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Title: Martin Van Buren - American Statesmen, Volume 18
Author: Shepard, Edward M.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Martin Van Buren - American Statesmen, Volume 18" ***

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  Standard Library Edition






  [Illustration: M. Van Buren]

  American Statesmen


  [Illustration: The Home of Martin Van Buren]


  American Statesmen





  The Riverside Press, Cambridge

  Copyright, 1888 and 1899,

  Copyright, 1899,

  _All rights reserved._


Since 1888, when this Life was originally published, the history of
American Politics has been greatly enriched. The painstaking and candid
labors of Mr. Fiske, Mr. Adams, Mr. Rhodes, and others have gone far to
render unnecessary the _caveat_ I then entered against the unfairness,
or at least the narrowness, of the temper with which Van Buren, or the
school to which he belonged, had thus far been treated in American
literature, and which had prejudicially misled me before I began my
work. Such a _caveat_ is no longer necessary. Even now, when the
political creed of which Jefferson, Van Buren, and Tilden have been
chief apostles in our land, seems to suffer some degree of
eclipse,--only temporary, it may well be believed, but nevertheless
real,--those who, like myself, have undertaken to present the careers of
great Americans who held this faith need not fear injustice or prejudice
in the field of American literature.

In this revised edition I have made a few corrections and added a few
notes; but the generous treatment which has been given to the book has
confirmed my belief that historic truth requires no material change.

A passage from the diary of Charles Jared Ingersoll (Life by William M.
Meigs, 1897) tempts me, in this most conspicuous place of the book, to
emphasize my observation upon one injustice often done to Van Buren.
Referring, on May 6, 1844, to his letter, then just published, against
the annexation of Texas, Mr. Ingersoll declared that, in view of the
fact that nearly all of Van Buren's admirers and most of the Democratic
press were committed to the annexation, Van Buren had committed a great
blunder and become _felo de se_. The assumption here is that Van Buren
was a politician of the type so painfully familiar to us, whose sole and
conscienceless effort is to find out what is to be popular for the time,
in order, for their own profit, to take that side. That Van Buren was
politic there can be no doubt. But he was politic after the fashion of a
statesman and not of a demagogue. He disliked to commit himself upon
issues which had not been fully discussed, which were not ripe for
practical solution by popular vote, and which did not yet need to be
decided. Mr. Ingersoll should have known that the direct and simple
explanation was the true one,--that Van Buren knew the risk and meant to
take it. His letter against the annexation of Texas, written when he
knew that it would probably defeat him for the presidency, was but one
of several acts performed by him at critical periods, wherein he
deliberately took what seemed the unpopular side in order to be true to
his sense of political and patriotic duty. The crucial tests of this
kind through which he successfully passed must, beyond any doubt, put
him in the very first rank of those American statesmen who have had the
rare union of political foresight and moral courage.

                                                    EDWARD M. SHEPARD.
  January, 1899.


  CHAP.                                                             PAGE
          JEFFERSON'S INFLUENCE                                        1

    II. EARLY YEARS.--PROFESSIONAL LIFE                               14

          CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION                                   38

          PARTIES.--PARTY LEADERSHIP                                  88

     V. DEMOCRATIC VICTORY IN 1828.--GOVERNOR                        153

          DEMOCRATIC CREED                                           177

          TO THE PRESIDENCY                                          223

  VIII. CRISIS OF 1837                                               282

    IX. PRESIDENT.--SUB-TREASURY BILL                                325

          WAR.--DEFEAT FOR REËLECTION                                350

          BY THE SOUTH.--FREE SOIL CAMPAIGN.--LAST YEARS             398


  INDEX                                                              469


  MARTIN VAN BUREN                                        _Frontispiece_

    From a photograph by Brady in the Library of the State
      Department at Washington.
    Autograph from a MS. in the Library of the Boston Athenæum.
    The vignette of "Lindenwald," Mr. Van Buren's home, near
      Kinderhook, N. Y., is from a photograph.
  DE WITT CLINTON                                           _facing_ 110

    From a painting by Inman in the New York State Library, Albany,
      N. Y.
    Autograph from a MS. in the Library of the Boston Athenæum.

  EDWARD LIVINGSTON                                         _facing_ 248

    From a bust by Ball Hughes in the possession of Miss Julia Barton
      Hunt, Barrytown on Hudson, N. Y.
    Autograph from the Chamberlain Collection, Boston Public Library.

  SILAS WRIGHT                                              _facing_ 416

    From a portrait painted by Whitehorne, 1844-1846, in the New York
      City Hall.
    Autograph from the Chamberlain Collection, Boston Public Library.




It sometimes happened during the anxious years when the terrors of civil
war, though still smouldering, were nearly aflame, that on Wall Street
or Nassau Street, busy men of New York saw Martin Van Buren and his son
walking arm in arm. "Prince John," tall, striking in appearance, his
hair divided at the middle in a fashion then novel for Americans, was in
the prime of life, resolute and aggressive in bearing. His father was a
white-haired, bright-eyed old man, erect but short in figure, of precise
though easy and kindly politeness, and with a touch of deference in his
manner. His presence did not peremptorily command the attention of
strangers; but to those who looked attentively there was plain
distinction in the refined and venerable face. Passers-by might well
turn back to see more of the two men thus affectionately and
picturesquely together. For they were famous characters,--the one in
the newer, the other in the older politics of America. John Van Buren,
fresh from his Free Soil battle and the tussles of the Hards and Softs,
was striving, as a Democrat, to serve the cause of the Union, though
conscious that he rested under the suspicion of the party to whose
service, its divisions in New York now seemingly ended, he had
reluctantly returned. But he still faced the slave power with an
independence only partially abated before the exigencies of party
loyalty. The ex-President, definitely withdrawn from the same Free Soil
battle, a struggle into which he had entered when the years were already
heavy upon him, had survived to be once more a worthy in the Democratic
party, again to receive its formal veneration, but never again its old
affection. In their timid manoeuvres with slavery it was perhaps with
the least possible awkwardness that the northern Democrats sought to
treat him as a great Democratic leader; but they did not let it be
forgotten that the leader was forever retired from leadership. While the
younger man was in the thick of political encounters which the party
carried on in blind futility, the older man was hardly more than an
historical personage. He was no longer, his friends strove to think, the
schismatic candidate of 1848, but rather the ally and friend of Jackson,
or, better still and further away, the disciple of Jefferson.

For, more than any other American, Martin Van Buren had succeeded to the
preaching of Jefferson's political doctrines, and to his political
power as well, that curious and potent mingling of philosophy,
statesmanship, and electioneering. The Whigs' distrust towards Van Buren
was still bitter; the hot anger of his own party over the blow he had
dealt in 1848 was still far from subsided; the gratitude of most Free
Soil men had completely disappeared with his apparent acquiescence in
the politics of Pierce and Buchanan. Save in a narrow circle of
anti-slavery Democrats, Van Buren, in these last days of his, was judged
at best with coldness, and most commonly with dislike or even contempt.
Not much of any other temper has yet gone into political history; its
writers have frequently been content to accept the harshness of partisan
opinion, or even the scurrility and mendacity visited upon him during
his many political campaigns, and to ignore the positive records of his
career and public service. The present writer confesses to have begun
this Life, not indeed sharing any of the hatred or contempt so commonly
felt towards Van Buren, but still given to many serious depreciations of
him, which a better examination has shown to have had their ultimate
source in the mere dislike of personal or political enemies,--a dislike
to whose expression, often powerful and vivid, many writers have
extended a welcome seriously inconsistent with the fairness of history.

When Abraham Lincoln was chosen president in 1860, this predecessor of
his by a quarter century was a true historical figure. The bright,
genial old man connected, visibly and really, those stirring and
dangerous modern days with the first political struggles under the
American Constitution, struggles then long passed into the quiet of
history, to leave him almost their only living reminiscence. Martin Van
Buren was a man fully grown and already a politician when in 1801 the
triumph of Thomas Jefferson completed the political foundation of the
United States. Its profound inspiration still remained with him on this
eve of Lincoln's election. Under its influence his political career had
begun and had ended.

At Jefferson's election the aspiration and fervor which attended the
first, the new-born sense of American national life, had largely worn
away. The ideal visions of human liberty had long before grown dim
during seven years of revolutionary war, with its practical hardships,
its vicissitudes of meanness and glory, and during the four years of
languor and political incompetence which followed. In the agitation for
better union, political theories filled the minds of our forefathers.
Lessons were learned from the Achæan League, as well as from the Swiss
Confederation, the German Empire, and the British Constitution. Both
history and speculation, however, were firmly subordinated to an
extraordinary common sense, in part flowing from, as it was most finely
exhibited in, the luminous and powerful, if unexalted, genius of
Franklin. From the open beginning of constitution-making at Annapolis in
1786 until the inauguration of John Adams, the American people, under
the masterful governing of Washington, were concerned with the framework
upon which the fabric of their political life was to be wrought. The
framework was doubtless in itself of a vast and enduring importance. If
the consolidating and aristocratic schemes of Hamilton had not met
defeat in the federal convention, or if the separatist jealousies of
Patrick Henry and George Clinton had not met defeat in Virginia and New
York after the work of the convention was done, there would to-day be a
different American people. Nor would our history be the amazing story of
the hundred years past. But upon the governmental framework thus set up
could be woven political fabrics widely and essentially different in
their material, their use, and their enduring virtue. For quite apart
from the framework of government were the temper and traditions of
popular politics out of which comes, and must always come, the essential
and dominant nature of public institutions. In this creative and deeper
work Jefferson was engaged during his struggle for political power after
returning from France in 1789, during his presidential career from 1801
to 1809, and during the more extraordinary, and in American history the
unparalleled, supremacy of his political genius after he had left
office. In the circumstances of our colonial life, in our race
extractions, in our race fusion upon the Atlantic seaboard, and in the
moral effect of forcible and embittered separation from the parent
country, arose indeed, to go no further back, the political instincts of
American men. It is, however, fatal to adequate conception of our
political development to ignore the enormous formative influence which
the twenty years of Jefferson's rule had upon American political
character. But so partial and sometimes so partisan have been the
historians of our early national politics in their treatment of that
great man, that a just appreciation of the political atmosphere in which
Van Buren began his career is exceedingly difficult.

There was an American government, an American nation, when Washington
gladly escaped to Mt. Vernon from the bitterly factional quarrels of the
politicians at Philadelphia. The government was well ordered; the nation
was respectable and dignified. But most of the people were either still
colonial and provincial, or were rushing, in turbulence and bad temper,
to crude speculations and theories. Twenty-five years later, Jefferson
had become the political idol of the American people, a people
completely and forever saturated with democratic aspirations, democratic
ideals, what John Marshall called "political metaphysics," a people with
strong and lasting characteristics, no longer either colonial or
provincial, but profoundly national. The skill, the industry, the arts
of the politician, had been used by a man gifted with the genius and not
free from the faults of a philosopher, to plant in American usages,
prejudices, and traditions,--in the very fibre of American political
life, a cardinal and fruitful idea. The work was done for all time. For
Americans, government was thenceforth to be a mere instrument. No longer
a symbol, or an ornament or crown of national life, however noble and
august, it was a simple means to a plain end; to be always, and if need
be rudely, tested and measured by its practical working, by its service
to popular rights and needs. In those earlier days, too, there had been
"classes and masses," the former of whom held public service and public
policy as matters of dignity and order and high assertion of national
right and power, requiring in their ministers peculiar and esoteric
light, and an equipment of which common men ought not to judge, because
they could not judge aright. Afterward, in Monroe's era of good feeling,
the personal rivalries of presidential candidates were in bad temper
enough; but Americans were at last all democrats. Whether for better or
worse, the nation had ceased to be either British or colonial, or
provincial, in its character. In the delightful Rip Van Winkle of a
later Jefferson, during the twenty years' sleep, the old Dutch house has
gone, the peasant's dress, the quaint inn with its village tapster, all
the old scene of loyal provincial life. Rip returns to a noisy,
boastful, self-assertive town full of American "push" and "drive," and
profane disregard of superiors and everything ancient. It was hardly a
less change which spread through the United States in the twenty years
of Jefferson's unrivaled and fruitful leadership. Superstitious regard
for the "well-born," for institutions of government as images of
veneration apart from their immediate and practical use; the faith in
government as essentially a financial establishment which ought to be on
peculiarly friendly relations with banks and bankers; the treatment and
consideration of our democratic organization as an experiment to be
administered with deprecatory deference to European opinion; the idea
that upon the great, simple elements of political belief and practice,
the mass of men could not judge as wisely and safely as the opulent, the
cultivated, the educated; the idea that it was a capital feature of
political art to thwart the rashness and incompetence of the lower
people,--all these theories and traditions, which had firmly held most
of the disciplined thought of Europe and America, and to which the lurid
horrors of the French Revolution had brought apparent consecration,--all
these had now gone; all had been fatally wounded, or were sullenly and
apologetically cherished in the aging bitterness of the Federalists.
There was an American people with as distinct, as powerful, as
characteristic a polity as belonged to the British islanders. In 1776 a
youthful genius had seized upon a colonial revolt against taxation as
the occasion to make solemn declaration of a seeming abstraction about
human rights. He had submitted, however, to subordinate his theory
during the organization of national defense and the strengthening of
the framework of government. Nor did he shine in either of those works.
But with the nation established, with a union secured so that its people
could safely attend to the simpler elements of human rights, Jefferson
and his disciples were able to lead Americans to the temper, the
aspirations, and the very prejudices of essential democracy. The
Declaration of Independence, the ten amendments to the Constitution
theoretically formulating the rights of men or of the States, sank deep
into the sources of American political life. So completely indeed was
the work done, that in 1820 there was but one political party in
America; all were Jeffersonian Republicans; and when the Republican
party was broken up in 1824, the only dispute was whether Adams or
Jackson or Crawford or Clay or Calhoun best represented the political
beliefs now almost universal. It seemed to Americans as if they had
never known any other beliefs, as if these doctrines of their democracy
were truisms to which the rest of the world was marvelously blind.

Nothing in American public life has, in prolonged anger and even savage
desperation, equaled the attacks upon Jefferson during the steady growth
of his stupendous influence. The hatred of him personally, and the
belief in the wickedness of his private and public life, survive in our
time. Nine tenths of the Americans who then read books sincerely thought
him an enemy of mankind and of all that was sacred. Nine tenths of the
authors of American books on history or politics have to this day
written under the influence which ninety years ago controlled their
predecessors. And for this there is no little reason. As the American
people grew conscious of their own peculiar and intensely active
political force, there came to them a period of national and popular
life in which much was unlovely, much was crude, much was disagreeably
vulgar. Books upon America written by foreign travelers, from the days
of Jefferson down to our civil war, superficial and offensive as they
often were, told a great deal of truth. We do not now need to wince at
criticisms upon a rawness, an insolent condescension towards the
political ignorance of foreigners and the unhappy subjects of kings, a
harshness in the assertion of the equality of Caucasian men, and a
restless, boastful manner. The criticisms were in great measure just.
But the critics were stupid and blind not to see the vast and vital work
and change going on before their eyes, to chiefly regard the trifling
and incidental things which disgusted them. Their eyes were open to all
our faults of taste and manner, but closed to the self-dependent and
self-assertive energy the disorder of whose exhibition would surely pass
away. In every democratic experiment, in every experiment of popular or
national freedom, there is almost inevitable a vulgarizing of public
manners, a lack of dignity in details, which disturbs men who find
restful delight in orderly and decorous public life; and their disgust
is too often directed against beneficent political changes or reforms.
If one were to judge the political temper of the American people from
many of our own writers, and still more if he were to judge it from the
observations even of intelligent and friendly foreigners prior to 1861,
he would believe that temper to be sordid, mean, noisy, boastful, and
even cruel. But from the war of 1812 with England to the election of
Buchanan in 1856, the American people had been doing a profound,
organic, democratic work. Meantime many had seen no more than the
unsightly, the mean and trivial, the malodorous details, which were mere
incidents and blemishes of hidden and dynamic operations. Unimaginative
minds usually fail to see the greater and deeper movements of politics
as well as those of science. In the public virtues then maturing there
lay the ability long and strenuously to conduct an enterprise the
greatest which modern times have known, and an extraordinary popular
capacity for restraint and discipline. In those virtues was sleeping a
tremendously national spirit which, with cost and sacrifice not to be
measured by the vast figures of the statistician, on one side sought
independence, and on the other saved the Union,--an exalted love of men
and truth and liberty, which, after all the enervations of pecuniary
prosperity, endured with patience hardships and losses, and the less
heroic but often more dangerous distresses of taxation,--at the North a
magnanimity in victory unequaled in the traditions of men, and at the
South a composure and dignity and absence of either bitterness or
meanness which brought out of defeat far larger treasures than could
have come with victory. But these were not effects without a cause. In
them all was only the fruit, the normal fruit, of the political habits,
ideals, traditions, whose early and unattractive disorders had chagrined
many of the best of Americans, and had seemed so natural to foreigners
who feared or distrusted a democracy. There had been forming, during
forty or fifty years of a certain raw unloveliness, the peculiar and
powerful self-reliance of a people whose political independence meant
far more than a mere separate government.

In these years Van Buren was one of the chief men in American public
life. He and his political associates had been profoundly affected by
the Jeffersonian philosophy of government. They robustly held its tenets
until the flame and vengeance of the slavery conflict drove them from
political power. In our own day we have, in the able speeches with which
Samuel J. Tilden fatigued respectful though often unsympathetic hearers
at Democratic meetings, heard something of the same robust political
philosophy, brought directly from intercourse with his famous neighbor
and political master. Van Buren himself breathed it as the very
atmosphere of American public life, during his early career which had
just begun when Jefferson, his robes of office dropped and his faults of
administration forgotten, seemed the serene, wise old man presiding
over a land completely won to his ideals of democracy. Under this
extraordinary influence and in this political light, there opened with
the first years of the century the public life to be narrated in this



At the close of the American Revolution, Abraham Van Buren was a farmer
on the east bank of the Hudson River, New York. He was of Dutch descent,
as was his wife, whose maiden name Hoes, corrupted from Goes, is said to
have had distinction in Holland. But it would be mere fancy to find in
the statesman particular traits brought from the dyked swamp lands
whence some of his ancestors came. Those who farmed the rich fields of
Columbia county were pretty thorough Americans; their characteristics
were more immediately drawn from the soil they cultivated and from the
necessary habits of their life than from the lands, Dutch or English,
from which their forefathers had emigrated. Late in the eighteenth
century they were no longer frontiersmen. For a century and more this
eastern Hudson River country had been peacefully and prosperously
cultivated. There was no lack of high spirit; but it was shown in
lawsuits and political feuds rather than in skirmishes with red men. It
was close to the old town of Albany with its official and not
undignified life, and had comparatively easy access to New York by sloop
or the post-road. It had been an early settlement of the colony. Within
its borders were now the estates and mansions of large landed
proprietors, who inherited or acquired from a more varied and affluent
life some of the qualities, good and bad, of a country gentry. It was a
region of easy, orderly comfort, sound and robust enough, but not
sharing the straight and precise, though meddling, puritanical habits
which a few miles away, over the high Berkshire hills, had come from the
shores of New England.

The elder Van Buren was said by his son's enemies to have kept a tavern;
and he probably did. Farming and tavern-keeping then were fairly
interchangeable; and the gracious manner, the tact with men, which the
younger Van Buren developed to a marked degree, it is easy to believe
came rather from the social and varied life of an inn than from the
harsher isolation of a farm. The statesman's boyish days were at any
rate spent among poor neighbors. He was born at Kinderhook, an old
village of New York, on the 5th of December, 1782. The usual years of
schooling were probably passed in one of the dilapidated, weather-beaten
schoolhouses from which has come so much of what is best in American
life. He studied later in the Kinderhook Academy, one of the higher
schools which in New York have done good work, though not equaling the
like schools in Massachusetts. Here he learned a little Latin. But when
at fourteen years of age he entered a law office, he had of course the
chief discipline of book-learning still to acquire. In 1835 his campaign
biographer rather rejoiced that he had so little systematic education,
fearing that "from the eloquent pages of Livy, or the honeyed eulogiums
of Virgil, or the servile adulation of Horace, he might have been
inspired with an admiration for regal pomp and aristocratic dignity
uncongenial to the native independence of his mind," and have imbibed a
"contempt for plebeians and common people," unless, perhaps, the
speeches of popular leaders in Livy "had kindled his instinctive love of
justice and freedom," or the sarcastic vigor of Tacitus "had created in
his bosom a fixed hatred of tyranny in every shape." At an early age,
however, it is certain that Van Buren, like many other Americans of
original force and with instinctive fondness for written pictures of
human history and conduct, acquired an education which, though not that
of a professional scholar, was entirely appropriate to the skillful man
of affairs or the statesman to be set in conspicuous places. This work
must have been largely done during the comparative leisure of his legal

It was in 1796 that he entered the law office of Francis Sylvester at
Kinderhook, where he remained until his twentieth year. He there read
law. It is safe to say besides that he swept the office, lighted the
fires in winter, and, like other law students in earlier and simpler
days, had to do the work of an office janitor and errand boy, as well
as to serve papers and copy the technical forms of the common law, and
the tedious but often masterly pleadings of chancery. That his work as a
student was done with great industry and thoroughness is demonstrated by
the fact that at an early age he became a successful and skillful
advocate in arguments addressed to courts as distinguished from juries,
a division of professional work in which no skill and readiness will
supply deficiencies in professional equipment. His early reputation for
cleverness is illustrated by the story that when only a boy he
successfully summed up a case before a jury against his preceptor
Sylvester, being made by the justice to stand upon a bench because he
was so small, with the exhortation, "There, Mat, beat your master."

In 1802 Van Buren entered the office of William P. Van Ness, in the city
of New York, to complete his seventh and final year of legal study. Van
Ness was himself from Columbia county and an eminent lawyer. He was
afterwards appointed United States district judge by Madison; and was
then an influential Republican and a close friend and defender of Aaron
Burr, then the vice-president. The native powers and fascination of Burr
were at their zenith, though his political character was blasted. Van
Buren made his acquaintance, and was treated with the distinguished and
flattering attention which the wisest of public men often show to young
men of promise. Van Buren's enemies were absurdly fond of the fancy that
in this slight intercourse he had acquired the skill and grace of his
manner, and the easy principles and love of intrigue which they ascribe
to him. Burr, for years after he was utterly disabled, inspired a
childish terror in American politics. The mystery and dread about him
were used by the opponents of Jackson because Burr had early pointed him
out for the presidency, and by the opponents of Clay because in early
life he had given Burr professional assistance. But upon Burr's
candidacy for governor in 1804 Van Buren's freedom from his influence
was clearly enough exhibited.

In 1803 Van Buren, being now of age and admitted as an attorney,
returned to Kinderhook and there began the practice of his profession.
The rank of counsellor-at-law was still distinct and superior to that of
attorney. His half-brother on his mother's side, James J. Van Alen, at
once admitted the young attorney to a law partnership. Van Alen was
considerably older and had a practice already established. Van Buren's
career as a lawyer was not a long one, but it was brilliant and highly
successful. After his election to the United States Senate in 1821 his
practice ceased to be very active. He left his profession with a fortune
which secured him the ease in money matters so helpful and almost
necessary to a man in public life. Merely professional reputations
disappear with curious and rather saddening promptness and completeness.
Of the practice and distinction reached by Van Buren before he withdrew
from the bar, although they were unsurpassed in the State, no vestige
and few traditions remain beyond technical synopses of his arguments in
the instructive but hardly succulent pages of Johnson's, Wendell's, and
Cowen's reports.

At an early day the legal profession reached in our country a consummate
vigor. Far behind as Americans were in other learning and arts, they
had, within a few years after they escaped colonial dependence, judges,
advocates, and commentators of the first rank. Marshall, Kent, and Story
were securely famous when hardly another American of their time not in
public and political life was known. In the legal art Americans were
even more accomplished than in its science; and Columbia county and the
valley of the Hudson were fine fields for legal practice. Many
animosities survived from revolutionary days. The landed families, long
used to administer the affairs of others as well as their own, saw with
jealousy and fear the rapid spread of democratic doctrines and of
leveling and often insolent manners. Political feuds were rife, and
frequently appeared in the professionally profitable collisions of
neighbors with vagrant cows, or on watercourses insufficient for the
needs of the up-stream and the down-stream proprietors. There were
slander suits and libel suits, and suits for malicious prosecution. Into
the most legitimate controversies over doubts about property there was
driven the bitterness which turns a lawsuit from a process to ascertain
a right into a weapon of revenge.

Van Buren's political opinions were strong and clear from the beginning
of his law practice; but he was in a professional minority among the
rich Federalists of the county. The adverse discipline was invaluable.
Through zeal and skill and large industry, he soon led the Republicans
as their ablest lawyer, and the lawyers of Columbia county were famous.
William W. Van Ness, afterwards a judge of the supreme court of the
State, Grosvenor, Elisha Williams, and Jacob R. Van Rensselaer were
active at the bar. Williams, although his very name is nowadays hardly
known, we cannot doubt from the universal testimony of contemporaries,
had extraordinary forensic talents. He was a Federalist; and the most
decisive proof of Van Buren's rapid professional growth was his
promotion to be Williams's chief competitor and adversary. Van Buren's
extraordinary application and intellectual clearness soon established
him as the better and the more successful lawyer, though not the more
powerful advocate. Williams at last said to his rival, "I get all the
verdicts, and you get all the judgments." A famous pupil of Van Buren
both in law and in politics, Benjamin F. Butler, afterwards
attorney-general in his cabinet, finely contrasted them from his own
recollection of their conflicts when he was a law student. "Never," he
said, "were two men more dissimilar. Both were eloquent; but the
eloquence of Williams was declamatory and exciting, that of Van Buren
insinuating and delightful. Williams had the livelier imagination, Van
Buren the sounder judgment. The former presented the strong points of
his case in bolder relief, invested them in a more brilliant coloring,
indulged a more unlicensed and magnificent invective, and gave more life
and variety to his arguments by his peculiar wit and inimitable humor.
But Van Buren was his superior in analyzing, arranging, and combining
the insulated materials, in comparing and weighing testimony, in
unraveling the web of intricate affairs, in eviscerating truth from the
mass of diversified and conflicting evidence, in softening the heart and
moulding it to his purpose, and in working into the judgments of his
hearers the conclusions of his own perspicuous and persuasive
reasonings." Most of this is applicable to Van Buren's career on the
wider field of politics; and much here said of his early adversary on
the tobacco-stained floors of country court-houses might have been as
truly said of a later adversary of his, the splendid leader who, rather
than Harrison, ought to have been victor over Van Buren in 1840, and
over whom Van Buren rather than Polk ought to have been victor in 1844.

In a few years Van Buren outgrew the professional limitations of
Kinderhook. In February, 1807, he had been admitted as a counsellor of
the supreme court; and this promotion he most happily celebrated by
marrying Hannah Hoes, a young lady of his own age, and also of Dutch
descent, a kinswoman of his mother, and with whom he had been intimate
from his childhood. In 1808, the council of appointment becoming
Republican, he was made surrogate of Columbia county, succeeding his
partner and half-brother Van Alen, a Federalist in politics, who was,
however, returned to the place in 1815, when the Federalists regained
the council. The office was a respectable one, concerned with the
probate of wills, and the ordering of estates of deceased persons.
Within a year after this appointment, Van Buren removed to the new and
bustling little city of Hudson, directly on the river banks. Here he
practiced law with rapidly increasing success for seven years. His
pecuniary thrift now enabled him to purchase what was called "a very
extensive and well-selected library." With this advantage he applied
himself to "a systematic and extended course of reading," which left him
a well, even an amply, educated man. His severity in study did not,
however, exclude him from the social pleasures of which he was fond, and
for which he was perfectly fitted. He learned men quite as fast as he
learned books. A country surrogate, though then enjoying fees, since
commuted to a salary, had only a meagre compensation. But the duties of
Van Buren's office did not interfere with his activity in the private
practice of the law. On the contrary, the office enabled him to make
acquaintances, a process which, even without adventitious aid, he always
found easy and delightful.

In 1813, having been elected a member of the Senate of the State, he
became as such a member of the court for the correction of errors. This
was the court of last resort, composed, until 1847, of the chancellor,
the judges of the supreme court, the lieutenant-governor, and the
thirty-two senators. The latter, though often laymen, were members of
the court, partly through a curious imitation of the theoretical
function of the British House of Lords, and partly under the idea, even
now feebly surviving in some States, that some besides lawyers ought to
sit upon the bench in law courts to contribute the common sense which it
was fancied might be absent from their more learned associates. It was
not found unsuitable for members of this, the highest court, to be
active legal practitioners. While Van Buren held his place as a member
he was, in February, 1815, made attorney-general, succeeding Abraham Van
Vechten, one of the famous lawyers of the State. Van Buren was then but
thirty-two years old, and the professional eminence accorded to the
station was greater than now. Among near predecessors in it had been
Aaron Burr, Ambrose Spencer and Thomas Addis Emmett; among his near
successors were Thomas J. Oakley, Samuel A. Talcott, Greene C. Bronson
and Samuel Beardsley,--all names of the first distinction in the
professional life of New York. The office was of course political, as it
has always been, both in the United States and the mother country. But
Van Buren's appointment, if it were made because he was an active and
influential Republican in politics, would still not have been made
unless his professional reputation had been high. The salary was $5.50 a
day, with some costs,--not an unsuitable salary in days when the
chancellor was paid but $3000 a year. He held the office until July,
1819, when, upon the capture of the council of appointment by a
coalition of Clintonian Republicans and Federalists, he was removed to
give place to Oakley, the Federalist leader in the State Assembly.

In 1816 Van Buren, now rapidly reaching professional eminence, removed
to Albany, the capital of New York. Though then a petty city of mean
buildings and about 10,000 inhabitants, it had a far larger relative
importance in the professional and social life of the State than has the
later city of ten times the population, with its costly and enormous
state-house, its beautiful public buildings, and its steep and numerous
streets of fine residences. In 1820 he purposed removing to New York;
but, for some reason altering his plans, continued to reside at Albany
until appointed secretary of state in 1829. His professional career was
there crowned with most important and lucrative work. Soon after moving
to Albany, he took into partnership Butler, just admitted to the bar.
Between the two men there were close and life-long relations. The
younger of them, also a son of Columbia county, reached great
professional distinction, became a politician of the highest type, and
remained steadfast in his attachment to Van Buren's political fortunes,
and to the robust and distinctly marked political doctrines and
practices of the Albany Regency.

The law reports give illustrations of Van Buren's precision, his clear
and forcible common-sense, and his aptitude for that learning of the law
in which the great counsel of the time excelled. In 1813, soon after his
service began as state senator, he delivered an opinion in a case of
"escape;" and in very courteous words exhibited a bit of his dislike for
Kent, then chief justice of the supreme court, whose judgment he helped
to reverse, as well as his antipathy to imprisonment for debt, which he
afterwards helped to abolish. It was a petty suit against the sureties
upon the bond given by a debtor. Under a relaxation of the imprisonment
for debt recently permitted, the debtor was, on giving the bond,
released from jail, but upon the condition that he should keep within
the "jail liberties," which in the country counties was a prescribed
area around the jail. His bond was to be forfeit if he passed the
"liberties." While the debtor was driving a cow to or from pasture, the
latter contemptuously deviated "four, six, or ten feet" from the
liberties. The driver, yielding to inevitable bucolic impulse and
forgetting his bond, leaped over the imaginary line to bring back the
cow. He was without the liberties but a moment, and afterwards duly kept
within them. But the creditor was watchful, and for the technical
"escape" sued the sureties. Although the debtor was within the limits
when suit was brought, the lower court refused to pardon the debtor's
technical and unintentional fault. At common law the creditor was
entitled to satisfaction of the debtor's body; and the milder statute
establishing jail liberties was, the court said, to be strictly
construed against the debtor; it was not enough that the creditor had
the debtor's body when he called for it. The supreme court, headed by
Kent, affirmed this curiously harsh decision. In the court of errors,
Van Buren joined Chancellor Lansing in reversing the rule upon an
elaborate review of the law, which to this day is important authority,
and which could not have been more carefully done had something greater
seemed at stake than a bovine vagary and a few dollars. The young
lawyer, wearing for a time the judicial robes, now sat in a review, by
no means unpleasant, of the utterances of magistrates before whom he had
until then stood in considerable awe; and seized the opportunity,
doubtless with a keen perception of the drift of popular sentiment on
matters of personal liberty, to enlarge the mild policy of the later
law. When it was urged that, if the law were not technically
administered, imprisoned debtors would of a Sunday wander beyond the
"limits," securely able to return before Monday, when the creditor could
sue,--Van Buren, with a contemptuous fling at the supreme court,
confessed in Johnsonian sentences his lenient temper towards these
"stolen pleasures,"--his willingness that debtors should snatch the "few
moments of liberty which, although soured by constant perturbation and
alarm, are, notwithstanding, deemed fit subjects for judicial
animadversion." His rhetoric was rather agreeably florid when he
declared the law establishing "jail liberties" to be a concession for
humane purposes made by the inflexible spirit which authorized
imprisonment for debt. He strongly intimated his sympathy to be with
"the exertions of men of intelligence, reflection, and philanthropy to
mitigate its rigor; of men who viewed it as a practice fundamentally
wrong, a practice which forces their fellow-creatures from society, from
their friends, and their agonized families into the dreary walls of a
prison; which compels them to leave all those fascinating endearments to
become an inmate with vermin;" and all this, not for crime or frauds,
"but for the misfortune of being poor, of being unable to satisfy the
all-digesting stomach of some ravenous creditor." The practice was one
"confounding virtue and vice, and destroying the distinction between
guilt and innocence which should unceasingly be cherished in every
well-regulated government." Democrats rejoiced over this passage when
Van Buren was a candidate for the presidency. Richard M. Johnson, then
his associate upon the Democratic ticket, had successfully led an
agitation for the abolition of such imprisonment upon judgments rendered
in the federal courts.

Van Buren's professional life terminated with his election as governor
in 1828. In 1830, while secretary of state at Washington, he is said to
have appeared before the federal supreme court in the great litigation
between Astor and the Sailors' Snug Harbor, in which he had been counsel
below; but no record is preserved of his argument there. His last
well-known argument was before the court of errors at Albany in Varick
v. Jackson, a branch of the famous Medcef Eden litigation. This long and
highly technical battle was lighted up by the fame and competitions of
the counsel. It arose upon the question whether a will of Eden which
gave a landed estate to his son Joseph, but if Joseph died without
children, then to his surviving brother, Medcef Eden the younger,
created for Joseph the old lawyers' delight of an "estate tail." If it
were an "estate tail," then the law of 1782, which, in the general
tendency of American legislation after the Revolution, was directed
against the entailing of property, would have made the first brother,
Joseph, the absolute owner, and have defeated the later claim of Medcef.
Joseph had failed while in possession of the property. His creditors,
accepting the opinion of Alexander Hamilton, then the head of the bar,
insisted that he had been the absolute owner, that the provision for his
brother Medcef's accession to the property was nugatory as an attempt to
entail the estate; and upon this view the creditors sold the lands,
which by the rapid growth of the city soon became of large value.
Hamilton's opinion for years daunted the younger Medcef and his children
from asserting the right which it was morally plain his father had
intended for him. Aaron Burr, not less Hamilton's rival at the bar than
in the politics of New York, gave a contrary opinion; but after killing
Hamilton in 1804 and yielding up the vice-presidency in 1805, his
brilliant professional gifts were exiled from New York. On his return in
1812 from years of conspiracy, adventure, and romance, he took up the
discredited Medcef Eden claim; and in the judicial test of the question
he, and not Hamilton, proved to have been correct. The struggle went on
in a number of suits; and when in 1823 the question was to be finally
settled in the court of last resort, Burr, fearing, as he himself
intimated to the court, lest the profound suspicion under which he
rested might obscure and break the force of his legal arguments, or
conscious that his past twenty years had dimmed his faculties, called to
his aid Van Buren, then United States senator and a chief of the
profession. As Van Buren and Burr attended together before the court of
errors, they doubtless recalled their meetings in Van Ness's office
twenty years before, when Burr, still a splendid though clouded figure
in American life, hoped, by Federalist votes added to the Republican
secession which he led, to reach the governorship and recover his
prestige; those days in which the unknown but promising young countryman
had interested a vice-president and enjoyed the latter's skillful and
not always insincere flattery. The firm and orderly procedure of Van
Buren's life was now well contrasted with the discredited and profligate
ability of the returned wanderer. Against this earlier but long
deposed, and against this later and regnant chief in the Republican
politics of New York, were ranged in these cases David B. Ogden, the
famous lawyer of the Federalist ranks, Samuel A. Talcott, and Samuel
Jones. In Van Buren's long, masterly, and successful argument there was
again an edge to the zeal with which he attacked the opinion of Kent,
the Federalist chancellor, who asked the court of errors to overrule its
earlier decisions, and the chancellor's own decision as well, and defeat
the intention of the elder Medcef Eden.

Van Buren's professional career was most enviable. It lasted twenty-five
years. It ended before he was forty-six, when he was in the early
ripeness of his powers, but not until a larger and more shining career
seemed surely opened before him. He left the bar with a competence
fairly earned, which his prudence and skill made grow into an ample
fortune, without even malicious suggestion in the scurrility of politics
that he had profited out of public offices. In money matters he was more
thrifty and cautious than most Americans in public places. His enemies
accused him of meanness and parsimony, but apparently without other
reason than that he did not practice the careless and useless profusion
and luxury which many of his countrymen in political life have thought
necessary to indulge even when their own tastes were far simpler. In the
course of professional employment he acquired an important estate near
Oswego, whose value rapidly enhanced with the rapid growth of western
New York and the development of the lake commerce from that port.

The chief interest now found in Van Buren's professional career lies in
its relation to his political life. He was the only lawyer of
conspicuous and practical and really great professional success who has
reached the White House. In the long preparation for the bar, in the
many hours of leisure at Kinderhook and Hudson and even Albany permitted
by the methods of practice in vogue before there were railways or
telegraphs, and when travel was costly and slow and postage a shilling
or more, he gained the liberal education more difficult of access to the
busier young attorney and counsel of these crowded days. Great lawyers
were then fond of illustrations from polite literature; they loved to
set off their speeches with quotations from the classics, and to give
their style finish and ornament not practicable to the precise, prompt
methods which their successors learn in the driving routine of modern
American cities. Van Buren did not, however, become a great orator at
the bar. His admirer, Butler, upon returning to partnership with him in
1820, wrote indeed to an intimate friend, Jesse Hoyt (destined
afterwards to bring grief and scandal upon both the partners), that if
he were Van Buren he "would let politics alone," and become, as Van
Buren might, the "Erskine of the State." But though his success, had he
continued in the profession, would doubtless have been of the very first
order, his oratory would never have reached the warm and virile
splendor of Erskine, or the weighty magnificence of Webster. Van Buren's
work as a lawyer brought him, however, something besides wealth and the
education and refinement of books, and something which neither Erskine
nor Webster gained. The profession afforded him an admirable discipline
in the conduct of affairs; and affairs, in the law as out of it, are
largely decided by human nature and its varying peculiarities. The
preparation of details; the keen and far-sighted arrangement of the
best, because the most practicable, plan; the refusal to fire off
ammunition for the popular applause to be roused by its noise and flame;
the clear, steady bearing in mind of the end to be accomplished, rather
than the prolonged enjoyment or systematic working out of intermediate
processes beyond a utilitarian necessity,--all these elements Van Buren
mastered in a signal degree, and made invaluable in legal practice. To
men more superbly equipped for _tours de force_, who ignored the uses of
long, attentive, varied, painstaking work, there was nothing admirable
in the methods which Van Buren brought into political life out of his
experience in the law. He was, to undisciplined or envious opponents, a
"little magician," a trickster. The same thing appears, in every
department of human activity, in the anger which failure often flings at

The predominance of lawyers in our politics was very early established,
and has been a characteristic distinction between politics in England
and politics in America. Conspicuous as lawyers have been in the
politics of the older country, they have rarely been figures of the
first rank. They have served in all its modern ministries, and sometimes
in other than professional stations; but, with the unimportant exception
of Perceval, not as the chief. English opinion has not unjustly believed
its greater landed proprietors to be animated with a strong and peculiar
desire for English greatness and renown; nor has the belief been
destroyed by their frequent opposition to the most beneficent popular
movements. Among these proprietors and those allied with them, even when
not strictly in their ranks, England has found her statesmen. To this
day, the speech of a lawyer in the British House of Commons is fancied
to show the narrowness of technical training, or is treated as a bid for
promotion to some of the splendid seats open to the English bar. In
America, the great landed proprietor very early lost the direction of
public affairs. All the members of the "Virginian dynasty" were, it is
true, large land-owners, and in the politics of New York there were
several of them. But land-ownership was to Jefferson, Madison, and
Monroe simply a means of support while they attended to public affairs;
it was not one of their chief recommendations to the landed interest
throughout the country. For a time in the early politics of New York the
landed wealth of the Schuylers, Van Rensselaers, and Livingstons was of
itself a source of strength; but in the spread of democratic sentiment
it was found that to be a great landlord was entirely consistent with
dullness, narrowness, and timid selfishness. Among the landlords there
soon and inevitably decayed that sense of public obligation belonging to
exalted position and leadership which sometimes brings courage, high
public spirit, and even a sound and active political imagination, to
those who preside over bodies of tenants. The laws were changed which
facilitated family accumulations of land. Since these early years of the
century a great land-owner has been in politics little more than any
other rich man. Both have had advantages in that as in any other field
of activity. Certain easy graces not uncommon to inherited wealth have
often been popular,--not, however, for the wealth, but for themselves.
Where these graces have existed in America without such wealth, they
have been none the less popular; but in England a lifetime of vast
public service and the finest personal attainments have failed to
overcome the distrust of a landless man as a sort of adventurer.

When Van Buren's career began, the men who were making money in trade or
manufactures were generally too busy for the anxious and busy cares of
public life; the tradesmen and manufacturers who had already made money
were past the time of life when men can vigorously and skillfully turn
to a new and strange calling. There was no leisure class except
land-owners or retired men of business. Lawyers, far more than those of
any other calling, became public men, and naturally enough. Their
experience of life and their knowledge of men were large. The popular
interest in their art of advocacy; their travels from county seat to
county seat; their speeches to juries in towns where no other secular
public speaking was to be heard; the varieties of human life which
lawyers came to know,--varieties far greater where the same men acted as
attorneys and advocates than in England where they acted in only one of
these fields,--these and the like, combined with the equipment for the
forms of political and governmental work which was naturally gained in
legal practice and the systematic study of law, gave to distinguished
lawyers in America their large place in its political life. For this
place the liberality of their lives helped, besides, to fit them. They
had ceased to be disqualified for it by their former close alliance, as
in England, with the landed aristocracy; and they had not yet begun to
suffer a disqualification, frequently unjust, for their close relations
with corporate interests, between which and the public there often
arises an antagonism of interests. De Tocqueville, after his visit in
1832, said that lawyers formed in America its highest political class
and the most cultivated circle of society; that the American aristocracy
was not composed of the rich, but that it occupied the judicial bench
and the bar. And the descriptions of the liberal and acute though
theoretical Frenchman are generally trustworthy, however often his
striking generalizations are at fault. Such, then, was the intimacy of
relations between the professions of law and politics when Van Buren
shone in both. And when, in his early prime, he gave up the law, neither
forensic habits nor those of the attorney were yet too strongly set to
permit the easy and complete diversion of his powers to the more
generous and exalted activity of public life.

It is simpler thus separately to treat Van Buren's life as a lawyer,
because in a just view of the man it must be subordinate to his life as
a politician. It is to be remembered, however, that in his earlier years
his progress in politics closely attended in time, and in much more than
time, his professional progress. When, at thirty, he sat as an appellate
judge in the court of errors, he was already powerful in politics; when,
at thirty-two, he was attorney-general, he was the leader of his party
in the state senate; when, at forty-five, he had perhaps the most
lucrative professional practice in New York, he was the leader of his
party in the United States Senate. But it will be easier to follow his
political career without interruption from his work as a lawyer,
honorable and distinguished as it was, and much of his political ability
as he owed to its fine discipline.

Van Buren's domestic life was broken up by the death of his wife at
Albany, in February, 1819, leaving him four sons. To her memory Van
Buren remained scrupulously loyal until his own death forty-three years
afterwards. We may safely believe political enemies when, after saying
of him many dastardly things, they admitted that he had been an
affectionate husband. Nor were accusations ever made against the
uprightness and purity of his private life.



The politics of New York State were never more bitter, never more
personal, than when Van Buren entered the field in 1803. The Federalists
were sheltered by the unique and noble prestige of Washington's name;
and were conscious that in wealth, education, refinement, they far
excelled the Republicans. They were contemptuously suspicious of the
unlettered ignorance, the intense and exuberant vanity, of the masses of
American men. It was by that contempt and suspicion that they invited
the defeat which, protected though they were by the property
qualifications required of voters in New York, they met in 1800 at the
hands of a people in whom the instincts of democracy were strong and
unsubmissive. This was in our history the one complete and final defeat
of a great national party while in power. The Federalists themselves
made it final,--by their silly and unworthy anger at a political
reverse; by their profoundly immoral efforts to thwart the popular will
and make Burr president; by their fatal and ingrained disbelief in
common men, who, they thought, foolishly and impiously refused to
accept wisdom and guidance from the possessors of learning and great
estates; and finally by their unpatriotic opposition to Jefferson and
Madison in the assertion of American rights on the seas during the
Napoleonic wars. All these drove the party, in spite of its large
services in the past and its eminent capacity for service in the future,
forever from the confidence of the American people. The Federalists
maintained, it is true, a party organization in New York until after the
second war with England; but their efforts were rather directed to the
division and embarrassment of their adversaries than to victories of
their own strength or upon their own policy. They carried the lower
house of the legislature in 1809, 1812, and 1813. There were among them
men of the first rank, who retained a strong hold on popular respect,
among whom John Jay and Rufus King were deservedly shining figures. But
never after 1799 did the Federalists elect in New York a governor, or
control both legislative houses, or secure any solid power, except by
coalition with one branch or another of the Republicans.

Van Buren's fondness for politics was soon developed. His father was
firmly attached to the Jeffersonians or Republicans,--a rather
discredited minority among the Federalists of Columbia county and the
estates of the Hudson River aristocracy. Inheriting his political
preferences, Van Buren, with a great body of other young Americans,
caught the half-doctrinaire enthusiasm which Jefferson then inspired, an
enthusiasm which in Van Buren was to be so enduring a force, and to
which sixty years later he was still as loyal as he had been in the hot
disputes on the sanded floors of the village store or tavern. During
these boyish years he wrote and spoke for his party; and before he was
eighteen he was formally appointed a delegate to a Republican convention
for Columbia and Rensselaer counties.

Van Buren returned from New York to Columbia county late in 1803, just
twenty-one years old. At once he became active in politics. The
Republican party, though not strong in his county, was dominant in the
State; and the game of politics was played between its different
factions, the Federalists aiding one or the other as they saw their
advantage. The Republicans were Clintonians, Livingstonians, or
Burrites. George Clinton, in whose career lay the great origin of party
politics of New York, was the Republican leader. The son of an Irish
immigrant, he had, without the aid of wealth or influential connections,
made himself the most popular man in the State. He was the first
governor after colonial days were over, and was repeatedly reëlected. It
was his opposition which most seriously endangered New York's adoption
of the Federal Constitution. But in spite of the wide enthusiasm which
the completed Union promptly aroused, this opposition did not prevent
his reëlection in 1789 and 1792. The majorities were small, however, it
being even doubtful whether in the latter year the majority were fairly
given him. In 1795 he declined to be a candidate, and Robert R.
Livingston, the Republican in his place, was defeated. In 1801 Clinton
was again elected. Later he was vice-president in Jefferson's second
term and Madison's first term; and his aspiration to the presidency in
1808 was by no means unreasonable. He was a strong party leader and a
sincerely patriotic man. The Livingston family interest in New York was
very great. The chancellor, Robert R. Livingston, who nowadays is
popularly associated with the ceremony of Washington's inauguration, had
been secretary for foreign affairs under the Articles of Confederation,
and had left the Federalists in 1790. After his sixty years had under
the law disqualified him for judicial office, he became Jefferson's
minister to France and negotiated with Bonaparte the Louisiana treaty.
Brockholst Livingston was a judge of the Supreme Court of New York in
1801. In 1807 Jefferson promoted him to the federal Supreme Court.
Edward Livingston, younger than his brother, the chancellor, by
seventeen years, was long after to be one of the finest characters in
our politics. Early in Washington's administration he had become a
strong pro-French Republican, and had opposed Jay's treaty with Great
Britain; though forty years later, when Jackson brought him from
Louisiana to be secretary of state, he was sometimes reminded of his
still earlier Federalism. Morgan Lewis, judge of the Supreme Court and
afterwards chief justice, and still later governor, was a brother-in-law
of the chancellor. Smith Thompson, also a judge and chief justice, and
later secretary of the navy under Monroe and a judge of the federal
Supreme Court, and Van Buren's competitor for governor in 1828, was a
connection of the family. There were sneers at the Livingston conversion
to Democracy as there always are at political conversions. But whether
or not Chancellor Livingston's Democracy came from jealousy of Hamilton
in 1790, it is at least certain that he and his family connections
rendered political services of the first importance during a half
century. The drafting of Jackson's nullification proclamation in 1833 by
Edward Livingston was one of the noblest and most signal services which
Americans have had the fortune to render to their country.

The best offices were largely held by the Clinton and Livingston
families and their connections, an arrangement very aristocratic indeed,
but which did not then seem inconsistent with efficient and decorous
performance of the public business. Burr naturally gathered around him
those restless, speculative men who are as immoral in their aspirations
as in their conduct, and whose adherence has disgraced and weakened
almost every democratic movement known to history. Burr had been
attorney-general; he had refused a seat in the Supreme Court; he had
been United States senator; and now in the second office of the nation
he presided with distinguished grace over the Federal Senate. His hands
were not yet red with Hamilton's blood when Van Buren met him at New
York in 1803; but Democratic faces were averted from the man who, loaded
with its honors and enjoying its confidence, had intrigued with its
enemies to cheat his exultant party out of their choice for president.
In tribute to the Republicans of New York, George Clinton had already
been selected in his place to be the next vice-president. While Van
Buren was near the close of his law studies at New York, Burr was
preparing to restore his fortunes by a popular election, for which he
had some Republican support, and to which the fatuity of the defeated
party, again rejecting Hamilton's advice, added a considerable
Federalist support. William P. Van Ness, as "Aristides," one of the
classical names under which our ancestors were fond of addressing the
public, had in the Burr interest written a bitter attack on the Clintons
and Livingstons, accusing them, and with reason, of dividing the offices
between themselves.

Van Buren was easily proof against the allurements of Burr, and even the
natural influence of so distinguished a man as Van Ness, with whom he
had been studying a year. Sylvester, his first preceptor, was a
Federalist. So was Van Alen, his half-brother, soon to be his partner,
who in May, 1806, was elected to Congress. But Van Buren was firm and
resolute in party allegiance. In the election for governor in April,
1804, Burr was badly beaten by Morgan Lewis, the Clinton-Livingston
candidate, whom Van Buren warmly supported, and Burr's political career
was closed. The successful majority of the Republicans was soon resolved
into the Clintonians, led by Clinton and Judge Ambrose Spencer, and the
Livingstonians, led by Governor Lewis. The active participation of
judges in the bitter politics of the time illustrates the universal
intensity of political feeling, and goes very far to justify Jefferson's
and Van Buren's distrust of judicial opinions on political questions.
Brockholst Livingston, Smith Thompson, Ambrose Spencer, Daniel D.
Tompkins,--all judges of the State Supreme Court,--did not cease when
they donned the ermine to be party politicians; neither did the
chancellors Robert R. Livingston and Lansing. Even Kent, it is pretty
obvious, was a man of far stronger and more openly partisan feelings
than we should to-day think fitting so great a judicial station as he
held. The quarrels over offices were strenuous and increasing from the
very top to the bottom of the community.

The Federalists in 1807 generally joined the Lewisites, or "Quids."
Governor Lewis, finding that the jealousy of the Livingston interests
would defeat his renomination by the usual caucus of Republican members
of the legislature, became the candidate of a public meeting at New
York, and of a minority caucus, and asked help from the Federalists.
Such an alliance always seemed monstrous only to the Republican faction
that felt strong enough without it. The regular legislative caucus,
controlled by the Clintonians, nominated Daniel D. Tompkins, then a
judge of the Supreme Court, and for years after the Republican
"war-horse." Van Buren adhered to the purer, older, and less patrician
Democracy of the Clintonians. Tompkins was elected, with a Clintonian
legislature; and the result secured Van Buren's first appointment to
public office. A Clintonian council of appointment was chosen. The
council, a complex monument of the distrust of executive power with
which George III. had filled his revolted subjects, was composed of five
members, being the governor and one member from each of the four
senatorial districts, who were chosen by the Assembly from among the six
senators of the district. The four senatorial members of the council
were always, therefore, of the political faith of the Assembly, except
in cases where all the senators from a district belonged to the minority
party in the Assembly. To this council belonged nearly every appointment
in the State, even of local officers. Prior to 1801 the governor
appointed, with the advice and consent of the council. After the
constitutional amendment of that year, either member of the council
could nominate, the appointment being made by the majority. Van Buren
became surrogate of Columbia county on February 20, 1808. There was no
prescribed term of office, the commission really running until the
opposition party secured the council of appointment. Van Buren held the
office about five years and until his removal on March 19, 1813, when
his adversaries had secured control of the council.

At this time the system of removing the lesser as well as the greater
officers of government for political reasons was well established in New
York. It is impossible to realize the nature of Van Buren's political
education without understanding this old system of proscription, whose
influence upon American public life has been so prodigious. The strife
over the Federal Constitution had been fierce. Its friends, after their
victory, sought, neither unjustly nor unnaturally, to punish Governor
Clinton for his opposition. Although Washington wished to stand neutral
between parties, he still believed it politically suicidal to appoint
officers not in sympathy with his administration.[1] Hamilton
undoubtedly determined the New York appointments when the new government
was launched, and they were made from the political enemies of Governor
Clinton,--a course provoking an animosity which not improbably appeared
in the more numerous state appointments controlled by Clinton and the
Republican council. After the excesses of the French Revolution the
Republicans were denounced as Jacobins and radicals, dangerous in
politics and corrupt in morals. The family feuds aided and exaggerated
the divisions in this small community of freehold voters. Appointments
were made in the federal and state services for political reasons and
for family reasons, precisely as they had long been made in England.
Especially along the rich river counties from New York to the upper
Hudson were so distributed the lucrative offices, which were eagerly
sought for their profit as well as for their honor.

The contests were at first for places naturally vacated by death or
resignation; the idea of the property right of an incumbent actually in
office lingered until after the last century was out. It is not clear
when the first removals of subordinate officers took place for political
reasons. Some were made by the Federalists during Governor Jay's
administration; but the first extensive removals seem to have occurred
after the elections of 1801. For this there were two immediate causes.
In that year the exclusive nominating power of the governor was taken
from him. Each of the other four members of the council of appointment
could now nominate as well as confirm. Appointments and removals were
made, therefore, from that year until the new Constitution of 1821, by
one of the worst of appointing bodies, a commission of several men
whose consultations were secret and whose responsibility was divided.
Systematic abuse of the power of appointment became inevitable. There
was, besides, a second reason in the anger against Federalists, which
they had gone far to provoke, and against their long and by no means
gentle domination. This anger induced the Republicans to seek out every
method of punishment. But for this, the abuse might have been long
deferred. Nor is it unlikely that the refusal of Jefferson, inaugurated
in March of that year, to make a "clean sweep" of his enemies, turned
the longing eyes of embittered Republicans in New York more eagerly to
the fat state offices enjoyed by their insolent adversaries of the past
twelve years.

The Clintons and Livingstons had led the Republicans to a victory at the
state election in April, 1801. Later in that year George Clinton, now
again governor, called together the new council with the nominating
power vested in every one of its five members. This council acted under
distinguished auspices, and it deserves to be long remembered. Governor
Clinton presided, and his famous nephew, De Witt Clinton, was below him
in the board. The latter represented the Clintonian Republicans.[2]
Ambrose Spencer, a man of great parts and destined to a notable career,
represented the Livingstons, of whom he was a family connection.
Roseboom, the other Republican, was easily led by his two abler party
associates. The fifth member did not count, for he was a Federalist. Two
of the three really distinguished men of this council, De Witt Clinton
and Ambrose Spencer, it is not unjust to say, first openly and
responsibly established in New York the "spoils system" by removals, for
political reasons, of officers not political. The term of office of the
four senatorial members of this council had commenced while the
illustrious Federalist John Jay was governor; but they rejected his
nominations until he was tired of making them, and refused to call them
together. When Clinton took the governor's seat, he promptly summoned
the board, and in August, 1801, the work began. De Witt Clinton publicly
formulated the doctrine, but it did not yet reach its extreme form. He
said that the principal executive offices in the State ought to be
filled by the friends of the administration, and the more unimportant
offices ought to be proportionately distributed between the two parties.
The council rapidly divided the chief appointments among the Clintons
and Livingstons and their personal supporters. Officers were selected
whom Jay had refused to appoint. Edward Livingston, the chancellor's
brother, was given the mayoralty of New York, a very profitable as well
as important station; Thomas Tillotson, a brother-in-law of Chancellor
Livingston, was made secretary of state, in place of Daniel Hale,
removed; John V. Henry, a distinguished Federalist lawyer, was removed
from the comptrollership; the district attorney, the clerk and the
recorder of New York were removed; William Coleman, the founder of the
"Evening Post," and a strong adherent of Hamilton, was turned out of the
clerkship of the Circuit Court. And so the work went on through minor
offices. New commissions were required by the Constitution to be issued
to the puisne judges of the county courts and to justices of the peace
throughout the State once in three years. Instead of renewing the
commissions and preserving continuity in the administration of justice,
the council struck out the names of Federalists and inserted those of
Republicans. The proceedings of this council of 1801 have profoundly
affected the politics of New York to this day. Few political bodies in
America have exercised as serious and lasting an influence upon the
political habits of the nation. The tradition that Van Buren and the
Albany Regency began political proscription is untrue. The system of
removals was thus established several years before Van Buren held his
first office. Its founders, De Witt Clinton and Ambrose Spencer, were
long his political enemies. Governor Clinton, whose honorable record it
was that during the eighteen years of his governorship he had never
consented to a political removal, entered his protest--not a very hearty
one, it is to be feared--in the journal of the council; but in vain. In
the next year the two chief offenders were promoted,--De Witt Clinton
to be United States senator in the place of General Armstrong, a
brother-in-law of Chancellor Livingston, and Ambrose Spencer to be
attorney-general; and two years later Spencer became a judge of the
Supreme Court.

After the removals there began a disintegration of the party hitherto
successfully led by Burr, the Clintons, and the Livingstons. Colonel
Swartwout, Burr's friend, was called by De Witt Clinton a liar,
scoundrel and villain; although, after receiving two bullets from
Clinton's pistol in a duel, he was assured by the latter, with the
courtesy of our grandfathers, that there was no personal animosity.
Burr's friends had of course to be removed. But in 1805, after the
Clintons and the Livingstons had united in the election of Lewis as
governor over Burr, they too quarreled,--and naturally enough, for the
offices would not go around. So, after the Clintonians on the meeting of
the legislature early in 1806 had captured the council, they turned upon
their recent allies. Maturin Livingston was removed from the New York
recordership, and Tillotson from his place as secretary of state. The
work was now done most thoroughly. Sheriffs, clerks, surrogates, county
judges, justices of the peace, had to go. But at the corporation
election in New York in the same year, the Livingstonians and
Federalists, with a majority of the common council, in their fashion
righted the wrong, and, with a vigor not excelled by their successors a
half century later, removed at once all the subordinate municipal
officers subject to their control who were Clintonians. In 1807 the
Livingstonian Republicans, or, as they were now called from the
governor, the Lewisites, with the Federalists and Burrites, secured
control of the state council; and proceeded promptly to the work of
removals, defending it as a legitimate return for the proscriptive
course of their predecessors. In 1808 the Clintonians returned to the
council, and, through its now familiar labors, to the offices from which
the Lewisites were in their turn driven. In 1810 the Federalists
controlled the Assembly which chose the council; and they enjoyed a
"clean sweep" as keenly as had the contending Republican factions. But
the election of this year, the political record tells us, taught a
lesson which politicians have ever since refused to learn, perhaps
because it has not always been taught. The removal of the Republicans
from office "had the natural tendency to call out all their forces." The
Clintonians in 1811, therefore, were enabled by the people to reverse
the Federalist proscription of 1810. The Federalists, again in power in
1813, again followed the uniform usage then twelve years old. Political
removals had become part of the unwritten law.

At this time Van Buren suffered the loss of his office as surrogate, but
doubtless without any sense of private or public wrong. It was the
customary fate of war. In 1812 he was nominated for state senator from
the middle district, composed of Columbia, Dutchess, Orange, Ulster,
Delaware, Chenango, Greene, and Sullivan counties, as the candidate of
the Clintonian Republicans against Edward P. Livingston, the candidate
of the Lewisites or Livingstonians and Burrites as well as the
Federalists. Livingston was the sitting member, and a Republican of
powerful family and political connections. Van Buren, not yet thirty,
defeated him by a majority of less than two hundred out of twenty
thousand votes. In November, 1812, he took his seat at Albany, and
easily and within a few months reached a conspicuous and powerful place
in state politics.

These details of the establishment of the "spoils system" in New York
politics seem necessary to be told, that Van Buren's own participation
in the wrong may be fairly judged. It is a common historical vice to
judge the conduct of men of earlier times by standards which they did
not know. Van Buren found thoroughly and universally established at
Albany, when he entered its life, the rule that, upon a change in the
executive, there should be a change in the offices, without reference to
their political functions. He had in his own person experienced its
operation both to his advantage and to his disadvantage. Federalists and
Republicans were alike committed to the rule. The most distinguished and
the most useful men in active public life, whatever their earlier
opinion might have been, had acquiesced and joined in the practice. Nor
was the practice changed or extended after Van Buren came into state
politics. It continued as it had thus begun, until he became a national
figure. Success in it required an ability and skill of which he was an
easy master; nor does he seem to have shrunk from it. But he was neither
more nor less reprehensible than the universal public sense about him.
For it must be remembered that the "spoils system" was not then
offensive to the more enlightened citizens of New York. The system was
no excess of democracy or universal suffrage. It had arisen amidst a
suffrage for governor and senators limited to those who held in freehold
land worth at least £100, and for assemblymen limited to those who held
in freehold land worth £20, or paid a yearly rent of forty shillings,
and who were rated and actually paid taxes. It was practiced by men of
aristocratic habits chosen by the well-to-do classes. It grew in the
disputes of great family interests, and in the bitterness of popular
elements met in a new country, still strange or even foreign to one
another, and permitted by their release from the dangers of war and the
fear of British oppression to indulge their mutual dislikes.

The frequent "rotation" in office which was soon to be pronounced a
safeguard of republican institutions, and which Jackson in December,
1829, told Congress was a "leading principle in the Republicans' creed,"
was by no means an unnatural step towards an improvement of the civil
service of the State. Reformers of our day lay great stress upon the
fundamental rule of democratic government, that a public office is
simply a trust for the people; and they justly find the chief argument
against the abuses of patronage in the notorious use of office for the
benefit of small portions of the people, to the detriment of the rest.
In England, however, for centuries (and to some extent the idea survives
there in our own time), there was in an office a quality of property
having about it the same kind of sacred immunity which belongs to real
or personal estate. There were reversions to offices after the deaths of
their occupants, like vested remainders in lands. It was offensive to
the ordinary sense of decency and justice that the right of a public
officer to appropriate so much of the public revenue should be attacked.
It did not offend the public conscience that great perquisites should
belong to officers performing work of the most trifling value or none at
all. The same practices and traditions, weakened by distance from
England and by the simpler life and smaller wealth of the colonists,
came to our forefathers. They existed when the democratic movement,
stayed during the necessities of war and civil reconstruction, returned
at the end of the last century and became all-powerful in 1801. To break
this idea of property and right in office, to make it clear that every
office was a mere means of service of the people at the wish of the
people, there seemed, to very patriotic and generally very wise men, no
simpler way than that the people by their elections should take away and
distribute offices in utter disregard of the interests of those who
held them. The odious result to which this afterwards led, of making
offices the mere property of influential politicians, was but
imperfectly foreseen. Nor did that result, inevitable as it was, follow
for many years. There seems no reason to believe that the incessant and
extensive changes in office which began in 1801, seriously lowered the
standard of actual public service until years after Van Buren was a
powerful and conspicuous politician. Political parties were pretty
generally in the hands of honest men. The prostituted and venal
disposition of "spoils," though a natural sequence, was to come long
after. Rotation was practiced, or its fruits were accepted and enjoyed
with satisfaction, by public men of the State who were really statesmen,
who had high standards of public honor and duty, whose minds were
directed towards great and exalted public ends. If it seemed right to De
Witt Clinton, Edward Livingston, Robert R. Livingston, and Ambrose
Spencer, surely lesser gods of our early political Olympus could not be
expected to refuse its advantages or murmur at its hardships. Nor was
the change distasteful to the people, if we may judge by their political
behavior. No faction or party seems to have been punished by public
sentiment for the practice except in conspicuous cases like those of De
Witt Clinton and Van Buren, where sometimes blows aimed at single men
roused popular and often an undeserved sympathy. The idea that a public
officer should easily and naturally go from the ranks of the people
without special equipment, and as easily return to those ranks, has been
popularly agreeable wherever the story of Cincinnatus has been told.
Early in this century the closeness of offices to ordinary life, and the
absence of an organized bureaucracy controlling or patronizing the
masses of men, seemed proper elements of the great democratic reform.
There had not yet arisen the very modern and utilitarian and the vastly
better conception of a service, the responsible directors of whose
policy should be changed with popular sentiment, but whose subordinates
should be treated by the public as any other employer would treat them,
upon simple and unsentimental rules of business. Another practical
consideration makes more intelligible the failure of our ancestors to
perceive the dangers of the great change they permitted. Offices were
not nearly as technical, their duties not nearly as uniform, as they
have grown to be in the more complex procedures of our enormously richer
and more populous time. Every officer did a multitude of things.
Intelligent and active men in unofficial life shifted with amazing
readiness and success from one calling to another. A general became a
judge, or a judge became a general,--as, indeed, we have seen in later
days. A merchant could learn to survey; a farmer could keep or could
learn to keep fair records.

In the art of making of the lesser offices ammunition with which to
fight great battles over great questions, Van Buren became a master. His
imperturbable temper and patience, his keen reading of the motives and
uses of men, gave him so firm a hold upon politicians that it has been
common to forget the undoubted hold he long had upon the people. In
April, 1816, he was reëlected senator for a second term of four years.
His eight years of service in the senate expired in 1820.

In November, 1812, the first session of the new legislature was held to
choose presidential electors. Not until sixteen years later were
electors chosen directly by the people. Van Buren voted for the
candidates favorable to De Witt Clinton for president as against
Madison. In the successful struggle of the Clintonians for these
electors, he is said in this, his first session, to have shown the
address and activity which at once made him a Republican leader. For his
vote against Madison Van Buren's friends afterwards made many apologies;
his adversaries declared it unpardonable treachery to one of the revered
Democratic fathers. But the young politician was not open to much
condemnation. De Witt Clinton, though he had but just reached the
beginning of middle life, was a very able and even an illustrious man.
He had been unanimously nominated in an orderly way by a caucus of the
Republican members of the legislature of 1811 and 1812 of which Van
Buren was not a member. He had accepted the nomination and had declined
to withdraw from it. There was a strong Republican opposition to the
declaration of war at that time, because preparation for it had not
been adequately made. Most of the Republican members of Congress from
New York had voted against the declaration. The virtues and abilities of
Madison were not those likely to make a successful war, as the event
amply proved. There was natural and deserved discontent with the
treatment by Jefferson's administration, in which Madison had charge of
foreign relations, and by Madison's own administration, of the
difficulties caused by the British Orders in Council, the Berlin and
Milan decrees of Napoleon, and the unprincipled depredations of both the
great belligerents. Van Buren is said by Butler, then an inmate of his
family, to have been an open and decided advocate of the embargo, and of
all the strong measures proposed against Great Britain and of the war
itself. Nor was this very inconsistent with his vote for Clinton. He had
a stronger sense of allegiance to his party in the State than to his
party at Washington; and the Republican party of New York had regularly
declared for Clinton. For once at least Van Buren found himself voting
with the great body of the Federalists, men who had not, like John
Quincy Adams, become reconciled to the strong and obvious, though
sometimes ineffective, patriotism of Jefferson's and Madison's
administrations. But whatever had been the motives which induced Van
Buren to support Clinton, they soon ceased to operate. Within a few
months after this the political relations between the two men were
dissolved; and they were politically hostile, until Clinton's death
fourteen years afterwards called from Van Buren a pathetic tribute.

Although the youngest man but one, it was said, until that time elected
to the state senate, Van Buren was in January, 1814, chosen to prepare
the answer then customarily made to the speech of the governor. In it he
defended the war, which had been bitterly assailed in the address to the
governor made by the Federalist Assembly. Political divisions even when
carried to excess were, he said, inseparable from the blessings of
freedom; but such divisions were unfit in their resistance of a foreign
enemy. The great body of the New York Republicans, with Governor
Tompkins at their head, now gave Madison vigorous support; although
their defection in 1812 had probably made possible the Federalist
success at the election for the Assembly in 1813, which embarrassed the
national administration. Van Buren warmly supported Tompkins for his
reëlection in April, 1813, and prepared for the legislative caucus a
highly declamatory, but clear and forcible, address to Republican
electors in his behalf. The provocations to war were strongly set out.
It was declared that "war and war alone was our only refuge from
national degradation;" the "two great and crying grievances" were "the
destruction of our commerce, and the impressment of our seamen;" for
Americans did not anticipate the surrender at Ghent two years later to
the second wrong. While American sailors' "deeds of heroic valor make
old Ocean smile at the humiliations of her ancient tyrant," the address
urged Americans to mark the man, meaning the trading Federalist, who
believed "in commuting our sailors' rights for the safety of our
merchants' goods." In the sophomoric and solemn rhetoric of which
Americans, and Englishmen too, were then fond, it pointed out that the
favor of citizens was not sought "by the seductive wiles and artful
blandishments of the corrupt minions of aristocracy," who of course were
Federalists, but that citizens were now addressed "in the language which
alone becomes freemen to use,--the language to which alone it becomes
freemen to listen."

In the legislative sessions of 1813 and 1814 Van Buren gave a practical
and skillful support to administration measures. But many of them were
balked by the Federalists, until in the election of April, 1814, the
rising patriotism of the country, undaunted by the unskillful and
unfortunate conduct of the war, pronounced definitely in favor of a
strong war policy. The Republicans recovered control of the Assembly;
and there were already a Republican governor and Senate. An extra
session was summoned in September, 1814, through which exceedingly
vigorous measures were carried against Federalist opposition. Van Buren
now definitely led. Appropriations were made from the state treasury for
the pay of militia in the national service. The State undertook to
enlist twelve thousand men for two years, a corps of sea fencibles
consisting of twenty companies, and two regiments of colored men; slaves
enlisting with the consent of their masters to be freed. Van Buren's
"classification act" Benton afterwards declared to be the "most
energetic war measure ever adopted in this country." By it the whole
military population was divided into 12,000 classes, each class to
furnish one able-bodied man, making the force of 12,000 to be raised. If
no one volunteered from a class, then any member of the class was
authorized to procure a soldier by a bounty, the amount of which should
be paid by the members of the class according to their ability, to be
determined by assessors. If no soldier from the class were thus
procured, then a soldier was to be peremptorily drafted from each class.
Van Buren was proud enough of this act to file the draft of it in his
own handwriting with the clerk of the Senate, indorsed by himself: "The
original Classification Bill, to be preserved as a memento of the
patriotism, intelligence, and firmness of the legislature of 1814-15. M.
V. B. Albany, Feb. 15, 1815."

Cheered, after many disasters, by the victory at Plattsburg and the
creditable battle of Lundy's Lane, the Senate, in Van Buren's words,
congratulated Governor Tompkins upon "the brilliant achievements of our
army and navy during the present campaign, which have pierced the gloom
that for a time obscured our political horizon." The end of the war left
in high favor the Republicans who had supported it. The people were
good-humoredly willing to forget its many inefficiencies, to recall
complacently its few glories, and to find little fault with a treaty
which, if it established no disputed right, at least brought peace
without surrender and without dishonor. Jackson's fine victory at New
Orleans after the treaty was signed, though it came too late to
strengthen John Quincy Adams's dauntless front in the peace conference,
was quickly seized by the people as the summing up of American and
British prowess. The Republicans now had a hero in the West, as well as
a philosopher at Monticello. Van Buren drafted the resolution giving the
thanks of New York "to Major-General Jackson, his gallant officers and
troops, for their wonderful and heroic victory."

In the method then well established the Republicans celebrated their
political success in 1814. Among the removals, Abraham Van Vechten lost
the post of attorney-general, which on February 17, 1815, was conferred
upon Van Buren for his brilliant and successful leadership in the
Senate. He remained, however, a senator of the State. At thirty-two,
therefore, he was, next to the governor, the leader of the Tompkins
Republicans, now so completely dominant; he held two political offices
of dignity and importance; and he was conducting besides an active law

De Witt Clinton, after his defeat for the presidency, suffered other
disasters. It was in January, 1813, that he and Van Buren broke their
political relations; and the Republicans very largely fell off from him.
The reasons for this do not clearly appear; but were probably Clinton's
continuance of hostility to the national administration, which seemed
unpatriotic to the Republicans, and some of the mysterious matters of
patronage in which Clinton had been long and highly proscriptive. In
1815 the latter was removed from the mayoralty of New York by the
influence of Governor Tompkins in the council. He had been both mayor
and senator for several years prior to 1812. He was mayor and
lieutenant-governor when he was a candidate for the presidency.

In 1816 the Republicans in the Assembly, then closely divided between
them and the Federalists (who seemed to be favored by the
apportionment), sought one of those immoral advantages whose wrong in
times of high party feeling seems invisible to men otherwise honorable.
In the town of Pennington a Federalist, Henry Fellows, had been fairly
elected to the Assembly by a majority of 30; but 49 of his ballots were
returned as reading "Hen. Fellows;" and his Republican competitor, Peter
Allen, got the certificate of appointment. The Republicans, acting, it
seems, in open conference with Van Buren, insisted not only upon
organizing the house, which was perhaps right, but upon what was wrong
and far more important. They elected the council of appointment before
Fellows was seated, as he afterwards was by an almost unanimous vote.
The "Peter Allen legislature" is said to have become a term of reproach.
But, as with electoral abuses in later days, the Federalists were not as
much aided as they ought to have been by this sharp practice of their
rivals; the people perhaps thought that, as they were in the minority
everywhere but in the Assembly, they ought not to have been permitted,
by a capture of the council, to remove the Republicans in office.

At any rate the election in April, 1816, while the "Peter Allen
legislature" was still in office, went heavily in favor of the
Republicans, Van Buren receiving his second election to the Senate. On
March 4, 1816, he was chosen by the legislature a regent of the
University of the State of New York, an office which he held until 1829.
The University was then, as now, almost a myth, being supposed to be the
associated colleges and academies of the State. But the regents have had
a varying charge of educational matters.

In 1817 the agitation, so superbly and with such foresight conducted by
De Witt Clinton, resulted in the passage of the law under which the
construction of the Erie Canal began. Van Buren's enmity to Clinton did
not cause him to oppose the measure, of which Hammond says he was an
"early friend." With a few others he left his party ranks to vote with
Clinton's friends; and this necessary accession from the "Bucktails" is
said by the same fair historian to have been produced by Van Buren's
"efficient and able efforts." In his speech favoring it he declared
that his vote for the law would be "the most important vote he ever gave
in his life;" that "the project, if executed, would raise the State to
the highest possible pitch of fame and grandeur," an expression not
discredited by the splendid and fruitful result of the enterprise.
Clinton, after hearing the speech, forgot for a moment their political
collisions, and personally thanked Van Buren.

In April, 1817, Clinton was elected governor by a practically unanimous
vote. His resolute courage and the prestige of the canal policy
compelled this tribute from the Republicans, in spite of his
sacrilegious presidential aspiration in 1812, and his dismissal from the
mayoralty of New York in 1815. Governor Tompkins, now vice-president,
was Clinton's only peer in New York politics. The popular tide was too
strong for the efforts of Tompkins, Van Buren, and their associates. In
the eagerness to defeat Clinton, it was even suggested that Tompkins
should serve both as governor and vice-president; should be at once
ruler at Albany and vice-ruler at Washington. Van Buren did not,
however, go with the hot-heads of the legislature in opposing a bill for
an election to fill the vacancy left by the resignation, which it was at
last thought necessary for Tompkins to make, of the governorship. No one
dared run against Clinton; and he triumphantly returned to political
power. Under this administration of his, the party feud took definite
form. Clinton's Republican adversaries were dubbed "Bucktails" from the
ornaments worn on ceremonial occasions by the Tammany men who had long
been Clinton's enemies. The Bucktails and their successors were the
"regular" Republicans, or the Democrats as they were later called; and
they kept their regularity until, long afterwards, the younger and
greater Bucktail leader, when venerable and laden with honors, became
the titular head of the Barnburner defection. The merits of the feud
between Bucktails and Clintonians it is now difficult to find. Each
accused the other of coquetting with the Federalists; and the accusation
was nearly always true of one or the other of them. Politics was a
highly developed and extremely interesting game, whose players, though
really able and patriotic men, were apparently careless of the
undignified parts they were playing. Nor are Clintonians and Bucktails
alone in political history. Cabinets of the greatest nations have, in
more modern times, broken on grounds as sheerly personal as those which
divided Clinton and Van Buren in 1818. British and French ministries, as
recent memoirs and even recent events have shown, have fallen to pieces
in feuds of as little essential dignity as belonged to those of New York
seventy years ago.

In 1819 the Bucktails suffered the fate of war; and Van Buren, their
efficient head, was removed from the attorney-general's office. Thurlow
Weed, then a country editor, grotesquely wrote at the time that
"rotation in office is the most striking and brilliant feature of
excellence in our benign form of government; and that by this doctrine,
bottomed, as it is, upon the Magna Charta of our liberties, Van Buren's
removal was not only sanctioned, but was absolutely required." The
latter still remained state senator, and soon waged a short and decisive
campaign to recover political mastery. He now came to the aid of
Governor Tompkins, who during the war with England had borrowed money
for public use upon his personal responsibility, and in the disbursement
of several millions of dollars for war purposes had, through
carelessness in bookkeeping or clerical detail, apparently become a
debtor of the State. The comptroller, in spite of a law passed in 1819
to indemnify Tompkins for his patriotic services, took a hostile
attitude which threatened the latter with pecuniary destruction. In
March, 1820, Van Buren threw himself into the contest with a skill and
generous fervor which saved the ex-governor. Van Buren's speech of two
days for the old chief of the Bucktails, is described by Hammond, a
political historian of New York not unduly friendly to Van Buren, to
have been "ingenious, able, and eloquent."

It was also in 1820 that Van Buren promoted the reëlection of Rufus
King, the distinguished Federalist, to the United States Senate. His
motives in doing this were long bitterly assailed; but as the choice was
intrinsically admirable, Van Buren was probably glad to gratify a
patriotic impulse which was not very inconsistent with party advantage.
In 1819 the Republican caucus, the last at which the Bucktails and
Clintonians both attended, was broken up amid mutual recriminations.
John C. Spencer, the son of Ambrose Spencer, and afterwards a
distinguished Whig, was the Clintonian candidate, and had the greater
number of Republican votes. In the legislature there was no choice,
Rufus King having fewer votes than either of the Republicans. When the
legislature of 1820 met, there appeared a pamphlet skillfully written in
a tone of exalted patriotism. This decided the election for King. Van
Buren was its author, and was said to have been aided by William L.
Marcy. Both had suffered at the hands of Clinton. However much they may
have been so influenced in secret, they gave in public perfectly sound
and weighty reasons for returning this old and distinguished statesman
to the place he had honored for many years. In 1813 King had received
the votes of a few Republicans, without whom he would have been defeated
by a Republican competitor. The Clintonians and their adversaries had
since disputed which of them had then been guilty of party disloyalty.
But it can hardly be doubted that King's high character and great
ability, with the revolutionary glamour about him, made his choice seem
patriotic and popular, and therefore politically prudent.

