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connected with all the transactions in this House and this Nation; and because I think it time to settle this question between the duelists and non-duelists, whoever they may be. I say that, in consequence of my principles, and what I believe to be the principles of a very large portion of the people in that part of the country from which I came, I will not, as regards the approaching Administration, put myself under the lead of any man who considers the dueling law in this district as having borne any bitter fruits whatever. It may not, indeed, be sufficiently potent in its operation to prevent the thirst for blood which follows offensive words; but I believe it has prevented, and will prevent, any such occurrences as we have witnessed here. But, as it bears upon the affairs of the Nation, I am not willing to sit any longer here, and see other members from my own section of the country, or those who may be my successors here, made subject to any such law as the law of the duelist. I am unwilling that they should not have full freedom of speech in this House on all occasions, as much so as the primest duelist in the land. I do not want to hear perpetual intimations, when a man from one part of the country means to insult another coming from other parts of the country, as, 'I am ready to answer here or elsewhere;' and 'The gentleman knows where I am to be found;' saying, as the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. W. C. Johnson) did just now, that he would call to account any person who dared make allusion to what had taken place between him and another member of this House. I do not intend to hear that any more, for myself or others, if I can help it. Therefore, I move to bring the matter up for full discussion here, whether we are to be twitted and taunted with remarks that a man is ready to meet us here or elsewhere. It goes to the independence of this House; it goes to the independence of every individual member of this House; it goes to the right of speech and freedom of debate in this House; and I felt myself bound to bear my testimony in the most decided manner against the practice of dueling, or any thing in the shape of even a virtual challenge taking place in this House, now and forever. If the committee think proper to put me down, after a debate of three weeks, involving almost every topic under the sun, and in which not one man has been called to order, I must submit. It shall go out to the country, and I am willing that the sober sentiment of the whole Nation shall be my final judge on this subject."
During this session of Congress Mr. Adams made
his famous speech in the case of the Armistad negroes,
and in the following extraordinary and affectionate
words took leave of the Supreme Court:—
"May it please your honors: On the 7th of February, 1804, now more than thirty-seven years past, my name was entered, and yet stands recorded, on both the rolls, as one of the attorneys and counselors of this court. Five years later, in February and March, 1809, I appeared for the last time before this court, in defense of the cause of justice and of important rights, in which many of my fellow-citizens had property to a large amount at stake. Very shortly afterwards I was called to the discharge of other duties, first in distant lands, and in later years within our own country, but in different departments of her Government. Little did I imagine that I should ever again be required to claim the right of appearing in the capacity of an officer of this court; yet such has been the dictate of my destiny, and I appear again to plead the cause of justice, and now of liberty and life, in behalf of many of my fellow-men, before that same court which, in a former age, I had addressed in support of rights of property. I stand again, I trust for the last time, before the same court. 'Hie cceetm, artemqiie repono.' I stand before the tame court, but not before the same judges, nor aided by the same associates, nor resisted by the same opponents. As I cast my eyes along those seats of honor and of public trust now occupied by you, they seek in vain for one of those honored and honorable persons whose indulgence listened then to my voice. Marshall, Cushing, Chase, Washington, Johnson, Livingston, Todd, where are they? Where is that eloquent statesman and learned lawyer who was my associate counsel in the management of that cause, Robert Goodloe Harper? Where is that brilliant luminary, so long the pride of Maryland and of the American bar, then my opposing counsel, Luther Martin? Where is the excellent clerk of that day, whose name has been inscribed on the shores of Africa as a monument of his abhorrence of the African slave-trade, Elias B. Caldwell? Where is the marshal, where are the criers of the court? Alas! where is one of the very judges of the court, arbiter of life and death, before whom I commenced this anxious argument, even now prematurely closed? Where are they all? Gone, gone, all gone!
Gone from the services which in their day and generation they faithfully tendered to their country. From the excellent characters which they sustained in life, so far as I have had the menus of knowing, I humbly hope, and fondly trust they have gone to receive the rewards of blessedness on high.
"In taking, then, my final leave of this bar, and of this honorable court, I can only ejaculate a fervent petition to Heaven that every member of it may go to his final account with as little of earthly frailty to answer for as those illustrious dead; and that every one, after the close of a long and virtuous career in this world, may be received at the portals of the next with the approving sentence, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.'"
