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JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.
JOHN QUINOY, the son of John and Abigail Adams, was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, on the eleventh of July, 1767.* The years of his boyhood were spent at home, under the immediate supervision of his excellent mother, who taught him to read, and directed his thoughts to subjects of piety, patriotism and morality-characteristics for which he was eminently distinguished throughout his long and eventful life. On the appointment of his father, in 1777, as one of the commissioners to the court of Versailles, he accompanied him to Paris, where he arrived in April of the following year. Soon after reaching Paris he was placed at school, where he devoted himself with uncommon industry to the acquisition of the native language, at the same time perfecting himself in the usual classical branches. After an absence of eighteen months he returned to America, but to remain for a short time only.
In November, 1779, his father was appointed by Congress a minister plenipotentiary for negotiating a treaty of peace and a treaty of commerce with Great Britain, and on the thirteenth of that month he embarked for France, taking with him his two eldest sons, John Quincy and Charles. After a protracted and tempestuous voyage, the frigate in which they were passengers was obliged to put into the port of Ferrol, in Spain, from whence they travelled over land to Paris. Here young John Quincy again commenced his studies, which he continued until his removal to Amsterdam. At the latter place he attended school for a few months, and finally entered the University of Leyden, “ to learn Latin and Greek under the distinguished teachers there, and to attend the lectures of the celebrated professors in the University.” The reasons of this last transfer are evident in the following remarks of John Adams: “I should not wish to have children educated in the common schools of this country, where a littleness of soul is notorious. The masters are mean-spirited wretches ; punishing, kicking and boxing the children upon every turn. There is a general littleness arising from the contemplation of stivers and doits. Frugality and industry are virtues every where, but avarice and stinginess are not frugality."
In 1781, at the age of fourteen, John Quincy Adams accompanied Mr. Francis Dana, on his mission to Russia, and subsequently became his private secretary. At St. Petersburg he remained until October, 1782, when he again joined his father in Holland. From this place he
journeyed to Paris, was present at the signing of the treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States; and afterwards visited England, Holland and France, whither his father was called during his diplomatic career. At London he enjoyed the society of the most eminent of the British statesmen, was introduced to the floor of the House of Parliament, and attended the debates, in which Burke, Sheridan, Fox and others took part. With every one he was a favorite, and his uncommon precocity attracted the attention of the eminent men, who, at that time, adorned the councils of both nations. Jefferson, then minister at Paris, wrote to Eldridge Gerry—“I congratulate your country on their prospect in this young man : ” while others gave evidence of the respect they held for his talents and attainments.
* He was named John Quincy, from the following circumstances: His mother was the daughter of the Rev. William Smith, pastor of the Congregational Church, in the town of Weymouth. The wife of Mr. Smith, the maternal grandmother of John Quincy Adams, was Elizabeth, a daughter of John Quincy, who is mentioned by Hutchinson as the owner of Mount Wollaston, had shared largely in the civil and military distinctions of his time and country, and in honor of him the present town of Quincy recelved its name. Mr. Quincy died a few hours after the birth of Mr. Adams, and at the special request of the grandmother, the name of her father, then lying dead, was given to the infant, who was baptized the next day, in the Congregational Church of the parish of Braintree.-Upham.
He returned to Boston in 1785, bearing with him the subjoined letter, from his father to Benjamin Waterhouse, from which a just estimate of his acquirements can be formed :
Auteuil, 24 April, 1785. This letter will be delivered you by your old acquaintance John Quincy Adams, whom I beg leave to recommend to your attention and favor. He is anxious to study some time at your University before he begins the study of the law, which appears at present to be the profession of his choice. He must undergo an examination, in which I suspect he will not appear exactly what he is. In truth, there are few who take their degrees at college, who have so much knowledge. But his studies having been pursued by himself, on his travels, without any steady tutor, he will be found awkward in speaking Latin, in prosody, in parsing, and even, perhaps, in that accuracy of pronunciation in reading orations or poems in that language, which is often chiefly attended to in such examinations. It seems to be necessary, therefore, that I make this apology for him to you, and request you to communicate it in confidence to the gentlemen who are to examine him, and such others as you think prudent. If you were to examine him in English and French poetry, I know not where you would find anybody his superior ; in Roman and English history, few persons of his age. It is rare to find a youth possessed ci so much know. ledge. He has translated Virgil's Æneid, Suetonius, the whole of Sallust, and Tacitus's Agricola, his Germany, and several books of his Annals, a great part of Horace, some of Ovid, and some of Cæsar's Commentaries, in writing, besides a number of Tully's orations. These he may show you; and although you will find the translations in many places inaccurate in point of style, as must be expected at his age, you will see abundant proof that it is impossible to make those translations without understanding his authors and their language very well.
