“He is, I believe, the most extraordinary man living. I have with my own eyes seen the slaveholders literally quake and tremble through every nerve and joint, when he arraigned before them their political and moral sins. His power of speech has exceeded any conception I have heretofore had of the force of words or logic.”
At last his enemies in Congress decided that they would endure his attacks no longer. They took counsel together and agreed upon a plan of operations looking to his expulsion from that body. As one of his biographers, also a distinguished Congressman, expressed it: “It was the preconcerted and deliberate purpose of the slave-masters to make an example of the ringleader of political Abolitionism. They meant to humiliate and crush him, and this they did not doubt their power to do.”
Mr. Adams submitted a petition, without giving it his personal endorsement, asking for a dissolution of the Union. That furnished the pretext his enemies wanted. They accused him of treason in countenancing an assault upon the Union, although they were at the time engaged in laying the foundation of a movement looking to its ultimate overthrow. The outcome of this undertaking was one of the most thrilling scenes ever witnesssd in the American Congress; or, for that matter, in any other deliberative assembly.
Preparations for the affair were made with great elaborateness. The galleries were filled with the friends, male and female, of pro-slavery Congressmen. The beauty and chivalry of the South were there. They had come to witness the abasement of the great enemy of their most cherished institution. They were to see him driven from the nation’s council chamber, a crushed and dishonored man. Not one friendly face looked down upon him as he sat coolly awaiting the attack, and upon the floor about him were few of his colleagues that gave him their sympathies.
The two most eloquent Congressmen from the South were selected to lead the prosecution. One was the celebrated Henry A. Wise, of Virginia; the other “Tom” Marshall, of Kentucky. The latter opened the proceedings by offering a resolution charging Mr. Adams with treasonable conduct and directing his expulsion. He supported it with a speech of much ingenuity. Wise followed in a fiery diatribe. Both speakers imprudently indulged in personal allusions of a somewhat scandalous nature, thus laying themselves open, with episodes in their careers of questionable propriety, to retaliation from a man who thoroughly knew their records. At this point we have the testimony of an eye-witness: