"And freedom's battle, once begun, The cause bequeathed from sire to son, Though baffled oft, is ever won."
The Southern woman's soul is chivalry. From the highest to the humblest, the same lofty purpose, pride, and energy animate them. They have contrasted the free and noble with the mean and servile. Its magic has entered their natures and quickened their souls. In all there is a lofty scorn for the little and mean. The same withering contempt for the cringing and cowardly is met in every one of them. Their impulses are generous, and their aspirations noble, with hearts as soft and tender as love, pity, and compassion can form. Yet in them there is, too, the fire of chivalry, the scorn of contempt, and the daring of her who followed her immortal brother, the great Palafox, at the defence of Saragossa, her native city, and, standing upon the dead bodies of her countrymen, snatched the burning match from the hand of death, and fired the cannon at the advancing foe, and planted Spain's standard, in defiance of the veterans of Soult—a rallying point for her countrymen—and saved Saragossa. They were born to command, and can never be slaves, or the mothers of slaves.
The same influences powerfully operate in producing that bearing of chivalrous distinction, which is seen everywhere in the deportment of the Southern gentlemen toward ladies. They are ever polite, respectful, and deferential. This, however, is only one of many elements in the peculiar character of Southern people. Their piety is Christian in its character. The precepts of the Bible are fashioned into example in the conduct of the older members of society, and especially in the female portion. This is, perhaps, the predominant element. The Bible is the guide, not the fashion, in religious duty. Its doctrines are taught in purity, and in their simplicity enter into the soul, as the great constituent of character.
The chivalrous bearing of man toward woman inspires her with elevated and noble sentiments—a pride and dignity conservative of purity in all her relations—and, reflecting these back upon society, producing most salutary influences. It is woman's pride to lean on man—to share his love and respect—to be elevated by his virtues, and appreciated by the world because of his honors—to be a part of his fame. The mother, the wife, the sister, the relative should share with the husband, the son, the brother, the kinsman, in the world's honors, in the sufferings, sorrows, and miseries incidental to all. They are part and parcel of man, and partake of his nature and his position, as of his fortune. When man shall cease to view woman, and so deport himself toward her as a purer, more refined, and more elevated being than himself, that moment she will sink to his level, and then her prestige for good is gone forever. That delicacy, refinement, and chasteness, so restraining and so purifying to man in her association, is the soul of civilization—the salt of the earth. In its absence, no people are ever great; for, as it is the spirit of man's honor, so is it a nation's glory. It must be cherished, for it inspires man's honor by man's chivalry. Thus she becomes a people's strength; for their crown of glory is her chastity and angelic purity.
These virtues distinguished the pioneer women of Middle Georgia sixty years ago. As their husbands were honest and brave, they were chaste and pious; and from such a parentage sprang the men and women who have made a history for her pre-eminent among all her sister States. Her sons have peopled the West, and are distinguished there for their high honor and splendid abilities; and yet at home she boasts Toombs, Colt, Stephens, Hill, Johnson, Campbell, and a host of others, who are proud specimens among the proudest of the land. They have measured their strength with the proudest minds of all the Union, and won a fame unequalled, adorning her councils, its Cabinet, its Bench, and were the first everywhere.
George Michael Troup, one of the most distinguished of Georgia's sons, was the son of an English gentleman, who emigrated to Georgia anterior to the Revolution. He married Miss McIntosh, of Georgia, sister of General John McIntosh, of McIntosh County. He took no part in the Revolution. England was his mother country; to her he was attached, and in conscience he could not lift his hand in wrath against her. This course did not meet the approval of the McIntoshes, and he retired from the State and country. First, he went to England, but not contented there, he came to the Spanish town of Pensacola. Here he met the celebrated Indian chief, Alexander McGilvery, who was hostile to the Americans, and who invited him to take refuge in his country. McGilvery was a remarkable man; his father was a Scotchman, his mother a half-breed; her father was the celebrated French officer who was killed by his own men in 1732 at Fort Toulouse—his name was Marchand,—and her mother a full-blooded Creek woman.
McGilvery supposed him an English emissary, and invited him to go into the Creek nation and reside with his people. From Pensacola he went to Mobile, and thence to a bluff on the Tombigbee, where he remained during the war. This bluff he named McIntosh's Bluff, and it bears the name yet. Here George M. Troup was born. At the close of the war he returned to Georgia, and fixed his residence among the relatives of his wife. The McIntosh family were Highland Scotch, and partook of all the intrepidity of that wonderful people. They immigrated to Georgia with General Oglethorpe in company with a number of their countrymen, and for one hundred and thirty years have continued to reside in the county named for the first of their ancestors who settled and made a home in the colony of Georgia. It is a family distinguished for chivalry as well in Europe as in Georgia. At the commencement of the Revolution they at once sided with the colonists. Lachlin and John McIntosh became distinguished as leaders in that protracted and doubtful conflict, meeting in battle their kinsman in high command in the British army. On one occasion, when John McIntosh had surrendered at the battle of Brier Creek, a British officer, lost to every sentiment and feeling of honor, attempted to assassinate him, and was only prevented from doing so by Sir AEneas McIntosh, the commander of the English army, whose promptness arrested the blow by interposing his own sword to receive it.
Lachlin McIntosh was the commander of the first regiment raised in Georgia to aid in the Revolution. In 1777, a difficulty arose between Button Gwinnett (who, upon the death of Governor Bullock, had succeeded him as Governor,) and McIntosh. A duel was the consequence, in which Gwinnett was killed. Tradition says this difficulty grew out of the suspicions of McIntosh as to the fidelity of Gwinnett to the American cause. He was an Englishman by birth, and, upon the breaking out of the war, hesitated for some time as to the course he should pursue. This was a time when all who hesitated were suspected, and Gwinnett shared the common fate. Eventually he determined to espouse the revolutionary party, and was elected to the Convention, and was one of the immortal band who signed the Declaration of Independence emanating from that Convention. Until his death he was faithful and active. McIntosh doubted him, and he was not a man to conceal his opinions. McIntosh was severely wounded in the conflict.
This family was one of remarkable spirit; and this has descended to the posterity of the old cavaliers even unto this day. Colonel McIntosh, who fell at Molino del Rey, in our recent war with Mexico, was one of this family. He had all the spirit and chivalry of his ancestors. I remember to have heard Generals Taylor and Twiggs speaking of him subsequently to his death, and felt proud, as a native of the State of Georgia, of the distinguished praise bestowed on him by these gallant veterans. General Taylor was not generally enthusiastic in his expressions of praise, but he was always sincere and truthful. On this occasion, however, he spoke warmly and feelingly of the honor, the gallantry, and intrepidity of his fellow-soldier—his high bearing, his pride, his proficiency as an officer in the field, and the efficiency of his regiment, its perfection of drill and discipline, and coolness in battle—and, with unusual warmth, exclaimed: "If I had had with me at Buena Vista, McIntosh and Riley, with their veterans, I would have captured or totally destroyed the Mexican army."
Captain McIntosh, of the navy, was another of this distinguished family. He had no superior in the navy. So was that ardent and accomplished officer, Colonel McIntosh, who fell at Oak Hill, in the late war in Missouri. In truth, there has not been a day in one hundred and thirty years, when there has not been a distinguished son of this family to bear and transmit its name and fame to posterity. Through his mother, to George M. Troup descended all the nobler traits of the McIntosh family. He was educated, preparatory to entering college, at Flatbush, Long Island. His teacher's name I have forgotten, but he was a remarkable man, and devoted himself to the instruction of the youth intrusted to his care. He seems to have had a peculiar talent for inspiring a high order of ambition in his pupils, and of training them to a deportment and devotion to principle which would lead them to distinguished conduct through life. Governor Troup, in speaking to the writer of his early life and of his school-days on Long Island, said: "There were twenty-one of us at this school fitting for college, and, in after life, nineteen of us met in Congress, the representatives of fourteen States."
Troup, after leaving this school, went to Princeton, and graduated at Nassau Hall, in his nineteenth year. Returning to Savannah, he read law; but possessing ample fortune, he never practised his profession. His talents were of an order to attract attention. James Jackson, and most of the leading men of the day, turned to him as a man of great promise. The Republican party of Savannah nominated him to represent the county of Chatham, in the Legislature of the State, before he was twenty-one years of age. Being constitutionally ineligible, he, of course, declined; but as soon as he became eligible, he was returned, and, for some years, continued to represent the county. From the Legislature he was transferred to Congress, where he at once became distinguished, not only for talent, but a lofty honor and most polished bearing. While a member of Congress, he married a Virginia lady, who was the mother of his three children. Soon after the birth of her third child, there was discovered aberration of mind in Mrs. Troup, which terminated in complete alienation. This was a fatal blow to the happiness of her husband. She was tenderly beloved by him; and his acute sensibility and high nervous temperament became so much affected as not only to fill him with grief, but to make all his remaining life one of melancholy and sorrow. He had been elected to the United States Senate, but, in consequence of this terrible blow, and the constant care of his afflicted lady, to which he devoted himself, he lost his health, and resigned. He retired to his home, and to the sad duties of afflicted love.
