"I say there is no such thing as an exemption from the right of search by the laws of nations, and I challenge and defy the gentleman to produce the proof. The right of search in time of war we have never pretended to deny. Nay, we ourselves exercised that right during the last war. And the Supreme Court of the United States, in their decisions of prize cases brought before them, sustained us in doing so, and said it was lawful according to the laws of nations. And, indeed, we should have had a very poor chance in a war with Great Britain, without it.
"But what is the right of search in time of peace? And how has Congress felt, and how has the American government acted, on this point? I have some knowledge on this subject. In the year 1817, when I was about to return from England to the United States, Mr. Wilberforce, then a member of the British Parliament, very celebrated for his long and persevering exertions to suppress the African slave-trade, wrote me a note requesting an interview. I acceded promptly to his request; and in conversation he stated to me that the British government had found that without a mutual right of search between this country and that, upon the coast of Africa, it would be impossible to carry through the system she had formed in connection with the United States for the suppression of that infamous traffic. I had then just signed with my own hand a treaty declaring 'the traffic in slaves (not the African slave-trade, but THE TRAFFIC IN SLAVES) unjust and inhuman,' and in which both nations engaged to do all in their power to suppress it. Mr. Wilberforce inquired of me whether I thought that a proposal for a mutual, restricted, qualified right of search would be acceptable to the American government. I had at that time a feeling to the full as strong against the right of search, as it had then been exercised by British cruisers, as ever the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Ingersoll) had, in all his life. I had been myself somewhat involved in the question as a public man. It constituted one of the grounds of my unfortunate difference from those with whom I had long been politically associated; and it was for the exertions I had made against the admission of that right that I forfeited my place in the other end of the capitol, and, which was infinitely more painful to me, for this I had differed with men long dear to me, and to whom I had also been dear, insomuch that for a time it interrupted all friendly relations between us.
"The first thing I said, in reply to Mr. Wilberforce, was: 'No; you may as well save yourselves the trouble of making any proposals on that subject; my countrymen, I am very sure, will never assent to any such arrangement.' He then entered into an argument, the full force of which I felt, when I said to him, 'You may, if you think proper, make the proposal; but I think some other mode of getting over the difficulty must be resorted to; for the prejudices of my country are so immovably strong on that point, that I do not believe they will ever assent.'
"I returned home, and, under the administration of Mr. Monroe, I filled the office of Secretary of State; and in that capacity I was the medium through which the proposal of the British government was afterwards made to the United States to arrange a special right of search for the suppression of the slave-trade. This proposition I resisted and opposed in the cabinet with all my power. And I will say that, although I was not myself a slaveholder, I had to resist all the slaveholding members of the cabinet, and the President also. Mr. Monroe himself was always strongly inclined in favor of the proposition, and I maintained the opposite ground against him and the whole body of his official advisers as long as I could.
"At that time there was in Congress, and especially in the House, a spirit of concession, which I could not resist. From the year 1818 to the year 1823, not a session passed without some movement on this point, and some proposition made to request the President to negotiate for the mutual concession of this right of search. I resisted it to the utmost; and so earnest did the matter become, that, on one occasion, at an evening party in the President's house, in a conversation between myself and a distinguished gentleman of Virginia,—a principal leader of this movement, now living, but not now a member of this house,—words became so warm that what I said was afterwards alluded to by another gentleman of Virginia, in an address to his constituents, against my election as President of the United States. It was made an objection against me that I was an enemy to the suppression of the slave-trade. That address and my reply to it are in existence, and the latter in the hands of a gentleman of Virginia now in this house, and who can correct me if I do not state the matter correctly. The address was written, and would have been published, with an allusion to what I had said in the conversation (which the writer heard, although it was not addressed to him), but the gentleman with whom I was conversing went to him, and told him that if he did refer in print to that private conversation, he would never speak to him; and so it was suppressed. I state these facts, sir, that I may set myself right on this question of the right of search.
"At that time a gentleman, who was the leader of one of the parties in this house, had endeavored from year to year to prevail with the house to require of the President a concession of the right asked. I name him to honor him; for he was one of the most talented, laborious, eloquent, and useful men upon this floor. I allude to Charles Fenton Mercer, of Virginia. Session after session, he brought forward his resolution; and he continued to press it, until, finally, in 1823, he brought the house by yeas and nays to vote their assent to it; and, strange to say, there were but nine votes against it. The same thing took place in the other house. The joint resolution went to the President, and he accordingly entered into the negotiation. It was utterly against my judgment and wishes; but I was obliged to submit, and I prepared the requisite despatches to Mr. Rush, then our minister at the court of London. When he made his proposal to Mr. Canning, Mr. Canning's reply was, 'Draw up your convention, and I will sign it.' Mr. Rush did so, and Mr. Canning, without the slightest alteration whatever,—without varying the dot of an i, or the crossing of a t,—did affix to it his signature; thus assenting to our own terms in our own language.
"The convention came back here for ratification; but, in the mean time, another spirit came over the feelings of this house, as well as of the Senate. A party had been formed against the administration of Mr. Monroe; the course of the administration was no longer favored, and the house came out in opposition to a convention drawn in conformity to its own previous views.
"But now, as I do not wish to intrude on the attention of this committee a single moment longer than is necessary, I will pass over the rest of what I might say on this subject, and recur, in a few observations, to the other war-trumpet which we have heard within the last two days.
"They unite in one purpose, though they seem to be pursuing it by different means. The gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Wise), confining his observations to our relations with Mexico, also urges us to war with the same professions of a disposition for peace as were so often repeated by the gentleman from Pennsylvania in regard to Great Britain. He does not immediately connect the questions of war with Mexico and war with Great Britain, but apparently knows and feels that they are in substance and in fact but one and the same question; and that, so surely as we rush into a war with Mexico, we shall shortly find ourselves in a war with England. The gentleman appeared entirely conscious of that; and I hope that no member of this committee will come to the conclusion that it is possible for us to have a war with Mexico without at the same time going to war with Great Britain. On that subject I will venture to say that the minister from England has no instructions. That is not one of the five points on which the gentleman from Pennsylvania tells us our controversy with England rests, and the surrendering of which is to open to that minister so easy a road to an earldom. The war with Mexico is to be produced by different means, and for different purposes. I think the gentleman from Virginia, in his speech, rested the question of the war with Mexico upon three grounds: 1st, That our citizens had claims against the Mexican government to the amount of ten or twelve millions; 2d, That some ten or twelve of our citizens had been treated with great severity, and suffered disgrace and abuse from the Mexican government, having been made slaves, and compelled to work at cleansing the streets; that these citizens were detained in servitude, while one British subject had been promptly released on the first demand of the British minister there; and, 3d, That a war with Mexico would accomplish the annexation of Texas to the Union. The gentleman was in favor of war, not merely for the abstract purpose of annexing Texas to the Union, but he was for war by peremptorily prohibiting Santa Anna from invading Texas.
"I will take up these reasons in order. And, first, as to going to war for the obtaining of these ten or twelve millions of dollars, being the claims of our own citizens on Mexico. This seems a very extraordinary reason, when, according to the doctrine of the gentleman from Pennsylvania, a state of war at once extinguishes all national debts. If we go to war with Mexico, her debts to our citizens will be expunged at once, if the doctrine of the gentleman from Pennsylvania be true. He did, to be sure, qualify the position by saying that war would at least suspend the payment of interest. If so, then it would equally suspend interest in the case of Mexico. The arguments of the two war gentlemen happen to cross each other, though they are directed to the same end. One of them will have us go to war with Mexico to recover twelve millions of dollars; the other would have us go to war with England to wipe out a debt of two hundred millions. I will not compare the arguments of the two gentlemen together; but I will say, in regard to the doctrine of the gentleman from Pennsylvania, that it has quite too much of repudiation in it for my creed. I do not think that a war with England would extinguish these two hundred millions, but that, on the contrary, Great Britain would be likely to say to us, 'We will go to war to recover the money you owe us,' That is one of the questions which we must settle if we go to war, but which we might otherwise, at least for a time, stave off. But, if we go to war, what must be the effect of the peace that follows? We must pay our two hundred millions, with the interest. As to our debt from Mexico, I believe the way to recover it is not to go to war for it; for war, besides failing to recover the money, will occasion us the loss of ten times the amount in other ways.
"As to war producing a suspension of interest on a national debt, let the gentleman look back a little to the wars of France. In 1793 France was at war with almost all the countries of Europe, and she immediately confiscated all her debts to them. But what happened thirty years after, when the reaection came? The allies took Paris, and, in the settlement which then took place, they compelled France to pay all her debts, with full interest on the whole period during which payment had been suspended. That was the consequence to France of going to war to extinguish debts. And, if we go to war with Great Britain to-morrow, she will make us, as one of the conditions of peace, pay our whole debt of two hundred millions, with interest. And what shall we gain? Spend millions upon millions every year, as long as the war continues; and, unless it is greatly successful, have to pay our debt at last, principal and interest. This would depend on the chances of war, or the issues of battle. And, as our contests would be chiefly on the ocean, we must first obtain a superiority on the seas before we can put her down and vanquish her; and this to save ourselves from the payment of two hundred millions justly due from our citizens to hers!
