Obrázky stránek







The history of men should interest every reader. It is the mirror of mind-imparting lessons of thrilling interest, essential improvement, exquisite pleasure-substantial advantage. It is a matter of deep concern to the investigating student. Remoteness increases veneration. Human foibles are buried in the tomb. Faults are often eclipsed by towering virtues-find no place on the historic page and after generations gaze upon a picture of rare perfection, which, as time advances, assumes shades-richer and holier-until it commands the reverence of every beholder. The names of many of the ancients, whose crowning glory was virtue, over whose ashes centuries have rolled, are often referred to with as profound respect as if angel purity had given the impress of Divinity to their every action. A country-a nation may de lost in the whirlpool of revolution-the fame of good and great men is enduring as time. In the persons of the Sages and Heroes of the American Revolution, ancient and modern wisdom, patriotism and courage were combined. Let us join the admiring millions who are gazing on their bright picture and impartially trace the character of those who pledged their LIVES, FORTUNES AND SACRED HONORS in behalf of FREEDOM.

Among them, John Adams was conspicuous. He was a native of Quincy, Mass. born on the 19th of Oct. (O.S.) 1735. He was the fourth in descent from Henry Adams, who removed from Devonshire Eng. with eight sons and located near Mount Wollaston.

During his childhood he was under the instruction of Mr. Marsh of Braintree and made rapid progress in his education. At the age of sixteen he entered Harvard college at Cambridge and graduated at the age of twenty-one with high honors.

At Worcester he commenced the study of law under Mr. Putnam, finished with Mr. Gridley, supporting himself by teaching a grammar class. Wisdom to discern the path of rigid virtue and uncompromising justice, with moral courage to act, marked his career from the dawn of manhood. He boldly grasped the past-present and future and made deductions truly prophetic. On the 12th of Oct. 1755, he wrote the following paragraph in a letter.

“ Soon after the reformation, a few people came over into this new world for conscience sake. Perhaps this apparently trivial incident may transfer the great seat of empire into America. It looks likely to me, if we can remove the turbulent Gallics, our people, according to the exactest computation, will, in another century, become more numerous than England herself. Should this be the case, since we have, I may say, all the naval stores of the nation in our hands, it will be easy to obtain the mastery of the seas and then the united force of all Europe will not be able to subdue us. The only way to keep us from setting up for ourselves, is-to disunite us. Keep us in distinct colonies and then some men in each colony, desiring the monarchy of the whole, will destroy each other's influence and keep the country in Aquilibrio.”

Mark two things referred to in this letter. He plainly saw that the navy is our right arm of defence and yet treated, by our government, with a parsimony that has long astonished the old world. UNITE US”-the only thing that can ruin us now that we have set up for ourselves. Lay this to heart ye demagogues who are sowing broadcast the seeds of disunion and no longer court a monarchy.

At the end of three years study Mr. Adams was admitted to the practice of law and commenced a successful professional career at Braintree. Constitutional law had become a subject of investigation. Disputes had commenced between the people and the officers of the crown who were employed in the custom-house and claimed the right to search private dwellings for the pretended purpose of discovering dutiable goods. This preliminary act of usurpation was frequently prompted by personal animosity winout a shadow of evidence to raise even suspicion. The right of search was vigorously resisted. Writs

[ocr errors]


of assistance were issued-the seeds of the revolution were sown. Mr. Gridley, the friend and admirer of Mr. Adams, defended the officersnot on constitutional ground but from the necessity of the case to protect the revenue, from which Mr. Adams strongly dissented. The question was argued before the Superior Court at Boston-Mr. Gridley for and Mr. Otis against the crown. Mr. Adams listened to both gentlemen with intense interest and has often been heard to say-" The oration of Mr. Otis against writs of assistance breathed into this nation the breath of life. American independence was then and there born."

The court publicly decided against the writs but secretly issued them. No richer fuel could have been used to increase the volume and force of the revolutionary fires already kindled. Mr. Adams was roused by the hypocrisy of the court and the audacity of the crown officers and at once took a bold stand in favor of justice. The Assembly interfered in behalf of the people and in 1762, prepared a bill to prevent the issue of these volcanic writs only upon specific information on oath-which was vetoed by the governor. The Assembly retaliated by reducing the salary of the judges.

In 1761 Mr. Adams rose to the rank of Barrister-in 1764 married the accomplished Abigail Smith, daughter of Rev. William Smith, who nobly participated with her husband in the thrilling scenes of their lives for fifty-four years. Judge of her patriotism from the following extract from one of her numerous and able letters.

“ Heaven is our witness that we do not rejoice in the effusion of blood or the carnage of the human species-but, having been forced to draw the sword, we are determined never to sheathe it-slaves to Britain. Our cause, Sir, I trust, is the cause of truth and justice and will finally prevail, though the combined force of earth and hell should rise against it.”

