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TO THE PUBLIC AT LARGE, And to the Constituents of the Hon. John Quincy Adams in
The apology for this address is to be found in the speeches of Mr. Adams at Boston, at Weymouth Landing, and at Bridgewater, in the State of Massachusetts. In these speeches he has assailed me with a wantonness and bitterness which can find no justification in any conduct of mine towards him. Whether addressing the young men of Boston, chiefly against General Jackson, or his constituents at Weymouth Landing against Mr. Charles J. Ingersoll, or at Bridgewater against President Polk, he repeats his abuse of me with a frequency and malignity, altogether discreditable to any man of his age and station in society. No language which the smallest degree of self-respect will allow me to use, can even approximate the grossness of the epithets which he has been pleased to employ on all the occasions to which I have referred. These speeches were so carefully prepared, and have been so extensively circulated through the public press, that I do not feel willing to let them pass off as the ravings of an irritable old man, whose infirmities are rather to be pitied than resented.
Mr. Adams is, indeed, venerable for his years; but he ha not and will not retire from the strife of public affairs. He remains within the arena, a knight in full armor, clutching his spear, and assailing, with fiendish malignity, all who come near him. What right, then, has he to expect infirmities of senility to protect him from the blows and wounds of the tournament?
But I proceed at once to Mr. Adams's complaints against me.
In his Boston address he sets out the whole letter; but takes the greatest exception to the following extract from it:
“Soon after my election in 1829, it was made known to me by Mr. Erving, formerly our Minis: er at the Court of Madrid, that, whilst at that couri, he had laid the foundation of a treaty with Spain for the ce-sion of the Floridas, and the settlement of the boundary of Louisiana, fixing the western limit of the latter at Rio Grande, agreeably to the understanding of France; that he had written home to our government for powers to complete and sign the negotiation ; but that, instead of receiving such authority, the negotiation was taken out of his hands and transferred to Washington, and a new treaty was there concluded, by which the Sabine, and not the Rio Grande, was recognized, and established as the boundary of Louisiana. Finding that these statements were true, and that our government did really give up that important territory, when it was at its option to retain it, I was filled with astonishment. The right to the territory was obtained from France. Spain stood ready to acknowledge it to the Rio Grande, and yet the authority asked by our Minister to insert the true boundary was not only withheld, but in lieu of it, a limit was adopted depriving us of the whole vast country lying between the two rivers."
Mr. Adams, in commenting on this part of General Jackson's letter, inquires, “in what language of composure and decency, can I say to you that there is, in this bitter and venomous charge, not one single word of truth; that it is, from beginning to end, grossly, glaringly, and wilfully false ?” What terrible words! and what a towering fit of passion seems to come over him at once! Surely this must be an entirely new and unexpected charge-one which Mr. Adams had never heard of before, and now hearing, is filled with honest and just indignation ! But no such thing. It had been made against him as far back as 1820, and published to the world more than fifteen years before Gen. Jackson's letter was either written or published: not made against him then by Gen. Jackson, but by that man that once foisted him into the Presidency against the will of a betrayed and insulted people—by Mr. Clay, whose election he was trying to secure by these very speeches. From a letter written at Washington by Mr. Clay, dated 16th April, 1820, to a then friend in Kentucky, and published in the United States Telegraph of August 2d, 1828, I make the following extract:
of Congress, as coming from high authority, that prior to the conclusion of the tr aty, it was known to Mr. Adams that we could have obtained more than was conveyed to us-- - hat is, that the Spanish negotiator was allowed by his in tructions to grant us more, but that less was taken, because the Spani h Minist r declared, if he went up to his instr (tions, he s'ould be afraid of some personal i jury upon his return home. Whit will you in the west t} ink of the wisdom of that policy which which consents to surrender an important part of our territory from such a motive ?”
Here is the first charge made against Mr. Adams for surrendering up Texas in that negotiation. It was made by Mr. Adams's most especial friend—that friend to whom he stands solely indebted for the highest office which he ever filled. It was published in 1828; and Mr. Adams's eyes have doubtless met it a thousand times. Does he deny it? Did he get up at Boston and deny it--at Weymouth Landing, at Bridgewater, or anywhere else? No, never, that I have heard of. Did he give Mr. Clay the lie for uttering it, as he has done General Jackson? Mr. Clay was then his Secretary of State, living daily on his bounty. Did he send for him and say to him, You have slandered my good name--you have ruined the inheritance of my children, and you must leave my cabinet immediately? No such thing. This new cause of quarrel, like the old question of veracity, was adjourned over to some period more propitious to calm investigation.
