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er on the floor of the House, John Quincy Adams, “every kindness and courtesy imaginable.” Being perfectly familiar with the lear parliamentaria, he was ever prompt in his decisions. Questions of order might be multiplied, till the whole business of the House seemed to be in a state of irretrievable confusion ; but he instantly unravelled the knot and restored order and harmony. Discord and strife might shake the pillars of the capitol, but he quailed not from his duty. Whether frowns or smiles, favor or dislike, followed his decisions, he did not stop to inquire. He would not swerve a single hair's breadth from what he conceived to be right; and this he did, and to this he adhered, regardless of consequences personal to himself. At the close of the 24th Congress, in March, 1837, a unanimous vote of thanks to the Speaker was passed by the House. The sessions of the ensuing Congress were remarkable for the violence and asperity that signalized the proceedings. The discussions on the independent treasury, and other topics connected with the prevailing panic and derangement in the monetary affairs of the country, were exceedingly animated. Mr. Polk was often called upon to decide what were regarded as party questions; and though the same uprightness of principle, honesty of intention, and conscientious desire not to forget his moral responsibility, influenced his conduct, the opposition members, as was natural in their excited state of feeling which continued to be exhibited up to the very last day of the closing session, refused to unite in passing
* Reminiscences of John Quincy Adams, by an Old Colony Man.
the customary vote of thanks. The usual resolution was offered by an administration member, which produced a warm debate. It was at length adopted by the votes of the republican members; several of the opposition members also concurred in it, but the great body of them either voted in the negative or remained silent. Under almost any other circumstances this resolution would probably have been passed without a dissenting voice. No speaker elected as the candidate of a political party could have been more rigidly impartial than was Mr. Polk. To his opponents, doubtless, it sometimes seemed, in the ardor with which they pursued their efforts to render the administration of Mr. Van Buren unpopular, and to defeat its measures, that he was inclined to exert his power unnecessarily to thwart them, and that he was unduly governed by party feelings. But they were mistaken in his character. He was a party man, but not a bitter or vindictive partisan. If his political prejudices even led him into an unintentional error, what member of the 25th Congress belonging to the opposition, could say—“Stand aside, for I am holier than thou!” Where all were excited to an extent hitherto unexampled, who had the right to censure his fellow? In adjourning the House on the 4th of March, 1839, and terminating forever his connection with the body, of which he had been so long a member, Mr. Polk delivered a farewell address of more than ordinary length, but characterized by deep feeling. “When I look back to the period,” said he, “when I first took my seat in this House, and then look around me for those who were at that time my associates here, I find but few, very few, remaining. But five members who were here with me fourteen years ago, continue to be members of this body. My service here has been constant and laborious. I can perhaps say what but few others, if any, can, that I ...have not failed to attend the daily sittings of this House /a single day since I have been a member of it, save on - a single occasion, when prevented for a short time by indisposition. In my intercourse with the members of this body, when I occupied a place upon the floor, though occasionally engaged in debates upon interesting public questions, and of an exciting character, it is a source of unmingled gratification to me to recur to the fact, that on no occasion was there the slightest personal or unpleasant collision with any of its members. Maintaining, and at all times expressing, my own opinions firmly, the same right was fully conceded to others. For four years past, the station I have occupied, and a sense of propriety, in the divided and unusually-exciting state of public opinion and feeling, which has existed both in this House and the country, have precluded me from participating in your debates. Other duties were assigned me. “The high office of Speaker, to which it has been twice the pleasure of the House to elevate me, has been at all times one of labor and high responsibility. It has been made my duty to decide more questions of parlia. mentary law and order, many of them of a complex and difficult character, arising often in the midst of high excitement, in the course of our proceedings, than had been decided, it is believed, by all my predecessors, from the foundation of the government. This House has uniformly sustained me, without distinction of the political
parties of which it has been composed. I return them my thanks for their constant support in the discharge of the duties I have had to perform.
“But, gentlemen, my acknowledgments are especially due to the majority of this House, for the high and flattering evidence they have given me, of their approbation of my conduct as the presiding officer of the House, by the resolution you have been pleased to pass. I regard it as of infinitely more value than if it had been the common matter-of-course, and customary resolution, which, in the courtesy usually prevailing between the presiding officer and the members of any deliberative assembly, is always passed at the close of their deliberations. I regard this as the highest and most valued testimonial I have ever received from this House; because I know that the circumstances under which it has passed, have made it matter of substance, and not of mere form. I shall bear it in grateful remembrance to the latest hour of my life.
“I trust this high office may in future times be filled, as doubtless it will be, by abler men. It cannot, I know, be filled by any one who will devote himself with more zeal and untiring industry to do his whole duty, than I have done.”
Mr. Polk supported by the Democratic Party in Temnessee as their Candi
date for Governor—The Canvass—His Election—Inaugural Address—
Executive Recommendations—His Administration—A Candidate for Rečlection—Defeat—State Politics.
STILL higher honors awaited Mr. Polk. His long and arduous service in the national representation, and more especially the circumstances attending the presidential canvass of 1836, had familiarized the people of Tennessee with his name and character. To the republican party he was endeared by his sacrifices in their behalf, by his devotion to their interests, and his steadfast maintenance of their principles. They had marked, with pride and exultation, his manly bearing in the political contests through which they had passed; they had seen him display the gallantry of Hotspur with the prudent caution and wisdom of Worcester; they had witnessed the unsuccessful efforts which had been made to prostrate him as a public man; and they had rejoiced over his repeated triumphs, when so many adverse influences were arrayed against him.
Greatness is frequently the result of mere accident; and fame, like the ignis fatuus, often shines the most brightly over the dead man's grave. Popular favor is sometimes hard to win, and then again it is easily acquired, but, it may be as easily lost. The career of a