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almost constant absence of his father. At the village school he commenced his education, giving at an early period indications of superior mental endowments. When but eight years of age, he stood with his mother upon an eminence, listening to the booming of the great battle on Bunker's Hill, and gazing upon the smoke and flame 'billowing up from the conflagration of Charlestown. Often, during the siege of Boston, he watched the shells thrown day and night by the combatants.
When but eleven years old, he took a tearful adieu of his mother, and was rowed out in a small boat to a ship anchored in the bay, to sail with his father for Europe, through a fleet of hostile British cruisers. The bright, animated boy spent a year and a half in Paris, where his father was associated with Franklin and Lee as minister plenipotentiary. His intelligence attracted the notice of these distinguished men, and he received from them flattering marks of attention.
Mr. John Adams had scarcely returned to this country in 1779 ere he was again sent abroad, empowered to negotiate a treaty of peace with England, whenever England should be disposed to end the war. Again John Quincy accompanied his father. On this voyage he commenced a diary, noting down the remarkable events of each day; which practice he continued, with but few interruptions, until his death. With his active mind ever alert, he journeyed with his father from Ferrol in Spain, where the frigate landed, to Paris. Here he applied himself with great diligence, for six months, to study; then accompanied his father to Holland, where he entered, first a school in Amsterdam, and then the University of Leyden. About a year from this time, in 1781, when the manly boy was but fourteen years of age, he was selected by Mr. Dana, our minister to the Russian court, as his private secretary.
In this school of incessant labor and of ennobling culture he spent fourteen months, and then returned to Holland through Sweden, Denmark, Hamburg, and Bremen. This long journey he took alone, in the winter, when in his sixteenth year. Again he resumed his studies, under a private tutor, at the Hague. Thence, in the spring of 1782, he accompanied his father to Paris, travelling leisurely, and forming acquaintance with the most distinguished men on the Continent; examining architectural remains, galleries of paintings, and all renowned works of art. At Paris,
he again became the associate of the most illustrious men of all lands in the contemplation of the loftiest temporal themes which can engross the human mind. After a short visit to England, he returned to Paris, and consecrated all his energies to study until May, 1785, when he returned to America, leaving his father our ambassador at the court of St. James. To a brilliant young man of eighteen, who had seen much of the world, and who was familiar with the etiquette of courts, a residence with his father in London, under such circumstances, must have been extremely attractive; but, with judgment very rare in one of his age, he preferred to return to America to complete his education in an American college. He wished then to study law, that, with an honorable profession, he might be able to obtain an independent support.
The advancement which he had already made in education was such, that, in 1786, he entered the junior class in Harvard University. His character, attainments, and devotion to study, secured alike the respect of his classmates and the faculty, and he graduated with the second honor of his class. The oration he delivered on this occasion, upon the "Importance of Public Faith to the Wellbeing of a Community," was published; an event very rare in this or in any other land.
Upon leaving college, at the age of twenty, he studied law for three years with the Hon. Theophilus Parsons in Newburyport. In 1790, he opened a law-office in Boston. The profession was crowded with able men, and the fees were small. The first year, he had no clients; but not a moment was lost, as his eager mind traversed the fields of all knowledge. The second year passed away; still no clients; and still he was dependent upon his parents for support. Anxiously he entered upon the third year. He had learned to labor and to wait. The reward now came, a reward richly merited by the purity of his character, the loftiness of his principles, and his intense application to every study which would aid him to act well his part in life. Clients began to enter his office; and, before the close of the year, he was so crowded with business, that all solicitude respecting a support was at an end.
When Great Britain commenced war against France, in 1793, to arrest the progress of the French Revolution, Mr. Adams wrote some articles, urging entire neutrality on the part of the United States. The view was not a popular one.
Many felt, that, as
France had helped us, we were bound to help France. But President Washington coincided with Mr. Adams, and issued his proclamation of neutrality. His writings at this time in the Boston journals attracted national attention, and gave him so high a reputation for talent, and familiarity with our diplomatic relations, that in June, 1794, he, being then but twenty-seven years of age, was appointed by Washington resident minister at the Netherlands.
Sailing from Boston in July, he reached London in October, where he was immediately admitted to the deliberations of Messrs. Jay and Pinckney, assisting them in negotiating a commercial treaty with Great Britain. After thus spending a fortnight in London, he proceeded to the Hague, where he arrived just after Holland was taken possession of by the French under Pichegru. The French gathered around Mr. Adams, as the representative of a nation which had just successfully passed through that struggle for liberty in which they were then engaged.
