W. J. (William J.) Scott.

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There was reluctant acquiescence rather than hearty

Such was the true condition when the Federal gov
ernment was launched by the inauguration of Washing-
tor in 1789. The immense personal influence of the
President prevented for the time being any grave party
divisions, guaranteed an era of good feeling, and secured
confidence in the stability of the new political order.
And yet in his first cabinet there were two distinguished
men, Jefferson and Hamilton, who were radically dis
similar in their views on nearly all constitutional ques
tions. These differences were indeed so great that Jef
ferson withdrew from the cabinet after about three
years' service as Secretary of State. There were still,
notwithstanding, elements of discord in Congress and in
the country which crystalized in well-defined party
organization before the close of Washington's second
term. It was evident from his farewell address that he
clearly foresaw some of the dangers, foreign and domes
tic, that impended over the new government and threat
ened to strangle the infant Hercules in its cradle.
Hence, his emphatic warning against entangling alliances
with foreign nations and his admonitory appeals on the
evils of sectionalism.

It was a national misfortune that the official mantle of
Washington fell on John Adams, the head and front of
the Federal party. For while Mr. Adams was a states
man of incorruptible integrity and tried patriotism, he
hardly possessed a single qualification for the Presi-


dency. If not the author of the Jay treaty, he was
largely responsible for that diplomatic blunder which
practically surrendered the freedom of the seas. His
"Defense of the American Constitutions," a prosy and
ponderous book, satisfied all thinking men that he was
the merest plodder in the science of government.
Besides all these proofs of incapacity, his deliberate
sanction of the Alien and Sedition laws was such a
flagrant outrage on the cardinal principles of American
liberty, that he was justly relegated to the shades of
Quincy. Against these and similar invasions of per
sonal and State rights, Mr. Jefferson, with the concur
rence and co-operation of Mr. Madison, prepared and
published the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions.
These masterly political documents were henceforth the
Magna Charta of State sovereignty and the text-book of
the Republican party.

The presidential contest of 1800 was fairly won by the
Republicans, but the Federalists, thus early in our na
tional history, sought by mere technicalities to defeat the
popular will in the overthrow of Jefferson and the sub
stitution of Aaron Burr, who had hardly been thought
of in connection with the Presidency. The struggle in
the House of Representatives was long and dubious,
and the excitement in the country intense and absorb
ing. It developed not only a spirit of partyism, but a
spirit of sectionalism that has marked all our subsequent
history. One of the earliest measures of Mr. Jefferson's
administration we refer to the acquisition of Louisiana
was bitterly opposed by New England and its allies


chiefly, if not solely, on the ground that it increased the
preponderance of the Southern States. There was,
however, no anti-slavery outcry. This fanaticism was
the invention of a later age. Abolitionism had as yet
neither birth nor self-conscious being. This vast addi
tion to our national territory gave us control of the Mis
sissippi, from its head-waters to the Belize, and made it
possible for us to become a first-class political and com
mercial power. Another thing remained to be done to
free us from Colonial vassalage. Our commercial inde
pendence, as already intimated, had been seriously com
promised by British influence and the servility of the Fed
eral party in the negotiation and ratification of the Jay
treaty. The embargo and non-intercourse acts were
purely defensive measures, and they aroused the fiercest
opposition of the Federal party. All through this
struggle for commercial independence, Puritan New
England and her allies were in open revolt against the
Republican administration.

But for these intestine troubles the second British
war might have been indefinitely postponed. The
Hartford Convention the refusal of Massachusetts to
respond to the call for the militia the blue-light signals
along the North Atlantic coast, were but the continu
ous and consistent developments of a well-matured con
spiracy against the Federal government. Some parti
san writers of American history it would be a flagrant
misnomer to style them historians have spared no
pains to conceal or extenuate these traitorous policies
and practices of Federalism. But so convincing was


the proof that, as early as 1808, this corrupt organiza
tion could only muster eight votes in the Senate, and in
a little while it ceased to exercise any marked influence
in national politics.

