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80 tempting, il, which so large a number of men had an interest, that the contest would gradually cease to be elective, and would finally lose the elective form. The incumbent would appoint his successor ; and “thus the absolute form of a popular, would end in the absolute form of a monarchical government,” and there would be no possibility of even rendering the monarchy limited or constitutional. Mr. Calhoun does not mention here the name of General Jackson or of Martin Van Buren, but American readers know very well what he was thinking of when he wrote the passage.
Disunion, according to Mr. Calhoun, was another of our perils. In view of recent events, our readers may be interested in reading his remarks on this subject, written in 1849, among the last words he ever deliberately put upon paper:
“ The conditions impelling the government toward disunion are very powerful. They consist chiefly of two; — the one arising from the great extent of the country; the other, from its division into separate States, having local institutions and interests. The former, under the operation of the numerical majority, has necessarily given to the two great parties, in their contest for the honors and emoluments of the government, a geographical character, for reasons which have been fully stated. This contest must finally settle down into a struggle on the part of the stronger section to obtain the permanent control; and on the part of the weaker, to preserve its independence and equality as members of the Union. The conflict will thus become one between the States occupying the different sections, - that is, between organized bodies on both sides, - each, in the event of separation, having the means of avoiding the confusion and anarchy to which the parts would be subject without such organization. This would contribute much to increase the power of resistance on the part of the weaker section against the stronger in possession of the government. With these great advantages and resources, it is hardly possible that the parties occupying the weaker section would consent quietly, under any circumstances, to break down from independent and equal sovereignties into a dependent and colonial condition and still less so, under circumstances that would revolutionize them internally, and put their very existence as a people at stake. Never was there an issue between Independent States that involved greater calamity to the conquered, than is involved in that between the States which compose the two sections of the Union. The condition of the weaker, should it sink from a state of independence and equality to one of dependence and subjection, would be more calamitous than ever before befell a civilized people. It is vain to think that, with such consequences before them, they will not resist; especially, when resistance may save them, and cannot render their condition worse. That this will take place, unless the stronger section desists from its course, may be assumed as certain : and that, if forced to resist, the weaker section would prove successful, and the system end in disunion, is, to say the least, highly probable. But if it should fail, the great increase of power and patronage which must, in consequence, accrue to the government of the United States, would but render certain and hasten the termination in the other alternative. So that, at all events, to the one or to the other — to monarchy or disunion — it must come, if not prevented by strenuous or timely efforts.”
This is a very instructive passage, and one that shows well the complexity of human motives. Mr. Calhoun betrays the secret chat, after all, the contest between the two sections is a “ contest for the honors and emoluments of the government,” and that all the rest is but pretext and afterthought, as General Jackson said it was.
He plainly states that the policy of the South is rule or ruin. Besides this, he intimates that there is in the United States an “interest,” an institution, the development of which is incompatible with the advancement of the general interest ; and either that one interest must overshadow and subdue all other interests, or all other interests must unite to crush that one. The latter has been done.
Mr. Calhoun proceeds to suggest the measures by which these calamities can be averted. The government must be “ restored to its federal character” by the repeal of all laws tending to the annihilation of State sovereignty, and by a strict construction of the Constitution. The President's power of removal must be limited. In earlier times, these would have sufficed ; but at that day the nature of the disease was such that nothing could reach it short of an organic change, which should give the weaker section a negative on the action of the government. Mr. Calhoun was of opiaion that this could best be done by our having two Presi dents, - one elected by the North and the other by the South,
the assent of both to be necessary to every act of Congress. Ue. der such a system, he thought, –
“ The Presidential election, instead of dividing the Union into hos tile geographical parties, the stronger struggling to enlarge its powers, and the weaker to defend its rights, as is now the case, would become the means of restoring harmony and concord to the country and he government. It would make the Union a union in truth, - a bond of mutual affection and brotherhood ; and not a mere connection used by the stronger as the instrument of dominion and aggrandizement, and submitted to by the weaker only from the lingering remains of former attachment, and the fading hope of being able to restore the government to what it was originally intended to be, - a blessing to all.”
The utter misapprehension of the purposes and desires of the Northern people which this passage betrays, and which pervades all the later writings of Mr. Calhoun, can only be explained by the supposition that he judged them out of his own heart. It is astounding to hear the author of the annexation of Texas charg. ing the North with the lust of dominion, and the great Nullifier accusing Northern statesmen of being wholly possessed by the mania to be President.
Webster, Clay, and Calhoun,—these were great names in their day. When the last of them had departed, the country felt a sense of bereavement, and even of self-distrust, doubting if ever again such men would adorn the public councils. A close scrutiny into the lives of either of them would, of course, compel us to deduct something from his contemporary renown, for they were all, in some degree, at some periods, diverted from their true path by an ambition beneath an American statesman, whose true glory alone consists in serving his country well in that sphere to which his fellow-citizens call him. From such a scrutiny the fame of neither of those distinguished men would suffer so much as that of Calhoun. His endowments were not great, nor of the most valuable kind; and his early education, hasty and very incomplete, was not continued by maturer study. He read rather to confirm his impressions than to correct them. It was impossible that he should ever have been wise, because he refused to admit his lia
bility to error. Never was mental assurance more complete, and seldom less warranted by innate or acquired superiority. If his knowledge of books was slight, bis opportunities of observing men were still more limited, since he passed his whole life in places as exceptional, perhaps, as any in the world, — Washington and South Carolina. From the beginning of his public career there was a canker in the heart of it; for, while his oath, as a member of Congress, to support the Constitution of the United States, was still fresh upon his lips, he declared that his attachment to the Union was conditional and subordinate. He said that the alliance between the Southern planters and Northern Democrats was a false and calculated compact, to be broken when the planters could no longer rule by it. While he resided in Washington, and acted with the Republican party in the flush of its double triumph, he appeared a respectable character, and won golden opinions from eminent men in both parties. But when he was again subjected to the narrowing and perverting influence of a residence in South Carolina, he shrunk at once to his original proportions, and became thenceforth, not the servant of his country, but the special pleader of a class and the representative of a section. And yet, with that strange judicial blindness which has ever becn the doom of the defenders of wrong, he still hoped to attain the Presidency. There is scarcely any example of infatuation more remarkable than this. Here we have, lying before us at this mo. ment, undeniable proofs, in the form of " campaign lives” and “ campaign documents,” that, as late as 1844 there was money spent and labor done for the purpose of placing him in nomination for the highest office.
Calhoun failed in all the leading objects of his public life, except one; but in that one his success will be memorable forever.
He has left it on record (see Benton, II. 698) that his great aim, from 1835 to 1847, was to force the slavery issue on the North. “ It is our duty,” he wrote in 1847, “ to force the issue on the North.” “ Had the South,” he continued, “or even my own State, backed me, I would have forced the issue on the North in 1835”; and he welcomed the Wilmot Provisu in 1847 because, as he privately wrote, it would be the means of “ens
bling us to force the issue on the North.” In this design, at length, when he had been ten years in the grave, he succeeded. Had there been no Calhoun, it is possible — nay, it is not improbable that that issue might have been deferred till the North had so outstripped the South in accumulating all the elements of power, that the fire-eaters themselves would have shrunk from submitting the question to the arbitrament of the sword. It was Calhoun who forced the issue upon the United States, and compelled us to choose between annihilation and war.