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Copyright, 1887, 

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The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A. 
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XVII. SLAVERY . . " . , . . . . 69 


XIX. THE CRISIS OF 1837 ... . . 113 

XX. CLAY AND VAN BUREN . . . .128 

XXI. SLAVERY AGAIN . .... 152 

XXII. THE ELECTION OF 1840 . . . .171 

XXIII. CLAY AND TYLER ., . . , . . . 198 

XXIV. THE ELECTION OF 1844 , . .. % .228 
XXV. 1844-1849 . . . . . . 268 

XXVI. THE COMPROMISE OF 1850 . . . 315 





THE election of 1832 seemed to bury Henry 
Clay in defeat. But it was followed by events 
which made him again one of the most conspicu 
ous actors on the public stage. The tariff act of 
1828 had greatly intensified the dissatisfaction 
with the protective system long existing in the 
planting states. They complained that they had 
to bear all the burdens of that system without en 
joying any of its benefits ; that the things they 
had to buy had become dearer, while the things 
they produced and exported found a less profitable 
market, and that therefore ruin stared them in 
the face. This was in a great measure true. They 
further argued that, in a federative republic which 
cannot rest upon force alone, the concerns and 
wishes of any portion of the confederacy, even if 
that part be only a minority, should be carefully 
consulted ; that laws calculated seriously to affect 
the material interests of any part of the country 
should be agreed upon in a spirit of mutual accom- 


inodation ; and that the majority should not insist 
upon the execution of measures injurious to the 
minority simply because it had the power to do so. 

Such reasoning would have commended itself at 
least to the candid and respectful consideration of 
fair-minded men, had it aimed only at constitu 
tional means for its enforcement. But when it 
was accompanied with threats of the nullification 
of laws, and the eventual secession of states from 
the Union, it assumed the character of aggressive 
hostility to the Republic. 

The excitement on account of the tariff of 1828 
was kept under a certain restraint so long as it 
was expected that Jackson, although at first fa 
voring protection, would, as a Southern man, be 
mindful of Southern interests. He had, indeed, 
in his messages gradually abandoned the doctrine 
advanced in his Coleman letter, and recommended 
a revision of the tariff to the end of reducing the 
revenue and of giving up high protective duties as 
a system. But he signed the tariff act of 1832, 
which kept the protective system virtually intact. 
The agitation in the South then received a new 
impulse, and in South Carolina the nullifiers, for 
the first time, won complete possession of the state 

Calhoun, anticipating the acquiescence of Jack 
son in the continuance of the protective system, 
had elaborately formulated the doctrine of nullifi 
cation in an "Address to the People of South 
Carolina," published in the summer of 1831. It 


embodied the well known propositions that the 
Constitution is a mere compact between sovereign 
states ; that the general government is the mere 
agent of the same sovereign states ; that whenever 
any one of the parties to the compact any state 
considers any law made by the general govern 
ment to be unconstitutional, it may " nullify " that 
law, that is, declare and treat it as void and of 
no force. This, as Calhoun affirmed, was not in 
imical to the Union, but rather calculated to pro 
mote a good understanding among the states com 
posing it ; for, if that right of nullification were 
recognized, the majority would be more apt to 
listen to reason, and nullification would really be 
equivalent only to a suspension of the offensive 
law in the nullifying state or states, until the mis 
take committed by the majority should be rectified. 
If that mistake be not rectified, then the aggrieved 
state or states should have the constitutional right 
to secede from the Union. 

This doctrine, which in our days would scarcely 
find a serious advocate in the country, was then 
argued with a great display of political metaphy 
sics, and sincerely believed in by a very large 
number of people in South Carolina and other 
Southern States. In August, 1832, Calhoun put 
forth another manifesto, developing his constitu 
tional theory to the highest degree of perfection it 
ever attained, and urging an immediate issue on 
account of the oppressive tariff legislation under 
which the South was then suffering. 


The legislature of South Carolina was convened 
by the governor to meet on October 22, for the 
purpose of calling a convention " to consider the 
character and extent of the usurpations of the 
general government." The convention met on 
November 19, and adopted without delay an " or 
dinance " declaring that the tariff act of 1828, and 
the amendments thereto passed in 1832, were null 
and void ; that it should be held unlawful to en 
force the payment of duties thereunder within the 
State of South Carolina ; that it should be the duty 
of the legislature to make laws giving effect to the 
ordinance ; that all officers of the state should 
take an oath to obey and execute the ordinance 
and the laws made to enforce it ; that no appeal 
from a state court to the federal Supreme Court 
should be allowed in any case arising under any 
law made in pursuance of the ordinance ; and that, 
if the general government should attempt to use 
force to maintain the authority of the federal law, 
the State of South Carolina would secede from the 
Union, the ordinance to go into full effect on 
February 1, 1833. The legislature, which met 
again on November 19, passed the " appropriate " 
laws. But these enactments were not very fierce ; 
as Webster said, they "limped far behind the or 
dinance." Some preparation, although little, was 
made for a conflict of arms. 

There was an anti - nullification movement in 
South Carolina which caused some demonstrations 
against these proceedings. But the great families 


of the state, and with them the strongest influences, 
were overwhelmingly on the side of nullification. 
The nullifiers doubtless hoped for active sympathy 
in other Southern States. Webster, indeed, had as 
early as December, 1828, become " thoroughly con 
vinced" that "the plan of a Southern Confederacy 
had been received with favor by a great many of 
the public men of the South." But when South 
Carolina actually put forth her nullifying ordi 
nance, there seemed to be little eagerness outside 
of her borders to cooperate with her. Some South 
ern legislatures denounced the tariff as unconsti 
tutional, without, however, recommending nullifi 
cation and resistance. By some nullification was 
denounced. Virginia favored nullification, but of 
fered to mediate between South Carolina and the 
general government. What would have happened 
in case of a conflict of arms between the general 
government and the nullifying state is a matter of 
conjecture. It was apprehended by many that 
several Southern States would have been drawn 
into the conflict on the Carolinian side. 

President Jackson s annual message, which went 
to Congress on December 4, 1832, was remarkably 
quiet in tone. He congratulated the country upon 
the extinction of the public debt. " The protec 
tion to manufactures," he said, " should not exceed 
what may be necessary to counteract the regula 
tions of foreign nations, and to secure a supply of 
those articles of manufacture essential to the na 
tional independence in time of war." Beyond that 


he recommended a gradual diminution of duties to 
the revenue standard " as soon as a just regard to 
the faith of the government and to the preservation 
of the large capital invested in establishments of 
domestic industry will permit." He alluded to 
the discontent created by the high tariff, adding 
that the people could not be expected to pay high 
taxes for the benefit of the manufacturers, when 
the revenue was not required for the administra 
tion of the government. He also mentioned the 
opposition to the collection of the revenue in one 
quarter of the United States, but hoped that the 
laws would be found adequate to the suppression 

The message did not foreshadow a strong pol 
icy. John Quincy Adams wrote in his Diary : 
" It goes to dissolve the Union into its original 
elements, and is in substance a complete surrender 
to the nullifiers of South Carolina." Neither did 
it alarm the nullifiers. They saw reason to think 
that Jackson, who in the case of the Georgia In 
dians had acquiesced in the most extravagant pre 
tensions of the state, even refusing to enforce a 
decision of the Supreme Court of the United 
States, did not materially differ from them as to 
fche doctrine of state-rights. But both Mr. Adams 
and the nullifiers were mistaken. 

Six days later, on December 10, came out Jack 
son s famous proclamation against the nullifiers, 
which spoke thus : 

" The Constitution of the United States forms a gov- 


eminent, not a league ; and whether it be formed by 
compact between the states, or in any other manner, its 
character is the same. ... I consider the power to 
annul a law of the United States incompatible with the 
existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the 
letter of the Constitution, and destructive of the great 
object for which it was formed. . . . Our Constitution 
does not contain the absurdity of giving power to make 
laws, and another power to resist them. To say that 
any state may at pleasure secede from the Union is to 
say that the United States are not a nation." 

He appealed to the people of South Carolina, in 
the tone of a father, to desist from their ruinous 
enterprise ; but he gave them also clearly to un 
derstand that, if they resisted by force, the whole 
power of the Union would be exerted to maintain 
its authority. 

All over the North, even where Jackson had 
been least popular, the proclamation was hailed 
with unbounded enthusiasm. Meetings were held 
to give voice to the universal feeling. In many 
Southern States, such as Louisiana, Missouri, Ten 
nessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Maryland, Dela 
ware, and even Virginia, it was widely approved 
as to its object, although much exception was 
taken to the " Federalist " character of its doc 
trines. Clay was not among those opponents of 
Jackson who hailed this manifesto with unquali 
fied satisfaction. " One short week," he wrote to 
Brooke, " produced the message and the proclama 
tion, the former ultra on the side of state-rights, 


the latter ultra on the side of consolidation. How 
they can be reconciled, I leave to our Virginia 
friends. As to the proclamation, although there 
are good things in it, especially what relates to the 
judiciary, there are some entirely too ultra for me, 
and which I cannot stomach." It was perhaps not 
unnatural, after so painful a defeat, that Clay 
should be inclined to find fault with whatever 
Jackson might do. But there was, in truth, noth 
ing " too ultra " for him in Jackson s proclamation. 

The nullifiers in South Carolina received the 
presidential manifesto apparently with defiance. 
The governor of the state issued a counter-proc 
lamation. Calhoun resigned the vice-presidency, 
and was immediately sent to the Senate to fight 
the battle for nullification there. 

Now it was time for Congress to act. On De 
cember 27 a tariff bill, substantially in accord with 
the views expressed by the Secretary of the Treas 
ury in his report, was reported in the House of 
Representatives from the Committee of Ways and 
Means, by Mr. Verplanck. It was looked upon 
as an administration measure. It contemplated a 
sweeping reduction of tariff duties down to the 
standard of the tariff of 1816, " carrying back," 
as Benton says, " the protective system to the year 
of its commencement," the reduction to take 
place in the course of two years. The protection 
ists loudly protested against it, but it might have 
satisfied the nullifiers, as it virtually conceded in 
that direction all they could hope for. 


But another demonstration from the President 
intervened. The counter-proclamation of the Gov 
ernor of South Carolina had irritated him. He 
now uttered emphatic threats against the nullifiers, 
and sent a message to Congress asking for such an 
enlargement of the executive powers as would en 
able him to close ports of entry, remove custom 
houses that were interfered with, employ military 
force in holding goods for customs dues, and so on. 
He recommended also that the jurisdiction of the 
federal courts be extended over all revenue cases. 
The bill embodying these objects was currently 
called the " Force Bill," or, by South Carolinians, 
the " Bloody Bill." 

Thus the administration offered a timely reform 
with one hand, and a vigorous enforcement of the 
law with the other. South Carolina, too, less 
eager than before to bring on the decisive crisis, 
put off the day when nullification should practi 
cally begin. Both sides secretly desired and hoped 
to escape a conflict. But one day after another 
passed, and the end of the short session approached 
without anything being accomplished in the way 
of legislation. The Senate lost itself in seemingly 
endless talk about the various theories of the Con 
stitution as applicable to the " Force Bill," while 
the House appeared to be utterly unable to arrive 
at any conclusion on the tariff bill reported by 

It was then that Clay took the matter into his 
hands. On February 12, only twenty days before 


the final adjournment of the twenty-second Con 
gress, he offered in the Senate a tariff bill of his 
own, avowedly as a compromise measure. As it 
was finally shaped, it provided that, in all cases 
where the duties on foreign imports exceeded 
twenty per cent ad valorem, they should be reduced 
by one tenth of such excess after September 30, 
1833; by another tenth after September 30, 1835 ; 
and by another tenth every second year thereafter 
until September 30, 1841 ; then one half of the re 
maining excess should be taken off, and in 1842 
the remaining half, which would leave a gen 
eral rate of twenty per cent on dutiable goods. 
The free list also was to be much enlarged ; the 
duties were to be paid in cash, the credit system 
to be abolished. Home valuation valuation of 
imported goods at the port of entry was added 
by amendment, much against the wish of Calhoun. 
The introduction of such a bill by the champion 
of the " American system " was a great surprise to 
the public. The same Henry Clay who had so 
violently denounced Albert Gallatin as " an alien 
at heart," for having suggested a reduction of 
duties to about twenty-five per cent, himself now 
proposed a reduction to twenty per cent, and called 
it a protective measure. Most of the protection 
ists stood aghast. The faithful Niles cried out in 
agony : " Mr. Clay s new tariff project will be re 
ceived like a crash of thunder in the winter season, 
and some will hardly trust the evidence of their 
senses on a first examination of it, so radical and 


sudden is the change of policy proposed." This, 
no doubt, expressed the feelings of all protection 
ists except those with whom Clay had confidentially 

The measure proposed was not a sudden contriv 
ance on Clay s part. He himself subsequently 
said that he had conceived the plan while on a 
visit in Philadelphia, before the opening of the 
session, where he had conferences concerning it 
with several manufacturers, who concurred. It 
was communicated to Webster, who did not ap 
prove of it. Upon his return to Washington, Clay 
had interviews with Calhoun, who agreed to his 
scheme. Then and there a singular coalition was 
formed between the champion of protection and 
the most absolute free-trader ; the chief of the 
latitudinarians and the strictest of strict construc- 
tionists ; the emancipationist at heart and the dev 
otee of the divine right of slavery ; the most en 
thusiastic Union man and the apostle of the right 
of nullification and secession. 

The motives avowed by Clay for his course were 
plausible : that the majority in the next Congress 
already elected was known to be hostile to the pro 
tective system, and likely to resort to an immedi 
ate reduction of the tariff to a strict revenue basis ; 
that, if the present Congress should pass a law 
providing for moderate and gradual reductions as 
a solemn compromise, which would appeal for its 
maintenance to the honor and good faith of all 
parties to it, that would be so much gain to the 


protected interests ; that at the same time the 
measure would serve to avert the dangers threat 
ening the Union, for he feared seriously, that if 
in some way a conflict of arms should take place 
in South Carolina, other Southern States might, 
by the contagion of excitement following the shed 
ding of blood, be drawn into revolt and civil war. 
His biographer, Epes Sargent, who had the advan 
tage of Clay s supervision of his work, mentions 
in addition a secret and very probable motive : 
" An invincible repugnance to placing under the 
command of General Jackson such vast military 
power as might be necessary to enforce the laws, 
and put down any resistance to them in South 
Carolina, and which might extend he knew not 
where. He could not think, without the most se 
rious apprehensions, of intrusting a man of his 
vehement passions with such an immense power." 
These apprehensions became the more intense as 
he thought " he perceived, with some, a desire to 
push matters to extremities." Finally his con 
stant inclination to lead in everything naturally 
pushed him forward. 

But why did Calhoun assent to Clay s compro 
mise measure rather than wait for the much more 
thorough tariff bill of Verplanck? Although as 
earnest in his nullification movement as ever, Cal 
houn had begun to be seriously troubled as to the 
outcome of it in case things were carried to ex 
tremes. The story that Jackson had threatened to 
cause Calhoun to be arrested and hung for treason 


as soon as the authority of the United States should 
be resisted by force in South Carolina, and that 
Calhoun, hearing this,- was thrown into a paroxysm 
of fear, was mere gossip. But the enthusiastic 
reception of Jackson s proclamation by the people 
convinced Calhoun that nullification, as well as 
secession, would be met by force. He grew anx 
ious to end the trouble on the best terms he could 
obtain. But did not Verplanck s bill offer the best 
terms ? In one respect, yes ; in another respect, 
no. Verplanck s bill, although aiming at the 
greatest and speediest reduction of tariff duties, 
was not offered as a compromise measure. It was 
introduced as a simple fiscal scheme to reduce the 
revenue, as foreshadowed by Jackson s message, 
and as recommended in the report of the Secre 
tary of the Treasury. It was represented to be an 
administration measure. It would probably have 
been introduced if the nullification ordinance had 
never been adopted in South Carolina. Its pas 
sage, therefore, would not have been ostensibly a 
concession to the nullifiers. Moreover, it was by 
no means certain to pass. 

On the other hand, Clay s bill, although not 
carrying the reduction of tariff duties so far, was 
professedly a compromise. It was offered by 
the foremost champion of that protective system 
against which South Carolina had risen up, for the 
avowed purpose of conciliating the nullifiers by 
concession. Its enactment might therefore be 
looked upon as something extorted from Congress 


by the nullification movement, and thus as a vic 
tory by nullification. Calhoun, for this reason, 
was willing, and even eager, to sacrifice the possi 
bility of some material advantage for the honor 
and the future of his cause. 

To quiet the alarm of the frightened manufac 
turers, Clay, when introducing his bill, labored 
hard to prove that it was a protection measure. 
Some of the arguments he employed to this end 
were very curious. 

"There are four modes [he said] by which the indus 
try of the country can be protected : First, the absolute 
prohibition of rival foreign articles ; second, the im 
position of duties in such a manner as to have no refer 
ence to any object but revenue ; third, the raising as 
much revenue as is wanted for the use of , the govern 
ment and no more, but raising it from the protected 
and not from the unprotected articles ; and, fourth, the 
admission, free of duty, of every article which aided the 
operations of the manufacturers." 

" These," he said, " are the four modes for pro 
tecting our industry ; and to those who say that 
the bill abandons the power of protection, I reply 
that it does not touch that power, and that the 
fourth mode, so far from being abandoned, is ex 
tended and upheld by the bill." He would, as he 
said, have preferred the third mode as a general 
policy, but he recognized that the manufacturing 
industries could be protected by putting the raw 
material on the free list while reducing duties on 
everything else. He further set forth that what 


the manufacturers needed was stability in legisla 
tion, certainty at least for a fixed period of time. 
Such certainty, he argued, was given by his bill 
for the period of nine years ; for, although the 
present Congress could not bind its successors, yet 
every honorable man would consider himself in 
conscience bound to respect as inviolable the terms 
of a compromise. 

He felt the awkwardness of his position in offer 
ing a compromise to a party standing in an atti 
tude of defiance to the authority of the United 
States. He confessed to have felt " a strong re 
pugnance to any legislation at the commencement 
of the session," principally because he had " mis 
conceived, as he found from subsequent observa 
tion, the purposes which South Carolina had in 
view." He had supposed that the state had " ar 
rogantly required the immediate abandonment of a 
system which had long been the settled policy of 
the country." Supposing this, he had " felt a dis 
position to hurl defiance back again." But since 
his arrival at Washington he had found that South 
Carolina " did not contemplate force," for she dis 
claimed it, and asserted that she was merely mak 
ing an experiment, namely, " by a change in her 
fundamental laws, by a course of state legislation, 
and by her civil tribunals to prevent the general 
government from carrying the laws of the United 
States into operation within her limits." This, he 
admitted, was indeed rash and unjustifiable enough, 
but it was not so wicked as a direct appeal to 


force would have been. South Carolina was still 
open to reason, and it would therefore be wrong 
to precipitate a conflict. 

This was very light reasoning ; the only ground 
he had for it was that South Carolina had per 
mitted the 1st of February to pass by without exe 
cuting her threats. 

The compromise bill found much opposition in 
the Senate. Webster, especially, would not admit 
that it was a measure in accord with the principle 
of protection. Neither would he admit that this 
was an occasion for compromise. He thought it 
was time to test the strength of the government ; 
and he therefore stood sturdily by the President, 
their party differences notwithstanding. To recon 
cile discordant opinions, the compromise bill was 
referred to a select committee, of which Clay was 
chairman. The manufacturers had assembled a 
powerful lobby at Washington to oppose the bill as 
first framed. They insisted upon several amend 
ments, upon which, however, the committee could 
not agree. One of these, the provision for home 
valuation, was especially distasteful to Calhoun. 
But the manufacturing interest, which was strongly 
represented in the Senate, would not consent to the 
passage of the bill without it. Clay, therefore, 
undertook to move and support it in the Senate. 
This he did. Still Calhoun opposed the amend 
ment as unconstitutional, and oppressive to the 
South. Then Clayton of Delaware, an earnest 
protectionist, and so far a warm advocate of the 


compromise, moved to lay the bill on the table ; 
giving Calhoun and his friends to understand that, 
unless they all voted for that amendment, and 
finally for the bill with the amendment added to it, 
he would defeat the measure. Calhoun s friends 
begged for themselves and their chief to be spared 
the humiliation of such a vote. Even Clay gener 
ously interceded for them. But Clayton remained 
firm, saying, " If they cannot vote for a bill to save 
their necks from a halter, their necks may stretch." 
He insisted especially that Calhoun himself should 
vote for it, not without reason ; for Calhoun, as it 
was proved beyond doubt by several circumstances, 
desired the compromise to pass without his own vote, 
so that he might be at liberty afterwards to repudi 
ate such parts of it as did not suit his doctrines and 
aims. At last, when he saw that the compromise 
was doomed unless he consented to vote for the 
amendment, he promised to do so. Clayton with 
drew his motion to lay on the table, and the amend 
ment passed with the support of the nullifiers. 

Meanwhile the Force Bill, vigorously advocated 
by Webster, had, after a long discussion, passed 
the Senate, John Tyler having made himself its 
conspicuous opponent. On February 25th Clay 
made a final appeal to the Senate for his measure 
of peace. Once more he assured the manufactur 
ers that his compromise was their only salvation ; 
that " the true theory of protection supposed, too, 
that after a certain time the protected arts would 
have acquired such strength and protection as 


would enable them subsequently to stand up against 
foreign competition." Then, in his most captivat 
ing, heart-winning strains, he sought to persuade 
the Senate that the Force Bill and the bill of peace 
should go together for the good of the country : the 
one to "demonstrate the power and the disposition 
to vindicate the authority and supremacy of the 
laws of the Union ; " the other, to " offer that 
which, accepted in the fraternal spirit in which it 
was tendered, would supersede the necessity of the 
employment of all force." He closed with a re 
markable outburst of personal feeling. " I have 
been accused of ambition in presenting this meas 
ure. Ambition ! inordinate ambition ! Low, grov 
eling souls, who are utterly incapable of elevating 
themselves to the higher and nobler duties of pure 
patriotism, beings who, forever keeping their 
own selfish aims in view, decide all public meas 
ures by their presumed influence on their aggran 
dizement, judge me by the venal rule which they 
prescribe for themselves. I am no candidate for 
any office in the gift of these states, united or 
separated. I never wish, never expect, to be. Pass 
this bill, tranquilize the country, restore confidence 
and affection in the Union, and I am willing to go 
to Ashland and renounce public service forever. 
Yes, I have ambition. But it is the ambition of 
being the humble instrument, in the hands of 
Providence, to reconcile a divided people, once 
more to revive concord and harmony in a distracted 
land, the pleasing ambition of contemplating the 


glorious spectacle of a free, united, prosperous, and 
fraternal people." It was the chronic candidate 
for the presidency who found it necessary to assure 
his hearers that his measure was in truth an in 
spiration of patriotism, and not a mere election 
eering trick. 

One objection to the compromise bill that a 
bill to raise revenue could not originate in the 
Senate was overcome, at the very moment he 
made this moving appeal, by a stroke of shrewd man- 
agement. The House of Representatives had been 
long and drearily wrangling over the Verplanck 
bill, when suddenly, on February 25th, Letcher of 
Kentucky, Clay s intimate friend and ally, moved 
to amend the Verplanck bill by striking out all 
after the enacting clause, and inserting a new set of 
provisions agreeing literally with Clay s compro 
mise bill as then shaped in the Senate. Clay s and 
Calhoun s friends in the House having been secretly 
instructed as to what was to come, and the opposi 
tion being taken by surprise, the amendment was 
adopted, and the bill so amended passed to a third 
reading the same day, " while members were put 
ting on their overcoats to go to their dinners." 
The next day the bill passed the House by 119 to 
85, and thus Clay s compromise was sent to the 
Senate in the shape of a House bill. The last 
objection being thus removed, the bill was adopted 
in the Senate "by 29 to 16. President Jackson 
signed it on the same day with the Force Bill, 
which had meanwhile passed the House, and thus 
the compromise of 1833 was consummated. 


The first object of the measure was attained : 
South Carolina repealed her nullification ordi 
nance. The manufacturers, too, gradually per 
suaded themselves that Clay, in view of the anti- 
protection character of the next Congress, had 
averted from them a more unwelcome fate. The 
compromise was received by the country, on the 
whole, with great favor ; as Benton expresses it, 
" it was received as a deliverance, and the osten 
sible authors of it greeted as benefactors, and their 
work declared by legislatures to be sacred and in 
violable, and every citizen doomed to political out 
lawry that did not give in his adhesion and bind 
himself to the perfecting of the act." Clay had 
once more won the proud title of " pacificator." 

But before long it became clear that, beyond the 
repeal of the nullification ordinance, the compro 
mise had settled nothing. The nullifiers strenu 
ously denied that they had in any sense given up 
their peculiar doctrine. They denounced the Force 
Bill as a flagrant act of usurpation, which must be 
wiped from the statute-book. While at heart they 
were glad of their escape from a perilous situation, 
they assumed the attitude of having only graciously 
accepted the terms of capitulation proposed by a 
distressed foe. Even the postponement of the day 
when nullification was practically to begin was, in 
appearance, yielded only to the friendly anxiety of 
Virginia, which had sent a "commissioner" to 
South Carolina to ask that favor. They treated 
the assertion, that the compromise act was a pro. 


tection measure, as little better than a joke. They 
represented the reduction of the tariff duties as a 
concession extorted by a threat, as a palpable 
triumph of the nullification movement. In one 
word, not only the compromise did not include the 
abandonment of the doctrine that a state could 
constitutionally nullify a law of the United States, 
but it rather served to give the believers in that 
doctrine a higher opinion of its efficacy. In fact, 
attempts to terrorize the rest of the Union into 
compliance with the behests of the South became 
a settled policy when the slavery question came to 
the foreground ; and this was owing in a large 
measure to the encouragement given to the spirit 
of resistance in 1833. 

Clay evidently failed to understand at the time 
that there was something more potent and impe 
rious than mere discontent with a tariff at the 
bottom of the chronic trouble, the necessities of 
slavery; and that a mere tariff compromise could 
only adjourn, but by no means avert, the coming 
crisis, nor touch the true cause of it. In later years, 
however, he is reported to have often said to his 
friends, when speaking of the events of 1833, that, 
" in looking back upon the whole case, he had come 
seriously to doubt the policy of his interference." 

One thing was, indeed, gained for the Union. 
Jackson by his proclamation, and Congress by pass 
ing the Force Bill, had strongly asserted the suprem. 
acy of the general government in all national con 
cerns, and the principle that the Republic cannot 
be dissolved in a constitutional way, or by anything 


short of a revolutionary act ; and the popular mind 
had familiarized itself with the idea that the Union 
was to be maintained by all the power at the com 
mand of the general government. Clay also, in 
his compromise speeches, had affirmed this princi 
ple in emphatic language ; but the stronger im 
pulse was given by those who, like Jackson and 
Webster, declared themselves ready to test the 
strength of the government, rather than by him 
who sought to preserve the Union by concession 
under a threat. 

It was during the debate on the compromise bill 
that Clay and John Randolph met for the last time. 
Randolph, in the last stage of consumption, was 
on his way to Philadelphia, seeking medical aid. 
Passing through Washington, he desired to be car 
ried to the Senate chamber. At the moment he 
arrived there, Clay obtained the floor to speak for 
conciliation. Randolph, stretched on a lounge, 
raised his head and said, " I came here to hear that 
voice once more." When Clay had finished his re 
marks he approached his old antagonist, who was 
soon to die, and they shook hands. 

Immediately before the adjournment Clay s Land 
Bill, providing for the distribution of the proceeds 
of land sales among the states, passed both houses. 
Jackson neither signed it, nor did he return it with 
his veto. Taking advantage of the shortness of 
the time before the adjournment, he permitted the 
bill to die unsigned, by a so-called pocket veto ; 
and then he sent to Congress at its next session his 
reasons for disapproving it. 



IN June, 1833, General Jackson made a " presi 
dential tour " from Washington by way of Phila 
delphia to New York and the New England States. 
His proclamation against the nullifiers was still 
fresh in men s minds, and the people received him 
everywhere with demonstrative and sincere enthu 
siasm. Clay was meanwhile at Ashland ; and how 
he enjoyed his rural life is pleasingly portrayed in 
a letter to Brooke, in May, 1833 : - 

" Since my return from Washington, I have been prin 
cipally occupied with the operations of my farm, which 
have more and more interest for me. There is a great 
difference, I think, between a farm employed in raising 
dead produce for market and one which is applied, as 
mine is, to the rearing of all kinds of live stock. I have 
the Maltese ass, the Arabian horse, the Merino and the 
Saxe-Merino sheep, the English Hereford and Durham 
cattle, the goat, the mule, and the hog. The progress of 
these animals from their infancy to maturity presents a 
constantly varying subject of interest, and I never go out 
of my house without meeting with some one of them to 
engage agreeably my attention. Then our fine green 
yard, our natural parks, our beautiful undulating 
country, everywhere exhibiting combinations of grass 


and trees or luxuriant crops, all conspire to render 
home delightful." 

But in spite of all this he informed Brooke that 
in July he would set out on a journey through 
Ohio to Buffalo, thence to Canada and New En""- 


land. He " intended " to travel " with as much 
privacy as possible." He wanted " repose." He 
wanted it so much that he had not yet decided 
whether he would return to the Senate. Only the 
situation of his Land Bill might determine him to 
do so. 

So Clay had his " progress," too, and after his 
return he wrote to Brooke : 

" My journey was full of gratification. In spite of 
ray constant protestations that it was undertaken with 
objects of a private nature exclusively, and my uniformly 
declining public dinners, the people everywhere, and at 
most places without discrimination of parties, took pos 
session of me, and gave enthusiastic demonstrations of 
respect, attachment, and confidence. In looking back 
on the scenes through which I passed, they seem to me 
to have resembled those of enchantment more than of 
real life." 

But as to the appearance of the two rivals be 
fore the people that summer, Jackson had, no 
doubt, the advantage. With the old lustre of mili 
tary heroship, he had the new lustre of the " savior 
of the Union," the " conqueror of nullification." 
Clay, indeed, was the "great pacificator," but 
Jackson was the strong man. However, Clay was 
delighted with the new evidences of his popularity, 


and, when he returned to Washington at the open 
ing of the twenty-third Congress, his bucolic pleas 
ures and his yearning for repose were readily for 
gotten. The session beginning in December, 1833, 
was to bring the two leaders face to face in a 
struggle fiercer than any before. 

Great things had happened during the summer. 
As soon as the issue between him and the Bank of 
the United States was declared, Jackson resolved 
that the bank must be utterly destroyed. The 
method was suggested by Kendall and Blair, of the 
Kitchen Cabinet. It was to cripple the available 
means of the bank by withdrawing from it and its 
branches the deposits of public funds. In the mes 
sage of December, 1832, Jackson had expressed 
his doubt as to the safety of the government de 
posits in the bank, and recommended an investiga 
tion. The House, after inquiry, resolved on March 
2, by 109 to 46 votes, that the deposits were safe. 
The bank was at that period undoubtedly solvent, 
and there seemed to be no reason to fear for the 
safety of the public money in its custody. But 
Jackson had made up his mind that the bank was 
financially rotten ; that it had been employing its 
means to defeat his reelection ; that it was using 
the public funds in buying up members of Con 
gress for the purposes of securing a renewal of its 
charter, and of breaking down the administration ; 
and that thus it had become a dangerous agency 
of corruption and a public enemy. Therefore the 
public funds must be withdrawn, without regard 
to consequences. 


But the law provided that the public funds 
should be deposited in the Bank of the United 
States or its branches, unless the Secretary of the 
Treasury should otherwise " order and direct," and 
in that case the Secretary should report his reasons 
for such direction to Congress. A willing Secre 
tary of the Treasury was therefore needed. In 
May, 1833, Jackson reconstructed his Cabinet for 
the second time. Livingston, the Secretary of 
State, was sent as Minister of the United States to 
France. McLane, the Secretary of the Treasury, 
the same who in December, 1831, had made a re 
port favorable to the bank, was made Secretary of 
State. For the Treasury Department Jackson 
selected William J. Duane of Philadelphia, who 
was known as an opponent of the bank. Jackson, 
no doubt, expected him to be ready for any meas 
ure necessary to destroy it. In this he was mis 
taken. Duane earnestly disapproved of the re 
moval of the deposits as unnecessary, and highly 
dangerous to the business interests of the country. 
He also believed that so important a change in the 
fiscal system of the government was a matter of 
which the Executive should not dispose without the 
concurrence of Congress. Nor was his opinion 
without support in the administration. A majority 
of the members of the Cabinet thought the removal 


of the deposits unwise. Even one of the members 
of the Kitchen Cabinet, Colonel Lewis, Jackson s 
oldest friend, entertained the same opinion. In 
fact, it was held by almost every public man who 


was consulted upon the subject. The exceptions 
were very few. In the business community there 
seemed to be but one voice about it. The mere ru 
mor that the removal of the deposits was in con 
templation greatly disturbed the money market. 

But all this failed to stagger Jackson s resolu 
tion. The- important question, what to do with 
the public funds after the removal from the United 
States Bank, whether state banks could be found 
to which they could be intrusted safely and upon 
proper conditions, puzzled and disquieted others, 
but not him. He was firm in the belief that the 
United States Bank used the public money to 
break down the government, and must therefore 
be stripped of it without unnecessary delay. But 
Duane refused. Jackson argued with him in vain. 
Duane knew that his position was at stake. He 
knew, as he afterwards said, that there was an " ir 
responsible cabal " at work, an " influence unknown 
to the Constitution and to the people," which took 
advantage of President Jackson s hot impulses. 
He would not become a party to a scheme the exe 
cution of which, in his opinion, would plunge the 
fiscal concerns of the country into " chaos." 

On September 18th Jackson caused to be read to 
the assembled Cabinet a paper, setting forth why 
the deposits should be removed, and declaring that 
he was firmly resolved upon that step as necessary 
to preserve the morals of the people, the freedom 
of the press, and the purity of the elective fran 
chise. He announced the measure to be his own ; 


he would take the responsibility. This paper was 
written by Taney, and evidently intended not only 
for the members of the administration, but for the 
public. The Cabinet, with the exception of the 
Secretary of the Treasury, bowed to Jackson s 
will. But Duane would not shelter himself behind 
the President s assumed responsibility to do an act 
which, under the law, was to be his act. He also 
refused to resign. If he had to obey or go, he in 
sisted upon being removed. Jackson then for 
mally dismissed him, and transferred Roger B. Ta 
ney from the attorney generalship to the treasury. 
Benjamin F. Butler of New York, a friend of Van 
Buren, was made Attorney General. 

Taney forthwith ordered the removal of the de 
posits from the Bank of the United States ; that is 
to say, the public funds then in the bank were to 
be drawn out as the government required them, 
and no new deposits to be made in that institution. 
The new deposits were to be distributed among a 
certain number of selected state banks, which be 
came known as the " pet banks." The amount of 
government money at that time in the United 
States Bank, which was to be gradually drawn out 
and not to be replaced by new government depos 
its, was $9,891,000. The bank resolved to curtail 
its loans to the extent of nearly 17,000,000, which 
sum had been the average of government deposits 
for several years. The money market became 
stringent. Many failures occurred. The general 
feeling in business circles approached a panic. 
The whole country was in a state of excitement. 


The twenty - third Congress, which met under 
these circumstances on December 2, 1833, became 
distinguished by the unusual array of talent in its 
ranks, as well as the stormy character of its pro 
ceedings. It was then that the great duel between 
Clay and Jackson, as the leaders of the opposing 
forces, reached its culmination ; and by Clay s side 
stood, now for the first time united in open oppo 
sition to Jackson, Webster and Calhoun. Jack 
son s supporters were in the minority in the Sen 
ate, but commanded a large majority in the House 
of Representatives. In his annual message the 
President announced that he had urged upon the 
Treasury Department the propriety of removing 
the deposits from the Bank of the United States, 
and that accordingly it had been done. He de 
nounced the bank as having attempted to corrupt 
the elections with money, and as being " converted 
into a permanent electioneering machine." The 
question was presented, he said, whether true rep 
resentatives of the people or the influence of the 
bank should govern the country. He accused the 
bank of attempting to force a restoration of the 
deposits, and to extort from Congress a renewal 
of its charter, by curtailing accommodations and 
hoarding specie, thus creating artificial embarrass 
ment and panic. 

The Secretary of the Treasury, Taney, in his 
report to Congress, argued that under the law he 
had the right to remove the deposits whenever in 
his opinion the public interest would be benefited 


by it, no matter whether the deposits were safe or 
not, and that Congress had divested itself of all 
right to interfere. He had, as an executive officer 
of the government, subject to the direction of the 
President, removed the deposits for reasons of 
public interest. By implication he admitted that 
the bank was solvent and the deposits safe. But, 
he argued, the bank, by asking Congress four years 
before the expiration of its charter for a renewal 
thereof, had submitted itself to the popular judg 
ment at the presidential election which was then 
impending. The people had pronounced against 
the bank. A renewal of the charter being there 
fore out of the question, it was best to begin with 
the removal of the deposits at once, instead of leav 
ing it to the last moment of the legal existence of 
the depository. He enlarged upon the President s 
message in criticising the conduct of the bank. 
Finally, he preferred state banks as depositories. 

Clay opened the attack on December 10. He 
offered a resolution calling upon the President to 
inform the Senate whether a paper concerning the 
removal of the deposits, purporting to have been 
read to the Cabinet on September 18, 1833, and 
alleged to have been published by the President s 
authority, was genuine or not, and, if genuine, to 
furnish a copy of it to the Senate. The resolu 
tion passed. This was an ill-considered movement, 
for it gave Jackson an opportunity for administer 
ing a smart snub to the Senate without leaving the 
Senate anything to reply. " I have yet to learn," 


he said in his special message, " under what con 
stitutional authority that branch of the legislature 
[the Senate] has a right to require of me an ac 
count of any communication, either verbally or in 
writing, made to the heads of departments acting 
as a cabinet council." He added : " Feeling my 
responsibility to the American people, I am will 
ing upon all occasions to explain to them the 
grounds of my conduct," a sentiment which, 
since his reelection, appeared frequently, and, as 
we shall see, in a much more significant form. 
The statesmen of the Senate shook their heads, 
but Jackson had altogether the best of the encoun 
ter in the eyes of the masses. 

This, however, was merely a preliminary skir 
mish. On December 26 Clay introduced two res 
olutions, one declaring that, by dismissing a Sec 
retary of the Treasury because that officer would 
not, contrary to his sense of duty, remove the de 
posits, and by appointing another for the purpose 
of effecting that removal, the President had " as 
sumed the exercise of a power over the Treasury 
of the United States not granted to him by the 
Constitution and laws, and dangerous to the liber 
ties of the people ; " and the other declaring that 
the reasons assigned by the Secretary of the Treas 
ury for the removal of the deposits were " unsatis 
factory and insufficient." 

The speech with which he opened the debate on 
these resolutions deserves to be studied as a piece of 
good debating, although the constitutional theory 


set f orth in it was based upon a fiction. " We are, * 
he began, " in the midst of a revolution, hitherto 
bloodless, but rapidly tending toward a total change 
of the pure republican character of the government, 
and the concentration of all power in the hands of 
one man." This he sought to prove by showing 
that President Jackson had assumed power over 
the Treasury which the Constitution had withheld 
from the Executive and expressly conferred upon 

During the. revolutionary period, and among the 
men who had grown up under the influence of its 
reminiscences, the great danger threatening free 
institutions in America was thought to be that the 
Republic would be turned into a monarchy by a 
change in the character of the Executive. The 
spectre of a " king " haunted their imaginations in 
a variety of shapes. In Jefferson s mind, it was 
a sort of British king of Hamiltonian pattern. 
Clay s king was a successful military chieftain like 
Jackson ; and Benton s a " money king," with a 
monster bank at his command. In the writings 
and speeches of that time we constantly meet dis 
mal predictions that, if this or that were done or 
permitted, the king would surely come. In the 
legislation of the first Congress under the Consti 
tution, organizing the government, there were also 
traces of an anxious desire to withdraw all finan 
cial concerns as much as possible from the influ 
ence of the Executive, sprung, perhaps, from the 
memories, familiar to all Americans, of the strug- 


gles in England against the royal pretension to 
hold both the sword and the purse, as well as of 
the revolutionary fight against taxation without 
representation. Thus it was not only provided in 
the Constitution that Congress should have the ex 
clusive power to lay and collect taxes, duties, im 
posts, and excises, to pay debts, and to borrow 
money on the credit of the United States, to coin 
money and regulate the value thereof, but the first 
Congress, creating the State, War, and Treasury 
Departments, made a remarkable distinction be 
tween them. While the State and the War De 
partments were, in the language of the law, called 
" executive departments," the Treasury Depart 
ment received no such designation. The Secreta 
ries of State and of War were commanded by the 
law " to perform and execute such duties as shall, 
from time to time, be enjoined on or intrusted to 
them by the President of the United States." The 
Secretary of the Treasury was not commanded by 
the law to perform such duties as might be in 
trusted to him by the President, but was com 
manded to perform certain duties enumerated in 
the act, and to make report, not to the President, 
but directly to Congress. 

The theory was, therefore, adhered to by many 
that the Secretary of the Treasury was not, like 
the heads of other departments, under the direc 
tion of the Executive, but that he was the agent of 
Congress, and that Congress substantially should 
control the Treasury Department. Clay held to this 


theory ; and, as the law creating the Bank of the 
United States provided that the public funds should 
be deposited in that institution, " unless the Secre 
tary of the Treasury should otherwise order and 
direct," and that, if he did otherwise order, he 
should promptly report the reasons to Congress, 
Clay concluded that the matter was left exclusively 
to the Secretary of the Treasury under the super 
vision of Congress ; and that, if the President in 
terfered with the Secretary s conception of his 
duty in the premises, it was an unwarranted inter 
ference with a department which the Constitution 
had placed under the special supervision of Con 
gress, and therefore a revolutionary attempt to 
overthrow the constitutional system. 

The answer suggesting itself was that, after all, 
the Constitution had intrusted the power of ap 
pointing the Secretary of the Treasury, not to Con 
gress, but to the President ; that the law, as con 
strued, recognized the powe,r of the President to 
remove that officer, giving the President in these 
respects the same power over the Secretary of the 
Treasury as over other officers of the government ; 
that, therefore, the President, having the power to 
remove the Secretary of the Treasury for reasons 
of his own, was practically intrusted with a super 
vision over the official conduct of that officer, and 
that, in effectually exercising that supervision 
through the power of removal, Jackson had tech 
nically acted within his constitutional authority. 

On the other hand, Congress, when making the 


law by which the Bank of the United States was 
created, had undoubtedly intended that the bank 
should have the public deposits ; that the Secre 
tary of the Treasury should be empowered to re 
move them only for weighty reasons; that those 
reasons should be as promptly as possible reported 
to Congress, not to satisfy mere curiosity, but to 
enable Congress to judge of them and to sanction 
or disapprove the act ; that it was certainly not con 
templated to give, either to the President or to the 
Secretary, power to effect so great a change in the 
fiscal system of the government as was involved in 
the transfer of the public deposits from the United 
States Bank to a number of hastily selected state 
banks, without consulting Congress ; and that in 
these respects the action of President Jackson in 
removing the deposits was a very high-handed pro 
ceeding. Clay s review of the reasons given by 
the Secretary for the removal was crushing, and 
remained in almost all points entirely unanswered. 

It is interesting that in the course of his speech 
Clay quoted Gallatin as authority, adding, " who, 
whatever I said of him on a former occasion, 
and that I do not mean to retract, possessed 
more practical knowledge of currency, banks, and 
finance than any man I have ever met in the pub 
lic councils." He did not retract what he had said 
before, but it looked as if he had become ashamed 
of it. 

The debate on Clay s resolutions lasted, with 
some interruptions, three months, calling out on 


Clay s side the best debating talent of the Senate, 
Webster, Calhoun, Ewing, Southard, and others. 
The resolutions had to undergo some changes, to 
the end of obviating constitutional scruples, and 
were finally, on March 28, adopted, the one declar 
ing the reasons given by the Secretary of the 
Treasury for the removal of the deposits " unsatis 
factory and insufficient," by 28 to 18 ; and the 
other, " that the President, in the late executive 
proceeding in relation to the public revenue, has 
assumed upon himself authority and power not 
conferred by the Constitution and laws, but in der 
ogation of both," by 26 to 20. Clay subsequently 
offered a joint resolution requiring the public de 
posits to be restored to the Bank of the United 
States, which passed the Senate, but failed in the 
House of Representatives. 

Meanwhile petitions had been pouring in from 
all sides setting forth that production and trans 
portation were hampered ; that an enormous num 
ber of laboring men were without work ; that busi 
ness was suffering fearfully from the inability of 
business men to obtain the necessary bank accom 
modations ; that there was general distress ; and 
that all this was attributable to the derangement 
of the banking business by the removal of the de 
posits. In the Senate these " distress petitions," 
which formed a great feature of the session, were 
presented with great pomp of eloquence, especially 
by Webster and Clay. 

An extraordinary scene occurred on March 7, 


when Clay, presenting a petition of working- 
men of Philadelphia, the " builders memorial," 
and speaking of the President s power to afford 
relief, suddenly turned upon the Vice-President, 
Van Buren, in the chair, and, as if involuntarily, 
moving down to the Vice-President s desk, apostro 
phized him personally in a most impressive burst 
of eloquence : 

" Those who in this chamber support the administra 
tion [he said] could not render a better service than to 
repair to the executive mansion, and, placing before the 
chief magistrate the naked and undisguised truth, pre 
vail upon him to retrace his steps and abandon his fatal 
experiment. No one, sir, can perform that duty with 
more propriety than yourself. You can, if you will, in 
duce him to change his course. To you, then, sir, in no 
unfriendly spirit, but with feelings softened and sub 
dued by the deep distress which pervades every class of 
our countrymen, I make the appeal. Go to him and tell 
him, without exaggeration, but in the language of truth 
and sincerity, the actual condition of his bleeding country. 
Tell him it is nearly ruined and undone by the meas 
ures which he has been induced to put in operation. 
Tell him that in a single city more than sixty bank 
ruptcies, involving a loss of upward of fifteen millions 
of dollars, have occurred. Tell him of the alarming 
decline of all property, of the depreciation of all the 
products of industry, of the stagnation in every branch 
of business, and of the close of numerous manufacturing 
establishments which, a few short months ago, were in 
active and flourishing operation. Depict to him, if you 
can find language to portray, the heart-rending wretch- 


edness of thousands of the working classes cast out of 
employment. Tell him of the tears of helpless widows, 
no longer able to earn their hread ; and of unclad and 
unfed orphans who have been driven by his policy out 
of an honest livelihood." 

So he went on, through the whole catalogue of 
misery, with increasing urgency impressing upon 
the Vice-President the solemn message. It would 
have been a deeply affecting scene but for the cir 
cumstance that it was Martin Van Buren who re 
ceived the pathetic commission. Benton describes 
it thus : 

" During the delivery of this apostrophe the Vice- 
President maintained the utmost decorum of counte 
nance, looking respectfully and even innocently at the 
speaker all the while, as if treasuring up every word he 
said, to be faithfully repeated to the President. After 
it was over and the Vice-President had called some Sen 
ator to the chair, he went up to Mr. Clay and asked 
him for a pinch of his fine maccaboy snuff, and, having 
received it, walked away." 

But elsewhere the matter was taken more se 
riously. At a public meeting in Philadelphia a 
resolution was adopted " that Martin Van Buren 
deserves and will receive the execration of all good 
men, should he shrink from the responsibility of 
conveying to Andrew Jackson the message sent by 
the Hon. Henry Clay." 

This storm of hostile demonstrations did not 
stagger Jackson s indomitable spirit in the least. 
Having been made to believe that the business 


disturbances in the country were wholly owing to 
the malicious curtailment of bank accommodations 
by the " monster," he met " distress delegations " 
which waited upon him, sometimes with cold cour 
tesy, sometimes with explosions of wrath, telling 
them that, if they wanted money to set the business 
of the country moving again, they should go to 
Nicholas Biddle, who was treacherously shutting 
up millions upon millions in his bank. Clay s res 
olutions of censure, adopted by the Senate, he an 
swered by sending, on April 17, 1834, a formal 
" protest," which he demanded should be entered 
upon the journal. 

It was an extraordinary document. He de 
nounced not only the adoption, but also the dis 
cussion, of the resolutions by the Senate, as " un 
authorized by the Constitution," and in every re 
spect improper, because it was, in his opinion, in 
the nature of an impeachment trial without the 
observance of any of the prescribed constitutional 
rules and forms. He censured particularly, for 
having supported the resolutions, the Senators 
from states whose legislatures had approved the 
conduct of the administration. He affirmed that 
the President was the " direct representative of 
the American people ; " that he was responsible 
for the entire action of the executive department, 
and must therefore have a free choice of his agents 
and power to direct and control their doings ; that 
it was his sworn duty to protect the Constitution, 
if it must be, for the people against the Senate ; 


and that, if the people allowed " the practice by the 
Senate of the unconstitutional power of arraigning 
and censuring the official conduct of the executive," 
it would " unsettle the foundations of the govern 
ment," and " the real power of the government 
would fall into the hands of a body holding their 
offices for long terms, not elected by the people, 
and not to them directly responsible." 

The protest was at once denounced as a gross 
breach of the privilege of the Senate, and a reso 
lution pronouncing it to be such, and declaring 
that it should not be entered upon the journal of 
the Senate, was offered by Poindexter of Missis 
sippi. Jackson, no doubt, believed in all sincer 
ity that by destroying the United States Bank he 
was doing the American people a great service, 
and that he was fully warranted by the Constitu 
tion in all he had done. He therefore felt himself 
very much aggrieved by the resolution of censure 
adopted in the Senate. But the pretension set up 
in his protest, that the Senate, because it might 
have to sit as a judicial body in case of impeach 
ment, had, as a legislative body, no constitutional 
right to express an unfavorable opinion about an 
act of the Executive, nay, that neither House of 
Congress had such a right except in case of im 
peachment, was altogether incompatible with 
the fundamental principles of representative gov 
ernment. The Constitution, indeed, authorizes the 
President to do certain things in his discretion; 
but this fact does certainly not take from the leg- 


islature, or from either house, the right to inquire 
whether in a given ease the President has acted 
within that constitutional discretion, or whether 
that discretion has been wisely exercised for the 
public good. The Senate is, indeed, a judicial 
body when it tries impeachments. But it is also a 
legislative body, and as such it can certainly not 
be stripped of the necessary privilege of discussing 
and criticising the conduct of public officers on the 
ground that such officers might possibly be im 
peached for the acts criticised. 

Equally startling was the assumption that " the 
President is the direct representative of the Amer 
ican people ; " that he possesses original executive 
powers, and absorbs in himself all executive func 
tions and responsibilities; and that it is his espe 
cial office to protect the liberties and rights of the 
people and the integrity of the Constitution against 
the Senate or the House of Representatives, or 
both together. 

It is more than probable that Jackson, although 
at the moment giving full rein to his hot impulses, 
never understood all the bearings of the doctrines 
to which he put his name ; but it may certainly be 
said that in the history of the Republic no docu 
ment has ever come from any President so incon 
sistent in its tendency with republican institutions 
as was Jackson s " protest." Clay did not go 
much too far when, in a fiery speech which he made 
on the occasion, he described Jackson as animated 
by " the genuine spirit of conquerors and con- 



quest," which " lives by perpetual, agitating ex 
citement, and would die in a state of perfect repose 
and tranquillity," - a spirit attacking in turn u the 
Indians, the Indian policy, internal improvements, 
the colonial trade, the Supreme Court, Congress, 
the bank," and now presenting himself " as a 
dictator to rebuke a refractory Senate," and pre 
paring to attack and annihilate the Senate itself. 

After a debate of three weeks, which called 
forth the heaviest thunders of Cla} 7 , Webster, and 
Calhoim on one side, and of Benton and Silas 
Wright on the other, the resolutions condemning 
the protest as an unconstitutional assertion of 
power and a breach of the privileges of the Sen 
ate, and refusing to put it on the journal, passed 
by 27 to 16 votes. 

The war between the President and the majority 
of the Senate was carried on with unprecedented 
bitterness and all available weapons. In one of 
the short addresses, with which he presented " dis 
tress petitions," Clay laid down certain rules to be 
followed by Senators who meant to oppose to all 
encroachments, and to all corruption, a manly, res 
olute, and uncompromising resistance," in acting 
upon nominations for office. He said : - 

" In the first place, to preserve untarnished and unsus 
pected the purity of Congress, let us negative the nomi 
nation of every member for office, high or low, foreign 
or domestic, until the authority of the Constitution and 
laws is fully restored. And, in the next place, let us 
approve of the original nomination of no notorious, 


brawling politician and electioneerer, but especially of 
the reappointmeiit of no officer presented to us who 
shall have prostituted the influence of his office to par 
tisan and electioneering purposes." 

With alacrity the Senate rejected the nomina 
tion for reappoiiitment of four government direc 
tors of the Bank of the United States. Jackson 
repeated the same nominations, soundly scolding 
the Senate for having rejected them ; but they 
were rejected again. The Speaker of the House of 
Eepresentatives, Stephenson of Virginia, was nom 
inated for the mission to England, apparently as 
a reward for ardent partisanship, and was sternly 
voted down. Roger B. Taney had been put into 
the Treasury Department more than two months 
before the meeting of Congress, and Jackson did 
not send in his nomination until six months after 
the opening of the session. It was promptly re 
jected, which infuriated Jackson beyond measure. 
He nominated Levi Woodbury in Taney s place, 
and Taney was subsequently put on the bench of 
the Supreme Court. * 

Congress adjourned in June. Few sessions had 
ever been so prolific of exciting debates. Crowds 
of people, gathered from far and near, went day 
after day to the galleries of the Senate as they 
would go to a play. But few sessions also had 
been so barren of practical results. The brilliant 
arraignment of the President s course, combined 
with the business depression, was indeed not alto 
gether without effect. In the spring of 1834 there 


seemed to be a strong current of popular senti 
ment running against the administration. The 
anti- Jackson men won in several local elections. 
It was at this period that the opposition began to 
call itself the Whig party. " In New York and 
Connecticut," wrote Niles in April, " the term 
Whigs is now used by the opponents of the ad 
ministration when speaking of themselves, and they 
call the Jackson men by the offensive name of 
Tories." Clay had used the term with great em 
phasis already in March, in one of his " distress " 
speeches, commenting upon an anti - administration 
success in a municipal election in New York city. 

" It was a brilliant and signal triumph of the Whigs 
]_he said]. And they have assumed for themselves, and 
bestowed on their opponents, a denomination which, ac 
cording to all the analogy of history, is strictly correct. 
It deserves to be extended throughout the whole coun 
try. What was the origin among our British ancestors 
of these appellations ? The Tories were the supporters 
of executive power, of royal prerogative, of the maxim 
that the king could do no wrong, of the detestable doc 
trine of passive obedience and non-resistance. The 
Whigs were the champions of liberty, the friends of the 
people, and the defenders of their representatives in the 
House of Commons. During the Revolutionary war the 
Tories took sides with the king against liberty, the Whigs 
against royal executive power and for freedom and in 
dependence. And what is the present but the same 
contest in another form ? The partisans of the present 
executive sustain his power in the most boundless ex- 
tent. The Whigs are opposing executive encroachment, 


and a most alarming extension of executive power and 
prerogative. They are contending for the rights of the 
people, for free institutions, for the supremacy of the 
Constitution and the laws." 

The name of " Whig " remained, but Clay did 
not succeed in fastening the name of "Tory" upon 
their adversaries. The Whig party was strength 
ened by the accession of men from the Democratic 
side who were alarmed at Jackson s proceedings 
and sought refuge among the opposition. Thus 
it received in its ranks a mixture of incongruous 
elements which were destined, in the course of 
events, to break out in distracting divergences of 
opinion. Moreover, the common opposition to 
Jackson had brought them into relations of alliance 
with Calhoun and his following of iiullifiers. This 
was a source of great discomfort to Clay. On 
every possible occasion Calhoun pushed his nullifi 
cation principles to the foreground, and began to 
taunt Clay with having been obliged to fall back 
upon the aid of the nullifiers to save protection. 
Clay treated Calhoun with great courtesy, but the 
companionship galled him. " The nullifiers are 
doing us no good," he wrote to Brooke, in April, 
1834. The alliance was felt on both sides to be 
an unnatural one that could not endure. 

The anti-Jackson current in the local elections, 
which cheered the Whigs so much, did not last 
long. The business panic caused by the removal 
of the deposits was for a time genuine and serious 
enough. But, as people became aware that the 


removal of the deposits did not mean the immedi 
ate breaking down of everything, the crisis gradu 
ally subsided, and the opposition lost much of their 
political capital. It became evident that the defec 
tion from Jackson, which his high-handed course 
had caused in the upper political circles, had not 
reached the masses. The spokesmen of the Jack 
son party very adroitly persisted in representing 
the opposition of the leaders of the Senate to the 
President s policy as a mere incident of the great 
struggle going on between the " old hero " and the 
" monster." Clay saw this very clearly ; " but," 
said he, " it was in vain that we protested, solemnly 
protested, that that [the bank] was not the ques 
tion ; that the true question comprehended the in 
violability of the Constitution, the supremacy of 
the laws." Such protests were of no avail. It 
may then have dawned upon Clay s mind how un 
wise it had been to make the bank a political issue 
and to fasten it like a clog to his foot. 

The very business distress, which at one time 
seemed to become so dangerous to Jackson, was aj 
last made to tell against the bank. The great 
mass of mankind can easily be induced to believe 
evil of a powerful moneyed institution. It was 
not difficult, therefore, to spread the impression 
that the whole calamity had really been inflicted 
upon the country by the bank, the heartless mo 
nopoly, which without necessity curtailed its loans, 
pinched all business interests, and ruined mer 
chants, manufacturers, and laborers, in order to 


bring an enormous pressure upon the President 
and Congress for the purpose of extorting from 
them the restoration of the deposits and the grant 
of a new charter. A monopoly so malicious and 
tyrannical must, of course, be in the highest de 
gree dangerous to the public welfare and to pop- 
ular liberty : it had to be put down, and there was 
nobody to put it down save the old hero ; he was 
willing, and it was for this that the " minions of 
the money power," the " slaves of the monster 
monopoly," the " subjects of the bank," in the 
Senate, were persecuting him. 

With the first session of the twenty-third Con 
gress the struggle about the Bank of the United 
States was substantially decided. The great par 
liamentary cannonade in the Senate had availed 
nothing. The storm of distress petitions had been 
without effect. Jackson had remained firm. The 
House of Representatives had passed by large ma 
jorities a series of resolutions reported by James 
K. Polk, that the deposits should not be restored, 
and that the bank charter should not be renewed. 
Popular sentiment ran in the same direction. The 
bank was doomed. Jackson went on denouncing 
it in his messages, and distressing it with all sorts 
of hostile measures ; but all energy of resistance 
was gone. It would have been well for Clay and 
his party had they recognized the fact that not 
only this Bank of the United States could not be 
saved, but that no other great central bank, as the 
fiscal agent of the government, could be put in its 
place with benefit to the country. 


When Jackson became President the bank was 
financially sound. The management was not fault 
less, but very fair. It did not meddle with politics. 
A financial institution of that kind is not naturally 
inclined to become a political agency. Its stock 
holders, who are anxious for the safety of their in 
vestments and desire to draw regular dividends, 
do not wish it to involve itself in the fortunes and 
struggles of political parties. This was the dispo 
sition of the United States Bank under Nicholas 
Biddle. Jackson s first attack upon the bank in 
that respect was therefore wanton and reckless. 
But it is also true that an institution whose inter 
ests depend upon the favor of the government is 
always apt to be driven into politics, be it by the 
exactions of its political friends, or by the attacks 
of its political enemies. Its capacity for mischief 
will then be proportioned to the greatness of its 
power ; and the power of a central bank, acting as 
the fiscal agent of the government, disposing of a 
large capital, and controlling branch banks all over 
the country, must necessarily be very large. Being 
able to encourage or embarrass business by ex 
panding or curtailing bank accommodations, and 
to favor this and punish that locality by transfer 
ring its facilities, it may benefit or injure the in 
terests of large masses of men, and thereby exer 
cise an influence upon their political conduct, 
not to speak of its opportunities for propitiating 
men in public position, as well as the press, by its 
substantial favors. So it was in the case of the 


Bank of the United States. Although Jackson s 
denunciations of its corrupting practices went far 
beyond the truth, there can be no doubt that, when 
it at last fought for the renewal of its charter and 
against the removal of the deposits, it did use its 
power for political effect. 

It might be said that it did so in self-defense, 
and that, had there not been so violent a character 
in the presidential office, it would not have been 
obliged to defend itself. This would be an unsafe 
conjecture. A great central banking institution, 
a government agent, enjoying valuable privileges, 
will always have the flavor of monopoly about it 
and there is nothing more hateful than the idea of 
monopoly among a democratic people. It will al 
ways excite popular jealousy by the appearance of 
offering to a limited circle of persons superior op 
portunities of acquiring wealth at the public ex 
pense. It will always arouse popular apprehen 
sions with regard to the harm it might do as a 
great concentrated money power. These appre 
hensions and jealousies will, in a democratic com 
munity, at any time be apt to break out, cause an 
attack upon the institution, and oblige it to " fight " 
in self-defense. Being attacked on the political 
field it will, in obedience to a natural impulse, try 
to protect itself on the political field, and thus 
easily become a dangerous and demoralizing factor 
in politics. 

An institution like the Bank of the United 
States, whatever its temporary usefulness may have 


been, is therefore not a proper fiscal agent for the 
government of a democratic country ; and the 
American people have reason to remember with 
gratitude Salmon P. Chase and the Congress of 
1863 for having, in the greatest crisis of public 
affairs, given the country a national banking sys 
tem equal to the United States Bank in efficiency, 
superior to it in safety, avoiding the evils of a 
concentrated money power, and, as subsequently- 
perfected, entirely free from that flavor of monop 
oly which made the old bank in its time so odious. 
Andrew Jackson s severest critics will have to 
admit that his war upon the United States Bank 
appealed to a sound democratic instinct, and neg 
atively served a good end. But his most ardent 
admirers will hardly deny that the manner in 
which he accomplished the overthrow of the bank 
was utterly reckless, not only on account of the 
violence which was done to the spirit of the law, 
but also on account of the disposition which was 
made of the public funds. They were distributed 
among state banks, without any system, unless it be 
called a system that political favoritism had much 
to do with the selection, and that the deposit of 
the public funds became to a great extent a part 
of the executive patronage. Capital in the shape 
of bank deposits was arbitrarily located in different 
parts of the country, to be liberally used for bank 
accommodations, and this in constantly increasing 
sums as the public debt disappeared and the rev 
enue surplus grew larger. Great rivalry sprang 


up among the state banks for a share of the de 
posits. New banks were started by aspiring in 
dividuals who hoped to be among the favored ones. 
Banks multiplied in all directions. Upon the 
business depression followed one of those expan 
sions of credit which are so exhilarating in the be 
ginning and so sure to end in disaster, and the 
scattering of the deposits served to make that ex 
pansion more and more reckless. 

Thus the seed of a great disaster was sown 
broadcast. We shall see the harvest. But at 
first it looked like a suddenly growing crop of 
prosperity and wealth. Jackson was more popular 
and powerful than ever. Clay came out of the 
struggle about the United States Bank defeated, 
but with the honors of war. His friends clung to 
him with increased admiration of his courage and 
brilliant abilities, and he was ready for new con 



WHEN the second session of the twenty-third 
Congress opened, in December, 1834, the United 
States found themselves in danger of a war with 
France. It was a curious entanglement. The 
United States had many and heavy claims against 
France for damages on account of the depredations 
committed upon American shipping by the French 
during the Napoleonic wars. Ever since 1815 
these claims had been the subject of fruitless ne 
gotiation. In 1829 President Jackson caused 
them to be pressed with vigor, and in his first an 
nual message he said that, if they were not satis 
fied, they would " continue to furnish a subject of 
unpleasant discussion and possible collision." The 
French government, Charles X. still being king, 
considered this " menacing " language, and, as 
such, a sufficient reason for doing nothing. But 
Louis Philippe, seated on the French throne by 
the Revolution of 1830, chose not to remember the 
menace ; and on July 4, 1831, a treaty was con 
cluded in Paris, by which France promised to pay 
the United States 15,000,000 in six installments, 
to begin one year after the ratification of the 


treaty, while the United States were to make cer 
tain reductions in the duties on French wines. 
Congress promptly passed a law accordingly. The 
treaty was ratified on February 2, 1832 : the first 
French payment was therefore due on February 2, 
1833. A draft was drawn upon the French gov 
ernment, and presented to the French Minister of 
Finance at Paris. But payment was refused on 
the ground that the French Chambers had made 
no appropriation for that purpose. There was at 
the time no American Minister at Paris. Edward 
Livingston, whom we have met as Secretary of 
State, vacating that office for McLane, was sent, 
with strong instructions, to fill that position. King 
Louis Philippe promised to do his best with the 
Chambers, but the appropriation failed again. The 
French king is said then to have confidentially in 
timated to Livingston that an earnest passage in 
the President s next message might serve to induce 
the French Chambers to give attention to the sub 
ject. Livingston reported something like this to 
his government. For earnest passages Jackson 
was the man. He put a paragraph into his annual 
message of December,. 1834, in which, after recap= 
itulating the whole story, he bluntly recommended 
that " a law be passed authorizing reprisals upon 
French property, in case provision shall not be 
made for the payment of the debt at the approach" 
ing session of the French Chambers." 

That was undoubtedly more earnestness than 
King Louis Philippe had meant to suggest. What 


Jackson asked of Congress fell little short of a 
declaration of war. When the message and the 
report of the diplomatic correspondence, published 
by the State Department, became known in Paris, 
the French press of all parties cried out against it 
as a wanton insult offered to the French nation ; 
and the government, finding itself obliged to yield 
to the clamor, resolved to recall the French Minis 
ter from Washington, and to tender Livingston his 
passports. It was a thoroughly Jacksonian situa 

There being neither telegraphs nor fast steamers 
in those days, the effect produced by Jackson s 
message in France, and the recall of the French 
Minister, could not become known in Washington 
until late in February, 1835. But statesmen who 
had some knowledge of the manner in which gov 
ernments speak of one another easily foresaw what 
impression President Jackson s spirited language 
would make. They foresaw, also, that the demon 
strations of resentment excited in France by the 
President s message would be apt to be as offensive 
to the American people as the President s message 
had been to the French, and that then, both gov 
ernments having assumed positions from which they 
could not honorably withdraw, the two countries 
might drift into war in spite of their inmost wish 
to remain at peace. It was therefore important 
that something be done to keep the possibility of 
friendly negotiation open, before the news of the 
reception in France of the President s message 


should arrive in the United States. This task 
was undertaken by Clay. He knew well how dan 
gerous it would be to give to a man of Jackson s 
hot temper the power to make reprisals upon 
French property ; and he felt, too, that it would be 
a shame and disgrace to go to war with a friendly 
nation upon a mere question of money, until the 
last resources of peaceable diplomacy should have 
been exhausted. He therefore took the matter 
promptly in hand. 

That part of the President s message which re 
lated to the French business was referred to the 
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, of which 
Clay was chairman. On January 6, 1835, he 
made a report on the subject, which he himself 
read to the Senate, and which had the rare fortune 
to call forth the applause of all parties. He gave 
a lucid review of the history of the case, and with 
dignified emphasis asserted the right of the United 
States to indemnity. He affirmed that, in their 
determination to protect the rights of the United 
States, the President, and the opposition, and the 
whole American people, stood inseparably together. 
He then pointed out the friendly disposition of 
Louis Philippe s government ; the difficulties it 
had to contend with ; the misapprehensions which 
in the course of the negotiation had arisen between 
the two governments, creating unnecessary irrita 
tion. He then explained President Jackson s posi 
tion, how the President did not insist upon reprisals 
as the only remedy ; how he suggested them only 


as an alternative, if Congress did not choose to wait 
longer for favorable action on the part of the 
French ; how he did not look upon reprisals under 
such circumstances as absolutely a measure of 
hostility, and expressly disclaimed his recommenda 
tion to have been intended as a menace. On the 
other hand, Clay admitted that it might easily be 
misunderstood as a menace, and that a resort to 
reprisals was apt to be regarded and resented 
as an act of war. It behooved the government of 
the United States not to anticipate a final breach 
by France of her solemn engagements, and, while 
firmly standing by our rights as set forth by the 
President, to treat her with confidence in her honor 
and good faith. 

This was the drift of Clay s report. He also 
offered a resolution declaring it " inexpedient, at 
this time, to pass any law vesting in the President 
authority for making reprisals upon French prop 
erty," etc. This resolution, modified, with Clay s 
consent, to spare Jackson s feelings, so as to read : 
" that it is inexpedient at present to adopt any leg 
islative measures in regard to the state of affairs 
between the United States and France," was then 
adopted by a unanimous vote. 

