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Adams enters the political arena. - Member of the Massachusetts Assembly.- Member of Congress. tics of the country, and was brought into general notice as a politician by the publication of an essay written by him, on crown and feudal law, which was a bold appeal to the people, then excited by the late passage
of the stamp-act. In 1764, he married Abigail, the highly
accomplished and well-educated daughter of the Rev. William Smith, of Weymouth, and grand-daughter of Colonel Quincy. · He removed to Boston in 1766, where he became intimately associated with James Otis, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and others, in all their patriotic movements. So manifest were his talents and growing popularity, that the royal governor, Bernard, attempted to detach him from the patriots, and secure his services for the crown. He was offered the lucrative office of advocate-general in the court of admiralty. But viewing this offer as a covert attempt to woo him from his principles, he promptly rejected it, choosing rather to suffer governmental contumely
Mr. Adams was chosen representative for Boston in the Massachusetts assembly in 1770, and it was during that year that the “ Boston massacre” occurred. With a generosity well becoming a true patriot, he volunteered to act as counsel for Captain Preston (British) and his men, who fired upon the inhabitants. Captain Preston was acquitted ; and so manifestly pure were the motives of Mr. Adams, that he lost no favor with the people.
In the legislature, Mr. Adams was foremost in opposing the measures of the royal governors, and wrote considerably for the American patriot newspapers.
He was elected a member of the Massachusetts council in 1774, but was rejected by Governor Gage. During that summer he was elected a member of the Continental Congress which convened at Philadelphia in September, and he was one of the most active men in that body. He was re-elected the following year, and it was by his motion that the American army, then investing Boston, was adopted by Congress under the title of the “Continental Army.” He advised the appointment of Washington to the chief command of the armies, and seconded the motion for that appointment; and the following year (1776) he stood side by side with Richard Henry Lee, Patrick Henry, and others, in boldly advocating a declaration of independence. The measure was considered by Congress, and he was one of a committee
• He wrote a series of articles for the "Boston Gazette,” in reply to some essays signed “ Massachusitensis," written by Sewall, the attorney-general. His essays were entitled “ Nov Anglus," and excited a good deal of attention, both at home and in England, being considered by the home-government dangerous to the transatlantic power of the British crown.
It was in the first assembly under Governor Gage, of which Adams was a member, that the proposition for a general Congress was adopted, in spite of the governor's attempts to prevent such a treasonable act, as he deemed it.
| He introduced a resolution that “ the colonies should form governments independent of the crown."
Appointed minister to the court of France. - Also to the court of Great Britain. who reported a draft ;* and he subsequently signed the glorious instrument.t
After the battle on Long Island, he was appointed by Congress, with Dr. Franklin and Edward Rutledge, to meet Lord Howe in conference upon Staten island, concerning the pacification of the colonies. The mission failed, according to his prediction. About this time he was chosen a member of the Massachusetts council, and was also appointed chief-justice of their highest courts. The latter honor he declined, preferring to devote his time and talents to the general welfare of the country, and no man in Congress labored as he labored. I
In December, 1777, Mr. Adams was appointed to succeed Silas Deane as commissioner to the court of France; but finding that the immediate object of his mission had been accomplished by Dr. Franklin, who had been appointed minister plenipotentiary, he asked for and obtained his recall in 1779. Immediately after his return he was chosen a member of the Massachusetts convention for framing a constitution, and his draft (he being on a committee for the purpose) was adopted
little alteration. On the 29th of September, 1779, he received the appointment from Congress of minister plenipotentiary for negotiating a peace with Great Britain. He arrived in Paris in Febru iry, 1780, and in August he repaired to Amsterdam, where for two yea s he labored assiduously for his government.|| He negotiated a loan of eight millions of guilders (about
• The committee consisted of Thomas Jefferson John A lams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. He wrote to a friend the following letter on the occasion
" PHILADELPHIA, July 5, 1776. “SIR : Yesterday the greatest question was decided which was ever debated in America, and greater, perhaps, never was or will be decided among men. A resolution was passed, without a 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 a 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 pomp, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of the country to the other, from this time forward for evermore. 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 declara. tion, 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, though you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not. “I am, &c.,
" JOHN ADAMS." During the remainder of 1776 and 1777, he was a member of ninety different committees, and chairman of twenty-five.
