THIRTY YEARS VIEW
1820 TO 1850
DEBATE BETWEEN MR. CLAY AND MR. CALHOUN REJOINDERS BY EACH.
MR. CLAY: As to the personal part of the speech of the senator from South Carolina, I must take the occasion to say that no man is more sincerely anxious to avoid all personal controversy than myself. And I may confidently appeal to the whole course of my life for the confirmation of that disposition. No man cherishes less than I do feelings of resentment ; none forgets or forgives an injury sooner than I do. The duty which I had to perform in animadverting upon the public conduct and course of the senator from South Carolina was painful in the extreme ; but it was, nevertheless, a public duty ; and I shrink from the performance of no duty required at my hands by my country. It was painful, because I had long served in the public councils with the senator from South Carolina, admired his genius, and for a great while had been upon terms of intimacy with him. Throughout my whole acquaintance with him, I have constantly struggled to think well of him, and to ascribe to him public virtues. Even after his famous summerset at the extra session, on more than one occasion I defended his motives when he was assailed ; and insisted that it was uncharitable to attribute to him others than those which he himself avowed. This I continued to do, until I read this most extraordinary and exceptionable letter : [Here Mr. Clay held up and exhibited to the Senate the Edgefield letter, dated at Fort Hill, November 3, 1837 :] a letter of which I cannot speak in merited terms, without a departure from the respect which I owe to the Senate and to myself. When I read that letter, sir, its unblushing avowals, and its unjust reproaches cast upon my friends and myself, I was most reluctantly compelled to change my opinion of the honorable senator from South Carolina. One so distinguished as he is, cannot expect to be indulged with speaking as he pleases of others, without a reciprocal privilege. He cannot suppose that he may set to the right or the left, cut in and out, and chasse, among principles and parties as often as he pleases, without animadversion. I did, indeed, understand the senator to say, in his former speech, that we, the whips, were unwise and unpatriotic in not uniting with him in supporting the bill under consideration. But in that Edgefield letter, among the motives which he assigns for leaving us, I understand him to declare that he could not back and sustain those in such opposition, in whose wisdom, firmness, and patriotism, I have no reason to confide.
After having written and published to the world such a letter as that, and after what has fallen from the senator, in the progress of this debate, towards my political friends, does he imagine that he can persuade himself and the country that he really occupies, on this occasion, a defensive attitude ? In that letter he says :
I clearly saw that our bold and vigorous attacks had made a deep and successful impression. State interposition had overthrown the protective tariff, and with it the American system, and put a stop to the congressional usurpation ; and the joint attacks of our party, and that of our old opponents, the national republicans, had effectually brought down the power of the Executive, and arrested its encroachments for the present. It was for that purpose we had united. True to our principle of opposition to the encroachment of power, from whatever quarter it might come, we did not hesitate, after overthrowing the protective system, and arresting legislative usurpation, to join the authors of that system, in order to arrest the encroachments of the Executive, although we differed as widely as the poles on almost every other question, and regarded the usurpation of the Executive but as a necessary consequence of the principles and policy of our new allies.
State interposition !that is as I understand the senator from South Carolina ; nullification, he asserts, overthrew the protective tariff and the American system. And can that senator, knowing what he knows, and what I know, deliberately make such an assertion here ? I had heard similar boasts before, but did not regard them, until I saw them coupled in this letter with the imputation of a purpose on the part of my friends to disregard the compromise, and revive the high tariff. Nullification, Mr. President, overthrew the protective policy ! No, sir. The compromise was not extorted by the terror of nullification. Among other more important motives that influenced its passage, it was a compassionate concession to the imprudence and impotency of nullification ! The danger from nullification itself excited no more apprehension than would be felt by seeing a regiment of a thousand boys, of five or six years of age, decorated in brilliant uniforms, with their gaudy plumes and tiny muskets, marching up to assault a corps of 50,000 grenadiers, six feet high. At the commencement of the session of 1832, the senator from South Carolina was in any condition other than that of dictating terms. Those of us who were then here must recollect well his haggard looks and his anxious and depressed countenance. A highly estimable friend of mine, Mr. J.M. Clayton, of Delaware, alluding to the possibility of a rupture with South Carolina, and declarations of President Jackson with respect to certain distinguished individuals whom he had denounced and proscribed, said to me, on more than one occasion, referring to the senator from South Carolina and some of his colleagues, They are clever fellows, and it will never do to let old Jackson hang them. Sir, this disclosure is extorted from me by the senator.
So far from nullification having overthrown the protective policy, in assenting to the compromise, it expressly sanctioned the constitutional power which it had so strongly contraverted, and perpetuated it. There is protection from one end to the other in the compromise act ; modified and limited it is true, but protection nevertheless. There is protection, adequate and abundant protection, until the year 1842 ; and protection indefinitely beyond it. Until that year, the biennial reduction of duties is slow and moderate, such as was perfectly satisfactory to the manufacturers. Now, if the system were altogether unconstitutional, as had been contended, how could the senator vote for a bill which continued it for nine years ? Then, beyond that period, there is the provision for cash duties ; home valuations, a long and liberal list of free articles, carefully made out by my friend from Rhode Island (Mr. KNIGHT), expressly for the benefit of the manufacturers ; and the power of discrimination, reserved also for their benefit ; within the maximum rate of duty fixed in the act. In the consultations between the senator and myself in respect to the compromise act, on every point upon which I insisted he gave way. He was for a shorter term than nine years, and more rapid reduction. I insisted, and he yielded. He was for fifteen instead of twenty per cent. as the maximum duty ; but yielded. He was against any discrimination within the limited range of duties for the benefit of the manufacturers ; but consented. To the last he protested against home valuation, but finally gave way. Such is the compromise act ; and the Senate will see with what propriety the senator can assert that nullification had overthrown the protective tariff and the American system. Nullification ! which asserted the extraordinary principle that one of twenty-four members of a confederacy, by its separate action, could subvert and set aside the expressed will of the whole ! Nullification ! a strange, impracticable, incomprehensible doctrine, that partakes of the character of the metaphysical school of German philosophy, or would be worthy of the puzzling theological controversies of the middle ages.