Mr. Clay, then, was Mr. Adams's first accuser of dereliction of duty in the negotiation of the Florida treaty. He accuses him by name--on the authority of a member of Congress, who is said to have got it from one high in authority. He states in his letter that it was known to Mr. Adams that we could have obtained more than was conveyed to us. He was writing on other subjects, but stepped aside to denounce Mr. Adams for surrendering an important part of our territory from improper motives.
Contrast the time and circumstances under which General Jackson alluded to the same dereliction of duty. He was writing on the re-annexation of Texas; the manner in which it had been lost lay directly in his way. Mr. Adams's name is not mentioned, and the whole matter is alluded to with a forbearance not to be observed at all in Mr. Clay's letter.
the charges of Mr. Clay, was conclusive evidence of his guilt ; but I do maintain that after he has submitted to it uncomplainingly for so many years, he has no right to affect such horror at its repetition in a more gentle form by Gen. Jackson, nor to pour out upon him, nor upon myself, for publishing it, such a torrent of vulgar epithets and billingsgate abuse. What ought he to have done? What would all men have been glad to see him do on the appearance of General Jackson's letter to me? He ought, if innocent, to have addressed the public, stating that Mr. Clay had made this accusation first against him; that he perceived that General Jackson had fallen into the same error; and then have produced the evidence of his innocence. He saw, on the face of General Jackson's letter, that his information was derived from Mr. Erving, that it was communicated in writing, and that that writing was in my possession. Calling on me, he could have inspected Mr. Erving's communication, and thus ascertained whether General Jackson or Mr. Erving was to be censured for the accusation. Such a course would have been obvious enough to anybody but to John Quincy Adams. Instead of pursuing it, he pretermits his friend, Mr. Clay, altogether; pours out all his malignant fury on General Jackson, and falsely (not to say meanly) asserts that Mr. Erving's communications “have been carefully suppressed from the public, and from any access to them by me.” Did he e er ask either myself or Mr Ingersoll for an inspectionof them? Did he request any copy of thein, of either Mr. Ingersoll or myself? How, then, could he venture to say they had been suppressed from any access to him ?
But let us take another step in the examination of this subject. Mr. Adams seems especially displeased with me for a note which I caused to be appended to General Jackson's letter, which he quotes as follows:
“That this boundary (the Rio del Norte) could have been obtained, was doubtless the belief of our Minister in Spain ; but the offer of the Spanish government was probably the Colorado-certainly a line far west of the Sabine."
Why he should have been so much disploased with this note, is difficult of explanation. If General Jackson's letter accused him of too much, this note lessened the amount. It was, there
opinions of Gen. Jackson on the subject of our acquiring a fine and noble country. I wanted these opinions to rouse up and sustain the administration of Mr. Tyler in making the attempt. But no part of that purpose was to prejudice Mr. Adams. He was not in all my thoughts. It is a little singular, on this part of the case, that a distinguished Senator of this country should think my object was to ruin Mr. Van Buren, whilst Mr. Adams is sure it was to destroy him. Both gentlemen are equally mistaken. I knew General Jackson was writing in the absence of Mr, Erving's communications, after the lapse of many years; and as he had put the communication at my disposal, I was sure that he would take no exception to any correction of his statements which an examination of the papers might furnish. I looked into them sufficiently to be satisfied that General Jackson was substantially correct in reference to the Erving statements, with, as I supposed, one solitary exception; that was in his having used the words Rio Grande, instead of the Colorado. Whether he had so mistaken the names, was not a matter of close examination and scrutiny; it was enough for me that it seemed somewhat doubtful. I gave the benefit of that doubt to Mr. Adams, thereby diminishing the amount of country surrendered, by so much as lay beyond the Colorado. Does this look as if I had joined in a base conspiracy against an individual (Mr. Adams) for as profligate a public purpose as appears on the pages of history? His perpetual reiteration of complaint on this point induces the belief that the true cause of his displeasure arises from the fact that, by the correction, I cut him off from the only quibble on which he expected to defend himself against either the charges of Mr. Clay or General Jackson, He knew that he had made a bad treaty, when he might have made a much better one--that he had surrendered the whole, when he might have saved at least two-thirds of that noble country. In other words, that he had taken the Sabine, when he might certainly have gotten to the Colorado; and hence it offends him so much that I should have corrected the probable mistake of General Jackson, in saying the Rio Grande, instead of the Rio Colorado, thereby cutting him off from all plea and apology for