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giant and commenced the mighty work of political regeneration. Each succeeding day brought him new aid. From the legislature of his own state he received full permission to strike for independence. North Carolina had declared first, Virginia followed, and on the seventh of June, Richard Henry Lee became the organ to lay the proposition fairly before Congress. A most animated discussion ensued. Then it was that the powers of Mr. Adams were fully developed. Mr. Jefferson said of him when alluding to his able support of the declaration of independence, "John Adams was the pillar of its support on the floor of Congress; its ablest advocate and defender against the multifarious assaults it encountered. He was our Colossus on the floor; not graceful, not elegant, not always fluent in his public addresses; yet he came out with a power, both of thought and of expression, that moved us from our seats." Another writer remarks, I think Mr. Trumbull, "The eloquence of Mr. Adams resembled his general character. It was bold, manly and energetic, such as the crisis required." The noblest powers of the soul of John Adams were raised to the zenith of their strength to accomplish the mighty work before him. Although on the committee to prepare the manifesto of eternal separation, he confided its preparation to his colleagues and bent his whole force, eloquence and energy upon the opponents to the measure. Most manfully did he contend, most gloriously did he triumph. He bore down upon his adversaries like a mountain torrent, a sweeping avalanche, prostrating their arguments and answering their objections in a manner that left no trace behind. He hurled the arrows of conviction so thick and fast, that every heart was pierced and a majority subdued. At length the time arrived when the momentous subject must be decided. The fourth of July, 1776, dawned upon the patriots; they assembled, the past, the present and the prospective future rushed upon their minds; moments flew, hearts beat quicker, the question was put, independence was declared, America was free, liberty was honoured, freedom was proclaimed and a nation redeemed.
The following copy of a letter written by Mr. Adams to his wife on the 5th of July, will show the feelings of his mind on that occasion:
"Yesterday the greatest question was decided that was ever debated in America, and greater, perhaps, never was or will be decided among men. A resolution passed without one dissenting colony'that these United States are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.' The day is passed. The fourth of July, 1776, will be a memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to Almighty God. It ought to be solemnized with pomps, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward and for ever. You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost to maintain this declaration and support and defend these states; yet, through all the gloom, I can see
the rays of light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means, and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not."
Early in the winter of 1776, Mr. Adams sketched a form of government to be adopted by each colony, which was substantially the same as the constitutions of the present time. It was in a letter to Richard Henry Lee, by whom it was, by permission, published without a name, and may be considered as the model of the constitutions now in force in the different states. After the form he remarks, "A constitution founded on these principles, introduces knowledge among the people and inspires them with a conscious dignity becoming freemen. A general emulation takes place which causes good humour, sociability, good manners and good morals to be general. That elevation of sentiment inspired by such a government, makes the common people brave and enterprising. That ambition which is inspired by it makes them sober, industrious and frugal. You will find among them some elegance perhaps, but more solidity; a little pleasure but a great deal of business; some politeness but more civility. If you compare such a country with the regions of domination, whether monarchial or aristocratical, you will fancy yourself in Arcadia or Elysium."
Here, upon the canvass of truth, is a complete picture, exhibiting the blessings derived from a government like our own in its principles-that these principles are not strictly adhered to by all politicians, is a fact too fully and fearfully demonstrated. Among all the great men of the last century of increasing intellectual light, no one appears to have taken a more comprehensive and at the same time minute view of human nature and of human government, than John Adams. He traced causes and effects through all their labyrinthian meanderings, and drew conclusions as if by inspiration. Many of his predictions of the future bear the impress of prophecy, and show how deeply he investigated and the clearness of his perception.
On his return from Congress at the close of the session, he was chosen a member of the council of Massachusetts under the new constitution, and aided to organize a free government on a basis purely republican. He was also appointed chief justice, but declined serving.