"There is a second reason given by the gentleman from Virginia in favor of war. He reminds us, with great warmth, that there are some ten or twelve citizens of the United States now prisoners in the city of Mexico, and dragging chains about the streets of that city; that a British subject taken with them has been liberated, while they are kept in bondage. Now, if I am correctly informed, one American citizen, a son of General Coombs, has been liberated on the application of the minister of the United States, who was as fairly a subject of imprisonment as the British subject of whom the gentleman speaks. I certainly have no objections to our minister's making such representations as he can in favor of the release of citizens of the United States, although taken in actual war against Mexico, in association with Texian forces; but I am not prepared to go to war to obtain their liberation. I must first be permitted to ask how it is that these men happen to be in the streets of Mexico. Is it not because they formed part of an expedition got up in Texas against the Mexican city of Santa Fe? Were they not taken flagrante bello, actually engaged in a war they had nothing to do with, to which the United States were no party? In all this great pity and sympathy for American citizens made to travel hundreds of miles barefoot and in chains, the question 'How came they there?' seems never to be asked. And yet, so far as the interposition of this nation for their recovery is concerned, that is the very first question to be asked.
"I come now to the third ground for war urged by the gentleman from Virginia, and I hope I do not misrepresent him when I say that I understood him to affirm that if he had the power he would prohibit the invasion of Texas by Mexico; and if Mexico would not submit to such a requirement, and should persist in her invasion, he would go to war. The gentleman stated, as a ground for war, that Santa Anna had avowed his determination to 'drive slavery beyond the Sabine.' That was what the gentleman from Virginia most apprehended—that slavery would be abolished in Texas; that we should have neighbors at our doors not contaminated by that accursed plague-spot. He would have war with Mexico sooner than slavery should be driven back to the United States, whence it came. If that is to be the avowed opinion of this committee, in God's name let my constituents know it! The sooner it is proclaimed on the house-tops, the better—the house is to go to war with Mexico for the purpose of annexing Texas to this Union!"
REPORT ON PRESIDENT TYLER'S APPROVAL, WITH OBJECTIONS, OF THE BILL FOR THE APPORTIONMENT OF REPRESENTATIVES.—REPORT ON HIS VETO OF THE BILL TO PROVIDE A REVENUE FROM IMPORTS.—LECTURE ON THE SOCIAL COMPACT, AND THE THEORIES OF FILMER, HOBBES, SYDNEY, AND LOCKE.—ADDRESS TO HIS CONSTITUENTS ON THE POLICY OF PRESIDENT TYLER'S ADMINISTRATION.—ADDRESS TO THE NORFOLK COUNTY TEMPERANCE SOCIETY.—DISCOURSE ON THE NEW ENGLAND CONFEDERACY OF 1643.—LETTER TO THE CITIZENS OF BANGOR ON WEST INDIA EMANCIPATION.—ORATION ON LAYING THE CORNER-STONE OF THE CINCINNATI OBSERVATORY.
On the 23d of June, 1842, President Tyler announced to the House of Representatives that he had signed and approved an act for the apportionment of representatives among the several states, and had deposited the same in the office of the Secretary of State, accompanied with his reasons for giving to it his sanction; by which it appeared that, after having officially "approved" that act, he had declared, in effect, that he did not approve of it, having doubts concerning both its constitutionality and expediency, and that he had signed it only in deference to the opinions of both houses of Congress. Mr. Adams, from the committee to whom these proceedings of the President had been referred, in a report to the House severely scrutinizes the course of the President in this respect. He declares that the duty of the President, in exercising the authority given him by the constitution to sign and approve acts of Congress, is prescribed in terms equally concise and precise; and that it has given him no power to alter, amend, comment upon, or assign his reasons for the performance of his duty. These views he illustrates by a minute examination of the language of that instrument, and shows that what the President had done was a departure not only from the language but from the substance of the law prescribing to him his duties in that respect. Mr. Adams then, in behalf of the committee, after showing that the proceeding of the President in this instance is without precedent or example, and imminently dangerous in its tendencies, proceeds to remark:
"The entry upon the bill is, 'Approved: John Tyler;' and that entry makes it the law of the land; and then, by a private note deposited with the law in the Department of State, the same hand which, under the sacred obligation of an official oath, has written the word 'approved,' and added the sign-manual of his name, feels it due to himself to declare that the bill is not approved, and that he doubts both its constitutionality and its policy, and that he signs it only in deference to the declared will of both houses of Congress; not from assent to their reasons, but in submission to their will.
"And he feels it due to himself to say this,—first, that his motives for signing it may be rightly understood; secondly, that his opinions may not be liable to be misunderstood, or, thirdly, quoted hereafter erroneously as a precedent. The motives of a President of the United States for signing an act of Congress can be no other than because he approves it; and because, in that event, the constitution enjoins it upon him to sign it as a duty, which he has sworn to perform, and with which he cannot dispense.
"But no; in the present case the President feels it due to himself to say that his motives for signing the bill were not because he approved it, or because it was made by the constitution his duty to sign it, but to prove his submission to the will of Congress. He feels it due also to himself to guard against the liability of his opinions to misconstruction, or to be quoted hereafter erroneously as a precedent. His signature to the bill, preceded by the word 'approved,' taken in connection with the duties prescribed to the President of the United States by the constitution, certainly was liable to the construction that his opinions were favorable to the bill. They were, indeed, liable to no other construction respectful to him, or trustful to his honor and sincerity; nor can there be a doubt that they would have been quoted hereafter as a precedent. No man living could have imagined that the word 'approved' could be construed to mean either doubt or obsequious submission to the will of others; and it is with extreme regret that the committee see, in the President's exposition of his reasons for signing an act of Congress, the open avowal that, in his vocabulary, used in the performance of one of the most solemn and sacred of his duties, the word 'approved' means not approval, but doubt; not the expression of his own opinions, but mere obsequiousness to the will of Congress."
The report proceeds to deny that the example of the advice given by the first Secretary of State to the first President of the United States, which the President adduces in his support, and the following that advice by that President, gave any "sanction to such recorded duplicity." It asserts that such an example is of dangerous tendency—an encroachment by the Executive on legislative functions; that the reasons given by President Tyler are a running commentary against the law, against its execution according to the intention of the legislature, and forestalling the appropriate action of the judicial tribunals in expounding it. These and consentaneous views the report largely illustrates, and concludes with a resolution declaring the proceedings of the President in this case to have been unwarranted by the constitution and laws of the United States, injurious to the public interest, and of evil example in future; solemnly protesting against its ever being repeated, or adduced as a precedent hereafter.
On the 9th of August, 1842, President Tyler returned to the House of Representatives the bill to provide a revenue from imports, and changing the existing laws imposing duties on them, accompanied with his objections to it. The house referred the subject to a select committee, of which Mr. Adams was chairman. On the 16th of August he reported that the message was the last of a series of executive measures, the result of which had been to defeat and nullify the whole action of the legislative authority of the Union upon the most important interests of the nation;—that, at the accession of the late President Harrison, the revenue and the credit of the country were so completely disordered, that a suffering people had commanded a change in the administration; and the elections throughout the Union had placed in both houses of Congress majorities, the natural exponents of the principles which it was the will of the people should be substituted instead of those which had brought the country to a condition of such wretchedness and shame;—that there was a perfect harmony between the chosen President of the people and this majority; but that, by an inscrutable decree of Providence, the chief of the people's choice, in harmony with whose principles the majorities of both houses had been constituted, was laid low in death. A successor to the office had assumed the title, with totally different principles, who, though professing to harmonize with the principles of his immediate predecessor, and with the majorities in both houses of Congress, soon disclosed his diametrical opposition to them.
The report then proceeds to show the several developments of this new and most unfortunate condition of the general government, effected by "a system of continual and unrelenting exercise of executive legislation,"—by the alternate gross abuse of constitutional power, and bold assumption of powers never vested in him by any law,—resulting in four several vetoes, which, in the course of fifteen months, had suspended the legislation of the Union. It then states and comments upon the reasons assigned by the President for returning this bill to the House of Representatives, with his objections to it, as specified in the veto message referred to this committee; and, after a rigid analysis and course of argument, pronounces them "feeble, inconsistent, and unsatisfactory;" after which the report proceeds:
"They perceive that the whole legislative power of the Union has been, for the last fifteen months, with regard to the action of Congress upon measures of vital importance, in a state of suspended animation, strangled by the five times repeated stricture of the executive cord. They observe that, under these unexampled obstructions to the exercise of their high and legitimate duties, they have hitherto preserved the most respectful forbearance towards the Executive Chief; that while he has time after time annulled, by the mere act of his will, their commission from the people to enact laws for the common welfare, they have forborne even the expression of their resentment for these multiplied insults and injuries. They believed they had a high destiny to fulfil, by administering to the people, in the form of law, remedies for the sufferings which they had too long endured. The will of one man has frustrated all their labors, and prostrated all their powers. The majority of the committee believe that the case has occurred, in the annals of our Union, contemplated by the founders of the constitution, by the grant to the House of Representatives of the power to impeach the President of the United States; but they are aware that the resort to that expedient might, in the present condition of public affairs, prove abortive. They see the irreconcilable difference of opinion and of action between the legislative and executive departments of the government is but sympathetic with the same discordant views and feelings among the people. To them alone the final issue of the struggle must be left. In sorrow and mortification, under the failure of all their labors to redeem the honor and prosperity of their country, it is a cheering consolation to them that the termination of their own official existence is at hand; that they are even now about to return to receive the sentence of their constituents upon themselves; that the legislative power of the Union, crippled and disabled as it may now be, is about to pass, renovated and revivified by the will of the people, into other hands, upon whom will devolve the task of providing that remedy for the public distempers which their own honest and agonizing energies have in vain endeavored to supply.
