Stephen Arnold Douglas.

A brief treatise upon constitutional and party questions and the history of political parties, as I received it orally from the late Senator Stephen A. Douglas online

. (page 7 of 11)
Online LibraryStephen Arnold DouglasA brief treatise upon constitutional and party questions and the history of political parties, as I received it orally from the late Senator Stephen A. Douglas → online text (page 7 of 11)
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in 1Y91 ; Colonel Hamilton and his school contend
ing that Congress had the power to charter such a
bank, while the State Rights school, of which Mr.
Jefferson had become the leader, denied the exist
ence of such power in Congress, for the reason that
it was not delegated in the Constitution. Mr. Mad
ison took sides with Mr. Jefferson and his friends
upon this question.

The next question, which was the most extreme
and significant of all, was the enactment of what is
popularly known as the Alien and Sedition Laws


of 1798, These were two distinct enactments, al
though usually referred to as one, because involv
ing similar principles. The Alien Law, as it is
called, authorized the President of the United States
to cause any alien who should be found within our
limits, and whose presence the President should be
lieve was dangerous to the peace and good order of
the country, to be arrested and removed beyond the
limits of the United States. The Sedition Law
made it a criminal offence, punishable with impris
onment, for any person to speak or write injuriously
to the reputation of the President, his Cabinet, or
any officer of the Government. Under the Sedition
Law a large number of Republican or Democratic
editors, who were opposed to the Federal adminis
tration of John Adams, were arrested and consigned
to prison ; and one of these from the State of Yer-
mont, while in prison, was elected to Congress.

The Republican party, of which Mr. Jefferson
was the acknowledged head, denounced the Alien
and Sedition Laws as direct and palpable infractions
of the Constitution, and dangerous to the rights and
liberties of the people. The power of the Federal
Government was at this time so firmly established,
that the Republican members of Congress despaired
of their ability to render any further service in the

RESOLUTIONS OF 1798 AND 1799. 129

national councils ; and accordingly Mr/Madison, Mr.
Albert Gallatin, and others, retired from Congress,
and took seats in their respective State Legislatures,
with the hope of organizing State resistance to Fed
eral encroachments. Mr. Jefferson wrote the Ken
tucky Resolutions of 1798, and forwarded them to
his friend, George Nichols, in Kentucky, to be
adopted by the Legislature of that State. These
resolutions denounced the Alien and Sedition Laws
as a violation of the Constitution of the United
States, and asserted the doctrine that the Constitu
tion, being a compact between sovereign and inde
pendent States, each member of the confederacy had
a right to judge for itself of the nature of the com
pact, and the extent of its violation.

Mr. Madison is understood to be the author of
the Resolutions of 1799, adopted by the Virginia
Legistature, and was chairman of the committee,
and the author of their report enforcing and ex
pounding the doctrines of the Kentucky Resolutions
of 1798, and the Virginia Resolutions of 1799.

The Federal party, on the other hand, insisted
that each department of the Federal Government
was the judge of the extent of its own authority
under the Constitution, and that Congress, like the
British Parliament, had the exclusive power of de-


termining the" extent of their authority, and conse
quently that the Alien and Sedition Laws must be
regarded and held as constitutional, for the reason
that Congress had so decided by the act of passing

Before the Federal Government and the States
were brought into actual collision upon the issues
thus presented, the Presidential election of 1800
put an end to the controversy, by the triumph of
the Republican party, in the election of Mr. Jeffer
son, and the consequent rejection of Mr. Adams and
his policy. I may here remark, that though Chief-
Justice Marshall became the leading intellect of the
Federalist party during Mr. Adams's administration,
he was constantly charged with being imbued with
Virginia abstractions, and not to be relied upon in
carrying out Federal measures. His integrity and
judgment were not doubted.

