JOHN ADAMS LETTER TO BENJAMIN RUSH; 1811

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JOHN ADAMS LETTER TO BENJAMIN RUSH;

Quincy, 28 August, 1811.

Your letter of the 20th, my dear friend, has filled my eyes with tears, and, indurated stoic as I am, my heart with sensations unutterable by my tongue or pen; not the feelings of vanity, but the overwhelming sense of my own unworthiness of such a panegyric from such a friend. Like Louis the sixteenth, I said to myself, “Qu’est ce que fai fait pour le meriter?”
[What is done to deserve?]

Have I not been employed in mischief all my days? Did not the American revolution produce the French revolution? And did not the French revolution produce all the calamities and desolations to the human race and the whole globe ever since? I meant well, however. My conscience was clear as a crystal glass, without a scruple or a doubt. I was borne along by an irresistible sense of duty. God prospered our labors; and, awful, dreadful, and deplorable as the consequences have been, I cannot but hope that the ultimate good of the world, of the human race, and of our beloved country, is intended and will be accomplished by it. While I was in this reverie, I handed your letter to my brother Cranch, the postmaster, of eighty-five years of age, an Israelite indeed, who read it with great attention, and at length started up and exclaimed, ” I have known you sixty years, and I can bear testimony as a witness to every word your friend has said in this letter in your favor.” This completed my humiliation and confusion.

Your letter is the most serious and solemn one I ever received in my life. It has aroused and harrowed up my soul. I know not what to say in answer to it, or to do in consequence of it.

It is most certain that the end of my life cannot be remote. My eyes are constantly fixed upon it, according to the precept or advice of the ancient philosopher; and, if I am not in a total delusion, I daily behold and contemplate it without dismay.

If by dedicating all the rest of my days to the composition of such an address as you propose,(1) I could have any rational assurance of doing any real good to my fellow-citizens of United America, I would cheerfully lay aside all other occupations and amusements, and devote myself to it. But there are difficulties and embarrassments in the way, which to me, at present, appear insuperable.

The ” sensibility of the public mind,” which you anticipate at my decease, will not be so favorable to my memory as you seem to foresee. By the treatment I have received, and continue to receive, I should expect that a large majority of all parties would cordially rejoice to hear that my head was laid low.

I am surprised to read your opinion, that “my integrity has never been called in question, and that friends and enemies agree in believing me to be an honest man.” (2) If I am to judge by the newspapers and pamphlets that have been printed in America for twenty years past, I should think that both parties believed me the meanest villain in the world.

If they should not suspect me of sinning in the grave, they will charge me with selfishness and hypocrisy before my death, in preparing an address to move the passions of the people, and excite them to promote my children, and perhaps to make my son a king. Washington and Franklin could never do any thing but what was imputed to pure, disinterested patriotism; I never could do any thing but what was ascribed to sinister motives.

I agree with you in sentiment, that religion and virtue are the only foundations, not only of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all governments and in & all the combinations of human society. But if I should inculcate this doctrine in my will, I should be charged with hypocrisy and a desire to conciliate the good will of the clergy towards my family, as I was charged by Dr. Priestley and his friend Cooper, and by Quakers, Baptists, and I know not how many other sects, for instituting a national fast, for even common civility to the clergy, and for being a church-going animal.

If I should inculcate those “national, social, domestic, and religious virtues” you recommend, I should be suspected and charged with an hypocritical, machiavelian, jesuitical, pharisaical attempt to promote a national establishment of Presbyterianism in America; whereas I would as soon establish the Episcopal Church, and almost as soon the Catholic Church.

If I should inculcate “fidelity to the marriage bed,” it would be said that it proceeded from resentment to General Hamilton, and a malicious desire to hold up to posterity his libertinism. Others would say that it is only a vainglorious ostentation of my own continence. For among all the errors, follies, failings, vices, and crimes, which have been so plentifully imputed to me, I cannot recollect a single insinuation against me of any amorous intrigue, or irregular or immoral connection with woman, single or married, myself a bachelor or a married man.

If I should recommend the sanctification of the sabbath, like a divine, or even only a regular attendance on public worship, as a means of moral instruction and social improvement, like a philosopher or statesman, I should be charged with vain ostentation again, and a selfish desire to revive the remembrance of my own punctuality in this respect; for it is notorious enough that I have been a church-going animalfor seventy-six years, from the cradle. And this has been alleged as one proof of my hypocrisy.

Fifty-three years ago I was fired with a zeal, amounting to enthusiasm, against ardent spirits, the multiplication of taverns, retailers, and dram-shops, and tippling houses. Grieved to the heart to see the number of idlers, thieves, sots, and consumptive patients made for the physicians, in those infamous seminaries, I applied to the Court of Sessions, procured a committee of inspection and inquiry, reduced the number of licensed houses, &c. But I only acquired the reputation of a hypocrite and an ambitious demagogue by it. The number of licensed houses was soon reinstated; drams, grog, and sotting were not diminished, and remain to this day as deplorable as ever. You may as well preach to the Indians against rum as to our people. Little Turtle petitioned me to prohibit rum to be sold to his nation, for a very good reason; because he said I had lost three thousand of my Indian children in his nation in one year by it. Sermons, moral discourses, philosophical dissertations, medical advice, are all lost upon this subject . Nothing but making the commodity scarce and dear will have any effect; and your republican friend, and, I had almost said, mine, Jefferson, would not permit rum or whiskey to be taxed.

If I should then in my will, my dying legacy, my posthumous exhortation, call it what you will, recommend heavy, prohibitory taxes upon spirituous liquors, which I believe to be the only remedy against their deleterious qualities in society, every one of your brother republicans and nine tenths of the federalists would say that I was a canting Puritan, a profound hypocrite, setting up standards of morality, frugality, economy, temperance, simplicity, and sobriety, that I knew the age was incapable of.

Funds and banks (3)I never approved, or was satisfied with our funding system; it was founded in no consistent principle; it was contrived to enrich particular individuals at the public expense. Our whole banking system I ever abhorred, I continue to abhor, and shall die abhorring.

But I am not an enemy to funding systems. They are absolutely and indispensably necessary in the present state of the world. An attempt to annihilate or prevent them would be as romantic an adventure as any in Don Quixote or in Oberon. A national bank of deposit I believe to be wise, just, prudent, economical, and necessary. But every bank of discount, every bank by which interest is to be paid or profit of any kind made by the deponent, is downright corruption. It is taxing the public for the benefit and profit of individuals; it is worse than old tenor, continental currency, or any other paper money.

Now, Sir, if I should talk in this strain, after I am dead, you know the people of America would pronounce that I had died mad.

My opinion is, that a circulating medium of gold and silver only ought to be introduced and established; that a national bank of deposit only, with a branch in each State, should be allowed; that every bank in the Union ought to be annihilated, and every bank of discount prohibited to all eternity. Not one farthing of profit should ever be allowed on any money deposited in the bank. Now, my friend, if, in my posthumous sermon, exhortation, advice, address, or whatever you may call it, I should gravely deliver such a doctrine, nine tenths of republicans as well as federalists will think that I ought to have been consigned to your tranquillizing chair rather than permitted to write such extravagances. Franklin, Washington, Hamilton, and all our disinterested patriots and heroes, it will be said, have sanctioned paper money and banks, and who is this pedant and bigot of a John Adams, who, from the ground, sounds the tocsin against all our best men, when every body knows he never had any thing in view but his private interest from his birth to his death?

Free schools, and all schools, colleges, academies and seminaries of learning,(4)I can recommend from my heart; but I dare not say that a suffrage should never be permitted to a man who cannot read and write. What would become of the republic of France, if the lives, fortunes, character, of twenty-four millions and a half of men who can neither read nor write, should be at the absolute disposal of five hundred thousand who can read?

I am not qualified to write such an address. The style should be pure, elegant, eloquent, and pathetic in the highest degree. It should be revised, corrected, obliterated, interpolated,amended, transcribed twenty times, polished, refined, varnished, burnished. To all these employments and exercises I am a total stranger. To my sorrow, I have never copied, nor corrected, nor embellished. I understand it not. I never could write declamations, orations, or popular addresses.