No one, Mr. President, in the commencement of the protective policy ever supposed that it was to be perpetual. We hoped and believed that temporary protection extended to our infant manufactures, would bring them up, and enable them to withstand competition with those of Europe. We thought, as the wise French minister did, who, when urged by a British minister to consent to the equal introduction into the two countries of their respective productions, replied that free trade might be very well for a country whose manufactures had reached perfection, but was not entirely adapted to a country which wished to build up its manufactures. If the protective policy were entirely to cease in 1842, it would have existed twenty-six years from 1816, or 18 from 1824 ; quite as long as, at either of those periods, its friends supposed might be necessary. But it does not cease then, and I sincerely hope that the provisions contained in the compromise act for its benefit beyond that period, will be found sufficient for the preservation of all our interesting manufactures. For one, I am willing to adhere to, and abide by the compromise in all its provisions, present and prospective, if its fair operation is undisturbed. The Senate well knows that I have been constantly in favor of a strict and faithful adherence to the compromise act. I have watched and defended it on all occasions. I desire to see it faithfully and inviolably maintained. The senator, too, from South Carolina, alleging that the South were the weaker party, has hitherto united with me in sustaining it. Nevertheless, he has left us, as he tells us in his Edgefield letter, because he apprehended that our principles would lead us to the revival of a high tariff.
The senator from South Carolina proceeds, in his Edgefield letter, to say :
I clearly perceived that a very important question was presented for our determination, which we were compelled to decide forthwith : shall we continue our joint attack with the nationals on those in power, in the new position which they hare been compelled to occupy ? It was clear that, with our joint forces, we could utterly overthrow and demolish them. But it was not less clear that the victory would enure not to us, but exclusively to the benefit of our allies and their cause.
Thus it appears that in a common struggle for the benefit of our whole country, the senator was calculating upon the party advantages which would result from success. He quit us because he apprehended that he and his party would be absorbed by us. Well, what is to be their fate in his new alliance ? Is there no absorption there ? Is there no danger that the senator and his party will be absorbed by the administration party ? Or does he hope to absorb that ? Another motive avowed in the letter, for his desertion of us, is, that it would also give us the chance of effecting what is still more important to us, the union of the entire South. What sort of an union of the South does the senator wish ? Is not the South already united as a part of the common confederacy ? Does he want any other union of it ? I wish he would explicitly state. I should be glad, also, if he would define what he means by the South. He sometimes talks of the plantation or staple States. Maryland is partly a staple State. Virginia and North Carolina more so. And Kentucky and Tennessee have also staple productions. Are all these States parts of his South ? I fear, Mr. President, that the political geography of the senator comprehends a much larger South than that South which is the object of his particular solicitude ; and that, to find the latter, we should have to go to South Carolina ; and, upon our arrival there, trace him to Fort Hill. This is the disinterested senator from South Carolina !
But he has left no party, and joined no party ! No ! None. With the daily evidences before us of his frequent association, counselling and acting with the other party, he would tax our credulity too much to require us to believe that he has formed no connection with it. He may stand upon his reserved rights ; but they must be mentally reserved, for they are not obvious to the senses. Abandoned no party ? Why this letter proclaims his having quitted use, and assigns his reasons for doing it ; one of which is, that we are in favor of that national bank which the senator himself has sustained about twenty-four years of the twenty-seven that he has been in public life. Whatever impression the senator may endeavor to make without the Senate upon the country at large, no man within the Senate, who has eyes to see, or ears to hear, can mistake his present position and party connection. If, in the speech which I addressed to the Senate on a former day, there had been a single fact stated which was not perfectly true, or an inference drawn which was not fully warranted, or any description of his situation which was incorrect, no man would enjoy greater pleasure than I should do in rectifying the error. If, in the picture which I portrayed of the senator and his course, there be any thing which can justly give him dissatisfaction, he must look to the original and not to the painter. The conduct of an eminent public man is a fair subject for exposure and animadversion. When I addressed the Senate before, I had just perused this letter. I recollected all its reproaches and imputations against us, and those which were made or implied in the speech of the honorable senator were also fresh in my memory. Does he expect to be allowed to cast such imputations, and make such reproaches against others without retaliation ? Molding myself amenable for my public conduct, I choose to animadvert upon his, and upon that of others, whenever circumstances, in my judgment, render it necessary ; and I do it under all just responsibility which belongs to the exercise of such a privilege.
The senator has thought proper to exercise a corresponding privilege towards myself ; and, without being very specific, has taken upon himself to impute to me the charge of going over upon some occasion, and that in a manner which left my motive no matter of conjecture. If the senator mean to allude to the stale and refuted calumny of George Kremer, I assure him I can hear it without the slightest emotion ; and if he can find any fragment of that rent banner to cover his own aberrations, he is perfectly at liberty to enjoy all the shelter which it affords. In my case there was no going over about it ; I was a member of the House of Representatives, and had to give a vote for one of three candidates for the presidency. Mr. Crawfords unfortunate physical condition placed him out of the question. The choice was, therefore, limited to the venerable gentleman from Massachusetts, or to the distinguished inhabitant of the hermitage. I could give but one vote ; and, accordingly, as I stated on a former occasion, I gave the vote which, before I left Kentucky, I communicated to my colleague [Mr. CRITTENDEN], it was my intention to give in the contingency which happened. I have never for one moment regretted the vote I then gave. It is true, that the legislature of Kentucky had requested the representatives from that State to vote for General Jackson ; but my own immediate constituents, I knew well, were opposed to his election, and it was their will, and not that of the legislature, according to every principle applicable to the doctrine of instructions, which I was to deposit in the ballot box. It is their glory and my own never to have concurred in the elevation of General Jackson. They ratified and confirmed my vote, and every representative that they have sent to Congress since, including my friend, the present member, has concurred with me in opposition to the election and administration of General Jackson.
