George Hooker Colton.

The American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume v.8) online

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Clay is the distinguished advocate.

Each of these great men represents a
phase of the heroic character ; their qual-
ities are heroic, and yet contrasted. Each
is admirable, but they affect us differently
according to our predispositions.

The generous pride and lofty pre-eminence
of Mr. Clay's character ; his aristocratic
bearing, his haughty eye, and his irresist-
ible grace, both of manners and of speech,
show him one of nature's noblemen, a man
born to lead and to command. His instinct
of character, which is perfect and instan-
taneous, places him at once in a relation
of friendship or enmity with those who
come into personal contact with him. His
enemies are constant and sincere : his friends
are entluisiastic and devoted ; their atten-
tion is drawn toward him with such inten-
sity, because of his wonderful qualities,
they soon forget everything in the man,
and too easily lose sight in him of the
principles and interests which he advo-
cates. The crowd of citizens whom you saw
assembled in this room just now, are most
part ardent politicians, strongly engaged on



the Whig side, and for the support of Whig
principles, and yet such is their affection
for Mr. Clay, they would sooner ruin their
party, (which they are now striving to do,)
and even with that, ruin the vast interests
of commerce and manufactures, nay, ruin
themselves even and their private fortunes,
than not vote for Mi-. Clay. This was
the object of the present meeting. These
citizens, who are among the best Whigs in
the Union, were assembled here to defeat
themselves, for the love they bear to Mr.
Clay. You may judge from that circum-
stance, what must be the power and per-
sonal influence of the man. He is the
minority candidate of the party. It is
necessary for the success of the party that
the minority candidate should be given
up, and that all votes should be imited on
the other candidate ; but sooner than do
this, the friends of Mr. Clay have resolved
to throw their votes into the sea.

Sir. Sir, you astonish me. But is it
not supposed that Mr. Clay has himself in-
stigated this movement ?

Cit. That is impossible. He has refused
the use of his name to any faction. The
honor of the party is his own honor.

Str. Why should he do that ? If he
thinks himself entitled to the Presidency
as the reward of his long service •

Cit. You mistake. Men are not call-
ed to the Presidency in the acceptance
of a reward, but in the performance of a
duty. Mr. Clay has no such contemptible
opinion of his country's offices as to claim
them as one would a salary. As they are
honors, they must be freely given, but not
demanded : as they are duties, they must
be entered upon with anxiety and reluct-
ance, not seized as a perquisite.

None know better the true spirit in which
to regard these things, than the minority
candidate ; he has said " that he would
rather be rightthan be President," meaninrr,
perhaps, that as the most desirable of all
things, in point of credit, is to be right,
the next is, to have one's merit recognized
by some great testimony, as by an ap-
pointment to the Presidency.

Str. It strikes me now that his friends'
opinion of him was not commensurate with
his greatness, or their lionor, that they
should make a movement by which he was
invited to defeat his own party.

Cit. Ah ! sir, he is too good a patriot



834



Party Discontents.



[Oct.,



for that, and too great a mind to give in
to any littleness. Mr. Clay's honor, as
Ofne of the candidates of the Convention,
would have been sorely compromised
should he have yielded an instant to
their suggestions. When the name of
General Taylor was offered at the Con-
vention, the principal objection raised
against it, and which, while it remained,
was insuperable, was that he did not freely
commit himself into the hands of the Con-
vention ; but it was thought, that if re-
jected by them, he would allow himself to
be made an independent candidate, and by
that course divide the party, and defeat the
election. This objection, urged with great
vehemence by the friends of Mr. Clay and
others, was removed by General Taylor's
explicit committal to the Convention ; he
would be theirs wholly, to do with as they
pleased. Of course, if one of the candi-
dates for nomination was thus bound, all
were bound ; but our discontented enthu-
siasts here, seem to have forgotten that
point, if indeed they ever took it into con-
sideration. Should it be agreed by one
half the Whig party, to set up Mr. Clay,
he would not allow himself to be made
their candidate; neither would Mr. Web-
ster, nor General Scott. All votes given
for these gentlemen are thrown into the
sea, and go so far to elect the adversary.

Str. Do you mean the " adversary of
souls ?"

