When Men Grew Tall, or The Story Of Andrew Jackson
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Statesman Clay becomes frantic. Possessed as by a demon, he issues instructions to assail the blooming Rachel. His hound-pack obey the call. From that moment the General’s marriage is the issue. He is charged with “stealing another’s wife,” and every shaft of mendacious villification is shot against the unoffending bosom of the blooming Rachel. Those are fire-swept moments of anguish for the General, who feels the pain the more, since his hands are tied against what saw-handle methods silenced the dead Dickinson one May Kentucky morning in that poplar wood.
The blooming Rachel, for her wronged part, says never a word. She goes the oftener to the little church, but that is all. And yet, while she seems so resigned and patient beneath the slandrous lash, the thong is biting always to her soul’s source.
The election takes place, and now the people speak. They set the grinding heel of their anger upon those slanders; they throw down that ladder of lies by which Statesman Adams hopes to climb. Wizard Lewis, Burr-guided, foils Statesman Clay at every point; the General rides down Statesman Adams like a coach and six.
New England is tribal and narrow, with the reeking taint of old Federalism in its veins; it gives itself for Statesman Adams, unredeemed save by a single district in Maine. There, indeed, rises up one electoral vote for the General. It shows in the gray waste of Adams sentiment about it, like a green tree and a fountain against the gray wastes of Sahara. New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland follow in New England’s dreary wake for Statesman Adams; while New York gives him sixteen electoral votes out of thirty-six. That offers the round circumference of his Clay-collected strength – an electoral vote of eighty-three!
For the General, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, and Illinois go headlong; while New York gives him twenty electoral votes, with Tennessee his own by a popular count of twenty for one. Statesman Clay, as a retort to the slanders he fulminated, beholds his own State of Kentucky reject him, and aid in swelling those one hundred and seventy-eight electoral votes which declare for the General. The world at large, seated by its fireside and sagely thumbing those returns of one hundred and seventy-eight for the General against a meager eighty-three for Statesman Adams, finds therein a stunning rebuke to both the ambitions and the methods of Statesman Clay.
When word of the General’s election reaches the blooming Rachel, she smiles wearily and says:
“For the General’s sake I’m glad! For myself I never wished it.”
Now that the war of the votes is over and the General victor, mankind relaxes into its customary dinners and parades. The Cumberland good people resolve to outparade all former parades, outdine all former dinners. They engage themselves with tremendous gala preparations. It shall be a time when oxen are eaten whole, and whisky is drunk by the barrel.
The day set apart as sacred to the coming parade, and that dinner yet to be devoured, breaks brightly full of promise.There is never a cloud in the Cumberland sky, never a care on the Cumberland heart. In a moment all is reversed! – light gives way to blackness, happiness to grief! Like a bolt from a heaven smiling, the word descends that the blooming Rachel lies dead. The word is true. The monstrous weight of slander heaped upon it breaks her gentle heart.
They bury the blooming Rachel at the foot of the garden where her best-loved flowers grow. The General is ten years older in a night; the tall form, yesterday as straight as a lance, is bent and broken. The blue eyes, once hawklike, are dimmed with tears. Friends come to press his hand – he chokes and cannot speak! But the awful agony of his soul is written in the sweat drops on his wrung brow.
As the General stands by the grave that is smothering for him all the song and the sweet sunshine of life, the ever-faithful, never-failing Coffee is by his side. The poor General reaches blindly out and takes hold of the rough, big, loyal hand for support. His beloved Coffee, who flanked the Red Stick Creeks for him at the Horseshoe and held his low mud walls against England’s boast and best at New Orleans, will not fail him now in this his sternest trial by the graveside of the blooming Rachel.
The General, doubly quiet, doubly stern, issues forth of that ordeal another man. He is as one who lives because it is his duty, and not for love of life. Plainly, his hopes like his heart are buried with the blooming Rachel. In his soul he lays her death to the doors of Statesman Adams and Statesman Clay; throughout the years to follow he will never forget nor forgive. To the end he will cultivate his hatred of them, and tend it as he might a flower. Time cannot remold him in this belief; and a decade later he will say to his friend Lewis, while his eye flashes like some sudden-drawn rapier:
“Major, she was stung to death by slander! It was such adders as John Quincy Adams, such pit-vipers as Henry Clay, that killed her!”
CHAPTER XX – THE GENERAL GOES TO THE WHITE HOUSE
THIS is of a steamboat day, and keel boats are but a memory. The General makes his tedious eight-weeks’ way to Washington via the Cumberland, the Ohio, the mountains, and the Potomac valley. It is like the progress of a conqueror. The people throng about him until Wizard Lewis, remembering his broken state, fears for his life. The fears are without grounds to stand on. Applause never kills, and the General finds in it the milk of lions. He enters Washington renewed, and was never so fit for hard work. The General is inaugurated. As he is cheered into the White House by jubilant thousands, Statesman Clay, beaten and bitter, retires to Kentucky; while Statesman Adams goes back to Massachusetts, where his ice-waterisms, let us hope, will be appreciated, and from which frigid region he ought never to have been drawn.
