Adam's Administration, 1825-1829
The new President was inaugurated on the 4th of March, 1825. He was a man of high attainments in literature and statesmanship. At the age of eleven years he accompanied his father, John Adams, to Europe. At Paris and Amsterdam and St. Petersburg the son continued his studies, and at the same time became acquainted with the manners and politics of the Old World. The vast opportunities of his youth were improved to the fullest extent. In his riper years he served his country as ambassador to the Netherlands, Portugal, Prussia, Russia and England. He had also held the offices of United States senator from Massachusetts, and secretary of state under Monroe. He brought to the presidential chair wisdom, experience, and ability.
The new administration was an epoch of peace and prosperity in the country; but the spirit of party manifested itself with much violence. The adherents of General Jackson and Mr. Crawford united in opposition to the policy of the President; and there was a want of unanimity between the different departments of the government. In the Senate the political friends of Mr. Adams were in a minority, and their majority in the lower House only lasted for one session. In his inaugural address the President strongly advocated the doctrine of internal improvements; but the adverse views of Congress prevented his recommendations from being adopted. In 1826 the attention of the country was attracted by the Panama Congress, a convention of American republics to be held at Panama. President Adams, led by Henry Clay, his secretary of state, determined to send delegates to the congress; but the Senate was so long giving its consent that the convention had adjourned before the American delegates arrived on the ground. The object of this congress was to promote the trade of the American republics with one another, to establish firmly the Monroe Doctrine, and the like; but its deliberations produced little effect.
For a quarter of a century a difficulty had existed between the government of the United States and Georgia in respect to thelands held in that State by the Creek Indians. When, in 1802, Georgia relinquished her claim to Mississippi Territory, the general government agreed to purchase and surrender to the State all the Creek lands lying within her own borders. This pledge on the part of the United States had never been fulfilled, and Georgia complained of bad faith. The difficulty became alarming; but finally, in March of 1826, a treaty was concluded between the Creek chiefs and the President, by which a cession of all their lands in Georgia was obtained. At the same time the Creeks agreed to remove to a new home beyond the Mississippi.
On the 4th of July, 1826--just fifty years to a day after the Declaration of Independence--the venerable John Adams, second President of the United States, and his successor, Thomas Jefferson, both died. Both had lifted their voices for freedom in the early and perilous days of the Revolution. One had written and both had signed the great declaration. Both had lived to see their country's independence. Both had served that country in its highest official station. Both had reached extreme old age: Adams was ninety, Jefferson, eighty-two. Now, while the canon were booming for the fiftieth birthday of the nation, the gray and honored patriots passed, almost at the same hour, from among the living.
In the following September, William Morgan, a resident of Western New York, having threatened to publish the secrets of the Masonic fraternity, of which he was a member, suddenly disappeared from his home, and was never heard of afterward. The Masons fell under the suspicion of having abducted and murdered him. A great clamor was raised against them in New York, and the excitement extended to other parts of the country. The issue between the Masons and their enemies became a political one, and many eminent men were embroiled in the controversy. For several years the anti-Masonic party exercised a considerable influence in the elections of the country. De Witt Clinton, one of the most prominent and valuable statesmen of New York, had to suffer much, in loss of reputation, from his membership in the order. His last days were clouded with the odium which for the time being attached to the Masonic name.
In the congressional debates of 1828 the question of the tariff was much discussed. By a tariff is understood a duty levied on imported goods. The object of the same is twofold: first, to produce a revenue for the government; and secondly, to raise the price of the article on which the duty is laid, in order that the domestic manufacturer of the thing taxed may be able to compete with the foreign producer. When the duty is levied for the latter purpose, it is called a protective tariff. Whether it is sound policy for a nation to have protective duties is a question which has been much debated in all civilized countries. Mr. Adams and his friends decided in favor of a tariff; and in 1828 the duties on fabrics made of wool, cotton, linen and silk, and those on articles manufactured of iron, lead, etc., were much increased. The object of such legislation was to stimulate the manufacturing interests of the country. The question of the tariff has usually been a sectional issue. The people of the Eastern and Middle States, where factories abound, have favored protective duties; while in the agricultural regions of the South and West such duties have been opposed. The tariff passed by Congress in 1828 was so high that it was called the "Tariff of Abominations."
With the gall of 1828 came another presidential election. The contest was specially exciting. Mr. Adams, supported by Mr. Clay, the secretary of state, was put forward for re-election. In accordance with an understanding which had existed for several years, General Jackson appeared as the candidate of the opposition. In the previous election Jackson had received more electoral votes than Adams; but disregarding the popular preference, the House of Representatives had chosen the latter. Now the people were determined to have their way; and Jackson was triumphantly elected, receiving a hundted and seventy-eight electoral votes against eighty-three for his opponent. As soon as the election was over, the excitement--as is usual in such cases--abated; and the thoughts of the people were turned to other subjects.
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