2d session United States. 33d Congress.

Addresses on the presentation of the sword of Gen. Andrew Jackson to the Congress of the United States online

. (page 1 of 3)
Online Library2d session United States. 33d CongressAddresses on the presentation of the sword of Gen. Andrew Jackson to the Congress of the United States → online text (page 1 of 3)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook







■■■-■'** iSyL














■f -

'•»rs%* *c,,.








$ [ #

# / #1











FEBRUARY 26, 1855.







Mo.vDAY, February 26, 1855.

Ordered, That one hundred thousand copies of the proceedings and speeches
ia the Senate and House of Representatives, upon the presentation of tlie sword
of General Jackson, be p;iuted, under the direction of the Clerk of the House.




Monday, February 26, 1855.

Mr. Shields, of Illinois^ rose and said:

Mr. President: The hour has arrived which has been
designated for a yctj interesting ceremony. It is one
in vrhich hidies take as deep an interest as gentlemen,
but the crowded state of the galleries excludes many
of them from the Chamber. A motion to suspend the
rule which limits admissions to the floor, so that those
who are now excluded may be permitted to be present,
I think will meet with general acceptance ; and, there-
fore, I submit that motion.

The motion was agreed to ; and many ladies were admitted
to seats without the har.

Mr. Cass, of Michigan, then addressed the Senate as

Mr. President: I must ask the indulgence of the
Senate for requesting that its usual business may be
suspended, in order to give me an opportunity to dis-
char2:e a trust which has been committed to me — a

trust I had not the heart to decline, but which I knew I
had not the power to fulfil, as such a mission should be
fulfilled. I hold in my hand the sword of General
Jackson, which he wore in all his expeditions while in
the military service of the country, and which was his
faithful companion in his last and crowning victory,
when New Orleans was saved from the grasp of a
rapacious and powerful enemy, and our nation from the
disgrace and disaster which defeat would have brought
in its train. When the hand of death was upon him,
General Jackson presented this sword to his friend, the
late General Armstrong, as a testimonial of his high
appreciation of the services, worth, and courage of that
most estimable citizen and distinguished soldier, whose
desperate valor on one occasion stayed the tide of In-
dian success and saved the army from destruction. The
family of the lamented depositary, now that death has
released him from the guardianship of this treasure of
patriotism, are desirous it should be surrendered to the
custody of the national legislature, believing that to be
the proper disposition of a memorial which, in all time
to come, will be a cherished one for the American peo-
ple. To carry that purpose into effect I now offer it
in their name to Congress.

Mr. President, this is no doubtful relic, whose iden-
tity depends upon uncertain tradition, and which owes
its interest to an impulsive imagination. Its authen-
ticity is established beyond controversy by the papers

whicli accompany it; and it derives its value as well
from our knowledge of its history, as from its associa-
tion with the great captain, whose days of toil and
nights of trouble it shared and witnessed, and who
never drew it from its scabbard but to defend the honor
and the interests of his country.

This is neither the time nor the place to portray those
great traits of character which gave to General Jack-
son the ascendency that no man ever denied, who
approached him, and that wonderful influence with his
countrymen which marked almost his whole course,
from his entrance upon a public career till the grave
closed upon his life and his labors, and left him to that
equality which the mighty and the lowly must find at
last. Still, from my personal and official relations with
him — and I trust I may add from his friendship towards
me, of which I had many proofs — I cannot withhold the
acknowledgment of the impression which his high qual-
ities made upon me, and which becomes more lasting
and profound, as time is doing its work of separation
from the days of my intercourse with him.