After the election of 1800, the Federal party
dwindled into a small minority, composed in great
part of men of large wealth and respectability of
character and talents. Mr. Jefferson maintained a
majority in both houses of Congress, and was re-
elected in 1804 by a very large majority, and held
control of all the departments of the Government
for the period of eight years, when he was succeeded


by Mr. Madison, who had been his Secretary of State
during both his terms, and was deemed a faithful ex
ponent of the Jeifersonian policy. Towards the lat
ter part of Mr. Jefferson's administration, questions
affecting our maritime rights became serious matters
of dispute with Great Britain ; such as the right of
search exercised by British vessels over American
vessels upon the high seas, and the impressment
into the British service of all sailors of British birth
who were found upon American vessels. In retali
ation for these acts, Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison
recommended embargo laws and non-intercourse
laws, which only aggravated the irritation, until it
resulted in declaration of war in 1812. Mr. Madi
son was reflected, and administered the Govern
ment until the 4th of March, 1817, when he was
succeeded by Mr. Monroe, who had been a member
of his Cabinet, and who was regarded as the legiti
mate political successor of Madison and Jefferson.
During the war a large number of the old Federalist
party, including John Quincy Adams, became iden
tified with the Republicans, which fact, to a certain
extent, obliterated party lines, although the great
body of the Federal party, especially the New Eng
land States, took part against the war, and even
sympathized with the British. Towards the close


of the war the leaders of the Federal party in New
England held a Convention at Hartford, Connecti
cut, at which they deliberated, with closed doors,
and in secret council, upon the condition of the
country, and upon the propriety of forming an alli
ance with Great Britain, and of withdrawing from
the Federal Union. The sudden arrival of the news
of peace, however, terminated the war, in a blaze
of glory, at New Orleans, and thus put an end to the
treasonable schemes of the "New England Federalists.
The odium attached to the Federal party, and even
to the name of Federalist, was so great after the war
had closed, that all the politicians in that party who
cherished a desire for political promotion, either dis
avowed the name and joined the Republicans, or
proclaimed a truce and sought for new issues upon
which new parties could be constructed.

The Bank of the United States having been
rechartered in 1816, by the cooperation of the
Republican party with its Federal supporters, was
for a time taken out of the political issues of
the day ; and the pecuniary embarrassments and
financial derangements consequent upon the war,
created a necessity, as was supposed, for increas
ing duties upon the importation of foreign goods,
with discriminations for the encouragement of do-


mestic manufactures. In this measure a large body
of the Republicans, with Mr. Calhoun and Cheves,
of South Carolina, Lowndes, and other distin
guished Southern Republicans, took the lead, as
they also did with the re-charter of the Bank of
the United States, and in planning and executing a
general system of roads, canals, and other internal
improvements by the Federal Government. The
cooperation of so many Republicans with the great
body of the Federalists, upon these several meas
ures, had the effect of almost obliterating party
lines, and of producing what was known in the
political circles of that day as the era of good feel
ing under Jimmy Monroe's administration. This
general harmony, however, was suddenly and fear
fully disturbed in 1819, 1820, and 1821, by the
introduction of the slavery question as an element
of party strife, when the people of Missouri applied
to Congress for permission to form a Constitution
and State Government preparatory to their admis
sion into the Union. The Northern Federalists
sprung upon the country the proposition, to prohibit
slavery > in all the Territories and "new States"
hereafter to be organized and admitted into the

It had been the uniform custom of the Republi-


can or Democratic party, from the period of its first
organization until 1824, to have the Republican
Democratic members of the two houses of Congress
assemble in caucus near the expiration of each
Presidential term, and nominate candidates for
President and Yice-President of the United States,
to be supported by the party. As the time ap
proached, towards the close of Mr. Monroe's second
term, for the Congressional caucus to assemble and
nominate candidates for the succession, jealousies
and rivalries arose in the Republican ranks, which
divided the party into several factions, each rally
ing around its favorite leader. Mr. John Quincy
Adams, who had become a professed Republican,
and was Secretary of State under Mr. Monroe, be
came a candidate for the Presidency. Mr. "William
H. Crawford, who was Secretary of the Treasury
under Mr. Monroe, also became a candidate. John
C. Calhoun, who was Mr. Monroe's Secretary of
War, likewise became a candidate. Henry Clay,
who was Speaker of the House of Representatives,
and had acquired great reputation during the war
as a popular leader, became a candidate ; while
the friends of General Andrew Jackson, who had
acquired great glory and renown by his Indian
campaigns, and especially by the battle of New


