John Quincy Adams to Arthur Tappan (7/15/1845)

Citation Information:

Adams, John Quincy, “No action of mine can…contribute…to the abolition of Slavery.” John Quincy Adams to Arthur Tappan. July 15, 1845. GLC 3891

  1. It would be far more agreeable to me, to concur in opinion with you upon the controverted principles connected in the abolition of Slavery, than to differ with you; but it is a case in which my judgement depends not upon will.—My opinion is that Slavery never will be abolished in the District of Columbia otherwise than it has been abolished in Pennsylvania, New York, and other States—prospectively—. Two years ago, I offered to the House Resolutions to that effect. The House refused to receive them and the leading abolitionists declared their explicit disapprobation of them.
  2. Since that time…I have concluded that no action of mine can in the present state of things contribute either to the abolition of Slavery in general, or to its extinguishment in the District of Columbia. Believing as I do that this great revolution in the history and condition of man upon the earth will be accomplished by the will of his maker, and through means provided by him in his good time, I have felt the obligation to act my part in promoting it so far as any exertion on my part may be cheered by his smile of approbation inseparable from success. But when I find my opinions…conflicting with the deliberate judgement and purpose of both parties in this great controversy, I feel the finger of Heaven pressing upon my lips and dooming me to silence and inaction. I consult the sortes biblicae [the words of the Bible], and read that when David proposed to build a Temple to the Lord, the prophet, speaking from the inspiration of his own mind, approved his design and exhorted him to carry it into execution. But when reposing upon his pillow, the Lord appeared to him in vision, and commanded him to go to David and tell him, to build a Temple to the Lord, but that he was not the chosen instrument to accomplish that great undertaking, but that it was to await the halcyon age reserved for the wisest of mankind, Solomon, his son.