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DISASTROUS INFLUENCE OF THE COALITION.
lar mind. The Democrats won nothing whatever by their pliant concession to the Freesoilers. Instead of making the State democratic, they paved the way for converting it into the very hot-bed of abolition. They taught the Whigs, who had more actual affinities with the Freesoil party than themselves, the mode of turning the course of events to their own advantage, until at length the Democracy of the State was fairly overwhelmed by the returning tide.
In fact, the Coalition of 1851 had a most unhappy effect in unsettling that tone of moral sentiment, which had long been, ostensibly at least, the guiding principle of political parties in Massachusetts, and to which she had doubtless owed much of her high reputation. If not always sincerely felt, yet that outward homage to a higher standard of action was thus paid, which could not but prove salutary in its general influence. Perhaps it was an occasion when political parties in some other States might have appropriately inquired—“ Art thou also become like unto us?” The Coalition broke down the power of the Democracy in the State, and was the entering wedge which split the Whig party into fragments; and, finally, left no choice to such of the latter as regarded the Freesoil movement with well-founded alarm, but either to stand aloof altogether from public affairs, a position so ungrateful to men of spirit and patriotic feeling, in the day of public peril, or to unite with their old adversaries, the National Democrats, in the cause of the Constitution and the Union.
The inference is inevitable, from the tenor of Mr. Webster's 7th of March speech, from his public action as Secretary of State, under Mr. Fillmore's Administration, and from the expression of his views to personal friends, at the period immediately preceding his last fatal illness, that, had he survived, he would have still more emphatically declared his adhesion to the national principles of the Democratic party. His pupil and intimate personal friend, Mr. Choate, himself one of the most accomplished and remarkable men of his day, who, by his strict attention to his professional pursuits, though much relieved by classical and literary studies, fell somewhat short of that more widely extended reputation as a statesman, to which his ability and his earnest patriotism would have entitled him,-himself, like Mr. Webster, originally a Whig of the Whigs—took frankly the course indicated. In his company were multitudes of distinguished men, whom once the old Whig party delighted to honor, and who, by their steadiness to ancient constitutional principle, could not but challenge the respect of their former associates, however changed might be the public relations between them. Indeed, the meaning of party names was fast becoming modified, as it was afterwards completely reversed; until, by Democracy was understood Conservatism, and its opponents, in general, were known as Radicals.
After the rule of the Coalition had extended to two years, such had become the popular disgust, that the Whigs in the election for State officers, of the two following years, obtained a plurality of more than 20,000 votes over the Democrats, and one still larger over the Freesoilers; and the Whig candidates, on both occasions, were chosen by the legislature. But in the election of November, 1854, a novel phase of party manifestations was exhibited, which seriously affected the Whig organization throughout the country, as well as in the State of Massachusetts, and which helped to drive home the blow it had received, by its defeat in the general election of 1852. The national vote had then indicated very clearly the popular sentiment in favor of the measures adopted by Congress in 1850. Of the thirty-one States, all but four gave pluralities for the Democratic candidate for the Presidency. The new issue now introduced made manifest one of the strangest mutations of popular feeling, perhaps, ever witnessed in human experience. An extraordinary mania seemed to possess the public mind, almost neutralizing all other delusions which were not a few, and spread through the country, absorbing a portion of the strength of both political parties in the South, but more particularly affecting the anti-Democratic organizations of the North.
This phenomenon worked for a brief space quite out of the common view, and then burst forth with irresistible but short-lived fury, bewildering with astonishment those who were not in the secret of the organization. This was the American or “Know-Nothing" party, based upon the idea of very much limiting, for the future, those privileges of citizenship which were already awarded by law to naturalized persons of foreign birth. It was a scheme which might have been of highly beneficial operation, if put in practice a generation earlier ; but could only prove unequal in its effects, and really impracticable, after many millions of the natives of other lands had flocked to the country, with the full understanding that they were to enjoy, in time, the ordinary rights of native-born Americans. In fact, a generation had then nearly passed, since a very important measure of relaxation had been applied to the naturalization laws. Some of the Western States were almost, if not quite, lawless, in the broad allowance of voting-privileges granted by them to residents of every description. But the very name by which the new party was called, and which it assumed as its password, was a falsehood, and utterly antirepublican in its nacure. For a Republic demands open and fair dealing among its citizens.
National Politics.--Union Sentiment.-Mr. Fillmore's Administration. The Democratic
National Convention of 1852.-It adopts fully the Compromises of 1850.- The Whig National Convention of that year does the same.-Resolutions of the Freesoil Convention at Pittsburg, denouncing those Measures.-Insignificance of the latter Party, at that Period.-Action of the Whig Convention.—Availibility, instead of Sound Policy.Growing Conservatism of the Democracy.—The Native American Party.—How composed.—Its “National Council,” in 1855, adopts the Compromises of 1850.—But its “ Lodges” corrupted by admitting Political Freesoilers into Fellowship.--The “ National Council,” in 1856, changes Front.-Decay of Public Virtue.—The faithful of the old Whig Party.—Policy of the Democrats.
IN tracing the brief story of this strange "American” ment, it is proper to recur for a moment to the condition of national politics. The administration of President Fillmore came to a close on the 3d of March, 1853, and Presiden”. Pierce, who had been chosen, in the November precedir over General Scott, the Whig candidate, was inaugurated ja the following day. It ought to be stated, that the difference in the popular vote given for those two candidates, though more than usual, was not so great, as to suggest any reasonable grounds of discouragement to the Whig party; supposing its principles to have been sufficiently patriotic and adhesive to hold it together for combined political action. The Democratic candidate received 1,590,490 votes; the Whig, 1,378,589; and it was felt, generally as a subject of sincere congratulation, that the Freesoil vote was but 157,296 ; which was a falling off of 134,382 votes before given for that faction in 1848.
On the whole, therefore, it appears, that a wholesome state of union sentiment prevailed throughout the country at
THE CONDITION OF THE REPUBLIC.
that period. Nothing had tended more to foster and to uphold this patriotic feeling than the dignified and honorable course of Mr. Fillmore's administration. There are few spectacles in the history of the country more gratifying, in the retrospect, than that of its condition at the close of his term of office. Mr. Webster had been Secretary of State until his death in October, 1852, and was succeeded by Mr. Everett for the remainder of that administration. Mr. Crittenden was Attorney-General. Both of these have since followed the great Secretary, but leaving memories as enduring as the annals of the country. The members of the Cabinet, still living, are Mr. Kennedy, of Maryland, Mr. Conrad, of Louisiana, and Mr. Hall, of New York.
At no period had the country enjoyed such peaceful prosperity at home, or such unqualified respect abroad. In fact, domestic disquiets had apparently reached their culminating point, and seemed to be rapidly subsiding, as floods from the clouds, which rush down heights in a storm, fall into and are borne away upon the tide of a great stream. Foreign slurs upon democratic institutions which appeared so thoroughly tested and in successful action had ceased altogether, and the republic, at length, manifestly held a place among the nations which in promise, at least, had no parallel in the history of the world. There was no need of exaggeration on this point. The coldest calculation could but reveal the prospect of an unexampled progress for the imperial republic. Rome, indeed, unmatched, of old, in power and grandeur, had extended its sway among multitudes of distant and barbarous nations, besides the vast rule it exercised over the more cultivated population within, or not very remote from the proper limits of its empire. But the American people had already increased to nearly twenty-five millions in number; were a race chiefly of one blood, and presented only such differences as might become readily blended into one compact and sufficiently harmonious whole. The actual“ world” of Rome, comprehensive as were its pretensions, was small, indeed, in comparison with the extent of productive territory