ADAMS, John Quincy. Letter signed ("John Quincy Adams") as Congressman, TO RICHARD RUSH (1780-1859), Quincy, Mass., 16 October 1845. 1 page, 4to (10 x 8 in.), integral blank, in fine condition.
ADAMS PREDICTS CIVIL WAR OVER THE NEW "VITAL SPIRIT," SLAVERY: "LIBERTY HAS YET HER GREATEST WARFARE TO WAGE IN THIS HEMISPHERE"
A melancholy and moving letter in which the veteran public servant reminisces about politics in the days of the early republic and grieves over recent expansionist and pro-slavery policy. Few public servants could point to a career as long and distinguished as that of Adams. Since 1797, he had served in the diplomatic corps under Washington, Adams and Madison, as Secretary of State under Monroe, and as Senator and President. Elected to Congress in 1830 after leaving the White House, Adams entered his last but most famous stage of public service. Directly confronting Southern efforts to impose a Gag Rule upon Congressional debates over slavery and its expansion, Adams boldly enunciated the First Amendment right to petition Congress. This embattled stance "made him the most famous--or notorious--combatant on the floor of Congress during the next decade" (Nagel, John Quincy Adams, p. 355).
After its successful war for independence against Mexico, the new Republic of Texas sought annexation to the United States. Slavery's firm footing within the republic's borders assured that the battle over slavery's expansion would be renewed on the floors of the House and Senate. Adams worked tirelessly to defeat the bill for Texas annexation against vigorous opposition: "The acrimony became so bitter that he confided to his diary: 'I shall henceforth speak in the House of Representatives at the hazard of my life'" (Nagle, pp. 358-359). Although the bill failed to be approved, Texas remained a critical issue in the Presidential campaign of 1844. Democrat James Polk's victory upon a platform of annexation expansion seemed a decisive victory for the pro-slavery bloc.
Six weeks before Texas was formally admitted to the Union as a slave-holding state, Adams writes to an old colleague from the diplomatic service, having received "the second volume of your pleasing account of the Negotiations in your Mission to Great Britain from 1817 to 1825." Reflecting on his account, Adams compares the positive political efforts of previous days to those current: "The Negotiations with Great Britain and with other Foreign Powers during the Administration of James Monroe are with the years beyond the flood. Our Country if we have a Country is no longer the same. The Polar Star of our Foreign Relations at that time was Justice, now it is Conquest. Her vital spirit was then Liberty it is now Slavery."
Addressing the increasingly bitter sectional conflict, Adams darkly predicts a future civil war: "As our Dominion swells she becomes dropsical and by the time when our Empire shall extend over the whole Continent of North America we shall be ready for a race of Caesars... Liberty has yet her greatest warfare to wage in this Hemisphere. May your posterity and mine be armed in Celestial Panoply for the conflict."