« AnkstesnisTęsti »
trymen. Were we permitted to trace effects to their causes, in the moral government of the world, we should doubtless find that much of our prosperity as a people flows from the labors of faithful pastors, self-denying Sunday-school teachers, and sincere, zealous, but humble Christian men and women. It is chiefly by such patriotism, gentle and noiseless as the dew of Heaven, that our land is clothed with moral verdure and beauty, and that those who sit under their own vine, with none to make them afraid, are indebted for the peace and security they enjoy.
Patriotism springing from obedience to God, guided by His laws, and exercised in official station for the national welfare, at the certain and willing loss of popular favor and personal advantage, is perhaps the highest perfection to which this virtue can attain. Our own recent history affords an illustrious instance of such patriotism. We proceed to trace the course of JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, because we find in it a sanction for almost every moral and political sentiment maintained in these pages; and also because his example is well calculated to quicken and to purify the love of country, and to convey to all lessons of virtue and true wisdom.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.
Custom has sanctioned certain funeral honors on the de. cease of a man who has been President of the Republic, which, like the salute given to a military officer, affords no evidence of respect for his personal character. The honors paid to the memory of Adams were the outpourings of the heart of a great nation. The strife of faction was stilled, the voice of party was dumb, and the whole American people acknowledged and deplored the departure of a PATRIOT. It is interesting, and may be useful, to inquire into the cause of this wonderful and universal attestation, in the midst of high political excitement, to the merits of a public man. 2. Mr. Adams had long been in public life; but his career, for the most part, had not been calculated to win the affections of the people. It was commenced in the Federal party. He incurred the deep hostility of that party by abandoning it at a critical and important juncture, and exposed his motives to suspicion by accepting office from his late opponents. The democratic party, which had welcomed him into its bosom, and had abundantly re. warded what was deemed his apostacy, he abandoned in turn, and, as a Whig, became its active and zealous foe. Much of his life was passed at foreign courts; and, al though always able, he gathered no unusual laurels in the field of diplomacy. Having never borne arms, no military halo encircled his brow. In 1824, at a period of singular party disorganization, he was one of four candidates for the Presidency. He received fewer votes than one of his competitors, but, as neither had a majority of the whole number, the election devolved on the House of Representatives. By that body he was chosen President by the smallest possible majority, and the vote of one of the largest States was decided in his favor by a single ballot. Instantly the whole country resounded with charges against him of base corruption. His administration, although pure, did not give general satisfaction. He was a candidate for the succeeding term, and was defeated by a large majority; and he retired to private life, one of the most unpopular of all the prominent politicians of the country.
In 1831, to the surprise of all, and to the mortification of many of his friends, he accepted a seat in the House of Representatives. He came there avowedly, to use his own words, “bound in allegiance to no party, whether sectional or political.” He was thus deprived of that countenance and support which parties give both to their leaders and their tools. He was, it is true, confessedly a Whig; but so independent was his course, that he was continually ridiculed as running off the track," and regarded as a man not to be depended on. He exerted but little influence in the House, and attracted but little attention till about the year 1836.
At this time the agitation of the anti-slavery question roused the holders of slaves to great exasperation, and alarmed the two political parties at the North, lest their supposed sympathy with the cause of human freedom might weaken the friendship of their southern allies, and deprive them of their coöperation in the pursuit of office. Hence Whigs and Democrats contended which should show the most devotion to slavery, the most zeal in suppressing the liberty of the press, and the freedom of discussion. Both whig and democratic Governors assailed the Abolitionists in their official Messages, threatening them with the penalties of the law. Mobs were raised in the large cities, by the efforts of rival newspapers and politicians. Printing presses were destroyed, individuals assaulted, churches sacked, and the freedom of the PostOffice shamefully invaded with the connivance of a democratic President and cabinet, postmasters being permitted to abstract from the mails whatever they deemed offensive to the slaveholders. But vain would it be to suppress anti-slavery tracts and newspapers, if a few independent members were permitted to make anti-slavery speeches on the floor of Congress, and which the press would spread on the wings of the wind as a portion of the ordinary debates. Such speeches had been made, and they were called forth by anti-slavery petitions. Hence, it was resolved to abolish the right of petition, and the freedom of discussion in Congress, on all subjects relating to slavery. It was on the 26th May, 1836, that the House of Representatives passed, without debate, the celebrated rule, known from the name of its author, as the Pinkney Gag. From this moment, atterly discarding all considerations of political influence, Mr. Adams devoted himself to the defence of constitutional liberty, assailed by the southern slaveholders, and their northern allies.* On the question of the gag-rule, prostrating alike the right of petition, and the freedom of discussion on the floor of the House, Mr. Adams, being precluded by the previous question from offering any remark, refused to vote, exclaiming, when his name was called, “I consider this resolution as a direct violation of the rules of this House, of the Con.
* Of seventy-nine northern Democrats, sixty-two voted with the slaveholders, and only one of forty-four northern Whigs.
upon him the
stitution of the United States, and of the rights of my constituents.” He then demanded that his refusal to vote, and the reason assigned, should be entered upon
the minutes. The boldness and independence wbich he exhibited on this occasion, so novel and unexpected, so utterly at variance with the usual deferential submission of northern politicians to southern dictation, instantly riveted
gaze of his countrymen, nor was that gaze intermitted, till twelve years afterwards, it beheld his honored and revered remains deposited in the tomb of his ancestors. He declared, in the presence of its authors and supporters, that the gag-rule was an infamous resolution.” He fearlessly imputed it to corrupt motives, and waged against it, a most vigorous and unceasing warfare, in speeches, in public addresses, in letters through the press to his own constituents, and to the people of the United States, till in December, 1845, he had the glory of carrying a resolution for its abolition.
Of all abominations in the sight of southern members of Congress, the alleged right of slaves to offer petitions to the national legislature, was the most atrocious, striking, in their opinion, a fatal blow at the authority of the masters. Mr. Adams, however, told the House, “ If slaves were laboring under grievances and afflictions not incident to their condition as slaves, but to their natures as human beings, born to trouble as the sparks fly upward, and it were in the power and competency of the House to afford them relief, and if the House would permit me, I most assuredly would present their petition; and, if that avowal deserves the censure of the House, I am ready to receive it. I would not deny the right of petition to slaves. I would not deny it to a horse or a dog, if they could articulate their sufferings, and I could relieve them.” When threatened with an indictment for his anti-slavery