“Then uprose that bald, gray old man of seventy-five, his hands tremulous with constitutional infirmity and age, upon whose consecrated head the vials of tyrannic wrath had been outpoured. Unexcited he raised his voice, high-keyed, as was usual with him, but clear, untremulous, and firm. Almost in a moment his infirmities disappeared, although his shaking hand could not but be noted, trembling, not with fear, but with age.”
His speech was absolutely crushing. He met every point that had been urged against him and triumphantly refuted it. He handled his oratorical antagonists with merciless severity, depicting certain events in their lives with such vividness that the onlookers gazed upon them with visible and unmistakable pity. Said one of these men when he afterwards understood that a certain party was about to engage in a controversial debate with Mr. Adams, “Then may the Lord have mercy on him.”
Mr. Adams was not expelled. His opponents frankly admitted their discomfiture and dropped the whole business.
It cannot be denied that John Quincy Adams, almost by his unaided efforts, preserved and sustained the life of the Anti-Slavery cause at a time when it was almost moribund. He plowed the ground, cutting a deep and broad furrow as he went his way, and in the upturned soil such laborers as Birney and Garrison and Chase planted the seed that rooted and grew until it yielded a plentiful harvest.
The divergent characteristics of the East and the West were never more clearly shown than in the progress of the Anti-Slavery movement. Efforts were made to plant Abolition societies at various points throughout the West, but they failed to take permanent root and soon disappeared. The failure was not due to any lack of interest, but rather to an excess of zeal on the part of the Western supporters of the cause. Society organizations on the lines of moral suasion were too slow and tame to suit them. They preferred the excitement of politics. They believed in the superior efficacy of a political party, and to its upbuilding they gave their energies and resources. In the “long run” they were amply vindicated, but for all that, the favorite Eastern method for organized effort had its advantages.
The East, and especially New England, always believed in societies. If anything of a public nature was to be promoted or prevented, a society always appealed to the New Englander as the natural instrumentality. There is a tradition that when Boston was ravaged by a loathsome disease, a number of its leading citizens came together and promptly organized an anti-smallpox society.