I have been no careless observer of the men of my
time, who, controlled by events, or controlling them,
have stood prominent among them, and will occupy
distinguished positions in the annals of the age ; and
circumstances have extended my opportunities of exam-
ination to the Old World, as well as to the New. But
I say, and with a deep conviction of its truth, that I


have never been brought into contact with a man who
possessed more native sagacity, more profundity of in-
tellect, higher powers of observation or greater probity
of purpose, more ardor of patriotism, nor more firm-
ness of resolution, after he had surveyed his position
and occupied it, than the lamented subject of this fee-
ble tribute, not to him, but to truth. And I vfill add,
that, during the process of determination upon import-
ant subjects, he was slow, and generally
cautious and inquiring, and, he has more than once told
me, anxious and uneasy, not seldom passing the night
without sleep; but he was calm in his mind, and inflexi-
ble in his will, when reflection had given place to de-
cision. The prevailing opinion that he was rash and
hasty in his conclusions is founded upon an erroneous
impression of his habits of thought and action; upon a
want of discrimination between his conduct before and
after his judgment had pronounced upon his course.

This is not the first offering of a similar nature, which
has been laid upon the altar of our country with the
sanction of the legislative department of the govern-
ment. Some years since, another precious relic was
deposited here — the sword of him, who, in life, was first
in the affections of his countrymen, and in death is now
the first in their memory. I need not name his name.
It is written in characters of living light on every heart,
and springs instinctively to every tongue. His fame is
committed to time, his exam^plc to mankind, and him

self, we may humbly hope, to the reward of the right-
eous. When centuries shall have passed over us,
bringing with them the mutations that belong to the
lapse of ages, and our country shall yet be fulfilling,
or shall have fulfilled, her magnificent destiny — for
good, I devoutly hope, and not for evil — pilgrims from
our ocean coasts and our inland seas, and from the vast
regions which now separate, but before long by our
wonderful progress must unite them, will come up to
the high places of our land, consecrated by days and
deeds of world- v/ide renown ; and, turning aside to the
humble tomb, dearer than this proud Capitol, they v/ill
meditate upon the eventful history of their country,
and will recall the example while they bless the name
of Washington.

And, on the same occasion, was presented the cane
of Franklin, v/hich vv^as deposited in our national
archives with the sword of his friend and co laborer in
the great cause of human rights. Truly and beauti-
fully has it been said, that peace hath its victories as
well as v^ar. And n ver was nobler conquest won than
that achieved by the American apprentice, printer,
author, statesman, ambassador, philosopher, and, better
than all, model of common sense, over one of the most
powerful elements in the economy of nature, subduing
its might to his own, and thus enabling man to answer
the sublime interrogatory addressed to Job, "Canst
thou send lightnings that they may go and say unto


thee, Here we are?" Yes; they now come at our com-
mand, and say, Here we are, ready to do your work.
And it was our illustrious countryman who first opened
the way for this subjugation of the fire of heaven to
the human will. The stafi" that guided the steps of
Franklin, and the sword that guarded the person of
Washington, may well occupy the same repository,
under the care of the nation they served and loved and

And now another legacy of departed greatness,
another weapon from the armory of patriotism, comes
to claim its place in the sanctuary assigned to its pre-
decessor, and to share with it the veneration of the
country, in whose defence it was wielded.

The memorial of the first and greatest of our Chief
Magistrates, and this memorial of his successor in the
administration of the government, and second only to
him in the gratitude and affections of the American
people, will lie side by side, united tokens of patriotic
self-devotion and of successful military prowess, though
they who bore them and gave them value by their ser-
vices are now tenants of distant and lowly graves, sepa-
rated by mountains, and rivers, and valleys. And in ages
shut out from our vision by the far away future, when re-
mote generations, heirs of our heritage of freedom, but
succeeding to it without the labor and the privations
of acquisition, shall gaze (as they will gaze) upon these
testimonials of victories, time-worn but time-honored,


they will be carried back by association to those heroes
of early story, and will find their love of country
strengthened, and their pride in her institutions and
their confidence in her fate and fortunes increased, by
this powerful faculty of the mind — a faculty which en-
ables us to triumph over the distant and the future, as
well as over the stern realities of the present, gathering
around us the mighty dead and the mighty deeds that ex-
cite the admiration of mankind, and will ever command
their respect and gratitude. And thus will communion
be held with the great leaders of our country, in war
and in peace, who wore these swords in their service,
and hallowed them by their patriotism, their valor, and

