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from the meanest and vilest in the land. The right of petition belongs to all; and, so far from refusing to present a petition because it might come from those low in the estimation of the world, it would be an additional incentive, if such an incentive were wanting."

After a debate of extreme bitterness, running through four days, only twenty votes could be found to cast any censure upon Mr. Adams. There was perhaps never a fiercer battle fought in legislative halls than Mr. Adams waged, for nearly a score of years, with the partisans of slavery in Congress. In every encounter, he came off victor. We have not space, in this brief sketch, to refer to his labors to secure a right appropriation for the Smithsonian Fund of half a million of dollars. At the age of seventy-four, he appeared in the Supreme Court of the United States, after an absence from that court of thirty years, to plead the cause of a few friendless negroes, the Amistad captives, who, with their own strong arms, had freed themselves from the man-stealers. His effort was crowned with complete success; and the poor Africans, abundantly furnished with the implements of civilized life, were returned to the homes from which they had been so ruthlessly torn.

In 1839, Congress was for a time seriously disorganized in consequence of two delegations appearing from New Jersey, each claiming the election. By usage, the clerk of the preceding Congress, on the first assembling, acts as chairman until a speaker is chosen. When, in calling the roll, the clerk came to New Jersey, he stated, that, as the five seats of the members from that State were contested, he should pass over those names. A violent debate ensued. For four days there was anarchy, and it was found impossible to organize the house. Mr. Adams, during all this scene of confusion, sat quietly engaged in writing, apparently taking no interest in the debate, but, like a sagacious general on the battlefield, watching intently for the moment when he could effectually make a movement.

On the morning of the fourth day, the clerk again commenced calling the roll. When he reached New Jersey, he again repeated, "as these seats are contested;" when Mr. Adams sprang to the floor, and in clear, shrill tones, which penetrated every portion of the house, cried out,

"I rise to interrupt the clerk."

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A multitude of voices shouted, "Hear him! hear him! — hear John Quincy Adams!"

In an instant, there was profound silence. Every eye was riveted upon that venerable old man, whose years and honors, and purity of character, commanded the respect of the bitterest of his foes. For a moment he paused; and there was such stillness, that the fall of a sheet of paper might have been heard. Then, in those tones of intensity which ever arrested the attention of the house, he said,

"It was not my intention to take any part in these extraordinary proceedings. I had hoped that this house would succeed in organizing itself. This is not the time or place to discuss the merits of conflicting claimants: that subject belongs to the House of Representatives. What a spectacle we here present! We do not and cannot organize; and why? Because the clerk of this house-the mere clerk, whom we create, whom we employ - usurps the throne, and sets us, the vicegerents of the whole American people, at defiance. And what is this clerk of yours? Is he to suspend, by his mere negative, the functions of Government, and put an end to this Congress. He refuses to call the roll. It is in your power to compel him to call it, if he will not do it voluntarily."

Here he was interrupted by a member, who stated that the clerk could not be compelled to call the roll, as he would resign rather than do so.

"Well sir, let him resign," continued Mr. Adams, "and we may possibly discover some way by which we can get along without the aid of his all-powerful talent, learning, and genius. If we cannot organize in any other way, if this clerk of yours will not consent to our discharging the trust confided to us by our constituents, then let us imitate the example of the Virginia House of Burgesses, which, when the colonial Gov. Dinwiddie ordered it to disperse, refused to obey the imperious and insulting mandate, and like


Here there was such a burst of applause from the whole house, that, for a moment, his voice was drowned. Cheer upon cheer rose, shaking the walls of the Capitol. As soon as he could again be heard, he submitted a motion, requiring the clerk to call the roll. "How shall the question be put?" The voice of Mr. Adams was heard rising above the tumult, as he cried out, "I intend to put the question myself!"

Another burst of applause followed; when Mr. Barnwell Rhett of South Carolina leaped upon one of the desks, and shouted, "I



move that the Hon. John Quincy Adams take the chair of the speaker of the house, and officiate as presiding officer till the house be organized by the election of its constitutional officers. As many as are agreed to this will say 'Ay!""