In Greek his progress has not been equal; yet he has studied morsels in Aristotle's Poetics, in Plutarch's Lives, and Lucian's Dialogues, the choice of Hercules, in Xenophon, and lately he has gone through several books in Homer's Iliad."
In mathematics I hope he will pass muster. In the course of the last year, instead of playing cards like the fashionable world, I have spent my evenings with him. · We went with some accuracy through the geometry in the Preceptor, the eight books of Simpson's Euclid in Latin, and compared it, problem by problem, and theorem by theorem, with le père de Chales in French ; we went through plane trigonometry and plane-sailing, Fenning's Algebra, and the decimal fractions, arithmetical and geometrical proportions, and the conic sections, in Ward's Mathematics. I then attempted a sublime flight, and endeavored to give him some idea of the differential method of calculation of the Marquis de L'Hôpital, and the method of fluxions and infinite series of Sir Isaac Newton; but alas ! it is thirty years since I thonght of mathematics, and I found I had lost the little I once knew, especially of these higher branches of geometry, so that he is as yet but a smatterer, like his father. However, he has a foundation laid, which will enable him with a year's attendance on the mathematical professor, to make the necessary proficiency for a degree. He is studious enough, and emulous enough, and when he comes to niix with his new friends and young companions, he will make his way well enough. I hope he will be upon his guard against those airs of superiority among the scholars, which his larger acquaintance with the world, and his manifest superiority in the knowledge of some things, may but too naturally inspire into a young mind, and I beg of you, Sir, to be his friendly monitor in this respect and in all others.
In March, 1786, he entered the junior class of Harvard College, and the following year took his first degree. He now removed to Newburyport, and commenced the study of law in the office of the celebrated Theophilus Parsons,* afterwards chief justice of Massachusetts, and on
Theophilus Parsons, the son of a clergyman, was a native of Byfield, Massachusetts, where he was born in the month of February, 1750. He was educated at Harvard College, kept school at Portland, and was admitted to the practice of law
finishing his course, established himself at Boston. Here, besides attending to the duties of his profession, he devoted himself to the discussion of the great political questions of the day. In 1791, his essays, over the signature of Publicola, appeared in the Boston Centinel. In these papers he reviewed some portions of Paine's Rights of Man, and questioned the ultimate success of the French Revolution. His essays signed Marcellus, in which he advocated the policy of neutrality subsequently adopted by President Washington, were pubished in April, 1793. In the following winter he published another series of papers, sustaining the course of President Washington in reference to the French Minister, Genet. These productions attracted the favorable attention of the President, and, in 1796, Mr. Adams was sent on a mission to the Netherlands. During the next seven years he was in Europe, occupied in the several diplomatic missions to Holland, England, and Prussia. President Washington, a short time prior to his retirement, appointed him Minister to Portugal; but before he arrived at his post his destination was changed to Berlin. He continued there from the autumn of 1797, until April, 1801, during which period he concluded an important commercial treaty with that government. In September, 1801, he returned to America, soon after was elected to the Senate of his native State, and in March, 1804, took his seat in the United States Senate, having been elected to that honorable station by the legislature of Massachusetts. While a senator in Congress, he was appointed Professor of Oratory and Rhetoric in Harvard College. In 1808, he resigned his seat in the Senate, and was shortly after sent by President Madison as Minister Plenipotentiary to Russia. His services at the Russian court were of the highest importance. “By his instrumentality," says his biographer, “the Emperor of Russia was induced to mediate for peace between Great Britain and the United States." President Madison named him at the head of the commissioners sent to negotiate the treaty which terminated the war of 1812. On the conclusion of that treaty, Mr. Adams proceeded to London, where, with Henry Clay and Albert Gallatin, he negotiated a convention of commerce between the United States and Great Britain. He was subsequently appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James. In 1817, he returned to the United States, and assumed the chair of Secretary of State, under the administration of President Monroe. Here he continued eight years, discharging the duties of his office with the highest ability and success, and greatly increasing his reputation as a statesman and patriot.
In 1825, he was elected President of the United States. How well he discharged the duties of this position is familiar to all. On retiring, at the end of his presidential term, he remained out of public life until 1831, when he was elected to the lower House of Congress, where he remained, constantly and assiduously devoted to the interests of his country and his fellow-men, until his death. His services, while in Congress, are too numerous and too intimately connected with the history of his country, to require but a passing notice in the present sketch.
at that place. When Portland was burnt, he returned to his father's at Byfield. The learned Judge Trowbridge, who lived in Cambridge, retired to the same town during the war, and carried with him his law library. Mr. Parsons availed himself of the Judge's books and conversation; and studied so intently as to impair bis health, and to make the contintance of his life exceedingly precarious for many years. He became an invalid, very thin in person, and an afflicted hypochondriac. After the war he opened an office in Newburyport, and soon rose to eminence. He afterwards removed to Boston. In 1806, on the resignation of Chief Jastice Dana, he was appointed to the vacated station, and held it to the close of his life, October 30th, 1818.
