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When the colonies became, in some degree, united, by the assembling of a general congress, they were brought to act together, in its deliberations, not indeed at the same time, but both at early periods. Each had already manifested his attachment to the cause of the country, as well as his ability to maintain it, by printed addresses, public speeches, extensive correspondence, and whatever other mode could be adopted, for the purpose of exposing the encroachments of the British parliament and animating the people to a manly resistance. Both were not only decided, but early friends of Independence. While others yet doubted, they were resolved; where others hesitated, they pressed forward. They were both members of the committee for preparing the Declaration of Independence, and they constituted the sub-committee, appointed by the other members to make the draught. They left their seats in congress, being called to other public employments, at periods not remote from each other, although one of them returned to it, afterwards, for a short time. Neither of them was of the assembly of great men which formed the present constitution, and neither was at any time member of congress under its provisions. Both have been public ministers abroad, both vice-presidents, and both presidents. These coincidences are now singularly crowned and completed. They have died, together; and they died on the anniversary of liberty.
When many of us were last in this place, fellow citizens, it was on the day of that anniversary. We were met to enjoy the festivities belonging to the occasion, and to manifest our grateful homage to our political fathers.
We did not, we could not here, forget our venerable neighbour of Quincy. We knew that we were standing, at a time of high and palmy prosperity, where he had stood, in the hour of utmost peril; that we saw nothing but liberty and security, where he had met the frown of power; that we were enjoying everything, where he had hazarded everything; and just and sincere plaudits rose to his name, from the crowds which filled this area, and hung over these galleries. He whose grateful duty it was to speak to us, on that day, of the virtues of our fathers had, indeed, admonished us that time and years were about to level his venerable frame with the dust. But he bade us hope, that "the sound of a nation's joy, rushing from our cities, ringing from our valleys, echoing from our hills, might yet break the silence of his aged ear; that the rising blessings of grateful millions might yet visit, with glad light, his decaying vision." Alas! that vision was then closing forever. Alas! the silence which was then settling on that aged ear, was an everlasting silence! For, lo! in the very moment of our festivities, his freed spirit ascended to God who gave it! Human aid and human solace terminate at the grave; or we would gladly have borne him upward, on a nation's outspread hands; we would have accompanied him, and with the blessings of millions and the prayers of millions, commended him to the Divine favor.
While still indulging our thoughts on the coincidence of the death of this venerable man with the anniversary of independence, we learn that Jefferson, too, has fallen; and that these aged patriots, these illustrious fellow-laborers, had left our world together. May
not such events raise the suggestion that they are not undesigned, and that Heaven does so order things, as sometimes to attract strongly the attention, and excite the thoughts of men? The occurrence has added new interest to our anniversary and will be remembered, in all time to come.
The occasion, fellow citizens, requires some account of the lives and services of JOHN ADAMS and THOMAS JEFFERSON. This duty must necessarily be performed with great brevity, and in the discharge of it I shall be obliged to confine myself, principally, to those parts of their history and character which belonged to them as public men.
JOHN ADAMS was born at Quincy, then part of the ancient town of Braintree, on the 19th day of October (Old Style) 1735. He was a descendant of the Puritans, his ancestors having early emigrated from England, and settled in Massachusetts. Discovering early a strong love of reading and of knowledge, together with marks of great strength and activity of mind, proper care was taken by his worthy father, to provide for his education. He pursued his youthful studies in Braintree, under Mr. Marsh, a teacher whose fortune it was that Josiah Quincy, Jr. as well as the subject of these remarks, should receive from him his instruction in the rudiments of classical literature. Having been admitted, in 1751, a member of Harvard College, MR. ADAMS was graduated, in course, in 1755; and on the catalogue of that Institution, his name, at the time of his death, was second among the living Alumni, being preceded only by that of the venerable Holyoke. With what degree of reputation he left the University, is not now precisely known. We know only that he was distinguished, in a class which numbered Locke and Hemenway among its members. Choosing the law for his profession, he commenced and prosecuted its studies at Worcester, under the direction of Samuel Putnam, a gentleman whom he has himself described as an acute man, an able and learned lawyer, and as in large professional practice at that time. In 1758, he was admitted to the bar, and commenced business in Braintree. He is understood to have made his first considerable effort, or to have attained his first signal success, at Plymouth, on one of those occasions which furnish the earliest opportunity for distinction to many young men of the profession, a jury trial, and a criminal cause. His business naturally grew with his reputation, and his residence in the vicinity afforded the opportunity, as his growing eminence gave the power, of entering on the larger field of practice which the capital presented. In 1766, he removed his residence to Boston, still continuing his attendance on the neighbouring circuits, and not unfrequently called to remote parts of the Province. In 1770 his professional firmness was brought to a test of some severity, on the application of the British officers and soldiers to undertake their defence, on the trial of the indictments found against them on account of the transactions of the memorable 5th of March. He seems to have thought, on this occasion, that a man can no more abandon the proper duties of his profession, than he can abandon other duties. The event proved, that as he judged well for his own reputation, so he judged well, also, for the interest and permanent fame of his country.
