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District of Columbia, similar to what he would receive were he in South Carolina.
This brought the following notable reply from Mr. Adams :—
"If this is true, if a member is there made amenable for words spoken in debate, I thank God I am not a citizen of South Carolina! Such a threat when brought before the world, would excite nothing but contempt and amazement. What! are we from the Northern States to be indicted as felons and incendiaries for presenting petitions not exactly agreeable to some members from the South, by a jury of twelve men, appointed by a marshal, his office at the pleasure of the President! If the gentleman from South Carolina, by bringing forward this resolution of censure, thinks to frighten me from my purpose, he has mistaken his man. I am not to be intimidated by him, nor by all the grand juries of the universe."
Grand-spirited old man! These scenes were indeed teaching them the truth that they had always been mistaken in the man. Soon after these occurrences Mr. Adams addressed some letters to his constituents, a plan he had always pursued, fully exposing his purposes and conduct, and completely vindicating himself. CHAPTER XXX.
"STOOD UP A MAN, . . . LIKE OLYMPIAN JOVE."—THE
CHAMPION OF THE RIGHT OF PETITION—THE GREAT
SINGLE-HANDED COMBAT AGAINST ALL THE
FORCES OF SLAVERY—THE VICTORIOUS
SAGE OF QUINCY.
PRESIDENT VAN BUREN was induced to call a special session of Congress, which began on the 4th of September, 1837, and ended on the 16th of October. James K. Polk was again elected Speaker, defeating John Bell, the Whig candidate.
Numerous petitions against slavery and the annexation of Texas were sent to Mr. Adams and a few other members, but properly enough all these things were shut out, and the business of the short session mainly confined to the subjects specified in the President's message.
The first regular session under the new Administration began in 1837 at the usual time in December. William Slade, of Vermont, an able and fearless man, who had during a previous term been one of Mr. Adams's most efficient aids, managed this winter to skirt a squall which at the moment appeared unusually ominous. In attempting to present to the House petitions from his State against slavery in the District and for the suppression of the slave-trade, he undertook to make an extended argument, reading the opinions of Franklin, Jefferson, and others, against the "institution." Declining to be called to order, he proceeded amidst intense noise and angry words, until the voice of Henry A. Wise was heard calling the Virginians to leave the Hall. This movement was instantly taken up by the Southern members generally, who, on effecting an adjournment of the House, went into secret convention in the room of the Committee on the District of Columbia, excluding even their Northern Democratic friends. The result of this secession convention was the presentation on the next day to the House of the following, which they called a compromise or concession resolution for the sake of harmony and union :—
"That all the petitions, memorials, and papers touching the abolition of slavery, or the buying, selling, or transferring slaves, in any State, or District, or Territory of the United States, be laid on the table without being debated, printed, read, or referred, and that no action be taken thereon."
Of course, as on former occasions, this resolution met the opposition of the Northern Whigs. But all of this temporizing only put off the fatal day till a riper period. Outside of Congress the contest waged with fury. Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy was murdered by a pro-slavery mob at Alton, Illinois, November 7,1837, an act which gave great impetus to Abolitionism, and materially loosened the fervent tongues of such men as William Ellery Channing, Edmund Quincy, and the young Boston lawyer, Wendell Phillips.. The fires of freedom, which the downfall of human slavery only could extinguish in the North, were again lighted in Faneuil Hall. The flame spread throughout the North, diminishing as it approached the slave-border.
The sentiment as to the annexation of Texas also
underwent great modification as the slave-line was approached. Ohio had sent to Congress a petition from her Legislature against annexation, and the State Senate of Pennsylvania, with six dissenting votes, had done the same; while the Pennsylvania Lower House, having an Administration majority, had failed to affirm the protest.
Charles J. Ingersoll and a few politicians of his class fought for annexation, at the risk of war with Mexico. But though this feeling was not shared by any considerable number of the Western people, there was among them still great indifference on the subject of slavery, and the Whig friends of Henry Clay would, in the main, have waived any question in relation to annexation save war with Mexico. With them "peaceful acquisition" by the co-operation of Mexico was a theme to be considered apart from the matter of human slavery.
However, several States had petitioned Congress for or against annexation, and many thousand citizens had done the same thing, and most of them, especially where the question of slavery was involved, had failed to receive any notice from that body. All this Mr. Adams thought called for an extraordinary effort on his part, as leader in the great fight then going on in behalf of the right of petition. Accordingly, he finally succeeded in having the broken morning hour assigned to him, and on the 16th of June, 1838, began a series of addresses, reviewing, to some extent, the history of the controversy on petitions, and fully exposing the crooked machinations of the friends of annexation. These speeches were continued until the adjournment of Congress on the 7th of July, with a right to the morning hour still due to him at the beginning of the next session. Mr. Adams subsequently had these speeches, with the accompanying proceedings in the House, published in a closely printed octavo pamphlet of one hundred and thirty-one pages.
During the progress of these speeches Mr. Adams took occasion to present, or offer to present, numerous petitions on various subjects from all parts of the Nation, the greater part of them relating to the annexation of Texas and slavery in one form or another. Some of these petitions were against himself personally, others were in opposition to the great principles he was upholding; but nothing of this kind stood in his way. He was the champion and apostle of the right of petition, and deemed it his duty to bring forward all petitions to Congress which were put into his hands, their unfavorableness to himself or his doctrines constituting no element in the case.
In the course of this privilege Mr. Adams took occasion to review the conduct of the Administration in suppressing petition and free speech, and was frequently called to order in so doing by the Speaker and members. To free himself of this disturbance he proposed that the point of order be reduced to writing, and stated that he would then appeal from the Speaker's decision, and the matter should then go on record with the alleged ground of irrelevancy. But this the Speaker declined, and ordered a vote of the House sustaining him without showing the principle for the action.
Mr. Adams then proceeded to expose and denounce the cpurse the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Administration had taken on the Texas question, and