“He was the most learned lawyer of his time, and was called the giant of the law. He comprised in his professional attainments, among other things, a full and accurato knowledge of the common law, civil, maritime, and ecclesiastical law, the law merchant, the statute and common law of his own country, and the law of nations. He retained all tho learning which he thought it necessary to acquire, and from the methodical order of his mind, all he knew was ever familiarly at bis command. His speeches to juries and judges were neither eloquent nor elegant, in any thing but pertinency and argument. They were never long, and he was among the few who could discern when they have said enough for their purpose. His eloquence was earnestness, bis manner easy, familiar, persuasive, and never vehement. His mémory was his brief, and the best one that a lawyer can use. His career on the bench was an era in judicial ability, and in despatch of business. It would be assuming too much to pronounce on the character of his judgments. Very few of them have not been approved by the able minds which have since been employed on the same subjects. Some of them have been especially respected for their explanatory and illustrative notice of what may be distinguished as the common law of the State," He was a finished Greek scholar and mathematician, and delighted in the current literature of the day. During his whole life he was an habitual student. It was his babit to sit and study from twelve to Afteon hours a day; and this without exercise or relaxation. In private life he was social, fond of good stories, and told them well, full of anecdote, and quick at repartee.-Sullivan's Familiar Letters.
Mr. Adams was not merely a statesman. His literary productions are numerous, and evince the vigor of his mind, thoroughly conversant with the subject it investigates, and his singularly retentive and capacious memory. While in Russia, he contributed a series of letters to the Port Folio, a periodical published in Philadelphia, entitled Journal of a Tour through Silesia. These were afterwards collected and republished in a volume, and met with a very flattering reception from the public. At a later period, they were translated into French and German. In 1810, he published his Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory, delivered to the classes of senior and junior Sophisters in Harvard University, and in 1832, offered to the literary public a long poetical composition, entitled “ Dermot Mac Morrogh; or, the Conquest of Ireland,” which was intended as a “moral tale, teaching the citizens of the United States, of both sexes, the virtues of conjugal fidelity, of genuine piety, and of devotion to their country, by pointing the finger of scorn at the example, six hundred years since exhibited, of a country sold to a foreign invader by the joint agency of violated marriage vows, unprincipled ambition, and religious imposture."
In 1839, Mr. Adams delivered an address before the New York Historical Society, on the occasion of the semi-centennial anniversary of the ratification of the Federal Constitution. This production was published, soon after its delivery, under the title of The Jubilee of the Constitution, He also delivered numerous other discourses, among which, those on Madison, Lafayette and Monroe, were published, with a sketch of the author by the Rev. Charles W. Upham, in 1846. His Poems of Religion and Society appeared in 1848, and in 1850, a small volume of letters, written to his son, On the Bible and its Teachings. In addition to these literary labors, he published, in 1831-33, a series of papers, condemning the principles of Free-Masonry; translated Wieland's Oberon in verse, and, it is said, left at his death a complete paraphrase of the sacred psalms.
On Monday, the twenty-first of February, 1848, in the midst of his duties at his seat in the House of Representatives he was struck by the hand of death. When the House had been in session about an hour, the yeas and nays being ordered on a question, he responded in a voice unsually clear, and with more than ordinary emphasis. The painful scene that followed is thus described in the National Intelligencer of the following morning: “Just after the yeas and nays were taken on a question, and the speaker had just risen to put another question to the House, a sudden cry was heard on the left of the chair, “Mr. Adams is dying! Turning our eyes to the spot, we beheld the venerable man in the act of falling over the left arm of his chair, while his right arm was extended, grasping his desk for support. He would have dropped upon the floor had he not been caught in the arms of the member sitting next to him. A great sensation was created in the House ; members from all quarters rushing from their seats and gathering round the fallen statesman, who was immediately lifted into the area in front of the clerk's table. The speaker instantly suggested that some gentleman move an adjournment, which being promptly done, the House adjourned. A sofa was brought, and Mr. Adams, in a state of perfect helplessness, though not of entire insensibility, was gently laid upon it. The sofa was then taken up and borne out of the Hall into the Rotanda, where it was set down, and the members of both Houses and strangers, who were fast crowding around, were with some difficulty repressed, and an open space cleared in its immediate vicinity. It was now advised that he be removed to the door of the Rotunda opening on the east portico, where a fresh wind was blowing. This was done; but the air being chilly and loaded with vapor, the sofa was once more taken up and removed to the Speaker's apartment, the doors of which were forthwith closed to all but professional gentlemen and particular friends. While lying in this apartment, Mr. Adams partially recovered the use of his speech, and observed, in faltering accents, “This is the end of earth;' but quickly added, 'I am composed.'” Soon after he sank into a state of apparent insensibility, and failing gradually, until the evening of February the twenty-third, at a quarter past seven o'clock he expired.
