James Fenimore Cooper.

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however, been changed, so as to make it necessary
that each vote should express for which officer it is
given. These votes are counted in the presence of
the college, and of any body else who may choose to
attend, and the result is properly authenticated and
sent to the Department of State; the President of the
Senate opens and com.pares the returns in the pres-
ence of both houses of Congress, after which the
result is officially Smnounced to the country. But as
the votes of each State are known the day they are
actually given, the public press uniformly anticipates
the pubhc documents by several weeks. If there
should be no election, the final choice is referred to

In 1801, the contest between Mr. Adams and Mr.
Jefferson had a singular termination. Mr. Pinckney,
of South Carolina, was the candidate for the Vice-
Presidency, supported by the friends of the former ;
and Mr. Burr, of New-York, the candidate supported
by the friends of the latter. Adams was the head of
what was called the federal party, and Jefferson the
head of the democrats.* The election of 1801 was

* A singular mistake is prevalent in Europe, concerning the
origin and objects of the two great political parties, which, fof
twenty years, nearly equally divided the people of the United
States. It is often asserted, and sometimes believed, that the
federalists were the secret friends of a raonarchj^ and that the
democrats were, what their name would imply, the only friends
of the people. The gross absurdity of this belief is completely
exposed, by the fact, that a great majority of the people of
New-England and of New-York were, for a ror.g time, feder-
alists ; and it is difficult to conceive that the mass of communi-
ties, so completely republican in practice, should entertain a
secret wish to overthrow institutions which they had been tha


the first triumph of the democrats. Mr. Adams and
Mr. Pinckiiey were both handsomely defeated ; hut,
by an oversight of the electors, Jefferson and Burr
received the same number of votes in the colleges.

first to form, and which were so completely confirmed by long
habit. Washington was, undoubtedly, a federalist, as, indeed,
were a very large proportion of the ancient officers and patriots
of the revolution. But this party was more lukewarm in the
cause of the French revolution, than the other, and its members
were the advocates of a rather stronger government than the
dem.ocrats. It is also true, that, as some of its leaders acknow-
ledged more of the maxims of the ancient monarchy tlian their
opponents, all those who had a bias in favour of the mother
country joined their ranks, and served to keep alive an impres-
sion which their enemies, of course, industriously circulated,
that the party leaned to aristocracy. It was easy to raise this
cry, both for the reasons named, and because a large proportion
of the men of wcalih in the middle and eastern States, were
enrolled in its ranks. But there can be no greater absurdity
than to suppose, that any party has existed in America, since
the revolution, with an intention of destroying, or, indeed, with
the intention of seriously modifying, the present form of govern-
ment. When the constitution was formed, and before all its
principles were settled by practice, it was to be expected that
men should differ on the subject of the degree of change that was
prudent; but, as early as the year 1800," the federalists and the
democrats were, essentially, nothing more than two great par-
ties, struggling for place, and who adopted different pohtics
about as much for the purpose of opposition as for any other
reason. This got to be eminently the case a iew years later,
when the federal party grew desperate in the minority, and lost
sight of character altogether, in the conduct it pursued on the
subject of the war with England. Some of the eastern poli-
ticians, during that war, believing the moment favourable to
a final effort, concerted a plan, by which the whole of the east-
ern, and some of the middle States were to unite in an attack
on the policy of the general government, the result of which
was to be the expulsion of the administration. This plan gave
rise to the famous Hartford Convention. The opponents of the
Hartford Convention accused its founders of a design to divide
the Union. It is difficult to say what crude projects may have
floated in the heated brains of individuals of that body, but this
is a country in which individuals do less than elsewhere, es-
pecially in matters of great moment. The New-England States
themselves would never have encouraged a scheme so destruc-
tive to their own interests ; but, had they entertaineiJ the wish,
it would have been a mad policy without the connivance o^
New-York,, a State that was then, and has been since- daiiy


This left tlie question of the presidency to be still
decided, as the constitution then prescribed that the
choice should be in favour of the candidate who had
the greatest number of votes, provided always that he
had a majority of the whole number.

