When Men Grew Tall, or The Story Of Andrew Jackson
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That Thomas Benton, who was so fortunate as to fall into a receptive cellar on a certain Nashville occasion when the muzzle of the General’s saw-handle was at his breast, and who is now in the Senate from Missouri, gives Statesman Calhoun notice of what he may expect:
“You have broken a minister,” observes the farsighted Benton – “you have broken a Minister to make a Vice-President.”
While the slander battle against the pretty Peg is raging, a storm cloud of a different character is gathering over the General. Although Statesman Clay has no part in that war upon the pretty Peg, he by no means sits with folded hands in idleness.
There is a certain money-creature called the United States Bank. It is controlled by one Biddle of Philadelphia. Banker Biddle is a glistening, serpentine personage, oily and avaricious – a polished composite of assurance, greed, and lies. He is a proven and unscrupulous corruptionist, and a majority of both Senate and House wait upon his money-bidding. Under the Biddle influence, the Bank never fails to consider the mere “name” of a Congressman as perfect collateral for a loan. Even so incorrigible a bankrupt as the lion-faced Webster is good at the Biddle Bank for thousands.
Secure in its hold on Congress, and insolent – as Money ever is when it feels secure – the Biddle Bank thinks to crack a political whip. The main bank is in Philadelphia. There are twenty-five branch banks scattered here and there throughout the country. In pursuance of its determination to dominate politics, the Biddle Bank suddenly refuses loans to the General’s friends. Banker Biddle and the Bank are secretly moved to these doughty attitudes by Statesman Clay, who, with his party of the Whigs, has for long been their ally.
Statesman Clay, in possession of the machinery of his party, is resolved to put his own name forward at the head of the next Whig ticket against the formidable General. He foresees that Statesman Calhoun – who is of the General’s party of the Democrats – will come to utter grief in his intrigues to supplant the General and make himself a candidate. And yet, the blue-grass Machiavelli can use Statesman Calhoun. The latter is powerful with the Senate. The Senate hates the General as blindly as does Statesman Calhoun.
Machiavelli Clay resolves to have advantage of this double condition of hatred. He will beguile the General to attack the Biddle Bank. The attack can only be made by message to Congress. That should be the opportunity of Machiavelli Clay. He will have the Senate for the battle ground; and it shall go hard if he do not emerge with the General defeated and the Bank and Banker Biddle at his back. With such friends in the campaign to come later he should have the General and his party of democracy at his mercy. Thus dreams Machiavelli Clay.
It is a beautiful dream – this long-drawn chicane of Machiavelli Clay. As a move toward its realization he suggests the policy of a loan hostility toward the General’s friends; for the General will fight almost as quickly for a friend as for a woman.
Banker Biddle adopts it, and the Bank develops it in Portsmouth.The paper of one of the General’s friends – a Mr. Isaac Hill – is dishonored, and the General’s friendship is understood to be the reason. The thing is managed like a challenge, and has the instant effect of bringing the General – ever ready for such a war – to the field. In its invidious attitude toward his friends, the Bank throws down the glove; and the General promptly picks it up. In a message to Congress, he assails the Bank; and the fight is on.
Money is always a coward, and commonly a fool. Also its instinct is the weak instinct of corruption. Its attitude toward a public is ever that of the threatening, bullying, bragging terrorist, who will either rule or ruin. It works by fear, and resorts to every quack device. It will gnash its jaws, lash its tail, spout fire and smoke in the face of a quailing world. And yet all this tail-lashing and jaw-gnashing and fire-spouting is a sham. Money, for all its appearance of ferocity, is no more perilous to folk who face it than is the fire-spouting, jaw-gnashing, tail-lashing papier-mach? dragon of grand opera. Attack it, and what follows? A couple of rueful supernumeraries crawl abjectly, if grumblingly, from its papier-mach? stomach – the complete yet harmless reason of the jaw-gnashing, fire-spouting, tail-lashing from which a frightened world shrunk back.
Besides these furious matters, Money does another lying thing. It seeks to teach the public to regard it as the palpitant heart of the country itself.
“I am the seat of life!” cries Money. “Touch me, and you die!”
The advantage of this lie is clear; that is, if the lie win credit. Being the heart, however corrupt, no law surgery may reach it. If Money were the hand of a people, or the fingers on that hand, then it might be dealt with. It could be statute-lanced or poulticed or even amputated, and no threat to life ensue. Money foresees this; and, with that lying cunning which is ever the scoundrel sword and shield of cowards, it declares itself to be the heart. Thus is it safeguarded against the honest least correction of communal saw and knife. Being the heart, its vileness may be deplored but cannot be mended. For who is the mediciner that shall handle the heart to any result save death?
