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Her.ry Clay was not a man of blood. On the contrary, he was eminently pacific, both in his disposition and in his politics. Yet he believed in the war of 1812, and his whole heart was in it. The question occurs, then, Was it right and best for the United States to declare war against Great Britain in 1812? The proper answer to this question depends upon another : What ought we to think of Napoleon Bonaparte ? If Napoleon was, what English Tories and American Federalists said he was, the enemy of mankind, — and if England, in warring upon him, was fighting the battle of mankind, — then the injuries received by neutral nations might have been borne without dishonor. When chose giant belligerents were hurling continents at one another, the damage done to bystanders from the flying off of fragments was a thing to be expected, and submitted to as their share of the general ruin, — to be compensated by the final suppression of the common foe. To have endured this, and even to have submitted, for a time, to the searching of ships, so that not one Englishman should be allowed to skulk from such a fight, had not been pusillanimity, but magnanimity. But if, as English Whigs and American Democrats contended, Napoleon Bonaparte was the armed soldier of democracy, the rightful heir of the Revolution, the sole alternative to anarchy, the legitimate ruler of France; if the responsibility of those enormous desolating wars does not lie at his door, but belongs to George III. and the Tory party of England; if it is a fact that Napoleon always stood ready to make a just peace, which George III. and William Pitt refused, not in the interest of mankind and civilization, but in that of the Tory party and the allied dynasties, — then America was right in resenting the searching and seizure of her ships, and right, after exhausting every peaceful expedient, in declaring war.
That this was really the point in dispute between our two parties is shown in the debates, newspapers, and pamphlets of the time. The Federalists, as Mr. Clay observed in one of his speeches, compared Napoleon to “every monster and beast, from that mentioned in the Revelation down to the most insignificant quadruped." The Republicans, on the contrary, spoke of hin always with moderation and decency, sometimes with commenda
zon, and o-casionally he was toasted at heir public dinners with enthusiasm. Mr. Clay himself, while lamenting his enormous power and the suspension of ancient nationalities, always had a lurking sympathy with him. “ Bonaparte,” said he in bis great war speech of 1813, “ has been called the scourge of mankind, the destroyer of Europe, the great robber, the infidel, the modern Attila, and Heaven knows by what other names. Really, gentle men remind me of an obscure lady, in a city not very far off, who also took it into her head, in conversation with an accomplished French gentleman, to talk of the affairs of Europe. She, too, spoke of the destruction of the balance of power; stormed and raged about the insatiable ambition of the Emperor; called him the curse of mankind, the destroyer of Europe. The Frenchman listened to her with perfect patience, and when she had ceased said to her, with ineffable politeness, • Madam, it would give my master, the Emperor, infinite pain if he knew how hardly you thought of him.'” This brief passage suffices to show the prevailing tone of the two parties when Napoleon was the theme of discourse.
It is, of course, impossible for us to enter into this question of Napoleon's moral position. Intelligent opinion, ever since the means of forming an opinion were accessible, has been constantly judging Napoleon more leniently, and the Tory party more severely. We can only say, that, in our opinion, the war of 1812 was just and necessary; and that Henry Clay, both in supporting Mr. Jefferson's policy of non-intercourse and in supporting President Madison's policy of war, deserved well of his country. Postponed that war might have been. But, human nature being what it is, and the English government being what it was, we do not believe that the United States could ever have been distinctly recognized as one of the powers of the earth without another fight for it.
The war being ended and the Federal party extinct, upon the young Republicans, who had carried on the war, devolved the lask of “reconstruction.” Before they had made much progress in it, they came within an ace of being consigned to pri. vate life, - Clay himself having as narrow, an escape as any of them.
And here we may note one point of superiority of the Ameri can government over others. In other countries it can some times be the interest of politicians to foment and declare war A war strengthens a tottering dynasty, an imperial parvenu, ar odious tyrant, a feeble ministry ; and the glory won in battle on land and sea redounds to the credit of government, without raising up competitors for its high places. But let American politicians take note. It is never their interest to bring on a war; because a war is certain to generate a host of popular heroes to outshine them and push them from their places. It may sometimes be their duty to advocate war, but it is never their interest. At this moment we see both parties striving which shall present to the people the most attractive list of military candidates ; and when a busy ward politician seeks his reward in custom-house or department, he finds a dozen lame soldiers competing for the place; one of whom gets it, — as he ought. What city has presented Mr. Stanton with a house, or Mr. Welles with fifty thousand dollars' worth of government bonds ? Calhoun precipitated the country into a war with Mexico; but what did he gain by it but new bitterness of disappointment, while the winner of three little battles was elected President ? Henry Clay was the animating soul of the war of 1812, and we honor him for it; but while Jackson, Brown, Scott, Perry, and Decatur came out of that war the idols of the nation, Clay was promptly notified that his footing in the public councils, his hold of the public favor, was by no means stable
His offence was that he voted for the compensation bill of 1816, which merely changed the pay of members of Congress from the pittance of six dollars a day to the pittance of fifteen hundred dollars a year. He who before was lord paramount in Kentucky saved his seat only by prodigious efforts on the stump, and by exerting all the magic of his presence in the canvass.
