History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 3

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXI.
ACTS OF INDEPENDENCE.
FEBRUARY-APRIL 1776.

ON the ninth day of February John Adams had resumed his seat in congress, with Elbridge Gerry for a colleague, and with instructions from his constituents to establish liberty in America upon a permanent basis. He was in the happiest mood of mind, for the independence of his country seemed to him so bound up with the welfare of mankind that Providence could not suffer its defeat.

Looking into himself, he saw weaknesses enough, but neither meanness nor dishonesty nor timidity. Overweening selfesteem was his chief blemish. Having more learning than Washington, better knowledge of freedom as grounded in law than Samuel Adams, clearer insight into the constructive elements of government than Franklin, more readiness in debate than Jefferson, he could easily fancy himself the greatest of them all. He was capable of thinking himself the centre of any circle to which he had been no more than a tangent;and in age vanity sometimes bewildered his memory;but it did not impair the integrity of his conduct. He was humane and frank, generous and clement; if he could never sit placidly under the shade of a greater reputation than his own, his envy had hardly a tinge of malignity. He went to his task, sturdy and cheery and brave;he was the hammer and not the anvil, and it was for others to shrink from his blows. His courage was unflinching in debate, and everywhere else;he never knew what fear was. To his latest old age he saw ten times as much pleasure as pain in the world, and was ready to begin life anew and fight its battle over again.

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