Thus Clay s point was gained. The existing ir 
ritation was soothed, and Jackson did not receive 
the means to force the country into a war with 
France whenever his temper might run away with 
his judgment. The sequel of the story is interest 
ing. The French Chambers were so far pacified 


that in April they passed an appropriation for the 
three installments then due not to be paid, how 
ever, until after the French government should have 
received " satisfactory explanations " with regard 
to President Jackson s message of December, 1834. 
Jackson understood this to mean something like a 
demand for an apology, and an apology he would 
not give. He said so in his annual message of 
1835, declaring however, at the same time, that he 
had never intended any " menace." The charge 
d affaires, left behind by Livingston, was instructed 
to make a formal demand for the money without 
the apology. Payment was refused. Both govern 
ments called home their diplomatic representatives. 
Jackson, in a special message in January, 1836, 
recommended that Congress pass a law that French 
ships and goods be excluded from American ports. 
Things looked more threatening than ever. Then 
Great Britain interposed with her good offices, 
which were accepted by both parties. The French 
government was induced to declare that Jackson s 
message, in which he had incidentally said that no 
menace had been intended, was a sufficient expla 
nation : the money was paid and the trouble was 
over. It must be added that in popular estimation 
General Jackson had " beaten the French," and he 
was in the eyes of the masses a greater hero than 
ever, not unnaturally so ; for his style of diplo 
macy, no doubt, convinced all Europe that this Re 
public could not safely be trifled with. But it was 
largely due to Clay s skillful interposition that the 


French business did not take a warlike turn at the 
start, and that the United States carried their point, 
and raised their standing among the nations of the 
world, without firing a gun. 

Eeturning to the second session of the twenty- 
third Congress, we find Clay advocating a just and 
generous treatment of the Indians, in a manner 
worthy of notice, because it proved how a man who 
had a low opinion of the Indian character, and be 
lieved the Indian race doomed to decay and ex 
tinction, still might recognize his duty to protect 
them in their rights. When Clay was Secretary 
of State under John Quincy Adams, the question 
of incorporating the Indians in the general body 
of citizenship happened to be discussed at a cab 
inet meeting, when Clay, according to Adams s Di 
ary, expressed these opinions : that it was impossi 
ble to civilize Indians ; it was not in their nature ; 
he believed they were destined to extinction ; and, 
although he would never use or countenance inhu 
manity toward them, he did not think them, as a 
race, worth preserving. 

It is scarcely possible to pronounce upon the In 
dians a more unfavorable judgment. We hear in 
it rather the voice of the frontiersman than of the 
philanthropist. But when the rights of the Indian 
were attacked, Clay vigorously entered his plea for 

This was the occasion. From some of the Cher- 
okees in Georgia, who had attained a respectable 
degree of civilization, and then were driven away 


by the greed of the white man from their lands 
and churches and schools, Clay received a memo 
rial praying 1 Congress to aid them in emigrating 
from Georgia to the Indian Territory. Clay, in 
presenting the memorial to the Senate, told in 
burning words the story of the wrongs the Cliero- 
kees had to suffer, and then uttered these senti 
ments : 

" Shall I be told that the condition of the African 
slave is worse ? No, sir, it is not worse. The interest 
of the master makes it at once his duty and his inclina 
tion to provide for the comfort and the health of his 
slave. But who, what human being, stands in the rela 
tion of master, or in any other relation which makes him 
interested in the preservation and protection of the poor 
Indian thus degraded and miserable ? It is said that 
annihilation is the destiny of the Indian race. Perhaps 
it is, judging from the past. But shall we therefore 
hasten it ? Death is the irreversible decree pronounced 
against the human race. Shall we accelerate its ap 
proach because it is inevitable ? No, sir. Let us treat 
with the utmost kindness and the most perfect justice 
the aborigines whom Providence has committed to our 
guardianship. Let us confer upon them, if we can, the 
inestimable blessings of Christianity and civilization ; 
and then, if they must sink beneath the progressive 
wave, we are free from all reproach, and stand acquit 
ted in the sight of God and man." 

With such remarks he introduced resolutions 
contemplating further provision by law to enable 
Indian tribes to defend and maintain in the courts 
of the United States their rights to lands secured 


to them by treaty, to set apart a district west of 
the Mississippi for Cherokees disposed to emigrate 
there, and to secure to them and their descendants 
in perpetuity the peaceful and undisturbed enjoy 
ment thereof. His was the correct doctrine in re 
gard to the Indians : let them have justice ; and, if 
they cannot be made as civilized and useful citizens 
as white people, let them be made as civilized and 
useful as it is possible to make them. 

During the same session an attempt was made 
to arrest by law the flagrant abuses which Presi 
dent Jackson s arbitrary course in making remov 
als and appointments had spread in the machinery 
of the general government and on the field of na 
tional politics. The statesmen of the time felt 
keenly the growing danger. They were alarmed 
at the demoralization which the vicious doctrine, 
that public office should be treated as the spoil of 
party victory, was infusing into all the channels of 
political life. They looked for a remedy. Arbi 
trary removals for partisan reasons, scarcely ever 
known before, never thought possible in the ex 
tent to which Jackson carried them, were the first 
scandal, in his treatment of the public service, 
which startled thoughtful men. It was natural, 
therefore, that a limitation of the removing power 
should have been the first remedy thought of. On 
February 9, 1835, Calhoun made a report from a 
committee appointed to inquire into the extent of 
the executive patronage, and kindred subjects. 
The report portrayed the existing abuses in a 


startling picture, and recommended the passage of 
a bill repealing the act of 1820 limiting to four 
years the tenure of certain offices, and providing 
further " that, in all nominations made by the 
President to the Senate to fill vacancies occasioned 
by removal from office, the facts of the removal 
shall be stated to the Senate, with a statement of 
the reasons for such removal." 

The debate, one of the most instructive on that 
subject in the history of Congress, was mainly car- , 
ried on by Calhoun, Clay, Webster, and Ewing 
on the side of the report. They were all united 
in the opinion that the Constitution did not give 
to the President the absolute power of removal. 
The contrary construction put upon the Consti 
tution by the first Congress was by no means 
overlooked by them. But they thought that the 
strength of argument had been then, as it was 
now, altogether on the other side ; that it was im 
possible to read the debate in the first Congress 
" without being impressed with the conviction that 
the just confidence reposed in the Father of his 
Country, then at the head of the government, had 
great, if not decisive, influence in establishing " 
that construction of the Constitution. They held 
"that the power of appointment naturally and 
necessarily included the power of removal," both 
to be exercised by the President by and with the 
advice and consent of the Senate. They admitted, 
however, that the construction given to the Consti 
tution in 1789 had become established by prac- 


tice, and recognized by subsequent laws. But 
they insisted, as Webster expressed it, that Con 
gress clearly had the power "of regulating the 
condition, duration, qualification, and tenure of of 
fice in all cases where the Constitution has made 
no express provision on the subject ; " and that, 
therefore, it was "competent for Congress to de 
clare by law, as one qualification of office, that the 
incumbent shall remain in place till the President 
shall remove him for reasons to be stated to the 
Senate." This last proposition it is very difficult 
to controvert. 

Clay went beyond the recommendation of the 
report. A year before, in March, 1834, he had 
proposed a series of resolutions, the gist of which 
he now moved by way of amendment, providing 
that in all instances of appointment to office by 
the President, with the consent of the Senate, the 
power of removal should be exercised only in con 
currence with the Senate ; but that during the va 
cation of the Senate, the President should have the 
power to suspend any such officer, with the duty 
to communicate his reasons for the suspension to 
the Senate during the first month of its succeeding 
session, when, if the Senate concurred with him, 
the officer should be removed, and, if the Senate 
did not concur, the officer should be reinstated. 
Clay was induced not to urge his amendment, and 
he dropped it. But it was destined to come to life 
again more than thirty years later, when, during 
President Johnson s administration, Congress em 


bodied its substance in the famous ten ure-of -office 

Clay supported with some pointed arguments the 
proposition of the committee, that it should be the 
duty of the President to communicate to the Sen 
ate the reasons for the removals made. " It has 
been truly said," he remarked, " that the office 
was not made for the incumbent. Nor was it 
created for the incumbent of another office. In 
both and in all cases, public offices are created for 
the public ; and the people have a right to know 
why and wherefore one of their servants dismisses 

It was then, as it is now, argued that the abso 
lute power of removal must be vested in the Exec 
utive, because summary proceedings were some 
times required for the good of the service, and also 
because the responsibility for removals must defi 
nitely rest upon somebody. Concerning this part 
of the subject, as it had been discussed by Madi 
son in 1789, Clay said : - 

" He [Madison] says, i The danger, then, merely con 
sists in this : the President can displace from office a 
man whose merits require that he should be continued 
in it. What will be the motives which the President 
can feel for such an abuse of his power ? What mo 
tives ! The pure heart of a Washington could have had 
none ; the virtuous head of a Madison could conceive 
none ; but let him ask General Jackson, and he will tell 
him of motives enough. He will tell him that he wishes 
his administration to be a unit ; that he desires only one 


will to prevail in the executive branch of the govern 
ment ; that he cannot confide in men who opposed his 
election ; that he wants places to reward those who 
supported it ; that the spoils belong to the victors. And 
what do you suppose are the securities against the abuse 
of this power on which Mr. Madison relied ? In the 
first place, he says, * he will be impeachable by the 
House before the Senate for such an act of maladminis 
tration, and so forth. Impeachment! It is a scare 
crow. Impeach the President for dismissing a receiver 
or register of the land office, or a collector of the cus 
toms ! " 

Clay went on to show that the other " security " 
mentioned by Madison, " that the President, after 
displacing the meritorious officer, could not ap 
point another person without the concurrence of 
the Senate," could not at all be depended upon 
to prevent the abuse of the removing power by 
the Executive, because the President alone would 
exercise the power of nomination, and weary the 
Senate finally into accepting somebody selected by 
the Executive. 

Clay apparently did not foresee what part the 
Senate itself would play in the development of 
" spoils " politics. At that period, indeed, the pro 
curing of offices, the manipulation of the patron 
age, had not yet become an absorbing occupation 
among legislators. It was still thought that the 
legitimate business of statesmanship concerned 
other things. The " courtesy of the Senate," which, 
in acting upon nominations made by the President, 


puts personal considerations above all others and 
keeps in view the solidarity of senatorial advan 
tages, had not yet risen to the dignity of a system. 
The danger that " tenure of office laws " might be 
come sources of corrupt practices in the Senate 
did not yet appear. The principal agency of evil 
was, therefore, still seen in the Executive. Nor 
was this at all illogical. " Spoils " politics had in 
deed been carried to an alarming extent in some 
states before. The greed of office-seekers had been 
many a time complained of in Washington. But 
the wisdom and patriotic firmness of the men in 
the executive chair of the national government had 
successfully restrained the dangerous tendency 
down to the close of John Quincy Adams s admin 
istration. It was then, with Jackson s advent to 
power, the executive hand that opened the flood 
gates, against the judgment, and even against the 
indignant protest, of the first order of statesmen in 
Congress. Nothing could have been more natural, 
therefore, than that the Executive should have 
been held wholly responsible for the mischief, and 
that in restraints to be put upon the Executive 
the remedy should have been sought. 

It is true, the aspect of the matter has since 
changed somewhat. The offices of the government 
having once been declared to be the " spoils " of 
the victorious party, Senators and Representatives 
in Congress seized upon the opportunities thus 
opened to them. They learned how to serve 
themselves by apparently serving their constit- 


uents. Then members of Congress found them 
selves set upon by a pressure of demand from 
partisan office-seekers, and Presidents from mem 
bers of Congress, which demand constantly grew 
in overbearing and tyrannical force as it gradually 
acquired the sanction of established custom. That 
is the " spoils system " as we know it in our days. 
We therefore no longer see the agency of the evil 
in the Executive alone. 

But even now no remedy has been devised the 
efficacy of which does not depend upon the action 
of the Executive. No reform law has ever been 
suggested unless it be one forbidding members 
of Congress to meddle with appointments to office 
which has not for its object to restrain the Exec 
utive in making arbitrary appointments and re 
movals, or to serve the Executive as a protecting 
bulwark against the pressure of the spoils politi 
cians. Neither is the prevention of arbitrary re 
movals less important now than it was then ; for 
the facility of making arbitrary partisan removals 
will always encourage the making of appointments 
for mere personal or partisan ends. The states 
men of the twenty-third Congress were, therefore, 
not only right in their day, but they would be 
equally right in our day, in proposing a measure 
to prevent the arbitrary use of the removing and 
appointing power. Nor was the measure they ad 
vocated, although mild, unwisely chosen. 

Clay readily admitted the " necessity of some 
more summary and less expensive and less dilatory 


mode of dismissing delinquents from subordinate 
offices than that of impeachment, which, strictly 
speaking, was perhaps the only one in the contem 
plation of the framers of the Constitution." Nei 
ther would the measure he recommended curtail 
the discretion of the Executive in this respect. 
He said : 

" By the usage of the government, not, I think, by 
the Constitution, the President possesses the power to 
dismiss those who are unworthy of holding these offices. 
By no practice or usage, but that which he himself has 
created, has he the power to dismiss meritorious officers 
only because they differ from him in politics. The prin 
cipal object of the bill is to require the President, in 
cases of dismission, to communicate the reasons which 
have induced him to dismiss the officer ; in other words, 
to make an arbitrary and despotic power a responsible 
power. It is not to be supposed that, if the President is 
bound publicly to state his reasons, he would act from 
passion or caprice, or without any reason. He would be 
ashamed to avow that he discharged the officer because 
he opposed his election." 

Clay might have said more : a President, or any 
officer intrusted with the power of removal, would 
find in such an obligation a most powerful protec 
tion against the urgency of those demanding re 
movals, the reasons for which cannot honorably be 

This proposition was vigorously supported by 
the statesmen whose names stand foremost in the 
political history of that period ; and it is a remark- 


able fact that the repeal of the four years term act 
received in the Senate a vote of 31 to 16, and that 
among the majority we find the celebrities of both 
parties, such as Bell, Benton, Calhoun, Clay, Clay 
ton, Ewing, Frelinghuysen, Mangum, Poindexter, 
Preston, Southard, Tyler, Webster, and White; 
while among those sustaining the four years act 
there were, of well-known names, only Buchanan, 
Silas Wright, and King of Alabama. Even such 
friends of General Jackson as Benton and White 
voted for the repeal. But the reformatory effort 
did not go beyond the Senate, and was therefore 



THE opening of the twenty-fourth Congress in 
December, 1835, found Clay greatly afflicted by 
the death of a favorite daughter. But he turned 
resolutely to his public duties. Early in the ses 
sion he introduced his land bill again, which, as 
we have seen, had once passed Congress, but had 
been prevented from becoming a law by President 
Jackson s disapproval. Again he protested that 
the proposition to distribute the proceeds of the 
land sales among the states was " not founded 
upon any notion of a power in Congress to lay and 
collect taxes, and distribute the amount among the 
several states." The bill passed the Senate again 
later in the session, but failed in the House of 

But a bill did pass which carried into effect the 
worst feature of Clay s land bill, providing that 
the money in the treasury on January 1, 1837, ex 
cepting 15,000,000, should be "deposited" with 
the several states in proportion to their representa 
tion in Congress, in four quarterly installments, to 
be returned on the call of Congress. This bill 
President Jackson signed, " reluctantly," he said, 
and we shall see the outcome of it. 


But now another problem pressed to the front, 
far more portentous than all the questions of 
banks and deposits and lands, which agitated the 
public mind under Jackson s turbulent presidency. 
In Benton s " Abridgment of the Debates of Con 
gress " the following short foot-note is attached to 
the Senate proceedings of January 7, 1836 : " At 
this session the slavery discussion became installed 
in Congress, and has too unhappily kept its place 
ever since." The slavery question had assumed a 
new character. 

The great excitement called forth by the admis 
sion of Missouri had been allayed by compromise. 
During the decade which followed, the slave-hold 
ing interest had indeed made itself felt in politics, 
but usually in disguise. The subject of slavery in 
its large moral and political aspects had been the 
occasional topic of discussion, but only in a pass 
ing way, except among a class of people who soon 
were to rise into unlooked-for importance, the 
" abolitionists." 

A few old anti-slavery societies had continued a 
quiet existence, most of them in the South, with 
out creating any alarm. Then appeared on the 
stage, with all his peculiar strength, that formida 
ble revolutionary factor in human affairs, the man 
of one idea. Anti-slavery missionaries came forth, 
who carried the word, spoken and written, from 
place to place : first, Benjamin Lundy, a mild- 
mannered Quaker mechanic, whose " heart was 
deeply grieved at the gross abomination," when he 


" heard the wail of the captive ; " then William 
Lloyd Garrison, a young printer and editor from 
Massachusetts, who was moved by Lundy s words, 
and put into his work the fierce energy of a fiery 
spirit revolting against a great wrong. With these 
came a host of men equally devoted. They taught 
that not only the slave-holders, but the people of 
the Free States too, in fact, all the citizens of 
this Republic, were responsible for the " crime 
of slavery ; " and Garrison went so far as to insist 
that, not the colonization of free negroes, nor the 
gradual emancipation of the slaves, but the uncon 
ditional and immediate abolition of slavery was the 
duty enjoined by moral law upon all righteous men. 
Such was the faith professed by the abolition 
ists who in 1831 began to organize the New Eng 
land Anti-slavery Society, and started a movement 
which presently spread over the Free States. Their 
principles and aims were most clearly put forth by 
the National Anti-slavery, Convention held at Phila 
delphia in December, 1833. It declared that the 
American people were bound to " repent at once," 
to let the slaves go free, and to admit them to an 
equality of rights with all others ; that there was, 
in point of principle, no difference between slave- 
holding and man - stealing ; that no compensation 
should be given to slave-holders emancipating their 
slaves, because what they claimed as property was 
really not property, and because,, if any compensa 
tion were to be given at all, it belonged justly to the 
slaves. They admitted that Congress had no con- 


stitutional power to abolish slavery in the states ; 
but they insisted that Congress had power to sup 
press the domestic slave-trade, and to abolish 
slavery " in the District of Columbia, and in those 
portions of our territory which the Constitution 
has placed under its exclusive jurisdiction ; " and 
this power Congress was in duty bound to exercise. 
The methods of " working for the cause " recom 
mended by the Convention consisted in the organi 
zation of societies, in the sending out of mission 
aries to explain and exhort, in circulating anti- 
slavery tracts and periodicals, in enlisting the 
pulpit and the press in the work, in giving prefer 
ence to the products of free labor over those of 
slave labor, in one word, " in sparing no exer 
tions nor means in bringing the whole nation to 
speedy repentance." 

This agitation was carried on with singular de 
votion, but its startling radicalism did not at first 
enlist large numbers of converts, or result in the 
organization of a political force that might have 
made itself felt at the polls. It did, however, have 
the effect of exciting great irritation and alarm 
among the slave-holders, and among those in the 
North who feared that a searching discussion of 
the slavery question might disturb the peace of the 
country ; and thus it started a commotion of grave 

About that time the South was in an unusually 
nervous state of mind. In 1831 an insurrection 
of slaves broke out in Virginia under the leader- 


ship of Nat Turner, a religious fanatic. It was 
easily suppressed, but caused a widespread panic. 
In 1833 the emancipation of the slaves in the 
British West Indies made the slave-holders keenly 
sensible of the hostility of public opinion in the 
outside world, and increased their alarm. Events 
like these gave the agitation of the abolitionists a 
new significance. The slave power found it neces 
sary to assert to the utmost, not only its constitu 
tional rights, but also its moral position. Aban 
doning its apologetic attitude, it proclaimed its be 
lief that slavery was not an evil, but economically, 
politically, and morally a positive good, and " the 
corner-stone of the republican edifice." It fiercely 
denounced the Northern abolitionists as reckless 
incendiaries, inciting the slaves to insurrection, 
rapine, and murder, as enemies to the country, 
as fiends in human shape, who deserved the halter. 
What disturbed the slave-holders most was the in 
stinctive feeling that now they had to meet an an 
tagonist who was inspired by something akin to 
religious enthusiasm, which could neither be argued 
with nor cajoled nor frightened, but could be sup 
pressed only with a strong hand, if it could be sup 
pressed at all. They imperiously demanded of 
the people of the North that the abolitionists be 
silenced by force ; that laws be made to imprison 
their orators, to stop their presses, to prevent the 
circulation of their tracts, and by every means to 
put down their agitation. They said that, unless 
this were done, the Union could not be maintained. 




Iii the North their appeal did not remain un 
heeded. A fierce outcry arose in the Free States 
against the abolitionists. Turbulent mobs, com 
posed in part of men of property and prominent 
standing, broke up their meetings, destroyed their 
printing-offices, wrecked their houses, and threat 
ened them with violent death. There were riotous 
attacks upon anti-slavery gatherings in Philadel 
phia, New York, Utica, and Montpelier. In Bos 
ton, William Lloyd Garrison was dragged through 
the streets with a halter round his body. In Con 
necticut and New Hampshire, schools which re 
ceived colored pupils were sacked. In Cincinnati, 
a large meeting of citizens resolved that an anti- 
slavery paper published there must cease to ap 
pear, and that there must be " total silence on 
the subject of slavery." An excited mob executed 
the decree, threw the press into the Ohio, and 
looted the homes of colored people. Some time 
later, Pennsylvania Hall, the meeting house of 
the abolitionists, was burned in Philadelphia, and 
Elijah P. Lovejoy was murdered in Illinois. 

It was a strange commotion. There was the 
timid citizen, who feared that the anti-slavery agi 
tation might split the Union, and believed that the 
abolitionists were bent upon inciting slave insur 
rection ; there was the politician, intent upon cur 
rying favor with the South; there was the mer 
chant and manufacturer, anxious to protect his 
Southern market against disturbance, and to please 
his Southern customer ; there was the fanatic of 


stability, cursing everybody who, as he thought, 
" wanted to make trouble ; " there was the man who 
" had always been opposed to slavery as much as 
anybody," but who detested the abolitionists be 
cause they would sacrifice the country to their one 
idea, presumed to sit in judgment upon other 
good people s motives, and accused them of " com 
pounding with crjme ; " there was the rabble, bent 
upon keeping the negro still beneath them in the 
social scale, and delighting in riotous excesses as a 
congenial pastime, all these elements cooperating 
in the persecution of a few men, who in all sincer 
ity followed the dictates of their consciences, and, 
somewhat ahead of their time, demanded the gen 
eral and immediate application of principles which, 
at the North, almost everybody had accepted in 
the abstract. 

But this violent persecution could not accomplish 
its object. On the contrary, it could scarcely fail 
to strengthen the cause it was designed to put 
down. Many of the " intelligent and respectable 
citizens," who had countenanced it, remembered it 
with shame when the first heat was over. Who, 
after all, were the abolitionists, those " incenVlia- 
ries," " fiends," " enemies of human society " ? 
Who were the Lundys, Garrisons, and Tappans ? 
They were men of pure lives who, believing slavery 
to be a great wrong which must be abolished, the 
great crime of the age which must be expiated, 
devoted themselves to an unpopular cause, and, 
serving it, suffered obloquy and social ostracism 


and mob violence without flinching. In doing what 
they did, they could win neither money nor popu 
larity nor power. Their work was one of con 
stant self-denial and sacrifice. It is true they 
were not, in the ordinary sense, statesmen. They 
did not weigh present possibilities. They did not 
measure immediate consequences. They did not 
calculate the relation between the means available 
and the ends to be accomplished. But theirs was 
after all the statesmanship of the prophets, which 
is seldom appreciated by the living generation. If 
it was true that the universal and immediate 
emancipation they preached could not be under 
taken without great economic disturbance, pecuni 
ary loss, social disorder, and perhaps bloodshed, it 
was equally true that the longer emancipation was 
put off the more inevitable and the greater would 
be the loss, disorder, and bloodshed. The aboli 
tionists had a sublime belief in the justice of 
their cause, and in the sacredness of their duty to 
serve that cause. Thus they had the stuff in them 
of which the moral heroes in history are made. It 
is difficult to imagine a figure more heroic than 
William Lloyd Garrison with the rope about his 
body, the respectability of the town howling for 
his blood. The unselfishness of their devotion did 
not fail to extort respect. Such men could not be 
suppressed. They forced an unwilling people to 
hear them, and they were heard. 

The number of abolition societies grew, not 
rapidly, but steadily. The leading abolitionists 


themselves never became popular with the multi 
tude. With many men, the intrusive admonition 
of conscience is peculiarly irritating. But the 
immediate effect of their work has frequently been 
much underrated. The abolitionists served to keep 
alive in the Northern mind that secret trouble of 
conscience about slavery which later, in a ripe 
political situation, was to break out as a great 
force. They accomplished another immediate re 
sult of the highest importance. By the alarm they 
excited in the South they caused slavery to dis 
close to public view, more openly than ever be 
fore, those tendencies which made it incompa 
tible with the fundamental conditions of free 

The means which an institution or an interest 
needs for its defense, when attacked by the criti 
cism of public opinion, may be taken as a test of 
its consistency with a democratic organization of 
society. When such an institution or interest can 
not stand before the tribunal of free discussion, 
the question will soon arise which of the two shall 
give way. This question the abolitionists caused 
to be put before the American people with regard 
to slavery. While Northern mobs assaulted abo 
lition conventions, and Northern meetings passed 
resolutions assuring the slave-holders of the sym 
pathy of the Northern people, Southern journals, 
speakers, and legislatures demanded that, although 
occasional mobbings and anti-abolition resolutions 
were well in their way, the anti-slavery agitation, 


the publication of anti-slavery tracts, the delivery 
of anti-slavery speeches in the Northern States, 
should be put down by penal laws. But then it 
turned out that Northern men, who had favored 
the mobs and voted for the resolutions, instinct 
ively recoiled from the enactment of laws clearly 
hostile to the freedom of speech and press. They 
felt the difference between the occasional violence 
of a mob a passing occurrence and a solemn 
act of legislation, the establishment of a perma 
nent rule. They had been willing to do a lawless 
thing, but they were not willing to make that thing 
legal. There the slave power was asking too 
much. No Northern State made the laws de 
manded by it ; and the Southern press was not 
slow to declare that the anti-abolition resolutions 
adopted by Northern meetings had no real value 
as to the safety of slavery, if the Northern States 
refused to clothe the sentiments professed with the 
strength of law. 

It was under these circumstances that, as Benton 
expressed it, "the slavery discussion became in 
stalled in Congress," thenceforward to keep its place. 
For some years abolition societies had sent petitions 
to Congress praying for the abolition of slavery in 
the District of Columbia, and of the slave-trade, 
without creating much excitement. The twenty- 
fourth Congress was flooded with them, and they 
were taken more seriously. In the Senate, Calhoun 
denounced them as incendiary documents, and 
moved that they be not received. There was, then, 


slavery against the right of petition. Buchanan, 
to whom some of them had come from his Quaker 
constituents, a circumstance which moved him 
to caution, proposed that the petitions be re 
ceived, but that the prayer they contained be at 
once rejected without further consideration. Thus, 
he thought, the right of petition would receive due 
respect, without leaving any misapprehension as 
to the sentiment of the Senate concerning the sub 
ject-matter. Northern senators with anti-slavery 
leanings insisted that the petitions should be re 
ferred to the appropriate committee for consider 
ation and report. Thus the issue was made up, 
causing a warm debate which ran over two months, 
as it happened, in both houses at the same time. 

Clay s republican principles revolted at a cur 
tailment of the right of petition. His old anti- 
slavery sentiments, too, were still strong enough 
to make him desire that anti-slavery petitions be 
treated at least with respect. He therefore op 
posed Calhoun s motion not to receive them. Nei 
ther did Buchanan s proposition to receive them, 
but to reject the prayer without consideration, find 
favor in his eyes. At the same time, true to his 
compromising disposition, he would not encourage 
the abolition movement by advocating the reference 
of the memorials to a committee with a view to a 
report thereon, to further discussion, and to legis 
lation. A motion simply to receive the petitions 
was carried by a large majority, Clay voting in the 
affirmative. As to the further disposition to be 


made of them, he preferred a middle course between 
their immediate and simple rejection and their 
reference to a committee. He moved an amend 
ment to Buchanan s motion which, while rejecting 
the prayer, would at least give polite reasons for 
the rejection, and also define his position on the 
subject of slavery in the District of Columbia. 
The amendment recited that " the Senate, without 
now affirming or denying the constitutional power 
of Congress to grant the prayer of the petition, (i. e., 
to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia), 
believes, even supposing the power uncontested, 
which it is not, that the exercise of it is inexpe 
dient : 1, because the people of the District of 
Columbia have not themselves petitioned for the 
abolition of slavery within the District ; 2, because 
the states of Virginia and Maryland would be in 
juriously affected by it as long as the institution of 
slavery continues to subsist within their jurisdic 
tions, and neither of these states would probably 
have ceded to the United States the territory form 
ing the District, if it had anticipated the adoption 
of any such measure, without expressly guarding 
against it ; and 3, because the injury which would 
be inflicted by exciting alarm and apprehension in 
the states tolerating slavery, and by disturbing the 
harmony between them and the other members of 
the confederacy, would far exceed any practical 
benefit which could possibly flow from the abolition 
of slavery within the District." 

This weak device, throwing doubt upon every. 


thing and dealing in unwarranted historical as 
sumptions, dissatisfied both sides and found no 
support. Clay saw himself compelled to vote for 
Buchanan s motion unamended. But, while he 
himself held that Congress did have the constitu 
tional power to abolish slavery in the District, the 
views expressed in his amendment remained the 
burden of his utterances during his whole public 
life, whenever the subject came up for discussion. 

In the House of Representatives the presenta 
tion of anti-slavery memorials bore still more sig 
nificant fruit. It started John Quincy Adams in 
his heroic struggle for the freedom of petition, 
which for a long time engaged the wondering at 
tention of the whole people. It led to the adop 
tion of the " gag rules," designed to cut off all 
discussion about slavery. So there was slavery as 
the enemy of free debate in Congress. It caused 
all the agitation that the abolitionists might have 
wished to bring on. 

But the slavery question appeared in a still 
more startling shape. The circulation of tracts 
and periodicals by the abolition societies provoked 
an outcry from the South that those publications 
were calculated to incite the slaves to insurrection. 
On July 29, 1835, the post-office of Charleston 
in South Carolina was invaded by a mob, who took 
out what anti - slavery documents they could find 
and destroyed them. A public meeting, at which 
the clergy of all denominations appeared in a body, 
ratified these proceedings. The postmaster of 


Charleston assumed the right to prevent the cir 
culation of such literature, and wrote to the post 
master at New York, Samuel L. Gouverneur, to 
stop its transmission. Gouverneur asked the Post 
master General for instructions. The Postmas 
ter General, Amos Kendall, late of the Kitchen 
Cabinet, answered that the law had not vested any 
power in his department to exclude any species 
of newspapers or pamphlets from the mail, for 
such a power would be " fearfully dangerous ; " 
but if any postmaster took the responsibility of 
stopping those "inflammatory papers," he would 
"stand justified in that step before the country 
and all mankind." His instructions to the post 
master at Charleston were of the same tenor. It 
was patriotism, he said, to disregard the law if 
its observance would produce a public danger. 
" Entertaining these views," he added, " I cannot 
sanction, and will not condemn, the step you have 

In August, 1835, the Anti-slavery Society of Mas 
sachusetts published an " Address to the Public " 
in which, in the most emphatic terms, it protested 
against the " calumny " that it circulated incendi 
ary publications among the slaves, or had any de 
sire to incite them to revolt. But the charge was 
nevertheless repeated and believed. The South 
ern mind had become so sensitive upon this sub 
ject that a mere declaration that all men were born 
free and equal was in some Slave States condemned 
as " incendiary." 


President Jackson, in his message of December, 
1835, sternly denounced the agitation carried on 
by the abolitionists, and suggested the passage of a 
law " prohibiting under severe penalties the circu 
lation in the Southern States, through the mail, of 
incendiary publications intended to instigate the 
slaves to insurrection." This was far from satis 
fying Calhoun. He insisted that such a law would 
be unconstitutional, for the general government, in 
cluding Congress, had not the right to determine 
what publications should be considered incendiary 
or not incendiary in the several states. This 
would concede the power of Congress to permit 
the circulation in the Southern States of such pub 
lications as it pleased, and thus Congress would be 
virtually clothed with the power of abolishing slav 
ery in the states. The states themselves had to 
take care of their internal peace and security, and 
therefore to determine what was, and what was 
not, calculated to disturb that peace. The general 
government was simply bound to respect the meas 
ures thought necessary by the slave-holding states 
for their protection, and to cooperate in their ex 
ecution as much as should be necessary. In other 
words, the Slave States had to make the law, and it 
was the duty of the general government to help in 
enforcing it. If the general government failed to 
perform this duty, the Slave States must look to 
themselves for their protection as independent com 
munities. This was Calhoun s reasoning. 

Accordingly he offered a bill providing that it 


should be unlawful for any postmaster knowingly 
to deliver to any one any printed paper touching 
slavery in any state or territory where such pub 
lications were prohibited, and that any offending 
postmaster should be instantly removed ; and that 
postmasters should from time to time advertise 
such publications, when received, for withdrawal 
by the senders, and destroy the detained mail mat 
ter if not withdrawn in one month. Thus slavery 
appeared as the enemy of the security of the mails. 

Another hot slavery discussion followed. Cal- 
houn s reasoning and bill were riddled with objec 
tions. It was eloquently set forth that here Cal- 
houn was pushing his state-rights doctrines to an 
extreme never before heard of ; that he attempted 
to make the laws of Slave States, encroaching upon 
the freedom of the press, laws of the United States 
" by adoption ; " that his bill subjected all mail 
matter to a censorship by the postmasters, consti 
tuting them the judges of other people s right of 
property in their papers, and so on. 

Clay was especially outspoken. With great 
vigor he denounced the bill as uncalled for by pub 
lic sentiment, unconstitutional, and dangerous to 
the liberties of the people. The action of the Post 
master General had alarmed him. Anti-slavery 
publications, he thought, did no harm while the}^ 
were in the post-office. Only their circulation 
outside of it could have the dangerous effects com 
plained of ; and when they were so circulated in 
the Slave States " it was perfectly competent for 

SLA VER Y. 85 

the state authorities to apply the remedy." But 
he could find nothing in the Constitution authoriz 
ing a federal law like the one proposed. He rec 
ognized the evil caused by incendiary publications. 
"But," he exclaimed, "it is too often in the con 
demnation of a particular evil that we are urged 
on to measures of dangerous tendency." 

He hoped " never to see the time when the gen 
eral government should undertake to correct the 
evil by such remedies." He declared himself op 
posed to it " from the first to the last." There 
was a tone of deep anxiety in the words of the old 
republican, whose heart began to be profoundly 
disquieted by the fear that in protecting slavery 
the free institutions of the country might suffer 
great and permanent harm. 

Calhoun s bill was defeated in the Senate by a 
vote of 25 to 19. Of Northern Senators, only 
Buchanan and the two Senators from New York, 
Tallmadge and Silas Wright, voted for it. Van 
Buren, the Vice-President, manifested his approval 
of it by his casting vote on some preliminary 
questions. He was the representative " Northern 
man with Southern principles." Seven Southern 
Senators, led by Clay, voted against the bill. 

A few days after this vote, George Tucker wrote 
to Clay that shortly before James Madison s 
death Madison died on January 28, 1836 
he had had a conversation with that veteran states 
man about " the then agitating question of the 
efforts of the abolitionists," and that Madison had 


remarked : " Clay has been so successful in his com 
promising other disputes, I wish he could fall upon 
some plan of compromising this, and then all parties 
(or enough of all parties) might unite and make 
him President." It was just at that time, while 
listening to the extreme sentiments of Calhoun, that 
Clay expressed his first doubts as to the wisdom of 
his tariff compromise of 1833. But, as was usually 
the case with him, he did not reason out the why 
and wherefore to the end ; he never learned that 
no compromise about slavery could last ; and so he 
was indeed, as Madison hoped he would be, ready 
to compromise again whenever an occasion came. 

After having given his vote against a measure 
which slavery demanded for its security, he had to 
play a part in the progress of another scheme which 
the slave power pushed forward for the same ob 
ject, the scheme having in view the eventual an 
nexation of Texas. 

Clay s " record " as to Texas was very curious. In 
1820, as a member of the House of Representatives, 
he fiercely attacked the Monroe administration for 
having given up Texas in the Florida treaty, 
taking the ground that Texas was included in the 
Louisiana purchase, and therefore belonged to the 
United States. In March, 1827, when he was Sec 
retary of State under John Quincy Adams, he in 
structed Poinsett, the envoy of this Republic to 
Mexico, to propose to the Mexican government the 
purchase of Texas for a sum of money ; and, judg 
ing from the entries in Adams s Diary, the scheme 


was Clay s own. It was that Western ambition 
which wanted the Republic to spread and to occupy 
a " big country." Now Clay was at the head of 
the Committee on Foreign Relations in the Senate, 
and the subject presented itself to him in an en 
tirely new aspect. 

Texas had in the mean time had a history. In 
the early part of this century American adventur 
ers cast their eyes upon that country, and in 1819 
one James Long attempted to make Texas an "in 
dependent republic." In 1821 an American citi 
zen, Moses Austin, having obtained a large grant 
of land in Texas from the Mexican government, 
founded an American colony there, which, in its 
growth, recruited itself mainly from Louisiana, 
Mississippi, and Tennessee. The settlers brought 
their slaves with them, and continued to do so 
notwithstanding a decree of the Mexican Congress, 
issued in July, 1824, which forbade the importa 
tion into Mexican territory of slaves from foreign 
countries, and notwithstanding the Constitution 
adopted the same year, which declared free all 
children thereafter born of slaves. 

About that time the slave-holders in the United 
States began to see in Texas an object of peculiar 
interest to them. The Missouri Compromise, ad 
mitting Missouri as a Slave State and opening to 
slavery all thai; part of the Louisiana purchase south 
of 36 30 , seemed at first to give a great advantage 
to the slave power. But gradually it became ap 
parent that the territory thus opened to slavery 


was, after all, too limited for the formation of many 
new Slave States, while the area for the building 
up of Free States was much larger. More terri 
tory for slavery was therefore needed to maintain 
the balance of power between the two sections. 

At the same time the Mexican government, 
growing alarmed at the unruly spirit of the Amer 
ican colony in Texas, attached Texas to Coahuila, 
the two to form one state. The constitution of Co 
ahuila forbade the importation of slaves; and in 
1829 the Republic of Mexico, by the decree of 
September 15, emancipated all the slaves within 
its boundaries. Then the American Slave States 
found themselves flanked in the southwest by a 
power not only not in sympathy with slavery, but 
threatening to become dangerous to its safety. The 
maintenance of slavery in Texas, and eventually 
the acquisition of that country, were thenceforth 
looked upon by the slave-holding interest in this 
Republic as matters of very great importance, and 
the annexation project was pushed forward system 

First the American settlers in Texas refused to 
obey the Mexican decree of emancipation, and, in 
order to avoid an insurrection, the Mexican author 
ities permitted it to be understood that the decree 
did not embrace Texas. Thus one point was gained. 
Then the Southern press vigorously agitated the 
necessity of enlarging the area of slavery, while an 
interest in the North was created by organizing 
three land companies in New York, which used pre- 


tended Mexican land grants in Texas as the basis of 
issues of stock, promising to make people rich over 
night, and thus drawing Texas within the circle of 
American business speculation. In 1830 Presi 
dent Jackson made another attempt to purchase 
Texas, offering five millions, but without success. 
The Mexican government, scenting the coming 
danger, prohibited the immigration of Americans 
into Texas. This, however, had no effect. 

The American colony now received a capable 
and daring leader in Sam Houston of Tennessee, 
who had served with General Jackson in the In 
dian wars. He went to Texas for the distinct ob 
ject of wresting that country from Mexico. There 
is reason for believing that President Jackson was 
not ignorant of his intentions. Kevolutionary con 
vulsions in Mexico gave the American colonists 
welcome opportunities for complaints, which led to 
collisions with the Mexican authorities. General 
Santa Anna, who by a successful revolutionary 
stroke had put himself at the head of the Mexican 
government, attempted to reduce the unruly Amer 
icans to obedience. In 1835 armed conflicts took 
place, in which the Americans frequently had the 
advantage. The Texans declared their indepen 
dence from Mexico on March 2, 1836. The dec 
laration was signed by about sixty men, among 
whom there were only two of Mexican nationality. 
The constitution of the new republic confirmed the 
existence of slavery under its jurisdiction, and sur 
rounded it with all possible guaranties. 


Meanwhile Santa Anna advanced at the head 
of a Mexican army to subdue the revolutionists. 
Atrocious butcheries marked the progress of his 
soldiery. On March 6 the American garrison 
of the Alamo was massacred, and on the 27th a 
large number of American prisoners at Goliad 
met a like fate. These atrocities created a 
great excitement in the United States. But on 
April 21 the Texans under Houston, about eight 
hundred strong, inflicted a crushing defeat upon 
Santa Anna s army of fifteen hundred men, at 
San Jacinto, taking Santa Anna himself prisoner. 
The captive Mexican President concluded an ar 
mistice with the victorious Texans, promising the 
evacuation of the country, and to procure the rec 
ognition of its independence ; but this the Mexican 
Congress refused to ratify. 

The government of the United States main 
tained, in appearance, a neutral position. Presi 
dent Jackson had indeed instructed General Gaines 
to march his troops into Texas, if he should see 
reason to apprehend Indian incursions. Gaines 
actually crossed the boundary line, and was re 
called only after the Mexican Minister at Wash 
ington had taken his passports. The organization 
of reinforcements for Houston, however, had been 
suffered to proceed on American soil without in 

The news of the battle of San Jacinto was re 
ceived in the United States, especially in the 
South, with a jubilant shout. Meetings were held 


and petitions sent to Congress urging the prompt 
recognition of Texas as an independent state. On 
May 23, Walker of Mississippi presented such a 
petition in the Senate, and moved its reference to 
the Committee on Foreign Relations. Calhoun, 
who had the necessity of increasing the number of 
Slave States constantly in his mind, pronounced 
himself at once not only in favor of the immediate 
recognition of the independence of Texas, but of 
its annexation to the United States. Webster 
said that, if the people of Texas had established a 
government de facto, it was the duty of the United 
States to recognize it. He was alarmed by ru 
mors " that attempts would be made by some Eu 
ropean government to obtain a cession of Texas 
from the government of Mexico." It has fre 
quently been observed in the history of this He- 
public that those who agitate for a territorial ac 
quisition spread the rumor that European powers 
are coveting it. It is strange that Webster should 
have failed to penetrate that shallow device. 

Clay was in no haste. Nearly four weeks later 
he reported from the Committee on Foreign Rela 
tions a resolution " that the independence of Texas 
ought to be acknowledged by the United States 
whenever satisfactory information shall be received 
that it has in successful operation a civil govern 
ment capable of performing the duties and fulfill 
ing the obligations of an independent power." 
This resolution he introduced by a speech in 
which he warned against precipitate action, and 


expressed the hope that further and more au 
thentic information would soon render the rec 
ognition of Texan independence proper. But in 
his utterances there was nothing of that glow 
which had animated his speeches for the recogni 
tion of the South American republics and in be 
half of Greece. He coldly suggested that it did 
not seem at all necessary to act upon his resolution 
at the present session. The reason for the conspic 
uous lack of ardor in all he said on this subject may 
without difficulty be conjectured. The man who 
had always shared the Western passion for territo 
rial aggrandizement, and at a former period had 
strenuously insisted that Texas belonged to the 
United States, now was reluctant to touch it be 
cause at heart he recoiled from augmenting the 
political power of slavery. The very thing which 
made the acquisition of Texas so desirable to Cal- 
houn, secretly alarmed Clay. His subsequent con 
duct with regard to the annexation of Texas fully 
justifies this explanation of his attitude. 

His resolution, slightly amended, passed the 
Senate by a unanimous vote. The House took sim 
ilar action a few days later, and there the matter 
rested for the time being. But the course of the 
administration in its dealings with Mexico can 
scarcely be explained on any other theory than 
that it desired to bring on a war between the two 
countries. The observations of the Mexican Min 
ister concerning the aid openly given to the Tex- 
ans by American citizens, were treated with a cool- 


ness little short of contemptuous irony. Claims 
were presented to the Mexican government, and 
satisfaction demanded, in language so insulting 
that, as John Quincy Adams said, " no true-hearted 
citizen of this Union " could witness the proceed 
ing " without blushing for his country." In his 
annual message of December, 1836, Jackson saved 
appearances by adopting a comparatively temper 
ate tone. But the number of American claims 
against Mexico, some of which were gotten up 
with the most scandalous disregard of decency, 
constantly increased, and with it the bullying vir 
ulence of the demand. In December, 1836, the 
American charge d affaires at Mexico precipitately 
took his passports and left for the United States. 
In February, 1837, President Jackson, in a special 
message to Congress, declared that Mexico, by neg 
lecting to satisfy these claims, had given just cause 
for war, but that, mindful of the embarrassed con 
dition of that country, he would recommend that 
another and last chance for atonement be given it, 
and that an act be passed authorizing the Presi 
dent to resort to reprisals in case of refusal. 

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 
which then had been reorganized with Buchanan 
as chairman, reported a resolution substantially 
confirming these views of the President concerning 
the conduct of Mexico, but providing that, in case 
satisfaction were not speedily given, Congress 
should then promptly consider what measures 
might be " required by the honor of the nation." 


Clay made a speech plainly betraying the misgiv 
ings which disturbed his mind. He could see no 
cause for war with Mexico ; he considered the 
abrupt departure of the American charge from 
Mexico harsh and unnecessary ; he thought that 
the case against Mexico was by no means so strong 
as it was represented ; he was for justice and 
moderation ; however, he would vote for the reso 
lution reported by the committee. When, a few 
days later, another resolution was acted upon, de 
claring that the condition of things in Texas was 
now such as to entitle that country to recognition 
as an independent state, Clay s name did not ap 
pear among those voting. 



THE presidential election of 1836 was to give a 
successor to President Jackson. He was not a 
candidate for a third term, but the power of his 
will in his party was so absolute that the candidate 
favored by him found no effective opposition. The 
Democratic party was in admirable drill. It 
might justly have been called Jackson s own party. 
The Democratic National Convention, largely com 
posed of office-holders, was held as early as Feb 
ruary, 1835. It nominated for the presidency 
Martin Van Buren, a mere formality to ratify 
Jackson s command. 

During Jackson s second administration the 
Whigs had fallen into a cheerless, if not despond 
ent, state of mind. Until then it had been gener 
ally understood that the leader of the party should 
be its candidate. But Henry Clay s defeat in 
1832 had changed many men s views in that re 
spect. In the summer of 1835 the leading Whig 
politicians began to look about for some other 
" available man." Clay felt this keenly. He 
wrote in July, 1835 : 


" The solicitations of other gentlemen, perhaps more 
entitled than I am to be chosen chief magistrate, and 
the discouragement of the use of my name resulting 
from the issue of the last contest, have led respectable 
portions of the Whigs, in different states, to direct their 
views to other candidates than myself. The truth is 
that I was strongly disinclined to be presented as a 
candidate in 1832, fearing the issue which took place ; 
but I was overruled by friends, some of whom have 
since thought it expedient, in consequence of that very 
event, that another name should be substituted for 

Such words revealed the bitterness of soul of the 
aspirant to the presidency, who discovered that lie 
was no longer the only candidate thought of by his 
party. It may fairly be doubted whether it was 
only in yielding to the urgency of his friends that 
he had taken the nomination in 1832 ; for then lie 
acted as the recognized leader of his party, and his 
candidacy was a matter of course. It was so no 
longer. He still expressed his belief that he could 
gather more votes than any other Whig, although, 
as he admitted, probably not enough to win the 
election. His correspondence of that period leaves 
the impression that lie would have disliked to see 
the Whig party unite upon any other candidate, 
as that would have created a rival to him. He 
discussed competitors in the manner characteris 
tic of presidential candidates, finding reasons why 
each of them would not answer. He would have 
been in favor of Webster, had there not been a 


" general persuasion " that Webster could not 
succeed. Some Whigs spoke of Senator Hugh L. 
White of Tennessee, a very estimable man, who 
had been an intimate friend of General Jackson, 
and then turned away from him on account of his 
high-handed proceedings. Clay disliked White s 
candidacy because he was no Whig, although he 
would have preferred his election to that of Van 
Bur en. 

The Whig party finally went into the campaign 
of 1836 without holding a national convention, and 
without uniting upon a ticket. In several states 
Whig meetings were held which put forward Gen 
eral William H. Harrison, who was also nominated 
by the convention of Anti-Masons at Harrisburg. 
Clay favored him in preference to all others. 
Webster was presented by the legislature of Massa 
chusetts. The legislature of Alabama and popular 
meetings in Tennessee nominated Hugh L. White. 
John Tyler and Francis Granger were candidates 
for the vice-presidency. The Whigs hoped, by 
putting several candidates of local strength into 
the field, to throw the election into the House of 
Representatives. But a party so utterly distracted 
could not make a vigorous campaign against the 
well-disciplined Democrats. Of the 294 electoral 
votes Van Buren obtained 170, a, clear majority 
of 46 votes over all his competitors. Thus Jack 
son s choice was ratified by the people. 

Clay had been for more than a year in a de^ 
jected mood. The apparent fruitlessness of his 


struggle against Jackson s popularity seriously 
depressed his spirits. Again and again he spoke 
of retiring to private life for the rest of his days. 
" This is the thirtieth year," he wrote to a com 
mittee of citizens of Indiana in the spring of 1836, 
"since I first entered the service of the federal 
government. My labors for the public have been 
various and often arduous. I think they give me 
some title to repose. If I were persuaded that by 
remaining longer in the public service I could 
materially aid in arresting our downward progress, 
I should feel it my duty not to quit it. But I am 
not sure that my warning voice has not too often 
been raised. Perhaps that of my successors may 
be listened to with more effect." He added that 
he would serve until the end of his term, which 
was near at hand, but he " could conceive of no 
probable contingency which would reconcile " him 
to the acceptance of another. 

There is no reason for doubting that he meant 
all he said at the time. Sanguine temperaments 
like his are subject to fits of despondency and a 
profound yearning for repose, an overpowering 
desire to be done forever with all that tries and 
annoys them. But such fits seldom last long. 
When Clay was reflected to the Senate the suc 
ceeding winter, the " improbable contingency " 
which reconciled him to the acceptance of another 
term of service, had arrived. He did not decline. 

The last session of Congress under Jackson s 
presidency opened on December 5, 1836. A large 


part of its time was given to discussions called 
forth by the famous " specie circular," which Jack 
son had issued during the last recess of Congress, 
and of which more will be said when we reach the 
story of the great business crisis of 1837. 

Clay once more introduced his land bill, which 
again failed to pass. Presenting some memorials 
from living British authors, he earnestly declared 
himself in favor of the enactment of a law tender 
ing to all foreign nations reciprocal security for lit 
erary property by granting copyrights. 

The great political duel between Clay and Jack 
son came to a dramatic close. When Clay s reso 
lution censuring President Jackson for assumptions 
of power " not conferred by the Constitution and 
laws, but in derogation of both," had passed the 
Senate on March 28, 1834, Ben ton forthwith 
announced his intention to move that this resolu 
tion be formally expunged from the records of the 
Senate. He repeated the motion session after 
session. Several state legislatures, in which the 
Jackson party was dominant, taking up the cry, 
sent memorials to the Senate pressing the measure, 
and passed resolutions instructing the Senators 
from their states to support it. When the Vir 
ginia legislature had passed such a resolution, John 
Tyler, recognizing the " doctrine of instruction," 
but unwilling to vote for a mutilation of the official 
records, resigned his seat in the Senate. But not 
until the winter of 1836-1837 had there been a 
majority in the Senate obedient to Jackson s wilL 
Now at last that majority was there. 


The resolution offered by Benton contemplated 
that the record on the official journal of the vote 
of censure passed upon the President be encircled 
with large black lines, and crossed with the inscrip 
tion, " Expunged by order of the Senate." If it 
had been intended merely to counteract whatever 
mischievous influence the vote of censure might 
have had as a precedent, some resolution simply 
rescinding it, or some declaration censuring the 
censor, would have served the purpose. But it was 
desired to make the Senators, who by their votes 
had pronounced the censure upon Jackson, feel all 
the bitterness of humiliation. They were to be 
presented to the country as having done a thing 
too infamous to have a place on the records of the 
government. It was one of those coarse parades 
of the brutal power which, not satisfied with vic 
tory, delights in mortifying the defeated. 

On January 12, 1837, Benton opened the debate 
with a highly characteristic speech. He presented 
himself as the voice of the popular will. The 
people had decided that the resolution censuring 
President Jackson must be expunged. He found 
conclusive proof of the popular will in the fact 
that many state legislatures had so instructed their 
Senators ; that a large majority of the states had 
elected Democratic Senators and Representatives 
favorable to the measure ; that the Bank of the 
United States had become odious to the public 
mind ; and that Jackson s friend, Martin Van 
Buren, who had openly approved the expunging 


resolution, had been elected President by a large 
majority. The popular will so manifested, Ben- 
ton affirmed, was, " upon the principle of represent 
ative government, binding and obligatory " on the 
Senate, one of those doctrines which Jacksonian 
orators were peculiarly fond of dwelling upon. 
After a fulsome panegyric on Jackson s public 
career, Benton wound up with a display of that 
frank and ingenuous egotism which distinguished 
him, saying : " Solitary and alone, and amidst the 
jeers and taunts of my opponents, I put this ball 
in motion. The people have taken it up and rolled 
it forward. I am no longer anything but a unit in 
the vast mass which now propels it. In the name 
of that mass I speak. I demand the execution of 
the edict of the people." 

A great oratorical tournament followed, in which 
all the distinguished men of the Senate took part. 
Against the expunging resolution were Calhoun, 
Crittenden, Bayard, Clayton, Southard, Preston, 
White, Ewing of Ohio, Kent, Clay, and Webster ; 
and for it spoke Benton, Buchanan, and Rives. 
The debate ranged once more over all the consti 
tutional -and legal questions bearing upon the re 
moval of the deposits. The opposition proved to 
the satisfaction of all unbiased men that to ex 
punge any recorded proceeding of the Senate 
would be a clear violation of the Constitution, 
which provided that " each house shall keep a 
record of its proceedings : " if the record was to be 
"kept," it could not be expunged. The evident 


superiority of the argument on the side of the op 
position was felt so keenly, even by some of the 
supporters of the resolution, that Ewing of Ohio, 
speaking of the expungers as the servants of a su 
perior will, " compelled to go onward, against all 
those feelings and motives which should direct the 
actions of the legislator and the man," could add-. 
" Why do I see around me so many pale features 
and downcast eyes, unless it be that repentance 
arid remorse go hand in hand with the perpetra 
tion of the deed ? " 

Clay s speech was in his loftiest style. As the 
author of the resolution which was to be treated 
as unworthy of forming a part of the record, he 
once more summed up the whole case, and then 
with irresistible force, he drove home the argument 
against the assumed power of blotting out any 
thing from the official journals of the national leg 
islature. He rose to his grandest tone in drawing 
a picture of Jackson s power, and in pouring out 
his contempt upon the slavish spirit of the ex 
pungers : 

" He is felt from one extremity to the other of this vast 
Republic," he exclaimed. " By means of principles which 
he has introduced, and innovations which he has made 
in our institutions, alas but too much countenanced by 
Congress and a confiding people, he exercises uncon 
trolled the power of the state. In one hand he holds 
the purse, and in the other he brandishes the sword of 
the country. Myriads of dependents and partisans, 
scattered over the land, are ever ready to sing hosannas 


to him, and to laud to the skies whatever he does. He 
has swept over the government during the last eight 
years like a tropical tornado. Every department ex 
hibits traces of the ravages of the storm. What object 
of his ambition is unsatisfied ? When disabled from age 
any longer to hold the sceptre of power, he designates 
his successor, and transmits it to his favorite. What 
more does he want ? Must we blot, deface, and mutilate 
the records of the country to punish the presumptuous- 
ness of expressing an opinion contrary to his own ? 
What patriotic purpose is to be accomplished by this 
expunging resolution ? Can you make that not to be 
which has been ? Is it to appease the wrath and to 
heal the wounded pride of the chief magistrate ? If 
he really be the hero that his friends represent him, 
he must despise all mean condescension, all groveling 
sycophancy, all self-degradation and self-abasement. He 
would reject with scorn and contempt, as unworthy 
of his fame, your black scratches and your baby lines in 
the fair records of his country." 

Benton himself admitted Clay s speech to have 
" lacked nothing but verisimilitude " to render it 
" grand and affecting." 

But such attacks had " verisimilitude " enough 
to make the leaders of the expunging movement 
feel somewhat uncomfortable as to the firmness of 
their followers. Jackson imposed upon his friends 
tasks which not all of them found it consistent 
with their self-respect to perform. Some had al 
ready dropped away from him, and others were in 
clined to do so. Benton confessed that " members 
of the party were in the process of separating from 


it and would require conciliation." The " pale 
features and downcast eyes " among the Democrats 
in the Senate seem to have alarmed him, for on 
Saturday, January 14, according to his own story, 
the Democratic senators had a night meeting at a 
restaurant, " giving the assemblage the air of a 
convivial entertainment," which " continued until 
midnight." On that occasion it " required all the 
moderation, tact, and skill of the prime movers to 
obtain and maintain the union upon details, on the 
success of which the fate of the [expunging] move 
ment depended." The weak brethren were worked 
upon until they " severally pledged " themselves 
" that there should be no adjournment of the Sen 
ate, after the resolution was called, until it was 
passed ; " and, as this might make a protracted 
session necessary, and " knowing the difficulty of 
keeping men steady to their work and in good 
humor when tired and hungry, the mover of the 
proceeding gave orders that night to have an am 
ple supply of cold hams, turkeys, rounds of beef, 
pickles, wines, and cups of hot coffee ready in a 
certain committee-room near the Senate chamber." 
This programme was faithfully carried out the 
following Monday. Late in the night, after a long 
debate and a solemn protest against the proceeding 
read by Daniel Webster, the expunging resolution 
was carried by a vote of 24 to 19. The Secretary 
of the Senate executed at once the order to draw 
the required black lines and other marks on the 
Senate journal of March 28, 1834, whereupon the 


galleries broke out in groans and hisses ; and, after 
a furious denunciation of the " bank ruffians " by 
Benton, the Senate adjourned. Thus " the deed 
was done," as the current saying was at the time. 
General Jackson did not act the hero depicted by 
Clay, who would " despise all sycophancy and self- 
abasement," and " reject with scorn, as unworthy 
of his fame, the black scratches." On the con 
trary, as Benton recorded, "the gratification of 
General Jackson was extreme," and " he gave a 
grand dinner to the expungers and their wives." 
Nothing could have imparted greater sweetness to 
his triumph than the reflection that the man whose 
work had been stamped by the act of the Senate 
with such unprecedented ignominy was Henry 
Clay, whom he hated more fiercely than any other 
human being. Indeed, that triumph could scarcely 
have been more complete. Incessantly attacked 
by Clay at the head of the most brilliant array of 
talent ever marshaled by any parliamentary leader 
in American history, Jackson had carried every one 
of his favorite measures, and been sustained by a 
most emphatic popular majority in a presidential 
election. Clay had only been able in two instances 
in the nullification trouble and the French diffi 
culty to put Jackson s violent impulses under some 
restraint. But of his own favorite objects he had 
lost everything, the bank, internal improvements, 
the protective tariff, the land bill ; and finally, 
when so wanton a measure as the expunging reso 
lution was forced through, Jackson celebrated his 


victory by trampling upon the prostrate bodies of 
his foes. Clay felt the humiliation so keenly that 
he wrote to one of his friends : " I shall hail with 
the greatest pleasure the occurrence of circum 
stances which will admit of my resignation without 
dishonor to myself. The Senate is no longer a 
place for a decent man. Yesterday Benton s ex 
punging resolution passed, 24 to 19." And to 
another : " I shall escape from it [the Senate] as 
soon as I decently can, with the same pleasure that 
one would fly from a charnel-house." 

On March 4, 1837, the " reign of Andrew Jack 
son," as Von Hoist has very appropriately called 
it, came to an end. There had never been be 
fore, and fortunately there has never been since, 
so powerful and autocratic a will at the head of the 
government, and so phenomenal a popularity to 
support it. The passions excited by the vociferous 
contests of those days were so fierce and enduring 
that in Jackson s own time, and through a decade 
or two following, a large majority of American 
citizens might have been divided into two classes, 
those who sincerely and inflexibly believed that 
Jackson was one of the greatest statesmen of all 
centuries, and certainly the greatest benefactor of 
the American people ; and those who believed with 
equally inflexible sincerity that he was little better 
than a fiend in human shape. It required a new 
generation to do justice to him as well as to his 

It is generally conceded now that he was a man 


of incorruptible integrity and aggressive patriotism, 
and that he always meant to do right, always 
firmly believing himself to be in the right. It is 
also conceded that, as President, he rendered the 
country very valuable services. He obtained more 
satisfaction from foreign powers for American 
claims and grievances, and did more to enforce re 
spect for the American flag abroad, than many 
other Presidents. He asserted the national au 
thority against attempts at nullification and the 
pretended right of secession, and proclaimed that 
the Union would be maintained at all hazards, with 
a patriotic fervor which electrified the popular 
heart, and gave national loyalty its battle-cry for 
all coming contests. Nor will any one now find 
fault with him for having been opposed to a great 
central bank as the fiscal agent of the government, 
or for having vetoed Clay s land bill with its dis 
tribution scheme, or for trying to keep question 
able bank paper out of the public treasury. 

But his opponents were certainly right in cen 
suring him for pursuing some of these objects with 
a recklessness most hurtful to the public welfare, 
and in utter disregard of those principles which 
are the soul of constitutional republicanism. His 
autocratic nature saw only the end he was bent 
upon accomplishing, and he employed whatever 
means appeared available for putting down all 
obstacles in his path. Honestly believing his ends 
to be right, he felt as if no means that would serve 
them could be wrong 1 . He never understood that, 


if constitutional government is to be preserved, the 
legality of the means used must be looked upon as 
no less important than the rightfulness of the ends 
pursued. His conception of the executive power, 
at least while he wielded it, was extravagant in the 
extreme. There is a constitutional theory growing 
up now if it is not formulated, it is at least some 
times acted upon that the general government 
possesses, not only the powers granted and those 
incidental thereto, but all powers not expressly 
withheld from it by the Constitution. Jackson an 
ticipated that doctrine as applied to the Executive. 
He sincerely believed that as President he was au 
thorized to do whatever the Constitution did not 
expressly forbid. The " original executive pow 
ers " mentioned in his " protest " contained an un 
defined fund upon which he could draw as occasion 
required. He held himself to be the sole " direct 
representative of the people," and in that character 
he found a source of authority for doing almost 
anything in the people s name. After his reelec 
tion in 1832 he felt that the people had formally 
set the seal of their approval upon all his acts and 
thoughts, past, present, and future, so that his will 
was equivalent to a popular edict. 

He treated the legislative power with a con 
tempt almost revolutionary. Not only did he, in 
the absence of Congress, set on foot measures, 
especially of financial policy, which Congress had 
already disapproved beforehand, and which he was 
sure would be rejected if submitted to Congress; 


but he lost no opportunity to denounce, in his 
public utterances, especially the Senate, but also 
his opponents in the House, as a set of conspira 
tors against popular rights and the public welfare. 
Nothing, certainly, could have been farther from 
Jackson s mind than the desire to overthrow re~ 
publican government, and to put a personal despot 
ism in its place. But if a President of the United 
States ever should conceive such a scheme, he 
would probably resort to the same tactics which 
Jackson employed. He would assume the charac 
ter of the sole representative of all the people ; he 
would tell the people that their laws, their rights, 
their liberties, were endangered by the unscrupu 
lous usurpations of the other constituted authori 
ties ; he would try to excite popular distrust and re 
sentment, especially against the legislative bodies ; 
he would exhibit himself as unjustly and cruelly 
persecuted by those bodies for having vigilantly 
and fearlessly watched over the rights and interests 
of the people ; he would assure the people that he 
would protect them if they would stand by him in 
his struggle with the conspirators, and so forth. 
These are the true Napoleonic tactics, in part em 
ployed by the first, and followed to the letter by 
the second, usurper of that name. 

General Jackson, indeed, delivered the presidency 
to his constitutionally elected successor, and then 
retired to the Hermitage. But before he retired he 
had violently interrupted the good constitutional 
traditions, and infused into the government and 


into the whole body politic a spirit of lawlessness 
which lived after him, and of which the demoraliz 
ing influence is felt to this day. Our public life 
has not yet recovered from the example, which he 
was the first American President to set, of a chief 
magistrate breaking, without remorse, some of his 
most explicit pledges given when he was an aspir 
ant, thus encouraging that most baleful popular 
belief that in politics there is no conscience, and 
that in political jugglery and deceit the highest are 
no better than the lowest. The present generation 
has still to struggle with the barbarous habits he 
introduced on the field of national affairs, when 
his political followers, taking possession of the gov 
ernment as " spoil," presented the spectacle of a vic 
torious soldiery looting a conquered town. There 
can be nothing of a more lawless tendency than 
the " spoils system " in politics, for it makes the 
coarsest instincts of selfishness the ruling motives 
of conduct, and inevitably brutalizes public life. 
It brought forth at once a crop of corruption 
which startled the country. 

It is a remarkable fact that, during the latter 
part of Jackson s presidency, the general condition 
of society corresponded strikingly with the style in 
which the popular idol used to " take responsibili 
ties," to disregard legal restraint, and to unchain 
his furioiis passions against his " enemies." Law 
less ruffianism has perhaps never been as rampant 
in this country as in those clays. " Many of the 
people of the United States are out of joint," 


wrote Niles in August, 1835. "A spirit of riot, 
and a disposition to take the law in their own 
hands, prevails in every quarter." Mobs, riots, 
burnings, lynchings, shootings, tarrings, duels, and 
all sorts of violent excesses, perpetrated by all sorts 
of persons upon all sorts of occasions, seemed to 
be the order of the day. They occurred not only 
in the frontier districts of the West and South, 
but were reported from all quarters, mainly from 
the cities. Alarmingly great was the number of 
people who appeared to believe that they had a 
right to put down by force and violence all who 
displeased them by act or speech or belief, in poli 
tics, or religion, or business, or social life. It can 
unfortunately not be said that Jackson discoun 
tenanced this spirit of violence when it appeared 
in his immediate surroundings. Several members 
of Congress were, on the streets of Washington, 
"cruelly assaulted" and shot at for " words spoken 
in debate." Such proceedings, when the victims 
were anti- Jackson men, found no disapproval at 
Jackson s hands, who, on one occasion in 1832, 
said that, " after a few more examples of the same 
kind, members of Congress would learn to keep 
civil tongues in their heads ; " and who on an 
other occasion, when the assailant was fined by a 
court, promptly pardoned him. The excitement in 
Washington was at one time so great that a com 
mittee of citizens waited upon the President, ask 
ing him to order out the troops for the purpose of 
putting down the rioters, a request which he an 
swered with an emphatic " No." 


Scarcely had General Jackson left the presiden 
tial chair when that apparent prosperity, which for 
a long period had kept the people in high spirits, 
and which by his friends had been attributed to 
the wisdom of his financial policy, broke down 
with a tremendous crash in the great crisis of 



THE financial measures of the Jackson regime, 
the crisis of 1837, and the party struggle brought 
forth by that event, will be made more intelligible 
by a brief review of the situation. 

The time of Jackson s presidency was a period 
of great material progress. The completion of the 
Erie Canal had made the Northern lake regions 
easily accessible, and accelerated their settlement. 
Steamboat navigation on the Western rivers in 
creased rapidly. Between 1830 and 1834 the num 
ber of steamboats rose from 130 to 230, and their 
tonnage nearly doubled, opening more widely the 
valleys of the Mississippi and of its great tribu 
taries. Railroad building, too, began in earnest. 
In 1830 only 23 miles had been in operation ; in 
1835 there were 1,098, and two years later, 1,497. 
The railroad did not yet pierce the " Great West," 
but railroad schemes were abundant there, and the 
imagination of bold speculators easily annihilated 
the distance between the Atlantic sea-board and 
the banks of the Mississippi. Canals for the 
transportation of goods were projected and be 
gun everywhere. All these things naturally stim- 


ulated the desire of locomotion and the reach of 
enterprise. The fertile acres of Illinois, Missouri, 
and Wisconsin were drawn nearer and nearer to 
the great sea-port markets, and their prospective 
value seemed to outrun all sober calculation. It 
was not surprising that the venturesome mind of 
the American should have turned to speculation in 
new lands. In the South and Southwest the spec 
ulative spirit found a special stimulus. The price 
of cotton, which had been 6 to 8 cents a pound, 
touched 13 in 1833, and vibrated between 14 and 
20 in 1835. The value of cotton lands seemed, 
therefore, to leave far behind all previous esti 

Under such conditions it required only some 
financial facilities to start the speculative spirit on 
its career. These facilities were not wanting. In 
England, owing partly to natural, partly to artifi 
cial circumstances, such as the establishment of 
many new banks of issue, large amounts of capital 
were ready to go into foreign investment and spec 
ulation. The United States were presenting the 
extraordinary spectacle of a nation extinguishing 
its public debt. The credit of the country rose, 
foreign capital was attracted, and American state 
bonds and other securities were easily sold on 
the European market in large quantities. Many 
American claims against foreign governments were 
settled at this period, and from this source, x too, 
considerable sums of money flowed in. All this 
had a highly stimulating effect. 