The Stamp Act kindled an enduring flame of indignation in the patriotic bosom of Mr. Adams. He at once became a champion for chartered rights and rational freedom. He published an essay on Canon and Feudal Law which proved him a fearless, able and vigorous writer. It penetrated the joints and marrow of royal power as practised and parliamentary legislation as assumed. He traced the Canon law to the Roman clergy-shrewdly planned, acutely managed and rigorously enforced to advance their own aggrandizement. He delineated the servile dogmas of the Feudal code, each manor being the miniature kingdom of a petty tyrant. He exposed the unholy and powerful confederacy of the two, aiming to spread the mantle of ignorance over mankind, drive virtue from the earth, producing the memo

rable era of the dark ages, shrouded in mental obscurity. He then ushered in the dawn of returning light, exhibited the gigantic struggles of the reformers-the bloody scenes of persecution and finally placed his readers upon the granite shores of New England, where, for a century, LIBERTY had shed its happy influence upon the sons and daughters of freemen, undisturbed by canons or feuds. “ Tyranny has again commenced its desolating course-it must be arrested or we are slaves.This is a mere syllabus of a pamphlet of over forty pages, strong in language, bold in sentiment and nervous in style.

Mr. Adams became associated with other prominent whigs, Samuel Adams, Quincy, Otis and many kindred spirits, whose influence produced the repeal of the Stamp Act and the removal of Mr. Grenville from the ministry. An apparent but delusive calm ensued on the part of the crown officers. At intervals, a cloven foot would be seen, festering wounds would be irritated and no balm was found to restore them to perfect soundness.

In 1766 Mr. Adams removed to Boston where his talents became so strongly developed that the king's governor thought him worth purchasing. He was offered the most lucrative office in the colonyAdvocate General in the court of Admiralty. He spurned the bribe with the disdain that none but freemen can exhibit.

In 1769 he was on the committee that prepared instructions for the legislature, which were very obnoxious to the royal governor. He had outraged the people by quartering a mercenary army in the townwas unyielding in his purposes and hastened a tragedy that gave a fresh impetus to the embryo revolution.

On the 5th of March 1770, an affray occurred between the military and citizens, in which five of the latter were killed and others wounded. Mr. Adams thus describes the result.

“ The people assembled, first at Faneuil Hall and adjourned to the old South Church, to the number, as was conjectured, of ten or twelve hundred men, among whom were the most virtuous, substantial, independent, disinterested and intelligent citizens. They formed themselves into a regular deliberative body-chose their moderator and secretary-entered into discussions, deliberations and debates-adopted resolutions and appointed committees. These public resolutions were conformable to the views of the great majority of the people that the soldiers should be banished at all hazards.' Jonathan Williams, a very pious, inoffensive and conscientious gentleman, was their moderator. A remonstrance to the governor, or governor and council, was ordained and a demand that the regular troops should be removed from the

town. A committee was appointed to present this remonstrance, of which Samuel Adams was chairman. The soldiers were removed and transient peace restored."

Captain Preston was brought before the court charged with giving the order to fire upon the citizens. The regulars who committed the fatal act were also arraigned and tried. Each party charged the other with commencing the affray. Some inconsiderate citizens had thrown snow-balls at the King's troops who returned lead in payment. Mr. Adams was employed to defend the accused. A delicate task he performed, but so ingeniously did he manage the case that Captain Preston and all the soldiers but two were acquitted and the two were only convicted of manslaughter. When the trial closed Mr. Adams stood approved by the citizens, having performed his professional duty to his clients and at the same time vindicated the rights of the people.

The same year he was elected to the legislative body and boldly opposed the arbitrary measures of the British cabinet. He was one of the committee that prepared an address to the governor, the style of which induces me to think that it was penned by him. After clearly pointing out the violation of chartered rights the address concludes, “ These and other grievances and cruelties, too many to be here enumerated and too melancholy to be much longer borne by this injured people, we have seen brought upon us by the devices of ministers of state. And we have, of late, seen and heard of instructions to governors which threaten to destroy all the remaining privileges of our charter. Should these struggles of the house prove unfortunate and ineffectual this Province will submit with pious resignation to the will of Providence-but it would be a kind of suicide, of which we have the utmost abhorrence, to be instrumental in our own servitude."

A blind obstinacy on the part of the ministers increased the opposition of the people, inducing a rapid accumulation of combustible materials, increasing the volcanic fires by their own strong exertions. Being alarmed at the boldness of the citizens, the governor ordered the legislature to convene at Cambridge contrary to the law which fixed the place of meeting-consequently, the members refused to do anything more than to adjourn to the proper place. A war of words and paper ensued, in which the patriots were victorious. Mr. Adams was one of the sharp-shooters and made great havoc among the officers of the crown. Mr. Brattle, the senior member of the council

« PředchozíPokračovat »