W. J. (William J.) Scott.

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Gordo, Marion, rocky mountain pass, where the Mexi
cans made their first bold stand ; to Puebla, to Contreras,
where Butler and his Palmetto regiment showed them
selves worthy descendents of Mexico and Sumter;
through Churubusco to the Castle of Chapultepec, from
whose flagstaff our own William S. Walker, then a
Colonel of Volunteers, unfurled the American flag,
thence on to the gates of the city, which they stormed
by a bayonet charge, and then to the halls of the
Montezumas. Scott's army of the center made no halt,
but literally went from " conquering to conquer." We
venture to say that neither in Caesar's " Commen
taries," nor in Xenophon's "Anabasis," nor yet in


Napoleon's Italian campaign is there a military record
more brilliant than this of our American army. It was
in this school that Lee and Jackson and Grant and
Sherman and Joe Johnston were trained for their
grander achievements in the late civil war.

While Scott was fighting his way to the City of
Mexico, smaller detachments of the army and navy, led
by Commodore Stockton, Doniphan, Price and Fre
mont were seizing and occupying the strategic points of
New Mexico and California. The Mexicans, beaten
from every position, were ready to accept the best
terms the conqueror might be willing to grant.

These terms, as embodied in the treaty of Guada-
loupe Hidalgo, were generous, even magnanimous, as
was befitting the American Government. And yet, as
the fruits of the conquest, she acquired an empire in
riches and extent, but at the cost of much blood and
no inconsiderable treasure.

And yet sectional issues, growing out of these acqui
sitions, very soon began to embroil the whole country.
Scarcely had the treaty been signed until the ghostly
specter of discord, threatening the disruption of the
Union, appeared in the Wilmot proviso. Freesoilism,
as the latest phrase of abolitionism, became a promi
nent factor in national politics

In the presidential election of 1848, Martin Van
Buren was brought forward as the leader of this faction,
but the popularity of Taylor and Cass, the Whig and
Democratic candidates, held together the old parties,


and Mr. Van Buren was a second time distanced on the
political race course.

Two measures of vast importance were consummated
ir the midst of these war disturbances. In its remoter
bearings, the principal of these was the settlement of
the northwestern boundary between British America
and the United States.

For a time the masses of the people of both parties
clamored for the parallel of 54.40. But the English
government planted itself squarely and in a belligerent
attitude on the 4Qth parallel. Our Mexican embroglio
in a degree handicapped the administration. But what
finally induced the concession to the English was a con
viction on the part of Mr. Calhoun and a large conserv
ative following that an increase of territory in that
direction would effectually destroy the equilibrium of
the two sections between whom there really then
existed but an armed truce. It was in this congres
sional fight that Henry W. Hilliard, another honored
Atlantian, fleshed his maiden sword. This settlement
produced a vast outcry in the anti-slavery ranks, some
of their leaders denouncing it as an infamous betrayal
of our just claim in the interest of the Southern slave-
holding barons.

This, however, was the merest partisanship, as Eng
land had never claimed less than was finally yielded to
her. Hardly secondary to this boundary question was
the revision and readjustment of the tariff in conformity
to the compromise of 1833.

The whole protection theory was at war with the


letter and spirit of the Constitution, and yet, notwith
standing the backset which it received in 1846, the tax
payers of the country are still in the clutches of this
terrible octopus.

While we are writing McKinley is making his canvass
on the basis of the proposition, either express or im
plied, that a duty collected at the custom house is not
ultimately paid by the American consumer, but by the
foreign producers. To this Mr. Blaine, the great cham
pion of reciprocity, by his indorsement of McKinley,
virtually assents. How are the mighty fallen, when
Blaine can stultify himself after this fashion ! Better
creep into his grave or become a tidewaiter, than, for the
sake of a cabinet place, to be a party to such a palpable
travesty on statesmanship!