Cit. No, sir ; the adversary of peace.
To continue. General Taylor will draw
after him a number of democratic votes.
Democratic committees have offered him,
uncondilionally, the votes of their cau-
cuses, and he has very properly accept-
ed them. The vote of a Democrat is as
good, or better, to elect a Whig Pre-
sident than the vote of a Whig. And this,
too, was known to the Convention, and it
had great weight in procuring the nomi-
nation of the General ; for when a man is
popular with both parties, and is a firm
adherent of one, other things being as
they should be, he is the candidate, the
expediency candidate, as the new phrase
has it. You cannot choose but take such
a one ; to do otherwise were a proof of
more enthusiasm than discretion.

Sir. I cannot leave meditating the indis-
cretion of those mistaken citizens ! That
they should have deliberately gone about



disgracing themselves and their venerated
leader, by making him the puppet of a
faction !

Cit. Never concern yourself. He is not
bound to be keeping a hospital for insane
politicians. Let it pass. The shame
of it is enouffh, and will last lono- enough.
But we may learn some good lessons from
the folly, and so at least give it value as
a part of history. Conventions are but
just beginning to be understood. They
are an essential part of our system. We
cannot dispense with them. But we must
learn to organize them properlj^ to con-
duct them fairly, and finally to acquiesce
in their decisions. To violate the faith
of a Convention should be regarded as a
kind of minor treason, and such politicians
as fail of their just and honorable ad-
herence should suffer a political death ;
should be read out of our books, or be
set down as mercenaries. Why, if the
party is established for the country's good,
is it not contrary to manhood and to
virtue, to divide, corrupt, or deceive it ?
A great deal is urged by these discontents
about principles — about adhering to our
principles. We had better never be in
power, say these astute moralists, than
sacrifice a single principle. Verj^ good,
very heroical, is that saying. But unless
we at some time acquire power to carry
out our principles, they are almost a dead
letter. I know, indeed, that a vigorous
minority, with right on their side, may
bring the country to their mind, and with
public opinion to aid them, may effectually
obstruct and even change the policy of a
corrupt administration ; but in doing this,
they have not done all. If the Whigs are
never to be in office, they will by-and-by
cease to exist as a party.

Nor are they to insist Avith a childish per-
tinacity that their candidate shall give in to
all and every point of policy that was ever
entertained by a Whig. If their candidate
is sound at heart, and on difficult ques-
tions defers to the opinion of the majority,
what more can they ask of him ? To ask
more were the height of folly — it were even
an indecency, and a kind of tempting of
Providence,who will surely visit such exact-
ing electors with a demagogue. What
Whig will deny the name of Whig to any
elector because he does not think well of
prohibitory duties, or of a national bank ?



1848.]



Party Discontents.



335



On tliese questions men exercise a latitude
of opinion ; but if any man advocates a
conquest policj^ or acquiesces in the unre-
strained use of the veto, or holds the doc-
trine of Ihisser /aire, let alone, denying
government all power to protect or extend
trade, or to engage in works of national
benefit, for the aid of commerce, agiicul-
ture, or manufactures, — why, then, we
deny that he is a Whig — he is a Democrat
of the bigot school, in a mischievous sense
conservative.

But it is proper, perhaps, that I should
put you on your guard against a very com-
mon error, an error, too, of great magni-
tude, and of the most injurious effect. It
is growing more to be the opinion of our
citizens, that the success of their policy
depends upon the election of such or
snch a person to the Presidency. Under
democratic rule, the President exercises
a twofold legislative power. Under Whig
rule he is not supposed to exercise any
such power. An ultra-democratic Presi-
dent regards the veto-power as uncon-
ditionally his, to be used at his good
pleasure, for his own or for his party's
benefit. He assumes a truly legislative
position. Moreover, he thinks it politic to
use as much personal influence, by giving
and withholding of patronage, by the pro-
mise of aid, and by pledging himself to
such or such a line of policy ; and still
more, by a means not rightly understood as
yet by the people, the power of destroying
tlie political character of any weak mem-
ber of Congress, or any aspirant to office,
by corresponding with his constituents, or
through newspapers in the employment of
the party — a vast and potent means of in-
fluence : I say he thinks it politic to em-
ploy all these means to control elections,
and create a ministerial majority in Con-
gress, to carry out any measure of govern-
ment that may seem good to himself and
his friends. He will demand of his offi-
cials to be active on the eve of an election,
in the support of some nameless adven-
turer, who has wriggled himself into favor
at Washington.

