The bill which Congress eventually passed fixed somewhat lower duties than Dallas had advised. A duty of twenty-five per cent was placed on cotton and woolen goods until June 30, 1819, when it was to be reduced to twenty per cent. By what was known as the minimum principle, all cotton fabrics costing less than twenty-five cents a square yard were held to have cost that amount and were made to pay corresponding duties. The object of this provision was to exclude from India the coarser and cheaper cotton textiles which would menace the products of New England looms. Other important articles were made subject to higher duties, such as rolled and hammered iron, leather goods, hats, carriages, and writing-paper. A comparison of these duties with those of the tariff of 1789 shows a marked increase. Where the average duty was seven and one half per cent in 1789, it was thirty per cent in the tariff of 1816. So far as the intent of the law is concerned, this tariff act committed the country to a fiscal policy in which "revenue was subordinated to industrial needs."
Although the largest vote against the tariff bill came from the South and Southwest, twenty-three out of fifty-seven Representatives voted for the bill. New England showed a prepondering opinion in favor of protection: only ten out of twenty-seven Representatives opposed the bill. The Representatives of the Middle States ranged themselves emphatically on the side of protection; and with them stood the Congressmen from Ohio and Kentucky.
The close of the war found the country with a badly disordered currency and with a bankrupt treasury. Nowhere were the remedial efforts of Congress needed more. The condition of the currency was due, in part at least, to the failure of Congress in 1811 to perceive the regulative influence of a national bank. By refusing to recharter the United States Bank, Congress not only deprived the Treasury of an exceedingly valuable fiscal agent during the war, but also threw the door wide open to indiscriminate and unregulated state banking. Between 1811 and 1816 the number of these state institutions increased from eighty-eight to two hundred and forty-six, all of which exercised the right of issuing notes with little or no restriction. Inflation followed inevitably. During the blockade the banks of the Middle and Southern States suffered great distress by the constant drain of specie to New England and abroad. After the capture of Washington, practically all banks outside of New England were forced to suspend specie payments. The country experienced once more all the evils of a depreciated currency. Southern bank notes were refused for deposit in Philadelphia banks. Notes of these institutions in Philadelphia, in turn, were subject to a discount of twenty-four per cent in Boston. Uncertainty and distrust demoralized financial operations everywhere.
Wiser by the experience of five years, Congress was now disposed to establish another national bank. A first bill, however, fell short of the President's desires and was vetoed. A second bill became law on April 10, 1816. The provisions of this Bank of the United States differed in several particulars from that chartered in 1790. Its capital was three and one half times as large. One fifth of the total capital of $35,000,000 was to be subscribed by the Government, and the remainder by individuals. Five of the twenty-five directors were to be appointed by the President of the United States. The funds of the Government were to be deposited in the Bank unless the Secretary of the Treasury should otherwise direct, laying his reasons for any such change before Congress. In return for the privileges granted in the charter, the Bank was required to transfer the government funds from place to place without charge, and to pay $1,500,000 to the Government. On its side the Government agreed not to charter any other bank except in the District of Columbia. The circulation of the Bank was limited to the amount of its capital. Its notes were to be payable on demand in specie and to be receivable in all payments to the Government.
Such an institution gave promise of serving the Government as a sound fiscal agent and of assisting materially in the restoration of the currency to a specie basis. The stock was subscribed promptly by 31,334 individuals, all but three thousand of whom resided in the Middle States. New England was still reluctant to support the plans of Mr. Madison; the South had other uses for its capital. To facilitate the resumption of specie payments, Congress passed a joint resolution, that after February 20 of the following year (1817), all dues to the Government should be paid in specie, treasury notes, national bank notes, or notes of banks payable in the "said currency of the United States." This was strong medicine for the state banks. Unwilling or unable to contract their circulation and to call in their loans, the banks of the Middle States asked to have the date of resumption deferred, on the ostensible ground that the new bank could not be organized in time to assist them. The energetic Secretary of the Treasury disposed of this plea by putting the Bank in operation in January, 1817. On the date set by Congress the banks very generally resumed specie payments.
The propulsive force given to the Government by the war seemed likely to continue. The task of the National Government no longer seemed merely negative,—to "restrain men from injuring one another," in the Jeffersonian phrase,—but positive and constructive. Even Madison, in his annual message of 1815, recommended liberal provision for defense, more military academies, an improved and enlarged navy, protection to manufactures, new national roads and canals, and a national university. He gave his support to Monroe's proposal to fix the peace establishment at twenty thousand men; and he experienced the unique sensation of finding himself in advance of his party, which finally agreed upon an army of ten thousand men. Still more striking evidence of the change which had passed over the party of Jefferson was its willingness to retain the entire naval establishment and to appropriate $4,000,000 for frigates and ships-of-the-line. Clay and Calhoun, speaking for the younger Republicans, agreed that the greatest danger of the future lay in weak government. They were not in the least intimidated by the addition of $80,000,000 to the national debt as the result of war. That sum represented to their minds simply the price, none too large, of commercial and industrial independence.
