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law he told himself in an address at Cincinnati in 1843, as follows :—
"I have been a member of your profession upwards of half a century. In the early period of my life, having a father abroad, it was my fortune to travel in foreign countries; still, under the impression which I first received from my mother, that in this country every man should have some trade, that trade which, by the advice of my parents and my own inclination, I chose, was the profession of the law. After having completed an education in which, perhaps, more than any other citizen of that time, I had advantages, and which, of course, brought with it the incumbent duty of manifesting by my life that those extraordinary advantages of education, secured to me by my father, had not been worthlessly bestowed,—on coming into life after such great advantages, and having the duty of selecting a profession, I chose that of the bar. I closed my education as a lawyer with one of the most eminent jurists of the age, Theophilus Parsons, of Newburyport, at that time a practicing lawyer, but subsequently chief justice of the commonwealth of Massachusetts. Under his instruction and advice I closed my education, and commenced what I can hardly call the practice of the law in the city of Boston.
"At that time, though I can not say I was friendless, yet my circumstances were not independent. My father was then in a situation of great responsibility and notoriety in the Government of the United States. But he had been long absent from his own country, and still continued absent from that part of it to which he belonged, and of which I was a native. I went, therefore, as a volunteer, an adventurer, to Boston, as possibly many of you whom I now see before me may consider yourselves as having come to Cincinnati. I was without support of any kind. I may say I was a stranger in-that city, although almost a native of that spot. I say I can hardly call it practice, because for the space of one year from that time it would be difficult for me to name any practice which I had to do. For two years, indeed, I can recall nothing in which I was engaged that may be termed practice, though during the second year there were some symptoms that, by persevering patience, practice might come in time. The third year I continued this patience and perseverance, and, having little to do, occupied my time as well as I could in the study of those laws and institutions which I have since been called to administer. At the end of the third year I had obtained something which might be called practice.
"The fourth year I found it swelling to such an extent that I felt no longer any concern as to my future destiny as a member of that profession. But in the midst of the fourth year, by the will of the first President of the United States, with which the Senate was pleased to concur, I was selected for a station, not, perhaps, of more usefulness, but of greater consequence in the estimation of mankind, and sent from home on a mission to foreign parts.
"From that time, the fourth year,after my admission to the bar of my native State, and the first year of my admission to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States, I was deprived of the exercise of any further industry or labor at the bar by this distinction; a distinction for which a previous education at the bar, if not an indispensable qualification, was at least a most useful appendage."
Little more need be said of Mr. Adams as a "member of the bar," as his law practice virtually closed in 1794, in less than four years after it began. He did, however, resume this calling in the winter of 1801 after returning from Prussia, but he was hardly re-initiated until he again entered the political field, as will be shown hereafter. He always considered himself a member of the "legal" profession, and did appear on a noted occasion or so, late in life, in the capacity of a lawyer. Few men possessed more of the elements necessary for great success in that profession than did he. If he lacked one quality, it was one that followed him throughout life, that trait or combination of traits which stood in the way of his being perfectly congenial at all times to all men. Still this was also a serious drawback in the race for fame in a political career, and one which he deeply felt all his life. Mr. Adams was utterly unable to be all things to all men. He could not be a popular man. It was not in his power to leave his principles and convictions long enough to court the changeful masses. Without this quality he could have gained success more readily, perhaps, as a great lawyer; and in the fact that he did reach eminent success without it as a politician is to be found one of the few noteworthy instances of the kind in the history of this country, his own father and General Washington being, perhaps, at the head of the very few cases .so clearly marked. But it may, with confidence, be claimed that no other American fought and conquered his way to political eminence so completely, and with such admirable and determined devotion to principle as did John Quincy Adams.
However, the subject must be carried out at a more suitable point in this history. What was possible at that period of the Republic is at least doubtfully possible now. For a nature that was universally set down as cold and repulsive, Mr. Adams's success was phenomenal. Viewed in this aspect his career becomes heroic. Although old John Adams, his father, did, for a time, while residing in France, wander slightly from the Puritan rectitude in which he passionately believed, and warm up towards the voluptuous animalism or sensualism of the French, to this day no other Adams has been known to do such a thing, if no account be taken of a little London dissipation by John Quincy himself. If this family is proud of its deeds and name, it is still prouder of its principles of integrity.
No sentiments of policy merely, ever usurped the place of these principles in the earlier generations, and from their well-beaten track the young stock of to-day does not depart.
The following extract from the "Journal" of
Abigail, the sister, in whom John Quincy said his
highest expectations were realized, will show how
hard it was for any Adams, man or woman, to ignore
the truth of the heart, to be otherwise than what the
world, " the people," call distant, incongenial, unsocial,
cold, repulsive :—
"No, it is not pride, it is not vanity, 't is not unworthy principle which would prevent me, had I a will to follow, from making such visits, but I would make no acquaintance for which I had not some good reason. I do not love (like) that kind of intercourse where no one affection of the heart has any share; I would treat every one with civility, lay myself under as few obligations as possible; to those whom I would rank as friends, I would always act from the heart. Every attention to such I should esteem myself gratified in paying; but the unmeaning intercourse of a great portion of mankind, I must acknowledge, I have but little taste for."
On the 27th of May, 1794, Vice-President Adams sent a letter to his wife which contained this information :—
"It is proper that I should apprise you, that the President has it in contemplation to send your son to Holland, that you may recollect yourself and prepare for the event. I make this communication to you in confidence, at the desire of the President, communicated to me yesterday by the Secretary of State. You must keep it an entire secret until it shall be announced to the public in the journal of the Senate. But our son must hold himself in readiness to come to Philadelphia, to converse with the Presideut, Secretory of State, Secretory of the Treasury, etc., and receive his commissions and instructions, without loss of time. He will go to Providence iu the stage, and thence to New York by water, and thence to Philadelphia iu the stage. He will not set out, however, until he is informed of his appointment."
Two days subsequently the appointment was made, and at once unanimously confirmed by the Senate, President Washington no doubt being influenced by the "Publicola" and other papers which had brought Mr. Adams into general notice as a political writer. His knowledge of the French and German languages, and his long semi-political and official residence in Europe were not overlooked, perhaps, in his selection. Of the President's purpose he had never had any intimation, and of the appointment he wrote :—
"I wish I could have been consulted before it was irrevocably made. I rather wish it had not been made at all. My friends, on the other hand, appear much pleased with it, and seem to consider it a subject of pure and simple congratulation."
He accepted the mission and set out for Philadelphia. At Colonel W. S. Smith's, in New York, he met Talleyrand, then an exile from France. On the 10th of July he dined with President Washington, General Knox, and Mrs. Knox, Attorney-General Randolph, Mr. Bradford, of the Navy Department, and Mrs. Robert Morris being of the company at dinner. After spending some time in Philadelphia, and having received his instructions, Mr. Adams, taking with him his brother, sailed on the 17th of September, and on the 14th of the following month landed at Deal. From this point he traveled up to London in a chaise.
As they were trotting into London at dark, some thieves attempted to cut loose and carry off his trunks. But his brother fortunately discovering their purpose, they were put to flight. These trunks contained important papers concerning British and home relations especially intrusted to him for Mr. Jay, and the loss of them Mr. Adams thought would have done him and his country more harm than if he had been drowned in the ocean. Hence, this escape was put down as the most fortunate occurrence of his life.