Sir. Stop a moment, if you please ; do
you mean to say that office is obtained in
this free nation by intrigue, the interven-
tion of women, bribing, and button-hold-



ing



Cit. To my sorrow, I do, sir. You



must know that we have a peculiar and
very numerous class of citizens in this
country, who go by the name of office-
seekers. These imfortunate persons are
visited for their sins with a pecuhar long-
ing — the longing for office, if it be the
most miserable starveling fimction in the
world, — still, if it be an office under gov-
ernment, they long. A more singular and
uncomfortable malady than this is not t«
be found noted in the books. It can be
compared with none but that dirt-dispep-
sia which afflicts the negroes of the West
Indies, when they long to eat dust and
earth, and will even sweep the floor in or-
der to devour the sweepings. The office-
dispepsia sometimes seizes upon men at
middle age in the full vigor of health, and
they will even throw up a good business,
sell a farm, pawn their mortgages, and
hypothecate their stocks, to scrape money
to spend in the hotels of Washington, so-
liciting the miserable boon of a clerk's
place, with a salary of six hundred a-year.
Such instances are not rare. Sir, I am
afraid you will not believe me when I tell
you, that for every one of the hundred
thousand persons in tlie pay of govern-
ment, there are probably five or six who
are sick of this odious malady. Thus
you have at least half a million of men,
and an innumerable multitude of their
sympathizing friends, reduced to a con-
dition of moral atrophy, their free-wills
extinguished in that of their monster-
tyrant the government. Now, on the
eve of a democratic election, this vast
body is converted for the most part
into an electioneering army : they per-
suade and draw over the neutrals, and
so turn the scale. As a remark, by-the-
by, let me suggest, then, if the Whigs, who
have been long out of power, should gain
the next election by a bare majority, their
7-eal numbers must be enormous and em-
brace two-thirds of the nation at least ;
seeing that their adversaries, with the aid
of this electioneering array, and all other
means to boot, could not outvote them.
But I grow tedious.

Str. no ; your account is painful but
not tedious.

Cit. Now it is a part of good policy that
this dreadful endemic of office-seeking,
which not only corrupts our government,
but creates the greatest unhappiness and



336



Party Discontents.



[Oct.,



discontent, should be abated — at least, that
tlie government itself should cease to be
the patron and promoter of it for the evil
purposes of faction. To this end all that
is necessary, is that our President should,
in the first place, make all promotions in
the army and navy in the regular order of
the service, not allowing himself to be af-
fected by private influence, or personal
povfer, and that for the officers of govern-
ment he should choose such men as are
known to be valuable and honest ; and for
local offices, such as those of the Post Office
and the Revenue, that he should not bestow
them merely as rewards for party service,
but should, as far as possible, choose such
men as are acceptable to the people of the
places where they are, and would be
chosen by them were they to be elected
by vote. And, lastly, he is not to dis-
place a valuable officer merely because he
voted against the party of the President.
A busy, noisy demagogue, who neglects
his official duties, and passes his whole
time in clubs and caucusses, cannot indeed
expect to remain in office when there is a
better man and a more useful one to till
liis place ; there are limits beyond which
endurance will not carry us — but I think
the principle is by this time quite clear
to you.

Str. Yes ; but it seems to me a very
serious defect in your government, that
the appointment to valuable local offices
should be in the hands of the President.
Why not make them elective ?

Cit. There are arguments on both
sides. The Constitution provides that
Congress shall have power to make the
minor offices elective if it pleases, but at
present they are by appointment. Touch-
ing the question of appointments and re-
movals, our candidate has this grand quali-
fication, that having no party obligations,
nor private enmities, he will allow good
officers to retain their places, and only ex-
pel such as are notoriously intriguing, in-
capable or corrupt ; and thei'e is good
reason to believe that he will always pre-
fer such men as are acceptable to the peo-
ple, and siich as Avill not tamper with
public opinion, or labor to corrupt the
elections.

Sir. But if it is power that the Whigs
want, why should they not use every
^raeans to increase their powder ?