These young aggressive spirits seemed at times quite indifferent to nice questions of constitutional law. Calhoun dismissed constitutional objections to a national bank with a wave of the hand: he thought discussion of such abstract themes "a useless consumption of time." On introducing his bill for internal improvements, in December, 1816, he intimated that he did not propose to indulge in metaphysical subtleties respecting the Constitution. "The instrument was not intended as a thesis for the logician to exercise his ingenuity on; ... it ought to be construed with plain good sense." If Clay exhibited more sensitiveness to constitutional limitations, it was because he had to clear himself from the charge of inconsistency. In supporting the Bank Bill in 1816 he frankly confessed that he had changed his mind on the point of constitutionality. He had believed the incorporation of a bank in 1811 unwarranted by the Constitution; but conditions had changed. What was then neither necessary nor proper was now both necessary and proper. The interpretation of the Constitution must always take existing circumstances into account. If Clay did not add to his reputation as an expounder of the Constitution by this speech, he represented admirably, nevertheless, the changes which circumstances had wrought in the convictions of his associates.
Against these new tendencies John Randolph set himself stark and grim. "The question is," said he, replying to Calhoun's new nationalism, "whether or not we are willing to become one great consolidated nation, or whether we have still respect enough for those old, respectable institutions [the States] to regard their integrity and preservation as a part of our policy." Randolph spoke for a generation which was passing away; but his words touched a responsive chord in the breast of President Madison. On March 3, 1817, as he was about to leave office, he sent to Congress a message vetoing the Internal Improvements Bill and warning his party associates of the danger of latitudinarian views of the Constitution. This message was Madison's farewell address. It was thoroughly characteristic of the man and the statesman.
The relaxing of Republican doctrines, and of party ties generally, divested the presidential election of any real political significance. The Federalists were thoroughly discredited. As a party they made no concerted effort to nominate candidates. Virtually, therefore, the selection of a President rested with the congressional caucus of the Republican party. The choice lay between two members of the President's Cabinet: James Monroe, Secretary of State, and William H. Crawford, Secretary of the Treasury. Governor Tompkins, of New York, was put forward by enthusiastic partisans from that State, but he was not a national figure in any sense and commanded no support outside of his State. Intrigue played a part in this caucus, if contemporary testimony may be believed. Tradition has it that Martin Van Buren and Peter B. Porter prevented their New York delegation from voting for Crawford and thus threw the nomination to Monroe. Governor Tompkins was the choice of the caucus for Vice-President. No one could safely affirm that these nominees were the choice of the rank and file of the party. Here and there public meetings were held to protest against the dictation of the congressional caucus; but no organized opposition developed. The campaign proved to be a tame affair. Nowhere was there a real contest. Only three States, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Delaware, chose Federalist electors. Not a ripple of excitement stirred the public when announcement was finally made that Monroe had received 183 electoral votes and Rufus King, 34. For the fourth time a Virginian had been raised to the Presidency.
Of the general histories, only that by McMaster contains any great amount of information bearing on the economic changes wrought by war and the preceding period of commercial restriction. Adams summarizes the economic results of war in a single chapter in the last volume of his work. K. C. Babcock, The Rise of American Nationality (in The American Nation, vol. 13, 1906), attempts the same task. Besides the manuals on economic history which have already been mentioned, there are several excellent volumes dealing with various phases of national life: such as, D. R. Dewey, Financial History of the United States (1903); F. W. Taussig, Tariff History of the United Stales (rev. ed., 1913); R. C. H. Catterall, The Second Bank of the United Stales (1903); J. L. Bishop, History of American Manufactures from 1608-1860 (2 vols., 1861-64); C. W. Wright, Wool-Growing and the Tariff (1910). Among the biographies of statesmen of the new generation, the best are: G. T. Curtis, Life of Daniel Webster (2 vols., 1869); W. W. Story, Life and Letters of Joseph Story (2 vols., 1851); G. Hunt, John C. Calhoun (1908).
THE WESTWARD MOVEMENT
At the end of the second decade of the nineteenth century, the people of the United States were still in the main a homogeneous folk, native-born descendants of native-born ancestors. The tide of immigration which was by the end of the century to inundate the nation and transform its character was just beginning to flow. Its volume between the close of the Revolution and the year 1820, when the first official statistics were collected, must remain a matter of conjecture. In 1817, the painstaking Niles, in his Register, estimated that about twenty-two thousand immigrants had arrived in that year in the ports of New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, of whom four thousand were Germans and the rest inhabitants of the British Isles. Fully one half of these British subjects were brawny Irishmen, often a turbulent lot, but always in demand for hard labor on the roads and canals which were projected in every part of the Union. Among these newcomers, however, were many undesirables. Not a few English parishes emptied their poorhouses by sending the helpless inmates to the New World. Some of these deported paupers, no doubt, found a livelihood and became respectable citizens; but the records of almshouses in the Eastern States indicate that many of these unfortunates had only exchanged one asylum for another. In the Philadelphia poorhouses in the early thirties, from one third to one half of the inmates were foreign-born. Cargoes of redemptioners came into American ports as late as the year 1818. Of that traffic which was bringing helpless Africans into bondage in the Southern States, more will be said in a subsequent chapter.
Among the new arrivals, it goes without saying, were men and women, who, and whose descendants, contributed mightily to the building up of American Commonwealths. Entire communities seeking an asylum in the New World continued to arrive as in the early years of the seventeenth century. In 1817, a body of German separatists from Wuerttemberg, under the leadership of Joseph Baumeler, landed at Philadelphia. Like the English Pilgrims they sought freedom from religious persecution, but the Plymouth which they founded was on a new frontier—at Zoar in the wilderness of Ohio.