If I could persuade my friend Rush, or my friend Jay, my friend Trumbull, or my friend Humphreys, or perhaps my friend Jefferson, to write such a thing for me, I know not why I might not transcribe it, as Washington did so often. Borrowed eloquence, if it contains as good stuff, is as good as own eloquence.

The example you recollect of Caesar’s will, is an awful warning. Posthumous addresses may be left by Caesar as well as Cato, Brutus, or Cicero, and will oftener, perhaps, be applauded, and make deeper impressions; establish empires easier than restore republics; promote tyranny sooner than liberty.

Your advice, my friend, flows from the piety, benevolence, and patriotism of your heart. I know of no man better qualified to write such an address than yourself. If you will try your hand at it and send me the result, I will consider it maturely. I will not promise to adopt it as my own, but I may make a better use of it than of any thing I could write.

My brother Cranch thinks you one of the best and one of the profoundest Christians. He prays me to present you his best compliments, and although he has not the honor nor the pleasure of a personal acquaintance, has the highest esteem for your character. He prays me to inclose a sermon, not for its own sake as much as for the appendix, which he asks you to read and give him your opinion of it. Will you show it to our friend Wharton, and get his opinion of it?

John Adams.

 

Footnotes:
1.” Suppose you avail yourself, while in health, of the sensibility which awaits the public mind to your character soon after your death, by leaving behind you a posthumous address to the citizens of the United States, in which shall be inculcated all those great national, social, domestic, and religious virtues, which alone can make a people free, great, and happy.” B. Rush to J. A.

 2. “You stand nearly alone in the history of our public men, in never having had your integrity called in question, or even suspected. Friends and enemies agree in believing you to be an honest man.” B. Ruth to J. A.

3. “In exposing the evils of funding systems and banks, summon all the fire of your genius, as it blazed forth on the 2d of July in the year 1776 upon the floor of Congress.” B. Rush to J. A.

 4. “The benefits of free schools should not be overlooked. Indeed, suffrage, in my opinion, should never be permitted to a man that could not write or read.” B. R. lo J. A.

John Adams on the Death of George Washington

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REPLY TO THE ADDRESS OF THE SENATE, ON THE DEATH OF GEORGE WASHINGTON. 23 December, 1799.

Gentlemen Of The Senate,

I receive, with the most respectful and affectionate sentiments, in this impressive address, the obliging expressions of your regard for the loss our country has sustained in the death of her most esteemed, beloved, and admired citizen.

In the multitude of my thoughts and recollections on this melancholy event, you will permit me only to say, that I have seen him in the days of adversity, in some of the scenes of his deepest distress and most trying perplexities; I have also attended him in his highest elevation, and most prosperous felicity, with uniform admiration of his wisdom, moderation, and constancy.

Among all our original associates in that memorable league of the continent in 1774, which first expressed the sovereign will of a free nation in America, he was the only one remaining in the general government.

Although, with a constitution more enfeebled than his at an age when he thought it necessary to prepare for retirement, I feel myself alone, bereaved of my last brother, yet I derive a strong consolation from the unanimous disposition which appears, in all ages and classes, to mingle their sorrows with mine on this common calamity to the world.

The life of our Washington cannot suffer by a comparison with those of other countries who have been most celebrated and exalted by fame. The attributes and decorations of royalty could have only served to eclipse the majesty of those virtues which made him, from being a modest citizen, a more resplendent luminary. Misfortune, had he lived, could hereafter have sullied his glory only with those superficial minds, who, believing that characters and actions are marked by success alone, rarely deserve to enjoy it. Malice could never blast his honor, and envy made him a singular exception to her universal rule. For himself, he had lived enough to life and to glory. For his fellow-citizens, if their prayers could have been answered, he would have been immortal. For me, his departure is at a most unfortunate moment. Trusting, however, in the wise and righteous dominion of Providence over the passions of men, and the results of their counsels and actions, as well as over their lives, nothing remains for me but humble resignation.

His example is now complete, and it will teach wisdom and virtue to magistrates, citizens, and men, not only in the present age, but in future generations, as long as our history shall be read. If a Trajan found a Pliny, a Marcus Aurelius can never want biographers, eulogists, or historians.

John Adams.

John Adams Letter To Benjamin Rush; 21 January, 1810

JohnAdamsQuotesChristianity2

John Adams Letter To Benjamin Rush; 21 January, 1810

Quincy, 21 January, 1810.

Learned, ingenious, benevolent, beneficent old friend of 1774! Thanks for “the light and truth,” as I used to call the Aurora, which you sent me. You may descend in a calm, but I have lived in a storm, and shall certainly die in one.(1)

I never asked my son any questions about the motives, designs, or objects of his mission to St. Petersburgh.(2) If I had been weak enough to ask, he would have been wise enough to be silent; for although a more dutiful and affectionate son is not in existence, he knows his obligations to his country and his trust are superior to all parental requests or injunctions. I know therefore no more of his errand than any other man. If he is appointed to be a Samson to tie the foxes’ tails together with a torch or firebrand between them, I know nothing of it. One thing I know, we ought to have had an ambassador there these thirty years; and we should have had it, if Congress had not been too complaisant to Vergennes. Mr. Dana was upon the point of being received, and had a solemn promise of a reception, when he was recalled. Under all the circumstances of those times, however, I cannot very severely blame Congress for this conduct, though I think it was an error. It is of great importance to us at present to know more than we do of the views, interests, and sentiments of all the northern powers. If we do not acquire more knowledge than we have, of the present and probable future state of Europe, we shall be hoodwinked and bubbled by the French and English.

Of Mr. Jackson, his talents, knowledge, manners, or morals, I know nothing, but am not unwilling to think favorably of them all. His conduct to our President and his minister is not, however, a letter of recommendation of his temper, policy, or discretion. His lady was an intimate acquaintance of my daughter, and consequently well known to both my sons at Berlin. Thomas speaks handsomely of her person and accomplishments.

I have not seen, but am impatient to see, Mr. Cheetham’s life of Mr. Paine. His political writings, I am singular enough to believe, have done more harm than his irreligious ones. He understood neither government nor religion. From a malignant heart he wrote virulent declamations, which ‘the enthusiastic fury of the times intimidated all men, even Mr. Burke, from answering as he ought. His deism, as it appears to me, has promoted rather than retarded the cause of revolution in America, and indeed in Europe. His billingsgate, stolen from Blount’s Oracles of Reason, from Bolingbroke, Voltaire, Bdrenger, &c., will never discredit Christianity, which will hold its ground in some degree as long as human nature shall have any thing moral or intellectual left in it. The Christian religion, as I understand it, is the brightness of the glory and the express portrait of the character of the eternal, self-existent, independent, benevolent, all powerful and all merciful creator, preserver, and father of the universe, the first good, first perfect, and first fair. It will last as long as the world. Neither savage nor civilized man, without a revelation, could ever have discovered or invented it. Ask me not, then, whether I am a Catholic or Protestant, Calvinist or Arminian. As far as they are Christians, I wish to be a fellow-disciple with them all.

Footnotes:
1 “I inclose a few numbers of the Aurora. Shall we descend in a calm or a storm to our graves?” B. Rush to J. A.

2 “We are told your son is gone to Petersburgh to put a torch to the flame of war, and that we are to be allies of France, and of all the powers on the Baltic, in it” B. R. to J. A.

JOHN ADAMS TO THE GRAND JURORS OF THE COUNTY OF HAMPSHIRE, MASSACHUSETTS. 3 OCTOBER, 1798

JohnAdamsQuotesChristianity

John Adams To The Grand Jurors Of The County Of Hampshire, Massachusetts.

3 October, 1798.

Gentlemen,

I have received with much pleasure your address of the 28th of September from Northampton.

The manifestations of your respect, approbation, and confidence are very flattering to me, and your determination to support the Constitution and laws of your country is honorable to yourselves. If a new order of things has commenced, it behooves us to be cautious, that it may not be for the worse. If the abuse of Christianity can be annihilated or diminished, and a more equitable enjoyment of the right of conscience introduced, it will be well; but this will not be accomplished by the abolition of Christianity and the introduction of Grecian mythology, or the worship of modern heroes or heroines, by erecting statues of idolatry to reason or virtue, to beauty or to taste. It is a serious problem to resolve, whether all the abuses of Christianity, even in the darkest ages, when the Pope deposed princes and laid nations under his interdict, were ever so bloody and cruel, ever bore down the independence of the human mind with such terror and intolerance, or taught doctrines which required such implicit credulity to believe, as the present reign of pretended philosophy in France.

