Page images
PDF
EPUB

on the organization of the twenty-sixth Congress, in December, 1839, when difficulties of a novel character occurred, in consequence of disputed seats from the state of New Jersey, which prevented for many days the choice of a speaker. On that occasion Mr. Adams was chosen, by unanimous consent, chairman of the house while it was in a state of confusion and disorder. By his skill and influence, he was enabled to calm the turbulent elements of a disorganized house, and to bring about a settlement of the difficulties which threatened the dissolution of the government.

Perhaps the most striking feature of Mr. Adams's career as a member of the house of representatives, was his firm adherence to the right of the people to petition Congress, and to be heard through their representatives, on any subject whatsoever. He took an active part in debate, on nearly every topic of public interest, and his speeches were frequently marked with the most fervid eloquence.

The private character of Mr. Adams was always above reproach, in his intercourse with his fellow-men, and in all the various duties of a long life. Without any uncommon professions, he uniformly evinced great respect for the Christian religion, and, like his father, gave a preference to the doctrines of the unitarian church.

In a biographical sketch of Mr. Adams, written for the first edition of the Statesman's Manual in 1846, we made use of the following words: “ The subject of this memoir is still found at his post in the public service, where, like the earl of Chatham, it may be expected his mortal career will finally close.”

What was then a thought, in advance of a probable result, became an historical fact in 1848. On the twenty-second of February (the birthday of Washington), in that year Mr. Adams was prostrated by paralysis, while in his seat in the house of representatives, and yielded up his spirit to his Maker on the following day (February 23, 1848), being then in his eighty-first year. He died in the speaker's room in the capitol, and his last words were, “ This is the last of earth.” A committee of members of Congress accompanied his remains to the family burying-ground at Quincy, due honors being paid to his memory in the principal cities and towns, through which the corpse was carried to its final resting-place.

Mr. Adams was of middle stature, and full person, his eyes dark and piercing, and beaming with intelligence. He always led an active life, , and enjoyed good health to an advanced age, his health being promoted, doubtless, by his early rising and bodily exercise. His mind was highly cultivated, and he was considered one of the most accomplished scholars and statesmen in America.

Mr. Adams, in May, 1797, was married to Louisa Catherine, daughter of Joshua Johnson, Esq., of Maryland, who then resided in London. By this lady, who survives him, he had four children, three sons and one daughter, of whom one only, Charles F. Adams of Boston, is now living.

[ocr errors][merged small]

The inauguration of John Quincy Adams as president of the United States, took place on the 4th of March, 1825. At about half-past twelve o'clock on that day he was introduced into the capitol, followed by the expresident, Mr. Monroe, and his family, by the judges of the supreme court, in their robes of office, and the members of the senate, preceded by the vice-president, with a number of members of the house of representatives. Mr. Adams, in a plain suit of black, ascended the steps to the speaker's chair, and took his seat. Silence having been proclaimed, and the doors of the hall closed, the president elect rose and delivered his inaugural address to the assembled multitude, by whom it was received with great attention and interest.

After delivering this address, Mr. Adams descended from the chair, and placing himself on the righthand of the judge's table, received from ChiefJustice Marshall a volume of the laws of the United States, from which he read the oath of office, at the close of which, the house rang with the cheers and plaudits of the immense audience.

The senate being in session, the president immediately nominated the members of his cabinet, namely: Henry Clay, of Kentucky, for secretary of state; Richard Rush, of Pennsylvania, secretary of the treasury; James Barbour, of Virginia, secretary of war. These nominations were all confirmed, and unanimously, except that of Mr. Clay, to which a warm opposition was made on the part of a few senators, and the injunction of secresy being removed, the votes appeared to have been twenty-seven in favor, and fourteen against it. S. L. Southard, as secretary of the navy, and Willo iam Wirt, as attorney-general, were continued in office. John M.Lean, of Ohio, postmaster-general (not then a member of the cabinet), who had been appointed by Mr. Monroe, was also continued in office.

After disposing of the nominations made by the executive, the senate took into consideration the treaty made with the republic of Colombia, for the suppression of the slave-trade. This treaty was made in conformity with a resolution of the house of representatives, recommending to the executive to make treaties, giving the mutual right of search of vessels in suspected parts of the world, in order more effectually to prevent the

Vol. 11.-17

traffic in slaves. The amendments proposed by the senate, at the last session, to the treaty with Great Britain, for the same purpose, were introduced into this treaty; but the fate of the treaty with England had prob. ably caused a change in the minds of some of the senators, and other views had been taken of the subject by others, and the treaty with Colombia was rejected by 28 votes to 12.

The divisions which had been taken on the foregoing questions, in the senate, left little doubt that the new administration was destined to meet with a systematic and organized opposition; and previous to the next meeting of Congress, the ostensible grounds of opposition were set forth at public dinners and meetings, so as to prepare the community for a warm political contest, until the next election.

