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JQA Diary, volume 38 7 November 1830
JQA

1830-11-07

Neal Millikan Religion
28

7. V:30. Sunday.

My Son Charles came out from Boston, dined with us, and returned this Evening. I heard Mr Whitney in the forenoon from John 3.20. “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved”—and in the afternoon from 1. Timothy 1.17. “Now unto the king, eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” These were both old Sermons— Spent the Evening in writing; and reflecting upon this new incident which has drifted me back again amidst the Breakers of the Political Ocean— It is also a novelty in the history of the Country; and as a precedent may have no unimportant bearing upon future Events— By the Constitution of the United States, the President is re-eligible as long as he lives— Washington, Jefferson and Madison, voluntarily retired after one re-election—and Jefferson no doubt intended to make the example a practical exposition of Constitutional principle— It was followed by Mr Monroe, perhaps with not much cordiality; and will be continued as long as a Presidential Term of eight years shall wear out the popularity of the person holding the Office. One of the consequences of this has been and will be that Ex President’s will survive many years the termination of their Offices— That as individuals they will take a part in public affairs, and that they will sometimes solicit, and sometimes be elected to subordinate Offices— All the preceding President’s have held Offices of a public nature, after the expiration of their Presidential Service— None however as a member of either house of Congress; and there are many who think it now a derogatory descent— This is a mere prejudice; and had I alledged my former Station as a Reason for rejecting the suffrages of the People, assigning me a Seat in the House of Representatives, I should not merely have been chargeable with Arrogance, but should have exposed myself to ridicule. So far as concerns myself I consider this new Call to the public Service as a misfortune: inasmuch as it takes from me the last hope of an old age of quiet and leisure. I am still to be buffeted with political rancour and personal malignity; with more than equal chances of losing the favour even of those who now think they honour themselves by their suffrages more than me. My return to public life in a subordinate Station is disagreeable to my family and disapproved by some of my friends; though no one of them has expressed that disapprobation to me— For the discharge of the duties of this particular Station I never was eminently qualified; possessing no talent for extemporaneous public speaking; and at this time being in the decline of my faculties both of mind and body. This event therefore gives me deep concern and anxious forebodings. Yet can I not withhold my grateful acknowledgment to the disposer of human Events, and to the People of my native region for this unexpected testimonial of their continued confidence, after all the combinations of personal rivals, and political competitors to shake it— [“]The heart knoweth its own bitterness; and a Stranger, intermeddleth not with its joys”— No one knows, and few conceive the agony of mind that I have suffered from the time that I was made by circumstances, and not by my volition a candidate for the Presidency till I was dismissed from that Station by the failure of my Re-election— They were feelings to be suppressed, and they were suppressed—no human being has ever heard me complain— Domestic Calamity far heavier than any political disappointment or disaster can possibly be, overtook me immediately after my fall from power, and the moment of my distress was seized, by an old antagonist, 29to indulge a hatred overflowing with the concentrated rancour of forty years; and who could not resist the pleasure of giving me what he thought the finishing blow, at the moment when he saw me down— It seemed as if I was deserted by all mankind, and precisely at that time the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Literary and Scientific Institution of my native State, which for a Series of years during my prosperity had annually elected me their President when it was impossible for me to attend their Meetings, thought proper to substitute another President in my place— In the French Opera of Richard Coeur de Lion, the minstrel Blondel, sings under the walls of his prison a song beginning

“Oh! Richard! Oh! mon Roi— L’Univers t’abandonne.”

when I first heard this Song, forty-five years ago, at one of the first Representations of that delightful play, it made an indelible impression upon my memory, without imagining that I should ever feel its force so much closer home— In the year 1829. scarce a day passed that did not bring it to my thoughts— In the course of past Winter a vacancy occurred in the Board of Overseers of Harvard University— Absent, I was very unexpectedly elected to fill that vacancy— I attributed this to the personal friendship and influence of President Quincy— But this call upon me by the People of the District in which I reside, to represent them in Congress, has been spontaneous; and although counteracted by a double opposition; federalist and Jacksonite, I have received nearly three votes in four, throughout the district. My Election as President of the United States was not half so gratifying to my inmost Soul— No election or appointment conferred upon me ever gave me so much pleasure— I say this to record my Sentiments—but no Stranger intermeddleth with my Joys, and the dearest of my friends have no sympathy with my Sensations.