"The power of the present Congress to enact laws essential to the welfare of the people has been struck with apoplexy by the executive hand. Submission to his will is the only condition upon which he will permit them to act. For the enactment of a measure, earnestly recommended by himself, he forbids their action, unless coupled with a condition declared by himself to be on a subject so totally different that he will not suffer them to be coupled in the same law. With that condition Congress cannot comply. In this state of things he has assumed, as the committee fully believe, the exercise of the whole legislative power to himself, and is levying millions of money upon the people, without any authority of law. But the final decision of this question depends neither upon legislative nor executive, but upon judicial authority; nor can the final decision of the Supreme Court upon it be pronounced before the close of the present Congress. In the mean time, the abusive exercise of the constitutional power of the President to arrest the action of Congress upon measures vital to the welfare of the people has wrought conviction upon the minds of a majority of the committee that the veto power itself must be restrained and modified by an amendment of the constitution itself; a resolution for which they accordingly herewith respectfully report."
The report was signed by ten members of the committee, including the chairman. The resolution with which it closed provided for submitting to the States a proposed modification of the constitution, by substituting the words "majority of the whole number," instead of the words "two thirds," by which the power of the House of Representatives to pass a law, notwithstanding the veto of the President, is at present restricted.
The report was agreed to in the house by a majority of one hundred ayes to ninety nays, and the resolution itself passed by a majority of ninety-eight ayes to ninety nays; but the constitution, in such cases, requiring two thirds majority, it was of consequence rejected.
In November, 1842, Mr. Adams delivered a lecture before the Franklin Lyceum, at Providence, Rhode Island, on the Social Compact, in which he enters into "an examination of the principles of democracy, aristocracy, and universal suffrage, as exemplified in a historical review of the present constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with some notice of the origin of human government, and remarks on the theories of divine right, as maintained by Hobbes and Sir Robert Filmer, on one side, and by Sydney, Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau, on the other."
He shows, from the history of Massachusetts, that the fundamental principle asserted in the fifth article of our declaration of rights, that all power resides originally in the people, is derived from the above-named writers, and explains how this power has been practically exercised by the people of that state. The assertion of Rousseau, that the social compact can be formed only by unanimous consent, because the rule itself that a majority of votes shall prevail can only be established by agreement, that is, by compact, Mr. Adams controverts, maintaining in opposition to it that the social compact constituting the body-politic is, and by the law of nature must be, a compact not merely of individuals, but of families. On this view of the subject he largely animadverts. The philosophical examination of the foundations of civil society, of human governments, and of the rights and duties of man, he views as among the consequences of the Protestant Reformation. The question raised by Martin Luther involved the whole theory of the rights of individual man, paramount to all human authority. The talisman of human rights dissolved the spell of political as well as of ecclesiastical power. The Calvinists of Geneva and the Puritans of England contested the right of kings to prescribe articles of faith to their people, and this question necessarily drew after it the general question of the origin of all human government. In search of its principle, Hobbes, a royalist, affirmed that the state of nature between man and man was a state of war, whence it followed that government originated in conquest. This theory is directly opposite to that of Jesus Christ. It cuts the gordian knot with the sword, extinguishes all the rights of man, and makes fear the corner-stone of government. It is the only theory upon which slavery can be justified, as conformable to the law of nature. This is Sir John Falstaff's law, when, speaking of Justice Shallow, he says, "If the young dace be a bait for the old pike, I see no reason in the law of nature why I may not snap at him." Sir Robert Filmer, by a theory far more plausible, though not more sound, than that of Hobbes, derived the origin of human government from the Scriptures of the Old Testament, from the grant of the earth to Adam, and afterwards to Noah.
But the vital error of Filmer was in assuming that the natural authority of the father over the child was either permanent or unlimited; and still more that the authority of the husband over the wife was unlimited. Sir Robert Filmer did not perceive that by the laws of nature and of God every individual human being is born with rights which no other individual, or combination of individuals, can take away; that all exercise of human authority must be under the limitation of right and wrong; and that all despotic power over human beings is exercised in defiance of the laws of nature and of God—all, Sir John Falstaff's law of nature between the young dace and the old pike.
The history of Filmer's work was remarkable. It was composed and published in the heat of the struggle between King Charles the First and the Commons of England, which terminated in the overthrow of the monarchy, and in the death of King Charles upon the scaffold. It was the theory of government on which the cause of the house of Stuart was sustained. No man can be surprised that such a cause was swept away by a moral and political whirlwind; that it carried with it all the institutions of civil society, so that its march was a wild desolation. James, by relying on the principles of Filmer's theory, fell back into the arms of the Church of Rome, and vainly struggled to turn back the tide of religious reformation, and revive the divine right of kings, and passive obedience, and non-resistance. The republican spirit had slumbered on the white cliffs of Albion, and in his sleep, like the man-mountain in Lilliput, had been pinned down to the earth by the threads of a spider's web for cords. On the first reaeppearance of Filmer's book, he awoke, and, like the strong man in Israel, at the cost of his own life, shook down the temple of Dagon, and buried himself and the Philistines again under its ruins.
The discourses of John Locke concerning government demolished while they immortalized the work of Filmer, whose name and book are now remembered only to be detested. But the first principles of morals and politics, which have long been settled, acquire the authority of self-evident truths, which, when first discussed, may have been vehemently and portentously contested. John Locke, a kindred soul to Algernon Sydney, seven years after his death published an elaborate system of government, in which he declares the "false principles and foundation of Sir Robert Filmer and his followers are detected and overthrown." Subsequently, he published an essay concerning the true original extent and end of civil government. "The principles," says Mr. Adams, "of Sydney and Locke constitute the foundation of the North American Declaration of Independence; and, together with the subsequent writings of Montesquieu and Rousseau, that of the constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and of the constitution of the United States." Neither of these constitutions separately, nor the two in combined harmony, can, without a gross and fraudulent perversion of language, be termed a Democracy. They are neither democracy, aristocracy, nor monarchy. They form together a mixed government, compounded not only of the three elements of democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy, but with a fourth added element, Confederacy. The constitution of the United States when adopted was so far from being considered as a democracy, that Patrick Henry charged it, in the Virginia Convention, with an awful squinting towards monarchy. The tenth number of the Federalist, written by James Madison, is an elaborate and unanswerable essay upon the vital and radical difference between a democracy and a republic. But it is impossible to disconnect the relation between names and things. When the anti-federal party dropped the name of Republicans to assume that of Democrats, their principles underwent a corresponding metamorphosis; and they are now the most devoted and most obsequious champions of executive power—the very life-guard of the commander of the armies and navies of this Union. The name of Democracy was assumed because it was discovered to be very taking among the multitude; yet, after all, it is but the investment of the multitude with absolute power. The constitutions of the United States and of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are both the work of the people—one of the Union, the other of the State—not of the whole people by the phantom of universal suffrage, but of the whole people by that portion of them capable of contracting for the whole. They are not democracy, nor aristocracy, nor monarchy, but a compound of them all, of which democracy is the oxygen, or vital air, too pure in itself for human respiration, but which in the union of other elements, equally destructive in themselves and less pure, forms that moral and political atmosphere in which we live, and move, and have our being.
The preceding abstract, given almost wholly in the language of Mr. Adams, shows the general drift of this characteristic essay.
On the 17th of September, 1842, a convention of delegates from the district he represented received Mr. Adams at Braintree, and expressed their thanks for his services on the floor of Congress, especially for his fidelity in their defence "against every attempt of Southern representatives and their Northern allies to sacrifice at the altar of slavery the freedom of speech and the press, the right of petition, the protection of free labor, and the immunities and privileges of Northern citizens." Mr. Adams, in reply, after expressing his sensibility at their unabated confidence in the integrity of his intentions, and in his capacity to serve them, declared that it had been his endeavor to discharge all the duties of his station "faithfully and gratefully to them; faithfully to our native and beloved Commonwealth; faithfully to our whole common country, the North American Union; faithfully to the world of mankind, in every quarter of the globe, and under every variety of condition or complexion; faithfully to that creator, God, who rules the world in justice and mercy, and to whom our final account must be made up by the standard of those attributes." He then proceeded to state, that on receiving their invitation to attend that meeting, it had been his intention to avail himself of the opportunity to unfold to them the professions, principles, and practices, of the federal administration of these United States, under the successive Presidents invested with executive power, from the day when he took his seat as their representative in Congress to the then present hour.