In the agitated state of Europe, swept by the great armies struggling for and against "equal rights for all men," there was but little that a peaceful ambassador could then accomplish; but, being one of the most methodical and laborious of men, he devoted himself to official duties, the claims of society, reading the ancient classics, and familiarizing himself with the languages of modern Europe. Every hour had its assigned duty. Every night he reviewed what he had done for the day; and, at the close of every month and every year, he subjected his conduct to rigorous retrospection.
In July, 1797, he left the Hague to go to Portugal as minister plenipotentiary. Washington at this time wrote to his father,
"Without intending to compliment the father or the mother, or to censure any others, I give it as my decided opinion, that Mr. Adams is the most valuable character which we have abroad; and there remains no doubt in my mind that he will prove himself the ablest of all our diplomatic corps."
On his way to Portugal, upon his arrival in London, he met with despatches directing him to the court of Berlin, but requesting him to remain in London until he should receive his instructions. While waiting, he was married to an American lady to whom he had been previously engaged, - Miss Louisa Catharine Johnson, daughter of Mr. Joshua Johnson, American consul in London; a
lady endowed with that beauty and those accomplishments which eminently fitted her to move in the elevated sphere for which she was destined.
Mr. Adams was very reluctant to accept the mission to Berlin, as it was an appointment made by his father, who had succeeded Washington in the presidential chair. But his father wrote to him, informing him of the earnest wish of Washington that the country might not lose the benefit of his familiarity with the European courts. To his mother, John Quincy wrote, in reply,
"I know with what delight your truly maternal heart has received every testimonial of Washington's favorable voice. It is among the most precious gratifications of my life to reflect upon the pleasure which my conduct has given to my parents. How much, my dear mother, is required of me to support and justify such a judgment as that which you have copied into your letter!"
He reached Berlin with his wife in November, 1797; where he remained until July, 1799, when, having fulfilled all the purposes of his mission, he solicited his recall. In the mean time, he travelled extensively through the German States, writing a series of letters which were subsequently published. As soon as permission came for his return, he embarked, and reached the United States in September, 1801.
Soon after his return, in 1802, he was chosen to the Senate of Massachusetts from Boston, and then was elected senator of the United States for six years from the 4th of March, 1804. Alike the friend of Washington and Jefferson, with cordial commendations from them both, he was in an admirable position to take an independent stand, unbiassed by partisan prejudices. His reputation, his ability, and his experience, placed him immediately among the most prominent and influential members of that body. In every measure which his judgment approved, he cordially supported Mr. Jefferson's administration. Especially did he sustain the Government in its measures of resistance to the encroachments of England, destroying our commerce and insulting our flag. There was no man in America more familiar with the arrogance of the British court upon these points, and no one more resolved to present a firm resistance.
This course, so truly patriotic, and which scarcely a voice will now be found to condemn, alienated from him the Federal party dominant in Boston, and subjected him to censure. In 1805, he
was chosen professor of rhetoric in Harvard College; and this indefatigable man, in addition to his senatorial duties, entered vigorously upon a course of preparatory studies, reviewing his classics, and searching the literature of Europe for materials for his lectures. The lectures he thus prepared were subsequently published, and constitute enduring memorials of his genius and his industry. On the 22d of June, 1807, an event occurred to which we have referred, and to which it is necessary to allude more particu larly.
On the 7th of June, 1807, the United-States frigate "Chesapeake" proceeded to sea from Norfolk. The British man-of-war "Leopard," knowing that she was to sail, had preceded her by a few hours; keeping advantage of the weather-gauge. As soon as "The Chesapeake" was fairly out to sea, "The Leopard" came down upon her, hailed her, and said she had despatches to send on board. Commodore Barron of "The Chesapeake" answered the hail, and said that he would receive a boat. A British lieutenant came on board, and presented an order from the British admiral, which stated that he had reason to believe that there were four British subjects among the seamen of "The Chesapeake," and ordered Commodore Barron to muster the crew that he might select them.
The commodore refused. As soon as informed of this by the return of the boat's crew, "The Leopard" commenced firing upon "The Chesapeake," and for fifteen minutes continued pouring in her broadsides, though "The Chesapeake" was in such a condition, thus taken by surprise, as not to be able to answer by a single gun. Three men were killed, and Commodore Barron and nine others wounded. "The Chesapeake's" flag was struck. The English captain refused to receive her as a prize, but took four men from the crew, whom he claimed as Englishmen. One of these soon after died; one he hung as a deserter; the two others were eventually returned to "The Chesapeake " as Americans.
This outrage roused general indignation. A meeting was called at the State House in Boston. But few Federalists attended. Mr. Adams presented resolutions, which were unanimously adopted. His father, the Ex-President, acted with him in this movement. For this they were both denounced as apostates from the Federal party. President Jefferson called a special meeting of Congress to act upon this affair. Mr. Adams earnestly supported the measures of Mr. Jefferson's cabinet, when it proposed, in response to this outrage, that