John Adams.

 

JOHN ADAMS TO THE GRAND JURY OF THE COUNTY OF DUTCHESS, NEW YORK. 22 SEPTEMBER, 1798

JohnAdamsQuotesForeigners

John Adams To The Grand Jury Of The County Of Dutchess, New York. 22 September, 1798.

Gentlemen,

I have received and read with great pleasure your address of the 1st of September, which, in this kind of writing, with a few explanations, may be considered as a model of sense and spirit, as well as of taste and eloquence.

Is there any mode imaginable in which contempt of the understanding and feelings of a nation can be expressed with so much aggravation, as by affecting to treat the government of their choice as an usurpation?

If in some instances marks of disaffection have appeared in your State, it is indeed exceedingly to be regretted. If this has been owing to the influx of foreigners, of discontented characters, it ought to be a warning. If we glory in making our country an asylum for virtue in distress and for innocent industry, it behooves us to beware, that under this pretext it is not made a receptacle of malevolence and turbulence, for the outcasts of the universe.

The conduct of France must not disgrace the cause of free governments. With the tears and the blood of millions, she has demonstrated that a free government must be organized and adjusted with a strict attention to the nature of man, and the interests and passions of the various classes of which society is composed; but she has not made any rational apology for the advocates of despotic government. Society cannot exist without laws, and those laws must be executed. In nations that are populous, opulent, and powerful, the concurrent interests of great bodies of men operate very forcibly on their passions, break down the barriers of modesty, decency, and morality, and can be restrained only by force; but there are methods of combining the public force in such a manner as to restrain the most formidable combinations of interests, passions, imagination, and prejudice, without recourse to despotic government. To these methods it is to be hoped the nations of Europe will have recourse, rather than to surrender all to military dictators or hereditary despots.

John Adams.

 

JOHN ADAMS INAUGURAL SPEECH TO BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS, 4 March, 1797

JohnAdamsQuotesPrivateProperty

INAUGURAL SPEECH TO BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS, 4 March, 1797.

when it was first perceived, in early times, that no middle course for America remained between unlimited submission to a foreign legislature and a total independence of its claims, men of reflection were less apprehensive of danger from the formidable power of fleets and armies they must determine to resist, than from those contests and dissensions, which would certainly arise, concerning the forms of government to be instituted, over the whole, and over the parts of this extensive country. Relying, however, on the purity of their intentions, the justice of their cause, and the integrity and intelligence of the people, under an overruling Providence, [Divine Providence or Providence the founding fathers referred to on numerous occasions equals God’s Governance, Will, Judgement, Foresight and Care]  which had so signally protected this country from the first, the representatives of this nation, then consisting of little more than half its present numbers, not only broke to pieces the chains which were forging, and the rod of iron that was lifted up, but frankly cut asunder the ties which had bound them, and launched into an ocean of uncertainty.

The zeal and ardor of the people during the revolutionary war, supplying the place of government, commanded a degree of order, sufficient at least for the temporary preservation of society. The confederation, which was early felt to be necessary, was prepared from the models of the Batavian and Helvetic confederacies, the only examples which remain, with any detail and precision, in history, and certainly the only ones which the people at large had ever considered. But, reflecting on the striking difference in so many particulars between this country and those where a courier may go from the seat of government to the frontier in a single day, it was then certainly foreseen by some, who assisted in Congress at the formation of it, that it could not be durable.

Negligence of its regulations, inattention to its recommendations, if not disobedience to its authority, not only in individuals but in States, soon appeared, with their melancholy consequences; universal languor, jealousies, rivalries of States; decline of navigation and commerce; discouragement of necessary manufactures; universal fall in the value of lands and their produce; contempt of public and private faith; loss of consideration and credit with foreign nations; and, at length, in discontents, animosities, combinations, partial conventions, and insurrection; threatening some great national calamity.

In this dangerous crisis the people of America were not abandoned by their usual good sense, presence of mind, resolution, or integrity. Measures were pursued to concert a plan to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty. The public disquisitions, discussions, and deliberations, issued in the present happy constitution of government .

Employed in the service of my country abroad, during the whole course of these transactions, I first saw the Constitution of the United States in a foreign country. Irritated by no literary altercation, animated by no public debate, heated by no party animosity, I read it with great satisfaction, as a result of good heads, prompted by good hearts; as an experiment better adapted to the genius, character, situation, and relations of this nation and country, than any which had ever been proposed or suggested. In its general principles and great outlines, it was conformable to such a system of government as I had ever most esteemed, and in some States, my own native State in particular, had contributed to establish. Claiming a right of suffrage in common with my fellow-citizens, in the adoption or rejection of a constitution, which was to rule me and my posterity as well as them and theirs, I did not hesitate to express my approbation of it on all occasions, in public and in private. It was not then nor has been since any objection to it, in my mind, that the Executive and Senate were not more permanent . Nor have I entertained a thought of promoting any alteration in it, but such as the people themselves, in the course of their experience, should see and feel to be necessary or expedient, and by their representatives in Congress and the State legislatures, according to the Constitution itself, adopt and ordain.

Returning to the bosom of my country, after a painful separation from it for ten years, I had the honor to be elected to a station under the new order of things, and I have repeatedly laid myself under the most serious obligations to support the Constitution. The operation of it has equalled the most sanguine expectations of its friends; and, from an habitual attention to it, satisfaction in its administration, and delight in its effect upon the peace, order, prosperity, and happiness of the nation, I have acquired an habitual attachment to it, and veneration for it.

What other form of government, indeed, can so well deserve our esteem and love?

There may be little solidity in an ancient idea, that congregations of men into cities and nations, are the most pleasing objects in the sight of superior intelligences; but this is very certain, that, to a benevolent human mind, there can be no spectacle presented by any nation, more pleasing, more noble, majestic, or august, than an assembly like that which has so often been seen in this and the other chamber of Congress; of a government, in which the executive authority, as well as that of all the branches of the legislature, are exercised by citizens selected at regular periods by their neighbors, to make and execute laws for the general good. Can any thing essential, any thing more than mere ornament and decoration, be added to this by robes or diamonds? Can authority be more amiable or respectable, when it descends from accidents or institutions established in remote antiquity, than when it springs fresh from the hearts and judgments of an honest and enlightened people? For it is the people only that are represented; it is their power and majesty that is reflected, and only for their good, in every legitimate government, under whatever form it may appear. The existence of such a government as ours, for any length of time, is a full proof of a general dissemination of knowledge and virtue throughout the whole body of the people. And what object of consideration, more pleasing than this, can be presented to the human mind? If national pride is ever justifiable or excusable, it is when it springs, not from power or riches, grandeur or glory, but from conviction of national innocence, information, and benevolence.

In the midst of these pleasing ideas, we should be unfaithful to ourselves, if we should ever lose sight of the danger to our liberties, if any thing partial or extraneous should infect the purity of our free, fair, virtuous, and independent elections. If an election is to be determined by a majority of a single vote, and that can be procured by a party, through artifice or corruption, the government may be the choice of a party, for its own ends, not of the nation, for the national good. If that solitary suffrage can be obtained by foreign nations, by flattery or menaces; by fraud or violence; by terror, intrigue, or venality; the government may not be the choice of the American people, but of foreign nations. It may be foreign nations who govern us, and not we, the people, who govern ourselves. And candid men will acknowledge, that, in such cases, choice would have little advantage to boast of over lot or chance.

Such is the amiable and interesting system of government (and such arc some of the abuses to which it may be exposed), which the people of America have exhibited, to the admiration and anxiety of the wise and virtuous of all nations, for eight years; under the administration of a citizen, who, by a long course of great actions regulated by prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude, conducting a people, inspired with the same virtues, and animated with the same ardent patriotism and love of liberty, to independence and peace, to increasing wealth and unexampled prosperity, has merited the gratitude of his fellow-citizens, commanded the highest praises of foreign nations, and secured immortal glory with posterity.

