When Men Grew Tall, or The Story Of Andrew Jackson
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Colonel Coffee, upon receiving the vote of thanks, writes a letter of acknowledgment, in which he intimates his opinions of the General, the Legislature, and himself. This missive is a remarkable outburst on the part of Colonel Coffee, who fights more easily than he writes, and shows how he is stirred to his hunting-shirt depths.
Through the clouds of pestiferous jurists and treason-hatching legislators descends a grand burst of sunshine. The blooming Rachel, as unlooked for as an angel, joins her gaunt hero in New Orleans, and the General forgets alike his triumphs and his troubles.
Papa Plauche – foremost in peace as in war – at once seizes on the advent of the blooming Rachel to give another ball. The whole city attends the function; the heroic “Fathers” in full panoply and very splendid. The band plays “‘Possum up a Gum Tree,” in the execution whereof it soars to vainest heights.
Papa Plauche dances with the blooming Rachel. The General unbuckles in certain intricate breakdowns, with which he challenged admiration in those days long ago when he was the beau of old Salisbury and read law with Spruce McCay. The “Fathers” are not only edified but excited by the General’s dancing; for he dances as he fights, violently.
Colonel Coffee, not being a dancing man, goes looking about him. He discovers a flower-piece, prepared by Papa Plauche, that is like unto a piece of flattery, and spells “Jackson and Victory!” in deepest red and green. He shows it to the General, who suggests that if Papa Plauche had made it “Hickory and Victory!” it would mean the same, and save the euphony.
While the blooming Rachel, the General, the non-dancing Coffee, and the ardent Papa Plauche, with the beauty and chivalry of New Orleans about them, are at the ball, Colonel Burr, gray and bent and cynical, is talking with his friend Swartwout in far-away New York.
“It was a glorious, a most convincing victory!” exclaims Mr. Swartwout. “President Madison cannot do the General too much honor. He has saved the country!”
“He has saved,” returns the ironical Colonel Burr, “what President Madison holds in much greater esteem. He has saved the Madison administration!”
CHAPTER XVIII – ODDS AND ENDS OF TIME
THE General, the blooming Rachel by his side, takes up his homeward journey. Now when they are on their way and a world has time to observe them, it is to be noted that changes have befallen with the lengthened flight of time. The eye of the blooming Rachel is as liquidly black and deep, her hair as raven-blue, her cheek as round as on a rearward day when she won the heart of that bottle-green beau from old Salisbury. The alteration is in her form, which has grown plump and full and stout in these her matronly middle years. As to the bottle-green beau, his sandy hair is deeply shot with iron-gray, while his features show haggard, and seamed of care. To the inquiring eye he looks at once dangerous and rusty, like an old sword.His form, always spare, is more emaciated than ever. The last is due in part to those Benton bullets, and the Dickinson shot fired in that poplar, May-sweet wood on a certain Kentucky morning. Besides, one is not to forget those southern swamps, which have never had fame for building a man up. As the General, with his blooming Rachel, draws near home, the whole Cumberland country rushes forth to greet him.
From that earliest day when Time began swinging his scythe in the meadows of humanity, mankind has owned but two ways of honoring a hero. One is the “parade,” the other is the “dinner.” In the one instance, half the people march in the middle of the street, while the remaining half line the curbs and look on. In the other, which has the merit of exclusion, a select great few set a board with meat and drink; and then, installing the hero where all may see, they bombard him with toasts and speeches and applause. All attend the “parade” since it is free. Few avoid the dinner, because, besides the honor and the honoring, it affords lawful occasion for being drunk – a manifest advantage to many in a strait-laced community. The General when he arrives in Nashville is exhaustively “paraded” and deeply “dined.” Also he is given a sword.
Now, having been “paraded” and “dined,” and with honors thick upon him, the General sets about his duties as a major general in days of peace. General Adair and he have a letter-quarrel concerning the courage of Kentuckians. General Scott and he have a letter-quarrel on grounds more personal. As the upshot of the latter correspondence, the General evinces an eagerness to shoot his over-epauletted opponent at ten paces, oiling up the saw-handles to that hopeful end, but is balked by the over-epauletted one, who declines on grounds of piety and patriotism.
While the General is fuming with ink and paper against those distinguished warriors, he cools at intervals sufficiently to build the blooming Rachel a little church. The blooming Rachel is a devout Presbyterian; and, while the General is far too busy with this world to think much on the next, she prevails with him – for he never says “No” to her – to put her up a church. It is not much bigger than a drygoods box; but there are forty pews, besides a pulpit for Parson Blackburn, and the blooming Rachel is supremely happy. She owns to some illogical impression that, should the General build a church, he’ll “join.” In this she goes wrong; for the General only builds.