ORATION AT PLYMOUTH.
This oration was delivered at Plymouth on | fathers. To multiply instances, where it were. the twenty-second of December, 1802, in com- | impossible to adduce an exception, would be to
waste your time and abuse your patience : but memoration of the landing of the Pilgrims.
in the sacred volume, which contains the sub
stance of our firmest faith and of our most preAmong the sentiments of most powerful
cious hopes, these passions not only maintain operation upon the human heart, and most
their highest efficacy, but are sanctioned by the highly honorable to the human character, are
express injunctions of the Divine Legislator to those of veneration for our forefathers, and of
his chosen people. love for our posterity. They form the connect
The revolutions of time furnish no previous ing links between the selfish and the social pas
example of a nation shooting up to maturity sions. By the fundamental principle of Chris
and expanding into greatness, with the rapidity tianity, the happiness of the individual is inter
which has characterized the growth of the woven, by innumerable and imperceptible tjes,
American people. In the luxuriance of youth, with that of his contemporaries: by the power
and in the vigor of manhood, it is pleasing of filial reverence and parental affection, indi
and instructive to look backwards upon the vidual existence is extended beyond the limits
helpless days of infancy; but in the continual of individual life, and the happiness of every
and essential changes of a growing subject, the age is chained in mutual dependence upon that
transactions of that early period would be soon of every other. Respect for his ancestors ex
obliterated from the memory, but for some pericites, in the breast of man, interest in their his
odical call of attention to aid the silent records tory, attachment to their characters, concern
of the historian. Such celebrations arouse and for their errors, involuntary pride in their vir
gratify the kindliest emotions of the bosom. tues. Love for his posterity spurs him to ex
They are faithful pledges of the respect we bear ertion for their support, stimulates him to vir
to the memory of our ancestors, and of the tue for their example, and fills him with the
tenderness with which we cherish the rising tenderest solicitude for their welfare. Man,
generation. They introduce the sages and hetherefore, was not made for himself alone.
roes of ages past to the notice and emulation of No; he was made for his country, by the obli- |
succeeding times: they are at once testimonials gations of the social compact: he was made for
of our gratitude, and schools of virtue to our his species, by the christian duties of universal
children. charity: he was made for all ages past, by the
These sentiments are wise; they are honorsentiment of reverence for his forefathers, and he was made for all future times, by the impulse
able; they are virtuous; their cultivation is
not merely innocent pleasure, it is incumbent of affection for his progeny. Under the influ
duty. Obedient to their dictates, you, my felence of these principles, “Existence sees him
low-citizens, have instituted and paid frequent spurn her bounded reign." They redeem his
observance to this annual solemnity. And what nature from the subjection of time and space :
event of weightier intrinsic importance, or of he is no longer a “puny insect shivering at a
more extensive consequences, was ever selected breeze;" he is the glory of creation, formed to
for this honorary distinction occupy all time and all extent: bounded, dur
In reverting to the period of their origin, ing his residence upon earth, only by the boun
other nations have generally been compelled to daries of the world, and destined to life and
plunge into the chaos of impenetrable antiquity, immortality in brighter regions, when the fab
or to trace a lawless ancestry into the caverns ric of nature itself shall dissolve and perish.
of ravishers and robbers. It is your peculiar The voice of history has not, in all its com.
privilege to commemorate, in this birthday of pass, a note but answers in unison with these sentiments. The barbarian chieftain, who de
your nation, an event ascertained in its minutest
details: an event of which the principal actors fended his country against the Roman invasion,
are known to you familiarly, as if belonging to driven to the remotest extremity of Britain,
your own age: an event of a magnitude before and stimulating his followers to battle, by all
which imagination shrinks at the imperfection that has power of persuasion upon the human
of her powers. It is your further happiness to heart, concludes his exhortation by an appeal to
behold, in those eminent characters who were these irresistible feelings*_"Think of your
most conspicuous in accomplishing the settleforefathers and of your posterity." The Romans
ment of your country, men upon whose virtues themselves, at the pinnacle of civilization, were
you can dwell with honest exultation. The actuated by the same impressions, and celebrat
founders of your race are not handed down to ed, in anniversary festivals, every great event
you, like the father of the Roman people, as which had signalized the annals of their fore
the sucklings of a wolf. You are not descended
from a nauseous compound of fanaticism and • Proinde Ituri in aciem, et majores vestros et posteros sensuality, whose only argument was the sword, cogitate.--Galgacus in Vita Agricolae.
I and whose only paradise was a brothel. No