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WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
those who have grown to great riches by their own exertions have taken every opportunity, like Asa Packer, Pardee, Cornell, A. T. Stewart, George Peabody, and George W. Childs, to give liberally to the education of the masses from whom they sprang.
[September 15, 1872.]
I HAVE been enjoying, for the first time, William H. Seward's “Life of John Quincy Adams,” published in 1849, and I pronounce it among the best biographies I ever read. It is the tribute of one great man to another. I do not compare Mr. Seward to John Quincy Adams, but if any writer in his fortyninth year—the age when Seward wrote his life of Adamswould now undertake the same work for Seward, he would produce a book of uncommon interest. Mr. Adams was over eighty when he died in the Capitol of the country he had served so well. Mr. Seward is now in his seventy-second year, and his experience, though not marked by the austere lines of that of Adams, is one of the eventful examples of our day. He“ still
“ lives” at Auburn, New York, in a body wrecked by accident and the assassin's dagger; but his intellect shines through the shattered casket like light through a ruined castle. He will be fortunate if the historian of his varied and somewhat grotesque career-a combination as it was of curious evolutions, daring experiments, and very great abilities—is as careful and thoughtful a delineator of human nature as the biographer of John Quincy Adams.
But I did not intend to compliment Mr. Seward, nor to draw a parallel between him and John Quincy Adams, in nothing more striking than the fact that both are supposed to have kept a close and graphic detail or diary of their political and official relations. The volume before me, chiefly the product of his brain, has been so long forgotten, and contains so many new suggestions, at least to the present generation, that a glance through its pages may be pleasant and profitable to the reader of these Anecdotes.
The American progenitor of the Adams family was Henry Adams, who fled in 1639 from ecclesiastical oppression in England, and was a member of the first Christian Church at Mount Wollaston, the present town of Quincy, Massachusetts, and died on the 8th of October, 1646. His memory is preserved by a plain granite monument in the burial-ground of Quincy, upon which John Adams, second President of the United States, caused the following inscription to be carved :
“In Memory of
Henry Adams, “Who took his flight from the dragon Persecution in Devonshire, in England, and alighted, with eight sons, near Mount Wollaston. One of the sons returned to England, and, after taking time to explore the country, four removed to Medfield and the
neighboring towns, two to Chelmsford. “One only, Joseph, who lies here at his left hand, remained here, who was an original proprietor in the Township of Braintree, incorporated
in the year 1639. “This stone and several others have been placed in this yard, by a greatgreat-grandson, from a veneration of the piety, humility, simplicity, prudence, patience, temperance, frugality, industry, and perseverance of his ancestors, in hope of recommending an imitation of their virtues to their posterity.”
If we trace the descendants of Henry Adams we shall realize how faithfully the ideas carved on the stony monument of their great ancestor have been cherished. Three generations have attested their devotion to these valuable precepts. I recollect no American family that can point to so many great minds, all formed, as it were, upon one model. The sons of the living Charles Francis Adams, himself the son of John Quincy, are far above the common standard, John Quincy Adams, Jr., being a
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.
political leader of acknowledged power, and a writer of uncommon gifts. But none of the name, not even the second President, have made such a mark upon his age as the successor of James Monroe.
