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voted for Pierce as against Scott, whose nomination, while it repelled the Northern, had failed to conciliate the Southern, element of the party. Goode, who, as a Southern Whig that made at least occasional pilgrimages to the tomb of Calhoun, had received eight votes in caucus for speaker, and had given the party nominee for Senator, Col. Doniphan, a very questionable support, had also allowed himself to make an elaborate attack on Rollins in a speech extended through two joint sessions of the two houses of the General Assembly. To this assault Mr. Rollins replied in a compact speech of an hour, replete with all the elements of forensic eloquence, with logic, with sarcasm, with lofty sentiments of patriotism, with generous indignation at political inconsistency — all held in place and directed in movement by an exhaustive knowledge and ready mastery of all the material facts of history germane to the discussion. The oration, which was not only a personal defense but also a general confession of political faith, was received on all hands with rapt attention, was repeatedly interrupted by general and prolonged applause, and left behind it a profound and abiding impression. It confirmed indisputably the position of Rollins in the forefront of impassioned argumentative oratory in the State of Missouri, and may be read even now again and again, from beginning to end, with lively interest.
In 1856 Colonel Thomas Hart Benton, after thirty years' distinguished, useful, and patriotic continuous service in the Senate of the United States, having failed of reëlection in 1850 and again in 1854, offered himself as a candidate for Governor, thus seeking directly at the hands of the people that vindication of his conduct in refusing to follow the lead of Calhoun which had been denied him by the representatives in the Legislature. The campaign that followed was sufficiently remarkable. Benton had been honored by the people of Missouri as no other man in her history; in return he had glorified her name in the halls of national legislation by the side of Massachusetts, of Kentucky, and of South Carolina; if he did not quite attain unto the first three, he was easily prince among the thirty: now at last, far wiser than his party, having stepped aside and called Ave atque Vale unto it in its swift race to ruin, he threw himself upon the mercies of the ballot, the richest in years and honors, the ripest in wisdom and experience, the ablest in native strength of mind and character, of a departing generation of statesmen. Everywhere his candidacy was received with greatenthusiasm. But the Democratic party, always admirable in organization, maintained its ranks almost unbroken, and a third party — that fatal fallacy in the logic of votes - the “ Native American,” by diverting a part of Benton's natural support, succeeded in electing his competitor, the Hon. Trusten Polk, by a small plurality. Immediately upon his inauguration, however, this gentleman was elected by the Democrats to the United States Senate. Another election for Governor was ordered, and the late victors nominated the Hon. Robert M. Stewart, a brilliant man, of remarkable talents highly cultivated. Once more the eloquent Whig of Columbia was chosen as banner-bearer of a now disrupted political organization. What the matchless prestige, the measureless energy, the endless resources of Benton had failed to compass, was now proposed as a prize to the seductive rhetoric of Rollins. As in 1848, so now again the rivals met on the hustings in a joint canvass. All the powers of the orator, physical and mental, imaginative and argumentative, were at their culmination, and he led the forlorn hope committed unto him with romantic chivalry. Few such contests in the history of any State have stirred up such deep and widespread interest. The ballots were finally cast, but as the returns came in the suspense was not relieved but was made intenser than ever; for it appeared that the vote was almost exactly equally divided. And now began a strange, unheard of, and inexplicable delay in obtaining returns from a number of counties. At last, at the very limit of popular patience, a result was announced, a majority of two hundred and thirty for Stewart! The friends of Mr. Rollins have always insisted that there was foul play, that he really won a glorious victory, and that the returns were manipulated so as to convert it into a scarcely less glorious defeat. It would be difficult or impossible to make good these charges, but we who live in a day when such sinister political methods have been reduced to an art and are practiced as a profession, to the complete annulment or reversal of the popular will, must regard their truth as antecedently probable and the circumstances of the case as extremely suspicious.* Be this as it may, all
*The larger towns and easily accessible districts cast majorities for Rollins, and his election was announced at first and confidently. Gradually, however, the remoter counties began to throw one by one their excesses into the other scale. For eight weeks the beam trembled as under the hand of a skilful chemist, and at last tipped by the merest minim for the Democrats, overloaded by the tardy returns from the “backwoods” precincts.
the honor if none of the advantage of triumph fell to Mr. Rollins. He had done what none had been able to do before him; he had advanced the standard of his party, humbled and disheartened by an uninterrupted succession of defeats, to the very verge of victory ; he had tugged like a Titan, and had loosened if not indeed wrenched away from her moorings an empire commonwealth, from the very first insolubly anchored to Democracy. With this brilliant but futile achievement the twenty years' service of Major Rollins to Whiggism was ended; he now ceased to be a leader of the party, for there ceased to be any such party to be led.