In 1777, Mr. Adams resumed his seat in Congress, and engaged in a course of labour unparalleled in the history of legislation. He was an acting member of ninety committees, chairman of twenty-five, chairman of the board of war and of appeals, discharged all those multifarious duties promptly, besides participating in the debates of the house upon all important questions. In December of that year he was appointed a commissioner to France, and embarked on board of the frigate Boston in February following, from his native town at the foot of Mount Wollaston. During the voyage a British armed ship was discovered, and, by the consent of Mr. Adams, Captain Tucker gave chase, strictly enjoining the commissioner to keep out of danger. No sooner had the action commenced than Mr. Adams seized a musket and gave the enemy a well directed shot. The captain discovering him in his exposed situation, said to him, "I am commanded by the
Continental Congress to carry you in safety to Europe, and I will do it," and very pleasantly removed him and placed him out of danger.
On his arrival at France he had the satisfaction to learn that Dr. Franklin and his colleagues had succeeded in concluding a treaty of alliance with the French nation. He continued in Europe a little more than a year and then returned home. Soon after his arrival he was elected to a convention of his native state convened for the purpose of perfecting a constitution for the more complete organization of its government. He was upon the committee to prepare this document, and was selected to make the draught. He produced an instrument similar to that sketched for Richard Henry Lee in January 1776, which was sanctioned and adopted. Before his duties had terminated in this convention he was appointed by Congress "a minister plenipotentiary for negotiating a treaty of peace and a treaty of commerce with Great Britain."
In October, 1779, he embarked from Boston for Europe, and after a long and tedious passage, he arrived at Paris in February following. The British ministry were not yet sufficiently humbled to do right, and Mr. Adams had too much sagacity to be ensnared, and too much moral courage to consent to any thing wrong. Anxious to benefit his country, on hearing that Mr. Laurens, the American commissioner to Holland, had been captured, he immediately repaired to that kingdom, and in August received a commission from Congress to negotiate a loan and to conclude a treaty of amity and commerce with the States General of Holland, with instructions to accede to any treaty of neutral rights that might arise from regulations to be made by a congress of the European states, then in contemplation. In a few months he was completely overwhelmed with diplomatic powers. He was minister plenipotentiary to Great Britain-to the States General-to the prince of Orange-to all the European states for pledging the faith of the United States to the armed neutrality, with letters of credit to the Russian, Swedish and Danish envoys in Holland, and a commissioner to negotiate a loan of ten millions of dollars for the support of the home department and foreign embassies. The duties thus devolving upon him, all of which he discharged with approbation, will give the reader some idea of the gigantic mental powers of John Adams. He had the same kind of intrigue to encounter as that alluded to in the biography of Franklin, which he met at the threshold and crushed whilst in embryo.
In July, 1781, he received a summons from the court of France to repair immediately to Versailles to deliberate upon a plan of peace with England. On his arrival he had occasion for the exercise of that moral courage that sustained him in every dilemma. The terms offered did not fully recognise the rights of the United States as an independent sovereign nation-peace was anxiously desired and ardently urged by the Duke de Vergennes, who stood at the head of the French cabinet-Mr. Adams desired it too, but only upon honourable and dignified terms. The duke, who had uniformly showed a disposition to make the United States at least feel deeply a dependance upon France, undertook to dictate to Mr. Adams, and placed
him in the position of a subordinate agent. In this project he was greatly mistaken. Mr. Adams recognised no dictator but the Continental Congress and his own keen and penetrating judgment. So chagrined was the French duke at the independence of the American minister, that he wrote to the chevalier de la Luzerne, then minister from France-in America, to lay a formal complaint against Mr. Adams before Congress. This he did in a very ingenious manner, but without success. As a matter of deference to their new and important ally, the members of Congress very partially modified the instructions to their minister, but did not place him under the control of the duke as requested. They knew the spirit of John Adams would never compromise the dignity of the American name, and they reposed entire confidence in his ability to perceive the right, and in his moral courage to pursue it. It became evident that the motives of the French court in giving assistance to the United States were based entirely on self. Her objects were to humble her inveterate foe, and when that was accomplished, to secure her own aggrandizement and that of Spain at the expense of America. I speak of the court of France, and not of the good Lafayette and French patriots like him.