If my information be not entirely incorrect, and there was any going over in the presidential election which terminated in February, 1825, the senator from South Carolinaand not Iwent over. I have understood that the senator when he ceased to be in favor of himself, that is, after the memorable movement made in Philadelphia by the present minister to Russia (Mr. Dallas), withdrawing his name from the canvass, was the known supporter of the election of Mr. Adams. What motives induced him afterwards to unite in the election of General Jackson, I know not. It is not my habit to impute to others uncharitable motives, and I leave the senator to settle that account with his own conscience and his country. No, sir, I have no reproaches to make myself, and feel perfectly invulnerable to any attack from others, on account of any part which I took in the election of 1825. And I look back with entire and conscious satisfaction upon the whole course of the arduous administration which ensued.
The senator from South Carolina thinks it to be my misfortune to be always riding some hobby, and that I stick to it till I ride it down. I think it is his never to stick to one long enough. He is like a courier who riding from post to post, with relays of fresh horses, when he changes his steed, seems to forget altogether the last which he had mounted. Now, it is a part of my pride and pleasure to say, that I never in my life changed my deliberate opinion upon any great question of national policy but once, and that was twenty-two years ago, on the question of the power to establish a bank of the United States. The change was wrought by the sad and disastrous experience of the want of such an institution, growing out of the calamities of war. It was a change which I made in common with Mr. Madison, two governors of Virginia, and the great body of the republican party, to which I have ever belonged.
The distinguished senator sticks long to no hobby. He was once gayly mounted on that of internal improvements. We rode that doublethe senator before, and I behind him. He quietly slipped off, leaving me to hold the bridle. He introduced and carried through Congress in 1816, the bill setting apart the large bonus of the Bank of the United States for internal improvements. His speech, delivered on that occasion, does not intimate the smallest question as to the constitutional power of the government, but proceeds upon the assumption of its being incontestable. When he was subsequently in the department of war, he made to Congress a brilliant report, sketching as splendid and magnificent a scheme of internal improvements for the entire nation, as ever was presented to the admiration and wonder of mankind.
No, sir, the senator from South Carolina is free from all reproach of sticking to hobbies. He was for a bank of the United States in 1816. He proposed, supported, and with his accustomed ability, carried through the charter. He sustained it upon its admitted grounds of constitutionality, of which he never once breathed the expression of a doubt. During the twenty years of its continuance no scruple ever escaped from him as to the power to create it. And in 1834, when it was about to expire, he deliberately advocated the renewal of its term for twelve years more. How profound he may suppose the power of analysis to be, and whatever opinion he may entertain of his own metaphysical faculty,can he imagine that tiny plain, practical, common sense man can ever comprehend how it is constitutional to prolong an unconstitutional bank for twelve years ? He may have all the speeches he has ever delivered read to us in an audible voice by the secretary, and call upon the Senate attentively to hear them, beginning with his speech in favor of a bank of the United States in 1816, down to his speech against a bank of the United States, delivered the other day, and he will have made no progress in his task. I do not speak this in any unkind spirit, but I will tell the honorable senator when he will be consistent. He will be so, when he resolves henceforward, during the residue of his life, never to pronounce the word again. We began our public career nearly together ; we remained together throughout the war and down to the peace. We agreed as to a bank of the United Statesas to a protective tariffas to internal improvementsand lately, as to those arbitrary and violent measures which characterized the administration of General Jackson. No two prominent public men ever agreed better together in respect to important measures of national policy. We concur now in nothing. We separate for ever.
Mr. CALHOUN.The senator from Kentucky says that the sentiments contained in my Edgefield letter then met his view for the first time, and that he read that document with equal pain and amazement. Now it happens that I expressed these self-same sentiments just as strongly in 1834, in a speech which was received with unbounded applause by that gentlemans own party ; and of which a vast number of copies were published and circulated throughout the United States.
But the senator tells us that he is among the most constant men in this world. I am not in the habit of charging others with inconsistency ; but one thing I will say, that if the gentleman has not changed his principles, he has most certainly changed his company ; for, though he boasts of setting out in public life a republican of the school of 98, he is now surrounded by some of the most distinguished members of the old federal party. I do not desire to disparage that party. I always respected them as men, though I believed their political principles to be wrong. Now, either the gentlemans associates have changed, or he has ; for they are now together, though belonging formerly to different and opposing partiesparties, as every one knows, directly opposed to each other in policy and principles.
He says I was in favor of the tariff of 1816, and took the lead in its support. He is certainly mistaken again. It was in charge of my colleague and friend, Mr. Lowndes, chairman then of the committee of Ways and Means, as a revenue measure only. I took no other part whatever but to deliver an off-hand speech, at the request of a friend. The question of protection, as a constitutional question, was not touched at all. It was not made, if my memory serves me, for some years after. As to protection, I believe little of it, except what all admit was incidental to revenue, was contained in the act of 1816. As to my views in regard to protection at that early period, I refer to my remarks in 1813, when I opposed a renewal of the non-importation act, expressly on the ground of its giving too much protection to the manufacturers. But while I declared, in my place, that I was opposed to it on that ground, I at the same time stated that I would go as far as I could with propriety, when peace returned, to protect the capital which the war and the extreme policy of the government had turned into that channel. The senator refers to my report on internal improvement, when I was secretary of war ; but, as usual with him, forgets to tell that I made it in obedience to a resolution of the House, to which I was bound to answer, and that I expressly stated I did not involve the constitutional question ; of which the senator may now satisfy himself, if he will read the latter part of the report. As to the bonus bill, it grew out of the recommendation of Mr. Madison in his last message ; and although I proposed that the bonus should be set apart for the purpose of internal improvement, leaving it to be determined thereafter, whether we had the power, or the constitution should be amended, in conformity to Mr. Madisons recommendation. I did not touch the question to what extent Congress might possess the power ; and when requested to insert a direct recognition of the power by some of the leading members, I refused, expressly on the ground that, though I believed it existed, I had not made up my mind how far it extended. As to the bill, it was perfectly constitutional in my opinion then, and which still remains unchanged, to set aside the fund proposed, and with the object intended, but which could not be used without specific appropriations thereafter.