What particularly impressed every foreign traveler in America during these years of transition and expansion was the incessant movement of society. The earlier westward movement of population had never wholly ceased, but it had been retarded by the war. The return of peace was like the first warm days of spring. The roads leading West were fairly inundated by a swelling stream of emigrants. An observer at the Genesee turnpike noted a train of some twenty wagons and one hundred and sixteen persons on their way to Indiana from a single town in Maine. A traveler on his way from Nashville to Georgia, in January, 1817, met an astonishing number of people from the Carolinas and Georgia who were bound for the cotton lands of Alabama. He counted over two hundred conveyances and three thousand people, driving herds of cattle and droves of hogs before them. But the great highway to the West lay through Pennsylvania. On the road from Chambersburg to Pittsburg, Fearon, an intelligent and in such particulars a trustworthy English traveler, counted one hundred and three stage-wagons, drawn by four and six horses, proceeding from Philadelphia and Baltimore to Pittsburg, and seventy-nine wagons bound in the opposite direction. "On the road," comments Fearon, "every emigrant tells you he is going to Ohio; when you arrive in Ohio, its inhabitants are 'moving' to Missouri and Alabama; thus it is that the point for final settlement is forever receding as you advance, and thus it will hereafter proceed, and only be terminated by that effectual barrier—the Pacific Ocean."
To this emigration all sections of the Union contributed. In the back-country of New England—in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and western Massachusetts—was a restive population little loved by the governing class. President Timothy Dwight, of Yale College, described these people as "impatient of the restraints of law, religion, and morality," contentious, always complaining, and always indebted. They were likely to be Baptists or Methodists, by persuasion, and Democrats in politics. As small farmers their lot was a hard one. They needed only the incentive of cheap lands in the West to sever the slender ties which bound them to the stony hillsides of New England. Yet the older towns of New England also complained of the Western fever which was carrying off the available labor supply. Fearon found "the small and middling tradesmen" always ready to sell out when business got bad and "pack up for the back-country." The immediate destination of these New Englanders was western New York. Within a decade what had been a frontier area was filled with an industrious population eager to secure markets for the surplus products of their farms.
[Map: Land Sales and Land Offices to 1821]
Before a very large number of New Englanders passed beyond western New York, emigrants from the Middle States were pushing into the Ohio country, where Harrison's victories had opened vast tracts to the white settlers. The earliest settlers in Indiana and Illinois, however, were of Southern extraction. Tennessee and Kentucky, having no longer a supply of good land at low prices, sent the younger generation on to a new frontier. In the year 1816 the father of Abraham Lincoln took his family across the Ohio on a raft and hewed his way into the timber lands along the river bottoms of Indiana. With these migratory Kentuckians went also descendants of the Germans and the Scotch-Irish who had peopled the Great Valley in the previous century. Even from the Carolinas came all sorts and conditions of men,—poor whites, Quakers, Baptists,—small farmers whom the advancing plantation system was driving from the uplands.
Even more significant than this advance of population into the region north of the Ohio was the contemporaneous movement from the Southern Seaboard States into the cotton lands of the Gulf plains. The way had been prepared by Andrew Jackson's conquest of the Creeks. Alabama was the immediate goal of the migrating Southerner. From Kentucky, also, but more particularly from Tennessee, stalwart pioneers entered this new El Dorado. The father of Jefferson Davis was one of those who tried their luck in the alluvial plains of the lower Mississippi. By the year 1820, the area of settlement had extended from southern Tennessee to Mobile, and from Mobile to the Mississippi along the Gulf.
The causes and consequences of this colonization of the Southwest form a vital chapter in the economic history of the country. In the year before the war, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia produced 75,000,000 pounds of cotton; the only other cotton-raising States, Tennessee and Louisiana, produced 5,000,000 pounds. Ten years later, the Seaboard States raised 117,000,000 pounds; the Southwest, 60,000,000. In another decade the States of the Southwest had outstripped the Old South. This comparison throws a flood of light upon Southern history. The invention of the cotton gin had made possible the cultivation of the short-staple cotton plant, which was the only variety that could be raised profitably in the uplands. Occurring just at the moment when the use of the power loom in factories was giving an unprecedented stimulus to the manufacture of cotton, the cotton gin worked a revolution in Southern life and industry. From the tidewater, with its large plantations worked by African slaves, the cultivation of cotton passed into the region above the fall-line of the rivers, where the small farmer practiced a diversified agriculture. Socially and politically the two regions had always been distinct. The gentlemen planters of the tidewater, with much the same outlook as the English gentry of the same period, regarded the democratic yeomen of the Piedmont with distrust not unmixed with contempt. By excluding them from their proportionate representation in the state legislatures, the aristocratic planters maintained an ascendency which was at once political and social. But as cotton-growing became more profitable and advanced into the interior, the farmer of the uplands found himself pushed to the wall. Either he must adopt the plantation system and purchase slaves, or sell his land and move on. For want of capital large numbers chose the latter alternative and swelled the numbers of those who had already set their faces westward.
