« PreviousContinue »
who help themselves is morally applicable to the pursuit of public honors and trust, I shall certainly be the most helpless candidate that ever was presented to the view of the American people. Whatever the event may prove, it will not be without precious consolation to me while testimonials like those contained in your letter shall be left me. While citizens of distinguished merit and respectable standing, viewing public men and their conduct only through the pure atmosphere of public spirit, personally strangers to me, and guided by public motives alone, shall estimate my services to the country by honesty of intention and faithfulness of diligence, the suffrage of five such men, unbiassed as it must and ineffective as it may be, will be dearer to me than that of a whole Sodom of political chapmen, who would barter a Presidency for a department or an embassy, or stoop to spread the table of greatness for the promise of the crumbs. which may fall from it.
You perceive how frankly I have returned your confidence with mine. I believe the movement in the South Carolina legislature was unknown and could not have been countenanced by Mr. Lowndes, for whom I entertain the highest esteem. For the friendly sentiments and dispositions towards me expressed in your letter I pray you to accept my warm and unfeigned thanks. You will learn from other sources the motions of parties here, and from public indications the prevailing sentiments of the North. In what manner, should your dispositions continue, you may think proper to give them efficacy will be determined by your own judgment.
I am, etc.
TO HENRY ALEXANDER SCAMMELL DEARBORN
WASHINGTON, 8th January, 1822.
I have had the pleasure of receiving your letter of the 2nd instant.1 You will see by the National Intelligencer of yesterday that the matter is in a fair way to be settled here immediately, without waiting for the voice of the people. An attempt is making to accomplish a Congressional caucus nomination at this time for an election yet three years distant. You will readily excuse me from any comment on the subject.
I am, etc.
1 "You will observe in the Patriot of this day that the skirmishing has commenced, and will be continued and extended. The Salem papers and one in Portland and New Hampshire will fire, as soon as they have seen the flash here. I think you can depend on all New England. The federalists, except perhaps the junto, will be for you, as well as all the republicans, save perhaps a few. We think it highly important that the papers in all the states on our side should come out at once, and a firm and forward movement made throughout the Union, and particularly at Washington. Every day is in favor of the adverse party that is now neglected. I write this by the request of your friends here, that our course may be understood and seconded at Washington, and measures taken to cause a similar demonstration at all the chief cities. We must not now retire, or halt, but go bravely on. You will therefore consider the piece in the Patriot as the signal in the north and must be repeated." Dearborn to John Quincy Adams, January 2, 1822. Ms.
"I never did like John Q. Adams. He must have a very objectionable rival whose election I should not prefer. I think it would be difficult for any candidate to divide the vote in New England with him. Although he may not be very popular, yet it seems to be in some degree a matter of necessity to support him, if any man is to be taken from the land of the Pilgrims. I should really prefer Calhoun, Lowndes, Crawford, Clinton and fifty others that I could mention; but this is high matter and it is very uncertain what political feeling may prevail three years hence. I am sorry that there was not a better account from Albany. The course you mention is the only one that our condition leaves, and that will not be taken. At least I fear it." Ezekiel Webster to Daniel Webster, January 28, 1822. (Van Tyne, 89.)
TO EDWARD EVERETT
WASHINGTON, 31st January, 1822.
I have received your letter of the 20th instant and its enclosure and thank you for both. Your brother's letter 1 gave me great pleasure as a token of the warmth of his friendship for me. I believe with you that the motives of the severity with which my address was criticised at Boston lay much nearer the surface than your brother supposes. The motive avowed by the pamphleteer reviewer was a very laudable one-to guard the public taste against the contagion of a bad example. I have no right to believe that this motive was not sincere. And when once the reviewer had made up his mind that the example was bad, it would be too rigorous a rule to hold him to the standard of impartiality, and call upon his acuteness to discover merits where his only purpose was to expose defects.
Fourth of July orations and addresses have seldom been made the subject of elaborate criticism, nor have I reason to believe that my address on the last fourth of July would have shared a different fate, but for the public station accidentally occupied by its author. On another anniversary of the same day twenty-eight years before, I had delivered an oration upon the same subject in Boston. They were both emanations of the same mind and doubtless bear the same characteristic marks of composition. They were both equally well received by their respective auditories, but of the first no watchful guardian of our literary chastity felt himself summoned in the discharge of patriotic duty
1 Alexander H. Everett to Joseph Hall, October 3, 1821, on Adams' Oration on July 4.
to detect and expose the deadly danger to the public
That the modern eunuchs of Apollo's harems are more faithful in their vigilance over the purity of the muses under their charge than their predecessors (I had like to have said their forefathers,) twenty-eight years ago, is not impossible; but I rather presume that they measured the malignity of the temptation by the standing of the tempter, and concluded that although the wanton excitement of a county court attorney of twenty-six might be disregarded, it was high time to sound the alarm when the solicitor to sin was a Secretary of State of fifty-four. However this may be, it is well that the morals of these ladies are now under such keen scented custody, as their spotless virtue is of high import to the public weal and it is very desirable that they should be preserved "chaste as an icicle."
You will not understand me as pleading guilty to the charge of attempting to corrupt the public taste. Still less as admitting the justice of any part of the reviewer's censure upon the sentiments of the address. I have cultivated style as much, perhaps, as any man in the country whose life has been necessarily so much a life of business as mine. Style and ethics, or rather to arrange them according to my own sense of their relative importance, ethics and style, have been the two branches of human knowledge to which I have most assiduously devoted the leisure of my life, and my reason for studying them in preference to other portions of general science has been, because I have thought them more constantly and more usefully applicable to all the business of life than any others. With regard to style I have considered that the first object of a writer for the public was to obtain as many readers as he could, and that something remarkable in the style of composition was among the
most attractive lures to readers. Sir Joshua Reynolds who was a philosophical painter was in the practice of making frequent experiments in the mixing of his colors for the purpose of trying their effect. It sometimes happened that his experiment failed and he lived to see many of his portraits almost vanish from the canvas on which he had painted them. I have treated style much in the same way as Sir Joshua treated his colors and in some cases with similar success. In popular discourses especially I have written more for effect than was perhaps always wise, and in mixing up colors which I knew would at all events be evanescent I have given them a momentary glow beyond the warmth of
In the address of the last summer I indulged myself in this experimental mood more than I had ever done before. It was a hasty composition prepared in the midst of a multitude of other avocations, and I had no time for the labor of the file. Its effect upon the crowded auditory who heard me was as great and as favorable as I could have desiredthe effect of unremitting rivetted attention, with more than one occasional burst of applause. When it came before the public from the press the effect was different. Criticism fastened at once upon the writer and upon the work. Opinions became various. The address was read by friend and foe, and it was judged more by the spirit of feeling than by that of scrutiny, more by what was thought of the author than by what was found in the discourse. The consequence was that neither friend nor foe, so far as I have observed, discovered what was really in the address and what I had thought the most noticeable thing in it. To instance what your brother calls the doctrine of sympathy, upon which he remarks that what the reviewer says is pitiful, but adds no comment of his own; this doctrine of sympathy in the ad