Van Buren's pamphlet of 1820 was addressed to the Republican members of
the legislature by a "fellow-member" who told them that he knew and was
personally known to most of them, and that he had, "from his infancy,
taken a deep interest in the honor and prosperity of the party." This
anonymous "fellow-member" pronounced the support of King by Republicans
to "be an act honorable to themselves, advantageous to the country, and
just to him." He declared that the only reluctance Republicans had to a
public avowal of their sentiments arose from a "commendable apprehension
that their determination to support him under existing circumstances
might subject them to the suspicion of having become a party to a
political bargain, to one of those sinister commutations of principle
for power, which they think common with their adversaries, and against
which they have remonstrated with becoming spirit." He showed that there
were degrees even among Federalists; that some in the war had been
influenced by "most envenomed malignity against the administration of
their own government;" that a second and "very numerous and respectable
portion" had been those "who, inured to opposition and heated by
collision, were poorly qualified to judge dispassionately of the
measures of government," who thought the war impolitic at the time, but
who were ignorantly but honestly mistaken; but that a third class of
them had risen "superior to the prejudices and passions of those with
whom they once acted." In the last class had been Rufus King; at home
and in the Senate he had supported the administration; he had helped
procure loans to the State for war purposes. The address skillfully
recalled his Revolutionary services, his membership in the convention
which framed the Federal Constitution, his appointment by Washington as
minister to the English court, and his continuance there under
Jefferson. He was declared to be opposed to Clinton. The address
concluded by reciting that there had been in New York "exceptionable and
unprincipled political bargains and coalitions," which with darker
offenses ought to be proved, to vindicate the great body of citizens
"from the charge of participating in the profligacy of the few, and to
give rest to that perturbed spirit which now haunts the scenes of former
moral and political debaucheries;" but added that the nature of a vote
for King precluded such suspicions.

The last statement was just. King's return was free from other suspicion
than that he probably preferred the Van Buren to the Clinton
Republicans. Van Buren, seeing that the Federalist party was at an end,
was glad both to do a public service and to ally with his party, in the
divisions of the future, some part of the element so finely represented
by Rufus King. In private Van Buren urged the support of King even more
emphatically. "We are committed," he wrote, "to his support. It is both
wise and honest, and we must have no fluttering in our course. Mr.
King's views towards us are honorable and correct.... Let us not, then,
have any halting. I will put my head on its propriety." Van Buren's
partisanship always had a mellow character. He practiced the golden rule
of successful politics, to foresee future benefits rather than remember
past injuries. Indeed, it is just to say more. In sending King to the
Senate he doubtless experienced the lofty pleasure which a politician of
public spirit feels in his occasional ability to use his power to reach
a beneficent end, which without the power he could not have reached,--a
stroke which to a petty politician would seem dangerous, but which the
greater man accomplishes without injury to his party standing. A year or
two after King's election, when Van Buren joined him at Washington,
there were established the most agreeable relations between them. The
refinement and natural decorum of the younger man easily fell in with
the polished and courtly manner of the old Federalist. Benton, who had
then just entered the Senate, said it was delightful to behold the
deferential regard which Van Buren paid to his venerable colleague, a
regard always returned by King with marked kindness and respect.

In this year the era of good feeling was at its height. Monroe was
reëlected president by an almost unanimous vote, with Tompkins again as
vice-president. The good feeling, however, was among the people, and not
among the politicians. The Republican party was about to divide by
reason of the very completeness of its supremacy. The Federalist party
was extinguished and its members scattered. The greater number of them
in New York went with the Clintonian Republicans, with whom they
afterwards formed the chief body of the Whig party. A smaller number of
them, among whom were James A. Hamilton and John C. Hamilton, the sons
of the great founder of the Federalist party, William A. Duer, John A.
King (the son of the reëlected senator), and many others of wealth and
high social position, ranged themselves for a time in the Bucktail ranks
under Van Buren's leadership. In the slang of the day, they were the
"high-minded Federalists," because they had declared that Clinton's
supporters practiced a personal subserviency "disgusting to high-minded
and honorable men." With this addition, the Bucktails became the
Democratic party in New York. In April, 1820, the gubernatorial election
was between the Clintonians supporting Clinton, and the Bucktails
supporting Tompkins, the Vice-President. Clinton's recent and really
magnificent public service made him successful at the polls, but his
party was beaten at other points.

Rufus King's reëlection to the Senate was believed to have some relation
to the Missouri question, then agitating the nation. In one of his
letters urging his Republican associates to support King, Van Buren
declared that the Missouri question concealed no plot so far as King was
concerned, but that he, Van Buren, and his friends, would "give it a
true direction." King's strong opposition to the admission of Missouri
as a slave State was, however, perfectly open. If he returned to the
Senate, it was certain he would steadily vote against any extension of
slavery. Van Buren knew all this, and doubtless meant that King was
bargaining away none of his convictions for the senatorship. But what
the "true direction" was which was to be given the Missouri question, is
not clear. About the time of King's reëlection Van Buren joined in
calling a public meeting at Albany to protest against extending slavery
beyond the Mississippi. He was absent at the time of the meeting, and
refused the use of his name upon the committee to send the anti-slavery
resolutions to Washington. Nor is it clear whether his absence and
refusal were significant. He certainly did not condemn the resolutions;
and in January, 1820, he voted in the state Senate for an instruction to
the senators and representatives in Congress "to oppose the admission,
as a State in the Union, of any territory not comprised within the
original boundary of the United States, without making the prohibition
of slavery therein an indispensable condition of admission." This
resolution undoubtedly expressed the clear convictions of the
Republicans in New York, whether on Van Buren's or Clinton's side, as
well as of the remaining Federalists.

Van Buren's direct interest in national politics had already begun. In
1816 he was present in Washington (then a pretty serious journey from
Albany) when the Republican congressional caucus was held to nominate a
president. Governor Tompkins, after a brief canvass, retired; and
Crawford, then secretary of war, became the candidate against Monroe,
and was supported by most of the Republicans from New York. Van Buren's
preference was not certainly known, though it is supposed he preferred
Monroe. In 1820 he was chosen a presidential elector in place of an
absentee from the electoral college, and participated in the all but
unanimous vote for Monroe. He voted with the other New York electors for
Tompkins for the vice-presidency. In April, 1820, he wrote to Henry
Meigs, a Bucktail congressman then at Washington, that the rascality of
some of the deputy postmasters in the State was intolerable, and cried
aloud for relief; that it was impossible to penetrate the interior of
the State with friendly papers; and that two or three prompt removals
were necessary. The postmaster-general was to be asked "to do an act of
justice and render us a partial service" by the removal of the
postmasters at Bath, Little Falls, and Oxford, and to appoint successors
whom Van Buren named. In January, 1821, Governor Clinton sent this
letter to the legislature, with a message and other papers so numerous
as to be carried in a green bag, which gave the name to the message, in
support of a charge that the national administration had interfered in
the state election. But the "green-bag message" did Van Buren little
harm, for Clinton's own proscriptive rigor had been great, and it was
only two years before that Van Buren himself had been removed from the
attorney-generalship. In 1821 the political division of the New York
Republicans was carried to national politics. When a speaker was to be
chosen in place of Clay, Taylor of New York, the Republican candidate,
was opposed by the Bucktail congressmen, because he had supported

In February, 1821, Van Buren gained the then dignified promotion to the
federal Senate. He was elected by the Bucktails against Nathan Sanford,
the sitting senator, who was supported by the Clintonians and
Federalists. Van Buren was now thirty-eight years old, and in the early
prime of his powers. He had run the gauntlet of two popular elections;
he had been easily first among the Republicans of the state Senate; he
had there shown extraordinary political skill and an intelligent and
public spirit; he had ably administered the chief law office of the
State which was not judicial. Though not yet keenly interested in any
federal question,--for his activity and thought had been sufficiently
engaged in affairs of his own State,--he turned to the new field with an
easy confidence, amply justified by his mastery of the problems with
which he had so far grappled. He reached Washington the undoubted leader
of his party in the State. The prestige of Governor Tompkins, although
just reëlected vice-president, had suffered from his recent defeat for
the governorship, and from his pecuniary and other difficulties; and
besides, he obviously had not Van Buren's unrivaled equipment for
political leadership.

Before Van Buren attended his first session in the federal capital he
performed for the public most honorable service in the state
constitutional convention which sat in the autumn of 1821. This body
illustrated the earnest and wholesome temper in which the most powerful
public men of the State, after many exhibitions of partisan, personal,
and even petty animosities, could treat so serious and abiding a matter
as its fundamental law. The Democrats sent Vice-President Tompkins, both
the United States senators, King and Van Buren, the late senator,
Sanford, and Samuel Nelson, then beginning a long and honorable career.
The Clintonians and Federalists sent Chancellor Kent and Ambrose
Spencer, the chief justice. Van Buren was chosen from Otsego, and not
from his own county, probably because the latter was politically
unfavorable to him.

This convention was one of the steps in the democratic march. It was
called to broaden the suffrage, to break up the central source of
patronage at Albany, and to enlarge local self-administration. The
government of New York had so far been a freeholders' government, with
those great virtues, and those greater and more enduring vices, which
were characteristic of a government controlled exclusively by the owners
of land. The painful apprehension aroused by the democratic resolution
to reduce, if not altogether to destroy, the exclusive privileges of
land-owners, was expressed in the convention by Chancellor Kent. He
would not "bow before the idol of universal suffrage;" this extreme
democratic principle, he said, had "been regarded with terror by the
wise men of every age;" wherever tried, it had brought "corruption,
injustice, violence, and tyranny;" if adopted, posterity would "deplore
in sackcloth and ashes the delusion of the day." He wished no laws to
pass without the free consent of the owners of the soil. He did not
foresee English parliaments elected in 1885 and 1886 by a suffrage not
very far from universal, or a royal jubilee celebrated by democratic
masses, or the prudent conservatism in matters of property of the
enfranchised French democracy,--he foresaw none of these when he
declared that England and France could not sustain the weight of
universal suffrage; that "the radicals of England, with the force of
that mighty engine, would at once sweep away the property, the laws, and
the liberty of that island like a deluge." Van Buren distinguished
himself in the debate. Upon this exciting and paramount topic he did not
share the temper which possessed most of his party. His speech was
clear, explicit, philosophical, and really statesmanlike. It so
impressed even his adversaries; and Hammond, one of them, declared that
he ought for it to be ranked "among the most shining orators and able
statesmen of the age."

In reading this, or indeed any of the utterances of Van Buren where the
occasion required distinctness, it is difficult to find the ground of
the charge of "noncommittalism" so incessantly made against him. He
doubtless refrained from taking sides on questions not yet ripe for
decision, however clear, and whatever may have been his speculative
opinions. But this is the duty of every statesman; it has been the
practice of every politician who has promoted reform. Van Buren now
pointed out how completely the events of the forty years past had
discredited the grave speculative fears of Franklin, Hamilton, and
Madison as to the result of some provisions of the Federal Constitution.
With Burke he believed experience to be the only unerring touchstone. He
conclusively showed that property had been as safe in those American
communities which had universal suffrage as in the few which retained a
property qualification; that venality in voting, apprehended from the
change, already existed in the grossest forms at the parliamentary
elections of England. Going to the truth which is at the dynamic source
of democratic institutions, he told the chancellor that when among the
masses of America the principles of order and good government should
yield to principles of anarchy and violence and permit attacks on
private property or an agrarian law, all constitutional provisions would
be idle and unavailing, because they would have lost all their force and
influence. With a true instinct, however, Van Buren wished the steps to
be taken gradually. He was not yet ready, he said, to admit to the
suffrage the shifting population of cities, held to the government by
no other ties than the mere right to vote. He was not ready for a
really universal suffrage. The voter ought, if he did not participate in
the government by paying taxes or performing militia duty, to be a man
who was a householder with some of the elements of stability, with
something at stake in the community. Although they had reached "the
verge of universal suffrage," he could not with his Democratic friends
take the "one step beyond;" he would not cheapen the invaluable right by
conferring it with indiscriminating hand "on every one, black or white,
who would be kind enough to condescend to accept it." Though a Democrat
he was opposed, he said, to a "precipitate and unexpected prostration of
all qualifications;" he looked with dread upon increasing the voters in
New York city from thirteen or fourteen thousand to twenty-five
thousand, believing (curious prediction for a father of the Democratic
party!) that the increase "would render their elections rather a curse
than a blessing," and "would drive from the polls all sober-minded

The universal suffrage then postponed was wisely adopted a few years
later. Democracy marched steadily on; and Van Buren was willing,
probably very willing, to be guided by experience. He opposed in the
convention a proposal supported by most of his party to restrict
suffrage to white citizens, but favored a property qualification for
black men, the $250 freehold ownership until then required of white
voters. He would not, he said, draw from them a revenue and yet deny
them the right of suffrage. Twenty-five years later, in 1846, nearly
three-fourths of the voters of the State refused equal suffrage to the
blacks; and even in 1869, six years after the emancipation proclamation,
a majority still refused to give them the same rights as white men.

The question of appointments to office was the chief topic in the
convention. Van Buren, as chairman of the committee on this subject,
made an interesting and able report. It was unanimously agreed that the
use of patronage by the council of appointment had been a scandal. Only
a few members voted to retain the council, even if it were to be elected
by the people. He recommended that military officers, except the
highest, be elected by the privates and officers of militia. Of the 6663
civil officers whose appointment and removal by the council had for
twenty years kept the State in turmoil, he recommended that 3643, being
notaries, commissioners, masters and examiners in chancery, and other
lesser officers, should be appointed under general laws to be enacted by
the legislature; the clerks of courts and district attorneys should be
appointed by the common pleas courts; mayors and clerks of cities should
be appointed by their common councils, except in New York, where for
years afterwards the mayors were appointed; the heads of the state
departments should be appointed by the legislature; and all other
officers, including surrogates and justices of the peace as well as the
greater judicial officers, should be appointed by the governor upon the
confirmation of the Senate. Van Buren declared himself opposed, here
again separating himself from many of his party associates, to the
popular election of any judicial officers, even the justices of the
peace. Of all this he was long after to be reminded as proof of his
aristocratic contempt for democracy. His recommendations were adopted in
the main; although county clerks and sheriffs, whom he would have kept
appointive, were made elective. Upon this question he was in a small
minority with Chancellor Kent and Rufus King, having most of his party
friends against him. Thus was broken up the enormous political power so
long wielded at Albany, and the patronage distributed through the
counties. The change, it was supposed, would end a great abuse. It did
end the concentration of patronage at the capital; but the partisan
abuses of patronage were simply transferred to the various county seats,
to exercise a different and wider, though probably a less dangerous,

The council of revision fell with hardly a friend to speak for it. It
was one of those checks upon popular power of which Federalists had been
fond. It consisted of the governor with the chancellor and the judges of
the Supreme Court, and had a veto power upon bills passed by the
legislature. As the chancellor and judges held office during good
behavior until they had reached the limit of age, the council was almost
a chamber of life peers. The exercise of its power had provoked great
animosity. The chief judicial officers of the State, judges, and
chancellors, to whom men of our day look back with a real veneration,
had been drawn by it into a kind of political warfare, in which few of
our higher magistrates, though popularly elected and for terms, would
dare to engage. An act had been passed by the legislature in 1814 to
promote privateering; but Chancellor Kent as a member of the council
objected to it. Van Buren maintained with him an open and heated
discussion upon the propriety of the objections,--a discussion in which
the judicial character justly enough afforded no protection. Van Buren's
feeling against the judges who were his political adversaries was often
exhibited. He said in the convention: "I object to the council, as being
composed of the judiciary, who are not directly responsible to the
people. I object to it because it inevitably connects the
judiciary--those who, with pure hearts and sound heads, should preside
in the sanctuaries of justice--with the intrigues and collisions of
party strife; because it tends to make our judges politicians, and
because such has been its practical effect." He further said that he
would not join in the rather courtly observation that the council was
abolished because of a personal regard for the peace of its members. He
would have it expressly remembered that the council had served the ends
of faction; though he added that he should regard the loss of Chancellor
Kent from his judicial station as a public calamity. In his general
position Van Buren was clearly right. Again and again have theorists,
supposing judges to be sanctified and illumined by their offices, placed
in their hands political power, which had been abused, or it was feared
would be abused, by men fancied to occupy less exalted stations. Again
and again has the result shown that judges are only men, with human
passions, prejudices, and ignorance; men who, if vested with functions
not judicial, if freed from the checks of precedents and law and public
hearings and appellate review, fall into the same abuses and act on the
same motives, political and personal, which belong to other men. In the
council of revision before 1821 and the electoral commission of 1877
were signally proved the wisdom of restricting judges to the work of
deciding rights between parties judicially brought before them.

Van Buren's far from "non-committal" talk about the judges was not
followed by any support of the proposal to "constitutionize" them out of
office. The animosity of a majority of the members against the judges
then in office was intense; and they were not willing to accept the life
of the council of revision as a sufficient sacrifice. Nor was the
animosity entirely unreasonable. Butler, in one of his early letters to
Jesse Hoyt, described the austerity with which Ambrose Spencer, the
chief justice, when the young lawyer sought to address him, told him to
wait until his seniors had been heard. In the convention there were
doubtless many who had been offended with a certain insolence of place
which to this day characterizes the bearing of many judges of real
ability; and the opportunity of making repayment was eagerly seized. Nor
was it unreasonable that laymen should, from the proceedings of judges
when acting upon political matters which laymen understood as well as
they, make inferences about the fairness of their proceedings on the
bench upon which laymen could not always safely speak. By a vote of 66
to 39, the convention refused to retain the judges then in office,--a
proceeding which, with all the faults justly or even naturally found
with them, was a gross violation of the fundamental rule which ought to
guide civilized lands in changing their laws. For the retention of the
judges was perfectly consistent with the judicial scheme adopted. Van
Buren put all this most admirably before voting with the minority. He
told the convention, and doubtless truly, that from the bench of judges,
whose official fate was then at their mercy, he had been assailed "with
hostility, political, professional, and personal,--hostility which had
been the most keen, active, and unyielding;" but that he would not
indulge individual resentment in the prostration of his private and
political adversary. The judicial officer, who could not be reached by
impeachment or the proceeding for removal by a two-thirds vote, ought
not to be disturbed. They should amend the constitution, he told the
convention, upon general principles, and not descend to pull down
obnoxious officers. He begged it not to ruin its character and credit by
proceeding to such extremities. But the removal of the judges did not
prove unpopular. Only eight members of the convention voted against the
Constitution; only fifteen others did not sign it. And the freeholders
of the State, while deliberately surrendering some of their exclusive
privileges, adopted it by a vote of 75,422 to 41,497.

Van Buren's service in this convention was that of a firm, sensible,
far-seeing man, resolute to make democratic progress, but unwilling,
without further light from experience, to take extreme steps difficult
to retrace. With a strong inclination towards great enlargement of the
suffrage, he pointed out that a mistake in going too far could never be
righted "except by the sword." The wisdom of enduring temporary
difficulties, rather than to make theoretical changes greater than were
necessary to obviate serious and great wrongs, was common to him with
the highest and most influential type of modern law-makers. With some
men of the first rank, the convention had in it very many others crudely
equipped for its work; and it met in an atmosphere of personal and
political asperity unfavorable to deliberations over organic law. Van
Buren was politically its most powerful member. It is clear that his
always conservative temper, aided by his tact and by his temperate and
persuasive eloquence, held back his Democratic associates, headed by the
impetuous and angered General Root, from changes far more radical than
those which were made. Though eminent as a party man, he showed on this
conspicuous field undoubted courage and independence and high sense of
duty. Entering national politics he was fortunate therefore to be known,
not only as a skillful and adroit and even managing politician, as a
vigorous and clear debater, as a successful leader in popular movements,
but also as a man of firm and upright patriotism, with a ripe and
educated sense of the complexity of popular government, and a sober
appreciation of the kind of dangers so subtly mingled with the blessings
of democracy.



In December, 1821, Van Buren took his seat in the United States Senate.
The "era of good feeling" was then at its height. It was with perfect
sincerity that Monroe in his message of the preceding year had said: "I
see much cause to rejoice in the felicity of our situation." He had just
been reëlected president with but a single vote against him. The country
was in profound peace. The burdens of the war with England were no
longer felt; and its few victories were remembered with exuberant
good-nature. Two years before, Florida had been acquired by the strong
and persisting hand of the younger Adams. Wealth and comfort were in
rapid increase. The moans and rage of the defeated and disgraced
Federalists were suppressed, or, if now and then feebly heard, were
complacently treated as outbursts of senility and impotence. People were
not only well-to-do in fact, but, what was far more extraordinary, they
believed themselves to be so. In his great tariff speech but three or
four years later, Hayne called it the "period of general jubilee." Every
great public paper and speech, described the "felicity" of America. The
president pointed out to his fellow-citizens "the prosperous and happy
condition of our country in all the great circumstances which constitute
the felicity of a nation;" he told them that they were "a free,
virtuous, and enlightened people;" the unanimity of public sentiment in
favor of his "humble pretensions" indicated, he thought, "the great
strength and stability of our Union." And all was reciprocated by the
people. This modest, gentle ruler was in his very mediocrity agreeable
to them. He symbolized the comfort and order, the supreme respectability
of which they were proud. When in 1817 he made a tour through New
England, which had seen neither Jefferson nor Madison as visitors during
their terms of office, and in his military coat of domestic manufacture,
his light small-clothes and cocked hat, met processions and orators
without end, it was obvious that this was not the radical minister whom
Washington had recalled from Jacobin Paris for effusively pledging
eternal friendship and submitting to fraternal embraces in the National
Convention. Such youthful frenzy was now long past. America was enjoying
a great national idyl. Even the Federalists, except of course those who
had been too violent or who were still unrepentant, were not utterly
shut out from the light of the placid high noon. Jackson had urged
Monroe in 1816 "to exterminate that monster called party spirit," and to
let some Federalists come to the board. Monroe thought, however, "that
the administration should rest strongly on the Republican party," though
meaning to bring all citizens "into the Republican fold as quietly as
possible." Party, he declared, was unnecessary to free government; all
should be Republicans. And when Van Buren reached the sprawling,
slatternly American capital in 1821, all were Republicans.

There were of course personal feuds in this great political family.
Those of New York were the most notorious; but there were many others.
But such rivalries and quarrels were only a proof of the political calm.
When families are smugly prosperous they indulge petty dislikes, which
disappear before storm or tragedy. The halcyon days could not last.
Monroe's dream of a country with but one party, and that basking in
perpetual "felicity," was, in spite of what seemed for the moment a
close realization, as far from the truth as the dreams of later
reformers who would in politics organize all the honest, respectable
folk together against all the dishonest.

The heat of the Missouri question was ended at the session before Van
Buren's senatorial term began. It seemed only a thunder-storm passing
across a rich, warm day in harvest time, angry and agitating for the
moment, but quickly forgotten by dwellers in the pastoral scene when the
rainbow of compromise appeared in the delightful hues of Henry Clay's
eloquence. The elements of the tremendous struggle yet to come were in
the atmosphere, but they were not visible. The slavery question had no
political importance to Van Buren until fourteen years afterwards. In
judging the men of that day we shall seriously mistake if we set up our
own standards among their ideas. The moral growth in the twenty-five
years since the emancipation makes it irksome to be fair to the views of
the past generation, or indeed to the former views of half of our
present generation. Slavery has come to seem intrinsically wicked,
hideous, to be hated everywhere. But sixty-five years ago it still
lingered in several of the Northern States. It was wrong indeed; but the
temper of condemnation towards it was Platonic, full of the unavailing
and unpoignant regret with which men hear of poverty and starvation and
disease and crime which they do not see and which they cannot help. Nor
did slavery then seem to the best of men so very great a wrong even to
the blacks; there were, it was thought, many ameliorations and
compensations. Men were glad to believe and did believe that the human
chattels were better and happier than they would have been in Africa.
The economic waste of slavery, its corrupting and enervating effect upon
the whites, were thought to be objections quite as serious. Besides, it
was widely fancied to be at worst but a temporary evil. Jefferson's
dislike of it was shared by many throughout the South as well as the
North. The advantages of a free soil were becoming so apparent in the
strides by which the North was passing the South in every material
advantage, that the latter, it seemed, must surely learn the lesson.
For the institution within States already admitted to the Union,
anti-slavery men felt no responsibility. Forty years later the great
leader of the modern Republican party would not, he solemnly declared in
the very midst of a pro-slavery rebellion, interfere with slavery in the
States if the Union could be saved without disturbing it. If men in
South Carolina cared to maintain a ruinous and corrupting domestic
institution, even if it were a greater wrong against the slaves than it
was believed to be, or even if it were an injury to the whites
themselves, still men of Massachusetts and New York ought, it seemed to
them, to be no more disturbed over it than we feel bound to be over
polygamy in Turkey.

But as to the territory west of the Mississippi not yet formed into
States, there was a different sentiment held by a great majority at the
North and by many at the South. Slavery was not established there. The
land was national domain, whose forms of political and social life were
yet to be set up. Why not, before the embarrassments of slave settlement
arose, devote this new land to freedom,--not so much to freedom as that
shining goddess of mercy and right and justice who rose clear and
obvious to our purged vision out of the civil war, as to the less noble
deities of economic well-being, thrift, and industrial comfort?
Democrats at the North, therefore, were almost unanimous that Missouri
should come in free or not at all; and so with the rest of the territory
beyond the Mississippi, except the old slave settlement of Louisiana,
already admitted as a State. The resolution in the legislature of New
York in January, 1820, supported by Van Buren, that freedom be "an
indispensable condition of admission" of new States, was but one of many
exhibitions of feeling at the North. Monroe and the very best of
Americans did not, however, think the principle so sacred or necessary
as to justify a struggle. John Quincy Adams, hating slavery as did but
few Americans, distinctly favored the compromise by which Missouri came
in with slavery, and by which the other new territory north of the
present southern line of Missouri extended westward was to be free, and
the territory south of it slave. With no shame he acquiesced in the very
thing about which forty years later the nation plunged into war. "For
the present," he wrote, "this contest is laid asleep." So the stream of
peaceful sunshine and prosperity returned over the land.

Van Buren's views at this time were doubtless clear against the
extension of slavery. He disliked the institution; and in part saw how
inconsistent were its odious practices with the best civic growth, how
debasing to whites and blacks alike. In March, 1822, he voted in the
Senate, with Harrison Gray Otis of Massachusetts and Rufus King, for a
proviso in the bill creating the new Territory of Florida by which the
introduction of slaves was forbidden except by citizens removing there
for actual settlement, and by which slaves introduced in violation of
the law were to be freed. But he was in a minority. Northern senators
from Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Indiana refused to interfere with
free trade in slaves between the Southern States and this southernmost

Among the forty-eight members of the Senate which met in December, 1821,
neither Clay nor Calhoun nor Webster had a seat. The first was restless
in one of his brief absences from official life; the second was
secretary of war; and Webster, out of Congress, was making great law
arguments and greater orations. Benton was there from the new State of
Missouri, just beginning his thirty years. The warm friendship and
political alliance between him and Van Buren must have soon begun.
During all or nearly all Van Buren's senatorship the two occupied
adjoining seats. Two years later Andrew Jackson was sent to the Senate
by Tennessee, as a suitable preliminary to his presidential canvass.
During the next two sessions Van Buren, Benton, and Jackson were thrown
together; and without doubt the foundations were laid of their lifelong
intimacy and political affection. Benton and Jackson, personal enemies
years before, had become reconciled. Among these associates Van Buren
adhered firmly enough to his own clear views; he did not turn
obsequiously to the rising sun of Tennessee. William H. Crawford, the
secretary of the treasury, had, in the Republican congressional caucus
of 1816, stood next Monroe for the presidential nomination. For reasons
which neither history nor tradition seems sufficiently to have brought
us, he inspired a strong and even enthusiastic loyalty among many of his
party. His candidacy in 1824 was more "regular" than that of either
Adams, Jackson, or Clay, whose friends combined against him as the
strongest of them all. Though Crawford had been prostrated by serious
disease in 1823, Van Buren remained faithful to him until, in 1825,
after refusing a seat in Adams's cabinet, he retired from national
public life a thoroughly broken man.

The first two sessions of Congress, after Van Buren's service began,
seemed drowsy enough. French land-titles in Louisiana, the settlement of
the accounts of public officers, the attempt to abolish imprisonment for
debt, the appropriation for money for diplomatic representatives to the
new South American states and their recognition,--nothing more exciting
than these arose, except Monroe's veto, in May, 1822, of the bill
authorizing the erection of toll-gates upon the Cumberland road and
appropriating $9000 for them. This brought distinctly before the public
the great question of internal improvements by the federal government,
which Van Buren, Benton, and Jackson afterwards chose as one of the
chief battle-grounds for their party. For this bill Van Buren indeed
voted, while Benton afterwards boasted that he was one of the small
minority of seven who discerned its true character. But this trifling
appropriation was declared by Barbour, who was in charge of the
measure, not to involve the general question; it was said to be a mere
incident necessary to save from destruction a work for which earlier
statesmen were responsible. Monroe, though declaring in his veto that
the power to adopt and execute a system of internal improvements
national in their character would have the happiest effect on all the
great interests of the Union, decided that the Constitution gave no such
power. Six years later, in a note to his speech upon the power of the
Vice-President to call to order for words spoken in debate in the
Senate, Van Buren apologized for his vote on the bill, because it was
his first session, and because he was sincerely desirous to aid the
Western country and had voted without full examination. He added that if
the question were again presented to him, he should vote in the
negative; and that it had been his only vote in seven years of service
which the most fastidious critic could torture into an inconsistency
with his principles upon internal improvements. In January, 1823, during
his second session, Van Buren spoke and voted in favor of the bill to
repair the road, but still took no decided ground upon the general
question. He said that the large expenditure already made on the road
would have been worse than useless if it were now suffered to decay;
that the road, being already constructed, ought to be preserved; but
whether he would vote for a new construction he did not disclose. Even
Benton, who was proud to have been one of the small minority against
the bill of the year before for toll-gates upon the road, was now with
Van Buren, constitutional scruples yielding to the statesmanlike
reluctance to waste an investment of millions of dollars rather than
spend a few thousands to save it.

In January, 1824, Van Buren proposed to solve these difficulties by a
constitutional amendment. Congress was to have power to make roads and
canals, but the money appropriated was to be apportioned among the
States according to population. No road or canal was to be made within
any State without the consent of its legislature; and the money was to
be expended in each State under the direction of its legislature. This
proposal seems to have fallen still-born and deservedly. It illustrated
Van Buren's jealousy of interference with the rights of States. But the
right of each State to be protected, he seemed to forget, involved its
right not to be taxed for improvements in other States which it neither
controlled nor promoted. Van Buren's speech in support of the proposal
would to-day seem very heretical to his party. A dozen years later he
himself would probably have admitted it to be so. He then believed in
the abstract proposition that such funds of the nation as could be
raised without oppression, and as were not necessary to the discharge of
indispensable demands upon the government, should be expended upon
internal improvements under restrictions guarding the sovereignty and
equal interests of the States. Henry Clay would not in theory have gone
much further. But to this subject in its national aspect Van Buren had
probably given but slight attention. The success of the Erie Canal, with
him doubtless as with others, made adverse theories of government seem
less impressive. But Van Buren and his school quickly became doubtful
and soon hostile to the federal promotion of internal improvements. The
opposition became popular on the broader reasoning that great
expenditures for internal improvements within the States were not only,
as the statesmen at first argued, violations of the letter of the
Constitution, whose sanctity could, however, be saved by proper
amendment, but were intrinsically dangerous, and an unwholesome
extension of the federal power which ought not to take place whether
within the Constitution or by amending it. Aided by Jackson's powerful
vetoes, this sentiment gained a strength with the people which has come
down to our day. We have river and harbor bills, but they are supposed
to touch directly or indirectly our foreign commerce, which, under the
Constitution and upon the essential theory of our confederation, is a
subject proper to the care of the Union.

In the same session Van Buren spoke at length in favor of the bill to
abolish imprisonment for debt, and drew with precision the distinction
wisely established by modern jurisprudence, that the property only, and
not the body of the debtor, should be at the mercy of his creditor,
where the debt involved no fraud or breach of trust.

The session of 1823-1824 was seriously influenced by the coming
presidential election. The protective tariff of 1824 was christened with
the absurd name of the "American system," though it was American in no
other or better sense than foreign war to protect fancied national
rights is an American system, and though the system had come from the
middle ages in the company of other restrictions upon the intercourse of
nations. It was carried by the factitious help of this designation and
the fine leadership of Clay. With Jackson and Benton, Van Buren voted
for it, against men differing as widely from each other as his
associate, the venerable Federalist Rufus King, differed from Hayne, the
brilliant orator of South Carolina. Upon the tariff Van Buren then had
views clearer, at least, than upon internal improvements. In 1824 he was
unmistakably a protectionist. The moderation of his views and the
pressure from his own State were afterwards set up as defenses for this
early attitude of his. But he declared himself with sufficient plainness
not only to believe in the constitutionality of a protective tariff, but
that 1824 was a fit year in which to extend its protective features. He
acted, too, with the amplest light upon the subject. The dislike of the
Holy Alliance, the hated recollections of the Orders in Council and the
Napoleonic decrees, the idea that, for self-defense in times of war, the
country must be forced to produce many goods not already
produced,--these considerations had great weight, as very well appears
in the speech for the bill delivered by Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky,
afterwards Van Buren's associate on the presidential ticket. "When the
monarchs of Europe are assembled together, do you think," he asked,
"that we are not a subject of their holy consultations?" But the support
of the bill was upon broader considerations. The debates upon the tariff
in the House of Representatives in February, March, and April, and in
the Senate in April, 1824, were admirable presentations of the subject.
Webster in the House and Hayne in the Senate put the free trade side.
The former, still speaking his own sentiments, declared that "the best
apology for laws of prohibition and laws of monopoly will be found in
that state of society, not only unenlightened but sluggish, in which
they are most generally established." But now, he said, "competition
comes in place of monopoly, and intelligence and industry ask only for
fair play and an open field." He repudiated the principle of protection.
"On the contrary," said he, "I think freedom of trade to be the general
principle, and restriction the exception."

Nor was Van Buren then left without the light which afterwards reached
him on the constitutional question. Rufus King said that, if gentlemen
wished to encourage the production of hemp and iron, they ought to bring
in a bill to give bounties on those articles; for there was the same
constitutional right to grant bounties as to levy restrictive duties
upon foreign products. Hayne made the really eloquent and masterly
speech for which he ought to stand in the first rank of orators, and
which summed up as well for free-traders now as then the most telling
arguments against artificial restrictions. He skillfully closed with
Washington's words: "Our commercial policy should hold an equal and
impartial hand, neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or
preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and
diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing
nothing." Hayne did not confine himself to the doctrines of Adam Smith,
or the hardships which protection meant to a planting region like his
own. For the chief interest of the South was in cotton; and the price of
cotton was largely determined by the ability of foreigners to import it
from America,--an ability in its turn dependent upon the willingness of
America to take her pay, directly or indirectly, in foreign commodities.
Hayne, however, went further. He clearly raised the question, whether
the encouragement of manufactures could constitutionally be made a
Federal object.

Sitting day after day under this long debate in the little senate
chamber then in use, where men listened to speeches, if for no other
reason, because they were easily heard, Van Buren could not, with his
ability and readiness, have misunderstood the general principles
involved. Early in the debate, upon a motion to strike out the duty on
hemp, he briefly but explicitly said that "he was in favor of
increasing the duty on hemp, with a view of affording protection to its
cultivation in this country." He voted against limiting the duty on wool
to twenty-five per cent., but voted against a duty of twenty-five per
cent. on India silks,--a revenue rather than a protective duty. He voted
for duties on wheat and wheat flour and potatoes. He voted against
striking out the duty on books, in spite of Hayne's grotesque but
forcible argument that they were to be considered "a raw material,
essential to the formation of the mind, the morals, and the character of
the people." It is difficult to understand the significance of all Van
Buren's votes on the items of the bill; but the record shows them to
have been, on the whole, protectionist, with a preference for moderate
rates, but a firm assertion of the wool interests of New York. Benton
tells us that Van Buren was one of the main speakers for the bill; but
the assertion is not borne out by the record. He delivered no general
speech upon the subject, as did most of the senators, but seems to have
spoken only upon some of the details as they were considered in
committee of the whole. The best to be said in Van Buren's behalf is,
that his judgment was not yet so ripe upon the matter as not to be still
open to great change. He was in his third session, and still new to
national politics, and there was before him the plain and strong
argument that his State wanted protection. In 1835 Butler, speaking for
him as a presidential candidate, said that his personal feelings had
been "at all times adverse to the high tariff policy." But "high tariff"
was then, as now, a merely relative term. His votes placed him in that
year very near Henry Clay. That from 1824 he grew more and more averse
to the necessary details and results of a protective policy is probably
true. Nor ought it to be, even from the standpoint of free-traders,
serious accusation that a public man varies his political utterances
upon the tariff question, if the variation be progressive and steadily
towards what they deem a greater liberality. To Van Buren, however, the
tariff question never had a capital importance. Even thirty-two years
later, while rehearsing from his retirement the achievements of his
party in excuse of the support he reluctantly gave Buchanan, he did not
name among its services its insistence upon merely revenue duties,
although he had then for years been himself committed to that doctrine.

Van Buren's vote for the tariff of 1824 had no very direct relation to
his political situation. His own successor was not to be chosen for
nearly three years. Crawford, whom he supported for the presidency, was
the only one of the four candidates opposed to the bill. Adams was
consistently a protectionist; he believed in actively promoting the
welfare of men, though chiefly if not exclusively American men, even
when they resisted their own welfare. He, like his father, was perfectly
ready to use the power of government where it seemingly promised to be
effective, without caring much for economical theories or constitutional
restrictions. Jackson himself was far enough away from the ranks of
strict constructionists on the tariff. In April, 1824, in the midst of
the debate, and while a presidential candidate, he wrote from the Senate
what free-traders, who afterwards supported him, would have deemed the
worst of heresies. Like most candidates, ancient and modern, he was "in
favor of a judicious examination and revision of" the tariff. He would
advocate a tariff so far as it enabled the country to provide itself
with the means of defense in war. But he would go further. The tariff
ought to "draw from agriculture the superabundant labor, and employ it
in mechanism and manufactures;" it ought to "give a proper distribution
to our labor, to take from agriculture in the United States 600,000 men,
women, and children." It is time, he cried, and quite as extravagantly
as Clay, that "we should become a little more Americanized." How slight
a connection the tariff had with the election of 1824 is further seen in
the fact that Jackson, who thus supported the bill, received the vote of
several of the States which strongly opposed the tariff.

In March, 1824, Van Buren urged the Senate to act upon a constitutional
amendment touching the election of president. As the amendment could not
be adopted in time to affect the pending canvass, there was, he said, no
room for partisan feeling. He insisted that if there were no majority
choice by the electors, the choice should not rest with the house of
representatives voting by States, but that the electors should be
reconvened, and themselves choose between the highest two candidates.
The debate soon became thoroughly partisan. Rufus King, with but thinly
veiled reference to Crawford's nomination, denounced the practice by
which a caucus at Washington deprived the constitutional electors of any
free choice; members of Congress were attending to president-making
rather than to their duties. He thought that the course of events had
"led near observers to suspect a connection existing between a central
power of this description at the seat of the general government and the
legislatures of Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and New York, and
perhaps of other States." To this it was pointed out with much force
that such a caucus had chosen Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe without
scandal or injury; that members of Congress were distinguished and
representative persons familiar with national affairs, who might with
great advantage respectfully suggest a course of action to their
fellow-citizens. Van Buren went keenly to the real point of the belated
objection to the system; it lay in the particular action of the recent
caucus. He did not think it worth while to consider "those nice
distinctions which challenged respect for the proceedings of conventions
of one description and denied it to others; or to detect those still
more subtle refinements which regarded meetings of the same character
as sometimes proper, and at others destructive of the purity of
elections and dangerous to the liberties of the people." After much talk
about the will of the people, the Senate by a vote of 30 to 13 postponed
the consideration of the amendments until after the election. Benton
joined Van Buren in the minority, although they did not agree upon the
form of amendment; but Jackson, perhaps because he was a candidate, did
not vote.

It was highly probable that there would be embarrassment in choosing the
next president. It was already nearly certain that neither candidate
would have a majority of the electoral votes. The decision was then, as
in our own time, supposed to rest with New York; and naturally therefore
Van Buren's prestige was great, gained, as it had been, in that
difficult and opulent political field. His attachment to Crawford was
proof against the signs of the latter's decaying strength. Crawford was
to him the Republican candidate regularly chosen, and one agreeable to
his party by the vigorous democracy of his sentiments. His opposition to
Jefferson's embargo, and his vote for a renewal of the charter of the
Bank of the United States, had been forgotten since his warm advocacy of
the late war with England. His formal claims to the nomination were
great. For he had been in the Senate as early as 1807, and its president
upon the death of Vice-President Clinton in 1812; afterwards he had been
minister to France, and was now secretary of the treasury. In the
caucus of 1816 he had nearly as many votes as Monroe; and those votes
were cast for him, it was said, though without much probability, in
spite of his peremptory refusal to compete with Monroe. Moreover,
Crawford had a majesty and grace of personal appearance which, with
undoubtedly good though not great abilities, had, apart from these
details of his career, made him conspicuous in the Republican ranks; and
in its chief service he was, after the retirement of Monroe, the senior,
except Adams, whose candidacy was far more recent. Crawford's claim to
the succession was therefore very justifiable; he was the most obvious,
the most "regular," of the candidates.

It has been said that Van Buren was at first inclined to Adams. The
latter's unequaled public experience and discipline of intellect
doubtless seemed, to Van Buren's precise and orderly mind, eminent
qualifications for the first office in the land. Adams at this time, by
a coincidence not inexplicable, thought highly of Van Buren. He entered
in his diary a remark of his own, in February, 1825, that Van Buren was
"a man of great talents and of good principles; but he had suffered them
to be too much warped by party spirit." This from an Adams may be taken
as extreme praise. It is pretty certain that if Van Buren had
reprehensibly shifted his position from Adams to Crawford, we should
find a record of it in the vast treasure-house of damnations which Adams
left. Nor is there good reason to suppose that Van Buren was influenced
by the nomination which Crawford's friends in Georgia gave him in 1824
for the vice-presidency. This showed that New York had already
surrendered her favorite "son to the nation;" he was now definitely to
be counted a power in national politics, where he was known as the
"Albany director." Crawford's enemies in Georgia, the Clarkites,
ridiculed this nomination with the coarse and silly abuse which active
politicians to this day are always ready to use in their cynical
under-estimate of popular intelligence,--abuse which they are by and by
pretty sure to be glad to forget. Van Buren was pictured as half man and
half cat, half fox and half monkey, half snake and half mink. He was
dubbed "Blue Whiskey Van" and "Little Van." The Clarkites, being only a
minority in the Georgia Assembly, delighted to vote for him as their
standing candidate for doorkeeper and the like humbler positions.

New York was greatly disturbed through 1824 over the presidency. Its
politics were in the position described by Senator Cobb, one of
Crawford's Georgia supporters. "Could we hit upon a few great
principles," he wrote home from Washington in January, 1825, "and unite
their support with that of Crawford, we should succeed beyond doubt."
But the great principles were hard to find. The people and the greater
politicians were therefore swayed by personal preferences, without
strong reason for either choice; and the lesser politicians were simply
watching to see how the tide ran. Adams was the most natural choice of
the New York Republicans. The South had had the presidency for six
terms. His early secession from the Federalists; his aid in solidifying
the Republican sentiment at the North; his support of Jefferson in the
patriotic embargo struggle; his long, eminent, and fruitful services;
and his place of secretary of state, from which Madison and Monroe had
in turn been promoted to the presidency,--all these commended him to
Northern Republicans as a proper candidate.

De Witt Clinton admired and supported General Jackson. In 1819 the
latter had at a dinner in Tammany Hall amazed and affronted the former's
Bucktail enemies by giving as his toast, "De Witt Clinton, the
enlightened statesman and governor of the great and patriotic State of
New York." In January, 1824, Clinton was the victim of a political
outrage which illustrated the harsh partisanship then ruling in New York
politics, and may well have determined the choice of president. Clinton
had retired from the governor's chair; but he still held the honorary
and unpaid office of canal commissioner, to which he brought
distinguished honor but which brought none to him, and whose importance
he more than any other man had created. The Crawford men in the
legislature feared a combination of the men of the new People's party
with the Clintonians on the presidential question. Clinton seemed at the
time an unpopular character. To embarrass the People's party, Clinton's
enemies suddenly, and just before the rising of the legislature, offered
a resolution removing him from the canal commissionership. The People's
party, it was thought, by opposing the resolution, would incur popular
dislike through their alliance with the few and unpopular Clintonians;
while by supporting the resolution they would forfeit the support of the
latter upon which they relied. In either case the Crawford men would
apparently profit by the trick. The People's party men, including those
favoring Adams for president, at once seized the wrong horn of the
dilemma, and voted for Clinton's removal, which was thus carried by an
almost unanimous vote. But the people themselves were underrated; the
outrage promptly restored Clinton to popular favor. In spite of the
resistance of the politicians, he was, in the fall of 1824, elected by a
large majority to the governor's seat, to which, or to any great office,
it had been supposed he could never return; and this, although at the
same time and upon the same ticket one of those who had voted for his
removal was chosen lieutenant-governor. Van Buren was no party to this
removal, although his political friends at Albany were the first movers
in the scheme. He himself was far-sighted enough to see the probable
effect of so gross and indecent a use of political power. Nor was he so
relentless a partisan as to remember in unfruitful vengeance Clinton's
own prescriptive conduct, or to remove the latter from an honorary
seat which belonged to him above all other men. By this silly blunder
Clinton was again raised to deserved power, which he held until his

[Illustration: De Witt Clinton]

The popular outburst consequent upon Clinton's removal in January, 1824,
made it very dangerous for the Bucktails to leave to the people in the
fall the choice of presidential electors. The rise of the People's party
for a time seriously threatened Van Buren's influence. Until 1824 the
presidential electors of New York had been chosen by its legislature.
The opponents of Crawford and Van Buren, fearing that the latter's
superior political skill would more easily capture the legislature in
November, 1824, raised at the legislative elections of 1823 a cry
against the Albany Regency, and demanded that presidential electors
should be chosen directly by the people. The Regency, popularly believed
to have been founded by Van Buren, consisted of a few able followers of
his, residing or in office at Albany. They were also called the
"conspirators." Chief among them were William L. Marcy, the comptroller;
Samuel A. Talcott, the attorney-general; Benjamin F. Butler, then
district attorney of Albany county; Edwin Croswell, the state printer;
Roger Skinner, the United States district judge; and Benjamin Knower,
the state treasurer. Later there joined the Regency, Silas Wright,
Azariah C. Flagg, Thomas W. Olcott, and Charles E. Dudley. Its members
were active, skillful, shrewd politicians; and they were much more. They
were men of strong political convictions, holding and observing a high
standard for the public service, and of undoubted personal integrity. In
1830 John A. Dix gave as a chief reason for accepting office at Albany
that he should there be "one of the Regency." His son, Dr. Morgan Dix,
describes their aggressive honesty, their refusal "to tolerate in those
whom they could control what their own fine sense of honor did not
approve;" and he quotes a remark made to him by Thurlow Weed, their long
and most formidable enemy, "that he had never known a body of men who
possessed so much power and used it so well." In his Memoirs, Weed
describes their "great ability, great industry, indomitable courage."
Two at least of the original members, Marcy and Butler, afterwards
justly rose to national distinction. Even to our own day, the Albany
Regency has been a strong and generally a sagacious influence in its
party. John A. Dix, Horatio Seymour, Dean Richmond, and Samuel J. Tilden
long directed its policy; and from the chief seat in its councils the
late secretary of the treasury, Daniel Manning, was chosen in 1885.

In November, 1823, the People's party elected only a minority of the
legislature; but many of the Democrats were committed to the support of
an electoral law, and the movement was clearly popular. A just, though
possibly an insufficient objection to the law was its proposal of a
great change in anticipation of a particular election whose candidates
were already before the public. But there was no resort to frank
argument. Its indirect defeat was proposed by the Democratic managers,
and accomplished with the coöperation of many supporters of Adams and
Clay. A bill was reported in the Assembly, where the Regency was in a
minority, giving the choice of the electors to the people directly, but
cunningly requiring a majority instead of a plurality vote to elect. If
there were no majority, then the choice was to be left to the
legislature. The Adams and Clay men were unwilling to let a plurality
elect, lest in the uncertain state of public feeling some other
candidate might be at the head of the poll; and they were probably now
quite as confident as the Bucktails, and with more reason, of their
strength upon joint ballot in the legislature. Divided as the people of
New York were between the four presidential candidates, it was well
known that this device would really give them no choice. The
consideration of the electoral law was postponed in the Senate upon a
pretense of objection to the form of the bill, and with insincere
protestations of a desire to pass it. The outcome of all this was that
in the election of November, 1824, the Democrats were punished at the
polls both for the wanton attack on Clinton and for their unprincipled
treatment of the electoral bill. The Regency got no more than a small
minority in the legislature; and De Witt Clinton, as has been said, was
chosen governor by a great majority.

Crawford's supporters at Washington believed that in a congressional
caucus he would have a larger vote than any other candidate. His
opponents, in the same belief, refused to join in a caucus, in spite of
the cry that their refusal was a treason to old party usage. The
Republicans at Albany, probably upon Van Buren's advice, had in April,
1823, declared in favor of a caucus, but without effect. Two thirds of
Congress would not assent. At last, in February, 1824, a caucus was
called, doubtless in the hope that many who had refused their assent
would, finding the caucus inevitable, attend through force of party
habit. But of the 261 members of Congress, only 66 attended; and they
were chiefly from New York, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia. In the
caucus 62 voted for Crawford for president and 57 for Albert Gallatin
for vice-president. A cry was soon raised against the latter as a
foreigner; so that in spite of his American residence of forty-five
years, and his invaluable services to the country and to the Republican
party through nearly all this period, he felt compelled to withdraw.

The failure of the caucus almost destroyed Crawford's chances, though
Van Buren steadily kept up courage. A few days later he wrote a
confidential letter complaining of the subserviency and ingratitude of
the non-attendants, who had "partaken largely of the favor of the
party;" but despondency, he said, was a weakness with which he was but
little annoyed, and if New York should be firm and promptly explicit,
the election would be substantially settled. But New York was neither
firm nor promptly explicit. Its electoral vote was in doubt until the
meeting of the legislature in November. The Adams and Clay forces then
united, securing 31 out of the 36 electors, although one of the 31 seems
finally to have voted for Jackson. Five Crawford electors were chosen
with the help of the Adams men, who wished to keep Clay at the foot of
the poll of presidential electors, and thus prevent his eligibility as
one of the highest three in the House of Representatives. This device of
the Adams men may have deprived Clay of the presidency. Thus Van Buren's
New York campaign met defeat even in the legislature, where his friends
had incurred odium rather than surrender the choice of electors to the
people, while his forces were being thoroughly beaten by the people at
the polls. In the electoral college Crawford received only 41 votes;
Adams had 84 and Jackson 99; while Clay with only 37 was fourth in the
race, and could not therefore enter the contest in the House. Georgia
cast 9 electoral votes for Van Buren as vice-president.

Van Buren did not figure in the choice of Adams in the House by the
coalition of Adams and Clay forces. Nor does his name appear in the
traditions of the manoeuvering at Washington in the winter of 1824-25,
except in a vague and improbable story that he wished, by dividing the
New York delegation in the House on the first vote by States, to prevent
a choice, and then to throw the votes of the Crawford members for
Adams, and thus secure the glory and political profit of apparently
electing him. He did not join in the cry that Adams's election over
Jackson was a violation of the democratic principle. Nor was it a
violation of that principle. Jackson had but a minority of the popular
vote. Clay was in political principles and habits nearer to Adams than
Jackson. It was clearly Clay's duty to take his strength to the
candidate whose administration was most likely to be agreeable to those
opinions of his own which had made him a candidate. The coalition was
perfectly natural and legitimate; and it was wholesome in its
consequences. It established the Whig party; it at least helped to
establish the modern Democratic party. That the acceptance of office by
Clay would injure him was probable enough. Coalitions have always been
unpopular in America and England, when there has seemed to follow a
division of offices. They offend the strong belief in party government
which lies deep in the political conscience of the two countries.

In the congressional session of 1824-25 president-making in the House
stood in the way of everything else of importance. Van Buren, with
increasing experience, was taking a greater and greater part in
congressional work. He joined far more frequently in the debates. Again
he spoke for the abolition of imprisonment for debt, his colleague,
Rufus King, differing from him on this as he now seemed to differ from
him on most disputed questions. King had not been reëlected senator,
having declined to be a candidate, because, as he said, of his advancing
years. But doubtless Van Buren was correct in telling John Quincy Adams,
and the latter was correct in believing, as his diary records, that King
could not have been re-chosen.

At this session Van Buren took definite stand against the schemes of
internal improvement. On February 11, 1825, differing even from Benton,
he voted against topographical surveys in anticipation of public works
by the Federal government. On February 23 he voted against an
appropriation of $150,000 to extend the Cumberland road, while Jackson
and Benton both voted for it. So, also, the next day, when Jackson voted
for federal subscriptions to help construct the Delaware and Chesapeake
Canal and the Dismal Swamp Canal, Van Buren was against him. Two days
before the session closed he voted against the bill for the occupation
of Oregon, Benton and Jackson voting in the affirmative. Van Buren was
one of the senatorial committee to receive the new president upon his
inauguration. It was doubtless with the easy courtesy which was genuine
with him that he welcomed John Quincy Adams to the political battle so
disastrous to the latter.

When Congress met again, in December, 1825, Van Buren took a more
important place than ever before in national politics. He now became a
true parliamentary leader; for he, like Clay, had the really
parliamentary career which has rarely been seen in this country.
Dealing with amorphous political elements, Van Buren created out of them
a party to promote his policy, and seized upon the vigor and popular
strength of Jackson to lead both party and policy to supreme power.
While, before 1825, Van Buren had not represented in the Senate a party
distinctly constituted, from 1825 to 1828 he definitely led the
formation of the modern Democratic party. In this work he was clearly
chief. From the floor of the Senate he addressed those of its members
inclined to his creed, and the sympathetic elements throughout the
country, and firmly guided and disciplined them after that fashion which
in very modern days is best familiar to us in the parliamentary
conflicts of Great Britain. Since Van Buren wielded this organizing
power, there has been in America no equally authoritative and decisive
leadership from the Senate; although he has since been surpassed there,
not only as an orator, but in other kinds of senatorial work. Seward
seemed to exercise a like leadership in the six years or more preceding
Lincoln's election; but he was far more the creature of the stupendous
movement of the time than he was its creator. So, in the two years
before General Grant's renomination in 1872, Charles Sumner and Carl
Schurz, speaking from the Senate, created a new party sentiment; but the
sentiment died in a "midsummer madness" but for which our later
political history might have been materially different. In the
interesting and fruitful three years of Van Buren's senatorial
opposition, he showed the same qualities of firmness, supple tact, and
distinct political aims which had given him his power in New York; but
all now upon a higher plane.

In December, 1825, Jackson was no longer in the Senate. His Tennessee
friends had placed him there as in a fitting vestibule to the White
House; but it seemed as hard then as it has been since, to go from the
Senate over the apparently broad and easy mile to the west on
Pennsylvania Avenue. So Jackson returned to the Hermitage, to await, in
the favorite American character of Cincinnatus, the popular summons
which he believed to be only delayed. Van Buren, now thoroughly
acquainted with the general, saw in him the strongest titular leader of
the opposition. It is pretty certain, however, that Van Buren's
preference was recent. The "Albany Argus," a Van Buren paper, had but
lately declared that "Jackson has not a single feeling in common with
the Republican party, and makes the merit of desiring the total
extinction of it;" while Jackson papers had ridiculed Crawford's

  "Shallow knaves with forms to mock us,
  Straggling, one by one, to caucus."

It has been the tradition, carefully and doubtless sincerely begun by
John Quincy Adams, and adopted by most writers dealing with this period,
that Adams met his first Congress in a spirit which should have
commanded universal support; and that it was a factious opposition,
cunningly led by Van Buren, which thwarted his patriotic purposes. But
this is an untrue account of the second great party division in the
United States. The younger Adams succeeded to an administration which
had represented no party, or rather which had represented a party now
become so dominant as to practically include the whole country. As
president he found himself able to promote opinions with a weighty
authority which he had not enjoyed while secretary of state in an era of
good feeling, and under a president who was firm, even if gentle. Nor
was it likely that Adams, with his unrivaled experience, his resolute
self-reliance, and his aggressively patriotic feeling, would fail to
impress his own views upon the public service, lest he might disturb a
supposititious unanimity of sentiment. His first message boldly sounded
the notes of party division. The second war with England was well out of
the public mind; and his old Federalist associations, his belief in a
strong, active, beneficent federal government, his traditional dislike
of what seemed to him extreme democratic tendencies and constitutional
refinings away of necessary federal power,--all these made him promptly
and ably take an attitude very different from that of his predecessors.
The compliment was perfectly sincere which, in his inaugural address, he
had paid the Republican and Federalist parties, saying of them that both
had "contributed splendid talents, spotless integrity, ardent
patriotism, and disinterested sacrifices to the formation and
administration" of the government. But it was idle for him to suppose
that the successors of these parties, although from both had come his
own supporters, and although, as in his offer of the treasury to
Crawford, he showed his desire, even in the chief offices, to ignore
political differences, would remain united under him, if he espoused
causes upon which they widely differed. After recapitulating the tenets
of American political faith, and showing that most discordant elements
of public opinion were now blended into harmony, he was again perfectly
sincere in saying that only an effort of magnanimity needed to be made,
that individuals should discard every remnant of rancor against each
other. This advice he was himself unable to follow; and so were other
men. In his inaugural he distinctly adopted as his own the policy of
internal improvements by the federal government, although he knew how
wide and determined had been the opposition to it. His own late chief,
Monroe, had pronounced the policy unconstitutional. But he now told the
people that the magnificence and splendor of the public works, the roads
and aqueducts, of Rome, were among the imperishable splendors of the
ancient republic. He asked to what single individual our first national
road had proved an injury. Of the constitutional doubts which were
raised, he said, with a touch of the contempt of a practical
administrator: "Every speculative scruple will be solved by a practical
blessing." To the self-consecrated guardians of the Constitution this
was as corrupt as offers of largesses to plebeians at Rome. In his first
message he recommended again the policy of internal improvements, and
proposed the establishment of a national university. Although he
admitted the Constitution to be "a charter of limited powers," he still
intimated his opinion that its powers might "be effectually brought into
action by laws promoting the improvement of agriculture, commerce, and
manufactures, the cultivation and encouragement of the mechanic and of
the elegant arts, the advancement of literature, and the progress of the
sciences, ornamental and profound;" and that to refrain from exercising
these powers for the benefit of the people themselves, would be to hide
the talent in the earth, and a "treachery to the most sacred of trusts."
Further, he now broached the novel project of the congress at Panama,--a
project surely doubtful enough to permit conscientious opposition.

All this was widely different from the messages of content from
President Monroe. There was in these new utterances a clear political
diversion, marked not less by the brilliant and restless genius of Henry
Clay, now the secretary of state, than by the President's consciousness
of his own strong and disciplined ability. Here was a new policy
formally presented by a new administration; and a formal and organized
resistance was as sure to follow as effect to follow cause. Van Buren
was soon at the head of this inevitable opposition. It is difficult, at
least in the records of Congress, to find any evidence justifying the
long tradition that the opposition was factious or unworthy. It was
doubtless a warfare, with its surprises, its skirmishes, and its pitched
battles. Mistakes of the adversary were promptly used. Debates were not
had simply to promote the formal business before the House, but rather
to reach the listening voters. But all this belongs to parliamentary
warfare. Nor is it inconsistent with most exalted aims and an admirable
performance of public business in a free country. Gladstone, the
greatest living master in the work of political reform, has described
himself as an "old parliamentary hand." Nor in the motions, the
resolutions, the debates, led by Van Buren during his three years of
opposition, can one find any device which Palmerston or Derby or
Gladstone in one forum, and Seward and even Adams himself in his last
and best years in another, have not used with little punishment from
disinterested and enduring criticism.

Immediately after Adams's inauguration Van Buren voted for Clay's
confirmation as secretary of state, while Jackson and fourteen other
senators, including Hayne, voted to reject him, upon the unfounded story
of Clay's sale of the presidency to Adams for the office to which he was
now nominated. Van Buren's language and demeanor towards the new
administration were uniformly becoming. He charged political but not
personal wrong-doing; he made no insinuation of base motives; and his
opposition throughout was the more forcible for its very decorum.

The first great battle between the rapidly dividing forces was over the
Panama mission, a creation of Clay's exuberant imagination. The
president nominated to the Senate two envoys to an American congress
called by the new South American republics of Columbia, Mexico, and
Central America, and in which it was proposed that Peru and Chile also
should participate. The congress was to be held at Panama, which, in the
extravagant rhetoric of some of the Republicans of the South, would, if
the world had to elect a capital, be pointed out for that august
destiny, placed as it was "in the centre of the globe." Spain had not
yet acknowledged the independence of her revolted colonies; and it was
clear that the discussions of the congress must be largely concerned
with a mutual protection of American nations which implied an attitude
hostile to Spain. Adams, in his message nominating the envoys, declared
that they were not to take part in deliberations of belligerent
character, or to contract alliances or to engage in any project
importing hostility to any other nation. But referring to the Monroe
doctrine, Adams said that the mission looked to an agreement between the
nations represented, that each would guard by its own means against the
establishment of any future European colony within its borders; and it
looked also to an effort on the part of the United States to promote
religious liberty among those intolerant republics. The decisive
inducement, he added, to join in the congress was to lay the foundation
of future intercourse with those states "in the broadest principles of
reciprocity and the most cordial feelings of fraternal friendship."

This was vague enough. But when the diplomatic papers were exhibited, it
was plain that the southern republics proposed a congress looking to a
close defensive alliance, a sort of confederacy or Amphictyonic council
as Benton described it; and that it was highly improbable that the
representatives from one country could responsibly participate in the
congress without most serious danger of incurring obligations, or
falling into precisely the embarrassments which the well settled policy
of the United States had avoided. It was perfectly agreeable to Adams,
resolute and aggressive American that he was, that his country should
look indulgently upon the smaller American powers, should stand at their
head, should counsel them in their difficulties with European nations,
and jealously take their side in those difficulties. Clay's eager,
enthusiastic mind delighted in the picture of a great leadership of
America by the United States, an American system of nations, breathing
the air of republicanism, asserting a young and haughty independence of
monarchical Europe, and ready for opposition to its schemes. In all this
there has been fascination to many American minds, which even in our own
day we have seen influence American diplomacy. But it was a step into
the entangling alliances against which American public opinion had from
Washington's day been set. When Adams asked an appropriation for the
expenses of the mission, he told the House of Representatives that he
was hardly sanguine enough to promise "all or even any of the
transcendent benefits to the human race which warmed the conceptions of
its first proposer," but that it looked "to the melioration of the
condition of man;" that it was congenial with the spirit which prompted
our own declaration of independence, which dictated our first treaty
with Prussia, and "which filled the hearts and fired the souls of the
immortal founders of our revolution."

Such fanciful speculation the Republicans, led by Van Buren, opposed
with strong and heated protests, in tone not unlike the Liberal protests
of 1878 in England against Disraeli's Jingo policy. In the secret
session of the Senate Van Buren proposed resolutions against the
constitutionality of the mission, reciting that it was a departure from
our wise and settled policy; that, for the conference and discussion
contemplated, our envoys already accredited to the new republics were
competent, without becoming involved as members of the congress. These
resolutions, so the President at once wrote in his opulent and
invaluable diary, "are the fruit of the ingenuity of Martin Van Buren
and bear the impress of his character." The mission was, the opposition
thus insisted, unconstitutional; a step enlarging the sphere of the
federal government; a meddlesome and dangerous interference with foreign
nations; and if it lay in the course of a strong and splendid policy,
it was also part of a policy full of warlike possibilities almost sure
to drag us into old-world quarrels. Clay's "American system," Hayne said
in the senatorial debate, meant restriction and monopoly when applied to
our domestic policy, and "entangling alliances" when applied to our
foreign policy.

Van Buren's speech was very able. He did not touch upon the liberality
of the Spanish Americans towards races other than the Caucasian, which
peered out of Hayne's speech as one of the Southern objections. After
using the wise and seemingly pertinent language of Washington against
such foreign involvements, Van Buren skillfully referred to the very
Prussian treaty which the President had cited in his message to the
House. The elder Adams, the Senate was reminded, had departed from the
rule commended by his great predecessor. He had told his first Congress
that we were indeed to keep ourselves distinct and separate from the
political system of Europe "if we can," but that we needed early and
continual information of political projects in contemplation; that
however we might consider ourselves, others would consider us a weight
in the balance of power in Europe, which never could be forgotten or
neglected; and that it was natural for us, studying to be neutral, to
consult with other nations engaged in the same study. The younger Adams
had been, Van Buren pointed out, appointed upon the Berlin mission to
carry out these heretical suggestions of his father. The Republicans of
that day had vigorously opposed the mission; and for their opposition
were denounced as a faction, and lampooned and vilified "by all the
presses supporting and supported by the government, and a host of
malicious parasites generaled by its patronage." But, covered with
Washington's mantle, the Republicans of '98 had sought to strangle at
its birth this political hydra, this first attempt since the
establishment of the government to subject our political affairs to the
terms and conditions of political connection with a foreign nation.
Probably anticipating the success of the administration senators by a
majority of five, Van Buren ingeniously reminded the Senate that those
early Republicans had failed with a majority of four against them. But
it was to be remembered, he continued, that after a few more such
Federalist victories the ruin of Federalism had been complete. Its
doctrines had speedily received popular condemnation. The new
administration under the presidency of that early minister to Prussia
had returned to the practices of the Federalist party, to which Van
Buren with courteous indirection let it be remembered that the president
had originally belonged. Except a guaranty to Spain of its dominions
beyond the Mississippi, which Jefferson had offered as part of the price
of a cession of the territory between that river and the Mobile, the
administrations of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe had strictly followed
the admonition of Washington: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship
with all nations, entangling alliances with none." If we were asked to
form a connection with European states, such as was proposed with the
southern republics, Van Buren argued, no American would approve it; and
there was no sound reason, there was nothing but fanciful sentiment, to
induce us to distinguish between the states of Europe and those of South
America. Grant that there was a Holy Alliance in monarchical Europe, was
it not a hollow glory, inconsistent with a sober view of American
interests, to create a holy alliance in republican America? It might
indeed be easy to agree upon speculative opinions with our younger
neighbors at the south; but we should be humiliated in their eyes, and
difficulties would at once arise, when means of promoting those opinions
were proposed, and we were then to say we could talk but not fight. The
Monroe doctrine was not to be withdrawn; but we ought to be left free to
act upon it without the burden of promises, express or implied. The
proposed congress was a specious and disguised step towards an American
confederacy, full of embarrassment, full of danger; and the first step
should be firmly resisted. Such was the outline of Van Buren's argument;
and its wisdom has commanded a general assent from that day.

Dickerson of New Jersey very well phrased sound American sentiment when
he said in the debate that, next to a passion for war, he dreaded a
passion for diplomacy. The majestic declamation of Webster, his
pathetic picture of a South America once oppressed but now emancipated,
his eloquent cry that if it were weak to feel that he was an American it
was a weakness from which he claimed no exemption,--all this met a good
deal of exuberant response through the country. But it failed, as in our
history most such efforts have failed, to convince the practical
judgment of Americans, a judgment never long dazzled or inspired by the
picture of an America wielding enormous or dominant international power.
The Panama congress met in the absence of the American representatives,
who had been delayed. It made a treaty of friendship and perpetual
confederation to which all other American powers might accede within a
year. The congress was to meet annually in time of common war, and
biennially in times of peace. But it never met again. The "centre of the
world" was too far away from its very neighbors. Even South American
republics could not be kept together by effusions of republican glory
and international love.

In spite of its victory in Congress, Adams's administration had plainly
opened with a serious mistake. The opposition was perfectly legitimate;
and although in the debate it was spoken of as unorganized, it certainly
came out of the debate a pretty definite party. Before the debate Adams
had written in his diary, and truly, that it was the first subject upon
which a great effort had been made "to combine the discordant elements
of the Crawford and Jackson and Calhoun men into a united opposition
against the administration." Although some of the Southern opposition
was heated by a dislike of States in which negroes were to be
administrators, the division was not at all upon a North and South line.
With Van Buren voted Findlay of Pennsylvania, Chandler and Holmes of
Maine, Woodbury of New Hampshire, Dickerson of New Jersey, Kane of
Illinois, making seven Northern with twelve Southern senators. Against
Van Buren were eight senators from slave States, Barton of Missouri,
Bouligny and Johnston of Louisiana, Chambers of Alabama, Clayton and Van
Dyke of Delaware, Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky, and Smith of Maryland.
It was an incipient but a true party division.

Throughout this session of 1824-25 Van Buren was very industrious in the
Senate, and nearly, if not quite, its most conspicuous member, if
account be not taken of Randolph's furious and blazing talents. Calhoun
was only in the chair as vice-president; the great duel between him and
Van Buren not yet begun. Clay was at the head of the cabinet, and
Webster in the lower House. Jackson was in Tennessee, watching with
angry confidence, and aiding, the rising tide with the political
dexterity in which he was by no means a novice. Having only a minority
with him, and with Benton frequently against him, Van Buren gradually
drilled his party into opposition on internal improvements,--a most
legitimate and important issue. In December, 1825, he threw down the
gauntlet to the administration, or rather took up its gauntlet. He
proposed a resolution "that Congress does not possess the power to make
roads and canals within the respective States." At the same time he
asked for a committee to prepare a constitutional amendment on the
subject like his earlier proposal, saying with a touch of very polite
partisanship that though the President's recent declaration, that the
power clearly existed in the Constitution, might diminish, it did not
obviate the necessity of an amendment. In March, April, and May, 1826,
he opposed appropriations of $110,000 to continue the Cumberland road,
and of $50,000 for surveys preparatory to roads and canals, and
subscriptions to stock of the Louisville and Portland Canal Company and
of the Dismal Swamp Canal Company. All these were distinctly
administration measures.

Although the principles advanced by Van Buren in this part of his
opposition have not since obtained complete and unanimous affirmance,
they have at least commanded so large, honorable, and prolonged support,
that his attitude can with little good sense be considered one of
factious difference. Especially wise was he on the question of
government subscriptions to private canal companies. Upon one of these
bills he said, in May, 1826, that he did not believe that the government
had the constitutional power to make canals or to grant money for them;
but he added that, if he believed otherwise, the grant of money should,
he thought, be made directly, and not by forming a partnership between
the government and a private corporation. In 1824 he had voted for the
road from Missouri to New Mexico; but this stood, as the Pacific railway
later stood, upon a different principle, the former as a road entirely
without state limits and a means of international commerce, and the
latter a road chiefly through federal territories, and of obvious
national importance in the war between the North and the South.

The proposed amendment of the Constitution to prevent the election of
president by a vote of States in the House of Representatives, upon
which Van Buren had spoken in 1824, had now acquired new interest. Van
Buren seized Adams's election in the House as a good subject for
political warfare; and it was clearly a legitimate topic for party
discussion and division. Van Buren would have been far more exalted in
his notions of political agitation than the greatest of political
leaders, had he not sought to use the popular feeling, that the American
will had been subverted by the decision of the House, to promote his
plan of constitutional reform. He told the Senate in May, 1826, that he
was satisfied that there was no one point on which the people of the
United States were more perfectly united than upon the propriety of
taking the choice of president from the House. But Congress was not
ready for the change; however much in theory was to be said against the
clumsy system which nearly made Burr president in 1801,[3] and which
produced in 1825 a choice which Adams himself declared that he would
vacate if the Constitution provided a mode of doing it.

As chairman of the judiciary committee, Van Buren participated in a most
laborious effort to enlarge the federal judiciary. Upon the question
whether the judges of the Supreme Court should be relieved from circuit
duty, he made an elaborate and very able speech upon the negative side.
The opportunity arose for a disquisition on the danger of centralized
government, and for a renewal of the criticisms he had made in the New
York Constitutional Convention upon the common and absurd picture of
judges as dwellers in an atmosphere above all human infirmity, and
beyond the reach of popular impression. Van Buren said, what all
sensible men know, that in spite of every effort, incompetent men will
sometimes reach the judicial bench. If always sitting among associates
_in banc_, their incompetence would be shielded, he said, by their abler
brethren. But if regularly compelled to perform their great duties alone
and in the direct face of the people, and not in the isolation of
Washington, there was another constraint, Van Buren said very
democratically and with substantial truth. "There is a power in public
opinion in this country," he declared, "and I thank God for it, for it
is the most honest and best of all powers, which will not tolerate an
incompetent or unworthy man to hold in his weak or wicked hands the
lives and fortunes of his fellow citizens." He added an expression to
which he would afterwards have given most narrow interpretation. The
Supreme Court stood, he said, "as the umpire between the conflicting
powers of the general and state governments." There was in the speech
very plain though courteous intimation of that jealousy with which Van
Buren's party examined the political utterances of the court from
Jefferson's time until, years after Van Buren's retirement, the party
found it convenient to receive from the court, with a sanctimonious air
of veneration, the most odious and demoralizing of all its expressions
of political opinion. In arguing for a close and democratic relation
between the judges and the different parts of the country, and against
their dignified and exalted seclusion at Washington which was so
agreeable to many patriotic Americans, Van Buren said, in a passage
which is fairly characteristic of his oratorical manner:--

    "A sentiment I had almost said of idolatry for the Supreme Court
    has grown up, which claims for its members an almost entire
    exemption from the fallibilities of our nature, and arraigns with
    unsparing bitterness the motives of all who have the temerity to
    look with inquisitive eyes into this consecrated sanctuary of the
    law. So powerful has this sentiment become, such strong hold has
    it taken upon the press of this country, that it requires not a
    little share of firmness in a public man, however imperious may be
    his duty, to express sentiments that conflict with it. It is
    nevertheless correct, sir, that in this, as in almost every other
    case, the truth is to be found in a just medium of the subject. To
    so much of the high-wrought eulogies (which the fashion of the
    times has recently produced in such great abundance) as allows to
    the distinguished men who now hold in their hands that portion of
    the administration of public affairs, talents of the highest order,
    and spotless integrity, I cheerfully add the very humble testimony
    of my unqualified assent. That the uncommon man who now presides
    over the court, and who I hope may long continue to do so, is, in
    all human probability, the ablest judge now sitting upon any
    judicial bench in the world, I sincerely believe. But to the
    sentiment which claims for the judges so great a share of exemption
    from the feelings that govern the conduct of other men, and for the
    court the character of being the safest depository of political
    power, I do not subscribe. I have been brought up in an opposite
    faith, and all my experience has confirmed me in its correctness.
    In my legislation upon this subject I will act in conformity to
    those opinions. I believe the judges of the Supreme Court (great
    and good men as I cheerfully concede them to be) are subject to the
    same infirmities, influenced by the same passions, and operated
    upon by the same causes, that good and great men are in other
    situations. I believe they have as much of the _esprit de corps_ as
    other men. Those who think[4] otherwise form an erroneous estimate
    of human nature; and if they act upon that estimate, will, soon or
    late, become sensible of their delusion."

At this session, upon the election by the Senate of their temporary
president, Van Buren received the compliment of four votes. In May,
1826, he participated in Benton's report on the reduction of executive
patronage, a subject important enough, but there crudely treated. The
report strongly exhibited the jealousy of executive power which had long
been characteristic of American political thought. By describing the
offices within the president's appointment, their numbers and salaries,
and the expense of the civil list, a striking picture was drawn--and in
that way a striking picture can always be drawn--of the power of any
great executive. By imagining serious abuses of power, the picture was
darkened with the dangers of patronage, as it could be darkened to-day.
The country was urged to look forward to the time when public revenue
would be doubled, when the number of public officers would be
quadrupled, when the president's nomination would carry any man through
the Senate, and his recommendation any measure through Congress. Names,
the report said, were nothing. The first Roman emperor was styled
Emperor of the Republic; and the late French emperor had taken a like
title. The American president, it was hinted, might by his enormous
patronage and by subsidies to the press, nominally for official
advertisements, subject us to a like danger. But the usefulness of such
pictures as these of Benton and Van Buren depends upon the practical
lesson taught by the artists. If there were disadvantages and dangers
which our ancestors rightly feared, in placing the federal patronage
under the sole control of the president, so there are disadvantages and
dangers in scattering it by laws into various hands, or in its
subjection to the traditions of "senatorial courtesy."

Six bills accompanied the report. Two of them proposed the appointment
of military cadets and midshipmen, one of each from every congressional
district; and this was afterwards done, giving a petty patronage to
national legislators which public sentiment has but recently begun to
compel them to use upon ascertained merit rather than in sheer
favoritism. A third bill proposed that military and naval commissions
should run "during good behavior" and not "during the pleasure of the
president." A fourth sought with extraordinary unwisdom to correct the
old but ever new abuse of government advertising, by depriving the
responsible executive of its distribution and by placing it in the hands
of congressmen, perhaps the very worst to hold it. Another required
senatorial confirmation for postmasters whose emoluments exceeded an
amount to be fixed. The remaining bill was very wise, and a natural
sequence of Benton's not untruthful though too highly colored picture.
The law of 1820, which fixed at four years the terms of many subordinate
officers, was to be modified so as to limit the terms only for officers
who had not satisfactorily accounted for public moneys. It has been
commonly said that this act was a device of Crawford, when secretary of
the treasury, more easily to use federal patronage for his presidential
canvass. But there seems to be no sufficient reason to doubt that
Benton's and Van Buren's committee correctly stated the intent of the
authors of the law to have been no more than that the officer should be
definitely compelled by the expiration of his term to render his
accounts and have them completely audited; that it was not intended that
some other person should succeed an officer not found in fault; and that
the practice of refusing re-commissions to deserving officers was an
unexpected perversion of the law. The committee simply proposed to
accomplish the true intent of the law. The same bill required the
president to state his reasons for removals of officers when he
nominated their successors. The proposals in the last two bills were
very creditable to Benton and Van Buren and their coadjutors. It is
greatly to be lamented that they were not safely made laws while
patronage was dispensed conscientiously and with sincere public spirit
by the younger Adams, so far as he could control it. The biographer has
more particularly to lament that during the twelve years of Van Buren's
executive influence he seemed daunted by the difficulties of voluntarily
putting in practice the admirable rules which as a senator he would have
imposed by law upon those in executive stations. It was only three
years after this report, that the great chieftain, whom Benton and Van
Buren helped to the presidency, discredited all its reasoning by
proposing "a general extension" of the law whose operation they would
have thus limited. The committee also proposed by constitutional
amendment to forbid the appointment to office of any senator or
representative until the end of the presidential term in which he had
held his seat. This was also one of the reforms whose necessity seems
plain enough to the reformer, until in office he discovers the
conveniences and perhaps the public uses of the practice he has wished
to abolish.

In the short session of 1826-1827, little of any importance was done.
Van Buren refused to vote with Benton to abolish the duty on salt, a
vote doubtless influenced by the apparent interest of New York, which
itself taxed the production of salt to aid the State in its internal
improvements, and which probably could not maintain the tax if foreign
salt were admitted free. Van Buren did not, indeed, avow, nor did he
disavow this reason. He was content to point out that the great canals
of New York were of national use, though their expense was borne by his
State alone. He voted at this session for lower duties on teas, coffees,
and wines. He did not join Benton and others in their narrow
unwillingness to establish a naval academy. Van Buren's temper was
eminently free from raw prejudices against disciplined education. The
death of one of the envoys to the Panama congress enabled him again at
this session to renew his opposition by a vote against filling the
vacancy. Another attempt was made to pass a bankruptcy bill; but again
it failed through the natural and wholesome dislike of increasing the
powers of the federal judiciary, and the preference that state courts
and laws should perform all the work to which they were reasonably
competent. The bill did not even pass the Senate, until by Van Buren's
opposition it had been reduced to a bill establishing a summary and
speedy remedy for creditors against fraudulent or failing traders,
instead of a general system of bankruptcy, voluntary and involuntary,
for all persons. Van Buren's speech against the insolvency features of
the bill was made on January 23, 1827, only a few days before his
successor as senator was to be chosen. But the thoughtless popularity
which often accompanies sweeping propositions of relief to insolvents
did not move him from resolute and successful opposition to what he
called (and later experience has most abundantly justified him) "an
injurious extension of the patronage of the federal government, and an
insupportable enlargement of the range of its judicial power." On
February 24, 1827, a few days after his reëlection, he delivered a lucid
and elaborate speech on the long-perplexing topic of the restrictions
upon American trade with the British colonies, a subject to be
afterwards closely connected with his political fortunes.