The choice of a President, by the provisions of the
constitution, now devolved on Congress. In the
event of a referred election, the Senators have no
voices, the Representatives of each State in the lower
house giving but one vote ; so that the final decision
is made by the States, and not by the people. In
1810, there were sixteen States in the confederation.
By a singular coincidence, two of these States had a
tie in themselves ; so that they defeated their own
votes ; and of the remainder, eight gave their votes

draining them of their population, and which already numbers
nearly, if not quite, as many souls as all New-Endand united.
It IS well known that the great body of the federalists of New-
Yo7-k refused to join the convention, even with a view to remon-
strate, at the time when the country was engaged single-handed
agamst England. The best evidence of wiiat would^have been
the fate of an attempt to separate the Union, is to be found in
the fact that the people of New-England themselves treat with
great coldness, the principal members of the Hartford Conven-
tion, although most men acquit them of entertaining so mad a
scheme. But the federal party was destroyed by the policy it
pursued in the war. The Hartford Convention was its dying
effort, and its last moments were as impotent as those of any
other worn-out nature. The older members of the party some-
times act together, now, from habit and intimacy, but the gen-
eration that is just appearing on the stage, already read of the
party struggles in which their fathers were engaged as matters
of history. There is no such party known in the United States,
as a party unfriendly to their institutions, though, doubtless,
there are still a few men living who retain some of their ancient
attachment for the sort of government under which they were
born. It is worthy of remark, that the children of these men
are almost always decided democrats, and in many instances,
the complete success of the confederative system has overcome
the prejudices of old and bigoted tories. It must be remem-
bered, also, that though a majority of the people of Massachu-
setts, Connecticut, &:c. were willing to try the experiment
of the Hartford Convention, there were powerful minorities m
every State concerned, without counting the influence of all
the rest of the Union.


for Mr. Jefferson and six for Mr. Burr. You should
be told that the same law which referred this ques-
tion to Congress requires that the successful candidate
should have a majority of all the States. Mr. Jeffer-
son, therefore, required nine votes for success, which
was the number necessary to make a majority of

Tbe members of Congress voted thirty-five times
on this interesting question, and always with the same
result. At length, a member or two belonging to the
States which had lost their votes by a tie, changed
their minds, and gave their voices for Jefferson. This
decided the matter, and placed that distinguished
statesman in the chair for the next four years. At
the expiration of the regular period of service, he
was re-elected; but, imitating the example of Wash-
ington, he retired at the end of his second term.

Until now the Vice-President had been the succes-
sor of the President : but although Mr. Burr, having
the next greatest number of votes, was necessarily
Vice-President for the first of Mr. Jefferson's terms
of ofiice, he was superseded at the second election.
The constitution had been altered so as to stand as
at present, making it necessary to indicate the situa-
tion it is intended the candidate shall fill. A veteran
of the revolution, but a man past the expectation of
further preferment, had been selected to supply the
place of Mr. Burr. The friends of the administration
now turned their eyes on the Secretary of State, as
a successor to the President of the day. This gen-
tleman (Mr. Madison) was elected, and a sort of
change in the descent of power was effected. After
a service of two terms, Mr. Madison also retired, and
the Secretary of the time being (Mr. Monroe) became
the successful candidate. The second term of this
gentleman''s service is now near its close, and he re-
tires too, as a matter of course. You are not to sup-
pose that the constitution prescribes anv other limit*

Vol. II. P


to the presidency of an individual^ but that of a new
election every four years ; but the example of Wash-
ington, and, perhaps, the period of life to which all
the Presidents have attained, after filling the chair foB
two terms, have induced them, in succession, to de-
cline elections for a third.