The communities which within six years after the Treaty of Ghent were admitted into the Union as the States of Mississippi and Alabama, did not at first differ materially from Indiana and Illinois, which became Commonwealths at the same time. Much the same obstacles confronted the pioneer in the pine forests of Mississippi as in the hard woods of the Northwest. Either as squatter or bona fide purchaser he had with the aid of his neighbors hewed out a clearing, or single-handed girdled the trees, and laid the sills of his log cabin. A "raising" or "frolic" was one of the few opportunities for social intercourse in the hard life of the frontiersman. Between the stumps of his clearing he planted his first crop of Indian corn; and what the soil did not yield for his sustenance, he supplied with his trusty rifle. Time wrought vast transformations in these new communities. The thriftless, who scratched the surface of the ground and then sold out to a newcomer of sterner fiber, passed on to a new frontier. Log cabins gave way to frame houses. Clearings became well-tilled farms. Better methods of cultivation extracted a surplus of produce which could be sent to market. Along the rivers of the Northwest, cities sprang up like mushrooms.
From this point the history of the Southwest diverged from that of the Northwest. The virgin lands of the Gulf attracted also the planter with his capital invested in African slaves. Once again the small farmer felt the combined pressure of social and economic forces. He saw his wealthier neighbor acquire the more fertile lands; he found himself thrust into a socially inferior class; and again he yielded to fate. While a democratic society of self-reliant yeomen was developing in the northern half of the Mississippi Valley, a society based upon a plantation economy and aristocratic in its outward characteristics was forming in the Gulf States. Yet in its aggressiveness and commercial enterprise, the new South resembled the Northwest rather than the old South.
[Map: The West as an Economic Section in 1820]
While the South was producing staples for an ever-growing market, it became itself the market for the surplus products of the Northwest. An active internal trade sprang up between the sections in spite of the natural barriers to commercial intercourse. Live stock could be driven to market. It was a common occurrence to see droves of thousands of "razor-back" hogs on their way from Kentucky to the Seaboard States, feeding on nuts and roots by the way. Rivers were the chief highways for such produce as could not provide for its own locomotion. The Western waters floated all sorts of craft, from the lumber raft to the flatboat, laden with pork, cheese, butter, flour, corn, and whiskey. The greater part of these boats were makeshifts, and made no return voyage. It was not until 1809 that a barge was warped upstream from New Orleans to Nashville. The entire traffic on the Mississippi and the Ohio was carried on until 1817 in less than a score of keel boats, which made the voyage downstream from Louisville to New Orleans in about forty days, and upstream in ninety. When, then, a steamboat succeeded in making a return voyage in twenty-five days, it was hailed as an epoch-making performance. In the next year twenty steamboats were competing for the river traffic; and three years later (1820) seventy-two were in actual service. Yet the steamboat did not drive the flatboat from the Western rivers. So late as 1840 one fifth of the freight handled on the lower Mississippi was carried in flatboats or barges.
The rapid rise of this internal commerce between the farmer of the Northwest and the cotton planter of the South increased the ability of both to purchase manufactures in the Eastern markets. Both sections had wants which they could not supply by their simple household industries. They had to import not only their farming implements, but most of those articles, useful or ornamental, which were thought indispensable to a higher civilization. "Spots in Tennessee, in Ohio, and Kentucky," comments an English traveler, "that within the lifetime of even young men, witnessed only the arrow and the scalping knife, now present the traveler with articles of elegance and modes of luxury which might rival the displays of London and Paris." Most of this stock was transported over the mountains from Philadelphia or Baltimore. In 1820, three thousand wagons carried to Pittsburg, the distributing center of the West, nearly eighteen million dollars' worth of merchandise.
The commercial interests of the East were quick to see the possibilities of this new market. An eager rivalry sprang up between the merchants of New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Everywhere ways and means of cheaper transportation were discussed. In this subject the Western farmer was vitally interested, for freight charges added nearly one third to the cost of merchandise transported over the mountains. The cotton planter of the Seaboard States, also, feeling the competition of the Southwest, where riverways were abundant and easily navigable, saw the need of better roads to tidewater, in order to lessen the cost of marketing his produce.
The popular demand for better roads was not recent. All the States had encouraged, directly or indirectly, the building of turnpikes and bridges. Between 1793 and 1812, Pennsylvania had chartered fifty-five turnpike companies, and other States had been scarcely less ready to grant articles of incorporation to stock companies. Private enterprise had, indeed, done much to improve communication along the seaboard. Turnpikes and bridges had shortened the journey by stage from Boston to Washington to four and a quarter days by the year 1815. The city of New York was in 1816 within twenty-four hours of Albany by the Hudson River steamboats.
Numerous canal companies had also been chartered; but of all the canals projected, only three had been completed when the War of 1812 began: the Dismal Swamp Canal in Virginia, the Santee Canal in South Carolina, and the Middlesex Canal in Massachusetts. It remained for New York to usher in a new era in internal communication by authorizing in 1817 the construction of the Erie Canal. In the ardent imagination of its chief promoter, De Witt Clinton, this canal was destined to be "a bond of union between the Atlantic and Western States" and "an organ of communication between the Hudson, the Mississippi, the St. Lawrence, the Great Lakes of the North and West, and their tributary rivers," creating "the greatest inland trade ever witnessed" and transforming New York into a vast emporium of commerce and "the granary of the world."
This bold bid for Western trade alarmed the merchants of Philadelphia, particularly as the completion of the national road threatened to divert much of their traffic to Baltimore. In 1825, the legislature of Pennsylvania grappled with the problem by projecting a series of canals which were to connect its great seaport with Pittsburg on the west and with Lake Erie and the upper Susquehanna on the north.