Orleans, presented his name for the Presidency.
While these several gentlemen were recognized as
candidates by the country, and were supported by
their friends as Republicans, and each, in the opinion
of their friends, was pronounced the true representa
tive of the Republican party ; a small portion of the
members of Congress, who still had a great rever
ence for the usages of the party, assembled in caucus,
and nominated William II. Crawford, of Georgia,
for President, and Martin Yan Buren, of New York,
for Yice-President, and declared them to be the
regularly nominated candidates, according to the
usages of the party. The friends of Adams, Clay,
Calhoun, and General Jackson, all refused to recog
nize the binding force of the nominations made by
the Congressional caucus, and appealed to the coun
try to support their respective favorites. Before the
time of election however arrived, the friends of Mr.
Calhoun, in Pennsylvania, in which State he ex
pected the largest support, because of his high tariff
and internal improvement doctrines, withdrew his
name, and united upon General Jackson as their
candidate, and presented the name of Mr. Calhoun
for Yice-President, in which movement Calhoun
acquiesced. When the result of the election was
known, it appeared that General Jackson had re-


ceived the highest number of electoral votes, that
Mr. Adams stood next highest on the list, Mr.
Crawford third, and Mr. Clay fourth, and that no
one having received a majority, the election was re
ferred to the House of Representatives, where, ac
cording to the provisions of the Constitution, the
choice was confined to the three highest; conse
quently Mr. Clay was ruled out as being ineligible,
by the House, where it was supposed that, in con
sequence of his personal popularity with the mem
bers, he would have been chosen, if eligible.
Under these circumstances, it was conceded on all
hands that Mr. Clay held the balance of power,
and could give the Presidency to whichever of the
three he preferred. The extreme ill health and pro
tracted sickness of Mr. Crawford put him out of the
question, and reduced the contest to the choice of
either Jackson or Adams. Great doubts were for a
long time entertained which Mr. Clay would choose,
there not being cordial relations between himself
and General Jackson, and a deadly hostility, in
volving an adjourned question of veracity, existing
between himself and Mr. Adams, whose conduct at
the Treaty of Ghent he had fiercely denounced,
charging him with having proposed to sell out the
free navigation of the Mississippi River, out of hos-


tility to the West, for an interest in the Eastern cod-
fisheries. It was charged at the time, and the name
of James Buchanan, of Pennsylvania, given as the
author, that Mr. Clay sent a message to General
Jackson, that he would make him President, pro
vided General Jackson would appoint him Secretary
of State, and that General Jackson indignantly re
jected the proposition, declaring that his right hand
should never know what his left would do. Im
mediately afterwards the friends of Mr. Clay voted
for Mr. Adams, and secured his election, and Mr.
Adams appointed Mr. Clay Secretary of State.
The whole land was filled at once with charges of
bargain and corruption between Mr. Adams and
Mr. Clay, and a coalition was formed between the
friends of Jackson, Crawford, and Calhoun, to op
pose and break down the administration, and in
1828 all the opposition united upon General Jack
son for President and Calhoun for Yice-President,
and secured their election by an overwhelming ma
jority. From the election of General Jackson dates
the reconstruction of the old Republican party,
under the name of the Democratic party, which has
ever since continued with its organization intact, al
though it has modified its position upon some of the
questions upon which it was founded, while many


others have in the progress of events become ob

Immediately after the inauguration of General
Jackson, a violent opposition was organized by Mr.
Calhoun and his Southern associates, against the
protective tariff which had been adopted in 1828,
and which soon gave indications of a settled pur
pose to resist the collection of the revenue under the
laws of Congress, by interposing State authority,
claiming for its sanction the resolutions of 1798 and
1799. This doctrine was for the first time formally
proclaimed and avowed in the Senate in 1830, in
the famous debate between Hayne and Webster.
The Legislature of South Carolina, under the advice
of Mr. Calhoun, passed an act calling a Convention
of delegates to be elected by the people of the State,
to assemble, and by virtue of their sovereign power,
as a member of the Confederacy, to annul the act
of Congress, the tariff act, by pronouncing it null
and void, and declaring that it should never be exe
cuted within the limits of that State. Mr. Hayne,
the leader of the nullifiers in the Senate, resigned
his seat in that body, and accepted the office of Gov
ernor of South Carolina, for the purpose of conduct
ing in person State resistance to Federal authority,
and Mr. Calhoun resigned his office of Yice-Presi-