About this time the people of Georgia became divided upon the political issues of the day. William H. Crawford was nominated by his friends for the Presidency. This aroused his enemies' hatred, who organized an opposition to him in his own State. This opposition was headed by John Clarke, his old enemy, and was aided by every old Federalist and personal enemy in the State. Crawford's friends were too confident in the popularity which had borne him to so many triumphs, and were slow to organize. The election of Governor devolved, at that time, upon the Legislature, and Clarke, upon the death of Governor Rabun, was announced as the candidate. The event of Rabun's death occurred only a very short time before the meeting of the Legislature. Matthew Talbot, the President of the Senate, assumed, under the Constitution, the duties of Governor, but sent the message already prepared by Rabun to the Legislature, and immediately an election took place, whereupon Clarke was elected. Troup had been solicited to oppose him, but was loath to embark anew in political life. Ultimately he yielded, and was defeated by thirteen votes. The friends of Crawford were now alarmed, and the contest was immediately renewed. The canvass was one of the most rancorous and bitter ever known in the State, but of this I have spoken in a former chapter. At the ensuing election, Troup was again a candidate. Again the contest was renewed, and, if possible, with increased violence and vigor. Clarke, in obedience to usage, had retired, and his party had put forward Matthew Talbot, of Wilkes County, as the competitor of Troup. This contest had now continued for four years, and Troup was elected by two votes.
The memory of this election will never fade from the minds of any who witnessed it. At the meeting of the Legislature it was doubtful which party had the majority. Two members chosen as favorable to the election of Troup, were unable from sickness to reach the seat of Government, and it was supposed this gave the majority to Talbot. There was no political principle involved in the contest. Both professedly belonged to the Republican party. Both seemed anxious to sustain the principles and the ascendency of that party. There were no spoils. The patronage of the executive was literally nothing; and yet there was an intensity of feeling involved for which there was no accounting, unless it was the anxiety of one party to sustain Mr. Crawford at home for the Presidency, and on the other hand to gratify the hatred of Clarke, and sustain Mr. Calhoun.
During the period intervening between the meeting of the Legislature and the day appointed for the election, every means was resorted to, practicable in that day. There was no money used directly. There was not a man in that Legislature who would not have repelled with scorn a proposition to give his vote for a pecuniary consideration; but all were open to reason, State pride, and a sincere desire to do what they deemed best for the honor and interest of the State. The friends of either candidate would have deserved their favorite instantly upon the fact being known that they had even winked at so base a means of success. Every one was tenaciously jealous of his fame, and equally so of that of the State. The machinery of party was incomplete, and individual independence universal. There were a few members, whose characters forbade violence of prejudice, and who were mild, considerate, and unimpassioned. These men were sought to be operated upon by convincing them that the great interests of the State would be advanced by electing their favorite. The public services of Troup, and his stern, lofty, and eminently pure character, were urged by his friends as reasons why he should be chosen. The people of the State were becoming clamorous for the fulfilment of the contract between the State and General Government for the removal of the Indians from the territory of the State, and Troup was urged upon the voters as being favorable in the extreme to this policy, and also as possessing the talents, will, and determination to effect this end. Finally the day of election arrived. The representative men of the State were assembled. It was scarcely possible to find hotel accommodations for the multitude. The judges of the different judicial districts, the leading members of the Bar, men of fortune and leisure, the prominent members of the different sects of the Christian Church, and especially the ministers of the gospel who were most prominent and influential, were all there. The celebrated Jesse Mercer was a moving spirit amidst the excited multitude, and Daniel Duffie, who, as a most intolerant Methodist, and an especial hater of the Baptist Church and all Baptists, was there also, willing to lay down all ecclesiastical prejudice, and go to heaven even with Jesse Mercer, because he was a Troup man.
The Senate came into the Representative chamber at noon, to effect, on joint ballot, the election of Governor. The President of the Senate took his seat with the Speaker of the House, and in obedience to law assumed the presidency of the assembled body. The members were ordered to prepare their ballots to vote for the Governor of the State. The Secretary of the Senate called the roll of the Senate, each man, as his name was called, moving up to the clerk's desk, and depositing his ballot. The same routine was then gone through with on the part of the House, when the hat (for a hat was used) containing the ballots was handed to the President of the Senate, Thomas Stocks, of Greene County, who proceeded to count the ballots, and finding only the proper number, commenced to call the name from each ballot. Pending this calling the silence was painfully intense. Every place within the spacious hall, the gallery, the lobby, the committee-rooms, and the embrasures of the windows were all filled to crushing repletion. And yet not a word or sound, save the excited breathing of ardent men, disturbed the anxious silence of the hall. One by one the ballots were called. There were 166 ballots, requiring 84 to elect. When 160 ballots were counted, each candidate had 80, and at this point the excitement was so painfully intense that the President suspended the count, and, though it was chilly November, took from his pocket his handkerchief, and wiped from his flushed face the streaming perspiration. While this was progressing, a wag in the gallery sang out, "The darkest time of night is just before day." This interruption was not noticed by the President, who called out "Troup!" then "Talbot!" and again there was a momentary suspension. Then he called again, "Troup—Talbot!" "82—82," was whispered audibly through the entire hall. Then the call was resumed. "Troup!" "A tie," said more than a hundred voices. There remained but one ballot. The President turned the hat up-side down, and the ballot fell upon the table. Looking down upon it, he called, at the top of his voice, "Troup!" The scene that followed was indescribable. The two parties occupied separate sides of the chamber. Those voting for Troup rose simultaneously from their seats, and one wild shout seemed to lift the ceiling overhead. Again, with increased vim, was it given. The lobby and the galleries joined in the wild shout. Members and spectators rushed into each others' arms, kissed each other, wept, shouted, kicked over the desks, tumbled on the floor, and for ten minutes this maddening excitement suspended the proceedings of the day. It was useless for the presiding officer to command order, if, indeed, his feelings were sufficiently under control to do so. When exhaustion had produced comparative silence, Duffie, with the full brogue of the County Carlow upon his tongue, ejaculated: "O Lord, we thank Thee! The State is redeemed from the rule of the Devil and John Clarke." Mercer waddled from the chamber, waving his hat above his great bald head, and shouting "Glory, glory!" which he continued until out of sight. General Blackshear, a most staid and grave old gentleman and a most sterling man, rose from his seat, where he, through all this excitement, had sat silent, folded his arms upon his breast, and, looking up, with tears streaming from his eyes, exclaimed: "Now, Lord, I am ready to die!" Order was finally restored, and the state of the ballot stated, (Troup, 84; Talbot, 82,) when President Stocks proclaimed George M. Troup duly elected Governor of the State of Georgia for the next three years.
This was the last election of a Governor by the Legislature. The party of Clarke demanded that the election should be given to the people. This was done, and in 1825, Troup was re-elected over Clarke by a majority of some seven hundred votes. It was during this last contest that the violence and virulence of party reached its acme, and pervaded every family, creating animosities which neither time nor reflection ever healed.
INDIAN TREATIES AND DIFFICULTIES.
THE CREEKS—JOHN QUINCY ADAMS—HOPOTHLAYOHOLA—INDIAN ORATORY—SULPHUR SPRING—TREATIES MADE AND BROKEN—AN INDEPENDENT GOVERNOR—COLONELS JOHN S. McINTOSH, DAVID EMANUEL TWIGGS, AND DUNCAN CLINCH—GENERAL GAINES—CHRISTIANIZING THE INDIANS—COTTON MATHER—EXPEDIENT AND PRINCIPLE—THE PURITANICAL SNAKE.
During the administration of Troup, a contest arose as to the true western boundary of the State, and the right of the State to the territory occupied by a portion of the Creek tribe of Indians. In the difficulty arising out of the sale by the Legislature of the lands belonging to the State bordering upon the Mississippi River, a compromise was effected by Congress with the company purchasing, and Georgia had sold to the United States her claim to all the lands in the original grant to General Oglethorpe and others by the English Government, west of the Chattahoochee River. A part of the consideration was that the United States should, at a convenient time, and for the benefit of Georgia, extinguish the title of the Indians, and remove them from the territory occupied by them, east of the Chattahoochee River, to a certain point upon that stream; and from this point, east of a line to run from it, directly to a point called Neckey Jack, on the Tennessee River. The war of 1812 with Great Britain found the Creek or Alabama portion of this tribe of Indians allies of England. They were by that war conquered, and their territory wrested from them. Those of the tribe under the influence of the celebrated chief William McIntosh remained friendly to the United States, and were active in assisting in the conquest of their hostile brethren. The conquered Indians were removed from their territory and homes, into the territory east of Line Creek, which was made the western boundary of the Creek Nation's territory. Many of them came into the territory claimed by Georgia as her domain.