The magnitude of the transportation problem was such, however, that neither individual States nor private corporations seemed able to meet the demands of an expanding internal trade. As early as 1807, Albert Gallatin had advocated the construction of a great system of internal waterways to connect East and West, at an estimated cost of $20,000,000. But the only contribution of the National Government to internal improvements during the Jeffersonian era was an appropriation in 1806 of two per cent of the net proceeds of the sales of public lands in Ohio for the construction of a national road, with the consent of the States through which it should pass. By 1818 the road was open to traffic from Cumberland, Maryland, to Wheeling, Virginia.
In 1816, with the experiences of the war before him, no well-informed statesman could shut his eyes to the national aspects of the problem. Even President Madison invited the attention of Congress to the need of establishing "a comprehensive system of roads and canals." Soon after Congress met, it took under consideration a bill drafted by Calhoun which proposed an appropriation of $1,500,000 for internal improvements. Because this appropriation was to be met by the moneys paid by the National Bank to the Government, the bill was commonly referred to as the "Bonus Bill." "Let it not be forgotten," said Calhoun in advocacy of his bill, "that it [the size of the Union] exposes us to the greatest of all calamities,—next to the loss of liberty,—and even to that in its consequences—disunion. We are great, and rapidly—I was about to say fearfully—growing. This is our pride and our danger; our weakness and our strength.... We are under the most imperious obligation to counteract every tendency to disunion.... Whatever impedes the intercourse of the extremes with this, the center of the Republic, weakens the Union."
The one section which was impervious to these national considerations at this moment was New England; but it was President Madison, and not New England, who defeated the Bonus Bill. On the day before he left office, Madison sent to Congress a notable veto message. Reverting to his earlier faith, he pronounced the measure unconstitutional. Neither the express words of the Constitution nor any fair inference could, in his judgment, warrant the exercise of such powers by Congress. To pass the bill over his veto was impossible. Monroe, too, in his first message to Congress intimated that he also held strict views of the powers of Congress. The policy of internal improvements by Federal aid was thus wrecked on the constitutional scruples of the last of the Virginia dynasty.
Having less regard for consistency, the House of Representatives recorded its conviction, by close votes, that Congress could appropriate money to construct roads and canals, but had not the power to construct them. As yet the only direct aid of the National Government to internal improvements consisted of various appropriations, amounting to about $1,500,000 for the Cumberland Road.
Circumstances were also pressing the claims of the Far West upon the Government. Beyond the scattered settlements of Illinois and Indiana extended vast forests, known only to the Indians and the fur traders. With the experiences of the war fresh in mind, the new Secretary of War, Calhoun, urged upon the Government the necessity of taking resolute measures to hold this territory. Laws excluding foreigners from the Indian trade were passed; forts were established at strategic points like Chicago, Prairie du Chien, and Green Bay; and in 1820, Governor Cass, of the Michigan Territory, was sent on an expedition through the Wisconsin forests into Minnesota, to assert American claims wherever British influence was still felt.
Still farther west lay an almost unknown region of imperial dimensions. Save where venturesome pioneers had pushed up the Arkansas and the Missouri, and where the Spaniards maintained their feeble hold in the Southwest, no white men inhabited the great prairies which swept westward to the foothills of the Rockies. Only nomadic Indian tribes and occasional traders followed the buffalo trails across this wide expanse. Between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific was the region which Lewis and Clark had penetrated. Along the valley of the northern branch of the Columbia River, the Hudson's Bay Company had planted their trading posts. Farther to the south lay Spanish California and the ill-defined region to the eastward over which presidios maintained a shadowy jurisdiction.
On October 20, 1818, Benjamin Rush and Albert Gallatin, ministers to England and France respectively, concluded a convention with Great Britain which left the fate of the Oregon country in suspense for a period of ten years. To the British claims of prior discovery by Cook and Mackenzie and of prior occupation by the Hudson's Bay Company, the American commissioners opposed the claims based on the voyage of Captain Gray in 1792 and on the founding of Astoria by John Jacob Astor in 1811. It was finally agreed that the northern boundary of the United States should run from the Lake of the Woods to the Stony Mountains, along the forty-ninth parallel, and that the disputed country beyond the mountains should be occupied jointly for a period of ten years. An agreement was also reached regarding the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries.
On another frontier conditions existed to which Congress could not remain indifferent. East Florida was still a thorn in the side of Georgia and Alabama. The province had become a rendezvous for pirates, filibusters, renegade Indians, and runaway negroes. Creek warriors who would not submit to the loss of their lands had taken refuge with their kinsmen, the Seminoles, and were inciting malcontents of every stripe against the whites. A band of negroes, estimated at not less than a thousand in number, together with some Creek Indians, had taken possession of an abandoned fort on the Apalachicola and had terrorized the country for miles around. The Spanish commander at Pensacola was summoned to destroy this pirates' nest and to disperse the marauders; but he was either unable or unwilling to do so, and in 1816 a red-hot shot from a United States gunboat blew up the magazine of the negro fort, killing nearly three hundred men, women, and children. Early in 1818, in equally summary fashion troops of the United States expelled a band of freebooters from Amelia Island.