"I trusted it would be in my power to present to your contemplation, not only the outward and ostensible indications of federal policy, proclaimed and trumpeted abroad as the maxims of the Jackson, Van Buren, and Tyler administrations, but to lay bare their secret purposes, and never yet divulged designs for the future government or dissolution of this Union.
"Further reflection convinced me that this exposition would require more time than you could possibly devote to one meeting to hear me. My friend and colleague, Mr. Appleton, has, in an answer to an invitation of his constituents to a public dinner, lifted a corner of the veil, and opened a glance at the monstrous and horrible object beneath it; but South Carolina nullification itself, with its appendages of separation, secession, and the forty-bale theory, was but the struggles of Quixotism dreaming itself Genius, to erect on the basis of state sovereignty a system for seating South Carolina slavery on the throne of this Union in the event of success; or of severing the present Union, and instituting, with a tier of embryo Southern States to be wrested from the dismemberment of Mexico, a Southern slaveholding confederation to balance the free Republic of the North.
"'The passage,' says Mr. Appleton, 'of the revenue bill imposing discriminating duties with a view to the protection and encouragement of American industry, is, under the circumstances, an event of the very highest importance. Notwithstanding the system had been formerly established in 1816, and fortified by succeeding legislation; notwithstanding its success in the development of our resources and the establishment of manufactures and arts, surpassing the expectation of the most sanguine; notwithstanding the immense investments of capital made on the faith of the national legislation inviting such application, the attempt was seriously entertained of breaking down this whole system, with a reckless disregard of consequences, either in the wanton destruction of capital, or, what is far more important, in the general paralysis of the industry of the country. The origin of this attempt may be traced to the mad ambition of certain politicians of South Carolina, who, in 1832, formed the project of a Southern Confederacy, severed from the rest of the Union, with that state for its centre, as affording more security to the slave states for their peculiar institutions than exist under the general government.
"'This project led to the invention of a theory of political economy, which was maintained with an ingenuity and perseverance worthy of a better cause, founded on the assumption that all imports are, in effect, direct taxes upon exports. So indefatigable were the promulgators of this theory, that the whole South was made to believe that a protective tariff was a system of plunder levied upon their productions of cotton, rice, and tobacco, which constituted the bulk of our exports to foreign markets.'"
Mr. Adams then proceeds to state that the principles of nullification were never more inflexibly maintained, never more inexorably pursued, than they had been by all that portion of the South which had given them countenance, from the day of the death of William Henry Harrison to the present, and that nullification is the creed of the executive mansion at Washington, the acting President's conscience, and the woof of all his vetoes.
"Nullification," he adds, "portentous and fatal as it is to the prospects and welfare of this Union, is not the only instrument of Southern domination wielded by the executive arm at Washington. The dismemberment of our neighboring republic of Mexico, and the acquisition of an immense portion of her territories, was a gigantic and darling project of Andrew Jackson, and is another instrument wielded for the same purpose.
"Within five weeks after the proclamation of the constitution of the Republic of Texas followed the battle of San Jacinto; and from that day the struggles of the Southern politicians, who ruled the councils of this nation, were for upwards of two years unremitting, and unrestrained by any principles of honor, honesty, and truth: openly avowed, and audaciously proclaimed, whenever they dared; clandestinely pursued, under delusive masks and false colors, whenever the occasion required.
"No sooner was the event of the battle of San Jacinto known than memorials and resolutions, from various parts of the Union, were poured in upon Congress, calling upon that body for the immediate recognition of the independence of the Republic of Texas. Many of these memorials and resolutions came from the free states, and one of them from the Legislature of Connecticut, then blindly devoted to the rank Southern, sectional policy of the Jackson administration, by that infatuation of Northern sympathy with Southern interests, which Mr. Appleton points out to our notice, and the true purposes of which had already been sufficiently divulged in an address of Mr. Clement C. Clay to the Legislature of Alabama. But there was another more hidden impulse to this extreme solicitude for the recognition of the independence of Texas working in the free states, quite as ready to assume the mask and cap of liberty as the slave-dealing champions of the rights of man. The Texan land and liberty jobbers had spread the contagion of their land-jobbing traffic all over the free states throughout the Union. Land-jobbing, stock-jobbing, slave-jobbing, rights-of-man-jobbing, were all, hand in hand, sweeping over the land like a hurricane. The banks were plunging into desperate debts, preparing for a universal suspension of specie payment, under the shelter of legislative protection to flood the country with irredeemable paper. Gambling speculation was the madness of the day; and, in the wide-spread ruin which we are now witnessing as the last stage of this moral pestilence, Texan bonds and Texan lands form no small portion of the fragments from the wreck of money corporations contributing their assets of two or three cents to the dollar. All these interests furnished vociferous declaimers for the recognition of Texan independence."
Mr. Adams next states the proceedings of Congress on this subject during the whole of the residue of the Jackson administration, terminating with the recognition by Congress of the independence of Texas. At this period Mr. Van Buren—a Northern man with Southern principles—assumed the functions of President of the United States. But the recognition of the independence of Texas availed nothing without her annexation to the United States. In October, 1837, a formal proposition from the Republic of Texas for such annexation was communicated to Congress, with the statement that it had been declined by Mr. Van Buren. But the passion for the annexation of Texas was not to be so disconcerted. Memorials for and against its annexation poured into Congress, and were referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. "In the debate which arose from their report," says Mr. Adams, "I exposed the whole system of duplicity and perfidy towards Mexico, which had marked the Jackson administration from its commencement to its close. It silenced the clamors for the annexation of Texas to this Union for three years, till the catastrophe of the Van Buren administration. The people of the free states were lulled into the belief that the whole project was abandoned, and that they should hear no more of the slave-trade cravings for the annexation of Texas. Had Harrison lived, they would have heard no more of it to this day. But no sooner was John Tyler installed into the President's house than nullification, and Texas, and war with Mexico, rose again upon the surface, with eye steadily fixed upon the polar star of Southern slave-dealing supremacy in the government of the Union."
Mr. Adams then comments upon the history of the Santa Fe expedition, which was fitted out in the summer of 1841, shortly after the accession of Mr. Tyler, by the then President of Texas, having been originated and concerted within these states, and carried on chiefly by citizens of the United States. That it was known, countenanced, and encouraged, at the presidential house, was, said Mr. Adams, more than questioned; for, while it was on foot, and before it was known, frequent hints were given in public journals, moved by Executive impulse, that at the coming session the annexation of Texas was to be introduced by a citizen of the highest distinction. "But the Texan expedition was ill-starred. Instead of taking and rioting upon the beauty and booty of Santa Fe, they were all captured themselves, without even the glory of putting a price on their lives. They surrendered without firing a gun." The failure of this expedition discomfited the war faction in Congress, and injured for a moment, and only for a moment, the project to which Southern nullification clung with the grasp of death.
Mr. Adams next proceeds to exhibit the evidence to show "the participation of the administration at Washington with this incursion of banditti from Texas against Santa Fe," and to explain "the legislative exploit" by which the treasury of the United States was made to contribute to "the dismemberment of Mexico, and the annexation of an immense portion of its territory to the slave representation of the Union." The internal evidence he regarded as irresistible that "the expedition against Santa Fe was planned within your boundaries, and committed to the execution of your citizens, under the shelter of Mexican banners and commissions."
In the subsequent portion of this address Mr. Adams, regarding the principles of nullification as being at the basis of Mr. Tyler's whole policy, enters at large into its nature, and thus speaks of its origin and association with democracy:
"Let me advert again to the important disclosure in the letter of Mr. Appleton to his constituents, from which I have taken the liberty of reading to you an extract. Nullification was generated in the hot-bed of slavery. It drew its first breath in the land where the meaning of the word democracy is that a majority of the people are the goods and chattels of the minority; that more than one half of the people are not men, women, and children, but things, to be treated by their owners, not exactly like dogs and horses, but like tables, chairs, and joint-stools; that they are not even fixtures to the soil, as in countries where servitude is divested of its most hideous features,—not even beings in the mitigated degradation from humanity of beasts, or birds, or creeping things,—but destitute not only of the sensibilities of our own race of men, but of the sensations of all animated nature. That is the native land of nullification, and it is a theory of constitutional law worthy of its origin. Democracy, pure democracy, has at least its foundation in a generous theory of human rights. It is founded on the natural equality of mankind. It is the corner-stone of the Christian religion. It is the first element of all lawful government upon earth. Democracy is self-government of the community by the conjoint will of the majority of numbers. What communion, what affinity, can there be between that principle and nullification, which is the despotism of a corporation—unlimited, unrestrained, sovereign power? Never, never was amalgamation so preposterous and absurd as that of nullification and democracy."
