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There followed years of domination by a democracy controlled by the West and South. The favourite son of John Quincy Adams-Charles Francis Adams-would have followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather had the opportunity offered. Times had altered, and Massachusetts was not so potent in national politics. The younger Adams served with honour in the State legislature; he edited a Whig paper at a time when that party was divided between the cotton Whigs,' favouring Southern claims on slavery, and the conscience Whigs,' opposed to an extension of slave territoryCharles Sumner, then in his best days, represented the party of freedom; and Mr Adams, of the same party, became a member of Cor ess in 1859, when Southern influence was strongest. At once recognised as a valuable member, he served on important committees to frame a measure that would prevent secession. The election of Lincoln destroyed all hope of reconciliation between the two sections. War ensued; and Adams, like his father and his grandfather, became American Minister at St James's. His conduct in that position gained for him the confidence of all, and led to his becoming a member of the Geneva court of arbitration. Only an accident prevented his being President of the United States.
For three generations members of this Adams family received the highest public honour, without appealing to the vulgar tricks of politics. One member in each generation had been set aside and devoted, as it were, to public office-and its sacrifice. It implied recognition of merit. The legal mind of John Adams was a needed restraint on the demagogues of his day. No man came to the State Department or Presidency better equipped in knowledge and experience than John Quincy Adams. But the necessary faculty of managing men, of creating or of guiding a party, was denied to him as it had been denied to his father. The position of a candidate implies a bowing to popular will; and that neither man would do. Charles Francis Adams did not owe his great opportunities to the people. By his time the fortunes of the family seemed divorced from popular suffrage. His greater honours rested on executive appointment.
In the fourth generation no less than three members
of the family gained reputation, of whom two now call for notice-Charles Francis, Jr, and Henry, sons of Charles Francis Adams, the Minister. They passed through much the same formative years in school and Harvard College. Charles Adams believed he had derived advantage from the college, but it was not from the teaching he received or influence of teachers. Henry Adams did not look back upon his college career with satisfaction, claiming that he had not received from it what was properly his due. On graduating, Charles began to study law in the office of Richard H. Dana, a man of distinction and high legal talent. He was not enthusiastic about his profession; in fact, like John Quincy Adams, he had a positive distaste for it; so he tried writing for the newspapers on public questions, at first as a diversion, soon with serious purpose. The atmosphere of the home was political, for the father was a recognised power in that section of the Whigs which was later to form the strength of the Republican party. Henry Adams determined to study civil law in Germany. What he really studied was the German language and life in Germany; and he too could never show enthusiasm for either civil law or anything that was German, except music. He had hit upon a study that was as much a misfit as his brother's selection of the law. Yet even at this time, at Antwerp, he 'felt his middle ages and the 16th century alive,' and he received a lasting impression of mediæval Rome, destined to colour his later life. Returning to the United States he became his father's secretary in Washington.
Neither had yet found his bent; and, of the two, Henry appeared destined to follow his father into public life. In the event their immediate careers were to be imposed upon them, for the war between the States intervened and gave new direction to half-formed ambitions. Washington was the political centre. While the South was ripe for secession, the North drifted, unconscious of the seriousness of the situation, without a policy to fit the crisis, and resorting to compromises which created a false sense of security and in the end precipitated the conflict. Henry Adams, thus brought into immediate contact with public affairs under the best of auspices, wrote for the press, undoubtedly reflecting the views of his father, yet showing sufficient
independence to indicate ability to think for himself. When he accompanied his father to London to serve as his private secretary, though unrecognised by the Government, it was an experience beyond pay or recognition. Again he corresponded anonymously with a New York journal, until an accident gave him a notoriety, dangerous not so much to himself as to the interests of the Legation. Thrown back upon himself and possessing the secrets of the Minister, he studied, read widely, observed and digested, without trusting his thoughts to paper, except to his brother Charles, to whom he wrote often and freely. These letters, printed in the Cycle,' are marked by a power of expression that altered but little during his life. He criticised freely and sharply and without giving an impression of extravagance. To say that he had the example of a father of exquisite balance and self-contained to a fault constantly before him is no explanation. Even the elder Adams could
dance across the hall'on good news from America. The poise which belonged to the college student, the New Englander's strength, Henry says, remained to qualify his opinions and judgment at a time when the Minister confidently expected dismissal. The Education' abounds in good portraits of public characters both in the United States and in England; and the Cycle' proves the readiness with which such impressions became fixed in words. Almost thirty years divide the record made at the time and the matured judgment of the · Education.' There is a difference chiefly in treatment, but the essentials remain unchanged.