I will now read to the Senate two letters connected
with the circumstance of this presentation — one from
Mr. Nicholson, and the other from Mr. Yaulx, the son-
in-law of the late General Armstrong :

Letter from Joseph Vaulx,

Nashville, February T, 1855.
Dear Sir: Doctor W. S. McNairy left here a few days ago
for Washington, having in charge the sword that General
Jackson before his death gave to General Armstrong. The
Doctor was requested by William M. Armstrong (in whose
keeping it had been left by his father) to hand it over to
you on his arrival in Washington. You, I believe, were
present at the time General Armstrong had the honor of


having it presented to liim by liis distinguished friend. It
is the sword worn by General Jackson in his various cam-
paigns and during the whole time he remained in the mili-
tary service of his country. It is^ therefore, justly regarded
as a relic of great value. It was General xirmstrong's wish
that it should be placed at the disposal of Congress, or the
government, with a view to its being deposited in a suitable
place, where, doubtless, millions of General Jackson's ad-
miring countrymen will in time to come gladly look on it
as the war-sword of one whose brilliant services in the cause
of his country place his name in bold relief on the historic
page of our beloved country.

No person, I believe, would have been preferred to your-
self by General Armstrong as the medium for presenting the
sword to Congress, or the government; which, at the request
of his son, you will please do in such terms as you may deem

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Hon. A. 0. P. NicnoLSON.

Letter from A. 0. F. Nicliolson.

Washington, Fehruary 13, 1855.
Dear Sir : A short time before the death of G eneral Jack-
son, I received a note from him inviting me to visit him for
a special purpose. I did so, and found that, amongst other
things, he desired to put into my hands the sword which he
had used at the battle of New Orleans, for the purpose of
delivering it to the late General Eobert Armstrong, as a


testimonial of warm personal friendsliip, and as an evidence
of his liigh appreciation of his military services and his
patriotic devotion to the honor of his country. I delivered
the sword as requested, and it was kept by G-eneral Arm-
strong during his life. Since his death, his family have con-
cluded that the most proper disposition they could m.ake of
it would be to present it to Congress, to be kept as a per-
petual memento of the brilliant achievement with which it
is connected. For this purpose the sword has been forwarded
to me with the request that I would present it to Congress
in the name of General Armstrong's family. It has occurred
to me that I could not more appropriately discharge this
trust than to place the sword in your hands, and to ask that
you will present it in such way as you may deem most pro-
per. The known relations, in public and private, between
General Jackson and yourself, as well as j^our constant friend-
ship for General Armstrong, seem to me to render it emi-
nently fit that the presentation should be made by you. I
therefore place the sword at your disposal, and respectfully
request that you would undertake to carry out the wishes of
the donors.

I am, ver}^ respectfully, your friend,

' A. 0. r. NICHOLSON.

Gen. Lewis Cass.

Mr. Bell, of Tennessee:

Mr. President : I am fully aT»"are that, in undertaking
to accompany the offer of the resolution which I pro-
pose to send to the Chair with any remarks upon the


public services and character of the illustrious man
whose name and whose memory have been so elo-
quently and appropriately brought to our notice by
the distinguished Senator from Michigan, I assume an
office of great delicacy, and one which I, especially,
may well have some distrust of my ability to perform
in a proper and satisfactory manner ; yet, as the senior
representative of the State of Tennessee in the Senate,
I do not feel at liberty to decline it.

In what I propose to say, I must tread with caution
and reserve, or not at all, upon grounds on which the
fires of political controversy raged with such fierceness
at a period so recent that the embers yet smoulder, and
may not prudently be disturbed.

In the great drama of affairs now being enacted on
this continent, the opening act of which was the Revo,
lution — the closing scenes, I trust, will be in the far,
far future — Andrew Jackson was, in his day, a great
and successful actor. Whatever difference of opinion
may have existed among his contemporaries of the
merit of some parts of his performance, yet, as a whole,
it received the plaudits of his countrymen, and a large
proportion of them pronounced it masterly throughout.