Finding that his presence could be of no service at Versailles, Mr. Adams returned to Amsterdam. Soon after this, so powerfully did the French minister operate upon Congress, taking the advantage of the reverses of the American arms, that he induced that body to add to the commission of Mr. Adams, Dr. Franklin, Messrs. Jefferson, Jay and Laurens, with the humiliating direction, "that they should govern themselves by the advice and opinion of the ministers of the king of France." The duke de Vergennes now exulted in his power, having been made by Congress virtually the sovereign minister of the United States to Great Britain. But his exultation was delusive. Nothing could bend Mr. Adams or Franklin, and the other commissioners became convinced of the propriety of the bold stand assumed. Mr. Adams wrote to Congress and exposed the plans of the duke and his coadjutors, and was the bold medium of communication that opened the eyes of its members to see and permit the commissioner to maintain their true dignity, which enabled them to finally obtain an honourable peace. He also succeeded, after surmounting many Alpine barriers, in negotiating a loan in Holland of eight millions of guilders, in September, 1782. The benefits of this loan were two-fold-it enabled the United States to prosecute the war with more vigour, and had a direct influence upon England, inducing her to make proposals of peace soon after this was known to lord Shelburne, then at the head of the British administration, which secured to the United States the great privileges insisted on by Mr. Adams. A provisional treaty was signed at Paris on the thirtieth of November, 1782, and a definitive treaty was signed on the third of September, 1783. This step was taken without consulting the duke de Vergennes, and completely thwarted his golden schemes of finesse. He addressed a letter of reproach to the American commissioners, because they dared to proceed without his approbation, which they did not condescend to answer. The three grand points in the plan of the court of France were-in se
curing to themselves the trade and fisheries of the Unites States, and for Spain-the sole right of navigating the Mississippi river.
After the important work of concluding peace with England was accomplished, Mr. Adams returned to Holland, where he remained a part of the year 1784, when he returned to France and assumed the duties of a commission, at the head of which he was placed, having Dr. Franklin and Mr. Jefferson associated with him, forming a trio of combined, various and exalted talent, never surpassed if ever equalled. They were empowered to negotiate commercial treaties with all foreign nations that desired such an arrangement with the United States.
In 1785, Mr. Adams was appointed the first minister to Great Britain after the acknowledgement of the independence of the United States by that kingdom. He was received with marked attention and courtesy, so far as courtly etiquette and ceremony were concerned, but found the ministry morose and bitter in their feelings towards the new republic. They were unwilling to enter into a commercial treaty, and seemed to treat the peace as a mere truce between the two nations. Mr. Adams performed the delicate duties of his mission with great sagacity and wisdom, and patiently removed subsisting difficulties between the two countries. Nor did he remain passive as to the internal affairs of his country at home. To win independence he considered one thing, to preserve it, was a different and more difficult matter. The theories of a republican form of government that had been published by Thurgot* and others, and freely circulated in America, he considered wild and visionary, as the transient existence of the French republic subsequently proved. To strip these delusive theories of their sophistry, Mr. Adams published a learned and able disquisition on republican constitutions, which operated as a polar light to his own countrymen and had a powerful influence in correcting error and allaying prejudices in England against the government of the United States. His "Defence of the Constitutions" also placed him on a lofty eminence in view of the literati of Europe.
In 1788, he obtained permission to return home, and in the autumn of the same year was elected the first vice-president of the United States under the federal constitution, the duties of which station he performed with dignity and great ability. He was a confidential counsellor of Washington, who consulted him on all important questions. He was re-elected in 1792, with but little opposition; and in 1796, he was elected president of the republic, to establish which he had perilled life, fortune and honour. At this time party spirit had commenced its career of venality and his election was warmly contested. His opponent, Mr. Jefferson, received sixty-eight votes and Mr. Adams seventyone. During all the effervescence of party feeling, which arrayed father against son and cut asunder the long cherished ties of friend-ship between thousands, these two great men remained personal friends, showing at once the magnanimity of their minds and the folly of low minded foaming partizans. It was then that the American press first
* Thurgot said of Franklin-"He first snatched the thunderbolt from Jove, and then the sceptre from kings."