dent of the United States, and accepted a seat in
the Senate to fill Mr. Hayne's vacancy, as the
champion of nullification in that body. General
Hamilton, of South Carolina, was appointed by Gov
ernor Hayne commander-in-chief of the military
forces of the State, and in order to produce a collis
ion with the Federal authorities, purchased a vessel
and sent it to Cuba to be laden with sugar and re
turn to Charleston without paying duties. In view
of these facts, President Jackson issued a proclama
tion, warning the people of South Carolina of the
perilous consequences of resisting the laws of the
United States, and appealing to their patriotism to
return to their allegiance, and avowing his fixed
purpose to enforce the laws of the United States,
and to reduce all rebels to subjection by the use of
the whole power of the country if necessary. He
also sent a special message to Congress, communica
ting all the facts, and asking for additional powers
and authority to enable him to enforce the laws ; and
he did not hesitate on all occasions to avow his pur
pose to seize and hang Mr. Calhoun the first instant
that blood was shed. At this stage of the proceed
ings Mr. Clay introduced into the Senate a bill for
the modification of the tariff, which is usually known
as Clay's Compromise Tariff Bill, by the provisions


of which the tariff duties were to be reduced by a
regular ratio each year for ten years, when the high
est rate of duty should be fixed at 20 per cent, ad va
lorem. Mr. Calhoun accepted this bill as a compro
mise, and it passed both houses of Congress and be
came the law of the land. Thus ended nullification.

When the tariff duties, in 1842, reached the
standard of twenty per cent, ad valorem by gradual
reductions, the Whig party, then being in power,
passed a new protective tariff bill, known, accord
ing to the party slang of that day, as the Black
Tariff, which imposed higher protective duties, and
was consequently more obnoxious to the free-traders
of the South, than even the tariff of 1828. This
tariff bill continued in force until 1846, when the
Democrats, having succeeded to power under Mr.
Polk, repealed it, and substituted in its place the
revenue tariff of 1846, which continued in force
until 1856, when, in consequence of the large sur
plus revenue received under it, it was modified, with
the view of reducing the revenue, without mate
rially changing its principles. The Whigs held to
the protective principle, and the Democrats the
revenue principle.

The following is the origin of the name of the
Whig party :


After Genera] Jackson had vetoed the United
States Bank in July, 1832, and removed the public
deposits from the Bank of the United States in Sep
tember, 1833, he was denounced by all the friends
of the bank and the opponents of his administration
as a tyrant, who carried out his own prejudices and
purposes regardless of ]aw, and in violation of the
Constitution. The Senate of the United States then
consisted of a majority opposed to his adminis
tration, in consequence of the coalition between
Mr. Calhoun and his followers, and the opposition
party, headed by Clay and "Webster, and which,
from the time of General Jackson's election to the
Presidency, had been known as the National Re
publican party. At this period James Watson
Webb, editor of the New York " Courier and En
quirer," had received a loan from the Bank of the
United States of $52,000, and on the next day his
paper denounced General Jackson and his adminis
tration, which he had previously supported, for ve
toing the bank, and increased its denunciations when
he removed the deposits, and appealed to all the op
position to General Jackson by whatever name they
had been previously known, or whatever might have
been their past affinities, to unite in rescuing the
Government from the hands of the tyrant, under the


name of Whig. He went into a history of the
Whig party of England to show that it was an
honored and revered name, and that its chief char
acteristic was opposition to the prerogatives, usur
pations, and tyrannies of the crown, asserting that
such a party was then needed in this country to
maintain the same position, and sustain the same
principles ; and that for this reason he should here
after call the opposition by the name of the Whig
party. The opposition papers throughout the coun
try generally copied General Webb's article and
adopted the name, and in the course of a few
months the party was known all over the Union
as the Whig party. But while the name was
changed from National Republican to Whig, the
principles of the party remained the same. They
continued to be the advocates of the Bank of the
United States, of a protective tariff, and of a system
of internal improvements by the Federal Govern
ment these being its chief measures.

