Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

could appreciate. Twice wounded, and twice promoted in the Revolution, known to be favored by General Washington, employed by Adams in foreign service, and recalled from France because his sympathies for the Revolutionists were too manifest, and their regard for him too conspicuous, a law-student with Jefferson, a Virginian of good family, blessed with a lovely and attractive wife,-he had recently crowned his diplomatic career by succeeding in the purchase of Louisiana, two weeks after his arrival in Paris. The merit of this great acquisition seemed to be chiefly his, though it was not; and there was a considerable party of Republicans who desired to reward it by elevating him to the chief-magistracy. Ile was very far indeed from being a great man. The spirit of command was not in him, nor had he the tact which frequently supplies its place. He aspired to the highest honors of the State, and he saw, not without repining, that the preference of Mr. Jefferson for his rival was likely to defer the gratification of his wishes. Mr. Jefferson has informed posterity, that in this contest he maintained an absolute neutrality, and we have not the slightest question of the fact. But Mr. Jefferson's preference for Madison was cvident, and such was the ascendency of the President in the Republican party, that that preference was decisive of Mr. Madison's nomination by the Congressional caucus.

That nominntion was made, however, with the understanding that Monroe was to be James Madison's successor. It is surprising to notice under what discipline the Democratic party was at that early day. Monroe, who was the favorite of the extreme Republicans, such as Andrew Jackson, received but three votes in the Congressional caucus, out of eighty-nine, while James Madison, the “ regular candidate" of the party, received eightythree. Monroe, we may gather from the correspondence of the time, was restive under his defeat; but he was recalled to his duty, and reconciled to his fate, by a few kind and wise lines from the pen of Mr. Jefferson.

Of all the men elected by universal suffrage to the chief-magistracy of a nation, the one that was least likely to be spontaneously elected was James Madison. In personal appearance and demeanor, dressed as he was always in a suit of black, he was more like a student than a man of the world. A plain, sound, and courtcous speaker, there was neither great force nor brilliancy in his oratory. Ile was a man of the closet, far more able to form a correct opinion respecting government, than to administer government in times of difficulty. A relative of Jefferson, who was much with him in his old age, bas informed us that Thomas Jefferson respected more highly the understanding of

а

any

James Madison, and deferred to it more, than to that of other man of bis time. It is not, however, the wisdom of the cloister which can conduct a young nation with honor and success through a war with an ancient and powerful empire. That the disasters of the war of 1812 did not prevent the re-election of Mr. Madison is a proof, at once, of Jefferson's commanding influence, of the strict discipline of the Democratic party, and, above all, of the good sense of the American people. Whatever might have been Mr. Madison's shortcomings, it was not clear to the party or to the public that any one else would do better, and “it is no time," as Mr. Lincoln remarked " to swap horses when you are swimming a stream.” When some weak brethren of the party faltered in their support of the President, and besought Mr. Jefferson to come to his aid in the Cabinet, be replied, and that, too, at a time of extreme despondency in the public mind : “ From three and thirty years' trial, I can say conscientiously, that I do not know in the world a man of purer integrity, more dispassionate, disinterested, and devoted to genuine republicanism; nor could I, in the whole scope of America and Europe, point out an abler head. He may be illy seconded by others, betrayed by the lulls and Arnolds of our country,—for such there are in every country, and with sorrow and suffering we know it,—but what man can do, will be done by Mr. Madison. I hope, therefore, there will be no difference among Republicans as to his re-election.”

Supported thus by the venerable chief of the Democrats, and aided by cheering victories upon the ocean, Mr. Madison was re-elected by one hundred and twenty-eight electoral votes, to De Witt Clinton's eighty-nine.

When the war closed in a blaze of triumph at New Orleans, in 1815, the Federal party was a thing of the past. It may be laid down as a rule, that a political party which gives a doubtful support to the adıninistration during a war in which the honor and safety of the country are at stake, and from which the nation issues triumphant, will never regain power under its old name and organization. This iaw has been twice exemplified in the history of the United States. The Federal party ceased to exist in 1815, and James Monroe succeeded to the Presidency in 1817 and was re-elected in 1821, with the nearest approach to unanimity the country has seen since the days of Washington.

Another law of politics may be laid down : whenever a political party has practically extinguished the party in opposition to it, it will speedily divide. Even if there did not exist a necessity for this in

human nature, it would occur sooner or later from the ambition of rival chiefs.

If James Monroe had been a man of commanding character, or even a thorough-going partisan, it would have been easy for him to continue the Jeffersonian dynasty by choosing his successor. But he was neither. So moderate had be become, that he was disposed to give one of the places in his Cabinet to a Federalist. “While I am here," he wrote to General Jackson, a few days before his inauguration, “I shall make the administration, first, for the country and its cause; secondly, to give effect to the government of the people, through me, for the term of my appointment, not for the aggrandizement of any one.” In this spirit the good-natured and hospitable old soldier conducted bis administration, and consequently neither of the able men who aspired to the succession was able to use the administration for the promotion of his views.