The agitation of the coming presidential election left little of its
turbulence upon the records of the long session from December, 1827, to
May, 1828. Van Buren was doubtless busy enough out of the senate
chamber. But he was still a very busy legislator. He spoke at least
twice in favor of the bill to abolish imprisonment under judgments
rendered by federal courts for debts not fraudulently incurred, the bill
which Richard M. Johnson had pressed so long and so honorably; and at
last he saw the bill pass in January, 1828. He spoke often upon the
technical bill to regulate federal judicial process. Again he voted, and
again in a minority and in opposition to Benton and other political
friends, against bills to extend the Cumberland road and for other
internal improvements. Besides the usual bills to appropriate lands for
roads and canals, and to subscribe to the stock of private canal
companies, a step further was now taken in the constitutional change led
by Adams and Clay. Public land was voted for the benefit of Kenyon
College, in the State of Ohio. There was plainly intended to be no limit
to federal beneficence. In this session Van Buren again rushed to defend
the salt duty so dear to New York.

At the same session was passed the "tariff of abominations," a measure
so called from the oppressive provisions loaded on it by its enemies,
but in spite of which it passed. Van Buren, though he sat still during
the debate, cast for the bill a protectionist vote, with Benton and
several others whose convictions were against it, but who yielded to
the supposed public sentiment or the peremptory instructions of their
States, or who did not yet dare to make upon the tariff a presidential
issue. The votes of the senators were sectionally thus distributed: For
the tariff,--New England, 6; Middle States, 8; Louisiana, 1; and the
Western States, 11; in all 26. Against it,--New England, 5; Maryland, 2;
Southern States, 13; and Tennessee, 1. It was a victory of neither
political party, but of the Middle and Western over the Southern States.
Only three negative votes were cast by senators who had voted against
the administration on the Panama question in 1826; while of the votes
for the tariff, fourteen were cast by senators who had then opposed the
administration. Of the senators in favor of the tariff, six, Van Buren,
Benton, Dickerson of New Jersey, Eaton of Tennessee (Jackson's close
friend), Kane of Illinois, and Rowan of Kentucky, had in 1826 been in
opposition, while ten of those voting against the tariff had then been
with them.[5] The greater number of the opposition senators were
therefore against the tariff, though very certainly the votes of Van
Buren, Benton, and Eaton prevented the opposition from taking strong
ground or suffering injury on the tariff in the election. Van Buren's
silence in this debate of 1828 indicated at least a temper now hesitant.
But he and his colleague, Sanford, according to the theory then popular
that senators were simply delegated agents of their States, were
constrained, whatever were their opinions, by a resolution of the
legislature of New York passed almost unanimously in January, 1828. It
stated a sort of _ultima ratio_ of protection, commanding the senators
"to make every proper exertion to effect such a revision of the tariff
as will afford a sufficient protection to the growers of wool, hemp, and
flax, and the manufacturers of iron, woolens, and every other article,
so far as the same may be connected with the interest of manufactures,
agriculture, and commerce." The senators might perhaps have said to this
that, if they were to protect not only iron and woolens but also every
other article, they ought not to levy prohibitory duties on some and not
on other articles; that if they were equally to protect manufactures,
agriculture, and commerce, they could do no better than to let natural
laws alone. But the silly instruction said what no intelligent
protectionist means; his system disappears with an equality of
privilege; that equality must, he argues, at some point yield to
practical necessities. Van Buren took the resolution, however, in its
intended meaning, and not literally. Hayne concluded his fine struggle
against the bill by a solemn protest upon its passage that it was a
partial, unjust, and unconstitutional measure.

At this session Van Buren, upon the consideration of a rule giving the
Vice-President power to call to order for words spoken in debate, made
perhaps the most elaborate of his purely political speeches. It was a
skillful and not unsuccessful effort to give philosophical significance
to the coming struggle at the polls. He spoke of "that collision, which
seems to be inseparable from the nature of man, between the rights of
the few and the many," of "those never-ceasing conflicts between the
advocates of the enlargement and concentration of power on the one hand,
and its limitation and distribution on the other." The one party, he
said, had "grown out of a deep and settled distrust of the people and of
the States:" the other, out of "a jealousy of power justified by all
human experience." The advocates of "a strong government," having been
defeated in much that they sought in the federal convention, had since,
he said, "been at work to obtain by construction what was not included
or intended to be included in the grant." He declared the incorporation
of the United States Bank to be the "great pioneer of constitutional
encroachments." Thence had followed those famous usurpations, the alien
and sedition laws of the older Adams's administration. Then came the
doctrine that the House of Representatives was bound to make all
appropriations necessary to carry out a treaty made by the President and
Senate; and then "the bold avowal that it belonged to the President
alone to decide upon the propriety" of a foreign mission, and that it
was for the Senate only "to pass on the fitness of the individuals
selected as ministers." He lamented the single lapse of Madison, "one
of the most, if not the most, accomplished statesman that our country
has produced," in signing the bill to incorporate the new bank. The
younger Adams, Van Buren declared, had "gone far beyond the utmost
latitude of construction" therefore claimed; and he added a reference,
decorous enough but neither fair nor gracious, to Adams's own early
entrance in the public service upon a mission unauthorized by Congress.
It was now demonstrated, he said, that the result of the presidential
choice of 1825 "was not only the restoration of the men of 1798, but of
the principles of that day." The spirit of encroachment had, it was
true, become more wary; but it was no more honest. The system had then
been coercion; now it was seduction. Then unconstitutional powers had
been exercised to force submission; now they were assumed to purchase
golden opinions from the people with their own means. Isolated acts of
the Federalists had not produced an unyielding exclusion from the
confidence of a majority of the people, for more than a quarter of a
century, of large masses of men distinguished for talent and private
worth. The great and glorious struggle had proceeded from something
deeper, an opposition to the principle of an extension of the
constructive powers of the government. Without harsh denunciation, and
by suggestion rather than assertion, the administration of John Quincy
Adams was grouped with the administration of his father. The earlier
administration had deserved and met the retribution of a Republican
victory. The later one now deserved and ought soon to meet a like fate.

The issue was clearly made. The parties were formed. The result rested
with the people. On February 6, 1827, Van Buren had been reëlected
senator by a large majority in both houses of the New York legislature.
In his brief letter of acceptance he said no more on public questions
than that it should be his "constant and zealous endeavor to protect the
remaining rights reserved to the States by the federal Constitution,"
and "to restore those of which they have been divested by construction."
This had been the main burden of his political oratory from the
inauguration of Adams. There are many references in books to doubts of
Van Buren's position until 1827; but such doubts are not justified in
the face of his prompt and perfectly explicit utterances in the session
of 1825-1826, and from that time steadily on.

De Witt Clinton's death on February 11, 1828, removed from the politics
of New York one of its most illustrious men, a statesman of the first
rank, able and passionate, and of the noblest aspirations. The
understanding reached between him and Van Buren in 1826, for the support
of Jackson, had not produced a complete coalition. In spite of the union
on Jackson, the Bucktails nominated and Van Buren loyally supported for
governor against Clinton in 1826, William B. Rochester, a warm friend
and supporter of Adams and Clay, and one of the members of the very
Panama mission against which so strenuous a fight had been made. Clinton
was reëlected by a small majority. In a meeting at Washington after his
death, Van Buren declared the triumph of his talents and patriotism to
be monuments of high and enduring fame. He was glad that, though in
their public careers there had been "collisions of opinions and action
at once extensive, earnest, and enduring," they had still been "wholly
free from that most venomous and corroding of all poisons, personal
hatred." These collisions were now "turned to nothing and less than
nothing." Speaking of his respect for Clinton's name and gratitude for
his signal services, Van Buren concluded with this striking tribute:
"For myself, so strong, so sincere, and so engrossing is that feeling,
that I, who whilst living, never--no, never, envied him anything, now
that he has fallen, am greatly tempted to envy him his grave with its

With this session of 1827-1828 ended Van Buren's senatorial career and
his parliamentary leadership. From 1821 to 1828 the Senate was not
indeed at its greatest glory. Webster entered it only in December, 1827.
Hayne and Benton with Van Buren are to us its most distinguished
members, if Randolph's rather indescribable and useless personality may
be excepted. But to neither of them has the opinion of later times
assigned a place in the first rank of orators, although Hayne's tariff
speech in 1824 deserves to be set with the greatest of American
political orations. The records and speeches of the Senate in which Van
Buren sat have come to us with fine print and narrow margins; they have
not contributed to the collected works of great men. But the Senate was
then an able body. The principles of American politics were never more
clearly stated. When the books are well dusted, and one has broken
through the starched formality in which the speakers' phrases were set,
he finds a copious fund of political instruction. The federal Senate was
more truly a parliamentary body in those formative days than perhaps at
any other period. Several at least of its members were in doubt as to
the political course they should follow; they were in doubt where they
should find their party associations. To them, debates had therefore a
real and present significance. There were some votes to be affected,
there were converts to be gained, by speeches even on purely political
questions; there were some senators whose votes were not inexorably
determined for them by the will of their parties or their constituents.
Much that was said had therefore a genuine parliamentary ring. The
orators really sought to convince and persuade those who heard them
within the easy and almost conversational limits of the old senate
chamber. There was little of the mere pronouncing of essays or
declamations intended to have their real and only effect elsewhere. In
this art of true parliamentary speaking rather than oratory, Van Buren
was a master such as Lord Palmerston afterwards became. He was not
eloquent. His speeches, so far as they are preserved, interest the
student of political history and not of literature. They are sensible,
clear, practical arguments made in rather finished sentences. One does
not find quotations from them in books of school declamation. But they
served far more effectively the primary end of parliamentary speaking
than did the elaborate and powerful disquisitions of Calhoun, or the
more splendid flood of Webster's eloquence. Van Buren's speeches were
intended to convince, and they did convince some of the men in the seats
about him. They were meant to persuade, and they did persuade. They were
lucid exhibitions of political principles, generally practical, and
touched sufficiently but not morbidly with the theoretical fears so
common to our earlier politics. Some of those fears have since been
shown to be groundless; but out of many of them has come much that is
best in the modern temper of American political institutions. Van
Buren's speeches did not rise beyond the reach of popular understanding,
although they never warmly touched popular sympathy. They were intended
to formulate and spread a political faith in which he plainly saw that
there was the material of a party,--a faith founded upon the jealousy of
federal activity, however beneficent, which sought to avoid state
control or encourage state dependence. The prolixity which was a grave
fault of his state papers and political letters was far less exhibited
in his oratorical efforts. His style was generally easy and vigorous,
with little of the turgid learning which loaded down many sensible
speeches of the time. Now and then, however, he resorted to the
sentences of stilted formality which sometimes overtake a good public
speaker, as a good actor sometimes lapses into the stage strut.

In Van Buren's senatorial speeches there is nothing to justify the
charge of "non-committalism" so much made against him. When he spoke at
all he spoke explicitly; and he plainly, though without acerbity,
exhibited his likes and dislikes. Jackson was struck with this when he
sat in the Senate with him. "I had heard a great deal about Mr. Van
Buren," he said, "especially about his non-committalism. I made up my
mind that I would take an early opportunity to hear him and judge for
myself. One day an important subject was under debate in the Senate. I
noticed that Mr. Van Buren was taking notes while one of the senators
was speaking. I judged from this that he intended to reply, and I
determined to be in my seat when he spoke. His turn came; and he rose
and made a clear, straightforward argument, which, to my mind, disposed
of the whole subject. I turned to my colleague, Major Eaton, who sat
next to me. 'Major,' said I, 'is there anything non-committal about
that?' 'No, sir,' said the major." Van Buren scrupulously observed the
amenities of debate. He was uniformly courteous towards adversaries; and
the calm self-control saved him, as some greater orators were not
saved, from a descent to the aspersion of motive so common and so futile
in political debate. He could not, indeed, help now and then an allusion
to the venality and monarchical tendency of the Federalists and their
successors; but this was an old formula which strong haters had years
before made very popular in the Republican phrase-book, and which, as to
the venality, meant nobody in particular.



When in May, 1828, Van Buren left Washington, the country universally
recognized him as the chief organizer of the new party and its
congressional leader. As such he turned all his skill and industry to
win a victory for Jackson and Calhoun. There was never in the history of
the United States a more legitimate presidential canvass than that of
1828. The rival candidates distinctly stood for conflicting principles
of federal administration. On the one side, under Van Buren's shrewd
management, with the theoretical coöperation of Calhoun,--the natural
bent of whose mind was now aided and not thwarted by the exigencies of
his personal career,--was the party inclined to strict limitation of
federal powers, jealous for local powers, hostile to internal
improvements by the federal government, inclined to a lower rather than
a higher tariff. On the other side was the party strongly national in
temper, with splendid conceptions of a powerful and multifariously
useful central administration, impatient of the poverties and meannesses
of many of the States. The latter party was led by a president with
ampler training in public life than any American of his time, who
sincerely and intelligently believed the principles of his party; and
his party held those principles firmly, explicitly, and with practical
unanimity. Jefferson, in almost his last letter, written in December,
1825, to William B. Giles, a venerable leader of the Democracy, the
"Charles James Fox of Congress," Benton's "statesman of head and
tongue," recalled indeed Adams's superiority over all ordinary
considerations when the safety of his country had been questioned; but
Jefferson declared himself in "the deepest affliction" at the
usurpations by which the federal branch, through the decisions of the
federal court, the doctrines of the President, and the misconstructions
of Congress, was stripping its "colleagues, the state authorities, of
the powers reserved to them." The voice from Monticello, feeble with its
eighty-three years, and secretly uttered though it was, sounded the
summons to a new Democratic battle.

Van Buren and his coadjutors, however, led a party as yet of inclination
to principles rather than of principles. It was out of power. There was
neither warmth nor striking exaltation in its programme. Its
philosophical and political wisdom needed the aid of one of those simple
cries for justice which are so potent in political warfare, and a leader
to interest and fire the popular temper. Both were at hand. The late
defeat of the popular will by the Adams-Clay coalition was the cry; the
hero of the military victory most grateful to Americans was the leader.
To this cry and this leader Van Buren skillfully harnessed an
intelligible, and at the least a reasonable, political creed. There were
thus united nearly all the elements of political strength. Not indeed
all, for the record of the leader was weak upon several articles of
faith. Jackson had voted in the Senate for internal improvement bills,
and among them bills of the most obnoxious character, those authorizing
subscriptions to the stocks of private corporations. He had voted
against reductions of the tariff. But the votes, it was hoped, exhibited
only his inexpertness in applying general principles to actual
legislation, or a good-natured willingness to please his constituents by
single votes comparatively unimportant. In truth these mistakes were
really inconsistencies of the politician, and no more. There had been a
long inclination on Jackson's part to the Jeffersonian policy. Over
thirty years before, he had in Congress been a strict constructionist
and an anti-federalist. In 1801 he had required a candidate desiring his
support to be "an admirer of state authority, agreeable to the true
literal meaning" of the Constitution, and "banishing the dangerous
doctrine of implication." If he were now to have undivided
responsibility, this old Democratic trend of his would, it was hoped, be
strong enough under Democratic advice. As a candidate, the
inconsistencies of a soldier politician were far outweighed by his
picturesque and powerful personality. It is commonly thought of Jackson
that he was a headstrong, passionate, illiterate man, used and pulled
about by a few intriguers. Nothing could be further from the truth. He
was himself a politician of a high order. His letters are full of
shrewd, vigorous, and even managing suggestions of partisan
manoeuvres. Their political utterances show a highly active and
generally sensible though not disciplined mind. He had had long and
important experience of civil affairs, in the lower house of Congress,
in the federal Senate when he was only thirty years old, in the
constitutional convention of his State, in its Supreme Court, later
again in the Senate; he had been for eight years before the country as a
candidate for its first office, and for many years in public business of
large importance. There were two of the most distinguished Americans,
men of the ripest abilities and amplest experience, and far removed from
rashness, who from 1824 or before had steadily preferred Jackson for the
presidency. These were Edward Livingston of Louisiana and De Witt
Clinton of New York. Daniel Webster described his manners as "more
presidential than those of any of the candidates." Jackson was, he
wrote, "grave, mild, and reserved." Unless in Jackson's case there were
effects without adequate causes, it is very certain that, with faults of
most serious character, he still had the ability, the dignity, and the
wisdom of a ruler of a high rank. He was, as very few men are, born to

After Crawford's defeat, Van Buren is credited with a skillful
management of the alliance of his forces with those of Jackson. There is
not yet public, if it exist, any original evidence as to the details of
this work. Van Buren's enemies were fond of describing it as full of
cunning and trickery, the work of "the little magician;" and later and
fairer writers have adopted from these enemies this characterization.
But all this seems entirely without proof. Nor is the story probable.
The union of the Crawford and Jackson men was perfectly natural.
Crawford was a physical wreck, out of public life. Numerous as were the
exceptions, his followers and Jackson's included the great majority of
the strict constructionists; and but a minority of either of the two
bodies held the opposite views. Neither of the two men had, at the last
election, been defeated by the other. That Van Buren used at Washington
his unrivaled skill in assuaging animosities and composing differences
there can be no doubt. After the end of the session in March, 1827,
together with Churchill C. Cambreleng, a member of Congress from New
York and a close political friend of his, he made upon this mission a
tour through Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. They visited
Crawford, and were authorized to declare that he should support Jackson,
but did not wish to aid Calhoun. At Raleigh Van Buren told the citizens
that the spirit of encroachment had assumed a new and far more seductive
aspect, and could only be resisted by the exercise of uncommon virtues.
Passing through Washington on his way north, he paid a polite visit to
Adams, talking with him placidly about Rufus King, Monroe, and the
Petersburg horse-races. The President, regarding him as "the great
electioneering manager for General Jackson," promptly noted in his
diary, when the interview was over, that Van Buren was now acting the
part Burr had performed in 1799 and 1800; and he found "much resemblance
of character, manners, and even person, between the two men."

As early as 1826 the Van Buren Republicans of New York, and an important
part of the Clintonians with the great governor at their head, had
determined to support Jackson. Van Buren is said to have concealed his
attitude until after his reëlection to the Senate in 1827. But this is a
complete error, except as to his public choice of a candidate. His
opposition to the Adams-Clay administration, it has already appeared,
had been outspoken from 1825. The Jackson candidacy was not indeed
definitely announced in New York until 1827. The cry for "Old Hickory"
then went up with a sudden unanimity which seemed to the Adams men a bit
of devilish magic, but which was the patient prearrangement of a
skillful politician appreciating his responsibility, and waiting, as the
greatest of living politicians[6] recently told England a statesman
ought to wait, until the time was really ripe, until the popular
inclination was sufficiently formed to justify action by men in
responsible public station.

The opposition to the reëlection of John Quincy Adams in 1828 was
sincerely considered by him, and has been often described by others, as
singularly causeless, unworthy, and even monstrous. But in truth it led
to one of the most necessary, one of the truest, political revolutions
which our country has known. Both Adams and Clay were positive and able
men. They were resolute that the rather tepid democracy of Monroe should
be succeeded by a highly national, a federally active administration.
Prior to the election of 1824 Clay had been as nearly in opposition as
the era of good feeling permitted. Early in Monroe's administration he
had attacked the President's declaration that Congress had no right to
construct roads and canals. His criticism, Mr. Schurz tells us in his
brilliant and impartial account of the time, "had a strong flavor of
bitterness in it;" it was in part made up of "oratorical flings," by
which Clay unnecessarily sought to attack and humiliate Monroe. Adams's
diary states Clay's opposition to have been "violent, systematic," his
course to have been "angry, acrimonious." Late in 1819 Monroe's friends
had even consulted over the wisdom of defeating Clay's reëlection to the
speakership; and still later Clay had, as Mr. Schurz says, fiercely
castigated the administration for truckling to foreigners. When Clay
came into power, it would have been unreasonable for him to suppose that
there must not arise vigorous parliamentary opposition on the part of
those who consider themselves the true Republican successors of Monroe,
seeking to stop the diversion into strange ways which Clay and Adams had
now begun. Richard Rush of Pennsylvania, Adams's secretary of the
treasury, and now the Adams candidate for vice-president, had, in one of
his annual reports, declared it to be the duty of government "to augment
the number and variety of occupations for its inhabitants; to hold out
to every degree of labor, and to every modification of skill, its
appropriate object and inducement; to organize the whole labor of a
country; to entice into the widest ranges its mechanical and
intellectual capacities, instead of suffering them to slumber; to call
forth, wherever hidden, latent ingenuity, giving to effort activity and
to emulation ardor; to create employment for the greater amount of
numbers by adapting it to the diversified faculties, propensities, and
situations of men, so that every particle of ability, every shade of
genius, may come into requisition." Nor did this glowing picture of a
useful and beneficent government go far beyond the utterances of Rush's
senior associate on the presidential ticket. It is certain that it was
highly agreeable to Clay.

Surely there could be no clearer political issue presented, on the one
side by Van Buren's speeches in the Senate, and on the other by
authoritative and solemn declarations of the three chief persons of the
administration. Whatever the better side of the issue may have been, no
issue was ever a more legitimate subject of a political campaign. It is
true that the accusations were unfounded, which were directed against
Adams for treachery to the Republican principles he professed after, on
adhering to Jefferson, he had resigned his seat in the Senate. He had
joined Jefferson on questions of foreign policy and domestic defense,
and had, until his election to the presidency, been chiefly concerned
with diplomacy. But though the accusations were false, it is true enough
that Adams himself had made the issue of the campaign. Nor was it
creditable to him that he saw in the opposition something merely
personal to himself. If he were wrong upon the issue, as Van Buren and a
majority of the people thought, his long public service, his utter
integrity, his exalted sense of the obligations of office, ought not to
have saved him from the battle or from defeat. How true and deep was
this political contest of 1828 one sees in the fact that from it, almost
as much as from the triumph of Jefferson, flow the traditions of one of
the great American parties, traditions which survived the corruptions of
slavery, and are still powerful in party administration.[7] If John
Quincy Adams had been elected, and if, as might naturally have been the
case, there had followed, at this commencement of railway building, a
firm establishment of the doctrine that the national government could
properly build roads within the States, it is more than mere speculation
to say that the later history of the United States would, whether for
the better or the worse, have been very different from what it has been.
The dangers to which American institutions would be exposed, if the
federal government had become a great power levying taxes upon the whole
country to be used in constructing railways, or, what was worse,
purchasing stock in railway corporations, and doing this, as it would
inevitably have done, according to the amount of pressure here or
there,--such dangers, it is easy to understand, seem, whether rightly or
wrongly, appalling to a large class of political thinkers. To realize
this sense of danger dissipates the aspect of _doctrinaire_ extravagance
in the speeches of Adams's opponents against latitudinarian

In the canvass of 1828 there was on both sides more wicked and
despicable exhibition of slander than had been known since Jefferson and
John Adams were pitted against each other. Jackson was a military
butcher and utterly illiterate; the chastity of his wife was doubtful.
Adams had corruptly bargained away offices; his accounts of public
moneys received by him needed serious scrutiny; and, that the charges
might be precisely balanced, he had when minister at St. Petersburg
acted as procurer to the Czar of Russia. These lies doubtless defeated
themselves; but in each election since 1828 there have been politicians
low enough and silly enough to imitate them. To nothing of this kind did
Van Buren descend. Nor does it seem that even then he used the cry of a
corrupt bargain between Adams and Clay, in which Jackson believed as
long as he lived. The coalition of 1825, defeating, as it had, a
candidate chosen by a larger number of voters than any other, was the
most used, and probably the most successfully used, of any of the
campaign issues. Nor was this clearly illegitimate, although Adams and
many for him have hotly condemned its immorality. Every political
coalition between men lately in opposition political and personal, by
which both get office, is fairly open to criticism. In experience it has
always been full of political danger, although since the prejudice of
the times has worn away, the defense of Adams and Clay is seen to be
amply sufficient. Whatever had been their mutual dislikes political or
personal, each of them was politically and in his practical
statesmanship far nearer to the other than to any other of the
competitors. But we have yet to see a political campaign against a
coalition whose members have been rewarded with office, in which this
form of attack is not made by men very intelligent and most honest. Nor
is there any reason to hold the followers of Jackson to a higher
standard. In our own time we have seen two coalitions whose parties
wisely recognized this danger. The chief leaders of the Republican
revolt in 1884 neither sought nor took office from the former
adversaries with whom for once they then acted. The Dissenting Liberals
in England did not take office in the Conservative ministry formed in
1886; and the odium which, in the change later made in it, followed Mr.
Goschen into its second place, illustrated very well the truth that,
however honorable the course may be, it is inevitably dangerous.[8]

Nor can moral condemnation be passed upon the use in 1828 of the defeat
in 1824, of the candidate having the largest popular vote. We see pretty
clearly in a constitutionally governed country that when power is
lawfully lodged with a public man, he must act upon his own judgment;
and that, if he be influenced by others, then he ought to be influenced
by the wishes and interests of those who supported him, and not of
those who opposed him, even though far more numerous than his
supporters. Repeatedly have we seen a state legislature, which the
arrangement of districts has caused to be elected from a party in
minority in the whole State, choose a federal senator who it was known
would have been defeated upon a popular vote; and this without criticism
of the conduct of the legislators, but only of the defective district
division. In Connecticut it has happened more than once that, neither
candidate for governor having a majority vote, the legislature has
chosen a candidate having one of the smaller minorities; and here again
without criticism of the legislature's morality. But still the general
rule of American elections is, that the candidate shall be chosen who is
preferred by more votes than any other. To assent to a constitutional
defeat of such a preference, but afterwards and under the law to make
strong appeal to right the wrong which the law has wrought, seems a
highly defensible course, and to deserve little of the criticism visited
upon the Jackson canvass of 1828. If party divisions be justifiable, if
chief public officers are to be chosen for their views on great
questions of state, if the cold appeals of political reasoning are ever
rightly strengthened by appeals to popular feelings, the campaign which
Van Buren and his associates began in 1825 or 1826 was perfectly
justifiable. Nor in its result can any one deny, whether it were for
better or worse, that their success in the battle worked a change in the
principles of administration, and not a mere vulgar driving from office
of one body of men that another might take their places.

The death of De Witt Clinton left Van Buren easily the largest figure in
public life, as he had for several years been the most powerful
politician, in New York State. The gossip that the most important place
in Jackson's cabinet was really allotted to him before the election of
1828 is probably true. But, whether true or not, there was, apart from a
natural desire to administer the first office in his State, obvious
advantage to his political prestige in passing successfully through a
popular election. The most cynical of managing politicians recognize the
enormous strength of a man for whom the people have actually shown that
they like to vote. Van Buren may have counted besides upon the advantage
which Jackson's personal popularity brought to those in his open
alliance, although Adams was known still to have, as the election showed
he had, considerable Democratic strength. Van Buren took therefore the
Bucktail nomination for governor of New York. The National Republicans,
as the Adams men were called, nominated Smith Thompson, a judge of the
federal Supreme Court. Van Buren got 136,794 and Thompson 106,444 votes.
But in spite of so large a plurality Van Buren did not quite have a
majority of the popular vote. Solomon Southwick, the anti-Masonic
candidate, received 33,345 votes. It was the first election after this
extraordinary movement. The abduction of Morgan and his probable murder
to prevent his revelation of Masonic secrets had occurred in the fall of
1826. The criminal trials consequent upon it had caused intense
excitement; and a political issue was easily made, for many
distinguished men of both parties were members of that secret order. How
powerful for a time may be a popular cry, though based upon an utterly
absurd issue, became more obvious still later when electoral votes for
president were cast for William Wirt, the anti-Masonic candidate; and
when John Quincy Adams, after graduating from the widest experience in
public affairs of any American of his generation, was, as he himself
records, willing to accept, and when William H. Seward was willing to
tender him, a presidential nomination of the anti-Masonic party. As
Southwick's preposterous vote was in 1828 drawn from both parties, Van
Buren's prestige, although he had but a plurality vote, was increased by
his victory at the polls. Jackson very truly said in February, 1832,
that it was now "the general wish and expectation of the Republican
party throughout the Union" that Van Buren should take the place next to
the President in the national administration. Jackson was himself
elected by a very great popular and electoral majority. In New York,
where on this single occasion the electors were chosen in districts, and
where the anti-Masonic vote was cast against Jackson who held high rank
in the Masonic order, Adams secured 16 votes to Jackson's 18; but to
the latter were added the two electors chosen by the thirty-four
district electors.

Van Buren's career as governor was very brief. He was inaugurated on
January 1, 1829, and at once resigned his seat in the federal Senate. On
March 12th of the same year he resigned the governor's seat. His
inaugural message is said by Hammond, the political historian of New
York, by no means too friendly to Van Buren, to have been "the best
executive message ever communicated to the legislature;" and after
nearly sixty years, it seems, in the leather-covered tome containing it,
a remarkably clear, wise, and courageous paper. The excitement over
internal improvements in communication was then at its height. He
declared that, whatever difference there might be as to whether such
improvements ought to be undertaken by the federal government or by the
States, none seriously doubted that it was wise to apply portions of the
means of New York to such improvements. The investment of the State in
the Delaware and Hudson canal, then just completed, had, he thought,
been "crowned with the most cheering success." Splendid, too, as had
been the success of the Erie and Champlain canals, it was still clear
that all had not been equally benefited. The friends of the state road
and of the Chemung and Chenango canals had urged him to recommend for
them a legislative support. But it was a time, he said, for "the utmost
prudence and circumspection" upon that "delicate and vitally interesting

The banking question, he told the legislature, would make the important
business of its session. It turned out besides to be one of the
important businesses of Van Buren's career. To meet the attacks upon him
for having once been interested in a bank, he dexterously recited that,
"having for many years ceased to have an interest in those institutions
and declined any agency in their management," he was conscious of his
imperfect information. But he could not ignore a matter of such
magnitude to their constituents. The whole bank agitation at this time
showed the difficulties and scandals caused by the absence of a free
banking system, and by the long accustomed grants of exclusive banking
charters. Of the forty banks in the State, all specially incorporated,
the charters of thirty-one would expire within one, two, three, or four
years. Their actual capital was $15,000,000; their outstanding loans,
more than $30,000,000. Van Buren urged, therefore, the legislature now
to make by general law final disposition of the whole subject. The
abolition of banks had, he said, no advocate, and a dependence solely
upon those established by federal authority deserved none; but he
rejected the idea of a state bank. "Experience," he declared, "has shown
that banking operations, to be successful, and consequently beneficial
to the community, must be conducted by private men upon their own
account." He condemned the practice by which the State accepted a money
bonus for granting a bank charter, necessarily involving some monopoly.
The concern of the State, he pointed out, should be to make its banks
and their circulation secure; and such security was impaired, not
increased, by encouraging banks in competition with one another, and
"stimulated by the golden harvest in view," to make large payments for
their charters. He submitted for legislative consideration the idea of
the "safety fund" communicated to him in an interesting and intelligent
paper by Joshua Forman. Under this system all the banks of the State,
whatever their condition, were to contribute to a fund to be
administered under state supervision, the fund to be a security for all
dishonored bank-notes. To this extent all the banks were to insure or
indorse the circulation of each bank, thus saving the scandal and loss
arising from the occasional failure of banks to redeem their notes, and
making every bank watchful of all its associates. In compelling the
banks to submit to some general scheme, the representative of the people
would indeed, he said, enter into "conflict with the claims of the great
moneyed interest of the country; but what political exhibition so truly
gratifying as the return to his constituents of the faithful public
servant after having turned away every approach and put far from him
every sinister consideration!"

Van Buren proposed a separation of state from national elections; a
question still discussed, and upon each side of which much is to be
said. He attacked the use of money in elections, "the practice of
employing persons to attend the polls for compensation, of placing large
sums in the hands of others to entertain the electors," and other
devices by which the most valuable of all our temporal privileges "was
brought into disrepute." If the expenses of elections should increase as
they had lately done, the time would soon arrive "when a man in middling
circumstances, however virtuous, will not be able to compete upon
anything like equal terms with a wealthy opponent." In long advance of a
modern agitation for reform which, lately beginning with us, will, it is
to be hoped, not cease until the abuses are removed, he proposed a law
imposing "severe and enforcible penalties upon the advance of money by
individuals for any purposes connected with the election except the
single one of printing."

Turning to the field of general politics, he again declared the
political faith to whose support he wished to rally his party. That "a
jealousy of the exercise of delegated political power, a solicitude to
keep public agents within the precise limits of their authority, and an
assiduous adherence to a rigid and scrupulous economy, were indications
of a contracted spirit unbecoming the character of a statesman," he
pronounced to be a political heresy, from which he himself had not been
entirely free, but which ought at once to be exploded. Official
discretion, as a general rule, could not be confided to any one without
danger of abuse. But he reproved the parsimony which disagreeably
characterized the democracy of the time, and which inadequately paid
great public servants like the chancellor and judges. In the tendency of
the federal government to encroach upon the States lay, he thought, the
danger of the federal Constitution. But of the disposition and capacity
of the American people to resist such encroachments as our political
history recorded, there were, he said, without naming either Adams, "two
prominent and illustrious instances." As long as that good spirit was
preserved, the republic would be safe; and for that preservation every
patriot ought to pray.

The reputation of the country had in some degree suffered, he said, from
"the uncharitable and unrelenting scrutiny to which private as well as
public character" had been subjected in the late election. But this
injury had been "relieved, if not removed, by seeing how soon the
overflowing waters of bitterness" had spent themselves, and "that
already the current of public feeling had resumed its accustomed
channels." These excesses were the price paid for the full enjoyment of
the right of opinion. With an assertion of "perfect deference to that
sacred privilege, and in the humble exercise of that portion of it"
which belonged to him, and of a sincere desire not to offend the
feelings of those who differed from him, he ended his message by
congratulating the legislature upon the election of Jackson and Calhoun.
This result, he said in words not altogether insincere or untrue, but
full of the unfairness of partisan dispute, infused fresh vigor into the
American political system, refuted the odious imputation that republics
are ungrateful, dissipated the vain hope that our citizens could be
influenced by aught save appeals to their understanding and love of
country, and finally exhibited in "bold relief the omnipotence of public
opinion, and the futility of all attempts to overawe it by the
denunciation of power, or to reduce it by the allurements of patronage."

Among the Hoyt letters, afterwards published by Van Buren's rancorous
enemy, Mackenzie, are two letters of his upon his patronage as governor.
It is not unfair to suppose that he wrote many other letters like them,
and they give a useful glimpse of the distribution of offices at Albany
sixty years ago. These letters to Hoyt were of the most confidential
character, and showed a strong but not uncontrolled desire to please
party friends and to meet party expectations. But in none of them is
there a suggestion of anything dishonorable. He asked, "When will the
Republican party be made sensible of the indispensable necessity of
nominating none but true and tried men, so that when they succeed they
gain something?" He was unable to oblige his "good friend Coddington ...
in relation to the health appointments." Dr. Westervelt's claims were
"decidedly the strongest; and much was due to the relations in which he
stood to Governor Tompkins, especially from one who knew so well what
the latter has done and suffered for this State." He wrote of Marcy,
whom he appointed a judge of the supreme court, that he "was so situated
that I must make him a judge or ruin him." All this is doubtless not
unlike what the best of public officers have sometimes said and thought,
though rarely written; and, like most talk over patronage, it is not in
very exalted tone. But if Van Buren admitted as one of Westervelt's
claims to public office that he was of a Whig family and a Democrat
"from his cradle," he found among his other claims that he was "a
gentleman and a man of talent," and had been "three years in the
hospital and five years deputy health officer, until he was cruelly
removed." Dr. Manley he refused to remove from the health office,
because "his extraordinary capacity is universally admitted;" and
pointed out that the removal "could only be placed on political grounds,
and as he was a zealous Jackson man at the last election, that could not
have been done without danger." "I should not," he said, however, "have
given Manley the office originally, if I could have found a competent
Republican to take it." William L. Marcy, whom he made judge, was
already known as one of the ablest men in the State, and his appointment
was admirable, though his salvation from ruin, if Van Buren was speaking
seriously, was not a public end fit to be served by high judicial
appointment. John C. Spencer, one of the best lawyers of New York, was
appointed by Van Buren special counsel for the prosecution of Morgan's
murderers. Hammond wondered "how so rigid a party man as Mr. Van Buren
was, came to appoint a political opponent to so important an office,"
but concluded that it was a fine specimen of his peculiar tact, because
Spencer, though a man of talents and great moral courage, might be
defeated in the prosecution, and thus be injured with the anti-Masons;
while if he succeeded, his vigor and fidelity would draw upon him
Masonic hostility. But the simpler explanation is the more probable. Van
Buren desired to adhere in this, as he did in most of his appointments,
to a high standard. Upon this particular appointment his own motives
might be distrusted; and he therefore went to the ranks of his
adversaries for one of their most distinguished and invulnerable
leaders. Van Buren was long condemned as a "spoils" politician; but he
was not accused of appointing either incompetent or dishonest men to
office. In the great place of governor he must have already begun to see
how difficult and dangerous was this power of patronage. It must be
fairly admitted that he pretty carefully limited, by the integrity and
efficiency of the public service, the political use which he made of his
appointments,--a use made in varying degrees by every American holding
important executive power from the first Adams to our own time.

On March 12, 1829, Governor Van Buren resigned his office with the
hearty and unanimous approval of his party friends, whom he gathered
together on receiving Jackson's invitation to Washington. He was in
their hands, he said, and should abide by their decision. Both houses of
the legislature passed congratulatory and even affectionate resolutions;
and his brief and brilliant career in the executive chamber of the State
ended happily, as does any career which ends that a seemingly greater
one may begin.



Van Buren was appointed secretary of state on March 5, 1829; but did not
reach Washington until the 22d, and did not act as secretary until April
4. James A. Hamilton, a son of Alexander Hamilton, but then an
influential Jackson man, was acting secretary in the meantime. The two
years of Van Buren's administration of this office are perhaps the most
picturesque years of American political history. The Eaton scandal; the
downfall of Calhoun's political power; the magical success of Van Buren;
the "kitchen cabinet;" the odious removals from office, and the outcries
of the removed; the fiery passion of Jackson; the horror both real and
affected of the opposition,--all these have been an inexhaustible quarry
to historical writers. Until very recently the larger use has been made
of the material derived from hostile sources; and it has seemed easy to
paint pictures of this really important time in the crudest and highest
colors of dislike. The American democracy, at last let loose, driven by
Jackson with a sort of demoniac energy and cunningly used by Van Buren
for his own selfish and even Mephistophelian ends, is supposed to have
broken from every sound and conservative principle. Perhaps for no other
period in our history has irresponsible and unverified campaign
literature of the time so largely become authority to serious writers;
and for no other period does truth more strongly require a judgment upon
well established results rather than upon partisan rumor and gossip.
During these years there was definitely and practically formed, under
the auspices of Jackson's administration, a political creed, a body of
principles or tendencies in politics which have ever since strongly held
the American people. Some of them have become established by a universal
acquiescence. During the same years there began an extension into
federal politics of the "spoils system," which has been an evil second
only to slavery, and from which we are only now recovering. To Van Buren
more than to any man of his time must be awarded the credit of forming
the creed of the Jacksonian Democracy. And in the shame of the abuse,
which has so greatly tended to neutralize the soundest articles of
political faith, Van Buren must participate with other and inferior men
of his own time, and with the very greatest of the men who followed him.
In this narrative it is impossible to ignore some of the petty and
undignified details which characterized the time,--details from part of
the discredit of which Van Buren cannot escape. But it would lead to
gross error to let such details obscure the vital and lasting political
work of the highest order in which Van Buren was a central and
controlling power.

Besides Van Buren, Jackson's cabinet included Ingham of Pennsylvania in
the Treasury, Eaton in the War Department, Branch in the Navy, Berrien
of Georgia attorney-general, and Barry of Kentucky in the Post-Office,
succeeding McLean, who after a short service was appointed to the
Supreme Court. Eaton, Branch, and Berrien had been federal senators, the
first chiefly commended by Jackson's strong personal liking for him.
Ingham, Branch, and Berrien represented, or were supposed to represent,
the Calhoun influence. Van Buren in ability and reputation easily stood
head and shoulders above his associates. When he left Albany for
Washington he was believed to have done more than any one else to secure
the Republican triumph; and if Webster's recollections twenty years
later were correct, he did more to prevent "Mr. Adams's reëlection in
1828, and to obtain General Jackson's election, than any other man--yes,
than any ten other men--in the country." He was the first politician in
the party; Calhoun and he were its most distinguished statesmen. Already
the succession after Jackson belonged to one of them, the only doubt
being to which; and in that doubt was stored up a long and complicated
feud. The rivalry between these two great men was inevitable; it was not
dishonorable to either. Calhoun's fame was the older; he was already one
of the junior candidates for the presidency, popular in Pennsylvania
and even in New England, when Van Buren was hardly known out of New
York. In 1829 he had been chosen vice-president for the second time. He
had shown talents of a very high order. But he had now suffered some
years from the presidential fever which distorts the vision, and which,
when popularity wanes, becomes heavy with enervating melancholy. He was
an able doctrinaire, but narrow and dogmatic. The jealous and ravenous
temper of the rich slaveholders of South Carolina already possessed him.
He was a Southern man; and all the presidents thus far, except the elder
and younger Adams, had been Southerners. In 1824 he had stood
indifferent between Jackson and Adams, and in Jackson's final triumph
had borne no decisive part. Van Buren's wider, richer, and more
constructive mind, his superior political judgment, his mellower
personality, his practical skill in affairs, sufficiently explain his
victory over Calhoun, without resort to the bitter rumors of tricks and
magical manoeuvres spread by Calhoun's and Clay's friends, and which,
though without authentic corroboration, have to our own day been widely

Before Jackson's inauguration, Calhoun sought to prevent Van Buren's
selection for the State Department. He told the general that Tazewell of
Virginia ought to be appointed. New York, he said, would have been
secured by Clinton if he had lived; but now New York needed no
appointment. Jackson listened coldly to the plainly jealous appeal; and
James A. Hamilton, who was at the time on intimate terms with Jackson,
supposed it to be Calhoun's last interview with Jackson about the
cabinet. Van Buren had been Jackson's choice a year ago; and to all the
reasons which had then existed were now added his great services in the
canvass, and the prestige of his popular election as governor.

The episode of Mrs. Eaton, the wife of the new secretary of war, was
absurd enough in a constitutionally governed country; but this silly
"court scandal," which might very well have enlivened the pages of a
secretary of a privy council or an ambassador from a petty German
prince, did no more than hasten the inevitable division. In the
hastening, however, Van Buren doubtless reaped some profit in Jackson's
greater friendship. Many respectable people in Washington believed that
unchastity on the part of this lady had induced her former husband,
Timberlake, to cut his throat. Her second marriage to Eaton had just
taken place in January, 1829, after Jackson, learning of the scandal but
disbelieving it, had said to Eaton, "Your marrying her will disprove
these charges, and restore Peg's good name." The general treated with
violent contempt the persons, some of them clergymen, "whose morbid
appetite," he wrote the Rev. Dr. Ely on March 23, 1829, "delights in
defamation and slander." Burning with anger at those who had dared in
the recent canvass to malign his own wife now dead, he defended with
chivalrous resolution the lady whom his own wife "to the last moment of
her life believed ... to be an innocent and much-injured woman." Even
Mrs. Madison, he said, "was assailed by these fiends in human shape."
When protests were made against Eaton's appointment to the cabinet,
Jackson savagely cried, "I will sink or swim with him, by God!" All this
had happened before Van Buren reached Washington. There then followed
the grave question, whether Mrs. Eaton should be adjudged guilty by
society and sentenced to exclusion from its ceremonious enjoyments. The
ladies generally were determined against her, even the ladies of
Jackson's own household. Jackson proposed the task, impossible even to
an emperor, of compelling recognition of this distressed and persecuted
consort of a minister of state. The unfortunate married men in the
cabinet were in embarrassment indeed. They would not if they could, so
they said,--or at least they could not if they would,--induce their
wives to visit or receive visits from the wife of their colleague.
Jackson showed them very clearly that no other course would satisfy him.
Calhoun in his matrimonial state was at the same disadvantage. Even
foreign ministers and their wives met the President's displeasure for
not properly treating the wife of the American secretary of war.

When Van Buren entered this farcical scene, his widowed condition, and
the fortune of having sons rather than daughters, left him quite
unembarrassed. He politely called upon his associate's wife, as he
called upon the others; he treated her with entire deference of manner.
It is probable, though by no means clear, for popular feeling was
supposed to run high in sacred defense of the American home, that this
was the more politic course. It is now, however, certain that by doing
so he gave to Jackson, and some who were personally very close to
Jackson, more gratification than he gave offense elsewhere; and this has
been the occasion of much aspersion of Van Buren's motives. But whether
his course were politic or not, it is easy enough to see that any other
course would have been inexcusable. It would have been dastardly in the
extreme for Van Buren, reaching Washington and finding a controversy
raging whether or not the wife of one of his associates were virtuous,
to pronounce her guilty, as he most unmistakably would have done had he
refused her the attention which etiquette required him to pay all ladies
in her position. Parton in his Life of Jackson quotes from an anonymous
Washington correspondent, whose account he says was "exaggerated and
prejudiced but not wholly incorrect," the story that Van Buren induced
the British and Russian ministers, both of whom to their immediate peace
of mind happened to be bachelors, to treat Mrs. Eaton with distinction
at their entertainments. But the supposition seems quite gratuitous.
Neither of those unmarried diplomats was likely to do so absurdly
indefensible a thing as to insult by marked exclusion a cabinet
minister's wife, whom the President for any reason, good or bad, treated
with special distinction and respect. Van Buren's common sense was a
strong characteristic; and he doubtless looked upon the whole affair
with amused contempt. As the cabinet officer who had most to do with
social ceremonies, he may well have sought to calm the irritation and
establish for Mrs. Eaton, where he could, the usual forms of civility.
Like many other blessings of etiquette, these forms permit one to hold
unoffending neutrality upon the moral deserts of persons whom he meets.
It happened that Calhoun's friends had tried to prevent Eaton's
appointment to the War Department, and afterwards sought to remove him
from the cabinet. The episode added, therefore, keen edge to the growing
hostility of Jackson and his near friends to Calhoun, and thus tended to
strengthen his rival. But all this would have signified little but for
something deeper and broader. The preference of Van Buren had been
dictated by powerful causes long before Mrs. Timberlake became Mrs.
Eaton. These causes now grew more and more powerful.

Calhoun was serving his second term as Vice-President. A third term for
that office was obnoxious to the rule already established for the
presidency. Calhoun therefore desired Jackson to be content with one
term; for if he took a second, Calhoun feared, and with good reason,
that he himself, being then out of the vice-presidency, and so no longer
in sight on that conspicuous seat of preparation, might fall
dangerously out of mind. So it was soon known that Calhoun's friends
were opposed to a second term for Jackson. At a Pennsylvania meeting on
March 31, 1830, the opposition was openly made. Before this, and quite
apart from Jackson's natural hostility to the nullification theory which
had arisen in Calhoun's State, he had conceived a strong dislike for
Calhoun for a personal reason. With this Van Buren had nothing whatever
to do, so far as appears from any evidence better than the
uncorroborated rumors which ascribe to Van Buren's magic every incident
which injured Calhoun's standing with Jackson. Years before, Monroe's
cabinet had discussed the treatment due Jackson for his extreme measures
in the Seminole war. Calhoun, then secretary of war, had favored a
military trial of the victorious general; but John Quincy Adams and
Monroe had defended him, as did also Crawford, the secretary of the
treasury. For a long while Jackson had erroneously supposed that Calhoun
was the only member of the cabinet in his favor; and Calhoun had not
undeceived him. Some time before Jackson's election, Hamilton had
visited Crawford to promote the desired reconciliation between him and
the general; and a letter was written by Governor Forsyth of Georgia to
Hamilton, quoting Crawford's explanation of the real transactions in
Monroe's cabinet. Jackson was ignorant of all this until a dinner given
by him in honor of Monroe in November, 1829. Ringold, a personal friend
of Monroe's, in a complimentary speech at seeing Jackson and Monroe
seated together, said to William B. Lewis that Monroe had been "the only
one of his cabinet" friendly to Jackson in the Seminole controversy; and
after dinner the remark, after being discussed between Lewis and Eaton
the secretary of war, was repeated by the latter to Jackson, who said he
must be mistaken. Lewis then told Jackson of Forsyth's letter, which
greatly excited him, already disliking Calhoun as he did, and not
unnaturally susceptible about his reputation in a war which had been the
subject of violent and even savage attacks upon him in the recent
canvass. Jackson sent at once to New York for the letter. But Hamilton
was unwilling to give it without Forsyth's permission; and when Forsyth,
on the assembling of Congress, was consulted, he preferred that Crawford
should be directly asked for the information. This was done, and
Crawford wrote an account which in May, 1830, Jackson sent to Calhoun
with a demand for an explanation. Calhoun admitted that he had, after
hearing of the seizure of the Spanish forts in Florida and Jackson's
execution of the Englishmen Arbuthnot and Ambrister, expressed an
opinion against him, and proposed an investigation of his conduct by a
court of inquiry. He further told Jackson, with much dignity of manner,
that the latter was being used in a plot to effect Calhoun's political
extinction and the exaltation of his enemies. The President received
Calhoun's letter on his way to church, and upon his return from
religious meditation wrote to the Vice-President that "motives are to be
inferred from actions and judged by our God;" that he had long repelled
the insinuations that it was Calhoun, and not Crawford, who had secretly
endeavored to destroy his reputation; that he had never expected to say
to Calhoun, "_Et tu, Brute!_" and that there need be no further
communication on the subject. Thus was finally established the breach
between Calhoun and Jackson, which this personal matter had widened but
had by no means begun. In none of it did Van Buren have any part. When
Jackson sent Lewis to him with Calhoun's letter and asked his opinion,
he refused to read it, saying that an attempt would undoubtedly be made
to hold him responsible for the rupture, and he wished to be able to say
that he knew nothing of it. This course was doubtless politic, and
deserves no applause; but it was also simply right. On getting this
message Jackson said, "I reckon Van is right; I dare say they will
attempt to throw the whole blame on him."

A few weeks before, on April 13, 1830, the dinner to celebrate
Jefferson's birthday was held at Washington. It was attended by the
President and Vice-President, the cabinet officers, and many other
distinguished persons. There were reports at the time that it was
intended to use Jefferson's name in support of the state-rights
doctrines, and against internal improvements and a protective tariff.
This shows how clearly were already recognized some of the great causes
underlying the political movements and personal differences of the time.
The splendid parliamentary encounter between Hayne and Webster had taken
place but two or three months before. In his speech Hayne, who was
understood, as Benton tells us, to give voice to the sentiments of
Calhoun, had plainly enough stated the doctrine of nullification.
Jackson at the dinner robustly confronted the extremists with his famous
toast, "Our federal Union: it must be preserved." Calhoun, already
conscious of his leadership in a sectional controversy, followed with
the sentiment, true indeed, but said in words very sinister at that
time: "The Union: next to our liberty the most dear. May we all remember
that it can only be preserved by respecting the rights of the States,
and distributing equally the benefit and burden of the Union." The
secretary of state next rose with a toast with little ring or
inspiration in it, but plainly, though in conciliatory phrase, declaring
for the Union. He asked the company to drink, "Mutual forbearance and
reciprocal concessions: through their agency the Union was established.
The patriotic spirit from which they emanated will forever sustain it."

Van Buren was now definitely a candidate for the succession. His
Northern birth and residence, his able leadership in Congress of the
opposition to the Adams administration, his almost supreme political
power in the first State of the Union, his clear and systematic
exposition of an intelligible and timely political creed, the support
his friends gave to Jackson's reëlection,--all these advantages were now
reënforced by the tendency to disunion clear in the utterances from
South Carolina, by Calhoun's efforts to exclude Van Buren and Eaton from
the cabinet, by the hostility to Mrs. Eaton of the ladies in the
households of Calhoun and of his friends in the cabinet, and now by
Jackson's discovery that, at a critical moment of his career ten years
before, Calhoun had sought his destruction. Here was a singular union of
really sound reasons why Van Buren should be preferred by his party and
by the country for the succession over Calhoun, with the strongest
reasons why Jackson, and those close to him, should be in most eager
personal sympathy with the preference. In December, 1829, Jackson had
explicitly pronounced in favor of Van Buren. This was in the letter to
Judge Overton of Tennessee, which Lewis is doubtless correct in saying
he asked Jackson to write lest the latter should die before his
successor was chosen. Jackson himself drafted the letter, which Lewis
copied with some verbal alteration; and the letter sincerely expressed
his own strong opinions. After alluding to the harmony between Van Buren
and his associates in the War and Post-Office Departments, he said: "I
have found him everything that I could desire him to be, and believe him
not only deserving my confidence, but the confidence of the nation.
Instead of his being selfish and intriguing, as has been represented by
some of his opponents, I have ever found him frank, open, candid, and
manly. As a counselor, he is able and prudent, republican in his
principles, and one of the most pleasant men to do business with I ever
knew. He, my dear friend, is well qualified to fill the highest office
in the gift of the people, who in him will find a true friend and safe
depositary of their rights and liberty. I wish I could say as much for
Mr. Calhoun and some of his friends." He criticised Calhoun for his
silence on the bank question, for his encouragement of the resolution in
the South Carolina legislature relative to the tariff, and for his
objection to the apportionment of the surplus revenues after the
national debt should be paid. Jackson had not yet definitely learned
from Forsyth's letter about Calhoun's attitude in Monroe's cabinet; but
his well-aroused suspicion doubtless influenced his expression. His
strong personal liking for the secretary of state had been evident from
the beginning of the administration. In a letter to Jesse Hoyt of April
13, 1829, the latter wrote that he had found the President affectionate,
confidential, and kind to the last degree, and that he believed there
was no degree of good feeling or confidence which the president did not
entertain for him. In July he wrote to Hamilton: "The general grows upon
me every day. I can fairly say that I have become quite enamored with

The break between Calhoun and Jackson was kept from the public until
early in 1831. In the preceding winter, Duff Green, the editor of the
"Telegraph," until then the administration newspaper, but still entirely
committed to Calhoun, sought to have the publication of the
Calhoun-Jackson correspondence accompanied by a general outburst from
Republican newspapers against Jackson. The storm, Benton tells us, was
to seem so universal, and the indignation against Van Buren so great,
that even Jackson's popularity would not save the prime minister.
Jackson's friends, Barry and Kendall, learning of this, called to
Washington an unknown Kentuckian to be editor of a new and loyal
administration paper. Francis P. Blair was a singularly astute man,
whose name, and the name of whose family, afterwards became famous in
American politics. He belonged to the race of advisers of great men,
found by experience to be almost as important in a democracy as in a
monarchy. In February, 1831, Calhoun openly declared war on Jackson by
publishing the Seminole correspondence. Green having now been safely
reëlected printer to Congress, the "Telegraph," according to the plan,
strongly supported Calhoun. The "Globe," Blair's paper, attacked Calhoun
and upheld the President. The importance in that day ascribed by
politicians to the control of a single newspaper seems curious. In 1823,
Van Buren, while a federal senator, was interested in the "Albany
Argus," almost steadily from that time until the present the ably
managed organ of the Albany Regency;[9] and he then confidentially
wrote to Hoyt: "Without a paper thus edited at Albany we may hang our
harps on the willows. With it, the party can survive a thousand such
convulsions as those which now agitate and probably alarm most of those
around you." This seems an astonishingly high estimate of the power of a
paper which, though relatively conspicuous in the State, could have then
had but a small circulation. It was, however, the judgment of a most
sagacious politician. In 1822 he complained to Hoyt that his expenses of
this description were too heavy. In 1833 James Gordon Bennett, then a
young journalist of Philadelphia, wrote Hoyt a plain intimation that
money was necessary to enable him to continue his journalistic warfare
in Van Buren's behalf. Anguish, disappointment, despair, he said,
brooded over him, while Van Buren chose to sit still and sacrifice those
who had supported him in every weather. Van Buren replied that he could
not directly or indirectly afford pecuniary aid to Bennett's press, and
more particularly as he was then situated; that if Bennett could not
continue friendly to him on public grounds and with perfect
independence, he could only regret it, but he desired no other support.
He added, however, not to burn his ships behind him, that he had
supposed there would be no difficulty in obtaining money in New York, if
their "friends in Philadelphia could not all together make out to
sustain one press." Thus was invited a powerful animosity, vindictively
shown even when Van Buren was within three years of his death.

Soon after his arrival Blair entered the famous Kitchen Cabinet, a
singularly talented body, fond enough indeed of "wire-pulling," but with
clear and steady political convictions. William B. Lewis had long been a
close personal friend of Jackson and manager of his political interests,
and had but recently earned his gratitude by rushing successfully to the
defense of Mrs. Jackson's reputation. Kendall and Hill were adroit,
industrious, skillful men; the former afterwards postmaster-general, and
the latter to become a senator from New Hampshire. Blair entered this
company full of zeal against nullification and the United States Bank.
Jackson himself was so strong-willed a man, so shrewd in management, so
skillful in reading the public temper, that the story of the complete
domination of this junto over him is quite absurd. The really great
abilities of these men and their entire devotion to his interests gained
a profound and justifiable influence with him, which occasional petty or
unworthy uses made of it did not destroy. No one can doubt that Jackson
was confirmed by them in the judgment to which Van Buren urged him upon
great political issues. The secretary of state refused to give the new
paper of Blair any of the printing of his department, lest its origin
should be attributed to him, and because he wished to be able to say
truly that he had nothing to do with it. Kendall, who lived through the
civil war, strongly loyal to the Union and to Jackson's memory, to die a
wealthy philanthropist, declared in his autobiography, and doubtless
correctly, that the "Globe" was not established by Van Buren or his
friends, but by friends of Jackson who desired his reëlection for
another four years. Nevertheless Van Buren was held responsible for the
paper; and its establishment was soon followed by the dissolution of the

This explosion, it is now clear, was of vast advantage to the cause of
the Union. It took place in April, 1831, and in part at least was Van
Buren's work. On the 9th of that month he wrote to Edward Livingston,
then a senator from Louisiana spending the summer at his seat on the
Hudson River, asking him to start for Washington the day after he
received the letter, and to avoid speculation "by giving out that" he
was "going to Philadelphia." Livingston wrote back from Washington to
his wife that Van Buren had taken the high and popular ground that, as a
candidate for the presidency, he ought not to remain in the cabinet when
its public measures would be attributed to his intrigue, and thus made
to injure the President; and that Van Buren's place was pressed upon him
"with all the warmth of friendship and every appeal to my love of

Van Buren, with courageous skill, put his resignation to the public
distinctly on the ground of his own political aspiration. On April 11,
1831, he wrote to the President a letter for publication, saying that
from the moment he had entered the cabinet it had been his "anxious wish
and zealous endeavor to prevent a premature agitation of the question"
of the succession, "and at all events to discountenance, and if possible
repress, the disposition, at an early day manifested," to connect his
name "with that disturbing topic." Of "the sincerity and constancy
of his disposition" he appealed to the President to judge. But he
had not succeeded, and circumstances beyond his control had given
the subject a turn which could not then "be remedied except by a
self-disfranchisement, which, even if dictated by" his "individual
wishes, could hardly be reconcilable with propriety or self-respect." In
the situation existing at the time, "diversities of ulterior preference
among the friends of the administration" were unavoidable, and he added:
"Even if the respective advocates of those thus placed in rivalship be
patriotic enough to resist the temptation of creating obstacles to the
advancement of him to whose elevation they are opposed, by embarrassing
the branch of public service committed to his charge, they are
nevertheless, by their position, exposed to the suspicion of
entertaining and encouraging such views,--a suspicion which can seldom
fail, in the end, to aggravate into present alienation and hostility
the prospective differences which first gave rise to it." The public
service, he said, required him to remove such "obstructions" from "the
successful prosecution of public affairs;" and he intimated, with the
affectation of self-depreciation which was disagreeably fashionable
among great men of the day, that the example he set would,
"notwithstanding the humility of its origin," be found worthy of respect
and observance. When four years later he accepted the presidential
nomination he repeated the sentiment of this letter, but more
explicitly, saying that his "name was first associated with the question
of General Jackson's successor more through the ill-will of opponents
than the partiality of friends." This seemed very true. For every
movement which had tended to commit the administration or its chief
against Calhoun or his doctrines, he had been held responsible as a
device to advance himself. His adversaries had proclaimed him not so
much a public officer as a self-seeking candidate. It was a rare and
true stroke of political genius to admit his aspiration to the
presidency; to deny his present candidacy and his self-seeking; but,
lest the clamor of his enemies should, if he longer held his office,
throw doubt upon his sincerity, to withdraw from that station, and to
prevent the continued pretense that he was using official opportunities,
however legitimately, to increase his public reputation or his political
power. Thus would the candidacy be thrust on him by his enemies. In his
letter he announced that Jackson had consented to stand for reëlection;
and that, "without a total disregard of the lights of experience," he
could not shut his eyes to the unfavorable influence which his
continuance in the cabinet might have upon Jackson's own canvass in

In accepting the resignation Jackson declared the reasons which the
letter had presented too strong to be disregarded, thus practically
assenting to Van Buren's candidacy to succeed him. Jackson looked with
sorrow, he said, upon the state of things Van Buren had described. But
it was "but an instance of one of the evils to which free governments
must ever be liable," an evil whose remedy lay "in the intelligence and
public spirit of" their "common constituents," who would correct it; and
in that belief he found "abundant consolation." He added that, with the
best opportunities for observing and judging, he had seen in Van Buren
no other desire than "to move quietly on in the path of" his duties, and
"to promote the harmonious conduct of public affairs." "If on this
point," he apostrophized the departing premier, "you have had to
encounter detraction, it is but another proof of the utter insufficiency
of innocence and worth to shield from such assaults."

Never was a presidential candidate more adroitly or less dishonorably
presented to his party and to the country. For the adroitness lay in the
frank avowal of a willingness or desire to be president and a resolution
to be a candidate,--for which, so far as their conduct went, his
adversaries were really responsible,--and in seizing an undoubted
opportunity to serve the public. Quite apart from the sound reason that
the secretary of state should not, if possible, be exposed in dealing
with public questions to aspersions upon his motives, as Van Buren was
quite right in saying that he would be, it was also clear that the
cabinet was inharmonious; and that its lack of harmony, whatever the
facts or wherever the fault, seriously interfered with the public
business. The administration and the country, it was obvious, were now
approaching the question of nullification, and upon that question it was
but patriotic to desire that its members should firmly share the union
principles of their chief. Within a few weeks after the dissolution of
the cabinet, Jackson seized the opportunity afforded him by an
invitation from the city of Charleston to visit it on the 4th of July,
to sound in the ears of nullification a ringing blast for the Union.
If he could go, he said, he trusted to find in South Carolina "all
the men of talent, exalted patriotism, and private worth," however
divided they might have been before, "united before the altar of
their country on the day set apart for the solemn celebration of its
independence,--independence which cannot exist without union, and with
it is eternal." The disunion sentiments ascribed to distinguished
citizens of the State were, he hoped, if indeed they were accurately
reported, "the effect of momentary excitement, not deliberate design."
For all the work then performed in defense of the Union, Jackson and
his advisers of the time must share with Webster and Clay the gratitude
of our own and all later generations. The burst of loyalty in April,
1861, had no less of its genesis in the intrepid front and the political
success of the national administration from 1831 to 1833, than in the
pathetic and glorious appeals and aspirations of the great orators.

Jackson now called to the work Edward Livingston, privileged to perform
in it that service of his which deserves a splendid immortality. He
became secretary of state on May 24, 1831. Eaton, the secretary of war,
voluntarily resigned to become governor of Florida; and Barry, the
postmaster-general, who was friendly to the reorganization, was soon
appointed minister to Spain, in which post Eaton later succeeded him.
Ingham, Branch, and Berrien, the Calhoun members, were required to
resign. The new cabinet, apart from the state department, was on the
whole far abler than the old; indeed, it was one of the ablest of
American cabinets. Below Livingston at the council table sat McLane of
Delaware, recalled from the British mission to take the treasury,
Governor Cass of Michigan, and Senator Woodbury of New Hampshire,
secretaries of war and navy. Amos Kendall brought to the post-office his
extraordinary astuteness and diligence in administration; and Taney,
later the chief justice, was attorney-general. The executive talents of
this body of men, loyal as they were to the plans of Jackson and Van
Buren, promised, and they afterwards brought, success in the struggle
for the principles now adopted by the party, as well as for the control
of the government. Van Buren stood as truly for a policy of state as
ever stood any candidate before the American people. One finds it
agreeable now to escape for a moment from the Washington atmosphere of
personal controversy and ambition. It is not to be forgotten, however,
that a like atmosphere has surrounded even those political struggles in
America, only three or four in number, which have been greater and
deeper than that in which Jackson and Van Buren were the chief figures.
From this temper of personal controversy and ambition the greatest
political benefactors of history have not been free, so inevitable is
the mingling with large affairs of the varied personal motives,
conscious and unconscious, of those who transact them.

When Van Buren left the first place in Jackson's cabinet, the latter,
too, at last stood for the definite policy which he had but imperfectly
adopted when he was elected, and which, as a practical and immediate
political plan, it is reasonably safe to assert, was most largely the
creation of the sagacious mind of his chief associate. Before Van Buren
left Albany he had written to Hamilton on February 21, 1829, with
reference to Jackson's inaugural: "I hope the general will not find it
necessary to avow any opinion upon constitutional questions at war with
the doctrines of the Jefferson school. Whatever his views may be, there
can be no necessity of doing so in an inaugural address." This shows the
doubt, which had been caused by some of Jackson's utterances and votes,
of his intelligent and systematic adherence to the political creed
preached by Van Buren. Jackson's inaugural was colorless and safe
enough. Upon strict construction he said that he should "keep steadily
in view the limitations as well as the extent of the executive power;"
that he would be "animated by a proper respect for those sovereign
members of our Union, taking care not to confound the powers they have
reserved to themselves with those they have granted to the confederacy."
The bank he did not mention. And upon the living and really great
question, to which Van Buren had given so much study, Jackson said,
himself probably having a grim sense of humor at the absurd emptiness of
the sentence: "Internal improvement and the diffusion of knowledge, so
far as they can be promoted by the constitutional acts of the federal
government, are of high importance."

Very different was the situation when two years later Van Buren left the
cabinet. In several state papers of great dignity and ability and yet
popular and interesting in style, Jackson had formulated a political
creed closely consistent with that advocated by Van Buren in the Senate.
Upon internal improvements, Jackson, on May 27, 1830, sent to the House
his famous Maysville Road veto. That road was exclusively within the
State of Ohio, and not connected with any existing system of
improvements. Jackson very well said that if it could be considered
national, no further distinction between the appropriate duties of the
general and state governments need be attempted. He pointed out the
tendency of such appropriations, little by little, to distort the
meaning of the Constitution; and found in former legislation "an
admonitory proof of the force of implication, and that necessity of
guarding the Constitution with sleepless vigilance against the authority
of precedents which have not the sanction of its most plainly defined
powers." In his annual message of December, 1830, he referred to the
system of federal subscriptions to private corporate enterprises,
saying: "The power which the general government would acquire within the
several States by becoming the principal stockholder in corporations,
controlling every canal and each sixty or hundred miles of every
important road, and giving a proportionate vote to all their elections,
is almost inconceivable, and in my view dangerous to the liberties of
the people." With these utterances ended the very critical struggle to
give the federal government a power which even in those days would have
been great, and which, as has already been said, had it continued with
the growth of railways, would have enormously and radically changed our
system of government.

Before he left the Senate Van Buren had pronounced against the Bank of
the United States; but Jackson did not mention it in his inaugural. In
his first annual message, however, Jackson warned Congress that the
charter of the bank would expire in 1836, and that deliberation upon
its renewal ought to commence at once. "Both the constitutionality
and the expediency of the law creating this bank," he said, "are well
questioned ...; and it must be admitted by all that it has failed in the
great end of establishing a uniform and sound currency." This was plain
enough for a first utterance. A year later he told Congress that nothing
had occurred to lessen in any degree the dangers which many citizens
apprehended from that institution as then organized, though he outlined
an institution which should be not a corporation, but a branch of the
Treasury Department, and not, as he thought, obnoxious to constitutional

The removal of the Cherokee Indians from within the State of Georgia he
defended by considerations which were practically unanswerable. It was
dangerously inconsistent with our political system to maintain within
the limits of a State Indian tribes, free from the obligations of state
laws, having a tribal independence, and bound only by treaty relations
with the United States. It was harsh to remove the Indians; but it would
have been harsher to them and to the white people of the State to have
supported by federal arms an Indian sovereignty within its limits.
Jackson, with true Democratic jealousy, refused in his political and
executive policy to defer to the merely moral weight of the opinion of
the Supreme Court. For in that tribunal political and social exigencies
could have but limited force in answering a question which, as the court
itself decided, called for a political remedy, which the President and
not the court could apply.

The tariff might, Jackson declared, be constitutionally used for
protective purposes; but the deliberate policy of his party was now
plainly intimated. In his first message he "regretted that the
complicated restrictions which now embarrass the intercourse of nations
could not by common consent be abolished." In the Maysville veto he said
that, "as long as the encouragement of domestic manufactures" was
"directed to national ends," ... it should receive from him "a temperate
but steady support." But this is to be read with the expression in the
same paper that the people had a right to demand "the reduction of every
tax to as low a point as the wise observance of the necessity to protect
that portion of our manufactures and labor, whose prosperity is
essential to our national safety and independence, will allow." This
encouragement was, he said in his inaugural, to be given to those
products which might be found "essential to our national independence."
In his second message he declared "the obligations upon all the trustees
of political power to exempt those for whom they act from all
unnecessary burdens;" that "the resources of the nation beyond those
required for the immediate and necessary purposes of government can
nowhere be so well deposited as in the pockets of the people;" that
"objects of national importance alone ought to be protected;" and that
"of those the productions of our soil, our mines, and our workshops,
essential to national defense, occupy the first rank." Other domestic
industries, having a national importance, and which might, after
temporary protection, compete with foreign labor on equal terms,
merited, he said, the same attention in a subordinate degree. The
economic light here was not very clear or strong, but perhaps as strong
as it often is in a political paper. Jackson's conclusion was that the
tariff then existing taxed some of the comforts of life too highly;
protected interests too local and minute to justify a general exaction;
and forced some manufactures for which the country was not ripe.

All this practical and striking growth in political science had taken
place during the two years of Jackson's and Van Buren's almost daily
intercourse at Washington. It is impossible from materials yet made
public to point out with precision the latter's handiwork in each of
these papers. James A. Hamilton describes his own long nights at the
White House on the messages of 1829 and 1830; and his were not the only
nights of the kind spent by Jackson's friends. Jackson, like other
strong men, and like some whose opportunities of education had been far
ampler than his, freely used literary assistance, although, with all his
inaccuracies, he himself wrote in a vigorous, lucid, and interesting
style. But with little doubt the political positions taken in these
papers, and which made a definite and lasting creed, were more
immediately the work of the secretary of state. The consultations with
Van Buren, of which Hamilton tells, are only glimpses of what must
continually have gone on. At the time of Jackson's inauguration Hamilton
wrote that the latter's confidence was reposed in men in no way equal to
him in natural parts, but who had been useful to him in covering "his
very lamentable defects of education," and whom, through his reluctance
to expose these defects to others, he was compelled to keep about him.
He added that Van Buren could never reach the same relation which Lewis
held with the general, because the latter would "not yield himself so
readily to superior as to inferior minds." This was a mistake. Van
Buren's personal loyalty to Jackson, his remarkable tact and delicacy,
had promptly aroused in Jackson that extraordinary liking for him which
lasted until Jackson died. With this advantage, Van Buren's clear-cut
theories of political conduct were easily lodged in Jackson's naturally
wise mind, to whose prepossessions and prejudices they were agreeable,
and received there the deference due to the practical sagacity in which
Van Buren's obvious political success had proved him to be a master. Van
Buren was doubtless greatly aided by the kitchen cabinet. He was careful
to keep on good terms with those who had so familiar an access to
Jackson. Kendall's singular and useful ability he soon discovered. It
was at the latter's instance that Kendall was invited to dinner at the
White House, where Van Buren paid him special attention. The influence
of the members of the kitchen cabinet with their master has been much
exaggerated. Soon after Lewis was appointed, and in spite of his
personal intimacy and of his rumored influence with the President, he
was, as he wrote to Hamilton, in some anxiety whether he might not be
removed; the President had at least, he said, entertained a proposition
to remove him, and was therefore, in view of Jackson's great debt to
him, no longer entitled to his "friendship or future support."

Very soon after Van Buren's withdrawal from the cabinet, he was accused
of primarily and chiefly causing the official proscription of men for
political opinions which began in the federal service under Jackson.
From that time to the present the accusation has been carelessly
repeated from one writer to another, with little original examination of
the facts. It is clear that Van Buren neither began nor caused this
demoralizing and disastrous abuse. When he reached Washington in 1829,
the removals were in full and lamentable progress. In the very first
days of the administration, McLean was removed from the office of
postmaster-general to a seat in the Supreme Court, because, so Adams
after an interview with him wrote in his diary on March 14,1829, "he
refused to be made the instrument of the sweeping proscription of
postmasters which is to be one of the samples of the promised reform."
This was a week or two before Van Buren reached Washington. On the same
day Samuel Swartwout wrote to Hoyt from Washington: "No damned rascal
who made use of his office or its profits for the purpose of keeping Mr.
Adams in, and General Jackson out of power, is entitled to the least
lenity or mercy, save that of hanging.... Whether or not I shall get
anything in the general scramble for plunder remains to be proven; but I
rather guess I shall.... I know Mr. Ingham slightly, and would recommend
you to push like a devil, if you expect anything from that quarter....
If I can only keep my own legs, I shall do well; but I'm darned if I can
carry any weight with me." This man, against Van Buren's earnest protest
and to his great disturbance, had some of the devil's luck in pushing.
He was appointed collector of customs at New York,--one of the principal
financial officers in the country. It is not altogether unsatisfactory
to read of the scandalous defalcation of which he was afterwards guilty,
and of the serious injury it dealt his party. The temper which he
exposed so ingenuously, filled Washington at the time. Nor did it come
only or chiefly from one quarter of the country. Kendall, then fresh
from Kentucky, who had been appointed fourth auditor, wrote to his wife,
with interestingly mingled sentiments: "I turned out six clerks on
Saturday. Several of them have families and are poor. It was the most
painful thing I ever did; but I could not well get along without it.
Among them is a poor old man with a young wife and several children. I
shall help to raise a contribution to get him back to Ohio.... I shall
have a private carriage to go out with me and bring my whole brood of
little ones. Bless their sweet faces."

Van Buren confidentially wrote to Hamilton from Albany in March, 1829:
"If the general makes one removal at this moment he must go on. Would it
not be better to get the streets of Washington clear of office-seekers
first in the way I proposed?... As to the publication in the newspapers
I have more to say. So far as depends on me, my course will be to
restore by a single order every one who has been turned out by Mr. Clay
for political reasons, unless circumstances of a personal character have
since arisen which would make the reappointment in any case improper. To
ascertain that will take a little time. There I would pause." Among the
Mackenzie letters is one from Lorenzo Hoyt, describing an interview with
Van Buren while governor, and then complaining that the latter would
"not lend the utmost weight of his influence to displace from office
such men as John Duer," Adams's appointee as United States attorney at
New York. If they had been struggling for political success for the
benefit of their opponents, he angrily wrote, he wished to know it. He
added, however, that, from the behavior of the President thus far, he
thought Jackson would "go the whole hog." This was before Van Buren
reached Washington. In answer to an insolent letter of Jesse Hoyt urging
a removal, and telling the secretary of state that there was a "charm
attending bold measures extremely fascinating" which had given Jackson
all his glory, Van Buren wrote back: "Here I am engaged in the most
intricate and important affairs, which are new to me, and upon the
successful conduct of which my reputation as well as the interests of
the country depend, and which keep me occupied from early in the morning
until late at night. And can you think it kind or just to harass me
under such circumstances with letters which no man of common sensibility
can read without pain?... I must be plain with you.... The terms upon
which you have seen fit to place our intercourse are inadmissible."
Ingham, Jackson's secretary of the treasury, the next day wrote to this
typical office-seeker that the rage for office in New York was such that
an enemy menacing the city with desolation would not cause more
excitement. He added, speaking of his own legitimate work: "These duties
cannot be postponed; and I do assure you that I am compelled daily to
file away long lists of recommendations, etc., without reading them,
although I work 18 hours out of the 24 with all diligence. The
appointments can be postponed; other matters cannot; and it was one of
the prominent errors of the late administration that they suffered many
important public interests to be neglected, while they were cruising
about to secure or buy up partisans. This we must not do."

Benton, friendly as he was to Jackson, condemned the system of removals;
and his fairness may well be trusted. He said that in Jackson's first
year (in which De Tocqueville, whom he was answering, said that Jackson
had removed every removable functionary) there were removed but 690
officers through the whole United States for all causes, of whom 491
were postmasters: the entire number of postmasters being at the time
nearly 8000. Kendall, reviewing the first three years of Jackson's
administration near their expiration, said that in the city of
Washington there had been removed but one officer out of seven, and
"most of them for bad conduct and character," a statement some of the
significance of which doubtless depends upon what was "bad character,"
but which still fairly limits the epithet "wholesale" customarily
applied to these removals. In the Post-Office Department, he said, the
removals had been only one out of sixteen, and in the whole government
but one out of eleven. Kendall was speaking for party purposes; but he
was cautious and precise; and his statements, made near the time, show
how far behind the sudden "clean sweep" of 1861 was this earlier essay
in "spoils," and how much exaggeration there has been on the subject.
Benton says that in the departments at Washington a majority of the
employees were opposed to Jackson throughout his administration. Of the
officers having a judicial function, such as land and claims
commissioners, territorial judges, justices in the District of Columbia,
none were removed. The readiness to remove was stimulated by the
discovery of the frauds of Tobias Watkins, made just after his removal
from the fourth auditor's place, to which Kendall was appointed. Watkins
had been Adams's warm personal friend, so the latter states in his
diary, and "an over active partisan against Jackson at the last
presidential election." Unreasonable as was a general inference from one
of the instances of dishonesty which occur under the best
administrations, and a flagrant instance of which was soon to occur
under his own administration, it justified Jackson in his own eyes for
many really shameful removals. There had doubtless been among
office-holders under Adams a good deal of the "offensive partisanship"
of our day, many expressions of horror by subordinate officers at the
picture of Jackson as president. All this had angered Jackson, whose
imperial temper readily classed his subordinates as servants of Andrew
Jackson, rather than as ministers of the public service. Moreover, his
accession, as Benton not unfairly pointed out, was the first great party
change since Jefferson had succeeded the elder Adams. Offices had
greatly increased in number. In the profound democratic change that had
been actively operating for a quarter of a century, the force of old
traditions had been broken in many useful as in many useless things.
Great numbers of inferior offices had now become political, not only in
New York, but in Pennsylvania, Georgia, and other States. Adams's
administration, except in the change of policy upon large questions, had
been a continuation of Monroe's. He went from the first place in
Monroe's cabinet to the presidency. His secretaries of the treasury and
the navy and his postmaster-general and attorney-general had held office
under Monroe, the latter three in the very same places. But Jackson
thrust out of the presidency his rival, who had naturally enough been
earnestly sustained by large numbers of his subordinates; and Adams's
appointees were doubtless in general followers of himself and of Clay.

Jackson's first message contained a serious defense of the removals. Men
long in office, he said, acquired the "habit of looking with
indifference upon the public interests," and office became considered "a
species of property." "The duties of all public officers," he declared,
with an ignorance then very common among Americans, could be "made so
plain and simple that men of intelligence may readily qualify themselves
for their performance." Further, he pointed out that no one man had "any
more intrinsic right" to office than another; and therefore "no
individual wrong" was done by removal. The officer removed, he
concluded, with almost a demagogic touch, had the same means of earning
a living as "the millions who never held office." In spite of individual
distress he wished "rotation in office" to become "a leading principle
in the Republican creed." Unfounded as most of this is now clearly seen
to be, it is certain that the reasoning was convincing to a very large
part of the American people.