In my opening remarks to-day, I said the senators speech was remarkable, both for its omissions and mistakes ; and the senator infers, with his usual inaccuracy, that I alluded to a difference between his spoken and printed speech, and that I was answering the latter. In this he was mistaken ; I hardly ever read a speech, but reply to what is said here in debate. I know no other but the speech delivered here.
As to the arguments of each of us, I am willing to leave them to the judgment of the country : his speech and arguments, and mine, will be read with the closer attention and deeper interest in consequence of this days occurrence. It is all I ask.
Mr. CLAY.It is very true that the senator had on other occasions, besides his Edgefield letter, claimed that the influence arising from the interference of his own State had effected the tariff compromise. Mr. C. had so stated the fact when up before. But in the Edgefield letter the senator took new ground, he denounced those with whom he had been acting, as persons in whom he could have no confidence, and imputed to them the design of renewing a high tariff and patronizing extravagant expenditures, as the natural consequences of the establishment of a bank of the United States, and had presented this as a reason for his recent course. When, said Mr. C., I saw a charge like this, together with an imputation of unworthy motives, and all this deliberately written and published, I could not but feel very differently from what I should have done under a mere casual remark.
But the senator says, that if I have not changed principles, I have at least got into strange company. Why really, Mr. President, the gentleman has so recently changed his relations that he seems to have forgotten into what company he has fallen himself. He says that some of my friends once belonged to the federal party. Sir, I am ready to go into an examination with the honorable senator at any time, and then we shall see if there are not more members of that same old federal party amongst those whom the senator has so recently joined, than on our side of the house. The plain truth is, that it is the old federal party with whom he is now acting. For all the former grounds of difference which distinguished that party, and were the great subjects of contention between them and the republicans, have ceased from lapse of time and change of circumstances, with the exception of one, and that is the maintenance and increase of executive power. This was a leading policy of the federal party. A strong, powerful, and energetic executive was its favorite tenet. The leading members of that party had come out of the national convention with an impression that under the new constitution the executive arm was too weak. The danger they apprehended was, that the executive would be absorbed by the legislative department of the government ; and accordingly the old federal doctrine was that the Executive must be upheld, that its influence must be extended and strengthened ; and as a means to this, that its patronage must be multiplied. And what, I pray, is at this hour the leading object of that party, which the senator has joined, but this very thing ? It was maintained in the convention by Mr. Madison, that to remove a public officer without valid cause, would rightfully subject a president of the United States to impeachment. But now not only is no reason required, but the principle is maintained that no reason can be asked. A is removed and B is put in his place, because such is the pleasure of the president.
The senator is fond of the record. I should not myself have gone to it but for the infinite gravity and self-complacency with which he appeals to it in vindication of his own consistency. Let me then read a little from one of the very speeches in 1834, from which he has so liberally quoted, and called upon the secretary to read so loud, and the Senate to listen so attentively :
But there is in my opinion a strong, if not an insuperable objection against resorting to this measure, resulting from the fact that an exclusive receipt of specie in the treasury would, to give it efficacy, and to prevent extensive speculation and fraud, require an entire disconnection on the part of the government, with the banking system, in all its forms, and a resort to the strong box, as the means of preserving and guarding its fundsa means, if practicable at all in the present state of things, liable to the objection of being far less safe, economical, and efficient, than the present.
Here is a strong denunciation of that very system he is now eulogising to the skies. Here he deprecates a disconnection with all banks as a most disastrous measure ; and, as the strongest argument against it, says that it will necessarily lead to the antiquated policy of the strong box. Yet, now the senator thinks the strong box system the wisest thing on earth. As to the acquiescence of the honorable senator in measures deemed by him unconstitutional, I only regret that he suddenly stopped short in his acquiescence. He was, in 1816, at the head of the finance committee, in the other House, having been put there by myself, acquiescing all the while in the doctrines of a bank, as perfectly sound, and reporting to that effect. He acquiesced for nearly twenty years not a doubt escaping from him during the whole time. The year 1834 comes : the deposits are seized, the currency turned up side down, and the senator comes forward and proposes as a remedy a continuation of the Bank of the United States for twelve yearshere acquiescing once more ; and as he tells us, in order to save the country. But if the salvation of the country would justify his acquiescence in 1816 and in 1834, I can only regret that he did not find it in his heart to acquiesce once more in what would have remedied all our evils.
In regard to the tariff of 1816, has the senator forgotten the dispute at that time about the protection of the cotton manufacture ? The very point of that dispute was, whether we had a right to give protection or not. He admits the truth of what I said, that the constitutional question as to the power of the government to protect our own industry was never raised be fore 1820 or 1822. It was but first hinted, then controverted, and soon after expanded into nullification, although the senator had supported the tariff of 1816 on the very ground that we had power. I do not now recollect distinctly his whole course in the legislature, but he certainly introduced the bonus bill in 1816, and sustained it by a speech on the subject of internal improvements, which neither expresses nor implies a doubt of the constitutional power. But why set apart a bonus, if the government had no power to make internal improvements ? If he wished internal improvements, but conscientiously believed them unconstitutional, why did he not introduce a resolution proposing to amend the constitution ? Yet he offered no such thing. When he produced his splendid report from the war department, what did he mean ? Why did he tantalize us with that bright and gorgeous picture of canals and roads, and piers and harbors, if it was unconstitutional for us to touch the plan with one of our fingers ? The senator says in reply, that this report did not broach the constitutional question. True. But why ? Is there any other conclusion than that he did not entertain himself any doubt about it ? What a most extraordinary thing would it be, should the head of a department in his official capacity, present a report to both houses of Congress, proposing a most elaborate plan for the internal improvement of the whole union, accompanied by estimates and statistical tables, when he believed there was no power in either house to adopt any part of it. The senator dwells upon his consistency : I can tell him when he will be consistentand that is when he shall never pronounce that word again.