And yet while Money thus proclaims itself the nation’s heart it lies. It is not even so reputable a member as the hand. At the most it comes to be no more than just a thumb, or a forefinger, and the farthest possible remove from any source of life. Folk who would aid their money-throttled hour must remember these things.
Banker Biddle and the Bank, now when the General advances upon them, go through that furious charlatanry of jaw-gnashing, tail-lashing, and fire-spouting. The General is unconvinced, unterrified. His hawk eyes pierce the miserable masquerade. He knows the Bank for a dragon of paper and pretense, and does not hesitate.
Failing to arouse his personal-political fear, Banker Biddle and the Bank attempt to stay the General by proclaiming a peril to the country at large.
“We are the throbbing heart of all prosperity!” they cry.
The General recognizes the lie. He knows that prosperity comes from the rain and the sun and the soil, and not from banks or bankers. As well might the two-bushel sacks declare themselves to be the harvest reason of a nation’s wheat. The General continues his advance. There shall be no evasion, no hiding, no safety by lies; masks are not to avail nor pretenses protect.
The General in his attack on Banker Biddle and the Bank displays a genius even with that which he employed against the English at New Orleans. Banker Biddle and the Bank are the petted custodians of all the millions of Government. The General “removes” those millions – a yellow mountain of gold! Incidentally, he dismisses a weak-kneed Secretary of the Treasury as a preliminary.
“Remove the deposits!” says the General.
“I dare not!” whines the weak-kneed one.
“I will take the responsibility!” urges the General.
Still the weak-kneed one falters. At that the General sets him aside.
The “removal” of those Government millions, which is as the drawing off of half their life blood, leaves the Bank and Banker Biddle exceeding pale in the face. They look appealingly at Statesman Clay, who, the better to manage his side of the conflict, has taken a Kentucky seat in the Senate. Statesman Clay encourages the Bank and Banker Biddle. It will all come right, he says; there is a Senate bomb preparing.
To bring the General squarely before the public as the Bank’s destroyer, Statesman Clay anticipates the years and offers a measure renewing the charter of that money temple. Statesman Calhoun, with every Senate foe of the General, is for it. The measure gallops through both Senate and House. It is sent whirling to the White House.
“Will he sign it?” wonders Statesman Clay, in consultation with his own thoughts.
For an anxious moment Statesman Clay fears the coming of that signature; he cannot conceive of courage greater than his own. His anxiety is misplaced. The General will not sign. When the Clay-constructed measure renewing the charter of the Bank is laid before him, with about what ado might attend the killing of a garter snake he breaks its back with his veto.
Statesman Clay rubs his satisfied hands.
“Now,” says he to Banker Biddle, who is becoming a bit weak, “we have him helpless! That veto is his death warrant! The campaign is at hand; I shall be the candidate of my party, he of his. That veto shall be the issue! Money, you know, is all powerful. Being so, who shall doubt the result when now the public is driven to choose between the Bank and the White House – Prosperity and Andrew Jackson?”
CHAPTER XII – THE DOWNFALL OF MACHIAVELLI CLAY
MACHIAVELLI CLAY is one who looks seldom from the window and often in the glass. No man carries himself more upon the back of his own regard than does Machiavelli Clay. He believes in the wisdom of the classes, the ignorance of the masses, and thinks that government should be of people, by statesmen, for statesmen. Also he has a profound respect for Money, and little for perishing flesh and blood. As to each of these thought-conditions he lives in head-on collision with the General, who in all things is his precise contradiction.
As a guide by which the popular view may direct itself, Machiavelli Clay asks the Senate to pass a vote of censure upon the General. With the help of Statesman Calhoun, he puts it through. The Clay-invoked “censure” strikes these sparks from the General:
“Major,” he cries, thinking on his saw-handles as he and Wizard Lewis sit with their evening pipes, “if I live to get these robes of office off, I may yet bring that rascal to a dear account.”
Banker Biddle, now when his precious Bank for its life or death will be made the campaign issue, is not without those pale misgivings which ever shake the livid heart of Money on the eve of war. Observing this knee-knocking trepidation, Machiavelli Clay attempts to give him courage. This is no difficult task for Machiavelli Clay to undertake; since, in his native ignorance of the popular, he harbors no doubt of the General’s downfall. Also he extends cheering word the more readily to the quaking Banker Biddle, because the latter and his jeopardized Bank are to furnish those golden sinews of war, which will be required for the Whig campaign.