Of the hostility of nullification to the prosperity of the free states he thus speaks:
"The root of the doctrine of nullification is that if the internal improvement of the country should be left to the legislative management of the national government, and the proceeds of the sales of the public lands should be applied as a perpetual and self-accumulating fund for that purpose, the blessings unceasingly showered upon the people by this process would so grapple the affections of the people to the national authority, that it would, in process of time, overshadow that of the state governments, and settle the preponderancy of power in the free states; and then the undying worm of conscience twinges with terror for the fate of the peculiar institution. Slavery stands aghast at the prospective promotion of the general welfare, and flies to nullification for defence against the energies of freedom, and the inalienable rights of man."
After stating and commenting upon the policy of General Jackson, as having for its object the "dismembering of Mexico, and restoring slavery to Texas, and of surrounding the South with a girdle of slave states, to eternize the blessings of the peculiar institution, and spread them like a garment of praise over the whole North American Union," he explained the effect of party divisions always operating in the United States, and the character of the several proportions of their power. Their results, in tending to revive and strengthen slavery and the slave-trade, which Mr. Adams then foretold, excited melancholy anticipations in the mind of every reflecting freeman. What was then prophecy is now history.
"There are two different party divisions always operating in the House of Representatives of the United States,—one sectional, North and South, or, in other words, slave and free; the other political—both sides of which have been known at different times by different names, but are now usually denominated Whigs and Democrats. The Southern or slave party, outnumbered by the free, are cemented together by a common, intense interest of property to the amount of twelve hundred millions of dollars in human beings, the very existence of which is neither allowed nor tolerated in the North. It is the opinion of many theoretical reasoners on the subject of government that, whatever may be its form, the ruling power of every nation is its property. Mr. Van Buren, in one of his messages to Congress, gravely pointed out to them the anti-republican tendencies of associated wealth. Reflect now upon the tendencies of twelve hundred millions of dollars of associated wealth, directly represented in your national legislature by one hundred members, together with one hundred and forty members representing persons only—freemen, not chattels. Reflect, also, that this twelve hundred millions of dollars of property is peculiar in its character, and comes under a classification once denominated by a Governor of Virginia property acquired by crime; that it sits uneasy upon the conscience of its owner; that, in the purification of human virtue, and the progress of the Christian religion, it has become, and is daily becoming, more and more odious; that Washington and Jefferson, themselves slaveholders, living and dying, bore testimony against it; that it was the dying REMORSE of John Randolph; that it is renounced and abjured by the supreme pontiff of the Roman Church, abolished with execration by the Mahometan despot of Tunis, shaken to its foundations by the imperial autocrat of all the Russias and the absolute monarch of Austria;—all, all bearing reluctant and extorted testimony to the self-evident truth that, by the laws of nature and nature's God, man cannot be the property of man. Recollect that the first cry of human feeling against this unhallowed outrage upon human rights came from ourselves—from the Quakers of Pennsylvania; that it passed from us to England, from England to France, and spread over the civilized world; that, after struggling for nearly a century against the most sordid interests and most furious passions of man, it made its way at length into the Parliament, and ascended the throne, of the British Isles. The slave-trade was made piracy first by the Congress of the United States, and then by the Parliament of Great Britain.
"But the curse fastened by the progress of Christian charity and of human rights upon the African slave-trade could not rest there. If the African slave-trade was piracy, the coasting American slave-trade could not be innocent, nor could its aggravated turpitude be denied. In the sight of the same God who abhors the iniquity of the African slave-trade, neither the American slave-trade nor slavery itself can be held guiltless. From the suppression of the African slave-trade, therefore, the British Parliament, impelled by the irresistible influence of the British people, proceeded to point the battery of its power against slavery itself. At the expense of one hundred millions of dollars, it abolished slavery, and emancipated all the slaves in the British transatlantic colonies; and the government entered upon a system of negotiation with all the powers of the world for the ultimate extinction of slavery throughout the globe.
"The utter and unqualified inconsistency of slavery, in any of its forms, with the principles of the North American Revolution, and the Declaration of our Independence, had so forcibly struck the Southern champions of our rights, that the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of slaves was a darling project of Thomas Jefferson from his first entrance into public life to the last years of his existence. But the associated wealth of the slaveholders outweighed the principles of the Revolution, and by the constitution of the United States a compromise was established between slavery and freedom. The extent of the sacrifice of principle made by the North in this compromise can be estimated only by its practical effects. The principle is that the House of Representatives of the United States is a representation only of the persons and freedom of the North, and of the persons, property, and slavery, of the South. Its practical operation has been to give the balance of power in the house, and in every department of the government, into the hands of the minority of numbers. For practical results look to the present composition of your government in all its departments. The President of the United States, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, are all slaveholders. The Chief Justice and four out of the nine Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States are slaveholders. The commander-in-chief of your army and the general next in command are slaveholders. A vast majority of all the officers of your navy, from the highest to the lowest, are slaveholders. Of six heads of the executive departments, three are slaveholders; securing thus, with the President, a majority in all cabinet consultations and executive councils. From the commencement of this century, upwards of forty years, the office of Chief Justice has always been held by slaveholders; and when, upon the death of Judge Marshall, the two senior justices upon the bench were citizens of the free states, and unsurpassed in eminence of reputation both for learning in the law and for spotless integrity, they were both overlooked and overslaughed by a slaveholder, far inferior to either of them in reputation as a lawyer, and chiefly eminent for his obsequious servility to the usurpations of Andrew Jackson, for which this unjust elevation to the Supreme Judicial bench was the reward.
"As to the house itself, if an article of the constitution had prescribed, or a standing rule of the house had required, that no other than a slaveholder should ever be its Speaker, the regulation could not be more rigorously observed than it is by the compact movements of the slave representation in the house. Of the last six speakers of the house, including the present, every one has been a slaveholder. It is so much a matter of course to see such a person in the chair, that, if a Northern man but thinks of aspiring to the chair, he is only made a laughing-stock for the house.
"With such consequences staring us in the face, what are we to think when we are told that the government of the United States is a democracy of numbers—a government by a majority of the people? Do you not see that the one hundred representatives of persons, property, and slavery, marching in solid phalanx upon every question of interest to their constituents, will always outnumber the one hundred and forty representatives only of persons and freedom, scattered as their votes will always be by conflicting interests, prejudices, and passions?
"But this is not all. The second party division in the house to which I have alluded is political, and known at present by the names of Whigs and Democrats, or Locofocos. The latter are remarkable for an exquisite tenderness of affection for the people, and especially for the poor, provided their skins are white, and against the rich. But it is no less remarkable that the princely slaveholders of the South are among the most thoroughgoing of the Democrats; and their alliance with the Northern Democracy is one of the cardinal points of their policy."
The residue of this address is devoted to a searching and severe examination of the whole course of President Tyler's administration, showing that "the sectional division of parties—in other words, the conflict between freedom and slavery—is the axle round which the administration of the national government revolves." "The political divisions with him, and with all Southern statesmen of his stamp, are mere instruments of power to purchase auxiliary support to the cause of slavery even from the freemen of the North."
In closing this most illustrative address, he apologizes to his constituents for any language he may have used in debate which might be deemed harsh or acrimonious, and asks them to consider the adversaries with whom he had to contend; the virulence and rancor, unparalleled in the history of the country, with which he had been pursued; and to remember that, "for the single offence of persisting to assert the right of the people to petition, and the freedom of speech and of the press, he had been twice dragged before the house to be censured and expelled." One of his assailants, Thomas F. Marshall, had declared, in an address to his constituents, his motives for the past, and his purposes for the future, in the following words:
"Though petitions to dissolve the Union be poured in by thousands, I shall not again interfere on the floor of Congress, since the house have virtually declared that there is nothing contemptuous or improper in offering them, and are willing again to afford Mr. Adams an opportunity of sweeping all the strings of discord that exist in our country. I acted as I thought for the best, being sincerely desirous to check that man, who, if he could be removed from the councils of the nation, or silenced on the exasperating subject to which he seems to have devoted himself, none other, I believe, could be found hardy enough, or bad enough, to fill his place."
"Besides this special and avowed malevolence against me," Mr. Adams remarks,—"this admitted purpose to expel or silence me, for the sake of brow-beating all other members of the free representation, by establishing over them the reign of terror,—a peculiar system of tactics in the house has been observed towards me, by silencers of the slave representation and their allies of the Northern Democracy."
The system of tactics to which he alludes was, first, to turn him out of the office of chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and, this failing, to induce a majority of the servile portion of that committee to refuse any longer to serve with him; their purpose being exactly that of Mr. Marshall, to remove him from the councils of the nation, or to silence him, for the sake of intimidating all others by "an ostentatious display of a common determination not to serve with any man who would not submit to the gag-rule, and would persist in presenting abolition petitions." Mr. Adams then illustrates the powerful effect of such movements to overawe members from the free states.
"Another practice," he observed, "of this communion of Southern, sectional, and Locofoco antipathy against me is, that I never can take part in any debate upon an important subject, be it only upon a mere abstraction, but a pack opens upon me of personal invective in return. Language has no word of reproach or railing that is not hurled at me; and the rules of the house allow me no opportunity to reply till every other member of the house has had his turn to speak, if he pleases. By another rule every debate is closed by a majority whenever they get weary of it. The previous question, or a motion to lay the subject on the table, is interposed, and I am not allowed to reply to the grossest falsehoods and most invidious misrepresentations."