Notwithstanding this defection of New England, the
patriotism of the country was equal to the emergency.
O r gallant little navy vindicated the rights of neutrals,
which had been infringed by the Orders in Council
and the Berlin and Milan decrees, and which Jay's
treaty had tamely yielded up. Our success on land had
likewise been most gratifying. Scott's victories on the
Canadian border had been exceptionally brilliant,
whilst at New Orleans, Jackson, with his Western rifle
men, had routed the veterans of the Peninsular war
under the leadership of the gallant, but ill-starred Pack-
enham. The treaty of Ghent for the first time placed
our national independence on a firm basis, and the
honor is due almost exclusively to the skill and gallantry
of the Democratic chieftains in field and cabinet.

The period which immediately followed the adminis
tration of Madison is usually characterized as the "Era
of good feeling " So complete was the overthrow of
Federalism that Mr. Monroe was re-elected to a second
term without the slightest show of opposition. The
defeat of Jackson and the election of the younger Adams,
in 1824, was attributed by a vast majority of the people
to a corrupt coalition between "the Puritan and the
blackleg." It was fiercely rebuked in the next pres
idential campaign by the triumphant election of Jack
son. It was during this season of domestic quietness


that Mexico, under the leadership of Santa Anna and
Victoria, subverted the Empire of Iturbide that Simon
Boliva achieved the independence of Columbia and
Peru, and that Bozzaris and his "Suliote band" paved
the way for the re-establishment of Greek nationality.
These triumphs of Democracy on both continents
aroused the enthusiasm and enlisted the sympathies of
all classes in the United States. They furnished occa
sion also for some of the finest displays of forensic ora
tory ever listened to in the halls of the American Con
gress. This picture of Arcadian repose and loveliness
was sadly marred by thrusting upon the country the
"Negro Problem." That problem is the ghastly skele
ton in our national closet. It is the Sphinx riddle of
American politics, which no halting Edipus has yet
been found to solve.

Our purpose now is to deal with that special issue
which, more than all else, contributed to weaken the
bond of fellowship between the North and South, and
ultimately to divide the country into geographical par
ties. The minor questions of tariff, banks, etc., were
important, but not of necessity vital. They could in no
just sense be regarded as sectional, for while it is true
that the Northern section of the Union was most clam
orous for protection to domestic industries, there was a
respectable minority of Southern voters who were afraid
of the competition of the pauper labor of Europe. So,
likewise, while the commercial centers of the Middle
and Eastern States were chiefly anxious for a national
currency of uniform value, yet there were many South-


ern sympathizers who were dissatisfied with the obvious
inconveniences of the State banking system. These
questions, however, were susceptible of ready adjust
ment. The nullification movement in South Carolina
was quieted by the compromise of 1833, and the bank
troubles were allayed by the heroic conduct of General
Jackson. These agitations were not only evanescent,
but insignificant compared with the anti-slavery agita
tion that first assumed political prominence in connec
tion with the admission of Missouri in 1820. This
negro craze for so it may be fitly characterized was
small in its beginnings and had a plausible humanitarian
basis. It was for many years confined to the Quakers
and a few aged spinsters in the vicinity of Boston, who,
in the earlier days of the Plymouth colony, would have
been burned as witches. The intelligence of New Eng
land ever repudiated it as a mischievous fanaticism.
But as the little cloud, which Elijah's servant saw rise
out of the sea, continued to spread, until it darkened
the whole heavens, so this evil leaven of abolitionism
waxed more and more until it imperiled the integrity of
the Union. Its foremost champion. Garrison, was
dragged, with a rope round his neck, through the streets
of Boston, amidst the hootings ot the small boys and the
curses of what Van Hoist styles the "gentlemanly rab
ble" of the city. Gerritt Smith and Wendell Phillips
were frequently pelted with stale eggs and howled down
by the mob. But, before many years, it became a
political factor of vast weight in State and National pol
itics. The North became jealous, not only of Southern


