John Adams by Edgar Wilson Nye

Story type: Essay

After viewing the birthplace of the Adamses out at Quincy I felt more reconciled to my own birthplace. Comparing the house in which I was born with those in which other eminent philanthropists and high-priced statesmen originated, I find that I have no reason to complain. Neither of the Adamses were born in a larger house than I was, and for general tone and eclat of front yard and cook-room on behind, I am led to believe that I have the advantage.

John Adams was born before John Quincy Adams. A popular idea seems to prevail in some sections of the Union that inasmuch as John Q. was bald-headed, he was the eider of the two; but I inquired about that while on the ground where they were both born, and ascertained from people who were familiar with the circumstances, that John was born first.

John Adams was the second president of the United States. He was a lawyer by profession, but his attention was called to politics by the passage of the stamp act in 1765. He was one of the delegates who represented Massachusetts in the first Continental Congress, and about that time he wrote a letter in which he said: “The die is now cast; I have passed the rubicon. Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish with my country is my unalterable determination.” Some have expressed the opinion that “the rubicon” alluded to by Mr. Adams in this letter was a law which he had succeeded in getting passed; but this is not true. The idea of passing the rubicon first originated with Julius Caesar, a foreigner of some note who flourished a good deal B.C.

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In June, 1776, Mr. Adams seconded a resolution, moved by Richard Henry Lee, that the United States “are, and of right ought to be, free and independent.” Whenever Mr. Adams could get a chance to whoop for liberty now and forever, one and inseparable, he invariably did so.

In 1796, Mr. Adams ran for president. In the convention it was nip and tuck between Thomas Jefferson and himself, but Jefferson was understood to be a Universalist, or an Universalist, whichever would look the best in print, and so he only got 68 votes out of a possible 139. In 1800, however, Jefferson turned the tables on him, and Mr. Adams only received 65 to Jefferson’s 73 votes.

Mr. Adams made a good president and earned his salary, though it wasn’t so much of a job as it is now. When there was no Indian war in those days the president could put on an old blue flannel shirt and such other clothes as he might feel disposed to adopt, and fish for bull heads in the Potomac till his nose peeled in the full glare of the fervid sun.

Now it is far different. By the time we get through with a president nowadays he isn’t good for much. Mr. Hayes stood the fatigue of being president better, perhaps, than any other man since the republic became so large a machine. Mr. Hayes went home to Fremont with his mind just as fresh and his brain as cool as when he pulled up his coat tails to sit down in the presidential chair. The reason why Mr. Hayes saved his mind, his brain and his salary, was plain enough when we stop to consider that he did not use them much during his administration.

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John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States and the eldest son of John Adams. He was one of the most eloquent of orators, and shines in history as one of the most polished of our eminent and bald-headed Americans. When he began to speak, his round, smooth head, to look down upon it from the gallery, resembled a nice new billiard ball, but as he warmed up and became more thoroughly stirred, his intellectual dome changed to a delicate pink. Then, when he rose to the full height of his eloquent flight, and prepared to swoop down upon his adversaries and carry them into camp, it is said that his smooth intellectual rink was as red as the flush of rosy dawn on the 5th day of July.

He was educated both at home and abroad. That is the reason he was so polished. After he got so that he could readily spell and pronounce the most difficult words to be found in the large stores of Boston, he was sent to Europe, where he acquired several foreign tongues, and got so that he could converse with the people of Europe very fluently, if they were familiar with English as she is spoke.

John Quincy Adams was chosen president by the House of Representatives, there being no choice in the electoral contest, Adams receiving 84 votes, Andrew Jackson 99, William H. Crawford 41, and Henry Clay 37. Clay stood in with Mr. Adams in the House of Representatives deal, it was said, and was appointed secretary of state under Mr. Adams as a result. This may not be true, but a party told me about it who got it straight from Washington, and he also told me in confidence that he made it a rule never to prevaricate.

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Mr. Adams was opposed to American slavery, and on several occasions in Congress alluded to his convictions.

He was in Congress seventeen years, and during that time he was frequently on his feet attending to little matters in which he felt an interest, and when he began to make allusions, and blush all over the top of his head, and kick the desk, and throw ink-bottles at the presiding officer, they say that John Q. made them pay attention. Seward says, “with unwavering firmness, against a bitter and unscrupulous opposition, exasperated to the highest pitch by his pertinacity–amidst a perfect tempest of vituperation and abuse–he persevered in presenting his anti-slavery petitions, one by one, to the amount sometimes of 200 in one day.” As one of his eminent biographers has truly said: “John Quincy Adams was indeed no slouch.”

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