It was during the Polk administration that the princely
gift of Mr. Smithson, an Englishman, to the United
States Government of more than a half million dollars
began to be utilized in the interest of science. Under
the rectorship of Professor Joseph Henry, formerly of
Princeton College, the work has gone forward, resulting
in the accumulation of a splendid cabinet of minerals, a
large collection of curios and relics, and a laboratory
with a splendid chemical equipment. We have seen it
stated that there has recently been published "Smith
sonian Contributions to Science," in thirty octavo vol

On another line, the administration of Polk was made
memorable by the gold discoveries of California.
Thousands of men, chieHy American citizens, flocked


to the Pacific coast in quest of the precious metal.
For a season it amounted almost to the sacta fames auri
of the Latin poet, or in the more expressive language of
the time, it reached the proportions of a craze.

It was once feared that the market value of gold
would be seriously affected by these mining operations,
but the supply has long since diminished and these
apprehensions have died out.

In 1848 the Whigs took time by the forelock and
nominated General Zachary Taylor, of Louisiana, for
the Presidency, and Millard Fillmore, of New York,
for the Vice-Presidency.

General Taylor had but little knowledge of states
manship, but he was an incorruptible patriot, who was
widely known and greatly honored as the hero of Okee-
chobee in the Seminole war and the illustrious victor at
Buena Vista. The nomination was hailed everywhere
with an enthusiasm that foreshadowed a Whig victory.

Mr. Polk failed to receive a renomination from his
party, it being thought advisable to select a Northern
man for the Presidency. The choice of the convention
fell on General Lewis Cass, a man of great probity of
character, with a fair record, both as a warrior and

The nomination of General Butler, of Kentucky, for
the Vice-Presidency, added something to the strength
of the Democratic ticket, especially in the West.

Mr. Van Buren's candidacy on the Free-soil ticket
drew from the two national parties in about an equal


ratio, so that the general result was but slightly affected
by this third party movement.

Taylor and Fillmore were chosen by a considerable
majority of the electoral votes, and on the 4th of March,
1849, they were both inaugurated without any note
worthy incident.

President Polk retired from his high office with an
unblemished reputation, and much honored and beloved
by the great body of his fellow countrymen. In like
manner Vice-President Dallas had won the respect and
confidence of the country, but neither of these excel
lent officials had those characteristics which rouse popu
lar enthusiasm.



The story of Erostratus, who "fired the Ephesian
fane," is one of the most thrilling episodes of ancient

So, likewise, during the pendency of the Mexican
war period, one David Wilmot, a most incapable Penn
sylvania Congressman, hurled a flaming firebrand into
our national politics, which ultimately consumed the
grander temple of American constitutional liberty.

This incendiary act preceded by more than two years
the ratification of the treaty of Guadaloupe Hidalgo.
By that treaty our Government acquired an immense
territory, stretching across the Rockies to the shores of
the Pacific. In the light of subsequent events it was
dearly purchased, at the expense of a political confla
gration that swept the country, the ashes of which arc
still warm beneath our tread.

This " Wilmot proviso," which was defeated upon its
first presentation in the Mouse of Representatives, was
the signal gun of the great civil war. Twenty five years
before, the slavery agitation, as respected the national
territory, had been laid to rest by the Missouri Compro
mise. According to the spirit, if not the very letter of
that adjustment, the parallel of 36.30 should have been
extended through these later territorial acquisitions.


But Mr. VVilmot, with that punic faith which has
always characterized his tribe, proposed by a congres
sional enactment to exclude the Southern people, with
their slave property, from this whole territory. This,
too, notwithstanding the fact that it had been chiefly
acquired by Southern troops under the leadership of
Southern commanders.

But beyond this we do not care to speak of that pro
viso. We arc more concerned at present to speak of
the great compromise of 1850, which was the supreme
effort of conservative statesmanship to eliminate sec
tional issues from American politics.

This was in no dubious sense the specific work of the
Tyler and Fillmore administrations.

In December, 1849, at San Jose, the people of Cali
fornia organized a State Government, under a Constitu
tion prohibitory of slavery. At the same time they for
warded a petition to Congress for their admission to the
dignity of statehood. This petition elicited a memo
rable debate, in which the great lights of the American
Senate Clay, Calhoun and Webster were quite natu
rally most conspicuous.

