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JQA and a Conversation with John C. Calhoun

His conversation with John C. Calhoun would lead him to some revealing passages in his diary. Calhoun thought it [Missouri Compromise] would not produce a dissolution of the Union, but potentially an alliance with a foreign power, like Great Britain, which Adams countered would be essentially “returning to the colonial state.” After discussing the remote possibility of the North being cut off from the sea as a result of an alliance, Adams pursued the question no further. But, in his diary, he expounded. The dissolution of the Union, he felt, would be immediately followed by the “universal emancipation of the slaves.” A more remote consequence, and by Adams’s account, a dreadful one at that, would be “the extirpation of the African race on this continent, by the gradual bleaching process of intermixture, where the white portion is so predominant, and by the destructive progress of emancipation . . . so terrible in its means, though happy and glorious in its end.” Adams admitted to himself that “slavery is the great and foul stain upon the North American continent” and “the dissolution must be upon a point involving the question of slavery, and no other.” The conversation with Calhoun, Adams admitted, led him down a road of major soul-searching and personal reflection, noting that “a life devoted to it would be nobly spent or sacrificed.”


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