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PREFACE These Recollections grew out of a long deferred purpose to publish a selection of my speeches on public questions, but in collecting them it became manifest that they should be accompanied or preceded by a statement of the circumstances that attended their delivery. The attempt to furnish such a statement led to a review of the chief events of my public life, which covers the period extending from 1854 to the present time. The sectional... more...

FOREWORD Naturally, there are chapters of my autobiography which cannot now be written. It seems to me that, for the nation as for the individual, what is most important is to insist on the vital need of combining certain sets of qualities, which separately are common enough, and, alas, useless enough. Practical efficiency is common, and lofty idealism not uncommon; it is the combination which is necessary, and the combination is rare. Love of... more...

CHAPTER I. THE ANCESTRY, BIRTH, AND CHILDHOOD, OF JOHN QUINCY ADAMS. The Puritan Pilgrims of the May-Flower landed on Plymouth Rock, and founded the Colony of Massachusetts, on the 21st day of December, 1620. HENRY ADAMS, the founder of the Adams family in America, fled from ecclesiastical oppression in England, and joined the Colony at a very early period, but at what precise time is not recorded. He erected his humble dwelling at a place... more...

Four American Leaders FRANKLIN The facts about Franklin as a printer are simple and plain, but impressive. His father, respecting the boy's strong disinclination to become a tallow-chandler, selected the printer's trade for him, after giving him opportunities to see members of several different trades at their work, and considering the boy's own tastes and aptitudes. It was at twelve years of age that Franklin signed indentures as an... more...

I.--Right and Law All human eloquence, among all peoples and in all times, may be summed up as the quarrel of Right against Law. But this quarrel tends ever to decrease, and therein lies the whole of progress. On the day when it has disappeared, civilisation will have attained its highest point; that which ought to be will have become one with that which is; there will be an end of catastrophes, and even, so to speak, of events; and society... more...


I.--Héloïse to Abélard Heloise has just seen a "consolatory" letter of Abelard's to a friend. She had no right to open it, but in justification of the liberty she took, she flatters herself that she may claim a privilege over everything which comes from that hand. "But how dear did my curiosity cost me! What disturbance did it occasion, and how surprised I was to find the whole letter filled with a particular and melancholy... more...

'Life is not all beer and skittles,' said a reflective sportsman, and all books are not fairy tales. In an imperfect state of existence, 'the peety of it is that we cannot have all things as we would like them.' Undeniably we would like all books to be fairy tales or novels, and at present most of them are. But there is another side to things, and we must face it. '"Life is real, life is earnest," as Tennyson tells us,' said an orator to whom I... more...

CHAPTER I. Early Discoveries in the Fifteenth Century. LEGENDS OF THE SEA. Modern familiarity with navigation renders it difficult for us to appreciate adequately the greatness of the enterprise which was undertaken by the discoverers of the New World. Seen by the light of science and of experience, the ocean, if it has some real terrors, has no imaginary ones. But it was quite otherwise in the fifteenth century. Geographical knowledge was but... more...

MY BIRTH AND PARENTAGE.—THE TREATMENT OF SLAVES GENERALLY IN MARYLAND. I was born in the state of Maryland, which is one of the smallest and most northern of the slave-holding states; the products of this state are wheat, rye, Indian corn, tobacco, with some hemp, flax, &c. By looking at the map, it will be seen that Maryland, like Virginia her neighbour, is divided by the Chesapeake Bay into eastern and western shores. My birthplace... more...

You who know something of the irony of life in general, and still more of it in the present particular, will not be surprised that, having made two strict rules for my guidance in the writing of this book, I break them both in the first page! Indeed, I can hear you say, though without any touch of the satirical, that it was only natural that I should do so. The first of my two rules, heartily approved by you, let me add, is thatI should not... more...