Mr. Calhoun, we believe, in February, 1850, caused
to be read by his Senatorial colleague a masterly speech
in defense of Southern rights. It was in the best spirit,
as was befitting the dignity of the forum and his own
eminent statesmanship. And now his political career
was ended, and he retired gracefully from the arena of
his former triumphs.

In March following, Mr. Webster delivered the grand-


est oration of his life. He rose far above the level of a
vulgar partisanship, and not a few of his utterances were
like the echoes ot Sinaitic thunder, when even Moses
quaked and feared exceedingly.

He appealed to his own native New England for the
exercise of a broader patriotism, with a glow of fancy
and a sweep of thought that challenged the admiration
of the civilized world. He, too, lik^ Calhoun and Clay,
was nearing immortality, and yet for these words, that
were inspirational in their loftiness of conception and
sublimity of patriotic purpose, he was shut out from
Faneual hall, the boasted cradle of American liberty.

Matters had reached a crisis when, on May 6th, Mr.
Clay himself appeared for the last time in his favorite
role of the "great pacificator," as chairman of a com
mittee of thirteen, selected to prepare a basis of settle
ment for all the sectional issues growing out of our
recent acquisitions of territory.

The first section of the bill, better known as the Om
nibus Bill, assured to Texas the right to organize four
States out of her territory, with or without slavery, as
the inhabitants thereof might elect ; the next section
authorized the admission of California, with her recently
adopted Constitution prohibiting slavery or involuntary
servitude ; the third section provided for the organiza
tion of New Mexico and Utah as Territories, without
slavery restriction ; the fourth provided for a more rigid
enforcement of the constitutional provision for the ren
dition of fugitive slaves. The last section abolished the
slave trade in the District of Columbia, under heavy pen-


alties. These provisions seemed to cover all the points
in controversy. During the next few months this com
promise was debated with great ability in both houses
of Congress, as well as in all parts of the Union.

In Georgia it was injected into local politics, and the
matter thoroughly canvassed in county and district meet
ings. It led, moreover, to a partial disruption of the
old Democratic party. In Georgia, Howell Cobb and
John H. Lumpkin, representing the Rome and Athens
districts in Congress, headed the Union Democrats, and
by a coalition with the Whigs carried the gubernatorial
election of 18151, defeating Charles J. McDonald and
electing Howell Cobb. This estrangement, however,
between the Union and State Rights Democrats was of
short duration. A large majority of the former returned
to the Democratic fold, and in 1853, Herschel V. John
son was chosen over Charles J. Jenkins by a meager

That small majority had, however, more than a tem
porary significance. It showed the increasing strength
of the secession sentiment in the old commonwealth.
Nor is it improbable that if the Constitutional Unionists
had succeeded in 1853, that Georgia would not have
passed an ordinance of secession, and that means we
would have had no war between the States.

Rut we have no space for thoe dubious speculations.

Pending the great debate in Congress, President Tay
lor succumbed to a sudden but mortal illness, and Mr.
Fillmore, taking the oath of office, placed his hand upon
the helm of government.


The compromise measures, without material amend
ment, were adopted in September by both houses of
Congress and approved by the President. A temporary
lull followed this pacific adjustment, but the agitation
was renewed after a short breathing spell in a fiercer
form than had been previously witnessed.

Several of the Northern States enacted personal lib
erty bills, under the auspices of what they were pleased
to term the "higher law." Thus seeking under color
of a moral sanction to frustrate the constitutional pro
vision for the rendition of fugitive slaves, and in like
manner to invalidate the recent compromise. As
might be supposed, this striking exhibition of bad faith
fanned the flames of discord in the South, and for the
first time not a few of the more conservative statesmen
of that section began to calculate seriously the value of
a union with states that neither respected the funda
mental law nor the acts of Congress framed for its

During the remainder of Fillmore's official term there
were minor incidents, such as the ill starred Lopez
expedition for the conquest of Cuba. With a handful
of reckless adventurers like himself, he sailed from New
Orleans without adequate equipment, and effected a
landing on the island to find himself received with
scant courtesy by the Cubans, whose liberation was the
avowed object of the invasion. He likewise found
himself confronted with a large body of Spanish troops,
who speedily captured the leader of the expedition and


his principal followers and brought them to Havana,
where they were summarily executed.