THE CRISIS OF 1837. 115 

To the end of moderating the tendency to spec 
ulative enterprise, which is always apt to run into 
excess, nothing would have been more desirable 
than that the financial policy of the government 
should be even more than ordinarily circumspect 
and conservative. But it was just then that the 
government withdrew its funds from the United 
States Bank, an institution under a comparatively 
cautious management, naturally inclined to serve 
by preference the legitimate business of the coun 
try, and turned over the deposits to a number of 
favored state banks. But not only that. In order 
to reconcile the people to the change, the Secre 
tary of the Treasury expressly admonished those 
" pet banks " to " afford increased facilities to com 
merce," and to expand their " accommodations to 
individuals," by means of the public money, in 
other words, to lend out the public funds as freely 
as possible. This, of course, the deposit banks did 
with zest, by no means confining their favors to 
the "merchants engaged in foreign trade," whom 
the Secretary had especially commended to them. 
As the public debt became extinguished and the 
treasury surplus grew in consequence, the amount 
of public money deposited in the " pet banks " and 
available for the " accommodation of individuals " 
increased rapidly. The United States Bank, too, 
was drawn into the whirl. From August, 1833, to 
June, 1834, the bank had contracted its loans, in 
part probably for the purpose of creating the im 
pression that the war made upon it by the admin 


istration was injuring the business of the country. 
But when it saw that the state banks were using 
this opportunity for efforts to draw its custom to 
themselves, it expanded again in order to keep its 
hold upon business. 

But the prospect of the final downfall of the 
United States Bank, and the hope of getting for 
themselves some of the public deposits, encouraged 
greatly the establishment of new state banks. In 
1830 there were about 330 in the country ; there 
were 558 in 1835, and no less than 634 in 1837. 
Their capital rose from 61 millions in 1830 to 231 
millions in 1835, and nearly 291 millions in 1837 ; 
their loans, from 200 millions in 1830 to 365 mil 
lions in 1835, and 525 millions in 1837 ; their 
note circulation, from 61 millions in 1830 to 103 
millions in 1835, and to 149 millions in 1837, with 
respectively 22 millions, 44 millions, and 38 mil 
lions of specie behind the paper. The convertibil 
ity of the bank-note circulation was therefore very 
uncertain ; the specie basis of many of the banks 
for their note issues ludicrously small. There 
was a perfect mania for establishing banks. As 
Niles reports, a bank was looked upon as a panacea 
to cure all kinds of troubles, as if it were the crea 
tion of capital by enchantment. 

The expansion of the currency and the inflation 
of prices went hand in hand under the influence 
of unbridled speculation and reckless debt-making. 
The characteristic feature of the period was the 
speculation in wild lands.- While the price of 

THE CRISIS OF 1837. 117 

everything else rose, the government price of pub 
lic land remained the same, say 1.25 an acre. 
In the light of the gorgeous future, land thus ap 
peared ridiculously cheap ; there could be no more 
promising investment. The land bought by the 
speculator was paid for in bank-notes. These 
bank-notes went from the land office as public 
funds to the deposit banks. The public funds so 
deposited were largely lent out again to specula 
tors, who used them in buying more lands. The 
money paid for these new lands went back again 
as public funds to the deposit banks, to be lent out 
again and to return in the same way. Thus the 
money went round and round in the same circle, 
carrying larger and larger quantities of public 
lands from the government to the speculators, the 
government receiving for the land in fact only 
bank credits. No wonder the land speculation 
grew beyond all bounds. In 1832 the receipts from 
the sale of the public lands had been 12,623,000; 
in 1834 they were 14,857,000 ; in 1835 they rose 
to 114,757,000, and in 1836 to the amazing figure 
of 124,877,000. And all this increase swelled the 
treasury surplus at the disposal of the deposit banks 
for the " accommodation of individuals." 

No sooner was a purchase made than the land, 
bought at $1.25 an acre, was estimated to be worth 
six, eight, ten times as much. The more a specu 
lator had bought, and the more money he had bor 
rowed to pay for the lands, the richer he thought 
himself to be. People were intoxicated with their 


imagined wealth won overnight. The fever of 
speculation remained by no means confined to the 
public lands. The contagion spread irresistibly. 
The insane expansion of credit was general. The 
frenzy raged from the cotton fields of the South to 
the pineries of Maine. In some cities the specu 
lation in real estate assumed absurd proportions. 
At Mobile, a chief cotton mart, the assessed value 
of city property rose between 1831 and 1837 from 
1,294,810 to 127,482,961 ; in New York, between 
1831 and 1836, from 1139,280,314 to 1309,500,000. 
In other towns, large and small, similar things 
were going on. The importation of merchandise 
increased enormously during the same period, and 
there was the most reckless gambling in all things 
that could be bought and sold. It was a univer 
sal carnival in which people seemed to vie with 
one another in madness of venture and expecta 

Two government measures adopted in 1836 in 
terfered with this crazy round dance, measures 
which, indeed, did not cause the explosion, for 
there were other causes making it eventually inev 
itable, but which hastened it, and probably ren 
dered it more destructive. One proceeded from 
Congress, the distribution of the surplus funds 
among the states. The idea of distributing among 
the states surplus funds accumulated in the na 
tional treasury was not a new one. Jefferson had 
suggested it ; also Jackson in his annual message 
of 1829, though he afterwards repented of it- 

THE CRISIS OF 1837. 119 

Clay s land bill, introduced, passed, and disap 
proved by Jackson in 1832, provided for the dis 
tribution of the proceeds of land sales. When, 
with the extinguishment of the public debt, the 
excess of revenue over regular expenditures lost 
its employment and simply accumulated, the ques 
tion became more pressing, especially as not only 
the proceeds from land sales, but also, under the 
stimulus of general inflation, the customs revenue, 
increased amazingly, between 1834 and 1836, 
from 116,200,000 to $23,400,000. 

The public deposits amounted on January 1, 
1835, to $10,223,000; on December 1, 1835, to 
$24,724,000 ; on March 1, 1836, to $33,700,000 ; 
and by June 1, 1836, they had risen to $41,500,000, 
distributed among thirty - five banks. This state 
of things created alarm, political as well as finan 
cial. The Whigs feared, not without reason, the 
enormous political power gathered in the hands 
of the administration by the control of banks in 
all parts of the country, which were to afford " ac 
commodation to individuals " with so many mil 
lions of government money. As to the financial 
aspect of the case, it was seriously questioned 
whether the public funds were safe in the deposit 
banks, some of which were known to be weak ; 
and that feeling of insecurity could not but be in 
creased by the mad speculation which the public 
deposits, filtering through the banks, were so pow 
erfully helping to keep up. Moreover, the exist 
ence of the surplus had its natural effect of stim- 


ulating jobbery and extravagance in Congress, as 
well as in other branches of the government. 
"We had a surplus which we knew not how to 
dispose of," said Preston of South Carolina, in Sep 
tember, 1837. " The departments were stimulated 
and goaded on to find out how much they could 
spend, while the majority in Congress seemed to 
be employed in finding out how much they could 
give." The surplus had to be disposed of, and 
Congress, at the session of 1835 1836, finally 
agreed upon a method. 

A bill was passed which provided that the de 
posits of public funds in any one bank should not 
exceed three fourths of its "paid-in" capital stock; 
that the banks should pay all drafts on the public 
deposits in specie, if required ; that no bank should 
have any public deposits that failed to redeem its 
notes in specie, and that circulated notes under five 
dollars ; and, finally, that the surplus funds at the 
disposal of the treasury on January 1, 1837, re 
serving five millions, should be " deposited " with 
the several states in proportion to their representa 
tion in the Senate and the House of Representa 
tives, to be paid back to the United States at the 
call of the Secretary of the Treasury. Jackson 
approved the bill in June, 1836, probably be 
cause, the presidential election impending, the fail 
ure of the popular distribution scheme through his 
veto might have injured Van Buren. In his mes 
sage a few months later, he gave good reasons why 
he should not have signed it. Some of those who 

THE CRISIS OF 1837. 121 

had supported the bill, Calhoun, for instance, 
holding a distribution of public funds as a gift 
among the states to be unconstitutional, but a de 
posit or loan to be constitutional, seriously thought 
that the states might be called upon at some time 
to refund the money. But generally the deposit 
was looked upon as a gift ; and Clay, on his return 
to his constituents, said " he did not believe a 
single member of either house imagined that a 
dollar would be recalled." The Whigs represented 
the passage of the bill as a great victory on their 
side. It was a bad law in itself, but perhaps no 
worse than other available expedients, since the ac 
cumulation of the surplus had not been prevented 
by a timely reduction of the taxes. 

The effect of the law was to hurry on a crisis. 
The distribution of the public deposits among the 
"pet banks " had served to place capital arbitra 
rily in different parts of the country, without much 
regard to the requirements of legitimate business. 
The regulations imposed upon the deposit banks 
by the new law, especially the provision that the 
public deposits in no one bank should exceed three 
fourths of its paid-up capital, led in some cases to 
an equally arbitrary dislocation of funds from 
banks which had an excess of deposits to other 
banks in other places which had less than the 
amount allowed. But the distribution of the 
treasury surplus among the several states produced 
this effect of arbitrary dislocation on a much 
greater scale. On January 1, 1837, the surplus 


available for distribution amounted to. $37,468,859. 
That surplus was nominally in the banks, but 
really in the hands of borrowers who used it for 
legitimate business or speculation. Withdrawing 
it from the banks meant, therefore, withdrawing it 
from the business men or speculators who had bor 
rowed it. The funds so withdrawn were made for 
some time unavailable. They passed under the 
control of the several states, some of which used 
them for public improvements, some for educa 
tional purposes, some for other objects. The 
money would, of course, gradually find its way 
back into the channels of business, but then into 
channels other than those from which it had been 

The distribution among the states was to take 
place in four quarterly installments ; but the prep 
arations for the transfer of large sums from one 
place to another and a transfer, too, regardless 
of the condition of commerce, or of the money 
market, or of the needs of any economic interest, 
or of any person had to be begun at once and 
vigorously. A fierce contraction of loans and dis 
counts necessarily followed. The exchanges be 
tween different parts of the country were violently 
disturbed, so that when the first installment of the 
surplus was delivered to the states the bodily trans 
portation of specie and bank-notes from place to 
place became necessary to an extraordinary degree. 
Millions upon millions of dollars went on their 
travels, North and South, East and West, being 

THE CRISIS OF 1837. 123 

mere freight for the time being, while the business 
from which the money was withdrawn gasped for 
breath in its struggle with a fearfully stringent 
money market. 

The trouble was aggravated by one of Jackson s 
own financial measures. For a while the enormous 
land sales struck Jackson s mind as something un 
commonly fine. In his message of December, 
1835, he spoke of them as " among the evidences 
of the increasing prosperity of the country," at 
testing " the rapidity with which agriculture, the 
first and most important occupation of man, ad 
vances, and contributes to the wealth and prosper 
ity of our extended territory." Presently, how 
ever, he became aware that the land sales did not 
mean settlement and agriculture, but speculation. 
He learned also that the land sold was paid for 
generally in notes issued, in great part at least, by 
banks of very uncertain solvency, and granting 
loans with great readiness. Banks in the old 
states would lend their small notes in large sums 
to speculators, who would carry them " out West " 
to buy land with them ; these notes would thus get 
into circulation far away from their places of issue 
and redemption, far enough to find their way 
back but slowly. The land sales were, indeed, in 
a great measure, " a conversion of public land into 
inconvertible paper." Jackson resolved that this 
must be stopped. 

His confidential friend, Benton, introduced a 
resolution in the Senate, that nothing but specie 


should be received in payment for public lands. 
The resolution had no support. Immediately after 
the adjournment of Congress, in July, 1836, Presi 
dent Jackson, although knowing that such a meas 
ure could not have passed either house of Con 
gress, and also that a majority of his Cabinet was 
against it, ordered the famous " specie circular " 
to be issued, an instruction to the land officers 
to accept in payment for public lands only gold 
and silver coin, with an exception in favor of 
actual settlers until December 15 ensuing. This 
would have been an excellent measure to restrain 
the speculation in lands at its beginning. At the 
time when it came it did, indeed, as Benton said, 
" overtake some tens of millions of this bank paper 
on its way to the land offices to be changed into 
land, which made the speculators rage." But it 
did more. As Clay at a later period said, it ex 
pressed the distrust of the Executive in the solvency 
of the banks, and created an extraordinary demand 
for specie " at a moment when the banking oper 
ations were extended and stretched to their utmost 
tension," and when the banks "were almost all 
tottering and ready to fall, for the want of that 
metallic basis on which they all rested." It drew 
specie from the centres of commerce to transport 
it to the wilderness, where it found its way through 
the land offices into Western banks, in some of 
which, according to Jackson s message, there were 
already credits to the government " greatly beyond 
their immediate means of payment." 

THE CRISIS OF 1837. 125 

Here was again a violent dislocation of capital, 
effected in the crudest way. As Webster de 
scribed it, the specie circular " checked the use of 
bank-notes in the West, and made another loud call 
for specie. The specie, therefore, is transferred to 
the West to pay for lands. Being received for 
lands, it becomes public revenue, is brought to the 
East for expenditure, and passes, on its way, other 
quantities going West to buy lands also, and in the 
same way returns again to the East." Moreover, 
while specie was required at the land office, bank 
notes passed at the custom-house. 

All this was going on at the same time with the 
distribution of the treasury surplus, a rare com 
bination of measures to withdraw millions of cap 
ital from active employment, to enforce a violent 
contraction of loans, to keep large quantities of 
specie and bank-notes in aimless migration, and 
thus to produce a general confusion which set alJ 
calculations at naught. History shows few exam 
ples of wilder financiering. No wonder that the 
money market, which in times of inflation always 
suffers from spasmodic fits of tightness, became 
tight beyond measure, and that the signs of an 
approaching collapse multiplied from day to day. 
Business men and speculators cast about frantic 
ally for some means of relief. There was a loud 
cry for the withdrawal of the specie circular, and 
Congress, at the close of the session of 18361837, 
passed by large majorities a bill rescinding it. 
But that bill Jackson refused to approve. It could 
have done no good. 


The first installment of the treasury surplus, 
amounting to $9,367,000, due on January 1, 1837, 
was taken from the deposit banks amid great 
agony, and transferred to the several states ; also 
the second, about April 1. But before the third 
fell due the general collapse came. First the in 
flux of capital from England ceased. The specu 
lation, which had prevailed there during the same 
period, was brought to an end by financial embar 
rassments in the autumn of 1836. Discounts 
went up and prices down. Some banks were com 
pelled to wind up, and three large business houses, 
which had been heavily engaged with America, 
failed. English creditors called in their dues. 
The manufacturing industries, which, carried along 
by the general whirl, had produced beyond de 
mand, had to reduce their operations, and the price 
of cotton fell more rapidly than it had risen. In 
August, 1836, it had been from 15 to 20 cents a 
pound ; in May, 1837, it was from 8 to 12. The 
cotton houses in the South went down. Nine 
tenths of the merchants of Mobile suspended. New 
Orleans was in a state of financial anarchy. To 
bacco shared the fate of cotton. The whole South 
was bankrupt. It became painfully apparent that 
the speculation in public lands had anticipated the 
possible progress of settlement by many years. 
The imagined values of great possessions in the 
West vanished into thin air. The names of the 
paper towns located in the wilderness sounded like 
ghastly jests. Fortunes in- city lots disappeared 

THE CRISIS OF 1837. 127 

overnight. The accumulated masses of imported 
merchandise shrunk more than one third in their 
value. Stocks of all kinds dropped with a thump. 
Manufacturing establishments stopped. Tens of 
thousands of workingmen were thrown on the 
street. Bankruptcies were announced by scores, 
by hundreds. " Everybody " was deeply in debt ; 
there was a terrible scarcity of available assets. 
The banks, being crippled by the difficulty in col 
lecting their dues, and by the sudden depreciation 
of the securities they held, could afford very little 
if any help. In May, 1837, while the preparatory 
steps for the distribution of the third surplus in 
stallment were in progress, the Dry Dock Bank of 
New York, one of the deposit banks, failed. Runs 
on other institutions followed ; and on May 10 the 
New York banks in a body suspended specie pay 
ments, the effect of the surplus distribution act 
and the heavy drafts for specie being given as the 
principal causes. All the banks throughout the 
country then adopted the same course. Confusion 
and distress could not have been more general. 



WHEN Andrew Jackson left office on March 4, 
1837, the great financial explosion had not yet oc 
curred. The old hero went out in a halo of glory ; 
but the disastrous conflagration broke out imme 
diately behind him, and seemed to singe his very 
heels. The man to whom he left his fearful legacy, 
Martin Van Buren, was the first trained " machine 
politician," in the modern sense of the term,, ele 
vated to the presidency. He had made his studies 
in the school of New York politics, and had become 
the ruling spirit of the renowned Albany Regency. 
His career gave color to the charge that he per 
mitted no fixed principles to stand in the way 
of his personal advancement. He had been a 
Clinton and an anti-Clinton man. He had, as a 
legislator in New York, been in favor of giving 
colored citizens the right to vote ; he had been 
against the admission of Missouri as a Slave State ; 
he had helped to elect Rufus King, a leader of the 
Anti-slavery Federalists, to the Senate of the United 
States ; and then he became the foremost of the 
" Northern men with Southern principles." Pie 
had, in the New York Convention of 1821, opposed 


universal suffrage, and had then become an ad 
vocate of the extremest Democratic theories. He 
had been the finest pattern of the " baby-kissing " 
statesman, who, as one of his friends described 
him, " travels from county to county, from town to 
town, sees everybody, talks to everybody, comforts 
the disappointed, and flatters the expectant with 
hope of success." He had, as the " Democratic 
Review " said in 1848, by " party centralization at 
Albany, controlling offices as well as safety bank- 
charters, presidents, cashiers, and directors in all 
the counties, formed machinery which set every 
man s face towards Albany, as a political Mecca," 
and had thus " acquired his title to national hon 
ors." He had been a Crawford manager, and had 
become a Jackson manager. As a member of 
Jackson s Cabinet, he had won the old hero s es 
pecial favor by supporting the cause of Mrs. Ea 
ton ; and Jackson selected him as his successor, 
employing all his tremendous energy in the ad 
vancement of the favorite. Every one knew that 
he owed the presidency solely to Jackson s power. 
He was a man of scanty education, but of much 
native ability ; smooth, affable, and good-humored ; 
always on good personal terms with his political 
enemies. As President, he promised " to tread gen 
erally in the footsteps of President Jackson ; " and 
his inaugural address contained, by the side of some 
well-worn generalities, but one positive declara 
tion, that he would inflexibly oppose the abolition 
of slavery in the District of Columbia against the 


wishes of the slave-holding states. This man had 
to take upon himself the troubles left behind by 
Jackson, troubles which would have borely tried 
the stoutest heart and the strongest mind. He 
confronted them with unexpected fortitude. 

As is always the case under such circumstances, 
the distressed business community turned to the 
government for relief. It demanded the recall of 
the specie circular, which Van Bur en firmly refused, 
and the speedy convocation of Congress in extra ses 
sion, which he was obliged to grant. The deposit 
banks having suspended specie payments with the 
rest, the government funds were locked up, or had 
to be drawn from the banks in depreciated bank 
paper. The distribution of the first three install 
ments of the treasury surplus had well-nigh ex 
hausted the resources of the government, and there 
was a prospect of a deficit, instead of a surplus, be 
fore the end of the year. Congress met on Sep 
tember 4, 1837. 

The business crisis had brought forth a strong 
reaction against the administration party, which 
showed itself in one local election after another. 
The Democratic members of Congress arrived at 
Washington in a somewhat dejected state of mind. 
The Whigs saw their opportunity for a successful 
opposition, and the spirit in which Clay was ready 
to lead that opposition had already been foreshad 
owed in a letter written to his friend Brooke shortly 
after Van Buren s election. u Undoubtedly," he 
wrote, " such an opposition should avail itself of 


the errors of the new administration ; but it seems 
to me that it would acquire greater force by avail 
ing itself also of that fatal error in its origin, which 
resulted from the President elect being the desig 
nated successor of the present incumbent. If a 
President may name his successor and bring the 
whole machinery of the government, including its 
one hundred thousand dependents, into the can 
vass, and if by such means he achieves a victory, 
such a fatal precedent as this must be rebuked and 
reversed, or there is an end of the freedom of elec 
tion. Now I think that no wisdom or benefit, in 
the measures of the new administration, can com 
pensate or atone for this vice in its origin." This 
evidently meant systematic opposition, just that 
kind of opposition which had been waged by the 
Jackson party against the administration of John 
Quincy Adams, also on account of its origin, which 
Clay had then considered extremely unjust. 

The subject of the next presidential election, too, 
was already looming up. Van Buren had hardly 
slept a night in the White House when Clay s 
friends in New York held a meeting to consider the 
means by which Clay s election in 1840 could be 
secured. The proceedings of that meeting having 
been communicated to him, Clay wrote in August, 
1837, as a reply, one of those stilted letters in which 
candidates for the presidency, made restless not only 
by their own ambiticn, but also by the importunate 
zeal of their " friends," vainly try to conceal the 
miseries of their existence. It was too early yet, he 


wrote, to speak of the presidential election. The 
popular mind, owing to the prevailing distress, was 
occupied with schemes of relief. To be sure, the 
only adequate remedy for existing evils would be a 
" change of rulers." Too much delay in considering 
how that change should be effected was as unadvis- 
able as too great precipitancy. There ought to be 
a national convention to avoid division and lack 
of harmony ; but all proper means should be used 
beforehand to concentrate public sentiment upon 
some candidate. He himself was not anxious 
rather was " extremely unwilling " to be " thrown 
into the turmoil of a presidential canvass." But 
if he " were persuaded " that a majority of his 
fellow-citizens desired to make him President, his 
" sense of duty would exact obedience to their will." 
And so on. In short, Clay was an aspirant for the 
Whig nomination for the presidency in 1840, and 
he desired the preliminary campaign to begin with 
out delay. 

Van Buren s message in September, 1837, was a 
surprise to those who had not considered him a 
man of courage. He gave a clear exposition of 
the causes which had brought on the existing dis 
tress. He admitted that the policy of depositing 
the public funds in state banks had proved a 
failure. He declared himself against a continua 
tion or repetition of the experiment, and as firmly 
against a restoration of the United States Bank as 
the fiscal agent of the government. He recom 
mended that the government itself, through its own 


officers, do its fiscal business, consisting in " the 
collection, safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement 
of the public money." He further recommended 
the enactment of a bankrupt law applicable to 
"corporations and other bankers." He declared 
his determination not to withdraw the specie cir 
cular. Nothing but the constitutional currency, 
gold and silver, or " its equivalent," - notes con 
vertible into specie on demand, should be taken 
in payment by the government. He also urged 
that the distribution of the fourth surplus install 
ment, due on October 1, should be withheld, as 
there was no available " surplus ; " and that the 
prospective deficit in the Treasury be covered by 
the temporary issue of treasury notes. 

Further measures of " relief " he did not pro 
pose, giving as a reason that it was not the office of 
the government under the Constitution to help peo 
ple out of their business embarrassments. Neither 
did he think that the government had anything to 
do with the " management of domestic and foreign 
exchange." In his opinion, all the government 
could do was to furnish to the people a good " con 
stitutional currency," to collect its taxes in good 
money, and to defray its expenses and pay its 
creditors in good money. In this respect he did 
not go far enough to " follow the footsteps of 
President Jackson," who had made most of his ex 
periments of financial policy, professedly at least, 
with a view to improving the domestic exchanges. 
Van Buren recognized no duty of the government 


regarding these things, beyond the mere regulation 
of the gold and silver coin. 

Immediately after the reading of the message, 
Clay " could not forbear saying that he felt the 
deepest regret that the President, entertaining 
such views, had deemed it his duty to call an extra 
session of Congress at this inconvenient period of 
the year." This was characteristic of the spirit 
of the opposition. It found the recommendations 
of the President unacceptable or insufficient, but 
was not able, or did not choose, to offer proposi 
tions of its own. The administration party brought 
forward the President s programme in a series of 
bills, the first being a bill to postpone the distribu 
tion of the fourth surplus installment until further 
provision by law. The customs revenues, as well 
as the land sales, having suddenly fallen off, there 
was a deficit rather than a surplus of revenue in 
prospect. Indeed, the government could scarcely 
meet its obligations from day to day. It seems 
utterly absurd that under such circumstances the 
distribution of a surplus should have been de 
manded. Yet this demand the Whigs made under 
Clay s leadership, for it was Clay who, at a meet 
ing of Whigs at the beginning of the session, had 
insisted upon the maintenance of the distribution 
policy. His conduct can be explained, but not 

The three surplus installments distributed among 
the states had in some of them been more or less 
usefully expended, in others squandered, and in 


several had led to engagements for future expendi 
tures. In other words, some of the states, having 
received some money from the federal treasury, 
had run into debt in anticipation of more. The 
proposition not to distribute the fourth installment, 
therefore, called forth a great clamor. It was de 
nounced as a breach of contract and an act of rob 
bery, and the demand was made in all seriousness 
that, if the government had not the money to be 
distributed as a surplus, it was bound to borrow 
the required amount by way of a loan. All these 
outcries found voice in Congress. The bill to 
withhold the fourth installment finally passed ; but 
the bulk of the Whig vote, including the names of 
Clay, Webster, Bayard, Crittenden, Clayton, Pres 
ton, and Southard, stand recorded against it. The 
bill passed with an amendment by which the power 
of recalling from the several states the distributed 
" deposits " was transferred from the Secretary of 
the Treasury to Congress, which was equivalent to 
an assurance that they would never be recalled. 
In fact, they have remained on the books of the 
Treasury down to our days as "unavailable funds." 
If ever a similar measure should be proposed 
again, the history of the moral and economic effects 
produced by the distribution of the treasury sur 
plus in 1837, in the states which received the 
money, as well as throughout the general business 
community, may well be studied as a warning ex 

The administration party then offered a bill to 


issue ten millions of treasury notes. It gave the 
Whigs a welcome opportunity for ridiculing Jack 
son s financial experiments, which had flourished 
before the country high-sounding promises of a gold 
currency, and then resulted in a new issue of " gov 
ernment paper money." Such sarcastic thrusts 
were certainly not undeserved. But the govern 
ment needed the money to keep its machinery run 
ning ; and Clay s opposition to the bill, he prefer 
ring a loan, could not carry more than a handful 
of votes with it. The financial condition of the 
government was such that several new issues of 
treasury notes became necessary, continuing until 

But the principal struggle of the session took 
place on the sub- treasury bill, at the time called 
the " Divorce Bill," as its purpose was to divorce 
the government from the banks. It provided 
simply that all officers receiving public moneys 
should safely keep them in their custody, without 
loaning or otherwise using them, until duly ordered 
to pay them out, or to transfer them either to the 
central treasury at Washington, or to its branches 
or sub-treasuries in different parts of the country ; 
and that the officers concerned should be held to 
give sufficient bond, and to render their accounts 
periodically, in one word, that the government 
revenues, to be collected in gold and silver, should 
be in the safe-keeping no longer of banks, but of 
government officers. Calhoun moved as an amend 
ment that the notes of specie-paying banks should 


be accepted in part payment of public dues, but in 
decreasing proportion from year to year, until a 
certain period, when the government should accept 
only specie. 

With regard to the subject involved in the bill, 
both parties executed some curious marches and 
counter-marches. The Democrats had, under Jack 
son, approved of the transfer of the public deposits 
from the United States Bank to the selected state 
banks, the funds to be used for the accommoda 
tion of the business community. Now they pro 
posed the withdrawal of the public funds from the 
banks, and the absolute prohibition of their use 
for private accommodation. The Whigs had vio 
lently denounced the " pet bank " system as unsafe 
and demoralizing ; now they insisted that the with 
drawal of the public money from the banks was an 
attack upon the banking system, and would be 
ruinous to business interests as well as dangerous 
to free institutions. 

The debate on the sub-treasury scheme extended 
through four sessions. It was one of the most 
exciting in the history of Congress. At first popu 
lar sentiment, stimulated by the influence of the 
banks, ran strongly against the measure. In the 
extra session of 1837 the bill passed the Senate, 
but was defeated in the House. In the regular 
session of 1837 - 1838 it failed again. Being 
pressed with great perseverance by the adminis 
tration, it passed at last in the session of 1839- 


Clay led the opposition to it from beginning to 
end. In the debate his powers as an orator shone 
out in all their brilliancy, but they could hardly 
disguise the weakness of his reasoning. The whole 
cause of the economic disturbances, according to 
him, was to be found in Jackson s measures against 
the United States Bank. These measures, he ar 
gued, would have had no excuse had there been no 
treasury surplus ; and there would have been no 
treasury surplus had not Jackson prevented his 
(Clay s) land bill, providing for the distribution 
of the proceeds of the land sales, from becoming a 
law. The enactment of the sub-treasury bill "must 
terminate in the total subversion of the state 
banks," and would place them all at the mercy of 
the general government. The "proposed substitu 
tion of a purely metallic currency for the mixed 
medium " would reduce all property in value by 
two thirds, obliging every debtor in effect " to pay 
three times as much as he had contracted for." 
Moreover, the public funds would be unsafe in the 
hands of the public officers. There would be fa 
voritism, and a dangerous increase of the federal 
patronage. It would immensely strengthen the 
power of the Executive, and " that perilous union 
of the purse arrl the sword, so justly dreaded by 
our British and Revolutionary ancestors, would be 
come absolute and complete." The local banks be 
ing destroyed, " the government would monopolize 
the paper issues of the country ; the federal treas 
ury itself would become a vast bank, with the sub- 


treasuries for its branches ; a combined and con 
centrated money power would then be beheld, equal 
to all the existing banks with the United States 
Bank superadded. This tremendous power would 
be wielded by the Secretary of the Treasury under 
the immediate command of the President. Here 
would be a perfect union of the sword and the 
purse, an actual, visible consolidation of the 
moneyed power. Who or what could withstand 
it ? These states themselves would become sup 
pliants at the feet of the Executive for a portion 
of the paper emissions. The day might come when 
the Senate of the United States would have " hum 
bly to implore some future President to grant it 
money to pay the wages of its own sergeant-at-arms 
and doorkeeper." He firmly believed that the en 
actment of the sub-treasury bill would be " fatal to 
the best interests of this country, and ultimately 
subversive of its liberties." 

In our days the sub-treasury system, in its essen 
tial features as originally designed, having so long 
been in practical operation, we find it difficult to 
understand how a mind like Clay s should have 
looked upon it with such extravagant apprehen 
sions. But it is equally difficult to believe that 
these expressions of fear should have been mere 
dissimulation, or oratorical feint. Indeed, the so 
lemnity with which he began his second speech 
on this subject, on February 19, 1838, stands per 
haps without example in the annals of the Senate. 

" I have seen some public service [he said^j, passed 


through troubled times, and often addressed public as 
semblies, in this capitol and elsewhere ; but never before 
have I risen in a deliberative body under more oppressed 
feelings, or with a deeper sense of awful responsibility. 
Never before have I risen to express my opinions upon 
any public measure fraught with such tremendous con 
sequences to the welfare and prosperity of the country, 
and so perilous to the liberties of the people, as I believe 
the bill under consideration will be. If you knew, sir, 
what sleepless hours reflecting upon it has cost me, if 
you knew with what fervor and sincerity I have im 
plored Divine assistance to strengthen and sustain me 
in my opposition to it, I should have credit with you, 
at least, for the sincerity of my convictions. And I 
have thanked my God that he has prolonged iny life 
until the present time to enable me to exert myself in 
the service of my country against a project far tran 
scending in pernicious tendency any that I have ever had 
occasion to consider." 

Such displays of emotion are so apt to appear 
ridiculous to the hearer, that a skilled parliamen 
tary speaker will hardly venture upon them as an 
artifice, especially with so cool an audience as the 
Senate. Clay was then sixty years old, too old 
for experiments in farce. His utterances must 
therefore be taken as evidence that he profoundly 
believed in all the horrors he predicted. The old 
cry about the " union of the purse and the sword " 
probably had so excited his imagination as to 
make him overlook the fact that what our " British 
ancestors " dreaded was that union of sword and 
purse which consisted in the levying of taxes with 


out law, and the spending of public funds without 
an appropriation by parliament ; and that Martin 
Van Buren, in proposing the safe-keeping of public 
funds by government officers, was very far from 
aiming at such a privilege. 

In truth, the only objections of importance to 
the sub-treasury scheme were those brought for 
ward by Webster in a series of speeches on the 
sub-treasury bill which discussed the subject of 
currency and exchange with remarkable grasp of 
thought, clearness of statement, and brilliancy of 
reasoning. Webster blamed the President for not 
recognizing in his recommendations the power as 
well as the duty of the government to secure to the 
people a safe and uniform currency, which would 
facilitate the domestic exchanges, and for not aid 
ing the banks in their efforts to return to specie 
payments. He expressed the apprehension that 
the sub-treasury system would temporarily with 
draw large amounts of money from active employ 
ment, an evil which could be reduced to the 
smallest proportions by confining the revenues of 
the government to its current wants, thus avoiding 
the accumulation of a surplus. But Webster did 
not see in the sub-treasury system the downfall of 
republican institutions. 

As to the question of remedy, however, Webster 
and Clay substantially agreed. Their invention 
did not go beyond the establishment of another 
United States Bank. That was their panacea. 
Clay confessed that he felt himself unable to sug- 


gest to his friends, who looked to him for a " heal 
ing measure," anything that did not " comprehend 
a national bank as an essential part." At the 
same time he frankly declared : " If a national 
bank be established, its stability and its utility will 
depend upon the general conviction which is felt 
of its necessity ; and until such a conviction is 
deeply impressed upon the people, and clearly 
manifested by them, it would, in my judgment, be 
unwise even to propose a bank." That such a 
bank could be safe and useful only if the people 
were generally convinced of its necessity, was a 
statesmanlike observation ; if Clay had only ad 
hered to its true meaning when the time of tempta 
tion came ! The Senate, as then constituted, cer 
tainly did not believe in that necessity, for it passed 
a resolution adverse to the establishment of a na 
tional bank by a majority of more than two thirds. 
Neither was the conduct of the old Bank of 
the United States, which, after the expiration of 
its national charter, continued to exist under a 
charter obtained from the State of Pennsylvania, 
calculated to maintain the prestige of its name. 
When it was severed from the government, it 
drifted into unsound operations. In the efforts to 
resume specie payments, which were made mainly 
under the leadership of the venerable Albert Gal- 
latin, then a bank president in New York, the 
United States Bank played an obstructive and in 
many respects questionable part. Clay offered a 
resolution in the Senate to promote resumption by 


making the notes of the resuming banks receivable 
in payment of all dues to the general government. 
The resolution was not adopted, but the New York 
banks resumed, without this aid, in May, 1838 ; 
the New England banks followed in July, and 
then also the Bank of the United States and those 
of the South and West. The strong, solvent banks 
maintained themselves without much difficulty. In 
October, 1839, the Bank of the United States sus 
pended again, carrying the Southern and Western 
banks with it, while those of New York and New 
England remained firm. In 1841 the Bank of 
the United States broke down entirely. Its stock 
holders lost their whole investment. The catas 
trophe was charged to corrupt and reckless man 
agement. Nicholas Biddle, who had resigned the 
presidency already in March, 1839, was prosecuted 
for conspiracy and acquitted. He died in 1844, 
poor and broken-hearted. 

At the time of the debates on the sub-treasury 
bill the United States Bank still held a powerful 
position, although its equivocal attitude as to the 
resumption of specie payments excited suspicions 
which subsequently turned out to have been but 
too well justified. It would be unjust to identify 
the conduct of that institution during its existence 
as a mere state bank with its conduct while it was 
the fiscal agent of the general government. Yet 
these two characters and periods were not kept 
apart in the popular mind ; the final downfall of 
the institution cast its shadow over the name 


throughout its whole career, and it long remained 
a very general impression that the old Bank of the 
United States under " Nick Biddle " had always 
been a very corrupt and corrupting concern. 

The contests on the sub-treasury bill and the 
other so-called relief measures brought into public 
view a rupture in the Democratic ranks. Several 
prominent Democrats in the Senate and House 
(Rives of Virginia, and Tallmadge of New York, 
and others), who believed that the sub-treasury sys 
tem would destroy the banking interest, joined the 
opposition and were called " Conservatives." But 
a more exciting event was the final breaking up of 
that alliance in which Clay and Calhoun had ap 
peared as companions in arms against Jackson. 
While Jackson was President, Calhoun had zeal 
ously cooperated with the Whigs in their resistance 
to the " dangerous growth of executive power." 
Jackson gone, Calhoun appeared as a friend of the 
Democratic administration. He dissolved the old 
partnership with a formal manifesto, a public let 
ter, in which he declared that the farther cooper 
ation of those who had been united in opposition 
to Jackson, namely, the state-rights party and the 
Whigs, might indeed succeed in overthrowing the 
administration, but that the victory would redound 
only to the benefit of the Whigs and their cause ; 
that he and his followers could not consent to be 
absorbed by an organization " whose principles and 
policy," as he expressed it, " are so opposite to 
ours, and so dangerous to our institutions, as well 


as oppressive to us : " he could therefore not con 
tinue " to sustain those in opposition in whose 
wisdom, firmness, and patriotism he had no reason 
to confide." This was not only notice of a dis 
solved alliance : it was a declaration of war. 

Such a challenge could not pass unanswered. A 
* personal debate " succeeded, one of those orator 
ical lance-breakings in which the statesmen of that 
period delighted, and which that generation of 
citizens listened to or followed in the printed re 
ports with bated breath. This time it was a pas 
sage at arms between those who were called the 
giants, Calhoun on one side, Clay and Web 
ster on the other ; but on his side Clay was so 
much more conspicuous than Webster that the 
debate was usually called " the great debate be 
tween Clay and Calhoun." It started in the shape 
of great orations, and then, subsiding and breaking 
out again, it ran fitfully along with the discussions 
on the sub-treasury and on Calhoun s land bill 
until January, 184&. 

It was a curious spectacle, that of the two con 
tracting parties to the compromise of 1833, now 
become enemies, settling their accounts in public. 
But, as is usually the case, these encounters, how 
ever dramatic and brilliant, added little to the stock 
of things worth knowing. They consisted mainly 
in arduous efforts of each combatant to set forth 
what he desired the world to think of himself and 
of his antagonist. Clay opened with a severe crit 
icism of Calhoun s new alliance with the Van Bu- 


ren administration. Calhoun was especially anx 
ious to establish the consistency of his " record," 
which he tried to do with great elaborateness, and 
to prove that the compromise of 1833 had been 
his victory and Clay s defeat. He drew a picture 
of himself striking down the protective policy, the 
American system, by " state interposition," another 
name for nullification ; and of Clay finding him 
self deserted by his friends and proposing the com 
promise to save his political life, the compromise 
then being accepted by Calhoun as the capitulation 
of a discomfited foe is accepted by the victor. 
Clay retorted with his version of the story. He 
had found Calhoun at that period in an untenable, 
miserable, and perilous situation ; he held out the 
compromise to the unfortunate nullifier as a rope 
is thrown to a drowning man, almost from mere 
motives of pity ; Calhoun eagerly grasped it as a 
last chance of escape from Jackson s clutches. He 
(Clay) desired, too, to save the protective system 
from greater damage, and the country from an ex 
citing conflict. 

This controversy, going through a variety of 
repetitions, at last culminated in an angry explo 
sion. " Events had placed him (Clay) flat on his 
back," said Calhoun, " and he had no way to re 
cover himself but by the compromise. He was 
forced by the action of the state, which I in part 
represent, against his system, by my counsel to 
compromise, in order to save himself. I had the 
mastery over him on that occasion." This set 


Clay s wrath aflame. " The Senator from South 
Carolina," he exclaimed, " has said that I was flat 
on my back, and that he was my master. He my 
master ! I would not own him as a slave!" This 
retort, although neither witty nor elegant, was at 
least an emphatic expression of genuine feeling, 
and much enjoyed by Clay s friends. 

On the whole, Clay appeared in this debate to 
much greater advantage than Calhoun. It was not 
only the readiness and brilliancy of his eloquence, 
with its captivating tones, its biting sarcasm, its stir 
ring appeals, and the music of sonorous sentences, 
that appealed to the hearer and reader, while Cal- 
houn s speech, although compact, precise, and well 
arranged, was somewhat dry in tone, jerking and 
rapid in delivery, and without a gesture to enliven 
it ; but Clay was also more truthful, more ingen 
uous, more chivalrous. His version of the com 
promise of 1833 certainly accorded more with the 
facts than did Calhoun s. Clay was, indeed, not 
justified in representing the compromise as a pro 
tection measure. He proposed it to save a little 
remnant of the " American system," and to settle a 
difficulty dangerous to the country without leaving 
the matter to Jackson s violent impulses. But to 
say that the compromise was dictated by Calhoun 
and intended to save Clay, was utterly absurd. 
Calhoun accepted it, and assented to provisions 
very distasteful to him, in order to escape from a 
perilous situation without an entire sacrifice of 
pride and a total surrender of his cause. John 


Quiiicy Adams witnessed one of the encounters. 
" Clay," lie wrote, " had manifestly the advantage 
in the debate. The truth and the victory were 
with Clay, who spoke of the South Carolina nullifi 
cation with such insulting contempt that it brought 
out Preston, who complained of it bitterly. Pres 
ton s countenance was a portraiture of agonizing 

To accuse Calhoun of tergiversation and treach 
ery because he left the Whig alliance and went 
over to Van Buren, was, indeed, unjust. Calhoun 
had never been a Whig. For many years he had 
not sworn allegiance to any party except his " state- 
rights party," and that he expected to take with 
him wherever he went. It was easily shown, as 
Clay and Webster did show, that Calhoun had in 
years long past advocated the United States Bank, 
internal improvements, a protective tariff, and 
generally a broad construction of constitutional 
powers. But he had done that as a young Repub 
lican, long before the existence of the Whig party. 
Since that period Calhoun s mind had gone through 
that process which became decisive for his whole 
career as a statesman. He had always been a pro- 
slavery man. But so long as slavery seemed se 
cure he permitted himself to have opinions upon 
other subjects according to their own merits. All 
this changed so soon as he saw that slavery was in 
danger. From that time all the workings of his 
mind and all his political endeavors centred upon 
the preservation of slavery. State-rights prince 


pies, nullification, political alliances, all these were 
to him subservient to his one aim. He modified 
his theories, as well as his associations, as that one 
interest seemed to demand. In Jackson he had 
opposed assumptions of executive power hostile 
to the state-rights principle-, which he considered 
the essential bulwark of slavery. The ascendency 
of the Whig party he feared, because it would 
strengthen the general government in a manner 
dangerous to slavery. He saw in the breaking up 
of the alliance with the Whigs "the chance of 
effecting; the union of the whole South." 


But there was something crafty and disingenu 
ous in the manner in which Calhoun tried to prove 
the complete consistency of his political conduct 
during the first period with that during the second. 
He worked hard to show that, while he supported 
the tariff, internal improvements, the United States 
Bank, and a liberal construction of the Constitu 
tion, he never meant what he appeared to mean, 
in fact, that he had really never been the man 
he had induced his associates to believe him to be. 
His own presentation of himself was calculated to 
characterize him as a man of mental reservations 
and secret purposes, with whom it was dangerous 
to cooperate in full confidence. 

Clay, on the other hand, while defending his 
general consistency with his usual impulsiveness, 
did not hesitate frankly to admit that once, in 
deed, on an important subject, he had changed 
his opinion ; and the dashing freedom with which 


he opened himself as to his career, his principles, 
and his aims, could scarcely fail to draw to him 
the hearts of his hearers. One of his most note 
worthy utterances in this debate was that upon the 
tariff: ".No one, Mr. President," said he, "in the 
commencement of the protective policy, ever sup 
posed that it was to be perpetual. We hoped and 
believed that temporary protection, extended to 
our infant manufactures, would bring them up, 
and enable them to withstand competition with 
those of Europe. If the protective policy were 
entirely to cease in 1842, it would have existed 
twenty - six years from 1816, or eighteen from 
1824, quite as long as, at either of those periods, 
its friends supposed might be necessary." 

While the sub-treasury bill was passing through 
its various stages, Clay was ever active in discuss 
ing a variety of other subjects. In 1837 and 1838 
there was going on in Upper Canada an insurrec 
tion called the " Patriot War," begun for the ob 
ject of reforming the government of the province. 
Many citizens of the United States sympathized 
with the insurgents. A British force came over to 
the American side of Niagara River and destroyed 
the steamboat Caroline, which was suspected of 
being used for conveying men and stores to the 
Canadian revolutionists. Clay thundered vehe 
mently against the " British outrage," and called 
for satisfaction, but strongly deprecated war. 

When a territorial government for Oregon was 
proposed, he advised cautious proceedings, in order 


to avoid complications with England ; and as to the 
settlement of the disputed northwestern boundary, 
too, his voice was for arbitration and peace. He 
spoke on a resolution concerning the American 
claims against Mexico, counseling moderation and 
justice, and censuring the administration for its 
bullying attitude. He supported a bill against 
dueling in the District of Columbia. He opposed 
the reduction of the price of public lands according 
to a graduated scale, as well as the preemption 
right of settlers, adhering to his old notion that 
the public lands should be sold at public auction, 
and be treated as a source of public revenue. But 
also another and greater question called him forth 
again, the overshadowing importance of which only 
gradually dawned upon his mind. 



THE anti-slavery agitation continued, and grew 
in strength. The petitions for the abolition of 
slavery in the District of Columbia, presented in 
the session of 1835-1836, had borne 34,000 signa 
tures. Those presented in 1837-1838 bore 300,000. 
The number of anti-slavery societies in the North 
ern States had increased to 2,000. The movement 
was no longer confined to little conventicles. In 
fact, some of the original abolitionists, as is often 
the case with men who give themselves to an idea 
far ahead of the common ways of thinking, began 
to run into abstract speculations, in this case, a 
variety of theories concerning woman s rights, non- 
resistance, the wrongfulness of all government, arid 
similar theories ; and, drifting into polemics among 
themselves, they lost much of their immediate in 
fluence. But their cause now moved forward by 
its own impulse. The legislatures of Massachusetts 
and Vermont passed, by enormous majorities, reso 
lutions censuring the action of Congress in refus 
ing to receive, or to treat with respect, anti-slavery 
petitions, as hostile to the Constitution, and affirm 
ing the power of Congress to abolish slavery in 


the District of Columbia. Vermont also protested 
against the annexation of Texas. The legislature 
of Connecticut repealed the " black laws." The 
anti-slavery movement began to make itself felt as 
a power on the political field. 

At the same time the South became painfully 
sensible of the growing superiority of the North in 
population and wealth. In 1838 a " commercial 
convention " of the Southern States was held, 
which, after instituting some gloomy historical and 
statistical comparisons, formed the conclusion that 
the South was becoming impoverished and " trib 
utary " to the North ; that this was owing to the 
tariff, internal improvements, and abuses of gov 
ernment ; and that, as a remedy, the South should 
" open a direct trade between Southern and foreign 
ports." The convention did not seem to suspect 
that slavery was at the bottom of it all, and that 
they pronounced the doom of slavery by their very 
complaints. On the contrary, the more fatal the 
evil became, the more blindly and passionately 
they hugged it. 

In December, 1837, when petitions for the aboli 
tion of slavery in the District of Columbia were 
presented in the Senate, Clay, whose democratic 
instinct was keenly stirred, inquired of the Sen 
ator presenting them " whether the feeling of abo 
lition in the abstract was extending itself " in 
the states from which the petitions were arriving, 
" or whether it was not becoming mixed up with 
other matters, such, for instance, as the belief that 


the sacred right of petition had been assailed ? " 
The answer was that there had been such a mixture 
of causes. Clay then, advancing a step from the 
position he had formerly taken, moved that the 
petitions be not only received, but that they be 
referred to the Committee on the District of Col 
umbia, " to act on them as they pleased." When 
it was objected that such a course would pro 
voke that most undesirable thing, argument on the 
slavery question, Clay answered : 

" It has been said that this is not a case for argument. 
Not a case for argument ! What is it that lies at the 
bottom of all our free institutions ? Argument, inquiry, 
reasoning, consideration, deliberation. What question 
is there in human affairs so weak or so strong that it 
cannot be approached by argument and reason ? This 
country will, in every emergency, appeal to its enlight 
ened judgment and its spirit of union and harmony, and 
the appeal will not be unsuccessful." 

These words were spoken while the extreme pro- 
slavery men cried out against the reception of 
every anti-slavery petition in the Senate, and muz 
zled the House with gag rules, feeling instinctively 
that free argument was just the thing slavery could 
not endure. Free argument on slavery was what 
the abolitionists demanded, and Clay, advocating 
the same thing, soon found himself denounced as 
one of them. 

In the nineteenth century slavery could live only 
if surrounded by silence. Calhoun knew this well, 
but, as if impelled by the evil fate of his cause, he 


could not remain silent himself. While insisting 
that no petition hostile to slavery should be re 
ceived and discussed by the Senate, he invited the 
discussion of the subject by offering a series of 
resolutions which set forth his theory of the rela 
tions between slavery and the Union. They af 
firmed that the several states entered the Union 
as independent and sovereign states, with the view 
to " increased security against all dangers, domestic 
as well as foreign ; " that u any intermeddling of 
any one or more states, or a combination of their 
citizens, with the domestic institutions or police of 
the others, on any ground, political, moral, or re 
ligious," was unconstitutional, insulting, and tend 
ing to destroy the Union ; that the general govern 
ment was instituted by the several states as " a 
common agent " to use the powers delegated to it 
to give " increased stability and security to the 
domestic institutions of the states," and to resist 
all attempts to attack, weaken, or destroy them ; 
that slavery was an important part of the domes 
tic institutions referred to ; that the intermeddling 
to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia or 
in any of the territories, under the pretext that 
slavery was " immoral or sinful," would be " a 
dangerous attack on the institutions of all the 
slave-holding states ; " and, finally, that resistance 
to annexation of new slave territory (pointing at 
Texas), on the assumption that slavery was " im 
moral, or sinful, or otherwise obnoxious," would 
be contrary to the equality of rights and advan- 


tages of the several states under the Constitu 
tion, and a virtual disfranchisement of the Slave 
States. In other words, every attack on slavery 
anywhere was to be considered unconstitutional in 
spirit ; state - rights must be maintained for the 
Slave States, and the general government must 
be part of the police force, to give " increased 
stability and security " to slavery. 

The vote on these resolutions, Calhoun said, 
would be " a test." By rejecting them the Senate 
would say to the South, " come here no longer for 
protection." If the Senate adopted them, " it 
would be a holy pledge of that body to protect the 
South from further aggression." The postpone 
ment or evasion of a vote on them " must be con 
sidered a silent acquiescence in the insults offered 
to Southern rights and Southern feelings." 

Calhoun s instinct was correct. Slavery was in 
danger indeed, it was lost if people were per 
mitted to attack it as " an immoral and sinful in 
stitution." But could he force people, by a resolu 
tion adopted in the Senate, to believe that slavery 
was not sinful and immoral ? Could he hope thus 
to disarm the ruling sentiment of the nineteenth 
century ? He himself had grave doubts. " He 
was not sanguine," he said, " of the success of the 
measure, even if it should be adopted. He had 
presented it as the most likely to do good, and in 
the desire to do anything to avert the approaching 
catastrophe, which he was most anxious to avoid." 
He desired to preserve the Union, provided he 


could make slavery secure within it. " This [the 
slavery question] was the only question of suffi 
cient potency," he said, " to divide the Union, and 
divide it it would, or drench the country in blood 
if not arrested." He saw the danger clearly. He 
felt instinctively that a people differing essen 
tially in their notions of right and wrong cannot 
permanently remain bound together by voluntary 
union. But could he hope to avert the danger by 
the promulgation of mere abstractions ? What he 
actually accomplished was to put the incompati 
bility of slavery with free institutions again in the 
strongest light. 

A Senator from Indiana, Smith, promptly moved 
to add a proviso to Calhoun s resolutions, that noth 
ing therein should be construed as expressing an 
opinion of the Senate adverse to the fundamental 
principles of this government : that " all men are 
created equal ; " that the freedom of speech and of 
the press, and the rights of peaceable meeting and 
of petition, should never be abridged ; that " error 
of opinion may be tolerated while reason is left 
free to combat it ; " and that "the Union must be 
preserved." He showed conclusively that, if the 
prohibition of " intermeddling " were enforced by 
effective legislation, all these fundamental prin 
ciples of free government would have to yield. 
Here was again the logic of liberty put face to face 
with the logic of slavery. 

Calhoun might have read the ultimate fate of 
his cause in the troubled faces of the " Northern 


Senators with Southern principles." They looked 
at him beseechingly. They wished to support him 
and stand by the South ; they would go as far as 
they could ; but he must not put upon them loads 
too heavy for them to carry in their states ; he 
must not threaten the right of petition ; he must 
not impose upon the general government the duty 
of " strengthening " slavery, and of " increasing 
its stability ; " he must not insist upon condemn 
ing as dangerous fanatics all those among their 
constituents who believed slavery to be " immoral 
and sinful." He was indeed asking too much of 
them. Their embarrassment was pitiable to be 

Clay stepped in with an intermediate proposi 
tion, after the debate had proceeded for several 
days, and the first resolutions of Calhoun s series, 
modified and amended, had been adopted. Clay 
had voted for them, " not," as he said, " from 
any confidence in their healing virtues." On the 
contrary, he thought, they were calculated, espe 
cially at the North, " to increase and exasperate, 
instead of diminishing and assuaging, the existing 
agitation." What he thought necessary was to 
strengthen the Union sentiment. Calhoun was try 
ing, by his resolutions, to rally the state-rights 
party. In Clay s opinion, the interests of the South 
should not be put in the exclusive safe-keeping of 
any one party, but of them all. He believed in 
the healing power of argument, reasoning, friendly 


"Mr. President," he exclaimed, "I have no apprehen 
sion for the safety of the Union from any state of things 
now existing. I will not answer for the consequences 
which may issue from indiscretion and harshness on the 
part of individuals or of Congress, here or elsewhere. 
We allow ourselves to speak too frequently, and with 
too much levity, of a separation of this Union. It is a 
terrible word, to which our ears should not be familiar 
ized. I desire to see in continued safety and prosperity 
this Union, and no other Union. I go for this Union 
as it is, one and indivisible, without diminution. I will 
neither voluntarily leave it, nor be driven out of it by 
force. Here, in my place, I shall contend for all the 
rights of the state which sent me here. I shall contend 
for them with undoubting confidence, and with the per 
fect conviction that they are safer in the Union than 
they would be out of the Union." 

Then he offered a series of resolutions as sub 
stitutes for those of Calhoun, affirming : 1. That 
slavery in the states was exclusively under the con 
trol of the several states, and not to be interfered 
with ; 2. That petitions touching slavery in the 
states should be rejected as praying for something 
" palpably beyond the scope of the constitutional 
power of Congress ; " 3. That the abolition of 
slavery in the District of Columbia would be a 
violation of the good faith " implied in the ces 
sion " of the District, that it could not take place 
without indemnifying the slave-owners, and would 
alarm the Slave States ; 4. That, on the other hand, 
the Senate, recognizing its " duty in respect to the 
constitutional right of petition," should hold itself 


bound to receive and treat with respect petitions 
touching slavery in the District ; 5. That such peti 
tions should be referred to the appropriate commit 
tees ; 6. That it would be " highly inexpedient to 
abolish slavery in Florida, the only territory of the 
United States in which it now exists," because it 
would excite alarm in the South, because the peo 
ple of Florida had not asked for it, and because 
they would be exclusively entitled to decide the 
question when admitted as a state ; 7. That Con 
gress had no power to abolish the slave-trade be 
tween Slave States ; 8. That the agitation of the 
abolition question was to be regretted, that the 
Union should be cherished, and that the prevailing 
attachment to the Union was beheld " with the 
deepest satisfaction." 

Calhoun was exasperated. " The difference be 
tween me and the Senator from Kentucky," he 
said, " is as wide as the poles." No doubt it was. 
Calhoun would have preserved the Union if slavery 
could have been made secure in it. But he would 
willingly have sacrificed the Union to save slavery. 
Clay tried to pacify the slave-holders, and opposed 
the abolitionists, to avert from the Union a threat 
ening danger. But he would have sacrificed slavery 
to save the Union. To him it was " not expedient " 
to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia and 
in Florida. Calhoun would hear nothing of " ex 
pediency." He insisted on placing the constitu 
tional duty of protecting slavery on " the high 
ground of principle." He would hear nothing of 


concession. " Shall we yield, or stand firm ? That 
is the question," he said. "If we yield an inch, 
we are gone." He was certainly right. But to be 
entirely right he should have added : " If we stand 
firm, we are gone likewise." 

Clay was more hopeful, because he saw the real 
nature of the trouble less clearly. A natural com 
promiser, he believed in the efficacy of compromise 
in all cases. His resolutions were intended to be a 
compromise between slavery and the principles of 
republican government. The greatest stress he 
laid upon those referring to the District of Colum 
bia and to Florida, in which he neither affirmed 
nor denied the power of Congress to abolish slavery, 
but deprecated its exercise as " inexpedient." They 
were offered to replace those of Calhoun concern 
ing the territories and the annexation of Texas, 
and Clay actually succeeded in securing their adop 
tion as substitutes. The rest of Calhoun s resolu 
tions, the keenest edges of which had been much 
blunted by amendments, passed the Senate by a 
large vote. 

The practical result was nothing, except more 
agitation of the slavery question. Calhoun had 
forgotten that senate resolutions will not deter 
mine public sentiment, but that public sentiment 
will at last determine the action of senates ; and 
also that the struggle about slavery was to be, in 
the last resort, a struggle of moral and material 
forces, and not of constitutional theories. The 
greatest thinker among the champions of slavery 
tried to fight fate with paper balls. 


Clay suspected Calhoun of personal ambition in 
this movement. He wrote to his friend Brooke : 
" They [Calhoun s resolutions] are at last disposed 
of. Their professed object is slavery ; their real 
aim, to advance the political interest of the mover, 
and to affect mine." That was the suspicion of a 
presidential candidate watching a supposed rival. 
Calhoun certainly could not expect to win any 
political capital by his resolutions. They could 
never be popular at the North, and even a good 
many Southern men considered their introduction 
extremely impolitic. A speech delivered by Clay 
about a year later was more justly suspected to be 
a part of a presidential campaign. 

The Senate continued to lay anti-slavery petitions 
on the table without that reference and respectful 
consideration which Clay had asked for them. 
The House adopted more gag rules to silence anti- 
slavery members. But all these things served only 
to strengthen the movement among the people. It 
began seriously to alarm the politicians, for they 
found themselves confronted by a force which could 
neither be conciliated by the offer of offices, nor be 
frightened by exclusion from them. To the man 
aging politician the man who wants nothing is the 
most embarrassing problem. The anti-slavery men 
began to catechise candidates, and to work against 
those they did not find " sound " on the slavery 
question. And, as is apt to happen, they worked 
most bitterly against those who in their opinion 
ought to have been sound and were not. By them 


a Democrat might be forgiven for being a pro- 
slavery man, but a Whig could not be forgiven. 

" In Ohio the abolitionists are alleged to have gone 
against us almost to a man," Clay wrote in November, 
1838. " The introduction of this new element of aboli 
tion into our elections cannot fail to excite, with all 
reflecting men, the deepest solicitude. Although their 
numbers are not very great, they are sufficiently numer 
ous in several states to turn the scale. I have now be 
fore me a letter from the secretary of the American 
Anti-slavery Society in New York, in which he says : I 
should consider (as in all candor I acknowledge I would) 
the election of a slave-holder to the presidency a great 
calamity to the country. The danger is that the con 
tagion may spread until it reaches all the Free States. 
My own position touching slavery, at the present time, is 
singular enough. The abolitionists are denouncing me 
as a slave-holder, and slave-holders as an abolitionist, 
while both unite on Mr. Van Buren." 

The opinion that the abolitionists were a danger 
ous class of people grew very strong in Clay s mind. 
The half-way man usually considers those who in 
sist upon the last logical consequences of his own 
feelings or principles very inconvenient, and even 
very obnoxious, persons. On the other hand, Clay s 
course with regard to the anti-slavery petitions, 
as well as his occasional professions of sentiments 
unfriendly to slavery, had injured his popularity 
with the slave-holders. This he felt, as his corre 
spondence indicates ; and it is probable that South 
ern Whigs, many of whom, while his friends, were 


fierce pro-slavery men, suggested to him the policy 
of " setting himself right " with the South. In 
February, 1839, he made a speech which had all 
the appearance of an attempt on his part to do 
this. It was not in the course of a debate on some 
practical measure, but in presenting a petition of 
inhabitants of Washington against the abolition 
of slavery in the District of Columbia. Gossip 
had it that he himself had written the petition ; 
and there is good ground for believing that, con 
trary to his habit, he carefully wrote out the whole 
speech, and read it, before its delivery in the Sen 
ate, to Senator Preston from South Carolina, an 
ardent pro-slavery man, in company with several 
other friends. The speech bears all the marks of 
that careful weighing of words characteristic of a 
candidate " defining his position " on a delicate 

It may perhaps be called his least creditable per 
formance. Many of his friends and admirers must 
have witnessed it with regret. It was an apology 
for his better self. Formerly he had spoken as a 
born anti-slavery man, who to his profound regret 
found himself compelled to make concessions to 
slavery. Now he appeared as one inclined to de 
plore the attacks on slavery no less, if not more, 
than the existence of slavery itself. He divided 
the abolitionists into three classes : the conscien 
tious and peaceful philanthropists, such as the 
Quakers ; those who cooperated with the abolition, 
ists because they thought the right of petition had 


been violated ; and finally, the real ultra-abolition 
ists, who would resort to the ballot, and also to the 
bayonet, to effect a revolution in the South, and 
hurry the country " down a dreadful precipice." 
The principal cause of the present excitement he 
found in the example of emancipation in the British 
West Indies, and in the existence of ""persons in 
both parts of the Union who have sought to mingle 
abolition with politics, and to array one part of the 
Union against another." He recited all his old 
arguments against the abolition of slavery in the 
District of Columbia and the Territory of Florida, 
as well as against the power of Congress to pro 
hibit the slave-trade between the Slave States. 

The immediate object of the abolitionists, he as 
serted, was to liberate, at one stroke, all the three 
millions of slaves in the Slave States. Of this he 
denied the power as well as the morality. If there 
were no slavery in the country, he would resolutely 
oppose its introduction. But in the Slave States 
the alternative was that the white man must gov 
ern the black, or the black the white. " In such 
an alternative," he said, " who can hesitate ? Is it 
not better for both parties that the existing state 
should be preserved ? This is our true ground of 
defense. It is that which our Revolutionary ances 
tors assumed. It is that which, in my opinion, 
forms our justification in the eyes of all Chris 

There was a visionary dogma that negro slaves 
were not property. " That is property which the 


law declares property." That species of property 
was worth twelve hundred millions. Would the 
abolitionists raise that sum to indemnify the own 
ers ? The abolition movement had set back for 
half a century the prospect of any kind of emanci 
pation, and " increased the rigors of legislation 
against the slaves." Kentucky had once thought 
of gradual emancipation, but did so no longer. 
He himself had then favored it, because the number 
of slaves was much smaller than that of the whites. 
" But," he added, " if I had been then, or were 
now, a citizen of any of the planting states, I 
should have opposed, and would continue to oppose, 
any scheme of emancipation, gradual or immediate, 
because of the danger of an ultimate ascendency 
of the black race, or of a civil contest which might 
terminate in the extinction of one race or the 
other." He drew a gloomy picture of the dangers 
threatening the Union, of disruption, hatred, strife, 
and carnage, from which the abolitionists them 
selves would shrink back. 

This was the highest flight upon which his old 
anti-slavery spirit ventured : 

" I am no friend of slavery. The Searcher of all 
hearts knows that every pulsation of mine beats high and 
strong in the cause of civil liberty. Wherever it is safe 
and practicable, I desire to see every portion of the hu 
man family in the enjoyment of it. But I prefer the 
liberty of my own country to that of any other people, 
and the liberty of my own race to that of any other race. 
The liberty of the descendants of Africa in the United 


States is incompatible with the liberty and safety of the 
European descendants. Their slavery forms an excep 
tion an exception resulting from a stern and inexor 
able necessity to the general liberty in the United 
States. We did not originate, nor are we responsible 
for, this necessity. Their liberty, if it were possible, 
could only be established by violating the incontestable 
powers of the states and subverting the Union ; and 
beneath the ruins of the Union would be buried, sooner 
or later, the liberty of both races." 

He closed with a beseeching appeal to the aboli 
tionists to desist. 

Clay received his reward or punishment im 
mediately. No sooner had he finished his speech 
than Calhoun rose as if to accept his surrender. 
When he turned his eyes back for the last twelve 
months, Calhoun said, and compared what lie then 
heard with what was now said in the same quarter, 
he was forcibly struck, and he might say pleasur- 
ably, with the change. He recalled to the memory 
of the Senate the debate on his resolutions, and 
Clay s part in it. " Sir," he added, " this is a 
great epoch in our political history. Of all the 
dangers to which we have ever been exposed, this 
has been the greatest. We may now consider it 
passed. The resolutions to which I referred, with 
the following movements, gave the fatal blow, to 
which the position now assumed by the Senator 
from Kentucky has given the finishing stroke." 
And, as if this had not been enough of humiliation 
to Clay, he went on : 


" What has been done will be followed by a great 
moral revolution of feeling and thinking in reference to 
the domestic institutions of the South. Already the dis 
cussion has effected a- great change among ourselves. 
There were many, very many, in the slave-holding states, 
who, at the commencement of the controversy, believed 
that slavery was an evil to be tolerated, because we 
could not escape from it, but not to be defended. That 
has passed away. We now believe that it has been a 
great blessing to both of the races the European and 
African which, by a mysterious Providence, have been 
brought together in the southern section of this Union. 
I heard the Senator from Kentucky with pleasure. His 
speech will have a happy effect, and will do much to 
consummate what had already been so happily begun 
and successfully carried on to a completion." 

How would the proud and fiery spirit of Clay 
have blazed forth at this haughty assumption of 
superiority and leadership, had he not been a can 
didate for the presidency ! But the candidate for 
the presidency, having* said what lie did not feel to 
win the favor of the slave-holders, bore his humili 
ation in silence. Callioun assigned to him a place 
in his church on the bench of the penitents, and 
the candidate for the presidency took the insult 
without wincing. 

Not Ions: after these occurrences Senator Preston 


of South Carolina, with whom Clay had consulted 
before delivering his speech against the abolition 
ists, addressed a Whig meeting in Philadelphia, 
and said in the course of an eloquent eulogy on 
Clay : " On one occasion Mr. Clay did me the 


honor to consult me in reference to a step he was 
about to take, and which will, perhaps, occur to 
your minds without a more direct allusion. After 
stating what he proposed, it was remarked that 
such a step might be offensive to the ultras of both 
parties, in the excitement which then existed. To 
this Mr. Clay replied : I trust the sentiments and 
opinions are correct ; I had rather be right than 
be President. " 

This was a fine saying. But, alas ! Clay wanted 
very much to be President, and men who want 
very much to be President are often not fully con 
scious of their motives. What he called " right " 
on this occasion he would not have called ris^ht at 


other periods of his life. He said it with the 
presidency in his mind. But it did not make him 
President after all. 

He repeated something feebly resembling the 
sentiments expressed in his speech against the 
abolitionists, when presenting an anti-slavery peti 
tion a year later, in February, 1840. But he 
showed again that he had by no means lost the ap 
preciation of the moral feelings of mankind with 
regard to slavery. In April, 1840, when discuss 
ing a set of resolutions offered by Calhoun protest 
ing against the liberation of slaves on the Amer 
ican brig Enterprise, which had been forced by 
stress of weather into a British West Indian port, 
Clay expressed regret that such resolutions had 
been offered, for he thought " that prudence and 
discretion should admonish us not too often to 


throw before the world " questions in relation to 
slave property. It was repugnant to him to see 
his country appear among the nations of the civil 
ized world as the champion of slavery. But as a 
politician he voted for Calhoun s resolution. 



THE opposition to Van Buren s administration 
consisted of heterogeneous elements. There were 
the original " National Republicans," organized 
while John Quincy Adams was President ; there 
were various groups of Democrats, who had been 
driven into opposition during the " reign of An 
drew Jackson," partly by the removal of the depos 
its, partly by the specie circular, partly by disgust at 
the expunging resolution; and there were, finally, 
the " Conservatives," who revolted at Van Buren s 
sub-treasury scheme, in which they saw a systematic 
war upon the banks of the country. These elements 
had an object of attack in common ; but they disa 
greed among themselves, more or less, about every 
thing that would constitute the positive part of a 
party programme. It is true the old National Re 
publicans, forming the bulk of the Whig party, 
were among themselves in tolerable accord about 
the construction of constitutional powers, the tariff, 
internal improvements, and, in a less degree, about 
the National Bank question. But among the aux 
iliary forces, the " wings " of the party, there were 
many strict constructionists, anti-bank men, anti- 


tariff men, anti-internal-improvement men ; and 
these forces had to be consulted, for, without their 
aid, a victory in a national election could scarcely 
be hoped for. As to the slavery question, a large 
number, if not a large majority, of the Northern 
Whigs were conscientiously opposed to slavery, 
while many of the Southern Whigs figured among 
the most ardent devotees of the peculiar "insti 

Clay undertook the task of making himself, as a 
candidate for the presidency, acceptable, if not to 
all, at least to most, of these divergent elements. 
As to the tariff, he declared in his letters to political 
friends that he would adhere to the compromise 
measure of 1833. He also repeated that the pro 
tective policy had never been intended to be per 
manent. As to internal improvements, Congress, 
he insi,3ted, possessed the required power, but 
should no longer exercise it, considering what had 
been done for the states by the distribution act, 
and what they had severally done for themselves ; 
he vyished only to pass his bill distributing the pro 
ceeds of public land sales. As to the bank ques 
tion, he repeated that the establishment of another 
United States Bank would be inexpedient until it 
should be clearly demanded by an undoubted ma 
jority of the people. He further reaffirmed his be 
lief that the use of the government patronage was 
dangerous to republican institutions, and that the 
power of removal should be regulated by legisla 
tion. As to the slavery question, we have seen 

THE ELECTION OF 1840. 173 

what position he took in his speech against the abo 
litionists. He was also anxious to strengthen the 
party by attaching those who had ceased to be ad 
ministration Democrats without at once becoming 
Whigs. " It is manifest," he wrote to Brooke, 
" that if we repel the advances of all the former 
members of the Jackson party to unite with us, 
under whatever name they may adopt, we must re 
main in a perpetual and helpless minority." To 
encourage that element he favored, in a somewhat 
occult way, the reelection of Senator Rives, of Vir 
ginia, who had, as a zealous Jackson man, voted 
for the expunging resolution, but then opposed Van 
Buren s sub-treasury measure, and thus dropped 
out of the Democratic communion. This involved 
the defeat of Rives s competitor, John Tyler, who 
had sacrificed his seat in the Senate because he 
would not obey the Virginia legislature, which in 
structed him to vote for the expunging resolution. 
When Tyler s defeat was brought home to Clay s 
influence, the wrath of some of Tyler s friends 
was great ; and it is reported that, to appease this 
wrath, the parties concerned agreed to open to 
Tyler the way to the vice-presidency. 