The leading competitors were six in number, and each of them possessed some signal advantage over the others. John Quincy Adams, as Secretary of State, was in the line of succession which the usage of twenty-four years had established. William H. Crawford, by withdrawing his name from the caucus of 1816 in favor of Mr. Monroe, had acquired a kind of right, which was acknowledged, to a nomination by the caucus of 1824; and he was indeed regarded as the rightful candidate of the party. Henry Clay, the first orator of his time, who had carried the war of 1812 upon his shoulders,—the favorite of the House of Representatives, over which he had presided for fourteen years,—could form well-founded hopes of success before the people. Calhoun and De Witt Clinton were also prominent candidates ; and, in distant Tennessee, there was Andrew Jackson, the most popular man then living in the country, whom the Legislature of his State had placed in nomination.

As Mr. Crawford was the predestined candidate of the Congressional caucus, neither of his rivals could hope for the prize unless the caucus system were abolished. Accordingly, such a clamor was fomented in the country against “King Caucus," that the prestige of that potentate was destroyed. It was in vain that the party managers admitted the public to witness the deliberations of the caucus.

On the evening appointed for its meeting, while the galleries of the House of Representatives were crowded with spectators, there were but sixty-six members of Congress upon the floor, who nominated Crawford, amid the derision of the country, and without increasing his strength in any section of it.

a

The party

King Caucus was thus dethroned without leaving an heir to succeed him, and, for the next eight years, there was no settled and recognized plan of nominating candidates. Andrew Jackson, first recommended to the people by the Legislature of Tennessee, indorsed by State Conventions and public meetings, was a name of magic with the people, and required little artificial aid. Mr. Adams's battle was fought chiefly by the Press and the usual local machinery. This want of system in nominating candidates so divided the electoral vote, that the people failed to elect a President, and the election devolved upon the House of Representatives, which set aside the favorite of the people, and chose Mr. Adams.

For the election of 1828, no preliminary caucns and no other system of nomination was necessary. There could be but two candidates: the incumbent of the Presidential chair, and the popular soldier whose friends had industriously disseminated the falsehood, that he had been cheated out of the Presidency in 1825.

General Jackson was elected. He received one hundred and seventy-eight electoral votes, and Mr. Adams eighty-three. Thus, the powerful Republican party, triumphant and united since 1801, was divided, and the two divisions soon adopted new names. of which Andrew Jackson was the idolized chief was called Democratic, and that which looked up to Henry Clay as its head took the name of Whig.

General Jackson, as every one knows, brought into the Presidential chair the passions which five years of political strife had generated and inflamed, and the two darling objects of his policy were to keep Henry Clay out of and bring Martin Van Buren into the Presidency. Scarcely one important act of his administration was performed which had not some bearing upon one or the other of these objects. We, however, have only to do with the measures taken to prepare for the elevation of Mr. Van Buren.

General Jackson, we can positively assert, came to Washington in 1829, intending to serve but one term. He brought with him in his pocket a paper of rules for the conduct of his administration ; which rules he had read to several of his friends in Ternessee, and he had pledged himself to abide by them. One of these rules was, that no member of his Cabinet should be a candidate for the succession. The object of this, as he said, was to prevent a recurrence of the intrigues which had taken place in the Cabinet of “ Jim Monrue,” as he was wont to style his old friend; almost every member of which had been an active candidate for the succession. This famous rule was read to

the way

the members of General Jackson's Cabinet, and they all admitted its reasonableness, and promised a compliance with it. There was, however, but one member of the Cabinet of sufficient prominence to be thought of as a candidate, and that was Martin Van Buren, Secretary of State. To him alone the rule could be supposed to apply.

Andrew Jackson was not a man to let a slip of writing paper inter pose an obstacle to the execution of his will, and a means was readily found of removing Mr. Van Buren from the list of the excluded.

On General Jackson's inauguration day, his most intimate friends could not have foretold which would finally stand highest in his regard, Vice-President Calhoun or Mr. Van Buren. The events which led to the President's speedy and total estrangement from Mr. Calhoun, and which induced him to dedicate himself, as it were, to the elevation of Mr. Van Buren, are too well known to be related here. It suffices merely to remind the reader of the fact; and by that fact the politics of the United States were not merely influenced, but controlled, for a period of thirty years.

[blocks in formation]

ANOTHER hit at neutral England, which made papa get up

with a groan, and walk the floor. Mamma gare a reproachful look at Nora; but that young lady was occupied with a difficult stitch. The harmony of the evening was destroyed; and we saw there was no chance of leading the conversation out of that unpleasant channel.

But we had heard what had awakened our liveliest curiosity, and we determined to learn from Kitty all she knew of the two lads who bad made such an impression on us, upon the only occasion on which we had seen them.

An opportunity soon offered. One forenoon we called, and found Kitty alone in her own room, busy with some hospital sewing-employment in which her active fingers were constantly engaged. We offered to assist her, and, while so occupied, obtained from her the desired intelligence.

Young Dalton was, indeed, in the rebel service; but, alas ! more through the influence of “ Leonora the beautiful” than of his own free choice.

« ElőzőTovább »