This war was a war of the Republican party of the United States, and the State of Georgia being almost unanimously Republican, her people felt it would be unpatriotic, at this juncture, to demand of the Government the fulfilment of her obligations in removing the Indians from her soil. The expenses of the war were onerous, and felt as a heavy burden by the people, and one which was incurred by Republican policy. That party felt that it was its duty to liquidate this war debt as speedily as possible. To this end the sale of those conquered lands would greatly contribute; relieving, at the same time, the people to some extent, from the heavy taxation they had borne during the progress of the war. Consequently, they had not pressed the fulfilment of this contract upon the Government. But now the war debt had been liquidated—the United States treasury was overflowing with surplus treasure—Indian tribes were being removed by the purchase of their lands in the northwest, and a tide of population pouring in upon these lands, and threatening a powerful political preponderance in opposition to Southern policy and Southern interests. Under these circumstances, and the recommendation of Governor Troup, the Legislature of the State, by joint resolution and memorial to Congress, demanded the fulfilment of the contract on the part of the United States, and the immediate removal of the Indians.
John Quincy Adams was at that time President of the United States, and, as he had ever been, was keenly alive to Northern interests and to Federal views. Though professing to be Republican in political faith, he arrayed all his influence in opposition to the rights of the States. In this matter he gave the cold shoulder to Georgia. He did not recommend a repudiation of the contract, but interposed every delay possible to its consummation. After some time, commissioners were appointed to negotiate a treaty with the Indians for the purchase of their claim to the lands within the boundaries established by the sale to the United States—or so much thereof as was in possession of the Creek tribe. To this there was very serious opposition, not only from that portion of the tribe which formerly allied themselves to Great Britain, but from missionaries found in the Cherokee country, and from Colonel John Crowell, who was United States agent for the Creek Indians. These Indians were controlled by their chief, Hopothlayohola, a man of rare abilities and great daring. He was a powerful speaker, fluent as a fountain, and extremely vigorous in his expressions: his imagery was original and beautiful, apposite and illustrative; and his words and manner passionate to wildness. To all this he added the ferocity of his savage nature.
Crowell was an especial friend of Governor Clarke, and was influenced by his party feelings of hatred to Troup—in his opposition to a treaty, openly declaring that Georgia should never acquire the land while Troup was Governor. He was an unscrupulous man, of questionable morals, and vindictive as a snake.
The persevering energy of Troup, however, prevailed. A treaty was negotiated, and signed by Crowell, as agent, and a number of the chiefs headed by McIntosh. No sooner was this done, than Crowell, with a number of chiefs, hurried to Washington to protest against the ratification and execution of the treaty, charging the United States commissioners with fraud in the negotiation, under the influence of Troup, prompted by W. H. Crawford and friends. The fraud charged was in giving presents to the chiefs, and a couple of reservations of land to McIntosh—one where he resided, and the other around and including the famous Sulphur Spring, known as the Indian Spring, in Butts County.
This habit of giving presents to the chiefs when negotiating treaties has always been the custom of the Government. They expect it; it is a part of the consideration paid for the treaty of sale, for they are universally the vendors of territory and the negotiators of treaties for their tribes. This charge was simply a subterfuge, and one that was known would be influential with the mawkish philanthropists of the North, Mr. Adams, and the senators and representatives from New England. Upon the assumption of fraud, based upon these charges alone, the treaty was set aside by the action of the President and Cabinet alone; and by the same authority a new one made, with a change of boundary, involving a loss of a portion of territory belonging to Georgia under the stipulations of the contract between the State and United States. The previous or first treaty had been submitted to the United States Senate, and duly ratified, thereby becoming a law, under which Georgia claimed vested rights.
It was under these trying circumstances that the stern and determined character of Troup displayed itself. Holding firmly to the doctrine of State rights, he notified the President that he should disregard the latter treaty, and proceed to take possession of the territory under the stipulations of the former one. Upon the receipt of this information, General Gaines was ordered to Georgia to take command of the troops stationed along the frontier of the State, and any additional troops which might be ordered to this point, with orders to protect the Indians, and prohibit taking possession of the territory, as contemplated by Governor Troup. A correspondence ensued between General Gaines and Governor Troup of a most angry character. It terminated with an order to General Gaines to forbear all further communication with the Government of Georgia. This was notified to the President, (if my memory is correct, for I write from memory,) in these terms:
"JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, President of the United States:
"SIR: I have ordered General Gaines to forbear all further communication with this Government. Should he presume to infringe this order, I will send your major-general by brevet home to you in irons. GEORGE M. TROUP, Governor of Georgia."
The surveyors previously appointed by the Legislature were directed to be on the ground, in defiance of United States authority, on the first day of September succeeding, and at sunrise to commence the work of surveying the lands. A collision was anticipated as certain between the troops of the United States and the authorities of Georgia. But there was a difficulty in the way not previously contemplated. Colonels John S. McIntosh, David Emanuel Twiggs, and Duncan Clinch, each commanded regiments in the South. Twiggs and McIntosh were native Georgians. Clinch was a North Carolinian, but was a resident of Florida. Zachary Taylor was the lieutenant-colonel of Clinch's regiment. He was a Virginian by birth, but resided in Mississippi. All were Southern men in feeling, as well as by birth, and all Jeffersonian Republicans, politically. McIntosh and Twiggs were fanatical in their devotion to the State of their birth. The ancestors of both were among the first settlers, and both were identified with her history. The three wrote a joint letter to the President, tendering their commissions, if ordered to take arms against Georgia. This letter was placed in the hands of one who was influential with Mr. Adams, to be delivered immediately after the order should be issued to General Gaines to prevent by force of arms the survey ordered by Governor Troup. Troup had classified the militia, and signified his intention to carry out, if necessary, the first-negotiated treaty, by force of arms, as the law of the land.
It was, unquestionably, the prudence of this friend which prevented a collision. He communicated with Mr. Adams confidentially, and implored him not to issue the order. He assured him that a collision was inevitable if he did, and caused him to pause and consult his advisers, who declared their conviction that the first treaty was the law of the land, and that Georgia held vested rights under it. In obedience to this advice, Mr. Adams made no further effort to prevent the action of Georgia, and the lands were surveyed and disposed of by the State, under and according to the terms of the first treaty, and she retains a large strip of territory that would have been lost to her under the last treaty. My information of these facts was derived from Twiggs, Clinch, and Henry Clay. Who the friend was to whom the letter was intrusted, I never knew. I mentioned to Mr. Clay the facts, and he stated that they were true, but no knowledge of them ever came to him until the expiration of Mr. Adams' Administration. General Taylor stated to me that long after these events had transpired, and after the resignation of Colonel Clinch, General Twiggs had made the communication to him. As nearly as I can remember, Twiggs made the statement to me in the language I have used here. On returning from the ratification meeting, at Canton, of the nomination of Mr. Clay for the Presidency, in 1844, before we reached Baltimore, I was in a carriage with General Clinch and Senator Barrow, of Louisiana, and stated these facts, and Clinch verified them.
General Gaines was, of all men, the most unfit for a position like that in which he was placed. He was a good fighter, a chivalrous, brave man; but he was weak and vain, and without tact or discretion. His intentions were, at all times, pure, but want of judgment frequently placed him in unpleasant positions. The condition of the minds of the people of Georgia, at this time, was such, that very little was necessary to excite them to acts of open strife, and had Mr. Adams been less considerate than he was, there is now no telling what would have been the consequence. He was extremely unpopular at the South, and this, added to the inflamed condition of public opinion there, would assuredly have brought on a collision. Had it come, it might have resulted in a triumph of Southern principles, which, at a later day, and under less auspicious circumstances, struggled for existence, only to be crushed perhaps forever.
It was universally the wish of the people of Georgia to have possession of the land properly belonging to her, and but for their factious divisions, the hazards of a conflict between the troops of the United States and those of Georgia would have been more imminent. It was believed by both these factions, that whoever should, as Governor of the State, succeed in obtaining these lands, would thereby be rendered eminently popular, and secure to his faction the ascendency in the State for all time. The faction supporting Clarke believed he would certainly triumph in the coming contest before the people, and assumed to believe that then the matter of acquisition would be easy, as the Administration of Mr. Adams supposed that faction could, by that means, be brought into the support of the party now being formed about it. Clarke and many of his leading friends were coquetting with the Administration. He was—as was his brother-in-law, Duncan G. Campbell—a strong friend of Mr. Calhoun, who was then the Vice-President. National parties were inchoate, and many politicians were chary of choosing, and seemed to wait for the development of coming events, ere they gave shape and direction to their future courses. It was certain that Mr. Clay was identified with the American System, and that would, in a great degree, be the leading policy of the Administration. Mr. Calhoun, when Secretary of War, under Mr. Monroe, had made a strong report in favor of internal improvements by the General Government, within the limits of the States, and, while a member of Congress, had made an equally strong one in favor of a national bank. These were two of the prominent features of the American system, and it was generally believed that this policy would be too popular to combat. It had originated during the Administration of Monroe, and if it had the opposition of any member of his Cabinet, it was unknown to the country. Mr. Crawford and Mr. Calhoun, as well as Mr. Adams, were members of that Cabinet, and were all, in some degree, committed to this policy; for Mr. Crawford, as a Senator from Georgia, during the Administration of Mr. Madison, had sustained the doctrine of the constitutionality and the policy of a national bank, in one of the very ablest speeches ever made upon the subject, saying everything which could or can be said in favor of such a government financial agent, and refuting every objection of its opponents. From this speech is derived every argument and every idea of both the reports of Calhoun and McDuffie, which were heralded to the nation as greater even than that of Mr. Dallas, who, with Robert Morris, may be said to be the fathers of this institution. Mr. Clay had, in one of his ablest speeches, opposed the bank at a former time, and his change of opinion was now well known.
