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1820 adopted a constitution, and asked for admission according to promise; and one clause in her constitution forbade the entrance of free blacks into the State. This was too much for the North, already half disgusted with the concession it had made, and when Congress met for the session of 1820-21 the whole question was reopened, and the dispute was hotter and more obstinate than ever. The issue was wholly uncertain, and disunion seemed to hover near and dark, when Henry Clay, who in the first debate had taken no very important part, but had supported the Southern claim, now threw his whole power, which was great, in favor of conciliation and agreement on the original basis. Clay was a politician, and ambitious for the Presidency, but he was a patriot and a lover of humanity. As to slavery he was a waverer, disliking it at heart and sometimes speaking manfully against it, but at other times respectful toward it as an established and mighty fact, and even lending himself to its eulogy. In the first debate he had advocated the Southern side, had extolled slavery, and declared the black slaves of the South to be better off than the white slaves of the North. Now he gave all his persuasive and commanding eloquence, all the influence of his genial nature and winning arts, to rally the lovers of the Union to the mutual concessions by which alone it could be preserved. He justified the objection to the exclusion of free negroes, he divested himself of sectional partisanship, and pleaded with equal skill and fervor for the compromise. He did not forget that he was a Presidential aspirant, but he was a true lover of his country, and seldom have the traits of politician and patriot worked together more effectively. Though the mass of the Northern members, strengthened doubtless by the influence of their constituents at home during the recess, were now opposed to the whole compromise, and a few Southern
extremists were against it, yet the majority of both House and Senate were won to its support, and on the last day of February, 1821, Missouri was admitted as a slave State, on condition that she expunge her exclusion of free blacks, which she promptly did. Maine had already been admitted. The excitement ended almost as suddenly as it had begun.
THE WIDENING RIFT
For the next twelve years, slavery was in the background of the national stage. But during this period, various influences were converging to a common result, until in 1832-3 the issue was defined with new clearness and thenceforth grew as the central feature in the public life of America.
From the time of the Missouri debate, the slavery interest was consolidated and alert, even while other subjects seemed to fill the public mind. To the North, slavery was habitually a remote matter, but it was perpetually brought home to the business and bosoms of the South. The whole industrial system, a social aristocracy, and political ambition, blended their forces. An instance of the subtle power of the institution was given in a little-marked incident of Adams's generally creditable administration. By three men as highminded as President Adams, Secretary Clay, and Minister Gallatin, overtures were made to England for a treaty by which the surrender of deserters from her army and navy should be her compensation for surrendering our fugitive slaves! The British government would not listen to the proposal.
The national politics of this period, 1820-32, centred in a group of strong and picturesque personalities,—Clay, Adams, Calhoun, Jackson, and Webster. John Quincy Adams was a sort of exaggeration of the typical New Englander,-upright, austere, highly educated, devoted to the public service, ambitious, yet not to the sacrifice of conscience, but cold, angular, repellant. Says Carl Schurz
in his Henry Clay—a book which gives an admirable resumé of a half-century of politics: “He possessed in the highest degree that uprightness which leans backward. He had a horror of demagogy, and lest he should render himself guilty of anything akin to it, he would but rarely condescend to those innocent amenities by which the goodwill of others may be conciliated. His virtue was freezing cold of touch, and forbidding in its look.” When the Presidential election went into the House in 1824, the influence of Clay—himself a defeated candidate-was decisively thrown for Adams against Jackson, and Clay served as President Adams's Secretary of State. The two men supplemented each other well; Clay less austerely virtuous, but iar more lovable; his personal ideals less exacting, but his sympathies wider. The co-operation between them was honorable to both and serviceable to the country; but partisan bitterness stigmatized it as a corrupt alliance; the air was full of suspicion and jealousy toward the cultivated and prosperous class that had hitherto supplied the chiefs of the government, and the rising democratic sentiment found a most congenial hero in Andrew Jackson.
He was a rough backwoodsman; a fighter by nature and a passable soldier; a staunch friend and a patriot at heart; ignorant, wholly unversed in statesmanship, arbitrary in temper, and inclined to judge all subjects from a personal standpoint. He easily defeated Adams for the Presidency in 1828. His election marked the ascendancy, long to continue, of a more ignoble element in the nation's political life. His administration began the employment of the spoils system; and it "handled intricate financial problems as a monkey might handle the works of a watch." Jackson had small regard for the rights of those who got in the way of himself, his party, or his country; he had trampled recklessly on the Indian; and his triumph fell as a
heavy discouragement on the quiet but widespread movement to elevate the negro. He treated all questions in a personal way; and the first great battle of his administration was to compel social recognition in Washington for the wife of one of his cabinet members whose reputation scandal had breathed upon, unjustly as Jackson believed. In the revolt against her recognition a leader was the Vice-President, John C. Calhoun, himself a man of blameless morals and an advocate of the highest social standards. He thereby lost at once the favor of Jackson, which was transferred to Martin Van Buren, a wily New York politician, quite ready to call on any lady or support any policy that his chief might approve. The breach between Jackson and Calhoun was widened by the disclosure of an old political secret, probably by Crawford of Georgia, a disappointed Presidential aspirant. Jackson's administration naturally fell more and more into the hands of mediocre men.
Calhoun had already had a long term of distinguished public service; he had been one of the group of young men who came to the front in urging on the war of 1812; he had served with success in the cabinet and twice been chosen to the Vice-Presidency. He was of high personal character; a keen logician and debater; a leader who impressed himself by the strength of his character and depth of his convictions. Adams wrote of him in 1821: “ He is above all sectional and factious prejudices, more than any other statesman of this Union with whom I have ever acted.” He was ambitious of the Presidency, an ambition which saw itself defeated when Van Buren became the heir-apparent of the Jackson dynasty. A true lover of his country, his predominant devotion came to be given to his own section, and that temper fell in with events to make him the foremost champion of the South.
The prominence of the personal element in public affairs