페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

of his amiable and admirable character; the twelve years during which we had been in close official relation together; the scene when he went with me to the Capitol; his warm and honest sympathy with me in my trials when President of the United States; my interview with him in January, 1831, and his faithful devotion to the memory of Monroe. These recollections were oppressive to my feelings. I thought some public testimonial from me to his memory was due at this time. But Mr. Wirt was no partisan of the present Administration. He had been a formal and dreaded opponent to the re-election of Andrew Jackson; and so sure is anything I say or do to meet insuperable obstruction, that I could not imagine anything I could offer with the remotest prospect of success. I finally concluded to ask of the House, to-morrow morning, to have it entered upon the journal of this day that the adjournment was that the Speaker and members might be able to attend the funeral of William Wirt. I wrote a short address, to be delivered at the meeting of the House."

Shortly before the adjournment in June, news was received in this country of the death of La Fayette. Members of both Houses met to take some action in the case, and by motion of John C. Calhoun, Mr. Adams was appointed to deliver an oration on the life and character of La Fayette. During the vacation, Mr. Adams prepared this address in his retreat at Quincy, but up to the last moment before its delivery he was engaged in its revision, and when the time actually came he regretted that he could not re-write the entire address. On the last day of December, in the House of Representatives, before the President and his Cabinet, the members of both branches of Congress, and a vast concourse of people, the address was delivered. It was one of Mr. Adams's most polished and florid productions, and was received with general favor throughout the country, Congress ordering thousands of copies of it at the public expense.

• During the long vacation in the summer of 1834, Mr. Adams made the following record in his Diary :—

"The succession to the Presidency absorbs all national interests, and the electioneering contests are becoming merely venial. My hopes of the long continuance of this Union are extinct. . . . My own system of administration, which was to make the national domain the inexhaustible fund for progressive and unceasing internal improvement, has failed. Systematically renounced and denounced by the present Administration, it has been undisguisedly abandoned by H. Clay, ingloriously deserted by J. C. Calhoun, and silently given up by D. Webster. These are the opposition aspirants to the Presidential succession, not one of them having a system of administration which he would now dare to avow, and at this time scarcely linked together by the brittle chain of common opposition to the unprincipled absurdities of the present incumbent. . . .

"The prosperity of the country, independent of all the agency of the Government, is so great that the people have nothing to disturb them but their own waywardness and corruption. They quarrel upon dissensions of a doit, and split up into gangs of partisans of A, B, C, and D, without knowing why they prefer one to another. Caucuses, county, State, and national conventions, public dinners, and dinner-table speeches two or three hours long, constitute the operative power of electioneering; and the parties are of workingmen, temperance reformers, AntiMasons, Union and States-rights men, Nullifiers, and, above all, Jackson men, Van Buren men, Clay men, Calhoun men, Webster men, and McLean men, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Democrats, without one ounce of honest principle to choose between them."

At the next session of Congress Mr. Adams was made chairman of a committee for fixing the northern line of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, and considered this one of the most trying positions he had yet occupied. The State of Michigan stood on one side of this case, and he saw that whatever he did he would be sure to surround himself with more enemies. He soon discovered that if justice was done he must decide in favor of Michigan, and said that he had never seen a case in which the right was so wholly on one side and the power on the other. He considered the proceedings of the Ohio Legislature looking to taking possession of the territory claimed, by force, as a wonderful instance of the necessity of a wine controlling power; and the message of Governor Lucas, on which the Legislature had based its action, he thought the most imprudent state paper he had ever read. General Cass, Secretary of War, intimated that he wonld resist the pretensions of Ohio by force. But that State prepared to assert her claim, and Michigan, not behind, took steps to meet force by force. Here again Mr. Adams might have invoked the aid of the heathen philosophers to supply a reason for the enmity of individuals or whole communities toward upright public men, who in the discharge of what they believe to be their duty render just decisions, or wisely decide against some personal or local interest.

On any ground of intelligence or moral rectitude this conduct is entirely inexplicable. No American who came to the dignity of genuine statesmanship ever suffered so much as did Mr. Adams from this species of shallow and willful misrepresentation on the part of his countrymen.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

MR. ADAMS AND FREEMASONRY—THE GREAT CRAFT IN DANGER—A WONDERFUL CONFLICT.

WILLIAM MORGAN, a "Royal Arch" Mason, a native of Virginia, residing in Batavia, Genesee County, New York, falling out with the Masons, and desiring to profit by his knowledge, gave out early in 1826 that he was preparing to publish to the world what was claimed to be the foolish and wicked mysteries of the "order." He formed a connection with David C. Miller, the editor of the town newspaper, who entered with spirit into the fatal work.

At first, to all appearances, the Masons gave little heed to Morgan, but this indifference was of short duration, and his purposes were soon understood among the brethren throughout the neighborhood, and even in remote parts of the State. Efforts were speedily made to obtain possession of his manuscript, or induce him to abandon his unfraternal project. All these efforts were, however, in the main, unsuccessful. But what could not be accomplished in one way must be reached in another. If fair means would not do, a resort to foul ones appeared inevitable. But the story has often been told, and it is not necessary to repeat here what could, perhaps, never have been more than substan-. tially true. It is enough to say that Morgan was arrested by civil officers who were Masons, on a ridicu

lous charge preferred by a Mason, and carried to Canandaigua. On the 11th of September, 1826, he was taken before a justice of the peace at that place, and immediately discharged. At once rearrested for a trifling debt which the Masons had trumped up, he was thrown into jail. On the night of the 12th he was let out, seized, and rapidly conveyed in a closed carriage to Fort Niagara, and was there shortly afterwards drowned, or destroyed in some other way, as was supposed, by his former brethren.

However unpalatable this record may be to a powerful secret society, it is that which history has made; and time and lethe with all their corroding influences will never be able to change, mitigate, or remove it from the endless annals of evil deeds.

In the whole record of crime, it would be difficult to find one which fell farther short of its purpose than the murder of William Morgan. It not only did not prevent the publication of his exposition of Freemasonry, as far as he knew, but it also led to other and more extensive publications, and gave to the trifling and foolishly pompous order thrusts from which it was long in recovering, and left a scar which no conjury or medication can ever remove. Without this crime Morgan's book would have been an idle tale; with the crime the book was verified, and a social and political revolution was inaugurated. It is the old story of the passions of men running away with their judgments.

Freemasonry claimed the respectability of great age, and was, without pretense, acquiring no inconsiderable influence in politics and social affairs. But the Batavian abduction illustrated a feature of the order

« 이전계속 »