This course of party tactics Mr. Adams exhibits by a particular narrative of the misrepresentation to which he had been subjected, closing his statement with the following acknowledgment: "I must do many of the members of the House of Representatives from the South the justice to say that their treatment of me is dictated far more by the passions and prejudices of their constituents than by their own. Were it not for this curse of slavery, there are some of them with whom I should be on terms of the most intimate and confidential friendship. There are many for whom I entertain high esteem, respect, and affectionate attachment. There are among them those who have stood by me in my trials, and scorned to join in the league to sacrifice me as a terror to others."
In September, 1842, at the invitation of the Norfolk County Temperance Society, Mr. Adams delivered at Quincy an address,—not perhaps in coincidence with the prevailing expectations of that society, but in perfect unison with his own characteristic spirit of independence. He instituted an inquiry into the effect of the principles of total abstinence from the use of spirituous liquors, the administration of pledges, or, in other words, the contracting of engagements by vows; and examined the whole subject with reference to the essential connection which exists between temperance and religion. In the course of his argument he maintains that the moral principles inculcated by the whole tenor of the Old Testament, with regard to temperance, are,—1. That the temperate use of wine is innocent, and without sin. 2. That excess in it is a heinous sin. 3. That the voluntary assumption of a vow or pledge of total abstinence is an effort of exalted virtue, and highly acceptable in the sight of God. 4. That the habit of excess in the use of wine is an object of unqualified abhorrence and disgust. He concluded with a warning to his fellow-citizens to "stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made you free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage;" and, after applauding the members of the Norfolk County Temperance Society for their attempts to suppress intemperance, declaring it a holy work, and invoking the blessing of Heaven on their endeavors, he bids them "go forth as missionaries of Christianity among their own kindred. Go, with the commendation of the Saviour to his apostles when he first sent them forth to redeem the world: 'Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.' In the ardor of your zeal for moral reform forget not the rights of personal freedom. All excess is of the nature of intemperance. Self-government is the foundation of all our political and social institutions; and it is by self-government alone that the laws of temperance can be enforced.... Above all, let no tincture of party politics be mingled with the pure stream from the fountain of temperance."
The spirit of this address, and the intimate knowledge of the Scriptures Mr. Adams possessed, will be illustrated by the following extract:
"Throughout the whole of the Old Testament the vine is represented as one of the most precious blessings bestowed by the Creator upon man. In the incomparable fable of Jotham, when he lifted up his voice on the summit of Mount Gerizim, and cried to the men of Shechem, 'Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you,' he told them that when the trees of the forest went forth to anoint them a king to reign over them, they offered the crown successively to the olive-tree, the fig-tree, and the vine. They all declined to accept the royal dignity; and when it came to the turn of the vine to assign the reasons for his refusal, he said, 'Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?' In the one hundred and fourth Psalm,—that most magnificent of all descriptions of the glory, the omnipotence, and the goodness of the Creator, God,—wine is enumerated among the richest of his blessings bestowed upon man. 'He causeth the grass to grow,' says the Psalmist, 'for the cattle, and herb for the service of man, that he may bring forth food out of the earth, and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread that strengtheneth man's heart.'
"But, while wine was thus classed among the choicest comforts and necessaries of life, the cautions and injunctions against the inordinate use of it are repeated and multiplied in every variety of form. 'Wine is a mocker,' says Solomon (Prov. 20:1); 'strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.' 'He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man; he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.' (21:17.) 'Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth its color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright,'—say, like sparkling Champagne.—'At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange wonders, and thine heart shall utter perverse things; yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth on the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.' Never was so exquisite a picture of drunkenness and the drunkard painted by the hand of man.
"Yet in all this there is no interdict upon the use of wine. The caution and the precept are against excess."
On the 29th of May, 1843, Mr. Adams delivered before the Massachusetts Historical Society a discourse in celebration of the Second Centennial Anniversary of the New England Confederacy of 1643. This work is characterized by that breadth and depth of research for which he was distinguished and eminently qualified. It includes traces of the early settlements of Virginia, New England, Pennsylvania, and New York; of the causes of each, and the spirit in which they were made and conducted, and of the principles which they applied in their intercourse with the aboriginals of the forest. He then proceeds to give an account of the confederation of the four New England colonies, Plymouth, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Haven, in 1643, with appropriate statements of the principles and conduct of the founders of each settlement, and of the character and motives of the leaders of each of them.
The origin, motives, and objects of that confederation, he explains; analyzing the distribution of power between the commissioners of the whole confederacy and among the separate governments of the colonies, and showing that it combined the same identical principles with those which gathered and united the thirteen English colonies as the prelude to the Revolution which severed them forever from their national connection with Great Britain; and that the New England Confederacy of 1643 was the model and prototype of the North American Confederacy of 1774.
His sketch of the founder of the Colony of Rhode Island will give a general idea of the spirit and bearing of this discourse:
"Roger Williams was a man who maybe considered the very impersonation of a combined conscientious and contentious spirit. Born in the land of Sir Hugh Evans and Captain Fluellen, educated at the University of Oxford, at the very period when the monarchical Episcopal Church of England was purging herself, as by fire, from the corruptions of the despotic and soul-degrading Church of Rome, he arrived at Boston in February, 1630, about half a year after the landing of the Massachusetts Colony of Governor Winthrop. He was an eloquent preacher, stiff and self-confident in his opinions; ingenious, powerful, and commanding, in impressing them upon others; inflexible in his adherence to them; and, by an inconsistency peculiar to religious enthusiasts, combining the most amiable and affectionate sympathies of the heart with the most repulsive and inexorable exclusions of conciliation, compliance, or intercourse, with his adversaries in opinion.
"On his first arrival he went to Salem, and there soon made himself so acceptable by his preaching, that the people of Mr. Skelton's church invited him to settle with them as his colleague. But he had broached, and made no hesitation in maintaining, two opinions imminently dangerous to the very existence of the Massachusetts Colony, and certainly not remarkable for that spirit of charity or toleration upon which he afterwards founded his own government, and which now, in after ages, constitutes his brightest title to renown. The first of these opinions was that the royal charter to the Colony of Massachusetts was a nullity, because the King of England had no right to grant lands in foreign countries, which belonged of right to their native inhabitants. This opinion struck directly at all right of property held under the authority of the royal charter, and, followed to its logical conclusions, would have proved the utter impotence of the royal charter to confer power of government, any more than it could convey property in the soil.
"The other opinion was that the Church of Boston was criminal for having omitted to make a public declaration of repentance for having held communion with the Church of England before their emigration; and upon that ground he had refused to join in communion with the Church of Boston.
"By the subtlety and vehemence of his persuasive powers he had prevailed upon Endicott to look upon the cross of St. George in the banners of England as a badge of idolatry, and to cause it actually to be cut out of the flag floating at the fort in Salem. The red cross of St. George in the national banner of England was a grievous and odious eye-sore to multitudes, probably to a great majority, of the Massachusetts colonists; but, in the eyes of the government of the colony, it was the sacred badge of allegiance to the monarchy at home, already deeply jealous of the purposes and designs of the Puritan colony."
On the 4th of July, 1843, Mr. Adams, in a letter addressed to the citizens of Bangor, in Maine, declining their invitation to deliver an address on the 1st of August, the anniversary of British emancipation of slavery in the West Indies, thus expressed his views on that subject:
"The extinction of SLAVERY from the face of the earth is a problem, moral, political, religious, which at this moment rocks the foundations of human society throughout the regions of civilized man. It is indeed nothing more nor less than the consummation of the Christian religion. It is only as immortal beings that all mankind can in any sense be said to be born equal; and when the Declaration of Independence affirms as a self-evident truth that all men are born equal, it is precisely the same as if the affirmation had been that all men are born with immortal souls; for, take away from man his soul, the immortal spirit that is within him, and he would be a mere tamable beast of the field, and, like others of his kind, would become the property of his tamer. Hence it is, too, that, by the law of nature and of God, man can never be made the property of man. And herein consists the fallacy with which the holders of slaves often delude themselves, by assuming that the test of property is human law. The soul of one man cannot by human law be made the property of another. The owner of a slave is the owner of a living corpse; but he is not the owner of a man."
In illustration of this principle he observes that "the natural equality of mankind, affirmed by the signers of the Declaration of Independence to be held up by them as self-evident truth, was not so held by their enemies. Great Britain held that sovereign power was unlimitable, and the natural equality of mankind was a fable. France and Spain had no sympathies for the rights of human nature. Vergennes plotted with Gustavus of Sweden the revolution in Sweden from liberty to despotism. Turgot, shortly after our Declaration of Independence, advised Louis Sixteenth that it was for the interest of France and Spain that the insurrection of the Anglo-American colonies should be suppressed. But none of them foresaw or imagined what would be the consequence of the triumphant establishment in the continent of North America of an Anglo-Saxon American nation on the foundation of the natural equality of mankind, and the inalienable rights of man."
