Posted Saturday morning, February 11, 2017.
No way of knowing, of course, but given my temperament and the political inclinations that arise from that, if I'd been around in the early 19th Century I probably would have been a Jeffersonian and from that turned into a Jacksonian, and there I'd have been---defending slavery, the removal of the Cherokee, and the annexation of Texas and the War with Mexico. But sometimes I like to flatter myself by imagining that if I’d been alive in 1848, I’d have been a Whig. From John Quincy Adams: American Visionary by Fred Kaplan:
From his earliest years, Adams detested slavery: he was one of only two anti-slavery presidents between the founding of the country and the election of Lincoln. Like Lincoln thirty years later, Adams despised the populism, states’ rights, and pro-slavery policies of his successor, Andrew Jackson. The Whig Party, which came into existence in 1834 and lasted until 1856, and with which Adams became affiliated, was Lincoln’s until 1856. The policies that it advocated and those of the new Republican Party of 1860 were those of Adams’ presidency: strong central government, federally supported infrastructure policies, and effective but not expansive executive power.. Like Lincoln, Adams believed that the Constitution was a living document; the Western territories belonged to the entire American people; taxing and being taxed were essential to the responsible self-government; the country required a modern, national, and regulated banking system; slavery was an abomination that needed to be contained and ultimately eliminated; Native Americans deserved to be respected and brought into the American community; and the federal government had an important role to play regarding the “general welfare” in the creation of educational, scientific and artistic institutions, such as the Smithsonian Museum, the national parks, the service academies, and land-grant universities.
Next time some contemporary Republican claims to be member of the Party of Lincoln---Mike Pence seems especially fond of pulling this---give them this paragraph and ask them which part of them, calling their attention particularly to the bits on taxes, regulated banks, the Constitution as a living document---take that "strict constructionists"---and government support for education, science, art, and national parks.
I don’t remember thinking about it before, but not only did Lincoln and John Quincy Adams share the earth for nearly forty years, Lincoln’s one and only term in the House of Representatives coincided with Adams’ last. And they were members of the same caucus and were on the same side in opposing the war in Mexico which they saw for what it was, a land-grab to expand slavery.
When and how to end the war dominated national discussion. Public opinion had shifted, now favoring a speedy end, including a reasonable settlement with Mexico, though vigorous disagreements persisted as to how much territory, if any, the United States would gain, and how much indemnity, if any, Mexico would be forced to pay. [President James] Polk favored a heavy indemnity, though he wanted territory more than cash. Since Mexico had no means to pay any indemnity at all, it seemed to Admas an excuse to keep the war going for other purposes. When, in mid-January 1848, the House debated Polk’s claim that this was a just war that the United States had not started, Adams denounced the president’s refusal to provide documents about the start of the war that the House had requested. He was in his House seat when, in January 1848, Abraham Lincoln gave a blistering speech blasting Polk, and both men voted the same way on every resolution on the war, slavery, and internal improvements. There is no record that proves they spoke to one another. But Lincoln certainly took notice of a man he could not but deeply admire, and Adams noticed everything.
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