When the General is declared President, Statesman Calhoun is made Vice-President. From his high perch in the Senate Statesman Calhoun begins at once to scan the plain of the possible for ways and means to name himself the General’s successor. He proves dull in the furtherance of his ambitions, and conceives that the only best path to victory lies over the General himself. He must break down that demigod in the hearts of the people, and teach them to hate where now they trust and love.
The General is not a day in Washington before Statesman Calhoun is intriguing to cut the ground of popularity from beneath his feet. As frequently happens with dark-lantern strategists, his plottings in their very inception go off on the wrong foot. Statesman Calhoun is so foolish as to commence his campaign against the General with an attack upon a woman. The woman thus malevolently distinguished is the pretty Peg, once belle of the Indian Queen.
Between that time when the General came last to Washington as Senator and the pretty Peg was petted and loved by the blooming Rachel, and now when the General occupies the White House as President, destiny has been moving rapidly and not always gayly with the pretty Peg. In that interim she becomes the wife of Purser Timberlake of the Navy, who later cuts his drunken throat and walks overboard to his drunken death in the Mediterranean.
In her widow’s weeds the pretty Peg looks prettier than before – since black is ever the best setting for beauty, and shows it off like a diamond. Major Eaton, Senator from Tennessee and per incident friend of the General, is smitten of the pretty Peg, and marries her. The wedding bells are ringing as the General rides into Washington.
It is an hour wherein Vice-Presidents have more to say than they will later on. Statesman Calhoun, scheming his own advantage, puts forward covert efforts to place his friends about the General as cabineteers. This is not so difficult; since the General is not thinking on Statesman Calhoun. His eyes, hate-guided, are fastened upon Statesman Adams and Statesman Clay; his single aim is to advance no follower of theirs. These are happy conditions for Statesman Calhoun, who comes up unseen on the General’s blind side, and presents him – all unnoticed – with three of his Cabinet six.
Statesman Calhoun, who prefers four to three, next tries all he secretly knows to control the General’s choice of a War Secretary. In this he meets defeat; the General selects Major Eaton, just wedded to the pretty Peg. His completed Cabinet includes Van Buren, Secretary of State; Ingham, Secretary of the Treasury; Eaton, Secretary of War; Branch, Secretary of the Navy; Berrien, Attorney General; and Barry, Postmaster General. Of these, Statesman Calhoun, craftily reviewing the list from his perch in the Senate, may call Cabi-neteers Ingham, Branch, and Berrien his henchmen.
The General is not aware of this Calhoun color to his Cabinet. The last man of the six hates Statesman Clay and Statesman Adams; which is the consideration most upon the General’s mind. He does not like Statesman Calhoun. But he in no sort suspects him; and, at this crisis of Cabinet making, that plotting Vice-President is not at all upon the General’s slope of thought.
Not content with half the Cabinet, Statesman Calhoun resents privily his failure to control the war portfolio. He resolves to attack Major Eaton, and drive him from the place. As much wanting in chivalry as in a wisdom of the popular, he decides to assail him through the pretty Peg. It is the error of Statesman Calhoun’s career, which now becomes one blundering procession of mistakes.
Statesman Calhoun’s attack on the pretty Peg begins with hidden adroitness. There lives in Philadelphia a smug dominie named Ely. On the merest Calhoun hint in the dark, Dominie Ely – who has a mustard-seed soul – writes the General a letter, wherein he charges the pretty Peg with every immorality. Dominie Ely prayerfully protests against the husband of a woman so morally ebon making one of the General’s official family.
The General is in flames in a moment. His loved and blooming Rachel was stabbed to death by slander! The pretty Peg was the blooming Rachel’s favorite, in that old day at the Indian Queen! The General possesses every angry reason for being aroused, and he sends fiercely for smug Dominie Ely.
The villifying Dominie Ely appears before the General in fear and trembling – color stricken from his fat cheek. He falteringly confesses that he has been inspired to his slanders by a Dominie Campbell. The furious General summons Dominie Campbell, about whom there is a Calhoun atmosphere of jackal and buzzard in even parts. The General hurls pointed questions at Dominie Campbell, and catches him in lies.
While the General is putting to flight the two black-coat buzzards of slander, the war breaks out in a new quarter. The “Ladies of Washington,” compared to whom the Red Stick Creeks at the Horseshoe and the redcoat English at New Orleans are as children’s toys, fall upon the General’s social flank. They hate the pretty Peg because she is more beautiful than they. They resent her as the daughter of a tavern keeper – a common tapster! – who is now being lifted to a social eminence equal with their own. These reasons bring the “Ladies of Washington” to the field. But with militant sapiency they conceal them, and adopt as the pretended cause of their onslaught the slanders of those ophidians, Dominie Ely and Dominie Campbell.