Cit. The power which they want is
the free unbiassed favor of the nation,
not the interested love of dependants.
The Whigs are fully aware that the weight
of national feeling and opinion is on their
side ; they wish only for a free expression
of that opinion. And this we believe will
be allowed them if General Taylor and his
friends come into power.

Sir. Sir, I am amazed at the expres-
sions Avhich you use — " allowed them."
Why, sir, are not the people free ?

Cit. Not vmder the so-called " Demo-
cratic rule." Under that rule the ma-
jority does not govern. For, under that
rule, the President is endowed with a
legislative as well as an executive power.
He dictates to Congress ; he dictates to
his officials and their friends ; he dictates to
the party ; and through all this dictation
he is the dictator of the nation, and not its
constitutional Executive. If the President
and his friends wish to have supplies for a
war, which they mean to engage in, with
England, or with Mexico, or any other coun-
try — for the acquisition of remote gold
mines, or ports of commerce — they can so
influence Congress, and so influence the
elections, and so threaten, terrify, and
suppress the free opinion of the best
men of their own party, as to obtain
such supplies. They can put the ma-
chinery of the press in motion, to manufac-
ture public opinion over all the continent,
and even in Europe, to carry out their
pernicious schemes. And if all this fails,
and the President and his friends find
themselves in a minority in Congress,
then steps in the veto power, and by
holding it in terror over every measure
of public benefit or private claim — in
short, sir, the Executive power, with
army, navy, offices, nev-^gpapers, party,
Congress, and the purse at command, can
do just what it likes. You see, then, our
only hope is to elect an honest man.

It is power, sir, that we want, not the
power to govern and meddle, but the
power to let alone and forbear. We be-
gin to think well of that favorite maxim
of our Democratic friends, that " the
world " — this country at least — " is gov-
erned too much." True, indeed, what
with our botched up tariff's, ruining the
manufacturing interest, and turning, by
that means, the balance of trade against



1848.]



Party Discontents.



33'



us ; what witli our borrowings to sus-
tain a vicious war ; what with a trea-
sury system contrived so as to create
powerful centres of Executive influence
in various parts of the country ; Avhat
with the want of any national system
of exchanges, so that the losses by ex-
change, and the want of a regulative trea-
sury center, exceed all other causes of
loss combined, in commercial o2Derations ;
what with the new Democratic movement
in the North, by which the Northern De-
mocracy means, by and by, to regulate
the private aftairs of our Southern States,
and also to regulate the private affaii-s of
Cuba, Jamaica and Mexico ; what with
all this "governing," and longings to gov-
ern our neighbors and our fellow-citizens, I
do think we and our neighbors are " gov-
erned too much ;" and, more, that it is
high time for honest and capable men to
step in and put an end to this vicious, and
all too rapid increase of the governing
power. It is tune, sir, that Congress and
the majority of the nation should begin
and try what they can do in their lawful
capacity. When the Whigs are in power,
they will carry out their principles, but
now their duty is, to use every honest
means to bring their own men into Con-
gress, and into the national offices. But
this desirable end cannot be attained by
roaring, or by creating divisions, or by
putting astute queries, with a jockey's wink
of the eye, "Whether Gen. Taylor be a
Whig or no ?" — it were better if such would
inquire of their own selves, whether they
know the meaning of the word " Whio-,"
and how far they are sincere in their own
professions of Whiggism ? If they believe
not that Gen. Taylor is a Whig after all
the evidence that has been given them,
they are, indeed, in a state of incapacity,
and should put their faith in training to
enable it to carry something solid. There
are those whose experience has lain so
much amongst knaves and simpletons, their
beliefs are deranged and shrivelled for
want of testimony. With these Ave need
not parley. A man's sincerity and sound-
ness is evident on his face, and in his life
and speech. Our candidate carries sin-
cerity, sweetness, and manly courage in his
countenance, and as his life has been an
unbroken line of wisdom and heroism, so
his speech is a perfect whole of modesty,



sincerity and consistency. In fact, sir, I
entertain too great a respect for him to
attempt to defend him.

Sir. But what is this satirical cry that
I hear raised against an expediency candi-
date ?