No one ever bore cutting disappointment with an airier grace than this high-spirited thorough-bred ; but he evidently felt this apparent injustice. Some years later, when it was propose in Congress to pension Commodore Perry's mother, Mr. Clay
m a speech of five minutes, totally extinguished the propusi. tion. Pointing to the vast rewards bestowed upon such success. ful soldiers as Marlborough, Napoleon, and Wellington, he said, with thrilling effect : “ How different is the fate of the statesman! In his quiet and less brilliant career, after having advanced by the wisdom of his measures, the national prosperity to the highest point of elevation, and after having sacrificer? his fortune, his time, and perhaps his health, in the public ser, vice, what, too often, are the rewards that await him? Who thinks of his family, impoverished by the devotion of his attention to his country, instead of their advancement ? Who proposes to pension him, — much less his mother ? ” He spoke the more feelingly, because he, who could have earned more than the President's income by the practice of his profession, was often pinched for money, and was once obliged to leave Congress for the sole purpose of taking care of his shattered fortune. He felt the importance of this subject in a national point of view. He wrote in 1817 to a friend : “ Short as has been my service in the public councils, I have seen some of the most valuable members quitting the body from their inability to sustain the weight of these sacrifices. And in process of time, I apprehend, this mischief will be more and more felt. Even now there are few, if any, instances of members dedicating their lives to the duties of legislation. Members stay a year or two ; curiosity is satisfied; the novelty wears off; expensive habits are brought or acquired ; their affairs at home are neglected ; their fortunes are wasting away ; and they are compelled to retire.”
The eight years of Mr. Monroe's administration — from 1817 to 1825 — were the most brilliant period of Henry Clay's career. His position as Speaker of the House of Representative: would naturally have excluded him from leadership; but the House was as fond of hearing him speak as he could be of speaking, and opportunities were continually furnished him by going into Committee of the Whole. In a certain sense he was in opposition to the administration. When one party has so frequently and decidedly beaten the party opposed to it, that the defeated
party goes out of existence, the conquering party soon divides. The triumphant Republicans of 1816 obeyed this law of their position ; - one wing of the party, under Mr. Monroe, being reluctant to depart from the old Jeffersonian policy; the other wing, under Henry Clay, being inclined to go very far in internal improvements and a protective tariff. Mr. Clay now appears as the great champion of what he proudly styled the American System. He departed farther and farther from the simple doctrines of the earlier Democrats. Before the war, he had opposed a national bank; now he advocated the establishment of one, and handsomely acknowledged the change of opinion. Before the war, he proposed only such a tariff as would render America independent of foreign nations in articles of the first necessity; now he contemplated the establishment of a great manufacturing system, which should attract from Europe skilful workmen, and supply the people with everything they consumed, even to jewel. ry and silver-ware. Such success had he with his American System, that, before many years rolled away, we see the rival wings of the Republican party striving which could concede most to the manufacturers in the way of an increased tariff. Every four years, when a President was to be elected, there was an inev. itable revision of the tariff, each faction outbidding the other in conciliating the manufacturing interest ; until at length the near discharge of the national debt suddenly threw into politics a prospective surplus, – one of twelve millions a year, — which came near crushing the American System, and gave Mr. Calhoun his pretext for nullification.
At present, with such a debt as we have, the tariff is no longer a question with us. The government must have its million a day; and as no tax is less offensive to the people than a duty on imported commodities, we seem compelled to a practically protective bystem for many years to come. But, of all men, a citizen of the United States should be the very last to accept the protective system as final; for when he looks abroad over the great assemblage of sovereignties which he calls the United States, and asks himself the reason of their rapid and uniform prosperity for the last eighty years, what answer can he give but this ? - There is