But all these contrivances did not suffice to 
smooth his path. Rival ambitions confronted him. 
Webster had for years been burning to be Presi 
dent. His support outside of Massachusetts was, 
indeed, so slender that in June, 1839, he formally 
withdrew his candidacy. But his influence could 
be a formidable obstacle in Clay s way, and, as 


John Quincy Adams wrote, there was " no good 
will lost between Clay and Webster." Their disa 
greement on the compromise measures of 1833, and 
still more their constant rivalry as to the presi 
dency, had estranged them. Even after his with 
drawal, many of Webster s friends continued very 
actively to oppose Clay s pretensions, especially in 
the important State of New York. Directly and 
indirectly, their influence was exerted for General 
William H. Harrison, of Ohio, as Clay was be 
lieved to have favored Harrison rather than Web 
ster in 1836. It seems to be one of the weaknesses 
of great men, in the competition for the highest 
honors, to prefer comparatively small men to one 

Harrison possessed the advantage of being a 
" military hero." A quarter of a century before, 
he had beaten the Indians at Tippecanoe, and also 
won the " battle of the Thames," where Tecumseh 
was killed. He had filled the territorial governor 
ship of Indiana, and a seat in the House of Repre 
sentatives and in the Senate, with quiet respecta 
bility. His " claims " as a statesman were, in his 
own opinion, not very exalted. " In relation to 
politics," he wrote to Clay in September, 1839, " I 
can only say that my position in relation to your 
self is to me distressing and embarrassing. How 
little can we judge of our future destinies ! A few 
years ago I could not have believed in the possi 
bility of my being placed in a position of apparent 
rivalry to you, particularly hi relation to the presi- 

THE ELECTION OF 1840. 175 

dency, an office which I never dreamed of attaining, 
and which I had ardently desired to see you occupy. 
I confess that I did covet the second, but never the 
first, office in the gift of my fellow-citizens. Fate, 
as Bonaparte would say, has placed me where I 
am, and I wait the result which time will deter 
mine." When a man put forward as a candidate 
for the presidency sees no particular reason why 
he should be made the chief of a great state, he 
may still discover in himself the mysterious qualifi 
cation of being a man of " fate." It was upon him 
that Clay s opponents in the Whig party united, 
because he had elements of popularity which lay 
outside of politics and aroused no hostility. 

The opposition to Clay came from several classes, 
- the Anti-Masons, of whom there were remnants 
mainly in Pennsylvania and New York ; some of 
the anti-slavery Whigs, whom Clay displeased as 
a slave-holder, and whom his speech against the 
abolitionists had irritated ; some of Webster s 
friends, for reasons largely personal ; and the polit 
ical managers, who wanted to win at any price, 
and in whose eyes Clay had, by his defeats in 
former campaigns, been marked as an " unlucky 
candidate." These politicians went to work sys 
tematically to compass his defeat. 

The Whig National Convention was to meet at 
Harrisburg, in Pennsylvania, on December 4, 1839. 
In February, 1839, Clay was advised by one of his 
confidential friends, General Porter, that a ma 
jority of the Whigs in New York decidedly pre- 


ferred him as a candidate ; that the Whigs in the 
legislature were ready to give him a preliminary 
nomination, but that they were restrained by a 
class of politicians " calling themselves Whigs, but 
who thought that no political victory was worth 
achieving if not gained by stratagem. The gov 
ernor [Seward]," he added, "and Thurlow Weed, 
who at this moment is decidedly the most impor 
tant man, politically speaking, in the state, are not 
only friendly to your election, but warmly and 
zealously so ; but they deem it inexpedient to 
make public declaration of their preference at this 

This had a fair sound, but Clay was not without 
misgivings. Although he had, the year before, de 
clined the invitation of enthusiastic friends who de 
sired him to visit New York, on the ground that it 
might look like an attempt to " attract the current 
of public feeling to him," he accepted a similar 
invitation hi the summer of 1839. He was splen 
didly received, and great popular enthusiasm accom 
panied his " progress " through the state. But at 
Saratoga Thurlow Weed, who had been reported 
as " not only friendly, but warmly and zealously 
so," waited upon him with the suggestion, thinly if 
at all disguised, that, as he (Clay) could probably 
not carry the State of New York, he should with 
draw in favor of another candidate more likely to 
be elected. " Nothing could be more courteous and 
kind than Mr. Clay s bearing throughout the con 
versation," says Thurlow Weed in his autobio 

THE ELECTION OF 1840. 177 

graphy. But such a suggestion was not what Clay 
had expected from a " warm and zealous " friend. 
He had gone through the whole gamut of doubt 
and hope which enlivens the existence of a presi 
dential candidate. He had been sanguine in the 
spring of 1838 ; he had been despondent in No 
vember, when the elections turned out unfavorably 
to the Whigs, and had spoken of promulgating that 
he would under no circumstances be a candidate. 
He felt again in 1839 that the current in his favor 
would break forth " with accumulated strength." 
He was determined now to remain in the field, and 
Thurlow Weed could not shake that determina 
tion. Neither did Clay s courteous and kind bear 
ing shake Thurlow Weed s determination that not 
Clay, but Harrison, should be nominated. 

If the story told by Henry A. Wise in his " Seven 
Decades " may be believed, the Whig managers in 
New York opposed to Clay s nomination played a 
shrewd game, called " the triangular correspond 
ence," by which the election of Clay delegates 
to the National Convention was to be prevented. 
Three of them, located say at New York city, 
Utica, and Rochester, would write to one another : 
" Do all you can for Clay in your district, for I 
am sorry to say he has no strength in this." 
These letters from pretended friends of Clay, being 
handed round in each of the districts, would enable 
the conspirators to say everywhere : " It is useless 
for us to send delegates favorable to Mr. Clay 
from here, for he has no strength anywhere else." 



But whether the matter was really managed in 
this manner or not, it turned out that, of the dele 
gates to the Harrisburg Convention, only ten were 
for Clay, twenty for General Scott, and two for 
Harrison. General Scott, no doubt, had been made 
to believe himself a serious candidate. In Feb 
ruary, 1839, he had written a friendly letter to 
Clay, informing him that he (Scott) had been " ap 
proached " with assurances of eventual support for 
the office of President by "persons of more or, 
less consideration," and deprecating all feelings 
of jealousy. Thurlow Weed admitted that the 
name of General Scott, who had some popularity 
in New York, was used merely " to keep New 
York away from Clay." At Harrisburg the Scott 
delegates were at the proper moment to be trans 
ferred to Harrison. 

Nothing could excel the shrewdness and audacity 
with which the convention itself was managed to 
insure Clay s defeat. When it met, Clay s friends 
had an undoubted plurality of votes. It was prob 
able that, if Clay s name were brought before the 
convention in a clever speech, its charm would be 
irresistible. Such a risk his opponents would not 
run. To avoid it, a resolution was carried provid 
ing that each state delegation should appoint a 
committee of three to " receive the views and 
opinions of each delegation, and communicate the 
same to the assembled committees of all the dele 
gations ; " the delegations should then, each for 
itself, ballot for presidential candidates, and there* 

THE ELECTION OF 1840. 179 

upon compare notes in general committee through 
their committees of three ; and then, if no majority 
was at once apparent, ballot again and compare 
notes, and so on, until a majority should be ob 
tained, which fact should then be reported to the 
convention. Thus all the important business was 
to be done in secret by a select body of men, and 
the convention, in its public session, was only to 
ratify what had been " cut and dried " for it. This 
contrivance worked as desired. On the first bal 
loting, Clay received 102 votes, Harrison 91, and 
Scott 57. After several secret decoctions and 
filtrations occupying several days, a majority for 
Harrison was evolved. The bulk of the Scott 
vote, embodying a large part of the Webster in 
fluence, had gone over to Harrison, according to 
programme. Scott himself discovered that the 
" assurances of eventual support," with which he 
had been " approached," had not made him as 
serious a candidate as he had imagined ; and Clay 
found, on the decisive ballot, little more on his side 
than votes from slave-holding states. 


When the result was determined, Clay s friends 
were not only " disappointed and grieved, even to 
tears," but also indignant. The managers became 
alarmed. Speeches praising Clay to the skies 
were made by men who had voted against him, 
and it was at once determined that the nomination 
for the vice-presidency must be given to one of 
Clay s most pronounced friends. Watkins Leigh 
of Virginia, a very honorable and able man, was 


pointed out by the Clay delegates, but he declined. 
Clayton, Tallmadge, and Southard declined like 
wise, until finally John Tyler was nominated, as 
Thurlow Weed said, " because we could get nobody 
else to accept," but probably because the conven 
tion remembered that something was due to the 
man who had sacrificed his seat in the Senate 
rather than vote for the expunging resolution, and 
then been set aside in favor of a late comer in the 

In the convention, after Harrison had been 
nominated, a letter from Clay to the Kentucky 
delegation was read, in which he assured them 
that, while he should highly appreciate the honor 
of a nomination, yet if it were thought wise to nom 
inate somebody else, he would, " far from feeling 
any discontent," give the nominee his best wishes 
and cordial support, and admonishing his friends 
not to hesitate if they found it necessary to select 
some other candidate than himself in order to 
unite the party. He was, however, when he wrote 
that letter, far from anticipating such an emer 
gency. The news of his defeat threw him into 
paroxysms of rage. As Henry A. Wise, who was 
with Clay at the moment when the tidings from 
Harrisburg arrived at Washington, tells the story, 
Clay, who had been drinking freely in the excite 
ment of expectation, "rose from his chair, and, 
walking backwards and forwards rapidly, lifting 
his feet like a horse string-halted in both legs, 
stamped his steps upon the floor, exclaiming : c My 

THE ELECTION OF 1840. 181 

friends are not worth the powder and shot it would 
take to kill them ! " He added : " If there were 
two Henry Clays, one of them would make the 
other President of the United States." And when 
Wise reminded him that he had been warned of 
the intrigues going on, he replied : " It is a dia 
bolical intrigue, I know now, which has betrayed 
me. I am the most unfortunate man in the history 
of parties : always run by my friends when sure to 
be defeated, and now betrayed for a nomination 
when I, or any one, would be sure of an elec 

The lack of dignity in this explosion of wrath 
was certainly unbecoming a great leader. But 
there can be no doubt that Clay had reason for 
being angry. He was the chief of the Whig party. 
He had always been its foremost champion in the 
field. He had fought its battles, and received the 
blows struck at it. His personal integrity was 
clear. If it could be said that its honors were due 
to any one, they were due to him. He found him 
self cast aside for a man whose significance could 
not be compared to his. And more ; the methods 
employed to defeat him had been those of intrigue, 
designed to falsify the feelings of the masses and 
to muzzle the enthusiasm of his friends, unscru 
pulous, crafty, without precedent in American poli 
tics. All this was true. 

On the other hand, Clay had himself done much, 
if not most, to make the Whig party what it was 
IE 1839 and 1840, a coalition rather than a 


party, without commoii principles and definite 
aims beyond the mere overthrow of those in power. 
Such a temporary combination will always be apt 
to look, not for candidates who represent well de 
fined objects and measures, but rather for mere 
availabilities, who repel nobody because they rep 
resent nothing with distinctness. By his anti- 
abolition speech and his explanatory letters, Clay 
had tried to lower himself to the level of a mere 
availability, but he had a past career which spoke 
loudly for itself. It was, perhaps, the conscious 
ness of having sacrificed much of his dignity in 
vain that fanned his fury when he heard of his 

He was right in speaking of the election of 1840 
as one in which he or any other Whig candidate 
would be sure of success. The Democrats renomi- 
nated Van Buren. Even had Van Buren been a 
popular man, which he was not, the force of cir 
cumstances would have overwhelmed him. The 
crisis of 1837 had produced a strong political cur 
rent against the ruling party. An apparent im 
provement in business in 1838 enabled the Demo 
crats to recover some of the lost ground. But in 
1839 the renewed suspension of the United States 
Bank, and of a host of banks in the South and 
West, cast new gloom upon the country, and, as 
usually, the bad times turned the minds of the 
people against those in power. 

Moreover, the " spoils system," introduced in na 
tional politics by Jackson, had developed some oi 

THE ELECTION OF 1840. 183 

its most repulsive attributes. Not only were the 
officers of the government permitted to become 
active workers in party politics, but they were 
made to understand that active partisanship was 
one perhaps the principal one of their duties. 
Political assessments upon office-holders, with all 
the inseparable scandals, became at once a part of 
the system. The spoils politician in office grasped 
almost everywhere the reins of local leadership in 
the party. The influence of party spirit upon the 
public business went so far, as Clay related in one 
of his speeches, that two officers of the army were 
" put upon their solemn trial on the charge of 
prejudicing the Democratic party by making pur 
chases for the supply of the army from members of 
the Whig party. And this trial was commenced 
at the instance of a committee of a Democratic 
convention, and conducted and prosecuted by 

The " spoils system " bore a crop of corruption 
such as had never been known before. Swart- 
wout, the Collector of Customs at New York, one 
of General Jackson s favorites, was discovered to 
be a defaulter to the amount of nearly 11,250,000, 
and the District Attorney of the United States at 
New York to the amount of $72,000. Almost all 
the land officers were defaulters. Investigations 
instituted by the House of Representatives proved 
the administration to have been incredibly lax, not 
only in supervising the conduct of the public busi 
ness, but in holding the delinquents in the service 


to an account. Officials seemed to "help them- 
selves " to the public money, not only without 
shame, but in many cases apparently without any 
fear of punishment. In Congress, too, the habit 
of lavish expenditures had grown to an unpre 
cedented extent. The contingent expenses for the 
stationery of members, when disclosed, fairly 
startled the country. No wonder the Van Buren 
party was styled the " spoils party " ! 

Nor was this all. Party discipline under Jack 
son and Van Buren had become so tyrannical that 
a reaction was inevitable. Jackson s high-handed 
proceedings had driven off many men of indepen 
dent impulses, while his prestige and immense 
popularity prevented the secession of large masses. 
But when the imposing figure of Jackson disap 
peared from the place of command, when that 
fierce party despotism was wielded no longer by 
the lion, but by the " fox," and the painful throes 
of the business crisis had produced a general dis 
position to be dissatisfied with the government, 
the revolt against party tyranny could not fail to 
become formidable. 

These were the circumstances which brought 
forth the phenomenal commotion of 1840. The 
Whig National Convention had adopted no plat 
form, passed no resolutions, issued no address, put 
forth no programme of policy. It had simply 
nominated in General Harrison a candidate for the 
presidential office whose " record " might have 
fitted him for a Democratic as well as for a Whig 

THE ELECTION OF 1840. 185 

candidacy. He was of the old Jeffersonian Re- 
publican school. His public utterances had not 
clearly identified him with any distinctively Whig 
principles or measures. He was a state-rights man. 
As to the tariff, he, like many old Republicans, had 
once been warmly in favor of the protective sys 
tem, but was now for the compromise of 1833, and 
against any alteration of it. As to the United 
States Bank, he thought there was " no express 
grant of power " in the fundamental law to charter 
a national bank, and " it never could be constitu 
tional to exercise that power, save in the event that 
the powers granted to Congress could not be carried 
into effect without resorting to such an institution." 
As to the slavery question, he had in his official 
capacities generally supported what the slave-hold 
ing interest asked for. His political wisdom con 
sisted in some general maxims which were very 
good in themselves, and would benefit the Repub 
lic if well applied. He was an honest man, who 
had been harshly removed from a foreign mission 
by General Jackson, and then retired to a small 
farm in Ohio. His fancied log cabin and hard 
cider contrasted strikingly with Van Buren s aris 
tocratic " gold spoons." He was just the man 
whom the popular imagination would invest with 
that homely common - sense and rugged virtue 
thought to be required for putting an end to the 
hard times, und restoring the good, frugal, honest 
government of the fathers. There was a vague 
and wide-spread feeling that any change would be 


for the better. A change, therefore, was wanted. 
General Harrison represented that change, and 
the future would take care of itself. 

There has probably never been a presidential 
campaign of more enthusiasm and less thought 
than the Whig campaign of 1840. As soon as it 
was fairly started, it resolved itself into a popular 
frolic. There was no end of monster mass meet 
ings, with log cabins, raccoons, and hard cider. 
One half of the American people seemed to have 
stopped work to march in processions behind brass 
bands or drum and fife, to attend huge picnics, 
and to sing campaign doggerel about " Tippscanoe 
and Tyler too." The array of speakers on the 
Whig side was most imposing : Clay, Webster, 
Corwin, Ewing, Clayton, Preston, Choate, Wise, 
Reverdy Johnson, Everett, Prentiss, Thompson of 
Indiana, and a host of lesser lights. But the im 
mense multitudes gathered at the meetings came 
to be amused, not to be instructed. They met, not 
to think and deliberate, but to laugh and shout 
and sing. 

Clay, faithful to his promise, supported the 
Whig candidates with much energy, speaking at 
many places. In one of his addresses a speech 
delivered at Taylorsville in Virginia he under 
took to " sound the key-note of the campaign " by 
laying down an elaborate and carefully prepared 
programme for future action in case of a Whig 
victory. At the start, however, he declared that 
he " did not pretend to announce the purposes of 

THE ELECTION OF 1840. 187 

the new President," of which he had " no knowl 
edge other than that accessible to every citizen. 
He spoke only for himself." His programme, in 
many points, especially those relating to the veto 
power and the treasury, thoroughly characteristic 
of his impressionable and impulsive statesmanship, 
was this : The executive power should be circum 
scribed by such limitations and safeguards as would 
render it no longer dangerous to the public lib 
erties. There should be a constitutional provision 
limiting the President to a single term. The veto 
power should be more precisely defined, and be sub 
jected to further limitations ; for instance, that a 
veto might be overruled by a simple majority of 
all the members of the Senate and the House of 
Representatives. The power of dismission from 
office should be restricted, and its exercise be ren 
dered responsible ; the President should be bound 
to communicate fully the grounds and motives of 
the dismission. The control of the treasury should 
be confided exclusively to Congress, and the Presi 
dent should no longer have the power of dismissing 
the Secretary of the Treasury, or other persons 
having the immediate charge of it. The appoint 
ment of members of Congress to any office, or any 
but a few specific offices, during their continuance 
in Congress and for one year thereafter, should be 
prohibited. As to " matters of an administrative 
nature," Congress should exert all its power to es 
tablish and maintain a currency of stability and 
uniform value. Whether this were to be done by 


the means of state banks carefully selected, or of a 
new United States Bank, " should be left to the ar 
bitrament of an enlightened public opinion." He 
feared that without a United States Bank there 
could be no sound currency ; but if it could be ob 
tained otherwise, he would be satisfied. Manufac 
turing industries should be protected, but he was 
contented with the tariff duties provided for in the 
compromise act of 1833. The public lands should 
be treated as a source of revenue, in accordance 
with his land bill. The building of roads and 
canals should be left to the states ; and they 
should receive from the general government, for 
internal improvements, no more than the fourth 
installment under the distribution law, and their 
share of the proceeds of public land sales. There 
should be a reduction of expenses and a dimi 
nution of offices. The right to slave property 
" should be left where the Constitution had placed 
it, undisturbed and unagitated by Congress." 

We shall remember some parts of this pro 
gramme when we hear its author on the meaning 
of the victory. 

Harrison was elected by 234 electoral votes 
against 60 for Van Buren. The Whigs carried 
nineteen, the Democrats only seven, states. In 
the popular vote, Harrison s majority reached 
nearly 150,000. The Whigs were wild with de 
light. They regarded their success as a great de 
liverance, the greatest event of their time. Few 
of them would have admitted that an occurrence 

THE ELECTION OF 1840. 189 

which had happened two and a half years before 
the first crossing of the ocean by a steamship, 
the bringing to one another s doors of the Old and 
the New World was far more important in its 
consequences ; and perhaps fewer still that the 
seven thousand votes cast for Birney and Le- 
moyne, the candidates of an anti-slavery conven 
tion which had been almost entirely lost sight of 
in the turmoil of the "hard-cider campaign," bore 
in themselves the germ of infinitely greater devel 

Soon after the election, Clay and Harrison had 
an interview, which Harrison had in vain tried to 
avoid. The lucky mediocrity seems to have felt 
some discomfort in the thought of meeting the im 
perious party chief, to whom the honors which he 
himself wore were known to be really due. Har 
rison offered to Clay the first place in his Cabinet, 
intending to summon Webster also. This was 
prudent. A second-rate man elected to the presi 
dency will act wisely in taking the able and ambi 
tious leaders of his party, if they are honest men, 
from Congress into the Cabinet. They may then 
try to serve their own ambitions, but, in doing so, 
they will feel themselves under honorable obliga 
tion and restraint ; they will scarcely seek to over 
throw the administration. When the real leaders 
of the party are not identified with the administra 
tion and strive to control it from the outside, dis 
sension and strife are almost inevitable. 

But Clay declined Harrison s offer. He desired 


to be independent in his leadership, and preferred 
the Senate as his field of action. He informed 
Harrison that his confidence in Webster had been 
somewhat shaken during the last eight years ; but 
with proud condescension he assured the President 
elect that the appointment of Webster to a place 
in the Cabinet would not diminish his interest in 
the administration, nor his zeal in its support, if it 
were conducted on the principles he hoped it would 
be. In parting, Clay cautioned Harrison, if any 
efforts were made by any one to create distrust or 
ill-feeling between them, to listen to no reports in 
regard to his opinions, or intended course concern 
ing this or that act or measure of the administra- 


tion, but to depend upon his frankness, which 
Harrison promised. In the Cabinet, subsequently 
appointed by Harrison, Clay had four strong 
friends : Ewing of Ohio, Secretary of the Treas 
ury ; Badger of North Carolina, Secretary of the 
Navy ; Bell of Tennessee, Secretary of War ; and 
Critteiiden of Kentucky, Attorney General. Web 
ster was Secretary of State, and his friend Granger 
Postmaster General. 

Congress had hardly met, in December, 1840, 
for the last session under Van Buren, when Clay 
offered a resolution in the Senate that the sub- 
treasury act " ought to be forthwith repealed." 
The speech with which he accompanied it sounded 
like a wild shout of triumph. He would not make 
an argument, he said. He would " as lief argue 
to a convicted criminal with a rope around his 

THE ELECTION OF 1840. 191 

neck, and the cart about to leave his body, to prove 
to him that his conviction was according to law 
and justice, as to prove that this sub -treasury 
measure ought to be abandoned." It was suffi 
cient for him to say that " the nation wills the re 
peal of the measure, the nation decrees the repeal 
of the measure, the nation commands the repeal 
of the measure, and the representatives of nineteen 
states were sent there instructed to repeal it." 
This had been almost exactly Ben ton s language 
in passing the expunging resolution four years be 

Silas Wright answered with keen irony that, after 
a campaign such as the country had witnessed, the 
presidential election might be interpreted as mean 
ing that the capitol should be taken down, and a 
log cabin ornamented with coon-skins put in its 
place, as well as that the sub-treasury law should 
be repealed. The Democrats still had a majority 
in the Senate, and Clay s resolution failed. The 
same fate had his land bill, which he urged in an 
elaborate speech. The session remained without 
any result of importance. But Clay lost no oppor 
tunity to make his opponents understand that soon 
both houses would be in the hands of the Whigs, 
and that then all his measures would be speedily 
consummated. "Clay crows too much over a fallen 
foe," John Quincy Adams wrote in his Diary. 
He would have " crowed " less had he known the 
disappointments in store for him. 

First those trials came upon him which he who 


is regarded as a potential man with a new ad 
ministration cannot escape. The Whigs had de 
nounced the Democrats as the " spoils party." 
Their victory was to inaugurate an era of reform. 
But no sooner was that victory won than it turned 
out that the victors had taken the infection. " We 
have nothing new here in politics," wrote Horace 
Greeley, who in the campaign had distinguished 
himself as the editor of the " Log Cabin " news 
paper in New York, " but large and numerous 
swarms of office - hunting locusts sweeping on to 
Washington daily. All the rotten land specula 
tors, broken bank directors, swindling cashiers, 
etc., are in full cry for office, office ; and even so 
humble a man as I am is run down for letters, 
letters. i None of your half - way things. Write 
strong ! Curse their nauseous impudence ! " 

This picture exaggerated nothing. Clay was 
overwhelmed with applications for his "influence." 
Some of them glaringly illustrated the understand 
ing of the word " reform " which prevailed among a 
powerful class of Whig politicians. General Por 
ter, late Secretary of War under John Quincy 
Adams, wrote to Clay that he had been requested 
by Thurlow Weed to secure Clay s support for the 
appointment of Mr. Edward Curtis as Collector of 
Customs in New York, Curtis being represented 
as "not personally popular," but as "possessing 
an extraordinary share of tact or stratagem," and 
as being able, " by his skill in planning and com 
bining, and his untiring industry in executing, to 

THE ELECTION OF 1840. 193 

produce the most astonishing political results ; 
that, with the office of Collector, he could on all 
important occasions command the vote of the city 
of New York, and par consequence of the state."- 
Curtis, as a warm partisan of Webster, had with 
great industry and zeal helped to defeat Clay at 
the Harrisburg Convention. But seeing now that 
Webster had no chance, Curtis would persuade 
Webster to give up his presidential aspirations 
forever, and henceforth Clay would be Curtis s 
candidate. Clay contemptuously suggested that 
this information be communicated to Webster. 
But Thurlow Weed took the matter very seriously, 
and wrote to a friend that, if Curtis now failed be 
cause he had opposed Clay s nomination, " such a 
condition of things would destroy us." 

Clay resolved to have nothing to do with the dis 
tribution of the spoils. A month before Harrison s 
inauguration he informed his friend Brooke : " I 
have been constrained, after a full consideration, 
to adopt the principle of non-interference with the 
new administration as to new appointments. With 
out it, if the day had a duration of forty-eight 
hours, I should be unable to attend to the applica 
tions I receive." 

But, while he did not ask for appointments, he no 
doubt sought to exercise a controlling influence as 
to the policies and measures of the new administra 
tion ; and, as he felt himself to be the true chief of 
the Whig party, it is not unlikely that his advice 
was given with that air and tone of command to 



which he had become accustomed. Harrison, a much 
weaker man, could easily be made to feel that his 
dignity would fatally suffer if he permitted it to be 
believed that he was under Clay s dictation. It is 
reported that on one occasion he sharply turned on 
Clay, saying : " Mr. Clay, you forget that I am 
President." Clay s influence was still visible in 
Harrison s inaugural address, which, at the request 
of prominent Whigs, was submitted to him. It 
was also mainly Clay s impatient urgency which 
prevailed upon Harrison to call an extra session 
of Congress to meet on May 31, 1841. But Har 
rison had not been President ten days when some 
thing very like a rupture of friendly relations oc 
curred between them.. 

Nathan Sargent, as he tells us in his " Public 
Men and Events," one day found Clay in his room 
greatly agitated. " He had received an intimation 
from the President that whatever suggestion or 
communication he wished to make to the Presi 
dent he should make in writing, as frequent per 
sonal interviews between them might give occasion 
for remark, or excite the jealousy of others." The 
indignation of the proud man was, no doubt, much 
toned down in the farewell note he addressed to 
Harrison on March 15, on the eve of his depart 
ure from Washington. He would not trouble the 
President again by a personal visit. 

" I was mortified," he continued, " by the suggestion 
you made to me on Saturday, that I had been repre 
sented as dictating to you or to the new administration. 

THE ELECTION OF 1840. 195 

mortified, because it is unfounded in fact, as well as 
because there is danger of the fears that I intimated to 
you at Frankfort of my enemies poisoning your mind 
against me. In what, in truth, can they allege a dictation, 
or even interference, on my part ? In the formation of 
your Cabinet ? You can contradict them. In the ad 
ministration of the public patronage ? The whole Cab 
inet as well as yourself can say that I have recom 
mended nobody for any office. I have sought none for 
myself or my friends. I desire none. I learned to 
day, with infinite surprise, that I had been represented 
as saying that Mr. Curtis should not be appointed Col 
lector of New York. It is utterly unfounded. I never 
uttered such expressions in relation to that or any office? 
of the humblest grade, within your gift. I have never 
gone beyond expressing the opinion that he is faithless 
and perfidious, and, in my judgment, unworthy of the 
place. It is one of the artifices by which he expects to 

He added that if, as a citizen and a Senator, 
he could not express his opinions without being 
accused of dictation, he would prefer retirement 
to private life, which he desired ; and he would 
promptly gratify that desire, did he not hope to 
render some public service by staying in the Senate 
a little longer. "I do not wish to trouble you 
with answering this note," he said, in closing. " I 
could not reconcile it to my feelings to abstain 
from writing it. Your heart, in which I have the 
greatest confidence, will justly appreciate the mo 
tives of, whatever others may say or insinuate, your 
true and faithful friend, II. Clay." It is by no 


means improbable that those who pushed the ap 
pointment of Curtis, the man of " tact and strata 
gem," to the collectorship of New York, precip 
itated the rupture between Clay and Harrison in 
order to remove an adverse influence. If so, they 
succeeded, for Curtis was soon afterwards ap 

As soon as he had sent his farewell letter to the 
President, Clay left Washington. He and Har 
rison never met again. It was a terrible disap 
pointment, first to be thrown aside by the con 
vention of his party for a second-rate man, and 
then to be thrown aside by that second-rate man to 
gratify the jealousy or greed of small politicians. 
For twelve years he had struggled against the 
tremendous power of Jackson and the cunning of 
Van Buren. Now at last his party was in power, 
and he was shown the door. He was then sixty- 
four years old, and had reached that age when 
such slights cut deeply. He turned his back on 
Washington much embittered. At Baltimore he 
fell ill, and for a week was unable to continue his 
homeward journey. 

Harrison entered upon his office with a* sincere 
intention to keep his promise of reform. On 
March 20, Webster, as Secretary of State, issued 
in the President s name a circular to the heads of 
the executive departments, informing them that 
the President considered it " a great abuse to 
bring the patronage of the government into con 
flict with the freedom of elections ; " and that he 

THE ELECTION OF 1840. 197 

would regard " partisan interference in popular 
elections," or " the payment of any contribution 
or assessment on salaries or official compensation 
for party or election purposes," on the part of any 
officer or employee of the government, as cause for 
removal. But this did not accord with the views 
and objects of a large class of active Whig politi 
cians like Thurlow Weed, who wanted public offi 
cers of " skill in planning and combining, and un 
tiring industry in executing," to help them carry 
elections. The rush for place continued, and the 
party managers were busy in organizing a Whig 
" machine," determined to overcome the reform 
tendencies of the administration. 

President Harrison died, after a short illness, on 
April 4, 1841, one month after his inauguration. 
The presidential office devolved upon the Vice- 
President, John Tyler of Virginia. Grievous as 
Clay s disappointment had been at the beginning 
of Harrison s administration, worse was now to 



JOHN TYLER had always been a strict-construc- 
tionist of the Virginia school. The position he 
took on the bank question in 1816, and on the ad 
mission of Missouri in 1820, was in accord with 
its doctrines. In 1824 he supported Crawford for 
the presidency, but preferred Adams to Jackson, 
and wrote a letter approving Clay s conduct at 
that memorable period. But, finding fault with 
the latitudinarian principles of Adams, he joined, 
with many of Crawford s friends, the opposition 
camp. Elected to the Senate in 1827, he con 
tinued to act on strict - construction principles, 
approved Jackson s position adverse to internal 
improvements, and opposed high protection as well 
as the re-charter of the United States Bank, on 
constitutional grounds. He disapproved Jackson s 
attitude with regard to nullification, and voted 
against the Force Bill. He disapproved also the 
removal of the deposits, and voted for Clay s reso 
lutions censuring Jackson. He refused to vote 
for the expunging resolution which the Virginia 
legislature had instructed him to support, and, rec 
ognizing the "power of instruction," he resigned 


his seat in the Senate. Thus he became a martyr 
to his convictions. Then he was sacrificed by the 
Whigs to a competitor for a seat in the Senate, 
Rives, to attract the " Conservatives," and he ac 
quiesced. This gave him a " claim " upon the 
consideration of the Whig party. He also tried 
to promote Clay s interest in the Harrisburg Con 
vention, and was grieved at his defeat. 

This was his " record " when the Harrisburg 
Convention nominated him as the Whig candidate 
for the vice-presidency, and there is no ground for 
believing that this record was not known. Clay 
himself had reason to remember that Tyler was 
his friend with a mental reservation ; for, in a 
letter written before the Harrisburg Convention, 
Tyler had said to him that he regarded him as 
" a Republican of the old school, who had in 
dulged, when the public good seemed to require it, 
somewhat too much in a broad interpretation to 
suit our Southern notions." Henry A. Wise says 
that Tyler " was put into the vice-presidency by 
the friends of state-rights and strict construction 
avowedly for the purpose of casting any tie vote in 
the Senate in their favor." This may have been 
in the minds of some of the delegates, while the 
majority, no doubt, voted for him without consid 
ering the future beyond the election. He was a 
Whig only inasmuch as he belonged to one of 
those heterogeneous elements combined in opposi 
tion to the Jackson- Van-Buren party. 

Now the unexpected, the unthought - of, hap- 


pened. For the first time a President died in of 
fice, and the Yice-President was called to the head 
of the government. It was an entirely novel situ 
ation, and at first there seemed to be some doubt 
whether the Vice-President, so promoted, was to be 
considered a full President at all. The Cabinet 
ministers, announcing to him President Harrison s 
death, addressed Tyler as " Vice-President." Clay, 
in a letter to a friend, called him a mere "regent." 
John Quincy Adams thought his official title should 
be, not " President," but " Vice-President acting 
as President." But Tyler, as soon as he assumed 
his new station, styled himself " President of the 
United States," and by common consent the title 
was at once recognized as legitimate, fortunately 
so, for it is important in a republic that the title 
of the supreme executive power should always be 
full and unqualified. 

This, however, was not the only matter of doubt. 
Much speculation arose as to what kind of a Whig 
President this Virginian strict-constructionist would 
make. As Henry A. Wise reports, immediately 
upon the news of Harrison s death, Tyler s state- 
rights friends quickly gathered around him with 
the advice " at once to form a new Cabinet ; to 
hasten a settlement with Great Britain, and, with 
that view, to retain Mr. Webster at the head of 
the new Cabinet ; to annex Texas as soon as pos 
sible ; to veto any re-charter of the United States 
Bank, any tariff for protection, and any bill for 
the distribution of the proceeds of the sales of the 


public lands." As Wise says, " he concurred in 
every proposition except that of dismissing the 
then existing Cabinet. His disposition was always 
for conciliation, and he dreaded to offend any 
body." On April 19, Tyler issued an address to 
the people, in which he freely used the Whig 
phraseology about the " complete separation be 
tween the purse and the sword," about subjecting 
the power of removal to " just restraint," and end 
ing the " war between the government and the cur 
rency." He promised promptly to give his "sanc 
tion to any constitutional measure " having in view 
the securing to industry its just rewards, and the 
" restoration of a sound constitutional medium ; " 
and as to the question of expediency as well as 
constitutionality, he would " resort to the fathers 
of the great Republican school for advice and in 
struction." This could be interpreted as meaning 
that he favored a protective tariff, and that he 
would follow either those Republican fathers who, 
like Madison and Gallatin, put aside all constitu 
tional scruples on account of public expediency in 
accepting a United States Bank, or those other 
Republican fathers who rejected the bank as un 
constitutional and dangerous. On the whole, the 
address was Whiggish in sound, but open to dif 
ferent constructions. 

Clay was at Ashland. He had his misgivings, 
and addressed a letter to Tyler in order to elicit 
more clearly his views and intentions on the prin 
cipal subjects. Tyler answered on April 30 that 


he had no matured plans. The repeal of the sub- 
treasury law he looked upon as inevitable. The 
44 relief of the treasury " might call for " additional 
burdens." The state of the military defenses, he 
thought, " required immediate attention." If Con 
gress attended only to these subjects, great good 
would be done. But Congress would have to 


decide whether other measures should claim its 
attention. He favored the distribution of the pro 
ceeds of public land sales only if the annual ap 
propriations for rivers and harbors were aban 
doned. As to the establishment of a United States 
Bank, he gave several good reasons not calcu 
lated, however, to convince Clay s mind why it 
should not be urged. He asked Clay to consider 
whether he could not " so frame a bank as to ob 
viate all constitutional objections." But he would 
leave Congress " to its own action," and in the end 
resolve his doubts, if he entertained any, " by the 
character of the measure proposed." 

With regard to the bank question, this had a 
decidedly uncertain sound. The message which 
Tyler addressed on June 1, 1841, to Congress as 
sembled in extra session, was no clearer. It spoke 
encouragingly of the distribution of the proceeds 
of land sales, which were to aid the states in pay 
ing their debts, provided, however, they did not 
oblige Congress to increase tariff duties beyond 
the level fixed in the compromise of 1883. The 
President thought a "fiscal agent" desirable to 
facilitate the collection and disbursement of the 


revenue, to keep the funds secure, and to aid in 
the establishment of a safe currency. This might 
have meant a United States Bank. But the Presi 
dent was sure that Jackson in putting his veto 
upon the renewal of the charter, and Van Buren 
in opposing a revival of the United States Bank, 
had been " sustained by the popular voice." He 
was equally sure that the pet-bank system and 
the sub-treasury had been condemned in the same 
way. But what the " judgment of the American 
people on that whole subject" was, he did not pre 
tend to know. The representatives of the people 
should tell him. He only knew that "the late 
contest, which terminated in the election of Gen 
eral Harrison, was decided upon principles well 
known and openly declared." What were those 
principles ? He could say only that " the sub- 
treasury received the most emphatic condemna 
tion," but " no other scheme of finance seemed to 
be concurred in." He would, therefore, concur 
with Congress " in the adoption of such a system " 
as Congress might propose, reserving to himself 
" the ultimate power of rejecting any measure " 
which, in his view, should " conflict with the Con 
stitution," or otherwise " jeopard the prosperity of 
the country ; " but he would not believe that the 
exercise of that power would be called into requi 

This was by no means lucid. But if Tyler 
equivocated, Clay did not. The Whigs had in 
the twenty-seventh Congress a majority of seven 


in the Senate, and of nearly fifty in the House of 
Representatives. A majority of the Cabinet, too, 
were Clay s friends. He felt himself in a position 
of command. Anticipating the disagreement be 
tween himself and the President, he is reported to 
have said : " Tyler dares not resist. I will drive 
him before me." He entered the Senate as a 
captain of a ship would step on deck to give his 
orders. Forthwith in a resolution he offered, he 
designated the subjects which at the extra session 
should be acted upon. They were : 1. The repeal 
of the sub-treasury law ; 2. The incorporation of a 
bank adapted to the wants of the people and of 
the government ; 3. The provision of an adequate 
revenue by the imposition of tariff duties, and a 
temporary loan ; 4. The prospective distribution 
of the proceeds of public land sales ; 5. The pas 
sage of the necessary appropriations ; 6. Some 
modifications of the banking system of the Dis 
trict of Columbia. This was Clay s general order 
to Congress. He took for himself the chairman 
ships of the Committee on Finance and of a special 
committee on the bank question. 

The repeal of the sub-treasury act was the meas 
ure first advanced, and urged with Clay s charac 
teristic impetuosity. It passed both houses and 
Tyler promptly signed it. The incorporation of a 
new United States Bank was next in order. It 
was the measure nearest to Clay s heart. Ewing, 
the Secretary of the Treasury, sent a report to 
Congress recommending the establishment of a 


bank as the fiscal agent of the government, with a 
capital of thirty millions, to be incorporated in the 
District of Columbia, branches to be established 
in the several states only with the assent of the 
states concerned. It was to be called the " Fiscal 
Bank of the United States." Clay reported a bill 
from his committee conforming in its main features 
to the Secretary s plan, with the exception of the 
requirement that the establishment of branches 
should depend on the expressed assent of the re 
spective states. But, as it was generally believed 
that the President would not sign any bill without 
such a clause, an amendment was adopted provid 
ing that such assent should be assumed unless dis 
sent were expressed by the legislature of the state 
concerned at its session next ensuing. So amended, 
the bill passed, although it commanded in neither 
house the full vote of the party. 

Then the crisis came. Rumors had long been 
current that the President would refuse to sign 
the bill. The excitement caused by the anticipa 
tion of a veto was so intense as to interfere with 
the amenities of official as well as social inter 
course. At last, on August 16, the veto appeared. 
The President reminded Congress of the fact that 
he had always pronounced himself against the as 
sumption by Congress of the power to create a na. 
tional bank that would " operate per se over the 
Union." He thought he had a right to assume 
that the people had elected him Vice - President 
" with a full knowledge of the opinions thus en- 


tertained." He could not satisfy himself that a 
bank was necessary for the fiscal operations of the 
government. He objected to the bill especially 
because it contemplated a bank of discount, and 
branches to be established in the several states 
with or without their assent, "a principle," he 
added, " to which I have always heretofore been 
opposed, and which can never obtain my sanction." 

The Whigs were extremely angry. In the even 
ing a crowd assembled before the White House, 
demonstrating their disapproval of the President s 
conduct with disorderly noises. But a very dif 
ferent scene was enacted within. Many of the 
Democratic Senators could not restrain their exul 
tation. In a body they called upon President 
Tyler to congratulate him upon the " courageous 
and patriotic " step he had taken, and the con 
gratulations gradually degenerated into convivial 
hilarity. A few days afterwards, an inquiry into 
the disorderly demonstrations before the White 
House having been moved, Clay availed himself of 
the opportunity to dramatize the congratulatory 
meeting inside in a very clever satire. He recited 
the speeches he supposed to have been delivered 
on that occasion by Democratic Senators to the 
Whig President, imitating the style of the dif 
ferent orators, especially of Calhoun, Bentoii, and 
Buchanan, in so striking and artistic a way as to 
win the involuntary applause even of some of the 

Of a more serious nature was the speech in 


which he answered Tyler s veto message. There 
was a forced and somewhat contemptuous modera 
tion in its tone which made the severe thrusts all 
the more stinging. But the argument was more 
important. He had, before and during the cam 
paign of 1840, taken the position that the estab 
lishment of a new United States Bank would not 
be safe unless a decided majority of the people 
recognized it as necessary. Now he asserted, in 
the most positive tone, that the question of " bank 
or no bank " had been the main issue of the last 
presidential canvass, and that a large majority of 
the people had pronounced in favor of a bank. It 
was an astounding assertion. During the cam 
paign he himself had said again and again, that, 
while he considered a bank necessary, a difference 
of opinion upon that subject was admissible, and 
people might vote for Harrison without voting for 
a bank ; and there could be no doubt that Har 
rison had received many votes from anti - bank 
men. His experiences in Jackson s time should 
have made him cautious in interpreting the special 
meanings of presidential elections, but he was, if 
possible, even more emphatic than Benton had 
been after the elections of 1832 and 1836. 

Equally rash was his assertion that he had come 
to Washington at the beginning of the session with 
the full confidence that all the great Whig meas 
ures, including the bank, would have Tyler s hearty 
approval. Tyler s letter to him was certainly not 
such as to justify that confidence. It might have 


given him reason to hope, but not to trust. His 
confidence, if it existed at all, must have been in 
his own power of persuasion, or his energy of lead 
ership, or the overawing party pressure which Ty 
ler would not be able to withstand, but certainly 
not in anything Tyler had said to him. 

But, upon the assumption of a popular command, 
Clay argued that Tyler, with all his constitutional 
scruples, should have obeyed, either by signing the 
bill, or by permitting it to become a law without 
his signature, or by following the precedent set 
by Tyler himself in resigning when he thought 
he could not do what his constituents demanded. 
Clay declared, in conclusion, that if, as rumor had 
it, a bill could be framed to obviate the Presi 
dent s objections, that bill would not be opposed 
by him, although he could not share the respon 
sibility of bringing it forward. 

Indeed, on the very day when Tyler had sent 
his veto to the Senate, negotiations began between 
him and members of the Cabinet and members of 
Congress with a view to the shaping of some meas 
ure that would prevent a breach between the Pres 
ident and the Whig majority in Congress. Tyler 
authorized Webster and Ewing of the Cabinet to 
confer with Berrien of the Senate and Sergeant 
of the House about the details of a bill, the prin 
ciple of which he was understood to have accepted. 
A bill providing for a " Fiscal Corporation " 
the term " bank " being especially offensive to Ty 
ler was agreed upon between the negotiators, 


and, with the expectation that it would have the 
approval of the President, it was rushed through 
the House in hot haste. But, while it hung in the 
Senate, rumors were abroad that President Tyler 
had again changed his mind. It passed the Sen 
ate on September 3, and on the 9th came a veto 
message prepared, as Henry A. Wise says, in a 
conference with friends outside of the Cabinet, by 
one of them. It criticised some of the provisions 
of the bill, indicated that the President would not 
approve the incorporation of a national bank in 
any form, and expressed an anxious desire for 
" harmony." 

The verdict of impartial history will probably 
be that John Tyler, when preventing by his veto 
the incorporation of another United States Bank, 
rendered his country a valuable service. Had 
Clay s bill become a law, the new bank would at 
once have been attacked by the Democratic opposi 
tion seeking to compass the repeal of its charter, 
a purpose openly avowed by them. It is very doubt 
ful whether, with such a prospect, capitalists would 
have been found willing to venture their means in 
such an enterprise. In any event, the existence 
of the greatest financial institution in the country 
would have depended 011 the fortunes of a political 
party, and with it, in a great measure, the cur 
rency and the credit system. Being the subject of 
party struggles, the bank would have been driven 
by the force of circumstances to become a political 
agency, and thus a hotbed of corruption, financially 


unsafe and politically dangerous. Something like 
this idea was probably in Clay s mind when, before 
the election of 1840, he declared that a United 
States Bank should not again be incorporated un 
less emphatically demanded by a majority of the 
people. In that case it was all the more unstates- 
manlike to assume in 1841 that a majority did 
demand it, and to forget that a strong and deter 
mined minority would ordinarily be sufficient to 
endanger the credit and stability of a financial in 
stitution. The only excuse the Whig statesmen of 
that period had for thinking at all of the establish 
ment of a new United States Bank was that they 
knew of no other means to secure to the country 
a well regulated currency of uniform value. Even 
that was hardly an excuse, for, under the circum 
stances then existing, an uncertain bank experiment 
would only have produced new commotions and 
disorders. It is a significant fact that, after Ty 
ler s bank vetoes, the scheme of a great United 
States Bank never regained vitality, and that the 
Whig party itself treated it in subsequent cam 
paigns as an " obsolete idea." 

Tyler would have rendered another service to 
the country had he put his veto upon another of 
Clay s measures, the distribution of the proceeds 
of the public land sales, which at the extra session 
of 1841 passed both houses, and became a law on 
September 4. This time Clay had pressed his bill 
especially on the ground that many of the states 
were grievously in debt, and that the distribution 


urged by him would to some extent relieve them. 
The several states had run into debt to the amount 
of nearly two hundred millions. Mississippi was 
the first to pronounce the word " repudiation." 
Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Louisiana, and even 
Pennsylvania, were staggering under the conse 
quences of their improvidence. The credit of the 
country abroad was profoundly shaken. Foreign 
creditors asked whether the national government 
was not bound to protect American honor by see 
ing the state debts paid. The question of " as 
sumption " was gravely considered ; but Congress 
adopted an adverse resolution. Under such cir 
cumstances, the plan of relieving the distress by 
a distribution of funds had more than ordinary 
plausibility. But it was nevertheless fundamen 
tally vicious. Several of the states had increased 
their indebtedness under the stimulus administered 
by the distribution of the treasury surplus. An 
other distribution, far from freeing them from 
debt, would only have been calculated to make 
them more reckless in spending, for it would have 
deadened their sense of responsibility by holding 
up before them the picture of an immensely rich 
uncle ever ready to pay their bills. 

A distribution of any sort of public funds seemed 
especially absurd at a time when the government 
was obliged to borrow money for its running ex 
penses, and could raise a loan only with difficulty. 
This absurdity was indirectly recognized by the 
adoption, against Clay s opposition, of an amend- 


ment to his bill, providing that the distribution 
should be suspended whenever the necessities of 
the treasury required an increase of the tariff du 
ties above the twenty per cent fixed by the com 
promise of 1833. Even in this shape the bill 
would probably have failed had it not been coup 
led, by a skillful piece of log-rolling, with a general 
bankruptcy law a measure for the relief of in 
solvent debtors which was not in Clay s origi 
nal programme, but which he supported. As the 
tariff rates were raised above twenty per cent be 
fore the time when, according to the terms of the 
compromise of 1833, the twenty .per cent level was 
reached, the distribution measure remained a dead 

On the evening of the day that brought Tyler s 
second bank veto, the members of the Cabinet were 
invited to meet at the house of Badger, the Secre 
tary of the Navy, to consult among themselves and 
with Clay. Webster absented himself when he 
heard that Clay was to be there. Four of the 
Cabinet ministers being devoted to him, Clay again 
took command. It was agreed that the members 
of the Cabinet should, one after another, resign 
their places on Saturday, September 11, Congress 
having resolved to adjourn on Monday the 13th. 
It has been charged that this was artfully con. 
trived to embarrass the President by obliging him 
to find a new Cabinet between Saturday and Mon 
day. But there is no doubt that, if they had not 
resigned, they would soon have been dismissed, 


Webster was an exception. Having consulted the 
members of Congress from Massachusetts, he re 
solved to remain in his place if he could. He was 
with the President when Ewing s letter of resig 
nation was brought in. John Tyler, Jr., who acted 
as the President s private secretary, gives the fol 
lowing account of what happened : 

" He (Webster) then, in his deep-toned voice, asked : 
< Where am I to go, Mr. President ? The President s 
reply was only in these words : * You must decide that 
for yourself, Mr. Webster. At this Mr. Webster in 
stantly caught, and said : * If you leave it to me, Mr. 
President, I will stay where I am. Whereupon Presi 
dent Tyler, rising from his seat and extending his hand 
to Mr. Webster, warmly rejoined : Give me your hand 
on that, and now I will say to you that Henry Clay is a 
doomed man from this hour. " 

What he meant was that the alliance between 
Webster and himself would serve to detach the 
Northern Whigs from Clay s following, and leave 
him in a hopeless minority. John Tyler forgot 
that Clay was what Webster was not, a leader. 
When Clay cut loose from the administration, he 
resolved to take the whole Whig party with him. 

The quarrel between Tyler and his party cre 
ated the intensest excitement at the time, and has 
remained one of the sensational chapters of our 
political history. It was wrong to accuse Tyler of 
breaking his pledges in disapproving the bank 
bills. He had never promised to aid in establish 
ing a national bank, and there were very good 


reasons for refusing to do so. But his conduct, 
when the disagreement between him and his party 
became critical, was that of a small, if not a tricky, 
man. He dealt in equivocations which seemed to 
mean one thing and turned out to mean the oppo 
site. He appeared to accept and then rejected the 
same propositions in rapid succession. He author 
ized members of his Cabinet to confer with mem 
bers of Congress about measures which he had 
permitted them to consider and to represent as 
acceptable to him, and then turned his back upon 
them. This is the way in which a public man 
easily makes himself contemptible. He was sur 
rounded by a Kitchen Cabinet mainly composed of 
Virginians, and led by Henry A. Wise, a man of 
ability, but in a high degree flighty and erratic, 
who interfered in everything, and constantly pulled 
him back whenever an approach between him and 
leading Whigs in Congress seemed to be in prog 
ress. That coterie inflamed Tyler s brain, which 
was never one of the strongest, and easily turned 
by flattery, with gorgeous visions of future great 
ness, promising to gather a party around him strong 
enough to keep him in the presidential chair for a 
second term or more. Few things are more 
hateful to men interested in public affairs, than to 
see the head of the state controlled by secret in 
fluence. On the whole, there was in the spectacle 
of " Captain " Tyler, as he was derisively called, 
and his little personal party, dubbed by Clay " the 
corporal s guard," much that provoked disdain and 


It is by no means probable, as some parti 
sans of John Tyler have asserted, that the leading 
Whigs were bound to quarrel with him in any 
event. Had he approved their favorite measures, 
there would probably have been no outbreak of ill- 
feeling. But when he refused to do so, and a 
breach became certain, it was Clay s instinct as a 
leader to save the party by making that breach so 
wide and so irreparable that no Whig could safely 
stay with the President and remain a Whig. The 
prompt resignation of the Cabinet, excepting Web 
ster, was no doubt Clay s work. Webster was 
indeed right when, in publicly announcing his con 
tinuance in office, he said that, even if he had seen 
reasons for resigning, he would not have done so 
without giving the President due notice, affording 
him time to select a successor. It would have been 
proper for the other Cabinet ministers to do so, 
but it would have impaired the dramatic effect 
which was thought necessary to startle the Whig 
masses ; and, besides, they had to anticipate their 
removal. The formation of a new Cabinet had 
evidently been considered by Tyler and his polit 
ical body-guard while the old one was still in office. 
Tyler promptly nominated five men who, like him 
self, had been Jackson Democrats once, and left 
the Democratic party for the same reasons for 
which he had left it. " Like myself," he wrote to 
a friend, u they are all original Jackson men, and 
mean to act upon Republican principles." Web 
ster, remaining as Secretary of State, found him- 


self, therefore, in somewhat unaccustomed com 

This change in the political character of the 
Cabinet could only aid the rallying of the Whigs 
on Clay s side. Nothing was left undone to drive 
Tyler away as far as possible. The members of 
the old Cabinet published their reasons for resign 
ing in elaborate letters addressed to President 
Tyler, mercilessly exposing his tricky conduct to 
the contempt of the people. Even that was not 
enough. After the second veto, a general meeting 
of the Whig Senators and Representatives was 
held, which issued a solemn address to the people 
denouncing Tyler as having betrayed the just ex 
pectations of the Whig party for selfish purposes, 
and as being unworthy of its confidence. A chorus 
of Whig papers all over the country echoed and 
reechoed these denunciations, and attacked Tyler 
with a fury unheard of except during the hottest 
excitement of a presidential campaign. Indigna 
tion meetings and burnings in effigy were the order 
of the day. 

Tyler was utterly disappointed in his expecta 
tion that Webster s remaining in the Cabinet would 
isolate Clay. It did indeed produce the effect of 
causing a few Northern Whigs to protest against 
what they called " the dictatorship of the caucus," 
meaning Clay, and a few more to observe a cau 
tious moderation in their utterances. But the 
principal effect was to excite the suspicions of the 
great mass of Whigs as to Webster s motives for 


not resigning- with his colleagues. The concerted 
withdrawal of the Cabinet being Clay s work, Web 
ster was naturally disinclined to fall into line. 
That motive could not well be avowed. But he 
had another and a very proper and patriotic rea 
son for his conduct. He was, as Secretary of 
State, engaged in very important negotiations with 
the British government concerning the northeast 
ern boundary line, and the complications on the 
northern frontier caused by the Canadian troubles. 
These negotiations, which finally resulted in the 
Ashburton Treaty, were at that time in a preca 
rious condition, and Webster very properly re 
solved not to abandon them. But his position was 
one of great difficulty in two respects. He was 
neither liked nor trusted by Tyler s Kitchen Cab 
inet. As early as the 29th of August, Henry A. 
Wise wrote to Beverly Tucker : " We can part 
friendly with Webster by sending him to Eng 
land. Let us, for God s sake, get rid of him the 
best way we can." When such influences sur 
rounded him, Webster s situation in the Cabinet 
would necessarily become very uncomfortable. On 
the other hand, the current of sentiment in the 
Whig ranks was set. Webster s plea as to his 
duty to continue the British negotiations was sul 
lenly accepted. As a martyr to duty, he could 
stand before the Whigs ; but when he took Tyler s 
part in any other respect, he found himself in a 
hopeless defensive. Only a few Whigs in New 
England stood by him in his isolation. Wrath 


against John Tyler seemed to be the great inspi 
ration of the Whig party in those days of disap 
pointment following so closely upon the thought 
less enthusiasm of 1840. Clay remained the idol 
of the Whig masses, and it was then already gen 
erally taken for granted that he would be, without 
competition, the Whig candidate for the presidency 
in 1844. 

Clay s parliamentary leadership during that fa 
mous extra session proved that, with advancing 
age, his imperious temper grew more and more im 
patient. As he had at the beginning of the session 
prescribed to Congress its business by a sort of 
general order, so he tried to govern in detail the 
action of both houses by words of command. 
When the Democratic opposition sought to ob 
struct the progress of his measures, he thought at 
once of interfering with the freedom of debate. 
It was during this extra session that the rule limit 
ing the speeches of members to one hour was 
adopted in the House of Representatives. In the 
Senate, too, Clay threatened repeatedly to propose 
" the adoption of a rule which would place the 
business of the Senate under the control of a ma 
jority of the Senate, 1 that is, enable the majority 
to stop debate and muzzle the minority. But the 
resistance he met was so indignant and formidable 
that he gave up the attempt. And it is well that 
he failed. However tedious and useless, and how 
ever obstructive to the expedition of business, un 
restrained debate in the Senate may sometimes 


appear, yet infinitely more important than the ex 
pedition of business is it that there should be one 
deliberative body in the government in which every 
question may receive the fullest discussion, and the 
smallest minority can make itself heard without 

How far Clay was carried by the impetuosity of 
his temper appeared most strikingly in his attempt 
to treat petitions and memorials against his meas 
ures as the extreme pro-slavery men were in the 
habit of treating anti-slavery petitions, laying 
them on the table unprinted, unreferred, and un- 
considered. But again he soon saw his mistake, 
and retreated. Notwithstanding all the fascina 
tions of his manner, the dictatorial spirit of his 
leadership became not seldom so demonstrative 
that his followers had not a little to suffer for 
their submissiveness from the taunts and jeers of 
the opposition. 

Clay succeeded in isolating Tyler, and- in hold 
ing the bulk of the Whig party together. But he 
could not lead it to victory in the autumn elections 
of 1841. The Democrats recovered several states 
which in 1840 had given large Whig majorities, 
and were in high spirits. Clay, in his letters to his 
friends, attributed this result to the discouraging 
effect of Tyler s conduct. But it was not that 
alone. The outcome of the great Whig victory 
had been disappointing in all respects. The busi 
ness interests of the country were still lamentably 
depressed. The manufacturing industries had not 


yet risen from their paralysis. The government 
found itself in a pitiable condition. During the 
year the public debt increased from $6,700,000 to 
115,000,000. The public credit was so bad that 
a loan of twelve millions, authorized by Congress, 
could be placed only slowly and with great diffi 
culty. The treasury had sometimes not money 
enough for the pay of the army and navy, and the 
salaries of the civil service. The expenditures 
were constantly and largely outrunning the reg 
ular revenues. This was the situation the twenty- 
seventh Congress had to deal with when it met in 
December, 1841, for its second session. President 
Tyler in his message recommended a revision of 
the tariff " with a view to discriminate as to the 
articles on which the duty shall be laid, as well as 
the amount," the rates of duty not to exceed the 
amount fixed in the compromise act of 1833. As 
to the regulation of the currency and of domestic 
exchanges, he proposed an " exchequer system," 
which, however, did not find serious consideration 
in Congress. The Secretary of the Treasury, Wal 
ter Forward of Pennsylvania, suggested in his re 
port that the public interest would, as to the tariff, 
scarcely permit a strict adherence to the terms of 
the compromise act of 1833. 

It was no longer as the leader of a majority 
party, hopeful of carrying all his favorite meas 
ures, that Clay stepped upon the scene in Decem 
ber, 1841. He was now fully determined to retire 
from the Senate. " I want rest, and my private 


affairs want attention," he wrote to Brooke. "Nev 
ertheless, I would make any personal sacrifice, if, 
by remaining here, I could do any good ; but my 
belief is I can effect nothing, and perhaps my ab 
sence may remove an obstacle to something being 
done by others. I shall, therefore, go home in the 
spring." His retirement from the Senate was, 
however, by no means to be an abandonment of 
public life ; it was simply the withdrawal of a 
candidate for the presidency from a position beset 
with extraordinary difficulties. This resolution be 
ing fixed, his speeches in the Senate began to bear 
the character, not of efforts for the accomplish 
ment of immediate results, but of admonitions for 
the future guidance of his followers. 

He made a plea against the repeal of the bank 
rupt act, but in vain. That act was destined to be 
revoked by the same Congress which had made it. 
He then offered three amendments to the Consti 
tution, all designed to reduce the authority of the 
Executive. One embodied his old proposition that 
the veto of the President which, with singular 
infatuation, he called in a letter " that parent and 
fruitful source of all our ills " should be subject 
to be overruled by a simple majority of all the 
members of each house of Congress. The second 
provided that the Secretary of the Treasury and 
the Treasurer of the United States should be ap 
pointed by Congress ; and the third prohibited the 
appointment to office of any member of Congress 
during the term for which he was elected. These 


amendments formed an important part of the pro 
gramme laid down by Clay in his principal speech 
in the campaign of 1840. They illustrate the dan 
gerous tendency of that impulsive statesmanship 
which will resort to permanent changes in the 
Constitution of the state in order to accomplish 
temporary objects. It is more than probable that 
the same Clay who saw in the veto power " the 
parent of all ills," when his favorite measures were 
defeated by Jackson s and Tyler s vetoes, would 
have thought very differently had he himself been 
put into the executive chair and confronted by a 
hostile Congress. Neither has the experience of 
the American people in any manner justified Clay s 
apprehensions as to the danger which the veto 
power without further restriction would bring upon 
the country. That power has, on the whole, been 
exercised with remarkable discretion and with 
salutary effect, especially as regards the financial 
concerns of the government, which throughout have 
been treated by the Executive with better judg 
ment and a higher sense of honor than by Con 
gress. The proposition to confer the power of ap 
pointing the Secretary of the Treasury and the 
Treasurer upon Congress, instead of the President, 
is hardly intelligible in our days. Neither can we 
understand why a President should not be per 
mitted to take proper men from the two houses of 
Congress into his Cabinet. Clay had become so 
completely preoccupied by fears of executive en 
croachment that he was utterly unmindful of the 


dangers which might arise from arrogations of 
power by the legislature. But, as he himself ad 
mitted, there was no immediate prospect of the 
adoption of such constitutional amendments, and 
he only commended the questions involved in them 
to the consideration of his countrymen. 

On March 1, 1842, he introduced with an elabo 
rate argument a series of resolutions laying down 
certain rules for the reduction of current expenses, 
and for the raising of a revenue sufficient to meet 
them. June 30, 1842, the day upon which, ac 
cording to his compromise act of 1833, all tariff 
duties should be reduced to twenty per cent ad 
valorem, was near at hand. Clay had to recog 
nize the fact that, even without that final reduc 
tion, the tariff as it was then arranged did not 
yield sufficient revenue ; and the manufacturers 
told him that it did not afford sufficient protec 
tion. He was thus obliged to admit that in these 
respects his compromise measure had not fulfilled 
his predictions. He recommended, therefore, that 
the duties, which on June 30 should have been 
reduced to twenty, be raised to thirty per cent on 
the ground of necessity. But at the same time, 
while struggling for revenue, he insisted that the 
provision of law, which suspended the distribution 
of the proceeds of land sales while the tariff duties 
were above twenty per cent be repealed. His reso 
lutions were referred to the appropriate committee, 
to come to light again after he should have left the 
scene of action. 


On March 31, at last he took leave of the Sen 
ate, and his farewell again became one of those 
dramatic incidents in which his life abounded. A 
rumor had spread that he intended to deliver a 
valedictory speech when presenting the credentials 
of his successor. An eager audience crowded the 
galleries as well as the floor of the Senate. In a 
flow of stately sentences he pictured the grandeur 
of the Senate of the United States ; he spoke of 
his long career of public service, of his unselfish 
endeavors, of the enmities to which he had been 
exposed, and of the fidelity of his friends. In 
touching words he expressed his gratitude to the 
state that had been so faithful to him. He could 
not refrain from defending himself against the 
most recent charge brought against him, that he 
had played the dictator. He owned that his nature 
was warm and his temper ardent ; and if he had 
ever, in the heat of debate, wounded the feelings 
of any of his brother Senators, he offered them the 
sincerest apology, and the assurance that he carried 
not a single resentment with him. After a few 
words of warm and graceful tribute to his suc 
cessor, John J. Crittenden, he invoked Heaven s 
blessings upon them all, and closed. The Senate 
sat silent for a moment, when Preston of South 
Carolina rose and said that what had just taken 
place was an epoch in their legislative history, 
and from the feeling which was evinced, he saw 
that there was little disposition to attend to busi 
ness. He therefore moved an adjournment, which 


was unanimously agreed to. The Senators pressed 
around Clay to respond to bis touching words. In 
leaving the chamber he met Calhoun, and the two 
aged statesmen shook hands for the first time af 
ter many years of estrangement. This valedictory, 
says Benton, in his " Thirty Years," was " the 
first occasion of the kind, and, thus far, has been 
the last ; and it might not be recommendable for 
any one except another Henry Clay if another 
should ever appear to attempt its imitation." 

" Clay s leaving Congress was something like 
the soul s quitting the body," wrote Crittenden to 
Governor Letcher. " His departure has had (at 
least I feel it so) an enervating effect." But the 
Whig majority in Congress endeavored to follow 
his precepts, although it made slow progress. The 
30th of June, with its reduction of the tariff under 
the compromise act, was rapidly approaching ; and 
on June 7 only a provisional tariff bill was re 
ported in the House to tide the country over the 
30th, and thus to give time for further deliberation. 
But that provisional bill provided also that, while 
the distribution of the proceeds of the public land 
sales should be suspended for the month of July, 
they should go into force on August 1. Tyler 
returned the bill with his veto, mainly for the 
avowed reason that it provided for the distribu 
tion of the proceeds of land sales while the tariff 
rate exceeded twenty per cent. After a violent 
explosion of wrath, the Whig majority passed a 
tariff bill of a permanent character, which con- 



tained the same clause providing for the distribu 
tion of the proceeds of land sales. On August 9 
this too came back with the President s disap 
proval. The veto was referred to a special com 
mittee, with John Quincy Adams as chairman, whc 
made a report lashing Tyler with terrible severity. 
But now the Whig majority stood before the 
clear alternative of either giving up the distribu 
tion scheme, or adjourning without provision for 
the necessary revenue, as well as for the protective 
duties which their friends, the manufacturers, ur 
gently demanded. What should they do ? Clay 
had written to Crittenden on July 16, after the 
first veto : 

" I think you cannot give up distribution without a 
disgraceful sacrifice of independence. The moral preju 
dice of such a surrender upon the character of the party, 
and upon our institutions, would be worse than the dis 
order and confusion incident to the failure to pass a 
tariff. It would be to give up the legislative power into 
the hands of the President, and would expose you to the 
scorn, contempt, and derision of the people, and of our 
opponents. Do not apprehend that the people will de 
sert you and take part with Mr. Tyler. In my view of 
it, I think our friends ought to stand firmly and reso 
lutely for distribution. The more vetoes the better 
now ! assuming that the measures vetoed are right." 

John Quincy Adams, whose passions were fully 
roused, was of the same opinion. It is difficult to 
understand how patriotic and experienced states 
men, unless under the influence of blinding excite- 


ment, could have advised their party to commit so 
foolish and grave a blunder as to adjourn without 
passing a revenue measure which they themselves 
thought absolutely necessary. 

Fortunately for them, the advice was not heeded 
by all their party friends. The business com 
munity grew restless and urgent. At last a suffi 
cient number of Whigs, alarmed at the conse 
quences of "standing firm," united with a suffi 
cient number of Democrats in passing a tariff bill 
not containing the provision concerning the pro 
ceeds of land sales objected to by Tyler s veto. 
Thus Clay s distribution scheme was irretrievably 
defeated. Of all his great measures, nothing was 
saved but a moderate tariff, and that at the sac 
rifice of the compromise of 1833. 