The General mounts his horse, and rides to Washington. He meets Mr. Jefferson in Lynchburg, and that aged fine gentleman and maker of constitutions is struck by the graceful manners of the General, who has become all ease and polish where once he was as rough as a woods’ colt. In Washington he is much feted and feasted, and the trump of celebration is tireless to sound his name. He gets back home in time to put a roof on the blooming Rachel’s almost finished church, and listen to Parson Blackburn’s dedicatory sermon.
The Red Stick Creeks from across the Florida line take to marauding and murdering in Southern Georgia, and the General decides to see about it. He sends an officer, with a force of men, to reduce Negro Fort on the Appalachicola. In giving that officer his instructions, the General expands touching the military virtues of red-hot shots; and with such satisfactory results that the first one fired at Negro Fort blows it to ruins, and with it three hundred and thirty-one of the three hundred and thirty-four blacks and reds who infest it. Three crawl from the blazing chaos, to be hilariously knocked on the head by friendly Creeks, who have attended the expedition with that fond hope and purpose. The world is much rejoiced at the demolition of Negro Fort; since murder and pillage have been the one business of its robber garrison, and the fire-torture of prisoners their one amusement.
The General presently appears at the head of his hunting-shirt men, and destroys the village of Chief Billy Bowlegs on the oft-sung Suwannee River. Then he takes St. Marks from the feeble Spaniards, and arrests a brace of conspiring English, Ambrister and Arbuthnot. The arrested ones have come across from the Bahamas, bringing English guns and lead and powder and promises to the hostile blacks and reds; and all in accordance with that policy, dear to England, of preferring bloodshed by proxy to shedding blood herself. The General hangs conspirator Arbuthnot, and shoots conspirator Ambrister; while England, in accordance with a second policy as dear as the first, disavows them both.
The General goes on to Pensacola. Here he hauls down the flag of Spain, runs up the stars and stripes, drives out the Spanish Governor, and installs one of his own with a garrison to back him. Having executed conspirators Ambrister and Arbuthnot, he now seizes on two Creek-Seminole chiefs and hangs them, to preserve, so to speak, a racial equilibrium. Having thus wound up the Spanish, the English, the negroes and the Indians in Florida, the General returns to his home, serene in the sense of duty well performed.
The General’s serenity is misplaced; trouble breaks out in Washington. Mr. Monroe is President, and Statesmen Clay and Crawford and Calhoun and Adams desire to be. The quartette last named suspect in the General – about whom a responsive public is running mad – a growing rival. They decide to cripple him in the very cradle of his White House prospects. If they do not he may grow up to snatch from them the crown. Moved of this high thought, they charge the General with waging unauthorized war; and with invading Spanish territory, we at peace with Spain. They call him a “murderer” for snuffing out conspirators Ambrister and Arbuthnot and those superfluous Creek-Seminole chiefs. Also, giving a moral snuffle, they demand that he be courtmartialed and cashiered.
President Monroe shakes his head at the conniving quartette, replying as on a somewhat similar occasion did the Russian Catherine:
“We never punish conquerors.”
The General by the Cumberland hears of these weird doings in Washington, and again rides over the mountains. His object is to discover, by personal observation, who in his case, are the sheep and who the goats, and separate in his own mind his friends from his enemies. Upon his arrival the General finds himself an issue of politics. As such he is voted upon by Congress, which affirms heavily in his favor. The people have long ago decided in his favor; and Congress, ever quick to locate the butter on its bread, sharply follows the popular example. Statesman Clay and others among the General’s foes express themselves freely to his disadvantage. However, the General expresses himself freely to their disadvantage, and profound judges of vituperation say that he has the sulphurous best of the exchange.
Being upheld by Congress, and having freed his mind touching his foes, the General goes to Baltimore and Philadelphia, and is extravagantly wined and dined. Then he proceeds to New York, where Fitz Greene Halleck and Joseph Rodman Drake write doggerel at him in the Evening Post; and where, also, he is “paraded” and “dinner” – honored to a degree which lays all former “parading” and “dinner” – honoring, by less fervent communities, deep within the shade.
Spain cedes Florida to the United States; just as she would cede a bad hot penny that, besides being worthless, is burning her fingers. The President appoints the General governor of the new domain. Whereupon the new Governor lays down his Major General’s commission, bids farewell to the army, and journeys south. He does not relish being Governor; and, after locking up his Spanish predecessor for stealing divers papers of state, and expatriating a scandalous bevy whose talk sounds like treason to his sensitive ear, he resigns.