In that retirement which is his voluntary choice, may he long live to enjoy the delicious recollection of his services, the gratitude of mankind, the happy fruits of them to himself and the world, which are daily increasing, and that splendid prospect of the future fortunes of his country, which is opening from year to year! His name may be still a rampart, and the knowledge that he lives, a bulwark against all open or secret enemies of his country’s peace.

This example has been recommended to the imitation of his successors, by both Houses of Congress, and by the voice of the legislatures and the people throughout the nation.

"if a resolution to do justice, as far as may depend upon me, at 
all times, and to all nations, and maintain peace, friendship, and 
benevolence with all the world; if an unshaken confidence in the 
honor, spirit, and resources of the American people, on which I 
have so often hazarded my all, and never been deceived; if elevated 
ideas of the high destinies of this country, and of my own duties 
towards it, founded on a knowledge of the moral principles and 
intellectual improvements of the people, deeply engraven on my mind 
in early life, and not obscured, but exalted by experience and age; 
and with humble reverence I feel it my duty to add, if a veneration 
for the religion of a people, who profess and call themselves 
Christians, and a fixed resolution to consider a decent respect 
for Christianity among the best recommendations for the public 
service; — can enable me in any degree to comply with your wishes, 
it shall be my strenuous endeavor that this sagacious injunction 
of the two Houses shall not be without effect."

On this subject it might become me better to be silent, or to speak with diffidence; but, as something may be expected, the occasion, I hope, will be admitted as an apology, if I venture to say, that, if a preference upon principle of a free republican government, formed upon long and serious reflection, after a diligent and impartial inquiry after truth; if an attachment to the Constitution of the United States, and a conscientious determination to support it, until it shall be altered by the judgments and the wishes of the people, expressed in the mode prescribed in it; if a respectful attention to the constitutions of the individual States, and a constant caution and delicacy towards the State governments; if an equal and impartial regard to the rights, interests, honor, and happiness of all the States in the Union, without preference or regard to a northern or southern, eastern or western position, their various political opinions on essential points, or their personal attachments; if a love of virtuous men of all parties and denominations; if a love of science and letters, and a wish to patronize every rational effort to encourage schools, colleges, universities, academies, and every institution for propagating knowledge, virtue, and religion among all classes of the people, not only for their benign influence on the happiness of life in all its stages and classes and of society in all its forms, but as the only means of preserving our constitution from its natural enemies, the spirit of sophistry, the spirit of party, the spirit of intrigue, profligacy, and corruption, and the pestilence of foreign influence, which is the angel of destruction to elective governments; if a love of equal laws, of justice and humanity, in the interior administration; if an inclination to improve agriculture, commerce, and manufactures for necessity, convenience, and defence; if a spirit of equity and humanity towards the aboriginal nations of America, and a disposition to meliorate their condition by inclining them to be more friendly to us, and our citizens to be more friendly to them; if an inflexible determination to maintain peace and inviolable faith with all nations, and that system of neutrality and impartiality among the belligerent powers of Europe, which has been adopted by the government, and so solemnly sanctioned by both Houses of Congress, and applauded by the legislatures of the States and the public opinion, until it shall be otherwise ordained by Congress; if a personal esteem for the French nation, formed in a residence of seven years chiefly among them, and a sincere desire to preserve the friendship which has been so much for the honor and interest of both nations; if, while the conscious honor and integrity of the people of America, and the internal sentiment of their own power and energies must be preserved, an earnest endeavor to investigate every just cause, and remove every colorable pretence of complaint; if an intention to pursue, by amicable negotiation, a reparation for the injuries that have been committed on the commerce of our fellow-citizens by whatever nation, and (if success cannot be obtained) to lay the facts before the legislature, that they may consider what further measures the honor and interest of the government and its constituents demand; if a resolution to do justice, as far as may depend upon me, at all times, and to all nations, and maintain peace, friendship, and benevolence with all the world; if an unshaken confidence in the honor, spirit, and resources of the American people, on which I have so often hazarded my all, and never been deceived; if elevated ideas of the high destinies of this country, and of my own duties towards it, founded on a knowledge of the moral principles and intellectual improvements of the people, deeply engraven on my mind in early life, and not obscured, but exalted by experience and age; and with humble reverence I feel it my duty to add, if a veneration for the religion of a people, who profess and call themselves Christians, and a fixed resolution to consider a decent respect for Christianity among the best recommendations for the public service; — can enable me in any degree to comply with your wishes, it shall be my strenuous endeavor that this sagacious injunction of the two Houses shall not be without effect.

With this great example before me, with the sense and spirit, the faith and honor, the duty and interest of the same American people, pledged to support the Constitution. of the United States, 1 entertain no doubt of its continuance in all its energy; and my mind is prepared without hesitation, to lay myself under the most solemn obligations to support it to the utmost of my power.

And may that Being, who is supreme over all, the patron of order, the fountain of justice, and the protector, in all ages of the world, of virtuous liberty, continue his blessing upon this nation and its government, and give it all possible success and duration, consistent with the ends of his providence!

John Adams.

To The Officers Of The First Brigade Of The Third Division Of The Militia Of Massachusetts: John Adams

TheEducatorIgnorantSelfSeeking

John Adams; To The Officers Of The First Brigade Of The Third Division Of The Militia Of Massachusetts.

11 October, 1798.

Gentlemen,

I have received from Major-General Hull and Brigadier General Walker your unanimous address from Lexington, animated with a martial spirit, and expressed with a military dignity becoming your character and the memorable plains on which it was adopted.

While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practicing iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

An address from the officers commanding two thousand eight hundred men, consisting of such substantial citizens as are able and willing at their own expense completely to arm and clothe themselves in handsome uniforms, does honor to that division of the militia which has done so much honor to its country.

Oaths in this country are as yet universally considered as sacred obligations. That which you have taken and so solemnly repeated on that venerable spot, is an. ample pledge of your sincerity and devotion to your country and its government.

John Adams

Preface To Resolutions of Virginia and Kentucky by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson and Madison

Jefferson and Madison

The administration of Mr. John Adams was a dark day for the republic. Then, alien and sedition acts were let loose upon us: the purity of the constitution itself was violated by the madness of party: and those rights which had been respectively reserved to the states and to the people, were exposed to the most fearful jeopardy by the usurpations of the federal government.

But, the friends of the constitution did not “despair of the republic.” Though the liberty of speech and of the press were invaded; though the power and patronage of the government were exerted to intimidate or seduce the people; the republicans did not abandon the cause of their country. Their resistance continued with the crisis: the form of it only was varied. While Mr. Jefferson remained in the senate of the United States, and Mr. Gallatin in the house of representatives, most of their most able and active friends, in some of the states, retired from the walks of the general [federal] government, and retreated to the state legislatures; in which great citadels of the public liberty, they proposed to re-assert the true principles of the government. The republicans succeeded; and the constitution was saved.

Among the most memorable productions of those times, were the resolutions and reports, which were adopted by the legislatures of Kentucky and Virginia. These were penned by Jefferson and Madison. To Mr. Madison is due, the honor of having drafted the Virginia resolutions of the 21st December, 1798; and that masterly vindication of them, which was adopted by the legislature of Virginia during the session of ’99-1800: a paper, which is familiarly known by the name of “Madison’s Report,” and which deserves to last as long as the constitution itself.

The resolutions of Kentucky, were submitted to the legislature of that state, by Mr. John Breckenridge, and adopted by them on the 10th November, 1798. They had the honor of being penned by the author of the declaration of American independence.

founding-fathers-madison-jefferson

Jefferson and Madison

Both these esteemed productions are scarce, and out of print. They are frequently asked for. They are again wanting, to re-establish the land marks of the constitution; and to stay that flood of encroachment which threatens to sweep our country. The rights of the states and of the people, are again assailed in an alarming manner. Doctrines are preached in high places, which are directly at war with the principles of our government. The centripetal power is assuming a new and fearful energy. Under the authority of great names, great errors are maintained. Is it not time, then, for the friends of truth to rally together, and to re-assert her principles? Where can we find these principles more clearly stated, or the arguments in their defence more powerfully developed, than in the celebrated productions which the publisher of this pamphlet [post will] now lays before his readers? [The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions] – Richmond ( Va.) February, 1826.

