the restriction on Missouri, until it should have terminated in a convention of the states to revise and amend the constitution. This would have produced a new Union of thirteen or fourteen states unpolluted with slavery, with a great and glorious object, that of rallying to their standard the other states, by the universal emancipation of their slaves. If the Union must be dissolved, slavery is precisely the question upon which it ought to break. For the present, however, this contest is laid asleep."
Again he says: "Mr. King is deeply mortified at the issue of the Missouri question, and very naturally feels resentful at the imputations of the slaveholders, that his motives on this occasion have been merely personal aggrandizement,—'close ambition varnished o'er with zeal.' The imputation of bad motives is one of the most convenient weapons of political, and indeed of every sort of controversy. It came originally from the devil.—'Doth Job serve God for naught?' The selfish and the social passions are intermingled in the conduct of every man acting in a public capacity. It is right that they should be so. And it is no just cause of reproach to any man, that, in promoting to the utmost of his power the public good, he is desirous; at the same time, of promoting his own. There are, no doubt, hypocrites of humanity as well as of religion; men with cold hearts and warm professions, trading upon benevolence, and using justice and virtue only as stakes upon the turn of a card or the cast of a die. But this sort of profligacy belongs to a state of society more deeply corrupted than ours. Such characters are rare among us. Many of our public men have principles too pliable to popular impulse, but few are deliberately dishonest; and there is not a man in the Union of purer integrity than Rufus King.
"The most remarkable circumstance in the history of the final decision of the Missouri question is that it was ultimately carried against the opinions, wishes, and interests, of the free states, by the votes of their own members. They had a decided majority in both houses of Congress, but lost the vote by disunion among themselves. The slaveholders clung together, without losing one vote. Many of them, and almost all the Virginians, held out to the last, even against compromise. The cause of the closer union on the slave side is that the question affected the individual interest of every slaveholding member, and of almost every one of his constituents. On the other side, individual interests were not implicated in the decision at all. The impulses were purely republican principle and the rights of human nature. The struggle for political power, and geographical jealousy, may fairly be supposed to have operated equally on both sides. The result affords an illustration of the remark, how much more keen and powerful the impulse is of personal interest than is that of any general consideration of benevolence and humanity."
The compromise, by which Missouri was admitted into the Union, did not finally settle the question in. Congress. At the next session it reappeared, in consequence of the insertion into the constitution of Missouri of an article declaring it to be the duty of the Legislature to pass laws prohibiting free negroes and persons of color from coming into Missouri; which declaration was directly repugnant to that article in the constitution of the United States which provides that the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens of the other states. The only mode of getting out of this difficulty, said Mr. Adams, was "for Congress to pass a resolution declaring the State of Missouri to be admitted from and after the time when the article repugnant to the constitution of the United States should be expunged from its constitution. This question was much more clear against Missouri than was that of their first admission into the Union; but the people of the North, like many of their representatives in Congress, began to give indications of a disposition to flinch from the consequences of this question, and to be unwilling to bear their leaders out."
Mr. Adams, in conversation with one of the senators of the South, observed, that "the article in the Missouri constitution is directly repugnant to the rights reserved to every citizen in the Union in the constitution of the United States. Its purport is to disfranchise all the people of color who were citizens of the free states. The Legislatures of those states are bound in duty to protect the rights of their own citizens; and if Congress, by the admission of Missouri with that clause in her constitution, should sanction this outrage upon those rights, the states a portion of whose citizens should be thus cast out of the pale of the Union would be bound to vindicate them by retaliation. If I were a member of the Legislature of one of these states, I would move for a declaratory act, that so long as the article in the constitution of Missouri, depriving the colored citizens of the state (say) of Massachusetts of their rights as citizens of the United States within the State of Missouri, should subsist, so long the white citizens of Missouri should be held as aliens within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and not entitled to claim or enjoy, within the same, any right or privilege of a citizen of the United States." And Mr. Adams said he would go further, and declare that Congress, by their sanction of the Missouri constitution, by admitting that state into the Union without excepting against that article which disfranchised a portion of the citizens of Massachusetts, had violated the constitution of the United States. Therefore, until that portion of the citizens of Massachusetts whose rights were violated by the article in the Missouri compromise should be reintegrated in the full enjoyment and possession of those rights, no clause or article of the constitution of the United States should, within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, be so understood as to authorize any person whatsoever to claim the property or possession of a human being as a slave; and he would prohibit by law the delivery of any fugitive upon the claim of his master. All which, he said, should be done, not to violate, but to redeem from violation, the constitution of the United States. It was indeed to be expected that such laws would again be met by retaliatory laws of Missouri and the other slaveholding states, and the consequences would be a dissolution de facto of the Union; but that dissolution would be commenced by the article in the Missouri constitution. "That article," declared Mr. Adams, "is itself a dissolution of the Union. If acquiesced in, it will change the terms of the federal compact—change its terms by robbing thousands of citizens of their rights. And what citizens? The poor, the unfortunate, the helpless, already cursed by the mere color of their skin; already doomed by their complexion to drudge in the lowest offices of society; excluded by their color from all the refined enjoyments of life accessible to others; excluded from the benefits of a liberal education,—from the bed, the table, and all the social comforts, of domestic life. This barbarous article deprives them of the little remnant of right yet left them—their rights as citizens and as men. Weak and defenceless as they are, so much the more sacred the obligation of the Legislatures of the states to which they belong to defend their lawful rights. I would defend them, should the dissolution of the Union be the consequence; for it would be, not to the defence, but to the violation of their rights, to which all the consequences would be imputable; and, if the dissolution of the Union must come, let it come from no other cause but this. If slavery be the destined sword, in the hand of the destroying angel, which is to sever the ties of this Union, the same sword will cut asunder the bonds of slavery itself."