General Jackson possessed rare endowments, and
was, indeed, one of the most, if not the most remark-
able man of the age in which he lived. With but slight
and indifferent mental or professional training and dis-
cipline in early life, so generally regarded as important,


if not essential, to eminent success in either of tlie two
great departments of human effort — the civil and the
military — yet, at the very outset of his military career,
he exhibited talents for command of a high order, and
in less than three years, by his brilliant achievements,
established his reputation as the first military chief of
the country. But this is not all. Ptetiring from the
army when there appeared to be no further demand
for active service, he was in a few years thereafter ele-
vated to the highest civil station under the national
government ; and for eight successive years he wielded
the power and influence of his position, as Executive
Chief, with such vigor and address, that he was sus-
tained in, and succeeded in carrying out, all the great
measures of his administration — some of them present-
ing questions of the gravest nature, and giving rise to
the most intense excitement — and this, too, in the face
of an opposition combining an amount of ability, elo-
quence, skill, and experience in affairs, in both houses
of Congress, but more especially in the Senate, greater
than was ever witnessed before or since. The jars and
contentions between those great moral elements were,
sometimes, such as shook the whole country.

A man w^ho, having addicted his early manhood
mainly to the pursuits of private life, without any ap-
preciable culture or experience in public affairs, could
thus, when there arose a public exigency of sufficient
urgency to induce him to enter the public service, ]jer


saltum^ as it were, raise himself to tlie first rank as a
military leader, and tlien, for so long a period, as Chief
Magistrate of a great and free country, thus direct and
control its civil administration, must be allowed to have
possessed great capacity.

His was no negative or unmarked career — no meteor-
like appearance upon the great theatre of affairs, to
blaze and dazzle lor a moment, and then pass away
forever ; but, both as a military commander and a civil
chief, he left his impress upon his country and its in-
stitutions deep, striking, and indelible.

It would be idle to assume, as some have done,
that General Jackson was indebted alone, or chiefly, to
fortune and adventitious circumstances for his extraor-
dinary success. He was such a man, Mr. President, as
when he had once attained position, had the faculty of
creating the circumstances, if he needed them, neces-
sary to further and continued successes. Posterity will
inquire, with eager curiosity, the secret of his amazing
success — the distinctive traits of mind and of personal
character by which he achieved it ; some of which they
will probably seek in vain in the pages of contemporary

General Jackson had what may be called an intuitive
perception of the passions and interests by which the
mass of mankind are controlled. He was a shrev,^d
observer of individual character, and he was seldom
mistaken in his estimate of the men with whom he


associated as friends or came in contact with as oppo-
nents. He was devoted to bis friends ; and the more
others opposed or denounced them, the more deter-
mined he became to sustain them, and never cast them
off until they arrayed themselves in open opposition to
his plans and wishes. Nor was he deficient in courtesy
to opponents — not personal enemies — and could even
court them when he desired or needed their support,
but never by fawning or unmanly appeals.

His self-reliance was wonderful. He never desDaired


of his fortune. As the obstacles to the success of any
favorite scheme of policy multiplied, and the storm of
opposition was wildest, it was then that one of his most
striking traits v/as exhibited. He became the soul, the
animating principle, of his followers; revived their faint-
ing courage, re-inspired their confidence in his infalli-
bility, and cheered them on to renewed and more
vigorous efforts.

When the emergency required it, no man was more
prompt in coming to a decision. When the question
presented difaculties, and admitted of deliberation, he
counselled with his friends. When his own conviction
v/as clear, he seldom deferred to the views of others;
and when he once decided upon his course, he was
inflexible and immovable. He was, emphatically and
truly, a man of stern resolve and iron will ; and, when
opposition to the accomplishment of his purposes ap-
peared formidable and discouraging, he was apt to


become impatient of the restraints and trammels of
official and customary routine. He had the courage,
both moral and physical, to dare and to do whatever
he thought proper and necessary to the successful issue
of whatever he had resolved upon. He was withal a
patriot, devoted to the honor, dignity, and glory of his
country ; and he had the faculty of persuading himself
that whatever measure or course of policy, either in
peace or in war, he resolved upon, and strongly desired
to accomplish, was proper and necessary to the public

No man since the days of Washington was more de-
voted to the union of these States, or would have more
cheerfully laid down his life to defend and uphold it,
than Andrew Jackson.