The Life of Founder John Adams

adams_lgJohn Adams was born at Quincy, then part of the ancient town of Braintree, on the 19th day of October, old style, 1735. He was a descendant of the Puritans, his ancestors having early emigrated from England, and settled in Massachusetts. Discovering early a strong love of rending and of knowledge, proper care was taken by his father to provide for his education. His youthful studies were prosecuted in Braintree, under Mr. Marsh, a gentleman whose fortune it was to instruct several children, who in manhood were destined to act a conspicuous part in the scenes of the revolution.

He became a member of Harvard College, 1751, and was graduated in course in 1755: with what degree of reputation he left the university is not now precisely known; we only know that he was distinguished in a class of which the Reverend Dr. Hemmenway was a member, who bore honorable testimony to the openness and decision of his character, and to the strength and activity of his mind.

Having chosen the law for his profession, he commenced and prosecuted its studies under the direction of Samuel Putnam, a barrister of eminence at Worcester. By him he was introduced to the celebrated Jeremy Gridley, then attorney general of the province of Massachusetts Bay. At the first interview they became friends; Gridley at once proposed Mr. Adams for admission to the bar of Suffolk, and took him into special favor. Soon after his admission, Mr. Gridley led his young friend into a private chamber with an air of secrecy, and, pointing to a book case, said, “Sir, there is the secret of my eminence, and of which you may avail yourself as you please.” It was a pretty good collection of treatises of the civil law. In this place Mr. Adams spent his days and nights, until he had made himself master of the principles of the code.

AdamsArmsFrom early life, the bent of his mind was towards politics, a propensity which the state of the times, if it did not create, doubtless very much strengthened. While a resident at Worcester, he wrote a letter of which the following is an extract. The letter was dated October 12th, 1755. “Soon after the reformation, a few people came over into this new world for conscience sake: perhaps this apparently trivial incident may transfer the great seat of empire into America. It looks likely to me; for, if we can remove the turbulent Gallicks, our people, according to the exactest computations, will in another century become more numerous than England itself. Should this be the case, since we have, I may say, all the naval stores of the nation in our hands, it will be easy to obtain a mastery of the seas; and the united force of all Europe will not be able to subdue us. The only way to keep us from setting up for ourselves is to disunite us.

“Be not surprised that I am turned politician. This whole town is immersed in politics. The interests of nations and all the dira of war make the subject of every conversation. I sit and hear, and after having been led through a maze of sage observations, I sometimes retire, and lay things together, and form some reflections pleasing to myself. The produce of one of these reveries you have read.”

This prognostication of independence, and of so vast an increase of numbers, and of naval force, as might defy all Europe, is remarkable, especially as coming from so young a man, and so early in the history of the country. It is more remarkable that its author should have lived to see fulfilled to the letter, what would have seemed to others at the time, but the extravagance of youthful fancy. His early political feelings were thus strongly American, and from this ardent attachment to his native soil he never departed.

In 1758 he was admitted to the bar, and commenced business in Braintrce. He is understood to have made his first considerable effort, or to have obtained his most signal success, at Plymouth, in a jury trial, and a criminal cause. In 1765, Mr. Adams laid before the public his “Essay on the Canon and Feudal Law,” [A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law] a work distinguished for its power and eloquence. The object of this work was to show, that our New-England ancestors, in consenting to exile themselves from their native land, were actuated mainly by the desire of delivering themselves from the power of the hierarchy, and from the monarchical, aristocratical, and political system of the other continent; and to make this truth bear with effect on the politics of the times. Its tone is uncommonly bold and animated for that period. He calls on the people not only to defend, but to study and understand their rights and privileges; and urges earnestly the necessity of diffusing general knowledge.

In conclusion, he exclaims, “let the pulpit resound with the doctrines and sentiments of religious liberty. Let us hear the danger of thraldom [One who is intellectually or morally enslaved; slave, serf] to our consciences, from ignorance, extreme poverty and dependence, in short, from civil and political slavery. Let us see delineated before us, the true map of man—let us hear the dignity of his nature, and the noble rank he holds among the works of God! That consenting to slavery is a sacrilegious breach of trust, as offensive in the sight of God, as it is derogatory from our own honor, or interest, or happiness; and that God Almighty has promulgated from heaven, liberty, peace, and good will to man.

John-Adams-Poster-Principles-of-FreedomLet the bar proclaim the laws, the rights, the generous plan of power delivered down from remote antiquity; inform the world of the mighty struggles and numberless sacrifices made by our ancestors in the defence of freedom. Let it be known that British liberties are not the grants of princes or parliaments, but original rights, conditions of original contracts, coequal with prerogative, and coeval with government. That many of our rights are inherent and essential, agreed on as maxims and established as preliminaries even before a parliament existed. Let them search for the foundation of British laws and government in the frame of human nature, in the constitution of the intellectual and moral world. There let us see that truth, liberty, justice, and benevolence, are its everlasting basis; and if these could be removed, the superstructure is overthrown of course.

Let the colleges join their harmony in the same delightful concert. Let every declamation turn upon the beauty of liberty and virtue, and the deformity, turpitude, and malignity of slavery and vice. Let the public disputations become researches into the grounds, nature, and ends of government, and the means of preserving the good and demolishing the evil. Let the dialogues and all the exercises become the instruments of impressing on the tender mind, and of spreading and distributing far and wide the ideas of right, and the sensations of freedom.”

In 1766, Mr. Adams removed his residence to Boston, still continuing his attendance on the neighboring circuits, and not infrequently called to remote parts of the province.

In 1770 occurred, as has already been noticed, the “Boston massacre.” Mr. Adams was solicited by the British officers and soldiers to undertake their defence, on the indictment found against them, for their share in that tragical scene. This was a severe test of his professional firmness, He was well aware of the popular indignation against these prisoners, and he was at that time a representative of Boston in the general court, an office which depended entirely upon popular favor. But he knew that it was due to his profession, and to himself, to undertake their defence, and to hazard the consequences. “The trial was well managed. The captain was severed in his trial from the soldiers, who were tried first, and their defence rested in part upon the orders, real or supposed, given by the officer to  his men to fire. This was in a good measure successful. On the trial of Capt. Preston, no such order to fire could be proved. The result was, as it should have been, an acquittal. It was a glorious thing that the counsel and jury had nerve sufficient to breast the torrent of public feeling. It showed Britain that she had not a mere mob to deal with, but resolute and determined men, who could restrain themselves. Such men are dangerous to arbitrary power.”

The event proved, that as he judged well for his own reputation, so he judged well for the interest and permanent fame of his country. The same year he was elected one of the representatives in the general assembly, an honor to which the people would not have called him, had he lost their confidence and affection.

In the year 1773, and 1774, he was chosen a counselor by the members of the general court; but was rejected by Governor Hutchinson, in the former of these years, and by Governor Gage, in the latter.

In this latter year, he was appointed a member of the continental congress, from Massachusetts. “This appointment was made at Salem, where the general court had been convened by Governor Gage, in the last hour of the existence of a house of representatives, under the provincial charter While engaged in this important business, the governor having been informed of what was passing, sent his secretary with a message, dissolving the general court. The secretary finding the door locked, directed the messenger to go in, and inform the speaker that the secretary was at the door, with a message from the governor. The messenger returned, and informed the secretary that the orders of the house were, that the doors should be kept fast; whereupon the secretary soon after read a proclamation, dissolving the general court, upon the stairs. Thus terminated, forever, the actual exercise of the political power of England in or over Massachusetts.”