Mr. Seward shows how carefully John Quincy Adams was trained for the battle of life. At a period when our American youth are too apt to neglect their precious and surpassing opportunities, it may be useful to recall the boyhood of that remarkable man. Born at Quincy, May 11, 1767, he was literally
, cradled in the Revolution, and almost baptized in its blood. His great grandfather, Quincy, on his mother's side, was dying, and his daughter, grandmother of young John Quincy, was present at the birth of the latter, and insisted that he might receive the name of Quincy; and in one of his letters the incident is thus referred to: “The fact, recorded by my father at the time, has connected with portions of my name a charm of mingled sensibility and devotion. It was filial tenderness that gave the name. It was the name of one passing from earth to immortality. These have been among the strongest links of my attachment to the name of Quincy, and have been, through life, a perpetual admonition to do nothing unworthy of it.” Fortified by the example of his ancestors on both sides, and by the care of a cultivated father and a careful mother, he was so studious and manly that Edward Everett, in his eulogy, said: “There seemed to be in his life no such stage as that of boyhood.” When only nine years old he wrote as follows to his father :
“BRAINTREE, June 2, 1777. "DEAR SIR-I love to receive letters very well, much better than I love to write them. My head is much too fickle. My thoughts are running after birds' eggs, play, and trifles, till I am vexed with myself. Mamma has a troublesome task to keep me studying. I own I am ashamed of myself. I have but just entered the third volume of Rollin's History, but designed to have got half through it by this time. I am determined this week to be more diligent. Mr. Thaxter [his teacher) is absent at court. I have set my. self a task this week-to read the third volume half out. If I can keep my
resolution, I may again at the end of the week give a better account of my
I self. I wish, sir, you would give me in writing some instructions with regard to the use of my time, and advise me how to proportion my reading and play, and I will keep them by me and endeavor to follow them. With the present determination of growing better, I am, dear sir, your son,
“JOHN QUINCY ADAMS. “P.S.-SIR, - If you will be so good as to favor me with a blank book, I will transcribe the most remarkable passages I meet with in my reading, which will serve to fix them upon my mind.”
Here we see the beginning of that extraordinary diary which was continued down to the period of his death in the Speaker's room of the House of Representatives, on the 23d of February, 1848. That great work has not yet seen the light, but is in process of preparation for publication by his son, Charles Francis Adams, and will be issued at an early day by the great house of J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia. The value of such a diary is proved by Mr. Seward's biography. It is in most cases infallible, and whenever Mr. Adams allowed a reference to be made to its pages, the evidence was decisive. Accurate and painstaking in every thing, living by rule, he stated a fact exactly as it occurred, and at the exact time, and from his authority there could be no appeal. Mr. Seward himself seems to have adopted John Quincy Adams as his model, at least in his later years. His late travels round the world, his steady refusal to intermix with passing politics, and his entire independence in the expression of his opinions, taken in connection with the general belief that he is busy preparing his own memoirs, show that, unlike most retired statesmen, he is not insensible of the world's judgment, and that in his old age he is still keenly alive to the progress of his country. But he can leave no memento that will do him more credit than his "Life of John Quincy Adams," published in 1849.
[September 22, 1872.]
Now that the Territories have assumed a significance, not to say grandeur, unknown in the days of Jackson and Polk, we may better appreciate Thomas H. Benton's stereotyped advice whenever a young man called on him in Washington to ask his influence for a clerkship in one of the Departments : “Go to the Territories, sir; or to one of the new States. Go to Iowa or Missouri; go to Wisconsin or Illinois. If you are a lawyer, hang out your shingle and show that you are deserving; if a farmer, buy a quarter-section of land and cultivate it; if a mechanic, open your shop and work; but don't stay here to burn yourself out with rum, or to rust with idleness. Do any thing but serve as a slave in one of these wretched bureaus." Good advice thirty, forty, even fifty years ago, and better to-day. The men who went forth into the Territories in Benton's time, when he left Tennessee for Missouri, or when Sam Houston left Tennessee for Texas, or when John C. Breckinridge tried his young fortunes by removing from Kentucky to Iowa, after the Mexican war; like the early pioneers to other regions, when the West was bounded by the Missouri River-these men had a hard time of it. They had to meet not only a primitive people, but to traverse a primitive country, with few or no conveniences, either of food or of shelter, and to give weeks and months of valuable time before they reached their destination. How different to-day! We go West in palace cars, swift "as the sightless couriers of the air,” to find even in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, and in the defiles of the Sierras, the best luxuries of life, and the choicest temptations to business enterprise or professional ambition. These modern inducements take off much of the superior material of the older States, and we need not be surprised if the West and the Pacific slope furnish, hereafter, the strongest minds in public affairs. Perhaps the mani