The quarrel between Mr. Calhoun and General
Jackson, early in his administration, led to a disso
lution of General Jackson's Cabinet, in consequence
of one portion of it being devoted to the political
fortunes of Mr. Calhoun. Martin Yan Buren, the
Secretary of State, who was General Jackson's es-


pecial friend, set the example to all the other mem
bers of the Cabinet by tendering his resignation,
upon the ground that no administration could be
successful without unity in the Cabinet. The other
members all followed Mr. Yan Buren's example,
and General Jackson accepted the resignations of
all the Cabinet, and, at the same time, recalled
Louis McLane, of Delaware, who was minister to
England, to accept a seat in his new Cabinet, and
appointed Mr. Yan Buren his successor at the Court
of St. James. When the Senate assembled, Mr.
Calhoun and his friends made a coalition with the
National Eepublican party, headed by Clay and
Webster, to reject the nomination of Mr. Yan
Buren as minister to England, upon the alleged
ground that he had referred in an improper manner
to our domestic party questions in an official de
spatch to the Britisli Government, but on the real
ground, as the country believed, of themselves strik
ing a mortal blow at the success of General Jack
son's administration. This attempt gave rise to a
bitter and exciting debate in the Senate, in secret
executive session, which was subsequently published.
When the vote was taken the Senate was evenly di
vided, and consequently it devolved upon Mr. Cal
houn, the Yice-President, to give the casting vote,


which he did, against the confirmation of Mr. Yan
Buren. The moment this result was announced,
the Democratic party throughout the country, and
especially the friends of Mr. Yan Buren, raised the
cry of persecution, and immediately placed his name
at the head of their papers for Yice-P] esident of the
United States in place of Mr. Calhoun, to preside
over the same body which had rejected his nomina
tion to England. A National Convention was held
at Baltimore in 1832, by which General Jackson
was nominated for the Presidency, and Mr. Yan
Buren for the Yice-Presidency, by a unanimous vote,
General Jackson having no competitors, and all the
previous candidates for the Yice-Presidency with
drawing in favor of Mr. Yan Buren. He was
elected Yice-President at the same time that Gen
eral Jackson was reflected President, and on the
4th of March, 1833, he took his seat as the presid
ing officer of the Senate, Calhoun, Webster, and
Clay, who had been the chief instruments of his re
jection, being then all members of that body. The
sympathy and enthusiasm created for Mr. Yan
Buren by his rejection as minister to England, and
the favor extended to him by General Jackson, in
dicated him as General Jackson's successor so plain
ly, that all competitors deemed it useless to contest


his nomination ; and all of the leading Democrats,
who were unwilling to support the election of Mr.
Yan Buren, had no other alternative than to take
refuge in the ranks of the opposition under the lead
of Clay. Webster, and Calhoun. Mr. Yan Buren
was nominated at Baltimore in 1835, without oppo
sition, as the Democratic candidate for the Presi
dency, and, in November, 1836, was elected Presi
dent by an overwhelming majority, the opposition
to him in the Northern States voting for William
Henry Harrison, and in the Southern, for Hugh S.
White, of Tennessee.

Within a few weeks after the inauguration of
Mr. Yan Buren, on the 4th of March, 1837, the pe
cuniary revulsion took place which caused all the
banks in the country to suspend specie payments,
and brought bankruptcy upon the Federal Treasury,
being deprived of its revenues and the means of
paying its debts and daily expenses, by the failure
of the banks, with which the public revenues were
deposited. Mr. Yan Buren was reduced to the ne
cessity of convening an extra session of Congress,
which assembled early in September of that year,
and to which, in his annual message, he recom
mended his famous Sub-Treasury measure, for the

divorce of the Government from all banking insti-


tutions, and the collection of all the public revenues
in gold and silver to be deposited in and paid out
directly from the Federal Treasury.

To the astonishment of all his political associates
and allies, as well as of his adversaries, Mr. Calhoun

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Online LibraryStephen Arnold DouglasA brief treatise upon constitutional and party questions and the history of political parties, as I received it orally from the late Senator Stephen A. Douglas → online text (page 7 of 11)