Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sober second thoughts.........

     As the first president to have gone back to work after his tenure, Adams had given himself the opportunity, as none of his predecessors had, to benefit from a "sober second thought."  He had changed the meanings Americans attached to him.  No longer the dynastic New Englander who represented an archaic Federalist America, Adams had become the dauntless standard-bearer of the very modern cause of abolitionism.  At the same time, his rootedness in the republican principles of the founders also placed him on a pedestal in the national pantheon.  Indeed, the very fact that he had not changed, that he had stood for principles when they were despised and lived to see them vindicated, offered the most powerful evidence of his greatness of character.


Yet the report represented a remarkable evolution in Adams' own thinking - and this at the age of seventy-six.  He had long worshiped the Constitution almost as holy writ, yet he now accepted that it had been warped by the compromise with slaveholders.  In a letter to William Seward in May 1844, Adams wrote that all the injustices with which American society was beset had been caused by "that fatal drop of Prussic acid in the Constitution of the United States, the human chattel representation."

-both excerpts from James Traub's,  John Quincy Adams: Militant Spirit

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