The session of Congress closed on the 3d of March, 1841, amidst the general excitement and rejoicing on the approach of a new order of administration from which too much was expected by its friends. Mr. Adams went to dine with President Harrison, and quite a new set of people took favorite places at the White House. Yet Mr. Adams was not enthusiastic, and evidently considered his own influence at the President's, small enough. He said of an applicant through him: "I might as well undertake by my influence to obtain for him the office of porter at the gate of Heaven." Still he soon recognized, to his chagrin, that dismissal from office according to the recent Jackson plan was going swimmingly on. The principle of the spoils to the victor had already taken deep and ineradicable hold on the affairs of the country. Soon after the inauguration of President Harrison, Mr. Adams delivered his lecture on Faith at Washington, and did not leave for Massachusetts until after the funeral of the President, which he attended in all of its steps.* He subsequently led in the House in proceedings concerning the dead President, and in the appropriation of twenty-five thousand dollars to Mrs. Harrison, the widow.
Soon after Mr. Tyler assumed the duties of the office, Mr. Adams visited him at the White House, but he was not pleased with Mr. Tyler calling himself President, and did not even feel sure that he ought to occupy the President's Mansion. But it does not appear that any great number of the people shared these critical scruples with Mr. Adams. He had no confidence in Mr. Tyler, and feared the consequences of this supposed fortunate turn in his life. He thought Mr. Tyler.s Administration would not look to the benefit of his country or his fellow-man. He thought the President's policy would point to the next quadrennial election, and in this would be aided by Webster. As to any great compact system of administration he believed Webster and Ewing both to be babies. So, as a matter of course, he supposed the Administration would be a failure.
In writing of General Harrison's death Mr. Adams said :—
"The first impression of this event here, where it occurred, is of the frailty of all human enjoyments, and the awful vicissitudes woven into the lot of mortal man. He had reached, but one short month since, the pinnacle of honor and power in his own country. He lies a lifeless corpse in the palace provided by his country for his abode. He was amiable and benevolent. Sympathy for his suffering and his fate is the prevailing sentiment of his fellow-citizens. The bereavement and distress of his family are felt intensely, albeit they are strangers here, and known scarcely to any one.
"The influence of this event upon the condition and history of the country can scarcely be foreseen. It makes the VicePresident of the United States, John Tyler, of Virginia, acting President of the Union for four years, less one month.
"Tyler is a political sectarian, of the slave-driving, Virginian, Jeffersonian school; principled against all improvement; with all the interests and passions and vices of slavery rooted in his moral and political constitution; with talents not above mediocrity, and a spirit incapable of expansion to the dimensions of the station on which he has been cast by the hand of Providence, unseen, through the apparent agency of chance. To that benign and healing hand of Providence I trust, in humble hope of the good which it always brings forth out of evil. In upwards of half a century this is the first instance of a Vice-President being called to act as President of the United States and bringa to the test that provision of the Constitution which places in the executive chair a man never thought of for it by any body.
"Tyler deems himself qualified to perform the duties and exercise the powers and office of President, on the death of President Harrison, without any other oath than that which he has taken as Vice-President; yet, as doubts might arise, and for greater caution, he will take and subscribe the oath as President. May the blessing of Heaven upon this Nation attend and follow this providential revolution in its Government! For the present it is not joyous, but grievous.
"The moral condition of this country is degenerating, and especially through the effect of that part of its Constitution which is organized by the process of unceasing elections. The spirit of the age and country is to accumulate power in the hands of the multitude; to shorten terms of service in high public pieces; to multiply elections, and diminish Executive power; to weaken all agencies protective of property, or repressive of crime; to abolish capital punishments and imprisonment for debt. Slavery, intemperance, land-jobbing, bankruptcy, and sundry controversies with Great Britain, constitute the materials for the history of John Tyler's Administration. But the improvement of the condition of man will form no part of his policy, and the improvement of his country will be an object of his most inveterate and inflexible opposition."
At the beginning of the special session Mr. Adams was appointed chairman of the Committee of Indian Affairs, although the new Speaker, John White, of