The result of that trial proved, that notwithstanding the high degree of excitement then existing, in consequence of the measures of the British government, a jury of Massachusetts would not deprive the most reckless enemies, even the officers of that standing army, quartered among them, which they so perfectly abhorred, of any part of that protection which the law, in its mildest and most indulgent interpretation, afforded to persons accused of crimes.
Without pursuing MR. ADAMS's professional course further, suffice it to say, that on the first establishment of the judicial tribunals under the authority of the State, in 1776, he received an offer of the high and responsible station of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But he was destined for another and a different career. From early life the bent of his mind was toward politics; a propensity, which the state of the times, if it did not create, doubtless very much strengthened. Public subjects must have occupied the thoughts and filled up the conversation in the circles in which he then moved; and the interesting questions, at that time just arising, could not but seize on a mind, like his, ardent, sanguine and patriotic. The letter, fortunately preserved, written by him at Worcester so early as the 12th of October, 1755, is a proof of very comprehensive views, and uncommon depth of reflection, in a young man not yet quite twenty. In this letter he predicted the transfer of power, and the establishment of a new seat of empire in America; he predicted, also, the increase of population in the colonies; and anticipated their naval distinction, and foretold that all Europe, combined, could not subdue them. All this is said, not on a public occasion, or for effect, but in the style of sober and friendly correspondence, as the result of his own thoughts. "I sometimes retire," said he, at the close of the letter," and laying things together form some reflections pleasing to myself. The produce of one of these reveries you have read above." This prognostication, so early in his own life, so early in the history of the country, of independence, of vast increase of numbers, of naval force, of such augmented power as might defy all Europe, is remarkable. It is more remarkable, that its author should live to see fulfilled to the letter, what could have seemed to others, at the time, but the extravagance of youthful fancy. His earliest political feelings were thus strongly American; and from this ardent attachment to his native soil he never departed.
While still living at Quincy, and at the age of twenty-four, Mr. Adams was present, in this town, on the argument before the Su
*Extract of a letter written by John Adams, dated at Worcester, Massachusetts, October 12, 1755.
"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; for, if we can remove the turbulent Gallics, our people, according to the exactest computations, will in another century, become more numerous than England itself. 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 a 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.
"Be not surprised that I am turned politician. This whole town is immersed in politics. The interests of nations, and all the dira of war, make the subject of every conversation. I sit and hear, and after having been led through a maze of sage observations, I sometimes retire, and laying things together, form some reflections pleasing to myself. The produce of one of these reveries you have read above."
preme Court respecting Writs of Assistance, and heard the celebrated and patriotic speech of JAMES OTIS. Unquestionably, that was a masterly performance. No flighty declamation about liberty, no superficial discussion of popular topics, it was a learned, penetrating, convincing, constitutional argument, expressed in a strain of high and resolute patriotism. He grasped the question, then pending between England and her Colonies, with the strength of a lion; and if he sometimes sported, it was only because the lion himself is sometimes playful. Its success appears to have been as great as its merits, and its impression was widely felt. Mr. Adams himself seems never to have lost the feeling it produced, and to have entertained constantly the fullest conviction of its important effects. "I do say," he observes, "in the most solemn manner, that Mr. Otis's Oration against Writs of Assistance, breathed into this nation the breath of life."
