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Eight years later, on a raw February morning, the House witnessed a very different scene. Mr. Adams, now eighty-one years of age, arose with a paper in his hand to address the Speaker, but was seen to totter and fall into the arms of his neighbor, Mr. Fiske of Ohio. A cry of alarm, “Stop! stop! look to Mr. Adams,” rang through the chamber. He had received the second and fatal stroke of paralysis. Mr. Winthrop, the Speaker, at once adjourned the House, and the sufferer was carried to a sofa in the rotunda, and later into the Speaker's room, where Mrs. Adams and other members of his family joined him. In about an hour he recovered sufficient consciousness to murmur : “This is the last of earth; I am content," and sank into a comatose state from which he never rallied. Like a faithful soldier he had fallen at his post.
There was an imposing funeral in Washington, and a Congressional Committee of one from each State was appointed to accompany the remains to Boston. There they lay in state in Faneuil Hall while due honors were paid, and were then removed to Quincy for burial.
Many more of these exciting contests occurred in the Capitol, but we have described enough to define their character and show the nature of their results. As the half century approached, new men appeared upon the scene, while the old warriors dropped from
, the lists. Early in the half-century year Calhoun left the Senate one day never to return. He too died in harness (March 31, 1850), and his obsequies were celebrated in a manner befitting his rank and public services. He lies buried in St. Phillip's churchyard in Charleston. Hayne died in 1840, in the flower of youth. His grave is also in Charleston, but in St. Michaels' churchyard. Webster and Clay survived until 1852, dying within three months of each other, but they were at that time setting rather than rising suns. Of the young men who crowded forward, eager to take up their mantles, there was one, who is ranked by historians as, next to Washington, the greatest American--Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln entered Congress in 1846. Charles Sumner and William H. Seward, Stephen A. Douglas, Tom Corwin, Jefferson Davis, Thomas F. Marshall, John C. Breckenridge, Alexander H. Stephens, Robert Toombs, and many others appear prominently in the Congressional reports of those days.
As years flew on, however, the cloud of civil war rolled up more portentous on the horizon. The course of events tended to a crisis. Those events are too familiar to be dwelt on here at length. Henry Clay's “Compromise" of 1850, which deferred the civil war ten years; the fierce contests over the admission of Kansas, the battles waged for possession of that State between pro-slavery men and free-soilers, the birth of the Republican party in 1854, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the descent of John Brown on Virginia in 1859, and his speedy execution; the election as President, in 1860, of Abraham Lincoln by the Republican party on an anti-slavery platform, are events familiar to all, and formed the successive steps towards the irrepressible conflict.
But before turning our attention to the period of the war, let us consider what material progress the city has made during these years of political convulsion. Slowly but steadily she has been growing in wealth and population. Down to the outbreak of the civil war, the spectre of a removal of the Capitol was ever present to depress values and frighten investors. Congress for years did little for the city. Yet decade by decade the census reports placed something to her credit. In 1810 her population had risen to 8,208 ; in 1820 it was 13,247; in 1830, 18,826; in 1840, 23,364; in 1850, 40,001; in 1860, 61,122. But the houses were, as a rule, built of wood, and were destitute of architectural pretensions; the wide avenues and walks were many of them unpaved and illy kept; the canal, known as the Tiber, was open and offensive ; there were few squares or shades, or places of public resort; indeed the capital city then presented much the appearance of an over-grown village.
During this time also Presidents of varying merit had succeeded one another at the White House. Andrew Jackson, after ruling eight years, had been succeeded in 1837 by his Vice-President, Martin Van Buren; he in 1841 by William H. Harrison, the candidate of the young and aggressive Whig party, who survived but a month, and was succeeded by his Vice-President, John Tyler. In 1844 James K. Polk, a Democrat, was elected, but in the contest of 1848 the Whigs again elected their candidate, General Zachary Taylor, who had won bright laurels in the Mexican war. General Taylor died in 1850, and
was succeeded by the Vice-Presdent, Millard Fillmore. In 1852 Franklin Pierce, a Democrat, was elected, and in 1856 James Buchanan of the same party. The College of 1860 chose Abraham Lincoln, as we have seen, and put an end to Democratic supremacy for twenty-four years.
One event of this later period should be noticed at length—the laying of the corner-stone of the south extension of the Capitol, which occurred on July 4, 1851. Congress had found that its chambers were too small for its increasing numbers, and decided to construct north and south extension in which it might be better accommodated. The commission was given to Robert U. Walker, who had designed Girard College and other public buildings, and in the spring of 1851 the corner-stone of the south extension was ready to be laid. Millard Fillmore was President. The Fourth of July, the seventy-sixth anniversary of our independence, was selected for the laying of the corner-stone. The day and the event were made the occasion of imposing ceremonies. At an early hour the extensive grounds of the Capitol were packed to their utmost capacity. Ladies in gay costumes, military companies in uniform, civic societies, Masonic and other fraternities in regalia, added to the brilliancy of the scene. Upon a platform on the left portico of the eastern front of the Capitol was gathered a distinguished company—the President of the United States, heads of departments, foreign ministers, governors of States,-conspicuous among all the massive form of Daniel Webster, then Secretary of State, and who had been chosen orator of the day. Major B. B. French, Grand Master of the Order of Free and Accepted Masons, first performed the initial ceremonies, and President Fillmore then laid the cornerstone according to Masonic rites, as Washington had laid the original corner-stone fifty-eight years before. Mr. Webster, but a year distant from his death-bed and in feeble health, delivered an oration in which the fire of earlier days glowed with almost its accustomed brilliancy. These were its opening words:
“FELLOW-CITIZENS :- I greet you well ; I give you joy on the return of this anniversary ; and I felicitate you also on the more particular purpose of which this ever memorable day has been chosen to witness the fulfilment. Hail, all hail ! I see before and around me a mass of faces glowing with cheerfulness and patriotic pride. I see thousands of eyes turned toward other eyes all sparkling with gratification and delight. This is the New World. This is America. This is Washington, and this the Capitol of the United States. And where else among the nations can the seat of government be surrounded on any day of any year by those who have more reason to rejoice in the blessings which they possess ? Nowhere, fellow-citizens; assuredly nowhere ! Let us, then, meet this rising sun with joy and thanksgiving."
Later in his speech he made the interesting statement, that he had caused to be placed under the corner-stone paper bearing these memorable words: