George Hooker Colton.

The American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume 15) online

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party has been turned, to select the indivi-
dual who, in their judgment, enjoys in the
highest degree the confidence of the Whigs
throughout the Union. This result, of course,
can only be attained by faithfully reflecting,
each for himself, the public opinion of the
district which he represents. Several of the
delegates will go to the place of meeting
with specific instructions, which, however,
from the nature of the case, must be subject
to that comparison of views which it is the
express object of the Convention to produce.
If every delegate is to adhere finally to the
first choice of his constituents, there can, in
the present state of the public mind, be no
nomination. The Convention itself, on that
basis, is a farce. There must be mutual
giving way; and we venture to hope that
every Whig who goes to the Convention
will do it with the feeling that the welfare
of the country demands harmonious action,
and that when the nomination is made, it
must go forth to the people with the moral
force of the whole body. Compared with
the importance of such a result, all questions
of individuals are insignificant. The severe
reprobation of all true patriots, who look to
the Whig Convention to represent them in
reference to the election of a President, will
fall upon the delegation or the individual
who shall do aught to distract or paralyze
the action of the body.

But to insure this unanimous concur-
rence, the utmost pains must be taken, in
the most entire good faith, to direct the
choice of the Convention to the individual
who really concentrates upon himself the
greatest strength of popular preference ; and
it cannot be denied that pretty formidable
difficulties in this respect are to be over-
come. Three eminent Whigs have been
long in the eye of the public, " the observed
of all observers." The Convention will take
place in a few weeks ; the public mind is
still divided ; they enjoy in common the re-
spect of the whole party; they have each
received local nominations entitled to great
respect ; they are preferred each by warm



personal friends, and they stand upon the
same political platform. It is of course un-
necessary to name them for any purposes
of information.

It is our purpose, in the following pages,
to state the case fairly between these emi-
nent individuals ; and if in this attempt we
shall contribute to the harmony of the Con-
vention and the party, and aid in the choice
that will be most consonant with sound prin-
ciples, and at the same time be most certain
of success, we shall have done all we aim at.
For it is our desire to merge all personal
predilections for men, in that of the cause.
We shall support to the best of our ability
the nominee of the Convention, whichever
it may be. If our present preference should
be apparent in what we say, we can con-
scientiously affirm that it arises from no per-
sonal or factional motive, but is the result
of our best judgment as to what is the best
for the cause.

We remark that the three eminent Whigs
referred to stand upon the same political
platform. This is a point quite important to
be borne in mind, inasmuch as injustice has
been done to Mr. Fillmore and Mr. Webster,
in their own States respectively, by that por-
tion of the Whig party who, at the time of
their passage, disapproved of the Compro-
mise measures. There was a disposition in
New- York to withhold support from Mr.
Fillmore, and a similar disposition in Massa-
chusetts with respect to Mr. Webster on the
part of Whigs of this class, with a prefer-
ence for General Scott, more or less dis-
tinctly based on the assumption that, with
reference to the Compromise measures, he
stood on different ground from his distin-
guished competitors. It is now asserted by
friends of the General, not merely that he
warmly approved the Compromise, but that
it was carried through the House of Repre-
sentatives of the United States under his per-
sonal influence. This statement, though not
before the public directly from the General
himself, has not been denied, as it would have
been if destitute of foundation. It is, on the
contrary, publicly made by zealous friends of
General Scott, for the purpose of placing
him rectus in curia in the South. This is
quite right on their part, although it would
have been fairer to have made the statement
eighteen months ago, when successful efibrts
were making in the North to create a preju-
dice against Mr. Fillmore and Mr. Webster



1852.



The Presidency.



381



on the ground of tlieir support of the Cora-
promise, which prejudice directly accrued to
the benefit of General Scott. It ma}^ be
said, it is true, that in the same proportion
in which the General was benefited by this
course in the North, he was injured in the
South ; and that the injury done to other
candidates has in this way been compen-
sated. Such, however, does not seem to be
the case. If Mr. Stanley's recent letter re-
presents accurately the feelings and views of
Southern Whigs, they are disposed to re-
gard the explanations made by General
Scott's friends as satisfactory ; while the same
explanations do not appear at all to dimin-
ish the confidence reposed in the General by
some Northern Whigs, as uncommitted, if
not opposed to, the Compromise. We ask
for nothing but open, manly deahng on this
or any other point, and the gallant General,
we are sure, himself desires nothing else.

And here we may make a genei-al re-
mark, not out of place in reference to all the
candidates. In a country where discussion
is as free as air, and newspapers, political
meetings, and every other mode of commu-
nicating with the public so greatly abound,
it is to be expected that warm personal
and political friends, urging the claims of
a favorite candidate, will be occasionally
unjust to his competitors, though of the
same party. We trust, as the canvass ad-
vances, that patriotic Whigs throughout the
Union will prepare themselves for this ; and
while they abstain themselves from every
thing which can give just oflFense to breth-
ren engaged in a common cause, not let
their feelings be wounded by the injustice
which may be occasionally done to the can-
didate of their first choice. Let it be re-
membered that an earnest attachment to
one, involves of necessity some want of
cordiality toward others ; and that it is
only by mutual tolerance, even under some
provocation, that harmony can be preserved.
Let us not, because wrong is done by
some indiscreet partisan to the candidate
of our preference, be guilty in turn of the
same wrong to others. Two wrongs do
not make a right; on the contrary, they
multiply each other. Every one admits that
without discussion and comparison of opin-
ions, the choice cannot settle upon one ; and
all pohtical discussion is subject to mistakes
of judgment, excitement of feehng, and in-
firmity of temper. The blunderbuss must



have his say as well as the man of sense.
Serious men, who wish well to the country,
must not allow their equanimity to be dis-
turbed by a hasty word or a pointed sar-
casm against the candidate of their choice,
or an injudicious assumption on behalf of a
competitor.

The great contest lies between the Whig
and Democratic party, between the candi-
dates who may be brought forward respect-
ively to support the policy of the present
Administration, and the policy which is to
be brought in upon its ruins. To enlighten
the public upon the real diflference of the
parties in this respect should be the great
object of the Whigs. And here we must
go beyond the mere surface of party names,
neither of which is very happily chosen.
When the Democratic party, (so called,)
during the Bank controversy, bowed down
before the dictatorship assumed by General
Jackson, who dismissed one Secretary of the
Treasury after another for exercising his dis-
cretion in a matter left by statute, not to
the President, but the Secretary ; the friends
of the Constitution, dropping the expressive
designation of "National Repubhcans," in
order to adopt a new name, which would
embrace those adherents of General Jack-
son who were disgusted with his assump-
tion of autocratic power, called themselves
" Whigs." It was an appropriate name,
endeared by revolutionaiy associations, and
eminently characteristic of a party devoted
to constitutional limitation of executive pow-
er. This name and its correlative, "Tory,"
accurately described at the time the nature
of the warfare going on. It was a struggle
between the friends of the people's rights,
as protected by the Constitution and the
law, against the friends of Presidential pre-
rogative. But there is no resemblance be-
tween our constitutional party and the party
of the English liberal aristocracy, who have
borne for more than a century and a half
the name of "Whig ;" and unless the oppos-
ing party accepts, as it does in England, the
name of "Tory," that of "Whig" loses its
significance, if it does not even become a
term of reproach.

Still less appropriate to a party is the
name of "Democrat," a name nearly un-
known in the best days of the republic,
and never, we believe, applied by Jefferson
or Madison to those by whom they were
supported. A Beraocro.cy^ in its true sense,



382



The Presidency.



May^ *



as defined in the noble passage cited the
other day by Mr. Webster from the funeral
discourse of Pericles, is a government in
which the power has passed from the hands
of the few to the hands of the majority ; in
other words, it is a government of the
people, in distinction from a monarchy or
an oligarchy. The Grecian democracies,
being established in small states, were car-
ried on by assemblies of the whole people ;
and the word Democracy is sometimes used
to designate a government of this kind, as
distinguished from a representative republic.
"We presume that our American Democracy
do not wish to be regarded as enemies of
that representative system which is estab-
lished by our Constitution. It is not in that
sense that they call themselves Democrats.
If, by taking that name, they mean that
their opponents are desirous of establishing
an oligarchy or a monarchy, that the Demo-
cratic party are better friends than we are
of popular representative government, we
can only say that they give countenance to
an electioneering calumny of the lowest
order. No party is unfriendly to the repre-
sentative republican system established by
the Constitution. Although the two parties
differ as to the interpretation of some of
the provisions of the Constitution, and still
oftener as to the proper mcde of applying
and executing provisions of which the pur-
port itself is plain enough, yet no individual
in the country has any better claim than his
neighbor to be called a democrat^ in the
proper meaning of that term. It is not only
true, as Mr. Jetfei-son said in 1801, that "we
are all republicans," but it is equally true, —
and the words, in fact, in our system mean
the same thing, — " we are all democrats."
It was in this true and proper sense that the
venerable and persecuted pontiff, Pius VIL,
used the word, when, in the early years of
the French Revolution, before a democrat of
that country had assumed the imperial pur-
pZe, he used an expression with which he
was afterwards so unjustly reproached, " Be
good Christians, and you will be good de-
mocrats." The sentiment, however misrep-
resented, is just ; that equality of right which
lies at the basis of the Christian religion is
equally the corner-stone of popular govern-
ment.

That we are right in this is sufficiently
apparent from the following consideration.
Many of the great Democratic leaders were



Federalists in their youth, or reared at the
feet of Federal Gamaliels. Such is the case,
to name no others, with General Cass and
Mr. Buchanan. They are now very careful
to designate themselves as Democrats. Do
they mean that in former times they were
friendly to an oligarchy or a monarchy?
We presume not. Do they mean now that
they are in favor of abolishing our constitu-
tional representative system, and transacting
the business of the country in General Assem-
bly of three or four millions of voters ? This
also is quite out of the question. They mean,
therefore, that they are friends of popular
representative government. In this sense they
are Democrats ; and Mr. Fillmore, and Gen-
eral Scott, and Mr. Webster are full as good
Democrats. Neither General Cass nor Mr.
Buchanan can name a single principle justly ^
called Democratic — that is, essential or right-
fully incidental to a popular representative
system, and leading to the durability of
repubhcan government — which he more firm-
ly believes or consistently acts upon than the
great Whig leaders.

We might with truth go a step farther.
It is notorious that the Democratic party (so
called) has at all times been distinguished
for its close adherence to party discipline ;
that is, it has at all times subjected the in-
dividuality, or, in other words, the hberty,
of each and every citizen, to the iron rule 1
of the collective whole, acting by some cen- 1
tral organization. This is not true but false
democracy, breathing under an honored
name the spirit of despotism. The Whig
party, on the contrary — that is, the Constitu-
tional party, under the different names which
it has borne since its present organization
took place — has been far more notorious for
those schisms and subdivisions ; for those
departures from the party track ; for that
proneness to adopt abstractions, which are
the natural, honest, unavoidable results of
independent thought on the part of in-
dependent men. When our Democratic
brethren boast of their superior unity of
idea and principle as a party, they simply
boast that they sacrifice more than others to
the dictation of the mass that right of think-
ing each for himself, which is the glory of
our nature either as freemen or rational
beings.

We now proceed to make a few remarks
upon the three individuals, upon one of
whom the nomination of the Convention



1852.



The Presidency.



383



will unquestionably fall as the Whig can-
didate for the Presidency.

The course of President Fillmore has been
such as to win for him a richer harvest of
sound popularity than was perhaps ever ac-
quired, by a public man in so short a time.
He came to the chair of state on the la-
mented, decease of General Taylor, with
favorable antecedents, it is true, but without
the prestige of dazzling talents or a great
name. A great and providential calamity
called him to the head of affairs, and this at
a most critical and dangerous juncture. He
took the helm with unaffected diffidence and
modest self-possession ; surrounded himself
with the ablest councillors whose services, in
the disjointed state of the party, he was able
to command, and placed at the bead of his
administration the individual who, by all
confession, stood first in the number, first
in the confidence of the friends of the Union.
These were steps to be taken in the first
days of the great change, and with less time
for deliberation than a man usually gives to
the purchase of a farm or the preparation of
a law case. But all was done by President
Fillmore with the unembarrassed prompti-
tude which is good sense in action. At the
same time, a course of policy on subjects of
the most exciting and difficult nature was to
be marked out, which would carry the ship
of state in safety through the tempest. This
also was promptly, unostentatiously, and
successfully done. The most difficult ques-
tions at home and abroad have been met ;
domestic quiet, when greatly menaced, has
been preserved ; the foreign relations of the
country have been conducted with a spirit
and discretion never surpassed ; and no ad-
ministration of the country, however strongly
supported in Congress, has carried on the
government with an easier and firmer march
than President Fillmore, v/ith a majority of
both Houses against him.

It is not to be wondered at, under these
circumstances, that he should in many parts
of the country be looked, to as a candidate
for reelection. The principle on which his
nomination has been favored in a private
letter of Mr. Clay, which (probably against
the intention of the distinguished writer)
has been given to the public, is a natural
suggestion. It has been said, in reply to it,
that to prefer an individual as a candidate
for the Presidency because he has been tried
in that office^ is to turn it into a life-tenure.



If that is the test of fitness, how is a new
man ever to come in ? This is a principle
which Louis Napoleon, once in power, would
probably favor ; but rotation in office is the
republican principle. Thus much is true,
that a candidate who has been tried, and
found competent, is to be preferred to one
who has not been tried, nor given proof of
his fitness in the Presidency or in any other
office. This is true, or rather it is a truism
too obvious to require illustration. But
certainly the Presidency itself cannot be the
only adequate school for the Presidency.
The proposition is a contradiction in terms.
The Department of State is a test of fitness
quite as satisfactory as the Presidency ; per-
haps more so, as being even more than the
Presidency a working office. It was in this
office that Mr. Clay himself gave the most
satisfactory proof of his fitness for the Chief
Magistracy. If the friends of Mr. Monroe
had insisted in 1824 in running him for a
third term, on the ground that he had given
two-fold proof of fitness by two successful
administrations, they would have carried con-
viction to the minds of few of the supporters
of the candidates before the people, Mr.
Clay himself being one of them. We do
not, however, refer to this view as at all dis-
senting from the opinion that President Fill-
more has been tried, and found eminently
fit for the office. Should the choice of the
Convention fall upon him, he has shown that
he deserves, as we have no doubt he will
receive, the support of every patriotic Whig ;
and he has given the most satisfactory fore-
taste of a wise, concihatory, and successful
administration.

The second candidate of the Whig party
is General Winfield Scott. He owes, of
course, his chief eminence to his brilliant
military talent and success. We are disposed
to regard him as the most consummate mili-
tary chieftain of the day. His services in
the war of 1812, and in Black Hawk's war
in 1833, had given him a high professional
reputation. Services less brilliant, but per-
haps more important, on the North-eastern
and Canadian frontier, in 1837, had raised
him still higher in the opinion of men whose
judgment is not carried away by success in
the field. His conduct in the late Mexican
war is beyond all praise. It is no exaggera-
tion to say that his landing at Vera Cruz,
his battles, his victorious march, his tri-
umphant entrance into the city of Mexico,



384



The Presidency.



May,



form a series of exploits not surpassed by
any thing in tlie military history of the last
sixty years. If the results are compared
•with the means ; if the success of the cam-
paign is weighed with the obstacles en-
countered, and the mighty realm added to
the Union is contrasted with the limited re-
sources at the General's command, and the
difficulties with which he had to struggle :
an unfriendly administration at home ; a sea
voyage of several days' length ; a pestilential
shore for the debarkation; lieutenants, some
aspiring, some inexperienced, some jealous,
hardly one cooperating with entire cor-
diality ; an army renewed, so to say, on the
march, and at last an enemy split up into
fractions that seemed to make a treaty of
peace impossible, for want of a power strong
enough to carry a treaty into effect ; when
these difficulties are duly considered, the
campaign in which General Scott conquered
Mexico will bear a comparison with any in
the Roman annals.

Nor is the General a mere fighter; far
from it. He is a profoundly read strategist ;
he understands the science of his profession.
Ill this respect, he probably excelled the
noble-hearted Taylor, who accomplished
every thing by his unerring coup (Toeil^
practical sense, and inborn heroism. But
as an accomplished officer, Scott probably
stands first in the military service of the
country. Jackson was indeed " a thunder-
bolt of war." His power lay in his lion
heart and indomitable will. Taylor's cour-
age was softened with a woman's humanity,
which embraced friend and foe in its com-
prehensive tenderness. Scott is as fearless
as either ; as resolute as either in the execu-
tion of his plans ; as inflexible as Jackson ;
as humane as Taylor. But he contrives with
a skill and works with a system not seen in
the campaigns of Jackson, perhaps because
the circumstances did not call for them.
Jackson overwhelmed the enemy ; Taylor
successfully resisted him under perilous odds,
and drove him back, broken and demoralized ;
Scott out-marched him, out-manoeuvred him,
out-generalled him before the battle, in the
battle, and after the battle ; swept his posi-
tions, conquered his troops, seized his capital,
and dictated the terms of peace.

General Scott's career, like that of most
of our officers, has been almost exclusively
military, and has afforded him but little op-
portunity for civil service. Wherever the



opportunity has presented itself, as it did in
his mission already referred to on the frontier
of Canada and New-Brunswick, in 1837, he
has shown himself prudent, wary, concilia-
tory, and a friend of peace. A chivalrous
friendship, the seeds of which were planted
on the bloody field of Bridgewater, sub-
sisted between General Scott and the late
Sir John Harvey, Governor of New-Bruns-
wick, much to the benefit of the public.

The third of the distinguished Whigs
from whom the candidate for the Presidency
is to be selected is Daniel Webster, the only
one of that illustrious triumvirate of great
men who remains on the field of active ser-
vice. Calhoun, Clay, Webster ; how much
of lofty talent, generous ambition, burning
eloquence, political wisdom, tried fidelity in
every variety of political service, is asso-
ciated with these great names ! sometimes
acting in concert, oftener apart, not seldom
in opposition, as far as the great Carolinian
was concerned, yet always with lofty aim
and mighty influence. One of them, hav-
ing unfortunately lost the confidence of the
country by false views of the true nature of
our system, failed to attain the goal of his
youthful ambition. He erred, but with a
nature so lofty, that his memory, canonized
in the hearts of his friends, is kindly cher-
ished by theliberality of opponents. Another,
faithful to the last, adorns with his gray hairs
the halls of Congress. The voice which has
so often shaped public opinion throughout
the continent, will perhaps never again speak
forth its all-persuasive accents to the hearts
of the American people. His eye of fire
no longer flashes across the Senate-chamber.
But the homage of grateful thousands still
surrounds him as with an atmosphere of af-
fectionate awe. He, too, has failed of that
prize so richly due to his talent, his services,
and his patriotism. Base calumny, the jea-
lousy of small men, the madness of party,
the perversity of popular favor, have robbed
him of the well-earned reward of a hfe of
public-spirited effort.

The last of the great trio still sways the
helm of state with a grasp of iron, putting
to shame the vigor of a younger generation
by the unimpaired energy of his Titanic in-
tellect.

The Secretary of State is the senior of the
three competitors ; and if in other respects
they stood on equal ground, he might claim
the preference on this score. Mr. Fillmore,



1852.



The Presidency.



385



it may be said, is yet comparatively a young
man ; the country expects many years of
service from him. Should he be re-chosen
President, his career will almost of necessity
close in 1857, when he will be but fifty-
seven years old. Fifteen or twenty years of
active service, which he is capable of render-
ing the Union, will thus be lost.

Again, Mr. Fillmore, it is said, is now Pre-
sident, and recent usage, and public opinion,
rapidly conforming to it, are estabhshing one
terra as the rule of the office. It is true Mr.
Fillmore is not in the enjoyment of the
honors of the Presidency for the whole of
the term ; but the credit of the position is
not graduated by the precise number of



Online LibraryGeorge Hooker ColtonThe American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume 15) → online text (page 73 of 109)