Mr. CALHOUN.As to the tariff of 1816, I never denied that Congress have the power to impose a protective tariff for the purpose of revenue ; and beyond that the tariff of 1816 did not go one inch. The question of the constitutionality of the protective tariff was never raised till sometime afterwards.
As to what the senator says of executive power, I, as much as he, am opposed to its augmentation, and I will go as far in preventing it as any man in this House. I maintain that the executive and judicial authorities should have no discretionary power, and as soon as they begin to exercise such power, the matter should be taken up by Congress. These opinions are well grounded in my mind, and I will go as far as any in bringing the Executive to this point. But, I believe, the Executive is now outstripped by the congressional power. He is for restricting the one. I war upon both.
The senator says I assigned as a reason of my course at the extra session that I suspected that he and the gentleman with whom he acted would revive the tariff. I spoke not of the tariff, but a national bank. I believe that banks naturally and assuredly ally themselves to taxes on the community. The higher the taxes the greater their profits ; and so it is with regard to a surplus and the government disbursements. If the banking power is on the side of a national bank, I see in that what may lead to all the consequences which I have described ; and I oppose institutions that are likely to lead to such results. When the bank should receive the money of the government, it would ally itself to taxation, and it ought to be resisted on that ground. I am very glad that the question is now fairly met. The fate of the country depends on the point of separation ; if there be a separation between the government and banks, the banks will be on the republican side in opposition to taxes ; if they unite, they will be in favor of the exercise of the taxing power.
The senator says I acquiesced in the use of the banks because the banks existed. I did so because the connection existed. The banks were already used as depositories of the government, and it was impossible at once to reverse that state of things. I went on the ground that the banks were a necessary evil. The State banks exist ; and would not he be a madman that would annihilate them because their respective bills are uncurrent in distant parts of the country ? The work of creating them is done, and cannot be reversed ; when once done, it is done for ever.
I was formerly decided in favor of separating the banks and the government, but it was impossible then to make it, and it would have been followed by nothing but disaster. The senator says the separation already exists ; but it is only contingent ; whenever the banks resume, the connection will be legally restored. In 1834 I objected to the sub-treasury project, and I thought it not as safe as the system now before us. But it turns out that it was more safe, as appears from the argument of the senator from Delaware, (Mr. Bayard.) I was then under the impression that the banks were more safe but it proves otherwise.
Mr. CLAY.If the senator would review his speech again, he would see there a plain and explicit denunciation of a sub-treasury system.
The distinguished senator from South Carolina (I had almost said my friend from South Carolina, so lately and so abruptly has he bursted all amicable relations between us, independent of his habit of change, I think, when he finds into what federal doctrines and federal company he has gotten, he will be disposed soon to feel regret and to return to us,) has not, I am persuaded, weighed sufficiently the import of the unkind imputations contained in his Edgefield letter towards his former alliesimputations that their principles are dangerous to our institutions, and of their want of firmness and patriotism. I have read that singular letter again and again, with inexpressible surprise and regret ; more, however, if he will allow me to say so, on his own than on our account.
Mr. President, I am done ; and I sincerely hope that the adjustment of the account between the senator and myself, just made, may be as satisfactory to him as I assure him and the Senate it is perfectly so to me.
Mr. CALHOUN.I have more to say, but will forbear, as the senator appears desirous of having the last word.
Mr. CLAY.Not at all.
The personal debate between Mr. Calhoun and Mr. Clay terminated for the day, and with apparent good feeling ; but only to break out speedily on a new point, and to lead to further political revelations important to history. Mr. Calhoun, after a long alienation, personal as well as political, from Mr. Van Buren, and bitter warfare upon him, had become reconciled to him in both capacities, and had made a complimentary call upon him, and had expressed to him an approbation of his leading measures. All this was natural and proper after he had become a public supporter of these measures ; but a manifestation of respect and confidence so decided, after a seven years perseverance in a warfare so bitter, could not be expected to pass without the imputation of sinister motives ; and, accordingly, a design upon the presidency as successor to Mr. Van Buren was attributed to him. The opposition newspapers abounded with this imputation ; and an early occasion was taken in the Senate to make it the subject of a public debate. Mr. Calhoun had brought into the Senate a bill to cede to the several States the public lands within their limits, after a sale of the saleable parts at graduated prices, for the benefit of both partiesthe new States and the United States. It was the same bill which he had brought in two years before ; but Mr. Clay, taking it up as a new measure, inquired if it was an administration measure ? whether he had brought it in with the concurrence of the President ? If nothing more had been said Mr. Calhoun could have answered, that it was the same bill which he had brought in two years before, when he was in opposition to the administration ; and that his reasons for bringing it in were the same now as then ; but Mr. Clay went on to taunt him with his new relations with the chief magistrate, and to connect the bill with the visit to Mr. Van Buren and approval of his measures. Mr. Calhoun saw that the inquiry was only a vehicle for the taunt, and took it up accordingly in that sense : and this led to an exposition of the reasons which induced him to join Mr. Van Buren, and to explanations on other points, which belong to history. Mr. Clay began the debate thus :
Whilst up, Mr. Clay would be glad to learn whether the administration is in favor of or against this measure, or stands neutral and uncommitted. This inquiry he should not make, if the recent relations between the senator who introduced this bill and the head of that administration, continued to exist ; but rumors, of which the city, the circles, and the press are full, assert that those relations are entirely changed, and have, within a few days, been substituted by others of an intimate, friendly, and confidential nature. And shortly after the time when this new state of things is alleged to have taken place, the senator gave notice of his intention to move to introduce this bill. Whether this motion has or has not any connection with that adjustment of former differences the public would, he had no doubt, be glad to know. At all events, it is important to know in what relation of support, opposition, or neutrality, the administration actually stands to this momentous measure ; and he [Mr. C.] supposed that the senator from South Carolina, or some other senator, could communicate the desired information.