prosperity, but of its continued ascendency in the coun
cils of the nation. There was murmuring against the
three-fifths slave representation in the House and com
plaints against the rendition of fugitive slaves. These
fanatics won their first victory in the passage of the Mis
souri Compromise. While it was a measure of pacifi
cation, it was a perilous concession to Abolitionism.
By it the South was at once overreached and betrayed.
Henceforward the North, while clinging to the human
itarian features of anti slavery ism, became more arro
gant and aggressive. Congress was flooded with
memorials praying for the abolition of slavery in the
District of Columbia and wherever the General govern
ment held exclusive jurisdiction. The halls of Congress
resounded with bitter denunciations of the slave-holding
aristocracy. Inflammatory appeals were made to the
sectional prejudices of the North and West. Men,
whose forefathers were brutal task-masters and profes
sional slave-hunters on the coasts of Africa, stood up
and lectured the Southern people on the iniquity of
chattel slavery. Such a policy of course produced
estrangement, and years before the era of bleeding Kan
sas and John Brown's midnight raid, the two civiliza
tions, correspondent to the two sections, were in as
deadly feud as Saxon and Celt.

The rise of the National Whig party in 1836 and its
triumph in 1840 promised to allay for a season the
feverish excitement en this thoroughly sectional issue.
That party embodied a large proportion of the virtue
and intelligence of both sections, and for a time kept


under control the worse elements that had entered into
its composition.

Party ties are not easily broken, nor party allegiance
readily foresworn. As long as the two great National
parties could preserve their organization intact, there
was no ground of apprehension for the safety of the
Republic. Two events, however, were at hand which
added tresh fuel to the flames. The annexation of
Texas and the defeat of Mr. Clay for the Presidency
greatly exasperated the Northern extremists. The
former, followed as it was by the brilliant campaigns of
Scott and Taylor, hardly wakened a momentary enthu
siasm amongst the masses of New England. The
acquisition of an immense territory, rich in agricultural
and mineral resources, was viewed with disfavor and
trepidation lest it might strengthen the South and restore
the lost equilibrium between the contending sections.
The election of Taylor and the compromise of 1850
caused, it is true, a temporary lull, yet it proved to be
the calm that precedes the terrible cyclone. The
decade that immediately followed was a period of inces
sant agitation. Compromises had been singularly inef
ficient. Constitutional compacts were not less power
less to stay the whelming torrent of anti-slavery fanati
cism. The Bible and the Constitution were alike
spurned as in the interest of slave catchers and men-
stealers, and their sacred restraints trampled under the
swinish hoofs of a Circean rabble drunk with partisan
fury. The Missouri Compromise was very soon repealed.
We, as already intimated, have no disposition to defend


it. It was a fraud and an injustice to the slave States.
Esau's sale of his birthright for a mess of red lentils
was a marvelously shrewd business transaction com
pared with that political folly. And yet its repeal was
the opening of Pandora's box. It fanned the flames of
sectional controversy. It substituted squatter sover
eignty for constitutional safeguards. It was the proxi
mate cause of that border strife which was the bloody
prologue of the fearful tragedy that shortly followed.
Nor is it allowable for those who would acquaint them
selves with the deeper philosophy of the war between
the two civilizations to overlook or undervalue the
influence of that remarkable book, Uncle Tom's Cabin.
The author was liberally endowed with hereditary gen
ius which had been enriched by more than average lit-
eiary culture. Whilst there was a coloring of truth in
many of its statements, it was in the main a frightful
caricature of Southern slavery. Comparatively few of
its Northern readers were curious to know the exact
truth of its intensely dramatic representations. Whether
Topsy was a picture from real slave-life or a figment of
the fancy was of no personal concern with them; whether
Legree was a flesh and blood entity or the coinage of a
distempered brain was of the slightest imaginable con
sequence. It was quite enough that it nourished their
hatred to the Nabobs of Virginia and the Carolinas. It
might be easily foreseen that a people who were stirred
to incendiary violence by the "awful disclosures of
Maria Monk" would be thrilled to their finger tips and
infuriated to madness by the overdrawn pictures of


Uncle Tom's Cabin. So profound was the impression
that even until to-day the worship of New England is
divided between Uncle Tom, the saintly hero of Mrs.
Stowe, and Brown of Ossawattomie, the martyr of the
Quaker poet, Whittier. Add to this the frantic appeals
of a hireling priesthood and of a time-serving, if not
subsidized press, and it is not strange that, like a "hell-
broth," the Puritan blood continued to boil and bubble
with ten-fold fury.

