« PreviousContinue »
January, 1859, addressed to certain leading members of our State Legislature, who did me the honor to seek my views on the then existing affairs of the country. The extract is lengthy, but if you want to understand the history of this war thoroughly, its perusal will be worth the time it will take you to read it. This was one of the late warnings I gave the people of the designs of the Democracy for retaining the money-places and power of the government in their own hands, and the uses they had made of the institution of slavery for that purpose.
THE DEMOCRACY REVIEWED.
The following are the extracts referred to:
It may not be either uninteresting or uninstructive to review briefly the history of the past, as far as the slavery question is connected with the politics of the country; and here, once for all, I wish to say that, whenever I use the term "Democracy," I mean to apply it only to the leading politicians or bossmen of that party, who cut out the work for the masses to execute. Occasionally it happens that a head journeyman is permitted to come into their councils, but the apprentices are never consulted, and they, at last, have more at stake, have more honesty, patriotism, and good common sense than the men by whom they suffer themselves to be misled.
For the first twelve years after the formation of our government, its administration was in the hands of the Father of his Country and John Adams, the elder. In the year 1800 a revolution in the politics of the country occurred, chiefly through the activity and energy of Aaron Burr, who was the legitimate father of Democracy, and not Mr. Jefferson, who was only the beneficiary of Burr's work, as all will admit who will read Parton's life of Burr; and whether the
disunion portion of the Democratic party have inherited their treasonable principles from their distinguished progenitor will be left for each one to determine for himself. The Washingtonian party were called Federalists, because they originally favored the adoption of the Constitution under which the present federal government was formed; and those unfriendly to the Constitution and to its adoption. were then called Republicans, and are now called Democrats. But, from the time of this revolution-which was inaugurated on the 4th of March, 1801-down to the 4th of March, 1841, a period of forty years, the Republican or Democratic party held undisputed sway and almost unrestrained control over the destinies of the country, with the single interruption of four years, from 1825 to 1829-during which time it was in the hands of John Quincy Adams.
Those who recollect the violent and stormy passion exhibited at that day at the loss of their long-enjoyed power, with the fierce and bitter denunciation and invective that characterized the opposition to the administration of Mr. Adams (which was one of the most able, conservative, prosperous, and economical that the country has ever enjoyed from its earliest foundation), and of those flagitious charges. of "bargain and corruption" against one of the purest and most unselfish patriots (as all of every party now admit) that the nation has boasted since the days of Washington, together with the desperation and unscrupulous means resorted to for the recovery of power that marked the period referred to, will admit that nothing has since occurred that will serve as an analogy. The Democracy succeeded, and General Jackson was inaugurated in March, 1829; and then began the reign of terror-then commenced for the first time that universal system of proscription under which devotion to Democracy and partisan services in elections were
held to be the only passports to power, and the only tests. of fitness for office, from the highest to the most humble in the government; then the system was inaugurated by which every opponent to Democracy was to be annihilated, and every man's character was to be assailed and blackened who did not bow down and worship at the shrine of Jacksonism, which was another term for Democracy. And for eight years-ay, even long after his retirement from public life, a “hurrah for Jackson" was the only answer deemed necessary to the most potent arguments against the most lawless and unconstitutional acts of aggression and usurpation of power. During all this time the numerical strength of the country had been gradually but rapidly increasing in the North and diminishing in the South, and yet, for thirty-six years, the Southern Democracy had steadily persisted in putting none other than Southern men in the presidency. Under this state of things Northern politicians were becoming restive. The policy of the North and the South essentially differed at this time on the subject of protection to domestic manufactures and the currency; and to counteract this increasing influence on the part of the North, and the popularity of those questions, certain leading politicians, of whom Mr. Calhoun was at the head, felt the necessity of adopting some new device for the preservation and perpetuation of Southern Democratic ascendency, and that device was, to use the question of slavery as a great political engine, by which the South was to be kept united, and by the divisions which the distribution of spoils and power among the Northern Democrats would create, the power would be retained in the hands of Democracy, as they supposed, for long years to come; and the first scene in this new drama opened with a denial of the right of petition on the subject of slavery, which was the laying of the corner-stone of the
foundation on which the present Abolition party has been erected. This was the first step toward strengthening Democracy, by uniting the South and dividing the North, and most fatally has it worked in the end. But, in the mean time, how many in the South have been cajoled or driven into their ranks by the eternal cry that slavery was in danger, and that the Democracy was the only national party that could save it, and from an apprehension that they might be regarded as disloyal to the South, it would be difficult to
Mr. Van Buren being the special pet of General Jackson, the Democracy dared not oppose his will, and in 1836, for the first time, they yielded to the necessity of conferring the. high distinction of a nomination on a "Northern man with Southern principles," and but for the shameful waste and extravagance, the enormous peculations and corrupt practices that prevailed and were connived at, and rather rewarded than rebuked during his administration, the slavery question and its consequent agitation might have prolonged their power to an indefinite period. But this it was that led to the policy of denouncing every man in the South as an Abolitionist, no matter what his interest in slave property, no matter what the evidence of his patriotism or fidelity to the Constitution, no matter what the extent of his services to the public, who did not bend the knee to the god of their idolatry, which was brazen-faced Democracy. And this policy, then established, it is that has induced those who have no interest in the institution themselves, and who are in very many cases not likely to have such an interest at any future day, and who care nothing for it farther than that it will contribute to the success of Democracy, to take upon themselves the prerogative of assuming the lead in its defense over every slaveholder of the South,
and of branding every man of mark or note opposed to their misrule as unfaithful to the South, and a sympathizer, an aider and abettor of the Abolition party, unworthy the confidence and support of a Southern state.
In 1840, General Harrison, an upright, honest, patriotic man, a native of Virginia, was nominated by the Whigs. He was at once branded throughout the state of his nativity and the South as an Abolitionist, while his competitor, Mr. Van Buren, was held up as a patron saint of the "peculiar institution.” But the charge against General Harrison proved to be of no avail; the disreputable device failed to accomplish its end; the indignation of the country had been aroused against the administration of Mr. Van Buren, and he was swept with the force of a tornado from power. This was the second time that in forty-four years the Democracy had been overthrown. They stood aghast and dismayed at the result; they felt that every hope was gone; the last and strongest card had been played, and the game had been lost. In thirty days from his inauguration General Harrison suddenly died, and the estate fell to the heir apparent, the Vicepresident, a man whose vanity and ambition being readily approached and easily excited, was in an incredibly short time won over to those who had but a few months before been his bitterest revilers, and he turned his back on the friends who had elevated him to power and to fame. At once the hopes of the Democracy revived. By an unlookedfor act of Providence on the one hand, and an act of unparalleled treachery on the other, they found themselves again in possession of the government; but how to retain it was the point. Agitation of the slavery question must be kept up in some form, and they struck upon the expedient of annexing a foreign government to the United States; not for the purpose of extending and strengthening the institution