Mr. Calhoun, besides vindicating himself, rebuked the indecorum of making his personal conduct a subject of public remark in the Senate ; and threw back the taunt by reminding Mr. Clay of his own change in favor of Mr. Adams.
He said the senator from Kentucky had introduced other, and extraneous personal matter ; and asked whether the bill had the sanction of the Executive ; assigning as a reason for his inquiry, that, if rumor was to be credited, a change of personal relation had taken place between the President and myself within the last few days. He [Mr. C.] would appeal to the Senate whether it was decorous or proper that his personal relations should be drawn in question here. Whether he should establish or suspend personal relations with the President, or any other person, is a private and personal concern, which belongs to himself individually to determine on the propriety, without consulting any one, much less the senator. It was none of his concern, and he has no right to question me in relation to it.
But the senator assumes that a change in my personal relations involves a change of political position ; and it is on that he founds his right to make the inquiry. He judges, doubtless, by his own experience ; but I would have him to understand, said Mr. C., that what may be true in his own case on a memorable occasion, is not true in mine. His political course may be governed by personal considerations ; but mine, I trust, is governed strictly by my principles and is not at all under the control of my attachments or enmities. Whether the President is personally my friend or enemy, has no influence over me in the discharge of my duties, as, I trust, my course has abundantly proved. Mr. C. concluded by saying, that he felt that these were improper topics to introduce here, and that he had passed over them as briefly as possible.
This retort gave new scope and animation to the debate, and led to further expositions of the famous compromise of 1833, which was a matter of concord between them at the time, and of discord ever since ; and which, being much condemned in the first volume of this work, the authors of it are entitled to their own vindications when they choose to make them : and this they found frequent occasion to do. The debate proceeded :
Mr. Clay contended that his question, as to whether this was an administration measure or not, was a proper one, as it was important for the public information. He again referred to the rumors of Mr. Calhouns new relations with the President, and supposed from the declarations of the senator, that these rumors were true ; and that his support, if not pledged, was at least promised conditionally to the administration. Was it of no importance to the public to learn that these pledges and compromises had been entered into ?that the distinguished senator had made his bow in court, kissed the hand of the monarch, was taken into favor, and agreed henceforth to support his edicts ?
This allusion to rumored pledges and conditions on which Mr. Calhoun had joined Mr. Van Buren, provoked a retaliatory notice of what the same rumor had bruited at the time that Mr. Clay became the supporter of Mr. Adams ; and Mr. Calhoun said :
The senator from Kentucky had spoken much of pledges, understandings, and political compromises, and sudden change of personal relations. He [said Mr. C.] is much more experienced in such things than I am. If my memory serves me, and if rumors are to be trusted, the senator had a great deal to do with such things, in connection with a distinguished citizen, now of the other House ; and it is not at all surprising, from his experience then, in his own case, that he should not be indisposed to believe similar rumors of another now. But whether his sudden change of personal relations then, from bitter enmity to the most confidential friendship with that citizen, was preceded by pledges, understandings, and political compromises on the part of one or both, it is not for me to say. The country has long since passed on that.
All this taunt on both sides was mere irritation, having no foundation in fact. It so happened that the writer of this View, on each of these occasions (of sudden conjunctions with former adversaries), stood in a relation to know what took place. In one case he was confidential with Mr. Clay ; in the other with Mr. Van Buren. In a former chapter he has given his testimony in favor of Mr. Clay, and against the imputed bargain with Mr. Adams : he can here give it in favor of Mr. Calhoun. He is entirely certainas much so as it is possible to be in supporting a negativethat no promise, pledge, or condition of any kind, took place between Mr. Calhoun and Mr. Van Buren, in coming together as they did at this juncture. How far Mr. Calhoun might have looked to his own chance of succeeding Mr. Van Buren, is another question, and a fair one. The succession was certainly open in the democratic line. Those who stood nearest the head of the party had no desire for the presidency, but the contrary ; and only wished a suitable chief magistrate at the head of the governmentgiving him a cordial support in all patriotic measures ; and preserving their independence by refusing his favors. This allusion refers especially to Mr. Silas Wright ; and if it had not been for a calamitous conflagration, there might be proof that it would apply to another. Both Mr. Wright and Mr. Benton refused cabinet appointments from Mr. Van Buren ; and repressed every movement in their favor towards the presidency. Under such circumstance, Mr. Calhoun might have indulged in a vision of the democratic succession, after the second term of Mr. Van Buren, without the slippery and ignominious contrivance of attempting to contract for it beforehand. There was certainly a talk about it, and a sounding of public men. Two different friends of Mr. Calhoun, at two different times and places,one in Missouri (Thomas Hudson, Esq.), and the other in Washington (Gov. William Smith, of Virginia),inquired of this writer whether he had said that he could not support Mr. Calhoun for the presidency, if nominated by a democratic convention ? And were answered that he had, and because Mr. Calhoun was the author of nullification, and of measures tending to the dissolution of the Union. The answer went into the newspapers, without the agency of him who gave it, and without the reasons which he gave : and his opposition was set down to causes equally gratuitous and unfoundedone, personal ill-will to Mr. Calhoun ; the other, a hankering after the place himself. But to return to Messrs. Clay and Calhoun. These reciprocal taunts having been indulged in, the debate took a more elevated turn, and entered the region of history. Mr. Calhoun continued :
I will assure the senator, if there were pledges in his case, there were none in mine. I have terminated my long-suspended personal intercourse with the President, without the slightest pledge, understanding, or compromise, on either side. I would be the last to receive or exact such. The transition from their former to their present personal relation was easy and natural, requiring nothing of the kind. It gives me pleasure to say, thus openly, that I have approved of all the leading measures of the President, since he took the Executive chair, simply because they accord with the principles and policy on which I have long acted, and often openly avowed. The change, then, in our personal relations, had simply followed that of our political. Nor was it made suddenly, as the senator charges. So far from it, more than two years have elapsed since I gave a decided support to the leading measure of the Executive, and on which almost all others since have turned. This long interval was permitted to pass, in order that his acts might give assurance whether there was a coincidence between our political views as to the principles on which the government should be administered, before our personal relations should be changed. I deemed it due to both thus long to delay the change, among other reasons to discountenance such idle rumors as the senator alludes to. That his political course might be judged (said Mr. Calhoun) by the object he had in view, and not the suspicion and jealousy of his political opponents, he would repeat what he had said, at the last session, was his object. It is, said he, to obliterate all those measures which had originated in the national consolidation school of politics, and especially the senators famous American system, which he believed to be hostile to the constitution and the genius of our political system, and the real source of all the disorders and dangers to which the country was, or had been, subject. This done, he was for giving the government a fresh departure, in the direction in which Jefferson and his associates would give, were they now alive and at the helm. He stood where he had always stood, on the old State rights ground. His change of personal relation, which gave so much concern to the senator, so far from involving any change in his principles or doctrines, grew out of them.