One universal, thundering "Ay!" came back in response. Mr. Adams was conducted to the chair, and the house was organized. Mr. Wise of Virginia, soon after addressing him, said,

"Sir, I regard it as the proudest hour of your life; and if, when you shall be gathered to your fathers, I were asked to select the words, which, in my judgment, are best calculated to give at once the character of the man, I would inscribe upon your tomb this sentence, 'I will put the question myself.""

In January, 1842, Mr. Adams presented a petition from fortyfive citizens of Haverhill, Mass., praying for the peaceable dissolution of the Union. The proslavery party in Congress, who were then plotting the destruction of the Government, were roused to a

pretence of commotion such as even our stormy hall of legislation has rarely witnessed. They met in caucus, and, finding that they probably would not be able to expel Mr. Adams from the house, drew up a series of resolutions, which, if adopted, would inflict upon him disgrace equivalent to expulsion. Mr. Adams had presented the petition, which was most respectfully worded, and had moved that it be referred to a committee instructed to report an answer, showing the reasons why the prayer ought not to be granted.

It was the 25th of January. The whole body of the proslavery party came crowding together into the house, prepared to crush Mr. Adams forever. One of their number, Thomas F. Marshall of Kentucky, was appointed to read the resolutions, which accused Mr. Adams of high treason, of having insulted the Government, and of meriting expulsion; but for which deserved punishment, the house, in its great mercy, would substitute its severest censure. With the assumption of a very solemn and magisterial air, there being breathless silence in the imposing audience, Mr. Marshall hurled the carefully prepared anathemas at his victim. Mr. Adams stood alone, the whole proslavery party madly against him. As soon as the resolutions were read, every eye being fixed upon him, up rose that bold old man, whose scattered locks were whitened by seventy-five years; and casting a withering glance in the direction of his assailants, in a clear, shrill tone, tremulous with suppressed emotion, he said,

"In reply to this audacious, atrocious charge of high treason, I call for the reading of the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Read it, read it! and see what that says of the right of a people to reform, to change, and to dissolve their Government."


The attitude, the manner, the tone, the words; the venerable old man, with flashing eye and flushed cheek, and whose very form seemed to expand under the inspiration of the occasion, all presented a scene overawing in its sublimity. There was breathless silence as that paragraph was read, in defence of whose principles our fathers had pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. It was a proud hour to Mr. Adams as they were all compelled to listen to the words,

"That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;

and that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundations on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

That one sentence baffled and routed the foe. The heroic old man looked around upon the audience, and thundered out, "Read that again!" It was again read. Then, in a few fiery, logical words, he stated his defence in terms which even prejudiced minds could not resist. His discomfited assailants made sundry attempts to rally. After a conflict of eleven days, they gave up vanquished, and their resolution was ignominiously laid upon the table.

It is pleasant to see that such heroism is eventually appreciated. In the summer of 1843, Mr. Adams took a tour, through Western New York. His journey was a perfect ovation. In all the leading cities, he was received with the highest marks of consideration. The whole mass of the people rose to confer honor upon the man who had battled so nobly for human rights, and whose public and private character was without a stain. The greeting which he received at Buffalo was such as that city had never before conferred upon any man. The national flag was floating from every masthead. The streets were thronged with the multitude, who greeted with bursts of applause the renowned patriot and statesman as soon as he appeared. The Hon. Millard Fillmore, subsequently President of the United States, welcomed him in the following words:

"You see here assembled the people of our infant city, without distinction of party, sex, age, or condition,-all, all, anxiously vy. ing with each other to show their respect and esteem for your public and private worth. Here are gathered, in this vast multitude of what must appear to you strange faces, thousands whose hearts have vibrated to the chord of sympathy which your speeches have touched. Here is reflecting age, and ardent youth, and lisping childhood, to all of whom your venerated name is dear as household words, all anxious to feast their eyes by a sight of that extraordinary and venerable man, that old man eloquent, upon whose lips Wisdom has distilled her choicest nectar. Here you see them all, and read in their eager and joy-gladdened countenances, and brightly beaming eyes, a welcome, a thrice-told, heartfelt, soul-stirring welcome, to the man whom they delight to honor."

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