September 28, 2002

Silly Saturday...a weekly ficitional foray
When I was very young I worked in John Quincy Adams’ administration as a quill-fetcher. My job was to keep the President supplied with quills and ink. “To Patagonia!” he would oft cry, when the demands of the office grew too heavy. “To Patagonia, there my rescue be effected!”. When he was especially disturbed he would add, “Get me to my livery!”, and to the horses we would fly, scent of clover rising in our nostrils.

Adams would often enough go to Massachusettes where he would find succuor in the clapboard walls of a simple Unitarian church. He would ascend the lectern and read from the Holy Books.

He regularly called former President Monroe for advice and counsel. Often it was for betting advice. The greyhounds ran every Thursday, and he knew little about dogs. Monroe’s clipped British accent gave away his patrician background. He was of the last vestige of the founders while Adams was part of the next generation. Adams always thought the accent was feigned and resented it.

I rubbed shoulders with Calhoun and Clay by way of Adams. Not to mention his crotchety old father who thumbed Thucydides greedily, cider at his elbow. Calhoun loomed as a bellicose presence, smart as a whip, with a deep, resourceful pride that occasionally frothed like a oil spigot. Clay was more concillatory. Clay’s eye for the ladies once got him in trouble. He said “physical intimacy, like political office, should not be sought, nor declined”. His wife pulled a Ruth Buzzi on him after that, and women had lots more in their purses back then (folded-up hoop skirts are extremely heavy).

Calhoun’s wounded, deep-set eyes put fear in me. “Slavery is natural. The ancient Greeks and the Roman Republic both had slavery”. I shuddered - if he thought that way, how could not the entire South?

”If this brilliant Yale-educated Southern leader feels this way..” Adams’ voice trailed off. “Oh why must all the great orators be Southern?”.

I mumbled something about the nature of the Cavalier culture and the oral tradition of the South but I soon gathered it was merely a rhetorical question.

“The devil’s greatest ploy is to convince that ‘it is natural’,” I said. “That is the most compelling of his lies.”

Adams played with the stubble of his chin-beard.

“Yes, men are comfortable with the natural, feeling it from God and therefore without culpability.”

“Conveniently ignoring the Fall, of course.”

“Yes…forgetting that what feels natural to fallen man is different from the natural to prelapsarian Man..My you are a precocious one. How old are you?”

“I’ll be ten next month.”

“My word.”

We lapsed into a thoughtful silence while he chewed his fine Virginian cigar.

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