Many have supposed that General Jackson was often
controlled by passion and resentment, and that he some-
times embraced measures and engaged in enterprises
without any calculation of the chances of success or
defeat, and reckless of both. There never was a greater
mistake. This was the error into which the great op-
ponents of his measures and policy in the Senate fell ;
and the event showed that he had estimated the ele-
ments of his power and the true sources of his strength
with greater sagacity than themselves.

When General Jackson made his first essay in the art
of war, and led the Tennessee volunteers against a wily
foe, formidable from their numbers and mode of war-


fare, many careless observers of Lis early career had
their misgivings that a rash valor and his eager desire
to distinguish himself in arms might result in disaster
and the unnecessary sacrifice of his men ; but they were
soon undeceived. Those who knew him best, and knew
him well, never had any distrust of his discretion as a
military commander.

But his qualities as a general, and his powers of com-
bination in conducting the operations of an army, were
best illustrated and put to the severest test in the cam-
paign of 1814-15 in the South. It was then that ample
scope was given him for the exercise of his genius and
capacity for military command.

In 1814 Great Britain, by the overthrow of the
French Emperor, found herself in a condition to em-
ploy the whole of her great naval and military resources
in an effort to humble or to crush the United States.
The first blow fell upon the shores of the Chesapeake.
The seat of the national government fell into the hands
of the enemy, and the blackened walls of the Capitol
gave warning of the ruthless spirit with which the war
was thenceforth to be conducted. This wound to the
national pride w^as inflicted at a time when the public
finances and the public credit were at the lowest ebb.
The recruiting service went on sluggishly, and gave
no promise of an adequate increase of the regular army ;
and the whole of our extended and almost defenceless

seacoast was exposed to the attacks of the enemy,


Humors soon after reached the country that a still more
formidable armament was to make a descent upon our
shores ; but where the storm would burst, there was no
clue to determine. Afterwards a general gloom, not
without some admixture of despondency, then hung
over the country.

At a later date it became manifest that the Gulf coast
was to be the scene of operations. Every day the
gathering clouds of war in that quarter became darker
and more portentous. Still, it was uncertain upon what
particular point the bolt would fall; but wherever it
might fall on that coast, it was certain that it would be
in the military department, the protection and defence
of which was assigned to General Jackson. All eyes
and hopes were now turned upon him. He had already
exhibited such uncommon energy, skill, and intrepidity,
in his conduct of the war against the Creek Indians, as
to inspire some confidence, when there seemed to be
scarcely ground for hope. It was known that he had
no army in the field, save two or three regiments of
regulars, and a single regiment of mounted Tennessee
volunteers, and that there were no adequate sujDplies,
either of provisions or munitions of war, at any point
in his command for conducting military operations upon
a large scale ; but never was confidence so well repaid.
His energy and discretion, and the confidence he in-
spired, supplied every deficiency.

When it became evident that New Orleans was to be


the point of attack, and tliat tlie hostile armament had
made its appearance off the Gulf coast, he called upon
the authorities of Kentucky and Tennessee to send for-
ward their contingents of militia and volunteers with
all despatch, as the enemy was approaching. Upon the
States threatened with invasion he urged the employ-
ment of all their energies and resources to be in readi-
ness to meet the foe. He called, in strains of inspiring
eloquence, upon the free colored inhabitants of Louisi-
ana to protect their native soil from invasion and pol-

1 3

Online Library2d session United States. 33d CongressAddresses on the presentation of the sword of Gen. Andrew Jackson to the Congress of the United States → online text (page 1 of 3)