Machiavelli Clay uplifts the confidence of Banker Biddle to a point where the latter, from his money lair in Philadelphia, writes him the following:
“He (the General) has all the fury of a chained panther biting the bars of its cage – a condition which I think should contribute to relieve the country of the tyranny of this miserable man. You, my dear sir, are destined to be the instrument of that deliverance, and at no period of your life has the public had a deeper stake in you.”
In so writing to Machiavelli Clay, Banker Biddle permits his hopes to overrun his intelligence. Machiavelli Clay is not to become “the deliverer” of his hour, nor shall the “chained panther” in the White House be cast out. Machiavelli Clay, however, is no Elijah gifted of prophecy; but, on the wooden-witted other hand, proves quite as besotted touching the future as does Banker Biddle. He replies to that financier in these words:
“Fear not; there shall come a cleansing of the Augean stables! Our cause cannot fail! That veto of the Bank charter is a broad confession of the incompetency of the Administration, and shows him (the General) unfit to carry on the business of government. I think we are authorized to confidently anticipate his defeat.”
Now when the candidates of the Democratic party are about to be named, Statesman Calhoun foresees that he himself will be ignored, and ex-Cabineteer Van Buren supplant him, nominationally, for the place of Vice-President.
To save his chagrin, and on the principle that when one is about to be thrown out it is wise to go out, he resigns from his vice-presidential perch, lays down the Senate gavel, and returns to his home-state of South Carolina. Once there, following the Kentucky example of Machiavelli Clay, he sees to it that his own Legislature returns him to Washington as a Senator.
Statesman Calhoun abandons hope of making his appearance as a White House candidate in the campaign at hand. What then? He is of middle years, and can wait. He will lie back and watch the struggle between the General and Machiavelli Clay. Let victory fall where it may, he, Statesman Calhoun, will prepare himself for his own sure triumph in the conflict four years away. Which demonstrates that, while his judgment is crippled, his ambition stands as tall and as straight as a mountain pine.
The tickets are brought to the field – the General against Machiavelli Clay, with ex-Cabineteer Van Buren, and a Whig obscurity named Sargent running for second place. The issue presents the alternative – the General or the Bank, humanity in a death-hug with Money.
Machiavelli Clay and Banker Biddle have no fears; for they are gold-blind and can see nothing beyond themselves. They are given a rude awakening. The people speak; and when the sound of that speaking dies out, the General has overwhelmed Machiavelli Clay with two hundred and nineteen electoral votes against the latter’s sixty-nine. Machiavelli Clay and Banker Biddle and the Bank go down, while the General – ever the conqueror and never once the conquered – sweeps back to the presidency. Also ex-Cabineteer Van Buren is made Vice-President, as aforetime resolved upon by the General and Wizard Lewis, and from that Senate eminence, so lately vacated by Statesman Calhoun, will wield the gavel over togaed discussion.
The General, President the second time, picks up the reins, settles himself upon the box, and proceeds to drive his governmental times after this wise. He kills out what few sparks of life still animate the Biddle Bank. He removes the Creeks and Cherokees from Florida and Georgia, and thereby guarantees the scalp on many an innocent head. He throws open the public lands for settlement at nominal figures. He fosters a gold currency and discourages paper.
He pays off the last splinter of the national debt, and offers to the wondering eyes of history the spectacle of a country that doesn’t owe a dollar. He makes commercial treaties with every tribe of Europe. Finally, he compels France to pay five millions in gold for outrages long ago committed upon the sailors of America.
The last is not brought about without some show of force. France, at the General’s demand, falls into a white heat of rage and froths for instant war. The General takes France at her warlike word, notifies Congress, and orders his fleet into the Mediterranean, the flagship Constitution in the van.
The cool vigor of the move sets France gasping. She consults England across the Channel, and is privily assured that whipping a Yankee eighty-gun ship is a feat so difficult of marine accomplishment that, like the blossoming of the century plant, it would be foolish to look for it oftener than once in one hundred years. It is England’s impression, whispered in the Frankish ear, that it will be cheaper to pay the five millions. Whereupon, France breaks into diplomatic smiles, assures the General that her late war-rage was mere humor and her froth a jest. And pays.
By way of a little junket, the General visits New England, and at the genial sight of him that chill region thaws like icicles in July. Indeed, the New England temperature rises to a height where Harvard College confers upon the General the degree of Doctor of Laws. At which Statesman Adams nurses his wrath with this entry in his sour diary:
“Seminaries of learning have been timeservers and sycophants in every age.”