The slight regard which the United States paid to the territorial sovereignty of Spain in Florida sprang from a general conviction that Spain could not and would not observe the provisions of the Treaty of 1795. Spain had then agreed to restrain the Indians living within her borders from attacking the citizens or Indians of the United States. President Monroe seemed to assume that Spain had forfeited her rights over Florida. At all events, he authorized General Andrew Jackson to assume command of the forces at Fort Scott and to call on the governors of adjacent States for militia to terminate the war. This order of December 26, 1817, was stated in dangerously broad terms. Jackson did not doubt for an instant that it authorized him to pursue the Indians into Florida. To his mind the time seemed opportune for the seizure of East Florida as an indemnity for the outrages committed by the Seminoles. He wrote to the President to this effect. "Let it be signified to me," said he, "through any channel (say Mr. J. Rhea) that the possession of the Floridas would be desirable to the United States and in sixty days it will be accomplished."
To his dying day Jackson maintained that the President signified his approval through Congressman Rhea, of Tennessee. Monroe denied that he had read Jackson's letter until after the exploits which so nearly plunged the country into war with Spain. Whatever may be the truth of the matter, General Jackson acted in accord with what he believed to be the President's desires. With a thousand men he marched across the border and was soon in possession of St. Mark's. Among those who fell into his hands was Alexander Arbuthnot, a Scotch trader who was suspected of inciting the Indians. Continuing his march, Jackson surprised and captured Suwanee, another rendezvous of Indians and runaway negroes. Here he found Robert Ambrister, another British subject, who was also regarded as a suspicious character. Returning to St. Mark's, Jackson handed these two suspects over to a court martial, which found both guilty of giving aid and comfort to the enemy and of inciting or waging war against the United States. Arbuthnot was hanged from the yardarm of his own schooner; Ambrister was shot. The fall of Pensacola finished the campaign. By the end of May, 1818, Florida was in the possession of the troops of the United States and Jackson was on his way to Tennessee, the idol of his men and a national hero in the estimation of the people of the Southwest.
The outcome of these exploits might easily have been war with both Spain and Great Britain. Don Luis de Onis, the Spanish Minister at Washington, immediately suspended the negotiations then in progress respecting the Floridas and made a spirited protest "against these acts of hostility and invasion." He demanded the immediate restitution of the places which had been seized, indemnity for all damage to property, and the punishment of General Jackson. As for Great Britain, Lord Castlereagh afterward said that, such was the temper of Parliament and the country, war might have been produced by holding up a finger and an address to the Crown carried by an almost unanimous vote.
The Cabinet of President Monroe was divided over the course to be pursued. Calhoun insisted that Jackson had virtually committed an act of war, which should be promptly disavowed. But Adams held—and the President was inclined to side with him—that in reality Spain had been the aggressor, and that Jackson had not violated the spirit of his orders. In order to terminate the war, Jackson had been obliged to cross the Spanish line. He had not done so with the purpose of waging war upon Spain.
[Map: Treaty with Spain 1819]
Following a memorandum made by the President, Adams replied to Don Onis in this spirit. Later, in a masterly state paper, he set forth the intolerable conditions which obtained on the Florida frontier. The lax conduct of the Spanish authorities was held to justify the aggressive measures of Jackson. The United States was prepared to restore Pensacola and St. Mark's whenever Spain should give guaranties for the observance of treaty obligations. So far from consenting to punish Jackson, the United States demanded the punishment of those Spanish officials who had so flagrantly violated the obligations of the Treaty of 1795. "Spain must immediately make her election either to place a force in Florida at once adequate for the protection of her territory and to the fulfillment of her engagements, or cede to the United States a province of which she retains nothing but the nominal possession." This latter alternative, indeed, the Administration never lost from view.
Confronted by the revolt of all her American colonies, Spain could hardly resist this insistent pressure upon a province which she could neither govern nor defend. On February 22, 1819, Don Onis set his hand to a treaty which ceded the Floridas in return for the assumption by the United States of claims of American citizens against her to an amount not exceeding $5,000,000. The treaty contained also a definition of the boundary between Spanish and American possessions on the North American continent. Beginning at the mouth of the Sabine River, the line ran along that river to the thirty-second parallel; thence due north to the Red River, which it followed to the hundredth meridian; thence north to the Arkansas and along that river to its source; thence to the forty-second parallel, which it followed to the Pacific. As the United States renounced all claims to the west and south of this boundary, so Spain surrendered whatever shadowy title she had to the Northwest.
The ratification of the Florida Treaty was delayed by the attempt of the Spanish Crown to grant extensive tracts to certain grandees, and by the vigorous opposition of Henry Clay in the House of Representatives. The treaty seemed to him a bad bargain. "What do we get?" he cried. "We get Florida loaded and encumbered with land grants which leave scarcely a foot of soil for the United States. What do we give? We give Texas free and unencumbered, and we surrender all our claims on Spain for damages not included in that five millions of dollars." He challenged the right of the President and Senate to alienate territory without the consent of the House. Behind Clay's opposition lay some personal pique against the President and his Secretary of State; but he voiced, nevertheless, the spirit of the Southwest, which already looked toward Texas as a possible field of expansion and resented its surrender.