No sooner had Clay declared his determination 
to withdraw from the Senate than invitations 
poured upon him from all sides to show himself to 
the people. He replied to them in letters burning 
with wrath at the " weak, vacillating, and faithless 
chief magistrate," the " President vainly seeking, 
by a culpable administration of the patronage of 
the government, to create a third party." Clay s 
Kentucky constituency welcomed him to his home 
with boundless enthusiasm. He was honored with 
a grand open-air feast attended by a large multi 
tude. The toast with which the chairman greeted 
him was a fair specimen of the language in which 
the ardent Whig of the time was in the habit of 
expressing his feelings about his gallant leader on 
festive occasions : 

" Henry Clay, farmer of Ashland, patriot and philan 
thropist, the American statesman and unrivaled orator 
of the age, illustrious abroad, beloved at home : in a 
long career of eminent public service, often, like Aris- 
tides, he breasted the raging storm of passion and de 
lusion, and, by offering himself a sacrifice, saved the 
Republic ; and now, like Cincinnatus and Washington, 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 229 

having voluntarily retired to the tranquil walks of pri 
vate life, the grateful hearts of his countrymen will do 
him ample justice. But, come what may, Kentucky will 
stand by him, and still continue to cherish and defend, 
as her own, the fame of a son who has emblazoned her 
escutcheon with immortal renown." 

The nomination of the " Old Prince," a name 
by which some of his friends proudly called him 
as the Whig candidate for the presidency in 
1844, was treated as a matter of " justice to Henry 
Clay." Too impatient to wait for a national con 
vention, the Whigs of North Carolina brought for 
ward his name as early as April, 1842 ; Georgia 
and Maine followed. The Whig members of the 
legislature of New York, the state which in 1840 
had abandoned him, sent him a glowing address. 
In August the Whig State Convention of Mary 
land formally nominated him amid " tremendous 
enthusiasm," supplemented with a salute of one 
hundred guns. Even the Whigs of Massachu 
setts, Webster s influence notwithstanding, could 
not be restrained. In September he was invited 
to a great Whig Convention at Dayton, in Ohio, 
where nearly one hundred thousand people were as 
sembled, and where resolutions were adopted nom 
inating Henry Clay and John Davis of Massachu 
setts as the Whig candidates for 1844. Wherever 
he appeared, he was greeted with extravagant dem 
onstrations of affection. From Dayton he con 
tinued his triumphal " progress " into Indiana. 
It was there, in the town of Richmond, that an 


incident occurred the significance of which was 
scarcely understood by him. At an unexpected 
moment, when all around him seemed to be admir 
ing devotion, the slavery question threw again its 
dark shadow across his path . 

While he was addressing an enthusiastic Whig 
gathering, a Quaker by the name of Mendenhall 
presented to him a petition, bearing many signa 
tures, in which Henry Clay was respectfully re 
quested to emancipate his slaves. Clay s answer 
was a masterpiece of oratorical skill. He charac 
terized the presentation of the petition as a breach 
of hospitality, and then he took Mendenhall gen 
erously under his protection, against the indignant 
cries of the crowd. He declared slavery to be a 
" great evil ; " he deeply lamented that we had 
" derived it from the parental government and 
from our ancestors ; " he wished every slave in the 
United States were in Africa ; if slavery did not 
exist here, he would oppose its introduction with all 
his might. But, slavery existing, how could it be 
dealt with? Great as its evils were, would not the 
evils sure to flow from sudden emancipation be 
greater, a " contest between the two races, civil 
war, carnage, pillage, conflagration, devastation, 
and the ultimate extermination or expulsion of the 
blacks ? " The only safe method was gradual 
emancipation, and that had been postponed half a 
century by the reckless agitation of the abolition 
ists. As to himself, should he liberate his slaves 
forthwith? There were those among them whom 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 231 

age and infirmity made a heavy charge upon him. 
Should he turn them, and the infants, upon the 
cold charities of the world ? There were those 
who would not leave him: should he drive them 
away? He recommended to Mr. Mendenhall the 
benevolent example of other Quakers who, while in 
principle firmly opposed to slavery, would not resort 
to revolution and disunion for its abolition. He ex 
pressed his respect for the " rational abolitionists," 
among whom he had many friends. They were not 
monomaniacs, but knew that they had duties to per 
form towards the white man as well as the black. 
Finally he put to Mr. Mendenhall a practical 
question. If he (Clay) liberated his fifty slaves, 
worth about $15,000, would Mendenhall and his 
friends undertake to contribute an equal sum to 
take care of the slaves after their liberation? 
Then he dismissed Mendenhall with the admoni 
tion to begin the work of benevolence at home : 
" Dry up the tears of the afflicted widows around 
you ; console and comfort the helpless orphan ; 
clothe the naked, and feed and help the poor, 
black and white, who need succor, and you will be 
a better and a wiser man than you have this day 
shown yourself." 

The assembled multitude was lost in admira 
tion. Poor Mendenhall withdrew, discomfited and 
laughed at. Clay s speech was triumphantly pub 
lished in the newspapers all over the country. But 
many thousands of Mendenhalls were to rise up 
in the campaign of 1844 ; and it was the cause 


represented by that humble Quaker that was to 
prove the absorbing question of the time, and the 
fatal stumbling-block of the great orator s highest 

To mark the development of the slavery ques 
tion, a short retrospect is required. In the House 
of Representatives, the struggle about the famous 
twenty-first rule the rule excluding anti-slavery 
petitions began afresh when, in the twenty-sev 
enth Congress, the House was controlled by a 
Whig majority. Upon Adams s motion the rule 
was dropped, and the great controversy about the 
right of petition might have been wisely ended. 
But the representatives of the slave power, Whigs 
as well as Democrats, would not rest until it was 
revived. They insisted that "the hydra of aboli 
tionism must be crushed." With blind infatua 
tion, they kept slavery before the people as the 
enemy of the right of petition. They did more. 
In January, 1842, John Quincy Adams presented 
a memorial of some citizens of Massachusetts pray 
ing Congress " to adopt measures for the peaceful 
dissolution of the union of these states," and he 
moved that the petition be referred to a committee 
with instruction to report why the prayer could not 
be granted. Southern members, some of whom 
were in the habit of threatening the dissolution of 
the Union on all possible occasions, thought they 
saw an opportunity for crushing the fearless old 
champion of the right of petition, and moved that 
he be censured with the utmost severity for having 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 233 

presented a petition of such tenor. The right of 
defending himself could not be denied him, and 
the old statesman, summoning all his powers, ex 
posed the character of slavery and the slave-hold 
ing aristocracy with so unsparing a force that, 
after several days of torture, his accusers, with a 
sigh of relief, permitted the resolution of censure 
to be laid on the table. Even the exciting quar 
rel between Tyler and Congress attracted scarcely 
more of popular attention than this " trial of John 
Quincy Adams." 

But this experience did not teach the pro-slavery 
men prudence. Soon afterwards Joshua R. Gid- 
dings of Ohio offered in the House a series of 
resolutions concerning the case of the Creole, a 
brig, which, sailing with a cargo of slaves from 
Norfolk bound for New Orleans, had been taken 
possession of by the slaves, some of whom had 
risen in insurrection, overpowered the crew, killed 
a supercargo, and run the brig into the harbor of 
Nassau, where the British authorities had liberated 
the unoffending slaves and refused to surrender 
the mutineers. The resolutions of Giddings de 
clared that slavery existed only by local municipal 
law ; that the jurisdiction of the municipal law 
did not extend over the high seas ; that the negroes 
on the Creole had not violated any law of the 
United States by claiming their natural right to 
individual freedom on the high seas, and that any 
attempt to make them slaves again by an exertion 
of the national power was unauthorized by the 


Constitution, and prejudicial to the national char 
acter. These resolutions caused another explosion 
of wrath. Debate was cut off by the previous 
question. Without giving Giddings an oppor 
tunity to defend himself, a vote of censure was 
passed, declaring that he deserved " the severest 
condemnation of the people of this country." 
Whereupon Giddings promptly announced his 
resignation as a member of the House. In leaving 
the hall he met Clay, who had witnessed the scene. 
To see a man condemned unheard, and a represen 
tative of the people cut off from the right of ex 
pressing his opinions, revolted Clay s heart. He 
held out his hand to Giddings, thanked him for 
the firmness with which he had met the outrage 
perpetrated upon him, and said that no man would 
ever doubt his perfect right to state his views. 
Giddings returned to his constituents, issued an 
address, was reflected by a larger majority than 
before, and returned to the same Congress strength 
ened by the enthusiastic applause of his neighbors 
and of popular meetings held all over the North. 
In constantly widening circles the Northern mind 
began to doubt whether slavery could be " got 
along with " in a republic. The anti-slavery move 
ment was gradually invading the masses. 

Although the attacks upon the right of petition 
and the freedom of speech by the advocates of 
slavery greatly offended Clay s democratic instincts, 
there seemed still to remain in his mind a linger 
ing impression that the greatest danger to the 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 235 

Union came, not from slavery, but from abolition 
ism. This misconception was no doubt nourished 
by the attacks made upon him by the abolitionists, 
and he in turn made every possible effort to dis 
credit them with the Northern people. There is 
among his preserved correspondence a curious let 
ter in which he suggested to a pamphleteer, argu 
ments to be addressed to the laboring men of the 
North, how immediate emancipation would bring 
the labor of the blacks into competition with the 
labor of the whites ; how it would degrade labor 
generally ; and how the tendency would be toward 
the social intermingling and intermarrying of white 
and black laboring people, and so on. While he 
made such preposterous attempts to stem the cur 
rent, the great event which, in its consequences, 
was to bring the slavery question to its final crisis, 
and which finally opened Clay s eyes too as to the 
true source of danger, was pressing toward its con 

In 1837 the Texan government proposed to Van 
Buren the annexation of Texas to the United 
States, but Van Buren declined. Eight Northern 
legislatures formally protested against annexation. 
(For the settlement of the claims against Mexico 
an arbitration treaty was concluded in 1839 ; but 
when in 1842 the term of the arbitration commis 
sion expired, many claims were still unadjusted.^ 
It was suspected that they were purposely kept an 
open sore. 

The annexation of Texas became one of Tylers 


ruling ambitions. In October, 1841, he wrote to 
Webster : " I gave you a hint as to the probability 
of acquiring Texas by treaty. Could the North 
be reconciled to it, could anything throw so bright 
a lustre around us ? Slavery, I know that is the 
objection, and it would be well founded if it did 
not already exist among us." /In March, 1842, the 
Texan Minister at Washington renewed the offer 
of annexation, but Webster strongly opposed it.) H 
It was also considered certain that no annexation 
treaty could then obtain the consent of the Senate. 
The treaty with Great Britain called the Ashbur- 
ton Treaty was concluded that summer, assented to 
by the Senate in August, and ratified by the Brit 
ish government in October. Thus dangers of war 
like complications with England were averted. 

The congressional elections of 1842 resulted in 
a crushing defeat of the Whigs. The Democrats 
won a very large majority in the House of Repre 
sentatives. Late in October Tyler consulted his 
friends as to whether he would not do well to 
throw himself into the a?ms of the Democrats, as 
he thought himself entitled to their gratitude. In 
Mayj_1843, Webster resigned the office of Secre 
tary of State. It is probable that Tyler, whose 
main purposes he did not serve, had ceased to treat 
him with confidence and cordiality ; and the Whigs^ 
even in Massachusetts, were greatly dissatisfied 
with him because he had stayed too long in office. 
Tyler reorganized his Cabinet, taking three Demo 
crats into it, and transferring Upshur of Virginia, 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 237 

who had been Secretary of the Navy, to the State 
Department. Upshur, an ardent state-rights and 
pro-slavery man, took up the Texan business with 
energy. The problem was not only to conclude a 
treaty, but to make annexation palatable to the 
country, f Rumors were spread that Great Britain / 
was endeavoring to obtain a controlling influence 
over Texas, this to neutralize the adverse cur 
rent of feeling at the North ; and also that Eng 
land was planning to bring about the abolition of 
slavery in Texas, this to convince the South 
that there was extreme danger in delay) There 
was some plausibility in this. The Texan Republic 
labored under extreme financial embarrassments. 
It was heavily in debt to England. Would not 
England take advantage of those financial diffi 
culties to obtain a foothold there, and to use its 
influence for the abolition of slavery? England 
did, in fact, recommend to the Mexican govern 
ment, when recognizing the independence of Texas, 
to make the abolition of slavery in Texas a consid 
eration. This, however, remained without result. 
But the South was continually agitated with ru 
mors of a plot of American and English aboli 
tionists to disturb slavery in Texas, and thus the 
impression grew stronger that, in order to save 
slavery, prompt action was needed. 

Tyler directed Upshur to inform the Texan Min 
ister that the United States were ready for the 
annexation. This proposition was kept secret, but 
preparations for the event went forward. A letter 


in favor of annexation was obtained from Andrew 
Jackson. A canvass of the Senate was made, to 
ascertain the chances of an annexation treaty in 
that body. The patronage was not spared to pro 
pitiate Senators. We learn from John Tyler s 
eulogistic biographer, Lyon G. Tyler, that " an 
expedition was fitted out for Oregon in the sum 
mer of 1843 ; and the conciliation of Benton was 
one of the reasons which induced the administra 
tion to make John C. Fremont, apart from his own 
preeminent fitness for the place, the commander 
of the enterprise." 

jflThe Mexican government, scenting in the air 
wnat was coming, in August, 1843, declared to the 
American Minister that it would consider the an 
nexation of Texas by the United States a declara 
tion of war.) This did nut deter Tyler and Upshur. 
They formally proposed to the Texan government 
a treaty of annexation. The Texan government 
hesitated. The friendly offices of France and Eng 
land had brought about a cessation of hostilities 


between Mexico and Texas, which was a great re 
lief to the exhausted Texan people, and not lightly 
to be jeoparded. The Texan President, Houston, 
calculated correctly that, should the fact of serious 
negotiations for annexation become known, Mexico 
might resume warlike operations. He therefore 
desired to be informed whether the United States 
could be depended upon to protect Texas vi at 
armis against all comers, while the negotiations 
were pending. As a constitutional lawyer Upshur 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 239 

could not say " Yes," and he would not say " No." 
He did not answer that question at all, but caused 
the Texan government to be informed that the 
Senate had been canvassed, and that there was not 
the slightest doubt of the necessary two thirds ma 
jority being in favor of the annexation treaty. 
But the Texan government, anxious to obtain as 
surances of protection, addressed the same question 
which Upshur had left unanswered to Murphy, the 
diplomatic agent of the United States in Texas. 
Murphy replied without hesitation, in the name of 
his government, that neither Mexico nor any other 
power would be permitted by the United States 
to invade Texas on account of the negotiation. 
This satisfied the Texan government, which in 
formed Murphy that a special envoy, General Hen 
derson, would forthwith be sent to Washington 
with full power to conclude the treaty. A few 
days after wards(President Houston rejected, for a 
reason of punctilio, an armistice which had been 
concluded between the Texan and Mexican com 
missioners. , 

But before the Texan envoy, Henderson, reached 
Washington, Upshur had lost his life by the ex 
plosion of the gun " Peacemaker " on board the 
United States frigate Princeton. The Attorney 
General, Nelson, who was temporarily charged 
with the State Department, informed Murphy that 
the President, without being authorized to that 
effect by Congress, had no constitutional power to 
employ the army and navy against a foreign na- 


tion with whom the United States were at peace ; 
that, therefore, he (Murphy) had gone too far in 
his promises ; but that the President was " not in 
disposed to concentrate in the Gulf of Mexico and 
on the southern borders of the United States a 
naval and military force to be directed to the de 
fense of the inhabitants and territory of Texas, at 
a proper time." 

Tyler offered the secretaryship of state to Cal- 
houn, who accepted it, declaring that he would 
resign as soon as the annexation of Texas should 
be accomplished. He entered upon his duties on 
March 29, 1844. The following day the Texan 
envoy, Henderson, arrived at Washington. \ Noth 
ing stood in the way of the -conclusion of the treaty 
but the question whether the United States would 
protect Texas during the pendency of the treaty 
^before its final consummation.^ Calhoun s constitu 
tional conscience was troubled, but he finally re 
plied that the concentration of the naval and mili 
tary forces promised by Murphy and Nelson would 
be made, and that the President, during the pen 
dency of the treaty of annexation, " would deem 
it his duty to use all the means placed within his 
power by the Constitution to protect Texas from 
all foreign invasion." This was an equivocation. 
Calhouu knew that, Congress, alone possessing the 
power to declare war, the means placed by the 
Constitution within the power of the President 
were not the means required for protecting a for 
eign state from invasion. He knew that the Ex- 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 241 

ecutive had, indeed, the right to initiate a treaty, 
but that by initiating a treaty the President could 
not transfer from Congress to himself the power 
to declare war, that is to say, the power to deter 
mine whether war should be made against a foreign 
state for any cause. The Texans suffered them 
selves to be deceived in this respect, as they had 
been deceived by the assurance that there was in 
the Senate a two-thirds majority in favor of the 
scheme. On April 12, 1844, the treaty of annex 
ation was signed, to be sent to the Senate for ap 
proval ten days later. It was at this period that 
Clay found himself obliged to address the Ameri 
can people upon this momentous subject. 

We left him at Richmond, in Indiana, where in 
October, 1842, he discomfited poor Mendenhall. 
His clever speech found so much applause in the 
press that he may have thought it sufficient to 
banish the slavery question from the coming presi 
dential campaign. The following winter, combin 
ing business with politics, he visited New Orleans 
and all the prominent places of the Southwest, and, 
after taking a rest at Ashland during the summer 
of 1843, resumed his peregrinations during the 
winter of 18434, then touching all the important 
points in the Southeast, like a general riding along 
the line, giving instructions and encouragement to 
the subordinate commanders, and stirring the rank 
and file with his inspiring presence. His journeys 
were again public " progresses " in grand style, 
with no end of enthusiastic ovations and speech 



making to and fro. He expressed himself sonor 
ously upon all the old Whig principles and meas 
ures, repeating his view of the protective tariff as 
a temporary arrangement, which the infant indus 
tries, rapidly growing up to manhood, would not 
much longer require, and denouncing in vigorous 
terms the treacherous conduct of Tyler. When he 
rested at Ashland, tokens of esteem and affection 
poured in upon him in the shape of presents, rang 
ing from barrels of American-made salt to bottles 
of American-made cologne water ; and a flood of 
letters, inviting him to visit every county and town 
East and West, and asking for expressions of his 
views on public problems. Distinguished guests, 
too, from Europe as well as the United States, 
sought the renowned statesman at home. The po 
litical skies also looked brighter again. In the 
elections of 1843 the Whigs recovered much of the 
ground lost in 1842. 

But the " old Whig policies " no longer ab 
sorbed the interest of the people. The Texas 
question pressed more and more to the foreground, 
an unwelcome intruder. The story goes and 
was believed at the time that a unique arrange 
ment to prevent the Texas question from becom 
ing an issue in the presidential canvass, had been 
made by the two gentlemen likely to be nomi 
nated as the candidates of the contesting parties, 
Henry Clay and Martin Van Buren. There had 
always been pleasant personal relations between 
them. However fiercely Clay might attack Van 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 243 

Buren s party or policies, he had always had a 
kind word to say for the man. When Van Buren, 
after leaving the presidential office, traveled in 
the South and West, Clay invited him to Ashland, 
and Van Buren, in May, 1842, heartily enjoyed for 
a few days the hospitality of his old adversary s 
roof. There they had, as Clay wrote to Crittenden, 
" a great deal of agreeable conversation, but not 
much of politics." A little conversation on poli 
tics, however, may possibly have sufficed for their 
purpose. The annexation of Texas was an unwel 
come subject to both of them. Clay, in a large 
sense a Southern man with Northern principles, 
disliked annexation because his instinct told him 
that it meant the propagation of slavery, and that 
it endangered the Union. Van Buren, a North 
ern man with Southern principles, was afraid of 
it, because it was intensely unpopular at the North, 
and threatened to bring on a war. They agreed, 
therefore, if it should become necessary, both pub 
licly to take position against it. 

Until late in 1843, Clay hoped it would not be 
necessary. On December 5 he said, in a letter to 
Crittenden, that he did not " think it right, un 
necessarily, to present new questions to the pub 
lic," and " to allow Mr. Tyler, for his own selfish 
purposes, to introduce an exciting topic, and add 
to the other subjects of contention before the coun 
try." But the negotiations going on between the 
administration and the Texan government did in 
their progress not remain secret, and the rising 


excitement created a louder demand for the voice 
of the leaders. In his southeastern " progress " 
Clay arrived at Raleigh, in North Carolina, on 
April 12, the same day the treaty of annexation 
was signed by Calhoun and the Texan plenipoten. 
tiaries. Clay, who felt that he could remain silent 
no longer, wrote a public letter to the editor of 
the " National Intelligencer," known as his Ra 
leigh letter of April 17, 1844. 

Reviewing his connection with the Texas ques 
tion in the past, he said he had believed and con 
tended that the United States had acquired a title 
to Texas by the Louisiana purchase. But that 
title had been formally relinquished to Spain by 
the treaty of 1819. Texas had been sacrificed for 
Florida. Having thus " fairly alienated our title 
to Texas by solemn national compacts," it was as 
" perfectly idle and ridiculous, if not dishonorable, 
to talk of resuming our title to Texas," as it would 
be for Spain to talk of resuming her title to 
Florida, or France to Louisiana.! Under the ad 
ministration of John Quincy Adams he had at 
tempted to repurchase Texas from Mexico, but 
without success. The extent to which the revolt 
in Texas had been aided by citizens of the United 
States had laid us open to the imputation of selfish 
designs. Our recognition of the independence of 
Texas had not impaired the rights of Mexico ; and 
if Mexico still persevered in asserting her rights to 
Texas by force of arms, we should, in acquiring 
Texas, also acquire the war with Mexico. And he 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 245 

would not plunge the country into a war for the 
acquisition of Texas. Another objection to the 
annexation of Texas he found in the decided oppo 
sition it met with in a large part of the Union. 
He thought it wise rather to harmonize the confed 
eracy as it existed than to introduce into it a new 
element of discord and distraction. Neither did 
he favor the acquisition of new territory for the 
purpose of maintaining the balance of power be 
tween the two great sections of the Union. If 
Texas were acquired to strengthen the South, 
Canada would be acquired to strengthen the North, 
and finally the weaker section would be the loser. 
If British North America should separate from 
England, the happiness of all parties would be 
best promoted by the existence of three separate 
and independent republics Canada, the United 
States, and Texas natural allies. ( Finally, he con 
sidered the annexation of Texas without the assent 
of Mexico as a measure compromising the national 
character, involving the country certainly in a war 
with Mexico, probably with other powers, danger 
ous to the integrity of the Union, and not called for 
by any general expression of public opinion.) 

This letter naturally displeased the annexation- 
ists of the South, who clamored for Texas at any 
cost. Neither was it satisfactory to the extreme 
anti-slavery men at the North, because it did not 
put forward slavery as the main reason for repel 
ling Texas. It would have pleased them better 
had he repeated in his public manifesto what he 


had said in his letter to Crittenden of the 5th of 
December, 1843, that the establishment of British 
influence in Texas " would not be regarded with so 
much detestation by the civilized world as would 
the conduct of the United States in seeking to 
effect annexation," because the motive that would 
be attributed to the United States, " and with too 
much justice, would be that of propagating, instead 
of terminating, slavery." But in the manifesto, 
while not reasoning distinctly from the anti-slavery 
point of view, he did, indeed, emphatically object 
to the main reason, the restoration, or rather the 
guaranty, of the balance of power, for which Texas 
was desirable to the slave-holding interest. The 
bulk of the Whig party in the Free States accepted 
the document as substantially in accord with their 

A public letter from Van Buren appeared at the 
same time in the Democratic organ at Washington, 
the " Globe." The coincidence was noticed as re 
markable. (Van Buren questioned the constitu 
tionality of admitting Texas as a new state by 
treaty ; it could only be done by Congress. He, 
too, believed that annexation meant war with 
Mexico. ) Whether we could " hope to stand justi 
fied in the eyes of mankind for entering into" such 
a war, was a grave question, " in respect to which 
no American statesman or citizen could possibly 
be indifferent," especially as nothing was more 
true or more extensively known than that (Texas 
was wrested from Mexico through the instrumen- 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 247 

tality of citizens of the United States.) He warned 
against treating lightly the sacred obligations of 
treaties. As to the matter of slavery, he hinted 
that he might be trusted, not being a man " in 
fluenced by local or sectional feelings." Finally, 
if Congress in a constitutional manner should ac 
quire Texas, he would, as President, execute the 
legislative will. 

It was significant that Andrew Jackson, whose 
favorite candidate Van Buren was, hurried upon 
the scene with a second letter, expressing his un 
shaken confidence in the man who would undoubt 
edly change his mind when he considered " the 
probability of a dangerous interference with the 
affairs of Texas by a foreign power." 

The letters of the presumptive candidates for 
the presidency went before the people at the same 
time that the annexation treaty was submitted to 
the Senate. Calhoun communicated together with 
the treaty an answer he had written to a dispatch 
from Lord Aberdeen, which had been received 
several weeks before. That answer contained his 
reasons why the annexation of Texas had become 
necessary. Lord Aberdeen had, in that dispatch, 
incidentally mentioned ( x the well-known desire and 
constant exertion of Great Britain to procure the 
general abolition of slavery throughout the world, 
earnestly disclaiming, however, any intention di 
rectly or indirectly, openly or secretly, to interfere 
with the tranquillity and prosperity of the United 
States. ^Treating this as a new revelation, Cal- 

248 HEN It CLAY. 

houn, the same man who had declared in 1836 the 
annexation of Texas necessary, now pretended 
that, in view of such avowals by Lord Aberdeen, 
annexation had become immediately indispensable 
for the salvation of slavery, and, therefore, for the 
safety of the people of the United States.^ Tyler s 
message, which accompanied the treaty, had, in 
deed, much to say of the commercial advantages 
which the " reannexation " of Texas would confer 
upon the American people ; but it laid also great 
stress upon the " anxiety of other powers to induce 
Mexico to enter into terms of reconciliation with 
Texas, which, affecting the domestic institutions 
of Texas, would operate most injuriously upon the 
United States, and might most seriously threaten 
the existence of this happy Union." Nor did he 
omit to mention that " formidable associations of 
persons were directing their utmost efforts " to the 
overthrow of slavery in Texas. In other words, 
the United States were bound to risk a war and 
annex a country for fear that slavery might be 
abolished in that country ; [the United States must 
possess that country for the avowed purpose of 
preserving slavery there. This was the argument 
of the President and the Secretary of State before 
the Senate, and this was the position in which they 
placed the great American Republic before the 

The Whig National Convention met at Balti 
more on May 1. Almost all the notables of the 
Whig party were there, Webster included. The 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 249 

nomination of Clay as the Whig candidate for the 
presidency required no ballot. It was carried with 
a great shout that shook the building. Theodore 
Frelinghuysen of New Jersey was nominated for 
the vice-presidency. The following day a "rati 
fying convention " was held, an immense assem 
blage, before which Webster solemnly renewed 
his allegiance to the Whig party. 

Webster had, since he left Tyler s Cabinet, 
lived in gloomy political isolation. His question, 
" Where shall I go ? " had not been answered by 
the Whig leaders. He had to answer it himself. 
So he returned to the Whig party, and, as Clay 
was the recognized chief of the Whig party, to 
Clay. In the summer of 1843 some of Webster s 
intimates made overtures for a resumption of 
friendly relations. The chief received the ap 
proach somewhat grandly. " I approve in the 
main," Clay wrote to Peter B. Porter, " of the 
answer you gave to Mr. Webster s friend. I have 
done him [Mr. Webster] no wrong, and have 
therefore no reconciliation to seek. Should I be 
a candidate for the presidency, I shall be glad to 
receive his support, or that of any other American 
citizen ; but I can enter into no arrangements, 
make no promises, offer no pledges, to obtain it." 
Porter answered : " Our friends were delighted 


with this reply, and even the Webster men were 
obliged to acknowledge that it was perfectly cor 
rect and proper." Webster came to Baltimore 
knowing that Clay s nomination was certain. In 


his ratification speech he spoke of Clay in terms of 
warm eulogy, extolling the services that eminent 
citizen had rendered to his country at home and 
abroad ; he rejoiced in presenting his name to the 
country as a candidate for the presidency ; they 
had, indeed, differed upon some points of policy, 
but there was now no public question before the 
country upon which there was any difference be 
tween himself and that great leader of the Whig 
party. The cheering which responded to this 
speech was immense. The Whig party appeared 
to be as firmly united as ever, and its members 
congratulated one another upon the prospect of 
certain success. 

These sanguine expectations seemed to be well 
justified by the dissensions disturbing the Demo 
cratic party. It was known that, of the delegates 
elected to the Democratic National Convention, a 
majority were for Van Buren, very many of them 
instructed by their constituents. But the ardent 
annexationists were bound to have a man in the 
presidential chair whom they could trust to go to 
extremes in insuring the acquisition of Texas. Sys 
tematically they went to work to compass Van Bu- 
ren s defeat. They had at their disposal the whole 
power of Calhoun, Van Buren s old enemy. They 
appointed a committee of correspondence at Wash 
ington to organize the ant i- Van-Bur en movement 
throughout the country. All over the South meet 
ings were held to agitate the annexation of Texas, 
and to inflame the pro-slavery feeling. In South 


Carolina the cry, " Texas or disunion ! " began to 
be heard. Calhoun s organs in the press loudly 
declared Van Buren s nomination impossible. Here 
and there steps were taken to rescind instructions 
in his favor. When the convention met, on May 
27, Van Buren had still a majority of the delegates 
on his side, professedly at least. But as soon as, 
upon the motion of a Southern delegate, the rule 
was sustained that a majority of two thirds should 
be required for effecting a nomination, Van Buren 
was lost. On the first ballot he still had twelve 
more than a majority, but he lacked twenty-six of 
two thirds. On the ninth ballot the opposition to 
Van Buren combined with a rush upon James K. 
Polk of Tennessee, a warm advocate of the annex 
ation of Texas. The two-thirds rule, which had 
been applied in the conventions of 1832 and 1836, 
when there were hardly any contests, was, after 
1844, recognized by the slave power as the surest 
means of controlling presidential nominations, or 
rather of preventing nominations obnoxious to its 
interests, and it remained the standing practice of 
Democratic national conventions. 

For the vice -presidency George M. Dallas of 
Pennsylvania was nominated, after Silas Wright, 
the friend of Van Buren, had peremptorily de 
clined. A resolution was adopted recommending 
to the cordial support of the Democracy of the 
Union " the reoccupation of Oregon and the rean- 
riexation of Texas at the earliest practicable pe 
riod " as great American measures, Texas for 
the South, and Oregon ostensibly for the North. 


The Democratic National Convention of 1844 
marks an epoch in American history in two re 
spects : it designated as the leading issue of the 
presidential election the annexation of Texas, the 
beginning of the end of slavery ; and it was the 
first deliberative assemblage the proceedings of 
which were reported by the electric telegraph, the 
most striking exponent of modern civilization, 
Morse having, with the aid of the government, 
just completed his first line between Baltimore and 

Another nominating convention was held in Bal 
timore at the same time. John Tyler had at 
tempted to purchase the support of the Democrats 
with patronage, but received only ironical compli 
ments. He had persuaded himself that the people 
believed him to be a very great man, and waited 
only for an opportunity to rise up for him en masse. 
This grand uprising of the American people for 
John Tyler had for a long time been the standing 
jest of the newspapers, but Tyler s faith could not 
be shaken. He therefore gravely posed as a candi 
date for the presidency, and assembled a conven 
tion consisting mainly of office-holders. The con 
vention solemnly nominated him, and he responded 
with an equally solemn letter of acceptance. But 
before long it dawned upon him that he had no 
support whatever, and he withdrew in favor of the 
Democratic candidate. 

Still another convention had been held months 
before, on August 30, 1843, at Buffalo, which the 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 253 

politicians of the two great organizations probably 
thought at the time of less practical importance 
even than Tyler s corporal s guard. It was the 
convention of the " Liberty party." Its presiden 
tial candidates were James G. Birney and Thomas 
Morris. The Liberty party consisted of earnest 
anti-slavery men who pursued their objects by po 
litical action. They were not in sympathy with 
those abolitionists who lost themselves in " no gov 
ernment " theories, who denounced the Union and 
the Constitution as a "covenant with death and an 
agreement with hell," and who abhorred the exer 
cise of the suffrage under the Constitution as a 
participation in sin. In the language of Birney, 
they regarded the national Constitution " with un 
abated affection." They interpreted it as an anti- 
slavery document, and declared that they had 
" nothing to ask except what the Constitution au 
thorizes, no change to desire except that the Con 
stitution be restored to its primitive purity." 

Their first practical step was to interrogate the 
candidates of the existing parties concerning their 
views on slavery, in order to throw the weight of 
their votes accordingly. Then they attempted a 
party organization of their own, to furnish a nu 
cleus around which future political anti-slavery 
movements might gather. Their first presidential 
candidates, as we have seen, were offered to the 
people in the election of 1840, when they received 
about seven thousand votes. The popular excite 
ment caused by the Texas question augmented their 


strength ; and their national convention at Buffalo 
in August, 1843, was unexpectedly large in num 
bers, strong in character, and enthusiastic in spirit. 
Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, a man cast in a grand 
mould, who had already rendered conspicuous ser 
vice in the anti-slavery cause, was one of its most 
prominent members. Birney, its candidate for 
the presidency, was a native of Kentucky. A 
slave-holder by inheritance, he liberated his slaves 
and provided generously for them. He was a law 
yer of ability, a gentleman of culture, and a vigor 
ous and graceful speaker. Obeying a high sense 
of duty, he sacrificed the comforts of wealth, home, 
and position to the cause of universal freedom, 
not as a wild enthusiast or unreasoning fanatic, but 
as a calm thinker, temperate in language, and firm 
in maintaining his conclusions. His principal con 
clusion was that slavery and free institutions could 
not exist together. He has been charged with com 
mitting an act of personal faithlessness in opposing 
Clay in 1844. This charge was utterly unjust. 
He had never given Clay or Clay s friends any 
promise of support. It is true, Clay and Birney 
had maintained a friendly intercourse until 1834 ; 
but in June of that year they had a conference on 
the subject of slavery which produced upon Bir 
ney a discouraging effect. From that time their 
friendly intercourse ceased, and Clay found in Bir 
ney only a severe critic. 

The defeat of Van Buren in the Democratic 
National Convention was a disappointment to the 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 255 

Whigs, as it baffled the hope of keeping the an 
nexation question out of the presidential campaign. 
But Polk, although he had been Speaker of the 
National House of Representatives, was compara 
tively so obscure a man, that a contest for the 
highest honors of the Republic between him and 
the great Henry Clay appeared almost grotesque. 
The Democrats themselves were at first somewhat 
embarrassed by the contrast. The question, " Who 
is Polk ? was asked on all sides, to be answered 
by the Whigs with a jeering laugh. Indeed, had 
nothing happened to overshadow the old issues, 
the personal question would have appeared as the 
most important. For about the tariff and the bank 
the Democratic and the Whig platforms differed 
very little. 

Of a United States Bank the Whig platform 
said nothing. It spoke only of a " well-regulated 
currency." Clay himself, returning to the position 
he had taken during the campaign of 1840, re 
marked at Raleigh that, while his views about the 
bank question remained the same, he did " not 
seek to enforce them upon any others ; " he did 
not desire a bank unless it was imperatively de 
manded by the people. Among the Whigs gener 
ally, the United States Bank had been given up 
as an " obsolete idea." That point, therefore, was 
substantially yielded by them. As to the tariff, 
the Democrats had made a fresh record. In the 
session of 1843-1844, when they controlled the 
House by a very large majority, they laid a bill 


modifying the tariff of 1842 on the table ; and in 
their platform, while denying the right of the gov 
ernment to raise more than the necessary revenue, 
and to foster one branch of industry to the detri 
ment of another, they did not even mention the 
tariff by name. They evidently did not mean to 
take the field as an anti - protection party. The 
manner in which, on the contrary, they continued 
to steal Clay s thunder, was amazing in its bold 

The tariff of 1842 was very popular in Pennsyl 
vania, and, indeed, much favored by the manufac 
turing interests in various Northern States. It had 
also many friends among the Democrats of Ken 
tucky and Louisiana. Polk enjoyed the reputa 
tion of being a free-trader. The problem to be 
solved was to make him acceptable to both sides. 
Three weeks after the Democratic Convention he 
addressed a letter to J. K. Kane of Philadelphia, 
in which he first set forth his votes in Congress 
against the tariff of 1828, the " tariff of abomina 
tions," his vote for the tariff of 1832 effecting a 
reduction of duties, and his vote for the compro 
mise tariff of 1833. This was for the free-traders. 
Then he declared that, in his judgment, it was 
" the duty of the government to extend, so far as 
practicable, by its revenue laws and all other means 
within its power, fair and just protection to all the 
great interests of the whole Union, embracing 
agriculture, manufactures, the mechanic arts, com 
merce, and navigation." This was for everybody, 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 257 

the protectionists included. No sooner had the 
" Kane letter " been published, than the cry was 
raised : " Polk, Dallas, and the tariff of 1842." 
In Pennsylvania at every mass meeting, in every 
procession, banners appeared bearing that legend, 
not seldom with the addition, " We dare the 
Whigs to repeal it." But even that was not 
enough. While Polk and the Democratic party 
were paraded as the special champions of the tariff 
of 1842, Clay, the father of the " American sys 
tem," was systematically cried down as a dangerous 
enemy of protection ; and, in the name of protec 
tion to American industry, the voters of Pennsyl 
vania were invoked to vote against him. It was 
one of the most audacious political frauds in our 
history. That it should have been possible to carry 
on such a palpable deception, through a campaign 
lasting several months, is truly astonishing. And 
what an opening of eyes there was in Pennsylva 
nia when in 1846 the Polk Democrats did repeal 
the tariff of 1842, which the Clay Whigs vainly 
struggled to sustain ! 

While this trick cost him the vote of Pennsyl 
vania, Clay had more dangerous enemies to en 
counter, elsewhere. The campaign had hardly 
begun when the " old hero " at the Hermitage, on 
the brink of the grave, sent forth his last bugle- 
blast to summon his friends against the man he 
hated most. Andrew Jackson wrote a letter again 
affirming his belief in the story that Clay and 
Adams had by bargain and corruption defrauded 


him of his right to the presidency in 1825, and 
again the old cry resounded in all the Democratic 
presses and in numberless speeches. Again Clay 
thought it necessary to call upon his friends for 
testimony to prove that he had given an uncor- 
rupted vote for Adams twenty years before. But, 
in spite of Andrew Jaekson s still potent hostility, 
he would have won the day had he not found his 
most dangerous enemy in himself. 

The Texas question was, after all, the real issue 
of the campaign. In this respect Folk s position 
was perfectly clear. As a declared advocate of 
annexation, he could count upon a majority of the 
Southern States ; but in the North he was for the 
same reason in danger of losing not a few Demo 
cratic votes. New York was looked upon as the 
decisive battle-ground. To prevent the loss of that 
state, Silas Wright, the friend of Van Buren and 
an opponent of annexation, was prevailed upon to 
accept the Democratic candidacy for the governor 
ship. A secret circular was issued by prominent 
Democrats of anti-slavery feelings, among them 
William Cullen Bryant, the editor of the " Even 
ing Post," David Dudley Field, and Theodore 
Sedgwick, censuring the Democratic National 
Convention for adopting a resolution in favor of an 
nexing Texas, and recommending to Democrats to 
support only such candidates for Congress as were 
opposed to annexation, but to vote for the Demo 
cratic presidential ticket : a poor device, indicat 
ing, however, that there was ominous wavering in 
the Democratic ranks. 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 259 

Clay s letter on the annexation question, while 
not reaching up to the standard of the Liberty 
party, had the approval of anti- slavery men of 
more moderate views, and was well calculated to 
attract to his support anti-slavery Democrats who 
were not willing to deceive themselves by voting 
for a candidate while protesting against that which 
he represented. Clay had, therefore, reason to 
hope that he would receive votes beyond the reg 
ular strength of his party, and this especially in 
the important State of New York. He had only 
to let his Raleigh letter produce its natural effect. 

But in the planting states the excitement about 
the Texas question rose from day to day. It was 
still more inflamed by the news that the Senate, 
after a long and warm debate, had on (June 8, by 
a large majority (35 to 16), refused to assent to 
the treaty of annexation ; that then Tyler had sent 
a message to the House asking that annexation be ^ 
accomplished by " some other form of proceeding, y 
but that Congress had adjourned without further 
action. The Southern Whigs became anxious, and 
some of them earnestly insisted that Clay should 
modify the expression of his views on the vexed 
question. In an evil hour Clay yielded to their f 
entreaties, and ventured upon that most perilous 
of manosuvres on the political as well as the mili 
tary field, a change of front under the fire of the 
enemy. On July 1 he wrote a letter to Stephen 
F. Miller, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in which he dis 
claimed that, when speaking in his Raleigh letter 


of a " considerable and respectable portion of the 
confederacy" against whose wishes Texas should 
not be annexed, he had meant the abolitionists. 
" As to the idea of my courting the abolitionists," 
he said, " it is perfectly absurd. No man in the 
United States has been half as much abused by 
them as I have been." " Personally," he added, 
" I could have no objection to the annexation of 
Texas ; but I certainly should be unwilling to see 
the existing Union dissolved or seriously jeoparded 
for the sake of acquiring Texas. If any one de 
sires to know the leading and paramount object of 
my public life, the preservation of the Union will 
furnish him the key." 

This might have passed without much harm, 
but his Southern friends demanded more, and he 
gave more. " I do not think it right," he wrote 
to Miller on July 27, "to announce in advance 
what will be the course of a future administration 
in respect to a question with a foreign power. I 
have, however, no hesitation in saying that, far 
from having any personal objection to the annexa 
tion of Texas, I should be glad to see it, without 
dishonor, without war, with the common consent of 
the Union, and upon just and fair terms. I do 
not think that the subject of slavery ought to af 
fect the question, one way or the other. Whether 
Texas be independent, or incorporated in the 
United States, I do not think it will shorten or 
prolong the duration of that institution. It is des 
tined to become extinct at some distant day, in my 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 261 

opinion, by the operation of the inevitable laws of 
population. It would be unwise to refuse a per 
manent acquisition, which will exist as long as the 
globe remains, on account of a temporary institu 

Whether these letters were extorted from him 
by the cry of the extreme annexationists, " Texas 
or disunion ! " or whether they were merely a bid 
for Southern votes, in either case Clay could ? 
not, as to their effect upon the election, have ; 
committed a greater blunder. They could not 
strengthen him where he was weak: they could 
only weaken him where he was strong. They 
could not induce the annexationists to trust him : 
they could only make the opponents of annexation 
doubtful as to whether he deserved to be trusted 
by them. They could only repel the anti-slavery 
vote, for they declared that the anti-slavery argu 
ment against the annexation of Texas was without 

The Liberty party suddenly rose to a practical 
importance in the canvass which it had not en 
joyed before. Some of its speakers and writers 
had, indeed, attacked Clay, from the beginning of 
the campaign, as a " slave-holder and a gambler." 
True, Polk was a slave-holder, too ; Polk and his 
party were pledged to do what the anti-slavery 
men held most in abhorrence, enlarge the area 
of slavery. The Whig party contained a much 
larger element congenial to the anti-slavery men 
than did the Democracy, and^the election of Clay 


was perhaps the only thing that could prevent the 
, annexjjdpjnjaJI!fixas : there were, therefore, many 
reasons why the anti-slavery men should have sup 
ported Clay. ) Yet their opposition to him was not 
without logic. They did not expect to decide the 
contest between the two great parties. Their work 
was, as they conceived it, missionary work. They 
simply desired to strengthen their organization for 
future action, and naturally endeavored to draw re 
cruits from that party in which they had the largest 
number of sympathizers, the Whigs. To that 
end they endeavored to make the anti - slavery 
Whigs dissatisfied with their party and their can 
didate. Hence the vigor of their warfare upon 
Clay. And that warfare was undoubtedly inspired 
also by a tendency always prevailing among men 
who are struggling for the realization of ideas in 
advance of their time, the tendency to censure 
more bitterly those from whom they expect sympa 
thy and aid, if that sympathy and aid do not come, 
than those from whom they expect and receive 
nothing but hostility. Thus the Liberty party gave 
up the Democrats as hopeless, and severely casti 
gated the Whigs for not rising to its own standard. 
Had Clay abstained from disturbing the impres 
sion produced by his Raleigh letter, that he would 
firmly oppose the annexation of Texas, those at 
tacks of the Liberty party would not have become 
dangerous to him, because they would have ap 
peared unreasonable. But his Alabama letters 
made him appear like one of those trimming poli- 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 263 

ticians who have no fixed principles and aims. 
Then the assaults of the Liberty party began to 
tell, for they seemed unreasonable no longer. No 
more Democratic anti-annexation men would come 
to him, for they did not know whether he could 
be trusted. While a large majority of the anti- 
slavery Whigs remained with their party, they 
felt themselves reduced to an embarrassed defen 
sive. Their enthusiasm was chilled, and their abil 
ity to make converts gone. The number of anti- 
slavery Whigs who left their party, and ranged 
themselves under Birney s banners, was compara 
tively small, but large enough to turn the scale. 

The effect of the " Alabama letter " became so 
apparent that Clay, in the course of the campaign, 
tried to explain again and again, and to return to 
his first position ; but in vain. The spell was 
broken. As Horace Greeley expressed it, the 
previous hold of his advocates on the moral con 
victions of the more considerate and conscientious 
voters of the Free States was irretrievably gone. 
The Whigs did, indeed, not give up their efforts. 
They continued their displays of external enthusi 
asm, although in a far less hopeful mood. They 
called Cassius M. Clay, then in the first bloom of 
his fame as an anti-slavery champion, from meet 
ing to meeting, to explain the true status and bear 
ing of the Texas question from his point of view. 
All in vain. Washington Hunt wrote to Thurlow 
Weed : " We had the abolitionists in a good way, 
but Mr. Clay seems determined that they shall not 


be allowed to vote for him. I believe his letter 
will lose us more than two hundred votes in this 
county (Niagara). Cassius Clay s powerful use 
fulness is much weakened by the last letter of Mr. 
Clay. I dread w r ith all his efforts he may not coun 
teract the influence of the letter, coming as it does 
at this critical moment, when half the abolitionists 
were on a pivot." 

Polk carried the State of New York over Clay 
by a majority of 5,080 votes. Birney, the candi 
date of the Liberty party, received in the same. 
state 15,812 votes, more than twice as many as 
had been cast for him in 1840 in the whole Union. 
There is no reasonable doubt that more than half 
of Birney s vote in New York two thousand 
more than were required to give him the state 
would have been cast for Clay but for his Alabama 
letter; and that would have made him President 
of the United States ; for, with Massachusetts, 
Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, 
Ohio, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Ken 
tucky, and Tennessee, which he carried, New York 
would have given him a majority of the electoral 
college. "The abolition vote lost you the elec 
tion," wrote Ambrose Spencer of New York to 
Clay, " as three fourths of them were firm Whigs 
converted into abolitionists." The perpetration of 
gross and extensive election frauds was charged 
upon the Democratic party, especially in New 
York and in Louisiana, through fraudulent natu 
ralizations, organized repeating, and ballot - box 

THE ELECTION OF 1844. 265 

stuffing ; and there was much to prove the justice 
of these complaints. It was also said that the 
excitement produced by the war of the " Native 
Americans " against the Catholics, which in May 
had led to bloody riots in Philadelphia, had driven 
the whole " foreign vote " upon the Democratic side, 
and thereby injured Clay, especially through the 
unpopularity in that quarter of the Whig candi 
date for the vice-presidency, Theodore Frelinghuy- 
sen, who was a stern anti-Catholic. But all these 
causes would not have been sufficient to defeat 
Clay had he held on his side that anti-slavery vote 
which his Alabama letter drove from the Whigs to 
Birney. It is absurd to attribute the result of an 
election to accident, when it clearly appears that a 
number of voters sufficient to turn the scale were 
determined in their action by the character or con 
duct of one of the candidates with regard to the 
principal matter at issue. The object of Clay s 
highest ambition escaped him because, at the de 
cisive moment, he was untrue to himself. 

The masses of the Whig party, while the man 
agers noticed the adverse current, firmly expected 
success to the very last. It seemed impossible to f 
them that Henry Clay could be defeated by James ; 
K. Polk. Everything hung on New York. The 
returns from the interior of the state came slowly. 
There seemed to be still a possibility that heavy 
Whig majorities in the western counties might 
overcome the large Democratic vote in the eastern. 


The suspense was painful. People did not go to 
/ bed, watching for the mails. When at last the 
decisive news went forth which left no doubt of the 
result, the Whigs broke out in a wail of agony all 
over the land. " It was," says Nathan Sargent, 
" as if the first-born of every family had been 
stricken down." The descriptions we have of the 
grief manifested are almost incredible. Tears 
flowed in abundance from the eyes of men and 
women. In the cities and villages the business 
places were almost deserted for a day or two, peo 
ple gathering together in groups to discuss in low 
tones what had happened. Neither did the victori 
ous Democrats indulge in the usual demonstrations 
of triumph. There was a feeling as if a great 
wrong had been done. The Whigs were fairly 
stunned by their defeat. Not a few expressed the 
apprehension that their party would dissolve. 
Many despaired of the Republic, sincerely believ 
ing that the experiment of popular government 
had failed forever. Others insisted that the nat 
uralization laws must be forthwith repealed. Al 
most all agreed that the great statesmen of the 
country would thenceforth always remain excluded 
from the presidency, and that the highest office 
would be the prize only of second-rate politicians. 
Clay himself was in a gloomy state of mind. 
" The late blow that has fallen upon our country 
is very heavy," he wrote to a friend. " I hope 
that she may recover from it, but I confess that 


the prospect ahead is dark and discouraging. I 
am afraid that it will be yet a long time, if ever, 
that the people recover from the corrupting in 
fluence and effects of Jacksonism. I pray God to 
give them a happy deliverance^ 



DURING the autumn and early part of the winter 
of 18445 Clay remained at Ashland, receiving 
and answering a flood of letters from all parts of 
the United States, and even from Europe, which 
conveyed to him expressions of condolence and 
sympathy, many of them most touching by the 
evident sincerity of their sorrowful lamentations. 
The electors of Kentucky, after having cast their 
votes for him, visited Ashland to assure the de 
feated man of the affection and faithful attach 
ment of his state. 

Private cares had meanwhile gathered in addi 
tion to his public disappointments. He had for 
some time been laboring under great pecuniary 
embarrassment, owing partly to the drafts which 
are always made upon the purse of a prominent 
public man, partly to the business failure of one 
of his sons. Aside from other pressing debts, 
there was a heavy mortgage resting on Ashland, 
and, as an old man of sixty-seven, Clay found 
himself forced to consider whether, in order to 
satisfy his creditors, it would not be necessary to 

1844-1849. 269 

part with his beloved home. Relief came to him 
suddenly, and in an unexpected form. When of 
fering a payment to the bank at Lexington, the 
president of the institution informed him that 
sums of money had arrived from different parts 
of the country to pay off Henry Clay s debts, 
and that all the notes and the mortgage were 
cancelled. Clay was deeply moved. " Who did 
this ? " he asked the banker. All the answer he 
received was that the givers were unknown, but 
they were presumably " not his enemies." Clay 
doubted whether he should accept the gift, and 
consulted some of his friends. They reminded him 
of the many persons of historic renown who had 
not refused tokens of admiration and gratitude 
from their countrymen ; and added that, as he 
could not discover the unknown givers, he could 
not return the gift ; and, as the gift appeared in 
the shape of a discharged obligation, he could not 
force the renewal of the debt. At last he con 
sented to accept, and thus was Ashland saved to 

In January, 1845, Clay attended a meeting of 
the American Colonization Society at Washington, 
which was held in the hall of the House of Repre 
sentatives. " Last night Mr. Clay made a show 
on the colonization question, and such a show I 
never saw," wrote Alexander H. Stephens to his 
brother. " Men came from Baltimore, Philadel 
phia, and New York, to say nothing of Alexandria 
and this city. The house and galleries were 


jammed and crammed before five o clock." Stephens 
then describes how he himself had to scheme and 
struggle to get in through a side door ; how Clay 
appeared about seven o clock, and could hardly 
force his way in ; how the vast meeting would 
cheer him again and again at the top of their 
voices ; how they would not let anybody speak be 
fore him ; how " whole acres " of people had to go 
away without getting in at all ; and how Shepperd 
of North Carolina, being " more Whiggish than 
Clayish," remarked, " rather snappishly," that 
" Clay could get more men to run after him to hear 
him speak, and fewer to vote for him, than any 
man in America." 

In the mean time grave events were preparing 
themselves in Congress. In his annual message of 
December, 1844, President Tyler stoutly asserted 
that, through the late presidential election, "a con 
trolling majority of the people and a large major- 
>ty of the states " had declared in favor of the im 
mediate annexation of Texas, and that both 
branches of Congress had thus been instructed by 
their respective constituents to that effect. Wil 
liam Cullen Bryant and his friends, who had made 
themselves believe that they could vote for Polk 
and at the same time against the annexation of 
Texas, might have taken this audacious statement 
as a personal affront. But the Whigs could hardly 
repel the doctrine of special instructions to Con 
gress by presidential election, since they had pre 
tended that the election of 1840 was a special in- 

1844-1849. 271 

struction to Congress to create a new United States 
Bank. There was still opposition enough in the 
Senate to render it doubtful whether another an 
nexation treaty would obtain the necessary two 
thirds vote. (The expedient was therefore adopted 
of annexing Texas by joint resolution, which re 
quired only a simple majority of each house. On 
January 25 a resolution annexing Texas passed 
the House of Representatives, with an amendment, 
championed by Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, 
that, in such state or states as should be formed 
out of the Territory of Texas north of the Mis 
souri compromise line of 36 30 , slavery should 
be prohibited, the formation of four Slave States 
being contemplated south of that line. All the 
Whigs, with the exception of eight from the South, 
voted against the resolution. 

In the Senate it found opposition from those 
who insisted that (foreign territory could not be 
constitutionally incorporated with the United States 
except by treaty.; It would probably have been de 
feated, had not Walker of Mississippi offered, as 
an amendment, an addition to the resolution giving 
the President the option between submitting to the 
Texan government the joint resolution for its ac 
ceptance, or beginning new negotiations for an an 
nexation treaty. Five of those who thought the 
original resolution unconstitutional accepted Walk 
er s amendment, thus authorizing the President to 
violate the Constitution or not, as he might think 
most convenient.) One of the five was Benton, 


who afterwards protested that, according to a secret 
understanding, the option was not to be exercised 
by Tyler, but to be left to Polk, and that Polk 
would resume negotiations for a treaty. If there 
was such an understanding, Benton found himself 
cheated ; for when the joint resolution so amended 
had passed both houses, and been signed by Tyler, 
a messenger was dispatched, onf March 3, to the 
Texan government to oiler annexation by joint 
resolution.) On March 4 Polk was inaugurated as 
President. In his inaugural address he said that 
the enlargement of the Union would be the ex 
tension of " the dominions of peace over addi 
tional territories and increasing millions." He 
made James Buchanan Secretary of State. Neither 
he nor Buchanan thought of recalling the messen 
ger sent to Texas with the joint resolution, and of 
reopening negotiations for a new treaty. 
(Texas had, after the failure of the annexation 
treaty in the Senate, sought her salvation in an 
other direction again, and, with the aid of Eng 
land and France, negotiated a preliminary peace 
with Mexico. ^The peace was signed by the Texan 
agent on Marj3h_2j:O It contained the recognition 
of Texan independence, and a promise that Texas 
should not be annexed to any foreign state. On 
April 21 the Mexican Congress assented to the 
treaty. The Texan Congress met on June 16. 
joint resolution passed by the Congress of 
the United States was submitted to it, and also 
the peace with Mexico^ The Texan Senate unani- 

1844-1849. 273 

mously rejected the peace with Mexico, and two 
days later the resolution of annexation was adopted 
by both houses) On July 4 a convention of the 
people of Texas met and ratified annexation. 

(Thus Mexico and Texas were still at war ; and 
Clay s prediction, that with the annexation of Texas -^ 
the United States would inevitably annex that war, 
seemed to be verified.) Indeed, upon the passage 
of the joint resolution to annex Texas, the Mexican 
Minister left Washington, and the American Min 
ister the city of Mexico. Still, actual war might 
have been avoided had the United States been 
satisfied with Texas as then occupied by Texans, 
or sought to acquire the line of the Kio Grande 
as the boundary line by patiejit negotiation. The 
joint resolution annexing " the territory properly 
included within, and rightfully belonging to, the 
Republic of Texas," and speaking of " an adjust 
ment by this government of all questions of boun 
dary that may arise with other governments," evi 
dently looked to such negotiation. The question 
of boundary was whether Texas extended only 
as far as the Texan settlements extended, to the 
Nueces River, or beyond_theTexan settlements to 
the Rio Grande, the eastern bank of which was 
dotted with Mexican villages and military posts. 
The country between the Nueces and the Rio 
Grande had, indeed, been wildly " claimed " by 
the Texans, although really looked upon as, at 
most, disputed territory. But Folk s administra 
tion assumed to decide the boundary question by 


On July 30 General Taylor was ordered, with 
the troops concentrated on the Sabine, to occupy, 
protect, and defend Texas as far as occupied by 
the Texan s, and to approach the Rio Grande, 
which was " claimed to be the boundary between 
the two countries " (Texas and Mexico), but to 
remain away from Mexican settlements and mili 
tary posts. In August Taylor camped at Corpus 
Christi, on the Nueces. On August 23 he was in 
formed that, if a large Mexican army should cross 
the Rio Grande, the President would regard that 
act as an invasion of the United States and the 
beginning of hostilities ; and on August 30 he was 
instructed that an attempt to cross on the part 
of a large Mexican force should " be regarded in 
the same light," and that in such case he should 
consider himself authorized, in his discretion, to 
defend Texas by crossing the Rio Grande him 
self, driving the Mexicans from their positions on 
either bank, and occupying Matamoras. Before 
receiving this instruction General Taylor reported 
to the War Department that there were no con 
centrations of Mexican troops on the Rio Grande, 
and no expectation of war ; he could hear only 
of small parties to be sent across the river by 
the Mexicans to prevent Indian depredations and 
illicit trade. On October 16, however, Taylor was 
again instructed to approach the Rio Grande, and 
to repel " any attempted invasion." This instruc 
tion was crossed on its way by a despatch from 
Taylor, who had meanwhile begun to understand 

1844-1849. 275 

what was desired of him, saying that, if the Rio 
Grande boundary was really the ultimatum of the 
United States, a prompt advance was indeed ad 
visable ; but in that case, as Mexico had neither 
declared war nor committed any overt act of hos 
tility, he wanted definite authority from the War 
Department for a forward movement. This seems 
to have been an unwelcome request. Definite or 
ders did not come for months. Meanwhile opera 
tions on another line were going on. 
C In September Buchanan had inquired of the 
Mexican government, through the American Con 
sul, whether it would " receive an envoy from the 
United States intrusted with full powers to adjust 
all questions in dispute between the two govern^ 
ments." The Mexican government promptly de 
clared itself ready to receive a " commissioner " 
with full power to settle " the present /dispute," 
meaning the dispute about Texas. Polk then ap 
pointed SJjdell of Louisiana, as " Envoy Extraor 
dinary and Minister Plenipotentiary " to enter into 
negotiations about a variety of matters. It was 
not only Texas the administration had in mind, 
but also the Mexican province, California. While 
this was going on, Commodore Sloat, commanding 
the Pacific squadron of the American navy, was 
under instructions, as soon as he should ascertain 
with certainty that Mexico had declared war against 
the United States, at once to possess himself of 
the port of San Francisco, and to blockade or oc 
cupy such other ports as his force would permit; 


also to maintain friendly relations with the inhabi 
tants. Everything indicates that, in the event of 
hostilities, California was to be occupied with a 
view to permanent possession. Thus the army 
and the navy were ready to seize by force what 
the administration coveted, in case Slidell did not 
succeed in buying it. He was instructed to offer 
the Mexican government the assumption by the 
United States of the American claims against Mex 
ico, and five million dollars, for the Rio Grande 
line and New Mexico, or the assumption of the 
claims and twenty-five millions for New Mexico 
and California. 

( When Slidell appeared on Mexican soil, the 
Mexican President, Herrera, peaceably disposed, 
but fearing that he could not sustain himself against 
the popular temper if he opened negotiations forth 
with, wished him to delay his arrival in the capital. 
But Slidell did not delay. He sent at once his let 
ter of credence to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. 
After some hesitation the minister declared that 
Slidell s credentials were not according to the un 
derstanding ; that he was not a special " commis 
sioner " sent to dispose of the Texas dispute only, 
but a regular minister plenipotentiary ; and that 
theref ore( the question of his reception must be 
submitted to the government council. Slidell in 
sisted, but the Mexican government repeated that 
he could be received only as commissioner to treat 
about Texas. Slidell replied in a haughty and 
insulting note, and announced his return to the 

1844-1849. 277 

United States, without, however, being really in 
haste to go. (" In anticipation " of the refusal of 
the Mexican government to receive Slidell, and 
before his report had reached Washington, on 
January 13, 1846, General Taylor was directed, 
by an instruction which was kept secret, to ad 
vance with his whole command to the Rio Grande, 
and a strong naval force was ordered to the Gulf 
of Mexico, to give emphasis to Slidell s demands.) 
Meantime Herrera s government was overthrown 
by a revolution. But on the Mexican side of the 
Rio Grande no military movements were percepti 
ble. The Mexican government was in a condition 
of utter bankruptcy and confusion. Slidell was 
instructed to present his letter of credence to the 
new Mexican President. Paredes. If he, too, de 
clined to receive him, the matter would then have 
to be submitted to Congress. 


There was great excitement in Congress mean 
while, not, however, about Mexico, but about 
another complication threatening war with Eng 
land. It will be remembered that Oregon and 
Texas were linked together in the Democratic 
platform. The Treaty of Ghent had left the con 
flicting claims of the United States and Great 
Britain concerning the Columbia or Oregon Val 
ley unsettled. The Convention of 1818 provided 
for a joint occupation. The value of the country 
was not known. The Americans had there the 
trading -post Astoria, and the British Hudson Bay 
Company its trappers and fur traders. Negotia- 


tions to determine the relative right of possession 
were carried on languidly and without result. In 
1818 and 1820 the United States offered, as a 
compromise, the forty-ninth parallel as the divid 
ing line, the British insisting on the line of the 
Columbia River down from the point where the 
forty -ninth parallel intersected its northeastern 
branch. But they agreed on nothing except to ex 
tend the joint occupation indefinitely, subject to 
notice of termination. In 1832 a small agricul 
tural settlement was established by Americans on 
the Willamette, an affluent of the Columbia. In 
1836 President Jackson ordered an exploration of 
that region, which attracted much interest. In 
1838 the settlers on the Willamette petitioned 
Congress for the establishnlent of a territorial gov 
ernment, but without success. New petitions came, 
together with the report that the Hudson Bay 
Company, too, were introducing settlers. Oregon 
grew more important in the eyes of the people and 
the politicians. Tyler mentioned the subject in his 
messages, but in the negotiations between Webster 
and Lord Ashburton it was ignored. Six months 
after the conclusion of the Ashburton Treaty, a 
missionary, Dr. Marcus Whitman, coming directly 
from Oregon, gave valuable information about the 
magnificent resources of that country. He soon 
led a caravan of two hundred wagons from the 
Missouri to the Columbia, demonstrating its acces 
sibility by land. Fremont at the same period 
mads his discoveries of practicable passes through 

1844-1849. 279 

the Rocky Mountains. The project of a trans-con 
tinental railway was not long afterwards suggested 
by Asa Whitney. In the Western States a clamor 
arose for the enforcement of the American right 
to Oregon. Western Senators demanded that no 
tice of the termination of the joint occupancy be 
served on Great Britain. The subject became fit 
for the manufacture of political capital, and could 
no longer be ignored. 

Negotiations were resumed under Tyler s admin 
istration between Calhoun and Pakenham, the Brit 
ish Minister, Calhoun repeating the offer of the 
forty-ninth parallel, but the British government 
insisting upon the Columbia as the boundary line. 
The British Minister suggested arbitration, but 
Calhoun declined. The Democratic National Con 
vention of 1844 took up the question, demanding 
the " reoccupation of the whole of Oregon, which 
was made to include the country up to 54 40 , a 
line which had been fixed twenty years before as 
the southern boundary of the Russian possessions 
in America. Polk, in his inaugural address, re 
peating very nearly the language of the Demo 
cratic platform, spoke of " the American title to 
the country of the Oregon " as " clear and unques 
tionable." Lord John Russell called this a "blus 
tering announcement," and the reply of the Amer 
ican Democrats was " Fifty-four forty or fight ! " 

On July 12, 1845, Buchanan, while affirming 
the American right to " the w r hole of Oregon," 
admitted, in a note to the British Minister, that 


the President felt himself "embarrassed by the 
acts of his predecessors," and offered once more 
the forty-ninth parallel as a compromise. When 
the British Minister again declined, Buchanan 
withdrew the offer, and announced that the Presi 
dent would now insist on " the whole of Oregon." 
Polk, in his annual message of December, 1845, 
confirmed this, and recommended that one year s 
notice be given to Great Britain of the termina 
tion of the joint occupancy, and that provision be 
made for the protection of American settlers in 
Oregon. He declared himself convinced that no 
acceptable compromise could be effected, and threw 
the responsibility on England. This foreboded 
war. The business community became alarmed ; 
stocks fell in Wall Street. On December 9 Cass 
moved in the Senate an inquiry into the condition 
of the army and navy. The " notice " to be served 
on Great Britain became the subject of exciting 
debates. The British Minister once more proposed 
arbitration, which Polk again declined, affirming 
that he would not accept anything less than the 
whole territory, " unless the Senate should other 
wise determine." The administration, having its 
eye on Mexico, desired no war with England, but 
tried to shift the responsibility for a compromise 
on the Senate. 

The extremists, the " fifty-four forties," clam 
ored for immediate " notice." They would not 
leave the matter to the Senate, quoting Clay s ut 
terance in the debate on the Florida Treaty in 

1844-1849. 281 

1820, that no territory belonging to the United 
States could be ceded to a foreign power, or 
" alienated," without the assent of both houses of 
Congress. But the Southern leaders, Calhoun 
foremost, who on account of slavery dreaded a war 
with England, and did not very warmly favor ter 
ritorial expansion northward, began to advocate a 
pacific course. The Western Democrats did not 
fail to accuse the Southerners of bad faith be- 
cause, having acquired Texas to strengthen their 
peculiar interests, they would not go to extremes 
in carrying out the Northern part of the Demo 
cratic platform. But this did not prevent the con 
fidential spokesmen of the President in the Senate 
from familiarizing the public mind with the aban 
donment of 54 40 . It became apparent that the 
administration wished to avoid extremities. The 
popular temper sobered down. The cry of " 54 
40 or fight " gradually died away. On April 16, 
1846, " notice " in a very conciliatory form passed 
the Senate. Public opinion in England was favor 
ably affected. The British government itself then 
proposed the forty-ninth parallel. Polk, still de 
sirous of shifting the responsibility, would not di 
rectly accept. Resuming a practice of the early 
times of the Republic, he consulted the Senate in 
advance about a treaty yet to be made, submitting 
a mere draft of it, and announced that, according 
to the advice of the Senate, he would either accept 
or reject the British proposition. The Senate, by 
a majority of three to one, the Whigs voting with 


the majority, advised the President to acept, and 
the treaty was promptly concluded and ratified. 
Thus the Oregon question, which produced so much 
noisy excitement, was put out of the way, while the 
cloud on the southern horizon silently rose and 
grew blacker. 

The American Minister in London reported that 
the British government would hardly have been 
so forward in proposing the forty-ninth parallel 
had it known what at that period was passing on 
the Rio Grande. 

(/On March 1 Slidell demanded that the new Mex 
ican President, Paredes, should declare whether he 
would receive him in the character of a minister 
plenipotentiary or not. Paredes replied that the 
threatening attitude of the United States made 
the reception impossible. On March 11 General 
Taylor began his movement from Corpus Christ! 
to the Rio Grande. On the 28th he arrived oppo 
site Matamoras, and planted a battery command 
ing the public square of that town. With some 
vessels of the United States near at hand he block 
aded the mouth of the Rio Grande to cut off all 
supplies from Matamoras, to the end of forcing 
the Mexican troops stationed there either to with 
draw or to take the offensive. On Ajml^ 24 the 
Mexican General, Arista, declared that he consid 
ered hostilities thus begun, and/the following day 
a detachment of American dragoons became en 
gaged on the eastern bank of the Rio Grande with 

a superior force of Mexicans, and lost sixteen men.) 

1844-1849. 283 

General Taylor reported to the government that 
hostilities might now be deemed opened, and that 
he was going to carry the war into the enemy s 
country. , 

Taylor s dispatch arrived in Washington on 
May 9, a Saturday, and on Monday, the llth, 
Polk sent a message to Congress accusing Mex 
ico of having invaded the territory of the United 
States, and announcing that war existed, notwith 
standing the efforts of the government of the 
United States to avoid it. The same day the 
House of Representatives, without taking time to 
have the reports and dispatches read, and almost 
without debate, passed a bill declaring that war 
existed " by the act of Mexico," authorizing the 
President to call out fifty thousand volunteers, and 
appropriating 110,000,000. Only fourteen votes 
were cast against the bill, at their head that of 
John Quincy Adams. (The Senate passed the bill 
on the 12th by a vote of forty to two. The con 
trast between the treatment of the Oregon question 
and that of the difficulty with Mexico could not 
have been more glaring. 