Those who placed themselves in opposition to the administration, with. out reference to its measures, urged as reasons for their hostility, that Mr. Adams's election was the result of a bargain between Mr. Clay and himself; and his selection of Mr. Clay as secretary of state, was relied upon as a conclusive proof of the bargain; that he was elected against the expressed will of the people; and that Congress, by not taking General Jackson, the candidate having the highest number of votes, had violated the constitution, and disobeyed their constituents. Personal objections were also urged, but as these formed no part of the justification of the opposition which was to be arrayed in anticipation of measures, it is unnecessary to give them a place. Those who were friendly to the new administration, or disposed to judge of it by its acts, replied to these objections, that Mr. Clay, as a representative, was obliged to decide between three candidates for the presidency, and that his vote was in accordance with all his previous declarations; that his own situation as a candidate who might possibly succeed, rendered it unsuitable for him to express any preference for either of the other candidates, until the decision of the legislature of Louisiana (first heard at Washington on the 27th of December) had left him free to decide between his former competitors; that Mr. Crawford, though constitutionally a candidate, was virtually withdrawn by the situation of his health, and that as between Mr. Adams and General Jackson, the previous deliberate expression of his sentiments as to the latter's character and qualifications for a civil office, rendered it impossible for him to vote for him without the most gross inconsistency; that Mr. Adams's experience, learning, and talents, were guaranties for his proper performance of the duties of the chief magistracy, which were not in the power of his competitor to offer; and that, having been compelled to discharge this duty as a representative of the people, it would have argued an improper distrust of his own character and of public opinion, to have refused to take the appointment of secretary of state from Mr. Adams, because he had contributed by his vote to elect him to the presidency. As to the fact of his selection as secretary of state, they vindicated it on the ground, that his situation as speaker of the house, and his long and intimate acquaintance with our national affairs, made him the most prominent candidate for that station, and the strong support he received in the west for the presidency, showed that his appointment would gratify a part of the Union, which, until then, had never been complimented with a representative in the cabinet.*

One of the most prominent topics of public interest during the year 1825, was the controversy between the national government and the executive of Georgia, Governor Troup. This controversy grew out of a compact between the general government and the state of Georgia in 1802. By that compact the United States agreed, in consideration of Georgia relinquishing her claim to the Mississippi territory, to extinguish, at the national expense, the Indian title to the lands occupied by them in Georgia, “ whenever it could be peaceably done, upon reasonable terms." Since making that agreement, the general government had extinguished the Indian title to about fifteen millions of acres, and conveyed the same to the state of Georgia. There still remained 9,537,000 of acres in possession of the Indians, of which 5,292,000 of acres belonged to the Cherokees, and the remainder to the Creek nation.

Shortly before the termination of Mr. Monroe's administration, the state government became very urgent for the entire removal of the Indians from the state ; and at the solicitation of the governor, the late president appointed two commissioners, selected by the governor of Georgia, to make a treaty with the Creeks for the purchase of their lands.t

But the Creek nation having began to enjoy the arts and comforts of civilization introduced among them by the government of the United States, were unwilling to leave their lands for the wilderness of the west, and passed a law forbidding the sale of any of their lands, on the pain of death. A few of the chiefs were induced to violate this law, by negotiating with the United States commissioners, after the breaking up of the general council of the nation, and by these chiefs, forming a fraction only of the acknowledged heads of the tribes, all the lands of the Creeks in Georgia and Alabama were ceded to the United States. This treaty, however, was transmitted to the United States senate, and ratified by them on the 3d of March, 1825, the last day of Mr. Monroe's administration. When the information that this treaty had been thus sanctioned, reached the Creeks, it produced great excitement, and a secret council of the nation being called, they resolved not to accept the treaty, and the death of M‘Intosh, the chief of the party that assented to it, was determined on. This deter“mination was carried into effect by party of Indians, who surrounded his house on the 30th of April, and shot MʻIntosh, and another chief who had also signed the treaty. This course on the part of the Creeks presented a new question, and a • American Annual Register.

| Ibid.

controversy soon grew out of it between the general government and Gove ernor Troup. The governor contended, that upon the ratification of the treaty, the fee simple of the lands became vested in Georgia, and subject to her authority. He therefore called the legislature of Georgia together, for the purpose of taking measures to cause a survey of the lands, and to distribute them among the white inhabitants of Georgia by lottery. These circumstances, and the remonstrances of the Creek chiefs against the treaty, induced President Adams to appoint a special agent to investigate the matter, and, at the same time, General Gaines, of the United States army, was ordered to repair to the Creek country with a competent number of troops, to restore tranquillity among the Creeks, and to prevent any disturbances between them and the frontier settlers. After an investigation by the agent into the facts, and receiving his report that bad faith and corruption had attended the treaty, and that forty-nine fiftieths of the Creeks appeared to be hostile to the treaty, the president decided not to suffer any interference with them until the meeting of Congress. Governor Troup at first threatened to take the execution of the treaty into his own hands, but the firm and decided tone of the president induced him to leave the affair to the constituted authorities.

Although the president had thus resolved to protect the Indians in their rights, he was desirous to satisfy the claims of Georgia, and a new negotiation was opened with the Creeks, which finally resulted in annulling the former treaty, and the whole Creek territory within the limits of Georgia was ceded to the United States. By the new treaty, the Creeks retained all their lands in Alabama, which had been ceded in the one declared null. Notwithstanding the opposition of the Georgia delegation in Congress, the new treaty was ratified by the senate, at the ensuing session, by a vote of 30 to 7, and the appropriations were made by the house of representatives, by 167 votes to 10.

A treaty was also made with the Indians in the northwestern states and territories, by Governors Cass and Clark, at Prairie du Chien, in August, 1825. The negotiations occupied about two weeks, and a peace was concluded between the tribes, and the tomahawk finally buried, for the first time for nearly a century.

Another object of the government was, to remove the tribes scattered through the several states, to a tract of country west of the Mississippi, and to concentrate them into one nation, with some plan for their government and civilization. This plan was fully developed in a message of President Monroe, January 27th, 1825, in which its advantages were strongly depicted. With the constant superintendence and protecting care of the federal government, this scheme might be put in practice, and the annihilation of the original inhabitants of the American forest prevented. Without that care, the policy of bringing tribes with savage habits and inimical feelings into immediate contact, may be well doubted.

« PreviousContinue »