The westward movement is described in various chapters of volumes IV and V of McMaster, History of the People of the United States. The significance of the movement is best explained in F. J. Turner, Rise of the New West, 1819-1829 (in The American Nation, vol. 14, 1906), which contains also excellent chapters on the social and economic life of the different sections of the country. The highways and waterways to the West are described in A. B. Hurlbert, Historic Highways of America (10 vols., 1902-05). A summary account of the development of transportation is given in J. L. Ringwalt, Development of Transportation Systems in the United States (1888). Among the biographies which contribute materially to an understanding of the new West may be mentioned Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas H. Benton (1887), and James Parton, Life of Andrew Jackson (3 vols., 1860). Edward Eggleston, The Circuit Rider (1888), and the Autobiography of Peter Cartwright (1856), touch upon important aspects of frontier life. The importance of the German element in American history is admirably set forth in Faust, The German Element in the United States (2 vols., 1909). The spread of New Englanders in the West is described by L. K. Mathews, The Expansion of New England (1909). The diplomatic negotiations which resulted in the cession of Florida are reviewed by F. E. Chadwick, The Relations of the United States and Spain (1909).
The phrase "era of good feelings" applied to the Administration of President Monroe is a misnomer. It is descriptive neither of politics nor of business and industry, for the historic Democratic party was all but rent by bitter personal animosities, and the country was prostrated by a severe industrial crisis.
The first symptoms of hard times appeared in the early months of the year 1819. Undoubtedly the causes of the crisis were world-wide; but local conditions go far to explain the industrial collapse in the United States. All indications point to the conclusion that the country was experiencing the inevitable reaction from a period of too rapid commercial expansion and of unsound speculation. The high prices of commodities after the war had given a sort of fictitious prosperity to industry and trade, and had encouraged unduly the spirit of commercial enterprise. On credit easily secured from wild-cat banks, the Western pioneer had bought lands beyond the purchasing power of his own meager capital; and the speculator in turn had borrowed money to secure title to lands which he would unload upon unsuspecting settlers. State banks had met these demands by liberal issues of notes which were imperfectly covered by their specie reserves. It needed only a sudden demand for liquidation to cause widespread distress.
The unwise management of the National Bank may have contributed to the approaching disaster. The branch banks in the South and West had loaned freely, issuing notes which were payable at any branch of the National Bank. Capital was thus diverted from the East to sections of the country where there was least conservatism in banking. In 1818, the directors of the Bank became alarmed at the excessive expansion of credit, and issued instructions which compelled the redemption of notes at the bank where they were issued. At the same time the branch banks curtailed their loans. This sudden reversal of policy caused a fearful pressure which was transmitted from creditor to debtor all along the line.
Every sufferer by the panic was disposed to blame the National Bank for his misfortunes, particularly as it was common rumor that the directors of the Bank had speculated in its stock and had used their influence to cripple local banks. Congress had been obliged to take cognizance of these charges and to appoint a committee to investigate the condition of the institution. On the report of this committee, in January, 1819, the stock of the Bank fell from 140 to 93. The investigation revealed nothing worse than mismanagement; but a vigorous effort was made in Congress to revoke the charter.
The widespread hostility of the West and South toward the National Bank was born at this time. Everywhere it was known as "the Monster." State after State passed acts to tax the branch banks out of existence. The decision of Chief Justice Marshall, to be sure, in the famous case of M'Culloch v. Maryland, declared emphatically that the States had no constitutional power to tax the branches of an institution chartered under the laws of the United States; nevertheless, the legislature of Ohio deliberately levied such a tax, and when resistance was offered to its collection, withdrew the protection of the State from the branch banks. Feeling themselves the victims of the money power, the people in many of the Western States resorted to the remedies which were broached during hard times under the Confederation. Kentucky became notorious by reason of its laws in behalf of the debtor class. In every Western State there was a disposition to seek shelter from the operation of federal law behind the aegis of State rights. The people of these newer communities were slow to accept the force of precedent in cases decided by the federal courts. Andrew Jackson voiced this feeling when he became President. "Mere precedent," said he, "is a dangerous source of authority, and should not be regarded as deciding questions of constitutional power, except where the acquiescence of the people and the States can be considered as well settled."
That there was much real suffering during this panic admits of no doubt. Niles estimated that not less than twenty thousand persons were seeking employment in Philadelphia in the summer of 1819, and quite as many wandering in the streets of New York looking for work. In both cities soup-houses were established by private charitable societies to relieve distress in the following winter. In the city of New York, during the year 1816, over nineteen hundred unfortunates were imprisoned for debt; and of these, over seven hundred owed less than twenty-five dollars.
But it was not merely the city dweller who felt the pinch of poverty. Thousands of Western settlers who had purchased land under the Act of 1800, which permitted deferred payments, found themselves insolvent. More than $21,000,000, one fifth of the national debt, remained unpaid in the year 1820. To the importunities of these debtors Congress had yielded from time to time, but it was not until 1821 that it passed the first general relief act. Those who had not completed their payments within the prescribed five years were then permitted to give up the land which they had not paid for, and to apply the payments already made to the full purchase of the lands which they retained. Arrears of interest were remitted.
In 1820, Congress passed an act which wrought a far-reaching change in the disposal of the public domain. The credit system was abolished outright. After July 1, 1820, land was to be sold for cash at a minimum price of a dollar and a quarter an acre, and in eighty-acre tracts. A payment of one hundred dollars, then, would make a settler the owner of eighty acres in his own right. The prospect of actual ownership of a small tract made him far less ready to listen to the voice of the tempter in the form of the speculator, who had heretofore lured him to make larger purchases on credit than he could ever pay for by the labor of his hands.
In the midst of this period of financial depression, the Territory of Missouri applied for admission into the Union. On February 13, 1819, while an enabling act was under consideration in the House of Representatives, James Tallmadge, of New York, moved an amendment which touched Southern interests to the quick. "And provided, That the further introduction of slavery or involuntary servitude be prohibited, except for the punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; and that all children born within the said State, after the admission thereof into the Union, shall be free at the age of twenty-five years."