|| As a proof of the unbounded confidence of Congress in him, credentials were sent him, constituting bim minister plenipotentiary for making peace ; for making a treaty of commerce with Great Britain ; the same to the states-general of Holland; to the prince of Orange and stadtholder; for pledging the faith of the United States as a party to the armed neutrality and a commissioner to negotiate a loan of ten millions of dollars.
Appointed commissioner to European powers. - His first interview with the king of Great Britain. three millions of dollars), and a treaty of amity and commerce with Holland. In 1781, he was associated with Franklin, Jay, Laurens, and Jeferson, as a commissioner to conclude treaties of peace with the European powers; and in 1783, he was engaged in negotiating a commercial treaty with Great Britain, and was the first of the American commission
ers who signed the definitive treaty of peace with that power.a a Sept. 3,
In 1784, Mr. Adams returned to France; and in Januaryb he
was appointed minister for the United States at the court of Great Britain. He occupied that post with honor to himself and his country* until 1788, when, by his own request, his resignation was accepted, and he returned home. For his various and eminent services abroad, as well as at home, the acceptance of his resignation by Congress was coupled with expressions of thanks and profound regard.
Mr. Adams sent to Mr. Jay an interesting account of his first interview with the king, from which we make the following extract. He was introduced to his majesty by the marquis of Carmarthen. He says :
“I went with his lordship through the levee-room into the king's closet; the door was shut, and I was left with his majesty and the secretary of state alone. I made the three reverences—one at the door, another about half way, and the third before the presence, according to the usage established at this and all the northern courts of Europe, and then addressed myself to his majesty in the following words :
• Sir, the United States have appointed me their minister plenipotentiary to your majesty, and have directed me to deliver to your majesty this letter, which contains the evidence of it. It is in obedience to their express.commands, that I have the honor to assure your majesty of their unanimous disposition and desire to cultivate the most friendly and liberal intercourse between your majesty's subjects and their citizens, and of their best wishes for your majesty's health and happiness, and for that of your royal family. The appointment of a minister from the United States to your majesty's court will form an epoch in the history of England and America. I think myself more fortunate than all my fellowcitizens, in having the distinguished honor to be the first to stand in your majesty's royal presence in a diplomatic character; and I shall esteem myself the happiest of men, if I can be instrumental in recommending my country more and more to your majesty's royal benevolence, and of restoring an entire esteem, confidence, and affection, or, in better words, “the old good-nature, and the old good-humor," between people who, though separated by an ocean, and under different governments, have the same language, a similar religion, and kindred blood. I beg your majesty's permission to add, that although I have sometimes before been inElected vice-president of the United States under Washington. -Elected president. trusted by my country, it was never, in my whole life, in a manner so agreeable to myself.'
* During his residence in England, he wrote an elaborate and able defence of the American constitutions.
“ The king listened to every word I said, with dignity, it is true, but with an apparent emotion. Whether it was the nature of the interview, or whether it was my visible agitation, for I felt more than I could express, that touched him, I can not say, but he was much affected, and answered me with more tremor than I had spoken with, and said :
“Sir, the circumstances of this audience are so extraordinary, the language you have now held is so extremely proper, and the feelings you have discovered so justly adapted to the occasion, that I must say that I not only receive with pleasure the assurances of the friendly disposition of the people of the United States, but that I am very glad the choice has fallen upon you to be their minister. I wish you, sir, to believe, and that it may be understood in America, that I have done nothing in the late contest but what I thought myself indispensably bound to do, by the duty which I owed to my people. I will be very frank with you. I was the last to conform to the separation ; but the separation having been made, and having become inevitable, I have always said, as I say now, that I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power. The moment I see such sentiments and language as yours prevail, and a disposition to give this country the preference, that moment I shall say, Let the circumstances of language, religion, and blood, have their natural and full effect.