In his own department Van Buren practiced little of the proscription
which was active elsewhere. Of seventeen foreign representatives, but
four were removed in the first year. Doubtless he was fortunate in
having an office without the amount of patronage of the Post-Office or
the Treasury. Nothing in his career, however, showed a personal liking
for removals. The distribution of offices was not distasteful to him;
but his temper was neither prescriptive nor unfriendly. At times even
his partisan loyalty was doubted for his reluctance in this, which was
soon deemed an appropriate and even necessary party work.

But Van Buren did not oppose the ruinous and demoralizing system.
Powerful as he was with Jackson, wise and far-seeing as he was, he must
receive for his acquiescence, or even for his silence, a part of the
condemnation which the American people, as time goes on, will more and
more visit upon one of the great political offenses committed against
their political integrity and welfare. But it must in justice be
remembered, not only that Van Buren did not begin or actively conduct
the distribution of spoils; not only that his acquiescence was in a
practice which in his own State he had found well established; but that
the practice in which he thus joined was one which it is probable he
could not have fully resisted without his own political destruction, and
perhaps the temporary prostration of the political causes to which he
was devoted. Though these be palliations and not defenses, the
biographer ought not to apply to human nature a rule of unprecedented
austerity. In Van Buren's politic yielding there was little, if any,
more timidity or time-serving than in the like yielding by every man
holding great office in the United States since Jackson's inauguration;
and the worst, the most corrupting, and the most demoralizing official
proscription in America took place thirty-two years afterwards, and
under a president who, in wise and exalted patriotism, was one of the
greatest statesmen, as he has been perhaps the best loved, of Americans,
and to whom blame ought to be assigned all the larger by reason of the
extraordinary power and prestige he enjoyed, and the moral fervor of the
nation behind him, which rendered less necessary this unworthy aid of
inferior patronage.

So crowded and interesting were the two years of Van Buren's life in the
cabinet with matters apart from the special duties of his office, that
it is only at the last, and briefly, that an account can be given of his
career as secretary of state. His conduct of foreign affairs was firm,
adroit, dignified, and highly successful. It utterly broke the ideal of
turbulent and menacing incompetence which the Whigs set up for Jackson's
presidency. He had to solve no difficulty of the very first order; for
the United States were in profound peace with the whole world. He
performed, however, with skill and success two diplomatic services of
real importance, services which brought deserved and most valuable
strength to Jackson's administration. The American claims for French
spoliations upon American ships during the operation of Napoleon's
Berlin and Milan decrees had been under discussion for many years. They
were now resolutely pressed. In his message of December, 1829, Jackson,
doubtless under Van Buren's advice, paid some compliments to "France,
our ancient ally;" but then said very plainly that these claims, unless
satisfied, would continue "a subject of unpleasant discussion and
possible collision between the two governments." He politely referred to
"the known integrity of the French monarch," Charles X., as an assurance
that the claims would be paid. A few months afterwards this Bourbon was
tumbled off the French throne; and in December, 1830, Jackson with
increased courtliness, and with a flattering allusion to Lafayette,
conspicuous in this milder revolution as he had been in 1789, rejoiced
in "the high voucher we possess for the enlarged views and pure
integrity" of Louis Philippe. The new American vigor, doubtless aided by
the liberal change in France, brought a treaty on July 4, 1831, under
which $5,000,000 was to be paid by France, a result which Jackson, with
pardonable boasting, said in his message of December, 1831, was an
encouragement "for perseverance in the demands of justice," and would
admonish other powers, if any, inclined to evade those demands, that
they would never be abandoned. The French treaty came so soon after Van
Buren's retirement from the state department, and followed so naturally
upon the methods of his negotiation, and his instructions to William C.
Rives, our minister at Paris, that much of its credit belonged to him.
In March, 1830, a treaty was made with Denmark requiring the payment of
$650,000 for Danish spoliations on American commerce. The effective
pressing of these claims was justly one of the most popular performances
of the administration. Commercial treaties were concluded with Austria
in August, 1829; with Turkey in May, 1830; and with Mexico in April,

But the chief transaction of Van Buren's foreign administration was the
opening of trade in American vessels between the United States and the
British West Indian colonies. This commerce was then relatively much
more important to the United States than in later times; and it was
chiefly by American shipping that American commerce was carried on with
foreign countries. The absurd and odious restrictions upon intercourse
so highly natural and advantageous to the people of our seaboard and of
the British West Indian islands had led to smuggling on a large scale,
and were fruitful of international irritations. Retaliatory acts of
Congress and Parliament, prohibitive proclamations of our presidents,
and British orders in council, had at different times, since the close
of the second British war in 1815, oppressed or prevented honest and
profitable trade between neighbors who ought to have been friendly
traders. Van Buren found the immediate position to be as follows. In
July, 1825, an act of Parliament had allowed foreign vessels to trade to
the British colonies upon conditions. To secure for American vessels the
benefit of this act, it was necessary that within one year American
ports should be open to British vessels bringing the same kind of
British or colonial produce as could be imported in American vessels;
that British and American vessels in the trade should pay the same
government charges; that alien duties on British vessels and cargoes,
that is, duties not imposed on the like vessels and cargoes owned by
Americans, should be suspended; and that the provision of an American
law of 1823 limiting the privileges of the colonial trade to British
vessels carrying colonial produce to American ports directly from the
colonies exporting it, and without stopping at intermediate ports,
should be repealed. John Quincy Adams's administration had failed within
the year to comply with the conditions imposed by the British law of
1825. In 1826, therefore, Great Britain forbade this trade and
intercourse in American vessels. Adams retorted with a counter
prohibition in March, 1827. And in this unfortunate position Van Buren
found our commercial relations with the West Indian, Bahama, and South
American colonies of England. The situation was aggravated by a claim
made by the American government in 1823 that American goods should pay
in the colonial ports no higher duties than British goods, a protest
against British protection to British industry in the British colonies
coming with little grace from a country itself maintaining the
protective system. Adams had sent Gallatin to England to remedy the
difficulty, but without success.

Van Buren adopted a different method of negotiation. A more conciliatory
bearing was assumed towards our traditional adversary. Jackson, in
language sounding strangely from his imperious mouth, was made to say in
his first message that "with Great Britain, alike distinguished in peace
and war, we may look forward to years of peaceful, honorable, and
elevated competition; that it is their policy to preserve the most
cordial relations." These, he said, were his own views; and such were
"the prevailing sentiments of our constituents." In his instructions to
McLane, the minister at London, Van Buren, departing widely from
conventional diplomacy, expressly conceded that the American government
had been wrong in its claim that England should admit to its colonies
American goods on as favorable terms as British goods; that it had been
wrong in requiring British ships bringing colonial produce to come and
go directly from and to the producing colonies; and that it had been
wrong in refusing the privileges offered by the British law of 1825.
This frank surrender of untenable positions showed the highest skill in
negotiation, a business for which Van Buren was perhaps better equipped
than any American of his time. In these points we were "assailable;" we
had "too long and too tenaciously" resisted British rights. After these
admissions, it would, he said, be improper for Great Britain to suffer
"any feelings that find their origin in the past pretensions of this
government to have an adverse influence upon the present conduct of
Great Britain." McLane was to tell the Earl of Aberdeen that "to set up
the act of the late administration as the cause of forfeiture of
privileges which would otherwise be extended to the people of the United
States would, under existing circumstances, be unjust in itself, and
could not fail to excite their deepest sensibility." McLane was also to
allude to the parts taken by the members of Jackson's administration in
the former treatment of the question under discussion. And here Van
Buren used the objectionable sentence which led to his subsequent
rejection by the Senate as minister to England, and which through that,
such are the curious caprices of politics, led, or at least helped to
lead, him to the presidency. He said, "Their views upon that point have
been submitted to the people of the United States; and the counsels by
which your conduct is now directed are the result of the judgment
expressed by the only earthly tribunal to which the late administration
was amenable for its acts."

In Van Buren's sagacious desire to emphasize the abandonment of claims
preventing the negotiation, he here introduced to a foreign nation the
American people as a judge that had condemned the assertion of such
claims by Jackson's predecessor. The statement was at least an
exaggeration. There was little reason to suppose that Adams's failure in
the negotiation over colonial trade had much, if at all, influenced the
election of 1828. Nor was it dignified to officially expose our party
contests to foreign eyes. But Van Buren was intent upon success in the
negotiation. He could succeed where others had failed, only by a strong
assertion of a change in American policy. His fault was at most one of
taste in the manner of an assertion right enough and wise enough in
itself. Nor were these celebrated instructions lacking in firmness or
dignity. Great Britain was clearly warned that she must then decide for
all time whether the hardships from which her West Indian planters
suffered should continue; and that the United States would not "in
expiation of supposed past encroachments" repeal their laws, leaving
themselves "wholly dependent upon the indulgence of Great Britain," and
not knowing in advance what course she would follow. In his speech in
the Senate in February, 1827, Van Buren had clearly stated the general
positions which he took in this famous dispatch. It is rather curious,
however, that he found occasion then to say upon this very subject what
he seemed afterwards to forget, that "in the collisions which may arise
between the United States and a foreign power, it is our duty to present
an unbroken front; domestic differences, if they tend to give
encouragement to unjust pretensions, should be extinguished or deferred;
and the cause of our government must be considered as the cause of our
country." So easy it is to advise other men to be bold and firm.

McLane's long and very able letter to the British foreign secretary
closely followed his instructions. Lord Aberdeen was frankly told that
the United States had committed "mistakes" in the past; and that the
"American pretensions" which had prevented a former arrangement would
not be revived. The negotiation was entirely successful. In October,
1830, the President, with the authorization of Congress, declared
American ports open to British vessels and their cargoes coming from the
colonies, and that they should be subject to the same charges as
American vessels coming from the same colonies. In November a British
order in council gave to American vessels corresponding privileges. On
January 3, 1831, Jackson sent to the Senate the papers, including Van
Buren's letter of instructions. No criticism was made upon their tenor;
and the public, heedless of the phrases used in reaching the end,
rejoiced in a most beneficent opening of commerce.



In the summer of 1831 Van Buren knew very well the strong hold he had
upon his party, the entire and almost affectionate confidence which he
enjoyed from Jackson, and the prestige which his political and official
success had brought him. But to the country, as he was well aware, he
seemed also to be, as he was, a politician, obviously skilled in the
art, and an avowed candidate for the presidency. His conciliatory
bearing, his abstinence from personal abuse, his freedom from personal
animosities, all were widely declared to be the mere incidents of
constant duplicity and intrigue. The absence of proof, and his own
explicit denial and appeal to those who knew the facts, did not protect
him from the belief of his adversaries--a belief which, without
examination, has since been widely adopted--that to prostrate a
dangerous rival he had promoted the quarrel between Jackson and Calhoun.
McLane, the minister at London, wished to come home, and was to be the
new secretary of the treasury. Van Buren gladly seized the opportunity.
He would leave the field of political management. Three thousand miles
in distance and a month in time away from Washington or New York, there
could, he thought, be little pretense of personal manoeuvres on his
part. He would thus plainly submit his candidacy to popular judgment
upon his public career, without interference from himself. He would
escape the many embarrassments of every politician upon whom demands are
continually made,--demands whose rejection or allowance alike brings
offense. The English mission was prominently in the public service, but
out of its difficulties; and it was made particularly grateful to him by
his success in the recent negotiation over colonial trade. He therefore
accepted the post, for which in almost every respect he had
extraordinary equipment. He finally left the State Department in June,
1831; and on his departure from Washington Jackson conspicuously rode
with him out of the city. On August 1, he was formally appointed
minister to Great Britain; and in September he arrived in London,
accompanied by his son John.

Van Buren found Washington Irving presiding over the London legation in
McLane's absence as _chargé d'affaires_. Irving's appointment to be
secretary of legation under McLane had been one of Van Buren's early
acts,--a proof, Irving wrote, "of the odd way in which this mad world is
governed, when a secretary of state of a stern republic gives away
offices of the kind at the recommendation of a jovial little man of the
seas like Jack Nicholson." But this was jocose. When the appointment
was suggested, it was particularly pleasant to Van Buren that this
graceful and gentle bit of patronage should be given by so grim a figure
as Jackson. Irving had come on from Spain, his "Columbus" just finished,
and his "Alhambra Tales" ready for writing. His extraordinary popularity
in England and his old familiarity with its life made him highly useful
to the American minister, as Van Buren himself soon found. It was not
the last time that Englishmen respected the republic of the west the
more because the respect carried with it an homage to the republic of
letters. Irving's was an early one of the appointments which established
the agreeable tradition of the American diplomatic and consular service,
that literary men should always hold some of its places of honor and
profit. When Van Buren arrived, Irving was already weary of his post and
had resigned. He remained, however, with the new minister until he too
surrendered his office. The two men became warm and lifelong friends.
The day after Van Buren's arrival Irving wrote: "I have just seen Mr.
Van Buren, and do not wonder you should all be so fond of him. His
manners are most amiable and ingratiating; and I have no doubt he will
become a favorite at this court." After an intimacy of several months he
wrote: "The more I see of Mr. Van Buren, the more I feel confirmed in a
strong personal regard for him. He is one of the gentlest and most
amiable men I have ever met with; with an affectionate disposition that
attaches itself to those around him, and wins their kindness in return."

After a few months of the charming life which an American of distinction
finds open to him in London, a life for whose duties and whose pleasures
Van Buren was happily fitted,[10] there came to him an extraordinary and
enviable delight. He posted through England in an open carriage with the
author of the "Sketch Book" and "Bracebridge Hall." From those daintiest
sources he had years before got an idea of English country life, and of
the festivities of an old-fashioned English Christmas; and now in an
exquisite companionship the idea became more nearly clothed with reality
than happens with most literary enchantments. After Oxford and Blenheim;
after quartering in Stratford at the little inn of the Red Horse, where
they "found the same obliging little landlady that kept it at the time
of the visit recorded in the 'Sketch Book';" after Warwick Castle and
Kenilworth and Lichfield and Newstead Abbey and Hardwick Castle; after a
fortnight at Christmas in Barlborough Hall,--"a complete scene of old
English hospitality," with many of the ancient games and customs then
obsolete in other parts of England; after seeing there the "mummers and
morris dancers and glee singers;" after "great feasting with the
boar's-head crowned with holly, the wassail bowl, the yule-log,
snapdragon, etc.;"--after all these delights, inimitably told by his
companion, Van Buren returned to London, but not for long. He there
enjoyed the halcyon days which the brilliant society of London knew,
when George IV. had just left the throne to his undignified but
good-hearted and jovial brother; when Louis Philippe had found a
bourgeois crown in France and the condescending approval of England;
when Wellington was the first of Englishmen; when Prince Talleyrand, his
early republicanism and sacrileges not at all forgotten, but forgiven to
the prestige of his abilities and the splendid fascinations of his
society, was the chief person in diplomatic life; when the Wizard of the
North, though broken, and on his last and vain trip to the Mediterranean
for health, still lingered in London, one of its grand figures, and
sadly recalled to Irving the times when they "went over the Eildon hills
together;" when Rogers was playing Mæcenas and Catullus at
breakfast-tables of poets and bankers and noblemen. It was amid this
serene, shining, and magical translation from the politics at home that
Van Buren received the rude and humiliating news of his rejection by the
Senate; for his appointment had been made in recess, and he had left
without a confirmation.

One evening in February, 1832, before attending a party at
Talleyrand's, Van Buren learned of the rejection, as had all London
which knew there was an American minister. He was half ill when the news
came; but he seemed imperturbable. Without shrinking he mixed in the
splendid throng, gracious and easy, as if he did not know that his
official heart would soon cease to beat. Lord Auckland, then president
of the board of trade and afterwards governor-general of India, said to
him very truly, and more prophetically than he fancied: "It is an
advantage to a public man to be the subject of an outrage." Levees and
drawing-rooms and state dinners were being held in honor of the queen's
birthday. After a doubt as to the more decorous course, he kept the
tenor of diplomatic life until he ceased to be a minister; and Irving
said that, "to the credit of John Bull," he "was universally received
with the most marked attention," and "treated with more respect and
attention than before by the royal family, by the members of the present
and the old cabinet, and the different persons of the diplomatic corps."
On March 22, 1832, he had his audience of leave; two days later he dined
with the king at Windsor; and about April 1 left for Holland and a
continental trip, this being, so he wrote a committee appointed at an
indignation meeting in Tammany Hall, "the only opportunity" he should
probably ever have for the visit.

Van Buren's dispatches from England, now preserved in the archives of
the State Department, are not numerous. They were evidently written by
a minister who was not very busy in official duties apart from the
social and ceremonial life of a diplomat. Some of them are in his own
handwriting, whose straggling carelessness is quite out of keeping with
the obvious pains which he bestowed upon every subject he touched, even
those of seemingly slight consequence. Interspersed with allusions to
the northeastern boundary question, and with accounts of his protests
against abuses practiced upon American ships in British ports, and of
the spread of the cholera, he gave English political news and even
gossip. He discussed the chances of the reform bill, rumors of what the
ministry would do, and whether the Duke of Wellington would yield. Van
Buren participated in no important dispute, although before surrendering
his post he presented one of the hateful claims which American
administrations of both parties had to make in those days. This was the
demand for slaves who escaped from the American brig "Comet," wrecked in
the Bahamas, on her way from the Potomac to New Orleans, and who were
declared free by the colonial authorities.

It is safe to believe that Secretary Livingston read the more
interesting of these letters at the White House. Van Buren discreetly
lightened up some of the diplomatic pages with passages very agreeable
to Jackson. In describing his presentation to William IV., he told
Livingston that the king had formed the highest estimate of Jackson's
character, and repeated the royal remark "that detraction and
misrepresentation were the common lot of all public men." Of the
President's message of December, 1831, he wrote that few in England
refused to recognize its ability or the "distinguished talents of the
executive by whose advice and labors" the affairs "of our highly favored
country" had been "conducted to such happy results."

On July 5, 1832, Van Buren arrived at New York, having several weeks
before been nominated for the vice-presidency. He declined a public
reception, he said, because, afflicted as New York was with the cholera,
festivities would be discordant with the feelings of his friends; and a
few days later he was in Washington. Congress was in session, debating
the tariff bill; and he quickly enough found it true, as he had already
believed, that his rejection had been a capital blunder of his enemies.
The rejection occurred on January 25, 1832. Jackson's nomination had
gone to the Senate early in December, but the opposition had hesitated
at the responsibility for the affront. The debate took place in secret
session, but the speeches were promptly made public for their effect on
the country. Clay and Webster, the great leaders of the Whigs, and
Hayne, the eloquent representative of the Calhoun Democracy, and others,
spoke against Van Buren. Clay and Webster based their rejection upon his
language in the dispatch to McLane, already quoted. Webster said that
he would pardon almost anything where he saw true patriotism and sound
American feeling; but he could not forgive the sacrifice of these to
party. Van Buren, with sensible and skillful foresight, had frankly
admitted that we had been wrong in some of our claims; and Gallatin, it
was afterwards shown from his original dispatch to Clay, had expressly
said the same thing. But in a bit of buncombe Webster insisted that no
American minister must ever admit that his country had been wrong. "In
the presence of foreign courts," he solemnly said, "amidst the
monarchies of Europe, he is to stand up for his country and his whole
country; that no jot nor tittle of her honor is to suffer in his hands;
that he is not to allow others to reproach either his government or his
country, and far less is he himself to reproach either; that he is to
have no objects in his eye but American objects, and no heart in his
bosom but an American heart." To say all this, Webster declared, was a
duty whose performance he wished might be heard "by every independent
freeman in the United States, by the British minister and the British
king, and every minister and every crowned head in Europe." Van Buren's
language, Clay said, had been that of an humble vassal to a proud and
haughty lord, prostrating and degrading the American eagle before the
British lion. These cheap appeals fell perfectly flat. If Van Buren had
been open to criticism for the manner in which he pointed out a party
change in American administration, the error was, at the worst,
committed to preclude a British refusal from finding justification in
the offensive attitude previously taken by Adams. In admitting our
mistaken "pretensions," Van Buren had been entirely right, barring a
slight fault in the word, which did not, however, then seem to import
the consciousness of wrong which it carries to later ears. Webster and
Clay ought to have known that Van Buren's success where all before had
failed would make the American people loath to find fault with his
phrases. Nor were they at all ready to believe that Jackson's
administration toadied to foreign courts. They knew better; they were
convinced that no American president had been more resolute towards
other nations.

It was also said that Van Buren had introduced the system of driving men
from office for political opinions; that he was a New York politician
who had brought his art to Washington. Marcy, one of the New York
senators, defended his State with these words, which afterwards he must
have wished to recall: "It may be, sir, that the politicians of New York
are not so fastidious as some gentlemen are as to disclosing the
principles on which they act. They boldly preach what they practice.
When they are contending for victory they avow their intention of
enjoying the fruits of it. If they are defeated, they expect to retire
from office; if they are successful, they claim, as a matter of right,
the advantages of success. They see nothing wrong in the rule that to
the victor belong the spoils of the enemy." To this celebrated and
execrable defense Van Buren owes much of the later and unjust belief
that he was an inveterate "spoilsman." It has already been shown how
little foundation there is for the charge that he introduced the system
of official proscription. Benton truly said that Van Buren's temper and
judgment were both against it, and that he gave ample proofs of his
forbearance. Webster did not touch upon this objection. Clay made it
very subordinate to the secretary's abasement before the British lion.

The attack of the Calhoun men was based upon Van Buren's supposed
intrigue against their chief, and his breaking up of the cabinet. But
people saw then, better indeed than some historians have since seen,
that between Calhoun and Van Buren there had been great and radical
political divergence far deeper than personal jealousy. To surrender the
highest cabinet office, to leave Washington and all the places of
political management, in order to take a lower office in remote exile
from the sources of political power,--these were not believed to be acts
of mere trickery, but rather to be parts of a courageous and
self-respecting appeal for justice. It seemed a piece of political
animosity wantonly to punish a rival with such exquisite humiliation in
the eyes of foreigners.

There was a clear majority against confirming Van Buren. But to make his
destruction the more signal, and as Calhoun had no opportunity to speak,
enough of the majority refrained from voting to enable the Democratic
vice-president to give the casting vote for the rejection of this
Democratic nominee. Calhoun's motive was obvious enough from his boast
in Benton's hearing: "It will kill him, sir, kill him dead. He will
never kick, sir, never kick." This bit of unaffected nature was
refreshing after all the solemnly insincere declarations of grief which
had fallen from the opposition senators in performing their duty.

The folly of the rejection was quickly apparent. Benton very well said
to Moore, a senator from Alabama who had voted against Van Buren, "You
have broken a minister and elected a vice-president. The people will see
nothing in it but a combination of rivals against a competitor." The
popular verdict was promptly given. Van Buren had already become a
candidate to succeed Jackson five years later; he was only a possible
candidate for vice-president at the next election. When the rejection
was widely known, it was known almost equally well and soon that Van
Buren would be the Jacksonian candidate for vice-president. Meetings
were held; addresses were voted; the issue was eagerly seized. The
Democratic members of the New York legislature early in February, 1832,
under an inspiration from Washington, addressed to Jackson an expression
of their indignation in the stately words which our fathers loved, even
when they went dangerously near to bathos. They had freely, they said,
surrendered to his call their most distinguished fellow-citizen; when
Van Buren had withdrawn from the cabinet they had beheld in Jackson's
continual confidence in him irrefragable proof that no combination could
close Jackson's eyes to the cause of his country; New York would indeed
avenge the indignity thus offered to her favorite son; but they would be
unmindful of their duty if they failed to console Jackson with their
sympathy in this degradation of the country he loved so well. On
February 28, Jackson replied with no less dignity and with skill and
force. He was, he said,--and the whole country believed him,--incapable
of tarnishing the pride or dignity of that country whose glory it had
been his object to elevate; Van Buren's instructions to McLane had been
his instructions; American pretensions which Adams's administration had
admitted to be untenable had been resigned; if just American claims were
resisted upon the ground of the unjust position taken by his
predecessor, then and then only was McLane to point out that there had
been a change in the policy and counsels of the government with the
change of its officers. Jackson said that he owed it to the late
secretary of state and to the American people to declare that Van Buren
had no participation whatever in the occurrences between Calhoun and
himself; and that there was no ground for imputing to Van Buren advice
to make the removals from office. He had called Van Buren to the state
department not more for his acknowledged talents and public services
than to meet the general wish and expectation of the Republican party;
his signal ability and success in office had fully justified the
selection; his own respect for Van Buren's great public and private
worth, and his full confidence in his integrity were undiminished. This
blast from the unquestioned head of the party prodigiously helped the
general movement. The only question was how best to avenge the wrong.

It was suggested that Van Buren should return directly and take a seat
in the Senate, which Dudley would willingly surrender to him, and should
there meet his slanderers face to face. Some thought that he should have
a triumphal entry into New York, without an idea of going into the
"senatorial cock-pit" unless he were not to receive the vice-presidency.
Others thought that he should be made governor of New York, an idea
shadowed forth in the Albany address to Jackson. As a candidate for that
place, he would escape the jealousies of Pennsylvania and perhaps
Virginia, and augment the local strength of the party in New York. To
this it was replied from Washington that they might better cut his
throat at once; that if the Republican party could not, under existing
circumstances, make Van Buren vice-president, they need never look to
the presidency for him. This was declared to be the unanimous opinion of
the cabinet. New York Republicans were begged not to "lose so glorious
an opportunity of strengthening and consolidating the party." The people
at Albany, it was said, were "mad, ... as if New York can make amends
for an insult offered by fourteen States of the Union."

In this temper the Republican or Democratic convention met at Baltimore
on May 21, 1832. It was the first national gathering of the party; and
was summoned simply to nominate a vice-president. Jackson's renomination
was already made by the sovereign people, which might be justly
affronted by the assembling of a body in apparent doubt whether to obey
the popular decree. National conventions were inevitable upon the
failure of the congressional caucus in 1824. The system of separate
nominations in different States at irregular times was too inconvenient,
too inconsistent with unity of action and a central survey of the whole
situation. In 1824 its inconvenience had been obvious enough. In 1828
circumstances had designated both the candidates with perfect certainty;
and isolated nominations in different parts of the country were then in
no danger of clashing. It has been recently said that the convention of
1832 was assembled to force Van Buren's nomination for vice-president.
But it is evident from the letter which Parton prints, written by Lewis
to Kendall on May 25, 1831, when the latter was visiting Isaac Hill, the
Jacksonian leader in New Hampshire, that the convention was even then
proposed by "the most judicious" friends of the administration. It was
suggested as a plan "of putting a stop to partial nominations" and of
"harmonizing" the party. Barbour, Dickinson, and McLane were the
candidates discussed in this letter; Van Buren was not named. He was
about sailing for England; and although an open candidate for the
presidential succession after Jackson, he was not then a candidate for
the second office. The ascription of the convention to management in his
behalf seems purely gratuitous. Upon this early invitation, the New
Hampshire Democrats called the convention. One of them opened its
session by a brief speech alluding to the favor with which the idea of
the convention had met, "although opposed by the enemies of the
Democratic party," as the Republican party headed by Jackson was now
perhaps first definitely called. He said that "the coming together of
representatives of the people from the extremity of the Union would have
a tendency to soothe, if not to unite, the jarring interests;" and that
the people, after seeing its good effects in conciliating the different
and distant sections of the country, would continue the mode of
nomination. This natural and sensible motive to strengthen and solidify
the party is ample explanation of the convention, without resorting to
the rather worn charge brought against so many political movements of
the time, that they arose from Jackson's dictatorial desire to throttle
the sentiment of his party. In making nominations the convention
resolved that each State should have as many votes as it would be
entitled to in the electoral college. To assure what was deemed a
reasonable approach to unanimity, two thirds of the whole number of
votes was required for a choice,--a precedent sad enough to Van Buren
twelve years later. On the first ballot Van Buren had 208 of the 283
votes. Virginia, South Carolina, Indiana, and Kentucky, with a few votes
from North Carolina, Alabama, and Illinois, were for Philip P. Barbour
of Virginia or Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky. The motion, nowadays
immediately made, that the nomination be unanimous was not offered; but
after an adjournment a resolution was adopted that inasmuch as Van Buren
had received the votes of two thirds of the delegates, the convention
unanimously concur "in recommending him to the people of the United
States for their support."

No platform was adopted. A committee was appointed after the nomination
to draft an address; but after a night's work they reported that,
although "agreeing fully in the principles and sentiments which they
believe ought to be embodied in an address of this description, if such
an address were to be made," it still seemed better to them that the
convention recommend the several delegations "to make such explanations
by address, report, or otherwise to their respective constituents of the
objects, proceedings, and result of the meeting as they may deem
expedient." This was a franker intimation than those to which we are now
used, that the battle was to be fought in each State upon the issue best
suited to its local sentiments; and was entitled to quite as much
respect as meaningless platitudes adopted lest one State or another be
offended at something explicit. Jackson's firm and successful foreign
policy, his opposition to internal improvements by the federal
government, his strong stand against nullification, his opposition to
the United States Bank,--for from the battle over the re-charter,
precipitated by Clay early in 1832 to embarrass Jackson, the latter had
not shrunk,--and above all Jackson himself, these were the real planks
of the platform. But the party wanted the votes of Pennsylvania
Jacksonians who believed in the Bank and of western Jacksonians who
wished federal aid for roads and canals. The great tariff debate was
then going on in Congress; and the subject seemed full of danger. The
election was like the usual English canvass on a parliamentary
dissolution. The country was merely asked without specifications: Do you
on the whole like Jackson's administration?

There is no real ground for the supposition that intrigue or coercion
was necessary to procure Van Buren's nomination. It was dictated by the
simplest and plainest political considerations. Calhoun was in
opposition. After Jackson, Van Buren was clearly the most distinguished
and the ablest member of the administration party; he had rendered it
services of the highest order; he was very popular in the most important
State of New York; he was abroad, suffering from what Irving at the time
truly called "a very short-sighted and mean-spirited act of hostility."
The affront had aroused a general feeling which would enable Van Buren
to strengthen the ticket. In his department had been performed the most
shining achievements of the administration. To the politicians about
Jackson, and very shrewd men they were, Van Buren's succession to
Jackson promised a firmer, abler continuance of the administration than
that of any other public man. Could he indeed have stayed minister to
England, he would have continued a figure of the first distinction, free
from local and temporary animosities and embarrassments. From that post
he might perhaps, as did a later Democratic statesman, most easily have
ascended to the presidency; the vice-presidency would have been
unnecessary to the final promotion. But after the tremendous affront
dealt him by Calhoun and Clay, his tame return to private life would
seem fatal. He must reënter public life. And no reëntry, it was plain,
could be so striking as a popular election to the second station in the
land, nominal though it was, and in taking it to displace the very enemy
who had been finally responsible for the wrong done him.

A month after his return Van Buren formally accepted the nomination. The
committee of the convention had assured him that if the great Republican
party continued faithful to its principles, there was every reason to
congratulate him and their illustrious president that there was in
reserve for his wounded feelings a just and certain reparation. Van
Buren said in reply that previous to his departure from the United
States his name had been frequently mentioned for the vice-presidency;
but that he had uniformly declared himself altogether unwilling to be
considered a candidate, and that to his friends, when opportunity
offered, he had given the grounds of his unwillingness. All this was
strictly true. He had become a candidate for the presidential
succession; and honorable absence as minister to England secured a
better preparation than presence as vice-president amidst the
difficulties and suspicions of Washington. But his position, he added,
had since that period been essentially changed by the circumstance to
which the committee had referred, and to which, with some excess of
modesty he said, rather than to any superior fitness on his part, he was
bound to ascribe his nomination. He gratefully received this spontaneous
expression of confidence and friendship from the delegated democracy of
the Union. He declared it to be fortunate for the country that its
public affairs were under the direction of one who had an early and
inflexible devotion to republican principles and a moral courage which
distinguished him from all others. In the conviction, he said, that on a
faithful adherence to these principles depended the stability and value
of our confederated system, he humbly hoped lay his motive, rather than
any other, for accepting the nomination. This rather clumsy affectation
of humility would have been more disagreeable had it not been closely
associated with firm and manly expressions, and because it was so
common a formality in the political vernacular of the day. In treating
the people as the sovereign, there were adopted the sort of rhetorical
extravagances used by attendants upon monarchs.

On October 4, 1832, Van Buren, upon an interrogation by a committee of a
meeting at Shocco Springs, North Carolina, wrote a letter upon the
tariff. He said that he believed "the establishment of commercial
regulations with a view to the encouragement of domestic products to be
within the constitutional power of Congress." But as to what should be
the character of the tariff he indulged in the generalities of a man who
has opinions which he does not think it wise or timely to exhibit. He
did not wish to see the power of Congress exercised with "oppressive
inequality" or "for the advantage of one section of the Union at the
expense of another." The approaching extinguishment of the national debt
presented an opportunity for a "more equitable adjustment of the
tariff," an opportunity already embraced in the tariff of 1832, whose
spirit as "a conciliatory measure" he trusted would be cherished by all
who preferred public to private interests. These vague expressions would
have fitted either a revenue reformer or an extreme protectionist. Both
disbelieved, or said they did, in oppression and inequality. With a bit
of irony, perhaps unconscious, he added that he had been thus "explicit"
in the statement of his sentiments that there might not be room for
misapprehension of his views. He did, however, in the letter approve "a
reduction of the revenue to the wants of the government," and "a
preference in encouragement given to such manufactures as are essential
to the national defense, and its extension to others in proportion as
they are adapted to our country and of which the raw material is
produced by ourselves." The last phrase probably hinted at Van Buren's
position. He believed in strictly limiting protective duties, although
he had voted for the tariff of 1828. But he told Benton that he cast
this vote in obedience to the "_demos krateo_" principle, that is,
because his State required it. He again spoke strongly against the
policy of internal improvements, and the "scrambles and combinations in
Congress" unavoidably resulting from them. He was "unreservedly opposed"
to a renewal of the charter of the Bank, and equally opposed to
nullification, which involved, he believed, the "certain destruction of
the confederacy."

A few days later he wrote to a committee of "democratic-republican young
men" in New York of the peculiar hatred and contumely visited upon him.
Invectives against other men, he said, were at times suspended; but he
had never enjoyed a moment's respite since his first entrance into
public life. Many distinguished public men had, he added, been seriously
injured by favors from the press; but there was scarcely an instance in
which the objects of its obloquy had not been raised in public
estimation in exact proportion to the intensity and duration of the

Both the letter from the Baltimore convention and Van Buren's reply
alluded to "diversity of sentiments and interests," disagreements "as to
measures and men" among the Republicans. The secession of Calhoun and
the bitter hostility of his friends seriously weakened the party. But
against this was to be set the Anti-Masonic movement which drew far more
largely from Jackson's opponents than from his supporters, for Jackson
was a Mason of a high degree. This strange agitation had now spread
beyond New York, and secured the support of really able men. Judge
McLean of the Supreme Court desired the Anti-Masonic nomination; William
Wirt, the famous and accomplished Virginian, accepted it. John Quincy
Adams would probably have accepted it, had it been tendered him. He
wrote in his diary: "The dissolution of the Masonic institution in the
United States I believe to be really more important to us and our
posterity than the question whether Mr. Clay or General Jackson shall be
the president." In New York the National Republicans or Whigs, with the
eager and silly leaning of minority parties to political absurdities or
vagaries, united with the Anti-Masons, among whom William H. Seward and
Thurlow Weed had become influential. In 1830 they had supported Francis
Granger, the Anti-Masonic candidate for governor. In 1832 the
Anti-Masons in New York nominated an electoral ticket headed by
Chancellor Kent, whose bitter, narrow, and unintelligent politics were
in singular contrast with his extraordinary legal equipment and his
professional and literary accomplishments, and by John C. Spencer,
lately in charge of the prosecution of Morgan's abductors. If the ticket
were successful, its votes were to go to Wirt or Clay, whichever they
might serve to elect. Amos Ellmaker of Pennsylvania was the Anti-Masonic
candidate for vice-president. In December, 1831, Clay had been nominated
for president with the loud enthusiasm which politicians often mistake
for widespread conviction. John Sergeant of Pennsylvania was the
candidate for vice-president. The Whig Convention made the Bank
re-charter the issue. The very ably conducted Young Men's National
Republican Convention, held at Washington in May, 1832, gave Clay a
noble greeting, made pilgrimage to the tomb of Washington there to seal
their solemn promises, and adopted a clear and brief platform for
protection, for internal improvements by the federal government, for the
binding force upon the coördinate branches of the government of the
Supreme Court's opinions as to constitutional questions, not only in
special cases formally adjudged, but upon general principles, and
against the manner in which the West Indian trade had been recovered.
They declared that "indiscriminate removal of public officers for a mere
difference of political opinion is a gross abuse of power, corrupting
the morals and dangerous to the liberties of the people of this

Even more clearly than in the campaign of 1828 was the campaign of 1832
a legitimate political battle upon plain issues. The tariff bill of
1832, supported by both parties and approved by Jackson, prevented the
question of protection from being an issue, however ready the Whigs
might be, and however unready the Democrats, to give commercial
restrictions a theoretical approval. Except on the "spoils" question,
the later opinion of the United States has sustained the attitude of
Jackson's party and the popular verdict of 1832. The verdict was clear
enough. In spite of the Anti-Masonic fury, the numerous secessions from
the Jacksonian ranks, and some alarming journalistic defections,
especially of the New York "Courier and Enquirer" of James Watson Webb
and Mordecai M. Noah, the people of the United States continued to
believe in Jackson and the principles for which he stood. Upon the
popular vote Jackson and Van Buren received 687,502 votes against
530,189 votes for Clay and Wirt combined, a popular majority over both
of 157,313. In 1828 Jackson had had 647,276 votes and Adams 508,064, a
popular majority of 139,212. The increase in Jackson's popular majority
over two candidates instead of one was particularly significant in the
north and east. The majority in New York rose from 5350 to 13,601. In
Maine a minority of 6806 became a majority of 6087. In New Hampshire a
minority of 3212 became a majority of 6476. In Massachusetts a minority
of 23,860 was reduced to 18,458. In Rhode Island and Connecticut the
minorities were reduced. In New Jersey a minority of 1813 became a
majority of 463. The electoral vote was even more heavily against Clay.
He had but 49 votes to Jackson's 219. Wirt had the 7 votes of Vermont,
while South Carolina, beginning to step out of the Union, gave its 11
votes to John Floyd of Virginia. Clay carried only Massachusetts, Rhode
Island, Connecticut, Delaware, a part of Maryland, and his own
affectionate Kentucky. Van Buren received for vice-president the same
electoral vote as Jackson, except that the 30 votes of Pennsylvania went
to Wilkins, a Pennsylvanian. Sergeant had the same 49 votes as Clay,
Ellmaker the 7 votes of Vermont, and Henry Lee of Massachusetts the 11
votes of South Carolina.[11]

This popular triumph brought great glory to Jackson's second
inauguration. The glory was soon afterwards made greater and almost
universal by his bold attack upon nullification, and by the vigorous and
ringing yet dignified and even pathetic proclamation of January, 1833,
drafted by Edward Livingston, in which the President commanded
obedience to the law and entreated for loyalty to the Union. It could
not be overlooked that the treasonable attitude of South Carolina had
been taken by the portion of the Democratic party hostile to Van Buren.
In a peculiar way therefore he shared in Jackson's prestige.

[Illustration: Edward Livingston]

The election seemed to clarify some of the views of the administration.
They now dared to speak more explicitly. On his way to the inauguration,
Van Buren, declining a dinner at Philadelphia, recited with approval
what he called Jackson's repeated and earnest recommendations of "a
reduction of duties to the revenue standard." In his second inaugural
Jackson said that there should be exercised "by the general government
those powers only that are clearly delegated." In his message of
December, 1833, he again spoke of "the importance of abstaining from all
appropriations which are not absolutely required for the public
interests, and authorized by the powers clearly delegated to the United
States;" and this he said with the more emphasis because under the
compromise tariff of 1833 a large decrease in revenue was anticipated.

In September, 1833, was announced Jackson's refusal longer to deposit
the moneys of the government with the Bank of the United States. It is
plain that the dangers of the proposed deposits of the moneys in the
state banks were not appreciated. Van Buren at first opposed this
so-called "removal of the deposits." Kendall tells of an interview with
the Vice-President not long after his inauguration, and while he was a
guest at the White House. Van Buren then warmly remonstrated against the
continued agitation of the subject, after the resolution of the lower
House at the last session that the government deposits were safe with
the banks. Kendall replied that so certain to his mind was the success
of the Whig party at the next presidential election and the consequent
re-charter of the Bank, unless it were now stripped of the power which
the charge of the public moneys gave it, that if the Bank were to retain
the deposits he should consider further opposition useless and would lay
down his pen, leaving to others this question and all other politics. "I
can live," he said to the Vice-President, "under a corrupt despotism as
well as any other man by keeping out of its way, which I shall certainly
do." They parted in excitement. A few weeks later Van Buren confessed to
Kendall, "I had never thought seriously upon the deposit question until
after my conversation with you; I am now satisfied that you were right
and I was wrong." Kendall was sent to ascertain whether suitable state
banks would accept the deposits, and on what terms. While in New York
Van Buren, with McLane lately transferred from the Treasury to the State
Department, called on him and proposed that the order for the change in
the government depositories should take effect on the coming first of
January. The date being a month after the meeting of Congress, the
executive action would seem less defiant; and in the mean time the
friends of the administration could be more effectually united in
support of the measure. Kendall yielded to the proposition though
against his judgment, and wrote to the President in its favor. But
Jackson would not yield. Whether or not its first inspiration came from
Francis P. Blair or Kendall, the removal of the deposits was peculiarly
Jackson's own deed. The government moneys should not be left in the
hands of the chief enemy of his administration, to be loaned in its
discretion, that it might secure doubtful votes in Congress and the
support of presses pecuniarily weak. As the Bank's charter would expire
within three years, it was pointed out that the government ought to
prepare for it by withholding further deposits and gradually drawing out
the moneys then on deposit. Van Buren's assent was given, but probably
with no enthusiasm. He disliked the Bank heartily enough. The corrupting
danger of intrusting government moneys to a single private corporation
to loan in its discretion was clear. But a system of "pet banks" through
the States was too slight an improvement, if an improvement at all. And
any change would at least offend and alarm the richer classes. It is
impossible to say what effect upon the re-charter of the Bank and the
election of 1836 its continued possession of the deposits would have
had. Its tremendous power over credits doubtless gave it many votes of
administration congressmen. Possibly, as Jackson and Blair feared, it
might have secured enough to pass a re-charter over a veto. If it had
been thus re-chartered, it may be doubtful whether the blow to the
prestige of the administration might not have been serious enough to
elect a Whig in 1836. But it is not doubtful that Van Buren, and not
Jackson, was compelled to face the political results of this heroic and
imperfect measure.

Some financial disturbance took place in the winter of 1833-1834, which
was ascribed by the Whigs to the gradual transfer of the government
moneys from the United States Bank and its numerous branches to the
state banks. For political effect, this disturbance was greatly
exaggerated. Deputations visited Washington to bait Jackson. Memorial
after memorial enabled congressmen to make friends by complimenting the
enterprise and beauty of various towns, and to depict the utter misery
to which all their industries had been brought, solely by a gradual
transference throughout the United States of $10,000,000, from one set
of depositories to another. The removal, Webster said, had produced a
degree of evil that could not be borne. "A tottering state of credit,
cramped means, loss of property and loss of employment, doubts of the
condition of others, doubts of their own condition, constant fear of
failures and new explosions, and awful dread of the future"--all these
evils, "without hope of improvement or change," had resulted from the
removal. Clay was more precise in his absurdity. The property of the
country had been reduced, he declared, four hundred millions in value.
Addressing Van Buren in the Vice-President's chair, he begged him in a
burst of bathos to repair to the executive mansion and place before the
chief magistrate the naked and undisguised truth. "Go to him," he cried,
"and tell him without exaggeration, but in the language of truth and
sincerity, the actual condition of this bleeding country, ... of the
tears of helpless widows no longer able to earn their bread, and of
unclad and unfed orphans." Van Buren, in the story often quoted from
Benton, while thus apostrophized, looked respectfully and innocently at
Clay, as if treasuring up every word to be faithfully borne to the
President; and when Clay had finished, he called a senator to the chair,
went up to the eloquent and languishing Kentuckian, asked him for a
pinch of his fine maccoboy snuff, and walked away. But this frivolity
was not fancied everywhere. At a meeting in Philadelphia it was resolved
"that Martin Van Buren deserves and will receive the execrations of all
good men, should he shrink from the responsibility of conveying to
Andrew Jackson the message sent by the Honorable Henry Clay." The whole
agitation was hollow enough. Jackson was not far wrong in saying in his
letter to Hamilton of January 2, 1834: "There is no real general
distress. It is only with those who live by borrowing, trade or loans,
and the gamblers in stocks." The business of the country was not
injured by refusing to let Nicholas Biddle and his subordinates, rather
than other men, lend for gain ten millions of government money. But
business was soon to be injured by permitting the state banks to do the
same thing. The change did not, as Jackson thought, "leave all to trade
on their own credit and capital without any interference by the general
government except using its powers by giving through its mint a specie

Van Buren took a permanent residence in Washington after his
inauguration as vice-president. He now held a rank accorded to no other
vice-president before or since. He was openly adopted by the American
Augustus, and seemed already to wear the title of Cæsar. As no other
vice-president has been, he was the chief adviser of the President, and
as much the second officer of the government in power as in the dignity
of his station. His only chance of promotion did not lie in the
President's death. That the President should live until after the
election of 1836 was safely over, Van Buren had every selfish motive as
well as many generous motives to desire. His ambition was no-wise
disagreeable to his chief. To see that ambition satisfied would gratify
both patriotic and personal wishes of the tempestuous but not erratic
old man in the White House. For there was the utmost intimacy and
confidence between the two men. Van Buren had every reason, personal,
political, and patriotic, to desire the entire success of the
administration. He was not only the second member of it; but in his
jealous and anxious watch over it he was preserving his own patrimony.
His ability and experience were far greater than those of any other
of its members. After Taney had been transferred from the
attorney-general's office to the Treasury, in September, 1833, to make
the transfer of the deposits, Jackson appointed Benjamin F. Butler, Van
Buren's intimate friend, his former pupil and partner, to Taney's place.
Louis McLane, Van Buren's predecessor in the mission to England, and his
successor, after Edward Livingston, in the State Department, resigned
the latter office in the summer of 1834. He had disapproved Jackson's
removal of the deposits; he believed it would be unpopular, and the
presidential bee was buzzing in his bonnet. John Forsyth of Georgia, an
admirer of Van Buren, and one of his defenders in the senatorial debate
at the time of his rejection, then took the first place in the cabinet.
Van Buren accompanied Jackson during part of the latter's visit to the
Northeast in the summer of 1833, when as the adversary of nullification
his popularity was at its highest, so high indeed that Harvard College,
to Adams's disgust, made him a Doctor of Laws. But the exciting events
of Jackson's second term hardly belong, with the information we yet
have, to Van Buren's biography. They have been often and admirably told
in the lives of Jackson and Clay, the seeming chiefs on the two sides of
the long encounter.

Van Buren's nomination for the presidency, bitter as the opposition to
it still was, came as matter of course. The large and serious secession
of Calhoun and his followers from the Jacksonian party was followed by
the later and more serious defection of the Democrats who made a rival
Democratic candidate of Hugh L. White, a senator from Tennessee, and
formerly a warm friend and adherent of Jackson. It was in White's behalf
that Davy Crockett wrote, in 1835, his entertaining though scurrilous
life of Van Buren. Jackson's friendship for Van Buren, Crockett said,
had arisen from his hatred to Calhoun, of which Van Buren, who was
"secret, sly, selfish, cold, calculating, distrustful, treacherous," had
taken advantage. Jackson was now about to give up "an old, long-tried,
faithful friend, Judge White, who stuck to him through all his
tribulations, helped to raise his fortunes from the beginning;
adventurers together in a new country, friends in youth and in old age,
fought together in the same battles, risked the same dangers, starved
together in the same deserts, merely to gratify this revengeful
feeling." Van Buren was "as opposite to General Jackson as dung is to a

It is difficult to find any justification for White's candidacy. He was
a modest, dignified senator whose popularity in the Democratic Southwest
rendered him available to Van Buren's enemies. But neither his abilities
nor his services to the public or his party would have suggested him
for the presidency. Doubtless in him as with other modest, dignified
men in history, there burned ambition whose fire never burst into flame,
and which perhaps for its suppression was the more troublesome. He
consented, apparently only for personal reasons, to head the Southern
schism from Jackson and Van Buren; and in his political destruction he
paid the penalty usually and justly visited upon statesmen who, through
personal hatred or jealousy or ambition, break party ties without a real
difference of principle. Benton said that White consented to run
"because in his advanced age he did the act which, with all old men, is
an experiment, and with most of them an unlucky one. He married again;
and this new wife having made an immense stride from the head of a
boarding-house table to the head of a senator's table, could see no
reason why she should not take one step more, and that comparatively
short, and arrive at the head of the presidential table."

The Democratic-Republican Convention met at Baltimore on May 20, 1835,
nearly eighteen months before the election. There were over five hundred
delegates from twenty-three States. South Carolina, Alabama, and
Illinois were not represented. Party organization was still very
imperfect. The modern system of precise and proportional representations
was not yet known. The States which approved the convention sent
delegates in such number as suited their convenience. Maryland, the
convention being held in its chief city, sent 183 delegates; Virginia,
close at hand, sent 102; New York, although the home of the proposed
candidate, sent but 42, the precise number of its electoral votes.
Tennessee sent but one; Mississippi and Missouri, only two each. In
making the nominations, the delegates from each State, however numerous
or few, cast a number of votes equal to its representation in the
electoral college. The 183 delegates from Maryland cast therefore but
ten votes; while the single delegate from Tennessee, much courted man
that he must have been, cast 15.

It was the second national convention of the party. The members
assembled at the "place of worship of the Fourth Presbyterian Church."
Instead of the firm and now long-recognized opening by the chairman of
the national committee provided by the well-geared machinery of our
later politics, George Kremer of Pennsylvania first "stated the objects
of the meeting." Andrew Stevenson of Virginia, the president, felt it
necessary in his opening speech to defend the still novel party
institution. Efforts, he said, would be made at the approaching election
to divide the Republican party and possibly to defeat an election by the
people in their primary colleges. Their venerable president had advised,
but in vain, constitutional amendments securing this election to the
people, and preventing its falling to the House of Representatives. A
national convention was the best means of concentrating the popular
will, the only defense against a minority party. It was recommended by
prudence, sanctioned by the precedent of 1832, and had proved effectual
by experience. They must guard against local jealousies. "What,
gentlemen," he said, "would you think of the sagacity and prudence of
that individual who would propose the expedient of cutting up the noble
ship that each man might seize his own plank and steer for himself?" The
inquiries must be: Who can best preserve the unity of the Democratic
party? Who best understands the principles and motives of our
government? Who will carry out the principles of the Jeffersonian era
and General Jackson's administration? These demands clearly enough
pointed out Van Buren. Prayers were then offered up "in a fervent,
feeling manner." The rule requiring two thirds of the whole number of
votes for a nomination was again adopted, because "it would have a more
imposing effect," though nearly half the convention, 210 to 231, thought
a majority was more "according to Democratic principles." Niles records
that the formal motion to proceed to the nomination caused a smile among
the members, so well settled was it that Van Buren was to be the
nominee. He received the unanimous vote of the convention. A strong
fight was made for the vice-presidency between the friends of Richard M.
Johnson of Kentucky and William C. Rives of Virginia. The former
received barely the two-thirds vote. The Virginia delegation upon the
defeat of the latter did what would now be a sacrilegious laying of
violent hands on the ark. Party regularity was not yet so chief a deity
in the political temple. The Virginians had, they said, an unpleasant
duty to perform; but they would not shrink from it. They would not
support Johnson for the vice-presidency; they had no confidence in his
principles or his character; they had come to the convention to support
principles, not men; they had already gone as far as possible in
supporting Mr. Van Buren, and they would not go further. Not long
afterwards Rives left the party. No platform was adopted; but a
committee was appointed to prepare an address to the people.

The Whigs nominated General William Henry Harrison for the presidency
and Francis Granger for the vice-presidency. They had but a forlorn hope
of direct success. But the secession from the Democratic party of the
nullifiers, and the more serious secession in the Southwest headed by
White, made it seem possible to throw the election into the House. John
Tyler of Virginia was the nominee of the bolting Democrats, for
vice-president upon the ticket with White. The Whigs of Massachusetts
preferred their unequaled orator; for they then and afterwards failed to
see, as the admirers of some other famous Americans have failed to see,
that other qualities make a truer equipment for the first office of the
land than this noble art of oratory. South Carolina would vote against
Calhoun's victorious adversary; but she would not, in the first instance
at least, vote with the Whig heretics.

It was a disorderly campaign, lasting a year and a half, and never
reaching the supreme excitement of 1840 or 1844. The opposition did not
deserve success. It had neither political principle nor discipline.
Calhoun described the Van Buren men as "a powerful faction (party it
cannot be called) held together by the hopes of public plunder and
marching under a banner whereon is written 'to the victors belong the
spoils.'" There was in the rhetorical exaggeration enough truth perhaps
to make an issue. But the political removals under Jackson were only
incidentally touched in the canvass. Amos Kendall, then
postmaster-general, towards the close of the canvass wrote a letter
which, coming from perhaps the worst of Jackson's "spoils-men," shows
how far public sentiment was even then from justifying the political
interference of federal officers in elections. Samuel McKean, senator
from Pennsylvania, had written to Kendall complaining that three
employees of the post-office had used the time and influence of their
official stations to affect elections, by written communications and
personal importunities. This, he said, was "a loathsome public
nuisance," though admitting that since Kendall became postmaster-general
he had given no cause of complaint. Kendall replied on September 27,
1836, that though it was difficult to draw the line between the rights
of the citizen and the assumptions of the officeholder, he thought it
dangerous to our institutions that government employees should "assume
to direct public opinion and control the results of elections in the
general or state government." His advice to members of his department
was to keep as clear from political strife as possible, "to shun mere
political meetings, or, if present, to avoid taking any part in their
proceedings, to decline acting as members of political committees or
conventions." In making appointments he would prefer political friends;
but he "would not remove a good postmaster and honest man for a mere
difference of political opinion." The complaints were for offenses
committed under his predecessor; one of the three offenders had left the
service; the other two had been free from criticism for seventeen
months. There can be little doubt that the standard thus set up in
public was higher than the general practice of Kendall or his
subordinates; but the letter showed that public sentiment had not yet
grown callous to this odious abuse.

Jackson did not permit the presidential office to restrain him from most
vigorous and direct advocacy of Van Buren's claims. He begged Tennessee
not to throw herself "into the embraces of the Federalists, the
Nullifiers, or the new-born Whigs." They were living, he said, in evil
times, when political apostasy had become frequent, when public men
(referring to White, John Tyler, and others who had gone with them) were
abandoning principle and their party attachment for selfish ends. To
this it was replied that the president's memory was treacherous; that he
had forgotten his early friends, and listened only "to the voice of
flattery and the siren voice of sycophancy." The dissenting Republicans
affected to support administration measures, but protested against
Jackson's dictating the succession. They were then, they said, "what
they were in 1828,--Jacksonians following the creed of that apostle of
liberty, Thomas Jefferson."

Without principle as was this formidable secession, it is impossible to
feel much more respect for the declaration of principles made for the
Whig candidates. Clay, the chief spokesman, complained that Jackson had
killed with the pocket veto the land bill, which proposed to distribute
the proceeds of the sales of public lands among the States according to
their federal population (which in the South included three fifths of
the slaves), to be used for internal improvements, education, or other
purposes. He pointed out, with "mixed feelings of pity and ridicule,"
that the few votes in the Senate against the "deposit bill," which was
to distribute the surplus among the States, had been cast by
administration senators, since deserted by their numerous followers who
demanded distribution. He rejoiced that Kentucky was to get a million
and a half from the federal treasury. He denounced Jackson's "tampering
with the currency" by the treasury order requiring public lands to be
paid for in specie and not in bank-notes. Jackson's treatment of the
Cherokees seemed the only point of attack apart from his financial

The real party platforms this year were curiously found in letters of
the candidates to Sherrod Williams, an individual by no means
distinguished. On April 7, 1836, he addressed a circular letter to
Harrison, Van Buren, and White, asking each of them his opinions on five
points: Did he approve a distribution of the surplus revenue among the
States according to their federal population, for such uses as they
might appoint? Did he approve a like distribution of the proceeds of the
sales of public lands? Did he approve federal appropriations to improve
navigable streams above ports of entry? Did he approve another bank
charter, if it should become necessary to preserve the revenue and
finances of the nation? Did he believe it constitutional to expunge from
the records of a house of Congress any of its proceedings? The last
question referred to Benton's agitation for a resolution expunging from
the records of the Senate the resolution of 1834, condemning Jackson's
removal of the deposits as a violation of the Constitution. Harrison,
for whose benefit the questions were put, returned what was supposed to
be the popular affirmative to the first three inquiries. The fourth he
answered in the affirmative, and the fifth in the negative. Van Buren
promptly pointed out to Williams that he doubted the right of an
elector, who had already determined to oppose him, to put inquiries
"with the sole view of exposing, at his own time and the mode he may
select, the opinions of the candidate to unfriendly criticism," but
nevertheless promised a reply after Congress had risen. This delay he
deemed proper, because during the session he might, as president of the
Senate, have to vote upon some of the questions. Williams replied that
the excuse for delay was "wholly and entirely unsatisfactory." Van Buren
curtly said that he should wait as he had stated. On August 8, not far
from the time nowadays selected by presidential candidates for their
letters of acceptance, Van Buren addressed a letter to Williams, the
prolixity of which seems a fault, but which, when newspapers were fewer
and shorter, and reading was less multifarious, secured perhaps, from
its length, a more ample and deliberate study from the masses of the

For clearness and explicitness, and for cogency of argument, this letter
has few equals among those written by presidential candidates. This most
conspicuous of Van Buren's preëlection utterances has been curiously
ignored by those who have accused him of "non-committalism." Congress,
he said, does not possess the power under the Constitution to raise
money for distribution among the States. If a distinction were
justifiable, and of this he was not satisfied, between raising money for
such a purpose and the distribution of an unexpected surplus, then the
distribution ought not to be attempted without previous amendment of the
Constitution. Any system of distribution must introduce vices into both
the state and federal governments. It would be a great misfortune if the
distribution bill already passed should be deemed a pledge of like
legislation in the future. So much of the letter has since largely had
the approval of American sentiment, and was only too soon emphasized by
the miserable results of the bill thus condemned. The utterance was
clear and wise; and it was far more. It was a singularly bold attitude
to assume, not only against the views of the opposition, but against a
measure passed by Van Buren's own party friends and signed by Jackson, a
measure having a vast and cheap popularity throughout the States which
were supposed, and with too much truth, not to see that for what they
took out of the federal treasury they would simply have to put so much
more in. "I hope and believe," said Van Buren, "that the public voice
will demand that this species of legislation shall terminate with the
emergency that produced it." To the inquiry whether he would approve a
distribution among the States of the proceeds of selling the public
lands, Van Buren plainly said that if he were elected he would not favor
the policy. These moneys, he declared, should be applied "to the general
wants of the treasury." To the inquiry whether he would approve
appropriations to improve rivers above ports of entry, he quoted with
approval Jackson's declaration in the negative. He would not go beyond
expenditures for lighthouses, buoys, beacons, piers, and the removal of
obstructions in rivers and harbors below such ports.

Upon the bank question, too, he left his interrogator in no doubt. If
the people wished a national bank as a permanent branch of their
institutions, or if they desired a chief magistrate who as to that would
consider it his duty to watch the course of events and give or withhold
his assent according to the supposed necessity, then another than
himself must be chosen. And he added: "If, on the other hand, with this
seasonable, explicit, and published avowal before them, a majority of
the people of the United States shall nevertheless bestow upon me their
suffrages for the office of president, skepticism itself must cease to
doubt, and admit their will to be that there shall not be any Bank of
the United States until the people, in the exercise of their sovereign
authority, see fit to give to Congress the right to establish one." It
was high time "that the federal government confine itself to the
creation of coin, and that the States afford it a fair chance for
circulation." With the power of either house of Congress to expunge from
its records, he pointed out that the President could have no concern.
But rather than avoid an answer, he said that he regarded the passage of
Colonel Benton's resolution as "an act of justice to a faithful and
greatly injured public servant, not only constitutional in itself, but
imperiously demanded by a proper respect for the well-known will of the

This justly famous letter made up for the rather jejune and conventional
letter of acceptance written a year before. Not concealing his
sensitiveness to the charge of intrigue and management, Van Buren had
then appealed to the members of the Democratic convention, to the
"editors and politicians throughout the Union" who had preferred him, to
his "private correspondents and intimate friends," and to those, once
his "friends and associates, whom the fluctuations of political life"
had "converted into opponents." No man, he declared, could truly say
that he had solicited political support, or entered or sought to enter
into any arrangement to procure him the nomination he had now received,
or to elevate him to the chief magistracy. There was no public question
of interest upon which his opinions had not been made known by his
official acts, his own public avowals, and the authorized explanations
of his friends. The last was a touch of the frankness which Van Buren
used in vain to stop his enemies' accusations of indirectness. Instead
of shielding himself, as public men usually and naturally do, behind
Butler, the attorney-general, and others who had spoken for him, he
directly assumed responsibility for their "explanations." He considered
himself selected to carry out the principles and policy of Jackson's
administration, "happy," he said, "if I shall be able to perfect the
work which he has so gloriously begun." He closed with the theoretical
declaration which consistently ran through his chief utterances, that,
though he would "exercise the powers which of right belong to the
general government in a spirit of moderation and brotherly love," he
would on the other hand "religiously abstain from the assumption of such
as have not been delegated by the Constitution."

Upon still another question Van Buren explicitly declared himself before
the election. In 1835, the year of his nomination, appeared the cloud
like a man's hand which was not to leave the sky until out of it had
come a terrific, complete, and beneficent convulsion. Then openly and
seriously began the work of the extreme anti-slavery men. Clay pointed
out in his speech on colonization in 1836 that "this fanatical class" of
abolitionists "were none of your old-fashioned gradual emancipationists,
such as Franklin, Rush, and the other wise and benevolent Pennsylvanians
who framed the scheme for the gradual removal of slavery." He was right.
Many of the new abolitionists were on the verge, or beyond it, of quiet
respectability. Educated, intelligent, and even wealthy as some of them
were, the abolitionists did not belong to the always popular class of
well-to-do folks content with the institutions of society. Most virtuous
and religious people saw in them only wicked disturbers of the peace.
All the comfortable, philosophical opponents of slavery believed that
such wild and reckless agitators would, if encouraged, prostrate the
pillars of civilization, and bring on anarchy, bloodshed, and servile
wars worse even to the slaves than the wrongs of their slavery. But to
the members of the abolition societies which now rose, this was no
abstract or economical question. They were undaunted by the examples of
Washington and Jefferson and Patrick Henry, who, whatever they said or
hoped against slavery, nevertheless held human beings in bondage; or of
Adams and other Northern adherents of the Constitution, who for a season
at least had joined in a pact to protect the infamous slave traffic. To
them, talk of the sacred Union, or of the great advance which negroes
had made in slavery and would not have made in freedom, was idle. With
unquenched vision they saw the horrid picture of the individual slave
life, not the general features of slavery; they saw the chain, the lash,
the brutalizing and contrived ignorance; they saw the tearing apart of
families, with their love and hope, precisely like those of white men
and women, crushed out by detestable cruelty; they saw the beastly
dissoluteness inevitable to the plantation system. Nor would they be
still, whatever the calm preaching of political wisdom, whatever the
sincere and weighty insolence of men of wisdom and uprightness and
property. Northern men of 1888 must look with a real shame upon the
behavior of their fathers and grandfathers towards the narrow, fiery,
sometimes almost hateful, apostles of human rights; and with even
greater shame upon the talk of the sacred right of white men to make
brutes of black men, a right to be treated, as the best of Americans
were so fond of saying, with a tender and affectionate regard for the
feelings of the white slave-masters. About the same time began the
continual presentation to Congress of petitions for the abolition of
slavery, and the foolish but Heaven-ordained attack of slaveholders on
the right of petition. The agitation rapidly flaming up was far
different from the practical and truly political discussion over the
Missouri Compromise fifteen years before.

As yet, indeed, the matter was not politically important, except in the
attack upon Van Buren made by the Southern members of his party. Sixteen
years before, he had voted against admitting more slave States. He had
aided the reëlection of Rufus King, a determined enemy of slavery. He
had strongly opposed Calhoun and the Southern nullifiers. In the
"Evening Post" and the "Plain-dealer" of New York appeared from 1835 to
1837 the really noble series of editorials by William Leggett, strongly
proclaiming the right of free discussion and the essential wrong of
slavery; although sometimes he condemned the fanaticism now aroused as
"a species of insanity." The "Post" strongly supported Van Buren, and
was declared at the South to be his chosen organ for addressing the
public. It denied, however, that Van Buren had any "connection in any
way or shape with the doctrines or movements of the abolitionists." But
such denials were widely disbelieved by the slaveholders. It was
declared that he had a deep agency in the Missouri question which fixed
upon him a support of abolition; his denials were answered by the
anti-slavery petitions from twenty thousand memorialists in his own
State of New York, and by the support brought him by the enemies of
slavery. To all this the Whig "dough-faces" listened with entire
satisfaction. They must succeed, if at all, through Southern distrust or
dislike of Van Buren. In July, 1834, he had publicly written to Samuel
Gwin of Mississippi that his opinions upon the power of Congress over
slave property in the Southern States were so well understood by his
friends that he was surprised that an attempt should be made to deceive
the public about them; that slavery was in his judgment "exclusively
under the control of the state governments;" that no "contrary opinion
to an extent deserving consideration" was entertained in any part of the
United States; and that, without a change of the Constitution, no
interference with it in a State could be had "even at the instance of
either or of all the slaveholding States." But, it was said, "Tappan,
Garrison, and every other fanatic and abolitionist in the United States
not entirely run mad, will grant that." And, indeed, Abraham Lincoln was
nominated twenty-four years later upon a like declaration of "the right
of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions
according to its own judgment exclusively."

The District of Columbia, however, was one bit of territory in which
Congress doubtless had the power to abolish slavery. In our better days
it would seem to have been a natural enough impulse to seek to make free
soil at least of the capital of the land of freedom. But the District
lay between and was completely surrounded by two slave States.
Washington had derived its laws and customs from Maryland. If the
District were free while Virginia and Maryland were slave, it was feared
with much reason that there would arise most dangerous collisions. Its
perpetual slavery was an unforeseen part of the price Alexander Hamilton
had paid to procure the federal assumption of the war debts of the
States. In Van Buren's time there was almost complete acquiescence in
the proposition that, though slavery had in the District no
constitutional protection, it must still be deemed there a part of the
institution in Virginia and Maryland. How clear was the understanding
may be seen from language of undoubted authority. John Quincy Adams had
hitherto labored for causes which have but cold and formal interest to
posterity. But now, leaving the field of statesmanship, where his glory
had been meagre, and, fortunately for his reputation, with the shackles
of its responsibility no longer upon him, the generous and exalted love
of humanity began to touch his later years with the abiding splendor of
heroic and far-seeing courage. He became the first of the great
anti-slavery leaders. He entered for all time the group of men,
Garrison, Lovejoy, Giddings, Phillips, Sumner, and Beecher, to whom so
largely we owe the second and nobler salvation of our land. But Adams
was emphatically opposed to the abolition of slavery in the District.
In December, 1831, the first month of his service in the House, on
presenting a petition for such abolition, he declared that he should not
support it. In February, 1837, a few days before Van Buren's
inauguration, there occurred the scene when Adams, with grim and
dauntless irony, brought to the House the petition of some slaves
against abolition. In his speech then he said: "From the day I entered
this House down to the present moment, I have invariably here, and
invariably elsewhere, declared my opinions to be adverse to the prayer
of petitions which call for the abolition of slavery in the District of

It is a curious but inevitable impeachment of the impartiality of
history that for a declaration precisely the same as that made by a
great and recognized apostle of anti-slavery, and made by that apostle
in a later year, Van Buren has been denounced as a truckler to the
South, a "Northern man with Southern principles." Van Buren's
declaration was made, not like Adams's in the easy freedom of an
independent member of Congress from an anti-slavery district, but under
the constraint of a presidential nomination partially coming from the
South. In the canvass before his election, Van Buren gave perfectly fair
notice of his intention. "I must go," he said, "into the presidential
chair the inflexible and uncompromising opponent of every attempt on the
part of Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia against
the wishes of the slaveholding States." This was the attitude, not only
of Van Buren and Adams, but of every statesman North and South, and of
the entire North itself with insignificant exceptions. The former's
explicit declaration was doubtless aimed at the pro-slavery jealousy
stirred up against himself in the South; it was intended to have
political effect. But it was none the less the unambiguous expression of
an opinion sincerely shared with the practically unanimous sense of the

A skillful effort was made to embarrass Van Buren with his Southern
supporters over a more difficult question. The anti-slavery societies at
the North sought to circulate their literature at the South. So strong
an enemy of slavery as William Leggett condemned this as "fanatical
obstinacy," obviously tending to stir up at the South insurrections,
whose end no one could foresee, and as the fruit of desperation and
extravagance. The Southern States by severe laws forbade the circulation
of the literature. Its receipts from Southern post-offices led to great
excitement and even violence. In August, 1835, Kendall, the
postmaster-general, was appealed to by the postmaster at Charleston,
South Carolina, for advice whether he should distribute papers
"inflammatory, and incendiary, and insurrectionary in the highest
degree," papers whose very custody endangered the mail. Kendall, in an
extraordinary letter, said that he had no legal authority to prohibit
the delivery of papers on account of their character, but that he was
not prepared to direct the delivery at Charleston of papers such as were
described. Gouverneur, the postmaster at New York, being then appealed
to by his Charleston brother, declined to forward papers mailed by the
American Anti-Slavery Society. This dangerous usurpation was defended
upon the principle of _salus populi suprema lex_.

In December, 1835, Jackson called the attention of Congress to the
circulation of "inflammatory appeals addressed to the passions of the
slaves" (as they used to call the desire of black men to be free),
"calculated to stimulate them to insurrection and produce all the
horrors of a servile war." A bill was introduced making it unlawful for
any postmaster knowingly to deliver any printed or pictorial paper
touching the subject of slavery in States by whose laws their
circulation was prohibited. Webster condemned the bill as a federal
violation of the freedom of the press. Clay thought it unconstitutional,
vague, indefinite, and unnecessary, as the States could lay hold of
citizens taking such publications from post-offices within their
borders. Benton and other senators, several of them Democrats, and seven
from slaveholding States, voted against the bill, because they were, so
Benton said, "tired of the eternal cry of dissolving the Union, did not
believe in it, and would not give a repugnant vote to avoid the trial."
The debate did not reach a very exalted height. The question was by no
means free from doubt. Anti-slavery papers probably were, as the
Southerners said, "incendiary" to their States. Slavery depended upon
ignorance and fear. The federal post-office no doubt was intended, as
Kendall argued, to be a convenience to the various States, and not an
offense against their codes of morality. There has been little
opposition to the present prohibition of the use of the post-office for
obscene literature, or, to take a better illustration, for the circulars
of lotteries which are lawful in some States but not in others.

When the bill came to a vote in the Senate, although there was really a
substantial majority against it, a tie was skillfully arranged to compel
Van Buren, as Vice-President, to give the casting vote. White, the
Southern Democratic candidate so seriously menacing him, was in the
Senate, and voted for the bill. Van Buren must, it was supposed, offend
the pro-slavery men by voting against the bill, or offend the North and
perhaps bruise his conscience by voting for it. When the roll was being
called, Van Buren, so Benton tells us, was out of the chair, walking
behind the colonnade at the rear of the vice-president's seat. Calhoun,
fearful lest he might escape the ordeal, eagerly asked where he was, and
told the sergeant-at-arms to look for him. But Van Buren was ready, and
at once stepped to his chair and voted for the bill. His close friend,
Silas Wright of New York, also voted for it. Benton says he deemed both
the votes to be political and given from policy. So they probably were.
To Van Buren all the fire-eating measures of Calhoun and the pro-slavery
men were most distasteful. He probably thought the bill would do more to
increase than allay agitation at the North. Walter Scott, when the
prince regent toasted him as the author of "Waverley," feeling that even
royal highness had no right in a numerous company to tear away the long
kept and valuable secrecy of "the great Unknown," rose and gravely said
to his host: "Sire, I am not the author of 'Waverley.'" There were, he
thought, questions which did not entitle the questioner to be told the
truth. So Van Buren may have thought there were political interrogations
which, being made for sheer party purposes, might rightfully be answered
for like purposes. Since the necessity for his vote was contrived to
injure him and not to help or hurt the bill, he probably felt justified
so to vote as best to frustrate the design against him. This persuasive
casuistry usually overcomes a candidate for great office in the stress
of conflict. But lenient as may be the judgment of party supporters, and
distressing as may seem the necessity, the untruth pretty surely returns
to plague the statesman. Van Buren never deserved to be called a
"Northern man with Southern principles." But this vote came nearer to an
excuse for the epithet than did any other act of his career.

The election proved how large was the Southern defection. Georgia and
Tennessee, which had been almost unanimous for Jackson in 1836, now
voted for White. Mississippi, where in that year there had been no
opposition, and Louisiana, where Jackson had eight votes to Clay's five,
now gave Van Buren majorities of but three hundred each. In North
Carolina Jackson had had 24,862 votes, and Clay only 4563; White got
23,626 to 26,910 for Van Buren. In Virginia Jackson had three times the
vote of Clay; Van Buren had but one fourth more votes than White. In
Benton's own State, so nearly unanimous for Jackson, White had over 7000
to Van Buren's 11,000. But in the Northeast Van Buren was very strong.
Jackson's majority in Maine of 6087 became a majority of 7751 for Van
Buren. New Hampshire, the home of Hill and Woodbury, had given Jackson a
majority of 6376; it gave Van Buren over 12,000. The Democratic majority
in New York rose from less than 14,000 to more than 28,000, and this
majority was rural and not urban. The majority in New York city was but
about 1000. Of the fifty-six counties, Van Buren carried forty-two,
while nowadays his political successors rarely carry more than twenty.
Connecticut had given a majority of 6000 for Clay; it gave Van Buren
over 500. Rhode Island had voted for Clay; it now voted for Van Buren.
Massachusetts was carried for Webster by 42,247 against 34,474 for Van
Buren; Clay had had 33,003 to only 14,545 for Jackson. But New Jersey
shifted from Jackson to Harrison, although a very close State at both
elections; and in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, Van Buren
fell far behind Jackson. The popular vote, omitting South Carolina,
where the legislature chose the electors, was as follows:--

                       New     Middle
                     England.  States.   South.    West.      Total.
  Van Buren          112,480   310,203   141,942   198,053   762,678
  Harrison, White,
    and Webster      106,169   282,376   138,059   209,046   735,650

The electoral votes were thus divided:

              New       Middle
            England     States.  South.   West.   Total.
  Van Buren    29         72       57      12      170
  Harrison      7         21       --      45       73
  Webster      14         --       --      --       14
  White        --         --       26      --       26

Van Buren thus came to the presidency supported by the great Middle
States and New England against the West, with the South divided.
Omitting the uncontested reëlection of Monroe in 1820, and the almost
uncontested reëlection of Jefferson in 1804, Van Buren was the first
Democratic candidate for president who carried New England. He had there
a clear majority in both the electoral and the popular vote. Nor has any
Democrat since Van Buren obtained a majority of the popular vote in that
strongly thinking and strongly prejudiced community. Pierce, against the
feeble Whig candidacy of Scott, carried its electoral vote in 1852, but
by a minority of its popular vote, and only because of the large Free
Soil vote for Hale. No other Democrat since 1852 has had any electoral
vote from New England outside of Connecticut. Virginia refused its vote
to Johnson, who, in the failure of either candidate to receive a
majority of the electoral vote, was chosen vice-president by the Senate.

When the electoral votes were formally counted before the houses of
Congress, the result, so contemporary record informs us, was "received
with perfect decorum by the House and galleries." Enthusiasm was going
out with Jackson, to come back again with Harrison. Van Buren's election
was the success of intellectual convictions, and not the triumph of
sentiment. He had come to power, as "the House and galleries" well knew,
in "perfect decorum." Not a single one of the generous but sometimes
cheap and fruitless rushes of feeling occasionally so potent in politics
had helped him to the White House. Not that he was ungenerous or lacking
in feeling. Very far from it; few men have inspired so steady and deep a
political attachment among men of strong character and patriotic
aspirations. But neither in his person nor in his speech or conduct was
there anything of the strong picturesqueness which impresses masses of
men, who must be touched, if at all, by momentary glimpses of great men
or by vivid phrases which become current about them. His election was no
more than a triumph of disciplined good sense and political wisdom.



On March 4, 1837, Jackson and Van Buren rode together from the White
House to the Capitol in a "beautiful phaëton" made from the timber of
the old frigate Constitution, the gift to the general from the Democrats
of New York city. He was the third and last president who has, after
serving through his term, left office amid the same enthusiasm which
attended him when he entered it, and to whom the surrender of place has
not been full of those pangs which attend sudden loss of power, and of
which the certain anticipation ought to moderate ambition in a country
so rarely permitting a long and continuous public career. Washington,
amid an almost unanimous love and reverence, left a station of which he
was unaffectedly weary; and he was greater out of office than in it.
Jefferson and Jackson remained really powerful characters. Neither at
Monticello nor at the Hermitage, after their masters had returned, was
there any lack of the incense of sincere popular flattery or of the
appeals for the exercise of admitted and enormous influence, in which
lies much of the unspeakable fascination of a great public station.

Leaving the White House under a still and brilliant sky, the retiring
and incoming rulers had such a popular and military attendance as
without much order or splendor has usually gone up Capitol Hill with our
presidents. Van Buren's inaugural speech was heard, it is said, by
nearly twenty thousand persons; for he read it with remarkable
distinctness and in a quiet air, from the historic eastern portico. He
returned from the inauguration to his private residence; and with a fine
deference insisted upon Jackson remaining in the White House until his
departure, a few days later, for Tennessee. Van Buren in his own
carriage took Jackson to the terminus of the new railway upon which the
journey home was to begin. He bade the old man a most affectionate
farewell, and promised to visit him at the Hermitage in the summer.

The new cabinet, with a single exception, was the same as Jackson's:
John Forsyth of Georgia, secretary of state; Levi Woodbury of New
Hampshire, secretary of the treasury; Mahlon Dickerson of New Jersey,
secretary of the navy; Kendall, postmaster-general; and Butler,
attorney-general. Joel R. Poinsett, a strong union man among the
nullifiers of South Carolina, became secretary of war. Cass had left
this place in 1836 to be minister to France, and Butler had since
temporarily filled it, as well as his own post of attorney-general. The
cabinet had indeed been largely Van Buren's, two years and more before
he was president.

Van Buren's inaugural address began again with the favorite touch of
humility, but it now had an agreeable dignity. He was, he said, the
first president born after the Revolution; he belonged to a later age
than his illustrious predecessors. Nor ought he to expect his countrymen
to weigh his actions with the same kind and partial hand which they had
used towards worthies of Revolutionary times. But he piously looked for
the sustaining support of Providence, and the kindness of a people who
had never yet deserted a public servant honestly laboring in their
cause. There was the usual congratulation upon American institutions and
history. We were, he said,--and the boast though not so delightful to
the taste of a later time was perfectly true,--without a parallel
throughout the world "in all the attributes of a great, happy, and
flourishing people." Though we restrained government to the "sole
legitimate end of political institutions," we reached the Benthamite
"greatest happiness of the greatest number," and presented "an aggregate
of human prosperity surely not elsewhere to be found." We must, by
observing the limitations of government, perpetuate a condition of
things so singularly happy. Popular government, whose failure had fifty
years ago been boldly predicted, had now been found "wanting in no
element of endurance or strength." His policy should be "a strict
adherence to the letter and spirit of the constitution ... viewing it as
limited to national objects, regarding it as leaving to the people and
the States all power not explicitly parted with." Upon one question he
spoke precisely. For the first time slavery loomed up in the inaugural
of an American president. It seemed, however, at once to disappear from
politics in the practically unanimous condemnation of the abolition
agitation, an agitation which, though carried on for the noblest
purposes, seemed--for such is the march of human rights--insane and
iniquitous to most patriotic and intelligent citizens. Van Buren quoted
the explicit declaration made by him before the election against the
abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia without the consent of
the slave States, and against "the slightest interference with it in the
States where it exists." Not a word was said of the extension of slavery
in the Territories. That question still slept under the potion of the
Missouri Compromise, to wake with the acquisition of Texas. In Van
Buren's declaration there was nothing in the slightest degree
inconsistent even with the Republican platforms of 1856 and 1860.