It was very well understood that the coming men were Clay, Jackson, and Calhoun. Clarke and his friends were ardent supporters of Calhoun, and it was thought they had won the favor of the Administration. Mr. Clay was strongly opposed to the execution of the old treaty, and had, by this means, drawn upon himself the opposition of the Crawford, or Troup party. These facts show the condition of public opinion in the State, and conclusively establish the fact, that but for this division of the people, and the check held by this upon the action of the masses and their leaders, fearful consequences would assuredly have ensued.
The reasons influencing the joint action of Mr. Adams and Mr. Clay in opposition to the execution of the old treaty were very different. Mr. Clay was honest and patriotic. He had no ulterior views to subserve. His policy was national. He desired the prosperity and advancement of his country to greatness and power among the nations of the earth. His fame was that of the nation; already it was identified with it. His ambition was a noble and a grand one. He wished his name identified with his acts, and these to constitute the fame and glory of the nation. He ever felt what subsequently he so nobly expressed, "That he would rather be right than be President." He had no petty selfishness—no pitiful revenges to exhaust with the hand of power—no contemptible motives for elevating or advancing the interests of one section of his country by oppressing another. "All his aims were his country's," and his whole country's. He desired that every act of that country should bear the broadest light, and challenge the closest and most searching scrutiny; that each should be a new and brighter gem in the diadem of her glory, and that her magnanimity should be most conspicuous in her transactions with the weakest. This he especially desired, and labored to effect, in all her transactions with the Indians. He viewed these as the primitive proprietors of the soil, and possessors of the entire country. He knew they were fading away before a civilization they were by nature incapacitated to emulate, and this, he felt, was in obedience to the inexorable laws of Divine Providence; and, in the wonderfully capacious compassion of his nature, he desired, in the accomplishment of this fate, that no act of national injustice to them should stain the nation's escutcheon, and determined to signalize this desire in every act of his when giving form and shape to national policy. He had generously lent a listening ear to the protests of the chiefs, seconded by that of their agent, and sincerely believed the treaty had been effected by fraud, and was wrong and oppressive, and, therefore, he opposed its execution, and was the main instrument in forming a new one. The draft of this was from his own pen, and he was solicitous that it should supersede the old one, as an expression of the Indians' desire.
Mr. Adams was, equally with Mr. Clay, opposed to the treaty as ratified, though, as was his constitutional duty, he had sent the instrument for the action of the Senate. In heart he was opposed to any treaty which would remove the aborigines from this territory at this time, and, in consequence of the action of Georgia, it was anticipated that, at no very distant day, the entire Indian population east of the Mississippi River, in the South, would be removed, unless some policy of the Government should be adopted which would prevent it; and those of the North, who felt desirous of crippling the territorial progress of the South, and, of consequence, her augmentation of population, supposed the most effectual means of accomplishing this would be to educate and Christianize the Indian. To do this, they insisted he must remain upon the territory he now occupied. This would bring him into immediate contact with the civilized white, where he could be most readily approached by missionaries and schoolmasters, and be instructed by the force of example. At the same time, he was to remain under the sole protection of the United States Government, without any of the privileges of civil government to be exercised as a citizen of the United States or the State upon whose soil he was located. This was ennobled as the sentiment of Christian benevolence, while its real intention was to withhold the land from the occupancy of the people of Georgia, and in so much retard the growth and increase of the white population of the State. To carry out this scheme, missionary establishments sprang up among the Indians in every part of the South, but especially within the limits of the State of Georgia, filled with Northern fanatics, who employed themselves most actively in prejudicing the minds of the savages against the people who were their neighbors, and preparing them to refuse to treat for the sale of any of their territory.
It has ever been the practice of the Puritan to propagate the vilest heresies, and for the vilest purposes, under the name of philanthropy and religion. It has burned its enemy at the stake, as, assembled around, they sang psalms, and sanctified the vilest cruelties with the name of God's vengeance. It was their great prototype, Cotton Mather, who blasphemously proclaimed, after the most inhuman massacre of several hundred Indians, that they, the Puritans of Massachusetts, "had sent, as a savory scent to the nostrils of God, two hundred or more of the reeking souls of the godless heathen."
This, ostensibly, was deemed a pious act, and a discharge of a pious duty, when, in truth, the only motive was to take his home and country, and appropriate it to their own people. It seems almost impossible to the race to come squarely up to truth and honesty, in word or act, in any transaction, as a man or as a people. Sinister and subtle, expediency, and not principle, seems to be their universal rule of action. Cold and passionless, incapable of generous emotions, he is necessarily vindictive and cruel. Patient and persevering, bigoted and selfish, eschewing as a crime an honorable resentment, he creeps to his ends like a serpent, with all his cunning and all his venom.
John Quincy Adams, in his nature, was much more like his mother than his father. His features were those of his mother, and the cold, persevering hatred of his nature was hers. From his boyhood he was in the habit of recording, for future use, the most confidential conversations of his friends, as also all that incautiously fell from an occasional interview with those less intimate. Had this been done for future reference only to establish facts in his own mind, there could have been no objection to the act; but this was not the motive. These memoranda were to rise up in vengeance when necessary to gratify his spleen or vengeance. He was naturally suspicious. He gave no man his confidence, and won the friendship of no one. Malignant and unforgiving, he watched his opportunity, and never failed to gratify his revengeful nature, whenever his victim was in his power. The furtive wariness of his small gray eye, his pinched nose, receding forehead, and thin, compressed lips, indicated the malignant nature of his soul. Unfaithful to friends, and only constant in selfishness—unconscious of obligation, and ungrateful for favors—fanatical only in hatred—pretending to religious morality, yet pursuing unceasingly, with merciless revenge, those whom he supposed to be his enemies, he combined all the elements of Puritan bigotry and Puritan hate in devilish intensity. He deserted the Federal party in their greatest need, and meanly betrayed them to Mr. Jefferson, whom, from his boyhood, he had hated and reviled in doggerel rhymes and the bitterest prose his genius could suggest.
The conduct of Mr. Adams, after he had been President, as the representative of Massachusetts in Congress, is the best evidence of the motives which influenced his conduct in the matter of these two treaties. He never lost an opportunity to assail the interests and the institutions of the South. He hated her, and to him, more than to any other, is due the conduct of the Northern people toward the South which precipitated the late war, and has destroyed the harmony once existing between the people.
His father had been repudiated by the South for a more trusted son of her own. This was a treasured hatred; and when he shared his father's fate, this became the pervading essence of his nature.
He returned to Congress, after his defeat for the Presidency, for no other purpose than to give shape and direction to a sentiment which he felt must ultimately result in her ruin, and to accomplish this he was more than willing to hazard that of the Government. He felt, should this follow, his own people would be in a condition to dictate and control a government of their own creation, and which should embody their peculiar views, rather than the pure and unselfish principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence, and preserved in the Constitution of the United States.
The sagacity of George M. Troup was the first to discover this in his conduct as President, and to sound the alarm as Governor of Georgia. He came directly in contact with him, and determined he should be defeated in one of his means for injury to the South. Troup knew and felt the right was with him, and maintained it with the honest boldness of a true man. He triumphed, and the doctrine of State rights was rescued from a fatally aimed blow, and reaffirmed, gave renewed popularity and strength to its supporters. The election of General Jackson soon after followed, and, as the embodiment of the principle, rallied around him its supporters from every section. With these, and his immense popularity personally, he scotched, for a time, the Puritan snake; but, true to its instincts, it struggled to bite, though its head was off.
Mr. Adams saw in Troup a strong and uncompromising foe; he knew, too, the right was with him, and that if pushed to extremities the result would be damaging to his fame, as having, in persevering for the wrong, destroyed the Government, and at a time, too, when every benefit from such destruction would inure to the South. Under the circumstances his course was taken: he dared not consult or trust Mr. Clay with the real motives which influenced him to yield, and made a virtue of patriotism and magnanimity which cloaked his pusillanimity, and shielded from public view his envenomed chagrin.