"In the House of Representatives, on the 4th of December," writes Mr. Adams, "Mr. Eustis, of Massachusetts, made a speech against the resolution for admitting Missouri into the Union without condition, and it was rejected, ninety-three to seventy-nine. On the 19th of December he offered a resolution admitting Missouri into the Union conditionally; namely, 'from and after the time when they shall have expunged from their constitution the article repugnant to the constitution of the United States.' On the 24th of January, 1821, this resolution was rejected by a vote of one hundred and forty-six to six. It satisfies neither party. It is too strong for the slave party, and not strong enough for the free party." In December and January the subject was ardently debated in the House of Representatives, and, after commitment and various attempts at amendment, on the 13th of February the report of a committee of the House of Representatives in favor of admitting Missouri into the Union, in conformity with the resolution which had passed the Senate, was rejected, eighty-five to eighty.
The proceedings of the House of Representatives, in counting the votes for President and Vice-President, are thus stated by Mr. Adams: "On the 14th of February, while the electoral votes for President and Vice-President were counting, those of Missouri were objected to because Missouri was not a state of the Union—on which a tumultuous scene arose. A Southern member moved, in face of the rejection by a majority of the House, that Missouri is one of the states of this Union, and that her votes ought to be counted. Mr. Clay avoided the question by moving that it should lie on the table, and then that a message should be sent to the Senate informing them that the House were now ready to proceed in continuing the enumeration of the electoral votes, according to the joint resolution; which was ordered. The Senate accordingly proceeded to open the votes of Missouri, and they were counted. The result was declared by the President of the Senate, in the alternative that if the votes of Missouri were counted there were two hundred and thirty-one votes for James Monroe as President, and two hundred and eighteen votes for Daniel D. Tompkins as Vice-President; and if not counted, there would be two hundred and twenty-eight votes for James Monroe as President, and two hundred and fifteen for Daniel D. Tompkins as Vice-President; but, in either event, both were elected to their respective offices. He therefore declared them to be so elected.
"After the two houses had separated, Mr. Randolph moved two resolutions: one, that the electoral votes of the State of Missouri had been counted, and formed part of the majorities by which the President and Vice-President had been elected; and the other, that the result of the election had not been declared by the presiding officer conformably to the constitution and the law, and therefore the whole proceedings had been irregular and illegal. This motion, after a very disorderly debate, was disposed of by adjournment. Mr. Randolph was for bringing Missouri into the Union by storm, and by bullying a majority of the House into a minority. The only result was disorder and tumult.
"On the 23d of February, the Missouri question being still undecided, on a motion of Mr. Clay, the House of Representatives chose by ballot a committee of twenty-three members, who were joined by a committee of seven from the Senate. Their object was a last attempt to devise a plan for admitting Missouri into the Union. On the 26th, the committee proposed a conditional admission, upon terms more humiliating to the people of Missouri than it would have been to require that they should expunge the exceptionable article from their constitution; for they declared it a fundamental condition of their admission that the article should never be construed to authorize the passage of any law by which any citizen of the states of this Union should be excluded from his privileges under the constitution of the United States; and they required that the Legislature of the state, by a solemn public act, should declare the assent of the state to this condition, and transmit a copy of the act, by the first Monday of November ensuing, to the President of the United States. But, in substance, this condition bound them to nothing. The resolution was, however, taken up this day in the House of Representatives, read three times, and passed by a vote of eighty-seven to eighty-one. On the 28th of February, the Senate, by a vote of twenty-eight to fourteen, adopted the resolution.
"This second Missouri question was compromised like the first. The majority against the unconditional admission into the Union was small, but very decided. The problem for the slave representation to solve was the precise extent of concession necessary for them to detach from the opposite party a number of antiservile votes just sufficient to turn the majority. Mr. Clay found, at last, this expedient, which the slave voters would not have accepted from any one not of their own party, and to which his greatest difficulty was to obtain the assent of his own friends. The timid and the weak-minded dropped off, one by one, from the free side of the question, until a majority was formed for the compromise, of which the servile have the substance, and the liberals the shadow.
"In the progress of this affair the distinctive character of the inhabitants of the several great divisions of this Union has been shown more in relief than perhaps in any national transaction since the establishment of the constitution. It is, perhaps, accidental that the combination of talent and influence has been the greatest on the slave side. The importance of the question has been much greater to them than to the other side. Their union of exertion has been consequently closer and more unshakable. They have threatened and entreated, bullied and wheedled, until their more simple adversaries have been half coaxed, half frightened into a surrender of their principles for a bauble of insignificant promises. The champions of the North did not judiciously select their position for this contest. There must be, some time, a conflict on this very question between slave and free representation. This, however, was not the proper occasion for contesting it."
At this period Mr. Adams considered that the greatest danger of the Union was in the overgrown extent of its territory, combining with the slavery question. The want of slaves was not in the lands, but in their inhabitants. Slavery had become in the South and South-western states a condition of existence. On the falling off of the revenue, which occurred about this time, he observed that "it stirs up the spirit of economy and retrenchment; and, as the expenditures of the war department are those on which the most considerable saving can be made, at them the economists level their first and principal batteries. Individual, personal jealousies, envyings, and resentments, partisan ambition, and private interests and hopes, mingle in the motives which prompt this policy. About one half of the members of Congress are seekers of office at the nomination of the President. Of the remainder, at least one half have some appointment or favor to ask for their relatives. But there are two modes of obtaining their ends: the one, by subserviency; the other, by opposition. These may be called the cringing canvass and the flouting canvass. As the public opinion is most watchful of the cringing canvass, the flouters are the most numerous party."