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Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) [Speech fragment on the proposed annexation of Texas]

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00567 Author/Creator: Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) Place Written: Washington, D.C. Type: Autograph manuscript Date: circa July 1838 Pagination: 2 p. ; 20 x 16 cm.

Summary of Content: Report of Adams to his constituents on events in the 25th Congress, intended for newspaper publication. Adams mentions the speech of Vermont Congressman William Slade, which so offended southerners that they walked out. Discusses annexation of Texas, abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, duplicity of administration and Southern slave states as well as the suspension of the rules of the House of Representatives for debate. Beginning on 16 June 1838, Adams filibustered Congress for three weeks, giving up the floor only when Congress adjourned for the summer recess. He spoke continuously against slavery, the gag rule and, most especially, the annexation of Texas. This fragment was previously believed to have been a part of speech delivered in 1842. Congress ended its session on 9 July, but Adams lingered in Washington to write out and publish his extemporaneous address. Adams roused public opinion against annexation to such an extant that the Van Buren administration withdrew support for annexation. Paginated 13 and 14. Draft preface to Adams's pamphlet publishing his filibuster speeches concerning the annexation of Texas. These pages were expanded for the preface of the pamphlet printing (pp. 3-8) of his speeches given June 16-July 7th in the House.

Background Information: Texas had barely won its independence when it decided to become a part of the United States. A referendum held soon after the Battle of San Jacinto showed Texans favoring ...annexation by a vote of 3277 to 93.
The annexation question became one of the most controversial issues in American politics in the late 1830s and early 1840s. The issue was not Texas but slavery. The admission of Texas to the Union would upset the sectional balance of power in the U.S. Senate, just as the admission of Missouri had threatened to do 15 years earlier. In 1838, the elderly John Quincy Adams, now a member of the House of Representatives, staged a 22-day filibuster that blocked annexation.
At this point, proslavery Southerners began to popularize a conspiracy theory that would eventually bring Texas into the Union as a slave state. In 1841, John Tyler, an ardent defender of slavery, succeeded to the presidency on the death of William Henry Harrison. Tyler argued that Britain was scheming to annex Texas and make it a haven for runaway slaves. According to this theory, British slave emancipation in the West Indies had been an economic disaster, and Britain hoped to undermine Southern slavery by turning Texas into a British satellite state. In fact, British abolitionists, greatly worried that Texas might revive and stimulate the slave trade, were working to convince Texas to outlaw slavery in exchange for British foreign aid.
In the following fragment from one of his speeches, John Quincy Adams denounces proposals to annex of Texas.
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Full Transcript: [lacks beginning] annexation, had been put off with a sort of Return Jonathan refusal - He had been told with Solemnity of face that there was a doubt of the ...Constitutional power of Congress and the President to accept the proposal and moreover that they could not think of it now, because it would risk a War with Mexico, and violate the sacred Faith of Treaties. But Mr Jefferson had shewn how a Constitutional Carmel could be swallowed for the sake of Louisiana by palates accustomed to strain at a gnat, and the Chairman of the late Committee of Foreign Affairs professed his readiness and capacity to swallow another for the sake of Texas - And as to the War with Mexico, one President had told Congress seven months before that it would be justifiable, and his successor, even while alledging this pretence of War and the Sacred Faith of Treaties, was about to tell Congress not only that he himself agreed with his Predecessor that War would have been justifiable the Winter before, but that they both Houses of Congress had been of the same opinion, and that it was now not only more justifiable, but indispensable, because the last magnanimous Appeal to the Justice and the fears of Mexico, heralded by a Courier from The Department of State, with the indulgence of one week for an answer, had totally failed.
Fellow Citizens, [struck: there is a Class of human beings who according to the vulgar present should have good memories.] - You shall seldom fail to detect the double-dealer if you compare his words at different times with each other, and his words and his actions together - The professions of objection to the proposal of Mr Memucan Hunt were false and hollow - Consent and fierce desire for the seemingly repudiated connection were at the heart. Instead of a prompt, positive and final refusal, as represented by the Chairman of the late Committee of Foreign Affairs, it was a mere negative pregnant; a provocation to perseverance, like that of the lascivious lass in Virgil.
Malo me Galatea petit, lasciva puella,
Et fugit ad Salices, et se cupitante videri
And so has it been understood by the Legislature of Texas, which far from being discouraged by this ostensible rebuff to their addresses, have after full [2] deliberation resolved not to withdraw their Application.
The Anti Slavery Petitions presented at the late Sessions of Congress were signed by not less than three hundred thousand names - One would have imagined that this was sufficient evidence of the tranquilizing effect of the composing draught of Pinckney Laudanum - But on a motion of Mr Slade of Vermont that one of these Petitions should be referred to a Select Committee with instructions to report a Bill to abolish Slavery in the District of Columbia, the Boiler of the peculiar Institutions exploded - Mr Slade in the course of his speech to support this motion asked emphatically the question
"What is slavery"? and he defined it with a master's hand. "A compound of every wrong that man can inflict upon Man."!
"They heard and were abash'd, and up they sprang
"Upon the wing."-
They deserted their seats in the House - They huddled together in a Committee room - sent for a reinforcement of Slave-representing members of the Senate - publicly notified by one of themselves, in the Hall of the House of Representatives, at the moment of the adjournment of the House, a Meeting of members from the Slave-holding States - and there, after two stormy sittings of this Mongrel Assembly of Senators and Representatives, they chose Mr Patton of Virginia, to present to the House what he termed a conciliatory proposition - and after a speech laudatory to the condescension of the Slave-holders, for this gentle compromise of their rights, to foreclose all answer by calling for the Previous Question - And so with the next morning hour, it was executed -
The Rules of the House were suspended. - The conciliatory proposition was presented - The Speech of proud and self-admiring condescension was made and concluded with the magnanimous call for the Previous Question - And the Previous Question and the main question, the conciliatory proposition, were carried without allowing one word of debate by the votes of representatives of Northern and Western freemen, palmed upon them by the Slave holding conventicle, to which they had not even been admitted!
And what was this condescending conciliatory proposition? It was no other than [rest is missing]
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People: Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848
Slade, William

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Subjects: PresidentTexasWestward ExpansionWashington, D.C.SlaveryAfrican American HistoryReform MovementCongressGovernment and CivicsLaw

Sub Era: Age of Jackson

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