The General has done his people many a service. He has defended them from savage Red Stick Creeks, and savage Red-coat English with their war cry of “Beauty and Booty!” Now he will do his foremost work of all, and buckler them against the javelins of treason, save them from between the jaws of a conspiracy – wolfish and widespread for national destruction.
The conspiracy has its birth in the ambition-crazed bosom of Statesman Calhoun; its shiboleth is “Nullification!”
“I would sooner,” said Caesar, when his courtiers were laughing at the pompous mayor of a little mud town in Spain – “I would sooner be first here than second in Rome!” And, centuries after, the sentiment wakes a responsive echo in the jealous breast of Statesman Calhoun.
Statesman Calhoun aims to follow the General in the headship of American affairs. Defeated of that, he is resolved to sever those constitutional links which bind his home-state of South Carolina to her sister States in Federal Union, and declare her a nation by and of herself.
In his new r?le of “seceder,” Statesman Calhoun makes this impression on the English Harriet Martineau. After speaking of him as involving himself tighter and tighter in spinnings of political mysticism and fantastic speculation, she calls him a “cast-iron man” and says:
“He (Calhoun) is eager, absorbed, overspeculative. I know of no one who lives in such intellectual solitude. He meets men and harangues them by the fireside as in the Senate. He is wrought like a piece of machinery, set going vehemently by a weight, and stops while you answer. He either passes by what you say, or twists it into suitability with what is in his head, and begins to lecture again. He is full of his ‘Nullification,’ and those who know the force that is in him and his utter incapacity for modification by other minds, will no more expect repose and self-retention from him than from a volcano in full force. Relaxation is no longer in the power of his will. I never saw anyone who gave me so completely the idea of ‘possession.’”
By which the English woman would say that she thinks Statesman Calhoun insane. She overstates, however, his “incapacity for modification” and “self-retention.” There will come a day when he does not pause, nor close his eyes in sleep, between Washington and his home in South Carolina, such is his fear-spurred eagerness – with the shadow of the gibbet all across him! – to stamp out what fires of treason he has been at pains to kindle, and avoid that halter which the General promises as their reward.
It is in Senate debate that Statesman Calhoun removes the mask from his intended treason, and gives the world a glimpse of its blackness. He threatens, unless the tariff be changed to match his pleasure, that South Carolina will prevent its enforcement within her borders. He declares South Carolina superior to the nation in her powers, and proclaims for her the right to “nullify” what Federal laws she deems inimical to her peculiar interest. He shows how South Carolina will, as against the tariff contemplated, invoke that inherent right to “nullify,” and says, should the Washington government attempt to coerce her, she will take herself out of the Union.
To this exposition of States rights, the General in the White House listens with gathering scorn. He turns to Wizard Lewis:
“Why, sir,” he cries, addressing that Merlin of politics, “if one is to believe Calhoun, the Union is like a bag of meal open at both ends. No matter how you pick it up, the meal all runs out. I shall tie the bag and save the country!”
Treason, however base, will have its friends, and Statesman Calhoun goes not without “Nullification” followers. In his own mischievous State the doctrine is received with open arms. The Governor issues his proclamation; a convention of the people is authorized by the Legislature. They are to meet at Columbia and settle the details of “Nullification” in its practical workings out. They do meet; and adopt unanimously an “Ordinance of Nullification” which declares the tariff just made in Washington “Null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this State, its officers or citizens.” They decree that no duties, enjoined by such tariff, shall be paid or permitted to be paid in any port of South Carolina. The closing assertion of the “Ordinance” runs that, should the Government of the United States try by force to collect the tariff duties, “The people of South Carolina will thenceforth hold themselves absolved from all further obligation to maintain or preserve their political connection with the people of the other States, and will proceed to organize a separate government, and do all other acts and things which sovereign and independent States may of right do.”
Following this doughty setting-out of what one might call the Palmetto-rattlesnake position, the Governor suggests military associations on the model of the Minute Men of the Revolution, and makes ready for what blood-letting shall be required to sustain Statesman Calhoun in his new preachment. Altogether it is a South Carolina day of bombast and blue cockades, with Statesman Calhoun already chosen as the president of a coming “Southern Confederacy.” While these dour matters are in process of Palmetto transaction, Statesman Hayne encounters the lion-faced Webster on the floor of the Senate, and the latter establishes forever the rightful supremacy of the Federal Union, and demonstrates that the “Nullification” set up by Statesman Calhoun is but the chimera of a jaundiced, ambition-bitten mind. Thus canters the hour in the Senate and in South Carolina; while up in the White House the General sits reading a book.
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