The inaugural concluded with a fine tribute to Jackson. "I know," Van
Buren said, "that I cannot expect to perform the arduous task with equal
ability and success. But united as I have been in his counsels, a daily
witness of his exclusive and unsurpassed devotion to his country's
welfare, agreeing with him in sentiments which his countrymen have
warmly supported, and permitted to partake largely of his confidence, I
may hope that somewhat of the same cheering approbation will be found to
attend upon my path. For him I but express, with my own, the wishes of
all, that he may yet long live to enjoy the brilliant evening of his
well-spent life."

The lucid optimism of the speech was in perfect temper with this one of
those shining and mellow days, which even March now and then brings to
Washington. But there was latent in the atmosphere a storm, carrying
with it a furious and complete devastation. In the month before the
inauguration, Benton, upon whom Van Buren was pressing a seat in the
cabinet, told the President-elect that they were on the eve of an
explosion of the paper-money system. But the latter offended Benton by
saying: "Your friends think you a little exalted in the head on the
subject." And doubtless the prophecies of the Bank opponents had been
somewhat discredited by the delay of the disaster which was to justify
their denunciations. The profoundly thrilling and hidden delight which
comes with the first taste of supreme power, even to the experienced and
battered man of affairs, had been enjoyed by Van Buren only a few days,
when the air grew heavy about him, and then perturbed, and then
violently agitated, until in two months broke fiercely and beyond all
restraint the most terrific of commercial convulsions in the United
States. Since Washington began the experiment of our federal government
amid the sullen doubts of extreme Federalists and extreme Democrats, no
president, save only Abraham Lincoln, has had to face at the outset of
his presidency so appalling a political situation.

The causes of the panic of 1837 lay far deeper than in the complex
processes of banking or in the faults of federal administration of the
finances. But, as a man suddenly ill prefers to find for his ailment
some recent and obvious cause, and is not convinced by even a long and
dangerous sickness that its origin lay in old and continued habits of
life, so the greater part of the American people and of their leaders
believed this extraordinary crisis to be the result of financial
blunders of Jackson's administration. They believed that Van Buren could
with a few strokes of his pen repair, if he pleased, those blunders, and
restore commercial confidence and prosperity. The panic of 1837 became,
and has very largely remained, the subject of political and partisan
differences, which obscure its real phenomena and causes. The far-seeing
and patriotic intrepidity with which Van Buren met its almost
overwhelming difficulties is really the crown of his political career.
Fairly to appreciate the service he then rendered his country, the
causes of this famous crisis must be attentively considered.

In 1819 the United States suffered from commercial and financial
derangement, which may be assumed to have been the effect of the second
war with Great Britain. The enormous waste of a great war carried on by
a highly organized nation is apt not to become obvious in general
business distress until some time after the war has ended. A buoyant
extravagance in living and in commercial and manufacturing ventures will
continue after a peace has brought its extraordinary promises, upon the
faith of which, and in joyful ignorance, the evil and inevitable day is
postponed. All this was seen later and on a vaster scale from 1865 to
1873. In 1821 the country had quite recovered from its depression; and
from this time on to near the end of Jackson's administration the United
States saw a material prosperity, doubtless greater than any before
known. The exuberant outburst of John Quincy Adams's message of
1827,--that the productions of our soil, the exchanges of our commerce,
the vivifying labors of human industry, had combined "to mingle in our
cup a portion of enjoyment as large and liberal as the indulgence of
Heaven has perhaps ever granted to the imperfect state of man upon
earth,"--was in the usual tone of the public utterances of our
presidents from 1821 to 1837. Our harvests were always great. We were a
chosen people delighting in reminders from our rulers of our prosperity,
and not restless under their pious urgency of perennial gratitude to
Providence. In 1821 the national debt had slightly increased, reaching
upwards of $90,000,000; but from that time its steady and rapid payment
went on until it was all discharged in 1834. Our cities grew. Our
population stretched eagerly out into the rich Mississippi valley. From
a population of ten millions in 1821, we reached sixteen millions in
1837. New York from about 1,400,000 became 2,200,000; and Pennsylvania
from about 1,000,000 became 1,600,000. But the amazing growth was at
the West--Illinois from 60,000 to 400,000, Indiana from 170,000 to
600,000, Ohio from 600,000 to 1,400,000, Tennessee from 450,000 to
800,000. Missouri had increased her 70,000 five-fold; Mississippi her
80,000 four-fold; Michigan her 10,000 twenty-fold. Iowa and Wisconsin
were entirely unsettled in 1821; in 1837 the fertile lands of the former
maintained nearly forty thousand and of the latter nearly thirty
thousand hardy citizens. New towns and cities rose with magical
rapidity. With much that was unlovely there was also exhibited an
amazing energy and capacity for increase in wealth. The mountain
barriers once passed, not only by adventurous pioneers but by the
pressing throngs of settlers, there were few obstacles to the rapid
creation of comfort and wealth. Nor in the Mississippi valley and the
lands of the Northwest were the settlers met by the harsh soil, the
hostilities and reluctance of nature in whose conquest upon the Atlantic
seaboard the American people had gained some of their strongest and most
enduring characteristics. We hardly realize indeed how much better it
was for after times that our first settlements were difficult. In the
easy opening and tillage of the rich and sometimes rank lands at the
West there was an inferior, a less arduous discipline. American temper
there rushed often to speculation, rather than to toil or venture. It
did not seem necessary to create wealth by labor; the treasures lay
ready for those first reaching the doors of the treasure house. To make
easy the routes to El Dorado of prairies and river bottoms was the
quickest way to wealth.

Roads, canals, river improvements, preceded, attended, followed these
sudden settlements, this vast and jubilant movement of population. There
was an extraordinary growth of "internal improvements." In his message
of 1831, Jackson rejoiced at the high wages earned by laborers in the
construction of these works, which he truly said were "extending with
unprecedented rapidity." The constitutional power of the federal
government to promote the improvements within the States became a
serious question, because the improvements proposed were upon so vast a
scale. No single interest had for fifteen years before 1837 held so
large a part of American attention as did the making of canals and
roads. The debates of Congress and legislatures, the messages of
presidents and governors, were full of it. If the Erie Canal, finished
in 1825, had rendered vast natural resources available, and had made its
chief builder famous, why should not like schemes prosper further west?
The success of railroads was already established; and there was
indefinite promise in the extensions of them already planned. In 1830
twenty-three miles had been constructed; in 1831 ninety-four miles; and
in 1836 the total construction had risen to 1273 miles.

The Americans were then a far more homogeneous people than they are
to-day. The great Irish, German, and Scandinavian immigrations had not
taken place. Our race diversities were, with exceptions, unimportant in
extent or lost in the lapse of time, the diversities merely of British
descendants. Nor were there the extremes of fortune or the diversities
of occupation which have come with the growth of cities and
manufacturing interests. The United States were still a nation of
farmers. The compensations and balances, which in the varying habits and
prejudices of a more varied population tend to restrain and neutralize
vagaries, did not exist. One sentiment seized the whole nation far more
readily than could happen in the complexity of our modern population and
the diversity and rivalry of its strains. Not only did this homogeneity
make Americans open to single impulses; but there was little essential
difference of environment. They all, since the later days of Monroe's
presidency, had lived in the atmosphere of official delight and
congratulation over the past, and of unrestrained promise for the
future. All, whether in the grain fields at the North or the cotton
fields at the South, had behind them the Atlantic with traditions or
experiences of poverty and oppression beyond it. Every American had, in
his own latitude, since the ampler opening of roads and waterways, and
the peaceful conquest of the Appalachian mountain ranges, seen to the
west of him fertility and promise and performance. And the fertility and
promise had, since the second English war, been no longer in a land of
hardship and adventure remote and almost foreign to the seaboard. Every
American under Jackson's administration had before him, as the one
universal experience of those who had taken lands at the West, an
enormous and certain increase of value, full of enchantment to those
lately tilling the flinty soil of New England or the overused fields of
the South. If new lands at the West could be made accessible by internal
improvements, the succession of seed time and harvest had for a dozen
years seemed no more certain than that the value of those lands would at
once increase prodigiously. So the American people with one consent gave
themselves to an amazing extravagance of land speculation. The Eden
which Martin Chuzzlewit saw in later malarial decay was to be found in
the new country on almost every stream to the east of the Mississippi
and on many streams west of it, where flatboats could be floated. Frauds
there doubtless were; but they were incidental to the honest delusion of
intelligent men inspired by the most extraordinary growth the world had
seen. The often quoted illustration of Mobile, the valuation of whose
real estate rose from $1,294,810 in 1831 to $27,482,961 in 1837, to sink
again in 1846 to $8,638,250, not unfairly tells the story. In Pensacola,
lots which to-day are worth $50 each were sold for as much as lots on
Fifth Avenue in New York, which to-day are worth $100,000 apiece. Real
estate in the latter city was assessed in 1836 at more than it was in
the greatly larger and richer city of fifteen years later. From 1830 to
1837 the steamboat tonnage on the Western rivers rose from 63,053 to
253,661. From 1833 to 1837 the cotton crop of the newer slave States,
Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Florida,
increased from 536,450 to 916,960 bales, while the price with
fluctuations rose from ten to twenty cents a pound. Foreign capital
naturally enough came to share in the splendid money-making. From 1821
to 1833 the annual import of specie from England had averaged about
$100,000, in the last year being only $31,903; but in 1834 it became
$5,716,253, in 1835 $914,958, and in 1836 $2,322,920, the entire export
to England of specie for all these three years being but $51,807, while
the average export from 1822 to 1830 had been about $400,000; and its
amount in 1831 had been $2,089,766, and in 1832 $1,730,571. From 1830 to
1837, both years inclusive, although the imports from all countries of
general merchandise exceeded the exports by $140,700,000, there was no
counter movement of specie. The imports of specie from all countries
during these years exceeded the exports by the comparatively enormous
sum of $44,700,000. The foreigners therefore took pay for their goods,
not only in our raw materials, but also in our investments or rather our
speculations, and sent these vast quantities of moneys besides. So our
good fortune fired the imaginations of even the dull Europeans. They
helped to feed and clothe us that we might experiment with Aladdin's

The price of public lands was fixed by law at $1.25 an acre; and they
were open to any purchaser, without the wholesome limits of acreage and
the restraint to actual settlers which were afterwards established. Here
then was a commodity whose price to wholesale purchasers did not rise,
and the very commodity by which so many fortunes had been made. In
public lands, therefore, the fury of money-getting, the boastful
confidence in the future of the country, reached their climax. From 1820
to 1829 the annual sales had averaged less than $1,300,000, in 1829
being $1,517,175. But in 1830 they exceeded $2,300,000, in 1831
$3,200,000, in 1832 $2,600,000, in 1833 $3,900,000, and in 1834
$4,800,000. In 1835 they suddenly mounted to $14,757,600, and in 1836 to
$24,877,179. In his messages of 1829 and 1830 Jackson not unreasonably
treated the moderate increase in the sales as a proof of increasing
prosperity. In 1831 his congratulations were hushed; but in 1835 he
again fancied, even in the abnormal sales of that year, only an ampler
proof of ampler prosperity. In 1836 he at last saw that tremendous
speculation was the true significance of the enormous increase. Prices
of course went up. Everybody thought himself richer and his labor worth
more. A week after Van Buren's inauguration a meeting was held in the
City Hall Park in New York to protest against high rents and the high
prices of provisions; and with much discernment the cry went up, "No rag
money; give us gold and silver!"

There is no longer dispute that the prostration of business in 1837, and
for several years afterward, was the perfectly natural result of the
speculation which had gone before. The absurd denunciations of Van Buren
by the most eminent of the Whigs for not ending the crisis by
governmental interference are no longer respected. But it is still
fancied that the speculation itself was caused by one financial blunder,
and the crisis immediately occasioned by another financial blunder, of
Jackson. It is not improbable that the deposits of treasury moneys in
fifty state banks[12] instead of in the United States Bank and its twenty
and more branches, which began in the fall of 1833, aided the tendency
to speculation. But this aid was at the most a slight matter. The
impression has been sedulously created that these state banks, the "pet
banks," were doubtful institutions. There seems little reason to doubt
that in general they were perfectly sound and reputable institutions,
with which the government moneys would be quite as safe as with the
United States Bank. It is clear that if the latter Bank were not to be
rechartered, the deposits should, without regard to the accusations of
political meddling brought against it, have been removed some time in
advance of its death in March, 1836. At best it is matter of doubtful
speculation whether the United States Bank under Biddle's direction
would, in 1834, 1835, and 1836, while the government deposits were
enormously increasing, have behaved with much greater prudence and
foresight than did the state deposit banks. So far as actual experience
helps us, the doubt might well be solved in the negative. The United
States Bank, when its federal charter lapsed, obtained a charter from
Pennsylvania, continuing under the same management; and is said, and
possibly with truth, to have entered upon its new career with a great
surplus. But it proved no stronger than the state banks in 1837; it
obstructed resumption in 1838; it suspended again in 1839, while the
Eastern banks stood firm; and in 1841 it went to pieces in disgraceful
and complete disaster.

The enormous extension of bank credits during the three years before the
break-down in 1837 was rather the symptom than the cause of the disease.
The fever of speculation was in the veins of the community before
"kiting" began. Bank officers dwelt in the same atmosphere as did other
Americans, and their sanguine extravagance in turn stimulated the
universal temper of speculation.

When the United States Bank lost the government deposits, late in 1833,
they amounted to a little less than $10,000,000. On January 1, 1835,
more than a year after the state banks took the deposits, they had
increased to a little more than $10,000,000. But the public debt being
then paid and the outgo of money thus checked, the deposits had by
January 1, 1836, reached $25,000,000, and by June 1, 1836, $41,500,000.
This enormous advance represented the sudden increase in the sales of
public lands, which were paid for in bank paper, which in turn formed
the bulk of the government deposits. The deposits were with only a small
part of the six hundred and more state banks then in existence. But the
increase in the sales of public lands was the result of all the organic
causes and of all the long train of events which had seated the fever of
speculation so profoundly in the American character of the day. To those
causes and events must ultimately be ascribed the extension of bank
credits so far as it immediately arose out of the increase of government
deposits. Nor is there any sufficient reason to suppose that if the
deposits, instead of being in fifty state banks, had remained in the
United States Bank and its branches, the tendency to speculation would
have been less. The influences which surrounded that Bank were the very
influences most completely subject to the popular mania.

But the increase of government deposits was only fuel added to the
flames. The craze for banks and credits was unbounded before the removal
of the deposits had taken place, and before their great increase could
have had serious effect. Between 1830 and January 1, 1834, the banking
capital of the United States had risen from $61,000,000 to about
$200,000,000; the loans and discounts of the banks from $200,000,000 to
$324,000,000; and their note circulation from $61,000,000 to
$95,000,000. The increase from January 1, 1834, to January 1, 1836, was
even more rapid, the banking capital advancing in the two years to
$251,000,000, the loans and discounts to $457,000,000, and the note
circulation to $140,000,000. But there was certainty of disaster in the
abnormal growth from 1830 to 1834. The insanity of speculation was in
ample though unobserved control of the country while Nicholas Biddle
still controlled the deposits, and was certain to reach a climax whether
they stayed with him or went elsewhere.

It is difficult rightly to apportion among the statesmen and politicians
of the time so much of blame for the mania of speculation as must go to
that body of men. They had all drunk in the national intoxication over
American success and growth. But if we pass from the greater and deeper
causes to the lesser though more obvious ones, it is impossible not to
visit the greater measure of blame upon the statesmen who resisted
reduction of taxation, which would have left money in the pockets of
those who earned it, and not collected it in one great bank with many
branches or in fifty lesser banks; upon the statesmen who insisted that
the government ought to aid commercial ventures by encouraging the loans
to traders of its own moneys held in the deposit banks; upon the
statesmen who promoted the dangerous scheme of distributing the surplus
among the States instead of abolishing the surplus. As the condemnation
of public men in the wrong must be proportioned somewhat to the
distinction of their positions and the greatness of their natural gifts,
this larger share of blame must go chiefly to Daniel Webster and Henry
Clay. At the head of their associates, they had resisted the reduction
of taxation. In his speech on the tariff bill of 1832 Clay said, with
the exuberance so delightful to minds of easy discipline, that our
resources should "not be hoarded and hugged with a miser's embrace, but
liberally used." They insisted upon freely lending the public moneys. In
his speech on the distribution of the surplus, Webster urged that the
number of the deposit banks "be so far increased that each may regard
that portion of the public treasure which it may receive as an increase
of its effective deposits, to be used, like other moneys in deposit, as
a basis of discount, to a just and proper extent." The public money was
locked up, he declared, instead of aiding the general business of the
country. Nor after this was he ashamed in 1838 to condemn Jackson's
secretary of the treasury for advising the new deposit banks, as he had
himself thus advised them, "to afford increased facilities to commerce."
If, indeed, Congress would not take steps to keep a government surplus
out of the banks and in the pockets of producers, the secretary ought
not to have been harshly judged for advising that the money go out into
commerce rather than lie in bank vaults.

The distribution of the surplus among the States by the law of 1836 was
the last and in some respects the worst of the measures which aided and
exaggerated the tendency to speculation. By this bill, all the money
above $5,000,000 in the treasury on January 1, 1837, was to be
"deposited" with the States in four quarterly installments commencing on
that day. According to the law the "deposit" was but a loan to the
States; but, as Clay declared, not "a single member of either House
imagined that a dollar would ever be recalled." It was in truth a mere
gift. Clay's triumphant ridicule of the opposition to this measure has
already been mentioned. Webster in sounding periods declared his "deep
and earnest conviction" of the propriety of the stupendous folly. He did
not, indeed, defend the general system of making the federal government
a tax-gatherer for the States. But this one distribution would, he said
in his speech of May 31, 1836, "remove that severe and almost
unparalleled pressure for money which is now distressing and breaking
down the industry, the enterprise, and even the courage of the
commercial community." The Whig press declared that a congressman who
could for mere party reasons vote against a measure which would bring so
much money into his State, must be "far gone in political hardihood as
well as depravity;" and that "to the Republican-Whig party alone are the
States indebted for the benefits arising from the distribution." William
H. Seward, two years before and two years later the Whig candidate for
governor of New York, said the proposal was "noble and just." The
measure passed the Senate with six Democratic votes against it, among
them the vote of Silas Wright, then probably closer than any other
senator to Van Buren. Jackson yielded to the bill what in his message in
December of the same year he called "a reluctant approval." He then gave
at length very clear reasons for his reluctance, but none for his
approval. He declared that "improvident expenditure of money is the
parent of profligacy," and that no intelligent and virtuous community
would consent to raise a surplus for the mere purpose of dividing it. In
his first message, indeed, Jackson had called the distribution among the
States "the most safe, just, and federal disposition" of the surplus.
But his views upon this, as upon other subjects, had changed during the
composition of the Democratic creed which went on during the early years
of his administration. His second message rehearsed at length the
objections to the distribution, though affecting to meet them. In his
third message he recommended the abolition of unnecessary taxation, not
the distribution of its proceeds; and in 1832 he made his explicit
declaration that duties should be "reduced to the revenue standard."
Benton says it was understood that in 1836 some of Van Buren's friends
urged Jackson to approve the bill, lest a veto of so popular a measure
might bring a Democratic defeat. There must have been some reason
unrelated to the merit of the measure. But whatever the opinions of Van
Buren's friends, he took care before the election to make known
unequivocally, in the Sherrod Williams letter already quoted, his
dislike of this piece of demagogy. From the passage of the deposit bill
in June, 1836, until the crash in 1837, this superb donation of
thirty-seven millions was before the enraptured and deluded vision of
the country. Over nine millions a quarter to be poured into
"improvements" or loaned to the needy,--what a delightful prospect to
citizens harassed by the restraints of prudent, fruitful industry! The
lesson is striking and wholesome, and ought not to be forgotten, that it
was when the land was in the very midst of these largesses that the
universal bankruptcy set in.

During 1835 and 1836 there were omens of the coming storm. Some
perceived the rabid character of the speculative fever. William L.
Marcy, governor of New York, in his message of January, 1836, answering
the dipsomaniac cry for more banks, declared that an unregulated spirit
of speculation had taken capital out of the State; but that the amount
so transferred bore no comparison to the enormous speculations in stocks
and in real property within the State. Lands near the cities and
villages of the State had risen several hundred per cent. in value, and
were sold, not to be occupied by the buyers, but to be sold again at
higher prices. The passion for speculation prevailed to an extent before
unknown, not only among capitalists, but among merchants, who abstracted
capital from their business for land and stock speculations and then
resorted to the banks. The warning was treated contemptuously; but
before the year was out the federal administration also became anxious,
and the increase in land sales no longer signified to Jackson an
increasing prosperity. The master hand which drew the economic
disquisition in his message of 1836 pointed to these sales as the
effects of the extension of bank credit and of the over-issue of bank
paper. The banks, it was declared, had lent their notes as "mere
instruments to transfer to speculators the most valuable public land,
and pay the government by a credit on the books of the banks." Each
speculation had furnished means for another. No sooner had one purchaser
paid his debt in the notes than they were lent to another for a like
purpose. The banks had extended their business and their issues so
largely as to alarm considerate men. The spirit of expansion and
speculation had not been confined to deposit banks, but had pervaded the
whole multitude of banks throughout the Union, and had given rise to new
institutions to aggravate the evil. So Jackson proceeded with his sound
defense of the famous specie circular, long and even still denounced as
the _causa causans_ of the crisis of 1837.

By this circular, issued on July 11, 1836, the secretary of the treasury
had required payment for public lands to be made in specie, with an
exception until December 15, 1836, in favor of actual settlers and
actual residents of the State in which the lands were sold. The enormous
sales of land in this year, and the large payments required for them
under the circular, at once made the banks realize that there ought to
be an actual physical basis for their paper transactions. Gold was
called from the East to the banks at the West to make the land payments.
Into the happy exaltation of unreal transactions was now plunged that
harsh demand for real value which sooner or later must always come. The
demand was passed on from one to another, and its magnitude and
peremptoriness grew rapidly. The difference between paper and gold
became plainer and plainer. Nature's vital and often hidden truth that
value depends upon labor could no longer be kept secret by a few wise
men. The suspicion soon arose that there was not real and available
value to meet the demands of nominal value. The suspicion was soon
bruited among the less as well as the more wary. Every man rushed to his
bank or his debtor, crying, "Pay me in value, not in promises to pay;
there is, I at last see, a difference between them." But the banks and
debtors had no available value, but only its paper semblances. Every man
found that what he wanted, his neighbors did not have to give him, and
what he had, his neighbors did not want.

This is hardly an appropriate place to attempt an analysis of the
elements of a commercial crisis. But it is not possible rightly to
estimate Van Buren's moral courage and keen-sighted wisdom in meeting
the terrible pressure of 1837 without appreciating what it was which had
really happened. The din of the disputes over the refusal to re-charter
the bank, over the removal of the deposits, over the refusal to pay the
last installment of the distribution among the States, and over the
specie circular, resounds even to our own time. To many the crisis
seemed merely a financial or even a great banking episode. Many friends
of the administration loudly cried that the disaster arose from the
treachery of the banks in suspending. Many of its enemies saw only the
normal fruit of administrative blunders, first in recklessness, and last
in heartless indifference. To most Americans, whatever their
differences, the explanation of this profound and lasting disturbance
seemed to lie in the machinery of finance, rather than in the deeper
facts of the physical wealth and power of the trading classes.

Speculation is sometimes said to be universal; and it was never nearer
universality than from 1830 to 1837. But speculation affects after all
but a small part of the community,--the part engaged in trade, venture,
new settlement or new manufacture; those classes of men the form of
whose work is not established by tradition, but is changing and
improving under the spur of ingenuity and invention, and with whom
imagination is most powerful and fruitful. These men use the surplus
resources of the vastly greater number who go on through periods of high
prices and of low prices with their steady toil and unvaried production.
In our country and in all industrial communities it is to the former
comparatively small class that chiefly and characteristically belong
"good times" and "bad times," panics and crises and depressions. It is
this class which in newspapers and financial reviews becomes "the
country." It chiefly supports the more influential of the clergy, the
lawyers, the editors, and others of the professional classes. It deals
with the new uses and the accumulations of wealth; it almost monopolizes
public attention; it is chiefly and conspicuously identified with
industrial and commercial changes and progress. But if great depressions
were as nearly universal as the rhetoric of economists and historians
would literally signify, our ancestors fifty years ago must have
experienced a devastation such as Alaric is said to have brought to the
fields of Lombardy. But this was not so. The processes of general
production went on; the land was tilled; the farmer's work of the year
brought about the same amount of comfort; the ordinary mechanic was not
much worse off. If some keen observer from another planet had in 1835
and again later in 1837 looked into the dining-rooms and kitchens and
parlors of America, had seen its citizens with their families going to
church of a Sunday morning, or watched the tea-parties of their wives,
or if he had looked over the fields and into the shops, there would have
seemed to him but slight difference between the two years in the
occupations, the industry, or the comfort of the people. But if he had
stopped looking and begun to listen, he would in 1837 at once have
perceived a tremendous change. The great masses of producing men would
have been mute, as they usually are. But the capitalists, the traders,
the manufacturers, all whose skill, courage, imagination, and adventure
made them the leaders of progress, and whose voices were the only loud,
clear, intelligible voices, until there arose the modern organizations
of laboring men,--all those who in 1835 were flushed and glorious with a
royal money-getting,--he would now have heard crying in frenzy and
desperation. It is not meant to disparage the importance of this smaller
but louder body of men, or to underrate the disaster which they
suffered. In proportion to their numbers, they were vastly the most
important part of the community. If they were prostrated, there must not
only suffer the body of clerks, operatives, and laborers immediately
engaged in their enterprises, and who may for economical purposes be
ranked with them; but later on, the masses of the community must to a
real extent feel the interruption of progress which has overtaken that
section of the community to which are committed the characteristic
operations of material progress; and whether through the fault or the
misfortune of that section, the injury is alike serious. A wise ruler,
in touching the finances of his country, will forget none of this. He
will look through all the agitation of bankers and traders and
manufacturers, the well-voiced leaders of the richer classes of men, to
the far vaster processes of industry carried on by men who are silent,
and whose silent industry will go on whatever devices of currency or
banking may be adopted. This wisdom Van Buren now showed in an exalted

The disaster which in 1837 overtook so large and so important a part of
the community was, in its ultimate nature, not difficult to comprehend.

There had not been one equal and universal increase in nominal values.
Such an increase would not have produced the crisis. But while the great
mass of the national industry went on in channels and with methods and
rates substantially undisturbed, there took place an enormous and
speculative advance of prices in the cities where were carried on the
operations of important traders and the promoters of enterprises, and in
the very new country where these enterprises found their material. When
a new canal or road was built, or a new line of river steamers launched
and an unsettled country made accessible, several things inevitably
happened in the temper produced by the jubilant observation of the past.
There was not only drawn from the ordinary industry of the country the
wealth necessary to build the canal or road or steamers; but the country
thus rendered accessible seemed suddenly to gain a value measured by the
best results of former settlements, however exceptional, and by the most
sanguine hopes for the future. The owners of the prairies and woods and
river bottoms became suddenly rich, as a miner in Idaho becomes rich
when he strikes a true fissure vein. The owners of the canal or road or
line of steamers found their real investment at once multiplied in
dollars by the value of the country whose trade they were to enjoy; for,
new as that value was, it seemed assured. Like investments were made in
banks, and in every implement of direct or indirect use in the conduct
of industries which seemed to belong as a necessity to the new value of
the land. The numerous sales of lands and of stocks in roads or canals
or banks at rapidly advancing prices did not alter the nature, although
they vastly augmented the effect, of what was happening. The so-called
"business classes" throughout the country, related as they quickly
became, under the great impetus of the national hopefulness and vanity,
to the new lands, to the new cities and towns and farms, and to the
means of reaching them and of providing them with the necessities and
comforts of civilization, found their wealth rapidly and largely
increasing. Then naturally enough followed the spending of money in
personal luxury. This meant the withdrawal of labor in the older part of
the country from productive work, for which the country was fitted, to
work which, whether suitable or not, was unproductive. The unproductive
labor was paid, as the employers supposed, from the new value lately
created at the West. So capital, that is, accumulated labor, was first
spent in improvements in the new country, and then, and probably in a
far greater amount, spent in more costly food, clothes, equipage, and
other luxuries in the older country. The successive sales at advancing
prices simply increased the sense of new wealth, and augmented more and
more this destructive consumption of the products of labor, or the
destructive diversion of labor from productive to unproductive activity
at the East by the well-to-do classes.

On the eve of the panic the new wealth, whose seeming possession
apparently justified this destructive consumption or diversion to luxury
of physical value, was primarily represented by titles to lands, stocks
in land, canal, turnpike, railroad, transportation, or banking
companies, and the notes issued by banks or traders or speculators. The
value of these stocks and notes depended upon the fruitfulness of the
lands or canals or roads or steamboat lines. Prices of many commodities
had, indeed, been enhanced by speculation beyond all proper relation to
other commodities, measured by the ultimate standard of the quantity and
quality of labor. But important as was this element, it was subordinate
to the apparent creation of wealth at the West.

Before the panic broke, it began to appear that mere surveys of wild
tracts into lots made neither towns nor cities; that canals and roads
and steamboats did not hew down trees or drain morasses or open the
glebe. The basis of the operations of capitalists and promoters and
venturers in new fields, if those operations were to have real success,
must lie in the masses of strong and skillful arms of men of labor. The
operations were fruitless until there came a population well sinewed and
gladly ready for arduous toil. In 1836 and 1837 the operators found that
there was no longer a population to give enduring life to their new
operations. They had far outstripped all the immediate or even the
nearly promised movements of settlers. Men, however hardy, preferred to
work within an easier reach of the physical and social advantages of
settlements already made, until they could see the superior fruitfulness
of labor further on. The new cities and towns and farms and the means of
reaching them would be mere paper assets until an army of settlers was
ready to enter in and make them sources of actual physical wealth. But
the army stopped far short of the new Edens and metropolises. There was
no creation among them of the actual wealth, the return of physical
labor, to make good and real the popular semblances of wealth, upon the
faith of which in the older part of the country had arisen new methods
of business and habits of living. The withdrawal of actual wealth from
the multifarious treasuries of capital and industry, to meet the expense
of the improvements at the West and the increased luxury at the East,
had reached a point where the pressure caused by the deficiency of
physical wealth was too great for the hopefulness or credulity of those
who had been surrendering that wealth upon the promises of successful
and opulent settlements at the West. Nor was all this confined to
ventures in the new States. Almost every Eastern city had a suburb where
with slight differences all the phenomena of speculation were as real
and obvious as in Illinois or Mississippi.

Jackson's specie circular toppled over the house of cards, which at best
could have stood but little longer. In place of bank-notes, which
symbolized the expectations and hopes of the owners of new towns and
improvements, the United States after July, 1836, required from all but
actual settlers gold and silver for lands. An insignificant part of the
sales had been lately made to settlers. They were chiefly made to
speculators. The public lands, which sold invariably at $1.25 an acre,
were enormously magnified in nominal value the instant the speculators
owned them. Paper money was freely issued upon these estimates of value,
to be again paid to the government for more lands at $1.25. But now
gold and silver must be found; and nothing but actual labor could find
gold and silver. A further stream of true wealth was summoned from the
East, already denuded, as it was, of all the surplus it had ready to be
invested upon mere expectation. Enormous rates were now paid for real
money. But of the real money necessary to make good the paper bubble
promises of the speculators not one-tenth part really existed. Banks
could neither make their debtors pay in gold and silver, nor pay their
own notes in gold and silver. So they suspended.

The great and long concealed devastation of physical wealth and of the
accumulation of legitimate labor, by premature improvements and costly
personal living, became now quickly apparent. Fancied wealth sank out of
sight. Paper symbols of new cities and towns, canals and roads, were not
only without value, but they were now plainly seen to be so. Rich men
became poor men. The prices of articles in which there had been
speculation sank in the reaction far below their true value. The
industrious and the prudent, who had given their labor and their real
wealth for paper promises issued upon the credit of seemingly assured
fortunes, suffered at once with men whose fortunes had never been
anything better than the delusions of their hope and imagination.

It is now plain enough that to recover from this crisis was a work of
physical reparation to which must go time, industry, and frugality.
There was folly in every effort to retain and use as valuable assets
the investments in companies and banks whose usefulness, if it had ever
begun, was now ended. There was folly in every effort to conceal from
the world by words of hopefulness the fact that the imagined values in
new cities and garden lands had disappeared in a rude disenchantment as
complete as that of Abou-Hassan in the Thousand and One Nights, or that
of Sly, the tinker, left untold in the Taming of the Shrew. Their sites
were no more than wild lands, whose value must wait the march of
American progress, fast enough indeed to the rest of the world, but slow
as the snail to the wild pacing of the speculators. Every pretense of a
politician, whether in or out of the senate chamber, that the government
could by devices of financiering avoid this necessity of long physical
repair, was either folly or wickedness. And of this folly or even
wickedness there was no lack in the anxious spring and summer of 1837.

There had already occurred in many quarters that misery which is borne
by the humbler producers of wealth not for their own consumption, but
simply for exchange, whose earnings are not increased to meet the
inflation of prices upon which traders and speculators are accumulating
apparent fortunes and spending them as if they were real. On February
14, 1837, several thousand people met in front of the City Hall in New
York under a call of men whom the "Commercial Advertiser" described as
"Jackson Jacobins." The call was headed: "Bread, meat, rent, fuel!
Their prices must come down!" It invited the presence of "all friends of
humanity determined to resist monopolists and extortionists." A very
respectable meeting about high prices had been held two or three weeks
before at the Broadway Tabernacle. The meeting in the City Hall Park,
with a mixture of wisdom and folly, urged the prohibition of bank-notes
under $100, and called for gold and silver; and then denounced landlords
and dealers in provisions. The excitement of the meeting was followed by
a riot, in which a great flour warehouse was gutted. The rioters were
chiefly foreigners and few in number; nor were the promoters of the
meeting involved in the riot. The military were called out; and Eli
Hart & Co., the unfortunate flour merchants, issued a card pointing out
with grim truth "that the destruction of the article cannot have a
tendency to reduce the price."

The distribution of the treasury surplus to the States precipitated the
crash. The first quarter's payment of $9,367,000 was made on January 1,
1837. There was disturbance in taking this large sum of money from the
deposit banks. Loans had to be called in, and the accommodation to
business men lessened for the time. There was speculative disturbance in
the receipt of the moneys by the state depositories. There was
apprehension for the next payment on April 1, which was accomplished
with still greater disturbance, and after the crisis had begun. The
calls for gold and silver, begun under the specie circular, and the
disturbances caused by these distributions, were increased by financial
pressure in England, whose money aids to America were but partly shown
by the shipments of gold and silver already mentioned. The extravagance
of living had been shown in foreign importations for consumption in
luxury, to meet which there had gone varied promises to pay, and
securities whose true value depended upon the true and not the apparent
creation of wealth in America. Before the middle of March the money
excitement at Manchester was great; and to the United States alone, it
was then declared, attention was directed for larger remittances and for
specie. The merchants of Liverpool about the same time sent a memorial
to the chancellor of the exchequer saying "that the distress of the
mercantile interest is intense beyond example, and that it is rapidly
extending to all ranks and conditions of the community, so as to
threaten irretrievable ruin in all directions, involving the prudent
with the imprudent." The "London Times" on April 10, 1837, said that
great distress and pressure had been produced in every branch of
national industry, and that the calamity had never been exceeded.

The cry was quickly reëchoed from America. Commercial failures began in
New York about April 1. By April 8 nearly one hundred failures had
occurred in that city,--five of foreign and exchange brokers, thirty of
dry-goods jobbers, sixteen of commission houses, twenty-eight of
real-estate speculators, eight of stock brokers, and several others.
Three days later the failures had reached one hundred and twenty-eight.
Provisions, wages, rents, everything, as the "New York Herald" on that
day announced, were coming down. Within a few days more the failures
were too numerous to be specially noticed; and before the end of the
month the rest of the country was in a like condition. The prostration
in the newer cotton States was peculiarly complete. Their staple was now
down to ten cents a pound; within a year it had been worth twenty. All
other staples fell enormously in price.

Later in April the merchants of New York met. Instead of condemning
their own folly, they resolved, in a silly fury, that the disaster was
due to government interference with the business and commercial
operations of the country by requiring land to be paid for in specie
instead of paper, to its destruction of the Bank, and to its
substitution of a metallic for a credit currency. A committee of fifty,
including Thomas Denny, Henry Parish, Elisha Riggs, and many others
whose names are still honored in New York, was appointed to remonstrate
with the president. "What constitutional or legal justification," it was
seriously demanded, "can Martin Van Buren offer to the people of the
United States for having brought upon them all their present
difficulties?" The continuance of the specie circular, they said, was
more high-handed tyranny than that which had cost Charles I. his crown
and his head. On May 3 the committee visited Washington and told the
President that their real estate had depreciated forty millions, their
stocks twenty millions, their immense amounts of merchandise in
warehouses thirty per cent. They piteously said to him, "The noble city
which we represent lies prostrate in despair, its credit blighted, its
industry paralyzed, and without a hope beaming through the darkness,
unless"--and here we might suppose they would have added, "unless
Americans at once stop spending money which has not been earned, and
repair the ruin by years of sensible industry and strict economy." But
the conclusion of the merchants was that the darkness must continue
unless relief came from Washington. It was unjust, they said, to
attribute the evils to excessive development of mercantile enterprise;
they flowed instead from "that unwise system which aimed at the
substitution of a metallic for a paper currency." The error of their
rulers "had produced a wider desolation than the pestilence which
depopulated our streets, or the conflagration which laid them in ashes."
In the opinion of these sapient gentlemen of business, it was the
requirement that the United States, in selling Western lands to
speculators, should be paid in real and not in nominal money, which had
prostrated in despair the metropolis of the country. They asked for a
withdrawal of the specie circular, for a suspension of government suits
against importers on bonds given for duties, for an extra session of
Congress to pass Clay's bill for the distribution of the land revenue
among the States, and for the re-chartering of the Bank. Never did men
out of their heads with fright propose more foolish attempts at relief
than some of these. But the folly, as will be seen, seized statesmen of
the widest experience as well as frenzied merchants. The President's
answer was dignified, but "brief and explicit." To the insolent
suggestion that Jackson's financial measures had been more destructive
than fire or pestilence, he calmly reminded them that he had made fully
known, before he was elected, his own approval of those measures; that
knowing this the people had deliberately chosen him; and that he would
still adhere to those measures. The specie circular should be neither
repealed nor modified. Such indulgence in enforcing custom-house bonds
would be allowed as the law permitted. The emergency did not, he
thought, justify an extra session. Nicholas Biddle called on Van Buren;
and many were disgusted that in the presence of this arch enemy the
president remained "profoundly silent upon the great and interesting
topics of the day."

Van Buren's resolution to face the storm without either the aid or the
embarrassment of the early presence of Congress he was soon compelled to
abandon. Within a few days of the return of the merchants to New York,
that city sent the President an appalling reply. On May 10 its banks
suspended payment of their notes in coin. A few days before some banks
in lesser cities of the Southwest had stopped. On the day after the New
York suspension, the banks of Philadelphia, Baltimore, Albany, Hartford,
New Haven, and Providence followed. On the 12th the banks of Boston and
Mobile, on the 13th those of New Orleans, and on the 17th those of
Charleston and Cincinnati fell in the same crash. There was now simply a
general bankruptcy. Men would no longer meet their promises to pay,
because no longer could new paper promises pay off old ones. No longer
would men surrender physical wealth safely in their hands for the
expectation of wealth to be created by the future progress of the
country. But men with perfectly real physical wealth in their
storehouses, which they could not themselves use, were also in practical
bankruptcy because of their commercial debts most prudently incurred.
The natural exchange of their own goods for goods which they or their
creditors might use was obstructed by the utter discredit of paper
money, and by the almost complete disappearance of gold and silver.
Extra sessions of state legislatures were called to devise relief. The
banks' suspension of specie payment in New York was within a few days
legalized by the legislature of that State. On May 12 the secretary of
the treasury directed government collectors themselves to keep public
moneys where the deposit banks had suspended.

For banks holding the public moneys sank with the others. And it was
this which compelled Van Buren in one matter to yield to the storm. On
May 15 he issued a proclamation for an extra session of Congress to meet
on the first Monday of September. It would meet, the proclamation said,
to consider "great and weighty matters." No scheme of relief was
suggested. The locking up of public moneys in suspended banks made
necessary some relief to the government itself. It was, perhaps, well
enough that excited and terrified people, casting about for a remedy,
should, until their wits were somewhat restored, be soothed by assurance
that the great council of the nation would, at any rate, discuss the
situation. Moreover, it was wise to secure time, that most potent ally
of the statesman. Within the three months and a half to elapse, Van
Buren, like a wise ruler, thought the true nature of the calamity would
become more apparent; proposals of remedies might be scrutinized; and
thoughtless or superficial men might weary of their own absurd
proposals, or the people might fully perceive their absurdity.

During the summer popular excitement ran very high against the
administration. The Whig papers declared it to be "the melancholy truth,
the awful truth," that the administration did nothing to relieve, but
everything to distress the commercial community. Abbot Lawrence, one of
the richest and most influential citizens of Boston, told a great
meeting, on May 17, that there was no other people on the face of God's
earth that were so abused, cheated, plundered, and trampled on by their
rulers; that the government exacted impossibilities. No overt act, he
said, with almost a sinister suggestion, ought to be committed until the
laws of self-preservation compelled a forcible resistance; but the time
might come when the crew must seize the ship. The friends of the
administration sought, indeed, to stem the tide; and a series of
skillfully devised popular gatherings was held, very probably inspired
by Van Buren, who highly estimated such organized appeals to popular
sentiment. In Philadelphia a great meeting denounced the bank
suspensions and the issue of small notes as devices in the interest of a
foreign conspiracy to throw silver coin out of circulation and export it
to Europe, to raise the prices of necessaries, and recommence a course
of gambling under the name of speculation and trade, in which the people
must be the victims, and "the foreign and home desperadoes" the gainers.
The meeting declared for a metallic currency. "We hereby pledge our
lives, if necessary," they said, "for the support of the same." Later,
on May 22, there was in the same city a large gathering at Independence
Square, which solemnly called upon the administration "manfully,
fearlessly, and at all hazards to go on collecting the public revenues
and paying the public dues in gold and silver." Their forefathers, who
fought for their liberties, the framers of our Constitution, the
patriarchs whose memory they revered, were, with a funny mixture of
truth and falsehood, declared to have been hard-money men. A week later,
a great meeting in Baltimore approved the specie circular, and urged its
fearless execution, "notwithstanding the senseless clamors of the
British party;" for the crisis, they said, was "a struggle of the
virtuous and industrious portions of the community against bank
advocates and the enemies to good morals and republicanism." Protests
were elsewhere made against forcing small notes into circulation. Paper
had, however, to be used, for there was nothing else. Barter must go on,
even upon the most flimsy tokens. In New York one saw, as were seen
twenty-four years later, bits of paper like this: "The bearer will be
entitled to fifty cents' value in refreshments at the Auction Hotel, 123
and 125 Water Street. New York, May, 1837. Charles Redabock." In
Tallahassee a committee of citizens was appointed to print bank tickets
for purposes of change. In Easton the currency had a more specific
basis. One of the tokens read: "This ticket will hold good for a sheep's
tongue, two crackers, and a glass of red-eye."

When Congress assembled, the country had cried itself, if not to sleep,
at least to seeming quiet. The sun had not ceased to rise and set.
Although merchants and bankers were prostrate with anxiety or even in
irremediable ruin; although thousands of clerks and laborers were out of
employment or earning absurdly low wages,--for near New York hundreds
of laborers were rejected who applied for work at four dollars a month
and board; although honest frontiersmen found themselves hopelessly
isolated in a wilderness,--for the frontier had suddenly shrunk far
behind them,--still the harvest had been good, the masses of men had
been at work, and economy had prevailed. The desperation was over. But
there was a profound melancholy, from which a recovery was to come only
too soon to be lasting.



Van Buren's bearing in the crisis was admirable. Even those who have
treated him with animosity or contempt do not here refuse him high
praise. "In this one question," says Von Holst, "he really evinced
courage, firmness, and statesmanlike insight.... Van Buren bore the
storm bravely. He repelled all reproaches with decision, but with no
bitterness.... Van Buren unquestionably merited well of the country,
because he refused his coöperation, in accordance with the guardianship
principle of the old absolutisms, to accustom the people of the Republic
also to see the government enter as a saving _deus ex machina_ in every
calamity brought about by their own fault and folly.... Van Buren had
won a brilliant victory and placed his countrymen under lasting
obligations to him."[13]

Van Buren met the extra session with a message which marks the zenith of
his political wisdom. It is one of the greatest of American state
papers. With clear, unflinching, and unanswerable logic he faced the
crisis. There was no effort to evade the questions put to him, or to
divert public attention from the true issue. The government could not,
he showed, help people earn their living; but it could refuse to aid the
deception that paper was gold, and the delusion that value could arise
without labor. The masterly argument seems long to a sauntering reader;
but it treated a difficult question which had to be answered by the
multitudes of a democracy many of whom were pinched and excited by
personal distresses and anxiety and who were sure to read it. Few
episodes in our political history give one more exalted appreciation of
the good sense of the American masses, than that, in this stress of
national suffering, a skillful politician should have appealed to them,
not even sweetening the truth, but resisting with direct and painful
sobriety their angry and natural impulses; this, too, when most of the
talented and popular leaders were promoting, rather than reducing or
diverting the heated folly of the time.

Van Buren quietly began by saying that the law required the secretary of
the treasury to deposit public moneys only in banks that paid their
notes in specie. All the banks had stopped such payment. It was obvious
therefore that some other custody of public moneys must be provided, and
it was for this that he had summoned Congress. He then began what was
really an address to the people. He pointed out that the government had
not caused, and that it could not cure, the profound commercial
distemper. Antecedent causes had been stimulated by the enormous
inflations of bank currency and other credits, and among them the many
millions of foreign loans, and the lavish accommodations extended "by
foreign dealers to our merchants." Thence had come the spirit of
reckless speculation, and from that a foreign debt of more than thirty
millions; the extension to traders in the interior of credits for
supplies greatly beyond the wants of the people; the investment of
thirty-nine and a half millions in unproductive public lands; the
creation of debts to an almost countless amount for real estate in
existing or anticipated cities and villages; the expenditure of immense
sums in improvements ruinously improvident; the diversion to other
pursuits of labor that should have gone to agriculture, so that this
first of agricultural countries had imported two millions of dollars
worth of grain in the first six months of 1837; and the rapid growth of
luxurious habits founded too often on merely fancied wealth. These evils
had been aggravated by the great loss of capital in the famous fire at
New York in December, 1835, a loss whose effects, though real, were not
at once apparent because of the shifting and postponement of the burdens
through facilities of credit, by the disturbance which the transfers of
public moneys in the distribution among the States caused, and by
necessities of foreign creditors which made them seek to withdraw specie
from the United States. He pointed out the unprecedented expansion of
credit in Great Britain at the same time, and, with the redundancy of
paper currency[14] there, the rise of adventurous and unwholesome

To the demand for a reëstablishment of a national bank, he replied that
quite a contrary thing must be done; that the fiscal concerns of the
government must be separated from those of individuals or corporations;
that to create such a bank would be to disregard the popular will twice
solemnly and unequivocally expressed; that the same motives would
operate on the administrators of a national as on those of state banks;
that the Bank of the United States had not prevented former and similar
embarrassments, and that the Bank of England had but lately failed in
its own land to prevent serious abuses of credit. He knew indeed of loud
and serious complaint because the government did not now aid commercial
exchange. But this was no part of its duty. It was not the province of
government to aid individuals in the transfer of their funds otherwise
than through the facilities of the post-office. As justly might the
government be asked to transport merchandise. These were operations of
trade to be conducted by those who were interested in them. Throughout
Europe domestic as well as foreign exchanges were carried on by private
houses, and often, if not generally, without the assistance of banks.
Our own exchanges ought to be carried on by private enterprise and
competition, without legislative assistance, free from the influence of
political agitation, and from the neglect, partiality, injustice, and
oppression unavoidably attending the interference of government with the
proper concerns of individuals. His own views, Van Buren declared, were
unchanged. Before his election he had distinctly apprised the people
that he would not aid in the reëstablishment of a national bank. His
conviction had been strengthened that such a bank meant a concentrated
money power hostile to the spirit and permanency of our republican

He then turned to those state banks which had held government deposits.
At all times they had held some of the federal moneys, and since 1833
they had held the whole. Since that year the utmost security had been
required from them for such moneys; but when lately called upon to pay
the surplus to the States, they had, while curtailing their discounts
and increasing the general distress, been with the other banks fatally
involved in the revulsion. Under these circumstances it was a solemn
duty to inquire whether the evils inherent in any connection between the
government and banks of issue were not such as to require a divorce.
Ought the moneys taken from the people for public uses longer to be
deposited in banks and thence to be loaned for the profit of private
persons? Ought not the collection, safe-keeping, transfer, and
disbursement of public moneys to be managed by public officers? The
public revenues must be limited to public expenses so that there should
be no great surplus. The care of the moneys inevitably accumulated from
time to time would involve expense; but this was a trifling
consideration in so important a matter. Personally it would be agreeable
to him to be free from concern in the custody and disbursement of the
public revenue. Not indeed that he would shrink from a proper official
responsibility, but because he firmly believed the capacity of the
executive for usefulness was in no degree promoted by the possession of
patronage not actually necessary. But he was clear that the connection
of the executive with powerful moneyed institutions, capable of
ministering to the interests of men in points where they were most
accessible to corruption, was more liable to abuse than his
constitutional agency in the appointment and control of the few public
officers required by the proposed plan.

Thus was announced the independent treasury scheme, the divorce of bank
and state, the famous achievement of Van Buren's presidency. He argued
besides elaborately in favor of the specie circular. An individual
could, if he pleased, accept payment in a paper promise or in any other
way as he saw fit. But a public servant should in exchange for public
domain take only what was universally deemed valuable. He ought not to
have a discretion to measure the value of mere promises. The $9,367,200
in the treasury for deposit with the States in October, or rather for a
permanent distribution to them, he desired to retain for federal
necessities. This would doubtless inconvenience States which had relied
on the federal donation; but as the United States needed the money to
meet its own obligations, there was neither justice nor expediency in
generously giving it away. Van Buren here left the defensive with a
menace to the banks that a bankruptcy law for corporations suspending
specie payment might impose a salutary check on the issues of paper

The President finally spoke in words which seem golden to all who share
his view of the ends of government. "Those who look to the action of
this government," he said, "for specific aid to the citizen to relieve
embarrassments arising from losses by revulsions in commerce and credit,
lose sight of the ends for which it was created, and the powers with
which it is clothed. It was established to give security to us all, in
our lawful and honorable pursuits, under the lasting safeguard of
republican institutions. It was not intended to confer special favors on
individuals, or on any classes of them; to create systems of
agriculture, manufactures, or trade; or to engage in them, either
separately or in connection with individual citizens or
organizations.... All communities are apt to look to government for too
much.... We are prone to do so especially at periods of sudden
embarrassment and distress.... The less government interferes with
private pursuits, the better for the general prosperity. It is not its
legitimate object to make men rich, or to repair by direct grants of
money or legislation in favor of particular pursuits, losses not
incurred in the public service." To avoid unnecessary interference with
such pursuits would be far more beneficial than efforts to assist
limited interests, efforts eagerly, but perhaps naturally, sought for
under temporary pressure. Congress and himself, Van Buren closed by
saying, acted for a people to whom the truth, however unpromising, could
always be spoken with safety, and who, in the phrase of which he was
fond, were sure never to desert a public functionary honestly laboring
for the public good.

An angry and almost terrible outburst received this plain, honest, and
wise declaration that the people must repair their own disasters without
paternal help of government; and that, rather than to promote the
extension of credit with public moneys, the crisis ought to afford means
of departing forever from that policy. Most of the able men who to this
generation have seemed the larger statesmen of the day, joined with
passionate declamation in the furious gust of folly. It was a favorite
delusion that government was a separate entity which could help the
people, and not a mere agency, simply using wealth and power which the
people must themselves create. Webster, in a speech at Madison, Indiana,
on June 1, 1837, professed his conscientious convictions that all the
disasters had proceeded from "the measures of the general government in
relation to the currency." He ridiculed the idea that the people had
helped cause them. The people, he thought, had no lesson to learn.
"Over-trading, over-buying, over-selling, over-speculation,
over-production,"--these, he said, were terms he "could not very well
understand." In his speech of December, 1836, on the specie circular, he
had given a leonine laugh at the idea of there being inflation. If he
were asked, he said, what kept up the value of money "in this vast and
sudden expansion and increase of it," he should answer that it was kept
up "by an equally vast and sudden increase in the property of the
country." That this amazing utterance upon the dynamics of national
economy might be clear, he added that the vast and sudden increase was
"in the value of that property intrinsic as well as marketable." No
speculator of the day said a more foolish thing than did this towering
statesman. There were, he admitted, "other minor causes," but they were
"not worth enumerating." "The great and immediate origin of the evil"
was "disturbances in the exchange ... caused by the agency of the
government itself." At the extra session Webster described the shock
caused him by the President's "disregard for the public distress," by
his "exclusive concern for the interest of government and revenue, by
his refusal to prescribe for the sickness and disease of society," by
the separation he would draw "between the interests of the government
and the interests of the people." For his part he would be warm and
generous in his statesmanship. He resisted the bill to suspend the
"deposit" with the States; he would in the coming October pay out the
last installment, stricken though the treasury was. He would again
sweeten the popular palate with government manna, bitter as it had
proved itself to the belly. It was the duty of the government, he said,
to aid in exchanges by establishing a paper currency; he and those with
him preferred the long-tried, well-approved practice of the government
to letting Benton, as he said, "embrace us in his gold and silver arms
and hug us to his hard money breast." As if this were not a time for
soberness over its shameful abuses, credit, and the banks and bank-notes
which aided it were almost apotheosized. At St. Louis in the summer,
Webster, in a speech which he did not include in his collected works,
said that help must come "from the government of the United States, from
thence alone;" adding, "Upon this I risk my political reputation, my
honor, my all.... He who expects to live to see all these twenty-six
States resuming specie payments in regular succession once more, may
expect to see the restoration of the Jews. Never! He will die without
the sight."

John Quincy Adams had told his friends at home that the distribution of
the public moneys among the state banks was the most pernicious cause of
the disaster, although, differing from Webster, he admitted that "the
abuse of credit, especially by the agency of banks," and the
unrestrained pursuit of individual wealth, were the proximate causes of
the disaster, for history had testified

  "Peace to corrupt, no less than war to waste."

He would punish suspension of specie payments by a bank with a
forfeiture of its charter and the imprisonment of its president and
officers. A national bank, he said, was "the only practicable expedient
for restoring and maintaining specie payments." In the extra session he
showed that the deposit banks of the South already held more money of
the government than their States would receive, if the last installment
of distribution should be paid, while the Northern banks held far less
of that money than the Northern States were to receive. He denounced as
a Southern measure the proposition to postpone this piece of
recklessness. Should the Northern States hail with shouts of Hosanna
"this evanescence of their funds from their treasuries," or be
"humbugged out of their vested rights by a howl of frenzy against
Nicholas Biddle," or be mystified out of their money and out of their
senses by a Hark follow! against all banks, or by a summons to Doctors'
Commons for a divorce of bank and state?

That skillful political weathercock, Caleb Cushing, told his
constituents at Lowell that private banking was the "shinplaster
system;" and asked whether we wished to have men who, like the
Rothschilds, make "peace or war as they choose, and wield at will the
destiny of empires." The plan of the administration was like that of "a
cowardly master of a sinking ship, to take possession of the long boat
and provisions, cut off, and leave the ship's company and passengers to
their fate." To the plausible cry of separating bank and state he would
answer, "Why not separate court and state ... or law and state ... or
custom-house and state." It was "the new nostrum of political quackery."
Clay delivered a famous speech in the Senate on September 25, 1837. He
was appalled at the heartlessness of the administration. "The people,
the States, and their banks," he said in the favorite cant of the time,
"are left to shift for themselves," as if that were not the very thing
for them to do. We were all, he said,--"people, States, Union,
banks, ... all entitled to the protecting care of a parental
government." He cried out against "a selfish solicitude for the
government itself, but a cold and heartless insensibility to the
sufferings of a bleeding people." The substitution of an exclusive
metallic currency was "forbidden by the principles of eternal justice."
For his part he saw no adequate remedy which did "not comprehend a
national bank as an essential part of it." In banking corporations,
indeed, "the interests of the rich and poor are happily blended;" nor
should we encourage here private bankers, Hopes and Barings and
Rothschilds and Hottinguers, "whose vast overgrown capitals, possessed
by the rich exclusively of the poor, control the destiny of nations."

The bill for the independent treasury was firmly pressed by the
administration. It did not deceive the people with any pretense that
banks and paper money would stand in lieu of industry, economy, and good
sense. The summer elections, then far more numerous than now, had, as
Clay warningly pointed out, gone heavily against Van Buren. The bill
passed the Senate, 26 to 20. In the House it was defeated. Upon the
election of speaker, the administration candidate, James K. Polk, had
had 116 votes to 103 for John Bell. But this very moderate majority was
insecure. A break in the administration ranks was promptly shown by the
defeat, for printers to the House, of Francis P. Blair and his partner,
who in their paper, the "Washington Globe," had firmly supported the
hard money and anti-bank policy. They received only 107 votes, about
fifteen Democrats uniting with the Whigs to defeat them. Van Buren was
unable to educate all his party to his own firm, clear-sighted views.
There was formed a small party of "conservatives," Democrats who took
what seemed, and what for the time was, the popular course. The
independent treasury bill was defeated in the House by 120 to 106.

Van Buren's proposal was carried, however, to postpone the "deposite,"
as it was called, the gift as it was, of the fourth installment of the
surplus. On October 1, Webster and Clay led the seventeen senators who
insisted upon the folly of the national treasury in its destitution
playing the magnificent donor, and further debauching the States with
streams of pretended wealth. Twenty-eight senators voted for the bill;
and in the House it was carried by 118 to 105, John Quincy Adams heading
the negative vote.

The administration further proposed the issue of $10,000,000 in treasury
notes. It was a measure strictly of temporary relief. Gold and silver
had disappeared; bank-notes were discredited. The government, whose gold
and silver the banks would not pay out, was disabled from meeting its
current obligations; and the treasury notes were proposed to meet the
necessity. They were not to be legal tender, but interest-bearing
obligations in denominations not less than $50, to be merely receivable
for all public dues, and thus to gain a credit which would secure their
circulation. This natural and moderate measure was assailed by those who
were lauding a paper currency to the skies. The radical difference was
ignored between a general currency of small as well as large bills,
without intrinsic value, adopted for all time, and a limited and
perfectly secure government loan, to be freely taken or rejected by the
people, in bills of large amounts, to meet a serious but brief
embarrassment. "Who expected," said Webster in the Senate, "that in the
fifth year of the experiment for reforming the currency, and bringing it
to an absolute gold and silver circulation, the Treasury Department
would be found recommending to us a regular emission of paper money?" He
voted, however, for the bill, the only negative votes in the Senate
being given by Clay and four others. In the House it was carried by 127
to 98.

Such was the substantial work of the extra session. To the experience of
that crisis and the wisdom with which it was met may not improbably be
ascribed the hard-money leaven which, thirty or forty years later,
prevented the great disaster of further paper inflation, and brought the
country to a currency which, if not the best, is a currency of coin and
of redeemable paper, whose value, apart from the legal-tender notes
left us by the war and the decision of the Supreme Court, depends upon
the best of securities, coin or government bonds, deposited in the
treasury, and a currency whose amount may therefore safely be left to
the natural operations of trade.

Clay's appeal for a great banking institution, which should accomplish
by magic the results of popular labor and saving, was met by a vote of
the House, 123 to 91, that it was inexpedient to charter a national
bank, many voting against a bank who had already voted against an
independent treasury. The Senate also resolved against a national bank
by 31 to 14, six senators who had voted against an independent treasury
voting also against a bank. The temporary expedient adopted by the
treasury on the suspension of the banks was therefore continued, and
public moneys were kept in the hands of public officers.

Calhoun now rejoined the Democratic party. It was only the year before
he had denounced it as "a powerful faction held together by the hopes of
public plunder;" and early in this very year he had referred to the
removal of the deposits as an act fit for "the days of Pompey or Cæsar,"
and had declared that even a Roman Senate would not have passed the
expunging resolution "until the times of Caligula and Nero." But Van
Buren, Calhoun now said, had been driven to his position; nor would he
leave the position for that reason. He referred to the strict
construction of the powers of the government involved in the divorce of
bank and state. There was no suggestion that Van Buren had become a
convert to nullification. But Calhoun could with consistency support Van
Buren. The independent treasury scheme was plainly far different from
the removal of the deposits from one great bank to many lesser ones. The
reasons for political exasperation had besides disappeared. Van Buren
was chief among the _beati possidentes_, and could not for years be
disturbed. His tact and skill left open no personal feud; he had not yet
conferred the title of Cæsar; no successor to himself was yet named by
any clear designation. Calhoun joined Silas Wright and the other
administration senators; but he still maintained a grim and independent

The extra session ended on October 16. Besides the issuance of
$10,000,000 in treasury notes and the postponement of the distribution
among the States, the only measure adopted for relief was a law
permitting indulgence of payment to importers upon custom-house bonds.
As those payments were to be made in specie, and as specie had left
circulation, it was proper that the United States as a creditor should
exhibit the same leniency which was wise and necessary on the part of
other creditors.

Commercial distress had now materially abated, although many of its
wounds were still deep and unhealed. Before the regular session began in
December, substantial progress was made towards specie payments. The
price of gold in New York, which had ruled at a premium of eight and
seven eighths per cent., had fallen to five. On October 20 the banks of
New York, after waiting until Congress rose, to meet the wishes of the
United States Bank and its associates in Philadelphia, now invited
representatives from all the banks to meet in New York on November 27 to
prepare for specie payment. At this meeting the New York banks proposed
resumption on March 1, 1838, but they were defeated; and a resolution to
resume on July 1 was defeated by the votes of Pennsylvania and all the
New England States except Maine (which was divided), together with New
Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, South Carolina, and Indiana. Virginia, Ohio,
Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and the District of Columbia, with
New York, made the minority. An adjournment was taken to the second
Wednesday in April, the banks being urged meanwhile to prepare for
specie payments.

The fall as well as the summer elections had been most disastrous for
the Democrats. New York, which the year before had given Van Buren
nearly 30,000 plurality, was now overwhelmingly Whig. The Van Buren
party began to be called the Loco-focos, in derision of the fancied
extravagance of their financial doctrines. The Loco-foco or Equal Rights
party proper was originally a division of the Democrats, strongly
anti-monopolist in their opinions, and especially hostile to
banks,--not only government banks but all banks,--which enjoyed the
privileges then long confirmed by special and exclusive charters. In the
fall of 1835 some of the Democratic candidates in New York were
especially obnoxious to the anti-monopolists of the party. When the
meeting to regularly confirm the nominations made in committee was
called at Tammany Hall, the anti-monopolist Democrats sought to capture
the meeting by a rush up the main stairs. The regulars, however, showed
themselves worthy of their regularity by reaching the room up the back
stairs. In a general scrimmage the gas was put out. The
anti-monopolists, perhaps used to the devices to prevent meetings which
might be hostile, were ready with candles and loco-foco matches. The
hall was quickly illuminated; and the anti-monopolists claimed that they
had defeated the nominations. The regulars were successful, however, at
the election; and they and the Whigs dubbed the anti-monopolists the
Loco-foco men. The latter in 1836 organized the Equal Rights party, and
declared it an imperative duty of the people "to recur to first
principles." Their "declaration of rights" might well have been drawn a
few years later by a student of Spencer's "Social Statics." The law,
they said, ought to do no more than restrain each man from committing
aggressions on the equal rights of other men; they declared "unqualified
hostility to bank-notes and paper money as a circulating medium," and to
all special grants by the legislature. A great cry was raised against
them as dangerous and incendiary fanatics. The Democratic press, except
the "Evening Post," edited by William Cullen Bryant, turned violently
upon the seceders. There was the same horror of them as the English at
almost the very time had of the Chartists, and which in our time is
roused by the political movements of Henry George. But with time and
familiarity Chartism and Loco-focoism alike lost their horrid aspect.
Several of the cardinal propositions of the former have been adopted in
acts of Parliament without a shudder. To the animosity of the Loco-focos
against special legislation and special privileges Americans probably
owe to-day some part of the beneficent movement in many of the States
for constitutional requirements that legislatures shall act by general

The Equal Rights party, though casting but a few votes, managed to give
the city of New York to the Whigs, a result which convinced the
Democrats that, dangerous as they were, they were less dangerous within
than without the party. The hatred which Van Buren after his message of
September, 1837, received from the banks commended him to the
Loco-focos; and in October, 1837, Tammany Hall witnessed their
reconciliation with the regular Democrats upon the moderate declaration
for equal rights. The Whigs had, indeed, been glad enough to have
Loco-foco aid and even open alliance at the polls. But none the less
they thought the Democratic welcome back of the seceders an enormity.
From this time the Democrats were, it was clear, no better than
Loco-focos, and ought to bear the name of those dangerous iconoclasts.

Van Buren met Congress in December, 1837, with still undaunted front.
His first general review of the operations of the government was but
little longer than his message to the extra session on the single topic
of finance. He refused to consider the result of the elections as a
popular disapproval of the divorce of bank and state. In only one State,
he pointed out, had a federal election been held; and in the other
elections, which had been local, he intimated that the fear of a
forfeiture of the state-bank charters for their suspension of specie
payments had determined the result. He still emphatically opposed the
connection between the government and the banks which could offer such
strong inducements for political agitation. He blew another blast
against the United States Bank, now a Pennsylvania corporation, for
continuing to reissue its notes originally made before its federal
charter had expired and since returned. He recommended a preëmption law
for the benefit of actual settlers on public lands, and a classification
of lands under different rates, to encourage the settlement of the
poorer lands near the older settlements. There was a conciliatory but
firm reference to the dispute with England over the northeastern
boundary. He announced his failure to adjust the dispute with Mexico
over the claims which had been pressed by Jackson. The Texan cloud
which six years later brought Van Buren's defeat was already

At this session the independent or sub-treasury bill was again
introduced, and again a titanic battle was waged in the Senate. In this
encounter Clay taunted Calhoun for going over to the enemy; and Calhoun,
referring to the Adams-Clay coalition, retorted that Clay had on a
memorable occasion gone over, and had not left it to time to disclose
his motives. Here it was that, in the decorous fury of the times, both
senators stamped accusations with scorn in the dust, and hurled back
darts fallen harmless at their feet. The bill passed the Senate by 27 to
25; but Calhoun finally voted against it because there had been stricken
out the provision that government dues should be paid in specie. The
bill was again defeated in the House by 125 to 111. The latter vote was
late in June, 1838. But while Congress refused a law for it, the
independent treasury in fact existed. Under the circular issued upon the
bank suspension, the collection, keeping, and payment of federal moneys
continued to be done by federal officers. The absurdity of the
declamation about one's blood curdling at Van Buren's recommendations,
about this being the system in vogue where people were ground "to the
very dust by the awful despotism of their rulers," was becoming apparent
in the easy, natural operation of the system, dictated though it was by
necessity rather than law. The Whigs, in the sounding jeremiades of
Webster and the perfervid eloquence of Clay, were joined by the
Conservatives, former Democrats, with Tallmadge of New York and Rives of
Virginia at their head. They had retired into the cave of superior
wisdom, of which many men are fond when a popular storm seems rising
against their party; they affected oppressive grief at Van Buren's
reckless hatred of the popular welfare, and accused him of designing
entire destruction of credit in the ordinary transactions of business.
This silly charge was continually made, and gained color from the
extreme doctrines of the Equal Rights movement and the fixing of the
Loco-foco name upon the Democratic party.

The sub-treasury bill was again taken up at the long session of 1839-40
by the Congress elected in 1838. Again the wisdom of separating bank and
state, again the wrong of using public moneys to aid private business
and speculation, were stated with perfectly clear but uninspiring logic.
Again came the antiphonal cry, warm and positive, against the cruelty of
withdrawing the government from an affectionate care for the people, and
from its duty generously to help every one to earn his living. In and
out of Congress it was the debate of the time, and rightly; for it
involved a profound and critical issue, which since the foundation of
the government has been second in importance only to the questions of
slavery and national existence and reconstruction. In 1840 the bill
passed the Senate by 24 to 18 and the House by 124 to 107. This chief
monument of Van Buren's administration seemed quickly demolished by the
triumphant Whigs in 1841, but was finally set up again in 1846 without
the aid of its architect. From that time to our own, in war and in
peace, the independence of the federal treasury has been a cardinal
feature of American finance. Nor was its theory lost even in the system
of national banks and public depositories created for the tremendous
necessities of the civil war.[15]

By the spring of 1838 business had revived during the year of enforced
industry and economy among the people. In January, 1838, the premium on
gold at New York sank to three per cent.; and when the bank convention
met on the adjourned day in April, the premium was less than one per
cent. The United States Bank resisted resumption with great affectation
of public spirit, but for selfish reasons soon to be disclosed. The New
York banks, with an apology to their associates, resolved to resume by
May 10, five days before the date to which the State had legalized the
suspension. The convention adopted a resolution for general resumption
on January 1, 1839, without precluding earlier resumption by any banks
which deemed it proper. In April it was learned that the Bank of
England was shipping a million sterling to aid resumption by the banks.
On July 10, Governor Ritner of Pennsylvania by proclamation required the
banks of his State to resume by August 1. On the 13th of that month the
banks of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland,
Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois yielded to the
moral coercion of the New York banks, and to the resumption now enforced
on the Bank of the United States. By the fall of 1838 resumption was
general, although the banks at the Southwest did not follow until
midwinter. Confidence was so much restored that "runs" on the banks did
not occur. The crisis seemed at an end; and Van Buren not unreasonably
fancied that he saw before the country two years of steady and sound
return to prosperity. Two such years would, in November, 1840, bring the
reward of his sagacity and endurance. But a far deeper draft upon the
vitality of the patient had been made than was supposed; and in its last
agony, eighteen months later, Biddle's bank helped to blast Van Buren's
political ambition.



Another unpopular duty fell to Van Buren during his presidency, a duty
but for which New York might have been saved to him in 1840. In the
Lower and Upper Canadas popular discontent and political tumult resulted
late in 1837 in violence, so often the only means by which English
dependencies have brought their imperial mistress to a respect for their
complaints.[16] The liberality of the Whigs, then lately triumphant in
England, was not broad enough to include these distant colonists. The
provincial legislature in each of the Canadas consisted of a Lower House
or assembly chosen by popular vote, and an Upper House or council
appointed by the governor, who himself was appointed by and represented
the crown. Reforms after reforms, proposed by the popular houses, were
rejected by the council. In Lower Canada the popular opposition was
among the French, who had never been embittered towards the United
States. In Upper Canada its strength was among settlers who had come
since the war closed in 1815. Lower Canada demanded in vain that the
council be made elective. Its assembly, weary of the effectual
opposition of the council to popular measures, began in 1832 to refuse
votes of supplies unless their grievances were redressed; and by 1837
government charges had accrued to the amount of £142,100. On April 14,
1837, Lord John Russell, still wearing the laurel of a victor for
popular rights, procured from the imperial parliament permission,
without the assent of the colonial parliament, to apply to these charges
the money in the hands of the receiver-general of Lower Canada. This
extraordinary grant passed the House of Commons by 269 to 46. A far less
flagitious case of taxation without representation had begun the
American Revolution. The money had been raised under laws which provided
for its expenditure by vote of a local representative body. It was
expended by the vote of a body at Westminster, three thousand miles
away, but few of whose members knew or cared anything for the bleak
stretch of seventeenth-century France on the lower St. Lawrence, and
none of whom had contributed a penny of it. To even Gladstone, lately
the under-secretary for the colonies and then a "rising hope of
unbending Tories," there seemed nothing involved but the embarrassment
of faithful servants of the crown. This thoroughly British disregard of
sentiment among other people roused a deep opposition which was headed
by Papineau, eloquent and a hero among the French. An insurrection broke
out in November, 1837, and blood was shed in engagements at St. Denis
and St. Charles, not far from Montreal. But the insurgents were quickly
defeated, and within three weeks the insurrection in Lower Canada was

In Upper Canada there was considerable Republican sentiment, and the
party of popular rights had among its leaders men of a high order of
ability. One of them, Marshall S. Bidwell, through the magnanimity or
procurement of the governor, escaped from Canada to become one of the
most honored and stately figures at the bar of New York. Early in 1836,
Sir Francis B. Head, a clever and not ill-natured man, arrived as
governor. He himself wrote the unconscious Anglicism that "the great
danger" he "had to avoid was the slightest attempt to conciliate any
party." It was assumed with the usual insufferable affectation of
omniscience that these hardy Western settlers were merely children who
did not know what was best for them. Even the suggestions of concession
sent him from England were not respected. In an election for the
Assembly he had the issue announced as one of separation from England;
and by the use, it was said, of his power and patronage, the colonial
Tories carried a majority of the House. Hopeless of any redress, and
fired by the rumors of the revolt in Lower Canada, an insurrection took
place early in December near Toronto. It was speedily suppressed. One of
the leaders, Mackenzie, escaped to Buffalo. Others were captured and
punished, some of them capitally.

The mass of the Canadians were doubtless opposed to the insurrection.
But there was among them a widespread and reasonable discontent, with
which the Americans, and especially the people of northern and western
New York, warmly sympathized. It was natural and traditional to believe
England an oppressor; and there was every reason in this case to believe
the Canadians right in their ill-feeling. The refugees who had fled to
New York met with an enthusiastic reception, and, in the security of a
foreign land, prepared to advance their rebellion. On the long frontier
of river, lake, and wilderness, it was difficult, with the meagre force
regularly at the disposal of the United States, to prevent depredations.
This difficulty became enhanced by a culpable though not unnatural
invasion of American territory by British troops. On December 12, 1837,
Mackenzie, who had the day before arrived with a price of $4000 set upon
his head, addressed a large audience at Buffalo. Volunteers were called
for; and the next day, with twenty-five men, commanded by Van
Rensselaer, an American, he seized Navy Island in the Niagara River, but
a short distance above the cataract, and belonging to Canada. He there
established a provisional government, with a flag and a great seal; and
that the new State might be complete, paper money was issued. By
January, 1838, there were several hundred men on the island, largely
Americans, with arms and provisions chiefly obtained from the American

On the night of December 29, 1837, a party of Canadian militia crossed
the Niagara to seize the Caroline, a steamer in the service of the
rebels. It happened, however, that the steamer, instead of being at Navy
Island, was at Schlosser, on the American shore. The Canadians seized
the vessel, killing several men in the affray, and after setting her on
fire, loosened her from the shore, to go blazing down the river and over
the falls. This invasion of American territory caused indignant
excitement through the United States. Van Buren had promptly sought to
prevent hostility from our territory. On January 5, 1838, he had issued
a proclamation reciting the seizure of Navy Island by a force, partly
Americans, under the command of an American, with arms and supplies
procured in the United States, and declared that the neutrality laws
would be rigidly enforced and the offenders punished. Nor would they
receive aid or countenance from the United States, into whatever
difficulties they might be thrown by their violation of friendly
territory. On the same day Van Buren sent General Winfield Scott to the
frontier, and by special message asked from Congress power to prevent
such offenses in advance, as well as afterwards to punish them,--a
request to which Congress, in spite of the excitement over the invasion
at Schlosser, soon acceded. The militia of New York were, on this
invasion, called out by Governor Marcy, and placed under General Scott's
command. But there was little danger. On January 13 the insurgents
abandoned Navy Island. The war, for the time, was over, although
excitement and disorder continued on the border and the lakes as far as
Detroit; and in the fall of 1838 other incursions were made from
American territory. But they were fruitless and short-lived. Nearly nine
hundred arrests were made by the Canadian authorities. Many death
sentences were imposed and several executed, and many more offenders
were sentenced to transportation.

England, in her then usual fashion, was duly waked to duty by actual
bloodshed. Sir Francis B. Head left Canada, and the Melbourne ministry
sent over the Earl of Durham, one of the finest characters in English
public life, to be governor-general over the five colonies; to redress
their wrongs; to conciliate, and perhaps yield to demands for
self-government: all which might far better have been done five years
before. Lord Durham used a wise mercy towards the rebels. He made rapid
progress in the reforms, and, best and first of all, he won the
confidence and affection of the people. But England used to distrust an
English statesman who practiced this kind of rule towards a dependency.
A malevolent attack of Lord Brougham was successful, and Lord Durham
returned to ministerial disgrace, though to a wiser popular applause,
soon to die in what ought to have been but an early year in his generous
and splendid career. Although punishing her benefactor, England was
shrewd enough to accept the benefit. The concessions which Lord Durham
had begun were continued, and Canada became and has remained loyal.
Before leaving Canada, Lord Durham was invited by a very complimentary
letter of Van Buren to visit Washington, but the invitation was
courteously declined.

Mackenzie was arrested at Buffalo and indicted. After his indictment he
addressed many public meetings through the United States in behalf of
his cause, one at Washington itself. In 1839, however, he was tried and
convicted. Van Buren, justly refusing to pardon him until he had served
in prison two thirds of his sentence, thus made for himself a persistent
and vindictive enemy.

Upon renewed raids late in 1838, the President, by a proclamation,
called upon misguided or deluded Americans to abandon projects dangerous
to their own country and fatal to those whom they professed a desire to
relieve; and, after various appeals to good sense and patriotism, warned
them that, if taken in Canada, they would be left to the policy and
justice of the government whose dominions they had, "without the shadow
of justification or excuse, nefariously invaded." This had no uncertain
sound. Van Buren was promptly declared to be a British tool. The plain
facts were ignored that the great majority of the Canadians, however
much displeased with their rulers, were hostile to Republican
institutions and to a separation from England, and that the majority in
Canada had the same right to be governed in their own fashion as the
majority here. There was seen, however, in this firm performance of
international obligations, only additional proof of Van Buren's coldness
towards popular rights, and of his sycophancy to power.

The system of allowing to actual settlers, at the minimum price, a
preëmption of public lands already occupied by them, was adopted at the
long session of 1837-38. Webster joined the Democrats in favoring the
bill, against the hot opposition of Clay, who declared it "a grant of
the property of the whole people to a small part of the people." The
dominant party was now wisely committed to the policy of using the
public domain for settlers, and not as mere property to be turned into
money. But a year or two before, the latter system had in practice
wasted the national estate and corrupted the public with a debauchery of

The war between Mexico and the American settlers in her revolted
northeast province began in 1835. Early in 1836 the heroic defense of
the Alamo against several thousand Mexicans by less than two hundred
Americans, and among them Davy Crockett, Van Buren's biographer, and the
butchery of all but three of the Americans, had consecrated the old
building, still proudly preserved by the stirring but now peaceful and
pleasing city of San Antonio, and had roused in Texas a fierce and
resolute hatred of Mexico. In April, 1836, Houston overwhelmed the
Mexicans at San Jacinto, and captured their president, Santa Anna.