Mrs. Calhoun, wife of Statesman Calhoun, at the head of Capital fashion and social war-chief of the “Ladies of Washington,” says she will not “recognize” the pretty Peg. Mrs. Ingham, Mrs. Branch, and Mrs. Berrien, wives of the three Cabineteers who wear in private the colors of Statesman Calhoun, say they will not “recognize” the pretty Peg. Mrs. Donelson, wife of the General’s private secretary and ex officio “Lady of the White House,” says she will not “recognize” the pretty Peg. The latter drawing-room Red Stick is the General’s niece. Also, she is in fashionable leading strings to Mrs. Calhoun, who as social war-chief of the “Ladies of Washington” dazzles and benumbs her.
Mrs. Donelson approaches the General concerning the pretty Peg.
“Anything but that, Uncle!” she says. “I am sorry to offend you, but I cannot ‘recognize’ Mrs. Eaton.”
“Then you’d better go back to Tennessee, my dear!” returns the General, between puffs at his clay pipe.
Mrs. Donelson and her unwilling spouse go back to Tennessee. The war against the pretty Peg goes on.
The General’s Cabinet is a house divided against itself. Cabineteers Ingham, Branch, and Berrien align themselves with Statesman Calhoun on this issue of the pretty Peg. For each has a ring in his nose, a wedding ring, and his wife leads him about by it socially, hither and yon as she chooses. Cabineteers Van Buren and Barry range themselves with Cabineteer Eaton and the pretty Peg.
Cabineteer Van Buren is short, round, fat, smooth, adroit, ambitious, and so much the mental tree-toad that, now when he is in contact with the positive General, his every opinion takes its color from that warrior. Also Cabineteer Van Buren is a widower, with no wife to lead him socially by the nose. Hat in hand, he calls upon the pretty Peg – a politeness which pleases the General tremendously.
Cabineteer Van Buren gives dinners, and asks the pretty Peg to perform as hostess. With a wise eye on the General, he incites Cabineteer Barry, who is a bachelor, to burst into similar dinners, with the pretty Peg in command. By his suggestion, Minister Vaughn of the English and Minister Krudener of the Russians, who like Cabineteer Barry are bachelors, follow amiable suit. They give legation dinners, at which the pretty Peg presides. The General adopts these brilliant examples with the White House. The pretty Peg finds herself in control of such society high ground as the English and Russian legations, two Cabinet houses besides her own, and last and most important the White House itself. It is a merry even if a savage war, and the pretty Peg is everywhere victorious.
Not everywhere! Mrs. Calhoun, as war-chief of the “Ladies of Washington,” with Mrs. Ingham, Mrs. Branch, and Mrs. Berrien about her as a staff, refuses to yield. These four indomitables and their beflounced and be-feathered followers, noses uptilted in scorn of the pretty Peg, prosecute their battle to the acrid end.
In the earlier stages, the General, his angry thoughts on Statesman Clay, inclines to the belief that these attacks on the pretty Peg are of that defeated personage’s connivance, and says so to Wizard Lewis.
Wizard Lewis, when the General is inaugurated, is for returning to his Cumberland home, but finds himself restrained by the lonesome General.
“What!” cries the latter, “would you leave me now, after doing more than all the rest to land me here?”
Upon which reproach, Wizard Lewis remains, and lives in the White House with the General. It befalls that with the earliest slanders of the ophidians, Dominie Ely and Dominie Campbell, the General goes to Wizard Lewis with accusations against Statesman Clay.
“It’s that pit-viper, Henry Clay!” cries the General. “Major, the pet employment of that scoundrel is the vindication of good women!”
Wizard Lewis holds to a different view. He declares that the secret impulse of this base war is Statesman Calhoun, and proves it as events unfold.
“And yet,” asks the General, “why should he assail little Peg? Both he and Mrs. Calhoun called upon her and Major Eaton, and congratulated them on their marriage.”
“That was while Major Eaton was a senator,” Wizard Lewis responds, “and before he became War Secretary and got in the way of the Calhoun plans. Your Vice-President, General, is mad to be President. Also, he is so blurred in his strategy as to imagine that these attacks on little Peg will advance his prospects.”
The General snorts suspiciously; a light breaks upon him.
“Then your theory is,” he says, “that Calhoun assails Peg as a step toward the presidency.”
“Precisely, General! Rightly construed, it is not an attack on Peg, but you. He is trying to put you before the people in the role of one who countenances the immoral, and upholds a bad woman. In that he hopes to array every virtuous fireside against you. He looks for you to ask a second term; and, by any means in his power, he will strive to destroy you out of his path.”