The constitution, which was adopted while he was absent, received his hearty approval; and he was put upon the ticket with Washington,
as vice-president, and elected. In 1792, he was re-elected to
the same office; and in 1796, he was elected to fill the presidential chair, about to be vacated by Washington. He was inaugurateil president on the 4th of March, 1797. Mr. Jefferson, who was elected vice-president, although his political opponent, paid a just tribute to his worth, in his speech at his first meeting with the senate, and expressed a devout wish that he might "be long preserved for the government, happiness, and prosperity, of the country."
Mr. Adams's administration commenced at a time when the insane republic of France was threatening war with the United States because of its proclaimed neutrality respecting European affairs. But the firmness of the president was equal to the occasion ; and having retained in office the cabinet left by Washington, he was fully sustained in his measures by his advisers.*
Our relations with France requiring prompt action, the president convened Congress in May, and found a decided federal majority in
• Secretary of state, Timothy Pickering ; of the treasury, Oliver Wolcott; of war, James M'Henry; attorney general, Charles Lee: all members of the federal party.
Takes strong measures against France. -Appoints three envoys to treat with France. both branches of the legislature. Many of the democratic party, disgusted with the course of the French rulers, voted with the federalists. Resolutions of neutrality were adopted; the president was authorized to call out 2, force of eighteen thousand men to protect the republic; and a small navy was created.* A duty was laid on stamped paper for business purposes, and additional duties were laid upon some other articles for the purpose of revenue : but the very name of “stamp-act” was too odious to be popular, and it was soon repealed. During the summer, our ministers to France, Pinckney and Marshall, were expelled from that country because they would not listen to the terms of French negotiation for peace, which demanded money from the United States as the price thereof.t
The fifth Congress again met in November, 1797, and continued in session over eight months. They passed acts for maintaining neutrality; protecting the seacoast ; fortifying seaports ; for loaning money and levying a direct tax on real estate to meet the expenses of the anticipated war with France. A non-intercourse act was passed ;a merchant-ships were allowed to go armed to the West Indies ; and an increase of the army was authorized. The president received addresses from all parts of the country, commending his firm course, and breathing the very spirit of patriotism. Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of all the forces; but it having been stipulated that he should not be called into active service, General Hamilton took the command of the army that was raised in 1798. The celebrated “ alien and sedition laws"|| were passed during the session of 1798, and were very unpopular, because of the liability of abuse by the presid it. The legislatures of Virginia and Kentucky declared them to be gi ss infractions of the constitution, and appealed to other states to join in opposition. At the second session thereafter, they were repealed.
Toward the close of 1798, the president had intimations that one or more envoys would be favorably received by France for the purpose of negotiating a peace. Without consulting his cabinet (in which divided counsels had lately appeared), he nominated to the senate Mr. Murray,
a June, 1798.
* Benjamin Stoddert, of Maryland. was appointed secretary of the navy in 1798.
† It was on this occasion that Mr. Pinckney uttered the sentiment that met a hearty response throughout the Union : “Millions for defence, but not one cent for tribute.” During the session of that year, Congress appropriated a million of dollars for the construction of ships.
# It was at this time that Robert Treat Paine wrote the celebrated song, Adams and Liberty."
|| The former authorized the president to expel from the United States any foreigner who should be found or supposed to be conspiring against the peace or authority of the republic. The latter put restrictions upon the liberty of the press in the power of the president. To this dangerous measure the opposition specially objected, because, of the two hundred newspapers then published in the United States, about one hundred and seventy-five were sup. porters of the federal administration.