Cit. You are, perhaps, well enough
acqiuxinted with our language to know
that the word expediency signifies "fitness
or suitableness to the purpose intended;^'
or, sometimes, " propriety under the pe-
culiar circumstances of the case :" these
are the definitions of expediency.

What is expedient to an end is right,
provided the end be right. The end does
not indeed sanctify the means ; for if
we see bad means, or bad, false and
wicked men employed, toward the ac-
complishment of any public design, act-
ing in their real character of demagogues
or deceivers, we may be perfectly assured
that the end they are employed in is itself
bad. The end and the means, in all
cases, agree, harmonize and tally together ;
by the end you may judge what means
must be used, good or bad ; by the means
you may accurately predict the end. Evil
is never expedient to a good end, nor good
to an evil end. If it be a good end to
bring the Whigs into power, it is absolute-
ly proper that sound and honest means be
employed. Now it is power that the
Whigs want ; but the power which they
seek is not so much in the occupancy of
office, as in the occupancy of the public
confidence, of the public conscience, and
of the hearts of all good men. This being
their noble, their glorious ambition, they
would be the last to resort to base and
temporizing means.

What we seek in a candidate is, first,
a great character ; second, experience
and wisdom in command ; and, lastly, a
national reputation. Now, if the first mark
of a great character is the ability of con-
trollins:, combininfr, and directino; the
energies of other men, toward some one
grand purpose ; as when the general
so employs and directs the energies and
talents of his officers as to win the field ;
who discovers more of this quality than
our candidate ? His influence over his
troops, by example of indifference to dan-
gers, fills them with a calm and heroic
courage ; his wisdom in guiding their valor
and combining their movements, insures



338



Tarty Discontents.



[Oct.,



victory. Of this grand quality of a com-
mander, the surest proof is when the honor
of gaining his battles is attributed, now to
one and now to another of his officers. Each
is so thoroughly imbued Avith true dis-
cipline, confidence, and courage, his par-
ticular exertions seem to have gained the
battle. So is it always in the wars of
great commanders. Napoleon's and Al-
exander's victories seemed to depend
upon the skill and valor of some one of
their officers ; and so it was with Scott in
Mexico, and with Taylor ; the inspiring
energy and mind of the commander-in-
chief makes heroes and generals even of
the rank and file. Of this first quality
then, I mean a great and commanding
character, our candidate is a noble in-
stance ; and it is the more remarkable
and effective in him, as it is imited with
plain manners and natural modesty — a
modesty that suffers pain at its own praises ;
that is embarrassed and discomfited by
applause.

Str. Believe me, sir, I enter into a full
sympathy with you in this, for I have read
in^the papers of the day, more instances
of these qualities you mention, and of the
magnanimity so much admired in a sol-
dier — more, I say, of General Taylor than
of any other in history. He is my ideal
of a republican soldier.

Cit. Now the second point that we re-
quire in our candidate, (he is a Whig, of
course, else we should not have nominated
him,) is, that he be accustomed to com-
mand. To know when, and to whom, to
give power and place. He must be

" Perfected how to grant suits,
How to deny them ; v/hoin to advance, and

whom
To trash for overtopping ; * * having both the

key
To officer and office ; to set all hearts i' the

state
To what tune please his ear "

Else would he become the tool of those
more powerful than he, and for a well or-
dered government give us a mutinous
crowd of aspiring intriguers. The state
must have a head, sir, who will be obej'ed
in his fimction, and who cares as little for
the favor of this or that man, as miglit the
archangel in the lead of heaven's array.
Str. From all I can learn of him, your



candidate has as little of timidity or ac-
quiescence about him as most men.

Cit. Well, there is another point,
not as much reflected on as perhaps it
ought to be — I mean that a President, no
more than a king, should ever be regard-
ed by the covmtry as a party instrument,
a man put in office to wrest the Constitu-
tion, and sway the state against the mi-
nority. All that is required of him by the
laws, or by the common reason, is, that he
execute the will of the nation, as it is
given by a fair majority in Congress. A
man who has the habit and experience of
a military commander, will be the last to
place himself under the influence of a fac-
tion, or of a circle of scheming dema-
gogues. His own will has usually had



Online LibraryGeorge Hooker ColtonThe American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume v.8) → online text (page 64 of 124)