The latter part of this reply of Mr. Calhoun is worthy of universal acceptance, and perpetual remembrance. The real source of all the disorders to which the country was, or had been subject, was in the system of legislation which encouraged the industry of one part of the Union at the expense of the otherwhich gave rise to extravagant expenditures, to be expended unequally in the two sections of the Unionand which left the Southern section to pay the expenses of a system which exhausted her. This remarkable declaration of Mr. Calhoun was made in 1839being four years after the slavery agitation had superseded the tariff agitation, and which went back to that system of measures, of which protective tariff was the mainspring, to find, and truly find, the real source of all the dangers and disorders of the countrypast and present. Mr. Clay replied :
He had understood the senator as felicitating himself on the opportunity which had been now afforded him by Mr. C. of defining once more his political position ; and Mr. C. must say that he had now defined it very clearly, and had apparently given it a new definition. The senator now declared that all the leading measures of the present administration had met his approbation, and should receive his support. It turned out, then, that the rumor to which Mr. C. had alluded was true, and that the senator from South Carolina might be hereafter regarded as a supporter of this administration, since he had declared that all its leading measures were approved by him, and should have his support. As to the allusion which the senator from South Carolina had made in regard to Mr. C.s support of the head of another administration [Mr. Adams], it occasioned Mr. C. no pain whatever. It was an old story, which had long been sunk in oblivion, except when the senator and a few others thought proper to bring it up. But what were the facts of that case ? Mr. C. was then a member of the House of Representatives, to whom three persons had been returned, from whom it was the duty of the House to make a selection for the presidency. As to one of those three candidates, he was known to be in an unfortunate condition, in which no one sympathized with him more than did Mr. C. Certainly the senator from South Carolina did not. That gentleman was therefore out of the question as a candidate for the chief magistracy ; and Mr. C. had consequently the only alternative of the illustrious individual at the Hermitage, or of the man who was now distinguished in the House of Representatives, and who had held so many public places with honor to himself, and benefit to the country. And if there was any truth in history, the choice which Mr. C. then made was precisely the choice which the senator from South Carolina had urged upon his friends. The senator himself had declared his preference of Adams to Jackson. Mr. C. made the same choice ; and his constituents had approved it from that day to this, and would to eternity. History would ratify and approve it. Let the senator from South Carolina make any thing out of that part of Mr. C.s public career if he could. Mr. C. defied him. The senator had alluded to Mr. C. as the advocate of compromise. Certainly he was. This government itself, to a great extent, was founded and rested on compromise ; and to the particular compromise to which allusion had been made, Mr. C. thought no man ought to be more grateful for it than the senator from South Carolina. But for that compromise, Mr. C. was not at all confident that he would have now had the honor to meet that senator face to face in this national capitol.
The allusion in the latter part of this reply was to the Presidents declared determination to execute the laws upon Mr. Calhoun if an overt act of treason should be committed under the nullification ordinance of South Carolina ; and the preparations for which (overt act) were too far advanced to admit of another step, either backwards or forwards ; and from which most critical condition the compromise relieved those who were too deeply committed, to retreat without ruin, or to advance without personal peril. Mr. Calhouns reply was chiefly directed to this pregnant allusion.
The senator from Kentucky has said, Mr. President, that I, of all men, ought to be grateful to him for the compromise act.
[Mr. Clay. I did not say to me. ]
The senator claims to be the author of that measure ; and, of course, if there be any gratitude due, it must be to him. I, said Mr. Calhoun, made no allusion to that act ; but as the senator has thought proper to refer to it, and claim my gratitude. I, in turn, now tell him I feel not the least gratitude towards him for it. The measure was necessary to save the senator politically : and as he has alluded to the subject, both on this and on a former occasion, I feel bound to explain what might otherwise have been left in oblivion. The senator was then compelled to compromise to save himself. Events had placed him flat on his back, and he had no way to recover himself but by the compromise. This is no after thought. I wrote more than half a dozen of letters home at the time to that effect. I shall now explain. The proclamation and message of General Jackson necessarily rallied around him all the steadfast friends of the senators system. They withdrew their allegiance at once from him, and transferred it to General Jackson. The senator was thus left in the most hopeless condition, with no more weight with his former partisans than this sheet of paper (raising a sheet from his desk). This is not all. The position which General Jackson had assumed, necessarily attracted towards him a distinguished senator from Massachusetts, not now here [Mr. WEBSTER], who, it is clear, would have reaped all the political honors and advantages of the system, had the contest come to blows. These causes made the political condition of the senator truly forlorn at the time. On him rested all the responsibility, as the author of the system ; while all the power and influence it gave, had passed into the hands of others. Compromise was the only means of extrication. He was thus forced by the action of the State, which I in part represent, against his system, by my counsel to compromise, in order to save himself. I had the mastery over him on the occasion.