When the General gets back to the Cumberland country, he finds that his former quartermaster, Major Lewis, has decided to send him to the White House. The General is mightily taken aback, and declares himself unfit. Major Lewis retorts that he is far more fit than any of his quartette of Washington enemies, laying especial emphasis on Statesman Clay. The accurate force of the retort strikes the General wordless.
Major Lewis is rich, wise, cunning, cool, college-bred, and eighteen years younger than the General. He is a born manager, a natural wire-puller, and can play politics by ear as some folk play the fiddle. Congenitally a Warwick, he prefers making a President to being one, and would sooner hold a baby than hold an office.
Major Lewis seizes on the General as so much raw material wherefrom to construct a President. As a best method of having his man on the ground, he gives a hint, and the Tennessee Legislature sends the General to Washington as Senator. The blooming Rachel accompanies him; they live at a tavern in Pennsylvania Avenue called the “Indian Queen.”
This caravansary is kept by one O’Neal, who has a pretty daughter Peg. Later the pretty Peg will dissolve a Cabinet, make Mr. Van Buren President, and come within an ace of getting Mr. Calhoun hanged. All this, however, is in the unpierced future. The blooming, childless Rachel makes a pet of pretty Peg; which rivets the latter forever in the good regards of the General, who loves what the blooming Rachel loves.
Major Lewis proves a wizard of politics. Under his quiet legerdemain, here and there and everywhere political fires break forth in favor of the General. They break forth in North Carolina, in Pennsylvania, in New York; and, so deft and secret is his work, none suspects Wizard Lewis as the incendiary. Wizard Lewis is counseled by Colonel Burr who, like some old gray fox, sits in the mouth of his New York law-burrow in Nassau Street, peering out at events as they pass.
In these days, the lion-faced Webster writes his brother:
“His (the General’s) manners are more presidential than those of any of the candidates. He is grave, mild, and reserved. My wife is for him decidedly.”
There are four candidates for the White House, vide, licet, the General, and Statesmen Adams and Crawford and Clay. The popular vote falls in the order given, with the General a long flight shot ahead of Statesman Adams, who is next on the list. And yet, while far in advance of the others, the General is without that electoral majority required by the Constitution, and the choice is thrown into the House of Representatives.
Statesman Clay is now out of the running; for the President must be chosen from among the three candidates having the highest electoral vote, and he is fourth and lowest. Statesman Crawford, who ranks third, is also out. He is stricken of paralysis; and, while this wins him sympathy, it loses him White House strength. The fight is to be between the General and Statesman Adams.
While Statesman Clay is out of the coil, so far as any personal chance of becoming the House selection is concerned, he is in it decisively in another fashion. As a chief force in the House, he holds that important body in the hollow of his hand; and, while he cannot be its choice, he can control its choice. He controls it for Statesman Adams, on the underground understanding that he, Statesman Clay, shall sit at Statesman Adams’ right hand as Secretary of State. Statesman Clay hopes to run presidentially another day, and thinks to make his calling and election sure while head of the Cabinet of Statesman Adams. As events forge and fuse themselves in the blast furnaces of the future, it will be discovered that in thus opining Statesman Clay falls into grievous error.
It is four o’clock in the afternoon when the Clay-guided House counts Statesman Adams into a Presidency. Five hours afterward the General meets Statesman Adams in the East Room, where both are in attendance upon the last reception of outgoing President Munroe. The contrast between them tells in the General’s favor. There is no gloom of disappointment on his brow, no cloud of defeat in his hawkish blue eyes. The General has a lady on his arm. He greets Statesman Adams gracefully and extends his hand:
“How is Mr. Adams?” cries he. “I give you my left hand, sir, since my right is devoted to the fair.”
Statesman Adams is a diplomat, and used to courts and salons. The General is of the wilderness and its battlefields. And yet the General shines out the more polished of the two. Statesman Adams takes the extended hand; but he does it awkwardly, backwardly, and with a wooden manner, as though his deportment is seized of some sudden, bashful stiffness of the joints. At last he manages to say:
“Very well, sir! I hope you are well!”