At the same session of Congress the famous tariff 
of 1846 was passed, substantially stripping duties 
on imports of their high-protective character. The 
cries of the Pennsylvanians who had voted for 
" Polk, Dallas, and the tariff of 1842 " were piti 
able in the extreme, but of no avail. Also the 
sub-treasury system was reestablished, to remain ; 
and Polk put his veto upon a river and harbor 


On the Eio Grande events progressed rapidly. 
Before his dispatch reached Washington, on May 
8, General Taylor with his small force defeated the 
Mexicans at Palo Alto, and on the 9th he won a 
still more important success at Resaca de la Palma. 
On the 18th he crossed the Rio Grande and occu 
pied Matainoras. General Kearney was ordered 
to conquer New Mexico, which he did without 
firing a gun. He was to push forward to Cali 
fornia. But there his services were not needed. 
Captain Fremont, engaged in an exploring expedi 
tion, with the aid of his companions and of Ameri 
can settlers, and with the cooperation of American 
men-of-war on the Pacific coast, set up a provi 
sional government in California, and brought the 
country under the control of the United States. 

(During the summer of 1846 there was a pause 
in the war and an " intrigue for peace." The ad 
ministration had put itself in communication with 
Santa Anna, who, banished from Mexico, lived at 
the Havana. He created the impression that, if 
returned to power in his country, he would favor 
peace. The blockading squadron of the United 
States off Vera Cruz was instructed to let him pass 
into Mexico, which it did on August 8. (Presi 
dent Polk asked of Congress an appropriation of 
$2,000,000 for purposes of negotiation, the in 
tended result of which was understood to consist 
in territorial cessions by Mexico to the United 
States.) Then something happened which marked 
the beginning of the final struggle about slavery 

1844-1849. 285 

in the United States. David Wilmot of Pennsyl 
vania, a Democrat, moved in the House of Repre 
sentatives an amendment to the 82,000,000 bill, 
providing that in all territories to be acquired from 
Mexico slavery should be forever prohibited. This 
was the renowned " Wilmot Proviso." ( The bill, 
with the proviso, passed the House, but failed in 
the Senate. ) 

When Cpngress met in December, 1846, the 
American forces virtually controlled the larger 
part of the Mexican dominions., 1 General Taylor 
had on September 22 and 23 assaulted Monterey, 
and on the 24th accepted the capitulation of Gen- 
neral Ampudia. A great enterprise against Vera 
Cruz under General Scott was preparing. Polk, 
having received no money for his peace intrigue 
at the previous session, repeated the attempt. A 
bill appropriating 13,000,000 for purposes of ne 
gotiation was introduced in the House. Again 
the Wilmot Proviso was added to it. The contest 
grew warmer. Pro-slavery men in Congress, and 
Southern legislatures, proclaimed that this was a 
" Southern war ; " that it was made to acquire 
more territory for slavery, and that they wanted 
the war to stop if, by the restriction of slavery, 
its object was to be defeated. Free State legis 
latures, on the other hand, one after another, men 
of both parties uniting, instructed their Senators 
and requested their Representatives to sustain the 
Wilmot Proviso. The Senate again struck out 
the proviso, and the House finally adopted the bill 


without it, many Northern members, however, with 
tihe mental reservation that the proviso should be 
revived at a later stage of the proceedings. Thus 
the question was only adjourned./ 

Victories came thick and fast on the theatre of 
war. While great preparations were made by 
General Scott for an attack on Vera Cruz, and an 
expedition from that point on the City of Mex 
ico, Santa Anna became provisional president of 
Mexico, and, instead of making peace, put himself 
at the head of the army for a supreme effort. In 
February, 1847, he fell with a greatly superior 
force upon General Taylor at Buena Vista, but 
was defeated. General Scott occupied Vera Cruz 
on March 29, beat Santa Anna at Cerro Gordo on 
April 18, and after a series of successes at Pueblo, 
Contreras, Churubusco, Molino del Rey, and Cha- 
pultepec, entered the city of Mexico on Septem- 
ber 14. 

While these great events were taking place, 
Clay spent his days in retirement at Ashland, 
or visiting his friends here and there, especially 
at New Orleans. He continued to receive testi 
monials of popular esteem and attachment. The 
Whig ladies of Virginia provided the means for 
erecting his statue at Richmond. Those of Ten 
nessee presented him with a costly vase. Wherever 
he went he was greeted with warm demonstrations 
of friendship. But the war brought him a pro 
found sorrow. His son, Colonel Henry Clay, the 
most gifted of all his children, and his favorite, 

1S44-1849. 287 

who had joined Taylor s command with a regiment 
of Kentucky volunteers, fell at Buena Vista. This 
blow struck him very deeply. " My life has been 
full of domestic afflictions," he wrote to a friend, 
alluding to the loss of all his daughters by death, 
" but this last is the severest among them." Not 
long after the arrival of these sad tidings Clay 
became a member of the Episcopal Church, and 
was baptized according to its rites in the presence 
of his family. He never pretended to be a pious 
man, but always showed much respect for religious 
beliefs and observances. With advancing age he 
grew more meditative, and also more regular in 
his attendance upon Sunday services. 

The political situation during that period could 
not be cheering to him. All the Whig princi 
ples and policies had been overthrown, and in 
the great crisis the conduct of the Whigs in Con 
gress had lacked courage and dignity. They had 
denounced the war policy as unjust and dishonor 
able before the war was begun ; afterward only four 
teen of them in the House and two in the Senate 
voted firmly to the last against the declaration 
that war existed by the act of Mexico, which they 
believed to be a lie; and then, the war having 
been made its own by Congress, they denounced it 
as " Folk s war," and sought to belittle and dis 
credit it as an unrighteous, partisan enterprise. It 
was Folk s war until Congress had assumed Folk s 
responsibility. Then it was the war of the Amer 
ican people, made so with the concurrence of a large 


majority of the Whig votes in Congress. To op* 
pose the war policy until war was declared ; in good 
faith to support the war as soon as it had become 
the war of the American people ; and to strive for a 
just and beneficent peace as the contest was decided, 
that was the course, if frankly and faithfully 
followed by the Whigs, to secure to the opposition 
party a consistent, patriotic, and strong position. 

In spite of the vacillation and weakness of their 
conduct, the Whigs won a remarkable success in 
the congressional elections of 1846. In the twenty- 
ninth Congress the Democrats had a majority ex 
ceeding sixty votes in the House of Kepresenta- 
tives. The elections of 1846 transformed that 
majority into a minority of eight ; and this while 
the party in power was carrying on a victorious 
war. It was strange, but not inexplicable. Al 
though the bulletins from the theatre of operations 
reported victory after victory, the popular con 
science, at least in the North, was uneasy, and the 
shouts of triumph could not silence its voice, which 
said that the war was unjust in its origin, and that 
slavery was its object. Moreover, the shuffling 
character of Folk s diplomacy, and his apparent 
consciousness of guilt, urging him incessantly in 
his public utterances to defend the government as 
to the causes of the war, repelled the popular 
heart ; and thus an administration victorious in 
the field was defeated at the ballot-box. There 
were among the new members elected in 1846 
two men destined to fame, Abraham Lincoln of 

1844-1849. 289 

Illinois, a Whig; and Andrew Johnson of Ten 
nessee, a Democrat. 

Late in the autumn of 1847, before the thirtieth 
Congress met, Clay s voice was heard again. Scott 
was then in the city of Mexico. There were no 
more Mexican armies to combat. Neither was 
there a generally recognized Mexican government 
with which to conclude a peace of binding force, 
and sure to command general acceptance. Demo 
cratic meetings pronounced in favor of the per 
manent occupation and eventual annexation of the 
whole of the Mexican Republic. Men of standing 
and influence countenanced the same idea. (The 
" manifest destiny " cry stirred up the wildest 
schemes of aggrandizement.) While this agitation 
was going on Clay addressed a public meeting at 
Lexington, hoping to be heard by the whole Amer 
ican people. He traced the origin of the war to 
the annexation of Texas, but showed how hostili 
ties might after all have been avoided by pru 
dence, moderation, and wise statesmanship. As 
to the action of Congress, he would not discredit 
the motives of any one, but, referring to the decla 
ration that " war existed by the act of Mexico," 
he added " that no earthly consideration would 
ever have tempted or provoked him to vote for a 
bill with a palpable falsehood stamped upon its 
face." Solemnly he warned the American people 
of the dangers which would inevitably follow if 
they abandoned themselves to the ambition of con 
quest, pictured in glowing colors the evils which 



necessarily must come if such a country and such 
a people as Mexico and the Mexicans were incor 
porated with the political system of the United 
States, and admonished his countrymen to beware 
of trifling with the national honor. " I am afraid," 
he said, " that we do not now stand well in the 
opinion of other parts of Christendom. Repudia 
tion has brought upon us much reproach. All the 
nations, I apprehend, look upon us, in the prosecu 
tion of the present war, as being actuated by a 
spirit of rapacity, and an inordinate desire for ter 
ritorial aggrandizement." 

He summed up his argument in a series of reso 
lutions. They set forth that the war had been 
brought on by an unrighteous policy, but that, 
" Congress having, by subsequent acts, recognized 
the war thus brought into existence, the prosecu 
tion of it thereby became national ; " that it was 
the right of Congress to declare, by some authori 
tative act, for what purposes and objects the exist 
ing war ought to be further prosecuted ; that it 
was the duty of the President to conform to such 
a declaration of Congress ; that the purpose of an 
nexing Mexico to the United States in any mode, 
and especially by conquest, could not be contem 
plated without the most serious alarm ; that a 
union of Mexico with the United States should be 
deprecated, because it could not be effected and 
carried on in peace, but would lead to despotic 
sway in the one and then in both countries ; that 
there should be a generous peace, requiring no 

1844-1849. 291 

dismemberment of the Mexican Republic, but 
" only a just and proper fixation of the limits of 
Texas ; " and then " that we do positively and em 
phatically disclaim and disavow any wish or de 
sire on our part to acquire any foreign territory 
whatever for the purpose of propagating slavery, 
or of introducing slaves from the United States 
into such foreign territory." 

This speech found an immediate response. Pub 
lic meetings were held in various quarters adopting 
Clay s resolutions. In New York great demonstra 
tions took place, one at the Tabernacle and another 
at Castle Garden, one of the largest meetings ever 
assembled, which passed resolves and issued ad 
dresses echoing Clay s sentiments, and praising him 
to the skies. 

That Lexington speech, with its vigorous reproof 
of the national ambition of aggrandizement, and 
especially with its uncompromising declaration 
against the acquisition of territory for the spread 
of slavery, little resembled the prudent style of 
utterance usual with aspirants to the presidency. 
But Clay was again an aspirant to the presidency 
at that time. It was not only the inveterate am 
bition that gave him no rest, but he had friends 
who constantly stimulated that ambition with flat 
tering perspectives of success. Immediately after 
his defeat in 1844 he was " spoken of" again for 
"the next time;" and, when the Whig triumphs 
in the congressional elections of 1846 had infused 
new spirit into the party, he was, as appears from 


his correspondence, " often addressed " on the sub 
ject of the presidency ; but he thought it was " too 
soon to agitate the question." He had suffered 
disappointments enough to make him cautious, 
and for that caution there was now peculiar rea 
son. The number of Whigs who, while still loving 
and admiring him, had grown tired of being de 
feated with him, had increased rapidly since 1844. 
Among them were, no doubt, many who looked 
for their own preferment, who to that end desired 
party success at any price, and who were impatient 
with the old chief for standing in the way of their 
interests. But there were also others who, re 
maining his faithful friends, would not expose him, 
and at the same time their party, to more disasters. 
John J. Crittenden, a most honorable man, and 
Clay s lifelong brother-in-arms in all his struggles, 
was one of these. " I prefer Mr. Clay to all men 
for the presidency," he wrote to a friend ; " but 
my conviction, my involuntary conviction, is that 
he cannot be elected." He was undoubtedly right. 
No man in public life was more idolized by his ad 
mirers, but no one had more unrelenting and ac 
tive enemies, to whom his long career presented an 
abundance of vulnerable points. Moreover, he 
had grown stale as a presidential candidate. All 
the ingenuity of defense, and all the ardor of 
panegyric, had time and again been exhausted for 
him, and always in vain. There were no fresh re 
sources to draw upon for a new campaign. The 
spokesmen of the party were naturally reluctant to 

1844-1849. 293 

undertake the same task again, and many of them 
therefore joined in the quiet protest against his re- 
nomination. This feeling had grown to especial 
strength where Clay had least expected it, and 
where it was most painful to him, in Kentucky. 
Many of the Whigs of that state had reached the 
conclusion that Kentucky, after the experiences of 
the past, ought not to impose upon the Whig 
party Clay s candidacy for the presidency as a per 
manent burden. They were, therefore, among the 
first to look for a new man around whom to rally. 
They found that man in the person of a military 

Immediately after the news of the battles of 
Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma had arrived in 
the United States, in May, 1846, some Whig poli 
ticians, Thurlow Weed among others, cast their 
eyes upon the victorious captain as a presidential 
possibility. Thurlow Weed learned from General 
Taylor s brother that the General had always been 
an admirer of Henry Clay, and preferred home 
made goods to foreign importations. This was 
sufficient in his eyes to qualify the General as a 
good enough Whig for a presidential candidate. 
The General had never voted. He had spent the 
best part of his life in camps and at frontier posts, 
and never expressed, nor even entertained, a very 
decided preference for either of the two political 
parties. W T hen the proposition of making him a 
candidate for the highest civil office was first 
broached to him, he promptly pronounced it as too 


absurd to be thought of for a moment. But there 
are very few American citizens, however prudent 
and modest, who, when repeatedly told that the 
people insist upon putting them into the presiden 
tial chair, will not finally believe that the people are 
right and must be obeyed. General Taylor, too, 
gradually came to that conclusion. On November 
4, 1847, he wrote to Clay that he should be glad if 
his (Clay s) nomination, or the nomination of some 
other Whig by the party, would permit him (Tay 
lor) to stand aside. But these sentiments gradu 
ally suffered a decided change. There was, indeed, 
something like a popular demand for him. As 
early as June, 1846, meetings had been held in 
Trenton, N. J., and in New York, recommending 
Taylor s nomination for the presidency. The move 
ment spread rapidly, and became especially active 
in Kentucky, Clay s formerly faithful state. 

These demonstrations were by no means con 
fined to the Whig party. " People s " meetings, 
" Native American " meetings, and even some Dem 
ocratic meetings, expressed the opinion that Gen 
eral Taylor was the man of the hour. The honest 
and simple-minded old soldier, once persuaded that 
the talk of making him President was serious, 
thought it but natural that, as he had never been 
a partisan, and as the call upon him was not con 
fined to any political organization, he should con 
sider himself as the people s candidate, and, if 
elected, as the people s President. He put forth 
these sentiments, at the same time confessing that 

1844-1849. 295 

he had only " crude impressions on. matters of pol 
icy," in several letters which became public and as 
tonished the politicians. His sponsors among the 
Whig leaders grew alarmed lest his unguarded ut 
terances should endanger his nomination by a reg 
ular Whig party convention. They, therefore, took 
him in training, and composed a letter for him 
which should soothe the partisan mind. But they 
could not make him say more than that he was a 
Whig, " although not an ultra one ; " that " he 
would not be President of a party," but "would 
endeavor to act independent of party domination," 
and " untrammeled by party schemes ; " that he 
would not use the veto power " except in cases 
of clear violation of the Constitution, or manifest 
haste or want of consideration by Congress ; " that, 
as to the tariff, the currency, and internal improve 
ments, " the will of the people, as expressed through 
their representatives in Congress, ought to be re 
spected and Carried out by the Executive ; " and 
that he was in favor of peace, and opposed " to the 
subjugation of other nations and the dismember 
ment of other countries by conquest." With this 
the Whig politicians had to be satisfied. 

Clay observed this movement in favor of Gen 
eral Taylor with extreme displeasure, which found 
vent in his letters to his friends. Up to the battle 
of Buena Vista he thought the Whig masses were 
determined to stand by him. He insisted that the 
Whig party had always been committed against 
mere military officers for the presidency, and that, 


if a man like General Taylor, absolutely without 
experience in civil affairs, were elected, the presi 
dency would fall to a succession of military chief 
tains. At the same time he told his friends that 
he would be a candidate only if there was a gen 
eral popular call for him, and in the mean time he 
would maintain a passive attitude. But of sus 
taining that passive attitude he seems not to have 
been capable. In the winter of 1847-48 he visited 
Washington to appear in a case before the Supreme 
Court, and to take part in a meeting of the Coloni 
zation Society. But that was not all. " The only 
news is," wrote Alexander H. Stephens, " that Mr. 
Clay has produced a great impression here. I ex 
pect he will give the Whigs some trouble. I think 
he will be flattered into the belief that he can be 
elected." A few days later he wrote : " I am now 
well satisfied that Mr. Clay will not allow his name 
to be used in the convention." Clay did not un 
derstand it so. He wrote to his friends that the 
strongest appeals were made to him against the 
withdrawal of his name. He complained bitterly 
of the Taylor movement in Kentucky. " Why is 
it ? " he wrote. " After the long period of time 
during which I have had the happiness to enjoy 
the friendship and confidence of that state, what 
have I done, it is inquired, to lose it ? " The oppo 
sition to him, and especially the circumstance that 
General Taylor, a man whom he thought utterly 
unfit for the presidency, was his competitor, seems 
to have sharpened his desire. A series of ova- 

1844-1849. 297 

tions elsewhere was in store for him, to test the 
popular temper. But before Clay left Washing 
ton he had to witness a solemn scene which might 
have sobered his ambition. On February 25 John 
Quincy Adams was stricken down by paralysis in 
the House of Representatives. The grand old hero 
of duty, the grim warrior of conscience, fell, as 
he had hoped to fall, in the service of his country. 
When he lay in the Speaker s room unconscious, 
Clay was taken to him : he held the hand of the 
dying man in his, and the tears streamed down 
his face. From the scene of death he went forth, 
himself an old man of nearly seventy-one, to the 
last struggle for that which, as an object of ambi 
tion, as he might well have learned from Adams s 
life, was valueless. At Baltimore, Philadelphia, 
and New York he was received with great demon 
strations of enthusiasm which filled the newspapers 
with gorgeous descriptions. At New York, where 
the city authorities took him in charge, the festiv 
ities lasted several days. There was no end of 
hand-shaking and cheers. The people seemed to 
think of nothing but Henry Clay. 

Until then he had maintained what he called a 
passive attitude, weighing chances with apparent 
coolness of judgment, but always ready to be de 
ceived when the truth did not accord with his 
wishes. The assurances of friends in New York 
that, if nominated, he would triumphantly carry 
that state, and information equally flattering from 
influential Whigs in Ohio, the most prominent and 


urgent among whom was Governor Bebb, finally 
decided him to proclaim what he had probably 
long before determined in his heart. Early in 
April he published a letter assenting to the " use 
of his name " in the Whig National Convention. 
And then he had to learn a piece of startling news 
from General Taylor himself. Clay had expected 
that, if he were nominated by the Whig Conven 
tion, General Taylor, as a matter of course, would 
quietly leave the field. He had carried on some 
secret hope, perhaps, of dissuading him from be 
ing a candidate at all. But now the General, in 
a public letter of April 20, 1848, declared, and 
in a letter addressed to Clay himself on April 30, 
affirmed, that, having been nominated by "the 
people called together in primary assemblies in 
several of the states," he considered himself "in 
the hands of the people," and was determined to 
remain a candidate, whoever else might be in the 
field. Such a declaration would, under ordinary 
circumstances, have provoked the resentment of a 
party conscious of its strength, and thus defeated 
the pretensions of the man making it. It pro 
duced a different effect upon the Whigs of 1848. 
Those who desired a party victory at any price cal 
culated that, if Taylor remained a candidate under 
any circumstances, the Whigs could win only by 
accepting, but would surely lose by opposing him. 
There was also another class who actually pre 
ferred him because he was not a party man. This 

1844-1849. 299 

was not surprising at a time when the question 
which most engaged people s minds and feelings 
did not form a clear issue between the political 
parties, but rather divided the parties within them 

Clay did not appreciate this. In a letter of 
August 4, 1847, to Daniel Ullmann he had still 
expressed the opinion that, with the exception of 
the United States Bank, which he, too, by that 
time had dropped as no longer available, the old 
issues would still be good for another campaign, 
such as the principle of protection, and internal 
improvements, and the " alarming increase of the 
vetoes," and, added to these subjects, " the Mexi 
can war, its causes, the manner of conducting it, 
and the great national debt " fastened by it on the 
country. But he was mistaken. The " free-trade " 
tariff of 1846 had not produced the destruction 
of prosperity which its opponents had predicted. 
The hard times, beginning with the crash of 1837, 
had at last been followed by a revival of business. 
This was, indeed, ascribed by many to the effect 
of the famine in Europe ; but, whatever the cause, 
there was in point of fact no distress in America 
that would have justified a cry for a reversal of 
economic policy. Neither would the people excite 
themselves about a veto killing a river and harbor 
bill. Nor would the distribution of the proceeds 
of sales of public land stir the popular heart. As 
to the Mexican war, the unrighteousness of its 
cause, and the conduct of the administration in 


managing it, might, indeed, furnish material for 
discussion ; but the main point, the decision of the 
question what should be the outcome of it, was 
before the country in the shape of an accomplished 
fact before the presidential campaign opened. 
(In February, 1848, the Treaty of Guadaloupe 
Hidalgo was concluded. By its terms Mexico rec 
ognized the Rio Grande as the western boundary 
of Texas, and ceded to the United States New 
Mexico and California, in consideration of which 
the United States were to pay to Mexico fifteen 
millions, and assume the payment of the claims of 
American citizens to a limited amount.) What 
ever their feelings about the origin of the war 
might have been, a large majority of the Ameri 
can people were well enough satisfied with the ac 
quisition of New Mexico and California. The 
only question which seriously troubled them was 
whether, in the newly acquired territories, slavery 
should exist or not. That question loomed up in 
a portentous shape, and with regard to it neither 
party was at peace within itself. The main force 
of the Democratic party was in the South, and 
therefore leaned toward the interests of slavery ; 
but, in order to win in presidential elections the 
Northern States necessary for party success, it had 
to make occasional concession to the anti-slavery 
spirit prevailing there. The main force of the 
Whig party was in the North, and therefore leaned 
toward general freedom; but, in order to secure 
the Southern States necessary for success, it had 

1844-1849. 301 

to make occasional concession to the demands of 
slavery. Thus both found the slavery question an 
exceedingly troublesome and dangerous one, and 
both were afraid of it. But, whatever might be 
done to hold it back, it pressed irresistibly for 

The Wilmot Proviso, aiming at the total ex- 
elusion of slavery from the newly acquired terri 
tories, although defeated in the Senate, was certain 
to rise up again. It served as a rallying cry all 
over the North, and profoundly alarmed the South. 
Southern statesmen, and, more clearly than any of 
them, Calhoun saw the greatness of their danger, 
and resolved to make a final stand against it. In 
February, 1847, Calhoun, true to his method of 
fighting fate with constitutional theories, introduced 
a set of resolutions declaring that the territories 
belonged to the several states in common ; that any 
law depriving any citizen of a state of the right to 
emigrate with his property (slaves included) into 
any of the territories, would be a violation of the 
Constitution; and that no condition could be im 
posed upon new states to be admitted, other than 
that they should have a republican form of govern 
ment. In other words, Calhoun, who advanced 
his positions step by step as the dangers to slavery 
increased, affirmed now substantially that the Con 
stitution by its own force carried slavery into the 
territories of the United States. These resolutions 
were never voted upon in the Senate. But South 
ern legislatures adopted them as their doctrine, 


and an attempt was made in Congress to establish 
that doctrine by practical application. 

In the last session of the twenty-ninth Congress, 
the House passed a bill giving Oregon a territorial 
government, with a provision excluding slavery, 
but the Senate laid the bill on the table. When 
in the succeeding session the subject reappeared, 
the exclusion of slavery was resisted by Southern 
Senators and Representatives with the utmost 
energy. Practically to establish slavery in Oregon, 
whose inhabitants, in giving themselves a provi 
sional government, had already voted against its 
admission, might have seemed hopeless. But the 
assertion of the principle with regard to Oregon 
would facilitate its future application to California 
and New Mexico ; or, perhaps, a final yielding as 
to Oregon might become a valuable consideration 
in a compromise touching the other more promis 
ing territories. It was then that Daniel S. Dick 
inson of New York addressed a long speech to the 
Senate, in which he endeavored to prove that it 
would be according to the principles of self-govern 
ment and the spirit of the Constitution to leave the 
question, whether slavery should be admitted or ex 
cluded, to the territorial legislatures for decision. 
This was the principle of " squatter sovereignty," 
which reappeared again six years later in a new 
application. Calhoun and his followers rejected 
it unhesitatingly, on the ground that, if Congress 
could not legislate on slavery in the territories, the 
territorial legislatures, which derived their authority 

1844-1849. 303 

from Congress, certainly could not. They insisted 
emphatically on the right of the slave-holder under 
the Constitution to take his slaves into the terri 

It is a remarkable fact that the same Congress, 
which thus discussed the right of slavery in the 
great American Republic to go where it had not 
been before, passed eloquent resolutions congratu 
lating the nations of Europe upon the triumphs of 
freedom achieved by the uprisings of 1848. 

The struggle about the admission of slavery in 
Oregon was still going on, and the more porten 
tous struggle about New Mexico and California 
was impending, when the two parties held their 
national conventions to nominate candidates for 
the presidency. The Democratic Convention met 
first on May 22 at Baltimore. The first business 
it had to deal with was a contest of two rival del 
egations from New York, one representing the 
44 Hunkers," whose principal chiefs were Marcy, 
then Secretary of War, and Daniel S. Dickinson, 
the Senator ; and the other the " Barnburners," 
who counted among their leading men such Demo 
crats as John A. Dix and Preston King, with 
Martin Van Buren in the background. The State 
Convention which sent the Hunker delegation 
had laid on the table a resolution approving the 
Wilmot Proviso. The Barnburner Convention 
had declared itself warmly against the admission 
of slavery in the territories. The Hunkers pledged 
themselves to support the Democratic nominees, 


whoever they might be. The Barnburners refused 
to give such a pledge. The National Convention 
resolved to admit both delegations upon an equal 
footing, but the Barnburners withdrew, while the 
Hunkers also declined to take any further part in 
the proceedings, maintaining, however, their pledge 
to support the nominees. The Convention nomi 
nated Lewis Cass of Michigan for the presidency, 
a Northern man with Southern principles, who at 
first had favored the Wilmot Proviso and then 
solemnly recanted. To spare the feelings of the 
North, the Convention refused to adopt a resolution 
offered by Yancey of Alabama, which substan 
tially indorsed Calhouri s doctrine that slavery 
could not constitutionally be excluded from the 
territories. A delegate from Georgia desired to 
offer a resolution condemning the Wilmot Proviso, 
but was persuaded to desist. The platform de 
nounced the abolitionists, but expressed itself on 
the slavery question in generalities conveniently 

The National Convention of the Whigs met on 
June 7 at Philadelphia. Many of Clay s sup 
porters were still full of hope. A majority of 
the Whigs being in favor of the Wilmot Proviso, 
it was believed that Clay s speech and resolutions 
on the Mexican war would naturally have attracted 
them. It was found, too, that, while General Tay 
lor had among the delegates many warm friends, 
there was also a very determined, and even bitter, 
opposition to a candidate who did not represent 

1844-1849. 305 

any principles or policies. But on the first ballot 
Clay not only failed to receive the vote of Ohio, 
of whose enthusiastic support he had been assured, 
but even a majority of the Kentucky delegation 
voted for Taylor. That was a fatal blow. Tay 
lor had 111 votes, Clay 97 ; the rest were divided 
between General Scott, who received the vote of 
Ohio, and Webster. On the fourth ballot Taylor 
had 171, a majority over all, and Clay only 32. 
The bulk of his votes had gone over to his success 
ful rival. Millard Fillmore was nominated for the 

Many delegates were greatly dissatisfied with 
Taylor s nomination. Some of them offered reso 
lution after resolution to make it mean something, 
that the candidate should declare himself as the 
exponent of Whig principles ; that one of those 
principles was : No extension of slavery by con 
quest, etc. But all these resolutions were shouted 
down amid the wildest excitement. Charles Allen 
and Henry Wilson, of Massachusetts, then left the 
Convention, declaring that they ceased to be mem 
bers of the Whig party, and would do all in their 
power to defeat its candidates. Upon Wilson s 
call, a meeting of dissatisfied delegates and others 
was held, to consider steps to be taken for the pur 
pose of organizing the anti-slavery element for ac 
tion. A convention to be held in August at Buffalo 
was resolved upon. The National Convention of 
the Whigs adjourned in great confusion, without 
having adopted any platform. 


Thus both parties avoided taking any clear posi 
tion on the one great question which most con 
cerned the future of the Republic. The Demo 
cratic Convention had rejected strong pro- slavery 
resolutions in order to save its chances at the North. 
The Whig Convention had shouted down anti- 
slavery resolutions to save its chances in the South. 
The Democratic party, which contained the bulk 
of the pro-slavery element, tried to deceive the 
North by the nomination of a Northern man with 
Southern principles. The Whig party, whose rul 
ing tendencies were unfriendly to slavery, tried to 
deceive the South by silencing the anti- slavery 
sentiment for the moment, and by nominating a 
Southern man who had not professed any principles 
at all. 

Clay was deeply mortified. Some of his friends 
had cruelly deceived him, especially those who had 
promised him the enthusiastic support of Ohio. 
Neither had he thought it possible that in a crisis 
the vote of the delegates from Kentucky would fail 
him. He felt keenly that, in a defeat in which he 
had been abandoned by his own state, his prestige 
had suffered. But more than that. The party 
which he had built up, of which he had been proud, 
and which had always professed to be proud of him, 
had thrown him aside for a man who had only at 
the eleventh hour called himself a Whig, and who 
did not profess to know anything of Whig princi 
ples. He saw in the conduct of his party a con 
fession of moral bankruptcy. He could not per- 

1844-1849. 307 

suade himself that the Whig principles of old were 
not the things in which the country just then took 
great interest, and that, as to the great question of 
the day, the Whig party was sharply divided in 
itself. The old chief retired to his tent. One of 
the seats for Kentucky in the Senate of the United 
States having become vacant before the expiration 
of the term, the governor offered him the executive 
appointment to the place. Clay promptly declined. 
Without hesitation he informed his friends, who 
expressed anxiety as to his attitude, that he would 
do nothing against, nor anything to support, Gen 
eral Taylor s candidacy. 

" I have been much importuned from various quar 
ters," he wrote to a committee of Whigs at Louisville, 
" to indorse General Taylor as a good Whig, who will, 
if elected, act on Whig principles and carry out Whig 
measures. But how can I do that ? Can I say that in 
his hands Whig measures will be safe and secure, when 
he refuses to pledge himself to their support ? When 
some of his most active friends say they are obsolete ? 
When he is presented as a no-party candidate ? When 
the W T hig Convention at Philadelphia refused to recog 
nize or proclaim its attachment to any principles or 
measures, and actually laid on the table resolutions hav 
ing that object in view ? " 

He did not conceal the personal feelings aroused 
in him by the treatment he had received : " Ought 
I to come out as a warm and partisan supporter of 
a candidate who, in a reversal of our conditions, 
announced his purpose to remain a candidate, and 


consequently to oppose me, so far as it depended 
upon himself ? Tell me, what reciprocity is this ? 
Magnanimity is a noble virtue, and I have always 
endeavored to practice it ; but it has its limits, and 
the line -of demarkation between it and meanness 
is not always discernible." If any great principles 
were at stake, he said, he would, in spite of it all, 
engage in the contest. But he feared that the 
Whig party was dissolved, and had given way to a 
mere personal party, having that character as much 
as the Jackson party had it twenty years before. 
There was something pathetic in this appeal of the 
old leader : " I think my friends ought to leave 
me quiet and undisturbed in my retirement. I 
have served the country faithfully and to the ut 
most of my poor ability. If I have not done more, 
it has not been for want of heart and inclination. 
My race is run. During the short time which re 
mains to me in this world, I desire to preserve un 
tarnished that character which so many have done 
me the honor to respect and esteem." 

He remained true to his resolution not to take 
part in the canvass on either side. At a late pe 
riod of the campaign, General Taylor formally ac 
cepted a nomination for the presidency from a 
Democratic Convention in South Carolina, which 
preferred him to the Democratic candidate, avow 
edly because Cass, as a Northern man, could not 
be trusted with regard to slavery, while General 
Taylor, as a Southern man, was undoubtedly safe. 
Then many indignant Northern Whigs, especially 

1844-1849. 309 

in New York, attempted to organize a movement 
against Taylor with Clay at its head. But Clay 
peremptorily forbade the use of his name. 

Clay was by no means alone dissatisfied with 
Taylor s nomination. The Whig politicians, who 
expected to make for Taylor an easy " star-and- 
stripe campaign," found unforeseen difficulties in 
their way. Many of the old Whigs continued to 
believe that their party should remain the repre 
sentative of certain principles ; that it still had a 
mission to perform ; and that it should be led by 
statesmen. The bestowal of its highest trust and 
honor upon one who, whatever his merits as a 
soldier and a gentleman, frankly confessed himself 
ignorant of the great duties to the discharge of 
which he was to be commissioned, provoked their 
anger and contempt. Not only a large number of 
Clay s friends were so affected, but of Webster s 
too. Webster himself declared that Taylor s nomi 
nation was " one not fit to be made," and only at 
a late period of the campaign he was moved by 
unceasing party pressure to make a few speeches 
for the Whig candidate. 

Of greater significance was the defection of a 
portion of the anti-slavery element in the Whig 
party, who in Massachusetts went by the name of 
" Conscience Whigs," and who counted strongly 
also in New York and Ohio. But, while this de 
fection was avowedly intended to punish the Whig 
party and to defeat Taylor, the turn which the 
anti-slavery movement took in the campaign served 


to save him. The Liberty party had held a con 
vention in October, 1847, and nominated for the 
presidency John P. Hale, an anti-slavery Democrat 
representing New Hampshire in the Senate of the 
United States. But, in order to unite the anti- 
slavery elements for a common effort, they were 
willing to attend the general anti-slavery conven 
tion at Buffalo in August, which had been planned 
immediately after Taylor s nomination. In June 
large mass meetings of those opposed to the exten 
sion of slavery took place, without distinction of 
party, at Worcester in Massachusetts, and Colum 
bus in Ohio, which passed resolutions protesting 
against the spread of slavery, and appointed dele 
gates to the Buffalo convention. Meanwhile the 
Barnburner wing of the Democratic party of New 
York, whose delegates had withdrawn from the 
Democratic National Convention at Baltimore, met 
at Utica, and nominated Martin Van Buren as 
their candidate for the presidency, upon a platform 
vigorously condemning the extension of slavery 
into the territories. But, while this sentiment was 
sincerely cherished by many of those taking part 
in that movement, there is no doubt that by many 
others the anti-slavery current of the time was 
merely used as a convenient weapon, in the war of 
Democratic factions, to avenge Martin Van Buren 
and his following upon the Democratic party for 
the " wrong " he had suffered by his defeat in the 
Democratic National Convention of 1844. How 
ever, the Barnburners counted in their ranks the 

1844-1849. 311 

best talent of the Democratic party in New York, 
such men as John A. Dix, Sanford E. Church, 
Samuel J. Tilden, Dean Richmond, C. C. Cam- 
breleng, Azariah Flagg, Benjamin F. Butler, John 
Van Buren, Preston King, William Cullen Bryant, 
James S. Wadsworth, Abijah Mann, Ward Hunt, 
George Opdyke, and others. The Barnburners, 
too, resolved to be represented at the anti-slavery 
convention at Buffalo on August 9. 

That meeting was a great event. Many thou 
sands attended it. The moralist, profoundly con 
vinced of the righteousness of his cause, met there 
with the practical politician. Benjamin F. Butler, 
of New York, reported a platform which declared 
that slavery was a mere state institution ; that 
Congress had no more power to make a slave than 
to make a king ; that the national government 
should relieve itself of all responsibility for slav 
ery ; that Congress should exclude slavery from 
all free territory ; that the answer to the issue 
forced upon the country by the slave power should 
be : No more slave states ; no more slave territory ; 
no more compromises with slavery ; freedom for 
Oregon, California, and New Mexico. The great 
battle-cry, " Free soil, free speech, free labor, and 
free men ! " was hailed with shouts and tears of 
enthusiasm. The names of John P. Hale and of 
Martin Van Buren were submitted to the conven 
tion for nomination as candidates for the presi 
dency. Martin Van Buren received a large ma 
jority on the first ballot. Charles Francis Adams 


was nominated for the vice-presidency. The old 
anti-slavery men present accepted the result. The 
enthusiasm of the convention had in it a glow of 
religious fervor quite uncommon before in political 

But there was after all something grotesque, if 
not repulsive, in the selection of Martin Van Bu- 
ren for the leadership of an anti - slavery move 
ment. It no doubt attracted many Democrats 
whose feelings on slavery would, without it, not 
have been strong enough to take them out of their 
party line. But, as soon as the first excitement 
was over, many anti-slavery Whigs, who had been 
inclined to favor the Buffalo nominations, began 
to remember Martin Van Buren s career with re 
gard to the subject of slavery ; and they quietly 
dropped off and rejoined their old party, finding a 
ready excuse in the fact that anti-slavery men so 
earnest and able as William H. Seward vigorously 
supported Taylor, and represented him as a man 
who, although a slave-holder himself, was by no 
means disposed to propagate slavery. The Buffalo 
movement, therefore, making serious inroads into 
the Democratic party in New York, while drawing 
comparatively little of its force from the Whigs, 
redounded to Taylor s benefit. 

It produced an important effect in another di 
rection : it frightened members of Congress. The 
Oregon bill, involving the right of the slave-holder 
to take his property into that territory, had agi 
tated Congress for months. At last, on August 

1844-1849. 313 

13, under the fresh impression made by the great 
demonstration of Northern anti-slavery sentiment 
at Buffalo, a bill was passed in effect excluding 
slavery from Oregon. 

Both parties during the presidential campaign 
denounced the Free Soilers with extreme bitterness 
as renegades and traitors. A new moral power, 
which exposes and puts to shame current insin 
cerities, is always treated with contumely by those 
whose consciences are uneasy. The Whigs, who 
derived the greatest benefit from the Buffalo 
movement, seemed to be even more incensed at it 
than the Democrats, probably because their can 
vass was the more insincere. The Southern Whigs 
pictured General Taylor as a better pro-slavery 
man than Cass, while the Northern Whigs pre 
tended that their candidate was in favor of the 
Wilmot Proviso. Such a trick may succeed, as it 
did succeed in 1848 ; but a party which constantly 
needs such tricks to achieve success, or to maintain 
its existence, cannot last. The Whigs carried the 
presidential election. General Taylor had the 
electoral votes of fifteen states, among which were 
eight of the South. But it was the last triumph of 
the Whig party. As soon as the slavery question 
became the absorbing issue, the Whig party could 
not remain together if the Southern Whigs were 
for and the Northern Whigs against slavery. The 
next presidential election left it a mere wreck, and 
a few years more buried even its name. 

The Free Soil party, too, as organized at Buffalo, 


was short-lived. It did not carry any state, but 
received nearly three hundred thousand votes. In 
New York Van Buren had more votes than Cass. 
The Democratic faction opposed to him suffered 
a disastrous overthrow. That accomplished, a 
large number of the Van Buren Democrats, and 
among them some of their leading men, renewed 
their allegiance to their old party, looking upon the 
revolt of 1848 as a mere political episode. Many 
of the Whigs, who had voted for Van Buren to 
avenge Clay, also returned to the fold. But, while 
the coalition fell to pieces, the vital principle of 
the Free Soil movement survived, to be obscured 
by a temporary reaction, and then to rise up again 
in final triumph. 



WHEN during the presidential campaign Clay 
entreated his friends to leave him undisturbed in 
his retirement, he meant undoubtedly what he said. 
But after a short rest his interest in public affairs 
naturally revived to new activity. 

The strife about slavery growing constantly more 
embittered and threatening, some thinking men in 
the South, who in the general excitement had kept 
their temper, asked themselves whether slavery was 
really tlie economical, moral, and political blessing 
its hot-blooded devotees represented it to be ; and 
here and there, mainly in the border Slave States, 
voices in favor of emancipation began to be heard 
again, some in mere whispers, some in more coura 
geous utterance. Especially in Kentucky, where in 
the spring of 1849 a convention to revise the state 
constitution was to be elected, the subject became 
the theme of public discussion. It was the same 
cause which fifty years before had called forth 
young Henry Clay s first efforts ; and now the old 
statesman of seventy-two lifted up his voice for it 
once more. In January, 1849, he went to New Or 
leans, and from there he sent a letter on emancipa- 


tion, addressed to Richard Pindell of Lexington, 
but intended for the people of Kentucky. That part 
of the letter which exposed the absurdity of the 
reasons usually brought forward to justify slavery 
might well have come from the pen of a life-long 
abolitionist. If slavery were really a blessing, he 
reasoned, " the principle on which it is maintained 
would require that one portion of the white race 
should be reduced to bondage to serve another por 
tion of the same race, when black subjects of slav 
ery could not be obtained ; and that in Africa, 
where they may entertain as great a preference for 
their color as we do for ours, they would be justi 
fied in reducing the white race to slavery in order 
to secure the blessings which that state is said to 
diffuse." In the same style he punctured the ar 
gument that the superiority of the white race over 
the black justified the enslavement of the inferior. 
" It would prove entirely too much," said he. " It 
would prove that any white nation which had made 
greater advances in civilization, knowledge, and 
wisdom than another white nation would have the 
right to reduce the latter to a state of bondage. 
Nay, further, if the principle be applicable to races 
and nations, what is to prevent its being applied to 
individuals ? And then the wisest man in the world 
would have a right to make slaves of all the rest of 
mankind." There was in this something of Ben 
jamin Franklin s manner of pointing an argument 
Clay had evidently written it with zest. 

He deeply lamented that emancipation had not 


been accomplished before, and hoped it might not 
long be delayed. In his opinion, emancipation 
should be gradual. He proposed that all slave 
children born after 1855 or 1860 should be free 
when reaching the age of twenty-five years, then 
to be hired out under the authority of the state for 
a period of not exceeding three years, in order to 
earn a sum sufficient to pay the expenses of their 
transportation to Liberia, and to provide them an 
outfit for six months after their arrival there. 
Their offspring were to be free from their birth, 
but to be apprenticed until the age of twenty-one, 
and also to go to Liberia. 

This, surely, was a very slow process; and his 
favorite scheme of transportation to Liberia, based 
upon his firm belief that the two races could not 
possibly live together in a state of freedom, could 
hardly bear examination in point of practicability 
as well as of justice. The advanced anti-slavery 
men of the time criticised the plan with g^eat se 
verity. But the principal merit of the letter lay 
in the fact that Clay, as a slave-holder, and as the 
foremost citizen of a Slave State, proposed a plan 
of emancipation in any form, accompanying it with 
such radical reasoning on the general subject of 
slavery; and that merit was great. As to the 
practical effect of the plan, had it been adopted, 
Clay was certainly not wrong in suggesting that, 
the work once begun, a general disposition would 
exist to accelerate and complete it. But it was not 
adopted. On the contrary, the discussion served 


only to intensify the determination of the slave- 
holding interest to maintain itself at any cost, and 
to rally the South in the struggle against the grow 
ing anti-slavery tendency in the North. 

But Clay s public activity was not to be confined 
to the writing of letters. There could scarcely 
have been a stronger proof of the hold he had 
upon the people of Kentucky than that the legis 
lature elected him by a unanimous vote to a seat 
in the Senate of the United States for a full term, 
at the time when the discussion .on emancipation 
was beginning, and he was known to cherish senti 
ments so distasteful to a majority of those whom 
he was to represent. He forgot his vows of retire 
ment and accepted the charge. It was after all 
natural that, to a man so accustomed to the excite 
ments of public activity and to leadership, quiet 
retirement, especially at a period of life when it 
threatened to be final, should have had its horrors. 

There seems to have been a feeling in Kentucky 
as if he, in a position of power, could avert the 
dangers threatening the country. He himself, how 
ever, did not then appreciate the seriousness of the 
coming crisis. He did not yet understand that the 
slavery question was overshadowing all else. On 
December 19, 1848, when his return to the Senate 
began to be spoken of, he wrote to Thomas B. 
Stevenson : 

" Greeley writes me from Washington that the Free 
Soil question will be certainly adjusted at this session, 
on the basis of admitting the newly acquired territory 


as one or two states into the Union. Should that event 
occur, it will exercise some influence on my disposition 
to return to the Senate, should the office be within my 
power. It would leave none but the old questions of 
tariff, internal improvements, etc., on which I have 
heretofore so often addressed both houses of Con" 

But the Free Soil question was not so easily ad 
justed. When Congress met in December, 1848, 
the last session under Folk s presidency, it had to 
confront a state of things unexpected a year be 
fore. The discovery of rich gold mines in Cali 
fornia had attracted thither from all parts of the 
country a sudden and unexampled emigration, in 
creasing in volume from day to day. In a few 
months a population gathered there strong enough 
in numbers to authorize the organization of a state 
government. In any event, the character of that 
population and the adventurous nature of its pur 
suits rendered the establishment of some legal 
authority peculiarly pressing. Polk, therefore, 
strongly urged that the provisional military rule 
in New Mexico and California, which ought to 
have ceased with the war, should be superseded by 
legally organized territorial governments. As to 
the slavery question, he recommended the exten 
sion of the Missouri Compromise line. Various 
schemes were proposed in Congress, provoking hot 
debates between pro-slavery and anti-slavery men. 
The excitement was increased by vigorous protests 
from the inhabitants of New Mexico and Califor- 


ma against the introduction of slavery there ; by 
an attempt on the part of Calhoun to organize a 
distinctively Southern party ; and by threats that 
the Union would be dissolved in case the North 
insisted upon the exclusion of slavery from the 
new conquests ; until finally, the impossibility of 
an agreement becoming evident, the thirtieth Con 
gress adjourned, leaving the decision of the great 
question to its successor. 

President Taylor s inaugural address did not 
announce a distinct policy with regard to the ab 
sorbing problem. His Cabinet consisted of four 
Whigs from slave-holding states, of whom only 
one, Crawford of Georgia, the Secretary of War, 
belonged to the extreme pro-slavery faction ; and 
of three Northern Whigs, one of whom, Collamer 
of Vermont, the Postmaster-General, was known 
as an anti-slavery man. The composition of the 
Cabinet, therefore, indicated no settled purpose. 
But in April, 1849, Taylor sent a confidential 
agent to California to suggest to the people the 
speedy formation of a state constitution and gov 
ernment, without, however, advising what should 
be done with regard to slavery. Upon his arrival 
that agent found that the inhabitants of California, 
following the call of General Riley, the Military 
Governor, had already taken the matter in hand. 
A convention to frame a state constitution met 
on September 1, 1849, and completed its work on 
October 13. The Constitution contained a prohi 
bition of slavery, which had been adopted by a 


unanimous vote of the convention, including fifteen 
members who had migrated to California from the 
Slave States. The Constitution was ratified by a 
popular vote of 12,066 against 811. President 
Taylor, who wished to meet Congress with the 
governments to be instituted in the newly acquired 
territories as accomplished facts, and hoped that 
the people of New Mexico too would take the task 
into their own hands, instructed the military offi 
cers commanding there not to obstruct, but rather 
to advance, popular movements in that direction. 

The slave-holding interest watched these pro 
ceedings with constantly increasing alarm. The 
territories taken from Mexico were eluding its 
grasp. Instead of adding to the strength of the 
South, they would increase the power of the Free 
States. It was a terrible shock. The mere an 
ticipation of it had brought forth suggestions of 
desperate remedies. In May, 1849, a meeting at 
Jackson, Mississippi, had resolved that a state con 
vention be held to consider the threatened rights 
and interests of the South. That state convention 
met, and issued an address to the Southern people 
proposing a Southern " popular convention," to 
be held on the first Monday in June, 1850, at 
Nashville. The cry of disunion was raised with 
increasing frequency and violence. Many meant 
it only as a threat to frighten the North into con 
cession. But there were not a few Southern men 
also who had regretfully arrived at the conclusion 
that the dissolution of the Union was necessary to 



the salvation of slavery. On the other hand, while 
every Southern legislature save one denounced 
the exclusion of slavery as a violation of Southern 
rights, every Northern legislature save one passed 
resolutions in favor of the Wilmot Proviso. 

This was the state of things when, in December, 
1849, Clay arrived at Washington to take his seat 
in the Senate. His relations with Taylor were 
those of formal civility. Clay did not expect, as 
he wrote, to " find much favor at court ; " but the 
President had offered his son, James Clay, the mis 
sion to Portugal "in a handsome manner," and 
the offer had been accepted. Clay sternly resented 
the insinuation which was reported to have been 
made by a member of the Cabinet, that the ap 
pointment of his son would make him, as a Sena 
tor, obedient to the administration. His reappear 
ance in Washington was by no means welcome to 
all. It seems to have been especially dreaded by 
some Southern statesmen. When Clay s election 
to the Senate began to become probable, in Decem 
ber, 1848, Alexander H. Stephens wrote to Crit- 
tenden, then governor of Kentucky : " That ought 
to be averted if it can be done ; more danger to 
the success of General Taylor s administration is 
to be dreaded from that source than from all 
others." Jefferson Davis, too, then a Senator 
from Mississippi, feared it no less. " I regret ex 
ceedingly," he wrote to Crittenden in January, 
1849, "to see that Mr. Clay is to return to the 
Senate. Among many reasons is one in which I 


know you will sympathize, the evil influence he 
will have on the friends of General Taylor in the 
two houses of Congress." Clay s disposition, on 
the other hand, when he went to Washington, was 
not belligerent. " I shall go there," he wrote to 
Stevenson, "with a determination to support any 
Whig measures for which I have heretofore con 
tended, and in a state of mind and feeling to judge 
fairly and impartially of the measures of the ad 
ministration. I shall not place myself in any lead 
ing position either to support or oppose it. But I 
shall rather seek to be a calm and quiet looker-on, 
rarely speaking, and, when I do, endeavoring to 
throw oil upon the troubled waters." He did not 
foresee that he would at once be in a position of 
leadership, speaking more than ever before during 
any session, not at all about old Whig measures, 
but constantly on the one great question which the 
old statesman was so reluctant to recognize as the 
controlling question of the day. 

Clay was at heart in favor of the Wilmot Pro 
viso. In August, 1848, he explained in a letter 
to Stevenson how he thought the newly acquired 
territories ought to be treated. The retrocession 
of Mexico and California, which was urged by 
some Whigs and anti-slavery men, he did not think 
practicable. But, as to slavery in the territories, 
the South, he thought, should " yield the point in 
dispute." The same idea he elaborated at length 
in a letter to James E. Harvey written a few days 
later. The North, in his opinion, was over-appre- 


hensive, because, whether admitted or excluded, 
slaves could not be kept in the new territories. 
But, even if the South were right in its demand, it 
ought to yield for other reasons. " The South," 
he said, " has had the executive government in its 
hands during the most part of the time since the 
Constitution was adopted. Its public policy has 
generally prevailed. The annexation of Texas, 
and the consequent war with Mexico, were results 
of Southern counsels. The very exceptionable 
mode of that annexation was exclusively Southern. 
From the commencement of the government, we 
had, prior to the last acquisition, obtained Lou 
isiana, Florida, and Texas, and all these (with the 
exception of the least valuable part of Louisiana) 
were theatres of slavery, and augmented the polit 
ical power arising from slavery. Large portions of 
the Northern population also feel and believe that 
their manufacturing interests have been sacrificed 
by Southern domination." In consideration of all 
this, he thought, the South ought " magnanimously 
to assent " to the exclusion of slavery from the 
new territories. 

But of what would happen, if the South refused 
to accept the interdiction of slavery in the terri 
tories, this was Clay s conception : " It [the inter 
diction of slavery] will nevertheless prevail ; and 
ihe conflict, exasperated by bitter contention and 
mutual passions, will either lead to a dissolution 
of the Union, or deprive it of that harmony which 
alone can make the Union desirable. It will lead 


to the formation of a sectional and Northern party, 
which will, sooner or later, take permanent and 
exclusive possession of the government." These 
were the ideas Clay brought with him to Washing 
ton, in December, 1849. 

The opening of the session was inauspicious. 
For three weeks a struggle about the speakership 
convulsed the House of Representatives. The slav 
ery question formed the subject of furious debates, 
during which members almost came to blows. At 
last Cobb of Georgia was elected. President 
Taylor sent his message to Congress on December 
24. As to the burning question, he simply an 
nounced the fact that the people of California, 
" impelled by the necessities of their political con 
dition," had framed a state constitution and would 
soon apply for admission as a state, and he recom 
mended their wish to the favorable consideration 
of Congress. He expected the people of New 
Mexico would shortly take the same course, and 
hoped that, " by awaiting their action, all causes 
of uneasiness might be avoided, and confidence 
and kind feeling preserved." In other words, 
California and New Mexico should be received 
without further question, even as Free States, if 
the people thereof so desired. In a special message 
of January 21, 1850, Taylor declared that he had 
favored prompt action by the people of the new 
territories, without attempting to exercise any in 
fluence as to what that action should be concern 
ing slavery. He again urged as prompt as possi~ 


ble a disposition of the matter, in order to put an 
end to the prevailing excitement, adding that any 
attempt to deny to the Calif omiaiis the right of 
self-government, in a matter peculiarly affecting 
themselves, would inevitably be regarded by them 
as an invasion of their rights, and, upon the prin 
ciples of the Declaration of Independence, the 
great mass of the American people would sustain 

General Taylor was a slave-holder, and his sym 
pathies had always been with his class. In 1847 
he had written a letter to his son-in-law, Jefferson 
Davis, in which he declared that he would respect 
the feelings of the Free States, but not permit, if 
he could prevent, any encroachments upon the 
rights of the slave-holding states ; that he would be 
willing to have the slavery question freely dis 
cussed, but, if any practical attempts were made to 
deprive the Slave States of their constitutional 
rights, he was also willing that the South should 
" act promptly, boldly, and decisively, with arms in 
their hands if necessary, as the Union in that case 
will be blown to atoms, or will be no longer worth 
preserving." But Taylor was also a thoroughly 
honest and simple-minded man ; and, when the 
Southern hotspurs now told him that the constitu 
tional rights of the slave-holding states were ac 
tually encroached upon by the proposed admission 
of California as a free state, he demurred. He 
had not fathomed Calhoun s metaphysics. If he 
understood that the interest of slavery required a 


larger number of Slave States, he felt also that 
there were other rights involved in the question. 
He corJd not be persuaded that, if California and 
New Mexico desired to come into the Union as 
states without slavery, it would, if they were other 
wise qualified to become states, be right to refuse 
them admission. 

The attitude of the President was severely cen 
sured, not only by Southern Democrats, but also 
by Southern Whigs. They fiercely charged him 
with an unconstitutional assumption of power in 
suggesting to the Californians and New Mexicans 
to take steps preparatory to the formation of state 
governments, and not a few of them denounced 
him as a " traitor to the South." Instead of al 
laying the excitement, Taylor s message rather 
increased it. The slavery question affected the 
consideration of almost all other subjects, however 
seemingly remote. In the Senate, for instance, a 
motion was made to accord the privilege of the 
floor to the famous temperance apostle, Father 
Mathew. This compliment to a distinguished for 
eigner found fierce opposition on the ground that, 
years ago, he had put his name, together with that 
of Daniel O Connell, to an anti-slavery appeal, 
an opposition which Clay earnestly deprecated, 
saying that the advocates of slavery would rather 
hurt than help their cause by pushing it forward 
on every possible occasion. The threats of dis 
union became so frequent and so loud, that the 
Republic seemed to be actually in immediate dan 
ger of disruption. 


Clay, upon his arrival at Washington, found 
" the feeling for disunion among some intemperate 
Southern politicians " stronger than he had ex 
pected ; but he thought the masses were still sound, 
and he therefore urged his friends in Kentucky to 
" get up large, powerful meetings of both parties 
to express in strong language their determination 
to stand by the Union." Early in January he 
wrote that, in case of the adoption of the Wilmot 
Proviso, for which he thought there was a large 
majority in the House and a small one in the Sen 
ate, the hotspurs of the South declared themselves 
openly for a dissolution of the Union, and that he 
was considering " some comprehensive scheme of 
settling amicably the whole question in all its bear 
ings." The purpose to attempt a settlement by a 
plan of his own became confirmed as his anxiety 
grew lest the disunion sentiment should spread by 
contagion, and as the bills and propositiohs brought 
forward in a disjointed way appeared only still 
more to increase the prevailing confusion. What 
happened to him now was what had happened to 
him so frequently before. Where he was, the 
minds of his associates seemed to turn instinctively 
to him for leadership ; and the old man who had 
come to the Senate with the intention of remain 
ing " a calm and quiet looker-on," and of " rarely 
speaking," soon found himself engaged in the most 
arduous parliamentary campaign of his life, those 
in Jackson s time not excepted. 

Never had there been a Senate with so splendid 



an array of talent, and so great a number of names 
that were then, or were destined to become, famous 
throughout the land. The three stars of the first 
magnitude, Clay, Webster, and Calhoun, met once 
more, and for the last time, on the same theatre 
of action, and around them Benton, Mangum, 
Badger, Berrien, Sam Houston, Rusk, King of 
Alabama, Jefferson Davis, Henry S. Foote, Cass, 
Butler of South Carolina, Hunter and Mason of 
Virginia, Daniel S. Dickinson, Stephen A. Doug 
las, Pierre Soule*, Jesse D. Bright, John Davis 
of Massachusetts, Thomas Corwin, Hannibal Ham- 
lin, Truman Smith, John P. Hale, and two men 
who owed their election to the campaign of 1848, 
- William H. Seward of New York and Salmon 
P. Chase of Ohio, who grasped the slavery ques- j 
tion, in all its moral, social, and political aspects, 
with a breadth of understanding, and treated it 
with an enthusiastic but calm fearlessness of spirit, 
startling and puzzling the old statesmen before 
them. It was the anti-slavery statesmanship of 
the rising generation. 

To this Senate Clay, on January 29, 1850, un 
folded his "comprehensive scheme of adjustment." 
His object was to save the Union, and he reasoned 
thus : The Union is threatened by the disunion 
spirit growing up in the South. That disunion 
spirit springs from an apprehension that slavery is 
not safe in the Union. The disunion spirit must 
be disarmed by concessions calculated to quiet that 
apprehension. These concessions must be such as 


not to alarm the North. In planning his com 
promise, he had these troubles to deal with : 1. 
The South was bitterly opposed to the admission 
of California as a Free State, because it would 
break that rule by which formerly new states had 
been admitted only in pairs, one Free State and 
one Slave State. It would thus disturb the bal 
ance of power between Free and Slave States in 
the Senate, and substantially give the North the 
benefit of the conquests made in the Mexican war. 
But the admission of California as a Free State, its 
people having declared themselves against the in 
troduction of slavery, was so clearly right in itself 
that it could hardly be put in question. 2. As to 
New Mexico and Utah, the remainder of the terri 
tory obtained by conquest, the North insisted upon 
the application of the Wilmot Proviso, the abso 
lute exclusion of slavery. But the Southern hot 
spurs declared that if the Wilmot Proviso were 
adopted, the Union should be dissolved at once. 
3. Texas claimed as her western boundary the 
course of the Rio Grande. This would have in 
cluded the larger part of New Mexico ; and, as 
Texas was a Slave State, while New Mexico under 
the Mexican law had no slavery, the recognition 
of the Eio Grande boundary would have trans 
formed a large free territory into a part of a 
Slave State, to be used in the future for the for 
mation of new Slave States. A much narrower 
boundary was insisted upon by Northern, and also, 
upon historical grounds, by some Southern men ; 


but the Texans proclaimed their determination to 
enforce their claim by the sword if necessary. 
4. The South complained that the constitutional 
obligation to return fugitive slaves from one state 
to another was not fulfilled by the North, and that, 
therefore, more stringent legislation must be in 
sisted upon, while the catching of fugitive slaves 
was especially odious to the Northern people. 5. 
The North continued to agitate the abolition of 
slavery in the District of Columbia, and of the 
slave-trade between the different Slave States, 
while the South insisted that such measures would 
be subversive of their rights and dangerous to their 

To meet these difficulties Clay proposed, in a set 
of resolutions to be followed by appropriate bills, 
a series of measures intended to compromise all 
conflicting interests and aspirations. The first de 
clared that California should be speedily admitted 
as a state, of course with her free-state consti 
tution ; the second, that, as slavery did not by law 
exist and was not likely to be introduced in any 
of the territories acquired from Mexico, Congress 
should provide territorial governments for New 
Mexico and Utah, without any restriction as to 
slavery, thus sacrificing the Wilmot Proviso, 
without, however, authorizing slave-holders to take 
their slaves there, thus adjourning the slavery 
question as to those territories to a future day ; the 
third and fourth, that a boundary line between 
Texas and New Mexico should be fixed, giving to 


Texas but little of the New Mexican territory she 
claimed, but granting her a certain sum of money 
for the payment of that part of her public debt 
for which, during her independent existence, her 
customs revenue had been pledged ; the fifth, that 
it was inexpedient to abolish slavery in the Dis 
trict of Columbia without the consent of Mary 
land, etc. ; the sixth, that the slave-trade in the 
District should be prohibited ; the seventh, that a 
more effectual fugitive - slave law should be en 
acted ; and the eighth, that Congress had no power 
to prohibit or obstruct the trade in slaves between 
the slave-holding states. The preamble declared 
the purpose of these resolutions to be " for the 
peace, concord, and harmony of these states, to set 
tle and adjust amicably all existing questions of 
controversy between them, arising out of the insti 
tution of slavery, upon a fair, equitable, and just 

This was Clay s plan of compromise. The ad 
mission of California was to be made acceptable to 
the South by giving slavery a chance in Utah and 
New Mexico, and by the enactment of a more 
efficient fugitive-slave law. The Northern people 
were to be reconciled to the abandonment of the 
Wilmot Proviso as to Utah and New Mexico, and 
to a more efficient fugitive-slave law, by the ad 
mission of California as a Free State, and by the 
abolition of the slave-trade in the District of Co 
lumbia. With the South, said Clay in a short 
speech accompanying the resolutions, the question 


was one of interest, with the North one of senti 
ment, and on neither side would there be any sacri 
fice of principle ; but, he added, it was easier to 
make a concession of sentiment than of interest, 
an utterance which plainly proved that Clay in 
dulged in pleasing delusions, not, perhaps, as to 
the enactment of the compromise, but as to its 
ultimate effects, if enacted. 

Although he deprecated immediate debate, and 
admonished Senators to consider his plan calmly 
before forming their opinion, there was at once a 
rattling fusillade of objections and protests from 
Southern men, Whigs as well as Democrats. Jef 
ferson Davis, who thought that the scheme, con 
ceded nothing to the South, and demanded as a 
minimum the extension of the Missouri Compro 
mise line to the Pacific Ocean, with a provision es 
tablishing slavery to the south of that line, called 
forth from Clay a remarkable answer. " Coming 
from a Slave State, as I do," said Clay, " I owe 
it to myself, I owe it to truth, I owe it to the sub 
ject, to say that no earthly power could induce me 
to vote for a specific measure for the introduction 
of slavery where it had not before existed, either 
3outh or north of that line. Sir, while you re 
proach, and justly too, our British ancestors for 
the introduction of this institution upon the conti 
nent of America, I am, for one, unwilling that the 
posterity of the present inhabitants of California 
and New Mexico shall reproach us for doing just 
what we reproach Great Britain for doing to us." 


This was a noble declaration, no doubt sincere; 
and yet, by his second resolution, he proposed to 
open the way for the introduction of slavery into 
Utah and New Mexico, where it did not exist. It 
is true, he did not believe it would ever go there, 
but, by providing for territorial governments with 
out the exclusion of slavery, he gave it a chance, 
and that chance was to commend the acceptance 
of the compromise to the South. He either de 
ceived the South or he deceived himself. In fact, 
he deceived himself, for the chance he gave to 
slavery led to an act of the territorial legislature 
in 1859 sanctioning slavery in New Mexico. 

On February 5 Clay supported his plan of ad 
justment with a great speech. The infirmities of 
old age began to tell upon him. Walking up to 
the Capitol, he asked a friend who accompanied 
him, " Will you lend me your arm ? I feel my 
self quite weak and exhausted this morning." He 
ascended the long flight of steps with difficulty, 
being several times obliged to stop in order to 
recover his breath. The friend suggested that he 
should defer his speech, as he was too ill to exert 
himself that day. " I consider our country in dan 
ger," replied Clay ; " and if I can be the means in 
any measure of averting that danger, my health and 
life is of little consequence." When he arrived at 
the Senate chamber, he beheld a spectacle well apt 
r to inspire an orator. For several days his inten- 
\ tion had been known to address the Senate on 
February 5, and from far and near from Balti* 


more, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and places 
still more distant men and women had come in 
great numbers to hear him. The avenues of the 
Senate chamber were buzzing with an eager mul 
titude who in vain struggled to gain access to the 
thronged galleries and the equally crowded floor. 
When Clay arose to speak, an outburst of applause 
in the chamber greeted him. The noise was heard 
without, and the great crowd assembled there 
raised such a shout that the orator could not make 
himself heard until the officers of the Senate had 
gone out and cleared the entrances. Clay s speech 
occupied two days. With a faltering voice he be 
gan, but gradually he recovered his strength ; and 
the elevation of his sentiments, the sonorous flow 
of his words, and the lofty energy of his action, 
enchanted his audience to the last. There was a 
pathetic interest added to the old charm ; for his 
hearers felt that this manifestation of strength was 
owing only to a supreme effort of a strong will, 
over failing powers, and that this effort might be 
his last. On the second day of the speech some 
of his fellow-Senators, observing that he overtaxed 
himself, interrupted him repeatedly with sugges 
tions of an adjournment, but he declined, feeling 
uncertain whether he would be able to go on the 
next day. When he had concluded, a great throng 
of friends, men and women, rushed toward him to 
shake his hand and to kiss him. 

His speech was an appeal to the North for con 
cession, and to the South for peace. He asked the 


North whether the enactment of the Wilmot Pro 
viso would not be an unnecessary provocation, since 
there was no slavery existing in the territories ac 
quired from Mexico, and no probability of its intro 
duction. Why not, then, give it up for the sake 
of harmony ? He reminded his Southern friends 
that all the great acquisitions of territory Lou 
isiana, Florida, and Texas had " redounded to 
the benefit of the South," and pointed out the in 
justice of their " pressing matters to disastrous con 
sequences," when, for the first time, the attempt 
was made to introduce acquired territories without 
slavery. He emphatically denied the right of any 
state to secede from the Union, and the possibility 
of peaceable secession. " War and dissolution of 
the Union are identical," he exclaimed ; " they are 
convertible terms ; and such a war ! " With pro 
phetic words he foretold them their isolation in 
case of an armed conflict. 

" If the two portions of the confederacy should be 
involved in civil war, in which the effort on the one side 
would be to restrain the introduction of slavery into the 
new territories, and on the other side to force its intro 
duction there, what a spectacle should we present to 
the contemplation of astonished mankind ! An effort 
to propagate wrong ! It would be a war in which we 
should have no sympathy, no good wishes, and in which 
all mankind would be against us, and in which our own 
history itself would be against us ! " 

His feelings told him the truth. Southern men 
indeed, counted upon British support in case of 


secession ; and it may be said that, when eleven 
years later secession came, in a certain sense they 
had such support. But it is nevertheless true 
that, when the governments of Great Britain and 
France were inclined to recognize the Southern 
Confederacy as an independent power, it was the 
abhorrence of slavery prevailing among civilized 
mankind, their own people included, more than 
any other influence, that restrained them, and kept 
the Southern Confederacy in its fatal isolation. 

The debate which followed called forth all the 
great men of the Senate. On March 4 Calhoun 
appeared, gaunt and haggard, too ill to speak, but 
still full of that grim energy with which he had 
been for so many years defending the interests of 
slavery, calling them the rights of the South. His 
oration was read to the Senate by Mason of Vir 
ginia. Calhoun s mind was narrow, but within its 
narrow sphere acute. He saw with perfect clear 
ness that slavery could not be saved within the 
Union, and that every compromise putting off the 
decisive crisis only made its final doom all the 
more certain. A year or two before, he had writ 
ten to a member of the Alabama legislature that, 
instead of shunning the issue with the North on 
the slavery question, it should be courted. " I 
would go even one step farther," he wrote, " and 
add that it is our duty to force the issue on the 
North. We are now stronger than we shall be 
hereafter, politically and morally. Unless we bring 
on the issue, delay to us will be dangerous indeed. 


It is the true policy of those who seek our destruc 
tion." From the pro-slavery point of view, Cal- 
houn was unquestionably right. The slave-holding 
states would have been more able to hold their own 
in 1820 than in 1850, and more in 1850 than they 
proved to be in 1861. 