It was doubtless this triumph which secured the second election of Troup. Personally he was unpopular with the masses. His rearing had been in polished society, and though he was in principle a democrat, in his feelings, bearing, and associations he was an aristocrat. He accorded equality to all under the law and in political privilege, but he chose to select his associates, and admitted none to the familiarity of intimacy but men of high breeding and unquestioned honor. In many things he was peculiar and somewhat eccentric. In dress, especially so—often appearing in midwinter in light, summer apparel; and again, in summer, with a winter cloak wrapped carefully about him. When he appeared first before the assembled Legislature, and many of the first citizens of the State, to take the oath of office, it was a raw, cold day in November; his dress was a round jacket of coarse cotton, black cassimere vest, yellow nankeen pantaloons, silk hose, and dancing-pumps, with a large-rimmed white hat, well worn. In his address, which was short and most beautiful, he made his hat conspicuous by holding it in his right hand, and waving it with every gesture. In person, he was below the middle size, slender, though finely formed; his hair was red, and his eyes intensely blue and deeply set beneath a heavy brow; his nose was prominent and aquiline; his mouth, the great feature of his face, was Grecian in mould, with flexible lips, which, while in repose, seemed to pout. His rabid opposition to those engaged in the Yazoo frauds, and his hatred for those who defended it, made him extremely obnoxious to them, and prompted Dooly to say: "Nature had formed his mouth expressly to say, 'Yazoo.'" Its play, when speaking, was tremulous, with a nervous twitching, which gave an agitated intonation to his words very effective.
The form of his head, and especially his forehead, indicated an imaginative mind, while the lines of his face marked deep thought. He was strictly honest in everything; was opposed to anything which wore the appearance of courting public favor, or seemed like a desire for office. His private life was exemplary, kind, and indulgent to his children and servants, and full of charity; severe upon nothing but the assumptions of folly, and the wickedness of purpose in the dishonest heart. In every relation of life he discharged its duties conscientiously, and was the enemy only of the vicious and wicked. He continued to reside upon his plantation in Lawrence County with his slaves, carefully providing for their every want until his death. He had attained the patriarchal age of threescore years and ten, and sank to rest in the solitude of his forest-home, peacefully and piously, leaving no enemies, and all the people of his State to mourn him.
ASPIRANTS FOR CONGRESS—A NEW ORGANIZATION—TWO PARTIES—A PROTECTIVE TARIFF—-UNITED STATES BANK—THE AMERICAN SYSTEM—INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS —A GALAXY OF STARS—A SPARTAN MOTHER'S ADVICE—NEGRO-DEALER—QUARTER RACES—COCK-PITTING—MILITARY BLUNDERS ON BOTH SIDES—ABNER GREEN'S DAUGHTER—ANDREW JACKSON—GWINN—POINDEXTER—AD INTERIM—GENERALS AS CIVIL RULERS.
The remarkable excitement of the political contest between Troup and Clarke had the effect of stimulating the ambition of the young men of education throughout the State for political distinction. For some time anterior to this period, all seemed content to permit those who had been the active politicians in the Republican struggle with the Federal party to fill all the offices of distinction in the State without opposition. It would have been considered presumptuous in the extreme for any young man, whatever his abilities, to have offered himself as a candidate for Congress in opposition to Mr. Forsyth, R.H. Wild, Thomas W. Cobb, Edward F. Tatnal, and men of like age and political faith. The members of Congress were elected by general ticket; and the selection of candidates was not by a convention of the people or party. The names of candidates were generally recommended by influential parties, and their consent to become candidates obtained through solicitations addressed to them, and then published to the people. The State was so unanimous in political sentiment, that for many years no opposition to the Republican party was thought of.
But now parties were organizing upon principles, or rather policies, entirely new; there was a fusion of the old elements of party, and Federalists and Republicans were side by side in this new organization. Men who had been under the ban, for opinion's sake, were coming into public view and public favor, and disclosing great abilities. At the head of these was John McPherson Berrien, who, to the end of his life, was so distinguished in the councils of the nation. At the same time, in every part of the State, young men were rising up as men of promise for talent and usefulness. These men arrayed themselves with either of the two parties, as inclination or interest prompted. Active and assiduous, they were soon prominent before the people, and a new era was commencing. With the election of John Quincy Adams, the State was in a blaze and politics a furor. Opposition immediately commenced to the leading measures of the Administration, and the Legislature of 1825 was filled with young men of talent, who were enthusiastic and fierce in their sentiments and feelings. They had been divided as partisans of Troup and Clarke, and met as antagonists in the Legislature; but really without any defined policy in opposition to that of the administration of the General Government of the nation. A suspicion filled every one that this policy was disastrous to Southern interests, and sectional in its character, although designated as national.
Few men of the South had given much attention to the effect a tariff for revenue had upon the commercial and manufacturing interests of the North. The war with England had created a debt, and this tariff had been imposed solely for the purpose of securing, not only a sufficient revenue for the current necessities of the Government, but a surplus, which should in a short time liquidate the public debt. It was sufficient to afford protection to the manufacturing interests of the North, to increase this into a formidable revenue, and to enlist a national party in its support. It was now, when the public debt was liquidated, that another reason was necessary for continuing a policy which had grown up from the necessities of the nation—consequently it was assumed to be a national policy to promote national independence, and protection was claimed for national industry against European competition. This policy in the Government would encourage extravagance, waste, and corruption—such a bane to republics—because it would create an immense surplus in the national treasury, unless some scheme for its expenditure could be devised which should seem to promote the national interest. To this end, the party of the Administration claimed a constitutional power in Congress to carry on a system of internal improvements; and heavy appropriations were made for this purpose, not only absorbing the surplus revenue, but creating a necessity for more—and this necessity was an excuse for increasing the tariff.
The Bank of the United States was the depository of the moneys of the nation and her disbursing agent. The constitutionality of this institution had been a mooted question from the day it was first proposed by Robert Morris. Mr. Madison, who was a Republican, had at one time vetoed it; at another, approved it. Mr. Crawford, a most inveterate States-rights man and strict constructionist of the Constitution, had uniformly supported it. Mr. Clay had both supported and opposed it. The question was finally adjudicated by the Supreme Court, and, so far as that decision could make it, was decided to be constitutional. This, however, did not satisfy the Republican or States-rights party; a large majority of whom always insisted upon its unconstitutionality. At the time of its creation, a necessity existed for some such institution, to aid the Government in its financial operations, and at the time of the renewal of its charter the Government had just emerged from a war; every State was creating banks, and the country was flooded with an irredeemable and worthless currency, disturbing commerce, unsettling values, and embarrassing the Government. A power was wanted somewhere to control these State banks, and to give a redeemable and uniform currency to the country.
The State banks had proved destructive to the public interest; with no power to restrain their issues except that imposed by their charters and the honesty of their officers—a frail security for the public, as experience had attested. The example of Washington was pleaded by the advocates of the bank. At the very outset it had been opposed for want of constitutionality. Washington had doubted it, and submitted the question to two of his Cabinet—Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Hamilton. They were divided in opinion—Mr. Jefferson opposing, and Mr. Hamilton sustaining the constitutionality of the measure. The opinion and argument of Hamilton prevailed, and the act creating a bank received the Executive approval.
It answered admirably the object of its creation, and the Republican party (then in embryo) acquiesced. Indeed, at this time, there could scarcely be said to be a party separate from the Government. Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Jefferson were the leaders of the parties which divided the people upon the adoption of the Constitution, and these parties, though at this time inchoate, were concreting about these two wonderful men. Upon the renewal of the charter of the United States Bank, during the Administration of Mr. Madison, the Republican party again mooted its constitutionality; but its undisputed usefulness had won for it immense popularity, and there were many who, though acting with the Republicans, were willing (as Washington had approved it, and the Supreme Court had pronounced it constitutional) to view the question as settled, and vote to renew the charter.
It was subsequent to the veto of Mr. Madison (when he had reconsidered his action, and recommended the re-chartering of the bank,) that debates ensued, in which the question was exhausted. In these debates, Mr. Crawford, Mr. Clay, Felix Grundy, William B. Giles, and Mr. Calhoun led. They were continued through several sessions, up to 1816, when they ultimated in the chartering of the last bank of the United States. This charter expired during the Administration of General Jackson, and by him the bank was finally crushed.
Three great measures constituted what was then termed the American System—the United States Bank, a protective tariff, and internal improvements within the States by the General Government. An opposition to this party was formed at the very outset of the Adams Administration. This opposition denied the constitutional power of Congress to create or sustain either.
The South, at the commencement of this opposition, was almost alone. The North was a unit in its support of the Administration, because its policy was vital to her interests. The West, influenced by Mr. Clay, was greatly in the majority in its support. The Southern opposition seemed almost hopeless; and to this cause may, in a great degree, be ascribed the bringing forth to public view the transcendent abilities of the young men aspiring for fame in Georgia, and in the South generally. McDuffie, Hamilton, Holmes, and Waddy Thompson, of South Carolina; Colquitt, Cobb, Toombs, Stephens, Johnson, Nesbit, and John P. King, of Georgia; Wise, Bocock, Hunter, Summers, Rives, and others of Virginia; Mangum, Badger, and Graham, of North Carolina; Bell, Foster, Peyton, Nicholson, and James K. Polk, of Tennessee; King and Lewis, of Alabama; Porter, Johnston, White, and Barrow, of Louisiana; Ashley, Johnson, and Sevier, of Arkansas; Chase, Pugh, Pendleton, and Lytell, of Ohio; and Douglas, Trumbull, and Lincoln, of Illinois, were all men of sterling talent, and were about equally divided in political sentiment. Kentucky had Tom and Humphrey Marshall, Crittenden, Menifer, Letcher, Breckinridge, and Preston.