On the present occasion, an entirely new state ot
politics presents itself. The old party distin(^tions
of federalists and democrats are broken down, and
the country is no longer divided into two great j>olit-
ical factions. Mr. Ad^ms, the Secretary of State (and
a son of the second President,) is considered by a
great number of people as the natural and the best
successor to Colonel Monroe. When I say natural,
you must confine the meaning of the ward to a natu-
ral expediency, and not to any natural right. His
claims consist of a long experience in the politics of
the country, great familiarity with foreign diplom-icy,
and the intimate connexion that he has so long had
with the particular measures of the existing adminis-
tration, lie is a man of extensive acquirements, great
honesty, and unquestionable patriotism. He is alsa
a nor'Jiern, or, as it would be expressed here, an
eastjrn man (coming from New-England;) and hith-
erto Virginia has given four out of the five Presidents,
^ut the circumstance of birth-place has far less influ-
ence than you would suppose in a government like
this. It is worthy of remark, that while Europeans
are constantly predicting sectional divisions in this
country, the people of the country themselves ap-
pear to think very little about them. Mr. Adams
has both a warm support and a warm opposition in
the northern States, it being evident that men follow
the bent of their humours or judgments, without
thinking much on the question of north and south.
It is an important circumstance, which always should
be remembered in considering this subject, that though
the south has, in consequence of its physical inferiority


and peculiar situation, a jealous watchfulness of the
north, that the north regards the south with no such
feelings. It is clear that the sentiment must be active
enough in both to induce men to overlook their inter-
ests, before it can produce any important changes.

Mr. Crawford, the Secretary of the Treasury, was
another candidate for the Presidency; Mr. Calhoun,
the Secretary of War, was a third; Mr. Clay, the
Speaker of the House of Representatives, a fourth:
and General Jackson, a Senator of Tennessee, was
a fifth.

The two first of these gentlemen sit in the cabinet
with Mr. Adams, and present the singular spectacle
of men united in administering the afiairs of the na-
tion, openly and honourably opposed to each other
in a matter of the greatest personal interest.

Mr. Crawford was for a long time thought to be
the strongest candidate. He is said to have been a
man admirably qualified to fill the high station to
which he aspired ; but a paralytic attack had greatly
weakened his claims, before the meeting of the col-
leges. His friends, too, had committed a vulgar
blunder, which is more likely to be fatal here than
in any country I know. They commenced their
electioneering campaign by bold assertions of their
strength, and the most confident predictions of suc-
cess. I have heard a hundred men of independence
and of influence say that disgust, at having them-
selves disposed of in this cavalier manner, disinclined
them to a cause that they might otherwise have been
induced to support. It is the opinion of Cadwallader
that Mr. Crawford would not have succeeded, had
his health not so unhappily suffered. He was but
little known to the northern States, and men of
character and talents always choose to have at least
the air of judging for themselves. He succeeded,
however, in receiving enough votes to include his
flame amons; the three highest candidates, and con-


gequently he came before Congress on the final

Mr. Calhoun, who is still a young man, and who
probably aimed as much as any thing at getting his
name prominently before the nation, to be ready for
a future struggle, prudently withdrew from the con-
test. As he is universally admitted to be a man of
high talents, he was put up, in opposition to the cele-
brated Albert Gallatin, for the Vice-Presidency; and
as that gentleman declined the election, Mr. Calhoun
was chosen by the colleges nearly unanimously.