The administration of Buchanan was the close of the
constitutional period of our national history. For more
than sixty years the South had ruled the destinies of
the nation in peace and war. To this statement there
are hardly any noteworthy exceptions, and it may be
profitable to consider the results, State and Federal,
of this protracted dynastic sway. The whole nation had
prospered in a degree that may well excite our admira
tion. In the outset, we were limited on the south and
west by French and Spanish occupation. The fairest
and most productive portions of the continent were
under the flag of European nationalities. These bar
riers to our territorial extension had been removed, not
by war, but by wise and well-directed diplomacy. Our
commercial independence, without which our disen-
thrallment from British dominion would have been of
little or no worth, had been achieved by the gallantry
of our army and navy. Impressment, right of search,
and other hindrances to our national commerce, had
been forever abolished. The Monroe doctrine had not
only been asserted, but practically enforced. Indian


hostilities were largely a thing of the past. The greater
portion of the partially domesticated tribes had been
removed to reservations provided for them in the far
West. These ancient denizens of the forest, under the
protection and patronage of the government, had
abandoned the chase and engaged in agriculture and
the mechanic arts. The financial condition of the coun
try was all that could be desired. The debt incurred
by three foreign wars and various Indian disturbances
had been liquidated. The excise and land tax system
had been discontinued, and with honest and economi
cal administration the revenue from the customs was
adequate to meet current expenses. The growth of our
population had been normal, and this natural increase
was supplemented by a vast immigration from the Old
World. The benefits of this immigration had inured
in a disproportionate measure to the North, principally
because that section had almost a monopoly of direct
steam communication with the transatlantic States.
Our export trade, consisting mainly of the agricultural
products of Southern industry, was constantly enlarging.
Indeed, in all parts of the Union there were evidences
of enterprise and thrift, as shown by the steady increase
of taxable values. Manufactures were flourishing,
especially the cotton and iron industries of the Eastern
and Middle States, which had for many years been stim
ulated and fostered by protective tariffs. The South
enjoyed its full share of this general prosperity. Despite
the alleged economical disadvantages of our labor sys
tem, the slave States had increased vastly in material


wealth with each successive decade. Georgia alone had
added three hundred millions of dollars to her capital
from 1840 to 1850. Her sister Southern States had
nearly kept pace with her, and probably one or more
had out-stripped her. Without the aid of fishery boun
ties or of incidental protection to her industrial pursuits,
she, together with South Carolina and Tennessee, had
more wealth per capita than the foremost State of New
England. In this estimate we of course rate their negro
property and its regular increase at market value.
Besides, with all their boasted advantages of common
schools, there was a smaller percentage of crime and a
larger percentage of higher education in the older
Southern States than in the land of steady habits and of
moral ideas. These statements may startle, but they
are amply sustained by the census statistics.

In two respects the South had relatively lost ground.
The numerical strength of the free States had grown
more rapidly than the slave States. This, as heretofore
suggested, was due in some measure to foreign immigra
tion. And the direction of that current was itself influ
enced chiefly by the character of the Southern climate
and its comparative lack of manufactories. Another
relative deficiency of the South was in professional
authorship. This has been made the occasion of many
spiteful flings at Southern literature. These invidious
attacks were prompted by sectional jealousy and echoed
by a class of Southern men who neither understand
what they say nor whereof they affirm. The small num
ber of professional Southern writers admits of ready


