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American Academy of Arts and Sciences to the copy of the memorial which may be sent to Congress. To this end it may be necessary to call a meeting of the Academy, or of the Counsellors, expressly to authorize the signature of the President. I ask of you the favor of taking the steps necessary for calling such a meeting and obtaining this authority. A memorial to the same effect having already been laid before Congress by the rector and visitors of the University of Virginia, the sooner your memorial can be transmitted the better. Whatever aid it may be in my power to lend to the attainment of the end will be cheerfully yielded. I am, etc.
TO HYDE DE NEUVILLE
Mr. Adams prays his Excellency the Baron Hyde de Neuville to accept his sincere and deep felt acknowledgments, as well for the obliging communication of the letter from the Chevalier Delambre, perpetual Secretary to the Royal Academy of Sciences of France, as for the suggestion which from that letter Mr. Adams perceives had been made by the Baron Hyde de Neuville, of a desire that Mr. Adams might be honored by the Academy with the title of Correspondent to that illustrious body, a distinction which Mr. Adams holds in too high estimation, and considers as imposing upon any one favored with it duties of too elevated a cast, to permit him to have formed, still less to have expressed the desire, of obtaining it. The Report upon Weights and Measures, made at the last session of Congress, related to a subject in which the French Academy of Sciences and the Chevalier Delambre personally had already, taken so deep an interest and rendered services so important to mankind
that in presenting a copy of the work to the Academy, Mr. Adams discharged what he felt as a debt of justice as well as of gratitude. The kindness with which the Academy has been pleased to receive it, and the favorable notice taken of it by the author of the Base du Systeme Métrique are among the most precious memorials which the Reporter could have received from the judgment of his contemporaries, and of which the recollection will not cease to yield him encouragement and satisfaction.
WASHINGTON, 15th December, 1821.
TO JOHN D. HEATH1
WASHINGTON, 7th January, 1822.
I have had the pleasure of receiving your favor of the 28th of last month, and pray you to be assured that I am not insensible to the kind and friendly sentiments towards me of which it contains the proof. I have also read with much satisfaction the speech which you had the goodness to forward with it.
If ever there was a citizen of a Republic who had reason to complain of the ingratitude of his country, I am not that man. My life for nearly forty years has been a continual succession of favors unsolicited, unsought, and in many instances unwished, showered on me by my country through her various regular, constitutional organs. In return for these favors I have lived for my country and for her alone, and by my country I mean the whole North American
1 Of Charleston, South Carolina, a member of the State legislature and until this time editor of the Charleston City Gazette.
Union. Every faculty of my soul and every desire of my heart has been devoted to her interest and to the promotion of her welfare. In all which I never have considered, as I never shall consider, myself as laying the foundation of a claim to her gratitude but as discharging to the best of my ability my own debt of gratitude to her. In the fulfilment. of the several important duties which she has at diverse times committed to my trust, it has been my fortune not only, as it must be that of every public man, to come in conflict with rivals and competitors, with eager adversaries on points of public principle, and with ardent and powerful parties; but, what has been infinitely more painful to my feelings, with warm personal friends, with local and sectional partialities of which it is difficult for any of us entirely to divest ourselves, and even with that communion of party spirit which is too often mistaken for patriotism.
At a very early period of my life, upon comparing the objects which I deemed worthy of the ambition of an American citizen with the means which nature and education upon an estimate as impartial as I was able to make of my own faculties had placed in my power, I formed the determination never to solicit, or by any act of mine direct or indirect to endeavor to obtain, any office of honor, profit, or trust, in the gift of my countrymen; but to stand ready to repair to any station which they through their constitutional authorities might think proper to assign to me. My motives for this assertion and determination were founded partly upon a general principle, and partly upon considerations peculiar to myself. I shall not trouble you with a detail of them, but will merely remark that I have adhered to it without exception to this day. The twenty-eighth year is now near its close since President Washington at a time, and in a manner utterly unexpected by me, appointed me to a public
mission abroad. Since that time, with two intervals each of about a year, I have been constantly in the public service, either of my native state or of the Union, and on the accession of Mr. Monroe to the Presidency he recalled me from a mission in Europe to place me in the station which I now occupy. By the practical operation of our government, and the experience of the two most recent successive Presidential elections, it was probable that if the duties of the Department should be performed to the satisfaction of the country, the person holding this office would be one of those towards whom the public attention would be turned as a suitable candidate to succeed the President upon his retirement from office. This was an incident arising from my position as much unsought by me as the position itself. I had indulged the hope that the agitations which must be expected to attend the canvassing for a successor to the President would have been postponed at least until the last year preceding the election, and until Mr. Monroe should have signified his own intention to retire. I regret exceedingly that a different course should have been pursued, and that both in the state legislature and in the Congress of 1821 great and systematic exertions should have been concerted to forestall the public opinion of the country for the Presidential election of 1825. It could not be unobserved that all these exertions hitherto have been directed to the positive purpose of excluding me from the field of competition, when its proper time shall arrive. That in connection with them many of the public presses throughout the Union should have teemed with slander, false and foul, upon my character was of course to be expected, and has been and continues to be realized. So far have I been from contributing to this premature fermentation by any act on my part, that it is but very recently indeed that I have had more than the
general reason resulting from my position to believe that the people of any portion of the Union would probably look to me as a candidate for the succession to the Executive chair. That such a disposition may, since what has happened, be manifested at no distant day is now probable. It will proceed from the Republicans of my native section of the Union, but to what extent, and with what degree of unanimity I am not informed. I have hitherto discouraged and, as far as I have been able, restrained the exhibition of any such movement, and shall now barely leave it to take its course. The time of election is yet so far distant, and the events which must finally decide it are so contingent, that it may be for time only to disclose who shall be the real candidate of that day. From facts within my knowledge I incline to the belief that the legislative caucus in South Carolina was a feint, marking other purposes than those of advancing Mr. Lowndes,1 although one of them was undoubtedly that which you mention, of setting aside any purpose of which the danger might be apprehended that my name might be hereafter held up for the favorable consideration of the citizens of South Carolina. Efforts of the same kind, though connected with other names, have been and are making probably in every state in the Union, certainly in my own native state and its immediate vicinity. With the rule which I have adopted as the first principle of my relations with public concerns, that these efforts should succeed is to be foreseen as highly probable, and if your kind opinion in my favor were less pure, disinterested and patriotic than it is, I should advise you to devote your talents and your friendly offices to some candidate more able and willing to toil for the advancement of his own pretensions than I am or can be. For if the old prudential maxim that God helps those 1 Adams, Memoirs, December 31, 1821.