In 1765 Mr. Adams laid before the public, what I suppose to be his first printed performance, except essays for the periodical press, a Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law. The object of this work was to show that our New England ancestors, in consenting to exile themselves from their native land, were actuated, mainly, by the desire of delivering themselves from the power of the hierarchy, and from the monarchical and aristocratical political systems of the other continent; and to make this truth bear, with effect, on the politics of the times. Its tone is uncommonly bold and animated, for that period. He calls on the people, not only to defend, but to study and understand their rights and privileges; urges earnestly the necessity of diffusing general knowledge, invokes the clergy and the bar, the colleges and academies, and all others who have the ability and the means, to expose the insidious designs of arbitrary power, to resist its approaches, and to be persuaded that there is a settled design on foot to enslave all America. "Be it remembered," says the author, "that liberty must, at all hazards, be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned it, and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estate, their pleasure and their blood. And liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the character and conduct of their rulers. Rulers are no more than attorneys, agents, and trustees of the people; and if the cause, the interest and trust, is insidiously betrayed, or wantonly trifled away, the people have a right to revoke the authority, that they themselves have deputed, and to constitute other and better agents, attorneys and trustees."
The citizens of this town conferred on Mr. Adams his first political distinction, and clothed him with his first political trust, by electing him one of their representatives, in 1770. Before this time he had become extensively known throughout the province, as well by the part he had acted in relation to public affairs, as
by the exercise of his professional ability. He was among those who took the deepest interest in the controversy with England, and whether in or out of the Legislature, his time and talents were alike devoted to the cause. In the years 1773 and 1774 he was chosen a counsellor, by the members of the General Court, but rejected by Governor Hutchinson, in the former of those years, and by Governor Gage in the latter.
The time was now at hand, however, when the affairs of the colonies urgently demanded united councils. An open rupture with the parent State appeared inevitable, and it was but the dictate of prudence, that those who were united by a common interest and a common danger, should protect that interest and guard against that danger, by united efforts. A general Congress of Delegates from all the colonies, having been proposed and agreed to, the House of Representatives, on the 17th of June 1774, elected JAMES BOWDOIN, THOMAS CUSHING, SAMUEL ADAMS, JOHN ADAMS, and ROBERT TREAT PAINE, delegates from Massachusetts. This appointment was made at Salem, where the General Court had been convened by Governor Gage, in the last hour of the existence of a House of Representatives under the provincial Charter. While engaged in this important business, the governor having been informed of what was passing, sent his secretary with a message dissolving the General Court. The secretary finding the door locked, directed the messenger to go in and inform the speaker that the secretary was at the door with a message from the governor. The messenger returned, and informed the secretary that the orders of the House were that the doors should be kept fast; whereupon the secretary soon after read a proclamation, dissolving the General Court upon the stairs. Thus terminated, forever, the actual exercise of the political power of England in or over Massachusetts. The four last named delegates accepted their appointments, and took their seats in Congress, the first day of its meeting, September 5, 1774, in Philadelphia.
The proceedings of the first Congress are well known, and have been universally admired. It is in vain that we would look for superior proofs of wisdom, talent, and patriotism. Lord Chatham said, that for himself, he must declare, that he had studied and admired the free states of antiquity, the master states of the world, but that for solidity of reasoning, force of sagacity, and wisdom of conclusion, no body of men could stand in preference to this Congress. It is hardly inferior praise to say, that no production of that great man himself can be pronounced superior to several of the papers published as the proceedings of this most able, most firm, most patriotic assembly. There is, indeed, nothing superior to them in the range of political disquisition. They not only embrace, illustrate, and enforce everything which political philosophy, the love of liberty, and the spirit of free inquiry had antecedently produced, but they add new and striking views of their own, and apply the whole, with irresistible force, in support of the cause which had drawn them together.
Mr. Adams was a constant attendant on the deliberations of this body, and bore an active part in its important measures.