explanation. The educated young men of the South
devoted themselves mainly to the learned professions,
and much the larger part to politics and statesmanship.
Hence, it was a matter of general remark, that in the
halls of Congress, in the diplomatic service, and in all
that pertains to statesmanship in its higher and broader
signification, men of Southern birth or lineage have
borne away the palm of excellence. Our historic names
Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Marshall, Jackson,
Clay, Monroe, Crawford, Calhoun, Preston, Randolph,
and a number of lesser lights were either directly or
collaterally of Cavalier blood. But it argues strange
ignorance to assert that even in literature and science
the South has not produced a large number of notably
eminent men and women. She may justly point with
pride to Legare, whose equal in the highest Hellenistic
culture is rarely found in any age to Bledsoe, whose
Theodicy entitles him to rank with Leibnitz in the realm
of theological metaphysics to Maury, who mapped out
the currents of the ocean, and by his " Physical Geog
raphy of the Sea" lessened by a hundred-fold the perils
of navigation to Audubon, the world famed ornithol
ogist, who was familiar with every bird of North Amer
ica, from the humming-bird of the tropics to the eagle
of the Rockies to Calhoun, whose work on Govern
ment is a master-piece of political science to Edgar
Allen Poe, whom Victor Hugo pronounces the greatest
poet of America, and the superior of Hawthorne as a
romancist to the LeContes, unsurpassed in natural
science to a long array of other names, as Simms,


Warfield, Hayne, Timrod, Wilde, Key, Tucker, Ken
nedy, Wirt, Longstreet, Alston, Lanier, Charlton,
Evans, Ticknor, French, Lipscomb, Thornwell, any
and all of whom are worthy of fellowship with the
best writers who illuminate the pages of Harper and the
Atlantic Monthly. As to periodical literature, it may
be gravely questioned whether any American publica
tion, monthly or quarterly, ever reached the standard
of literary excellence achieved by the Southern Quar
terly Review in its palmiest days.

We say these things without meaning to claim for the
literature of either section any extraordinary merit.
While we can now properly boast of a "few immortal
names," yet it will require at least another half century
to develop a distinctive American literature that shall
rightfully challenge a place beside the old masters of
England, Germany and France. When that time
arrives, we venture the prediction that the South will
lead the North in literature, as it has heretofore sur
passed it in statesmanship. At this point we close our
summary of events relating to the constitutional period
of American history. The whole country was prosper
ous and contented, except for that sectional issue which
had been persistently thrust upon the nation from the
date of the Missouri Compromise.

To this Augustan age of the Republic, future genera
tions will recur with unmixed satisfaction. The next
quarter of a century was a period of chaos and misrule.
But as the reign of Nero, Caligula and Domitian the
tyrants and scourges of mankind was eventually sue-


ceeded by the age of the Antonines, the "Indian sum
mer" of Roman history, so we cherish the hope that,
under the present political auspices, brighter days and
grander destinies are yet in store for our common



DECEMBER 25, 1776.

The darkest period of our revolutionary struggle was
in the early winter of 1776.

The American defeat in the battle of Long Island, the
British occupation of New York, and the subsequent
capitulation of Fort Washington, involving the loss of
three thousand of the best troops of the army, consti
tuted a series of military disasters which threatened the
immediate extinction of American liberty.

At this critical juncture, Washington conducted that
masterly retreat through New Jersey which won for
him the title of the American Fabius.

Nor were these military reverses the only alarming
feature of the situation.

The credit of the government had reached its lowest
ebb, and would have been utterly wrecked but for the
private resources of Robert Morris, of Philadelphia.
This patriotic millionaire, in connection with a few
others, pledged his individual credit for the support of
the lately organized government.

Nor must it be overlooked that desertions were an
hourly occurrence, and that the term of enlistment of


thousands who still stood at their posts was ready to

After the junction of Sullivan's troops with the main
army under Washington, the aggregate force numbered
barely five thousand.

There were yet other resources for popular discour
agement. Six months had elapsed since the continental
congress had solemnly declared that the United Colo
nies "were and of right ought to be free and independ
ent States." And still France, the hereditary enemy of
England, and the natural ally of the struggling colonists,
refused to recognize the American commissioners at
Paris in their diplomatic capacity.

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Online LibraryW. J. (William J.) ScottHistoric eras and Paragraphic pencilings → online text (page 4 of 14)