In his message of December 21, 1836, Jackson, although he announced
these successes of the Texans and their expulsion of Mexican civil
authority, still pointed out to Congress the disparity of physical force
on the side of Texas, and declared it prudent that we should stand aloof
until either Mexico itself or one of the great powers should have
recognized Texan independence, or at least until the ability of Texas
should have been proved beyond cavil. The Senate had then passed a
resolution for recognition of Texan independence. But the House had not
concurred; and before Van Buren's inauguration Congress had done no more
than authorize the appointment of a diplomatic agent to Texas whenever
the President should be satisfied of its independence. In August, 1837,
the Texan representative at Washington laid before Van Buren a plan of
annexation of the revolted Mexican state. The offer was refused; and it
was declared that the United States desired to remain neutral, and
perceived that annexation would necessarily lead to war with Mexico. In
December, 1837, petitions were presented in Congress against the
annexation of Texas, now much agitated at the South; and Preston,
Calhoun's senatorial associate from South Carolina, offered a resolution
for annexation. Some debate on the question was had in 1838, in which
both the pro-slavery character of the movement and the anti-slavery
character of the opposition clearly appeared. But this danger to Van
Buren was delayed several years. Nor was he yet a character in the drama
of the slavery conflict which by 1837 was well opened. The agitation
over abolition petitions and the murder of Lovejoy the abolitionist are
now readily enough seen to have been the most deeply significant
occurrences in America between Van Buren's inauguration and his defeat;
but they were as little part of his presidency as the arrival at New
York from Liverpool on April 22 and 23, 1838, of the Sirius and the
Great Western, the first transatlantic steamships. In Washington the
slavery question did not get beyond the halls of Congress. The White
House remained for several years free from both the dangers and the
duties of the question accompanying the discussion.

Van Buren's administration pressed upon Mexico claims arising out of
wrongs to American citizens and property which had long been a
grievance. Jackson had thought it our duty, in view of the "embarrassed
condition" of that republic, to "act with both wisdom and moderation by
giving to Mexico one more opportunity to atone for the past." In
December, 1837, Van Buren, tired of Mexican procrastination, referred
the matter to Congress, with some menace in his tone. In 1840 a treaty
was at last made for an arbitration of the claims, the king of Prussia
being the umpire. John Quincy Adams vehemently assailed the American
assertion of these claims, as intended to "breed a war with Mexico," and
"as machinery for the annexation of Texas;" and his violent
denunciations have obtained some credit. But Adams himself had been
pretty vigorous in the maintenance of American rights. And the plain and
well known facts are, that after several years of negotiation the claims
were with perfect moderation submitted for decision to a disinterested
tribunal; that they were never made the occasion of war; and that Van
Buren opposed annexation.

In June, 1838, James K. Paulding, long the navy agent at New York, was
made secretary of the navy in place of Mahlon Dickerson of New Jersey,
who now resigned. Paulding seems to us rather a literary than a
political figure. Besides the authorship of part of "Salmagundi," of
"The Dutchman's Fireside," and of other and agreeable writings grateful
to Americans in the days when the sting of the question, "Who reads an
American book?" lay rather in its truth than in its ill-nature,
Paulding's pen had aided the Republican party as early as Madison's
presidency. Our politics have always, even at home, paid some honor to
the muses, without requiring them to descend very far into the partisan
arena. A curious illustration was the nomination of Edwin Forrest, the
famous tragedian, for Congress by the Democrats of New York in 1838, a
nomination which was more sensibly declined than made. An almost equally
curious instance was the tender Van Buren made of the secretaryship of
the navy to Washington Irving before he offered it to Paulding, who was
a connection by marriage of Irving's brother. Van Buren had, it will be
remembered, become intimately acquainted with Irving abroad; and others
than Van Buren strangely enough had thought of him for political
service. The Jacksonians had wanted him to run for Congress; and Tammany
Hall had offered him a nomination for mayor of New York. Van Buren wrote
to Irving that the latter had "in an eminent degree those peculiar
qualities which should distinguish the head of the department," and that
this opinion of his had been confirmed by Irving's friends, Paulding and
Kemble, the former of whom it was intimated was "particularly informed
in regard to the services to be rendered." But one cannot doubt that in
writing this the President had in mind the sort of service to the
public, and the personal pleasure and rest to himself, to be brought by
a delightful and accomplished man of letters, who was no mere recluse,
but long practiced in polished and brilliant life abroad, rather than
any business or executive or political ability. Irving wisely replied
that he should delight in full occupation, and should take peculiar
interest in the navy department; but that he shrank from the harsh
turmoils of life at Washington, and the bitter personal hostility and
the slanders of the press. A short career at Washington would, he said,
render him "mentally and physically a perfect wreck." Paulding's
appointment to the cabinet portfolio assigned to New York was not
agreeable to the politicians; and they afterwards declared that, if
Marcy had been chosen instead, the result in 1840 might have been
different. The next Democratic president gave the same place to another
famous man of letters, George Bancroft.

On June 6, 1837, Louis Napoleon wrote the President from New York that
the dangerous illness of his mother recalled him to the old world; and
that he stated the reason for his departure lest the President might
"have given credence to the calumnious surmises respecting" him. The
famous adventurer used one of those many phrases of his which, if they
had not for years imposed on the world, no wise man would believe could
ever have obtained respect. Van Buren, as the ruler of a free people,
ought to be advised, the prince wrote, that, bearing the name he did, it
was impossible for him "to depart for an instant from the path pointed
out to me by my conscience, my honor, and my duty."

The elections of 1838 showed a recovery from the defeat in 1837, a
recovery which would perhaps have been permanent if the financial crisis
had been really over. Maine wheeled back into the Van Buren ranks; and
Maryland and Ohio now joined her. In New Jersey and Massachusetts the
Whig majorities were reduced; and in New York, where Seward and Weed had
established a political management quite equal to the Regency, the
former was chosen governor by a majority of over 10,000, but still less
by 5000 than the Whig majority of 1837. The Democrats now reaped the
unpopularity of Van Buren's upright neutrality in the Canadian troubles.
Northern and western New York gave heavy Whig majorities. Jefferson
county on the very border, which had stood by Van Buren even in 1837,
went over to the Whigs.

Van Buren met Congress in December, 1838, with more cheerful words. The
harvest had been bountiful, he said, and industry again prospered. The
first half century of our Constitution was about to expire, after
proving the advantage of a government "entirely dependent on the
continual exercise of the popular will." He returned firmly to his
lecture on economics and the currency, drawing happily, but too soon, a
lesson from the short duration of the suspension of specie payments in
1837 and the length of that in 1814. We had been saved, he said, the
mortification of seeing our distresses used to fasten again upon us so
"dangerous an institution" as a national bank. The treasury would be
able in the coming year to pay off the $8,000,000 outstanding of the
$10,000,000 of treasury notes authorized at the extra session. Texas
had withdrawn its application for admission to the Union. The final
removal of the Indian tribes to the west of the Mississippi in
accordance with the Democratic policy was almost accomplished. There
were but two blemishes on the fair record the White House sent to the
Capitol. Swartwout, Jackson's collector of New York, was found, after
his super-session by Jesse Hoyt, to be a defaulter on a vast scale. His
defalcations, the President carefully pointed out, had gone on for seven
years, as well while public moneys were kept with the United States Bank
and while they were kept with state banks, as while they were kept by
public officers. It was broadly intimated that this disgrace was not
unrelated to the general theory which had so long connected the
collection and custody of public moneys with the advancement of private
interests; and the President asked for a law making it a felony to apply
public moneys to private uses. Swartwout's appointment in 1829, as has
been said, was strenuously opposed by Van Buren as unfit to be made.
After a year or two Jackson returned to Van Buren his written protest,
saying that time had proved his belief in Swartwout's unfitness to be a
mistake. Van Buren's own appointment to the place was, however, far from
an ideal one. Jesse Hoyt was shown by his published correspondence--a
veritable instance, by the way, of "_stolen_ sweets"--to have been a
shrewd, able man, who enjoyed the strangely varied confidence of many
distinguished, discreet, and honorable men, and of many very different
persons, ranging through a singular gamut of religion, morals,
statesmanship, economics, politics, patronage, banking, trade, stock
gambling, and betting. The respectability of some of Hoyt's friends and
his possession of some ability palliate, but do not excuse, his
appointment to a great post.

The second Florida war still dragged out its slow and murderous length.
The Seminoles under pressure had yielded to Jackson's firm policy of
removing all the Indian tribes to the west of the Mississippi. The
policy seemed, or rather it was, often cruel, as is so much of the
progress of civilization. But the removal was wise and necessary. Tribal
and independent governments by nomadic savages could not be tolerated
within regions devoted to the arts and the government of white men.
Whatever the theoretical rights of property in land, no civilized race
near vast areas of lands fit for the tillage of a crowding population
has ever permitted them to remain mere hunting grounds for savages. The
Seminoles in 1832, 1833, and 1834 agreed to go west upon terms like
those accepted by other Indians. The removal was to take place, one
third of the tribe in each of the three years 1833, 1834, and 1835; but
the dark-skinned men, as their white brothers would have done, found or
invented excuses for not keeping their promise of voluntary
expatriation. Late in 1835, when coercion, although it had not yet been
employed against the Seminoles, was still feared by them, they rose
under their famous leader, the half-breed Powell, better known as
Osceola, and massacred the federal agent and Major Dade, and 107 out of
111 soldiers under him. Then followed a series of butcheries and
outrages upon white men of which we have heard, and doubtless of crimes
enough upon Indians of which we have not heard. Among the everglades,
the swamps and lakes of Florida, its scorching sands and impenetrable
thickets, a difficult, tedious, inglorious, and costly contest went on.
Military evolutions and tactics were of little value; it was a war of
ambushes and assassination. Osceola, coming with a flag of truce, was
taken by General Jessup, the defense for his capture being his violation
of a former parole. He was sent to Fort Moultrie, in Charleston harbor,
and there died, after furnishing recitations to generations of
schoolboys, and sentiment to many of their elders. Van Buren had been
compelled to ask $1,600,000 from Congress at the extra session. Before
his administration was ended nearly $14,000,000 had been spent; and not
until 1842 did the war end. It was one of the burdens of the
administration which served to irritate a people already uneasy for
deeper and more general reasons. The prowess of the Indian chief, his
eloquence, his pathetic end, the miseries and wrongs of the aborigines,
the cost and delay of the war, all reënforced the denunciation of Van
Buren by men who made no allowance for embarrassments which could be
surmounted by no ability, because they were inevitable to the settlement
by a civilized race of lands used by savages. Time, however, has
vindicated the justice and mercy, as well as the policy of the removal,
and of the establishment of the Indian Territory.

A few days before the close of the session Van Buren asked Congress to
consider the dispute with Great Britain over the northeast boundary.
Both Maine and New Brunswick threatened, by rival military occupations
of the disputed territory, to precipitate war. Van Buren permitted the
civil authorities of Maine to protect the forests from destruction; but
disapproved any military seizure, and told the state authorities that he
should propose arbitration to Great Britain. If, however, New Brunswick
sought a military occupation, he should defend the territory as part of
the State. Congress at once authorized the President to call out 50,000
volunteers, and put at his disposal a credit of $10,000,000. Van Buren
persisted in his great effort peacefully to adjust the claims of our
chronically belligerent northeastern patriots,--in Maine as in New York
finding his fate in his duty firmly and calmly to restrain a local
sentiment inspiring voters of great political importance to him. The
"news from Maine" in 1840 told of the angry contempt the hardy lumbermen
felt for the President's perfectly statesmanlike treatment of the

In the summer of 1839 Van Buren visited his old home at Kinderhook; and
on his way there and back enjoyed a burst of enthusiasm at York,
Harrisburg, Lebanon, Reading, and Easton in Pennsylvania, at Newark and
Jersey City in New Jersey, and at New York, Hudson, and Albany in his
own State. There were salutes of artillery, pealing of bells, mounted
escorts in blue and white scarfs, assemblings of "youth and beauty," the
complimentary addresses, the thronging of citizens "to grasp the hand of
the man whom they had delighted to honor," and all the rest that makes
up the ovations of Americans to their black-coated rulers. He landed in
New York at Castle Garden, amid the salutes of the forts on Bedloe's,
Governor's, and Staten Islands, and of a "seventy-four," whose yards
were covered with white uniformed sailors. After the reception in Castle
Garden he mounted a spirited black horse and reviewed six thousand
troops assembled on the Battery; and then went in procession along
Broadway to Chatham Street, thence to the Bowery, and through Broome
Street and Broadway back to the City Hall Park. Not since Lafayette's
visit had there been so fine a reception. At Kinderhook he was
overwhelmed with the affectionate pride of his old neighbors. He
declined public dinners, and by the simple manner of his travel offered
disproof of the stories about his "English servants, horses and
carriages." The journey was not, however, like the good-natured and
unpartisan presidential journeys of our time. The Whigs often churlishly
refused to help in what they said was an electioneering tour. Seward
publicly refused the invitation of the common council of New York to
participate in the President's reception, because the State had honored
him with the office of governor for his disapproval of Van Buren's
political character and public policy, and because an acceptance of the
invitation "would afford evidence of inconsistency and insincerity." Van
Buren's own friends gave a party air to much of the welcome. Democratic
committees were conspicuous in the ceremonies; and in many of the
addresses much that was said of his administration was fairly in a
dispute certain to last until the next year's election was over. Van
Buren could hardly have objected to the coldness of the Whigs, for his
own speeches, though decorous and respectful to the last degree to those
who differed from him, were undisguised appeals for popular support of
his financial policy. At New York he referred to the threatening
dissatisfaction in his own State concerning his firm treatment of the
Canadian troubles. But he was persuaded, he said, that good sense and
ultimately just feeling would give short duration to these unfavorable

The President was too experienced and cool in judgment to exaggerate the
significance of superficial demonstrations like these, which often
seemed conclusive to his exuberant rival Clay. He was encouraged,
however, by the elections of 1839. In Ohio the Whigs were "pretty
essentially used up," though unfortunately not to remain so a
twelve-month. In Massachusetts Morton, the Van Buren candidate for
governor, was elected by just one vote more than a majority of the
102,066 votes cast. Georgia, New Jersey, and Mississippi gave
administration majorities. In New York the adverse majority which in
1837 had been over 15,000, and in 1838 over 10,000, was now less than
4000, in spite of the disaffection along the border counties. It was not
an unsatisfactory result, although for the first time since 1818 the
legislature was completely lost. Another year, Van Buren now hoped,
would bring a complete recovery from the blow of 1837. But the autumn of
1839 had also brought a blast, to grow more and more chilling and

In the early fall the Bank of the United States agreed to loan
Pennsylvania $2,000,000; and for the loan obtained the privilege of
issuing $5 notes, having before been restricted to notes of $20 and
upwards. "Thus has the Van Buren State of Pennsylvania," it was boasted,
"enabled the banks to overcome the reckless system of a Van Buren
national administration." The price of cotton, which had risen to 16
cents a pound, fell in the summer of 1839, and in 1840 touched as low a
point as 5 cents. In the Northwest many banks had not yet resumed since
1837. To avoid execution sales it was said that two hundred plantations
had been abandoned and their slaves taken to Texas. The sheriff, instead
of the ancient return, _nulla bona_, was said, in the grim sport of the
frontier, to indorse on the fruitless writs "G. T.," meaning "Gone to
Texas." A money stringency again appeared in England, in 1839. Its
exportation of goods and money to America had again become enormous. The
customs duties collected in 1839 were over $23,000,000, and about the
same as they had been in 1836, having fallen in 1837 to $11,000,000, and
afterwards in 1840 falling to $13,000,000. Speculation revived, the land
sales exceeding $7,000,000 in 1839, while they had been $3,700,000 in
1838, and afterwards fell to $3,000,000 in 1840. Under the pressure from
England the Bank of the United States sank with a crash. The
"Philadelphia Gazette," complacently ignoring the plain reasons for
months set before its eyes, said that the disaster had "its chief cause
in the revulsion of the opium trade with the Chinese;" that upon the
news that the Orientals would no longer admit the drug the Bank of
England had "fairly reeled;" and that, the balance of trade being
against us, we had to dishonor our paper. Explanations of like frivolity
got wide credence. The Philadelphia banks suspended on October 9, 1839,
the banks of Baltimore the next day, and in a few days the banks in the
North and West followed. The banks of New York and New England, except
those of Providence, continued firm. Although the excitement of 1839 did
not equal that of 1837, there was a duller and completer despondency. It
was at last known that the recuperative power of even our own proud and
bounding country had limits. Years were yet necessary to a recovery.
But the presidential election would not, alas! wait years. With no
faltering, however, Van Buren met Congress in December, 1839. He began
his message with a regret that he could not announce a year of
"unalloyed prosperity." There ought never, as presidential messages had
run, to be any alloy in the prosperity of the American people. But the
harvest, he said, had been exuberant, and after all (for the grapes of
trade and manufacture were a little sour), the steady devotion of the
husbandman was the surest source of national prosperity. A part of the
$10,000,000 of treasury notes was still outstanding, and he hoped that
they might be paid. We must not resort to the ruinous practice of
supplying supposed necessities by new loans; a permanent debt was an
evil with no equivalent. The expenditures for 1838, the first year over
whose appropriations Van Buren had had control, had been less than those
of 1837. In 1839 they had been $6,000,000 less than in 1838; and for
1840 they would be $5,000,000 less than in 1839. The collection and
disbursement of public moneys by public officers rather than by banks
had, since the bank suspensions in 1837, been carried on with unexpected
cheapness and ease; and legislation was alone wanting to insure to the
system the highest security and facility. Nothing daunted by the second
disaster so lately clouding his political future, Van Buren sounded
another blast against the banks. With unusual abundance of harvests,
with manufactures richly rewarded, with our granaries and storehouses
filled with surplus for export, with no foreign war, with nothing indeed
to endanger well-managed banks, this banking disaster had come. The
government ought not to be dependent on banks as its depositories, for
the banks outside of New York and Philadelphia were dependent upon the
banks in those great cities, and the latter banks in turn upon London,
"the centre of the credit system." With some truth, but still with a
touch of demagogy, venial perhaps in the face of the blatant and silly
outcries against him from very intelligent and respectable people, he
said that the founding of a new bank in a distant American village
placed its business "within the influence of the money power of
England." Let us then, he argued, have gold and silver and not
bank-notes, at least in our public transactions; let us keep public
moneys out of the banks. Again he attacked the national bank scheme. In
1817 and 1818, in 1823, in 1831, and in 1834 the United States Bank had
swelled and maddened the tides of banking, but had seldom allayed or
safely directed them. Turning with seemingly cool resolution, but with
hidden anxiety, to the menacing distresses of the American voters, he
did not flinch or look for fair or flattering words. We must not turn
for relief, he said, to gigantic banks, or splendid though profitless
railroads and canals. Relief was to be sought, not by the increase, but
by the diminution of debt. The faith of States already pledged was to
be punctiliously kept; but we must be chary of further pledges. The
bounties of Providence had come to reduce the consequences of past
errors. "But let it be indelibly engraved on our minds," he said, "that
relief is not to be found in expedients. Indebtedness cannot be lessened
by borrowing more money, or by changing the form of the debt."

The House of Representatives was so divided that its control depended
upon whether five Whig or five Democratic congressmen from New Jersey
should be admitted. They had been voted for upon a general ticket
through the whole State; and the Whig governor and council had given the
certificate of election to the Whigs by acquiescing in the actions of
the two county clerks who had, for irregularities, thrown out the
Democratic districts of South Amboy and Millville. A collision arose
curiously like the dispute over the electoral returns from Florida and
Louisiana in 1877. This exclusion of the two districts the Democrats
insisted to have been wrongful; and not improbably with reason, for at
the next election in 1839 the State, upon the popular vote, gave a
substantial majority against the Whigs, although by the district
division of the State a majority of the legislature were Whigs and
reëlected the Whig governor. The clerk of the national House had,
according to usage, prepared a roll of members, which he proceeded to
call. He seems to have placed on the roll the names of the New Jersey
representatives holding the governor's certificates. But before calling
their names, he stated to the House that there were rival credentials;
that he felt that he had no power to decide upon the contested rights;
and that, if the House approved, he would pass over the names until the
call of the other States was finished. The rival credentials included a
record of the votes upon which the governor's certificate was presumed
to be based. Objection was made to passing New Jersey, and one of the
governor's certificates was read. The New Jerseymen with certificates
insisted that their names should be called. The clerk declined to take
any step without the authority of the House, holding that he was in no
sense a chairman. He behaved in the case with modesty and decorum, and
the savage criticisms upon him seem to have no foundation except this
refusal of his to decide upon the _prima facie_ right to the New Jersey
seats, or to act as chairman except upon unanimous consent. He was
clearly right. He had no power. The very roll he prepared, and his
reading it, had no force except such as the House chose to give them.
Upon any other theory he would practically wield an enormous power
justified neither by the Constitution nor by any law. On the fourth day
of tumult a simple and lawful remedy was discovered to be at hand. Any
member could himself act as chairman to put his own motion for the
appointment of a temporary speaker; and if a majority acquiesced, there
was at once an organization without the clerk's aid. This was in
precise accord with the attitude of the clerk, hotly abused as he was by
Adams and others who adopted his position. So Adams proposed himself to
put the question on his own motion to call the roll with the members
holding certificates. Further confusion then ensued, which was
terminated by Rhett of South Carolina, who moved that John Quincy Adams
act as chairman until a speaker should be chosen. Rhett put his own
motion, and it was carried. Adams took the chair, rules were adopted,
and order succeeded chaos. None of the New Jerseymen were permitted to
vote for speaker, but a few Calhoun Democrats refused to vote for the
administration candidate. Most of the administration members offered to
accept a Calhoun man; but a few of them, naturally angry at South
Carolina dictation, refused, under Benton's advice, to vote for him. At
last the Whigs joined the Calhoun men, and ended this extraordinary
contest. The speaker, Robert M. T. Hunter, was a so-called states-rights
man, and a supporter of the independent treasury scheme. He had the
fortune, after a singularly varied and even important career in the
United States and the Confederate States, to be appointed by President
Cleveland to the petty place of collector of customs at Tappahannock, in
Virginia, and to live among Americans who were familiar with his
prominence fifty years ago, but supposed him long since dead. The clerk,
Hugh A. Garland, was reëlected, in spite of what Adams in his diary,
after his picturesque but utterly unjustifiable fashion, called the
"baseness of his treachery to his trust." The Whig New Jerseymen were
refused seats, and the apparent perversion of the popular vote was
rightly defeated by seating their rivals. The Whigs posed as defenders
of the sanctity of state authority, and sought, upon that political
issue, to force the Van Buren men to be the apologists for

It was at this session that the sub-treasury bill was passed. As a sort
of new declaration of independence Van Buren signed it on July 4, 1840.
His long and honorable and his greatest battle was won. It was the
triumph of a really great cause. The people, by their labor and capital,
were to support the federal government as a mere agency for limited
purposes. That government was not, in this way at least, to support or
direct or control either the people or their labor or capital. But the
captain fell at the time of his victory. The financial disaster of 1839
had exhausted the good-nature and patience of the people. Dissertations
on finance and economics, however wise, now served to irritate and
disgust. These cool admonitions to economy and a minding of one's
business were popularly believed to be heartless and repulsive.

In 1840 took place the most extraordinary of presidential campaigns.
While Congress was wrangling over the New Jersey episode in December,
1839, the Whig national convention again nominated Harrison for
President. Tyler was taken from the ranks of seceding Democrats as the
candidate for Vice-President. The slaughter of Henry Clay, the father
of the Whig party, had been effected by the now formidable Whig
politicians of New York, cunningly marshaled by Thurlow Weed.
Availability had its first complete triumph in our national politics.
They had not come, Governor Barbour of Virginia, the president of the
Whig convention, said, to whine after the fleshpots of Egypt, but to
give perpetuity to Republican institutions. To reach this end (not very
explicitly or intelligibly defined), it mattered not what letters of the
alphabet spelled the name of the candidate; for his part, he could sing
Hosanna to any alphabetical combination. No platform or declaration of
principles was adopted, lest some of those discontented with Van Buren
should find there a counter-irritant. The candidates, in accepting their
nominations, refrained from political discussion. Harrison stood for the
plain, honest citizen, coming, as one of the New York conventions said,
"like another Cincinnatus from his plough," resolute for a generous
administration, and ready to diffuse prosperity and to end hard times.
Tyler, formerly a strict constructionist member of the Jackson party,
was nominated to catch votes, in spite of his perfectly well known
opposition to the whole Whig theory of government.

The Democratic, or Democratic-Republican, convention met at Baltimore on
May 5, 1840. The party name was now definitely and exclusively adopted.
Among the delegates were men long afterwards famous in the later
Republican party, John A. Dix, Hannibal Hamlin, Simon Cameron. There was
an air of despondency about the convention, for the enthusiasm over "log
cabin and hard cider" was already abroad. But the convention without
wavering announced its belief in a limited federal power, in the
separation of public moneys from banking institutions; and its
opposition to internal improvements by the nation, to the federal
assumption of state debts, to the fostering of one industry so as to
injure another, to raising more money than was required for necessary
expenses of government, and to a national bank. Slavery now took for a
long time its place in the party platform. The convention declared the
constitutional inability of Congress to interfere with slavery in the
States, and that all efforts of abolitionists to induce Congress to
interfere with slavery were alarming and dangerous to the Union. An
elaborate address to the people was issued. It began with a clear, and
for a political campaign a reasonably moderate, defense of Van Buren's
administration; it renewed the well-worn arguments for the limited
activity of government; it made a silly assertion that Harrison was a
Federalist, and an insinuation that the glory of his military career was
doubtful; it denounced the abolitionists, whose fanaticism it charged
the Whigs with enlisting in their cause. In closing, it recalled the
Democratic revolution of 1800 which broke the "iron rod of Federal
rule," and contrasted the "costly and stately pageants addressed merely
to the senses" by the Whigs with the truth and reason of the Democracy.

During the canvass Van Buren submitted to frequent interrogation. In a
fashion that would seem fatal to a modern candidate, he wrote to
political friends and enemies alike, letter after letter, restating his
political opinions. Especially was it sought to arouse Southern distrust
of him. He was accused, with fire-eating anger, of having approved a
sentence of a court-martial against a naval lieutenant which was based
upon the testimony of negroes. He reiterated what he had already said
upon slavery; but late in the canvass he went one step further. When
asked his opinion as to the treatment by Congress of the abolition
petitions, he replied, justly enough, that the President could have no
concern with that matter; but lest he should be charged with
"non-committalism," he declared that Congress was fully justified in
adopting the "gag" rule. For years the petitions had been received and
referred. On one occasion in each House the subject had been considered
upon a report of a committee, and decided against the petitioners with
almost entire unanimity. The rule had been adopted only after it was
clear that the petitioners simply sought to make Congress an instrument
of an agitation which might lead to a dissolution of the Union. It was
thus that Van Buren made his extreme concession to the slavocracy. And
there was obvious a material excuse. No president while in office could
approve the perversion of legislative procedure from the making of laws
to be a mere stimulant of moral excitement. To encourage or justify
petitions intended to inflame public sentiment against a wrong might be
legitimate for some men, however well they knew, as Adams said he knew,
that the body addressed ought not to grant the petitioners' prayers.
Such a course might be noble and praiseworthy for a private citizen, or
possibly for a member of Congress representing the exalted moral
sentiment of a single district. It would be highly illegitimate for a
man holding a great public office, and there representing the entire
people and its established system of laws. John Quincy Adams, under his
sense of duty as president, had in 1828 pressed the humiliating claim
that England should surrender American slaves escaped to English
freedom; and there is little reason to doubt that, if he had remained in
the field of responsible and executive public life, he would have agreed
with Van Buren in his treatment of the matter of the abolition
petitions, or rather in his expressions from the White House about them.

Harrison hastened to clear his skirts of abolitionism. Congress could
not, he declared, abolish slavery in the District of Columbia without
the consent of Virginia and Maryland and of the District itself. For, as
he argued, ignobly applying, as well as misquoting, the American words
solemnly lauded by Lord Chatham in his speech on Quartering Soldiers in
Boston, "what a man has honestly acquired is absolutely his own, which
he may freely give, but which cannot be taken from him without his
consent." He denounced as a slander the charge that he was an
abolitionist, or that the vote he had given against anti-slavery
restriction in Missouri had violated his conscience. He declared for the
right of petition, which indeed nobody disputed; but he did not say what
course should be taken with the anti-slavery petitions, which was the
real question to be answered. The discussion by the citizens of the free
States of slavery in the slave States was not, he said, "sanctioned by
the Constitution." "Methinks," he said at Dayton, "I hear a soft voice
asking, Are you in favor of paper money? I am;" and to that there were
"shouts of applause."

In no presidential canvass in America has there been, as Mr. Schurz well
says in his life of Henry Clay, "more enthusiasm and less thought" than
in the Whig canvass of 1840. The people were rushing as from a long
restraint. Wise saws about the duties of government had become
nauseating. A plain every-day man administering a paternal and
affectionate government was the ruling text, while Tyler and his strict
construction quietly served their turn with some of the doctrinaires at
the South. The nation, Clay said, was "like the ocean when convulsed by
some terrible storm." There was what he called a "rabid appetite for
public discussions."

Webster's campaign speeches probably marked the height of the splendid
and effectual flood of eloquence now poured over the land. The breeze of
popular excitement, he said, with satisfactory magniloquence, was
flowing everywhere; it fanned the air in Alabama and the Carolinas; and
crossing the Potomac and the Alleghanies, to mingle with the gales of
the Empire State and the mountain blasts of New England, would blow a
perfect hurricane. "Every breeze," he declared, "says change; the cry,
the universal cry, is for a change." He had not, indeed, been born in a
log cabin, but his elder brothers and sisters had; he wept to think of
those who had left it; and if he failed in affectionate veneration for
him who raised it, then might his name and the name of his posterity be
blotted from the memory of mankind. He touched the bank question
lightly; he denounced the sub-treasury as "the first in a new series of
ruthless experiments," and declared that Van Buren's "abandonment of the
currency" was fatal. Forgetting who had supported and who had opposed
the continued distribution of surplus revenues among the States, he
condemned the President for the low state of the treasury; and
notwithstanding it declared his approval of a generous policy of
internal improvements. He would not accuse the President of seeking to
play the part of Cæsar or Cromwell because Mr. Poinsett, his secretary
of war, had recommended a federal organization of militia, the necessity
or convenience of which, it was supposed, had been demonstrated by the
Canadian troubles; but the plan, he said, was expensive,
unconstitutional, and dangerous to our liberties. He was careful to say
nothing of slavery or the right of petition. Only in brief and casual
sentences did he even touch the charges that Van Buren had treated
political contests as "rightfully struggles for office and emolument,"
and that federal officers had been assessed in proportion to their
salaries for partisan purposes. The President was pictured as full of
cynical and selfish disregard of the people; he had disparaged the
credit of the States; he had accused Madison, and, monstrous sacrilege,
even Washington, of corruption. "I may forgive this," Webster slowly
said to the appalled audience, "but I shall not forget it;" such
"abominable violations of the truth of history" filled his bosom with
"burning scorn." This was a highly imaginative allusion to Van Buren's
statement that the national bank had been originally devised by the
friends of privileged orders. Nor need the South, even Webster
intimated, have any fear of the Whigs about slavery. Could the South
believe that Harrison would "lay ruthless hands on the institutions
among which he was born and educated?" No, indeed, for Washington and
Hancock, Virginia and Massachusetts, had joined their thoughts, their
hopes, their feelings. "How many bones of Northern men," he asked with
majestic pathos, "lie at Yorktown?" Senator Rives, now one of the
Conservatives, said that Van Buren was indeed "mild, smooth, affable,
smiling;" but humility was "young and old ambition's ladder." The
militia project meant military usurpation. Look at Cromwell, he said;
look at Bonaparte. Were their usurpations not in the name of the people?
Preston of South Carolina said that Van Buren had advocated diminished
wages to others; now he should himself receive diminished wages.
Harrison was, he said "a Southern man with Southern principles." As for
Van Buren, this "Northern man with Southern principles," did he not come
"from beyond the Hudson," had he not been "a friend of Rufus King, a
Missouri restrictionist, a friend and advocate of free negro suffrage?"
Clay said that it was no time "to argue;" a rule his party for the
moment well observed. The nation had already pronounced upon the ravages
Van Buren had brought upon the land, the general and widespread ruin,
the broken hopes. With the mere fact of Harrison's election, "without
reference to the measures of his administration," he told the Virginians
at Hanover, "confidence will immediately revive, credit be restored,
active business will return, prices of products will rise; and the
people will feel and know that, instead of their servants being occupied
in devising measures for their ruin and destruction, they will be
assiduously employed in promoting their welfare and prosperity."

All this was far more glorious than the brutally true advice of the old
man with a broad-axe on his shoulders, whom the Democrats quoted. When
asked what was to become of everybody in the heavy distress of the
panic, he answered, "Damn the panic! If you would all work as I do, you
would have no panic." The people no longer cared about "the interested
few who desire to enrich themselves by the use of public money." If, as
the Democrats said, the interested few had been thwarted, an almost
universal poverty had for some reason or other come with their defeat.
Perhaps the reflecting citizen thought that he might become, if he were
not already, one of the "interested few." Nor was the demagogy all on
the side of the Whigs, although they enjoyed the more popular quality of
the quadrennial product. Van Buren himself, in the futile fashion of
aging parties which suppose that their ancient victories still stir the
popular heart, recalled "the reign of terror" of the elder Adams, and
how the "Samson of Democracy burst the cords which were already bound
around its limbs," how "a web more artfully contrived, composed of a
high protective tariff, a system of internal improvements, and a
national bank, was then twined around the sleeping giant" until he was
"roused by the warning voice of the honest and intrepid Jackson."
Harrison's own numerous speeches were awkward and indefinite enough; but
still they showed an honest and sincere man, and in the enthusiasm of
the day they did him no harm.

The revolts against the severe party discipline of the Democracy, aided
by the popular distress, were serious. Calhoun, indeed, had returned;
but all his supporters did not return with him. The Southern defection
headed by White in 1836 was still most formidable, and was now
reënforced by the Conservative secession North and South. Even Major
Eaton forgot Van Buren's gallantry ten years before, and joined the
enemy. The talk of "spoils" was amply justified; but the abuses of
patronage had not prevented Jackson's popularity, and under Van Buren
they were far less serious. This cry did not yet touch the American
people. The most serious danger of "spoils" still lay in the future.
Patronage abuses had injured the efficiency of the public service, but
they had not yet begun to defeat the popular will. Jackson came
resolutely to Van Buren's aid in the fashionable letter-writing. "The
Rives Conservatives, the Abolitionists and Federalists" had combined,
the ex-President vivaciously said, to obtain power "by falsehood and
slander of the basest kind;" but the "virtue of the people," he declared
in what from other lips would have seemed cant, would defeat "the money
power." Van Buren's firmness and ability entitled him, he thought, to a
rank not inferior to Jefferson or Madison, while he rather unhandsomely
added that he had never admired Harrison as a military man.

The Whig campaign was highly picturesque. Meetings were measured by
"acres of men." They gathered on the field of Tippecanoe. Revolutionary
soldiers marched in venerable processions. Wives and daughters came with
their husbands and fathers. There were the barrel of cider, the
coon-skins, and the log cabin with the live raccoon running over it and
the latch-string hung out; for Harrison had told his soldiers when he
left them, that never should his door be shut, "or the string of the
latch pulled in." Van Buren meantime, with an aristocratic sneer upon
his face, was seated in an English carriage, after feeding himself from
the famous gold spoons bought for the White House. Harrison was a hunter
who had caught a fox before and would again; one of the county
processions from Pennsylvania boasted, "Old Mother Cumberland--she'll
bag the fox." Illinois would "teach the palace slaves to respect the log
cabin." "Down with the wages, say the administration." "Matty's policy,
fifty cents a day and French soup; our policy, two dollars a day and
roastbeef." Newspapers were full of advertisements like this: "The
subscriber will pay $5 a hundred for pork if Harrison is elected, and
$2.50 if Van Buren is."

But the songs were most interesting. The ball, which Benton had said in
his last speech on the expunging resolution that he "solitary and alone"
had put in motion, was a mine of similes. They sang:

        "With heart and soul
        This ball we roll."

        "As rolls the ball,
        Van's reign does fall,
        And he may look
        To Kinderhook."

  "The gathering ball is rolling still,
  And still gathering as it rolls."

Harrison's battle with the Indians gave the effective cry of "Tippecanoe
and Tyler too." And so they sang:

        "Farewell, dear Van,
        You're not our man;
        To guard the ship,
        We'll try old Tip."

        "With Tip and Tyler
        We'll burst Van's biler."

  "Old Tip he wears a homespun suit,
  He has no ruffled shirt--wirt--wirt;
  But Mat he has the golden plate,
  And he's a little squirt--wirt--wirt."

When the election returns began to come from the August and September
States, the joyful excitement passed all bounds. Then the new Whigs
found a new Lilliburlero. To the tune of the "Little Pig's Tail" they

  "What has caused this great commotion, motion, motion,
            Our country through?
            It is the ball a-rolling on,
  For Tippecanoe and Tyler too, Tippecanoe and Tyler too!

  "And with them we'll beat little Van, Van;
            Van is a used-up man.
  Oh, have you heard the news from Maine, Maine, Maine,
            All honest and true?
  One thousand for Kent and seven thousand gain
            For Tippecanoe," etc.

And then Joe Hoxie would close the meetings by singing "Up Salt River."

The result was pretty plain before November. New Hampshire, Connecticut,
Rhode Island, and Virginia voted for state officers in the spring. All
had voted for Van Buren in 1836; all now gave Whig majorities, except
New Hampshire, where the Democratic majority was greatly reduced. In
August North Carolina was added to the Whig column, though in Missouri
and Illinois there was little change. But when in September Maine, which
had given Van Buren nearly eight thousand majority, and had since
remained steadfast, "went hell-bent for Governor Kent" and gave a slight
Whig majority, the administration's doom was sealed.

Harrison received 234 electoral votes, and Van Buren 60. New York gave
Harrison 13,300 votes more than Van Buren; but a large part of this
plurality, perhaps all, came from the counties on the northern and
western borders. Only one Northern State, Illinois, voted for Van Buren.
Of the slave States, five, Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, Missouri,
and Arkansas, were for Van Buren; the other eight for Harrison. There
was a popular majority in the slave States of about 55,000 against Van
Buren in a total vote of about 695,000, and in the free States, of about
90,000 in a total vote of about 1,700,000, still showing, therefore, his
greater popular strength in the free States. The increase in the popular
vote was the most extraordinary the country has ever known, proving the
depth and universality of the feeling. This vote had been about
1,500,000 in 1836; it reached about 2,400,000 in 1840, an increase of
900,000, while from 1840 to the Clay canvass of 1844 it increased only
300,000. Van Buren, as a defeated candidate in 1840, received about
350,000 votes more than elected him in 1836; and the growth of
population in the four years was probably less, not greater, than usual.
There were cries of "fraud and corruption" because of this enormously
increased vote, cries which Benton long afterwards seriously heeded; but
there seems to be no good reason to treat them otherwise than as one of
the many expressions of Democratic anguish.

Van Buren received the seemingly crushing defeat with dignity and
composure. While the cries of "Van, Van, he's a used-up man," were
coming with some of the sting of truth through the White House windows,
he prepared the final message with which he met Congress in December,
1840. The year, he said, had been one of "health, plenty, and peace."
Again he declared the dangers of a national debt, and the equal dangers
of too much money in the treasury; for "practical economy in the
management of public affairs," he said, "can have no adverse influence
to contend with more powerful than a large surplus revenue." Again he
attacked the national bank scheme. During four years of the greatest
pecuniary embarrassments ever known in time of peace, with a decreasing
public revenue, with a formidable opposition, his administration had
been able punctually to meet every obligation without a bank, without a
permanent national debt, and without incurring any liability which the
ordinary resources of the government would not speedily discharge. If
the public service had been thus independently sustained without either
of these fruitful sources of discord, had we not a right to expect that
this policy would "receive the final sanction of a people whose unbiased
and fairly elicited judgment upon public affairs is never ultimately
wrong?" Again with a clear emphasis he declared against any attempt of
the government to repair private losses sustained in private business,
either by direct appropriations or by legislation designed to secure
exclusive privileges to individuals or classes. In the very last words
of this, his last message, he gave an account of his efforts to suppress
the slave trade, and to prevent "the prostitution of the American flag
to this inhuman purpose," asking Congress, by a prohibition of the
American trade which took supplies to the slave factories on the African
coast, to break up "those dens of iniquity."

The short session of Congress was hardly more than a jubilee of the
Whigs, happily ignorant of the complete chagrin and frustration of their
hopes which a few months would bring. Some new bank suspensions occurred
in Philadelphia, and among banks closely connected with that city. The
Bank of the United States, after a resumption for twenty days,
succumbed amid its own loud protestations of solvency, its final
disgrace and ruin being, however, deferred a little longer.

Van Buren's cabinet had somewhat changed since his inauguration. In 1838
his old friend and ally, and one of the chief champions of his policy,
Benjamin F. Butler, resigned the office of attorney-general, but without
any break political or personal, as was seen in his fine and arduous
labors in the canvass of 1840 and in the Democratic convention of 1844.
Felix Grundy of Tennessee then held the place until late in 1839, when
he resigned. Van Buren offered it, though without much heartiness, to
James Buchanan, who preferred, however, to retain his seat in the
Senate; and Henry D. Gilpin, another Pennsylvanian, was appointed. Amos
Kendall's enormous industry and singular equipment of doctrinaire
convictions, narrow prejudices, executive ability, and practical
political skill and craft, were lost to the administration through the
failure of his health in the midst of the campaign of 1840. In an
address to the public he gave a curious proof that for him work was more
wearing in public than in private service. He stated that as he was poor
he should resort to private employment suitable to his health; and that
he proposed, therefore, during the canvass to write for the "Globe" in
defense of the President, in whose integrity, principles, and firmness
his confidence, he said, had increased. In 1838, when his health had
threatened to be unequal to his work, Van Buren had offered him the
mission to Spain, if it should become vacant. John M. Niles, formerly a
Democratic senator from Connecticut, took Kendall's place in the

Van Buren welcomed Harrison to the White House, and before the
inauguration entertained him there as a guest, with the easy and
dignified courtesy so natural to him, and in marked contrast to the
absence of social amenities on either side at the great change twelve
years before. Under Van Buren indeed the executive mansion was
administered with elevated grace. There was about it, while he was its
master, the unostentatious elegance suited to the dwelling of the chief
magistrate of the great republic. There were many flings at him for his
great economy, and what was called his parsimony; but he was accused as
well of undemocratic luxury. The talk seemed never to end over the gold
spoons. The contradictory charges point out the truth. Van Buren was an
eminently prudent man. He did not indulge in the careless and useless
waste which impoverished Jefferson and Jackson. By sensible and
honorable economy he is said to have saved one half of the salary of
$25,000 a year then paid to the President.[17] Returning to private life,
he was spared the humiliation of pecuniary trouble, which had
distressed three at least of his predecessors. But with his exquisite
sense of propriety, he had not failed to order the White House with
fitting decorum and a modest state. His son Abraham Van Buren was his
private secretary; and after the latter's marriage, in November, 1838,
to Miss Singleton of South Carolina, a niece of Andrew Stevenson, and a
relation of Mrs. Madison, he and his wife formed the presidential
family. In 1841 they accompanied the ex-President to his retirement at

Under Andrew Jackson the social air of the White House had suffered from
his ill-health and the bitterness of his partisanship; and in this
respect the change to his successor was most pleasing. Van Buren used an
agreeable tact with even his strongest opponents; and about his levees
and receptions there were a charm and a grace by no means usual in the
dwellings of American public men. He had, we are told in the
Recollections of Sargent, a political adversary of his, "the high art of
blending dignity with ease and gravity." He introduced the custom of
dining with the heads of departments and foreign ministers, although
with that exception he observed the etiquette of never being the guest
of others at Washington. Judge Story mentions the "splendid dinner"
given by the President to the judges in January, 1839.

John Quincy Adams's diary bears unintended testimony to Van Buren's
admirable personal bearing in office. From the time he reached
Washington as secretary of state, he had treated Adams in his defeat
with marked distinction and deference, which Adams, as he records,
accepted in his own house, in the White House, and elsewhere. At a
social party the President, he said, "was, as usual, courteous to all,
and particularly to me." Van Buren had therefore every reason to suppose
that there was between himself and Adams a not unfriendly personal
esteem. But Adams, in his churlish, bitter temper, apparently found in
these wise and generous civilities only evidence of a mean spirit. After
one visit at the White House during the height of the crisis of 1837, he
recorded that he found Van Buren looking, not wretched, as he had been
told, but composed and tranquil. Returning home from this observation of
the President's "calmness, his gentleness of manner, his easy and
conciliatory temper," this often unmannerly pen described besides "his
obsequiousness, his sycophancy, his profound dissimulation and
duplicity, ... his fawning civility." In a passage which was remarkable
in that time of political bitterness so largely personal, Clay said, in
his parliamentary duel with Calhoun, after the latter rejoined the
Democratic party, that he remembered Calhoun attributing to the
President the qualities of "the most crafty, most skulking, and the
meanest of the quadruped tribe." Saying that he had not shared Calhoun's
opinion, he then added of Van Buren:--

    "I have always found him in his manner and deportment, civil,
    courteous, and gentlemanly; and he dispenses in the noble mansion
    which he now occupies, one worthy the residence of the chief
    magistrate of a great people, a generous and liberal hospitality.
    An acquaintance with him of more than twenty years' duration has
    inspired me with a respect for the man, although I regret to be
    compelled to say, I detest the magistrate."



Van Buren loitered at Washington a few days after his presidency was
over, and on his way home stopped at Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New
York. At New York he was finely welcomed. Amid great crowds he was taken
to the City Hall in a procession headed by Captain Brown's corps of
lancers and a body of armed firemen. He reached Kinderhook on May 15,
1841, there to make his home until his death. He had, after the seemly
and pleasing fashion of many men in American public life, lately
purchased, near this village among the hills of Columbia county, the
residence of William P. Van Ness, where Irving had thirty years before
lived in seclusion after the death of his betrothed, and had put the
last touches to his Knickerbocker. It was an old estate, whose lands had
been rented for twenty years and under cultivation for a hundred and
sixty, and from which Van Buren now managed to secure a profit. To this
seat he gave the name of Lindenwald, a name which in secret he probably
hoped the American people would come to group with Monticello,
Montpellier, and the Hermitage. But this could not be. Van Buren had
served but half the presidential term of honor. He was not a sage, but
still a candidate for the presidency. Before the electoral votes were
counted in 1841, Benton declared for his renomination in 1844; and until
the latter year he again held the interesting and powerful but critical
place of the probable candidate of his party for the presidency. He
remained easily the chief figure in the Democratic ranks. His defeat had
not taken from him that honor which is the property of the statesman
standing for a cause whose righteousness and promise belong to the
assured future. His defeat signified no personal, no political fault. It
had come to him from a widespread convulsion for which, perhaps less
than any great American of his time, he was responsible. His party could
not abandon its battle for a limited and non-paternal government and
against the use of public moneys by private persons. It could not
therefore abandon him; for more than any other man who had not now
finally retired he represented these causes in his own person. But his
easy composure of manner did not altogether hide that eating and
restless anxiety which so often attends the supreme ambition of the

Two days after leaving the White House, Van Buren said, in reply to
complimentary resolutions of the legislature of Missouri, that he did
not utterly lament the bitter attacks upon him; for experience had
taught him that few political men were praised by their foes until they
were about abandoning their friends. With a pleasing frankness he
admitted that to be worthy of the presidency and to reach it had been
the object of his "most earnest desire;" but he said that the selection
of the next Democratic candidate must be decided by its probable effect
upon the principles for which they had just fought, and not upon any
supposition that he had been wounded or embittered by his defeat in
their defense. His description of a candidate meant himself, however,
and rightly enough. In November, 1841, he wrote of the "apparent success
of last year's buffoonery;" and intimated that, though he would take no
step to be a candidate, it was not true that he had said he should
decline a nomination.

Early in 1842, the ex-President made a trip through the South, in
company with James K. Paulding, visiting on his return Clay at Ashland,
and Jackson at the Hermitage. He was one of the very few men on
personally friendly terms with both those long-time enemies. At Ashland,
doubtless, Texas was talked over, even if a bargain were not made, as
has been fancied, that Clay and Van Buren should remove the troublesome
question from politics. In a fashion very different from that of modern
candidates, he now wrote, from time to time, able, long, and explicit,
but somewhat tedious letters on political questions. In one of them he
touched protection more clearly than ever before. He favored, he said
in February, 1843, a tariff for revenue only; the "incidental
protection" which that must give many American manufacturers was all the
protection which should be permitted; the mechanics and laborers had
been the chief sufferers from a "high protective tariff." He was at last
and definitely "a low tariff man." He declared that he should support
the Democratic candidate of 1844; for he believed it to be impossible
that a selection from that source should not accord with his views. He
did not perhaps realize to how extreme a test his sincerity would be
put. He added words which four years later read strangely enough. "My
name and pretensions," he said, "however subordinate in importance,
shall never be at the disposal of any person whatever, for the purpose
of creating distractions or divisions in the Democratic party."

The party was indeed known as the "Van Buren party" until 1844, so
nearly universal was the supposition that he was to be renominated, and
so plainly was he its leader. The disasters which had now overtaken the
Whigs made his return to power seem probable enough. The utterly
incongruous elements held together during the sharp discontent and
wonderful but inarticulate enthusiasm of 1840 had quickly fallen apart.
While on his way to Kinderhook Van Buren was the chief figure in the
obsequies at New York of his successful competitor. This honest man, of
whom John Quincy Adams said, with his usual savage exaggeration, that
his dull sayings were repeated for wit and his grave inanity passed off
for wisdom, had already quarreled with the splendid leader whose place
he was too conscious of usurping. Tyler's accession was the first, but
not the last illustration, which American politicians have had of the
danger of securing the presidency by an award of the second place to a
known opponent of the principles whose success they seek. Tyler had not
before his nomination concealed his narrow and Democratic views of
government. The Whigs had ostentatiously refused to declare any
principles when they nominated him. In technical conscientiousness he
marched with a step by no means cowardly to unhonored political
isolation, as a quarter of a century later marched another
vice-president nominated by a party in whose ranks he too was a new

Upon Tyler's veto of the bill for a national bank, an outcry of agony
went up from the Whigs; the whole cabinet, except Webster, resigned; a
new cabinet was formed, partly from the Conservatives; and by 1844,
Tyler was a forlorn candidate for the Democratic nomination, which he
claimed for his support of the annexation of Texas.

Upon this first of the great pro-slavery movements Van Buren was
defeated for the Democratic nomination in 1844, although it seemed
assured to him by every consideration of party loyalty, obligation, and
wise foresight. The relations of government to private business ceased
to be the dominant political question a few months and only a few
months too soon to enable Van Buren to complete his eight years. Slavery
arose in place of economics.

No mistake is more common in the review of American history than to
suppose that slavery was an active or definite force in organized
American politics after the Missouri Compromise and before the struggle
for the annexation of Texas under Tyler's administration. The appeals of
the abolitionists to the simpler and deeper feelings of humanity were
indeed at work before 1835; and from that year on they were profoundly
stirring the American conscience and storing up tremendous moral energy.
But slavery was not in partisan politics. In 1836 and 1840 there was
upon slavery no real difference between the utterances of the candidates
and other leaders, Whig and Democratic, whether North or South. Van
Buren was supported by many abolitionists; the profoundest distrust of
him was at the South. Upon no question touching slavery with which the
president could have concern, did his opinions or his utterances differ
from those of John Quincy Adams. Clay said in November, 1838, that the
abolitionists denounced him as a slaveholder and the slaveholders
denounced him as an abolitionist, while both united on Van Buren. The
charge of truckling to the South, traditionally made against Van Buren,
is justified by no utterance or act different from those made by all
American public men of distinction at the time, except perhaps in two
instances,--his vote as vice-president for Kendall's bill against
sending inflammatory abolition circulars through the post-office to
States which prohibited their circulation, and his approval of the rules
in the Senate and House for tabling or refusing abolition petitions
without reading them. But neither of these, as has been shown, was a
decisive test. In the first case he met a political trick; and for his
vote there was justly much to be said on the reason of the thing, apart
from Southern wishes. As late as 1848, Webster, in criticising Van
Buren's inconsistency, would say no more of the law than that it was one
"of very doubtful propriety;" and declared that he himself should agree
to legislation by Congress to protect the South "from incitements to
insurrection." In the second case Van Buren's position in public life
might of itself properly restrain him from acquiescing in an agitation
in Congress for measures which, with all responsible public men, Adams
included, he believed Congress ought not to pass.

The Democratic convention was to meet in May, 1844. The delegates had
been very generally instructed for Van Buren; and two months before it
assembled his nomination seemed beyond doubt. But the slave States were
now fired with a barbarous enthusiasm to extend slavery by annexing
Texas. To this Van Buren was supposed to be hostile. His Southern
opponents, in February, 1843, skillfully procured from Jackson, innocent
of the plan, a strong letter in favor of the annexation, to be used, it
was said, just before the convention, "to blow Van out of water." The
letter was first published in March, 1844. Van Buren was at once put to
a crucial test. His administration had been adverse to annexation; his
opinion was still adverse. But a large, and not improbably a controlling
section of his party, aided by Jackson's wonderful prestige, deemed it
the most important of political causes. Van Buren was, according to the
plan, explicitly asked by a Southern delegate to state, with distinct
reference to the action of the convention, what were his opinions.

The ex-President deeply desired the nomination; and the nomination
seemed conditioned upon his surrender. It was at least assured if he now
gave no offense to the South. But he did not flinch. He resorted to no
safe generalizations. His views upon the annexation were, he admitted,
different from those of many friends, political and personal; but in
1837 his administration after a careful consideration had decided
against annexation of the State whose independence had lately been
recognized by the United States; the situation had not changed;
immediate annexation would place a weapon in the hands of those who
looked upon Americans and American institutions with distrustful and
envious eyes, and would do us far more real and lasting injury than the
new territory, however valuable, could repair. He intimated that there
was jobbery in some of the enthusiasm for the annexation. The argument
that England might acquire Texas was without force; when England sought
in Texas more than the usual commercial favors, it would be time for the
United States to interfere. He was aware, he said, of the hazard to
which he exposed his standing with his Southern fellow-citizens, "of
whom it was aptly and appropriately said by one of their own number that
'they are the children of the sun and partake of its warmth.'" But
whether we stand or fall, he said, it is always true wisdom as well as
true morality to hold fast to the truth. If to nourish enthusiasm were
one of the effects of a genial climate, it seldom failed to give birth
to a chivalrous spirit. To preserve our national escutcheon untarnished
had always been the unceasing solicitude of Southern statesmen. The only
tempering he gave his refusal was to say that if, after the subject had
been fully discussed, a Congress chosen with reference to the question
showed the popular will to favor it, he would yield.[18] Van Buren thus
closed his letter: "Nor can I in any extremity be induced to cast a
shade over the motives of my past life, by changes or concealments of
opinions maturely formed upon a great national question, for the
unworthy purpose of increasing my chances for political promotion."

To a presidential candidate the eve of a national convention is dim with
the self-deceiving twilight of sophistry; and the twilight deepens when
a question is put upon which there is a division among those who are, or
who may be, his supporters. He can keep silence, he can procure the
questioning friend to withdraw the troublesome inquiry; he can ignore
the question from an enemy; he can affect an enigmatical dignity. Van
Buren did neither of these. His Texas letter was one of the finest and
bravest pieces of political courage, and deserves from Americans a long

The danger of Van Buren's difference with Jackson it was sought to
avert. Butler visited Jackson at the Hermitage, and doubtless showed him
for what a sinister end he had been used. Jackson did not withdraw his
approval of annexation; but publicly declared his regard for Van Buren
to be so great, his confidence in Van Buren's love of country to be so
strengthened by long intimacy, that no difference about Texas could
change his opinions. Van Buren's nomination was again widely supposed
to be assured. But the work of Calhoun and Robert J. Walker had been too
well done. The convention met at Baltimore on May 27, 1844. George
Bancroft headed the delegation from Massachusetts. Before the Rev. Dr.
Johns had "fervently addressed the Throne of Grace" or the Rev. Mr.
McJilton had "read a scripture lesson," the real contest took place over
the adoption of the rule requiring a two thirds vote for a nomination.
For it was through this rule that enough Southern members, chosen before
Van Buren's letter as they had been, were to escape obedience to their
instructions to vote for him. Robert J. Walker, then a senator from
Mississippi, a man of interesting history and large ability, led the
Southerners. He quoted the precedent of 1832, when Van Buren had been
nominated for the vice-presidency under the two thirds rule, and that of
1835, when he had been nominated for the presidency. These nominations
had led to victory. In 1840 the rule had not been adopted. Without this
rule, he said amid angry excitement, the party would yield to those
whose motto seemed to be "rule or ruin." Butler, Daniel S. Dickinson,
and Marcus Morton led the Northern ranks. Butler regretted that any
member should condescend to the allusion to 1840. That year, he said,
had been a debauchery of the nation's reason amid log cabins, hard
cider, and coon-skins; and in an ecstasy of painful excitement at the
recollection and amid a tremendous burst of applause "he leaped from
the floor and stamped ... as if treading beneath his feet the object of
his loathing." The true Democratic rule, he continued, required the
minority to submit to the majority. Morton said that under the majority
rule Jefferson had been nominated; that rule had governed state, county,
and township conventions. Butler admitted that under the rule Van Buren
would not be nominated, although a majority of the convention was known
to be for him. In 1832 and 1835 the two thirds rule had prevailed
because it was certainly known who would be nominated; and the rule
operated to aid not to defeat the majority. If the rule were adopted, it
would be by the votes of States which were not Democratic, and would
bring "dismemberment and final breaking up of the party." Walker laughed
at Butler's "tall vaulting" from the floor; and, refusing to shrink from
the Van Buren issue, he protested against New York dictation, and
warningly said that, if Van Buren were nominated, Clay would be elected.
After the convention had received with enthusiasm a floral gift from a
Democratic lady whom the President declared to be fairer than the
flowers, the vote was taken. The two thirds rule was adopted by 148 to
118. All the negatives were Northerners, except 14 from Missouri,
Maryland, and North Carolina. Fifty-eight true "Northern men with
Southern principles" joined ninety Southerners in the affirmative. It
was really a vote on Van Buren,--or rather upon the annexation of
Texas,--or rather still upon the extension of American slave territory.
It was the first battle, a sort of Bull Run, in the last and great
political campaign between the interests of slavery and those of

On the first ballot for the candidate, Van Buren had 146 votes, 13 more
than a majority. If after the vote on the two thirds rule anything more
were required to show that some of these votes were given in mere formal
obedience to instructions, the second ballot brought the proof. Van
Buren then sank to 127, less than a majority; and on the seventh ballot
to 99. A motion was made to declare him the nominee as the choice of a
majority of the convention; and there followed a scene of fury, the
President bawling for order amid savage taunts between North and South,
and bitter denunciations of the treachery of some of those who had
pledged themselves for Van Buren. Samuel Young of New York declared the
"abominable Texas question" to be the fire-brand thrown among them by
the "mongrel administration at Washington," whose hero was now doubtless
fiddling while Rome was burning. Nero seems to have been Calhoun, though
between the god-like young devil of antiquity wreathed with sensual
frenzy and infamy, and the solemn, even saturnine figure of the great
modern advocate of human slavery, the likeness seemed rather slight. The
motion was declared out of order; and the name of James K. Polk was
presented as that of "a pure whole-hogged Democrat." On the eighth
ballot he had 44 votes. Then followed the magnanimous scene of "union
and harmony" which has so often, after a conflict, charmed a political
body into unworthy surrender. The great delegation from New York retired
during the ninth balloting; and returned to a convention profoundly
silent but thrilling with that bastard sense of coming glory in which a
lately tumultuous and quarreling body waits the solution of its
difficulties already known to be reached but not yet declared. Butler
quoted a letter which Van Buren had given him authorizing the withdrawal
of his name if it were necessary for harmony; he eulogized Polk as a
strict constructionist, and closed by reading a letter from Jackson
fervently urging Van Buren's nomination. Daniel S. Dickinson said that
"he loved this convention because it had acted so like the masses," and
cast New York's 35 votes for Polk. The latter's nomination was declared
with the utmost joy, and sent to Washington over Morse's first telegraph
line, just completed. Silas Wright of New York, Van Buren's strong
friend and a known opponent of annexation, was, in the fashion since
followed, nominated for the vice-presidency, to soothe the feelings and
the conscience of the defeated. Wright peremptorily telegraphed his
refusal. He told his friends that he did "not choose to ride behind on
the black pony." George M. Dallas of Pennsylvania took his place.

The Democratic party now threw away all advantage of the issue made by
the undeserved defeat four years before. Thirty-six years later it
repeated the blunder in discarding Van Buren's famous neighbor and
disciple. Polk's was the first nomination by the party of a man of the
second or of even a lower rank. Polk was known to have ability inferior
not only to that of Van Buren and Calhoun, but to Cass, Buchanan,
Wright, and others. He was the first presidential "dark horse," and
indeed hardly that. His own State of Tennessee had, by resolution,
presented him as its choice for vice-president with Van Buren in the
first place. He had been speaker of the national House, and later,
governor of his State; but since holding these places had been twice
defeated for governor. In accepting the nomination he declared, with an
apparent fling at Van Buren, that, if elected, he should not accept a
renomination, and should thus enable the party in 1848 to make "a free

The nomination aroused disgust enough. "Polk! Great God, what a
nomination!" Letcher, the Whig governor of Kentucky, wrote to Buchanan.
But the experiment of 1840 with the Whigs had been disastrous; the
people had swung back to the strict doctrines of the Democracy. Van
Buren faithfully kept his promise to support the nomination; under his
urgency Wright finally accepted the nomination for governor of New York.
And by the vote of New York Henry Clay was defeated by a man vastly his
inferior. Polk had 5000 plurality in that State; but Wright had 10,000.
Had not James G. Birney, the abolitionist candidate who polled there
15,812 votes, been in the field, not even Van Buren's party loyalty
would have prevented Clay's election. Van Buren's friends saved the
State; but in doing so voted for annexation. In April, 1844, Clay had
written a letter against annexation. As it appeared within a few days of
Van Buren's letter, and as the personal relations between the two great
party leaders were most friendly, some have inferred an arrangement
between them to take the question out of politics. This would indeed
have been an extraordinary occurrence. One might well wish to have
overheard a negotiation between two rivals for the presidency to exclude
a great question distasteful to both. After the Democratic convention,
Tyler's treaty of annexation was rejected in the Senate by 35 to 16, six
Democrats from the North, among them Wright of New York and Benton of
Missouri, voting against it. During the campaign Clay had weakly
abandoned even the mild emphasis of his first opposition, and by flings
at the abolitionists had openly bid for the pro-slavery vote; thus
perhaps losing enough votes in New York to Birney to defeat him. After
the election the current for annexation seemed too strong; and a
resolution passed both Houses authorizing the admission of Texas as a
State. The resolution provided for the formation of four additional
States out of Texas. In any such additional State formed north of the
Missouri compromise line, slavery was to be prohibited; but in those
south of it slavery was to be permitted or prohibited as the inhabitants
might choose.

Slavery was now clearly before the political conscience of the nation.
Van Buren was the conspicuous victim of the first encounter. The
Baltimore convention had in its platform complimented "their illustrious
fellow-citizen," "his inflexible fidelity to the Constitution," his
"ability, integrity, and firmness," and had tendered to him, "in
honorable retirement," the assurance of the deeply-seated "confidence,
affection, and respect of the American Democracy." This sentence to
"honorable retirement" Van Buren, who was only in his sixty-second year
and in the amplitude of his natural powers, received with outward
complacency. On the eve of the election he pointed out, probably
referring to Cass, that the hostility to him had not been in the
interest of Polk, and warmly said that, unless the Democratic creed were
a delusion, personal feelings ought to be turned to nothing. Van Buren
was, however, profoundly affected by what he deemed the undeserved
Southern hostility to himself. For he hardly yet appreciated that his
defeat was politically legitimate, and not the result of political
treachery or envy. Between him and the Southern politicians had opened a
true and deep division over the greatest single question in American
politics since Jefferson's election.

With Polk's accession and the Mexican war, the schism in the Democratic
ranks over the extension of American slave territory became plainer.
Even during the canvass of 1844 a circular had been issued by William
Cullen Bryant, David Dudley Field, John W. Edmonds, and other Van Buren
men, supporting Polk, but urging the choice of congressmen opposed to
annexation. Early in the new administration the division of New York
Democrats into "Barnburners" and "Old Hunkers" appeared. The former were
the strong pro-Van Buren, anti-Texas men, or "radical Democrats," who
were likened to the farmer who burned his barn to clear it of rats. The
latter were the "Northern men with Southern principles," the supporters
of annexation, and the respectable, dull men of easy consciences, who
were said to hanker after the offices. The Barnburners were led by men
of really eminent ability and exalted character: Silas Wright, then
governor, Benjamin F. Butler, John A. Dix, chosen in 1845 to the United
States Senate, Azariah C. Flagg, the famous comptroller, and John Van
Buren, the ex-President's son, and a singularly picturesque figure in
politics, who was, in 1845, made attorney-general by the legislature. He
had been familiarly called "Prince John" since his travels abroad during
his father's presidency. Daniel S. Dickinson and William L. Marcy were
the chief figures in the Hunker ranks. Polk seemed inclined, at the
beginning, to favor, or at least to placate, the Barnburners. He
offered the Treasury to Wright, though he is said to have known that
Wright could not leave the governorship. He offered Butler the War
Department, but the latter's devotion to his profession, for which he
had resigned the attorney-general's place in Van Buren's cabinet, made
him prefer the freedom of the United States attorneyship at New York,
and Marcy was finally given the New York place in the cabinet. Jackson's
death in June, 1845, deprived the Van Buren men of the tremendous moral
weight which his name carried, and which might have daunted Polk. It
perhaps also helped to loosen the weight of party ties on the Van Buren
men. After this the schism rapidly grew. In the fall election of 1845
the Barnburners pretty thoroughly controlled the Democratic party of the
State in hostility to the Mexican war, which the annexation of Texas had
now brought. Samuel J. Tilden of Columbia county, and a profound admirer
of Van Buren, became one of their younger leaders.

[Illustration: Silas Wright]

Now arose the strife over the "Wilmot Proviso," in which was embodied
the opposition to the extension of slavery into new Territories. Upon
this proviso the modern Republican party was formed eight years later;
upon it, fourteen years later, Abraham Lincoln was chosen president; and
upon it began the war for the Union, out of whose throes came the vastly
grander and unsought beneficence of complete emancipation. David Wilmot
was a Democratic member of Congress from Pennsylvania; in New York he
would have been a Barnburner. In 1846 a bill was pending to appropriate
$3,000,000 for use by the President in a purchase of territory from
Mexico as part of a peace. Wilmot proposed an amendment that slavery
should be excluded from any territory so acquired. All the Democratic
members, as well as the Whigs from New York, and most strongly the Van
Buren or Wright men, supported the proviso. The Democratic legislature
approved it by the votes of the Whigs with the Barnburners and the Soft
Hunkers, the latter being Hunkers less friendly to slavery. It passed
the House at Washington, but was rejected by the Senate, not so quickly
open to popular sentiment. In the Democratic convention of New York, in
October, 1846, the "war for the extension of slavery" was charged by the
Barnburners on the Hunkers. The former were victorious, and Silas Wright
was renominated for governor, to be defeated, however, at the election.
Polk, Marcy, and Dickinson, angered at the Democratic opposition in New
York to the pro-slavery Mexican policy, now threw all the weight of
federal patronage against the Barnburners, many of whom believed the
administration to have been responsible for Wright's defeat. Van Buren
and his influence were completely separated from the national
administration. Just before the adjournment of Congress in 1847, the
appropriation to secure territory from Mexico was again proposed. Again
the Wilmot Proviso was added in the House; again it was rejected in the
Senate, to the defeat of the appropriation; and again Barnburners and
Whigs carried in the New York legislature a resolution approving it, and
directing the New York senators to support it.

The tide was rising. It seemed that Mexican law prohibited slavery in
New Mexico and California, and that upon their cession the principles of
international law would preserve their condition of freedom. Benton,
therefore, deemed the Wilmot Proviso unnecessary; a "thing of nothing in
itself, and seized upon to conflagrate the States and dissolve the
Union." For the Supreme Court had not then pronounced slavery a
necessary accompaniment of American supremacy. But the legal protection
of freedom was practically unsubstantial, even if not technical; there
could be no doubt of the determination of the South to carry slavery
into these Territories, whatever might be the obligations of either
municipal or international law; and their conquest, therefore, made
imminent a decision of the vital question whether slavery should be
still further extended.

At the Democratic convention at Syracuse, in September, 1847, the
Hunkers, after a fierce struggle over contested seats, seized control of
the body. David Dudley Field, for the Barnburners, proposed a resolution
that, although the Democracy of New York would faithfully adhere to the
compromises of the Constitution and maintain the reserved rights of the
States, they would still declare, since the crisis had come, "their
uncompromising hostility to the extension of slavery into territory now
free." This was defeated. The Barnburners then seceded, and issued an
address, in which Lawrence Van Buren, the ex-President's brother,
joined. They protested that the anti-slavery resolution had been
defeated by a fraudulent organization of the convention, and called a
mass meeting at Herkimer, on October 26, "to avow their principles and
consult as to future action." The Herkimer convention was really an
important preliminary to the formation of the modern Republican party.
It was a gathering of the ex-President's friends. Cambreleng, his old
associate, presided; David Wilmot addressed the meeting; and John Van
Buren, now very conspicuous in politics, reported the resolutions. In
these the fraud at Syracuse was again denounced; a convention was called
for Washington's birthday in 1848, to choose Barnburner delegates to
contest the seats of those chosen by the Hunkers in the national
Democratic convention. It was declared that the freemen of New York
would not submit to slavery in the conquered provinces; and that,
against the threat of Democrats at the South that they would support no
candidate for the presidency who did not assent to the extension of
slavery, the Democrats of New York would proclaim their determination to
vote for no candidate who did so assent.

It was clear that Van Buren sympathized with all this. Relieved from the
constraint of power, there strongly revived his old hostility to
slavery; he recalled his vote twenty-eight years before against
admitting Missouri otherwise than free. He now perceived how profound
had really been the political division between him and the Southern
Democrats when, in 1844, he wrote his Texas letter. Ignoring the
legitimate character of the politics of Polk's administration in denying
official recognition or reward to Barnburners,--legitimate if, as Van
Buren had himself pretty uniformly maintained, patronage should go to
friends rather than enemies, and if, as was obvious, there had arisen a
true political division upon principles,--Van Buren was now touched with
anger at the proscription of his friends. Excluded from the power which
ought to have belonged to the chief of Democrats enjoying even in
"honorable retirement" the "confidence, affection, and respect" of his
party, independence rapidly grew less heinous in his eyes. One can
hardly doubt that there now more freely welled up in his mind, to
clarify its vision, the sense of personal wrong which, since Polk's
nomination, had been so long held in magnanimous and dignified
restraint,--though of this he was probably unconscious. Van Buren was
not insincere when, in October, 1847, he wrote from Lindenwald to an
enthusiastic Democratic editor in Pennsylvania, who had hoisted his name
to the top of his columns for 1848. Whatever, he said, had been his
aspirations in the past, he now had no desire to be President; every day
confirmed him in the political opinions to which he had adhered.
Conscious of always having done his duty to the people to the best of
his ability, he had "no heart burnings to be allayed and no resentments
to be gratified by a restoration of power." Life at Lindenwald was
entirely adapted to his taste; and he was (so he wrote, and so doubtless
he had forced himself to think) "sincerely and heartily desirous to wear
the honors and enjoyments of private life uninterruptedly to the end."
If tendered a unanimous Democratic support with the assurance of the
election it would bring, he should not "hesitate respectfully and
gratefully, but decidedly to decline it," adding, however, the proviso
so precious to public men, "consulting only my own feelings and wishes."
It was in the last degree improbable, he said,--and so it was,--that any
emergency should arise in which this indulgence of his own preferences
would, in the opinion of his true and faithful friends, conflict with
his duty to the party to which his whole life had been devoted, and to
which he owed any personal sacrifice. The Mexican war had, he said, been
so completely sanctioned by the government that it must be carried
through; and, he ominously added, the propriety of thereafter
instituting inquiries into the necessity of its occurrence, so as to fix
the just responsibility to public opinion of public servants, was then
out of season. Not a word of praise did he speak of Polk's
administration; in this he was for once truly and grimly

In the New York canvass of 1847, the Barnburners, after their secession,
"talked of indifferent matters." The Whigs were therefore completely
successful. In the legislature the Barnburners, or "Free-soilers" as
they began to be called, outnumbered the Hunkers. Dickinson proposed in
the Senate at Washington a resolution, the precursor of Douglas's
"squatter sovereignty,"--that all questions concerning the domestic
policy of the Territories should be left to their legislatures to be
chosen by their people. Lewis Cass, now the coming candidate of the
South, asserted in December, 1847, the same proposition, pointing out
that, if Congress could abolish the relation of master and servant in
the Territories, it might in like manner treat the relation of husband
and wife. After this "Nicholson letter" of his, Cass might well have
been asked whether he would have approved the admission of a State where
the last relation was forbidden, and where concubinage existed as a
"domestic institution." Dickinson's proposal meant that the first
settlers of each Territory should determine it to freedom or to slavery;
it meant that in admitting new States the nation ought to be indifferent
to their laws on slavery. If slavery were a mere incident in the polity
of the State, a matter of taste or convenience, the proposition would
have been true enough. But euphemistic talk about "domestic
institutions" blinded none but theorists or lovers of slavery to the
truth that slavery was a fearful and barbarous power, and that it must
become paramount in any new Southern State, monstrous and corrupting in
its tendencies towards savagery, unyielding, wasteful, and ruinous,--a
power whose corruption and savagery, whose waste and ruin, debauched and
enfeebled all communities closely allied to the States which maintained
it,--a power in whose rapid growth, in whose affirmative and dictatorial
arrogance, and in the intellectual ability and even the moral
excellences of the aristocracy which administered it at the South, there
was an appalling menace. As well might one propose the admission to
political intimacy and national unity of a State whose laws encouraged
leprosy or required the funeral oblations of the suttee. If there were
already slave States in the confederacy, it was no less true that the
nation had profoundly suffered from their slavery. Nor could all the
phrases of constitutional lawyers make the slave-block, the black laws,
and all the practices of this barbarism mere local peculiarities,
distasteful perhaps to the North but not concerning it, peculiarities to
be ranked with laws of descent or judicial procedure. Cass and Dickinson
for their surrender to the South were now called "dough-faces" and
"slavocrats" by the Democratic Free-soilers. They were the true
"Northern men with Southern principles."

The Barnburners met at Utica on February 16, an earlier day than that
first appointed, John Van Buren again being the chief figure. The
convention praised John A. Dix for supporting the Wilmot Proviso; and
declared that Benton, a senator from a slave State, but now a sturdy
opponent of extending the evil, and long the warm friend and admirer of
Van Buren, had "won a proud preëminence among the statesmen of the day."
Delegates were chosen to the national convention to oppose the Hunkers.
In April, 1848, the Barnburner members of the legislature issued an
address, the authors of which were long afterwards disclosed by Samuel
J. Tilden to be himself and Martin and John Van Buren. At great length
it demonstrated the Free-soil principles of the Democratic fathers.

The national convention assembled in May, 1848. It offered to admit the
Barnburner and Hunker delegations together to cast the vote of the
State. The Barnburners rejected the compromise as a simple nullification
of the vote of the State, and then withdrew. Lewis Cass was nominated
for president, the Wilmot Proviso being thus emphatically condemned. For
Cass had declared in favor of letting the new Territories themselves
decide upon slavery. The Barnburners, returning to a great meeting in
the City Hall Park at New York, cried, "The lash has resounded through
the halls of the Capitol!" and condemned the cowardice of Northern
senators who had voted with the South. Among the letters read was one
from Franklin Pierce, who had in 1844 voted against annexation, a letter
which years afterwards was, with a reference to his famous friend and
biographer, called the "Scarlet Letter." The delegates issued an
address written by Tilden, fearlessly calling Democrats to independent
action. In June a Barnburner convention met at Utica. Its president,
Samuel Young, who had refused at the convention at Baltimore in 1844 to
vote for Polk when the rest of his delegation surrendered, said that if
the convention did its duty, a clap of political thunder would in
November "make the propagandists of slavery shake like Belshazzar."
Butler, John Van Buren, and Preston King, afterwards a Republican
senator, were there. David Dudley Field read an explicit declaration
from the ex-President against the action and the candidates of the
national convention. This letter, whose prolixity is an extreme
illustration of Van Buren's literary fault, created a profound
impression. He declared his "unchangeable determination never again to
be a candidate for public office." The requirement by the national
convention that the New York delegates should pledge themselves to vote
for any candidate who might be nominated was, he said, an indignity of
the rankest character. The Virginia delegates had been permitted,
without incurring a threat of exclusion, to declare that they would not
support a certain nominee. The convention had not allowed the Democrats
of New York fair representation, and its acts did not therefore bind

The point of political regularity, when discussed upon a technical
basis, was, however, by no means clear. The real question was whether
the surrender of the power of Congress over the Territories, and the
refusal to use that power to exclude slavery, accorded with Democratic
principles. On this Van Buren was most explicit. Jefferson had proposed
freedom for the Northwest Territories; and all the representatives from
the slaveholding States had voted for the ordinance. Not only Washington
and the elder and younger Adams had signed bills imposing freedom as the
condition of admitting new Territories or States, but those undoubted
Democrats, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Jackson, had signed such
bills; and so had he himself in 1838 in the case of Iowa. This power of
Congress was part of "the compromises of the Constitution," compromises
which, "deeply penetrated" as he had been "by the convictions that
slavery was the only subject that could endanger our blessed Union," he
had, he was aware, gone further to sustain against Northern attacks than
many of his best friends approved. He would go no further. As the
national convention had rejected this old doctrine of the Democracy, he
should not vote for its candidate, General Cass; and if there were no
other candidate but General Taylor, he should not vote for president. If
our ancestors, when the opinion and conduct of the world about slavery
were very different, had rescued from slavery the territory now making
five great States, should we, he asked, in these later days, after the
gigantic efforts of Great Britain for freedom, and when nearly all
mankind were convinced of its evils, doom to slavery a territory from
which as many more new States might be made. He counseled moderation and
forbearance, but still a firm resistance to injustice.

This powerful declaration from the old chief of the Democracy was
decisive with the convention. Van Buren was nominated for president, and
Henry Dodge, a Democratic senator of Wisconsin, for vice-president.
Dodge, however, declined, proud though he would be, as he said, to have
his name under other circumstances associated with Van Buren's. But his
State had been represented in the Baltimore convention; and as one of
its citizens he cordially concurred in the nomination of Cass. A
national convention was called to meet at Buffalo on August 9, 1848.

Charles Francis Adams, the son of John Quincy Adams, presided at the
Buffalo convention; and in it Joshua R. Giddings, the famous
abolitionist, and Salmon P. Chase were conspicuous. To the unspeakable
horror of every Hunker there participated in the deliberations a negro,
the Rev. Mr. Ward. Butler reported the resolutions in words whose
inspiration is still fresh and ringing. They were assembled, it was
said, "to secure free soil for a free people;" the Democratic and Whig
organizations had been dissolved, the one by stifling the voice of a
great constituency, the other by abandoning its principles for mere
availability. Remembering the example of their fathers in the first
declaration of independence, they now, putting their trust in God,
planted themselves on the national platform of freedom in opposition to
the sectional platform of slavery; they proposed no interference with
slavery in any State, but its prohibition in the Territories then free;
for Congress, they said, had "no more power to make a slave than to make
a king." There must be no more compromises with slavery. They accepted
the issue forced upon them by the slave power; and to its demand for
more slave States and more slave Territories, their calm and final
answer was, "no more slave States and no more slave territory." At the
close were the stirring and memorable words: "We inscribe on our banner,
Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor, and Free Men; and under it we will
fight on and fight ever, until a triumphant victory shall reward our

Joshua Leavitt of Massachusetts, one of the "blackest" of abolitionists,
reported to the convention the name of Martin Van Buren for president.
After the convention was over, even Gerrit Smith, the ultra-abolitionist
candidate, declared that, of all the candidates whom there was the least
reason to believe the convention would nominate, Van Buren was his
preference. The nomination was enthusiastically made by acclamation,
after Van Buren had on an informal ballot received 159 votes to 129 cast
for John P. Hale. A brief letter from Van Buren was read, declaring that
his nomination at Utica had been against his earnest wishes; that he had
yielded because his obligation to the friends, who had now gone so far,
required him to abide by their decision that his name was necessary to
enable "the ever faithful Democracy of New York to sustain themselves in
the extraordinary position into which they have been driven by the
injustice of others;" but that the abandonment at Buffalo of his Utica
nomination would be most satisfactory to his feelings and wishes. The
exclusion of slavery from the Territories was an object, he said,
"sacred in the sight of heaven, the accomplishment of which is due to
the memories of the great and just men long since, we trust, made
perfect in its courts." Charles Francis Adams was nominated for
vice-president; and dazzled and incredulous eyes beheld on a
presidential ticket with Martin Van Buren the son of one of his oldest
and bitterest adversaries. That adversary had died a few months before,
the best of his honors being his latest, those won in a querulous but
valiant old age, in a fiery fight for freedom.