Calhoun s speech against Clay s plan of adjust 
ment was his last great manifesto. He argued 
that the Union could not endure without a perfect 
equilibrium between the slave-holding and the Free 
States ; that this equilibrium had been disturbed 
by the growth of the Free States ; that this growth 
had been brought about by legislation favorable to 
the North and inimical to the South, the anti- 
slavery Ordinance of 1787, the Missouri Compro 
mise, the revenue laws oppressive to the planting 
interest ; that the equilibrium would be lost be 
yond all hope by the admission of California and 
the exclusion of slavery from the newly acquired 
territories ; that the admission of California was 
the test as to whether the South ever could expect 
justice ; that, unless the South received justice, the 
Union would fall to pieces ; that to preserve the 
Union the equilibrium must be restored, and that 
this could be done only by an amendment to the 
Constitution restoring to the South the power of 
protecting herself. As to what that amendment 
to the Constitution should be, Calhoun did not 
express himself clearly. It was subsequently re 
vealed that he meant an amendment providing for 
the election of two presidents, one from the slave* 


holding and one from the Free States, each one to 
have the veto power with regard to the legislation 
of Congress, a fantastic, impossible scheme. 

There he sat, the old champion of slavery, him 
self the picture of his doomed cause, a cause at 
war with the civilization of the age, vainly strug 
gling against destiny, a cause which neither 
union nor disunion, neither eloquence in council, 
nor skill in diplomacy, nor bravery in battle, could 
save : there he sat, motionless like a statue, with 
the hand of death upon him ; his dark eyes flash 
ing with feverish lustre from beneath his knitted 
brows ; listening to his own words from another s 
mouth, and anxiously watching oil the faces of 
those around their effect, words of mournful de 
spair, heralding the coming fate, and, without hope, 
still trying to avert it by counseling impossible 
expedients. Four weeks later Calhoun closed his 
eyes forever, leaving his cherished cause to its 
doom. Clay and Webster were among those who 
strewed flowers of eulogy upon his grave. 

On March 7 Webster spoke. His speech was 
one of the sensations of the time. The anti-slavery 
men of New England had hoped that Webster 
would take in Congress the leadership of the 
opponents of slavery extension. Webster s past 
career gave good reasons for this hope, but the 
expectation was disappointed. Webster had al 
ways condemned slavery; now he paraded an array 
of excuses for its continued existence. He had op 
posed the annexation of Texas because of slavery; 


now he laid great stress upon the right of Texas to 
form out of its territory four new Slave States. He 
had claimed the Wilmot Proviso as his thunder ; 
now he opposed its application to Utah and New 
Mexico, because he thought slavery was excluded 
from them by the laws of nature and the ordinance 
of God, and he censured those insisting upon the 
Proviso because they offered to the South a need 
less taunt and humiliation. He denounced the 
abolitionists because they had done nothing useful 
or good, but only aggravated the evils of slavery. 
He admitted that the Free States had not done 
their duty in returning fugitive slaves, and de 
clared himself ready to support an effective fugi 
tive-slave law. He denounced peaceable secession 
as an impossibility, and closed with an appeal for 
the Union. 

The effect produced by the " seven th-of -March 
speech " on the anti-slavery men, especially in New 
England, was painful in the extreme. They saw 
in it the fall of an archangel. They denounced it 
as a flagrant abandonment of principle, and a prof 
ligate bid for the presidency. Their indignation 
was still more inflamed when Webster shortly 
afterwards visited Boston, sneered at the anti- 
slavery movement as an agitation based upon a 
" ghastly abstraction," and told his constituents 
that Massachusetts should " conquer her local 
prejudices." But those went too far who charged 
Webster with having originated a pro-slavery reac 
tion at the North. Webster s speech was rather a 


symptom than a moving cause. While the excite 
ment among that portion of the Northern people 
who took a constant interest in public affairs re 
mained as great as ever, it had for some time been 
abating among those who became publicly active 
only on occasion. This did not escape the obser 
vation of Southern men. Already, on December 
5, 1849, Alexander H. Stephens wrote to his 
brother : " The North is beginning to count the 
cost, not the Free Soilers, but the mercantile 
class. I shall not yet despair of the Republic." 
He judged correctly. The country was prosperous. 
The flow of gold from California, present and 
prospective, seemed to increase the opportunities 
of enterprise and gain. The field of profitable 
operations was constantly expanding on all sides. 
Thus grew from day to day the number of those 
who feared to see these opportunities disturbed by 
a great national crisis. The threats of disunion 
and civil war, so vociferously put forth by the 
Southern hotspurs, had their effect. Timid patri 
otism was frightened, and the commercial spirit 
wanted some settlement of the pending difficulties, 
without being very exacting. 

Such a current of feeling is apt to work by a 
sort of atmospheric contagion, and could not fail to 
make itself felt in Congress. Of the Democratic 
Free Soilers, many sought the sheltering roof of 
the party whose main force was Southern, and 
the Whigs were divided. In January the Wilmot 
Proviso had still a majority in the House of Rep- 


resentatives ; in February a resolution embodying 
it was laid on the table by a majority still larger. 
The anti - slavery tide was manifestly receding, 
Webster s speech being, not the origin of the back 
ward movement, but only a part of it indeed a 
helping, but not a starting force. The disunion 
declamations of Southern men, too, gradually lost 
much of their fierceness, and the general temper 
of the public mind in both sections of the coun 
try grew steadily more favorable to a compromise. 
The anti- slavery men were as unable to prevent it 
as the hotspurs of the South. But what they could 
do was, to answer Calhoun s parting cry of despair 
with the proclamation that the future was surely 

On March 11, Seward spoke. He insisted upon 
the prompt and unconditional admission of Cali 
fornia, emphatically declaring that he would con 
sent to no compromise upon a question of right, 
He would not hamper the statesmanship of the 
future by any compromise whatever. No political 
equilibrium between freedom and slavery, he main 
tained, was possible, because if apparently restored 
to - day it would be destroyed again to - morrow. 
The moral sense of the age, he boldly proclaimed , 
would never permit the enforcement of a law mak 
ing it the duty of Northern freemen to catch the 
fugitive slaves of Southern slave-holders. He de 
nied that the Constitution recognized property in 
man. The Constitution, he affirmed, devoted the 
public domain to union, justice, defense, welfare, 


and liberty, and it was devoted to the same noble 
ends by "a higher law than the Constitution." 
How could wise and patriotic men, he asked, 
when founding institutions, social and political, for 
countless millions, contemplate the establishment 
of human bondage as one of them ? If slavery, 
limited as it then was, threatened to subvert the 
Constitution, how could wise statesmen think of 
enlarging its boundaries and increasing its in 
fluence ? He would therefore bar its expansion 
by all legal means. Climatic conditions were not 
sufficient to prevent attempts at the introduction 
of slavery ; and wherever he found a law of God 
or of nature disregarded, he would vote to reaffirm 
it with all the sanction of civil authority. He put 
the final issue clearly before the slave-holders and 
the compromisers. The threats to dissolve the 
Union did not dismay him. The question was 
" whether the Union shall stand, and slavery, 
under the steady, peaceful action of moral, social, 
and political causes, be removed by gradual volun 
tary effort and with compensation, or whether the 
Union shall be dissolved and civil war ensue, 
bringing on violent but complete and immediate 
emancipation." " I feel assured," he added, " that 
slavery must give way, and will give way, to the 
salutary instructions of economy, and to the ripen^ 
ing influences of humanity ; that emancipation is 
inevitable, and is near ; that it may be hastened or 
hindered ; and that, whether it shall be peaceful 
or violent depends upon the question whether it 


be hastened or hindered ; that all measures which 
fortify slavery or extend it, tend to the consumma 
tion of violence ; all that check its extension ancf 
abate its strength, tend to its peaceful extirpa^ 

A fortnight later Chase followed in a similar 
strain. " It may be," he said, " you will succeed 
here in sacrificing the claims of freedom by some 
settlement carried through the forms of legislation. 
But the people will unsettle your settlement. It 
may be that you will determine that the territories 
shall not be secured by law against the ingress of 
slavery. The people will reverse your determina 
tion. It may be that you will succeed in burying 
the ordinance of freedom. But the people will 
write upon its tomb, I shall rise again. And 
the same history which records its resurrection 
may also inform posterity that they who fancied 
they killed the Proviso, only committed political 

Such utterances were received by Southern men 
with explosions of anger, or an affectation of con 
tempt ; by the compromisers, with emphatic pro 
tests. Even some of the more timid among the 
opponents of slavery were frightened by words so 
bold. About Seward s " higher law," of which the 
Democrats took advantage to brand him as a 
traitor to the Constitution, many Northern Whigs 
shook their heads in alarm. Clay was very in 
dignant at so high-handed a way of dealing with 
his " comprehensive scheme of adjustment," and 


spoke, in a letter to a friend, of " Se ward s late 
abolition speech " as likely to cut him off from 
all intercourse with the administration, as it had 
" eradicated the respect of almost all men from 
him." Webster mentioned it sneeringly as Gov 
ernor Seward s " great and glorious speech," and 
complained to his friends of the slavery discus 
sion obstructing the consideration of the tariff and 
other important measures, adding that he thought 
no history showed " a case of such mischief arising 
from angry debates and disputes, both in the gov 
ernment and the country, on questions of so very 
little real importance." This appears amazingly 
short-sighted by the lights of to-day. But it was by 
no means surprising that the old statesmen should 
have recoiled from the startling predictions of 
Seward and Chase. They had all their lives 
moved in a circle of ideas in which the alternative 
of speedy emancipation by a peaceable process, or 
speedy, violent, and complete emancipation as a 
result of civil war, had hardly been thought of. 
That alternative had always appeared to them as 
a choice between an impossibility on one side and 
a horror on the other ; and when now in their 
old age they were told that the choice must be 
made, and that without much delay, it was but 
natural that they should struggle against the new 
idea with desperation, determined that the dreaded 
final crisis should at least not be permitted to 
come while they were alive, and that they should 
fall back once more upon the statesmanship of 


anodynes and palliatives. History has demon 
strated that Seward and Chase understood the 
nature of the distemper and read the future, which 
Clay and Webster did not. This time, however, 
the old statesmen were still to have their way. 

On February 13 President Taylor had laid be 
fore Congress the Constitution of California. On 
the 14th Foote of Mississippi had offered in the 
Senate a resolution to refer the case of California 
and all pending propositions concerning slavery, 
among them Clay s resolutions and a similar set 
introduced by Bell of Tennessee, to a select com 
mittee of thirteen Senators who were to report a 
plan of settlement. Foote s resolution, withdrawn 
once and then renewed after two months of debate, 
embracing the whole slavery question, was adopted 
on April 18. Clay was elected chairman of the 
committee, which had among its members the fore 
most men of the Senate, excluding however the 
leading representatives of the anti-slavery senti 
ment. On May 8 the committee submitted a re 
port consisting of three bills and an elaborate argu 

Clay s course with regard to the admission of 
California had been very unsteady. His resolu 
tions embodying his " comprehensive plan of ad 
justment " were certainly open to the construction 
that all the essential points contained in them 
were, as parts of a great compromise, to form one 
legislative measure. But when the Constitution 
of California was received, Clay declared himself 


ready to vote for the admission of California sepa 
rately and immediately. He " did not think it 
right " that this admission should be confounded 
or combined with other things. He did not even 
think that the different resolutions he had offered 
should be referred to one committee. It was his 
plan, he said, that they should be acted upon one 
by one. From this position he gradually drifted 
away, moved by the pressure brought upon him 
by Southern men, who insisted that the admission 
of California as a Free State, uncoupled with other 
measures, would be highly offensive to the South, 
and might lead to the immediate dissolution of the 
Union ; in any event, it would meet with bitter, 
perhaps unconquerable, opposition. By April 5 
Clay was so far staggered that he thought the 
coupling of the admission of California with pro 
visions for territorial governments, and for the 
adjustment of the Texas boundary, would not be 
improper ; and soon afterwards he found the com 
bination not only desirable, but necessary for har 
mony and peace. To the objection that to make 
the admission of California dependent upon ex 
traneous conditions would be an indignity to the 
state, he replied that California should be proud of 
the opportunity to contribute to the pacification of 
the country by a little patience on her part. 

In accordance with this idea, the first of the 
bills reported by the committee provided for the 
admission of California, the organization of ter 
ritorial governments for New Mexico and Utah 


without any restriction as to slavery, and a propo* 
sition to Texas of a northern and western bound 
ary with a compensation in money ; the second, 
originally drawn by Mason of Virginia, provided 
for the capture and delivery of fugitive slaves ; and 
the third bill prohibited the introduction of slaves 
from adjacent states into the District of Columbia 
for sale, or to be placed in depot for the purpose 
of subsequent sale or transportation to other and 
distant markets. The report also contained a dec 
laration that any new states to be formed out of 
the territory of Texas should, when fit for admis 
sion, be received with or without slavery, as their 
constitutions might determine. There had been 
grave disagreements in the committee. Scarcely 
any member was fully satisfied with the report ; 
but the accompanying argument promised that the 
adoption of the measures submitted would effect 
an amicable settlement of all the pending contro 
versies, and " give general satisfaction to an over 
whelming majority of the people of the United 

But no sooner was the first of the three bills, on 
account of the multiplicity of its subjects derisively 
called " the Omnibus Bill," before the Senate, 
than it turned out that the combination of dif 
ferent propositions in one measure, apparently nec 
essary to give the bill the character of a compro 
mise, was also an element of weakness. There 
were those who would vote for the admission of 
California, but not for the territorial governments 


without the exclusion of slavery ; there were those 
who would vote for the territorial governments, but 
not for the Texan boundary ; and those who would 
not vote for the admission of California in any 
combination. In other words, it appeared prob 
able that, while each of the different propositions 
might receive a majority of votes, the different 
majorities would be composed of different sets of 
men, and the combined measure would receive no 
majority at all, on account of the opposition of dif 
ferent men to different parts of it. The anti- 
slavery men insisted upon the admission of Cali 
fornia and territorial governments with the Wilmot 
Proviso. The extreme pro-slavery men, led by 
Jefferson Davis, Butler, Mason, and Soule, would 
not only not accept the admission of California, 
but demanded a positive recognition of the right 
of slave-holders to take their slave property into 
the territories. Rusk of Texas would not vote for 
any bill reducing the area claimed by Texas ; and 
Benton opposed the compromise because it yielded 
to Texas too much of the territory belonging to 
New Mexico, and because it made the admission 
of California dependent upon the passage of other 
measures. While Clay s plan was supported by 
such Northern men as Webster, Cass, Douglas, and 
Cooper, and by such Southern Whigs as Badger 
and Bell, other Southern Whigs took as violently 
hostile an attitude as the Southern Democrats ; 
and the various elements of opposition, so utterly 
divergent in their ultimate aims, threatened, ii 


combined, to prove more than strong enough to 
accomplish its defeat. 

But that was not all. Clay found also Presi 
dent Taylor against him. While the threats of 
disunion coming from Southern men stimulated 
Clay s compromising propensity, they stirred the 
fighting spirit of the old general. He thought 
that California had a right to demand prompt ad 
mission; and when some of the Southern hotspurs 
told him that the South would not tolerate the 
admission of California as a Free State, but would 
break up the Union, he answered with much em 
phasis that such language was treasonable, and 
that, if in enforcing the laws he should find it 
necessary, he himself would take command of the 
army and put down rebellion with a strong hand. 
He also thought that New Mexico might remain 
under the military government left by the war, 
until her people should be ready to do as the Cali- 
fornians had done. On April 23 the military gov 
ernor of New Mexico actually issued a proclama 
tion calling a convention of delegates to frame a 
state constitution ; and when, on the other hand, 
the governor of Texas, by virtue of the claim of 
Texas to all of New Mexico east of the Rio Grande, 
demanded the withdrawal of the federal troops, 
and threatened to drive them away with Texan 
militia if not removed, the President sent word to 
the military commandant in New Mexico to repel 
force by force, informing him that, if necessary, 
he. General Taylor, would be there himself. As 


to the boundary question, he did not think it his 
business either to recognize or to deny the claims 
of Texas ; but he considered it his duty, until Con 
gress should have disposed of the matter, to keep 
things in statu quo, and to maintain the public 
peace against any disturber. 

Such being his feelings, Clay s compromise 
measure found little favor in his eyes. He looked 
upon any compromise as a concession to a revolu 
tionary and treasonable spirit ; and to Senator 
Hannibal Hamlin, who informed him that he con 
sidered the " Omnibus Bill " wrong in principle 
and that he would do his best to defeat it, he re 
plied : " Stand firm ; don t yield ; it means dis 
union, and I am pained to learn that we have 
disunion men to contend with ; disunion is trea 
son." And, with an expression of emphasis some 
times heard among old soldiers, he added that, if 
they really attempted to carry out their scheme of 
disunion, " they should be dealt with by law as 
they deserved, and executed." 

The " President s policy," therefore, was to admit 
California as a state immediately and uncondition 
ally, and to leave New Mexico under the military 
governor, and Utah, perhaps, under such a govern 
ment as the Mormons had set up for themselves, 
until the people of those territories should have 
formed state constitutions and applied for admis 
sion, when the new states should be promptly re 
ceived ; and this, he hoped, would come about very 
soon. The administration was in a somewhat iso- 


lated position ; but whatever influence it possessed 
among members of Congress, and upon public 
opinion, it employed in favor of this policy and 
against the compromise. In one respect this plan 
was weak. The population of New Mexico could 
not be compared with that of California, either 
in point of numbers or in point of character. In 
neither respect was it fit to form a state govern 
ment. Military rule in a territory could be justi 
fied only as a temporary expedient, to be super 
seded as soon as possible by a legally constituted 
civil authority. The establishment of regular terri 
torial governments in the newly acquired territo 
ries was therefore decidedly called for. Clay fur 
ther objected to the President s policy that in other 
respects it stopped short of the requirements of the 
situation. As he expressed it in one of his numer 
ous speeches on the subject : " Here are five bleed 
ing wounds [counting them upon the fingers of his 
left hand] : first, there is California; there are the 
territories, second ; there is the question of the 
boundary of Texas, the third ; there is the fugitive- 
slave law, the fourth ; and there is the question 
of the slave-trade in the District of Columbia, 
fifth. What is the plan of the President? Is it 
to heal all these wounds ? No such thing. It is 
only to heal one of the five, and to leave the other 
four to bleed more profusely than ever by the sole 
admission of California, even if it should produce 
death itself." Whereupon Benton sarcastically 
remarked that Clay would have found more bleed- 


ing wounds if he had had more fingers. Clay 
complained feelingly that the President, instead of 
aiding him in pacifying the country, adhered ex 
clusively and persistently to his own plan, regard 
less of consequences. But Taylor could not be 
moved. He was determined to the righting point, 
and would have signed a bill with the Wilmot 
Proviso in it, had it been presented to him. The 
influence he exercised was, therefore, rather on the 
anti-slavery side. Thus, although the current of 
popular sentiment ran in favor of a compromise, 
the practical difficulties Clay had to contend with 
seemed to be well-nigh insuperable. 

But two events happened which essentially 
changed the aspect of things. On the first Mon 
day in June the dreaded Nashville Convention met. 
Instead of sending forth fierce threats of disunion 
in case the extreme demands of the South were 
not fully complied with, as the Southern hotspurs 
had hoped, the convention, following more mod 
erate counsels, passed resolutions, indeed, vigor 
ously denouncing the Wilmot Proviso and all other 
anti-slavery heresies, but at the same time express 
ing confidence that Congress would find a way to 
do justice to the South. It is true it also adopted 
an address in which the sentiments of the " fire- 
eaters " found their expression, and which soundly 
denounced Clay s comprehensive plan of adjust 
ment. But on the whole the convention produced 
the impression that the Southern people were di 
vided in sentiment, and that the Union possessed 



a good many friends among them. The effect all 
this had upon Congress was not to strengthen the 
Southern extremists, whose main capital consisted 
in the terror spread by their threats of disunion 
and war, but rather to discourage Southern oppo 
sition to a compromise. 

The other event of importance was the sudden 
death of President Taylor, who, on the Fourth of 
July, had exposed himself to an unusually hot sun, 
and then, on the 9th, succumbed to a violent fever. 
The Vice-President succeeding him in his office, 
Millard Fillmore, a man of fair abilities but little 
positiveness of character, had, before his election, 
passed as a Wilmot Proviso Whig. It has been 
widely believed that his jealousy of Seward, who 
easily outstripped him as a competitor for the 
leadership of the Whig party in New York, in 
duced him to take his position on the other side. 
But it is by no means improbable that he favored 
Clay s compromise from natural inclination ; for 
he was one of those men who, when put into posi 
tions of great responsibility, will avoid all strong 
measures, thinking that to be " the safe middle 

The old Cabinet resigned immediately after 
Taylor s death. Upon the advice of Clay, sup 
ported by Mangum, Fillmore appointed Webster 
Secretary of State. The Treasury Department he 
gave to Thomas Corwin of Ohio, who had been 
a very earnest anti-slavery man, but gradually be 
came one of the most conservative of Northern 


Whigs. John J. Crittenden of Kentucky was made 
Attorney General. He had lost Clay s favor in 
1848 by failing to support him for the presidential 
nomination ; but Clay now " acquiesced " in his 
appointment. " My relations with Mr. Fillmore 
are perfectly friendly and confidential," he wrote 
to one of his sons. He had now the administra 
tion on his side. It employed its whole influence 
in favor of the compromise. Still the battle of 
words continued. 

On July 22, nearly six months after the intro 
duction of his resolutions, and two and a half 
months after the Committee of Thirteen had pre 
sented its report, Clay made his closing speech. 
Ever since January 28 he had been on the floor al 
most day after day, sometimes so ill that he could 
hardly drag his tottering limbs to the Senate Cham 
ber. So he had toiled on, answering objections 
and arguing, and pleading, and expostulating, and 
appealing, and beseeching, with anxious solicitude, 
for the Union, and for peace and harmony among 
all its people. He had thrown aside all sectional 
spirit. " Sir," he exclaimed once, " I have heard 
something said about allegiance to the South. I 
know no South, no North, no East, no West, to 
which I owe any allegiance." Whatever may be 
said of the wisdom of his policy, his motives had 
never been more patriotic and unselfish. He was 
no longer a candidate for the presidency. Some 
of his friends had, indeed, again approached him 
with inquiries whether he would permit his name 


to be put forward in 1852, but he had firmly de 
clined. There was no longer any vulgar ambition 
disturbing him. The old man felt that his en 
deavors must find their reward in themselves. " I 
am here, he said, " expecting soon to go hence, 
and owing no responsibility but to my own con 
science and to God." Neither had he approached 
the problem to be solved with his old dictatorial 
spirit. Time and again he had assured the Senate 
that he was not wedded to any plan of his own, 
and that he would be most grateful for the sug 
gestion of measures more promising than those 
proposed by him as to the pacification of the coun 
try. He had sacrificed the Wilmot Proviso, the 
adoption of which would have accorded best with 
his natural impulses. He had made concession 
after concession to the defenders of slavery, much 
against his sympathies. And now, seeing his scheme 
of adjustment after all in great danger of defeat, 
he once more poured out all his patriotic fervor in 
a last appeal : 

" I believe from the bottom of my soul," he said, 
" that this measure is the reunion of the Union. And 
now let us discard all resentments, all passions, all petty 
jealousies, all personal desires, all love of place, all hun 
gering after the gilded crumbs which fall from the table 
of power. Let us forget popular fears, from whatever 
quarter they may spring. Let us go to the fountain of 
unadulterated patriotism, and, performing a solemn lus 
tration, return divested of all selfish, sinister, and sordid 
impurities, and think alone of our God, our country, 
our conscience, and our glorious Union." 


His patriotism was, however, not all meekness. 
In the same speech he severely censured the aboli 
tionists as reckless agitators, and denounced the 
Southern fire-eaters for their disunion tendencies, 
reflecting especially upon a member of the Nash 
ville Convention, Rhett of South Carolina, who, 
after his return to Charleston, had in a public 
meeting openly proposed to hoist the standard of 
secession. When Clay had finished his appeal for 
peace and union, Barnwell of South Carolina, Cal- 
houn s successor, rose and declared his dissatisfac 
tion with Clay s remarks, " not a little disrespectful 
to a friend " whom he held very dear, and upon 
whose character he then proceeded to pronounce 
a warm eulogy, intimating that the opinions held 
and expressed by Mr. Rhett might possibly be 
those of South Carolina. Clay was quickly upon 
his feet. " Mr. President," he replied, " I said 
nothing with respect to the character of Mr. Rhett. 
I know him personally, and have some respect for 
him. But, if he pronounced the sentiment attrib 
uted to him of raising the standard of disunion 
and of resistance to the common government, what 
ever he has been, if he follows up that declaration 
by corresponding overt acts " the old man s eye 
flashed and his voice rang out in a thundering 
peal " he will be a traitor, and I hope he will 
meet the fate of a traitor ! " Like an electric 
shock the word thrilled the audience, and volleys 
of applause broke forth from the crowded gal 


When order was restored, Clay continued : 

" Mr. President, I have heard with pain and regret a 
confirmation of the remark I made, that the sentiment 
of disunion is becoming familiar. I hope it is confined 
to South Carolina. I do not regard as my duty what 
the honorable Senator seems to regard as his. If Ken 
tucky to-morrow unfurls the banner of resistance un 
justly, I never will fight under that banner. I owe a 
paramount allegiance to the whole Union, a subordi 
nate one to my own state. When my state is right 
when it has a cause for resistance, when tyranny, and 
wrong, and oppression insufferable arise I will then 
share her fortunes ; but if she summons me to the battle 
field, or to support her in any cause which is unjust, 
against the Union, never, never will I engage with her 
in such a cause ! " 

The echo of these words was heard eleven years 
later, when the great crisis had come. 

After Clay s closing speech the voting began. 
Several Southern Senators, who at first had been 
bitterly opposed to Clay s plan, had gradually be 
come persuaded. But the compromise had to 
suffer a disheartening defeat before achieving its 
victory. Amendments were offered in perplexing 
profusion. The Omnibus Bill was disfigured al 
most beyond recognition. At last, after a series of 
confusing manipulations, Clay himself incautiously 
accepted an amendment offered by a Senator from 
Georgia, that, until a final settlement of the Texas 
boundary was effected with the assent of Texas, 
the territorial government of New Mexico should 


not go into operation east of the Rio Grande. As 
this was virtually delivering over New Mexico to 
Texas, the whole provision concerning New Mexico 
was struck out by the aid of friends of the compro 
mise; and when on July 31 the bill was passed, 
there was nothing left in the " Omnibus " but the 
establishment of a territorial government for Utah. 
All the rest had been amended out of it. The 
compromise seemed to be lost. 

The next day Clay appeared in the Senate once 
more to avow his devotion to the Union, and to defy 
its enemies ; for he feared that, the compromise 
having failed, it might now be impossible to save 
it without the employment of force. " I stand here 
in my place," he said, " meaning to be unawed by 
any threats, whether they come from individuals 
or from states. I should deplore, as much as any 
man living or dead, that arms should be raised 
against the authority of the Union, either by in 
dividuals or by states. But if, after all that has 
occurred, any one state, or the people of any state, 
choose to place themselves in military array against 
the government of the Union, I am for trying the 
strength of the government." The galleries broke 
out in applause, which was checked by the presid 
ing officer, and Clay proceeded : 

" Nor am I to be alarmed or dissuaded from any 
such course by intimations of the spilling of blood. If 
blood is to be spilt, by whose fault is it to be spilt ? 
Upon the supposition I maintain, it will be the fault of 
those who raise the standard of disunion and endeavor 


to prostrate this government ; and, sir, when that is 
done, so long as it please God to give me a voice to ex 
press my sentiments, or an arm. weak and enfeebled as 
it may be by age, that voice and that arm will be on the 
side of my country, for the support of the general au 
thority, and for the maintenance of the powers of this 
Union ! " , 

The enthusiasm of the galleries became so de 
monstrative that the presiding officer was obliged 
to ask the Senator from Kentucky to sit down 
until order could be restored. 

He warned the disunionists, who expressed the 
belief that the army, commanded in so large a part 
by officers from Virginia, South Carolina, and 
other Southern States, would not draw their swords, 
that they would find themselves gravely mistaken. 
And, to leave no shadow of a doubt as to his con 
ception of true loyalty to the Union, he said : 

" The honorable Senator speaks of Virginia being my 
country. This Union is my country ; the thirty states 
are my country ; Kentucky is my country, and Virginia 
no more than any other of the states of this Union. She 
has created on my part obligations and feelings and 
duties toward her in my private character which noth 
ing upon earth would induce me to forfeit or violate. 
But even if it were my own state, if my own state 
lawlessly, contrary to her duty, should raise the stand 
ard of disunion against the residue of the Union, I 
would go against her ; I would go against Kentucky in 
that contingency, much as I love her." 

Thus, believing his compromise to have been 


defeated, he defied the enemies of the Union to 
do their worst, proclaiming himself ready to fight, 
even against his own state, for the integrity of the 
Republic. At last, on August 2, mortified, ex 
hausted, broken in health, he gave up his leader 
ship and went to Newport to rest and recuperate,, 
Then, in Clay s absence, that proved true, which 
had been frequently urged against the Omnibus 
Bill, namely, that measures which could not be 
adopted when lumped together, might be adopted 
separately. The Texas boundary bill passed the 
Senate first, under the pressure of peculiar urgency. 
On August 6, the President informed Congress 
that the Governor of Texas had called the legisla 
ture together for the purpose, as was reported, of 
taking measures for the occupation of New Mexico 
east of the Rio Grande by force ; and that force 
would have to be repelled by force, unless the na 
tional government came to a friendly understanding 
with Texas. Accordingly the Senate made haste. 
A bill proposing to Texas a boundary cutting down 
New Mexico somewhat more than Clay had in 
tended, and offering the sum of ten million dollars 
for the surrender of the claim of Texas, the sum 
originally intended by Clay, but not mentioned in 
the Omnibus Bill, because Clay feared it might 
cause stock speculations passed the Senate 

Next came a bill to admit California. It was 
adopted in the Senate on August 12 by a vote of 
34 to 18. The Senators from Virginia, South 


Carolina, and Florida, and one each from Tennes 
see, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri, ten in 
all, signed a protest setting forth that the admis 
sion of California as a Free State destroyed the 
equal rights of the slave - holding states in the 
confederacy ; that it was " contrary to former pre 
cedent, and to the spirit and intent of the Consti 
tution ; " that it was part of a policy " fatal to the 
peace and equality of the states " they represented, 
which " must lead, if persisted in, to the dissolu 
tion of that confederacy, in which the slave-hold 
ing states have never sought more than equality, 
and in which they will not be content to remain 
with less." 

On August 15 the bill to establish a territorial 
government in New Mexico was passed, provid 
ing that New Mexico, when fit to be received as 
a state, might come in with or without slavery, as 
her Constitution should then determine ; and that 
in the mean time cases involving title to slaves in 
the territory should go for decision to the Supreme 
Court of the United States. On August 26 the 
Senate passed the fugitive-slave bill, but in a form 
more unfavorable to the negro than that in which 
it had been reported by Clay s committee ; a pro 
vision giving the person captured as a fugitive 
slave the benefit of a trial by jury as to his status 
in the state in which the claimant resided, was 
struck out. 

The Texas boundary bill created a great stir in 
the House of Representatives. As the prospect of 


such legislation with a grant of money in it grew 
brighter, Texas scrip rose in the market. About 
the middle of June it had gone up from 10 per 
cent to 50. In case the bill passed, the scrip was 
not unlikely to rise to par. A large and active 
lobby gathered in Washington. It was currently 
reported that millions of Texas securities were in 
the hands of members of Congress and officers of 
the government, high and low. Millions could 
be gained by the passage of the bill. On Septem 
ber 4 the bill was referred to the committee of the 
whole by a majority of two votes. Its fate looked 
doubtful. The third reading was refused by a ma 
jority of forty-six. Its defeat seemed certain. A 
reconsideration was moved, pending which the 
House adjourned. The next day the reconsidera 
tion was carried by a majority of fifty-six. An 
amendment adding to the bill a provision for a ter 
ritorial government in New Mexico, which had 
been defeated the day before, was then adopted. 
But again the House refused the third reading by 
a majority of eight. Again a reconsideration was 
moved, but declared out of order by the Speaker. 
Pending an appeal from that decision the House 
adjourned. The next day the Speaker elaborately 
defended his decision, but that decision was, on the 
appeal, overthrown by a majority of thirty-eight. 
The floor of the House was swarming with lobby 
agents, and amid boisterous demonstrations of de 
light the third reading was ordered by a majority 
of ten, and the bill then passed. The House had 


never presented a more repugnant and alarming 
spectacle. But the Speaker, at least, had done his 
duty and kept his hands clean. Texas scrip 
rushed up to par. The other bills sent down by 
the Senate passed easily 

When Clay returned to Washington in the last 
week of August, he found that the Senate had 
carried out the whole programme laid down in his 
compromise resolutions seven months before, ex 
cept the interdiction of the slave traffic in the 
District of Columbia. After a long debate, in 
which Clay with great emphasis expressed his ex 
pectation that slavery would pass away in the Dis 
trict, adding that he was glad of it, that bill, too, 
passed and became a law. The compromise of 
1850 was then substantially complete. 

On September 6, Clay wrote to one of his 
sons : " I am again getting very much exhausted. 
I wish I had remained longer at Newport, where 
I was much benefited. I shall as soon as possible 
return home, where I desire to be more than I ever 
did in my life." The deep longing of the old man 
for home, and to be with his wife, had been per 
vading his letters to his family ever since the be 
ginning of the session. And now, after the tre 
mendous fatigue he had gone through, and from 
which his health never recovered, that yearning 
was stronger than ever. At last, on September 30, 
Congress adjourned, after one of the longest and 
most arduous sessions on record, and Clay took 
home with him the consciousness of having done 


his duty and accomplished a great work. His 
mind had not been troubled like Webster s, who, 
as if he had never been clearly convinced of hav 
ing followed his true convictions of right, sought 
in the result a justification of his conduct. On 
September 10, when the passage of the compro 
mise bills in the House seemed secured, Webster 
wrote to a friend : " Since the 7th of March there 
has never been an hour in which I have not felt 
a crushing weight of anxiety and responsibility. I 
have gone to sleep at night and waked in the 
morning with the same feeling of eating care ; and 
I have sat down to no breakfast or dinner to which 
I have brought an unconcerned or easy mind. It 
is over. My part is acted, and I am satisfied. It 
is a day of rejoicing here such as I never wit 
nessed. The face of everything is changed. You 
would suppose nobody had ever thought of dis 
union. All say they always meant to stand by 
the Union to the last." And two days after 
wards : " Truly, it was not till Mr. Eliot s elec 
tion [the election to Congress of a compromise 
Whig in Boston] that there was any confidence 
here that I was not a dead man." 

Not a single moment during the whole struggle 
did Clay ever fear that he might be a " dead man." 
No doubt as to whether he was right had ever 
disturbed his sleep or clouded his waking. He 
had remained true to his old convictions as to the 
methods by which the Union could be preserved. 
During the progress of the debate he had repeat- 


edly changed his tactics, but not essentially his at 
titude. He had always believed in the statesman 
ship of compromise, and, as always, so in this 
crisis. Seeing in the South the principal danger 
to the Union, he insisted upon concessions on the 
part of the North to avert that danger. Of such 
concessions he gave the example by sacrificing his 
own inclinations as to the Wilmot Proviso, and by 
accepting in the Committee of Thirteen some mod 
ifications of his plan which were distasteful to him. 
His inmost feelings would indeed repeatedly break 
forth. Unequivocally he threw the theory of a 
necessary equilibrium between the Free and the 
Slave States to the winds, and almost exultingly 
recognized the inevitable and constantly growing 
superiority of the North. If slavery was ulti 
mately to succumb, he was far from regretting its 
inevitable fate. But he sincerely believed that by 
compromise measures he could keep the two antag 
onistic forces at peace, so that the final deliverance 
might effect itself in the way of a quiet, gradual 
development without disturbing the Union. In this 
he erred ; but it was an honest error of judgment, 
not a conscious self-deception for the occasion. 

The compromise of 1850 was perhaps the best 
that could be made under the circumstances to 
effect a temporary truce. But no compromise 
could have been devised to keep the antagonistic 
forces of freedom and slavery permanently at 
peace. Calhoun was perfectly right in his conclu 
sion that slavery, in order to exist with security in 


the Union, must rule it. It needed controlling 
political power, more Slave States, more repre 
sentation, an absolute veto upon all legislation 
hostile to it. If slavery could not obtain this 
within the Union, and still desired to live, it had 
to try its fortunes outside. Calhoun s great error 
was to believe that slavery could survive at all in 
the nineteenth century. But those who believed 
like him and every Southern man who was un 
willing to give up slavery would finally accept his 
conclusions naturally saw in the admission of 
California an almost fatal blow to their cause. By 
that act, the last bulwark they held in the govern 
ment, the numerical equality between Free States 
and Slave States in the Senate, and the resulting 
veto power of a united South, was overthrown. 
No arrangement could permanently satisfy them 
that did not secure to them beyond peradventure 
a speedy increase of the number of Slave States. 
This they understood well. They, therefore, in 
sisted that the Missouri Compromise line should 
be run through the newly acquired territories to 
the Pacific Ocean, and that south of that line 
slavery should be secured by positive enactment, 
or that all laws and usages existing in those 
territories which prohibited slavery should be de 
clared invalid by act of Congress, in order to give 
free access to slavery. 

But all these things the compromise failed to 
do. Clay emphatically refused his assent to any 
measure legislating slavery into free territory. He 


did, indeed, make some important concessions. His 
original resolutions contained a declaration that 
slavery did not by law exist, and was not likely to 
be introduced, in the acquired territories. That 
declaration he gave up. In the Committee of Thir 
teen he also very reluctantly accepted the duty of 
reporting an amendment that the territorial legis 
latures should " have no power to pass any law in 
respect to African slavery," which was adopted. 
And finally another amendment passed provid 
ing that the territories in question, when fit to 
be received as states, should be admitted with or 
without slavery, as their respective constitutions 
might determine. But what did all this mean ? 
Clay argued that, if in the newly acquired territo 
ries slavery actually existed, it could not be abol 
ished, or, if it did not exist, it could not be intro 
duced by any act of the territorial legislature. 
Did slavery exist in New Mexico and Utah ? Clay 
insisted that it did not ; the champions of slavery, 
that it did, that, if indeed it ever had been abol 
ished by Mexican law, the Constitution of the 
United States, being by the act of acquisition 
spread over the territories, superseded that Mexi 
can law, and carried with it the right of the slave 
holder to take and hold his "property" there. 
This doctrine Clay most emphatically denied. But, 
as opinions differed upon all these points, the com 
promise proposed that these differences should be 
referred for decision to the Supreme Court of the 
United States. This could not permanently sat- 


isfy the South, for it gave no security. It pro 
vided only for a lawsuit with an uncertain pros 
pect. Neither could it satisfy the North, for by 
implication it discountenanced the exercise of the 
power of Congress with regard to slavery in the 
territories. It introduced in the discussion of the 
problem that dangerous explosive, the " principle 
of non-intervention," which four years later served 
to justify the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, 
and then brought the forces of slavery and free 
labor to confront one another in arms on the plaim 
of Kansas. Thus this part of the compromise of 
1850, instead of settling anything, only unsettled 
the compromise of 1820. 

An equally prolific source of mischief was the 
fugitive-slave law. No doubt a large number of 
slaves had in the course of time escaped from the 
South and found shelter in the North. No doubt 
the Northern States had been remiss in perform 
ing their constitutional obligations as to the re 
turn of fugitives, for in some of them the enforce 
ment of the existing law was actually obstructed 
by state legislation. No doubt the South had in 
this respect occasion to complain. But an institu 
tion like slavery was naturally exposed to such 
losses. It would have been prudent to bear them 
in silence. It was certainly most unwise to make 
laws calculated to bring the most odious features 
of slavery home to a free people naturally impa 
tient of its existence. This the fugitive-slave law 
did in a very provoking form. It gave United 



States commissioners the power, by summary pro 
cess, to turn over a colored man or woman claimed 
as a fugitive slave to the claimant. It excluded 
from the evidence the testimony of the defendant. 
It " commanded " all good citizens, whenever sum 
moned, to aid in the prompt and effective exe 
cution of the law, including the capture of the 
fugitive. It made the United States marshal lia 
ble for the full value of the slave, if a recap 
tured fugitive escaped from his custody. Who 
ever knowingly harbored or concealed a fugitive 
slave to prevent his recapture was to be punished 
by fine and imprisonment. 

Such a law could not pacify ; it could not be 
executed without galling men s moral sense and 
pride of free manhood among a people who thought 
slavery a great wrong, and who would never con 
sider it sinful to help on a poor fugitive seeking 
his freedom. When first proposing his compro 
mise scheme, and repeatedly during the debate, 
Clay had remarked that to the Northern people 
the question was one of sentiment, while to the 
South it was one of interest, and that it was easier 
to make a concession of sentiment than of interest. 
It is an important historical fact that the senti 
ment prevailing at the North concerning slavery 
never was understood by the Southern people. 
They regarded it as a sickly notion of visionary 
philanthropists, or as the outgrowth of horrible 
stories told in the North about the South, and art 
fully used by designing politicians, or as an itch- 


ing desire to meddle with other people s business 
They never appreciated it as the great moral force 
which it was, and which in the very nature of 
things would not yield to any compromise. Slave 
holder as Clay was, and kind and considerate to 
his slaves, taking generous care of their well-being, 
he, with all his anti-slavery instincts and impulses, 
never fully comprehended the feeling of abhorrence 
with which the non-slave-holding world looked at 
the unjust power held by one man over another. 
But for the business of catching fugitive slaves he 
himself had no taste. In the course of the debate 
he said that while he had, with great pleasure, sev 
eral times given his services as an attorney to ne 
groes trying to prove their freedom, he had only 
once, very reluctantly, appeared against one to 
oblige a near friend, and then only after having be 
come perfectly satisfied that the negro really was a 
slave. And now the fugitive-slave law was to make 
the citizens of the Free States do for the slave 
holders what not a few of the slave-holders were 
too proud to do for themselves. Such a law could 
not but fail. But then it would increase the exas 
peration of the slave-holders by its failure, while 
exasperating the people of the Free States by the 
attempts at enforcement. Thus the compromise 
of 1850, instead of securing peace and harmony, 
contained in the most important of its provisions 
the seeds of new and greater conflicts. 

One effect it produced which Calhoun had clearly 
predicted when he warned the slave-holding states 


against compromises as an invention of the enemy : 
it adjourned the decisive conflict until the supe 
riority of the North over the South in population 
and material resources was overwhelming, and, as 
it happened, until a party, and at its head a man, 
held the helm of affairs, whose anti-slavery princi 
ples and aims made it sure that the cause of the 
mischief would not in any form survive the issue 
of the struggle. 



AT first Clay s expectations as to the pacifica 
tory effect of the compromise seemed to be justi 
fied. The strain of popular excitement, which had 
been long and severe, was followed by a reaction 
of lassitude, in many cases degenerating into the 
very fanaticism of repose. In November, 1850, 
the adjourned Nashville Convention met again, 
and passed resolutions which, although unfavor 
able to the compromise, were comparatively tem 
perate in tone. Moreover, the number of states 
represented, as well as that of the delegates repre 
senting them, was small. The governors of South 
Carolina and of Mississippi carried on an animated 
correspondence about the steps to be taken to sever 
their states from the Union, but the friends of the 
compromise appealed to the people and defeated 
the disunionists in the elections. In Georgia a 
state convention adopted a platform which did, iij,- 
deed, not wholly approve of the compromise, but 
accepted it as a basis of settlement and pacifica 
tion, and spoke much of fidelity to the Union, 
while, at the same time, resolving that either of 
five things namely, the abolition of slavery in 


the District of Columbia " without the consent and 
petition of the slave-holders thereof," any act sup 
pressing the slave-trade between the Slave States, 
any refusal to admit as a state any territory because 
of the existence of slavery therein, any act prohibit 
ing the introduction of slaves into New Mexico and 
Utah, and any act repealing or materially modi 
fying the fugitive-slave law would be resisted 
by the State of Georgia, " even, as a last resort, to 
a disruption of every tie which binds her to the 
Union." This was indeed Unionism of the condi 
tional species, and a keen observer would easily 
discern beneath it all a profound distrust and dis 
quietude as to the future, apt to yield in any excit 
ing crisis to the appeals of the determined minor 
ity of disunionists, who, after all, judged correctly 
of the demands which slavery must of necessity 
ultimately make. 

But for the time being a large majority of the 
Southern people were evidently averse to a violent 
rupture. Some of the most influential public men 
of the South, who had vociferously threatened dis 
union while the compromise measures were pend 
ing, such as Alexander H. Stephens, Toombs, Cobb, 
Clemens, and others, now busied themselves to 
quiet the fears of their constituents, representing 
the compromise as a victory of Southern firmness, 
and as an assurance of future peace and harmony. 

At the North, too, the compromise seemed to be 
acquiesced in by an overwhelming majority of the 
people as a permanent settlement ; and there might 

THE END. 375 

have been a possibility for a few years of repose 
but for the immediate effect of one of the compro 
mise laws. Slave-holders and their agents ap 
peared in the Free States to test the virtue of the 
new fugitive-slave act. According to trustworthy 
estimates, there were about twenty thousand es 
caped slaves living in the Northern country. Many 
of them had married free colored women, and 
reared families of children on free soil. The ap 
pearance of the " man-hunter " threw them into 
fearful consternation. Some of them were captured 
and carried off to the South. In a few cases it 
turned out that the persons so captured and carried 
off were riot fugitive slaves at all, but freemen, and 
these had to be released. In several instances the 
law was executed with a harshness and cruelty 
which shocked the popular heart. An outcry arose, 
not only from colored people and anti-slavery men, 
but from persons who, although they had so far 
taken little interest in the matter, now felt their 
human sympathies and their moral sense insulted 
by the things they witnessed among themselves. 
The anti-slavery men took advantage of this change 
of feeling, and meetings were held in Northern 
cities ringing with denunciations of the fugitive- 
slave law as an outrage to the dignity of human 
nature, and as an attempt to carry slavery into the 
heart of the free North. 

As this current of sentiment grew in power, the 
advocates of the compromise became alarmed lest 
the efforts at general pacification should be de- 


feated by a revolt of public opinion against the 
fugitive-slave law. They found it necessary to stir 
up a public sentiment on their side. A systematic 
agitation was set on foot. An immense meeting, 
called by merchants of New York, in which the 
formation of a " Union party " was foreshadowed, 
opened the campaign. Similar demonstrations fol 
lowed in Boston and many other cities. Foremost 
in that agitation was Daniel Webster, and wher 
ever he appeared he spoke with the zealous bitter 
ness of a recent convert. The measures forming 
the great compromise were put before the people 
as no less binding than additions to the Constitu 
tion would be. And, as usually the point most 
sharply attacked is most hotly defended, the bind 
ing force of the fugitive-slave law was insisted 
upon with such exceptional urgency as if the 
catching of fugitive slaves had become the main 
constitutional duty of the American citizen. This 
could not fail to react. 

Clay made a speech in response to an invitation 
from the Kentucky legislature, in which, adhering 
to his theory that the principal object to be kept 
in view was to quiet the dangerous excitement at 
the South, he represented the compromise as " sub 
stantially a Southern triumph," inasmuch as Cali 
fornia would have been admitted under any cir 
cumstances, while the establishment of territorial 
governments in New Mexico and Utah without the" 
Wilmot Proviso, and the enactment of the fugi 
tive-slave law, were in accordance with the wishes 

THE END. 377 

of the South. He roundly berated the Southern 
ers who were not satisfied with the adjustment, 
and denounced the meeting at Nashville as a sec 
ond Hartford Convention. 

He was not without great anxiety. When the 
thirty -first Congress reassembled in December, 
1850, he availed himself of the earliest opportu 
nity confidently to affirm that general peace and 
quiet reigned throughout the land, and that this 
session would remain undisturbed by the slavery 
question. But in January, 1851, he and forty- 
four other Senators and Representatives betrayed 
their nervousness by issuing a very singular mani 
festo. They declared that sectional controversy 
upon the subject of slavery could be avoided only 
by strict adherence to the compromise ; that they 
intended to maintain that settlement inviolate, and 
that they would not support for the office of Presi 
dent or Vice-President, or Senator or Representa 
tive in Congress, or member of a state legislature, 
any man, of whatever party, who was not known 
to be opposed to any disturbance of the compro 
mise, and to the renewal of the agitation of the 
slavery question. Those who thought such a threat 
of excommunication necessary could not have been 
very confident that the public opinion of the coun 
try would remain strong enough in favor of the 
compromise to restrain ambitious politicians from 
interfering with it. 

Indeed, the slavery discussion began again in 
the House of Representatives with the opening of 


the session. The members had hardly taken their 
seats when Giddings of Ohio violently denounced 
the proceedings which had taken place under the 
fugitive-slave law. In the Senate it was Clay him 
self who, presenting petitions for the more effect 
ual suppression of the African slave-trade, spoke 
eloquently of the abominations of that traffic, and 
of the beneficent results which would follow if 
measures were taken to transport free negroes to 
Liberia. He also introduced a resolution looking 
to the adoption of more adequate measures to pre 
vent the employment of American vessels in the 
slave-trade. Hale of New Hampshire replied, on 
behalf of the Free Soilers, that, while he and his 
friends were so rudely reproved for agitating the 
matter of slavery, it ill comported with the position 
taken by the compromisers, if Clay, their chief, re 
opened the agitation by expressing such pious and 
humane sentiments about a cognate subject. This 
sarcasm had all the more point as just then the 
manifesto had appeared threatening those who 
should reopen the agitation with exclusion from 

Suddenly in February, 1851, the news arrived 
that in Boston the execution of the fugitive-slave 
law had been successfully resisted by force. A 
fugitive slave named Shadrach had been rescued 
by a crowd of colored people from the hands of a 
deputy mrashal of the United States in the court 
room. In Washington the report created an al 
most incredible excitement. It could hardly have 

THE END. 379 

been greater had Massachusetts made an attempt 
to secede from the Union. Clay at once intro 
duced a resolution in the Senate calling 1 upon the 
President for what official information he had of 
the occurrence, and to inquire what measures he 
had taken concerning the matter, and whether any 
further legislation was required. Feeling as if he 
had staked his character upon the healing effects of 
the measure, Clay was greatly disturbed. He con 
fessed himself " shocked " and " distressed," even 
beyond his power of expression, at the " sacrile 
gious hands " which had " seized the sword of jus 
tice." The President issued a formal proclama 
tion, commanding all officers of the government, 
civil as well as military, and requesting all good 
citizens, to rally round the law of the land, and to 
aid in se curing its enforcement. He also sent a 
message to the Senate, communicating the infor 
mation called for, assuring Congress that he would 
exert all the powers of the government to enforce 
the law, and recommending that he be given larger 
facilities in calling out the militia of the states in 
case of resistance to the lawful authorities. 

The speech with which Clay received that mes 
sage proved that his wrath at the liberators of 
Shadrach had been mainly roused by his anxiety 
lest the occurrence at Boston should rekindle the 
dangerous excitement at the South which the com 
promise had just, to some extent, succeeded in 
quieting. He did, indeed, not spare the aboli 
tionists who aimed at disunion and incited law- 


breaking, and he was especially severe in his de 
nunciation of the English philanthropist, George 
Thompson, the " foreign hireling," as Clay called 
him, who had come to America " in order to prop 
agate his opinions and doctrines with regard to 
the subversion of one of the institutions of this 
country." But he evidently made it the main ob 
ject of his speech to persuade his Southern friends 
that, after all, the fugitive- slave law was, on the 
whole, faithfully executed in the Free States, and 
that, therefore, there was no just reason for com 
plaint or apprehension. He passed in review sev 
eral cases in which fugitive slaves had been re 
turned without difficulty. In fact, he knew of but 
this one instance of obstruction. " I heard," said 
he, " with great regret the remarks made by the 
Senator from Virginia [who had complained], be 
cause I do riot coincide with him in the facts upon 
which his remarks were founded, and I think they 
may have a tendency to produce ill effects where 
there is already too much disposition in the public 
mind to be operated upon disadvantageous^ to the 

Anxiously he admonished his Southern friends 
ftot to be too exacting. They could really not ex 
pect to recover the runaways without some trou 
ble and expense. As all laws were occasionally 
evaded, so would this be, especially as it was a 
law " to recover a human being who owes service 
as a slave to another," and as, " besides the aid and 
the sympathy which he will excite from his partic- 

THE END. 381 

ular situation, he has his own intellect, his own 
cunning, and his own means of escape at his com 
mand." Indeed, the South should be satisfied. 
He was sure the President and the Cabinet were 
44 immovably determined " to carry out the law, and 
to employ all the means in their power to that 
end ; and the people would aid them. In his 
opinion the 44 compromise had worked a miracle." 
The agitation about the Wilmot Proviso had dis 
appeared ; also that about California, and about 
slavery in the District of Columbia. The compro 
mise had 44 made thousands of converts among the 
abolitionists themselves." Peace and good feeling 
had - been produced by it surpassing his 44 most 
sanguine expectations." Only a few ultraists were 
still restless, but the people would frown them 
down. If necessary, however, to quiet the appre 
hensions of his Southern friends, and to prevent 
the repetition of such occurrences as the liberation 
of Shadrach still more effectually, he would wil 
lingly see the President authorized to dispense 
with the proclamation required by existing law, 
when, in anticipation of a disturbance in connec 
tion with the arrest of a fugitive slave, he should 
call the militia or the army of the United States 
into service. 

A majority of the Southern Senators accepted 
Clay s sanguine view of things. But those who 
still insisted that the fugitive-slave law would never 
be sure of effectual enforcement unless the North 
ern people themselves enforced it with cordiality 


and zeal, as they would enforce a law of their own, 
were, after all, right. The anti-slavery men in the 
Senate said nothing to encourage Clay s hopes, as, 
indeed, they could not in justice to their own feel 
ings and those of the people they represented. But 
when Clay, in the course of the debate, classed 
them with the abolitionists aiming at disunion, 
Chase rebuked him with great force and dignity, 
declaring that, while they would restrict slavery 
within the limits of the Slave States, and " not 
allow it within the exclusive jurisdiction of the 
national government," their fidelity to the Union 
was immovable. But, on the whole, the sanguine 
view prevailed. The judiciary committee of the 
Senate, to which the President s message was re 
ferred, reported that no change of the law concern 
ing the President s power to call out the militia 
was required. 

It was the last session of Congress in which 
Clay was active, and he found opportunity to speak 
some parting words about the " old Whig policies," 
which once had been among the great inspirations 
of his public endeavors. When presenting some 
petitions he commended to the Senate the consid 
eration of the tariff question in these faltering ac 
cents : " I will take occasion to say that I hope 
that now, when there is apparent calmness upon 
the surface of public affairs, which I hope is 
real, and that it will remain without disturbing 
the deliberations of Congress during the present 
session, - for one, I should be extremely delighted 

THE END. 383 

if the subject of the tariff of 1846 could be taken 
up in a liberal, kind, and national spirit ; not with 
any purpose of reviving those high rates of protec 
tion which at former periods of our country were 
established for various causes, sometimes from 
sinister causes, but to look deliberately at the 
operation of the tariff of 1846 ; and, without dis 
turbing its essential provisions, I should like a 
consideration to be given to the question of the 
prevention of frauds and great abuses, of the ex 
istence of which there is no earthly doubt. We 
should see whether we cannot, without injury, with 
out prejudice to the general interests of the coun 
try, give some better protection to the manufac 
turing interests than is now afforded." From the 
great champion of the " American system " this re 
quest had a diffident, melancholy sound. It was a 
very faint echo of past struggles. 

During the last days of the session he broke a 
lance for a river and harbor bill, appropriating 
12,300,000, which had come up from the House, 
and was in danger of being defeated by a deter 
mined minority in the Senate. The interests of 
the great West, the necessity of improving the 
Mississippi, and the rights of the majority, were 
the texts of his arguments. But his appeals were 
in vain. The subject of the tariff was not taken 
up for consideration, and the river and harbor 
bill succumbed to parliamentary tactics. Clay s 
last official act was a refusal to accept the " con 
structive mileage," a called session" of the Sen. 


ate beginning immediately after the adjournment 
of Congress for the consideration of executive 
business, and Senators holding themselves entitled 
to compensation for traveling expenses as if be 
tween the adjournment of Congress on March 4th 
and the opening of the " called session " on the 
5th they had journeyed to their homes and re 
turned to Washington. 

Clay s health was seriously impaired. A severe 
cough tormented him, of which his physicians did 
not seem to know the cause. " 1 have finally con 
cluded," he wrote to his wife, " to return by Cuba 
and New Orleans. The great difficulty I have 
felt in coming to the conclusion has been my long 
absence from you, and my desire to be with you. 
But my cough continues ; although I do not lay up, 
my health is bad, and the weather has been the 
worst of March weather. I hope that I may be 
benefited by the softer climate of Cuba. I expect 
to go on the llth from New York in the steamer 
Georgia. And I think my absence from home 
will not be prolonged beyond a month ; that is, the 
middle of April." 

But the climate of Cuba did not meet his hopes. 
His cough continued to distress him. During the 
summer of 1851 he remained at Ashland, watch 
ing the course of events and corresponding with 
his friends. Again he was addressed by over- 
zealous admirers who desired to bring him forward 
as a candidate for the presidency in 1852. The 
ambition of others pursued him when his own was 

THE END. 385 

dead. He declined absolutely. " Considering my 
age," he wrote to Daniel Ullmann, " the delicate 
state of my health, the frequency and the unsuc 
cessful presentation of my name on former occa 
sions, I feel an unconquerable repugnance to such 
a use of it again. I cannot, therefore, consent 
to it." 

But another call came which could not be wholly 
declined. Late in the summer Clay received from 
a committee of citizens of New York an urgent in 
vitation to visit that state for the purpose of repel 
ling the attacks to which the compr9mise was 
exposed. " We have a well-founded conviction," 
they said, " that the great body of the American 
people are in favor of maintaining and enforcing 
the compromises of the Constitution ; nevertheless, 
in the resolutions and addresses adopted at con 
ventions lately assembled around us, we have seen 
with regret, as well as alarm, that the question of 
adherence to the compromise measures is avoided 
or evaded, that modification and amendment are 
declared to be requisite, and repeal itself admis 
sible. It is evident, therefore, that there requires 
to be more generally diffused a spirit that will not 
hold communion with those who advance and sup 
port doctrines in relation to the great national ad 
justment fatal to the future peace and harmony of 
the Union." In other words, the people were to 
be persuaded no longer to read the resolutions and 
addresses of Free Soilers or anti-slavery Whigs, 
and no longer to listen to the speeches of men who 



disliked the fugitive-slave law. So delicate and 
fragile, then, was the compromise of 1850 in the 
opinion of its friends that it must be carefully shel 
tered against any breeze of a hostile public opinion. 
To this end Clay was called upon to address meet 
ings in the State of New York. Webster had al 
ready been in the field for months. In May, 1851, 
going from Buffalo to Albany, he delivered a series 
of speeches, in which he called the anti-slavery men 
insane people actuated by selfish motives, and de 
nounced the violation of the fugitive-slave law as 
treason. He also spoke at Capon Springs, in Vir 
ginia, where he amused the Southern people by 
deriding the " higher law." Although these efforts 
were by no means without effect, they could not 
cure the trouble. The charm of Clay s presence, 
too, was wanted ; but the exertion would have been 
beyond his power. On October 3d he responded 
to the invitation in a long letter, which was his 
last appeal to the American people. 

He expressed his regret that his impaired health 
would not permit him to address his fellow-citizens 
of New York in person. He had hoped, not that 
the compromise measures would have the unani 
mous concurrence of the people, but that they 
would be supported by a commanding majority. 
That hope, he thought, had not been disappointed. 
There was still local dissatisfaction, but it gradually 
yielded to patriotic considerations. He recognized 
that the fugitive - slave law was the sore point. 
with two exceptions, it had been everywhere 

THE END. 387 

enforced ; and he confidently anticipated that the 
opposition to it in the North would cease. What 
was the reason of his solicitude concerning that 

" The necessity [he wrote] of maintaining and en 
forcing that law must be admitted by the impartial 
judgment of all candid men. Many of the slave-hold 
ing states, and many public meetings of the people in 
them, have deliberately declared that their adherence 
to the Union depended upon the preservation of that 
law, and that its abandonment would be the signal of 
the dissolution of the Union. I know that the abolition 
ists (some of whom openly avow a desire to produce 
that calamitous event) and their partisans deride and 
deny the existence of any such danger ; but men who 
will not perceive and own it, must be blind to the signs 
of the times, to the sectional strife which has unhappily 
arisen, to the embittered feelings which have been ex 
cited, as well as to the solemn resolutions of delibera 
tive assemblies unanimously adopted. Their disregard 
of the danger, I am apprehensive, proceeds more from 
their desire to continue agitation than from their love 
of the Union itself." 

Of the kt resolutions and addresses adopted at 
conventions lately assembled," which had so much 
disturbed the gentlemen inviting him, he had only 
to say that " we must make some allowance for 
human frailty and inordinate pride of opinion ; " 
that " many persons at the North had avowed an 
invincible hostility to the fugitive-slave law ; " that 
they might become gradually convinced of the ne 
cessity of accepting it for the sake of the Union, 


only looking for a decent line of retreat ; but that 
if the agitation should be actually continued, his 
confidence was unshaken in the great body of the 
Northern people that they would " in due time, 
and in the right manner, apply an appropriate and 
effectual corrective." 

In the South, too, he saw much " to encourage 
the friends of the Union." But it was there, after 
all, that he discovered the real source of the danger 
threatening the Republic. The main part of his 
letter he devoted to an elaborate review and refu 
tation of the arguments with which nullification 
and secession were sought to be justified, exposing 
the absurdity of the theory underlying them, and 
the criminality of any attempt to carry that theory 
into practice. If such an attempt were made, he 
insisted, then " the power, the authority, and the 
dignity of the government ought to be maintained, 
and resistance put down at every hazard." He 
closed with a glowing eulogy on the glories and 
the benign effects of the Union. 

The gentlemen from New York had probably 
desired a paper of a different character, for almost 
its whole argument was addressed, not to the 
North, but to the South. The discussion of the 
secession doctrines preached at the South occupied 
four fifths of its space. It was one more of his 
characteristic efforts to disarm the disunion ten 
dency at the South, to that end opposing the anti- 
slavery tendency at the North not seldom at a 
sacrifice of his own feelings. 

THE END. 389 

Such anti-slavery leaders as Seward and Chase 
undoubtedly understood far better than Clay what 
the ultimate result of the conflict between slavery 
and free labor must be. But he saw more clearly 
than they did the immediate seriousness of the dis 
union movement at the South. A majority of the 
Southern people, and even of Southern public men, 
while determined to maintain slavery, still sincerely 
wished to avoid the disruption of the Union, and 
eagerly clutched at all sorts of delusive hopes. But 
a very active minority, undeceived by the tempo 
rary appearance of harmony, stood always ready 
to take advantage of any failure of the vaunted ad 
justments, and they were sure ultimately to exercise 
the strongest influence, because they had the logic 
of the situation on their side. They, however, 
underestimated the moral power of the Northern 
anti-slavery sentiment in case of a crisis. In fact, 
the compromise itself had encouraged the two ex 
tremes to underestimate each other as to their 
decision and courage. Many Southerners had vo 
ciferously threatened that they would rather dis 
solve the Union than permit the admission of Cali 
fornia as a Free State, and then quietly accepted 
the compromise. Northern anti-slavery men, there 
fore, concluded that the Southern threats of dis 
union were, after all, mere bluster without any real 
determination behind it. Every Northern legisla 
ture had passed fierce resolutions insisting upon the 
Wilmot Proviso, and when Southern men then saw 
the North accept <he compromise, which did not 


exclude slavery from the territories, in order to 
pacify the South, they concluded that the South 
might have obtained much more if it had threat 
ened more, and that the North, for the purpose of 
preserving peace and of making money, would 
yield anything and everything if the South only 
put on a bolder front. 

Clay had gradually learned to understand the 
South well. He knew that the hotspurs were 
terribly in earnest, and that, in spite of the old 
attachment to the Union still existing, " the bold, 
the daring, and the violent," as he wrote to S. A. 
Allibone in June, 1851, might eventually " get the 
control and push their measures to a fatal ex 
treme." What he did not appreciate was the char 
acter of that " sentiment " which he had asked the 
Northern people to sacrifice in order to soothe the 
feelings of the South. He failed to feel that the 
natural impulses of generosity and the moral pride 
of the Northern people would inevitably rebel 
against the fugitive-slave law ; and he did not see 
that, by leaving the question of slavery in the ter 
ritories unsettled, the compromise had only for a 
short time adjourned the final struggle which he 
endeavored to avert. 

Although his health was not perceptibly im 
proved when the opening session of the thirty- 
second Congress approached, he went to Washing 
ton hoping to take an active part in its delibera 
tions. But it was not to be. Only once did he 
feel strong enough to go to the Senate Chamber, 

THE END. 391 

Then he remained confined to his rooms at the 
National Hotel, a very ill man. But public affairs 
did not cease to break his repose. Early in the 
winter he received a visit from Horace Greeley, 
who informed him of the disturbing effect pro 
duced by the fugitive-slave law upon the people of 
the Northern States. Clay deplored that in fram 
ing that act no greater care had been taken so to 
shape its provisions as to spare the feelings of the 
citizens of the Free States, but he thought it un- 
advisable now to attempt a change of the law. 

From his sick-chamber, Clay also gave his last 
warning counsel to the American people. It was 
when he spoke to Louis Kossuth. 

The revolutionary movements in Europe, begin 
ning in the early spring of 1848, had awakened 
the heartiest sympathies in America, none more 
than the struggle of the Hungarian people for na 
tional independence. In 1849 President Taylor had 
dispatched a special agent to Hungary to inquire 
whether the situation of that country would justify 
its recognition as an independent state. But when 
that agent arrived there, the intervention of Rus 
sia had already rendered the Hungarian armies un 
able to hold the field. The Austrian Minister at 
Washington, Chevalier Huelsemann, made the send 
ing of the special emissary the subject of formal 
complaint. Webster, then Secretary of State, re 
plied with the famous " Huelsemann letter," which 
electrified the national pride of the American peo 
ple. Kossuth, the l^te " governor " of revolution- 


ary Hungary, escaped into the Turkish dominions, 
and the Sultan refused to surrender the fugitive to 
the Austrian government. The President of the 
United States was authorized by a joint resolution 
of the two houses of Congress, in March, 1851, 
to send an American man-of-war to the Mediterra 
nean for the purpose of bringing Kossuth to Amer 
ica. Kossuth, accompanied by other Hungarian 
exiles, embarked on the United States Frigate Mis 
sissippi on September 10. He spent a short time 
in England, where he was received with very great 
enthusiasm, and, early in December, he arrived at 
New York. The cause he represented appealed 
powerfully to the sympathies of a free people ; and 
his own romantic history, his picturesque and im 
pressive presence, and the intellectual richness of 
his oratory, gorgeous with Oriental luxuriance of 
phrase, and poured forth with the most melodious 
of voices and peculiarly captivating accents in a 
language not his own, fascinated all who saw and 
heard him. At once he confessed that he had come 
to enlist the government and the people of the 
American Kepublic in the cause of his country. 
He hoped to renew the struggle of Hungary for 
national independence, and to find in the United 
States not only sentimental, but " operative," sym 
pathy in the shape of " financial, material, and 
political aid." 

The warm interest which the President and 
Congress had manifested in his fate, as well as 
the demonstrations of enthusiasm with which the 

THE END. 393 

people greeted him everywhere on his triumphal 
progress from place to place, were well calculated 
to encourage in him the hope that the American 
Republic might abandon her traditional policy of 
non-entanglement, and take an active part in the 
struggles of his country. In fact, however, scarcely 
anybody thought soberly and seriously of casting 
aside the principles so impressively taught in 
Washington s Farewell Address, to embroil this 
Republic in the turmoils and vicissitudes of the 
struggles disturbing the Old World. But this 
secret conviction found little expression among 
those with whom Kossuth came into personal con 
tact. Even at a banquet given in his honor at 
Washington, where Webster, the Secretary of 
State, and several of the most prominent Senators 
spoke, many of the speeches might have been in 
terpreted as meaning that, if the American Re 
public were not ready at once to throw overboard 
the principles of foreign policy faithfully adhered 
to from the beginning, it was only watching for a 
proper occasion to do so. 

Kossuth had in his orations frequently men 
tioned Clay s name as that of the great advocate 
of South American independence and of the Greek 
cause. He solicited an interview with the old 
statesman, and Clay received him in his sick- 
chamber. Clay spoke to the distinguished visitor 
with cordial kindness and respect, but also with a 
frankness which excluded all misunderstanding. 
He assured Kossuth that Hungary, in her struggle 


for liberty and independence, had his liveliest sym 
pathies. " But, sir," he added, " for the sake of 
my country you must allow me to protest against 
the policy you propose to her." As to the practi 
cal results of giving " material aid " to the Hun 
garian people in their struggle, he explained that 
war would probably be the consequence ; that the 
United States could not carry on a land war on 
the European continent ; that a maritime war 
would " result in mutual annoyance to commerce, 
but probably in little else ; " that, " after effecting 
nothing in such a war, and after abandoning our 
ancient policy of amity and non-intervention in the 
affairs of other nations," the American Republic 
would have justified European powers " in aban 
doning the terms of forbearance and non-interfer 
ence " which they had so far preserved toward the 
the United States; that, "after the downfall, per 
haps, of the friends of liberal institutions in Eu 
rope, her despots, imitating and provoked by our 
fatal example," might turn upon us in the hour 
of our weakness and exhaustion ; and that, while 
"the indomitable spirit of the American people 
would be equal to the emergency," yet the conse 
quences might be terrible enough. 

