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posed. It is for the sacred right of petition that I have adopted this course.

Where is your law which says that the mean, and low, and degraded shall be deprived of the right of petition ? Where in the land of freedom was the right of petition ever placed on the exclusive basis of morality and virtue ? Petition is supplication—it is entreaty—it is prayer, and where is the degree of vice or immorality which shall deprive the citizen of the right to supplicate for a boon, or to pray for mercy? Where is such a law to be found ? It does not belong to the most abject despotism. There is no absolute monarch on earth who is not compelled by the constitution of his country to receive the petitions of his people, whosoever they may be. This is the law even of despotism, and what does your law say ? Does it say that before presenting a petition you shall look at it and see whether it comes from the virtuous and the great and mighty ? No, sir ; it says no such thing. The right belongs to all. But possibly when color comes into the question there may be other considerations. It is possible that this House, which seems to

. consider it so great a crime to attempt to offer a petition from slaves, may, for aught I know, say that freemen, if not of the carnation, shall be deprived of the right of petition in the sense of the House."

The orator did not win his case at this time, but four years later, December 3, 1844, from his seat in the House he saw the odious gag law defeated by a vote of one hundred and eight against eighty, and the right of petition triumphantly vindicated. Notwithstanding, the injustice done him in these debates greatly aided his cause, for the violent and overbearing demeanor of Southern statesmen disgusted and alarmed just and moderate men of all parties. There were many reasons why slaveholders should deprecate any interference with their peculiar institution, and there were many good men who were not slaveholders, but who sympathized with them, seeing in the social and economic relation of the Southern whites to the negro, in the horrors of a possible slave insurrection, and the impossibility of devising any measures of emancipation that should do justice to both master and slave and prevent the two races from coming into constant collision, insuperable difficulties to the abolition of slavery.

Another instance of the power and influence of this master-mind may be cited. At the organization of the Twenty-Sixth Congress, in December, 1839, the Whigs thought themselves strong enough to enter into a contest for the Speakership of the House. During this contest an exceedingly striking and dramatic scene occurred, honorable alike to Mr. Adams and to members of all parties.

There were five Whig members from New Jersey, whose election was nominally contested, but whose votes must be added to the roll unless the Whigs were to lose control of the House. In organizing a new House the first step is for the clerk to call the roll of members. On December 2d, the memberselect being present, the clerk, Hugh H. Garland, proceeded to perform this duty. The roll-call by States went monotonously on, every member waiting breathlessly to see what was to be done with the contesting members. “New Jersey," at length called Mr. Garland, and added : “ The clerk has to say that there being five contested names from this State he shall pass them over, not taking the responsibility of deciding whether they are elected or not.” Immediately the Whig members were on their feet protesting against this high-handed action of the clerk. Resolutions were offered which the clerk refused to put, and he steadfastly declined to read the contested names. The puzzled members, without a presiding officer and without organization, were at their wits' end, not knowing how to compel the presumptuous official to perform his duty. For three days the deadlock continued ; at last, on the fourth day, the master-spirit appeared, and with a few bold strokes extricated the House from its dilemma.

Mr. Adams during the three days had been busily engaged at his desk seemingly oblivious of the conflict. He had come now to advanced age. His hair was white as snow ; his right arm, partly paralyzed, required a rest in writing ; his once resonant voice, when high-pitched in debate, was somewhat cracked; it was a burden for him to rise, but his eye as it rested upon the clerk when he began the roll-call on the fourth morning was as bright and piercing as

“Massachusetts," said the clerk, and those near Mr. Adams saw that he was preparing to speak. His hands were clasped in front of his desk, where he always placed them to aid him in rising, and his keen eye was fixed upon the clerk. “New Jersey," said the latter," and the clerk has to repeat” but Mr. Adams is upon the floor. “I rise to interrupt the clerk," he says.

“Silence, silence! Hear him, hear him! Hear John Quincy Adams!” is heard from all


parts of the chamber. In an instant profound silence reigns, and every eye is bent upon the venerable orator. He pauses a moment, casts a withering look upon the offending official, and turns to address the House.

“It was not my intention to take any part in these extraordinary proceedings. I had hoped this House would succeed in organizing itself ; that a Speaker and clerk would be elected, and that the ordinary business of legislation would proceed. This is not the time nor place to discuss the merits of conflicting claimants from New Jersey. That subject belongs to the House of Representatives, which, by the Constitution, is made the ultimate arbiter of the qualifications of its members. But what a spectacle we here present! We degrade and disgrace our constituents and the country. We do not and cannot organize, and why? Because the clerk of this House—the mere clerk whom we create, whom we employ, and whose existence depends upon our will — usurps the throne and sets us, the Representatives, the vicegerents of the whole American people, at defiance, and holds us in contempt. And what is this clerk of yours? Is he to suspend by his mere negative the functions of government, and put an end to 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."

A voice : "The clerk will resign rather than call the State of New Jersey.”

"Well, sir, let him resign, and we may possibly discover some way by which we can get along without the aid of his all-powerful talent 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 Governor Dinwiddie ordered it to disperse, refused to obey the imperious and insulting mandate, and like men

Here the orator was interrupted by a burst of applause. All knew the story of the old Raleigh tavern and the Apollo ball-room.

Mr. Adams waited until the applause had died away, and then offered a resolution “ordering the clerk to call the members from New Jersey possessing the credentials from the Governor of that State."

“Who will put the question ?” a dozen voices asked, for this has been the difficulty throughout. “I intend to put it myself.” replied Mr. Adams, with dignity. His proposition was assented to with enthusiasm. Mr. Richard Barnwell Rhett of South Carolina, from his pedestal on top of a desk, moved “that the Honorable John Quincy Adams take the chair of Speaker of the House, and officiate as presiding officer till the House be organized by the election of its constitutional officers.” The motion, put by himself, was enthusiastically carried, and Mr. Rhett and Mr. Williams were appointed a committee to conduct him to the chair. He had now a most difficult and delicate role to play, for the parties were very evenly balanced, and in the eleven days of balloting for a Speaker that ensued, his patience, wisdom, and judgment were severely tested. The contest at length ended in the triumph of the Whigs, Mr. R. M. T. Hunter of Virginia being elected Speaker.

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