Mr. Adams then states and reasons upon these consequences in Europe and the United States: the abolition of slavery by the judicial decision of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, three years after the Declaration of Independence. Since that day there has not been a slave within that state. The same principle is corroborated by the fact that the Declaration of Independence imputes slavery in Virginia to George the Third, as one of the crimes which proved him to be a tyrant, unfit to rule a free people; and that at least twenty slaveholders, if not thirty, among whom were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, avowed abolitionists, were signers of that Declaration.
He next states that "the result of the North American revolutionary war had prepared the minds of the people of the British nation to contemplate with calm composure the new principle engrafted upon the association of the civilized race of man, the self-evident truth, the natural equality of mankind and the rights of man." He then introduces Anthony Benezet, a member of the society of Friends, and Granville Sharp, an English philanthropist, "blowing the single horn of human liberty and the natural equality of mankind against the institution of slavery, practised from time immemorial by all nations, ancient and modern; supported by the denunciation of the traffic in slaves by the popular writers both in France and England,—by Locke, Addison, and Sterne, as well as by Raynal, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Voltaire; succeeded by the association of Thomas Clarkson and two or three Englishmen together, for the purpose of arraying the power of the British empire for the total abolition of slavery throughout the earth." The success of that association he next illustrates,—until this "emanation of the Christian faith is now, under the cross of St. George, overflowing from the white cliffs of Albion, and sweeping the slave-trade and slavery from the face of the terraqueous globe." He proceeds:
"People of that renowned island!—children of the land of our forefathers!—proceed, proceed in this glorious career, till the whole earth shall be redeemed from the greatest curse that ever has afflicted the human race. Proceed until millions upon millions of your brethren of the human race, restored to the rights with which they were endowed by your and their Creator, but of which they have been robbed by ruffians of their own race, shall send their choral shouts of redemption to the skies in blessings upon your names. O, with what pungent mortification and shame must I confess that in the transcendent glories of that day our names will not be associated with yours! May Heaven in mercy grant that we may be spared the deeper damnation of seeing our names recorded, not among the liberators, but with the oppressors of mankind!"
After inquiring what we have done in the United States to support "the principle proclaimed to the world as that which was to be the vital spark of our existence as a community among the nations of the earth," and declaring that we have done nothing, he thus enumerates the proceedings which disqualify us from presuming to share in the festivities and unite in the songs of triumph of the 1st of August, and shows how little we have concurred with Great Britain in her attempts to break the chain of slavery. He inquires into what we are doing:
"Are we not suffering our own hands to be manacled, and our own feet to be fettered, with the chains of slavery? Is it not enough to be told that, by a fraudulent perversion of language in the constitution of the United States, we have falsified the constitution itself, by admitting into both the legislative and executive departments of the government an overwhelming representation of one species of property, to the exclusion of all others, and that the odious property in slaves?
"Is it not enough that, by this exclusive privilege of property representation, confined to one section of the country, an irresistible ascendency in the action of the general government has been secured, not indeed to that section, but to an oligarchy of slaveholders in that section—to the cruel oppression of the poor in that same section itself? Is it not enough that, by the operation of this radical iniquity in the organization of the government, an immense disproportion of all offices, from the highest to the lowest, civil, military, naval, executive, and judicial, are held by slaveholders? Have we not seen the sacred right of petition totally suppressed for the people of the free states during a succession of years, and is it not yet inexorably suppressed? Have we not seen, for the last twenty years, the constitution and solemn treaties with foreign nations trampled on by cruel oppression and lawless imprisonment of colored mariners in the Southern States, in cold-blooded defiance of a solemn adjudication by a Southern judge in the Circuit Court of the Union? And is not this enough? Have not the people of the free states been required to renounce for their citizens the right of habeas corpus and trial by jury; and, to coerce that base surrender of the only practical security to all personal rights, have not the slave-breeders, by state legislation, subjected to fine and imprisonment the colored citizens of the free states, for merely coming within their jurisdiction? Have we not tamely submitted for years to the daily violation of the freedom of the post-office and of the press by a committee of seal-breakers? And have we not seen a sworn Postmaster-general formally avow that, though he could not license this cut-purse protection of the peculiar institution, the perpetrators of this highway robbery must justify themselves by the plea of necessity? And has the pillory or the penitentiary been the reward of that Postmaster-general? Have we not seen printing-presses destroyed; halls erected for the promotion of human freedom levelled with the dust, and consumed by fire; and wanton, unprovoked murder perpetrated with impunity, by slave-mongers? Have we not seen human beings, made in the likeness of God, and endowed with immortal souls, burnt at the stake, not for their offences, but for their color? Are not the journals of our Senate disgraced by resolutions calling for war, to indemnify the slave-pirates of the Enterprise and the Creole for the self-emancipation of their slaves; and to inflict vengeance, by a death of torture, upon the heroic self-deliverance of Madison Washington? Have we not been fifteen years plotting rebellion against our neighbor republic of Mexico, for abolishing slavery throughout all her provinces? Have we not aided and abetted one of her provinces in insurrection against her for that cause? And have we not invaded openly, and sword in hand, another of her provinces, and all to effect her dismemberment, and to add ten more slave states to our confederacy? Has not the cry of war for the conquest of Mexico, for the expansion of reinstituted slavery, for the robbery of priests, and the plunder of religious establishments, yet subsided? Have the pettifogging, hair-splitting, nonsensical, and yet inflammatory bickerings about the right of search, pandering to the thirst for revenge in France, panting for war to prostrate the disputed title of her king—has the sound of this war-trumpet yet faded away upon our ears? Has the supreme and unparalleled absurdity of stipulating by treaty to keep a squadron of eighty guns for five years without intermission upon the coast of Africa, to suppress the African slave-trade, and at the same time denying, at the point of the bayonet, the right of that squadron to board or examine any slaver all but sinking under a cargo of victims, if she but hoist a foreign flag—has this diplomatic bone been yet picked clean? Or is our indirect participation in the African slave-trade to be protected, at whatever expense of blood and treasure? Is the supreme Executive Chief of this commonwealth yet to speak not for himself, but for her whole people, and pledge them to shoulder their muskets, and to endorse their knapsacks, against the fanatical, non-resistant abolitionists, whenever the overseers may please to raise the bloody flag with the swindling watch-word of 'Union'? O, my friends, I have not the heart to join in the festivity on the First of August—the British anniversary of disenthralled humanity—while all this, and infinitely more that I could tell, but that I would spare the blushes of my country, weigh down my spirits with the uncertainty, sinking into my grave as I am, whether she is doomed to be numbered among the first liberators or the last oppressors of the race of immortal man!
"Let the long-trodden-down African, restored by the cheering voice and Christian hand of Britain to his primitive right and condition of manhood, clap his hands and shout for joy on the anniversary of the First of August. Let the lordly Briton strip off much of his pride on other days of the year, and reserve it all for the pride of conscious beneficence on this day. What lover of classical learning can read the account in Livy, or in Plutarch, of the restoration to freedom of the Grecian cities by the Roman consul Flaminius, without feeling his bosom heave, and his blood flow cheerily in his veins? The heart leaps with sympathy when we read that, on the first proclamation by the herald, the immense assembled multitude, in the tumult of astonishment and joy, could scarcely believe their own ears, and made him repeat the proclamation, and then 'Tum ab certo jam gaudio, tantus cum clamore, plausus est ortus, totiesque repetitus, ut facile appararet nihil omnium bonorum multitudini gratius quam libertatem esse.—Then rang the welkin with long and redoubled shouts of exultation, clearly proving that, of all the enjoyments accessible to the hearts of men, nothing is so delightful to them as liberty.' Upwards of two thousand years have revolved since that day, and the First of August is to the Briton of this age what the day of the proclamation of Flaminius was to the ancient Roman. Yes! let them celebrate the First of August as the day to them of deliverance and glory; and leave to us the pleasant employment of commenting upon their motives, of devising means to shelter the African slaver from their search, and of squandering millions to support, on a pestilential coast, a squadron of the stripes and stars, with instructions sooner to scuttle their ships than to molest the pirate slaver who shall make his flagstaff the herald of a lie!"