" You must allow me, sir [he continued], to speak 
thus freely, as I feel deeply, though my opinion may be 
of but little import as the expression of a dying man. 
Sir, the recent subversion of the republican government 
of France (by Louis Napoleon s coup d etat of the 2d 
j)f December, 1851), and that enlightened nation volun- 

THE END. 395 

tarily placing its neck under the yoke of despotism, 
teach us to despair of any present success for liberal 
institutions in Europe. They give us an impressive 
warning not to rely upon others for the vindication of 
our principles, but to look to ourselves, and to cherish 
with more care than ever the security of our institutions 
and the preservation of our policy and principles. Far 
better is it for ourselves, for Hungary, and for the cause 
of liberty, that, adhering to our wise, pacific system, 
and avoiding the distant wars of Europe, we should 
keep our lamp burning brightly on this Western shore, 
as a light to all nations, than to hazard its utter extinc 
tion amid the ruins of fallen and falling republics in 

This was not what Kossnth had come to hear. 
But it was what the American people really thought 
when sobered from the fascination of Kossuth s 
presence, and what other American statesmen 
would have said to him had they frankly ex 
pressed their sentiments. 

The excitements preceding the presidential elec 
tion, too, invaded the sick-chamber to draw from 
the dying man an expression of opinion which 
might be used in the contest then going on between 
various aspirants to the Whig nomination for the 
presidency. Clay s views as to the prospects of the 
Whig party were not sanguine. In June, 1851, 
he had written to Ullmann: "I think it quite 
clear that a Democrat will be elected, unless that 
result be prevented by divisions in the Democratic 
party. On these divisions the Whigs might ad- 


vantageously count, if it were not for those which 
exist in their own party. It is, perhaps, safest to 
conclude that the divisions existing in the two par 
ties will counterbalance each other. Party ties 
have no doubt been greatly weakened generally, 
and in particular localities have been almost en 
tirely destroyed." 

What he said about party disintegration was 
undoubtedly true. But that disintegration was 
far more advanced among the Whigs than among 
the Democrats. The Whigs had substantially lost 
their old programme, without uniting upon a sub 
stitute. The question of the day was to them only 
an element of division. The Northern anti-slavery 
Whigs, under the leadership of such men as Sew- 
ard, remained in the party hoping to win the 
mastery of it. But that would have driven away 
the Southern Whigs, and thus rendered the exist 
ence of the party as a " national organization " in 
the geographical sense of the term impossible. 
Under the circumstances then existing, an anti- 
slavery party could only be a sectional party. To 
retain the Southern Whigs in the organization re 
quired concessions to slavery of which the compro 
mise of 1850 might be regarded as the minimum. 
As to the vitality of the Whig party in its 
national character, the question was whether the 
Northern Whigs would accept and support the 
compromise in good faith. No doubt, Clay s pres 
tige at the North as well as at the South, Web 
ster s authority with his followers, and still more 

THE END. 397 

the desire of peace among the business community, 
prevailed upon many Northern Whigs, who might 
otherwise have strayed away, to acquiesce in the 
compromise. But the tendency adverse to it was, 
with a great many other Northern Whigs, too 
strong to yield to management. 

When the thirty-second Congress assembled in 
December, 1851, an effort was made to unite the 
Whig members of the House in declaring the com 
promise a " finality ; " but of the eighty-six Whig 
members only forty or fifty attended the caucus, 
and of these one third voted to lay the resolution 
on the table. Although it was adopted, only a 
minority of the members committed themselves in 
its favor. Similar efforts were made in the Senate 
and the House of Representatives, the principal 
effect of which consisted in a revival of the slavery 
discussion. The Southern Whigs were willing to 
accept the compromise as a " finality " until it 
should be found that slavery needed more protec 
tive legislation, while a large portion of the North 
ern Whigs refused to see in the compromise any 
adjustment at all. When on the 9th of April the 
Whig members of Congress held a caucus to fix 
upon time and place for the National Convention, 
and a " finality " resolution was laid upon the 
table, several members seceded from the meet 
ing ; and 011 the next day eleven Southern Whigs 
published an address declaring that no candi 
date for the presidency could have their support 
whose principles were not plainly defined, and who 


did not openly accept the compromise as they ac 
cepted it. 

The discussion of the question whether the com 
promise was to be a finality, had a strong flavor of 
the absurd, for the very character of the discussion 
afforded the strongest proof that it was not, and 
could not be, an irreversible adjustment. Also the 
effort to unite the Whigs upon the basis of the com 
promise, made manifest that the party could not 
be so united. There were in it too many men who 
had opinions of their own and clung to them. The 
task of the managers, who had to put the party in 
array for a presidential campaign, could not have 
been more perplexing. There seemed to be but 
one way to hold it together with the least prospect 
of success, to find a candidate who possessed the 
confidence of both wings in a sufficient degree to 
harmonize them for a common effort. They tried 
another expedient, with disastrous result. The 
most prominent aspirants in the field were Daniel 
Webster and General Scott. By his seventh-of- 
March speech, and the bitter attacks upon the anti- 
slavery men which followed, Webster hoped to 
have won the confidence and support of the South. 
He also counted upon the active support of the 
administration, it being understood that Fillmore 
would under no circumstances himself be a candi 
date, and that Webster was his favorite. In both 
respects Webster was disappointed. The South 
did not trust him. His se veil th-of -March speech 
bad generally been looked upon as a change of 

THE END. 399 

attitude on his part, as an abandonment of his 
original principles. As he had thus changed once, 
so he might change again ; and Webster appeared 
too large a man to be easily controlled. More 
over, while Webster still had many admiring fol 
lowers in the North, it was thought that his change 
of attitude had only exasperated the more deter 
mined anti-slavery Whigs, and that, therefore, the 
great " fallen arch-angel " would by no means be 
a strong candidate in his own section. General 
Scott was the favorite of the anti-slavery Whigs, 
and, as such, suspicious to the Whigs of the South. 
Indeed, it was feared that, if Webster and Scott 
remained the only candidates in the field, the party 
might fall to pieces even before the time for the 
convention arrived. 

The Southern Whigs, and those who consulted 
their tastes, therefore looked for a more available 
man, and found him in Fillmore, who had not only, 
as President, won the confidence of the Southern 
Whigs by zealously employing his whole power to 
enforce the compromise measures, but who pos 
sessed also a certain popularity with the mercantile 
element at the North. Neither did the anti-slavery 
Whigs dislike to see Fillmore brought forward as 
a candidate, for they thought that the efforts made 
for him would serve to hold the party together, 
while at the same time dividing the opposition to 
their own favorite, General Scott. Thus Fillmore 
was persuaded to enter the list of candidates, 
much to Webster s disgust, who would have given 


vent to the bitterness of his disappointment had 
not party friends interposed. But the friendship 
between President and Secretary of State was 
blighted, especially since Webster saw some rea 
son to believe that Fillmore used the patronage of 
the government for the furtherance of his own 

While this war of ambitions was raging, Clay, 
from his sick-bed, advised his friends to support 
Fillmore. This advice was interpreted as an un 
kind thrust at Webster, prompted by motives of 
personal unfriendliness. The past relations of the 
two old statesmen were eagerly harrowed up to 
find the reason for what was called Clay s vindic 
tive spirit. But those who attributed his conduct 
to such causes undoubtedly wronged him. Mean 
vindictiveness was not in his nature. His very 
enemies would hardly have charged him with a 
want of magnanimity. Whenever he had said or 
done anything that looked otherwise, it was in the 
heat of a conflict. The ambition, too, which in 
younger years might have excited his jealousy of 
a rival, had ceased to warp his feelings. He was 
now at peace with the world, expecting soon to 
leave it ; and there could be none but reasons of 
the public good to inspire his mind. His motives 
for recommending Fillmore lay on the surface. 
Fillmore had from the beginning approved, and 
then as President faithfully executed, the compro 
mise measures. His administration was fully iden 
tified with them. If elected he would simply con- 

THE END. 401 

tinue in the old course. Clay considered him a 
man of national principles, who, not by mere prom 
ises, but by acts, had won the confidence of the 
South, and who would, therefore, disarm the dis 
union feeling still active there ; and, as a Northern 
man, too, enjoying in a large measure the respect 
of his own section, perhaps the only candidate 
capable of saving the Whig party. These expec 
tations were disappointed, but nothing could have 
been more natural than that he should entertain 

The Democratic National Convention met at 
Baltimore on June 1. In the Democratic ranks 
also there had been much dissension on the " final 
ity " question, but it was more easily subdued 
by party discipline ; and as the Southern interest 
was predominant in the Democratic organization, 
and the enforcement of the fugitive - slave law 
was insisted upon by the South, for the time being, 
as the principal part of the compromise not yet 
assured, the Democratic party, as the irony of fate 
would have it, gradually assumed the position of 
the special representative and champion of Clay s 
compromise. After a long struggle, the Demo 
cratic Convention nominated for the presidency 
Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire, a Northern 
man with Southern principles, and declared in its 
platform that the Democratic party would " abide 
by and adhere to a faithful execution of the acts 
known as the compromise measures settled by the 
last Congress, the act for reclaiming fugitives 
from service or labor included. 


The Whigs held their National Convention at 
the same place on June 10. It first adopted 
a platform declaring " that the series of acts of 
the thirty-first Congress the act known as the 
fugitive-slave law included are received and ac 
quiesced in by the Whig party of the United 
States as a settlement, in principle and substance, 
of the dangerous and exciting questions which tfyey 
embrace ; and, so far as they are concerned, we 
will maintain them, and insist on their strict en 
forcement, until time and experience shall demon 
strate the necessity of further legislation, to guard 
against the evasion of the laws on the one hand, 
and the abuse of their powers on the other, not 
impairing their efficiency ; " and, further, to frown 
down " all further agitation of the question thus 
settled, as dangerous to our peace," etc. This was 
the platform as the Southern Whigs desired it ; 
and then, after many ballots, the results of which 
were peculiarly humiliating to Webster, who never 
received more than thirty-two votes, and among 
them not one from the South, the convention nomi 
nated for the presidency General Scott, the favor 
ite of the anti-slavery Whigs. Thus the South 
had the platform, and the North the candidate ; 
and by such means the party was to be held to 
gether. But no sooner was the result known than 
several Southern delegates declared that they 
would not agree to support the candidate unless he 
unequivocally accepted the platform together with 
the nomination. 

THE END. 40 i 

While these things were going on, Clay was on 
his death-bed, growing weaker and weaker from 
day to day, the end coming fast. He still took 
interest enough in the affairs of the world to re 
ceive reports from the convention, and to express 
his satisfaction with what had been done. 

In one respect he won the greatest triumph of 
his life at the close of it. Both political parties, 
his opponents as well as his friends, adopted his 
measures as the very foundation of their policy. 
The genius of statesmanship, it would seem, could 
hardly have achieved a triumph more complete. 

This the eyes of the dying man were still per 
mitted to see. But what they did not see was that 
this triumph would be speedily followed by the com 
plete collapse of the policy he had advocated ; that 
the peace effected by his " adjustment " would prove 
only a hollow truce, bearing in itself the germs of 
conflicts more terrible than his imagination had 
ever conceived ; that the fugitive-slave law would 
be the greatest propagator of abolitionism which 
Machiavelian ingenuity could have devised ; that 
his non-intervention with regard to slavery in New 
Mexico and Utah would soon serve as sponsor for 
Douglas s Kansas-Nebraska Bill, and thus bring 
slavery and free labor face to face, musket in hand, 
for a deadly conflict on the plains of the West ; 
that a new school of statesmanship was rising up 
which, to save the Republic and its free institu 
tions, would throw compromise to the winds ; and 
a new generation of statesmen, who, with tremen- 


dous effect, would lead into battle for liberty and 
Union that very " sentiment " which he, appreci 
ating neither its character nor its force, had asked 
the people of the North to sacrifice for the sake 
of the Union. There they were already when he, 
tottering with age and bowed down by illness, cast 
his last look into the Senate Chamber, in Daniel 
Webster s chair Charles Sumner, the champion of 
the anti-slavery conscience, joining hands with 
Seward, the philosophical anti-slavery politician ; 
and Benjamin F. Wade, the very embodiment of 
defiant courage, sent by Ohio as the colleague of 
Salmon P. Chase. 

Some portentous things Clay might have seen 
even before he closed his eyes : his party hope 
lessly divided in sentiment, and doomed to destruc 
tion in consequence of the very measures of peace 
with which he had sought to save the Union, 
vainly trying to prolong its existence by giving 
the South the platform, and the North the candi 
date ; Southern Whigs, in spite of the platform, 
repudiating its action because of the candidate, 
and Northern Whigs uselessly striving to save the 
candidate by repudiating the platform. He might 
have foreseen how the people would spurn the 
whole nauseous bargain by giving the Democrats, 
who had at least the merit of greater straight 
forwardness, an overwhelming majority of electo 
ral votes ; how the Whig party would suffer not 
only defeat, but annihilation, and how appropriate 
would be the epitaph suggested for it by a grim 

THE END. 405 

popular humor : " Here lies the Whig party, which 
died of an effort to swallow the fugitive-slave law." 
Clay, although terribly exhausted by his tor 
menting cough, lingered on longer than his physi 
cians and attendants expected. Devoted friends 
surrounded him, and in his last days two of his 
sons were at his bedside. While he was still able 
to write or dictate letters, he repeatedly said that, 
as the world receded from him, he felt his affec 
tions more than ever centred on his children and 
theirs, and that he would be glad to get home once 
more. He professed himself perfectly composed 
and resigned to his fate. On May 8 his son 
Thomas wrote to his wife : " Had you seen, as 
I have, the evidences of attachment and interest 
displayed by my father s friends, you could not 
help exclaiming, as he has frequently done : * Was 
there ever man had such friends ! The best and 
first in the land are daily and hourly offering 
tokens of their love and esteem for him." He re 
mained a winner of hearts to his last day. He 
died on June 29, 1852, in the seventy-sixth year 
of his age. On July 1 the members of the Senate 
and the House of Representatives, together with 
the city authorities, militia companies, and civic 
associations, accompanied his remains from the 
National Hotel to the Senate Chamber, where, 
attended by the President of the United States, 
the Cabinet, and the officers of the army and navy, 
the funeral services took place. The remains were 
then taken to his beloved Kentucky, the funeral 


cortege passing through Baltimore, Wilmington, 
Philadelphia, the principal places in New Jersey, 
New York, Albany, Ithaca, Syracuse, Rochester, 
Buffalo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Louisville, every 
where the people assembling by thousands to do 
the last honor to Henry Clay. On July 10 his 
ashes were laid to rest at Lexington, where now 
an imposing monument marks his tomb. 

Not only the halls of Congress, but the whole 
country resounded with obituary eulogy of the 
dead statesman. It was more than ordinarily the 
voice of genuine feeling that spoke. The bereaved 
affection of his personal friends broke out in loud 
lament. Even among his opponents the brilliancy 
of his talents, coupled with so knightly a character, 
had won a warm-hearted admiration, which found 
ample utterance. Every patriotic man in the land 
proudly called him a great American. Nobody 
wished to remember his faults, or to be over- 
critical in the praise of his virtues and in the esti 
mation of his public services. It was not at all 
surprising that, as his enthusiastic nature had al 
ways appealed to the emotions, the most generous 
impulses of the popular heart should have followed 
him to the grave. 

Henry Clay himself had by no means been in 
different to the fame he would leave behind him. 
In his correspondence there are frequent symptoms 
of his solicitude as to his place in the history of 
his country. Nine months before his death, in a 
letter to Daniel Ullmann, he made some suggestions 

THE END. 407 

concerning the inscription to be put upon a large 
gold medal which his friends in New York caused 
to be struck in commemoration of his public ser 
vices. The inscription, as amended by him, read 

thus : 

SENATE, 1806. 

SPEAKER, 1811. 


GHENT, 1814. 




GREECE, 1824. 




PUBLIC DOMAIN, 1833-1841. 



These were the salient points of his career which 
Clay himself desired most to be remembered. Sin 
gularly enough, the policy of internal improvements 
was not named in this enumeration, and it is a 
significant fact that the longest and bitterest of 
his political struggles that for the Bank of the 
United States against Jackson could not be 
mentioned in the list of his public services; nor 
would his efforts to be made President of the 
United States, which had so intensely engaged his 
mind and heart, fit a record of the things he was 
proud of. 

But, however incomplete, that record showed 
how large a place Henry Clay had filled in the 
public affairs of the Republic during almost half a 


century of its existence. His most potent faculty 
has left the most imperfect monuments behind it. 
He was without question the greatest parliamen 
tary orator, and one of the greatest popular speak 
ers, America has ever had. Webster excelled him 
in breadth of knowledge, in keenness of reasoning, 
in weight of argument, and in purity of diction. 
But Clay possessed in a far higher degree the true 
oratorical temperament, that force of nervous 
exaltation which makes the orator feel himself, 
and appear to others, a superior being, and almost 
irresistibly transfuses his thoughts, his passions, 
and his will into the mind and heart of the lis 
tener. Webster would instruct and convince and 
elevate, but Clay would overcome his audience. 
There could scarcely be a more striking proof of 
his power than the immediate effect we know his 
speeches to have produced upon those who heard 
them, compared with the impression of heavy tame- 
ness we receive when merely reading the printed 

In the elements, too, which make a man a leader, 
Clay was greatly the superior of Webster, as well 
as of all other contemporaries, excepting Andrew 
Jackson. He had not only in rare development 
the faculty of winning the affectionate devotion of 
men, but his personality imposed itself without an 
effort so forcibly upon others that they involunta 
rily looked to him for direction, waited for his de 
cisive word before making up their minds, and not 
seldom yielded their better judgment to his will 

THE END. 409 

While this made him a very strong leader, he 
was not a safe guide. The rare brightness of his 
intellect and his fertile fancy served, indeed, to 
make himself and others forget his lack of accu 
rate knowledge and studious thought ; but these 
brilliant qualities could not compensate for his de 
ficiency in that prudence and forecast which are 
required for the successful direction of political 
forces. His impulses were vehement, and his mind 
not well fitted for the patient analysis of compli 
cated problems and of difficult political situations. 
His imagination frequently ran away with his un 
derstanding. His statesmanship had occasionally 
something of the oratorical character. Now and 
then he appeared to consider it as important 
whether a conception or a measure would sound 
well, as whether, if put into practice, it would work 
well. He disliked advice which differed from his 
preconceived opinions ; and with his imperious 
temper and ardent combativeness he was apt, as 
in the struggle about the United States Bank, to 
put himself, and to hurry his party, into positions 
of great disadvantage. It is a remarkable fact 
that during his long career in Congress he was in 
more or less pronounced opposition to all admin 
istrations, even those of his own party, save that 
of Jefferson, under which he served only one 
short session in the Senate, and that of John 
Quincy Adams, of which he was a member. Dur 
ing Madison s first term, Clay helped in defeating 
the recharter of the United States Bank recom. 


mended by Gallatin as Secretary of the Treasury ; 
and he became a firm supporter of Madison s ad 
ministration only when, as to the war against Great 
Britain, it had yielded to his pressure. No fault 
can be found with him for asserting in all impor 
tant things the freedom of his opinion ; but a less 
impetuous statesman would have found it possible 
to avoid a conflict with Monroe, and to maintain 
harmonious relations with General Taylor. 

On the other hand, he never sought to organize 
or strengthen his following by the arts of the pat 
ronage-monger. The thought that a political party 
should be held together by the public plunder, or 
that the party leader should be something like a 
paymaster of a body of henchmen at the public 
expense, or that a party contest should be a mere 
scramble for spoils, was entirely foreign to his 
mind, and far below the level of his patriotic aspi 

It has been said that Clay was surrounded by a 
crowd of jobbers and speculators eager to turn his 
internal improvement and tariff policies to their 
private advantage. No doubt those policies at 
tracted such persons to him. But there is no rea 
son for suspecting that he was ever in the slightest 
degree pecuniarily interested in any scheme which 
might have been advanced by his political position 
or influence. In no sense was he a money-maker 
in politics. His integrity as a public man re 
mained without blemish throughout his long ca 
reer. He preserved an equally intact name in the 

THE END. 411 

conduct of his private affairs. In money matters 
he was always a man of honor, maintaining the 
principles and the pride of a gentleman. The 
financial embarrassments which troubled his de 
clining days were caused, not by reckless extrava 
gance, nor by questionable speculations, but by the 
expenses inseparable from high public station and 
great renown, and by engagements undertaken for 
others, especially his sons. He was a kind hus 
band, and an indulgent father. There is ample 
evidence of his warm solicitude as to the welfare 
of his children, of his constant readiness to assist 
them with his counsel, and of his self-sacrificing 
liberality in providing for their needs and in aiding 
them in their troubles. The attacks made upon his 
private character touched mainly his occasional 
looseness in his social intercourse and his fondness 
for card-playing, which, although in his early years 
he had given up games of chance, still led him to 
squander but too much time upon whist. Such 
attacks injured his character because they were 
not unfounded ; and it appears by no means im 
probable that charges of this kind, striking a vul 
nerable point, may, in spite of the enthusiastic 
devotion of many of his friends, which was ready 
to overlook or forgive any shortcoming, have had 
something to do with what was called his ill luck 
as a candidate for the presidency. 

The desire of so distinguished a political leader 
to be President was natural and legitimate. Even 
had he cherished it less ardently, his followers 


would have more than once pushed him forward. 
But no one can study Clay s career without feeling 
that he would have been a happier and a greater 
man if he had never coveted the glittering prize. 
When such an ambition becomes chronic, it will be 
but too apt to unsettle the character and darken 
the existence of those afflicted with it by confusing 
their appreciation of all else. As Caesar said that 
the kind of death most to be desired was " a sud 
den one," so the American statesman may think 
himself fortunate to whom a nomination for the 
presidency comes, if at all, without a long agony 
of hope and fear. During a period of thirty years, 
from the time when he first aspired to be Monroe s 
successor until 1848, Clay unceasingly hunted the 
shadow whose capture would probably have added 
nothing either to his usefulness or his fame, but 
the pursuit of which made his public life singu 
larly restless and unsatisfactory to himself. Nor 
did he escape from the suspicion of having occa 
sionally modified the expression of his opinions 
according to supposed exigencies of availability. 
The peculiar tone of his speech against the aboli 
tionists before the campaign of 1840, his various 
letters on the annexation of Texas in 1844, and 
some equivocations on other subjects during the 
same period, illustrated the weakening influence of 
the presidential candidate upon the man ; and even 
his oft-quoted word that he would " rather be right 
than be President " was spoken at a time when he 
was more desirous of being President than sure of 
being right. 

THE END. 413 

But, on the whole, save his early change of posi 
tion on the subject of the United States Bank, 
Clay s public career appears remarkably consistent 
in its main feature. It was ruled by the idea that, 
as the binding together of the states in the Union 
and the formation of a constitutional government 
had been accomplished by the compromising of di 
verse interests, this Union and this constitutional 
government had to be maintained in the same way ; 
and that every good citizen should consider it his 
duty, whenever circumstances required it, to sac 
rifice something, not only of his material advan 
tages, but even of his sentiments and convictions, 
for the peace and welfare of the common Republic. 

Whatever Clay s weaknesses of character and 
errors in statesmanship may have been, almost 
everything he said or did was illumined by a grand 
conception of the destinies of his country, a glow 
ing national spirit, a lofty patriotism. Whether 
he thundered against British tyranny on the seas, 
or urged the recognition of the South American 
sister republics, or attacked the high-handed con 
duct of the military chieftain in the Florida war, 
or advocated protection and internal improvements, 
or assailed the one-man power and spoils politics 
in the person of Andrew Jackson, or entreated for 
compromise and conciliation regarding the tariff 
or slavery ; whether what he advocated was wise or 
unwise, right or wrong, there was always ring 
ing through his words a fervid plea for his coun 
try, a zealous appeal in behalf of the honor and 


the future greatness and glory of the Republic, or 
an anxious warning lest the Union, and with it the 
greatness and glory of the American people, be 
put in jeopardy. It was a just judgment which he 
pronounced upon himself when he wrote : " If any 
one desires to know the leading and paramount 
object of my public life, the preservation of this 
Union will furnish him the key." 


ABERDEEN, Lord, ii., 247. 

Abolitionists, ii., 70, flf ; 163, 164, 167, 
264, 387. 

Adams, John Quincy, i., 99 ; appoint 
ed peace commissioner, 100 ; char 
acter of, 102-104 ; diary of, 114, 
ff ; sojourn at Ghent, 123 ; in Lon 
don, 124 ; Secretary of State, 141 ; 
Spanish Amer. colonies, 149, 150; 
concerning General Jackson, 152 ; 
diary of, 161 ; Florida treaty, 1G2, 
164 ; on Missouri question, 174 ; on 
slavery and union, 198; on Clay, 
200-1 ; candidate for presidency, 
222, 226-8, 231, 232, 247; elected 
president, 248 ; forming his Cabinet, 
249, ff ; inaugurated, 254 ; adminis 
tration, 258 ; on removals, 259-262 ; 
on constitutional powers, 265-7 ; 
Panama mission, 267-273 ; on op 
position, 278 ; policy as to patron 
age, 281 ; defeated in 1828, 287-8 ; 
causes of defeat, 288-292 ; slave ex 
tradition, 301 ; defending Clay, 309, 
311 ; on masonry, 344 ; on U. S. 
Bank, 373 ; on Jackson s message, 
ii., 6; anti-slavery petitions, 81; 
Texas, 86 ; claims against Mexico, 
93 ; on Clay and Webster, 174, 191 ; 
on Tyler s title, 200 ; report on 
Tyler s veto, 226 ; trial of, 232, 233 ; 
votes against Mexican war, 283 ; 
death, 297, 409. 

Adams, Charles Francis, ii., 311. 

Adams, Dr. William, British peace 
commissioner, i., 105, 124. 

Alexander, Emperor of Russia, i., 99, 
106, 108, 270, 300. 

Allen, Charles, ii., 305. 

Allibone, S. A., ii., 390. . 

Ambrister, R., i., 151. 

Anderson, Richard C., i., 293 

Anti-Masons, i., 340-344; ii., 97, 175. 

Arbuthnot, A., i., 151. 

Arista, Mexican general, ii.,282. 

Austin, Moses, ii., 87. 

BADOEE, George E., Secretary of th<* 
Navy, ii., 190; resigns, 212, 3O, 

Bank of the U. S., proposition to re- 
charter, i., 62, ff; recharter de 
feated, 66, 131 ; new Bank of the 
U. S., 132, 345 ; attacked by Jack 
son, 351-5 ; struggle about re- 
charter, 372, ff ; investigated, 373 ; 
recharter passed and vetoed, 374 ; 
deposits removed, ii., 25, ff, 47, 48- 
50, 115, 142 ; breaks down, 143. 

Barbour, James, i., 196; Secretary of 
War, 258, 266. 

Barbour, Philip B., i., 204. 

Barnwell, R. W., ii., 357. 

Barnburners, ii., 303, 310. 

Barry, William T., i., 329, 347. 

Bayard, James A., appointed peace 
commissioner, i., 100 ; at Ghent, 

Bayard, Richard, against expunging 
resolution, ii., 101 ; opposes Van 
Buren s policy, 135. 

Bell, John, on four years term law, 
ii., 68 ; Secretary of War, 190, 346, 

Benton, Thomas H., canvasses for 
Clay, i., 228 ; for Jackson s elec 
tion, 240, 247 ; on Clay-Randolph 
duel, 274 ; on public lands, 369-70 ; 
U. S. Bank, 372-3; defends Jack 
son s bank veto, 377 ; on Verplanck 
bill, ii. , 8 ; on tariff compromise, 20, 
32, 38, 42 ; on four years term law, 
68, 78 ; expunging resolution, 99, 
ff ; specie circular, 123, 191, 206, 
225, 238, 271, 272, 329, 319, 352. 

Berrien, John M., i., 329; ii., 208, 

Beverly, Carter, i., 282. 

Biddle, Nicholas, i., 353, 378; ii., 143. 

Birney, James G., ii., 253, 254; vote 
in New York, 264. 

Blair, Francis P., i., 236, 239, 248, 345 ; 
advises removal of deposits, ii., 25. 



Bolivar, Simon, i., 267, 295. 

Branch, John, i., 329. 

Bright, Jesse D., ii., 329. 

Brooke, Francis, i., 228, 239, 241, 248, 
252, 253 ; ii., 23, 24, 45, 173, 193, 

Bryant, William Cullen, ii., 258, 270, 

Buchanan, James, i., 283 ; on four 
years term law, ii., 68; on anti- 
slavery petitions, 79, 85 ; report on 
relations with Mexico, 93 ; for ex 
punging resolution, 101 ; Secretary 
of State, 272, 275 ; note concerning 
Oregon, 279, 280. 

Buffalo Convention, ii., 252, 253, 310- 

Burr, Aaron, in Kentucky, i. , 34 ; en 
gages Clay as attorney, 35 ; last 
meeting with Clay, 37. 

Butler, Arthur P., ii., 329, 349. 

Butler, Benjamin F., ii., 311. 

CALHOUN, John C., i., 78, 128 ; speech 
on reducing taxes, 129 ; favors tar 
iff, 130 ; reports bill for Bank of the 
U. S. , 132 ; on internal improve 
ments, 137 ; Secretary of War, 142 ; 
desires to discipline Gen. Jackson, 
152 ; candidate for presidency, 222 ; 
elected vice-president, 232 ; in op 
position, 263, 311, 313 ; on Van 
Buren s rejection, 367-8 ; nullifica 
tion doctrine, ii., 2, 3 ; resigns vice- 
presidency and elected Senator, 8 ; 
11 ; accepts Clay s compromise, 12- 
14 ; objects to amendments, 16, 42 ; 
report on patronage, 60, 61, 68 ; de 
nounces anti-slavery petitions, 78 ; 
on abolition publications, 83, 84 ; 
bill defeated, 89 ; on recognition of 
Texas, 91 ; distribution bill, 121 ; 
amendment to sub-treasury bill, 
136 ; dissolves alliance with Whigs, 
144 ; personal debates with Clay and 
Webster, 145 - 150 ; state - rights 
resolutions, 154 - 162 ; on Clay s 
anti-abolition speech, 167, 168, 170, 
206 ; Secretary of State, 239 ; reply 
to Lord Aberdeen, 247, 250 ; pro 
poses arbitration concerning Ore 
gon, 279, 281 ; resolutions on terri 
tories,, 301; rejects squatter sov 
ereignty, 302 ; Southern party, 320, 
329 ; speech against compromise, 
337-339 ; death, 339. 

Cambreleng, C. C., ii., 311. 

Canning, George, i., 298. 

Caroline case, ii., 150. 

Cass, Lewis, i., 256 ; ii., 280 ; nomi 
nated for the presidency, 304, 308, 
314, 329, 349. 

Castlereagh, Lord, i., 84, 108, 118. 

Champagny, French Minister of For 
eign Affairs, i., 74, 75. 

Chase, Salmon P., ii., 254, 329 ; speech 
against compromise, 344, 345, 382. 
389, 404. 

Cheves, Langdon, belonging to war 
party, i., 78 ; on the navy, 80; 
president of the U. S. Bank, 351. 

Choate, Rufus, ii., 186. 

Church, Sanford E., ii., 311. 

Clay, Cassius M., ii., 263, 264. 

Clay, Rev. John, Henry Clay s father, 

Clay, Mrs., Henry Clay s mother, 
i., 3; her patriotism, 3; marries 
Henry Watkins, 4. 

Clay, Henry, birth, i., 2 ; early educa 
tion, 3, 4 ; in Denny s store, 4 ; in 
Tinsley s office, 5 ; amanuensis of 
Chancellor Wythe, 6, 7; law stu 
dent with Robert Brooke, obtains 
license, 8; member of rhetorical 
society, 9 ; emigrates to Kentucky, 
9 ; his schooling, 10, 11 ; settles at 
Lexington, Ky., 18; in debating 
club, 18, 19 ; law practice, 19, if ; 
public prosecutor, 22 ; practices 
oratory, 24 ; marries Lucretia Hart 
and purchases Ashland, 24 ; his 
early popularity, 25, ft ; for emarit 
cipation, 27, 31 ; against alien and 
sedition laws, 32 ; in the legislature, 
33 ; quarrel with Col. Daviess, 34 ; 
attorney for Aaron Burr, 35 ; ap 
pointed U. S. Senator, 35; in the 
Senate, 38 ; on internal improve 
ments, 39, ff ; in Kentucky legisla 
ture, 49 ; defends English common 
law, 50 ; resolutions endorsing Jef 
ferson and in favor of home-made 
clothes, 51 ; duel with Humphrey 
Marshall, 52 ; again in U. S. Senate, 
52 ; on home industry, 62, ff ; on 
Indian affairs, 57 ; on the West 
Florida case, 57, ff : on U. S. Bank, 
62, ff ; elected to House of Repre 
sentatives, 67 ; elected speaker, 68 ; 
leading the war party, 78; on in 
crease of army, 79 ; on the navy, 80, 
81 ; on embargo, 82 ; firing the pop 
ular heart, 86 ; to be made com 
manding general, 88 ; answers 
Quincy, 91, ff ; peace commissioner, 
100 ; resigns speakership, 101 ; at 
Ghent, 103 ; 109, ff ; on the peace, 
121 ; in Paris, 122, 123 ; in London, 
123 ; returns to U. S., 125 ; elected 
speaker again, 126 ; on reduction 
of taxes, 128, 129 ; for new Bank of 
the U. S., 133, ff ; on internal im 
provements, 137 ; on increase of 



pay, 138 ; anecdote, 139 ; declines 
cabinet position, reflected speaker, 
141 ; Clay vs. Monroe on internal 
improvements, 142, ff ; on Spanish 
American colonies, 146, ff ; cen 
sures Jackson s conduct in Florida, 
153, ff ; gambling, and decline 
of popularity, 160, 161 ; reflected 
speaker, 162 ; against Florida 
treaty, and condemning " cession " 
of Texas, 163-5 ; for recognition of 
South American republics, 165-8 ; 
conversation with Adams concern 
ing South America, 169-171 ; posi 
tion on Missouri bill, 178-182 ; over 
riding Randolph s motion to recon 
sider, 180-1 ; announces his tem 
porary retirement, 182 ; resigns 
speakership and returns to Wash 
ington, 183 ; takes Missouri ques 
tion in hand, 186, ff ; moves com 
mittee of thirteen, 187 ; reports, 
188-9 ; arranges counting of elec 
toral vote, 190 ; moves committee 
of twenty-three, 191 ; reports, 192 ; | 
" the great pacificator," 193 ; meet- j 
ing Randolph, 197 ; judged by ! 
Adams, 200-1 ; retires, 202 ; against 
" relief " movement in Kentucky, 
203 ; reflected to Congress and 
made speaker, 204 ; opposes pension [ 
of Mrs. Perry, 204-5 ; on internal j 
improvements, 206-8 ; for Greek 
cause, 208 ; in accord with Monroe 
doctrine, 210 ; on tariff of 1824, 
212-7 ; " American system," 216 ; 
candidate for presidency, 228-30, 
232 ; on election, 233 ; welcomes 
Lafayette, 234 ; to F. P. Blair, 236 ; 
meets Jackson, 237 ; to Blair, 239 ; 
to Brooke, 241 ; charged with bar 
gain and corruption, 241, ff ; votes 
for Adams, 248 ; to be Secretary of 
State, 248, ff ; accepts, 253 ; retires 
from speakership, 253-4 ; nomina 
tion in Senate, 254 ; publishes ad 
dress, 255-6 ; on removals, 259-262 ; 
Panama mission, 267-273 ; duel 
with John Randolph, 273-5; ill, 
276, 281 ; refuting bargain and cor 
ruption charge, 282-5 ; campaign of 
1824, 287-8 ; on defeat, 292 ; resigns, 
293 ; failure of Panama mission, 
293-6 ; letter to Bolivar, 295 ; at 
tempts to purchase Texas, 296 ; 
commercial diplomacy, 296 ; "West 
India trade, 297 ; his treaties, 299 ; 
British indemnity for slaves, 299 ; 
slave extradition, 300 ; sentiments 
concerning slavery, 301-7 ; on colo 
nization society, 302-5 ; unhappy 
while Secretary of State, 307-8 ; re- 


lations with Adams, 308 ; defended 
by Adams, 309 ; as a party leader, 
324-8 ; dinner speech at Washing 
ton, 330 ; on spoils politics, 335, 336 ; 
journeyings, 339 ; on Anti-Misons, 
342-3 ; elected to the Senate, 348-9 ; 
his programme as candidate for the 
presidency, 350 ; in favor of push 
ing the bank question, 355-6 ; unan 
imously nominated, 356 ; takes up 
the tariff question, 357-65; on 
nullification, 362 ; attacks Gallatin, 
362-3 ; opposes confirmation of Van 
Buren s nomination, 367 ; report on 
public lauds, 368-372 ; opposes bank 
veto, 376 ; on veto power, 377 ; de 
feated in presidential election, 382 ; 
his mistakes, 382-3 ; effect of de 
feat, ii., 1 ; on Jackson s proclama 
tion against nullifiers, 7, 8 ; intro 
duces tariff compromise, 9, ff ; re 
marks on tariff compromise, 14-19 ; 
carries compromise bill, 19 ; " paci 
ficator/ 20, 21 ; meets John Ran 
dolph, land bill, 22 ; home life, 23 ; 
visits the East, 24 ; attacks Jackson 
for removal of deposits, resolutions 
of censure, 30, ff ; resolution to re 
store deposits, 36 ; apostrophizes 
Van Buren, 37 ; on Jackson s pro 
test, 41, 42 ; on rejections, 42, 43 , 
on Whig party, 44; on nullifiers, 
45, 51 ; report on French difficulties, 
55, 56 ; on rights of Indians, 58-60 ; 
on appointments and removals, 61- 
68 ; land bill, 69 ; on anti-slavery 
petitions, 79-81 ; on anti-slavery 
publications, 84, 85 ; record as to 
Texas, 86 ; report on recognition of 
Texas, 9], 92, 94; on presidential 
election, 95, 96 ; reflected to Sen 
ate, 99 ; land bill, 99 ; against ex 
punging resolution, 101-103; his 
discomfiture, 105, 106 ; distribution 
bill, 121 ; on specie circular, 124 ; 
opposition to Van Buren, 130, 131 ; 
candidate for the presidency, 132 ; 
demands further surplus distribu 
tion, 134, 135 ; opposes treasury 
notes, 136 ; opposes sub-treasury 
bill, 138-141 ; on new U. S. Bank, 
142 ; debate with Calhoun, 145-150 ; 
on Carolina case, 150 ; on Oregon, 
150 ; dueling, price of public Ian ", 
151 ; anti-slavery petitions, 153, 154 ; 
amending Calhoun s state - rights 
resolutions, 158-162 ; letter and 
speech on abolitionists, 1G3-168 ; 
" better be right than President," 
169, 170 ; preparing for 1840, 172, 
173 ; relations with Webster, 174 ; 
opposition to Clay, 175-179 ; defeat, 



180-182 ; supports Harrison, 186- 
188 ; meets Harrison, 189 ; resolu 
tion to repeal sub-treasury act, 190, 
191 ; patronage, 192, 193 ; relations 
with Harrison, 194-196 ; with Tyler, 
199, 200 ; correspondence with Ty 
ler, 201, 202 ; takes command in 
Congress, 204; reports bank bill, 
205, 206 ; censures veto, 207 ; land 
bill, 210 ; favors resignation of Cab 
inet, 212, 213 ; rallies Whig party 
against Tyler, 215, 216 ; his leader 
ship, 217-219, 220 ; constitutional 
amendments, 221-223 ; resolutions 
concerning retrenchment and rev 
enue, 223 ; farewell to the Senate, 
223 ; meets Calhoun, 224 ; on Whig 
policy, 226, 227 ; at home, 228 ; 
nominations for presidency, 228 ; 
Mendenhall speech, 230-232; thanks 
Giddings, 234 ; traveling, 241, 242 ; 
understanding with Van Buren, 
243; Raleigh letter on Texas, 244, 
245 ; nominated for President, 249 ; 
relations with Birney, 254 ; on 
United States Bank, 255 ; defending 
himself, 258 ; Alabama letter, 259- 
261 ; effect of Alabama letters, 261- i 
264 ; defeat, 264-267 ; at home re- 
lieved of debt, 268, 269 ; at meeting , 
of Colonization Society, 269, 270, 
280, 286 ; on death of his son, 287 ; 
speech on Mexican war, 289-291 ; 
aspirant to presidency, 291 ; oppo 
sition to, 292, 293, 295 ; at Washing 
ton, 296, 297 ; popular demonstra 
tions, 297 ; receives letter from 
General Taylor, 298 ; letter on Whig 
policy, 299 ; defeated in convention, 
305 ; refuses to support Taylor, 306- 
309 ; on emancipation, 315-318 ; 
elected Senator, 318 ; at Washing 
ton, relations with Taylor, 322 ; ex 
pectations, 323-325, 327, 328 ; a plan 
of compromise, 329-333 ; declaration 
against slavery extension, 333, 334 ; 
physical weakness, 334 ; speech in 
support of compromise, 335-337 ; 
eulogizes Calhoun, 339 ; on Seward, 
344, 345, 346 ; reports compromise 
bills, 347-349 ; criticises Taylor, 352, 
354 ; closing speech on compromise, 
355-358 ; defeat of compromise bills, 
358-361 ; goes to Newport, 361 ; re 
turns to Washington, 364; retro 
spect, 364-369 ; speech to Kentucky 
legislature, 376 ; compromise mani 
festo, 377 ; on African slave-trade, 
378 ; on Shadrach case, 379-381 ; on 
tariff and river and harbor bill, 382, 
383 ; refuses constructive mileage, 
383, 384 ; goes to Cuba and returns, 

384 ; declines to be a candidate for 
the presidency, 385 ; letter to New 
York committee, 388-388 ; on 
Southern extremists, returns to 
Washington, 390 ; on fugitive-slave 
law, 391 ; addressing Kossuth, 393- 
395 ; on prospects of Whig party, 
395, 396 ; advises Filmore s nomi 
nation, 400, 401 ; on his death-bed, 
403-405 ; death, 405 ; character and 
career, 406-414. 

Clay, Thomas, ii., 405. 

Clay, Henry, Jr., ii., 286, 287. 

Clayton, John M., i., 376; on tariff 
compromise, ii., 16, 17 ; on four 
years term law, 68 ; against expung 
ing resolution, 101 ; opposes Van 
Buren s policy, 135, 180, 186. 

Clemens, Jeremiah, Senator from Al 
abama, ii., 374. 

Clinton, De Witt, candidate for pres 
idency, 222, 259. 

Cobb, Howell, speaker, ii., 325, 374. 

Collamer, Jacob, Postmaster General, 
ii., 320. 

Colonization Society, i., 302, ff; ii., 

Compromise, Missouri, i., 172, ff ; of 
1833, ii., 1, ff ; of 1850, 329, ff. 

Cooper, James, ii., 349. 

Corwin, Thomas, ii., 186, 329; Secre 
tary of the Treasury, 354. 

Craig, Sir James, Governor of Can 
ada, i., 82. 

Crawford, George W., Secretary of 
War, ii.,320. 

Crawford, W. H., Secretary of the 
Treasury, candidate for presidency, 
i., 222, 223, 232, 238, 249, 258, 311. 

Crittenden, J. J., i., 238, 247 ; against 
expunging resolution, ii., 101 ; op 
poses Van Buren s policy, 135 ; At 
torney-General, 190 ; Senator, 224, 
225, 246, 292; Attorney-General, 

Curtis, Edward, ii., 192, 193. 

DALLAS, Alexander G., Secretary of 
the Treasury, proposes tariff, i., 
130 ; proposes specie - paying na 
tional banks, 131. 

Dallas, George M., nominated for 
vice-president, ii., 251. 

Daschkoff, Russian Minister, offers 
Russian mediation, i., 99. 

Davis, Jefferson, ii., 322, 329, 333, 

Davis, John, ii., 229, 329. 

Democratic Party, origin of, i., 311 
318; ii., 137, 144, 182, 188, 206, 
219, 23G, 250-252, 264, 279, 281, 288, 
300, 303, 304, 313, 327, 333, 401. 



Dickinson, Daniel S., ii., 302, 303, 

Dix, John A., ii., 303, 311. 

Douglas, Stephen A., ii., 271, 329, 
349, 403. 

Duane, William J., Secretary of the 
Treasury, opposes removal of de 
posits, ii., 26, 27 ; removed, 28. 

EATON, John H., i., 238, 245, 329, 379. 

Ellwanger, Amos, i., 342. 

Emancipation, i., 27, ff ; movement 
in Kentucky, 29, 30 ; ii., 315. 

Erskine, British Minister, i., 73, 91. 

Eustis, William, offers resolution to 
admit Missouri, i., 185. 

Everett, Edward, ii.,186. 

Ewing, Thomas, i., 376; opposes re 
moval of deposits, ii., 36 ; on ap 
pointing and removing power, 61, 
68 ; against expunging resolution, 
101, 186 ; Secretary of Treasury, 
190 ; report, 204, 208 ; resigns, 213. 

Expunging resolution, ii., 99, ff ; 
passed, 104. 

FATHER Mathew, ii., 327. 

Federalists, i., 31, 32, 59, 89, 129 ; op 
posing tariff of 1816, 129 ; opposing 
U. S. Bank, 133 ; principles of, 136 ; 
decline of, 140, 311, 316, 317. 

Fessenden, W. Pitt, i., 380. 

Field, David Dudley, ii., 258. 

Filmore, Millard, nominated for vice- 
presidency, 305; character, 354; 
aspirant to the presidential nomina 
tion, 399, 400. 

Flagg, Azariah, ii., 311. 

Florida, West, i., 57, ff; Jackson 
Florida war, 151, 152; treaty for 
cession of, 162. 

Floyd, John, on Missouri, i., 190, 191, 

Foote, Henry S., ii., 329, 346. 

Forsyth, John, i., 244. 

France, the continental system, Milan 
decree, i., 69 ; offensive conduct, 
74; difficulties with the U. S., ii., 
25, ff. 

Free Soilers, ii., 311, 313, 341. 

Frelhighuysen, Theodore, on four 
years term law, ii., 68 ; nominated 
for vice-president, 249. 

Fugitive-slave law, i., 182; ii., 332, 
348, 362, 369-371, 375-6, 378, 380-1. 

GAINES, General, ii., 90. 

Gallatin, Albert, Secretary of the 
Treasury, report on internal im 
provements, i., 46 ; report on man 
ufacturing industries, 55 ; on U. S. 
Bank, 62 64 ; appointed peace 

commissioner, 100 ; at Ghent, 105, 
ff ; in London, 124, 128 ; for Greek 
cause, 208; Panama mission, 293; 
Minister to England, 297 ; negotia 
tions about colonial trade, 298 ; 
slave extradition, 301 ; attacked by 
Clay, 362-4; ii., 35; promoting 
specie payments, 142, 201, 410. 

Gambler, Lord, British peace com 
missioner, i., 10P, 124. 

Garrison, William Lloyd, ii., 71, 74, 
75, 76. 

Ghent, designated for meeting of 
peace commissioners, i., 102 ; be 
ginning of negotiations at, 107, ff ; 
treaty signed, 112. 122. 

Giddings, Joshua R. , ii., 233, 234, 378. 

Goulburn, Henry, British peace com 
missioner, i., 105, 124. 

Gouverneur, Samuel L., ii., 82. 

Granger, Francis, i., 343; candidate 
for vice-presidency, ii., 97 ; Post 
master General, 190. 

Greece, i., 208, ff. 

Great Britain, feeling against, i., 49 ; 
blockade, orders in council, i., 69 ; 
impressment of seamen, 70 ; peace 
with, 112: negotiation with, 124; 
negotiation concerning colonial 
trade, 297, 298 ; ii., 237. 

Greeley, Horace, ii., 192, 263, 318. 

Gruudy, Felix, belonging to war 
party, i., 78. 

HALE, John P., ii.,310, 311, 329, 378. 

Hamilton, Col. James A., i., 329, 336. 

Hamlin, Hannibal, ii., 329, 351. 

Harrison, William H., General in war 
of 1812, i., 98, 105 ; nominated for 
presidency, ii., 97, 174 ; again nom 
inated for presidency, 179, 184, 185 ; 
elected, 188 ; meets Clay, 189-190 ; 
relations with Clay, 194-196 ; death, 

Hart, Lucretia, Mrs. Clay, i., 24. 

Hart, Thomas, i., 37. 

Harvey, James E., ii., 323. 

Henderson, T. P., ii., 239. 

Henry, Patrick, on emancipation, i., 
28, 29. 

Henry, Joint, i., 82. 

Herrera, president of Mexico, ii., 

Hill, Isaac, i., 344, 352. 

Hoist, Von, Dr. H., ii., 106. 

Horsey, Outerbridge, on West Flor 
idacase, i.,59, 60. 

Houston, Sam., ii., 89, 90 ; president 
of Texas, 238; rejects armistice. 
239, 329. 

Huelsemann, Chevalier, ii., 391 

Hunkers, ii., 303. 



Hunt, Ward, ii., 311 
Hunt, Washington, ii., 263. 
Hunter, Robert M. T., ii., 329. 

INDIANS, ii.,58, 59. 

Ingham, Samuel D., i., 329; com 
mands the U. S. Bank, 352 

Internal improvements, policy of, i., 
40, ff ; report on, 46 ; Madison s 
veto, 138 ; Monroe s message on, 
162 ; resolution on, 145. 

JACKSON, Andrew, in war of 1812, 
i., 106; in Florida war, 151, 152; 
his military fame and popularity, 

158 ; vindicated by House of Repr., 

159 ; candidate for presidency, 222- 
6, 232 ; meets Clay, 237, 249, 254, 
255 ; again candidate for presidency, 
263-4 ; his platform, 277 ; on bar 
gain and corruption, 282-5 ; elected 
President, 288, 311; political posi 
tion, 303 ; as a party leader, 320-4 ; 
hating Clay, 328-30 ; spoils-politics, 
332-5; his Cabinet, 336, 344-7; 
attacks the U. S. Bank, 352, 354 ; 
on the tariff, 358-9 ; nominates Van 
Buren for Minister to England, 3GO ; 
public lands, 369 ; bank veto, 374-8 ; 
effect of veto, 380 ; in campaign of 
1832, 381 ; reflected, 382 ; ii., 2 ; 
message of 1832, 5 ; proclamation 
against nulliflers, 6, 7 ; recommends 
force bill, 9 ; threatening Calhoun, 
12, 13 ; signs tariff compromise, 19. 
21 ; presidential tour, 23 ; removal 
of deposits, 25, S ; message, 29 ; 
answer to Clay s resolutions, 30, 
31 ; protests against resolution of 
censure, 39, 40, 43, 47, 50 ; message 
concerning French difficulties, 54. 
56, 57 ; disapproves land bill, 68 ; 
message on abolition publications, 
83 ; Texas, 89 ; message on Mexican 
claims, 93 ; expunging resolution, 
103 ; his triumph, 105 ; the " reign " 
of A. J., 106-112 ; on distribution, 
118 ; approves bill, 120 ; specie cir 
cular, 123, 124, 184 ; letter for an 
nexation of Texas, 238 : letter fa 
voring Van Buren, 247 ; letter 
against Clay, 257 ; orders explora 
tion of Columbia country, 278, 407, 

Jackson, Francis James, British Min 
ister; i., 73. 

Jefferson, Thomas, student in George 
Wythe s office, i., 7 ; prosperity un 
der presidency of, 40, ff ; on inter 
nal improvements, 45 ; averse to 
war, 68 ; embargo, 71 ; man of 
peace, 72, 127 ; on Missouri ques 

tion, 193; ii.,32; on distribution, 

115, 409. 

Johnson, Reverdy, ii., 186. 
Johnson, Richard M., on Clay, L, 

211, 348. 

Johnston, Andrew, ii., 289. 
Johnston, J. S., i., 228. 

KEARNEY, General, sent to New Mex 
ico, ii., 284. 

Kendall, Amos, opinion of Kentucky 
society, i., 17 ; member of the 
Kitchen Cabinet, 344, 345 ; advises 
removal of deposits, ii., 25 ; Post 
master General, 82. 

Kent, Joseph, against expunging res 
olution, ii., 101. 

Kentucky, settlement of, i. , 13 ; char 
acter of population, 14, ff ; emanci 
pation movement, 27; "relief" 
movement, 203. 

King, Preston, ii., 303, 311. 

King, Rufus, appointed Minister to 
England, i., 259, 297. 

King, William R., ii., 68, 329. 

Kitchen Cabinet, Jackson s, i.,344; 
ii., 25; Tyler s,214, 217. 

Kossuth, Louis, ii., 391-395. 

Kremer, George, i., 243, ff ; 254. 

LAFAYETTE, Marquis de, i., 234, 235. 

Leigh, B. Watkins, ii., 179. 

Letcher, Robert P., i., 247 ; ii., 225. 

Lewis, William B., i., 344. 

Lexington, Ky., settlement of, i., 16; 
literary centre, 17. 

Liberty party, ii., 253, 261, 264, 310. 

Lincoln, Abraham, ii., 288. 

Liverpool, Lord, i., 108, 118. 

Livingston, Edward, i., 347; Minister 
to France, ii., 26, 53, 57. 

Long, James, ii., 87. 

Louis Philippe, king of the French, 
ii., 52, 53. 

Lovejoy, Elijah P., ii., 74. 

Lowndes, William, belonging to war 
party, i., 78; on the navy, 80; 
favors tariff, 130 ; reports on Mis 
souri question, 185. 

Lundy, Benjamin, ii., 70, 75. 

MADISON, James, President, on West 
Florida case, i., 58; proclamation 
concerning intercourse with Great 
Britain, 73 ; message advising war 
like preparations, 77 ; character, 
78 ; recommends embargo, 82 ; nom 
inated for reelection, 83 ; receives 
offer of Russian mediation, 99, 128 ; 
vetoes internal improvement bill. 
138; on removing power, ii., 63 
64, 85, 86, 201. 



Mangum, W. P., ii., 68, 329. 

Mann, Abijah, ii., 311. 

Marcy, William L., i., 367 ; Secretary 
of War, ii., 303. 

Marshall, Humphrey, i., 51; duel, 

Marshall, John, i., 7, 256. 

Mason, James M., ii., 329, 337, 349. 

Mason, Jeremiah, i., 352. 

McLane, Louis, i., 347; on public 
lands, 3G9; Secretary of State, ii., 

McLean, John, Postmaster General, ! 
i., 258, 281. 

Mendenhall, ii., 230. 

Mexican war, ii., 274-289. 

Middleton, Henry, i., 160, 271. 

Miller, Stephen F., ii., 260. 

Missouri, bill admitting, i., 172, ff ; 
second phase of question, 183, ff ; 
admitted, 192 ; the Missouri com 
promise, 194. 

Monroe, James, i., 71 ; Secretary of 
State, 126; elected President, 140 ; j 
his Cabinet arrangements, 141 ; j 
makes John Quincy Adams Secre- i 
tary of State, 141, 146, 147, 148, 161, 
163, 164 ; message, 142, 146 ; Span- ] 
ish Am. colonies, 149, 150, 161 ; on I 
Texas, 164 ; message in favor of rec- i 
ognizing Spanish Amer. republics, | 
168 ; reflected President, 190, 200, i 
201, 204, 206 ; Monroe doctrine, I 
210; 221, 409; ii., 410; sympathizes I 
with Greeks, 209. 

Morris, Thomas, ii., 253. 

Murphy, American agent in Texas, 
ii., 239, 240. 

NAPOLEON, emperor of the French, i., 
69, 70, 74, 76, 87, 99, 106, 117. 

Nashville Convention, ii., 321, 353, 

Native Americans, ii., 265, 294. 

Nelson, John, Secretary of State pro 
tern., ii., 239, 240. 

New Orleans, battle of, i., 117, 118. 

Nullification, ii., 2, ff. 

O CoNNELL, Daniel, ii., 327. 
Omnibus bill, ii., 348, 351, 361. 
Opdyke, George, ii., 311. 
Orders in Council, i., 69, 73, 75, 87, 

Oregon, ii., 277-282, 292, 311. 

PANAMA Congress, i., 267-273. 

Paredes, president of Mexico, ii., 
276 ; refuses to receive U. S. Minis 
ter, 282. 

Patriot war, ii., 150. 

Patronage, i., 259-262, 289, 332, ff; 
ii., 60, ff. 

Petitions, business distress, ii., 36, 
ff ; anti-slavery, 78-81, 152-154. 

Pickering, Timothy, on West Florida 
case, i., 59, 62. 

Pierce, Franklin, nominated for the 
presidency, ii., 401. 

Pindell, Richard, ii., 316. 

Plumer, William, on Clay s appear 
ance in the Senate, i., 47, 48. 

Poindexter, George, on four years 
term law, ii., 68. 

Poinsett, JoelR., American Minister 
in Mexico, i., 293, 296 ; ii., 86. 

Polk, James K., reports resolutions 
against restoration of deposits, ii., 
47 ; nominated for President, 251, 
255 ; the Kane letter, 256, 257, 261 ; 
elected President, 264 ; inaugurated, 
272 ; sends Slidell to Mexico, 275 ; 
on Oregon, 279, 280 ; refers Oregon 
question to Senate, 281, 285 ; rec 
ommends territorial government, 

Porter, Peter B., i., 228; ii., 175, 192, 

Preston, D. C., on four years term 
law, ii. , 68 ; against expunging res 
olution, 101 ; on the surplus, 120 ; 
opposes Van Buren s policy, 135, 
164, 168, 224. 

Protest, Jackson s, ii., 39-42. 

Publications, anti-slavery, ii., 81-85. 

QTJINCY, Josiah, in opposition to war 
of 1812, i., 89, 90. 

RANDOLPH, John, opposes war, i., 84; 
opposes tariff, 130 ; motion to re 
consider Missouri bill, 180 ; on 
counting electoral vote, 191 ; sug 
gesting secession, 197 ; duel with 
Clay, 273-5, 278 ; meets Clay, ii., 22. 

Removal of deposits, ii. , 25, ff . 

Republicans, young leaders of, i., 77, 
85 ; new republicanism, 127, 128 ; 
Republican protectionists, 130; fa 
voring U. S. Bank, 133 ; latitudina- 
rian principles of, 136. 

Repudiation, ii., 211. 

Rhett, Barnwell, ii., 357. 

Richmond, Dean, ii., 311. 

Riley, General, military governor of 
California, ii., 320. " 

Rives, W. C., against expunging reso 
lution, ii., 101; turns "conserva 
tive," 144, 173. 

Robinson, Lord Goderich,i., 124, 298. 

Rochester, W. B., i., 228. 

Romanzoff, Russian chancellor, i., 



Rush, Richard, Secretary of the Treas 
ury, i., 258; Anti-Mason, 343. 

Rusk, Thomas J., ii., 329, 349. 

Russell, Jonathan, peace commission 
er, i., 100, 251. 

Russell, Lord John, ii., 279. 

SANTA Ana, Lopez de, ii., 89, 90, 
280 ; provisional president of Mex 
ico, defeated at Buena Vista and 
other battles, 286. 

Sargent, Epes, on compromise of 
1835, ii., 12. 

Sargent, Nathan, i., 160; ii., 194, 266. 

Scott, Winfield, ii., 178, 179; expe 
dition upon Vera Cruz, 285 ; wins 
victories and enters City of Mexico, 
286; defeated in convention, 305, 
398, 399 ; nominated for the presi 
dency, 402. 

Sedgwick, Theodore, ii., 258. 

Sergeant, John, on Missouri question, 
i., 185, 293; nominated for vice- 
president, 356; ii., 208. 

Seward, William H., i., 343; ii., 176; 
supports Taylor, 312, 329; speech 
against compromise, 342-344, 345, 
389, 404. 

Shadrach case, ii., 378, ff. 

Slavery, i., 27-31, 172, ff, 194-200, 
299-307; ii., 70, ff, 152, ff, 232, 
261, 285, 291, 309-312, 313, 315- 
318, 319-322, 324, 329-346, 366-372, 

Slidell, John, Minister to Mexico, ii., 
275, 276 ; demands reception, 283. 

Sloat, Commodore, ii., 275. 

Smith, Oliver H., on Calhoun resolu 
tions, ii., 157. 

Smith, Truman, ii., 329. 

Soule, Pierre, ii., 329, 349. 

Southard, Samuel L., Secretary of 
the Navy, i. , 258 ; Senator, opposes 
removal of deposits, ii., 26 ; on four 
years term law, 68 ; against ex 
punging resolution, 101 : opposes 
Van Buren s policy, 135, 179. 

Spanish American colonies, i., 146 ; 
motion in favor of, defeated, 150, 
165-171 ; recognized as independent 
states, 168. 

Specie circular, ii., 124. 

Spenser, Ambrose, ii., 264. 

Spoils politics, i.,332, ff ; ii., 183, 184. 

Stael, Madame de, i., 124. 

Stephens, Alexander H., ii,, 269, 296, 
322, 341, 374. 

Sterret case, i., 259, ff. 

Stevens, Thaddeus, i. , 343. 

Stevenson, Thomas B., ii., 318, 323. 

Story, Joseph, i., 256. 

Sub-treasury, ii., 136 ff, 264, 283. 

Sumner, Charles, ii., 404. 

Sumner, Prof. William G., biography 

of Andrew Jackson, i., 203, 373. 
Swartwout, Samuel, i., 254 ; ii., 183. 

TALLMADGE, James, moves anti-slav 
ery amendment on Missouri bill, i., 

Tallmadge, N. P., ii., 85, 180. 

Taiiey, Roger B., i., 347; Secretary 
of the Treasury, removes deposits, 
ii., 28 ; report, 29, 30 ; nomination 
rejected, 43. 

Tariff of 1816, i., 129, ff ; of 1824, 212, 
ff ; of 1828, 286 ; of 1832, 357, ff ; 
of 1846, 283. 

Taylor, John W., on Missouri bill, i., 

Taylor, General Zachary, ii., 274 ; or 
dered to advance to the Rio Grande, 
277 ; moves to Rio Grande, 282, 283 ; 
defeats Mexicans at Palo Alto and 
Resaca, 284 ; takes Monterey, 285 ; 
candidate for presidency, 293, ff ; 
candidate against the field, 298; 
nominated for presidency, 305 : op 
position to, 308-310 ; elected Presi 
dent, 313 ; agent to California, 320, 
321 : messages on California and 
New Mexico, 325; character, 326, 
327, 346 ; opposed to compromise, 
350, 351 ; death, 354. 

Texas, excluded by Florida treaty, i. , 
162, 163 ; annexation scheme, ii., 86, 
ff ; annexation proposed, 235, 238 ; 
annexation treaty sent to Senate, 
247 ; annexation treaty defeated, 
259 ; annexed by joint resolution, 
271 ; accepts annexation, 273. 

Thomas, Jessie B., offers compromise 
proposition on Missouri bill, i., 177. 

Thompson, George, ii., 380. 

Thompson, Richard, ii., 186. 

Tilden, Samuel J., ii., 311. 

Tucker, George, ii., 85. 

Tucker, Henry St. George, i., 142, 

Turner, Nat., ii., 73. 

Tyler, John, representative from Vir 
ginia, i. , 256, 279 ; Senator, opposes 
force bill, ii., 17 ; on four years 
term law, 68 ; candidate for vice- 
presidency, 97 ; resigns from Sen 
ate, 99, 173 ; nominated for vice- 
presidency, 180 ; President, 197 ; 
record, 198, 199, 200 ; addrees to 
the people, 201 ; letter to Clay, 202; 
message, 202 ; vetoes bank bill, 205, 
207, 208 ; second bank veto, 209, 210, 
213, 214, 215 ; third veto, 225 ; on 
annexing Texas, 236 ; reorganizes 
Cabinet, 236 ; pushes annexation, 



237, 238 ; message with annexation 
treaty, 248 ; candidate for President 
and withdraws, 252 ; message con 
cerning Texas, 259, 270, 272, 278. 

Tyler, John, Jr., ii., 213. 

Tyler, Lyon G., ii., 238. 

ULLMANN, Daniel, ii., 385, 395, 406. 
Upshur, Abel P., Secretary of State, 

ii., 237, 238 ; on protecting Texas, 

239 ; death, 239. 

VAN BUREN, John, ii., 311. 

Van Buren, Martin, Senator from 
New York, i., 229-30 ; on Clay, 233, 
279, 298 ; Secretary of State, 329 ; 
nominated as Minister to England, 
365 ; attacked by Clay, 366-7 ; re 
jected, 367 ; nominated for vice- 
president, 379 ; apostrophized by 
Clay, ii., 37, 38; nominated for 
presidency, 95 ; elected, 97 ; char 
acter, 128-130 ; calls an extra ses 
sion, 130 ; first message, 132-134, 
171 ; reuominated, 182, 184 ; de 
clines annexing Texas, 235 ; under 
standing with Clay, 243 ; letter on 
Texas, 246, 247 ; defeated in con 
vention, 250, 251 ; nominated at 
Utica and Buffalo, 310, 311 ; oppo 
sition to, 312, 314. 

Verplanck, Guliau C., reports tariff 
bill, ii., 8, 12. 

Veto, Madison s, of internal improve 
ment bill, i., 138 ; Monroe s, of 
toll-gate bill, 206 ; Jackson s, of U. 
S. bank bill, 374-5 ; Tyler s, of U. S. 
bank bill, ii., 205 ; second veto, 209 ; 
of two tariff bills, 225, 226 ; Clay 
on veto power, i., 377 ; ii., 187, 221, 

WADE, Benjamin F., ii., 404. 

Wadsworth, James S., ii., 311. 

Walker, Robert J., ii., 91, 271. 

War of 1812, causes of, i., 68, ff ; de 
clared, 84 ; insufficient preparation 
for, 85 ; unfortunate beginning of, 
86 ; events of, 98 ; Russian media 
tion, 99 ; further events of, 105, 106 ; 
end and consequences of, 116, ff. 

Watkins, Capt. Henry, Clay s step 
father, i., 4 ; emigrates to Ken 
tucky, 9. 

Webb, James Watson, i., 361. 

Webster, Daniel, opposing the tariff, 
i., 130 ; opposing the bank charter, 
133 ; on Greek cause, 209 ; on tariff 
of 1824, 218 ; on " American sys 
tem," 220, 247, 256, 263 ; 011 Clay- 
Randolph duel, 274 ; calls for Clay 
aa a leader, 347-8 ; on U. S. Bank, 

355 ; opposes bank veto, 376 ; ap 
prehends secession movement, ii., 
5, 11 ; opposed to tariff compromise, 
16 ; advocates force bill, 17 ; against 
removal of deposits, 36, 42 ; on ap 
pointing and removing power, 61, 
62 ; on four years term law, 68 ; on 
recognition of Texas, 91 ; candidate 
for presidency, 96, 97 ; against ex 
punging resolution, 101, 104 ; on 
specie circular, 125 ; opposes Van 
Bureu s policy, 137 ; opposes sub- 
treasury bill, 141 ; debate with Cal- 
houn, 145 ; aspiring to presidency, 
173, 174, 179, 186 ; Secretary of 
State, 190; reform circular, 196, 
200, 208 ; remains in Cabinet, 213, 

215, 216, 217 ; opposed to annex 
ation of Texas, resigns, 236 ; at 
Whig convention, 248-250, 278 ; de 
feated in convention, 305 ; supports 
Taylor reluctantly, 309, 329 ; 7th of 
March speech, 339-342 ; on Seward, 
345, 346, 349 ; Secretary of State, 
354 ; compromise speeches, 376 ; 
compromise speeches, 386 ; Huelse- 
inann letter, 391, 393, 396 ; aspirant 
to the nomination, 398-400 ; de 
feated, 402 ; compared to Clay, 408. 

I Weed, Thurlow, i.,343, 355; ii., 176, 
177, 178, 180, 192, 193, 197, 263, 293. 

I Wellesley, Marquis of, i., 119. 

! Wellington, Duke of, i., 108, 124. 

Whigs, origin of party, i., 316, ff ; 

character of, 318-20 ; ii., 44, 95 ; in 

presidential campaign of 1836, 97, 

119, 137, 172, 178, 184, 186, 188, 203, 

216, 217, 219, 266, 271, 287, 288, 
294 ; disagreements on slavery, 300- 
301, 304, 306; "conscience," 309, 
333, 395-399, 402, 404, 405. 

White, Hugh L., on four years term 
law, ii., 68; candidate for presi 
dency, 97 ; against expunging reso 
lution, 101. 

Whitman, Dr. Marcus, ii., 278. 

Whitney, Asa, ii., 279. 

Wilmot, David, moves proviso, ii., 

Wilson, Henry, ii., 305. 

Wirt, William, Attorney General, i., 
258 ; nominated by A nti -Masons, 

Wise, Henry A., ii., 177, 180, 186, 199, 
200, 201, 209, 214, 217. 

Woodbury, Levi, Secretary of the 
Treasury, i., 347, 352 ; ii., 43. 

Worthington, Thomas, on internal im 
provements, i., 46. 

Wright, Silas, ii., 42 ; on four years 
term law, 68, 85, 191; declines 
nomination for vice-presidency, 251; 



candidate for governor of New 
York, 258. 

Wythe, George, takes Clay as amanu 
ensis, i., 6 ; career and character, 7. 

X. Y. Z. correspondence, i., 31, 
YANCBY, W. L., ii., 304. 





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