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necessity of reform in Normal training, and the fundamental necessity of better qualification for teachers, were emphasized.”
It was not alone, however, the great cause of human progress, whether materially in the construction of bridges and railways and opening up the highways of commerce by land and by water, and in all other forms of “internal improvement,” or spiritually, in founding, maintaining, developing the various educational agencies, primary, secondary, and especially higher, for freeing, enlightening, ennobling the mind of man - it was not this cause alone, however worthy or important, that enlisted the legislative efforts of Rollins in its behalf: the cause of humanity, helpless, hopeless, miserable, "smitten of God and afflicted,” was equally near and sacred to his heart. The bill for the establishment of the first asylum ever founded in the State the one at Fulton for the insane, found in him its especial champion. In fact, his earnest, prolonged, and successful advocacy of a liberal policy, both educational and eleemosynary, does almost equal credit to his head and to his heart.
THE PARTY LEADER.
It was not strange that Major Rollins should now find himself at the head of his party in the State. No arts of demagogue, no tricks of politician, no skill of party manager, but desert and service had won him that distinction. He had echoed no popular cry, had mounted no wave of transient emotion, had ingratiated himself with no controlling interest or influence. The measures he had urged in no wise appealed to the masses, but rather repelled them by calling for expenditure of money. It is not the fading temporalities that so readily catch the untaught eye of the voter, but the unseen eternalities of truth and mercy that had engaged his closest attention. Nevertheless, his energy, his ability, his fealty to the doctrines of his party, his distinguished legislative record, his knightly though courteous and affable bearing, yet more than all perhaps his persuasive popular oratory, recommended him irresistibly to the convention, and he was nominated for Governor in 1848. He was but thirty-six years of age, not yet at the mid round of the ladder of life, and
hitherto had been the favorite of fortune in his political aspirations. But now it was that Nemesis, whose watchful jealousy rarely forgets, began to overtake him. For no State was more firmly anchored to Democratic moorings than Missouri. To wrest her therefrom was an attempt, to say the least, sufficiently courageous. The Democratic nominee was a worthy opponent, the Hon. Austin A. King. The candidates agreed to a joint canvass of the State, a plan that undoubtedly presented then, and would seem to present now, a great many very marked advantages. The characteristic absurdity of political warfare is the immense waste of ammunition on “dead ducks.” At a great Democratic “rally,” heralded and advertised by all the devices of the printing-press, celebrated and accented by all the "pomp, pride, and circumstance" of the blare of brass and the tramp of processions, involving the outlay of hundreds of dollars in the importation of " distinguished speakers ” and other necessary "legitimate expenses,” the great bulk of the attendance will already be safely and certainly Democratic: the persuasion is lost on persons already persuaded, the argument on minds already convinced. It is not sinners but the righteous that are called to repentance; those of another political complexion attend in small numbers, and listen on the outskirts under manifest disadvantages. Besides this, the statements of the speaker, however false, misleading, or exaggerated, pass unchallenged; his reasonings, however fallacious, go unexposed — a circumstance that makes neither for the orator's nor for the auditors' good. In the "joint canvass ” both of these evils are corrected, the mass-meeting is converted into a deliberative assembly, the inflammatory harangue into an argumentative appeal, the monotony of assertion must be somewhat broken by attempts at proof, and the insipidity of the address is flavored by the zest and relish of debate. Such a canvass would have peculiar charm for Rollins, who was disposed perhaps too little to arouse, animate, and organize his supporters, but rather to convince, persuade, or at least conciliate his opponents. The contest fell in a presidential year and one of exceeding interest. Eight years before, the Whigs had been overwhelmingly successful in a campaign of merely popular enthusiasm inspired by martial memories, personal magnetism, social and sectional prejudice, and political catch-songs, under a military hero and by the help of methods that had at least the merit of novelty. Four years after this victory, the fruits of which Death snatched away from them prematurely, they had been barely defeated under an orator, a statesman, and above all a popular leader. They now once more forsook the pen for the sword, argument for exhortation, the senate-chamber for the tented field, the party leader for the popular hero, in the nomination of Gen. Zachary Taylor, a nomination, said the justly disappointed and disgusted Webster, “not fit to be made.” Once more it was to be a campaign of acclaim and enthusiasm, and once more it was successful, buta Pyrrhus victory that brought ultimate ruin to the victors. But though on this occasion Major Rollins found himself, on national issues, supporting a chance candidate, the accident of Buena Vista, yet he did not lower his own canvas to catch the gale of popular feeling; on the contrary he conducted it throughout in the high regions of genuine statesmanship. The contest was a most exciting one. Like some perpetual tornado it swept over the State, shifting
. rapidly from town to town, from county to county, its center of disturbance. Here to-day, yonder yesterday, from far and near the scattered rural populace of both parties surged together to wait upon the high argument, to disperse and reassemble elsewhere tomorrow, following the progress of the candidates. Rollins pitched his contention aloft upon the plane of education and internal improvement, themes already familiar to him through a decade's advocacy, and grown dearer to his heart with each successive victory and defeat; themes, however, that even to this day, after the lapse of half a century, have a strange and foreign and unlovely accent to many ears in every region of this proud commonwealth. The echoes of that loud strife were long since extinguished among us, its very memory is the pale and faded possession of a dwindling few. But the seed of enlightened and liberal State policy was not all strewn among thorns, by the wayside, or on stony ground; some fell upon good ground and yields year after year a most plenteous harvest. The immediate issue of the struggle, foreseen from the first, nor at any time doubtful, was the election of King ; but a full share of honor, if no lot in the fruits of victory, fell to Rollins, whose powerfully persuasive oratory, which won for him the sobriquet of “silvertongued,” had made very deep inroads upon the old-time Democratic majority. The Whigs in the Fifteenth General Assembly, 1848-9, cast their vote for Major Rollins as candidate for the United States Senatorship. This was, indeed, an empty honor, for the Democrats easily controlled that body and elected D. R. Atchison; but it was none the less gratifying to its recipient as an expression at once of gratitude to him for party services and of unshaken confidence in him as a party leader.