General Jackson was now the avowed candidate of the States-rights party, which soon after assumed the name of Democratic, and his political principles and great personal popularity were not only dividing the West, but the Middle States, and even those of New England.
During the entire administration of Adams, there was a majority in Congress supporting his policy. It was then and there that the great battle for supremacy was fought. Berrien and Forsyth, from Georgia, in the Senate; McDuffie and Preston, from South Carolina; Cass, from Michigan, and Van Buren and Silas Wright, from New York—all giants in intellect. But there were Webster and John Davis, from Massachusetts, George Evans, from Maine, and others of minor powers, but yet great men. Between these great minds the conflict was stupendous. Every means were put into requisition to sustain the Administration and its policy, but all were unavailing—General Jackson was elected by an overwhelming majority. Mr. Clay was immediately returned by Kentucky to the Senate, and organized an opposition upon the policy of the late Administration, led on by himself and Webster. The memory of those days, and the men who made them memorable, flits vividly before me; but I am not writing a history, and can attempt no order, but shall write on as these memories of men and events shall seem to me most interesting in their character to the general reader.
General Jackson was one of those rare creations of nature which appear at long intervals, to astonish and delight mankind. It seems to be settled in the public mind that he was born in South Carolina; but there is no certainty of the fact. His early life was very obscure, and he himself was uncertain of his birth-place, though he believed it was South Carolina. He remembered the removal of his family from South Carolina, and many of the incidents of the war of the Revolution transpiring there; but more especially those occurring in North Carolina, to which the family removed. Judge Alexander Porter, of Louisiana, was an Irishman, and from the neighborhood where were born and reared the parents of Jackson. His own father was brutally executed at Vinegar Hill, by sentence of a drum-head court martial, in 1798, and his family proscribed by the British Government. With his uncle, the Rowans, the Jacksons, and some others, he emigrated to America, and settled at Nashville, Tennessee. The Jacksons were of the same family, and distantly connected with General Jackson. Great intimacy existed between this family and General Jackson for many years.
Judge Porter, of whom I shall hereafter have something to say, visited Europe a short time before his death, and made diligent search into the history of the Jackson family, without ascertaining anything positively: he learned enough to satisfy his own mind that Andrew Jackson was born in Ireland, and brought to the United States by his parents when only two years old. This was also the opinion of Thomas Crutcher, who came with General Jackson to Nashville, and it was also the opinion of Dr. Boyd McNary and his elder brother, Judge McNary, who believed he was four years older than he supposed himself to be.
The McNarys came with him from North Carolina. On the trip a difficulty occurred between Boyd McNary and Jackson, which never was reconciled—both dying in extreme old age. Boyd McNary stopped at Lexington and read medicine, forming there the acquaintance of Mr. Clay and Felix Grundy. The intimacy which sprang up between Clay and McNary was as ardent and imperishable as the hatred between himself and Jackson, enduring until death. Jackson was enterprising and eminently self-reliant; in all matters pertaining to himself, he was his own counsellor; he advised with no man; cool and quick in thought, he seemed to leap to conclusions, and never went back from them. An anecdote relative to his parting from his mother in his outset in life, illustrates this as prominent in the attributes of his nature at that time. The writer heard him narrate this after his return from Washington, when his last term in the Presidential office had expired.
When about to emigrate to Tennessee, the family were residing in the neighborhood of Greensboro, North Carolina.
"I had," said he, "contemplated this step for some months, and had made my arrangements to do so, and at length had obtained my mother's consent to it. All my worldly goods were a few dollars in my purse, some clothes in my saddle-bags, a pretty good horse, saddle, and bridle. The country to which I was going was comparatively a wilderness, and the trip a long one, beset by many difficulties, especially from the Indians. I felt, and so did my mother, that we were parting forever. I knew she would not recall her promise; there was too much spunk in her for that, and this caused me to linger a day or two longer than I had intended.
"But the time came for the painful parting. My mother was a little, dumpy, red-headed Irish woman. 'Well, mother, I am ready to leave, and I must say farewell.' She took my hand, and pressing it, said, 'Farewell,' and her emotion choked her.
"Kissing at meetings and partings in that day was not so common as now. I turned from her and walked rapidly to my horse.
"As I was mounting him, she came out of the cabin wiping her eyes with her apron, and came to the getting-over place at the fence. 'Andy,' said she, (she always called me Andy,) 'you are going to a new country, and among a rough people; you will have to depend on yourself and cut your own way through the world. I have nothing to give you but a mother's advice. Never tell a lie, nor take what is not your own, nor sue anybody for slander or assault and battery. Always settle them cases yourself!' I promised, and I have tried to keep that promise. I rode off some two hundred yards, to a turn in the path, and looked back—she was still standing at the fence and wiping her eyes. I never saw her after that." Those who knew him best will testify to his fidelity to this last promise made his mother.
The strong common sense and unbending will of Jackson soon made him conspicuous in his new home, and very soon he was in active practice as a lawyer. His prominence was such, that during the last year of the last term of General Washington's Administration, a vacancy occurring in the United States Senate from Tennessee, General Jackson was appointed to fill it. He was occupying this seat when General Washington retired from the Presidency, and, with William B. Giles, of Virginia, voted against a resolution of thanks tendered by Congress to Washington, for his services to the country. For this vote he gave no reason at the time; and if he ever did, it has escaped my knowledge.
The career of General Jackson, as a public man, is so well known, that it is not my purpose to review it in this place; but many incidents of his private history have come to my knowledge from an association with those who were intimate with him, from his first arrival in Tennessee. These, or so many of them as I deem of interest enough to the public, I propose to relate.
Jackson was a restless and enterprising man, embarking in many schemes for the accumulation of fortune, not usually resorted to by professional men, or men engaged in public matters. In business he was cautious. He was a remarkable judge of human character, and rarely gave his confidence to untried men. Notwithstanding the impetuosity of his nature, upon occasion he could be as cool and as calculating as a Yankee. The result was, that though he had many partners in the various pursuits he at different times resorted to, he rarely had any pecuniary difficulty with any of them. He was in the habit of trading with the low country, that is, with the inhabitants of Mississippi and Louisiana.
Many will remember the charge brought against him pending his candidacy for the Presidency, of having been, in early life, a negro-trader, or dealer in slaves. This charge was strictly true, though abundantly disproved by the oaths of some, and even by the certificate of his principal partner. Jackson had a small store, or trading establishment, at Bruinsburgh, near the mouth of the Bayou Pierre, in Claiborne County, Mississippi. It was at this point he received the negroes, purchased by his partner at Nashville, and sold them to the planters of the neighborhood. Sometimes, when the price was better, or the sales were quicker, he carried them to Louisiana. This, however, he soon declined; because, under the laws of Louisiana, he was obliged to guarantee the health and character of the slave he sold.
On one occasion he sold an unsound negro to a planter in the parish of West Feliciana, and, upon his guarantee, was sued and held to bail to answer. In this case he was compelled to refund the purchase-money, with damages. He went back upon his partner, and compelled him to share the loss. This caused a breach between them, which was never healed. This is the only instance which ever came to my knowledge of strife with a partner. He was close to his interest, and spared no means to protect it.
It was during the period of his commercial enterprise in Mississippi that he formed the acquaintance of the Green family. This family was among the very first Americans who settled in the State. Thomas M. Green and Abner Green were young men at the time, though both were men of family. To both of them Jackson, at different times, sold negroes, and the writer now has bills of sale for negroes sold to Abner Green, in the handwriting of Jackson, bearing his signature, written, as it always was, in large and bold characters, extending quite half across the sheet. At this store, which stood immediately upon the bank of the Mississippi, there was a race-track, for quarter-races, (a sport Jackson was then very fond of,) and many an anecdote was rife, forty years ago, in the neighborhood, of the skill of the old hero in pitting a cock or turning a quarter-horse.
This spot has become classic ground. It was here Aaron Burr was first arrested by Cowles Mead, then acting as Governor of the Territory of Mississippi, and from whom he made his escape, and it was at this point that Grant crossed his army when advancing against Vicksburg. It is a beautiful plateau of land, of some two thousand acres, immediately below the mouth of the Bayou Pierre, and bordered by very high and abrupt cliffs, which belong to the same range of hills that approach the river's margin at Vicksburg, Grand Gulf, Rodney, Natchez, and Bayou Sara. At this point they attain the height of three hundred feet, and are almost perpendicular. The summit is attained by a circuitous road cut through the cliffs, and this is the summit level of the surrounding country.
This plateau of land, where once stood the little village of Bruinsburgh, has long been a cotton plantation, and a most valuable one it was before the late war. A deep, and, to an army, impassable swamp borders it below, and the same is the case above the Bayou Pierre. To land an army at such a place, when its only means of marching upon the country was through this narrow cut, of about one hundred feet in width, with high, precipitous sides, forming a complete defile for half a mile, and where five thousand men could have made its defence good against fifty thousand, is certainly as little evidence of military genius as was the permission of them to pass through it without an effort to prevent it.