This is historical, and is an inside view of history. Mr. Webster, in that great contest of nullification, was on the side of President Jackson, and the supreme defender of his great measurethe Proclamation of 1833 ; and the first and most powerful opponent of the measure out of which it grew. It was a splendid era in his lifeboth for his intellect, and his patriotism. No longer the advocate of classes, or interests, he appeared the great defender of the Unionof the constitutionof the countryand of the administration, to which he was opposed. Released from the bonds of party, and from the narrow confines of class and corporation advocacy, his colossal intellect expanded to its full proportions in the field of patriotism, luminous with the fires of genius ; and commanding the homage, not of party, but of country. His magnificent harangues touched Jackson in his deepest-seated and ruling feelinglove of country ! and brought forth the response which always came from him when the country was in peril, and a defender presented himself. He threw out the right hand of fellowshiptreated Mr. Webster with marked distinctioncommended him with public praiseand placed him on the roll of patriots. And the public mind took the belief, that they were to act together in future ; and that a cabinet appointment, or a high mission, would be the reward of his patriotic service. (It was the report of such expected preferment that excited Mr. Randolph (then in no condition to bear excitement) against General Jackson.) It was a crisis in the political life of Mr. Webster. He stood in public opposition to Mr. Clay and Mr. Calhoun. With Mr. Clay he had a public outbreak in the Senate. He was cordial with Jackson. The mass of his party stood by him on the proclamation. He was at a point from which a new departure might be taken :one at which he could not stand still from which there must be advance, or recoil. It was a case in which will, more than intellect, was to rule. He was above Mr. Clay and Mr. Calhoun in intellectbelow them in will. And he was soon seen co-operating with them (Mr. Clay in the lead), in the great measure condemning President Jackson. And so passed away the fruits of the golden era of 1833. It was to the perils of this conjunction (of Jackson and Webster) that Mr. Calhoun referred, as the forlorn condition from which the compromise relieved Mr. Clay : and, allowing to each the benefit of his assertion, history avails herself of the declarations of each in giving an inside view of personal motives for a momentous public act. And, without deciding a question of mastery in the disputed victory, History performs her task in recording the fact that, in a brief space, both Mr. Calhoun and Mr. Webster were seen following the lead of Mr. Clay in his great attack upon President Jackson in the session of 1834-35.
Mr. Clay, rejoining, said he had made no allusion to the compromise bill till it was done by the senator from South Carolina himself ; he made no reference to the events of 1825 until the senator had himself set him the example ; and he had not in the slightest and the most distant manner alluded to nullification until after the senator himself had called it up. The senator ought not to have introduced that subject, especially when he had gone over to the authors of the force bill and the proclamation. The senator from South Carolina said that he [Mr. C.] was flat on his back, and that he was my master. Sir, I would not own him as my slave. He my master ! and I compelled by him ! And, as if it were impossible to go far enough in one paragraph, he refers to certain letters of his own to prove that I was flat on my back ! and, that I was not only on my back, but another senator and the President had robbed me ! I was flat on my back, and unable to do any thing but what the senator from South Carolina permitted me to do !
Why, sir, [said Mr. C.] I gloried in my strength, and was compelled to introduce the compromise bill ; and compelled, too, by the senator, not in consequence of the weakness, but of the strength, of my position. If it was possible for the senator from South Carolina to introduce one paragraph without showing the egotism of his character, he would not now acknowledge that he wrote letters home to show that he (Mr. C.) was flat on his back, while he was indebted to him for that measure which relieved him from the difficulties in which he was involved. Now, what was the history of the case ? Flat as he was on his back, Mr. C. said he was able to produce that compromise, and to carry it through the Senate, in opposition to the most strenuous exertions of the gentleman who, the senator from South Carolina said, had supplanted him, and in spite of his determined and unceasing opposition. There was (said Mr. C.) a sort of necessity operating on me to compel me to introduce that measure. No necessity of a personal character influenced him ; but considerations involving the interests, the peace and harmony of the whole country, as well as of the State of South Carolina, directed him in the course he pursued. He saw the condition of the senator from South Carolina and that of his friends ; he saw the condition to which be had reduced the gallant little State of South Carolina by his unwise and dangerous measures ; he saw, too, that we were on the eve of a civil war ; and he wished to save the effusion of bloodthe blood of our own fellow-citizens. That was one reason why he introduced the compromise bill. There was another reason that powerfully operated on him. The very interest that the tariff laws were enacted to protectso great was the power of the then chief magistrate, and so rapidly was that power increasingwas in danger of being sacrificed. He saw that the protective system was in danger of being swept away entirely, and probably at the next session of Congress, by the tremendous power of the individual who then filled the Executive chair ; and he felt that the greatest service that he could render it, would be to obtain for it a lease for a term of years, to use an expression that had been heretofore applied to the compromise bill. He saw the necessity that existed to save the protective system from the danger which threatened it. He saw the necessity to advance the great interests of the nation, to avert civil war, and to restore peace and harmony to a distracted and divided country ; and it was therefore that he had brought forward this measure. The senator from South Carolina, to betray still further and more strikingly the characteristics which belonged to him, said, that in consequence of his (Mr. C.s) remarks this very day, all obligations towards him on the part of himself (Mr. Calhoun), of the State of South Carolina, and the whole South, were cancelled. And what right had the senator to get up and assume to speak of the whole South, or even of South Carolina herself ? If he was not mistaken in his judgment of the political signs of the times, and if the information which came to him was to be relied on, a day would come, and that not very distant neither, when the senator would not dare to rise in his place and presume to speak as he had this day done, as the organ of the gallant people of the State he represented.
The concluding remark of Mr. Clay was founded on the belief, countenanced by many signs, that the State of South Carolina would not go with Mr. Calhoun in support of Mr. Van Buren ; but he was mistaken. The State stood by her distinguished senator, and even gave her presidential vote for Mr. Van Buren at the ensuing electionbeing the first time she had voted in a presidential election since 1829. Mr. Grundy, and some other senators, put an end to this episodical and personal debate by turning the Senate to a vote on the bill before it.