Major Rollins now resumed the active practice of his profession, the law. Though by nature incurably averse to the humdrum of the office, impatient of plea and counterplea, of replication and rejoinder, of demurrer and the countless other forms of the law's delay, yet the breathing realities, the warm human interests and sympathies, of criminal practice attracted him mightily and enlisted his highest faculties. He was a most potent advocate, and his sway over the minds of a jury was imperious; his services were therefore in great demand, and nearly every criminal case of much importance sought him within a circle of ample and lengthening radius. But neither his educational nor his political interest suffered abatement. In 1850 he received and accepted an appointment by Millard Fillmore — which able, judicious, and patriotic statesman had acceded to the Presidency made vacant by the death of Gen. Taylor, July 9, 1850 — on the . Board of Examiners to visit West Point and report upon its condition. In 1852 he was an elector on the Whig Presidential ticket and canvassed the State with his usual vigor and ability. The great party, twice successful under a military chieftain, and never otherwise, had now rejected finally its supreme intellect, Daniel Webster, and once more sought to dazzle the eyes of the nation with the glamour and éclat of martial achievement. It nominated a warrior still more renowned than Taylor, Gen. Winfield Scott, the victor of Cerro Gordo, of Cherubusco, and of Chapultepec. But such an organism is too complicate to live long without its head, and the Whig party was even then in the agonies of dissolution. Rollins had now devoted fourteen years of political activity to the earnest propagation of the principles of that party, and its collapse at this epoch ultimately involved his own political destinies. However, the disaster was not immediately felt; important triumphs at the polls yet awaited him, but henceforth there remained for him no secure political foothold. A graver and more terrible question than had ever yet divided the American people was now advancing insupportably to the front
in all political discussions. It was the question of slavery. The founders of the Republic had beheld it from afar, with fear and trembling, as a speck no bigger than a man's hand on the rim of the southern sky. For the first thirty years of the national life it hung low on the horizon, the many were lulled into a sense of security, the wiser few looked upon it with awe and with bated breath. Suddenly in 1820, at the enchanted word Missouri, it loomed aloft, dark and muttering and tinged with lightning. The second generation of political prophets, led by Calhoun and Webster, but especially by Clay, the great High Priest of Compromise, sought to lay the horrid phantom by all sorts of sacrifices and incantations. But in vain ; year by year it grew more threatening, "more dreadful and deformed.” The heart of the people was hot within them; while statesmen were musing, the fire burned. Within three years the illustrious trio had all sunk to night in its ominous shadow; now, in 1854, it darkened all the west, while the whole country resounded with fierce debate of the question as to the right of Congress to exclude slavery from the territories. Major Rollins was himself a slaveholder, but this fact did not obscure his logical perception of the constitutional powers of Congress, nor his political sense of the importance and propriety of their exercise. He maintained with boldness that it was both the logical right and the political duty of Congress to prohibit slavery in the Territories. The proslavery Democrats denied both. On these questions a sharp issue was joined, and there followed a most spirited contest for the State Legislature. Rollins was elected, with Odon Guitar, a young lawyer of great promise, as his colleague. Such a result, achieved in a slaveholding com
a munity, was justly regarded everywhere with surprise and with peculiar satisfaction by his constituents and in fact by all except "rule-or-ruin ” adherents of proslaveryism. The legislative session that followed, 1854-55, was one of peculiar interest both to the State and to the nation. A United States Senator was to be chosen, and three aspirants presented themselves: Benton, Atchison, Doniphan. Of these Rollins supported the last, as the Whig candidate, with great earnestness, and in the course of the contest he was led into a controversy with Mr. Goode, who had been sent to Jefferson City by St. Louis, clothed with the reputation of a “great constitutional lawyer.” He professed allegiance to the Whig party, yet he had