In September, John A. Dix, then a Democratic senator, accepted the
Free-soil nomination for governor of New York. The Democratic party was
aghast. The schismatics had suddenly gained great dignity and
importance. Martin Van Buren, the venerable leader of the party, its
most famous and distinguished member, this courtly, cautious
statesman,--could it be he rushing from that "honorable retirement," to
whose safe retreat his party had committed him with so deep an
affection, to consort with long-haired and wild-eyed abolitionists! He
was the arch "apostate," leading fiends of disunion who would rather
rule in hell than serve in heaven. Where now was his boasted loyalty to
the party? Rage struggled with loathing. All the ancient stories told of
him by Whig enemies were revived, and believed by those who had long
treated them with contempt. It is clear, however, that Van Buren's
attitude was in no wise inconsistent with his record. His party had
never pronounced for the extension of slavery; nor had he. The Buffalo
convention was silent upon abolition in the District of Columbia. There
was for the time in politics but one question, and that was born of the
annexation of Texas,--Shall slavery go into free territory? As amid the
clash of arms the laws are stilled, so in the great fight for human
freedom, the independent treasury, the tariff, and internal improvements
could no longer divide Americans.

The Whigs had in June nominated Taylor, one of the two heroes of the
Mexican war. It is a curious fact that Taylor had been authoritatively
sounded by the Free-soil leaders as to an acceptance of their
nomination. Clay and Webster were now discarded by their party for this
bluff soldier, a Louisiana slaveholder of unknown politics; and with
entire propriety and perfect caution the Whigs made no platform. A
declaration against the extension of slavery was voted down. Webster
said at Marshfield, after indignation at Taylor's nomination had a
little worn away, that for "the leader of the Free-_spoil_ party" to
"become the leader of the Free-soil party would be a joke to shake his
sides and mine." The anti-slavery Whigs hesitated for a time; but Seward
of New York and Horace Greeley in the New York "Tribune" finally led
most of them to Taylor rather than, as Seward said, engage in "guerrilla
warfare" under Van Buren. Whigs must not, he added, leave the ranks
because of the Whig affront to Clay and Webster. "Is it not," he finely,
though for the occasion sophistically, said, "by popular injustice that
greatness is burnished?" This launching of the modern Republican party
was, strangely enough, to include in New York few besides Democrats. In
November, 1847, the Liberty or Abolition party nominated John P. Hale
for president; but upon Van Buren's nomination he was withdrawn.

Upon the popular vote in November, 1848, Van Buren received 291,263
votes, while there were 1,220,544 for Cass and 1,360,099 for Taylor. Van
Buren had no electoral votes. In no State did he receive as many votes
as Taylor; but in New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont he had more than
Cass. The vote of New York was an extraordinary tribute to his personal
power; he had 120,510 votes to 114,318 for Cass; and it was clear that
nearly all the former came from the Democratic party. In Ohio he had
35,354 votes, most of which were probably drawn from the Whig
abolitionists. In Massachusetts he had 38,058 votes, in no small part
owing to the early splendor, the moral austerity and elevation of
Charles Sumner's eloquence. "It is not," he said, "for the Van Buren of
1838 that we are to vote; but for the Van Buren of to-day,--the veteran
statesman, sagacious, determined, experienced, who, at an age when most
men are rejoicing to put off their armor, girds himself anew and enters
the lists as champion of Freedom." Taylor had 163 electoral votes and
Cass 127.

The political career of Van Buren was now ended. It is mere speculation
whether he had thought his election a possible thing. That he should
think so was very unlikely. Few men had a cooler judgment of political
probabilities; few knew better how powerful was party discipline in the
Democratic ranks, for no one had done more to create it; few could have
appreciated more truly the Whig hatred of himself. Still the wakening
rush of moral sentiment was so strong, the bitterness of Van Buren's
Ohio and New York supporters had been so great at his defeat in 1844,
that it seemed not utterly absurd that those two States might vote for
him. If they did, that dream of every third party in America might come
true,--the failure of either of the two great parties to obtain a
majority in the electoral college, and the consequent choice of
president in the House, where each of them might prefer the third party
to its greater rival. Ambition to reënter the White House could indeed
have had but the slightest influence with him when he accepted the
Free-soil nomination. Nor was his acceptance an act of revenge, as has
very commonly been said. The motives of a public man in such a case are
subtle and recondite even to himself. No distinguished political leader
with strong and publicly declared opinions, however exalted his temper,
can help uniting in his mind the cause for which he has fought with his
own political fortunes. If he be attacked, he is certain to honestly
believe the attack made upon the cause as well as upon himself. When his
party drives him from a leadership already occupied by him, he may
submit without a murmur; but he will surely harbor the belief that his
party is playing false with its principles. In 1848 there was a great
and new cause for which Van Buren stood, and upon which his party took
the wrong side; but doubtless his zeal burned somewhat hotter, the edge
of his temper was somewhat keener, for what he thought the indignities
to himself and his immediate political friends. To say this is simply to
pronounce him human. His acceptance of the nomination was given largely
out of loyalty to those friends whose advice was strong and urgent. It
was the mistake which any old leader of a political party, who has
enjoyed its honors, makes in the seeming effort--and every such
political candidacy at least seems to be such an effort--to gratify his
personal ambition at its expense. Van Buren and his friends should have
made another take the nomination, to which his support, however
vigorous, should have gone sorrowfully and reluctantly; and the form as
well as the substance of his relations to the canvass should have been
without personal interest.

Had Van Buren died just after the election of 1848 his reputation to-day
would be far higher. He had stood firmly, he had suffered politically,
for a clear, practical, and philosophical method and limitation of
government; he had adhered with strict loyalty to the party committed to
this method, until there had arisen the cause of human freedom, which
far transcended any question still open upon the method or limits of
government. With this cause newly risen, a cause surely not to leave the
political field except in victory, he was now closely united. He might
therefore have safely trusted to the judgment of later days and of wiser
and truer-sighted men, growing in number and influence every year. His
offense could never be pardoned by his former associates at the South
and their allies at the North. No confession of error, though it were
full of humiliation, no new and affectionate return to party allegiance,
could make them forget what they sincerely deemed astounding treason and
disastrous sacrilege. Loyal remembrance of his incomparable party
services had irretrievably gone, to be brought back by no reasoning and
by no persuasion. If he were to live, he should not have wavered from
his last position. Its righteousness was to be plainer and plainer with
the passing years.

Van Buren did live, however, long after his honorable battle and defeat;
and lived to dim its honor by the faltering of mistaken patriotism. In
1849, John Van Buren, during the efforts to unite the Democratic party
in New York, declared it his wish to make it "the great anti-slavery
party of the Union." Early in 1850 and when the compromise was
threatened at Washington, he wrote to the Free-soil convention of
Connecticut that there had never been a time when the opponents of
slavery extension were more urgently called to act with energy and
decision or to hold their representatives to a rigid responsibility, if
they faltered or betrayed their trust. With little doubt his father
approved these utterances. A year later, however, the ex-President, with
nearly all Northern men, yielded to the soporific which Clay in his old
age administered to the American people. In their support of the great
compromise between slavery and freedom, Webster and Clay forfeited much
of their fame, and justly. For though the cause of humanity gained a
vast political advantage in the admission of California as a free State,
the advantage, it was plain, could not have been long delayed had there
been no compromise. But the rest of the new territory was thrown into a
struggle among its settlers, although the power of Congress over the
Territories was not yet denied; and a fugitive-slave law of singular
atrocity was passed. All the famous Northern Whigs were now true
"doughfaces." Fillmore, president through Taylor's death, one of the
most dignified and timid of their number, signed the compromise bills.

The compromise being passed, Van Buren with almost the entire North
submissively sought to believe slavery at last expelled from politics.
It would have been a wise heroism, it would have given Van Buren a
clearer, a far higher place with posterity, if after 1848 he had even
done no more than remain completely aloof from the timid politics of the
time, if he had at least refused acquiescence in any compromise by which
concessions were made to slavery. But he was an old man. He shared with
his ancient and famous Whig rivals that intense love and almost
adoration of the Union, upon which the arrogant leaders of the South so
long and so successfully played. The compromise was accomplished. It
would perhaps be the last concession to the furious advance of the cruel
barbarism. The free settlers in the new Territories would, he hoped, by
their number and hardihood, defeat the incoming slave-owners, and even
under "squatter sovereignty" save their homes from slavery. If the Union
should now stand without further disturbance, all might still come right
without civil war. Economic laws, the inexorable and beneficent progress
of civilization, would perhaps begin, slowly indeed but surely, to press
to its death this remnant of ancient savagery. But if the Union were to
be broken by a violation of the compromise, a vast and irremediable
catastrophe and ruin would undo all the patriotic labors of sixty
years, would dismiss to lasting unreality the dreams of three
generations of great men who had loved their country. It seemed too
appalling a responsibility.

Upon all this reasoning there is much unfair modern judgment. The small
number of resolute abolitionists, who cared little for the Union in
comparison with the one cause of human rights, and whose moral fervor
found in the compromises of the Constitution, so dear and sacred to all
American statesmen, only a covenant with hell, may for the moment be
ignored. Among them there was not a public man occupying politically
responsible or widely influential place. The vast body of Northern
sentiment was in two great classes. The one was led by men like Seward,
and even Benton, who considered the South a great bully. They believed
that to a firm front against the extension of slavery the South would,
after many fire-eating words, surrender in peace. The other class
included most of the influential men of the day, some of them greater
men, some lesser, and some little men. Webster, Clay, Cass, Buchanan,
Marcy, Douglas, Fillmore, Dickinson, were now joined by Van Buren and by
many Free-soil men of 1848 daunted at the seeming slowness with which
the divine mills were grinding. They believed that the South, to assert
the fancied "rights" of their monstrous wrong, would accept disunion and
even more, that in this cause it would fiercely accept all the terrors
of a civil war and its limitless devastation. The event proved the
first men utterly in the wrong; and it was fortunate that their mistake
was not visible until in 1861 the battle was irreversibly joined. The
second and more numerous class were right. There had to be yielding,
unless such evils were to be let loose, unless Webster's "ideas, so full
of all that is horrid and horrible," were to come true. The anxiety not
to offend the South was perhaps most strikingly shown after the election
of Lincoln. A distinguished statesman of the modern Republican party has
recently pointed out[19] that in February, 1861, the Republican members
of Congress, and among them Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens,
acquiesced in the organization of the new Territories of Colorado,
Dakota, and Nevada, without any prohibition of slavery, thus ignoring
the very principle and the only principle upon which their great battle
had been fought and their great victory won.

Complete truth dwelt only with the small and hated abolitionist
minority. Without honored and influential leaders in political life they
alone saw that war with all these horrors was better, or even a
successful secession was better, than further surrender of human rights,
a surrender whose corruption and barbarism would cloud all the glories,
and destroy all the beneficence of the Union. No historical judgment has
been more unjust and partial than the implied condemnation of Van Buren
for his acquiescence in Clay's compromise, while only gentle words have
chided the great statesmen whose eloquence was more splendid and
inspiring but whose devotion to the Union was never more supreme than
Van Buren's,--statesmen who had made no sacrifice like his in 1844, who
in their whitening years had taken no bold step like his in 1848, and
who had in 1850 actively promoted the surrender to which Van Buren did
no more than submit after it was accomplished.

In 1852 the overwhelming agreement to the compromise brought on a
colorless presidential campaign, fought in a sort of fool's paradise.
Its character was well represented by Franklin Pierce, the second
Democratic mediocrity raised to the first place in the party and the
land, and by the absurd political figure of General Scott, fitly enough
the last candidate of the decayed Whig party. Both parties heartily
approved the compromise, but it mattered little which of the two
candidates were chosen. The votes cast for John P. Hale, the Free-soil
candidate, were as much more significant and honorable as they were
fewer than those cast for Pierce or Scott. Van Buren, in a note to a
meeting in New York, declared that time and circumstances had issued
edicts against his attendance, but that he earnestly wished for Pierce's
election. He attempted no argument in this, perhaps the shortest
political letter he ever wrote. But John Van Buren, in a speech at
Albany, gave some reasons which prevent much condemnation of his
father's perfunctory acquiescence in the action of his party. The
movement of 1848, he said, had been intended to prevent the extension of
slavery. Since then, California had come in, a Free State, and not, as
the South had desired, a slave State; and "the abolition of the slave
market in the District of Columbia was another great point gained." The
poverty of reasons was shown in the eager insistence that every member
of Congress from New Hampshire had voted against slavery extension, and
that the Democratic party now took its candidate from that State
"without any pledges whatever."

After this election Van Buren spent two years in Europe. President
Pierce tendered him the position of the American arbitrator upon the
British-American claims commission established under the treaty of
February 8, 1853, but he declined. During his absence the South secured
the Kansas-Nebraska bill, the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and the
practical opening to slavery of the new Territories north of the line of
36° 30'. If the settlers of Kansas, which lay wholly on the free side of
that compromise line, desired slavery, they were to have it. But even
this was not sufficient. The hardy settlers of this frontier, separated
though they were by the slave State of Missouri from free soil and free
influences, would, it now seemed, pretty certainly favor freedom. The
ermine of the Supreme Court had, therefore, to be used to sanctify with
the Dred Scott decision the last demand of slavery, inconsistent though
it was with the claims of the South from the time when it secured the
Missouri Compromise until Calhoun grimly advanced his monstrous
propositions. Slavery was to be decreed a constitutional right in all
Territories, whose exercise in them Congress was without power to
prohibit, and which could not be prevented even by the majority of their
settlers until they were admitted as States.

Van Buren came back to America when there was still secret within the
judicial breast the momentous decision that the American flag carried
human slavery with it to conquered territory as a necessary incident of
its stars and stripes, and that Congress could not, if it would, save
the land to freedom. Van Buren voted for Buchanan; a vote essentially
inconsistent with his Free-soil position, a vote deeply to be regretted.
He still thought that free settlers would defeat the intention of the
Kansas-Nebraska act, and bring in, as they afterwards did, a free though
bleeding Kansas. There was something crude and menacing in this new
Republican party, and in its enormous and growing enthusiasm. It was
hard to believe that its candidate had been seriously selected for chief
magistrate of the United States. Fremont probably seemed to Van Buren a
picturesque sentimentalist leading the way to civil war, which, if it
were to come, ought, so it seemed to this former senator and minister
and president, to be led in by serious and disciplined statesmen. The
new party was repulsive to him as a body chiefly of Whigs; old and
bitter adversaries whom he distrusted, with hosts of camp-followers
smelling the coming spoils. All this a young man might endure, when he
saw the clear fact that the Republican convention, ignoring for the time
all former differences, had pronounced not a word inconsistent with the
Democratic platform of 1840, and had made only the one declaration
essential to American freedom and right, that slavery should not go into
the Territories. Van Buren was not, however, a young man, or one of the
few old men in whom a fiery sense of morality, and an eager and buoyant
resolution, are unchilled by thinner and slower blood, and indomitably
overcome the conservative influences of age. A bold outcry from him,
even now, would have placed him for posterity in one of the few niches
set apart to the very greatest Americans. But since 1848 Van Buren had
come to seventy-four years.

Invited to the Tammany Hall celebration of Independence Day, he wrote,
on June 28, 1856, a letter in behalf of Buchanan. There was no
diminution in explicit clearness; but hope was nearly gone; the peril of
the Union obscured every other danger; the South was so threatening that
patriotism seemed to him to require at the least a surrender to all that
had passed; and for the future our best reliance would be upon a fair
vote in Kansas between freedom and slavery. He could not come to its
meeting, he told Tammany Hall, because of his age. He had left one
invitation unanswered; and if he were so to leave another, he might be
suspected of a desire to conceal his sentiments. But this letter should
be his last, as it was his first, appearance in the canvass. He was glad
of the Democratic reunion; for although not always perfectly right, in
no other party had there been "such exclusive regard and devotion to the
maintenance of human rights and the happiness and welfare of the masses
of the people." There was a touch of age in his fond recitals of the
long services of that party since, in Jefferson's days, it had its
origin with "the root-and-branch friends of the Republican system;" of
its support of the war of 1812; of its destruction of the national bank;
of its establishment of an independent treasury. But slavery, he
admitted, was now the living issue. Upon that he had no regrets for his
course. He had always preferred the method of dealing with that
institution practiced by the founders of the government. He lamented the
recent departure from that method; no one was more sincerely opposed
than himself to the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. He had heard of
it, and condemned it in a foreign land; he had there foreseen the
disastrous reopening of the slavery agitation. But the measure was now
accomplished; there was no more left than to decide what was the best
now to do. The Kansas-Nebraska act had, he said, gradually become less
obnoxious to him; though this impression, he admitted, might result from
the unanimous acquiescence in it of the party in which he had been
reared. Its operation, he trusted, would be beneficial; and he had now
come to believe that the feelings and opinions of the free States would
be more respected under its provisions than by specific congressional
interference. He did not doubt the power of Congress to enable the
people of a Territory to exclude slavery. Buchanan's pledge to use the
presidential power to restore harmony among the sister States could be
redeemed in but one way; and that was, to secure to the actual settlers
of the Territory a "full, free, and practical enjoyment" of the rights
of suffrage on the slavery question conferred by the act. He praised
Buchanan, if not exuberantly, still sufficiently. He must, Van Buren
thought, be solicitous for his reputation in the near "evening of his
life." He believed that Buchanan would redeem his pledge, and should
therefore cheerfully support him. If Buchanan were elected, there were
"good grounds for hope" that the Union might be saved. Such was this
saddening and despondent letter. It was a defense of a vote which it was
rather sorry work that he should have needed to make. But the tramp of
armies and the conflagration of American institutions were heard and
seen in the sky with terrifying vividness. The letter secured, however,
no forgiveness from the angry South. The "Richmond Whig" said: "If there
is a man within the limits of the Republic who is cordially abhorred and
detested by intelligent and patriotic men of all parties at the South,
that man is Martin Van Buren."

Many of the best Americans shared Van Buren's distrust of Fremont and of
those who supported Fremont; they shared his love of peace and his fear
of that bloodshed, North and South, which seemed the dismal El Dorado to
which the "pathfinder's" feet were surely tending. So the majority of
the Northern voters thought; for those north of Mason and Dixon's line
who divided themselves between Buchanan and Fillmore, the candidate of
the "Silver Gray" Whigs, considerably outnumbered the voters for

In 1860 Van Buren voted for the union electoral ticket which represented
in New York the combined opposition to Lincoln. Every motive which had
influenced him in 1856 had now increased even more than his years. The
Republican party was not only now come bringing, it seemed, the torch in
full flame to light an awful conflagration; but in its second national
convention there became obvious upon the tariff question the
preponderance of the Whig elements, which made up the larger though not
the more earnest or efficient body of its supporters.

After Van Buren's return from Europe in 1855, he lived in dignified and
gracious repose. This complete and final escape from the rush about him
had often seemed in his busy strenuous years full of delight. But
doubtless now in the peaceful pleasures of Lindenwald and in the
occasional glimpses of the more crowded social life of New York which
was glad to honor him, there were the regrets and slowly dying
impatience, the sense of isolation, which must at the best touch with
some sadness the later and well-earned and even the best-crowned years.
At this time he began writing memoirs of his life and times, which were
brought down to the years 1833-1834; but they were never revised by him
and have not been published. Out of this work grew a sketch of the early
growth of American parties, which was edited by his sons and printed in
1867. Its pages do not exhibit the firm and logical order which was so
characteristic of Van Buren's political compositions. It was rather the
reminiscence of the political philosophy which had completely governed
him. With some repetitions, but in an easy and interesting way, he
recalled the far-reaching political differences between Jefferson and
Hamilton. In these chapters of his old age are plain the profound and
varied influences which had been exercised over him by the great founder
of his party, and his unquenchable animosity towards "the money power"
from the days of the first secretary of the treasury to its victory of
"buffoonery" in 1840. In one chapter, with words rather courtly but
still not to be mistaken, he condemns Buchanan for a violation of the
principles of Jefferson and Jackson in accepting the Dred Scott decision
as a rule of political action; and this the more because its main
conclusion was unnecessary to adjudge Dred Scott's rights in that suit,
and because its announcement was part of a political scheme. Chief
Justice Taney and Buchanan, Van Buren pointed out, though raised to
power by the Democratic party, had joined it late in life, "with
opinions formed and matured in an antagonist school." Both had come from
the Federalist ranks, whose political heresy Van Buren believed to be
hopelessly incurable.

At the opening of the civil war Van Buren's animosity to Buchanan's
behavior became more and more marked. He strongly sympathized with the
uprising of the North; and sustained the early measures of Lincoln's
administration. But he was not to see the dreadful but lasting and
benign solution of the problem of American slavery. His life ended when
the fortunes of the nation were at their darkest; when McClellan's seven
days' battle from the Chickahominy to the James was just over, and the
North was waiting in terror lest his troops might not return in time to
save the capital. For several months he suffered from an asthmatic
attack, which finally became a malignant catarrh, causing him much
anguish. In the latter days of his sickness his mind wandered; but when
sensible and collected he still showed a keen interest in public
affairs, expressed his confidence in President Lincoln and General
McClellan, and declared his faith that the rebellion would end without
lasting damage to the Union.

On July 24, 1862, he died, nearly eighty years old, in the quiet summer
air at Lindenwald, the noise of battle far away from his green lawns
and clumps of trees. In the ancient Dutch church at Kinderhook the
simple funeral was performed; and a great rustic gathering paid the last
and best honor of honest and respectful grief to their old friend and
neighbor. For his fame had brought its chief honor to this village of
his birth, the village to which in happy ending of his earthly career he
returned, and where through years of well-ordered thrift, of a gentle
and friendly hospitality, and of interesting and not embittered
reminiscence, he had been permitted

  "To husband out life's taper at the close,
  And keep the flame from wasting by repose."



In the engraved portrait of Van Buren in old age, prefixed to his
"History of Parties," are plainly to be seen some of his traits,--the
alert outlooking upon men, the bright, easy good-humor, the firm,
self-reliant judgment. Inman's painting, now in the City Hall of New
York,[20] gives the face in the prime of life,--the same shrewd, kindly
expression, but more positively touched with that half cynical doubt of
men which almost inevitably belongs to those in great places. The deep
wrinkles of the old and retired ex-president were hardly yet incipient
in the smooth, prosperous, almost complacent countenance of the
governor. In the earlier picture the locks flared outwards from the
face, as they did later; as yet, however, they were dark and a bit
curling. His form was always slender and erect, but hardly reached the
middle height, so that to his political enemies it was endless delight
to call him "Little Van."

In the older picture one sees a scrupulous daintiness about the ruffled
shirt and immaculate neckerchief; for Van Buren was fond of the
elegance of life. The Whigs used to declare him an aristocrat, given to
un-American, to positively British splendor. Very certainly he never
affected contempt for the gracious and stately refinement suited to his
long held place of public honor, that contempt which a silly underrating
of American good sense has occasionally commended to our statesmen. At
Lindenwald, among books and guests and rural cares, he led what in the
best and truest sense was the life of a country gentleman, not set like
an urban exotic among the farmers, but fond of his neighbors as they
were fond of him, and unaffectedly sharing without loss of distinction
or elegance their thrifty and homely cares. When he retired to this home
he was able, without undignified or humiliating shifts, to live in ease
and even affluence. For in 1841 his fortune of perhaps $200,000 was a
generous one. His last days were not, like those of Jefferson and Monroe
and Jackson, embittered by money anxieties, the penalty of the careless
profusion the temptation to which, felt even by men wise in the affairs
of others, is often greater than the certain danger and unwisdom of its
indulgence. But no suggestion was breathed against his pecuniary
integrity, public or private. Nor was there heard of him any story of
wrong or oppression or ungenerous dealing.

Van Buren's extraordinary command of himself was apparent in his
manners. They are finely described from intimate acquaintance by
William Allen Butler, the son of Van Buren's long-time friend, in his
charming and appreciative sketch printed just after Van Buren's death.
They had, Mr. Butler said, a neatness and polish which served every turn
of domestic, social, and public intercourse. "As you saw him once, you
saw him always--always punctilious, always polite, always cheerful,
always self-possessed. It seemed to anyone who studied this phase of his
character as if, in some early moment of destiny, his whole nature had
been bathed in a cool, clear, and unruffled depth, from which it drew
this life-long serenity and self-control." An accomplished English
traveler, "the author of 'Cyril Thornton,'" who saw him while secretary
of state, and before he had been abroad, said that he had more of "the
manner of the world" than any other of the distinguished men at
Washington; that in conversation he was "full of anecdote and vivacity."
Chevalier, one of our French critics, in his letters from America
described him as setting up "for the American Talleyrand." John Quincy
Adams, as has been said, sourly mistook all this, and even the especial
courtesy Van Buren paid him after his political downfall, as mere proof
of insincerity; and he more than once compared Van Buren to Aaron Burr,
a comparison of which many Democrats were fond after 1848. In his
better-natured moments, however, Adams saw in his adversary a
resemblance to the conciliatory and philosophic Madison. For his
"extreme caution in avoiding and averting personal collisions," he
called him another Sosie of Molière's "Amphitryon," "ami de tout le

Van Buren's skill in dealing with men was indeed extraordinary. It
doubtless came from this temper of amity, and from an inborn genius for
society; but it had been wonderfully sharpened in the unrivaled school
of New York's early politics. When he was minister at London, he wrote
that he was making it his business to be cordial with prominent men on
both sides; a branch of duty, he said, in which he was not at home,
because he had all his life been "wholly on one side." But he was
jocosely unjust to himself. He was, for the politics of his day,
abundantly fair to his adversaries. Sometimes indeed he saw too much of
what might be said on the other side. Had he seen less, he would
sometimes have been briefer, less indulgent in formal caution. Nor did
he fail to avoid the unnecessary misery caused to many public men, the
obstacles needlessly raised in their way, by personal disputes, or by
letting into negotiations matters of controversy irrelevant to the thing
to be done. Patience in listening, a steady and singularly acute
observance of the real end he sought, and a quick, keen reading of men,
saved him this wearing unhappiness so widespread in public life. Once he
thus criticised his friend Cambreleng: "There is more in small matters
than he is always aware of, although he is a really sensible and useful
man." In this maxim of lesser things Van Buren was carefully practiced.
During the Jackson-Adams campaign, the younger Hamilton was about
sending to some important person an account of the general. Van Buren,
knowing of this, wrote to Hamilton, and, after signing his letter,
added: "P. S.--Does the old gentleman have prayers in his own house? If
so, mention it modestly."

His self-command was not stilted or unduly precise or correct. He was
very human. A candidate for governor of New York would to-day hardly
write to another public man, however friendly to him, as Van Buren in
August and September, 1828, wrote to Hamilton. "Bet on Kentucky,
Indiana, and Illinois," he said, "jointly if you can, or any two of
them; don't forget to bet all you can." But this was the fashion of the
day.[21] His life was entirely free from the charges of dissipation or of
irregular habits, then so commonly, and often truly, made against great
men. This very correctness was part of the offense he gave his rivals
and their followers. It would hardly be accurate to describe him, even
in younger years, as jovial with his friends; but he was perfectly
companionable. Of a social and cheerful temper, he not only liked the
decorous gaiety of receptions and public entertainment, but was
delighted and delightful in closer and easier conversation and in the
chat of familiar friends. His reminiscences of men are said to have been
full of the charm which flows from a strong natural sense of humor, and
a correct and vivid memory of human action and character.

There are many apocryphal stories of Van Buren's craft or cunning or
selfishness in politics. It is a curious appreciation with which
reputable historians have received such stories from irresponsible or
anonymous sources; for they deserve as little credence as those told of
Lincoln's frivolity or indecency. To them all may not only be pleaded
the absence of any proof deserving respect, but they are refuted by
positive proof, such as from earliest times has been deemed the best
which private character can in its own behalf offer to history. In
politics Van Buren enjoyed as much strong and constant friendship as he
encountered strong and constant hatred. Nothing points more surely to
the essential soundness of life and the generosity of a public man than
the near and long-continued friendship of other able, upright, and
honorably ambitious men. It was an extraordinary measure in which Van
Buren enjoyed friendship of this quality. With all the light upon his
character, Jackson was too shrewd to suffer long from imposition. His
intimacy with Van Buren for twenty years and more was really
affectionate; his admiration for the younger statesman was profound.
The explanation is both unnecessary and unworthy, which ascribes to
hatred of Clay all Jackson's ardor in the canvass of 1840 or his almost
pathetic anxiety for Van Buren's nomination in 1844. Their peculiar and
continuous association for six years at Washington had so powerfully
established Van Buren in his love and respect, that neither distant
separation nor disease nor the nearer intrigues and devices of rivals
could abate them. Those who were especially known as Van Buren men,
those who not only stood with him in the party but who went with him out
of it, were men of great talents and of the highest character. Butler's
career closely accompanied Van Buren's. Both were born at Kinderhook;
they were together in Hudson, in Albany, in Washington; they were
together as Bucktails, as Jacksonian Democrats, as Free-soil men; they
were close to one another from Butler's boyhood until, more than a
half-century later, they were parted by death. To this strong-headed and
sound-hearted statesman, we are told by William Allen Butler, in a fine
and wellnigh sufficient eulogy, that Van Buren was the object of an
affection true and steadfast, faithful through good report and evil
report, loyal to its own high sense of duty and affection, tender and
generous. Benton, liberal and sane a slaveholder though he was, did not
approve the Wilmot Proviso, or join the Free-soil revolt. But in
retirement and old age, reviewing his "Thirty Years," during twenty of
which he and Van Buren had, spite of many differences, remained on
closely intimate terms, he showed a deep liking for the man. Silas
Wright, Azariah C. Flagg, and John A. Dix, all strong and famous
characters in the public life of New York, were among the others of
those steadily faithful in loyal and unwavering regard for this
political and personal chief. Nor were they deceived. Jackson and
Butler, Wright and Flagg and Dix, sturdy, upright, skillful, experienced
men of affairs, were not held in true and lifelong friendship and
admiration by the insinuating manners, the clever management, the
selfish and timid aims, which make the Machiavellian caricature of Van
Buren so often drawn. No American in public life has shown firmer and
longer devotion to his friends. His reputation for statesmanship must
doubtless rest upon the indisputable facts of his career. But for his
integrity of life, for his sincerity, for his fidelity to those
obligations of political, party, and personal friendship, within which
lies so much of the usefulness as well as of the singular charm of
public life, his relations with these men make a proof not to be
questioned, and surely not to be weakened by the malicious or anonymous
stories of political warfare.

For the absurdly sinister touch which his political enemies gave to his
character, it is difficult now to find any just reason. It may be that
the cool and imperturbable appearance of good-nature, with which he
received the savage and malevolent attacks so continually made upon
him, to many seemed so impossible to be real as to be sheer
hypocrisy;[22] and from the fancy of such hypocrisy it was easy for the
imagination to infer all the arts and characteristics of deceit.
Doubtless the caution of Van Buren's political papers irritated
impatient and angry opponents. They found them full of elaborate and
subtle reservations, as they fancied, against future political
contingencies; a charge, it ought to be remembered, which is continually
made against the ripest, bravest, and greatest character in English
politics of to-day or of the century.[23] Van Buren's reasoning was
perfectly clear, and his style highly finished. But he had not the sort
of genius which in a few phrases states and lights up a political
problem. The complexity of human affairs, the danger of short and
sweeping assertions, pressed upon him as he wrote; and the amplitude of
his arguments, sometimes tending to prolixity, seemed timid and
lawyer-like to those who disliked his conclusions.

Van Buren was not, however, an unpopular man, except as toward the last
his politics were unpopular as politics out of sympathy with those of
either of the great parties, and except also at the South, where he was
soon suspected and afterwards hated as an anti-slavery man. He was on
the whole a strong candidate at the polls. In his own State and at the
Northeast his strength with the people grew more and more until his
defeat by the slaveholders in 1844. Perhaps the most striking proof of
this strength was the canvass of 1848, when in New York he was able to
take fully half of his party with him into irregular opposition, a feat
with hardly a precedent in our political history. And there was complete
reciprocity. Van Buren was profoundly democratic in his convictions. He
thoroughly, honestly, and without demagogy believed in the common people
and in their competence to deal wisely with political difficulties. Even
when his faith was tried by what he deemed the mistakes of popular
elections, he still trusted to what in a famous phrase of his he called
"the sober second thought of the people."[24]

However widely the student of history may differ from the politics of
Van Buren's associates, the politics of Benton, Wright, Butler, and Dix,
and in a later rank of his New York disciples, of Samuel J. Tilden and
Sanford E. Church, it is impossible not to see that their political
purpose was at the least as long and steady as their friendship for Van
Buren. Love for the Union, a belief in a simple, economical, and even
unheroic government, a jealousy of taking money from the people, and a
scrupulous restriction upon the use of public moneys for any but public
purposes, a strict limitation of federal powers, a dislike of slavery
and an opposition to its extension,--these made up one of the great and
fruitful political creeds of America, a creed which had ardent and
hopeful apostles a half century ago, and which, save in the articles
which touched slavery and are now happily obsolete, will doubtless find
apostles no less ardent and hopeful a half century hence. Each of its
assertions has been found in other creeds; but the entire creed with all
its articles made the peculiar and powerful faith only of the Van Buren
men. As history gradually sets reputations aright, the leader of these
men must justly wear the laurel of a statesman who, apart from his
personal and party relations and ambitions, has stood clearly for a
powerful and largely triumphant cause.

No vague, no thoughtless rush of popular sentiment touched or shook this
faith of Van Buren. Had there been indeed a readier emphasis about him,
a heartier and quicker sympathy with the temper of the day, he would
perhaps have aroused a popular enthusiasm, he might perhaps have been
the hero which in fact he never was. But his intellectual perceptions
did not permit the subtle self-deceit, the enthusiastic surrender to
current sentiment, to which the striking figures that delight the masses
of men are so apt to yield. Van Buren was steadfast from the beginning
to the end, save when the war threats of slavery alarmed his old age and
the sober second thought of a really patient and resolute people seemed
a long time coming. Two years before his death Jefferson wrote to Van
Buren an elaborate sketch of his relations with Hamilton and of our
first party division. Two years before his own death Van Buren was
finishing a history of the same political division written upon the
theory and in the tone running through Jefferson's writings. It was
composed by Van Buren in the very same temper in which he had
respectfully read the weighty epistle from the great apostle of
Democracy. Between the ending life at Monticello and that at Lindenwald,
the political faith of the older man had been steadily followed by the

The rise of the "spoils" system, and the late coming, but steadily
increasing perception of its corruptions and dangers, have seriously and
justly dimmed Van Buren's fame. But history should be not less indulgent
to him than to other great Americans. The practical politics which he
first knew had been saturated with the abuse. He did no more than adopt
accustomed means of political warfare. Neither he nor other men of his
time perceived the kind of evil which political proscription of men in
unpolitical places must yield. They saw the undoubted rightfulness of
shattering the ancient idea that in offices there was a property right.
They saw but too clearly the apparent help which the powerful love of
holding office brings to any political cause, and which has been used by
every great minister of state the world over. Van Buren had, however, no
love of patronage in itself. The use of a party as a mere agency to
distribute offices would have seemed to him contemptible. In neither of
the great executive places which he held, as governor, secretary of
state, or president, did he put into an extreme practice the
proscriptive rules which were far more rigorously adopted about him. To
his personal temper not less than to his conceptions of public duty the
inevitable meanness and wrong of the system were distasteful.

Chief among the elements of Van Buren's public character ought to be
ranked his moral courage and the explicitness of his political
utterances,--the two qualities which, curiously enough, were most
angrily denied him by his enemies. His well-known Shocco Springs letter
of 1832 on the tariff was indeed lacking in these qualities; but he was
then not chiefly interested. There was only a secondary responsibility
upon him. But it is not too much to say that no American in responsible
and public station, since the days when Washington returned from his
walk among the miserable huts at Valley Forge to write to the
Continental Congress, or to face the petty imbecilities of the jealous
colonists, has shown so complete a political courage as that with which
Van Buren faced the crisis of 1837, or in which he wrote his famous
Texas letter. Nor did any American, stirred with ambition, conscious of
great powers, as was this captain of politicians, and bringing all his
political fortunes, as he must do, to the risks of universal suffrage,
ever meet living issues dangerously dividing men ready to vote for him
if he would but remain quiet, with clearer or more decided answers than
did Van Buren in his Sherrod Williams letter of 1836 and in most of his
chief public utterances from that year until 1844. The courtesies of his
manner, his failure in trenchant brevity, and even the almost complete
absence of invective or extravagance from his papers or speeches, have
obscured these capital virtues of his character. He saw too many
dangers; and he sometimes made it too clear that he saw them. But upon
legitimate issues he was among the least timid and the most explicit of
great Americans. No president of ours has in office been more courageous
or more direct.

It is perhaps an interesting, it is at least a harmless speculation, to
look for Van Buren's place of honor in the varied succession of men who
have reached the first office, though not always the first place, in
American public life. Every student will be powerfully, even when
unconsciously, influenced in this judgment by the measure of strength or
beneficence he accords to different political tendencies. With this
warning the present writer will, however, venture upon an opinion.

Van Buren very clearly does not belong among the mediocrities or
accidents of the White House,--among Monroe, Harrison, Tyler, Polk,
Taylor, Fillmore, and Pierce, not to meddle with the years since the
civil war whose party disputes are still part of contemporary politics.
Van Buren reached the presidency by political abilities and public
services of the first order, as the most distinguished active member of
his party, and with a universal popular recognition for years before his
promotion that he was among the three or four Americans from whom a
president would be naturally chosen. Buchanan's experience in public
life was perhaps as great as Van Buren's, and his political skill and
distinction made his accession to the presidency by no means unworthy.
But he never led, he never stood for a cause; he never led men; he was
never chief in his party; and in his great office he sank with timidity
before the slaveholding aggressors, as they strove with vengeance to
suppress freedom in Kansas, and before the menaces and open plunderings
of disunion. Van Buren showed no such timidity in a place of equal

Jackson stands in a rank by himself. He had a stronger and more vivid
personality than Van Buren. But useful as he was to the creation of a
powerful sentiment for union and of a hostility to the schemes of a
paternal government, it is clear that in those qualities of steady
wisdom, foresight, patience, which of right belong to the chief
magistracy of a republic, he was far inferior to his less picturesque
and less forceful successor. The first Adams, a man of very superior
parts, competent and singularly patriotic, was deep in too many personal
collisions within and without his party, and his presidency incurred too
complete and lasting, and it must be added, too just a popular
condemnation, to permit it high rank, though very certainly he belonged
among neither the mediocrities nor the accidents of the White House.

If to the highest rank of American presidents be assigned Washington,
and if after him in it come Jefferson and perhaps Lincoln (though more
than a quarter of a century must go to make the enduring measure of his
fame), the second rank would seem to include Madison, the younger Adams,
and Van Buren. Between the first and the last of these, the second of
them, as has been said, saw much resemblance. But if Madison had a
mellower mind, more obedient to the exigencies of the time and of a
wider scholarship, Van Buren had a firmer and more direct courage, a
steadier loyalty to his political creed, and far greater resolution and
efficiency in the performance of executive duties. If one were to
imitate Plutarch in behalf of John Quincy Adams and Van Buren, he would
need largely to compare their rival political creeds. But leaving these,
it will not be unjust to say that in virile and indomitable continuance
of moral purpose after official power had let go its trammels, and when
the harassments and feebleness of age were inexorable, and though the
heavens were to fall, the younger Adams was the greater; that in
executive success they were closely together in a high rank; but that in
skill and power of political leadership, in breadth of political
purpose, in freedom from political vagaries, in personal generosity and
political loyalty, Van Buren was easily the greater man.

Van Buren did not have the massive and forcible eloquence of Webster, or
the more captivating though fleeting speech of Clay, or the delightful
warmth of the latter's leadership, or the strength and glory which their
very persons and careers gave to American nationality. But in the
persistent and fruitful adherence to a political creed fitted to the
time and to the genius of the American people, in that noble art which
gathers and binds to one another and to a creed the elements of a
political party, the art which disciplines and guides the party, when
formed, to clear and definite purposes, without wavering and without
weakness or demagogy, Van Buren was a greater master than either of
those men, in many things more interesting as they were. In this exalted
art of the politician, this consummate art of the statesman, Van Buren
was close to the greatest of American party leaders, close to Jefferson
and to Hamilton.

In his very last years the stir and rumbling of war left Van Buren in
quiet recollection and anxious loyalty at Lindenwald. As his growing
illness now and then spared him moments of ease, his mind must
sometimes have turned back to the steps of his career, senator of his
State, senator of the United States, governor, first cabinet minister,
foreign envoy, vice-president, and president. There must again have
sounded in his ears the hardly remembered jargon of Lewisites and
Burrites, Clintonians and Livingstonians, Republicans and Federalists,
Bucktails and Jacksonians and National Republicans, Democrats and Whigs,
Loco-focos and Conservatives, Barnburners and Hunkers. There must
rapidly though dimly have shifted before him the long series of his
struggles,--struggles over the second war with England, over internal
improvements, the Bank, nullification, the divorce of bank and state,
the resistance to slavery extension. Through them all there had run, and
this at least his memory clearly recalled, the one strong faith of his
politics and statesmanship. In all his labors of office, in all his
multifarious strifes, he never faltered in upholding the Union. But not
less firmly would this true disciple of Jefferson restrain the
activities of the federal government. Whatever wisdom, whatever
integrity of purpose might belong to ministers and legislators at
Washington,--though the strength of the United States might be theirs,
and though they were panoplied in the august prestige rightly ascribed
by American patriotism to that sovereign title of our nation,--still Van
Buren was resolute that they should not do for the people what the
States or the people themselves could do as well. To his eyes there was
clear and undimmed from the beginning to the close of his career, the
idea of government as an instrument of useful public service, rather
than an object of superstitious veneration, the idea but two years after
his death clothed with memorable words by a master in brief speech, the
democratic idea of a "government of the people, by the people, for the


[1] "I shall not, whilst I have the honor to administer the government,
bring a man into any office of consequence, knowingly, whose political
tenets are adverse to the measures which the general government are
pursuing; for this, in my opinion, would be a sort of political
suicide."--Washington to Pickering, secretary of war, September 27,
1795. Vol. 11 of Sparks's edition of _Washington's Writings_, 74.

[2] I use the political name then in vogue. The greater part of the
Republicans have, since the rearrangement of parties in John Quincy
Adams's time, or rather since Jackson's time, been known as Democrats.

[3] The more conspicuous difficulty in 1801 arose from the voting by
each elector for two candidates without distinguishing which he
preferred for president and which for vice-president. But the
awkwardness and not improbable injustice of a choice by the House was
also well illustrated in February, 1801.

[4] Gales and Seaton's Debates in Congress give here the word "act"
instead of "think,"--but erroneously, I assume.

[5] The comparison cannot of course be complete, as some who were
senators in 1826 were not senators in 1828.

[6] This and several other references of mine to Gladstone were written
ten years and more before his death. These years of his brief but
extraordinary Home Rule victory, of his final defeat,--for Lord
Rosebery's defeat was Gladstone's defeat,--and of his retirement, have
not only added a mellow and almost sacred splendor to his noble career,
but have still better demonstrated his superb political gifts. What
politician indeed, dead or living, is to be ranked above him?

[7] This was written nine years before the lamentable surrender of the
organization of Van Buren's party at Chicago in 1896. It is safe to say
that these traditions, even if fallen sadly out of sight, still make a
deep and powerful force, which must in due time assert itself.

[8] After the Dissenting Liberals had acted with the Conservatives, not
only in the first Home Rule campaign in 1886, but during the Salisbury
administration from 1886 to 1892, and in the campaigns of 1892 and 1895,
the coalition was ended and a new and single party formed, of which the
Duke of Devonshire and Mr. Chamberlain were leaders as really as Lord
Salisbury or Mr. Balfour. The accession of the former to the Unionist
ministry of 1895 was in no sense a reward for bringing over some of the

[9] This was written in 1887. The Albany Regency, after a life of sixty
years, ended with the death of Daniel Manning, in Mr. Cleveland's first
presidency, and with it ended the characteristic influence of its organ.
The Democratic management at Albany has since proceeded upon very
different lines and has engaged the ability of very different men.

[10] A month or two after his arrival Van Buren wrote Hamilton that his
place was decidedly the most agreeable he had ever held, but added:
"Money--money is the thing." His house was splendid and in a delightful
situation; but it cost him £500. His carriage cost him £310, and his
servants with their board $2,600.

[11] In estimating the popular vote in 1828, Delaware and South Carolina
are excluded, their electors having been chosen by the legislature. In
Georgia in that year there was no opposition to Jackson. In 1832 no
popular vote is included for South Carolina or for Alabama. In
Mississippi and Missouri there was no opposition to Jackson. In 1829,
upon Van Buren's recommendation when governor, the system in New York of
choosing electors by districts, which had been in force in the election
of 1838, was abolished; and there was adopted the present system of
choosing all the electors by the popular vote of the whole State.

[12] The Treasurer's statement for August, 1837, gave eighty-four
deposit banks. But of these, nine had less than $5000 each on deposit,
six from $5000 to $10,000, and eight from $10,000 to $20,000. Fourteen
had from $50,000 to $100,000 each. Only twenty-nine had more than
$100,000 each. It is not unfair to speak of the deposits as being
substantially in fifty banks.

The enormous land sales at the Southwest had placed a most
disproportionate amount of money in banks in that part of the country.
John Quincy Adams seemed, but with little reason, to consider this an
intentional discrimination against the North. It is quite probable that,
if the deposits had been in one national bank, the peculiarly excessive
strain at that point would have been modified. But this was no great
factor in the crisis.

[13] I cannot refrain from noticing here the curious fact that Dr. Von
Holst, after a contemptuous picture of Van Buren as a mere verbose,
coarse-grained politician given to scheming and duplicity, was not
surprised at his meeting in so lofty a spirit this really great trial.
For surely here, if anywhere, the essential fibre of the man would be
discovered. I must also express my regret that this writer, to whom
Americans owe very much, should have been content (although in this he
has but joined some other historians of American politics) to accept
mere campaign or partisan rumors which when directed against other men,
have gone unnoticed, but against Van Buren have become the basis for
emphatic disparagement and contumely. Even Mackenzie, the publisher of
the purloined letters, writing his pamphlet with the most obvious and
reckless venom, is quoted by this learned historian as respectable
authority. Van Buren had refused during nearly a year to pardon
Mackenzie from prison for his unlawful use of American territory to
prepare armed raids on Canada. Sir Francis B. Head's opinion was
doubtless somewhat colored; but he was not entirely without
justification in applying to Mackenzie the words: "He lies out of every
pore in his skin. Whether he be sleeping or waking, on foot or on
horseback, together with his neighbors or writing for a newspaper, a
multitudinous swarm of lies, visible, palpable, and tangible, are
buzzing and settling about him like flies around a horse in August."
(Narrative of Sir F. B. Head, London, 1839.)

[14] The reference was to commercial paper and not to bank-notes. But
both had been active characteristics of American speculation.

[15] The depositories now authorized for the proceeds of the internal
revenue secured the government by a deposit of the bonds of the latter,
which the depositories must of course purchase and own. (_U. S. Rev.
Stats._ § 5153.)

[16] I cannot refrain in this revised edition to note that England,
although not always a ready scholar, has in later years learned a
farseeing wisdom which in colonial administration makes her the teacher
of the world. The modern policy of deference to local sentiment and of
finding her own advantage in the independent prosperity of the colony,
has bound continents, islands, races, religions, to the English empire,
and brought from them wealth to England, as the old rule of force never

[17] It should be remembered that several great expenses of the White
House were then and are now met by special and additional

[18] I must again complain of the curious though unintended unfairness
of Professor Von Holst (_Const. Hist. of the U. S._ 1828-1846, Chicago,
1879, p. 663). He treats this letter with great contempt. He assumes
indeed that Van Buren's declaration for annexation would have given him
the nomination; and admits that Van Buren declared himself "decidedly
opposed to annexation." After this sufficient proof of courage, for Van
Buren could at least have simply promised to adopt the vote of Congress
on the main question, it was not very sensible to declare "disgusting"
Van Buren's efforts "to creep through the thorny hedge which shut him
off from the party nomination." Professor Von Holst's "disgust" seems
particularly directed against the passage here annotated where, after
his strong argument against annexation, he declared that he would not be
influenced by sectional feeling, and would obey the wishes of a Congress
chosen with reference to the question. Few, I think, will consider this
promise with reference to such a question, either cowardly or
"disgusting," made, as it was, by a candidate for the presidency, of a
democratic republic, after clearly and firmly declaring his own views in
advance of the congressional elections.

[19] James G. Blaine's _Twenty Years_, vol. i. pp. 269, 272.

[20] An engraving of this portrait accompanies Holland's biography,
written for the campaign of 1836.

[21] The mania for election betting among public men was very curious.
In the letters and memoranda printed by Mackenzie, the bets of John Van
Buren and Jesse Hoyt are given in detail. They ranged from $5000 to $50;
from "three cases of champagne" or "two bales of cotton," to "boots,
$7," or "a ham, $3." They were made with the younger Alexander Hamilton,
James Watson Webb, Moses H. Grinnell, John A. King, George F. Talman,
Dudley Selden, and other notable men of the time.

[22] One of the latest and most important historians of the time, after
saying that "nothing ruffled" Van Buren, is contented with a different
explanation from mine. Professor Sumner says that "he was thick-skinned,
elastic, and tough; he did not win confidence from anybody." But within
another sentence or two the historian adds, as if effect did not always
need adequate cause, that "as president he showed the honorable desire
to have a statesmanlike and high-toned administration." (Sumner's
_Jackson_, p. 451.)

[23] Here again I spoke of Gladstone, to whom, as this revised edition
is going to press, the civilized world is bringing, in his death, a
noble and fitting tribute.

[24] This expression was not original with Van Buren, as has been
supposed. It was used by Fisher Ames in 1788; and Bartlett's
_Quotations_ also gives a still earlier use of part of it by Matthew
Henry in 1710.


  Abolitionists, their position in society, 269;
    their doctrines, 269, 270;
    petition Congress against slavery, 271;
    circulate anti-slavery literature in South, 275;
    denounced in Democratic Convention of 1840, 379;
    also by Harrison, 381, 382;
    their effect on sentiment before 1840, 403;
    do not affect public men, 437;
    their view of slavery situation correct, 438.

  Adams, Charles Francis, presides at Buffalo Convention, 427;
    nominated for vice-president, 429.

  Adams, John, his foreign policy compared by Van Buren to John Q.
          Adams's, 127-129;
    history of his administration used to discredit that of his
          son, 145-147, 386;
    inferior to Van Buren in statesmanship, 464.

  Adams, John Quincy,
    supports Jefferson and Madison's foreign policy, 59;
    in peace negotiations, 63;
    acquires Florida for United States, 88;
    favors Missouri Compromise, 93;
    favors tariff of 1824, 103;
    attitude of Van Buren towards, as candidate, 107;
    his opinion of Van Buren, 107;
    the natural choice of New York Republicans, 109;
    elected president, 115, 116;
    welcomed by Van Buren upon inauguration, 117;
    his view of factious nature of Van Buren's opposition, 119;
    in reality creates division by his messages and policy, 120, 121;
    urges internal improvements, ignores constitutional questions, 121,
    urges Panama Congress, 122, 124, 126;
    later uses Van Buren's own parliamentary methods, 123;
    his opinion of Van Buren's character, 126;
    attack of Van Buren upon, as imitator of his father, 127;
    realizes consolidation of opposing elements, 130;
    his constitutional views attacked by Van Buren, 132;
    his disposal of patronage, 139;
    attacked by Van Buren as outdoing his father in encroachments
          on Constitution, 146;
    his position as party leader in 1828, 153, 154;
    comments of Jefferson on, 154;
    visited by Van Buren, 158;
    compares him to Aaron Burr, 158;
    denounces opposition as unworthy, 159;
    his position erroneous, 161;
    his principles, not his character, the real issue, 161;
    slandered in 1828, 163;
    fairly criticised for his coalition with Clay, 163;
    connected with anti-Masonic party, 167, 245;
    defends Jackson in Monroe's cabinet, 185;
    on causes for McLean's removal from postmastership, 207;
    his appointees his own and Clay's followers, 213;
    his action regarding trade with British West Indies, 218, 219;
    becomes an anti-slavery leader, 273;
    opposes abolition in the District of Columbia, 274;
    optimism of his message of 1827, 288;
    on banking situation in 1837, 295;
    considers specie circular principal cause of panic, 335;
    urges a national bank, 335, 336;
    votes for fourth installment of surplus, 338;
    denounces American claims on Mexico as a plot to annex Texas, 360;
    his course on "gag" rule no more reasonable than Van Buren's, 381;
    as president, presses American claim to fugitive slaves, 381;
    considers Van Buren's politeness to be hypocrisy, 395, 396, 451;
    on Harrison's ability, 401;
    his death, 429;
    comparison with Van Buren, 464, 465.

  Alamo, defense of, 357, 358.

  "Albany Argus," interest of Van Buren in, 191, 192.

  Albany Regency, its membership and character, 111, 112;
    its high ability and integrity, 112;
    its end, 192 n.

  Allen, Peter, his contested election in 1816, 64.

  Ambrister, Richard, executed by Jackson, 186.

  Ames, Fisher, uses phrase "second thought of the people," 458 n.

  Anti-Masons, in New York election of 1828, 166;
    rise and popularity of, 167;
    their importance in 1832, 245;
    unite with Whigs in New York, 245;
    nominate an electoral ticket, 245, 246.

  Arbuthnot, execution of, 186.

  Armstrong, General John,
    replaced as United States senator by De Witt Clinton, 51.

  Auckland, Lord, his remark to Van Buren, 228.

  Bancroft, George, secretary of navy, 362;
    at Democratic Convention of 1844, 408.

  Bank of United States,
    incorporation condemned as unconstitutional by Van Buren, 145;
    attack upon, begun by Jackson, 203;
    removal of deposits, 249-251;
    not likely to have prevented crisis of 1837, 296, 297;
    demanded by Whigs, 334, 335;
    slow to resume specie payments, 348, 349;
    its transactions with Pennsylvania, 370;
    suspends payments in 1839, 371;
    collapses again in 1841, 393;
    bill to re-charter, vetoed by Tyler, 402.

  Barbour, Philip P., declares Cumberland road bill does not involve
          question of internal improvements, 95;
    candidate for vice-presidency in 1831, 237, 239;
    at Whig convention of 1839, 378.

  Barnburners, origin of, 415;
    their leaders, 415;
    attempts of Polk to placate, 415, 416;
    at first, control Democratic party in New York, 416, 417;
    support Wilmot Proviso, 417;
    alienated from Polk, 417;
    defeated by Hunkers, 418;
    secede in 1847, 419;
    announce intention to support no candidate not in favor of Wilmot
          Proviso, 419;
    cause defeat of Hunkers in election of 1847, 422;
    hold convention at Utica in 1847, 423, 424;
    issue address, 424;
    at national convention, 424;
    their Utica convention of 1848, 425;
    nominate Van Buren for president, 427;
    join Free Soil party at Buffalo convention, 427;
    nominate Dix for governor, 429;
    rejoin Democratic party, 435.

  Barry, William T., succeeds McLean as postmaster-general, 179;
    helps Blair to establish a Jacksonian paper, 191;
    minister to Spain, 199.

  Barton, David, votes for Panama Congress, 131.

  Beardsley, Samuel, attorney-general of New York, 23.

  Beecher, Henry Ward, anti-slavery leader, 273.

  Bell, John, defeated for speakership of House, 337.

  Bennett, James Gordon,
    asks aid from Van Buren in return for newspaper support, 192;
    upon refusal, becomes Van Buren's enemy, 193.

  Benton, Thomas H., on Van Buren's classification act, 62;
    describes Van Buren's friendship with King, 72;
    enters Senate, his friendship with Van Buren, 94;
    votes against internal improvements, 95;
    votes for tariff of 1824, 99;
    on Van Buren's advocacy of tariff, 102;
    supports Van Buren's proposed amendment to electoral articles
          in Constitution, 106;
    on topographical surveys, 117;
    votes for Cumberland road, 117;
    votes for occupation of Oregon, 117;
    not always in harmony with Van Buren, 131;
    his report on reduction of executive patronage, 137-139;
    urges abolition of salt duty, 140;
    opposes a naval academy, 140;
    again votes for Cumberland road, 142;
    votes for tariff of 1828, 142;
    praises Giles, 154;
    considers Hayne mouthpiece of Calhoun, 188;
    describes plan of Calhoun's friends to cry down Van Buren, 191;
    condemns system of removals, 211;
    denies large numbers of removals, 211;
    defends Jackson, 212;
    after Van Buren's rejection as minister, predicts his election as
          vice-president, 234;
    describes Van Buren's reception of Clay's "distress" appeal, 253;
    on White's presidential ambition, 257;
    moves expunging resolutions, 264;
    votes against bill to exclude anti-slavery matter from mail, in
          order to defy slaveholders, 276;
    describes scheme to force Van Buren to vote on bill to prohibit
          anti-slavery matter in the mails, 277;
    on Van Buren's motives for supporting it, 277;
    predicts to Van Buren a financial panic, 286;
    says Van Buren's friends urged Jackson to approve distribution of
          surplus, 302;
    his advice in speakership contest of 1839, 376;
    accuses Whigs of fraud in 1840, 391;
    declares for Van Buren's renomination in 1844, 399;
    votes against Texas treaty, 413;
    considers Wilmot Proviso unnecessary, 418;
    praised by Utica convention of 1847, 424;
    considers South to be merely blustering, 437;
    his friendship for Van Buren, 455.

  Berrien, John M., attorney-general, 179;
    made to resign, 199.

  Biddle, Nicholas,
    not so important to country as his friends assumed, 254;
    not the man to have prevented panic of 1837, 296, 298;
    calls on Van Buren, 319.

  Bidwell, Marshall S., leader of popular party in Upper Canada, 352.

  Birney, James G., vote for, in New York, 413;
    defeats Clay, 413.

  Blair, Francis P., his character, establishes "Globe," 191;
    enters kitchen cabinet, 193;
    opposes nullification and the bank, 193;
    refusal of Van Buren to aid, 194;
    in connection with Kendall suggests removal of deposits, 251, 252;
   supports hard money and loses House printing, 338.

  Bouligny, Dominique, votes for Panama congress, 131.

  Branch, John, secretary of navy, 179;
    forced out of cabinet, 199.

  British West Indies, negotiations over trade rights in, 217-222.

  Bronson, Greene C., attorney-general of New York, 23.

  Brougham, Lord, attacks Durham, 356.

  Bryant, William Cullen, denounces Loco-focos, 344;
    issues circular opposing Texas, but supporting Polk, 415.

  Buchanan, James, supported by Van Buren in 1856, 3, 441;
    declines offer of attorney-generalship, 393;
    letter of Letcher to, on Polk's nomination, 412;
    supports compromise of 1850, 437;
    letter of Van Buren favoring, 442-444;
    praised mildly by Van Buren, 444;
    condemned by Van Buren for accepting Dred Scott decision, 446;
    his policy in 1861, condemned by Van Buren, 447;
    inferior to Van Buren in ability, 463.

  Bucktails, faction of New York Democracy, 67;
   originate in personal feuds, 67;
    proscribed by Clintonians, 67;
    support Rufus King for senator against Clintonians, 69;
    joined by a few Federalists, 73;
    gain election of 1820, 73;
    in Congress, vote against a Clintonian speaker, 76;
    elect Van Buren to Senate, 76;
    try to destroy Clinton's power by removing from office of canal
          commissioner, 109;
    oppose bill for election of electors by people, 111;
    secure its defeat in legislature, 113;
    punished by defeat in election of 1824, 113;
    oppose Clinton for reëlection in 1826, 147, 148.
    (See Democratic party of New York.)

  Burr, Aaron, his standing in 1802, 17;
    acquaintance with Van Buren, 17, 18;
    used as a bugbear in American politics, 18;
    attorney-general of New York, 23;
    in Medcef Eden case, 29;
    calls Van Buren to aid before court of errors, 29;
    intrigues with Federalists in election of 1801, 38;
     his standing in Republican party in 1803, 42, 43;
    endeavors to gain governorship with Federalist aid, 43;
    defeated, his political career closed, 44;
    his friends turned out of office, 51;
    compared by Adams to Van Buren, 158.

  Butler, Benjamin F., contrasts Van Buren and Williams as lawyers, 20;
    enters partnership with Van Buren, his character, 24;
    high opinion of Van Buren's legal ability, 31;
    on Van Buren's attitude toward Madison, 59;
    describes arrogance of Judge Spencer, 84;
    on Van Buren's attitude toward tariff, 102;
    member of Albany Regency, 111, 112;
    succeeds Taney as attorney-general, 255;
    continues in office under Van Buren, 283;
    resigns, 393;
    visits Jackson in Van Buren's interest, 407;
    protests against adoption of two-thirds rule by convention of 1844,
          408, 409;
    reads letter from Van Buren authorizing withdrawal of his name, 411;
    leads Barnburners, 415;
    declines Polk's offer of War Department, 416;
    at Utica convention of 1848, 425;
    reports resolutions at Buffalo convention, 427;
    his friendship for Van Buren, 455.

  Butler, William Allen, on Van Buren's serenity, 451;
    on his father's affection for Van Buren, 455.

  Calhoun, John C., secretary of war, 94;
    vice-president, 131;
    inferior to Van Buren as party leader, 150;
    his attitude in campaign of 1828, 153;
    dislike of Crawford for, 157;
    represented by Ingham, Branch, and Berrien in Jackson's cabinet, 179;
    his rivalry with Van Buren begins, 179;
    his public career and character, 180;
    reasons for his defeat by Van Buren, 180;
    tries to prevent Van Buren's appointment to State Department, 180;
    connection with Eaton affair, 182, 184;
    wishes to succeed Jackson in 1832, 184;
    dislike of Jackson for, 185;
    his condemnation of Jackson in Monroe's cabinet, 185;
    betrayed by Crawford, 185, 186;
    answers Jackson's demand for an explanation, 186;
    his toast in reply to Jackson's Union sentiment, 188;
    declaration of Jackson against him as successor, 190;
    publishes Seminole correspondence, 191;
    attacked by "Globe," 191;
    defeats Van Buren's nomination by casting vote, 233, 234;
    his secession weakens Jacksonian party, 245;
    describes Democratic party as held together only by desire for
          spoils, 261;
    anxious to make Van Buren vote on bill to exclude anti-slavery
          matter from mail, 277;
    rejoins Democratic party, 340;
    his reasons, 340, 341;
    altercation with Clay in Senate, 346;
    votes against sub-treasury bill, 346;
    does not bring his followers back to support of Van Buren, 387;
    his opinion of Van Buren quoted by Clay, 396;
    in Texas intrigue, 408;
    compared by Young to Nero, 410;
    his slavery doctrines expounded by Supreme Court, 441.

  Cambreleng, Churchill C., with Van Buren visits Southern States, 157;
    presides over Barnburner Herkimer convention, 419;
    Van Buren's criticism of, 452.

  Cameron, Simon, at Democratic convention of 1840, 379.

  Canada, government of, 350;
    popular discontent and parliamentary struggles in, 351;
    insurrections in, during 1837, 352;
    governorship of Head, 352, 353;
    suppression of insurrections in, 353;
    attempts of Mackenzie to invade, 353, 354;
    the Caroline affair, 354;
    attempts of Van Buren to prevent filibustering in, 355;
    pacified by Lord Durham, 355, 356;
    becomes loyal, 356.

  Cass, Lewis, secretary of war, 199;
    minister to France, 283;
    his "Nicholson letter," 422;
    considered a doughface, 423;
    nominated for presidency, 424;
    refusal of Van Buren to support, on account of his pro-slavery
          position, 426;
    defeated in 1848, 431;
   accepts compromise of 1850, 437.

  Chambers, Henry, votes for Panama congress, 131.

  Chandler, John, votes against Panama congress, 131.

  Charles X.,
    urged by Jackson to secure payment of American claims, 216.

  Chase, Salmon P., at Buffalo convention, 427.

  Cherokee Indians, removed from Georgia, 203.

  Chevalier, Michel, compares Van Buren to Talleyrand, 451.

  Civil service of United States,
    Democratic dread of executive power over, 137, 138;
    proposal to reorganize, 138-140.

  Clay, Henry, his connection with Burr, 18;
    contrasted with Van Buren in debate, 21;
    connection with Missouri Compromise, 90;
    absent from Congress in 1821, 94;
    calls protection the "American system," 99;
    loses chance for presidency through action of New York, 115;
    his action in election of Adams justified, 116;
    shares with Adams the responsibility of creating division
          in 1825, 122;
    vote in Senate on confirmation of his nomination, 123;
    urges Panama congress, 124, 125;
    his opposition to Monroe, 159;
    his policy inevitably brings on opposition, 160;
    opposes Van Buren's confirmation as minister to England, 230;
    denounces Van Buren for sycophancy, 231;
    nominated for presidency by Whigs, 246;
    by Young Men's convention, 246;
    defeated in 1832, 248;
    appeals to Van Buren to intercede with Jackson in behalf of the
          bank, 253;
    his attack on Jackson's land bill veto, 263;
    condemns abolitionists, 269;
    condemns bill to exclude anti-slavery matter from mails, 276;
    opposes reduction of taxation, 299;
    on real nature of deposit of surplus, 300;
    denounces Van Buren's policy in 1837, 337;
    demands a national bank, 337;
    insists on payment of fourth installment of surplus, 338;
    votes against treasury notes, 339;
    taunts Calhoun with joining Van Buren, 346;
    opposes preëmption bill, 357;
    misled by popular demonstrations, 369;
   cheated out of nomination in 1839, 378;
    on campaign of 1840, 382;
    holds Van Buren responsible for panic, 385;
    on Van Buren's personal agreeableness, 396, 397;
    visited by Van Buren, 400;
    discusses Texas question with him, 400;
    his position on slavery, 403;
    defeated in 1844 by Polk, owing to Birney's candidacy, 412, 413;
    writes letter against Texas annexation, 413;
    later bids for pro-slavery vote, 413;
    discarded for Taylor in 1848, 430;
    brings about compromise of 1850, 435, 437;
    inferior to Van Buren in real leadership, 465.

  Clayton, John M., votes for Panama congress, 131.

  Clinton, De Witt, in New York council of appointment of 1801, 48;
    introduces and advocates "spoils system," 49, 50;
    becomes United States senator, 51;
    duel with Swartwout, 51;
    justification of his party proscription, 56;
    supported by Van Buren in 1812, 58;
    his character, nominated for president against Madison, 58;
    breaks relations with Van Buren, 63, 64;
    removed from mayoralty of New York, 64;
    secures passage of law establishing Erie Canal, 65;
    supported in this by Van Buren, 65;
    thanks Van Buren, 66;
    elected governor, 66;
    reëlected in 1820, 73;
    accuses Monroe's administration of interfering in state election, 75;
    supports Jackson, 109, 156;
    complimented by Jackson, 109;
    his position in New York politics as canal commissioner, 109;
    removed by enemies in legislature, 110;
    regains popularity, elected governor, 110;
    his death, his character, 147;
    eulogy of Van Buren upon, 148.

  Clinton, George, his separatist attitude toward Constitution, 5;
    leads Republican party in New York, 40;
    his career as governor of New York, 40;
    declines nomination in 1795, 41;
    reëlected in 1801, 41;
    later aspirations, 41;
    supplants Burr in vice-presidency, 43;
    attacked by Van Ness, 43;
    leads faction of Republicans, 44;
    his friends excluded by Hamilton from federal offices, 46;
    presides over council of appointment of 1801, 48, 49;
    protests against proscription of Federalists, 50.

  Clintonians, faction of New York Democrats, 40, 41;
    quarrel with Livingstonians, 44;
    control regular party caucus, 45;
    gain control of council of appointment, 45;
    remove Livingstonians from office, 51;
    lose and regain offices, 52;
    nominate and cast New York electoral vote for De Witt Clinton, 58;
    favor Erie Canal, 65;
    opposed by Bucktail faction, 67;
    joined by majority of Federalists, 73;
    defeated in election of 1820, 73;
    oppose election of Van Buren to Senate, 76;
    join Bucktails in Democratic party, 158.

  Cobb, Thomas W.,
    laments absence of principles in campaign of 1824, 108.

  Coddington, ----, refusal of Van Buren to appoint to office, 173.

  Coleman, William,
    friend of Hamilton, removed from office by Republicans, 50.

  Comet case, urged by Van Buren in England, 229.

  Compromise of 1850, its effect on Northern Democrats, 435;
    its futility, 435;
    defended by John Van Buren, 439, 440.

  Constitution, federal, circumstances preceding its formation, 4;
    its development by Federalists, 4, 5;
    and internal improvements, 96, 132, 201;
    proposal of Van Buren to amend in this respect, 97, 98;
    and protection, 101;
    proposal of Van Buren to amend in election of president by electors,
          104-106, 133, 134;
    attitude of Adams concerning, causes division of parties, 121, 122;
    in relation to Panama congress, 126;
    the bank, 145, 203;
    distribution of surplus, 265;
    its relation to slavery in the States, 272;
    to slavery in Territories, 426, 444;
    in Dred Scott case, 441.

  Constitutional convention of New York, its membership, 77;
    its work, 77;
    debate on necessity of a landed suffrage, 77-80;
    on appointments to office, 81, 82;
    abolishes council of revision, 82, 84;
    removes judges from office, 85.

  Crawford, William H., supported by New York Republicans against Monroe
          in 1816, 75;
    the "regular" candidate of party in 1824, 94, 95;
    supported by Van Buren, 95;
    opposes tariff of 1824, 103;
    his caucus nomination denounced by King, 105;
    reasons for his popularity, his career, 106, 107;
    nominated by caucus, 114;
    his connection with four-year-term act, 139;
    leaves public life, 157;
    his followers join Jackson's, 157;
    visited by Van Buren, 157;
    willing to support Jackson, but not Calhoun, 157;
    supports Jackson against Calhoun in Monroe's cabinet, 185;
    describes Calhoun's attitude to Jackson, 186.

  Crockett, Davy, his scurrilous life of Van Buren, 256;
    his defense of the Alamo, 358.

  Croswell, Edwin, member of Albany Regency, 111.

  Cumberland road, Monroe's veto of bill to erect toll-gates upon, 95;
    further debates upon, 96, 132.

  Cushing, Caleb, denounces Van Buren's
  policy in 1837, 336.

  Dade, Major Francis, massacred by Seminoles, 366.

  Dallas, George M., nominated for vice-president, 411.

  Debt, imprisonment for, attempts to abolish, 26, 27, 98, 116, 142.

  Democratic party, its relations with Van Buren, 2;
    in recent years loses Jeffersonian ideals, 12;
    share of Van Buren in forming, 118, 119;
    its opposition to Adams justifiable, 119;
    caused by Adams's loose constitutional policy, 121, 122;
    its policy not factious, 123;
    created in debate on Panama congress, 130, 131;
    drilled by Van Buren in opposing internal improvements, 131, 132,
    its principles stated by Van Buren, 145, 153;
    does not yet clearly hold them, 154;
    united by Jackson's personality, 155;
    different elements in, harmonized by Van Buren, 157;
    its opposition to Adams and Clay not causeless, but praiseworthy,
    significance of its victory, 162;
    erroneous descriptions of its administration, 177, 178;
    discussion in, over succession to Jackson, 185;
    break in, between Calhoun and Van Buren, 191;
    Van Buren's resignation from State Department in order not to
          hurt, 195;
    demands offices, 208-212;
    enraged at rejection of Van Buren's nomination, 234;
    rejects desire of New York to elect him governor, 236;
    meets in national convention of 1832, 237;
    not forced to adopt Van Buren, 237, 238;
    requires two-thirds majority to nominate, 238;
    nominates Van Buren for vice-presidency, 239;
    avoids adopting a platform, 239;
    fears to alienate believers in tariff and internal improvements, 240;
    Van Buren's nomination the natural result of circumstances, 240, 241;
    successful in election of 1832, 247, 248;
    secession of Southwestern members from, 256, 257;
    holds its national convention in 1835, 257;
    action of party in calling convention defended, 258, 259;
    adopts two-thirds rule, 259;
    nominates Van Buren and Rives, 259;
    Southwestern members of, nominate White and Tyler, 260;
    elects Van Buren, 279, 280;
    members of, urge Jackson to approve distribution bill, 302;
    upholds specie circular during panic, 322, 323;
    defeated in elections of 1837, 337, 342;
    members of, desert independent treasury bill, 338;
    rejoined by Calhoun, 340, 341;
    faction of, joins Whigs in opposing Van Buren, 347;
    regains ground in election of 1838, 362, 363;
    its national convention despondent, 379;
    its principles, 379;
    declares against abolitionists, 379;
    its address to the people, 379, 380;
    cried down in election of 1840, 386;
    badly defeated in 1840, 390, 391;
    significance of defeat, 399;
    bound to continue support of Van Buren, 399, 401;
    its nomination desired by Tyler, 402;
    its delegates to national convention instructed to nominate Van
          Buren, 404;
    majority of, desires annexation of Texas, 405;
    national convention of, 408-411;
    debate in, between Southern and Northern members, 408, 409;
    adopts two-thirds rule, 409;
    nominates Polk over Van Buren, 410, 411;
    successful in election, 412, 413;
    compliments Van Buren on honorable retirement, 414;
    at national convention of 1848 wishes to include both New York
          factions, 424;
    nominates Cass, 424;
    its rage at Free-soil secession, 429, 430;
    defeated in election, 432;
    impossibility of its pardoning Van Buren, 434;
    nominates Pierce, 439;
    nominates Buchanan, 441.

  Democratic party, in New York, supports Jackson, 158;
    nominates and elects Van Buren governor, 166;
    sends address to Jackson on Van Buren's rejection by Senate as
          minister to England, 234;
    proposes to elect Van Buren governor or send him to Senate, 236;
    Loco-foco faction in, 342-344;
    on reconciliation with Loco-focos, name transferred to whole
          party, 344, 345;
    offers Forrest nomination to Congress, 361;
    favors literary men, 361, 362;
    loses ground in elections of 1838, 363;
    welcomes Van Buren's visit, 369;
    continues, in 1839, to regain ground, 370;
    its action in convention of 1844, 408-411;
    held in support of Polk by Van Buren and Wright, 412, 413;
    divides into Hunkers and Barnburners, 415-425;
    reunited in 1849-1850, 435.

  Denny, Thomas, with Henry Parrish and others, on committee of New York
          merchants to remonstrate against specie circular, 317.

  Derby, Earl of, compared as parliamentarian to Van Buren, 123.

  De Tocqueville, Alexis de, on lawyers in America, 35.

  Dickerson, Mahlon, condemns too much diplomacy, 129;
    votes against Panama congress, 131;
    supports tariff of 1828, 143;
    secretary of navy under Van Buren, 283;
    resigns, 360.

  Dickinson, Daniel S., at Democratic Convention of 1844, 408, 411;
    leads Hunkers, 415;
    uses federal patronage against Barnburners, 417;
    suggests idea of squatter sovereignty, 422;
    supports compromise of 1850, 437.

  Diplomatic history, conduct of State Department by Van Buren, 215;
    negotiations leading to payment of French spoliation claims, 216;
    payment of Danish spoliation claims, 217;
    other commercial treaties, 217;
    negotiations relative to British West India trade, 217-222;
    Gallatin's mission to England, 219;
    American claims abandoned by Van Buren, 220;
    mutual concessions open trade, 222;
    Van Buren's mission to England, 224-228;
   rejection of Texas treaty, 413.

  Disraeli, Benjamin,
    his Jingo policy compared to Clay's and Adams's, 126.

  District of Columbia,
    question of abolition of slavery in, raised, 272, 273;
    general understanding that this was impossible, 273, 274;
    opinion of Van Buren concerning, 274, 275.

  Dix, John A., his desire to be one of Albany Regency, 112;
    at Democratic convention of 1840, 379;
    leads Barnburners, 415;
    praised by Utica convention of 1847, 423;
    accepts Free-soil nomination for governor, 429;
    his friendship for Van Buren, 456.

  Dix, Dr. Morgan, describes honesty of Albany Regency, 112.

  Dodge, Henry, nominated by Barnburners for vice-presidency, 427;
    declines to abandon Cass, 427.

  Douglas, Stephen A., supports compromise of 1850, 437.

  Dudley, Charles E., member of Albany Regency, 111;
    offers to surrender seat in Senate to Van Buren, 236.

  Duer, John,
    refusal of Van Buren to secure his removal from office, 209.

  Duer, William, joins Bucktail Republicans, 73.

  Durham, Earl of, sent to Canada, his character, 355;
    his successful rule, 355;
    recalled, 356;
    declines invitation to visit Washington, 356.

  Dutch, in New York, Americanized in eighteenth century, 14.

  Eaton, John H., supports tariff of 1828, 143;
    secretary of war, 179;
    marries Peggy Timberlake, 181;
    repeats remarks about Calhoun to Jackson, 186;
    resigns secretaryship,199;
    succeeds Barry as minister to Spain, 199;
    opposes Van Buren in 1840, 387.

  Eaton, Mrs. "Peggy," scandals concerning, 181;
    upheld by Jackson, 181, 182;
    ostracized by Washington society, 182;
    treated politely by Van Buren, 183, 184.

  Eden, Joseph, in suit for Medcef Eden's property, 28.

  Eden, Medcef, suit concerning his will, 28-30.

  Edmonds, John W.,
    issues circular opposing Texas but supporting Polk, 415.

  Election of 1824, nominations for, discussed in Senate, 105;
    candidates for, 106-109;
    lack of principles in, 108;
    nomination of Crawford by caucus, 114;
    action of Adams men in New York throws out Clay, 115;
    discussion of outcome of vote in House, 116;
    its result used in 1828 to condemn Adams, 164.

  Election of 1828, a legitimate canvass, 153;
    broad principles at stake in, 153, 154;
    propriety of opposition to Adams and Clay, 159, 160;
    founds principles of both parties until present day, 161;
    saves country from dangers of centralization, 162;
    slanderous character of, 162, 163;
    the cry of corrupt bargain, 163;
    the "demos krateo" cry legitimate, 165, 166.

  Ellmaker, Amos, nominated for vice-president by anti-Masons, 246.

  Ely, Rev. Dr. Ezra S., bitter letter of Jackson to, on clergy, 181.

  Emmett, Thomas Addis, attorney-general of New York, 23.

  England, lawyers not leaders in, 33;
    political prejudice in, against lawyers, 33;
    demands land-holding class as leaders, 34;
    considers offices as property, 55;
    unpopularity of political coalitions in, 116, 164;
    attempts to exclude Americans from trade with West Indies, 217, 218;
    offers trade upon conditions, 218;
    on failure of United States to comply, prohibits trade, 218;
    counter-claims of United States against, 219;
    claims against, abandoned by Van Buren, 219, 222;
    agrees to reciprocal concessions, 222;
    Van Buren minister to, 224;
    popularity of Irving in, 225;
    social life of Van Buren in, 226-228;
    its indifference to colonial grievances, 350;
    votes to tax Canada without reference to colonial legislatures, 351;
    sends Durham to remedy grievances, 356;
    recalls him, 356;
    second money stringency in, 371.

  Erie Canal, agitation for, 65;
    favored by Van Buren, 65, 66.

  Federalist party,
    its influence on development of United States government, 5;
    despises common people, 38;
    only example of a destroyed party, 38;
    deserves its fate, 38, 39;
    continues to struggle in New York, 39;
    aids Burr against Republicans, 43;
    supports Lewis against Clintonians, 44;
    begins spoils system in New York, 47;
    aids Livingstonians to turn out Clintonian officers, 51, 52;
    supports De Witt Clinton for president, 59;
    controls New York Assembly, 60;
    hinders war measures, 61;
    struggles for control of New York legislature in 1816, 64;
    defeated in elections, 65;
    expires in 1820, 72, 88;
    divides between Clintonians and Bucktails, 73;
    position under Monroe, 89;
    its career used by Van Buren to discredit J. Q. Adams, 128, 145, 146.

  Fellows, Henry, his election case in 1816, 64.

  Fillmore, Millard, signs compromise bills, 435, 437;
    Whig candidate in 1856, 445;
    an accidental president, 463.