“Now of deeds done,” saith Pindar, “whether they be right or wrong, not even Time the father of all can make undone the accomplishment”; yet it is a curious and interesting, and not altogether unprofitable, speculation to look into the possibilities as well as into the actualities of history; to inquire what new channel the stream of events might have sought or dug out if, while trembling along some critical watershed, some chance pebble had deflected it this way rather than that.
Let us suppose, then, that the count of votes, fair or unfair, had been varied by scarcely more than one in a county, that only one hundred and sixteen had been transferred to the Whig from the Democratic column. Then Rollins would have been elected Governor. As an administrator he was quite equal to himself as an orator, conceiving boldly and broadly, mastering details with readiness, and executing with dispatch. In the fourth year of his quadrennium he would have found himself in a commanding political position, the chief executive of an important State, with the unique prestige of having won it out of party weakness by his own personal strength. In these days
In these days such a position would certainly attract, in those elder days it would most probably have attracted, to itself the gaze of the whole nation. Moreover, it would have been both geographically and politically median. In the disintegration of parties that proceeded apace from 1852 to 1860 all their ties were relaxed, and Rollins both could and would have made ready political alliances with all but the extremists of both North and South. A slaveholder himself, and ready to protect the “institution ” to the full extent of the law, he was yet averse to its extension; while captivated by the plausible note of popular sovereignty and respect for the people's will heard in the KansasNebraska Act, he yet deplored the act itself as unwise in its provisions. Above all, however, he recognized that the only hope of slavery lay in prudence, conciliation, and a respite to agitation. One by one, as Calhoun in his last and greatest speech had vividly set forth, the ties between North and South had been snapping; only one was now left, the Democratic party. Love for the Union was with Rollins an absorbing and controlling passion; with that party, at least with that section of it which loved the Union more than all "institutions of the States," and which subsequently shed its blood not less than others freely in defense of the Union — with that party he would have found in the nascence of dissociation his almost certain affinity. On him the Whig remnant that voted for Bell and the moderate Democrats who voted for Douglas, along with many who followed the evil star of Breckenridge, could have united with mutual advantage, with the least possible concession, and without the surrender of any principle, and his political eminence would have designated him as the natural focus of such a union, while certainly his abilities would not have unfitted him. Had wisdom even in moderate measure guided the councils of these moderate partisans, such a concentration might have been effected. Without any help from the Southern Democrats the Bell and Douglas parties would together have outnumbered the Republicans by 100,000, and have at least thrown the election of a President into the House of Representatives. Here the selection of Mr. Lincoln would have been quite impossible, and not less so the election of Breckenridge; the only possible choice among the three would have been the middle one. How successfully he could have mediated between the extremists is not easy to say ; but that pacific counsels would have prevailed and that the rupture would have been averted for at least four years longer seems certain ; or even if the seven Gulf States had rashly seceded, the upper tier of four might still have been held within the Union with such a sympathetic mediator in the President's chair. In any case, with the great mid-lying, Union-loving States in control of all branches of the Government, it seems hardly possible that some wiser policy should not have been devised than that which paid for every negro slave three times in coin, ten times in blood, and a hundred times in the distortion and deformation of our social and political system. Certainly it is not forgotten that a great many ifs stand here in the way, nor that the probability of the compound event is far less than of any component; and the reader is left to form his own judgment of the likelihood of any such combination as is here suggested. But whatever might have been its indirect incidence upon national politics, the election of Rollins in 1857 would surely have brought with it a benediction to the State of Missouri. Her position in the conflict would have been far less equivocal, her course would have been kept steadily in line with that of the other loyal States; her soil would not have drunk the blood of her sons nor sprouted therefrom a perennial harvest of implacable animosities; her name would have been spared at least in large measure the odious celebrity of guerrilla warfare and banditti outrage; and all this, not to speak of the general non-political advantages of a vigorous, progressive, and enlightened administration.”
IN THE NATIONAL LEGISLATURE.
None of these things, however, were destined to be. The genius of fatuity was now presiding over the destinies of the southern Democrats. As their powers of enforcing their demands grew less and less, the demands themselves increased in extravagance. From his venerated sepulchre the idea of Calhoun stretched out over all the party an absolute sceptre. It was not enough to repeal the Missouri Compromise; Congress must not only not restrict, it must positively protect slavery, in the territories. But the spirit which the great political wizard, Douglas, had conjured up in the KansasNebraska bill, the greatest legislative blunder in American history, though he could not control he would not follow; the Democratic party fell in twain asunder, and the autumn of 1860 saw four Presidential tickets in the field. Of these only one, the Republican, was conscious of its destiny; the other three were at cross purposes and clashed like ignorant armies by night. Was it the pride of political consistency that induced Rollins to cast in his lot with the Constitutional-Union party under Bell and Everett, the remnant saved from the dissolution of the Whig party, the scarce seven thousand ?—for surely from the first its cause was utterly hopeless. At any rate he offered himself for Congress upon that ticket. His