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"THE OLD MAN ELOQUENT"—HIS CT^RACTER, LIFE, AND PUBLIC SERVICES.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS was one of the- most remarkable and worthy men who has figured in
American history. Of this there can be no question, and his great success becomes strangely interesting in view of the fact that he was, in the common way of speaking, perhaps, the most unpopular of all his countrymen. His character was vindicated, or stands to-day vindicated, in two ways: by his whole life of deeds, step by step, and by his Diary. The latter contains the private record of his motives, and both of these methods of defense fully illustrate and verify each other. They reach forward to that other age ("Alteri Sseculo"), in which he believed his heart and work would be better understood.
Mr. Adams considered his educational advantages unexampled, and however correct his judgment was on this point, none of the advantages offered were lost upon him. His early childhood was exceptionally fortunate. The daily companion of a mother of brilliant, uncommon, and admirable traits of heart and mind, he learned, at the age of a child, to sympathize with her in her trials and principles, and participate in them with the vigor and manliness of mature years. He stood by her side in the dawn of the Revolution, drank from her lips the fervent themes and sentiments of freedom and patriotism, saw the desperate, unequal onset at Bunker's Hill, and wept with her over the brave who fell.
From the eloquent tongue and example of his wise and virtuous father, a noble race of upright, zealous patriots around him, and the undisciplined soldiers of the Revolution, he drew the elements of an undying patriotism, and devotion to just and magnanimous principles which gave foundation and inspiration to a long, wonderfully active, honorable, wise, and upright career. His opportunities in boyhood were, indeed, unparalleled. Leaving home at the age of eleven, he enjoyed not only the advantages (so-called) of European schools and travel, but of constant association with men from his native land who were imbued with and engaged in maintaining the principles of the greatest and perhaps most far-reaching cause ever undertaken among men, as well as with most of the leading characters and advanced politicians of Europe.
From his earliest years his associations, employments, and aspirations were those of a man. What there was of the boy in his tastes and inclinations at fifteen remained at sixty. Dissatisfied with all he could learn in Europe, he considered his preliminary education incomplete and himself unsuited to enter upon responsible life until he had spent some years in preparation in America, which must be the scene of all his future efforts, as it was the choice and pride of his heart. He had scarcely entered upon his profession when he was sent to the Legislature of his State, from which he was soon afterwards transferred to the service of the Nation where he remained almost uninterruptedly until, as "the old man eloquent," he fell at his post in the House of Congress.
Next to James Monroe he filled more public trusts than any other American, and living all his life in what he deemed the service of his country, he at last had the good fortune to lie down to die according to his long cherished hope under the dome of its magnificent Capitol. In his long foreign diplomatic career he was peculiarly successful, according to the common verdict at home and abroad.
At Ghent his firmness and sagacity were pre-eminent, and for the success of the treaty his country was indebted to him, perhaps, more than to any of his distinguished colleagues. As Secretary of State for eight years probably no man who has ever filled that position was so well acquainted with foreign diplomacy, or had more art in constructions to the advantage of his own side, while adhering strictly to honorable principles. His administration of the Presidency was marked at every step by wisdom and justice. Prosperity and quiet reigned over the country. With caution he departed from the precedents set in the Administrations before his own. He made no change in offices subject to his control; sought no aggrandizements for himself or his friends; supported a grand system of public improvements ; was the friend of home manufactures and industrial development; was the patron of science, art, and letters; labored for the universal advancement of his country's interests; and was too outspoken and honorable, as he was also unskilled and adverse to partisan management, to secure his own re-election.
The manner in which he obtained the Presidency was never satisfactory to him, and the unanimity with which his neighbors in his native State supported his subsequent public career gave him far greater delight. He entered the Presidency under a sort of political cloud which he felt might not be dispersed during his natural life, no matter how virtuous he should make his conduct of public affairs; and fortunately for himself and the rest of the world he had no such notions as Mr. Charles Jared Ingersoll as to the propriety of becoming a spectacle and shrine, and being able to eat and drink like a gentleman (?), for the rest of his life at Quincy. He greatly desired to be re-elected to the Presidency, but he scorned to use the means which became general matters of practice after him. Accused of a bargain with Henry Clay, whom he never liked very well, there was no other charge against him which he resisted more determinedly and scornfully, and which was really more foundationless.
Retirement and inactivity were distasteful to him; and when asked to represent old Plymouth District in Congress, he saw the way open from rust to the service of his country. He had no unrepublican and unmanly desire to make himself a mere object of respectable notice by reason of the office he had held. He did not believe that any office could cut a man from subsequent obligations to his fellow-man or to his country; or that in the Republic there could or should be exemption or distinction on such ground; or that any office could possibly be so great in itself or comparatively, that all others might not be deserving and incumbent. No President who had gone before him had entertained this view, or had been bold enough to act upon it, and perhaps no distinguished democrat since his time has cared so much for his democracy as to make his sense of official importance and its accompanying feelings of lofty circumstance, a matter of secondary consideration.
Although from the days of Mr. Adams down men who have filled the "highest office in the gift of the people" have been placed in it by strict partisan contest, yet they have all, in some sort, become Presidents of the whole people, and as such have been objects of general interest. None of them occupied more admirable grounds than did John Quincy Adams. General Gaines on visiting Mr. Adams, after his blustering successor had taken possession of the White House, said he was happy to take the hand of the man who had been President of the whole country, and not of a party in it. Throwing aside the extravagance of the soldier, it is a fact that all men who have filled that place have had strong aspirations to occupy the same ground in that respect, and have been great enough to exert themselves to that end, and not without success.
Having again entered political life, Mr. Adams's services became so remarkable, unique, interesting, and valuable, if not brilliant, that the people of his State kept him there until death, after four-score years, found him ready to exclaim, "It is the last of earth. I am content."
The latter quarter of his life was one of irreconcilable and often bitter conflict. He became the champion of freedom, and without the extravagance and method of the Abolitionists, was the most stubborn foe of human slavery. He believed in "The Monroe Doctrine;" that the American continents