  Field, David Dudley,
    issues circular against Texas but supporting Polk, 415;
    offers anti-slavery resolution in New York Democratic convention, 418;
    reads Van Buren's letter to Utica convention, 425.

  Financial history, removal of deposits from the bank, 249-251;
    exaggerated results of the withdrawal, 252-254;
    real unwisdom of "pet bank" policy, 254;
    causes of panic of 1837, 287-316;
    financial depression after war of 1812, 287, 288;
    land speculations, 291-294;
    large foreign investments, 293;
    discussion of "pet bank" policy, 295;
    not in any sense the cause of the panic, 295, 296;
    rapid increase of government surplus, 297;
    question of responsibility for speculation among politicians, 298-302;
    refusal to reduce taxation, 299;
    distribution of surplus, 300-302;
    objections of Jackson to distribution, 301, 302;
    warnings of Marcy and Jackson disregarded, 302, 303;
    specie circular, 304;
    demand for gold payments, 304, 305;
    nature of crisis of 1837 misunderstood, 305;
    class affected by it small in numbers, 306;
    great mass of people unaffected, 307;
    over-estimation of new lands, 308, 309;
    increased luxury, 309, 310;
    high prices, 310, 311;
    discovery of over-valuation, 311, 312;
    collapse of nominal value, 313;
    folly of attempt to conceal collapse, 314;
    bread riots against high prices, 315;
    disturbance caused by distribution of surplus, 315, 316;
    financial crisis begins in England, 316;
    failures begin in New York, 316;
    general collapse, 317;
    specie circular held to be the cause, 317-319;
    suspension of specie payments, 319, 320;
    general bankruptcy, 320;
    use of token currency, 323;
    Van Buren's message recommending independent treasury, 327-333;
    proposed remedies of Whigs, 333-337;
    defeat of first sub-treasury bill, 337;
    postponement of fourth installment of surplus, 338;
    issue of treasury notes, 338, 339;
    beneficent results of these measures, 339, 340;
    preparations for resumption of specie payment, 342;
    defeat of second independent treasury bill, 346;
    practical existence of an independent treasury, 346;
    final passage of sub-treasury bill, 347, 348;
    revival of business, 348;
    resumption of payments by New York banks, 348, 349;
    others follow, 349;
    return of confidence, 349;
    continued depression in South, 370;
    brief revival of land speculation, 371;
    renewed collapse of Western and Southern banks, 371;
    final passage of sub-treasury bill, 377.

  Findlay, William, votes against Panama congress, 131.

  Flagg, Azariah C., member of Albany Regency, 111;
    leads Barnburners, 415;
    his friendship for Van Buren, 456.

  Florida, acquired in 1819, 88;
    vote of Van Buren to exclude slave trade in, 93, 94.

  Floyd, John, receives South Carolina's electoral vote in 1832, 248.

  Forman, Joshua, proposes safety fund for New York banks, 170.

  Forrest, Edwin, declines a nomination to Congress, 361.

  Forsyth, John, quotes Crawford's account of Calhoun's proposal in
          Monroe's cabinet to punish Jackson, 185;
    refers Jackson to Crawford as authority, 186;
    secretary of state, 255;
    retained by Van Buren, 283.

  Fox, Charles James, compared to W. B. Giles, 154.

  France, urged by Jackson, agrees to pay spoliation claims, 216.

  Franklin, Benjamin, his share in effort for Union, 4.

  Free-soil party, loses faith in Van Buren, 3;
    organized at Buffalo convention, 427;
    its platform, 428;
    nominates Van Buren over Hale, 428;
    analysis of its vote in 1848, 431, 432;
    later relations of Van Buren with, 435;
    supports Hale in 1852, 439.

  Fremont, John C., Van Buren's opinion of, 441;
    defeated in election, 445.

  "Gag" rule, approved by Van Buren, 380;
    his policy justified by executive position, 381.

  Gallatin, Albert, nominated for vice-president, withdraws, 114;
    fails to settle West India trade question with England, 219;
    agrees with Van Buren's position, 231.

  Garland, Hugh A., as clerk of the House refuses to decide status of
          New Jersey congressmen, 375;
    justification of his action, 375, 376;
    denounced by Adams, 376;
    reëlected clerk, 376.

  Garrison, William Lloyd, on powers of Congress over slavery, 272;
    his position in American history, 273.

  Georgia, nominates Van Buren for vice-presidency, 108;
    "Clarkite" faction in, abuses Van Buren, 108;
    its conduct in Cherokee case rightly upheld by Jackson, 203, 204.

  Giddings, Joshua R., anti-slavery leader, 273;
    at Buffalo convention, 427.

  Giles, William B., his character, 154.

  Gilpin, Henry D., attorney-general under Van Buren, 393.

  Gladstone, William Ewart, his shrewdness as parliamentarian, 123;
    compared to Van Buren, 158 and n., 457;
    fails to see any principle involved in Canadian question of 1837,
          351, 352.

  "Globe," defends Jackson, 191;
    not established by Van Buren, 194;
    supports hard money, loses House printing, 338.

  Goschen, George Joachim, his career shows danger of coalitions, 164.

  Gouverneur, ----, postmaster in New York city, refuses to forward
          anti-slavery papers to Charleston, South Carolina, 276.

  Granger, Francis,
    supported for governor of New York by Whigs and Anti-Masons, 245;
    nominated for vice-president, 260.

  Grant, Ulysses S., his renomination in 1872, 118.

  Greeley, Horace, prefers Taylor to Van Buren in 1848, 431.

  Green, Duff, editor of "The Telegraph,"
    plans attack of Calhoun papers on Van Buren, 191.

  Grosvenor, Thomas P., member of Columbia County bar, 20.

  Grundy, Felix, attorney-general under Van Buren, 393.

  Gwin, Samuel, letter of Van Buren to, on slavery in the States, 272.

  Hale, Daniel, removed from office by New York Republicans, 50.

  Hale, John P., defeated for nomination at Buffalo convention, 428;
    withdraws from Liberty nomination, 431;
    Free-soil candidate in 1852, 439.

  Hamilton, Alexander,
    his aristocratic schemes defeated in Federal convention, 5;
    his opinion in Medcef Eden case, 28;
    killed by Burr, 29;
    advises Federalists not to support Burr for governor, 43;
    secures appointment of Clinton's opponents to federal offices in
          New York, 46;
    compared as party-builder to Van Buren, 465.

  Hamilton, James A., joins "Bucktails" in New York, 73;
    acts as temporary secretary of state, 177;
    on Calhoun's attempt to prevent Van Buren's appointment, 181;
    visits Crawford in 1828, 185;
    receives letter from Forsyth describing Calhoun's attitude toward
          Jackson in Monroe's cabinet, 185;
    refuses to give letter to Jackson, 186;
    letter of Van Buren to, on Jackson's principles, 200;
    aids Jackson in composing messages, 205;
    on Jackson's demand for subservience in associates, 206;
    letter of Van Buren to, on removals, 209.

  Hamilton, John C., joins Bucktail Republicans, 73.

  Hamlin, Hannibal, at Democratic convention of 1840, 379.

  Hammond, Jabez D., quoted, 65, 68, 78, 168;
    on Van Buren's trickery, 175.

  Harrison, William Henry, nominated by Whigs in 1832, 260;
    his answers to Williams's questions, 264;
    vote for, in election, 279, 280;
    renominated for president, 377;
    denounced as a Federalist by Democrats, 379;
    denies charge of abolitionism, 381, 382;
    opposes abolition in District of Columbia, 381;
    character of his speeches in the campaign, 386;
    vote for, in 1840, 390, 391;
    welcomed to White House by Van Buren, 394;
    his death, 401;
    one of the mediocrities of White House, 463.

  Harvard College, confers on Jackson degree of Doctor of Laws, 255.

  Hayne, Robert Y., on "era of good feeling," 88;
    against tariff of 1824, 99, 100;
    his arguments, 101, 102;
    votes to reject Clay's nomination to State Department, 123;
    on Clay's Panama scheme, 127;
    protests against tariff of 1828, 144;
    a leader of Senate until 1828, 148;
    his debate with Webster, 188;
    opposes confirmation of Van Buren as minister to England, 230.

  Head, Sir Francis B., on Mackenzie as a liar, 326 n.;
    as governor, refuses to placate disaffected Canadians, 352, 353;
    leaves Canada, 355.

  Henry, John V.,
    New York Federalist, removed from office by Republicans, 50.

  Henry, Matthew, on "sober second thought of people," 458 n.

  Henry, Patrick, his separatist attitude, 5.

  Hill, Isaac, in kitchen cabinet, 193;
    letter of Lewis to, proposing a national convention, 237.

  Hoes, Hannah, marries Van Buren, 21;
    her death, 36.

  Holmes, John, votes against Panama congress, 131.

  House of Representatives, defeats independent treasury bill, 337, 338;
    rejects renewal of a bank, 340;
    defeats second treasury bill, 346;
    finally passes it, 348;
    struggle for control of, in 1839, 374-377;
    case of the five New Jersey congressmen, 374, 375;
    refusal of clerk to call names of contestants, 374, 375;
    organization of, by Adams and Rhett, 376, 377.

  Houston, Samuel, defeats Mexicans, 358.

  Hoxie, Joe, in campaign of 1840, 390.

  Hoyt, Jesse, letter of Butler to, on Van Buren, 31;
    letter of Butler to, on judicial arrogance, 84;
    letters of Van Buren to, on appointments to state office, 173, 174;
    on Jackson, 190;
    on necessity of a newspaper organ, 192;
    writes insolent letter, urging Van Buren to dismiss office-holders,
    succeeds Swartwout as collector at New York, 364;
    his character, 364, 365;
    his election bets, 453 n.

  Hoyt, Lorenzo, complains of Van Buren's slowness to remove opponents
          from office, 209.

  Hunkers, origin of, their leaders, 415;
    struggle with Barnburners in New York, 417;
    aided by Polk, 417;
    gain control of party, 418.

  Hunter, Robert M. T., elected speaker of House in 1839, 376;
    his later career, 376.

  Ingham, Samuel D., secretary of treasury, 179;
    describes rush of office-seekers, 210.

  Inman, Henry, his portrait of Van Buren, 449.

  Internal improvements, debates on, in Senate, 95-98, 117, 142;
    opposition becomes part of Democratic policy, 98;
    advocated by Adams, 121;
    bill for, vetoed by Jackson, 201, 202;
    not mentioned by Democrats in platform of 1832, 240;
    demand for, caused by expansion of West, 290.

  Irving, Washington,
    appointed secretary of legation at London by Van Buren, 224;
    his popularity in England, 225;
    wishes to resign, but remains with Van Buren, 225;
    his friendship for Van Buren, 225;
    travels through England with Van Buren, 226;
    on Van Buren's career in London, 228;
    declines offers of Democratic nominations, 361;
    declines offer of Navy Department, 361, 362;
    lives at Kinderhook, 398.

  Jackson, Andrew, Van Buren a representative of, in 1860, 2;
    his connection with Burr, 18;
    on "rotation in office," 54;
    his victory at New Orleans, 63;
    thanked by New York legislature, 63;
    urges Monroe to appoint Federalists to office, 89;
    elected to Senate, 94;
    relations with Benton, 94;
    his attitude on internal improvements, 98;
    on the tariff, 104;
    does not vote on proposed amendment of electoral procedure, 106;
    votes for internal improvements, 117;
    votes for occupation of Oregon, 117;
    his popularity utilized by Van Buren to form a party, 118;
    retires from Senate, 119;
    slowness of Van Buren to support, 119;
    votes to reject Clay's nomination to State Department, 123;
    aids his own candidacy, 131;
    defends Van Buren from charge of non-committalism, 151;
    his congressional record inconsistent with nominal Jacksonian creed,
    his career as strict constructionist, 155;
    not a mere tool, but a real party manager, 155, 156;
    and a real national statesman, 156;
    management of his candidacy in New York, 158;
    slandered in campaign of 1828, 162, 163;
    offers Van Buren State Department, 167;
    opposed by Anti-Masons, 167;
    erroneous popular view of his first term, 177, 178;
    its real significance, 178;
    his cabinet, reasons for appointments, 179;
    unmoved by Calhoun's objections to Van Buren's appointment, 180, 181;
    anger at Mrs. Eaton's defamers, 181, 182;
    quarrels with wives of cabinet secretaries, 182;
    his condemnation by Calhoun in Monroe's cabinet for Seminole affair,
    ignorant of Calhoun's attitude, 185;
    told by Lewis and Crawford, 186;
    demands an explanation from Calhoun, 186;
    his reply to Calhoun, 187;
    sends Calhoun's letter to Van Buren, 187;
    his toast for the Union, 188;
    declares for Van Buren as his successor, 189, 190;
    friendly feelings of Van Buren for, 190;
    attack upon, prepared by Green, 191;
    absurdity of story of his control by kitchen cabinet, 193;
    accepts Van Buren's resignation and approves his candidacy, 197;
    his answer to invitation to visit Charleston, 198;
    appoints Livingston secretary of state, 199;
    reorganizes cabinet, 199, 200;
    doubts of Van Buren as to his Jeffersonian creed, 200;
    his inaugural colorless, 201;
    vetoes Maysville road, his arguments, 201, 202;
    begins opposition to bank, 202, 203;
    defends removal of Cherokees from Georgia, 203;
    refuses to follow Supreme Court, 203;
    begins to doubt wisdom of high tariff, 204, 205;
    gains much development of ideas from Van Buren and others, 205, 206;
    not jealous of Van Buren's ability, 206;
    adopts Van Buren's theories, 206;
    not largely influenced by kitchen cabinet, 207;
    angered at opposition in government officials, 212;
    defends system of removals from office, 213;
    his action less blameworthy than Lincoln's, 215;
    urges France to pay spoliation claims, 216;
    boasts of his success, 216, 217;
    adopts peaceful tone toward England, 219;
    his connection with West India trade, 222;
    escorts Van Buren from Washington, 224;
    complimented by William IV., 229, 230;
    sends Van Buren's nomination to Senate, 230;
    replying to New York Democrats, justifies Van Buren, 235;
    does not desire, by national convention, to throttle the party, 238;
    his policy renders a party platform unnecessary, 240;
    significance of his election, 247;
    issues nullification proclamation, 248;
    adopts strict constructionist views, 249;
    orders removal of deposits from Bank of United States, 249, 250;
    refuses to postpone, 251;
    fears to leave deposits in bank, 252;
    considers distress fictitious, 253;
    cordial relations with Van Buren as vice-president, 254;
    his journey in New England, 255;
    denounced by friends of White for preferring Van Buren, 256;
    urges Tennessee to support Van Buren, 262;
    attacked by Clay, 263;
    signs bill to distribute surplus, 266;
    condemns circulation of abolitionist matter in the mails, 276;
    with Van Buren at inauguration, 282;
    the last president to leave office with popularity, 282;
    his departure from Washington, 283;
    tribute of Van Buren to, in inaugural address, 285;
    rejoices in high wages, 290;
    and in sales of public lands, 294;
    finally understands it to mean speculation, 294, 303;
    aids speculation by his pet banks, 295;
    reluctantly approves distribution of surplus, 301;
    issues specie circular, 304;
    his prudent attitude as president toward Texas, 358;
    urges claims upon Mexico, 359;
    dealings with Van Buren regarding Swartwout's appointment, 364;
    writes letter supporting Van Buren in 1840, 387;
    character of life in White House under, 395;
    visited by Van Buren in 1842, 400;
    writes letter in favor of Texas annexation, 404;
    tries to minimize Van Buren's attitude on Texas, 407, 408;
    his death weakens Van Buren politically, 416;
    query of Van Buren concerning his family prayers, 453;
    his firm affection for Van Buren, 454, 455;
    inferior to Van Buren in statesmanship, 463.

  Jay, John, leader of New York Federalists, 39;
    removals from office under, 47;
    controversy with council over appointments, 49.

  Jefferson, Joseph, his play of "Rip Van Winkle," 7.

  Jefferson, Thomas, Van Buren's discipleship of, 2, 3, 12;
    popular feeling at time of his election, 4;
    creates American politics, 5, 6;
    ill-treated by historians, 6, 10;
    implants democracy in American tradition, 6, 7, 9;
    bitterly hated by opponents, 9, 10;
    his position as Sage of Monticello, 12, 13;
    member of land-holding class, 33;
    policy toward Europe opposed by Federalists, 39;
    relations with Livingston family, 41;
    refuses to proscribe Federalist office-holders, 48;
    his attitude toward slavery, 91;
    condemns constitutional doctrines of J. Q. Adams, 154;
    retains popularity to end of term, 282;
    sends Van Buren a sketch of his relations with Hamilton, 460;
    his policy steadily followed by Van Buren, 460;
    one of greatest presidents, 464;
    compared as party-builder to Van Buren, 465.

  Jessup, General Thomas S., seizes Osceola, 366.

  Johns, Rev. Dr., at Democratic convention of 1844, 408.

  Johnson, Richard M., leads agitation for abolition of imprisonment for
          debt by federal courts, 27, 142;
    on interest of Holy Alliance in United States, 100;
    votes for Panama congress, 131;
    candidate for vice-presidency, 239;
    nominated for vice-presidency in 1835, 259;
    refusal of Virginia to support, 260;
    chosen vice-president by Senate, 281.

  Johnston, Josiah S., votes for Panama congress, 131.

  Jones, Samuel, in Medcef Eden case, 30.

  Kane, Elias K., votes against Panama congress, 131;
    supports tariff of 1828, 143.

  Kansas-Nebraska bill, passed, its effect, 440, 441;
    Van Buren's opinion of, 442-444.

  Kendall, Amos, helps Blair to establish Jacksonian paper, 191;
    in kitchen cabinet, 193;
    on Van Buren's non-connection with the "Globe," 194;
    postmaster-general, 199;
    on good terms with Van Buren, 207;
    describes regret at dismissing old government officials, 208, 209;
    defends propriety of removals under Jackson, 211;
    letter of Lewis to, on a national convention, 237;
    describes how he convinced Van Buren on bank question, 250;
    asks state banks to accept deposits, 250;
    willing to postpone action, 251;
    his avowed moderation as to appointments to office, 261, 262;
    his letter on abolition matter in the mails, 275, 276;
    continues in office under Van Buren, 283;
    resigns from Van Buren's cabinet, his reasons, 393, 394.

  Kent, James, his legal fame, 19;
    dislike of Van Buren for, 25;
    his decision in debtors' case reversed, 26;
    attacked by Van Buren in Medcef Eden case, 30;
    his political partisanship, 44;
    in New York constitutional convention, 77;
    opposes vigorously proposal to broaden suffrage, 77, 78;
    opposes making county officers elective, 82;
    controversy with Van Buren over act to promote privateering, 83;
    comment of Van Buren on, 84;
    his political narrowness, 246;
    nominated on Anti-Mason electoral ticket, 246.

  Kent, James, elected governor of Maine in 1840, 390.

  King, John A., joins Bucktail Republicans, 73.

  King, Preston, at Utica convention, 425.

  King, Rufus, leader of New York Federalists, 39;
    reëlected to U. S. Senate by Van Buren's aid, 68, 69;
    Van Buren's eulogy of, 69-72;
    his friendly relations with Van Buren, 72;
    opposes admission of Missouri as slave State, 73, 74;
    in New York constitutional convention, 77;
    opposes making county officers elective, 82;
    votes to prevent slave trade in Florida, 93;
    opposes tariff of 1824, 99;
    his constitutional argument, 100;
    denounces caucus nominations, 105;
    opposes abolition of imprisonment for debt, 116;
    on account of advancing years, declines to be candidate for
          reëlection, 117.

  Kitchen cabinet, its character and membership, 193;
    its great ability, 193;
    does not control Jackson, 193.

  Knower, Benjamin, member of Albany Regency, 111.

  Kremer, George, opens Democratic convention of 1835, 258.

  Lafayette, Marquis de, compliment of Jackson to, 216.

  Lands, public, enormous sales of, 294;
    significance of speculation in, not understood by Jackson, 294;
    the source of fictitious wealth, 308-312;
    specie circular causes depreciation in, 312, 313;
    preëmption scheme adopted, 357.

  Lansing, Gerrit Y.,
    chancellor of New York, reverses Kent's decision in debt case, 26;
    continues as judge to be a politician, 44.

  Lawrence, Abbot,
    denounces administration for causing panic of 1837, 321, 322.

  Leavitt, Joshua, reports name of Van Buren to Buffalo convention, 428.

  Legal profession, its early eminence in United States, 19, 32, 33, 35;
    shares in politics, 44.

  Leggett, William,
    proclaims right of discussion and condemns slavery, 271;
    condemns circulation of abolition literature in the South, 275.

  Letcher, Robert P., disgusted at nomination of Polk, 412.

  Lewis, Morgan, Republican leader in New York, 42;
    defeats Burr for governor, 44;
    leads Republican faction opposed to Clinton, 44;
    asks aid from Federalists to secure reëlection, 44, 45.

  Lewis, William B.,
    tells Jackson of Forsyth's letter on the Seminole affair, 186;
    asks Jackson to designate his choice for successor, 189;
    in kitchen cabinet, 193;
    not certain of Jackson's favor, 207;
    suggests a national convention to nominate a vice-president, 237.

  Liberty party,
    its vote in 1844 in the State of New York, defeats Clay, 412, 413;
    nominates Hale in 1847, 431.

  Lincoln, Abraham, contrast with Van Buren in 1860, 3;
    his responsibility for spoils system, 215;
    attitude on slavery in the States, 272;
    elected president on Wilmot Proviso, 416;
    opposed by Van Buren in 1860, 445;
    supported by Van Buren during war, 447.

  Livingston, Brockholst, his judicial career, 41;
    both judge and politician, 44.

  Livingston, Edward, his career as Republican, 41;
    appointed mayor of New York, 49;
    favors Jackson for presidency, 156;
    asked by Van Buren to succeed him as secretary of state, 194;
    appointed by Jackson, 199;
    drafts nullification proclamation, 248, 249.

  Livingston, Edward P., defeated by Van Buren for state senator, 53.

  Livingston, Maturin, removed from office by Clintonians, 51.

  Livingston, Robert R., defeated for governor of New York by Jay, 41;
    his Revolutionary, legal, and diplomatic career, 41;
    jealous of Hamilton, 42;
    both judge and party leader, 44.

  Livingston family, gains influence through landed wealth, 33;
    its political leadership in New York, 41, 42;
    attacked by Burrites, 43;
    quarrels with Clintonians, 51.
    (See New York.)

  Livingstonians, faction of New York Democrats, 41, 42;
    quarrel with Clintonians, 44;
    expel Clintonians from municipal offices, 52.

  Loco-foco party, faction of Democrats, 342;
    origin of name, 343;
    their creed, 343;
    denounced as anarchists, 344;
    give New York city to Whigs, 344;
    reunite with Democrats in 1837, upon a moderate declaration of equal
          rights, 344.

  Louis Philippe, urged by Jackson to pay American claims, 216;
    character of his court, 227.

  Lovejoy, Elijah P., anti-slavery leader, 273;
    his murder not of political interest, 359.

  Lundy's Lane, battle of, 62.

  McJilton, Rev. ----, at Democratic Convention of 1844, 408.

  McKean, Samuel,
    complains to Kendall of political activity of postmasters, 261.

  McLane, Louis, secretary of treasury, 199;
    Van Buren's instructions to him when minister to England, 219-221;
    his successful negotiations regarding West India trade, 222;
    wishes to return, 223;
    mentioned as candidate for vice-presidency, 238;
    wishes removal of deposits postponed, 250;
    disapproving of removal of deposits, resigns State Department, 255.

  McLean, John T., appointed to Supreme Court, 179;
    refuses to proscribe postmasters, 207;
    wishes Anti-Masonic nomination for presidency, 245.

  Mackenzie, William L., quoted by Von Holst, 326 n.;
    his character, 326;
    leads an insurrection in Upper Canada, 353;
    flies to Buffalo and plans a raid, 353;
    indicted and convicted, 356;
    on Van Buren's refusal to pardon him, becomes a bitter enemy, 356.

  Madison, James, member of land-owning class, 33;
    his foreign policy attacked by Federalists, 39;
    voted against by Van Buren in 1812, 58;
    his incapacity as war leader, 59;
    criticised by Van Buren for sanctioning Bank of United States, 146;
    compared to Van Buren in regard to ability, 464.

  Maine, threatens war over disputed boundary, 367;
    angered at Van Buren's peaceful measures, 367.

  Manley, Dr., refusal of Van Buren to remove from office, 174.

  Manning, Daniel, member of Albany Regency, 112, 192 n.

  Marcy, William L.,
    aids Van Buren, in behalf of King's election to Senate, 69;
    member of Albany Regency, 111, 112;
    appointed a judge by Van Buren, 174;
    defends spoils system, his famous phrase, 232;
    warns against over-speculation in 1836, 302, 303;
    calls out New York militia to prevent raids into Canada, 335;
    leads Hunkers, 415, 417;
    supports compromise of 1850, 437.

  Marshall, John, on Jefferson's political principles, 6;
    his legal fame, 19.

  Massachusetts, supports Webster for president in 1836, 260.

  Meigs, Henry, urged by Van Buren to remove postmasters, 75.

  Mexico, its war with Texas, 357;
    neutrality toward, declared by Van Buren, 358;
    claims against, pressed by Van Buren, 359, 360.

  Missouri, legislature of, compliments Van Buren, 399.

  Missouri question, in New York, 73, 74;
    its slight effect on national complacency, 90, 91.

  Monroe, James, member of land-owning class, 33;
    reëlected president, 72;
    voted for by Van Buren in 1820, 75;
    his message of 1820, 88;
    his character, 89;
    his tour in New England, 89;
    views on party government, 89, 90;
    vetoes internal improvement bill, 95, 96, 121;
    discussion in his cabinet over Jackson's action in Seminole matter,
    complimentary dinner to, in 1829, 186;
    inferior as president to Van Buren, 463.

  Monroe doctrine, its relation to Panama congress, 124.

  Moore, Gabriel, remark of Benton to, on Van Buren, 234.

  Morgan, William, his Masonic revelations and abduction, 167.

  Morton, Marcus, elected governor of Massachusetts by one vote, 370;
    leads Northern Democrats at convention of 1844, 408;
    opposes two-thirds rule, 409.

  Napoleon III.,
    explains to Van Buren his reasons for returning to Europe, 362.

  National Republicans, attacked by Van Buren, 145, 146;
    organized in defense of Adams, 153, 154;
    significance of their defeat, 162;
    defeated in New York election, 166.
    (See Whigs.)

  Nelson, Samuel, in New York constitutional convention, 77.

  New England, popularity of Van Buren in, 280.

  New Orleans, battle of, its effect, 63.

  New York, social conditions in, 14, 15;
    litigiousness in, 19;
    bar of, 20, 23;
    Senate of, sits with Supreme judges as court of errors, 23;
    imprisonment for debt in, 25;
    Medcef Eden case in, 28, 29;
    politics in, after 1800, 38, 39 (see Republican (Democratic) party);
    council of appointment in, 45, 46;
    spoils system in, 46-57;
    casts electoral votes for Clinton in 1812, 58, 59;
    war measures in, 61, 62;
    thanks Jackson in 1814, 63;
    popularity of Clinton in, 66;
    instructs senators and representatives to oppose admission of slave
          States, 74;
    constitutional convention in, 77-87;
    refuses suffrage to negroes, 81;
    popular animosity in, against judges, 84;
    approves their removal from office, 86;
    struggle for vote of, in election of 1824, 109-115;
    its vote secured by Adams and Clay, 115;
    instructs Van Buren to vote for protection, 144;
    reëlects Van Buren senator, 147;
    prominence of Van Buren, 166;
    election of 1828, 166, 167;
    its presidential vote, 167, 168;
    career of Van Buren as governor of, 168-176;
    bread riots in 1837, 314, 315;
    carried by Whigs, 342;
    sympathy in, for Canadian insurrection, 353, 363, 369;
    visits of Van Buren to, 367-369, 398;
    carried by Polk in consequence of Birney's vote, 412, 413;
    supports Wilmot Proviso, 417, 418;
    carried by Whigs because of Barnburners' bolt, 422, 431;
    election of 1860 in, 445.

  Newspapers, their early importance in politics, 191, 192.

  Niles, John M.,
    of Connecticut, succeeds Kendall in post office in 1838, 394.

  Niles's Register, on Democratic convention of 1835, 259.

  Noah, Mordecai M., opposes election of Jackson in 1832, 247.

  North, its attitude toward slavery in 1820, 91;
    economically superior to South, 91;
    disclaims responsibility for slavery in South, 92;
    but opposes its extension to new territory, 92;
    yet acquiesces in compromise, 93;
    favors tariff of 1828, 143;
    elects Van Buren in 1836, 280;
    its attitude toward South after 1840, 437.

  Nullification, stated by Hayne in his reply to Webster, 188;
    denounced by Jackson, 198, 199, 248, 249.

  Oakley, Thomas J., attorney-general of New York, 23;
    supplants Van Buren, 24.

  Ogden, David B., opposes Burr and Van Buren in Eden case, 30.

  Olcott, Thomas W., member of Albany Regency, 111.

  Osceola, leads Seminole insurrection, 366;
    his capture and death, 366.

  Otis, Harrison Gray, votes to prevent slave trade in Florida, 93.

  Overton, Judge John, letter of Jackson to, 189.

  Palmerston, Lord, compared as parliamentarian to Van Buren, 123, 149.

  Panama congress, suggested by Adams, 122;
    and by Clay, 124;
    its purposes as stated by Adams, 124-126;
    contrary to settled policy of country, 125;
    opposed by Van Buren in Senate, 126-129;
    affected by slavery question, 127;
    advocated by Webster, 130;
    fails to produce any results, 130;
    vote upon, creates a new party, 131.

  Papineau, Louis Joseph, heads insurrection in Lower Canada, 352.

  Parish, Henry,
    on New York committee to remonstrate against specie circular, 317.

  Parton, James, quoted, 183, 237.

  Paulding, James K., succeeds Dickerson as secretary of navy, 360;
    a Republican literary partisan, 360;
    his appointment resented by politicians, 362;
    visits South with Van Buren, 400.

  People's party, in New York, rivals of Bucktails, 109;
    favors Adams for presidency, 110;
    votes to remove Clinton from office, 110;
    demands choice of electors by people, 111, 112.

  Phillips, Wendell, anti-slavery leader, 273.

  Pierce, Franklin, gets electoral vote of New England, but not the
          popular vote, 280, 281;
    opposes Texas annexation, 424;
    Democratic candidate in 1852, 439;
    supported by Van Buren, 439;
    offers Van Buren position of arbitrator, 440;
    one of mediocrities of White House, 463.

  Plattsburg, battle of, 62.

  Poinsett, Joel R., secretary of war under Van Buren, 283;
    denounced by Webster for recommending federal organization of
          militia, 383.

  Polk, James K., elected speaker of House, 337;
    nominated for president, 410, 411;
    his career, significance of his choice, 412;
    his election causes a schism in Democratic party, 415, 416;
    tries to placate Barnburners, 415, 416;
    gives federal patronage to Hunkers, 417;
    attitude of Van Buren toward, 420, 421;
    one of mediocrities of White House, 463.

  Powell. See Osceola.

  Preston, William C., offers resolution to annex Texas, 359;
    attacks Van Buren in campaign of 1840, 385.

  Prussia, treaty with, 127, 128.

  Randolph, John, his career in Senate, 131, 148.

  Republican (Democratic) party, its ideals as framed by Jefferson, 6, 7;
    gains majority of American people, 8, 9;
    dominant in New York, 40;
    factions and leaders of, 40-43;
    defeats Burr in 1804, 44;
    controlled by Clintonians, 45;
    its share in establishing spoils system, 47-53;
    New York members of, oppose war in 1812, 58, 59;
    but later support Madison, 60;
    recovers control of New York government, its war measures, 61, 62;
    in favor at end of war, 63;
    makes Jackson its military hero, 63;
    commits sharp practice in "Peter Allen" case, 64, 65;
    gains control of legislature in 1816, 65;
    obliged to permit election of Clinton as governor, 66;
    divides into factions of Bucktails and Clintonians, 67, 69;
    receives accessions from Federalists, 72, 73;
    opposes admission of Missouri as a slave State, 74;
    in congressional caucus of 1816 nominates Monroe, 74, 75;
    comprises all of country in 1820-1824, 90;
    personal rivalries in, 90, 94, 95;
    Crawford the regular candidate of, 106, 107.

  Republican party of 1856, founded on Wilmot Proviso, 416;
    abandons it in 1861, 438;
    nominates Fremont in 1856, 441, 442;
    attitude of Van Buren toward, 441, 442, 445;
    distrusted as dangerous, 445;
    in election of 1860, 445.

  Rhett, Barnwell,
    moves election of Adams in 1839 as temporary chairman of House, 376.

  Richmond, Dean, member of Albany Regency, 112.

  Riggs, Elisha,
    on New York committee to remonstrate against specie circular, 317.

  Ringgold, Samuel, refers to Monroe as only one favorable to Jackson in
          Seminole matter, 185.

  Rives, William C., instructions of Van Buren to, 217;
    defeated for vice-presidential nomination, 259;
    later leaves party, 260;
    opposes independenttreasury, 347;
    denounces Van Buren in election of 1840, as covertly planning
          usurpation, 384, 385.

  Rochester, William B.,
    supported by Van Buren for governor against Clinton, 147.

  Rogers, Samuel, in London society in 1832, 227.

  Root, General Erastus,
    leads radical party in constitutional convention, 87.

  Roseboom, ----, in council of appointment of 1801, 49.

  Rowan, John, supports tariff of 1828, 143.

  Rush, Richard, his wide views of functions of government, 160.

  Russell, Sir John, interferes with Canadian taxation, 351.

  Sanford, Nathan, succeeded in United States Senate by Van Buren,76;
    in New York constitutional convention, 77;
    bound by instructions of New York legislature, 143.

  Santa Anna, captured at San Jacinto, 358.

  Schurz, Carl, his career in Senate compared with Van Buren's, 118.

  Schuyler family, member of landed aristocracy, 33.

  Scott, Sir Walter, in London society in 1832, 227.

  Scott, General Winfield,
    sent by Van Buren to prevent troubles on Canadian frontier, 355;
    Whig candidate for president in 1852, 439.

  Seminole war, Jackson's connection with, 185, 186;
    its cause and progress, 365, 366;
    policy of removal of Seminoles justified, 366, 367.

  Senate of United States, membership of, in 1821, 94;
    debates internal improvements, 95-98;
    debates tariff of 1824, 99-103;
    debates on internal improvements and on Oregon, 117;
    confirms Clay's appointment by Adams, 123;
    debates Panama congress, 126-131;
    position of Van Buren in, 131;
    debates internal improvements, 132, 133;
    and change in mode of election of president, 133;
    debates bills to regulate executive patronage, 137-140;
    on bankruptcy bill, 141;
    its character during 1821-1828, 148;
    more truly a parliamentary body then than later, 149;
    debate in, on nomination of Van Buren as minister to England, 230-233;
    rejects it, 233, 234;
    debates bill to exclude anti-slavery matter from mails, 276-278;
    a tie vote in, arranged to force Van Buren to vote, 277;
    passes sub-treasury bill, 337;
    votes against a bank, 340;
    debate in, on second sub-treasury bill, 346;
    resolves to recognize Texas, 358.

  Sergeant, John, nominated for vice-president, 246.

  Seward, William H.,
    his position in Senate compared with Van Buren's, 118-123;
    connected with Anti-Masonic party, 167, 245;
    approves distribution of surplus, 301;
    elected governor of New York, 363;
    publicly refuses to accept invitation to reception to Van Buren
          in New York, 369;
    prefers Taylor to Van Buren, 431;
    wishes to defy South, 437.

  Seymour, Horatio, member of Albany Regency, 112.

  Singleton, Miss, marries Van Buren's son, 395.

  Skinner, Roger, member of Albany Regency, 111.

  Slavery, not a political issue in 1821, 91;
    mild popular attitude towards, 91, 92;
    attitude of abolitionists towards, 270;
    attacked by Van Buren's supporter, Leggett, 271;
    debated in connection with Texas, 359;
    not in general politics, 359, 403;
    enters politics with Texas question, 403, 414;
    impossibility of attempts to exclude from politics, 422, 423.

  Smith, Gerrit, on Van Buren's nomination, 428.

  Smith, Samuel, votes for Panama congress, 131.

  South, attitude towards slavery, 91;
    opposes tariff of 1828, 143;
    condemns abolitionist petitions, 271;
    accuses Van Buren of abolitionism, 271, 272;
    prohibits circulation of abolition literature, 275;
    upheld by Kendall, 275;
    justified in its action, 277;
    large defection from Van Buren in, 278, 279;
    distrusts Van Buren in 1840, 380, 387, 403;
    Van Buren charged with subserviency toward, 403;
    desires to annex Texas, 404;
    wins victory in defeating Van Buren's nomination, 410;
    effect of slavery upon, 423;
    considered a bully by Seward and Benton, 437;
    attitude of "doughfaces" toward, justified by events, 437, 438;
    secures Kansas-Nebraska bill, 440;
    continues to loathe Van Buren, 444.

  South Carolina, votes for Floyd in 1832, 248;
    supports White in 1836, 260.

  Southwick, Solomon, Anti-Masonic candidate in New York, 166.

  Spain, Panama congress a defiance of, 124.

  Spencer, Ambrose, attorney-general of New York, 23;
    member of Clintonian faction, 44;
    in council of appointment of 1801, represents Livingstonians, 48;
    introduces spoils system, 49, 50;
    promoted to higher offices, 51;
    in New York constitutional convention, 77;
    his judicial pride described by Butler, 84.

  Spencer, John G., Clintonian candidate for Senate in 1819, 69;
    appointed by Van Buren to prosecute Morgan murderers, 174;
    reasons for his appointment, 175;
    nominated for election by Anti-Masons, 246.

  Spoils system, established in New York, 46;
    attitude of Washington towards, 46;
    its origin in struggles of Hamilton and Clinton, 46, 47;
    beginnings of removals for political reasons, 47;
    attitude of Jefferson toward, 48;
    established in 1801 by De Witt Clinton, 48-50;
    developed in years 1807-1813, 51, 52;
    becomes part of unwritten law, 52, 53;
    not to be wholly condemned at this time, 54;
    valuable in destroying English idea of property in office, 55;
    does not damage public service at first, 56, 57;
    popular with voters, 56, 57, 214;
    share of Van Buren in, 57, 58;
    defense of, by Thurlow Weed, 67, 68;
    Van Buren not responsible for its introduction into federal
          politics, 207;
    demand for, by Jacksonian office-seekers, 208-211;
    does not secure a clean sweep under Jackson, 211, 212;
    justification of removals under, 212, 213;
    policy of, defended by Jackson, 213;
    much worse under Lincoln, 215;
    used as reproach against Van Buren, 232;
    advocated by Marcy, 232;
    denounced by Whigs, 246;
    defense of, by Kendall, in 1836, 261, 262;
    does not damage Van Buren in 1840, 387;
    Polk's use of, against Van Buren, legitimate, 420.

  Squatter sovereignty, proclaimed by Dickinson and Cass, 422.

  Stevens, Thaddeus,
    ignores slavery in organizing Territories in 1861, 438.

  Stevenson, Andrew, defends system of national conventions in 1835, 258.

  Story, Joseph, legal fame of, 19;
    on Van Buren's hospitality, 395.

  Suffrage, basis of,
    debate on, in New York constitutional convention, 77-80.

  Sumner, Charles,
    his leadership in Senate compared with Van Buren's, 118;
    position as anti-slavery leader, 273;
    supports Van Buren in 1848, 432;
    in 1861, abandons Wilmot Proviso, 438.

  Supreme Court, jealous attitude of Van Buren toward, 134-137;
    Jackson's refusal to support, in Cherokee case, justified, 203, 204;
    its opinion in Dred Scott case, 440, 441.

  Swartwout, Colonel John, his duel with De Witt Clinton, 51.

  Swartwout, Samuel,
    his letter to Hoyt describes craze for office under Jackson, 208;
    his career as collector of customs, 208;
    his defalcation while collector of New York discovered, 364.

  Sylvester, Francis, studies of Van Buren in his office, 16;
    defeated by Van Buren in lawsuit, 17;
    a Federalist in politics, 43.

  Talcott, Samuel A., attorney-general of New York, 23;
    in Eden will case, 30;
    member of Albany Regency, 101.

  Talleyrand, Marquis de, his position in 1832, 227;
    compared by Chevalier to Van Buren, 451.

  Tallmadge, Nathaniel P., denounces Van Buren's financial policy, 347.

  Tammany Society, nucleus of Bucktail faction, 67;
    offers Irving nomination for mayor, 361.

  Taney, Roger B., attorney-general, 199;
    transferred to Treasury Department, 255;
    his decision in Dred Scott case reviewed by Van Buren, 446, 447.

  Tappan, Lewis, on powers of Congress over slavery, 272.

  Tariff, of 1824, called "American System," 99;
    how passed, 99;
    aided by fear of Holy Alliance, 99, 100;
    arguments against, 100, 101;
    not a party question, 103, 104;
    of 1828, called a "tariff of abomination," 142;
    its character, sectional vote for, 143, 144;
    Jackson's views on, 204, 205;
    discussion of, in 1842, 240;
    not mentioned in Democratic platform, 240;
    not an issue in 1832, 247.

  Taylor, John W.,
    opposed by Bucktail congressmen as a supporter of Clinton, 76.

  Taylor, Zachary, refusal of Van Buren to support, 426;
    nominated by Whigs, 430;
    sounded by Free-soilers, 430;
    preferred by anti-slavery Whigs to Van Buren, 431;
    elected in 1848, 431;
    one of the mediocrities of the White House, 463.

  Tazewell, Littleton W., suggested by Calhoun for State Department, 180.

  "Telegraph," its attack on Jackson, 191.

  Tennessee, appealed to by Jackson in behalf of Van Buren, 262;
    presents Polk as candidate for vice-presidency, 412.

  Texas, its war of independence, 358;
    recognition refused by Van Buren, 358;
    offers annexation and is refused, 358;
    opposition to, raises slavery question, 359;
    refuge of bankrupts, 370;
    annexation of, favored by Tyler, 402;
    becomes a party question before Democratic convention in 1844, 404,
    admitted to Union in 1845, 413.

  Thompson, Smith, Republican and Livingstonian leader in New York, 42;
    both politician and judge, 44;
    defeated by Van Buren for governor of New York, 166.

  Tilden, Samuel J.,
    inherits political ideas from Jefferson through Van Buren, 12;
    member of Albany Regency, 112;
    error of Democrats in discarding in 1880, 412;
    leader of Barnburners, 416;
    one of authors of Barnburner address of 1848, 424;
    writes address calling Utica Convention, 425.

  Tillotson, Thomas, brother-in-law of R. R. Livingston, secretary of
          state in New York, 49;
    removed from office by Clintonians, 51.

  Timberlake, ----, first husband of Mrs. Eaton, commits suicide, 181.

  Tompkins, Daniel D., as judge, continues party politician, 44;
    nominated for governor and elected by Clintonians, 45;
    supports Madison in 1814, 60;
    reëlected governor, 60;
    removes De Witt Clinton from mayoralty of New York, 64;
    resigns governorship to be vice-president, 66;
    his pecuniary difficulties with State, 68;
    defended by Van Buren in Senate, 68;
    reëlected vice-president, 72;
    defeated for governor in 1820, 73;
    candidacy for president in 1816, 74;
    inferior in prestige to Van Buren in 1821, 76;
    in New York constitutional convention, 77;
    comments of Van Buren on, 173.

  Tyler, John, nominated for vice-president in 1832, 260;
    nominated for vice-president by Whigs, 377;
    succeeds Harrison, his character, 402;
    his career, 402;
    his Texas treaty rejected, 413;
    an accidental president, 463.

  United States, political character of, formed by Jefferson, 5, 6;
    becomes Democratic, 7-9;
    gains individuality, 7;
    its vulgarity and crudeness, 10;
    not understood by foreigners, 10, 11;
    its real development into national strength, 14, 17;
    prominence of lawyers in, 32, 33, 35;
    early political importance of land-holding class, 33, 34;
    later position of wealth in, 34;
    favors rotation in office as democratic, 57;
    prosperity of, in 1821, 88;
    believes itself happy, 89;
    unpopularity of coalitions in, 116, 164;
    considers panic of 1837 due to Jackson, 287;
    suffers from depression after war of 1812, 287;
    enjoys economic prosperity until Jackson's administration, 288;
    optimism of, 288;
    expansion of population, 288, 289;
    land speculation in, 289-294;
    enthusiasm over public works, 290;
    people of, homogeneous and optimistic, 290-292;
    luxury in, during speculative era, 309, 310;
    depression in, during 1839, 377.

  University of the State of New York, connection of Van Buren with, 65.

  Van Alen, James J., law partner of Van Buren, 18;
    succeeded by him as surrogate, 22;
    elected to Congress as Federalist, 43.

  Van Buren, Abraham, his farm, 14;
    keeps a tavern, 15.

  Van Buren, Abraham, serves as his father's secretary, 395;
    marries Miss Singleton, 395.

  Van Buren, John, his appearance, 1;
    relations with his father in 1860, 1, 2;
    his political attitude, 2;
    accompanies his father to England, 224;
    leads Barnburners, 415;
    at Herkimer convention, 419;
    at Utica convention of 1847, 423;
    in part, author of Barnburner address, 424;
    at Utica convention of 1848, 425;
    continues rigidly anti-slavery until 1850, 435;
    justifies submission to compromise of 1850, 439;
    his election bets, 453 n.

  Van Buren, Lawrence, joins bolting Barnburners, 419.

  Van Buren, Martin, relations with his son in old age, 1;
    appearance, 1;
    his political position in 1860, 2, 3;
    resemblance to Jefferson, 3;
    lack of friends in later life, 3;
    type of early statesmen of republic, 4;
    influenced by Jefferson's ideals, 12;
    ancestry, 14, 15;
    birth and early schooling, 15, 16.

    _Legal Career._
    Enters law office, 16;
    his education, 16;
    becomes successful lawyer, 17;
    enters office of Van Ness in New York, 17;
    intercourse with Burr, 17, 18;
    practises law at Kinderhook, 18;
    his successful career, 18-36;
    leads Republican lawyers, 20;
    his contests with Williams, 20;
    contrasted with Williams by Butler, 20, 21;
    skill in argument and persuasion, 21;
    marriage, 21;
    holds office of surrogate, 22;
    removes to Hudson, 22;
    reading habits, 22;
    continues to prosper in law, 22;
    later as state senator becomes member of court of errors, 23;
    becomes attorney-general, 23;
    later removed for political reasons, 24;
    moves to Albany, 24;
    partnership with Butler, 24;
    his opinion criticising Kent, 25;
    in court of errors reverses Kent's opinion in a debt case, 26;
    condemns practice of imprisoning for debt, 27;
    in Medcef Eden case, 29;
    his argument, 30;
    secures a money competence, 30;
    his Oswego estate, 30;
    gains political lessons during law practice, 31, 32;
    not an orator, 31;
    his legal and political careers not strictly separable, 36;
    loses wife, 36;
    upright private life, 37.

    _Republican Leader in New York._
    Early enthusiasm for Jefferson, 39, 40;
    not won by Burr faction in 1803, 43;
    supports Lewis for governor, 44;
    supports Clintonian faction in 1807, 45;
    appointed surrogate by Clintonian council of appointment, 45;
    not the founder of spoils system, 50, 53;
    removed from office by Livingstonian faction, 52;
    nominated for state senator, 53;
    elected over Edward Livingston, 53;
    finds spoils system established, 53;
    becomes a master in use of offices, 57, 58;
    reëlected senator, 58;
    votes for Clintonian electors against Madison, 58;
    later condemned for this action, 58;
    an advocate of embargo and of war of 1812, 59;
    places state party before national, 59;
    dissolves relations with Clinton, 59;
    in Senate defends war against Clinton's attack, 60;
    supports Tompkins for governor, 60, 61;
    supports war measures, 61;
    becomes leader, 61;
    drafts classification act to prepare militia, 62;
    on victory at Plattsburg, 62;
    drafts resolution of thanks to Jackson, 63;
    becomes attorney-general, 63;
    in "Peter Allen" election case, 64;
    chosen regent of University of State of New York, 65;
    leaves party ranks to vote for canal bill, 65;
    thanked by Clinton, 66;
    reluctant to allow Clinton's election in 1817, 66;
    leads faction of "Bucktails," 67;
    removed from office of attorney-general, 67;
    his efforts in behalf of Tompkins's claims, 68;
    writes pamphlet advocating reëlection of King to Senate, 69-71;
    skill of his plea, 70, 71;
    urges his choice in private, 71, 72;
    friendly relations with King, 72;
    declares King's election uninfluenced by Missouri question, 73;
    calls meeting at Albany to protest against slavery extension, 74;
    votes in Senate for instructions to United States senators to oppose
          admission of a slave State, 74;
    present at congressional caucus in 1816 to nominate a president, 74;
    votes as elector for Monroe and Tompkins, 75;
    urges removal of unfriendly postmasters in New York, 75;
    not harmed by publication of this request, 75, 76;
    as leader of party in State, chosen United States senator, 76.

    _Member of Constitutional Convention._
    Elected from Otsego County, 77;
    his share in debate on extending franchise, 78;
    not non-committal as charged, 79;
    his argument for universal suffrage, 79, 80;
    wishes it granted gradually, 80;
    opposes restriction of suffrage to whites, 80;
    favors property qualification for blacks, 80, 81;
    reports on appointments to office, 81, 82;
    recommends that militia elect all but highest officers, 81;
    his recommendations as to civil office, 81, 82;
    opposes election of judges, 82;
    his objection to council of revision, 83;
    unwilling to say a good word for it, 83;
    votes against turning judges out of office, 85;
    wisdom of his course in the convention, 86;
    prevents his party from making radical changes, 86, 87;
    shows courage, independence, and patriotism, 87.

    _United States Senator._
    Dislikes slavery in 1821, 93;
    votes to restrict admission of slaves to Florida, 93;
    his friends and associates in Senate, 94;
    supports Crawford for succession to Monroe as "regular" candidate,
    votes for Cumberland road bill, 95;
    later apologizes for vote, 96;
    proposes a constitutional amendment to authorize internal
          improvements, 97;
    probably impressed by Erie Canal, 98;
    speech in favor of abolishing imprisonment for debt, 98;
    votes for tariff of 1824, 99;
    his protectionist views, 99;
    his votes upon different sections, 102;
    influenced by New York sentiment, 102;
    later averse to high protection, 103;
    but never considers tariff of supreme importance, 103;
    urges constitutional amendment to leave election of president with
          electors in case of failure on first trial, 104;
    defends system of caucus nominations, 105;
    prestige as leader of New York in election of 1824, 106;
    at first inclined to Adams, 107;
    Adams's opinion of, 107;
    abused by Crawford's enemies, 108;
    not involved in New York quarrel over canal commissionership, 110;
    yet his power endangered by Clinton's return to popularity, 111;
    his status in "Albany Regency," 111;
    advises New York Republicans to favor congressional caucus, 114;
    continues after failure of caucus to work for Crawford, 114;
    fails to secure New York for him, 115;
    not involved in election of Adams, 115;
    does not denounce Adams's election, 116;
    takes increasing share in proceedings, 116;
    relations with King, 117;
    votes against extending Cumberland road, 117;
    votes against occupation of Oregon, 117;
    on committee to receive Adams, 117;
    becomes a parliamentary leader, 117;
    the real creator of Democratic party, 118;
    his position unique in American history, 118;
    does not at first approve of Jackson as leader of opposition, 119;
    his attitude toward Adams not factious, 120, 123;
    votes to confirm Clay's nomination, 123;
    abstains from personalities in opposition, 123;
    introduces resolutions against Panama congress, 126;
    comment of Adams upon, 126;
    his speech upon the proposed mission, 127-129;
    accuses Adams of Federalism, 128;
    condemns proposed alliance of republics, 129;
    most conspicuous member of Senate, 131;
    unites opposition on internal improvements, 131;
    offers resolutions and votes against roads and canals, 132;
    wisdom of his position, 132;
    willing to support military roads, 133;
    renews movement to take choice of president from the House, 133, 134;
    opposes proposal to relieve Supreme Court from circuit duty, 134;
    shows desire to make Supreme Court democratic, 135;
    opposes regarding it with too great respect, 135-137;
    his share in Benton's report on executive patronage, 137-140;
    its discrepancy with his later views, 139, 140;
    votes against abolition of salt tax, 140;
    favors establishment of Naval Academy, 140;
    opposes a bankruptcy bill, 141;
    speech on restrictions on trade with British colonies, 141;
    renews opposition to imprisonment for debt, to internal improvements,
          and repeal of salt tax in 1828, 142;
    votes for tariff of 1828, 142;
    bound by instructions of New York legislature, 144;
    speech on power of vice-president to call to order, 144-147;
    asserts the necessity of defeating Adams in order to curb federal
          usurpation, 145, 146;
    reëlected senator, 147;
    supports Rochester against Clinton for governor of New York, 147;
    eulogy on Clinton, 148;
    survey of Van Buren's parliamentary career, 148-152;
    characteristics of his speaking, 150;
    clear in announcing opinions, 151;
    praised by Jackson for freedom from non-committalism, 151;
    courteous in debate, 151, 152.

    _Manager in Election of 1828._
    Recognized as chief organizer of new party, 153;
    uses cry against Adams and Clay bargain, 154;
    not justly charged with intrigue to unite Crawford's friends with
          Jackson's, 157;
    his visit to Crawford in 1827, 157;
    visits Adams, 158;
    compared by Adams to Burr, 158;
    does not announce support of Jackson until 1827, 158;
    his opposition to Adams not merely personal, 161;
    does not use corrupt bargain cry, 163;
    probably promised cabinet position by Jackson, 166;
    wishes to increase his prestige by securing governorship of New
          York, 166;
    nominated and elected, 166;
    resigns senatorship, 168.

    _Governor of New York._
    His inaugural message, 168-173;
    favors state aid to canals, 168;
    urges reorganization
    of banking system, 169;
    suggests various devices to increase security of banks, 170;
    proposes separation of state and national elections, 170;
    denounces increasing use of money in elections, 171;
    advocates strict construction of Constitution, 171, 172;
    defends reputation of country from results of campaign of 1828, 172;
    congratulates legislature on election of Jackson, 172, 173;
    his letters to Hoyt on patronage, 173-175;
    shows partisanship, but desire to appoint able men, 174;
    character of his appointees, 174, 175;
    resigns governorship after ten weeks' term to enter cabinet, 175;
    congratulated by legislature, 176.

    _Secretary of State._
    Unfriendly view of his career in cabinet, 177;
    forms creed of Jacksonian Democracy, 178;
    shares discredit of introducing spoils system, 178;
    easily the strongest man in cabinet, 179;
    already rival to Calhoun for succession to Jackson, 179;
    reasons for his success over Calhoun, 180;
    does not succeed by tricks, 180;
    attempt of Calhoun to prevent his appointment as secretary of
          state, 180;
    pleases Jackson by politeness to Mrs. Eaton, 183;
    his course both politic and proper, 183, 184;
    not responsible for Jackson's dislike of Calhoun, 185;
    refuses to take part in quarrel between the two, 187;
    his toast at Jefferson's birthday dinner, 188;
    becomes an acknowledged candidate for presidency after Calhoun's
          nullification declarations, 188, 189;
    Jackson's letter of recommendation, 189, 190;
    his increasing esteem for Jackson, 190;
    represented by "Albany Argus" in newspaper controversy, 191;
    his high estimate of necessity of an organ, 192;
    refuses to subsidize Bennett, 192;
    declines to aid new Jackson paper with departmental printing, 194;
    yet is held responsible for it, 194;
    determines to resign and asks Livingston to take his place, 194;
    wishes, as a candidate for presidency, to avoid suspicion, 195, 196;
    boldness and prudence of his action, 196, 198;
    avows unwillingness to injure Jackson's chances for reëlection, 196,
    praised by Jackson in reply, 197;
    his political creed fully adopted by Jackson, 200;
    at first doubts Jackson's full adherence, 200;
    probably assists in preparing Jackson's messages, 205, 206;
    wins Jackson's affection, 206;
    supplies him with political theories, 206;
    on good terms with kitchen cabinet, 207;
    not the originator of spoils system in federal offices, 207;
    his letter to Hamilton advises caution, 209;
    rebukes Hoyt for demanding a removal, 210;
    does not practice proscription in the State Department, 214;
    does not oppose the system elsewhere, 214;
    palliating reasons for his conduct, 215;
    successful in conduct of foreign affairs, 215;
    advises Jackson to refer to France with politeness, 216;
    deserves credit of securing payment of claims by France, 217;
    adopts conciliatory policy toward England, 219;
    in his instructions to McLane admits error of previous American
          claims, 219, 220;
    alludes in his instructions to overthrow of Adams's administration,
    his position not undignified, 221;
    yet previously had deprecated entrance of party politics into
          diplomacy, 222;
    success of his diplomacy, 222.

    _Minister to England._
    Constantly suspected of intrigue, 223;
    desires to escape from politics while candidate for presidency by
          accepting mission to England, 223, 224;
    escorted out of city by Jackson, 224;
    appoints Irving secretary of legation, 224;
    finds him at London, 224, 225;
    his friendship with Irving, 225;
    Irving's opinion of, 225;
    his travels through England, 226;
    social life in London, 227;
    learns news of rejection of his nomination by Senate, 227, 228;
    his behavior, 228;
    leaves England, 228;
    character of his dispatches, 229;
    presents claims in Comet case, 229;
    writes passages in reports complimentary to Jackson, 229;
    returns to New York, declines a public reception, 230;
    goes to Washington, 230;
    attacked in Senate as un-American and cowardly, 230, 231;
    insincerity of the attack, 232;
    accused also of introducing spoils system, 232;
    attacked by Calhoun as an intriguer, 233;
    Calhoun's desire to kill him politically, 234;
    gains popularity from rejection, 234;
    urged for vice-president, 234;
    praised by New York legislature, 234;
    upheld by Jackson, 235;
    receives various offers of offices, 236;
    plan to elect him governor of New York repudiated by party leaders,
    not concerned in summoning national convention of 1832, 237, 238;
    nominated for vice-presidency, 239;
    his nomination not the result of coercion, 240;
    the natural candidate, 240, 241;
    party reasons for his nomination, 241;
    his letter of acceptance, 241-243;
    affects reluctance and humility, 242;
    writes a vague letter on the tariff, 243, 244;
    opposes internal improvements, a bank, and nullification, 244;
    writes letter on his subjection to calumny, 244;
    elected in 1832, 247;
    speaks in approval of tariff for revenue, 249.

    Opposes removal of deposits, 249;
    has heated argument with Kendall, 250;
    later adopts Jackson's position, 250;
    proposes to Kendall that removal begin in January, 1834, 250;
    dislikes bank, 251;
    appealed to by Clay to intercede with Jackson, 253;
    his conduct as described by Benton, 253;
    lives in Washington as heir-apparent, 254;
    his position superior to that of any other vice-president, 254;
    his harmony
    with Jackson, 254, 255;
    accompanies Jackson on New England tour, 255;
    his candidacy opposed by White of Tennessee, 256;
    scurrilous biography of, by Crockett, 256;
    nominated unanimously for president in 1835, 259;
    letters of Jackson in his behalf, 262;
    refuses to answer questions of Williams until after close of
          Congress, 264;
    his reply, 265-267;
    condemns distribution of surplus, 265;
    courage of this action, 266;
    disapproves of Clay's land scheme, 266;
    denies constitutionality of internal improvements, 266;
    affirms opposition to bank, 267;
    on Benton's expunging resolutions, 267;
    his previous letter of acceptance of nomination, 267-269;
    asserts freedom from intrigue, 268;
    and intention to carry out Jackson's principles, 268;
    his early record on slavery, 271;
    supposed to approve of anti-slavery attitude of New York Democratic
          papers, 271;
    writes to Gwin upon powerlessness of Congress over slavery in the
          States, 272;
    asserts his opposition to abolition in the District of Columbia
          against wish of slave States, 274;
    his attitude the general one at that time, 275;
    forced to give casting vote for Jackson's bill to prohibit abolition
          literature in mails, 277;
    his reasons for so voting, 278;
    not a "doughface," 278;
    vote for, in 1836, 278-281;
    elected by New England and Middle States, 280;
    only Democrat to carry New England in a contested election by
          popular and electoral vote, 280;
    significance of his election, 281;
    triumphs by good sense without enthusiasm, 281.

    His inauguration, 282, 283;
    his farewell to Jackson, 283;
    continues Jackson's cabinet, 283;
    his inaugural address, 283-286;
    personal modesty, 284;
    optimism, 284;
    repeats declaration against abolition in the District, 285;
    tribute to Jackson, 285;
    rejects Benton's warning of a financial panic, 286;
    his relation to panic of 1837, 287;
    said to have urged Jackson to sign distribution bill, 302;
    denounced by New York merchants for specie circular after panic has
          begun, 317;
    refuses to modify circular or call a special session of Congress,
    visited by Biddle, 319;
    obliged by suspension of specie payments to call extra session, 321;
    wishes to discourage hasty action, 321;
    probably instigates meetings to throw blame on banks, 322;
    and declare for metallic currency, 322;
    his statesmanlike behavior during crisis, 325;
    his message to the extra session, 326-333;
    courageously states facts and appeals to reason, 326, 327;
    points out inability of government to cure the evils, 327;
    indicates real causes of inflation, 327, 328;
    opposes renewal of a bank, 328, 329;
    urges abandonment of pet banks, 330;
    suggests independent treasury, 331;
    defends specie circular and advocates retention of surplus
          installment, 331;
    restates limited powers of government, 332;
    denounced by Webster, 334;
    and others, 336;
    not supported by his party in House, 337, 338;
    his measures supported by Calhoun, 340, 341;
    supported by Loco-foco faction in New York, 344;
    his message to regular session of Congress, 345, 346;
    refuses to be influenced by Democratic losses in elections, 345;
    recommends preëmption law, 345;
    refers to boundary troubles, 345;
    continues to be denounced by Whigs, 346;
    and by Conservative Democrats, 347;
    hopes for return of prosperity after resumption in 1838, 349;
    issues neutrality proclamation in connection with Canadian
          insurrection, 354;
    takes measures to punish offenses, 355;
    invites Durham to visit Washington, 356;
    refuses to pardon Mackenzie, 356;
    denounced for further warning proclamation, 357;
    refuses proposed annexation of Texas, 358;
    not connected with anti-slavery agitation at the time, 359;
    urges American claims upon Mexico with success, 360;
    offers Navy Department to Washington Irving, 361;
    thought to have erred in giving it to Paulding, 362;
    letter of Louis Napoleon to, 362;
    cheerful tone of message to second session of Congress, 363;
    reaffirms sound financial doctrine, 363;
    on Swartwout's defalcation, 364;
    appoints Hoyt to succeed him, 364;
    asks for appropriations for Seminole war, 366;
    asks Congress for support in northeastern boundary question, 367;
    damages Democratic party in Maine by his treatment of frontier
          disputes, 367;
    revisits New York, enthusiastic reception, 367, 368;
    snubbed by Whigs, 368, 369;
    partisan character of his journey and speeches, 369;
    encouraged by elections of 1839, 369;
    in message of 1839 regrets renewed bank failures, 372;
    announces economy in government, 372;
    renews attack on banks, 372, 373;
    insists on inability of government aid to help the depression, 374;
    signs sub-treasury bill, 377;
    his administration defended by Democratic convention, 379;
    writes letters in campaign, 380;
    approves "gag" rule in Congress, 380;
    justification of his attitude, 381;
    denunciations of him by Webster in campaign, 384;
    other attacks upon, as aristocrat and enemy to people, 385;
    tries to rely on past record of party, 386;
    abandoned by various Democratic factions, 387;
    Jackson's letter in support of, 387;
    how ridiculed by Whigs in campaign, 388-390;
    vote for, in 1840, 390, 391;
    composed under defeat, 391;
    his final message repeats his views on bank and sub-treasury, 392;
    urges prevention of slave trade, 392;
    alterations in his cabinet, 393, 394;
    welcomes Harrison to White House, 394;
    his conduct as president, economy and elegance, 394, 395;
    social charm of his administration, 395;
    his civility to Adams, 396;
    bitter opinion of, held by Adams, 396;
    tribute of Clay to, 396, 397.

    _In Retirement--Candidate for Renomination._
    Return to New York and Kinderhook, 398;
    his estate, 398;
    remains leading single figure in party, 399;
    continues to have ambition for reëlection, 399;
    practically admits this in 1841, 399, 400;
    journey through South, 400;
    visits Jackson and Clay, 400;
    writes long letters on public questions, 400;
    views on low tariff, 401;
    promises fidelity to Democratic party, 401;
    attends funeral of Harrison, 401;
    his renomination considered certain until 1844, 401;
    only prevented by Texas question, 402;
    his record on slavery a colorless one up to 1844, 403;
    not subservient to South, 403;
    defense of his vote on abolition circulars in mail, and of his
          opinion on "gag" rule, 404;
    suspected by South of hostility to annexation of Texas, 404;
    majority of delegates to national convention instructed for, 404;
    asked for a distinct statement on Texas, 405;
    writes continuing to oppose annexation policy, 405;
    his reasons, 405, 406;
    willing to yield to a demand on part of Congress, 406;
    courage of this open avowal, 407;
    endeavor of Jackson to help Van Buren's candidacy, 407;
    his previous nominations by two-thirds rule used as precedents in
          convention, 408;
    his nomination prevented by the rule, 409-411;
    keeps promise to support Polk, 412;
    urges Wright to accept nomination for governorship of New York, 412;
    saves New York for Democrats, 413;
    the first victim of the slave power, 414;
    complimented by convention, 414;
    outwardly placid, but secretly embittered by failure to secure
          nomination, 414.

    _Free-soil Leader._
    His followers form the Barnburner wing of Democrats, 415, 416;
    alienated from Polk's administration, 417;
    sympathizes with secession of Barnburners in 1847, 419, 420;
    revives anti-slavery feelings, 420;
    angered at proscription of his friends by Polk, 420;
    declares an end of his political ambitions, 420, 421;
    refuses to commit himself as to origin of Mexican war, 421;
    aids in composing Barnburner address of 1847, 424;
    his letter to Utica convention, 425-427;
    denounces Democratic national convention, 425;
    asserts power of Congress over Territories, 426;
    refuses to vote for Cass or Taylor, 426;
    nominated for president, 427;
    at Buffalo convention nominated by Free-soil party, 428;
    his letter urging exclusion of slavery from Territories, 429;
    rage of Democratic party with, 430;
    fails to secure support of anti-slavery Whigs, 431;
    vote for, in 1848, 431, 432;
    leads Cass in New York, 431;
    does not probably expect to be elected, 432;
    his candidacy not an act of revenge, 433;
    undoubtedly sincere in his advocacy of Free-soil principles, 433;
    ends political career, 433.

    _In Retirement._
    His career up to 1848 logical and creditable, 434;
    had he died then, his reputation would stand higher, 434;
    separated beyond hope from his party, 434;
    until 1859 sympathizes with Free-soilers, 435;
    accepts finality of compromise of 1850, 436;
    his justification, love of Union and dread of ruin, 436;
    stands with majority of Northern statesmen, 438;
    not to be condemned more than Clay or Webster, 439;
    writes letter favoring Pierce in 1852, 439;
    visits Europe, 440;
    declines position as arbitrator upon British-American claims
          commission, 440;
    votes for Buchanan in 1856, 441;
    expects squatter sovereignty to succeed, 441;
    his distrust of Republican party, 441, 442;
    letter in behalf of Buchanan, 442-444;
    its cheerless tone, 442;
    rehearses history of Democratic party, 443;
    laments repeal of Missouri Compromise, 443;
    hopes question of slavery in Territories may be settled peaceably,
    asserts power of Congress over Territories, 444;
    thinks Buchanan can save Union, 444;
    unpardoned by South, 444;
    votes against Lincoln in 1860, 445;
    character of his retirement, 445;
    writes autobiographical sketch, 446;
    his history of American parties, 446;
    condemns Buchanan for accepting Dred Scott decision, 446;
    sympathizes with North in civil war, 447;
    expresses confidence in Lincoln, 447;
    last illness and death, 447;
    his funeral, 448.

    _Character and Place in History._
    His personal appearance, 449;
    elegance, 450;
    his country life, thrift, and fortune, 450;
    pecuniary integrity, 450;
    his polished manners, 451;
    called insincere by Adams, 451;
    his fairness and personal friendliness to opponents, 452;
    his skill in reading and managing men, 452, 453;
    not stilted, yet free from dissipation, 453;
    social agreeableness, 454;
    fictitious stories of his cunning, 454;
    his friendships, 454-456;
    these the true test of his sincerity, 456;
    his placidity under abuse thought hypocritical by opponents, 457;
    his caution in political papers, 457;
    his popularity in New York, 458;
    his true democracy, 458;
    creed of his followers, 459;
    lack of enthusiasm prevents his being a popular hero, 459;
    always follows principles of Jefferson, 460;
    his fame dimmed by spoils system, 460;
    yet his attitude in respect to it not a discreditable one, 461;
    his courage a marked quality, 461, 462;
    his prolixity and politeness obscure his clear statements of
          opinion, 462;
    does not belong among mediocrities of the White House, 463;
    his eminence as a real leader, 463;
    superior to Jackson in wisdom, 463;
    and to John Adams in party leadership, 464;
    stands with Madison and John Quincy Adams, 464;
    comparison with Madison, 464;
    with Adams, 465;
    comparison with Webster and Clay, 465;
    superior to either in party leadership, 465;
    summary and review of his career, 465, 466;
    his fidelity to principle throughout, 466, 467.

    _Personal Traits._
    General estimate of, 3, 462-466;
    betting habits, 453;
    bitterness, lack of, 123, 152, 163, 223, 420, 452;
    cheerfulness, 114, 453;
    conservatism, 186, 436;
    courage, 87, 183, 195, 215, 266, 325, 407, 436, 461-463;
    diplomatic ability, 221, 222;
    education, 15-17, 22;
    friendships, 454-456;
    imperturbability, 228, 253, 391, 396, 414, 445, 451, 456;
    integrity, 194, 268, 450, 456;
    legal ability, 17-21, 25, 29, 30, 31;
    magnetism, lack of, 281, 459;
    manners, 4, 15, 18, 72, 206, 394, 395, 451;
    modesty, 243, 268, 284;
    non-committalism, 79, 147, 151, 265, 380, 400, 421, 461;
    oratory, 27, 31, 32, 61, 78, 87, 150, 457;
    personal appearance, 1, 449, 450;
    private life, 37, 453;
    political leadership, 58, 61, 69, 76, 87, 117-119, 131, 150, 153,
          157, 179, 180, 431, 452, 454;
    scrupulousness, 68, 194, 195, 278;
    shrewdness, 197, 207, 224, 229, 369, 452-454;
    sincerity, 430, 431;
    social qualities, 394, 395, 396, 397, 400, 450;
    subserviency, alleged, to South, 403, 404, 439;
    unfavorable views of, 158, 196, 223, 230, 231, 244, 256, 325 n.,
          384, 385, 396, 406, 451, 456;
    unpopularity in later years, 3, 444, 458.

    _Political Opinions._
    Bank of United States, 145, 244, 250, 251, 267, 328, 329, 345, 363,
          373, 391;
    banking, 169, 170, 372, 373;
    Barnburners, 419, 425, 429;
    British West India trade, 141, 219-222;
    Canadian rebellion, 354;
    compromise of 1850, 436;
    conscription, 62;
    Democratic party, 145, 147, 242, 443, 446;
    debt, imprisonment for, 26, 27, 98, 116, 142;
    Dred Scott decision, 446, 447;
    election of 1820, 75;
    election of 1824, 115, 116;
    election of 1828, 173;
    election of 1840, 400;
    election of 1848, 425;
    elections, reform of, 170, 171;
    embargo, 59;
    Erie Canal, 65, 66;
    expunging resolutions, 267;
    Federalists, 70, 127, 152;
    gag rule, 380, 381;
    independent treasury, 330, 331, 377;
    internal improvements, 95, 96, 97, 98, 117, 132, 133, 142, 168, 244,
    Jeffersonian principles, 3, 4, 12, 39, 40, 145, 147, 171, 249, 284,
          329, 332, 458-460;
    judiciary, 83, 84, 85, 134-137, 141, 142;
    Kansas question, 442-444;
    legislative instructions, 143;
    Maine boundary, 367;
    Mexican claims, 359, 360;
    Mexican war, 421;
    Missouri Compromise, 73, 74, 443;
    naval academy, 140;
    nullification, 244;
    office, appointments to, 81, 82, 137-139, 173, 364;
    Panama congress, 127-129, 141;
    panic of 1837, 327, 328, 345;
    party allegiance, 43, 59, 70-72, 175, 401, 414, 420, 426, 432;
    preëmption law, 345;
    presidential ambition, 193, 223, 242, 254, 278, 399, 400, 405-407,
          430, 433;
    Republican party of 1856, 441, 442;
    slave trade, 392;
    slavery, 74, 93, 271, 277, 278, 285, 380, 403, 420, 426, 436;
    slavery in Territories, 426, 429, 436, 441, 444;
    States' rights, 97, 172;
    specie circular, 319, 331;
    spoils system, 53, 54, 57, 75, 173-175, 207, 209, 210, 214, 215,
          233, 460;
    suffrage, basis of, 79, 80;
    suffrage, negro, 80, 81;
    surplus, distribution of, 265;
    tariff, 99, 102, 103, 140, 142, 143, 243, 249, 401;
    war of 1812, 50;
    war of rebellion, 447.

  Van Dyke, ----, votes for Panama congress, 131.

  Van Ness, William P., studies of Van Buren with, 17;
    his career at the bar, 17;
    friendship with Burr, 17;
    attacks Clintons and Livingstons in Burr's interest, 43;
    his residence bought by Van Buren, 398.

  Van Ness, William W., competitor of Van Buren at bar, 20.

  Van Rensselaer, Jacob R., at Columbia County bar, 20.

  Van Rensselaer, ----, commands a filibustering expedition against
          Canada, 353.

  Van Rensselaer family,
    gains political influence through landed wealth, 33.

  Van Vechten, Abraham, succeeded by Van Buren as attorney-general, 23;
    removed by Republicans, 63.

  Virginia, Democrats of,
    refuse to support Johnson for vice-presidency, 259, 260.

  Von Holst, H. C., praises bearing of Van Buren during panic, 325;
    his unhistorical view of Van Buren, 325 n., 406 n.

  Walker, Robert J.,
    leads annexationists in Democratic convention of 1844, 408;
    induces convention to adopt two-thirds rule, 408, 409;
    protests against New York Democrats, 409.

  War of 1812, Republican opposition to, 58, 59;
    causes of, 59.

  Ward, Rev. Thomas, at Buffalo convention, 427.

  Washington, George,
    character of his presidential administration, 5, 6;
    his prestige aids Federalists, 38;
    refuses to appoint political opponents to office, 46;
    his recall of Monroe, 89;
    appealed to by Van Buren as authority against Adams's foreign
          policy, 126-129;
    leaves office with popularity, 282;
    best of American presidents, 464.

  Watkins, Tobias, his removal from office, 212.

  Webb, James Watson, abandons Jackson in 1832, 247.

  Webster, Daniel, compared with Van Buren as lawyer, 32;
    not in Congress in 1821, 94;
    against tariff of 1824, 100;
    on Panama congress, 130;
    inferior to Van Buren as parliamentary leader, 150;
    on Jackson's manners, 156;
    on Van Buren's prominence in 1829, 179;
    his debate with Hayne, 188;
    votes to reject Van Buren's nomination as minister to England, 230;
    condemns him for un-American conduct, 231;
    exaggerates results of removal of deposits, 252;
    supported for presidency by Massachusetts Whigs, 260;
    condemns bill to exclude anti-slavery matter from mails, 276;
    vote for, in election of 1836, 280;
    urges extension of pet bank system, 299;
    later condemns this policy, 300;
    approves bill to distribute surplus, 300;
    denounces Van Buren for causing panic, 333;
    resists attempt to suspend depositing surplus, 334, 338;
    ridicules possibility of resumption without government aid, 335;
    votes for treasury notes, 339;
    votes for preëmption bill, 357;
    his speeches in campaign of 1840, 383, 384;
    his denunciations of Van Buren, 383, 384;
    on Van Buren's vote for the bill to exclude abolition matter from
          mails, 404;
    indignant at Taylor's nomination, 430;
    his comment on Van Buren's Free-soil candidacy, 431;
    forfeits fame by support of compromise, 435;
    his motives, 437;
    compared with Van Buren, 465.

  Weed, Thurlow, on rotation in office, 67;
    praises Albany Regency, 112;
    leader of Anti-Masonic party, 245;
    manager of New York Whigs, 363;
    prevents nomination of Clay in 1840, 378.

  Wellington, Duke of, his position in 1832, 227.

  West, favors tariff of 1828, 143;
    opposes Van Buren in 1836, 280;
    development of, after 1820, 288-290;
    land hunger in, 289, 294, 309.

  Westervelt, Dr. ----, appointed to office by Van Buren, 173;
    his "claims," 174.

  Whigs, in New York, coalesce with Anti-Masons, 245;
    nominate Clay, 246;
    their Young Men's convention nominates Clay, 246;
    nominate Harrison and Granger in 1836, 260;
    their policy in attacking Jackson, 263;
    their real platform in Harrison's letter to Sherrod Williams, 264;
    their refusal to reduce taxation increases speculation, 299;
    and their advocacy of distribution, 300, 301;
    rave against Van Buren as author of crisis of 1837, 321, 322, 333;
    demand bank, 334-337;
    demand payment of fourth installment of surplus, 338;
    gain in election of 1837, 337, 342;
    in New York, aided by Loco-focos, 344;
    transfer name Loco-foco to whole Democratic party, 345;
    aided by conservative Democrats, 347;
    repeal sub-treasury, 348;
    refuse to join popular receptions of Van Buren, 368;
    endeavor to force New Jersey congressmen upon House, 377;
    nominate Harrison and Tyler, 377, 378;
    do not adopt a platform, 378;
    their policy in election of 1840, 382-386, 388-390;
    campaign songs, 389;
    elect Harrison, 390, 391;
    their difficulties with Tyler, 401, 402;
    defeated in 1844, 412, 413;
    support Wilmot Proviso, 417, 418;
    nominate Taylor and reject resolution against slavery extension, 430;
    anti-slavery members refuse to support Van Buren, 431;
    elect Taylor, 432;
    accept compromise of 1850, 435;
    nominate Scott in 1852, 439;
    support Fillmore in 1856, 445.

  White, Hugh L., heads secession from Democratic party, 256, 260;
    reasons for his candidacy for presidency, 256, 257;
    votes for bill to exclude anti-slavery matter from mail, 277;
    vote for, 279, 280.

  Wilkins, William, receives electoral vote of Pennsylvania in 1832 for
          vice-president, 248.

  William IV., character of his court, 227;
    compliments Jackson to Van Buren, 229.

  Wilmot, David,
    offers anti-slavery proviso to three-million bill, 416, 417;
    at Barnburner convention, 419.

  Wilmot Proviso, origin of Republican party and civil war, 416;
    becomes a party question, 417, 418;
    discussion of its necessity in New Mexico and California, 418;
    abandoned by Republicans in 1861, 438.

  Wirt, William, Anti-Masonic candidate for presidency, 167, 245, 248.

  Williams, Elisha, his prominence at Columbia County bar, 20;
    his rivalry with Van Buren, 20, 21.

  Williams, Sherrod,
    asks questions of presidential candidates in 1836, 264;
    calls Van Buren's reasons for delay "unsatisfactory," 265.

  Woodbury, Levi, votes against Panama congress, 131;
    secretary of navy, 199;
    secretary of treasury under Van Buren, 283.

  Wright, Silas, member of Albany Regency, 111;
    votes for bill to exclude abolition matter from mail, 277;
    votes against distribution of surplus, 301;
    leads administration senators, 341;
    declines nomination for vice-presidency, 411;
    accepts nomination for governor of New York, 412;
    elected, 413;
    votes against Texas treaty, 413;
    leads Barnburners, 415;
    offered Treasury Department by Polk, 416;
    defeated for reëlection by Hunker opposition, 417;
    his friendship for Van Buren, 456.

  Young, Samuel, denounces Calhoun for raising Texas question, 410;
    presides over Utica convention of 1848, 425.

  The Riverside Press

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