CHAPTER XIX – THE KILLING EDGE OF SLANDER
WIZARD LEWIS boldly re-begins his work of White House capturing. He becomes busy to the elbows in the General’s destinies before Statesman Adams is inaugurated. When the latter names Statesman Clay to be his Secretary of State, Wizard Lewis lays bare the deal which thus exalts the Kentuckian. He raises the cry of “Bargain and Corruption!” and the public takes it up. Statesman Adams and Statesman Clay are pilloried as conspirators who have wronged the General of a Presidency, and the State portfolio in the hands of Statesman Clay is pointed to as proof. The General writes the blooming Rachel, just now at home by the Cumberland:
“The Judas of the West has closed the contract and received the thirty pieces of silver.” Statesman Clay defends himself badly. He declares that he objects to the General’s White House ambitions only because he is a “Military Chieftain.” He speaks as though the world knows that a “Military Chieftain” will make a perilous Chief Magistrate. The world knows nothing of the sort; the cry of “Bargain and Corruption” gains head.
In retort to that arraignment of being a “Military Chieftain” – made as if the phrase be merely another name for “buccaneer” – the General writes the old friendly fox, Colonel Burr:
“It is not strange that he (Statesman Clay) should indulge himself in such reasoning, since it comes somewhat to his own personal defense. Our blue-grass Secretary has been ever remarkable for his caution, to give it a no worse name, and has not yet risked himself for his country, or moved from safe repose to repel an invading foe.”
The General is not the only one who comments upon the astounding copartnership in politics and policies between Statesman Adams and Statesman Clay. John Randolph, of Roanoke, remarks concerning it, from his bitter place in the Senate:
“Sir, it is a coming together of the puritan and the blackleg – Blifil and Black George!”
This view seems hugely to excite Statesman Clay, and he challenges the picturesque Randolph to a duel by Little Falls. They meet; but, since both are at pains to miss, no good comes of it.
Wizard Lewis goes teaching the General’s merits in every State of the Union. In his White House siege, Wizard Lewis receives his best help from Statesman Adams himself.
The latter publicist is a personage of ice-cold ideas, and lists ingratitude at the top of the virtues. There be folk – descended, doubtless, of ancestors that heated the pincers and turned the thumbikins, and worked the straining rack for the Inquisitions as mere day laborers at torture – who delight in doing mean, hateful, punishing things to their fellow mortals, if they may but call such doing “duty.” They will weep hypocritically while burning a victim, and aver, between sobs, that they pile the fagots and apply the torch only from a “sternest conviction of duty.” The word “duty,” like the venom of a serpent, is ever in their mouths; by it they break hearts, destroy hopes, create blackness, blot out light, forbid happiness, foster grief, and plant pain in breasts innocent of every crime save that of helping them. Statesman Adams – heart as hollow as a bell and quite as brazen – is one of these. He demonstrates his purity by refusing his obligations, and proves himself great by turning his back on his friends. Made up of a multitude of littlenesses, he offers no trait of breadth or bigness as an offset. He is not wise; he is not brave; he is not generous; he is not – even in wrongdoing – original. He will guide by some maxim; or he will permit himself to be posed by a proverb; and, while ever breathlessly respectable, he is never once right. As President he proposes for himself an inhuman goodness, and declares that he will remove no one from office on “account of politics” – a catch phrase which has protected incompetency in place in every age.
Although he is so fond of them, Statesman Adams, in taking the latter snow-white position, overlooks an aphorism that will be vital while time lasts. He forgets that “The President who makes no removals will himself be removed.”
“Strike, lest you be stricken!” murmured Queen Elizabeth, as seizing the pen she signed the warrant of block and axe for Scottish Mary, and it might be well and wise for Statesman Adams to wear in constant mind that illustrious example.
The thought is vain. Statesman Adams ignores his friends, consults his foes, and offers a base picture of the ungrateful that draws the public’s honest wrath his way. Wizard Lewis is no one to miss such opportunities to upbuild the General’s fortunes at the expense of the enemy; and so the General grows each day stronger, while Statesman Adams – who hopes to succeed himself – owns less and less of strength.
The currents of time flow swiftly now, and four years go by – four years wherein the old friendly far-seeing fox, Colonel Burr, in his Nassau Street burrow, teaches the General’s leaders intrigue as a pedagogue teaches the alphabet to his pupils. And day after day the purblind Adams, with the purblind Clay at the elbow of his hopes and fears, sets traps against his own prospects, and does his unwitting best or worst to destroy himself. Then comes the canvass: the General against Statesman Adams, who courts a reelection.
The moment the rival forces march upon the field, the dullest marks the superiority of the General’s. With that, Statesman Clay – in the war saddle for Statesman Adams, whose battle is his battle and whose defeat means his downfall – loses his head. He accuses the General of every offense except that of theft, calls him every name save that of coward. The accusations fail; the epithets fall harmless to the ground; the people know, and draw the closer about the General’s standards. The latter’s popularity rises as might a hurricane, and sweeps away opposition like down of thistles!
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