In July, 1843, the Cincinnati Astronomical Society earnestly solicited Mr. Adams to lay the corner-stone of their Observatory. No invitation could have been more coincident with the prevailing interest of his heart, and he immediately accepted it, notwithstanding his advanced age, and the great distance which the performance of the duty required him to travel. Some of his constituents having questioned the propriety of this acceptance, and expressed doubts whether the duties it imposed were compatible with his other public obligations, Mr. Adams, in an address to them, at Dedham, on the 4th of July, took occasion to state that the encouragement of the arts and sciences, and of all good literature, is expressly enjoined by the constitution of Massachusetts. The patronage and encouragement of them is therefore one of the most sacred duties of the people of that state, and enjoined upon them and their children as a part of their duty to God. "The voices of your forefathers, founders of your social compact, calling from their graves, command you to this duty; and I deem it, as your representative, a tacit and standing instruction from you to perform, as far as may be my ability, that part of your constitutional duty for you. It is in this sense that, in accepting the earnest invitation from a respectable and learned society, in a far distant state and city of the Union, to unite with them in the act of erecting an edifice for the observation of the heavens, and thereby encouraging the science of astronomy, I am fulfilling an obligation of duty to you, and in your service." The nature of this duty he thus illustrates:
"From the Ptolemies of Egypt and Alexander of Macedon, from Julius Caesar to the Arabian Caliphs Haroun al Raschid, Almamon, and Almansor, from Alphonso of Castile to Nicholas, the present Emperor of all the Russias,—who, at the expense of one million of rubles, has erected at Pulkova the most perfect and best-appointed observatory in the world,—royal and imperial power has never been exercised with more glory, never more remembered with the applause and gratitude of mankind, than when extending the hand of patronage and encouragement to the science of astronomy. You have neither Caesar nor Czar, Caliph, Emperor, nor King, to monopolize this glory by largesses extracted from the fruits of your industry. The founders of your constitution have left it as their dying commandment to you, to achieve, as the lawful sovereigns of the land, this resplendent glory to yourselves—to patronize and encourage the arts and sciences, and all good literature."
Mr. Adams left Quincy for Cincinnati on the 25th of October, and returned to Washington on the 24th of November. At Saratoga, Rochester, Buffalo, he was received with marked attention; and in every place where he rested assemblages of the inhabitants took occasion to evidence their respect and interest in his character by congratulatory addresses, and welcomed his presence by every token of civility and regard. At Columbus he was met by a deputation from Cincinnati, and, in approaching that city, he was escorted into it by a procession and cavalcade. No demonstration of honor and gratitude for the exertion he had made, and the fatigues he had undergone, for their gratification, was omitted. His whole progress was an ovation.
In the presence of a large concourse of the citizens of Cincinnati, Mr. Adams was introduced to the Astronomical Society by its president, Judge Burnet, who gave, in an appropriate address, a rapid sketch of the history of his life and his public services, touching with delicacy and judgment on the trials to which his political course had been subjected. The following tributes, from their truth, justice, and appropriateness, are entitled to distinct remembrance:
"Being a son of one of the framers and defenders of the Declaration of Independence, his political principles were formed in the school of the sages of the Revolution, from whom he imbibed the spirit of liberty while he was yet a boy.
"Having been brought up among the immediate descendants of the Puritan fathers, whose landing in Massachusetts in the winter of 1620 gave immortality to the rock of Plymouth, his moral and religious impressions were derived from a source of the most rigid purity; and his manners and habits were formed in a community where ostentation and extravagance had no place. In this fact we see why it is that he has always been distinguished for his purity of motive, simplicity of manners, and republican plainness in his style of living and in his intercourse with society. To the same causes may be ascribed his firmness, his directness of purpose, and his unyielding adherence to personal as well as political liberty. You have recently seen him stand as unmoved as the rock of Gibraltar, defending the right of petition, and the constitutional privileges of the representatives of the people, assembled in Congress, though fiercely assailed by friends and by foes.
"It is a remarkable fact that during the whole of his public life, which has already continued more than half a century, he never connected himself with a political party, or held himself bound to support or oppose any measure for the purpose of advancing or retarding the views of a party; but he has held himself free at all times to pursue the course which duty pointed out, however he may have been considered by some as adhering to a party. This fact discloses the reason why he has been applauded at times, and at other times censured, by every party which has existed under the government. The truth is that, while the American people have been divided into two great political sections, each contending for its own aggrandizement, Mr. Adams has stood between them, uninfluenced by either, contending for the aggrandizement of the nation. His life has been in some respects sui generis; and I venture the opinion that, generally, when his course has differed most from the politicians opposed to him, it has tended most to the advancement of the public good.
"As a proof of the desire Mr. Adams has always cherished for the advancement of science, I might refer to his annual message to Congress in December, 1825, in which he recommended the establishment of a National University, and an Astronomical Observatory, and referred to the hundred and thirty of those 'light-houses of the skies' existing in Europe, as casting a reproach on our country for its unpardonable negligence on that important subject. The manner in which that recommendation was received and treated can never be forgotten. It must at this day be a source of great comfort to that devoted friend of science that those who yet survive of the highly-excited party which attempted to cast on him reproach and ridicule for that proposition, and especially for assimilating those establishments to light-houses of the skies, have recently admitted the wisdom of his advice by making ample appropriations to accomplish the very object he then proposed."
The oration Mr. Adams delivered on that occasion is, perhaps, the most extraordinary of his literary efforts, evidencing his comprehensive grasp of the subject, and the intensity of his interest in it. It embraces an outline of the history of astronomy, illustrated by an elevated and excited spirit of philosophy. Those who cultivated, those who patronized, and those who advanced it, are celebrated, and the events of their lives and the nature of their services are briefly related. The operations of the mind which are essential to its progress are touched upon. The intense labor and peculiar intellectual qualifications incident to and required for its successful pursuit are intimated. Nor are the inventors of those optical instruments, who had contributed to the advancement of this science beyond all previous anticipation, omitted in this extensive survey of its nature, progress, and history.
After celebrating "the gigantic energies and more than heroic labors of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo," he pronounced Newton "the consummation of them all."
"It was his good fortune," observed Mr. Adams, "to be born and to live in a country where there was no college of cardinals to cast him into prison, and doom him to spend his days in repeating the seven penitential psalms, for shedding light upon the world, and publishing mathematical truths. Newton was not persecuted by the dull and ignorant instruments of political or ecclesiastical power. He lived in honor among his countrymen; was a member of one Parliament, received the dignity of knighthood, held for many years a lucrative office, and at his decease was interred in solemn state in Westminster Abbey, where a monument records his services to mankind, among the sepulchres of the British kings.
"From the days of Newton down to the present hour, the science of astronomy has been cultivated, with daily deepening interest, by all the civilized nations of Europe—by England, France, Prussia, Sweden, several of the German and Italian states, and, above all, by Russia, whose present sovereign has made the pursuit of knowledge a truly imperial virtue."
After speaking of the patronage extended to this science by the nations and sovereigns of Europe, he terminates his developments with this stirring appeal to his own countrymen:
"But what, in the mean time, have we been doing? While our fathers were colonists of England we had no distinctive political or literary character. The white cliffs of Albion covered the soil of our nativity, though another hemisphere first opened our eyes on the light of day, and oceans rolled between us and them. We were Britons born, and we claimed to be the countrymen of Chaucer and Shakspeare, Milton and Newton, Sidney and Locke, Arthur and Alfred, as well as of Edward the Black Prince, Harry of Monmouth, and Elizabeth. But when our fathers abjured the name of Britons, and 'assumed among the nations of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitled them,' they tacitly contracted the engagement for themselves, and above all for their posterity, to contribute, in their corporate and national capacity, their full share, ay, and more than their full share, of the virtues that elevate and of the graces that adorn the character of civilized man. They announced themselves as reformers of the institution of civil society. They spoke of the laws of nature, and in the name of nature's God; and by that sacred adjuration they pledged us, their children, to labor with united and concerted energy, from the cradle to the grave, to purge the earth of all slavery; to restore the race of man to the full enjoyment of those rights which the God of nature had bestowed upon him at his birth; to disenthrall his limbs from chains, to break the fetters from his feet and the manacles from his hands, and set him free for the use of all his physical powers for the improvement of his own condition. The God in whose name they spoke had taught them, in the revelation of the Gospel, that the only way in which man can discharge his duty to Him is by loving his neighbor as himself, and doing with him as he would be done by; respecting his rights while enjoying his own, and applying all his emancipated powers of body and of mind to self-improvement and the improvement of his race."
REPORT ON THE RESOLVES OF THE LEGISLATURE OF MASSACHUSETTS PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES IN EFFECT TO ABOLISH A REPRESENTATION FOR SLAVES.—FOURTH REPORT ON JAMES SMITHSON'S BEQUEST. —INFLUENCE OF MR. ADAMS ON THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE NATIONAL OBSERVATORY AND THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION.—GENERAL JACKSON'S CHARGE THAT THE RIO GRANDE MIGHT HAVE BEEN OBTAINED, UNDER THE SPANISH TREATY, AS A BOUNDARY FOR THE UNITED STATES, REFUTED.—ADDRESS TO HIS CONSTITUENTS AT WEYMOUTH. —REMARKS ON THE RETROCESSION OF ALEXANDRIA TO VIRGINIA.—HIS PARALYSIS. —RECEPTION BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.—HIS DEATH.—FUNERAL HONORS. —TRIBUTE TO HIS MEMORY.
In April, 1844, certain resolves of the Legislature of Massachusetts, proposing to Congress to recommend, according to the provisions of the fifth article of the constitution of the United States, an amendment to the said constitution, in effect abolishing the representation for slaves, being under consideration, and a report adverse to such amendment having been made by a majority of the committee, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Giddings, of Ohio, being a minority, united in a report, in which, concurring in the opinion of the majority so far as to believe that it was not, at that time, expedient to recommend the amendment proposed by the Legislature of Massachusetts, they were compelled to dissent from the views and the reasons which had actuated them in coming to that conclusion.