On the meeting of congress in Philadelphia, 1774, Mr. Adams appeared and took his seat. To talents of the highest order, and the most commanding eloquence, he added an honest devotion to the cause of his country, and a firmness of character, for which he was distinguished through life. Prior to that period he had, upon all occasions, stood forth openly in defence of the rights of his country, and in opposition to the injustice and encroachments of Great Britain. He boldly opposed them by his advice, his actions, and his eloquence; and, with other worthies, succeeded in spreading among the people a proper alarm for their liberties. Mr. Adams was placed upon the first and most important committees. During the first year, addresses were prepared to the king, to the people of England, of Ireland, Canada, and Jamaica. The name of Mr. Adams is found upon almost all those important committees. His firmness and eloquence in debate, soon gave him a standing among the highest in that august body.

john-adams-on-the-american-revThe proceedings of this congress have already passed in review. Among the members, a variety of opinions seem to have prevailed, as to the probable issue of the contest, in which the country was engaged. On this subject, Mr. Adams, a few years before his death, expressed himself, in a letter to a friend, as follows: “When congress had finished their business, as they thought, in the autumn of 1774, I had with Mr. Henry, before we took leave of each other, some familiar conversation, in which I expressed a full conviction that our resolves, declaration of rights, enumeration of wrongs, petitions, remonstrances, and addresses, associations, and non-importation agreements, however they might be viewed in America, and however necessary to cement the union of the colonies, would be but waste water in England. Mr. Henry said, they might make some impression among the people of England, but agreed with me, that they would be totally lost upon the government. I had but just received a short and hasty letter, written to me by Major Joseph Hawley, of Northampton, containing a few broken hints, as he called them, of what he thought was proper to be done, and concluding with these words, ‘after all, we must fight.’ This letter I read to Mr. Henry, who listened with great attention, and as soon as I had pronounced the words, ‘after all, we must fight,’ he raised his head, and, with an energy and vehemence that I can never forget, broke out with, ‘I am of that man’s mind.’ I put the letter into his hand, and when he had read it he returned it to me, with an equally solemn asseveration, that he agreed entirely in opinion with the writer.

“The other delegates from Virginia returned to their state in full confidence that all our grievances would be redressed. The last words that Mr. Richard Henry Lee said to me, when we parted, were, ‘we shall infallibly carry all our points. You will be completely relieved; all the offensive acts will be repealed; the army and fleet will be recalled, and Britain will give up her foolish project.’

“Washington only was in doubt. He never spoke in public. In private, he joined with those who advocated a non-exportation, as well as a non-importation agreement. With both, he thought we should prevail; without either, he thought it doubtful. [Patrick] Henry was clear in one opinion, Richard Henry Lee in an opposite opinion, and Washington doubted between the two.”

On the 15th day of June, the continental congress appointed General Washington commander in chief of the American armies. To Mr. Adams is ascribed the honour of having suggested and advocated the choice of this illustrious man. When first suggested by Mr. Adams, to a few of his confidential friends in Congress, the proposition was received with a marked disapprobation. Washington, at this time, was almost a stranger to them; and, besides, to elevate a man who had never held a higher military rank than that of colonel, over officers of the highest grade in the militia, and those, too, already in the field, appeared not only irregular, but likely to produce much dissatisfaction among them, and the people at large. To Mr. Adams, however, the greatest advantage appeared likely to result from the choice of Washington, whose character and peculiar fitness for the station he well understood. Samuel Adams, his distinguished colleague, coincided with him in these views, and through their instrumentality this felicitous choice was effected. When a majority in congress had been secured, Mr. Adams introduced the subject of appointing a commander in chief of the armies, and having sketched the qualifications which should be found in the man to be elevated to so responsible a station, he concluded by nominating George Washington, of Virginia, to the office.

To Washington, himself, nothing could have been more unexpected. Until that moment he was ignorant of the intended nomination. The proposal was seconded by Samuel Adams, and the following day it received the unanimous approbation of congress.

When Mr. Adams was first made a member of the continental congress, it was hinted that he, at that time, inclined to a separation of the colonies from England, and the establishment of an independent government. On his way to Philadelphia, he was warned, by several advisers, not to introduce a subject of so delicate a character, until the affairs of the country should wear a different aspect. Whether Mr. Adams needed this admonition or not, will not, in this place, be determined. But in 1776, the affairs of the colonies, it could no longer be questioned, demanded at least the candid discussion of the subject. On the 6th of May, of that year, Mr. Adams offered, in committee of the whole, a resolution that the colonies should form governments independent of the crown. On the 10th of May, this resolution was adopted, in the following shape: “That it be recommended to all the colonies, which had not already established governments suited to the exigencies of their case, to adopt such governments as would, in the opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and Americans in general.”

Vigilance-2“This significant vote was soon followed by the direct proposition, which Richard Henry Lee had the honor to submit to congress, by resolution, on the 7th day of June. The published journal does not expressly state it, but there is no doubt that this resolution was in the same words, when originally submitted by Mr. Lee, as when finally passed. Having been discussed on Saturday the 8th, and Monday the 10th of June, this resolution was, on the last mentioned day, postponed for further consideration to the first day of July , and at the same time it was voted, that a committee be appointed to prepare a Declaration, to the effect of the resolution. This committee was elected by ballot on the following day, and consisted of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston.”

It is usual when committees are elected by ballot, that their members are arranged in order, according to the number of votes which each has received. Mr. Jefferson, therefore, probably received the highest, and Mr. Adams the next highest number of votes. The difference is said to have been but a single vote.

Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Adams, standing thus at the head of the committee, were requested by the other members, to act as a sub-committee to prepare the draft; and Mr. Jefferson drew up the paper. The original draft, as brought by him from his study, and submitted to the other members of the committee, with interlineations in the hand writing of Dr. Franklin, and others in that of Mr. Adams, was in Mr. Jefferson’s possession at the time of his death. The merit of this paper is Mr. Jefferson’s. Some changes were made in it, on the suggestion of other members of the committee, and others by Congress, while it was under discussion. But none of them altered the tone, the frame, the arrangement, or the general character of the instrument. As a composition, the declaration is Mr. Jefferson’s. It is the production of his mind, and the high honor of it belongs to him clearly and absolutely.

“While Mr. Jefferson was the author of the declaration itself, Mr. Adams was its great supporter on the floor of Congress. This was the unequivocal testimony of Mr. Jefferson. ‘John Adams,’ said he, on one occasion, ‘was our Colossus on the floor; not graceful, not elegant, not always fluent in his public addresses, he yet came out with a power, both of thought and of expression, that moved us from our seats;” and at another time, he said, ‘John Adams was the pillar of its support on the floor of Congress; its ablest advocate and defender against the multifarious assaults, which were made against it.'”

On the second day of July, the resolution of independence was adopted, and on the fourth, the declaration itself was unanimously agreed to. Language can scarcely describe the transport of Mr. Adams at this time. He has best described them himself, in a letter written the day following, to his wife. “Yesterday,” says he, “the greatest question was decided that was ever debated in America; and greater, perhaps, never was or will be decided among men. A resolution was passed, without one dissenting colony, ‘ That these United States are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.’ The day is passed. The 4th of July, 1776, will be a memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to Almighty God. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward, forever. You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states; yet through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means; and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.”

About the time of the declaration of independence, occurred the disastrous battle of Flatbush on Long Island. The victory thus gained by the British, was considered by Lord Howe as a favorable moment for proposing to congress an accommodation; and for this purpose, he requested an interview with some of the members. In the deliberations of congress, Mr. Adams opposed this proposal, on the ground that no accommodation could thus be effected.

john_adams_constitutionA committee, however, was appointed to wait on Lord Howe, consisting of himself, Dr. Franklin, and Mr. Rutledge. On being apprised of their intended interview, Lord Howe sent one of his principal officers as a hostage, but the commissioners taking him with them, fearlessly repaired to the British camp. On their arrival, they were conducted through an army of twenty thousand men, drawn up for the purpose of show and impression. But the display was lost on the commissioners, who studiously avoided all signs of wonder or anxiety. As had been predicted by Mr. Adams, the interview terminated without any beneficial result. On being introduced, Lord Howe informed them that he could not treat with them as a committee of congress, but only as private gentlemen of influence in the colonies; to which Mr. Adams replied, “You may view me in any light you please, sir, except that of a British subject.”

During the remainder of the year 1776, and all 1777, Mr. Adams was deeply engaged in the affairs of congress. He served as a member of ninety different committees, and was chairman of twenty-five committees. From his multiform and severe labors he was relieved in December of the latter year, by the appointment of commissioner to France, in the place of Silas Deane.

In February, 1778, he embarked for that country on board of the frigate Boston. On his arrival in France, he found that Dr. Franklin, and Arthur Lee, who had been appointed commissioners the preceding year, and were then in France, had already concluded a treaty with the French government. Little business, therefore, of a public nature was left him to do. In the summer of 1779, he returned to America.

About the time of his arrival, the people of Massachusetts were adopting measures for calling a convention to form a new state constitution. Of this convention he was elected a member, and was also a member of the committee appointed by the convention to report a plan for their consideration. A plan which he drew up was accepted, and was made the basis of the constitution of that state.