To a military eye, the blunders of Grant and Pemberton are apparent in their every movement—and the history of the siege and capture of Vicksburg, if ever correctly written, will demonstrate to the world that folly opposed to folly marked its inception, progress, and finality.
The friends formed in this section of country by Jackson were devoted to him through life, and when in after life he sent (for it is not true that he brought) his future wife to Mississippi, it was to the house of Thomas M. Green, then residing near the mouth of Cowles Creek, and only a few miles from Bruinsburgh.
Whatever the circumstances of the separation, or the cause for it, between Mrs. Jackson and her first husband, I am ignorant; I know that Jackson vas much censured in the neighborhood of his home. At the time of her coming to Green's, the civil authority was a disputed one; most of the people acknowledging the Spanish. A suit was instituted for a divorce, and awarded by a Spanish tribunal. There was probably little ceremony or strictness of legal proceeding in the matter, as all government and law was equivocal, and of but little force just at that time in the country. It was after this that Jackson came and married her, in the house of Thomas M. Green.
That there was anything disreputable attached to the lady's name is very improbable; for she was more than fifteen months in the house of Green, who was a man of wealth, and remarkable for his pride and fastidiousness in selecting his friends or acquaintances. He was the first Territorial representative of Mississippi in Congress—was at the head of society socially, and certainly would never have permitted a lady of equivocal character to the privileges of a guest in his house, or to the association of his daughters, then young. During the time she was awaiting this divorce, she was at times an inmate of the family of Abner Green, of Second Creek, where she was always gladly received, and he and his family were even more particular as to the character and position of those they admitted to their intimacy, if possible, than Thomas B. Green. This intimacy was increased by the marriage of two of the Green brothers to nieces of Mrs. Jackson.
In 1835, when Jackson was President, the writer, passing from Louisiana to New York with his family, spent some days at Washington. His lady was the youngest daughter of Abner Green; he was in company with a daughter of Henry Green and her husband; her mother was niece to Mrs. Jackson. We called to see the President, and when my lady was introduced to the General, he was informed she was the daughter of his old friend, Abner Green, of Second Creek. He did not speak, but held her hand for some moments, gazing intently into her face. His feelings overcame him, and clasping her to his bosom, he said, "I must kiss you, my child, for your sainted mother's sake;" then holding her from him, he looked again, "Oh! how like your mother you are—she was the friend of my poor Rachel, when she so much needed a friend—I loved her, and I love her memory;" and then, as if ashamed of his emotion, he continued: "You see, my child, though I am President through the kindness or folly of the people, I am but a weak, silly old man."
We spent the evening with him, and when in his private sitting-room his pipe was lighted and brought to him, he said: "Now, my child, let us talk about Mississippi and the old people." I have never in all my life seen more tenderness of manner, or more deep emotion shown, than this stern old man continually evinced when speaking of his wife and her friends.
The character of General Jackson is yet greatly misunderstood. This has been caused by the fact that his words and actions, when in command, or when enraged, as a man, have been the main data upon which the estimate of his bearing and character has been predicated. He was irascible and quick in his temper, and when angered was violent in words and manner. It was at such moments that the stern inflexibility of his will was manifest; and his passion towered in proportion to provocation. But in private life and social intercourse he was bland, gentle, and conciliating. His manner was most polished and lofty in society, and in a lady's parlor, in urbanity and polish of manners, he never had a superior. This high polish was nature's spontaneous gift. He had never been taught it in courts, or from association with those who had. It was the emanation of his great soul, which stole out through his every word and movement in the presence of ladies, and which erupted as a volcano at insult or indignity from man.
That evening at the White House is marked in my memory with a white stone. The playful simplicity of his conversation and manner, and the particularity of his inquiries about matters and things so insignificant, but which were links in the chain of his memories, I well remember.
"Is old papa Jack and Bellile living?" he asked, after a pause, of my wife, accompanied with a look of eager anxiety.
These were two old Africans, faithful servants of her father; and then there was an anecdote of each of them—their remarks or their conduct upon some hunting or fishing excursion, in which he had participated forty years before.
I was an interested spectator in the presence of one of nature's wonderful creations—one who had made, and who was making, history for his country, and whose name was to descend to future times as one of her noblest sons and greatest historical characters. I watched every motion of his lips, every expression of his features, and every gleam of his great gray eyes, and I could but wonder at the child-like naturalness of everything about him. Is not this an attribute of greatness—to be natural? Yes; to be natural in all things belongs to truth, and a truthful exhibition of nature, without assumption or deceit, is greatness. Here was one who could, with natural simplicity, amuse a child; and the same one could command and successfully wield a great army, and, with equal success, direct the destinies of a great nation; whose genius was tempered with simplicity and tenderness, and when towering most in its grandeur, was most truthful to nature.
General Jackson's early opportunities were extremely limited. His education was so very defective, that his orthography was almost ludicrous, and his general reading amounted to almost nothing. At no time was he a respectable county-court lawyer, so far as legal learning was concerned, and it is wonderful how the natural vigor of his mind supplied this defect. On the bench, his greatest aim was to get at the facts in every case, and to decide all points upon the broad principles of equity; and in all his charges to the jury, his principal aim was to direct their attention to the simple justice of the case, and a favorite phrase of his in these charges was: "Do right between the parties, and you will serve the objects of the law."
He was an enemy to all unnecessary forms in all matters. His manner was to go directly to the kernel, and he was very indifferent as to how the shell was cracked, or the husk removed. He never seemed to reason. Upon the presentation of any subject to his mind, it seemed, with electrical velocity, to cut through to a conclusion as if by intuition. He was correct in his conclusions more frequently than any man of his age. His knowledge of human nature was more consummate than that of any of his compeers who were remarkable for greatness of mind. In this, as in all other matters, his opinion was formed with the first glance. His intimacy with every sort of character, in his extended intercourse with the world, seemed so to have educated his faculties and whetted his perception, that he only wanted to look at a man for five minutes to know his inmost nature. Yet he was sometimes deceived, and, ascertaining this, nothing enraged him more.
In his friendships he was almost fanatical. The humblest individual, who was his friend, and who had proven it, could command him in any manner, and to the full extent of his capacity to serve him.
A remarkable instance of this trait was manifested in his conduct as President, toward a young friend, Mr. Gwinn, who was reared in the neighborhood of the Hermitage, and whose father had long been a trusted friend of Jackson. In 1832, when the lands obtained from the Choctaws in Mississippi were being brought into market, the office of register in the land-office in that State was an important one. It was given to Gwinn by Jackson, who was then President.
When the nomination was sent to the Senate, opposition was made to its confirmation by George Poindexter, a senator from Mississippi. It had always been the practice of all preceding Presidents, when suitable persons could be had, to nominate them from the State in which the United States office to be filled was located. Poindexter insisted that this custom, from long usage, had become law; and to send a citizen from one State into another, there to fill a national office, was an indignity to her citizens, and a manifestation, to say the least of it, of distrust and suspicion as to the capacity or honesty of the people of the State. This opposition was successful, and Gwinn was rejected. The nomination was renewed, and again rejected. Jackson wrote to Gwinn, who was already by executive appointment discharging the duties of the office, to continue to do so. I was present when the letter was received, and permitted to read it. "Poindexter has deserted me," he said, "and his opposition to your nomination is to render, as far as he can, my Administration unpopular with the people of Mississippi; and a majority of the Senate are more than willing to aid him in this. They are only destroying themselves, not me, and some of them will soon find this out. Do you hold on to the office; I will make no more nominations; but commission you ad interim as soon as Congress adjourns, which will be in a few weeks at farthest. Very soon my friends will be in a majority in the Senate—until then, I will keep you in the office, for I am determined you shall have it, spite of Poindexter." The result was as he had promised.
This is but one of a thousand instances which might be enumerated to attest the same fact. Such traits are always appreciated as they deserve to be; they address themselves to the commonest understanding, and are esteemed by all mankind. It is a mistake the world makes, that Jackson's popularity was exclusively military. Those great qualities of mind and soul which constituted him a great general, were not only displayed in his military career, but in all his life; and to them he was indebted for the friends of his whole life; they made him a man of mark before he was twenty-five years of age. His courage, intrepidity, frankness, honor, truth, and sincerity were all pre-eminent in his conduct, and carried captive the admiration of all men. His devotion to his wife, to his friends, to his duty, was always conspicuous; and these are admired and honored, even by him who never had in his heart a feeling in common with one of these. All these traits were so striking in Jackson's character as to make them conspicuous. They were more marked in his than in that of any other man of his day, because the impulses of his temperament were more prompt and potent. They were natural to him, and always naturally displayed. There was neither assumption of feeling nor deceit in its manifestation; all he evinced, bubbled up from his heart, naturally and purely as spring-water, and went directly to the heart. These great and ennobling traits were not unfrequently marred by passion, and acts which threw a cloud over their brilliancy; but this, too, was natural: the same soul which was parent to this violence and extravagance of passion, was, too, the source of all his virtues, and all were equally in excess. The consequence of this violence were sometimes terrible. They were evanescent, and, like a thunder-storm, seemed only to clear the atmosphere for the display of beautiful weather.
