« PreviousContinue »
NOTES AND ILLUSTRATIONS,
C H A R L E S FRANCIS A D A M S.
LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1856, by CHARLEs FRANcis ADAMs, in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
The preliminary genealogy, and the first two chapters of this volume, are taken from the fragment of a biography left by the late John Quincy Adams. That portion of it extending nearly to the end of the first chapter, appears to have been, written by him during the summer of 1829, just after the close of his official term as President of the United States, and before he was recalled into public life. Of the remainder, which was added in brief snatches of leisure during the summer recesses of Congress, the greater part was composed in 1832; but the last pages bear the date of 1839, from which time the project seems to have been abandoned. No part of it was ever revised for publication. As a consequence some blanks were left in the manuscript, principally for dates or extracts from books and papers, which have been filled, and a few trivial errors occurred, which have been corrected by the Editor, for the most part without notice. The fragment, in all other respects adhering closely to the original copy, extends to page 89 of this volume. It furnishes a succinct account of the circumstances attending the youth and education of John Adams, and carries the narrative down to the time of the so-called Boston Massacre, in March, 1770, when he had reached his thirty-fifth year. In other words, it covers the period of his life as a private citizen, and stops exactly at the moment when the career which made him an object of public attention begins. This fact will readily suggest the reason why the work was terminated just at this
point. It could not be further prosecuted without the application of a much greater share of time, and more extended investigations than the writer was in a condition to bestow, consistently with a faithful performance of the duties of a representative of Massachusetts in Congress, to which he had been summoned to devote his latest years. That most brilliant portion of his life it is impossible for any descendant of his to regret, even though it was pursued at the sacrifice of this noble undertaking, and the devolution of it to far less competent hands. For in justice to the continuator it ought to be kept in mind, that even before this fragment was definitively laid aside, he had reason to know that he was looked to as the successor to the duty; and in that view, that all the manuscripts, books, and papers relating to it were to be committed to his care. From this it may be understood, that the enterprise was not altogether of his seeking. Whatever might have been his doubts of his own abilities to execute it, little room was left him to indulge them. Neither was it in his disposition to shrink from it, simply because of its difficulty. Of the peculiar obstacles in the way of a faithful and at the same time an acceptable performance of it, he was from the outset thoroughly sensible. Under other circumstances he might have regarded his attempting it as presumptuous. But in his case there was no alternative. To say that he has acquitted himself of his obligation to his own satisfaction is more than he can pretend. All that he will venture to claim for himself is an earnest desire to be right, and an endeavor by no trifling amount of industry to become so. That he may in many instances have fallen short of his aim will not surprise him. Infallibility in such a department of investigation is altogether out of the question. The writer has detected too many mistakes in his own work, and observed too many in the productions of others, to seek to cherish a spirit of dogmatism. Hence if it should turn out that he has fallen into any essential error, or been guilty of material