“Now, was there ever such infamy!” cries the General. “Here is a man so vile that he would pave his way to the White House with the slain honor of a woman!”
The hate of the General is now focused upon Statesman Calhoun. That ignoble strategist, he resolves, shall never achieve the presidency.
As one wherewith to defeat Statesman Calhoun and succeed himself, the General picks upon Cabineteer Van Buren – that suave one, who is so much to the urbane fore for the pretty Peg.
“Yes, sir,” says the General to Wizard Lewis; “I’ll take a second term! And then, Major, we will make Matt President after me.”
“We’ll do more,” returns Wizard Lewis. “When we elect you President the second time, we’ll shove aside the plotting Calhoun, and make Van Buren Vice-President.”
“Right!” exults the General. “Then, should I die, Matt will at once step into my shoes.”
Neither the General nor Wizard Lewis is at pains to conceal their design. The sallow cheek of Statesman Calhoun grows sallower; for the news is like an icicle through his heart. It in no wise abates his war upon the pretty Peg, however; which – as Wizard Lewis guesses – is only meant to break down the General with good people.
Vindicated; in all quarters she rises in triumph over Mrs. Calhoun, Mrs. Ingham, Mrs. Branch, Mrs. Berrien, and what other “society Red Sticks” – as he terms them – seek her destruction. The next thing is to shear away the cabinet strength of Statesman Calhoun. Wizard Lewis recommends a dissolution of the Cabinet. He lays his thought before the General, who sits listening in the smoke of his long pipe. Cabineteer Van Buren will resign. Cabi-neteers Eaton and Barry will emulate his example and turn over their portfolios. With half his Cabinet gone, should the Calhoun three prove backward, the General shall demand their portfolios.
“And then?” asks the General, his iron-gray head in a cloud of tobacco smoke.
CHAPTER XXI – WIZARD LEWIS URGES A CHANGE IN FRONT
WIZARD LEWIS, bending his brows to the situation, now counsels an extreme step.
“Then you will make Van Buren Minister to England, and give Major Eaton the governorship of Florida. Little Peg should look well in the palace at St. Augustine.”
“By the Eternal!” cries the General, as he hurls his clay pipe into the fireplace where hundreds of its brittle predecessors have gone crashing – “by the Eternal, we’ll do it! The last vestige of a Calhoun cabinet influence shall be wiped out!”
It comes to pass as Wizard Lewis programmes. Cabineteer Van Buren resigns, and Cabineteers Eaton and Barry hasten to follow his lead. The three other cabineteers sit dazed; the suddenness of the thing takes away their cabinet breaths. They sit dazed so long that the General loses patience and asks for their portfolios. One by one they hand them in, as it were at the White House door – Cabineteer Ingham being last and most reluctant of all.
There be tears and mournful wailings now among the society Red Sticks. Mrs. Ingham, Mrs. Branch, and Mrs. Berrien are shaken in their social souls, never for one moment having foreseen this movement in disastrous flank. However, there is no help for it. The deposed three wash off their social war paint, and go their divers ways lamenting; while the General and Wizard Lewis grin sourly over their fireside pipes. As for Statesman Calhoun, his schemes experience a chill; for in thus sending Cabineteers Ingham, Branch, and Berrien into political exile, the General drives a knife to the very heart of his selfish diplomacy.
Cabinet wiped out, the General constructs another, with his old-time friend and comrade Livingston as Secretary of State. Also, the agreeable Van Buren departs for the Court of St. James as the General’s envoy to England, while Major Eaton and the villified yet victorious Peg wend southward among the flowers to rule over Florida.
Before he leaves Washington, the ill-used Eaton makes praiseworthy attempts to fasten a duel upon ex-Cabineteer Ingham, who hires a whole stage coach and gallops off to Baltimore – the fear of death upon him – to avoid being sacrificed. The flight of ex-Cabineteer Ingham is a shock to the General.
“I knew he was a bad, designing man,” says the General with a sigh; “but, upon my soul, Major, I didn’t think him a coward!”
Statesman Calhoun, weaker by virtue of that Cabinet lopping off, is still too narrowly set in his White House ambitions to give up the war. In this he is much sustained by the Senate, which jealous body pretends to possess its own causes of complaint. Chief among these is the obvious manner in which the General promotes the importance of that old fox, Colonel Burr. The General shows that he cares more for the appointment-indorsement of Colonel Burr than for the recommendations of half the Senate. This does not set well on the proud senatorial stomachs of the togaed ones; and, with Statesman Calhoun to lead them, they are willing to obstruct and baffle the General in his policies. Moved of this spirit, and at the instigation of Statesman Calhoun, the Senate refuses to confirm the appointment of Minister Van Buren – a Burrite – who thereupon makes his farewell unruffled bow to the great ones at St. James and returns amiably home.
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