The triumphs of mind, unaided by education, sometimes are astonishing,—in the case of General Jackson, perhaps, not more so than in many others. The great Warwick of England, the putter-up and the puller-down of kings, did not know his letters; Marshal Soult, the greatest of Napoleon's marshals, could not write a correct sentence in French; and Stevenson, the greatest engineer the world ever saw—the inventor of the locomotive engine—did not know his letters at twenty-one years of age, and was always illiterate. It is a question whether such minds would have been greatly aided by education, or whether they might not have been greatly injured by it—nature seeming to have formed all minds with particular proclivities. These are more marked in the stronger intellects. They direct to the pursuit in life for which nature has designed the individual: should this idiosyncrasy receive the proper education from infancy, doubtless it would be aided to the more rapid and more certain accomplishment of the designs of nature. To discover this in the child, requires that it should be strongly developed, and a close and intelligent observation on the part of the parent or guardian who may have the direction of the child's education. But this, in the system of education almost universally pursued, is never thought of; and the avocation of the future man is chosen for him, without any regard to his aptitudes for it, and often in disregard of those manifested for another. Consequently, nature is thwarted by ignorance, and the individual drags on unsuccessfully in a hated pursuit through life. Left alone, these proclivities become a passion, and where strongly marked, and aided by strength of will, they work out in wonderful perfection the designs of nature. Julius Caesar, Hannibal, Attila, Yengis Khan, Prince Eugene, Marlborough, Napoleon, and Wellington were all generals by nature—and so were Andrew Jackson and "Stonewall" Jackson. The peculiarities of talent which make a great general make a great statesman; and all of those who, after distinguishing themselves as great generals, were called to the administration of the civil affairs of their respective Governments, have equally distinguished themselves as civilians.
The proposing of General Jackson as a candidate for the Presidency was received, by most of those who were deemed statesmen, as a burlesque; and many of those most active in his support only desired his election to further their own views, and not for the country's benefit. It was supposed he was so entirely unacquainted with state-craft, that he would be a pliant tool—an automaton, to dance to their wire-pulling. How little they understood him, and how well he understood them! At once he let them know he was President, and was determined to take the responsibility of administering the Government in the true spirit of its institutions. The alarm, which pervaded all political circles so soon as this was understood, is remembered well. It was a bomb exploded under the mess-table, scattering the mess and breaking to fragments all their cunningly devised machinations for rule and preferment—an open declaration of war against all cliques and all dictation. His inaugural was startling, and his first message explicit. His policy was avowed, and though it gathered about him a storm, he nobly breasted it, and rode it out triumphantly. His administration closed in a blaze of glory. He retired the most popular and most powerful man the nation had ever seen.
UNREQUITED LOVE—POPPING THE QUESTION—PRACTICAL JOKING—SATAN LET LOOSE—RHEA, BUT NOT RHEA—TEACHINGS OF NATURE—H.S. SMITH.
This must be a gossiping chapter, of many persons and many things, running through many years.
I love to dwell upon the years of youth. They are the sweetest in life; and these memories constitute most of the happiness of declining life. Incidents in our pilgrimage awaken the almost forgotten, and then how many, many memories flit through the mind, and what a melancholy pleasure fills the soul! We think, and think on, calling this and that memory up from the grave of forgetfulness, until all the past seems present, and we live over the bliss of boyhood with a mimic ecstasy of young life and its gladdening joys.
Like every young man, I suppose, I loved a fair girl with beautiful blue eyes, and lips so pouting and plump, so ruddy and liquid, that the words seemed sweetened as they melted away from them; but my love was unpropitious, and another was preferred to me. I have ever been curious to know why. Vanity always in my own soul made me greatly the superior of the favored one, in all particulars. But she did not think so, and chose as she liked. I saw her but once a bride. I went away, and found, as others do, another and dearer love. Sitting on my horse by her side, as she held in her beautiful palfrey, upon the summit of a cliff, which rises grandly above, and brows the drab waters of the great Mississippi, she pointed to the river, which resembled a great, white serpent, winding among green fields and noble forests, for twenty miles below. Her eyes were gray, and large, and lovely; her form was towering, and her mien commanding. She grew with the scene. She was born only a mile away, in the midst of a wild forest of walnut and magnolia, amid towering hills, and cherished them and this mighty river in childhood, until she partook of their grandeur and greatness. I thought she was like the love of my youth, and I loved her, and told her of it. The sun was waning—going down to rest, and, like a mighty monarch, was folding himself away to sleep in gorgeous robes of crimson and gold. In his shaded light, outstretching for fifty miles beyond the river, lay, in sombre silence, the mighty swamp, with its wonderful trees of cypress, clothed in moss of gray, long, and festooning from their summits to the earth below, and waving, like banners, in the passing wind. The towering magnolia, in all the pride of foliage and flower, shaded us. The river, in silent and dignified majesty, moved onward far below, and evening breezes bathed, with their delicious touch, our glowing cheeks. The scene was grand, and my feelings were intense. In the midst of all this beauty and grandeur, she was the cynosure of eye and heart. I loved her; and yet, my conscience rebuked me for forgetting my first love, and I asked myself if, in all this wild delirium of soul, there was not some little ingredient of revenge. No, it was for herself—all for herself; and, chokingly, I told her of it, when she drooped her head, and, in silence, gave me her hand. We went away in silence. There was too much of feeling to admit of speech. Delicious memory! Of all our ten children, four only remain. The willow's tears bedew her grave, and her sons fill the soldier's grave, and, wrapped in the gray, sleep well.
Yesterday I met her who first kindled in my bosom affection for woman—a widowed woman, withered and old. She smiled: the lingering trace of what it was, was all that was left. The little, plump hand was lean and bony, and wrinkles usurped the alabaster brow. Fifty years had made its mark. But memory was, by time, untouched. We parted. I closed my eyes, and there she was, in her girlhood's robes and her girlhood's beauty. The lip, the cheek, the glorious eye, were all in memory garnered still; and I loved that memory, but not the woman now. Another was in the niche she first cut in my heart, whose cheek and eye and pouting lip were young and lovely. Still these memories awoke out of this meeting, and, for hours, I forgot that I was wrinkled, old, and gray.
I wonder how many's history I am writing now? The history of the heart, at last, is all the endearing history of waning life. Recur as we may to every success, to every sorrow, and they whisper a chapter of the heart. We struggle to make happy those we love. The gratifications of wealth, ambition, and feeling, all refer to the heart. There could be no pleasure from these memories if those we loved had not participated in them. We build a home for her we love, and those who sprout around us. We win wealth and a name for these, and but for them, all that is innate would be only alloy. They must reflect the bliss it brings, or it has no sweetness. Can there be a soul so sordid as to riot in pleasure and triumphs all alone—to shun companionship, and hate participation in the joys that come of successful life?
I am in the midst of the scenes of my childhood, with here and there one friend left, who shared with me the school-hours, Saturday rambles, and sports of early boyhood. With these the memories come fresh and vigorous of the then occurring incidents—the fishings, the Saturday-night raccoon hunts, the forays upon orchards and melon-patches, and the rides to and from the old, country church on the Sabbath; the practical jokes of which I was so fond, and from which even my own father was not exempt. Kind reader, indulge the garrulity of age, and allow me to recount one of these. There are a few who will remember it; for they have laughed at it for fifty years. I never knew my father to tell a fib but upon one occasion in my life. Under the circumstances, I am sure the kindly nature will, at least, allow it to be a white one.
I am near the old mill my father built, and, if I remember all connected with my boyhood there, I trust there will be few or none to sneer or blame. The flouring-mill, or mill for grinding grain, and the saw-mill were united under the same roof; and it was the business of father to give his attention, as overseer, not only to the mills, but to his planting interest. He employed a North Carolina Scotchman—that is, a man descended of Scotch parents, but born in North Carolina—to superintend his saw-mill, who had all the industry, saving propensities, and superstitions of his ancestry. He was a firm believer in spells, second-sights, and ghosts. Taking advantage of these superstitions, my brother and myself made him the sufferer in many a practical joke. Upon one occasion, we put into circulation, in the neighborhood, a story full of wonder. A remarkable spectre had been seen near the mill on dark nights, and especially on those misty nights of murky gloom, common in early spring to this latitude. Its form was unique and exaggerated, with flaming eyes, and mouth of huge proportions, with long, pointed teeth, white and sharp. For weeks, this gorgon of my imagination constituted the theme of neighborhood gossip. Several negroes had seen it, and fled its fierce pursuit, barely escaping its voracious mouth and attenuated claws, through the fleetness of fear. The old hardshell Baptist preacher, of the vicinage, had proclaimed him from the pulpit as Satan unchained, and commencing his thousand years of wandering up and down the earth.