This affair induced a proposal from the English and
French Governments for a tripartite treaty that would
have forever barred the American Government from
the acquisition of Cuba. Mr. Everett, the Secretary of
State, refused outright to accept the proposal, and took
occasion in his diplomatic correspondence to reaffirm the
Monroe doctrine.

Another event of widespread interest was the visit of
Louis Kossuth, the Hungarian leader in the revolution
of 1852. This revolutionist was welcomed by large
audiences in the principal American cities, and con
siderable sums were contributed to the exhausted
exchequer of the countrymen of Maria Theresa. The
immediate results were small, but there can be no
doubt that the original movement, headed by Kossuth
and shamefully betrayed to its undoing by the infamous
Georgey, led at a later period to the formation of the
existing Austro-Hungarian empire.

The time had now arrived when the two great Amer
ican parties were again to measure their strength in a
presidential struggle. The main fight was to be con
ducted on the compromise of 1850, from which patriotic
settlement the Northern Whigs had already receded.
This was shown in the National Whig Convention of
1852, in which Fillmore was incontinently shelved.
While it is true that the convention indorsed those
measures in their platform by a heavy majority, yet
their repudiation of Mr. Fillmore clearly indicated their


hostility to that principal measure of his administration.
Gen. Scott, whose military reputation was unsurpassed,
was chosen for the first place on their ticket. The
Democrats likewise indorsed the compromise of 1850,
and presented as their representative Franklin Pierce,
of New Hampshire, and W. R. King, of South Caro
lina. Neither of these were conspicuous, either for
military or civil renown, but the dissensions in the
Whig party, growing out of anti-slavery sentiment, gave
them the vantage ground in the contest. That senti
ment had waxed stronger, especially in the rural dis
tricts of the North and West, until the party of Clay
and Webster had been sorely disintegrated, and was
already verging on dissolution.

And this very naturally suggests the fact that Henry
Clay and Daniel Webster both died in 1852, only two
or three months intervening between the departures of
these illustrious statesmen. These, with John C. Cal-
houn, formed the brightest political constellation in the
political firmament, and might be well likened to the
three Empyreal suns that blazed in the "belt of Orion."
All of these, died during Fillmore's administration, a
coincidence that will render it famous through all gen
erations. Other great men will arise from time to time,
for as yet our country has not " lost the breed of noble

But we do not exaggerate when we say that not for a
thousand years will another such triumvirate arise to
adorn the Senate Chamber, where are gathered the rep
resentatives of sovereign States.


Greek history records but one age of Pericles ; Eng
lish history but one Elizabethan era ; French history
but one imperialism like that of Louis Quatorze, and
American history may never chronicle another epoch
equal to that of Clay, Calhoun and Webster.




WE have lying on our table an old book printed at
New London, Conn., in 1821. It is an autobiography
written by the distinguished minister whose name stands
at the head of this sketch.

Fifty years ago Mr. Maffit was one of the pulpit
celebrities of the Methodist church As an orator he
was classed with such men as Durbirt, Bascom and
George Pierce He was a native of Ireland, having
been born in Dublin in 1794. His parents, he tells us,
belonged to the Methodist "society," but were "rigidly
attached to the established church." This statement
sounds odd enough to the uninitiated who do not know
that in its earliest years Methodism was not so much a
church as a religious association, within the pale of the
English church. For a long time its Sabbath services
were not held during canonical hours, and its ministers
and members received the sacraments at the hands of
the clergy of the establishment.

John Wesley, the immortal founder, had what savored
of a superstitious dread of schism. He feared nothing
so much unless it was the devil, about whose person
ality he entertained not even the shred of a doubt. It


was the work and weariness of his last years to prevent
a separation which he clearly foresaw was inevitable
alter his death, and which he provided for in that
famous legal document, the "Deed of Declaration,"
which he enrolled in the Court of Chancery in 1784.

