John Quincy Adams: His Theory and Ideas

By George A. Lipsky | Go to book overview

7
Race: Slavery, the Vice of the American System

If slavery be the destined sword in the hand of the destroying angel which is to sever the ties of this Union, the same sword will cut in sunder the bonds of slavery itself.

-- MEMOIRS, November 29, 1820

The cohesion and organization of a society are markedly influenced by the racial complexion of the group. In the absence of racial homogeneity significant social stresses and strains are apt to be present. In the presence of such homogeneity the problem of social cohesion is less difficult to solve. In addition to the fact of the racial structure of a group, the attitudes of the people themselves toward racial differences are of importance, on the old ground that it is not so much the nature of the fact as what people think is the fact that is important. Therefore, John Quincy Adams's views of race and of any particular status in society based upon race are an important guide in the process of assessing his general social views. We may with profit discuss this sector of his thinking, whereof his attitudes upon slavery and its effects will form an important part.

On his general views on race not so much may be written, for there was in his writings no explicitly stated doctrine. As Chief Executive, he expressed himself as always willing to see any person of color, whether Indian or Negro, and said that he would much prefer to see them than time-consuming placeseekers.1 He consigned the Indians to a permanently inferior position, since he thought them

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1
Memoirs, March 7, 1828, VII, 465.

-121-

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