Mr. Clay had many warm friends, and was sup-
ported by his own State (Kentucky) with great zeal ;
but he failed in getting his name included on the list
of the three highest. He is a self-created man, of
unquestionable genius, and of a manner and elo-
quence that will always render him formidable to
his opponents, and of immense value to his political
friends. His direct interest in this election, how-
ever, ceased, of necessity, with the returns of the

General Jackson is a gentleman who has long been
employed in offices of high trust in his own State, but
who only came prominently before the nation during
the late war. He is a lawyer by education, and has
filled the civil stations of a judge, a member of Con-
gress, and, lastly, of a Senator. In early life he serv-
ed as a soldier, during the struggle for independence;
but he was much too young to be distinguished. As
a military man, his merit is unquestionable. He led
two or three difficult expeditions against the Indians
of the south w^ith great decision and effect, and with
an uniformity of success that has been rare indeed
against the savages of this continent. In consequence
of the skill and energy he displayed on these occa-
sions as a general of militia, he received a commis-
sion in the regular army, soon after the declaration
of war against Great Britain* Fortunately, he was


chosen to defend New-Orleans against the formidable
attack of that country. He was lying a short dis-
tance above the town, with a small body of men,*
when it was unexpectedly announced that the enemy
had landed at a point, whence a forced march of two
or three hours would put them in possession of the
place. Mustering as many of his motley troops as
he could spare from other points of defence, (some-
thing less than sixteen hundred men,) he led them to
the attack against a regular and much superior force,
whom he attacked with a spirit and effect which left
an impression that he was far stronger than the truth
would have shown. By this bold measure, he gain-
ed time to throw up entrenchments and to receive
reenforcements. Before his works were completed,
or one-half of the necessary troops had arrived, the
British risked the celebrated attack of the 8th of
January. They were repulsed with horrible slaugh-
ter to themselves, and with an impunity to the de-
fendants that was next to a miracle. The works
were entered at an incomplete point ; but all who
presented themselves were cither slain or captured.
The great modesty of the account of his success given
by General Jackson, is as worthy of commendation
as was his indomitable resolution. ^ Contrary to the
usage of the times, he gave his opinion that the loss
of the enemy was several hundreds less than what
they acknowledged it to be themselves, and, indeed,
nearly a thousand less than what further observation
gave him reason to believe it actually was. If the
decision of this extraordinary man was so brilliantly
manifested in the moment of need, his subsequent

* Less than three thousand men. As late as the '29th Decem-
ber, General Jackson, in an official letter, states his whole fore 'J
at three thousand effectives. In the report of the battle of tht^
8th January,* lie says, that though' a detachment of Kentucky
militia had arrived, they added but very little to his force, as
most of them were unarmed.



prudence is worthy of the highest commendation.
Although he had not hesitated an instant to attack
nearly twice his force on the open plain, when
nothing short of desperate courage could save the
town, he did not allow success to lure him from a
position which experience had shown he could main-
tain. He suffered his beaten, but still greatly supe-
rior enemy to retire unmolested ; and it is probable
that, had they asked for succour, he would cheerfully
have yielded them assistance to embark.*

* The force with which General Jackson defended New-
Orleans, according to the official returns, was less than 6000
men, imperfectly armed and organized : and all of whom, with
the exception of a few marines and sailors, and two battalions
of new levies for the army, in all about one thousand men, were
the citizens of the country. It is believed that, sailors and ma-
rines included, General Packenham landed nearly ten thou-
sand men. It would be a curious study, to those who had any
desire to sift the truth, to examine the documents of England
and America in relation to the events of their two wars. The
writer must say he has met many Americans who are familiar
with the documents of England, but he never yet met one Eng-
lishman who was familiar with those of America. Nations lose
nothing by looking a little closely into their own affairs, as well
as into those of other people. One circumstance first drew the
writer into a closer investigation of these subjects, than he might
otherwise have been induced to undertake. He will relate it.