In the August following, in consequence of an informal suggestion from the court of St. James, he received the appointment of minister plenipotentiary for negotiating a treaty of peace, and a treaty of commerce, with Great Britain. A salary of twenty-five hundred pounds sterling was voted him. In the month of October, he embarked on board the French ship La Sensible, and after a tedious voyage was landed at Ferrol, in Spain, whence he proceeded to Paris, where he arrived in the month of February. He there communicated with Dr. Franklin, who was at that time envoy of the United States at the court of France, and with the Count de Vergennes, the French prime minister. But the British government, it was found, were not disposed to peace, and the day seemed far distant when any negotiation could be opened with a hope of success. Mr. Adams, however, was so useful in various ways, that towards the close of the year, congress honored him by a vote of thanks, “for his industrious attention to the interest and honor of these United States abroad.”

In June, 1780, congress being informed that Mr. Laurens, who had been appointed to negotiate a loan in Holland for the United States, had been taken prisoner by the English, forwarded a commission to Mr. Adams to proceed to Holland, for the above purpose. To this, soon after, was added the new appointment of commissioner to conclude a treaty of amity and commerce with the States General of Holland; and, at the same time, authority was given him to pledge the faith of the United States to the “armed neutrality” proposed by the Russian government.

Mr. Adams repaired with promptitude to Holland, and engaged with great zeal in the business of his commission. From this station he was suddenly summoned by the Count de Vergennes, to consult, at Paris, with regard to a project for a general peace, suggested by the courts of Vienna and St. Petersburgh.

Adams-2-waysThis was one of the most anxious periods in the eventful life of Mr. Adams. France was, indeed, ready to fulfill her guaranty of independence to the United States; but it was the politic aim of the Count de Vergennes, to secure important advantages for his own country, in the settlement of American difficulties. Hence, no effort was spared to make Mr. Adams, in this important matter, the subordinate agent of the French cabinet. He, on the other hand, regarded solely the interests of the United States, and the instructions of congress; and his obstinate independence, unshaken by the alternate threats and blandishments of the court of Versailles, occasioned an effort by the Count de Vergennes to obtain, through the French minister in Philadelphia, such a modification of the instructions to Mr. Adams, as should subject him to the direction of the French cabinet.

The effect of this artful and strenuous measure was, a determination on the part of congress, that Mr. Adams should hold the most confidential intercourse with the French ministers; and should “undertake nothing in the negotiation of a peace, or truce, without their knowledge and concurrence.

Under these humiliating restrictions, the independent and decisive spirit of Mr. Adams was severely tried. The imperial mediators proposed an armistice, but without any withdrawal of troops from America. Mr. Adams firmly opposed this stipulation; and the negotiation proceeded no farther at that time.

It was, obviously, the policy of the French minister, not to facilitate the peace between Great Britain and the United States, without previously securing to France a large share in the fisheries; and at the same time so establishing the western boundary, as to sacrifice the interests of the United States to those of Spain.

Finding all attempts at negotiation unavailing, Mr. Adams returned to Holland.

Meantime, the apprehensions of congress being much excised by the insinuations of the French minister in Philadelphia, they added to the commission for forming a treaty with Great Britain, Dr. Franklin, then plenipotentiary at Paris; Mr. Jay, the minister at Madrid; Mr. Henry Laurens, who had recently been appointed special minister to France; and Mr. Jefferson. The whole were instructed to govern themselves by the advice and opinion of the ministers of the king of France. This unaccountable and dishonorable concession, in effect, made the Count de Vergennes minister plenipotentiary for the United States.

But the indefatigable exertions of Mr. Adams in Holland, had a most important bearing upon the proposed negotiations. By a laborious and striking exhibition of the situation and resources of the United States, he succeeded in so far influencing public opinion, as to obtain a loan of eight millions of guilders, on reasonable terms. This loan, effected in the autumn of 1782, was soon followed by a treaty of amity and commerce with Holland, recognizing the United States as independent and sovereign states.

The disposition towards peace, on the part of the English ministry, was wonderfully quickened by the favorable negotiation of this loan. During Lord Shelburne’s administration, the independence of the states was unconditionally acknowledged, and the first effectual steps were taken to put an end to the war.

During the negotiations that followed, the disposition of France again evinced itself, to cut off the United States from a share of the fisheries, and to transfer a portion of the American territory to Spain. The American commissioners, therefore, were not a little embarrassed by their instructions from congress, to govern themselves by the opinion and advice of the French minister. But, as Mr. Adams had, on a former occasion, found it necessary to depart from instructions of a similar import; the other commissioners now joined with him, in the determination to secure the best interests of their country, regardless of the interference of the French minister, and of the inconsiderate restrictions imposed on them by congress.

Accordingly, provisional articles were signed by them, on the 30th of November, 1782; and this measure was followed by an advantageous definitive treaty in September, 1783.

Mr. Adams spent a part of the year 1784 in Holland, but returned eventually to Paris, on being placed at the head of a commission, with Dr. Franklin and Mr. Jefferson as coad jutors, to negotiate several commercial treaties with different foreign nations.

Near the commencement of the year 1785, congress resolved to send a minister plenipotentiary to represent the United States at the court of St. James. To this responsible station, rendered peculiarly delicate by the fact that the United States had so recently and reluctantly been acknowledged as an independent nation, Mr. Adams was appointed. It was doubtful in what manner and with what spirit an American minister would be received by the British government. On leaving America, Mr. Jay, the then secretary of state, among other instructions, used the following language: “The manner of your reception at that court, and its temper, views, and dispositions respecting American objects, are matters concerning which particular information might be no less useful than interesting. Your letters will, I am persuaded, remove all suspense on those points.”

In accordance with this direction, Mr. Adams subsequently forwarded to Mr. Jay the following interesting account of his presentation to the king.

“During my interview with the marquis of Carmarthen, he told me it was customary for every foreign minister, at his first presentation to the king, to make his majesty some compliments conformable to the spirit of his credentials; and when Sir Clement Cottrel Dormer, the master of ceremonies, came to inform me that he should accompany me to the secretary of state, and to court, he said, that every foreign minister whom he had attended to the queen, had always made an harangue to her majesty, and he understood, though he had not been present, that they always harangued the king. On Tuesday evening, the Baron de Lynden (Dutch ambassador) called upon me, and said he came from the Baron de Nolkin, (Swedish envoy,) and had been conversing upon the singular situation I was in, and they agreed in opinion that it was indispensable that I should make a speech, and that it should be as complimentary as possible. All this was parallel to the advice lately given by the Count de Vergennes to Mr. Jefferson. So that finding it was a custom established at both these great courts, that this court and the foreign ministers expected it, I thought I could not avoid it, although my first thought and inclination had been to deliver my credentials silently and retire. At one, on Wednesday the first of June, the master of ceremonies called at my house, and went with me to the secretary of state’s office, in Cleveland Row, where the marquis of Carmarthen received me, and introduced me to Mr. Frazier, his under secretary, who had been, as his lordship said, uninterruptedly in that office through all the changes in administration for thirty years, having first been appointed by the earl of Holderness. After a short conversation upon the subject of importing my effects from Holland and France, free of duty, which Mr. Frazier himself introduced, Lord Carmarthen invited me to go with him in his coach to court. When we arrived in the antechamber, the œil de bœuf [Oeil-de-boeuf, French literally means, ‘eye of the steer’] of St. James’s, the master of the ceremonies met me, and attended me, while the secretary of state went to take the commands of the king. While I stood in this place, where it seems all ministers stand on such occasions, always attended by the master of ceremonies, the room very full of courtiers, as well as the next room, which is the king’s bed chamber, you may well suppose, that I was the focus of all eyes.

“I was relieved, however, from the embarrassment of it by the Swedish and Dutch ministers, who came to me and entertained me in a very agreeable conversation during the whole time. Some other gentlemen whom I had seen before came to make their compliments too, until the marquis of Carmarthen returned, and desired me to go with him to his majesty: I went with his lordship through the levee room into the king’s closet; the door was shut, and I was left with his majesty and the secretary of state alone. I made the three reverences, one at the door, another about half way, and the third before the presence, according to the usage established at this and all the northern courts of Europe, and then addressed myself to his majesty in the following words:

“Sir, the United States have appointed me their minister plenipotentiary to your majesty, and have directed me to deliver to your majesty this letter, which contains the evidence of it. It is in obedience to their express commands, that I have the honor to assure your majesty of their unanimous disposition and desire to cultivate the most friendly and liberal intercourse between your majesty’s subjects and their citizens, and of their best wishes for your majesty’s health and happiness, and for that of your royal family.