In this faith, pure and simple, Mr. Maffit was brought
up by his pious parents, and yet he confesses that for a
few years he was wayward and reckless in no ordinary
degree. His conversion, of which he has furnished full
details in this autobiography, bears a close resemblance
to that of John Bunyan and the later John Newton.
Religion amongst the old Methodists and the older Pu
ritans, was not an evolution but a cataclysm. The line
of cleavage between the old and the new was abrupt.
Maffit had his share of visions and wrestlings, and hand
to hand conflicts with Apollyon in the valley of humili
ation. Let not the beardless theologians of the present
generation mock these experiences of the fathers

There may have been a bit of superstition and a
greater amount of subjectiveness in all this, but when
they were converted it was from head to heel and from
center to circumference. It made them the moral he
roes who went forth to the spiritual conquest of the
American wilderness and the moral uplifting of the Cor
nish miners and the weavers and spinners of Manches
ter and the sailors of the London and Liverpool dock

It gave Asbury and McKendree to America, Gideon
Ousley to Ireland and John Nelson and a score like him
to England. Shortly after his conversion Maffit sailed


for America, where he was destined to find a wide field
for the exercise of his marvelous gifts as a preacher.

Before leaving his native land, however, he had some
novel experiences as a street preacher, being jeered and
occasionally rotten-egged, and other such treatment as
the Salvation Army of to-day receives from the hood
lums and gutter snipes of our populous centers. On
one occasion he attempted to break up a ball by a stir
ring exhortation, followed by an enthusiastic prayer.
For this misplaced and ill-timed zeal he got much ridi
cule, and narrowly escaped a broken head.

Upon his arrival in America he found that Methodism
had better social recognition than in Ireland, and in
some of the Middle States had rooted itself in the
higher strata of the population.

Adjusting himself to his altered environment, he laid
aside his more aggressive methods and cultivated a pul
pit style not unlike that of Milburn, the blind Chaplain
of the House of Representatives, and only a shade more
exuberant in fancy than that of John Summerfield.

Dr. Hoss, of Nashville, in his admirable ecumenical
address on the religious press, says ol Maffit that "he
was an Irishman and an orator, two words that mean
the same thing." This is true, but it must not be for
gotten that Ireland has distinct schools and grades of
oratory. Burke and Curran were both Irish orators,
but the former was ponderous the latter indulged in
flights of fancy that suited better the jury room than
the House of Commons. Maffit in the pulpit had a
striking resemblance to Curran at the bar, by no means


so classical and yet the same nimble fancy and a diction
equally gorgeous. We never heard Mr. Maffit preach,
nor did he leave a volume of sermons, so that we are
compelled to rely on traditional accounts, which are
vague and unsatisfactory. A very dear friend of ours
listened to a series of sermons delivered by Mr. Maffit
at Albany, N. Y., far back in the thirties. At that
time, this friend, since greatly distinguished on the
bench, was a law student in the office of Hon. Ogden
Hoffman. He was himself a man of thorough culture
and decided gifts as an elocutionist. He spoke of
Maffit as a charming preacher, whose delivery was fault
less, and whose word painting was ^unrivalled by any
minister to whom he had then listened. He was able
to recall some passages that thrilled me in the recital,
but which have dropped out of my own memory.

But this matters little, as this friend's testimony was
borne by all his contemporaries. Dr. Lovick Pierce
also put a high estimate on Mr. Maffit's ability as a
preacher. At one period of his life Mr. Maffit was
chosen editor of the Nashville Advocate, no mean com
pliment to any writer.

His latter years were saddened and shadowed by bod
ily affliction. Nor is it amiss to say that he suffered
from other causes that we do not care to dwell upon.
To his dying day he retained the affection and confi
dence of thousands who trusted implicitly in his minis
terial and personal integrity, believing him to be the
victim of persecution. He died, and is buried at Mo-


bile, Alabama, much loved and honored in that center
of Alabama Methodism.

Mr. Maffit left several sons, one of whom was a gal
lant captain of our Confederate navy, and a bosom
friend of that old "sea lion," Admiral Semmes, and of

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Online LibraryW. J. (William J.) ScottHistoric eras and Paragraphic pencilings → online text (page 7 of 14)