It is well known that, in 1814, a bloody battle was fought
near the great cataract of Niagara. The American general
says, that a brigade of his army met a portion of the British
army, and engsiged it. That he arrived with reenforcements,
the enemy reenforcing at the same time ; that he was much an-
noyed by certain pieces of artillery, stationed on an eminence
that formed the key of the English position ; that he carried this
hill at the point of the bayonet, and captured the artillery ; that
the enemy made three desperate attempts to regain the position
and their guns, in all of which they were defeated, and that they
finally relinquished the attempt. He gives his enemy a small
superiority of force, and he conveys an implied censure against
the officer third in command, (he and his second in command
having been obliged to retire, from their wounds,) for not secur-
ing the fruits of this victory on the morning succeeding the day
of the battle. So much for the American. On the other hand,
the English general gives a sufficiently similar account of the
commencement of the battle. He also admits the charge up
the hill, that " our artillerymen were bayoneted by the enemy
in the act of loading;" that " our troops having for a moment


General Jackson obtained immense popularity in
the country by this brilliant success. His political
honesty is unquestionable, and his patriotism without
a blot. Still his want of experience in matters of
state, and even his military habits, w^ere strongly
urged against him. The former may be a solid ob-
jection, but, it is more than absurd, it is wicked to
urge the military character of a citizen, who merito-
riously leaves his retirement in the hour of danger to
carry those qualities with which nature has endowed
him, into the most perilous, and commonly the least
requited service of his country, as an argument
against his tilling any station whatever. A thousand
falsehoods have been circulated at the expense of
General Jackson, and even some admitted inequality
of temper has been grossly exaggerated. Notwith-
standing the industry and affected contempt of the
adversaries of this gentleman, he received more of
the electoral votes than the highest of the three can-
didates in the returned list.

been pushed back, some of our gnus remained for a few min-
utes in the enemy's hands;" that they were, however, soon re-
covered ; and that, instead of his making attacks for the re-
covery of the lost position, the Americans were the assailants;
and that they were uniformly defeated in their attempts. He
estimates the force of the Americans at nearly double what
their official reports state it to have been. Both parties nearly
double the (presumed) loss of their enemy ; and the American,
though something nearer to- the admission of the Englishman
thanthe Englishman was to the admission of the American,
estimated the force of his enemy considerably over the official

The writer was struck with these officfal discrepancies. The
documents were uttered to the world under the same form.s, in
the same language, and by people acknowledging the same
moral influences. He was induced to exclaim, Where is the
truth of history? The writer knows nothing more of the merits
of this question than is contained in the documents he has ex-
amined, and which any one may also examine, who has a cu-
riosity equal to his own. The circumstance should, however,
teach moderation to partisans, as it abundantly proves that the
data on which they found their opinions cannot always be of
the most unexceptionable nature.


The day of the final decision by Congress was one
of great interest here. All the candidates were on
the spot, in the discharge of their official duties, and
large bodies of their friends had assembled to witness,
and, if possible, to influence the result. Cadvvallader
obtained a convenient position, where we both wit-
nessed the whole manner of the election.

Althoudi three names were returned to Congress
for the choice, it was universally understood that the
selection would be made between Messrs. Adams
and Jackson. It would have been indecent in the
representatives to prefer Mr. Crawford over two
men, both of whom had received nearly double the
number of the popular votes that had been given in
his favour, though by the constitution they certainly
had a right to elect which of the three they pleased.
It was thought that the representatives of those States
in which the electors had given their votes for this
gentleman, would make a single demonstration in his
favour, and then give their voices for one or the
other of the two candidates, who, it was well known,
must eventually succeed.

The gallery of the hall of Congress was crowded
nearly to suffocation. The Senators were present as
a sort of legal witnesses of the election, and many
men of high political consideration were in the lob-
bies and behind the desks. In short, every one was
there who could gain admission by art or influence.
The arrangements for this important proceeding were
exceedingly unpretending, though remarkably im-
posing by their simplicity, and that air of grave com-
posure which usually reigns over all the legislative
proceedings of this country.

The members of the different States were now seat-
ed together, since they composed so many separate
colleges which, on this momentous question, were to
pronounce the voices of their particular communities.
Here, sat the numerous and grave-looking repre-


sentation of the powerful State of New- York, and
by their side was a solitary individual, who, in his

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperNotions of the Americans: picked up by a travelling bachelor (Volume 1-2) → online text (page 43 of 58)