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newspapers and pamphlets-knots of consulting politicians in different parts of the Hall were dissolved — Representatives came hastily in from lobbies, committee-rooms, the surrounding grounds—and all eagerly clustered around his chair to listen to words of wisdom, patriotism, and truth, as they dropped burning from the lips of "the old man eloquent!” The confidence placed in him in emergencies, was unbounded. A case in point is afforded in the history of the difficulty occasioned by the double delegation from New Jersey.
On the opening of the 26th Congress, in December, 1839, in consequence of a two-fold delegation from New Jersey, the House was unable, for some time, to complete its organization, and presented to the country and the world the perilous and discreditable aspect of the assembled Representatives of the people, unable to form themselves into a constitutional body. On first assembling, the House has no officers, and the Clerk of the preceding Congress acts, by usage, as chairman of the body, till a Speaker is chosen. On this occasion, after reaching the State of New Jersey, the acting Clerk declined to proceed in calling the roll, and refused to entertain any of the motions which were made for the purpose of extricating the House from its embarrassment. Many of the ablest and most judicious members had addressed the House in vain, and there was nothing but confusion and disorder in prospect.
The fourth day opened, and still confusion was triumphant. But the hour of disenthrallment was at hand, and a scene was presented which sent the mind back to those days when Cromwell uttered the exclamation—“ Sir Harry Vane! wo unto you, Sir Harry Vane !”—and in an instant dispersed the famous Rump Parliament.
Mr. Adams, from the opening of this scene of confusion and anarchy, had maintained a profound silence. He appeared to be engaged most of the time in writing. To a common observer, he seemed to be reckless of everything around him—but nothing, not the slightest incident, escaped him. The fourth day of the struggle
had now commenced; Mr. Hugh H. Garland, the Clerk, was directed to call the roll again.
He commenced with Maine, as was usual in those days, and was proceeding toward Massachusetts. I turned, and saw that Mr. Adams was ready to get the floor at the earliest moment possible. His keen eye was riveted on the Clerk; his hands clasped the front edge of his desk, where he always placed them to assist him in rising. He looked, in the language of Otway, like the
fowler, eager for his prey."
“ New Jersey !” ejaculated Mr. Hugh H. Garland, " and the Clerk has to repeat that
Mr. Adams sprang to the floor !
“ Silence, silence,” resounded through the hall; “ hear him, hear him! Here what he has to say; hear John Quincy Adams !” was the unanimous ejaculation on all sides.
In an instant, the most profound silence reigned throughout the Hall-you might have heard a leaf of paper fall in any part of it, and every eye was riveted on the venerable Nestor of Massachusetts -the purest of statesmen, and the noblest of men! He paused for a moment; and, having given Mr. Garland a
he proceeded to address the multitude :
“ It was not my intention,” said he, “ to take any part in these extraordinary proceedings. I had hoped that this House would succeed in organizing itself; that a Speaker and Clerk would be elected, and that the ordinary business of legislation would be progressed in. This is not the time, or place, to discuss the merits of the conflicting claimants for seats 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 ourselves; 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 control the destinies of sixteen millions of freemen ? Is he to suspend, by his mere negative, the functions of Government, and put an end to this 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. [Here he was interrupted by a member, who said that he was authorized to say that compulsion could not reach the Clerk, who had avowed that he would resign, rather than call the State of New Jersey.) Well, sir, then let him resign,” continued Mr. Adams, “and we may possibly discover some way by which we can get along, without the aid of his all-powerful talent, learning and genius. If we cannot organize in any
other way—if this Clerk of yours will not consent to our discharging the trusts 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
The multitude could not contain or repress their enthusiasm any longer, but saluted the eloquent and indignant speaker, and intercepted him with loud and deafening cheers, which seemed to shake the capitol to its centre. The very Genii of applause and enthusiasm seemed to float in the atmosphere of the Hall, and every heart expanded with an indescribable feeling of pride and exultation. The turmoil, the darkness, the very “chaos of anarchy," which had, for three successive days, pervaded the American Congress, was dispelled by the magic, the talismanic eloquence of a single man; and, once more the wheels of Government and of Legislation were put in motion.*
Having, by this powerful appeal, brought the yet unorganized assembly to a perception of its hazardous position, he submitted a motion requiring the acting Clerk to proceed in calling the roll. This and similar motions had already been made by other members. The difficulty was, that the acting Clerk declined to entertain them. Accordingly, Mr. Adams was immediately interrupted by a burst of voices demanding, “How shall the question be put ?" 6 Who will put the question ?” The voice of Mr. Adams was heard above the tumult, “ I intend to put the question myself !” That word brought order out of chaos. There was the master mind.
* Reminiscences—by an Old Colony Man.
As soon as the multitude had recovered itself, and the excitement of irrepressible enthusiasm had abated, Mr. Richard Barnwell Rhett, of South Carolina, lea ped upon one of the desks, waved his hand, and exclaimed :
“ I move that the Honorable John Quincy Adams take the chair of the Speaker of this House, and officiate as presiding officer, till the House be organized by the election of its constitutional officers ! As many as are agreed to this will say ay; those
He had not an opportunity to complete the sentence—“ those who are not agreed, will say no,”—for one universal, deafening, thundering ay, responded to the nomination.
Hereupon, it was moved and ordered that Lewis Williams, of North Carolina, and Richard Barnwell Rhett, conduct John Quincy Adams to the chair.
Well did Mr. Wise, of Virginia, say, “ Sir, I regard it as the proudest hour of your life; and if, when you shall be gathered to your fathers, I were asked to select the words which, in my judgment, are best calculated to give at once the character of the man, I would inscribe upon your tomb this sentence, I will put the question myself.'"*
* In a public address, Mr. Adams once quoted the well known words of Tacitus, Annal. vi. 39—“ Par negotiis neque supra”-applying them to a distinguished man, lately deceased. A lady wrote to inquire whence they came. Mr. Adams informed her, and added, that they could not be adequately translated in less than seven words in English. The lady replied that they might be well translated in five-Equal to, not above, duty-but better in three-JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.-Massachusetts Quarterly Review.
FIRMNESS IN DISCHARGE OF DUTY-HIS EXER
TIONS IN BEHALF OF THE AMISTAD SLAVES-HIS CONNEXION
WITH THE SMITHSONIAN BEQUEST TOUR THROUGH CANADA
AND NEW YORK
AT BUFFALO - VISITS
NIAGARA FALLS-ATTENDS WORSHIP WITH THE TUSCARORA
INDIANS-HIS RECEPTION AT ROCHESTER-AT AUBURN-AT
LAYING THE CORNER STONE OF AN OBSERVATORY.
It would be impossible, in the limit prescribed to these pages, to detail the numerous scenes and occurrences of a momentous nature, in which Mr. Adams took a prominent part during his services in the House of Representatives. The path he marked out for himself at the commencement of his congressional career, was pursued with unfaltering fidelity to the close of life. His was the rare honor of devoting himself, unreservedly, to his legitimate duties as a Representative of the people while in Congress, and to nothing else. He believed the halls of the Capitol were no place for political intrigue ; and that a member of Congress, instead of studying to shape his course to make political capital or to subserve party ends, should devote himself rigidly and solely to the interests of his constitu