The years in London produced a lasting effect upon Henry Adams. They fixed qualities of mind already taking form, gave à decided bent to his tastes, and supplied him with a measure for judging the standards of other peoples-an international measure. Not that he was markedly English. He grew to like London, as Dr Johnson had liked it; he enjoyed English society, or rather one side of it; he valued the solid construction
: of English polity. But by inheritance he could never become really English in feeling or sympathy. His father, educated at an English school, owed in great part his success to that training; he understood the English attitude ; but as a descendant of John and John
Quincy Adams he had imbibed views on British policy and methods which he handed down to his sons. This was not due to prejudice, but to knowledge resting upon history, as his position on the Trent affair proved. Yet Henry Adams could not but absorb something that only England could offer; and the most positive acquisition was a taste for science. Through Sir Charles Lyell he became interested in geology, and he drank deep of the influence of Darwin, whom he followed not from conviction, but because the authority of the Darwinians interested him. With much time to himself for reading, he speculated on many subjects, and not infrequently on himself. Writing in February 1862, he said :
You find fault with my desponding tone of mind. So do I. But the evil is one that probably lies where I can't get at it. I've disappointed myself, and experience the curious sensation of discovering myself to be a humbug. How is this possible? Do you understand how, without a double personality, I can feel that I am a failure? One would think that the I which could feel that, must be a different ego from the I of which it is felt.' And again:
The more I see, the more I am convinced that a man whose mind is balanced like mine, in such a way that what is evil never seems unmixed with good, and what is good always streaked with evil-an object seems never important enough to call out strong energies till they are exhausted, nor necessary enough not to allow of its failure being possible to retrieve-in short, a mind which is not strongly positive and absolute, cannot be steadily successful in action, which requires quietness and perseverance. I have steadily lost faith in myself ever since I left college; and my aim is now so indefinite that all my time may prove to have been wasted, and then nothing left but a truncated life.'
In the meanwhile Charles Adams had laid aside his law pursuits and entered the army. For years our family,' he wrote to his father, “has talked of slavery and of the South, and been most prominent in the contest of words, and now that it has come to blows does it become us to stand aloof from the contest?' Admitting that he was not a soldier by nature—for he hated war in itself and the destruction it involved and that no
military career offered him a permanency, he was eager to participate, instinctively recognising that the camp was for him the best of training-schools. It compelled him to mix with men. His army experience-'altogether the most beneficial of my life educationally,' he once said-is fully described in the 'Cycle of Adams Letters, and was more notable for its effects upon himself than for military achievement. In these letters, written to his family without a thought of publication, the expression is natural and vigorous, the descriptions of camp life and cavalry service are vivid and picturesque. Conscientious in the performance of duty, he was considerate of his men and horses, regardful of the lives and property of
he captured enemy, self-sacrificing when friend or regiment could be bettered. Under trying conditions he preserved discipline and schooled a naturally high-strung nature to subordinate itself to authority. He gained the confidence of his men and the respect of his associates, and so organised and trained his company or regiment as to win the praise of his superiors and offers of higher commands and staff appointments. He took the service as it came, without complaint and without shirking responsibility.
Mentally he had grown. With an active, questioning mind, certainty of judgment came slowly; and in a rush of rumours, intrigue, and impressions, even older heads went wrong and uttered foolishness. Charles Adams favoured some strange heroes who were in time to be shown inefficient or dishonest; he criticised severely men who made mistakes but who also repaired them and in so doing proved their own merit; he made predictions that in twenty-four hours were disproved, and planned campaigns which assumed so many favourable factors as to be unable to withstand a mild check. This was all natural, evidence of a mind trying its powers without the test of immediate responsibility and punishment for error. His military life closed with his leading his negro regiment into Richmond on the day when the Southern army evacuated the city. In four years he had seen the North aroused from its stupor; he had seen raw recruits changed into soldiers, a great army organised, negroes disciplined and regimented, slave labour become free and applied to cotton