Slike strani




Review of General Taylor's non-action Policy.—Painful and exciting

Rumors in regard to the Instrumentalities employed by him to carry that Policy into Operation.— Intense Alarm awakened among Patriots as to the Fate of the Country. — Mr. Clay leaves his own Home, and comes to Washington upon a Mission of Pacification.—He is met upon his arrival there with general Cordiality and Respect. - Mr. Benton attempts to inveigle him into a false Position in regard to the Measure of admitting California, and is for a time successful.—Mr. Clay's Programme of Adjustment, and the “five bleeding Wounds."— This Gentleman severs his Alliance with Mr. Benton, and becomes the Champion of the famous Omnibus Schemc.—His magnanimous waver of certain abstract Opinions with a View to general Conciliation.-First meeting of the Nashville Convention.-Great Excitement consequent upon its Proceedings.-Anti-slavery Movements about the same Period, and Mr. Seward's anti-compromise Speech.-Resolution introduced by the Author, several weeks before, for the raising of the famous Committee of Thirteen, finally pushed to a Vote at the Instance of Mr. Cass.-Eminently patriotic Conduct of Mr. Webster on this Occasion.-Resolution finally carried.—Mr. Clay appointed Chairman thereof, who speedily brings in his Report, upon which an animated Discussion occurs.

The scheme of policy which, in the summer of 1849, it was generally known that the administration of General Taylor had deliberately adopted, by which it was expected that by an adroit and subtle process, for which there had been then no example, slavery would be at once and forever shut out from the territories recently acquired (it being “understood,” as is now frankly confessed, " that being thus organized, in the absence of both slaveholders and slaves, they would almost necessarily be


come free states”), leaves no ground for surprise that, in the condition of the popular mind at that period existing throughout the South, intense excitement and alarm should have every where prevailed. It was discovered that, within a month or two, in some mysterious manner, one of the great parties to the “irrepressible conflict,which had been so oracularly announced, had already put on the armor of war and regularly taken the field; that all the appliances which government could muster were ready to be used, yea, were being at that moment used to render that party ultimately triumphant; and that the boasted equiponderance of power upon which the South had so long confidently relied was about to disappear forever. Popular meetings were immediately called in every Southern state, and indeed almost in every neighborhood of each state, for the purpose of remonstrating respectfully but earnestly against the menaced infraction of slaveholding rights. Inflammatory resolutions were adopted at all these meetings, and from some of them strong and eloquent addresses went forth, calculated to produce alarm, distrust, and alienation in bosoms where quiet, and confidence, and fraternal affection had been formerly wont to dwell. Grave and thoughtful statesmen were grieved and astonished at the prospect of coming evils; and fierce sectional demagogues, the pest of all extended republics, were every where engaged in fanning the embers of dissatisfaction; ambitiously hoping, doubtless, that in the whirlwind which seemed to be now coming on, even such miscreants as themselves might perchance be tossed into positions of airy and lofty elevation. The whole republic was convulsed as by a moral



earthquake, and desponding patriots began to look forward to those scenes of civil ruin against which Washington in his Farewell Address had so impressively warned his countrymen. In looking back now to that fearful period in American annals, the votary of classic lore is almost irresistibly reminded of that almost unequaled picture in the Æneid in which the bard of Mantua describes with so much vivacity and force the fierce and tumultuous waves of the tempest-raised ocean. For our consolation, amid the perils which his imagination conjures into existence, the great Latin poet presently brings forward Neptune, with his all-potent trident, to compose the vexed waves of his watery domain-likening the seagod, in his auspicious coming, to "some man of earth revered for his purity and worth,” who, suddenly presenting himself to the view of the seditious multitude stirred up to violent commotion, “by persuasive eloquence rules their passions and calms their breasts.” So was it

precisely in 1850, when the venerable Henry Clay, of Kentucky, left his own loved and peaceful home upon a sacred mission of peace, and visited the Capitol of the republic, where he beheld, on his arrival, all the elements of discord and unfriendly feeling fiercely at work. He at once addressed himself to the mighty task before him, and happily, in a few months, by the employment of mild and pacific expedients, saved his country from that threatened "conflict” which, most fortunately for that same country, this admired statesman did not by any means regard as of a hopelessly “irrepressible” character.

From the day of Mr. Clay's arrival in Washington, it was evident that all in Congress who were the sincere

and enlightened friends of the Union recognized him as their leader. All seemed to accord to him the purest and most patriotic motives; though it is true that there were selfish and designing factionists to be found here and there, who, perceiving that he was in the way of their own cherished schemes, affected to apprehend mischief to the public weal from his influence. Mr. Webster met him in the most cordial and deferential manner, as was due to his superior years; and I saw Mr. Calhoun, after consulting a friend or two about him touching the propriety of his making the first approach to one from whom, a few years earlier, he had parted with some unkindness, advance with manly stride toward the seat of the great statesman of the West and offer to him his most affectionate salutations. I had the honor of being presented to Mr. Clay, in his own parlor at the National Hotel, by my venerated friend from Michigan, General Cass. The meeting between these two illustrious citizens was marked with much affection and respect on both sides, and it would seem that both of them even then antici. pated the new ties of enduring affection which were soon to spring up between them. That the relations between Mr. Clay and General Cass did in a few weeks grow most kind and confidential is known already to many.

It is perhaps not so well known to all, though, or is at least perhaps not now so vividly remembered by them, that eaeh of these personages displayed, in the progress of a few months, a most magnanimous and self-sacrificing temper toward the other. I recollect well that when, on one occasion, the warm political friends of General Cass, anticipating that much popularity would accrue to the indi



vidual who should be most conspicuous in effecting a fair and honest settlement of existing sectional difficulties, urged this gentleman to allow his name to be used in connection with the position of chairman of the celebrated Committee of Thirteen, suggesting that, should Mr. Clay be allowed to become chairman of that committee, he would, in all probability, be elevated to the presidency at the next election, General Cass at once declared, “Well, be it so; Mr. Clay is entitled on every ground to be the chairman of the committee; he alone can rescue the country from its present dangers; and if he shall succeed in doing it, I shall vote for him for President with the greatest pleasure myself.” In the winter of 1851, '2, I heard Mr. Clay repeatedly declare that, while Mr. Fillmore was his first choice for president, in the event of this latter gentleman's failing to obtain the nomination of his party, he should then prefer General Cass for the presidency to any man in the republic. These rare examples of disinterestedness and elevated patriotism are worthy to be borne eternally in the minds of their countrymen of the present and of all future generations.

Mr. Clay had hardly reached Washington City before Mr. Benton, not recognizing, as did all others, the peculiar sacredness of his mission to the capital, made early and prodigious efforts to appropriate his well-earned influence and popularity to the accomplishment of his own favorite designs. With this view he very soon flatteringly informed him that he and his son-in-law, Colonel Fremont, had determined to rely mainly upon his efforts for securing the early admission of the newly-formed State of California, and requested him, indeed, to initiate the

« PrejšnjaNaprej »