“The appointment of a minister from the United States to your majesty’s court, will form an epoch in the history of England and America. I think myself more fortunate than all my fellow citizens, in having the distinguished honor to be the first to stand in your majesty’s royal presence in a diplomatic character; and I shall esteem myself the happiest of men, if I can be instrumental in recommending my country more and more to your majesty’s royal benevolence, and of restoring an entire esteem, confidence, and affection, or in better words, ‘the old good nature, and the old good humor,’ between people who, though separated by an ocean, and under different governments, have the same language, a similar religion, and kindred blood. I beg your majesty’s permission to add, that although I have sometimes before been entrusted by my country, it was never, in my whole life, in a manner so agreeable to myself.’

“The king listened to every word I said, with dignity, it is true, but with an apparent emotion. Whether it was the nature of the interview, or whether it was my visible agitation, for I felt more than I did or could express, that touched him, I cannot say, but he was much affected, and answered me with more tremor than I had spoken with, and said:

“Sir, the circumstances of this audience are so extraordinary, the language you have now held is so extremely proper, and the feelings you have discovered so justly adapted to the occasion, that I must say, that I not only receive with pleasure the assurances of the friendly disposition of the people of the United States, but that I am very glad the choice has fallen upon you to be their minister. I wish you, sir, to believe, and that it may be understood in America, that I have done nothing in the late contest but what I thought myself indispensably bound to do, by the duty which I owed to my people. I will be very frank with you. I was the last to conform to the separation; but the separation having been made, and having become inevitable, I have always said, as I say now, that I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States, as an independent power. The moment I see such sentiments and language as yours prevail, and a disposition to give this country the preference, that moment I shall say, let the circumstances of language, religion, and blood, have their natural and full effect.’

“I dare not say that these were the king’s precise words, and it is even possible that I may have, in some particular, mistaken his meaning; for although his pronunciation is as distinct as I ever heard, he hesitated sometimes between his periods, and between the members of the same period. He was, indeed, much affected, and I was not less so; and, therefore, I cannot be certain that I was so attentive, heard so clearly, and understood so perfectly, as to be confident of all his words or sense; this I do say, that the foregoing is his majesty’s meaning, as I then understood it, and his own words, as nearly as I can recollect.”

The year following, 1788, Mr. Adams requested permission to resign his office, which, being granted, after an absence of between eight and nine years, he returned to his native country. The new government was, at that time, about going into operation. In the autumn of 1788, he was elected vice president of the United States, a situation which he filled, with reputation for eight years.

On the retirement of General Washington from the presidency, in 1796, Mr. Adams was a candidate for that elevated station. At this time, two parties had been formed in the United States. At the head of one stood Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Adams, and at the head of the other stood Mr. Jefferson. After a close contest between these two parties, Mr. Adams was elected president, having received seventy-one of the electoral votes, and Mr. Jefferson sixty-eight. In March, 1797, these gentlemen entered upon their respective offices of president and vice president of the United States.

Of the administration of Mr. Adams we shall not, in this place, give a detailed account. Many circumstances conspired to render it unpopular. An unhappy dispute with France had arisen a little previously to his inauguration. In the management of this dispute, which had reference to aggressions by France upon American rights and commerce, the popularity of Mr. Adams was in no small degree affected, although the measures which he recommended for upholding the national character, were more moderate than congress, and a respectable portion of the people, thought the exigencies of the case required. Other circumstances, also, conspired to diminish his popularity. Restraints were imposed upon the press, and authority vested in the president to order aliens to depart out of the United States, when he should judge the peace and safety of the country required. To these measures, acts were added for raising a standing army, and imposing a direct tax and internal duties. These, and other causes, combined to weaken the strength of the party to whom he owed his elevation, and to prevent his re-election. He was succeeded by Mr. Jefferson, in 1801.

On retiring from the presidency he removed to his former residence at Quincy, where, in quiet, he spent the remainder of his days. In 1820, he voted as elector of president and vice president; and, in the same year, at the advanced age of 85, he was a member of the convention of Massachusetts, assembled to revise the constitution of that commonwealth.

Mr. Adams retained the faculties of his mind, in remarkable perfection, to the end of his long life. His unabated love of reading and contemplation, added to an interesting circle of friendship and affection, were sources of felicity in declining years, which seldom fall to the lot of any one.

“But,” to use the language of a distinguished eulogist Webster, “he had other enjoyments. He saw around him that prosperity and general happiness, which had been the object of his public cares and labours. No man ever beheld more clearly, and for a longer time, the great and beneficial effects of the services rendered by himself to his country. That liberty, which he so early defended, that independence, of which he was so able an advocate and supporter, he saw, we trust, firmly and securely established. The population of the country thickened around him faster, and extended wider, than his own sanguine predictions had anticipated; and the wealth, respectability, and power of the nation, sprang up to a magnitude, which it is quite impossible he could have expected to witness, in his day. He lived, also, to behold those principles of civil freedom, which had been developed, established, and practically applied in America, attract attention, command respect, and awaken imitation, in other regions of the globe; and well might, and well did he exclaim, ‘Where will the consequences of the American revolution end!’

“If any thing yet remains to fill this cup of happiness, let it be added, that he lived to see a great and intelligent people bestow the highest honor in their gift, where he had bestowed his own kindest parental affections, and lodged his fondest hopes.

“At length the day approached when this eminent patriot was to be summoned to another world; and, as if to render that day forever memorable in the annals of American history, it was the day on which the illustrious Jefferson was himself, also, to terminate his distinguished earthly career. That day was the fiftieth anniversary of the declaration of independence.

“Until within a few days previous, Mr. Adams had exhibited no indications of a rapid decline. The morning of the fourth of July, 1826, he was unable to rise from his bed. Neither to himself, or his friends, however, was his dissolution supposed to be so near. He was asked to suggest a toast, appropriate to the celebration of the day. His mind seemed to glance back to the hour in which, fifty years before, he had voted for the declaration of independence, and with the spirit with which he then raised his hand, he now exclaimed, ‘Independence forever.‘ At four o’clock in the afternoon he expired. Mr. Jefferson had departed a few hours before him.”

We close this imperfect sketch of the life of this distinguished man in the language of one who, from the relation in which he stood to the subject of this memoir, must have felt, more than any other individual, the impressiveness of the event. “They, (Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson,) departed cheered by the benediction of their country, to whom they left the inheritance of their fame, and the memory of their bright example. If we turn our thoughts to the condition of their country, in the contrast of the first and last day of that half century, how resplendent and sublime is the transition from gloom to glory! Then, glancing through the same lapse of time, in the condition of the individuals, we see the first day marked with the fulness and vigor of youth, in the pledge of their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, to the cause of freedom and of mankind. And on the last, extended on the bed of death, with but sense and sensibility left to breathe a last aspiration to heaven of blessing upon their country; may we not humbly hope, that to them, too, it was a pledge of transition from gloom to glory; and that while their mortal vestments were sinking into the clod of the valley, their emancipated spirits were ascending to the bosom of their God!”

See also:
Eulogy of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams by Daniel Webster
The Wisdom of Founder John Adams Part 1: Novanglus Papers
The Consequence of Bad Legal Precedent in American Legislation
THE COST OF POPULAR LIBERTY by Brooks Adams July 4th 1876
 PATRIOT SONS OF PATRIOT SIRES by Rev. Samuel Francis Smith 1808-1895
RISE OF CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY by Dr. Richard Salter Storrs July 4 1876
THE FIRST CENTURY OF THE REPUBLIC by Judge Isaac W Smith 1876
Wide Spread And Growing Corruption In The Public Service Of The States And Nation
WHAT HISTORY TEACHES US ABOUT AMERICAN DIPLOMACY Addressed in 1876
THE SOURCE AND SECURITY OF AMERICAN FREEDOM AND PROGRESS by Courtlandt Parker 1876