[Map: Distribution of Slaves 1820]
This bold attempt to prevent the spread of slavery provoked a brief but momentous debate. Clay left the Speaker's chair to remonstrate, "in the name of humanity," against a policy which could result, he believed, only in the misery of the slaves of the South. The lot of the negro would be vastly improved if the unfortunate people were more widely dispersed. Taylor, of New York, called this a specious plea. "It is that humanity," said he, "which seeks to palliate disease by the application of nostrums, which scatter its seeds through the whole system." To open the West to slavery would be simply to create an additional demand for the importation of slaves. Of those Southern Representatives who took part in this debate, not a man posed as the defender of slavery in the abstract. Barbour, of Virginia, frankly admitted that slavery "like all other human things is mixed with good and evil—the latter, no doubt, preponderating." And Johnson, of Kentucky, maintained that though slavery might be a necessary evil, "not incompatible with true religion," even so "slavery must still be a bitter draught."
What rankled in the breasts of all Southern men was the insinuation that their social system was founded on hypocrisy and tyranny. Tallmadge commented with biting sarcasm on the willingness of Southern gentlemen to contribute to missionary enterprises for the uplifting of the Hottentots and Hindus, and their determination to keep their African slaves in ignorance. And his colleague contrasted the plantations, overrun with weeds on one side of Mason and Dixon's line, with the cultivated farms on the other: in Pennsylvania, he observed "a neat, blooming, animated, rosy-cheeked peasantry"; in Maryland, "a squalid, slow-motioned black population." These were barbed shafts which left sore wounds.
When the Union was formed, African negroes were held in servitude in all but two of the States. At the time of this debate, slavery had been abolished, or was on the way to ultimate extinction, in every State north of Maryland and Delaware. Climate rather than humanitarian considerations sealed the fate of slavery at the North; and climate, in the last analysis, fastened African slavery on the South. As the South became committed to the raising of a staple, and that staple cotton, the negro was regarded as an indispensable factor in plantation economy. There were far-sighted individuals, it is true, who deprecated slavery on humanitarian grounds; but they were, for the most part, citizens of border States where the profitableness of negro labor was less apparent. Even in these communities opposition to slavery was tempered by dread of what emancipation might bring in its train. The history of Santo Domingo revealed the hideous possibilities of a negro insurrection. No father of a family could contemplate with equanimity the proximity of a large body of free, semi-civilized blacks. For a time even prominent slaveholders favored the aims of the Colonization Society which proposed to deport emancipated blacks to the African coast. So late as 1820 the Governor of Virginia recommended an appropriation by the legislature for the emancipation and removal of the negroes.
Although slavery was a local institution, and regulated by state law, its existence was recognized by the Federal Convention of 1787. The arrangement which obtained under the old Confederation, whereby five slaves were to count as three whites in apportioning representation and taxes, was continued; the mutual obligation of the States to return fugitives from justice and labor was distinctly stated in the Constitution; and the slave trade was permitted to continue at least to the year 1808.
In 1793, Congress had met its constitutional obligations by enacting a law for the return of fugitive slaves; and in 1794, Congress passed an act—"the first national act against the slave trade"—which prohibited all trade in slaves from the United States to any foreign country. By the opening of the new century all the States had forbidden the importation of slaves from abroad. But in 1803, South Carolina again legalized the slave trade; and in 1805, Congress after a brief interdiction removed all restrictions upon the importation of slaves into the Louisiana Territory. The slave trade at once assumed alarming proportions. It was officially stated that between 1803 and 1807, 39,075 negroes were brought into the port of Charleston. Eighteen hundred of these unfortunate blacks were imported in American vessels. One half of the consignees of these slavers were Americans, of whom thirteen were natives of Charleston and eighty-eight of Rhode Island.
This traffic, coupled with the alarm caused by negro insurrections in the West Indies, prepared the public mind for positive action, as the year approached when Congress might constitutionally prohibit the foreign slave trade. The Act of March 2, 1807, however, only partially met the expectations of the anti-slavery people. The African slave trade was forbidden, but negroes illegally imported were to be disposed of as the legislatures of the several States should determine. There was reason to fear that the Southern States would neglect to legislate on this important matter, and that the act would be indifferently enforced. Moreover, the coastwise slave trade for purposes of sale was not interdicted, but forbidden only in vessels under forty tons burden.
That the Act of 1807 did not prevent the African slave trade was patent to every one who knew conditions in the Southern Seaboard States; but the extent of this traffic can only be surmised. During the debates on the Missouri Bill, Tallmadge stated that fourteen thousand negroes had been brought into the country within the last year, and the statement was not challenged.
When the Missouri controversy was renewed in the session of December, 1819, the number of free States equaled the number of slave States. The addition of a twenty-third State, then, would unsettle the equilibrium between the sections in the Senate. A growing antagonism based upon widely different economic and social organizations was coming to be felt—felt rather than clearly perceived and openly recognized. In the year 1800, the two sections had been nearly equal in population; in 1820, the North outnumbered the South by over half a million. This disparity in numbers had a direct political significance, for the national House of Representatives was beyond all question controlled by the delegations from the free States. No great prescience was needed to warn the South that in self-defense it must maintain the even balance of sections in the Senate. The contest for Missouri was therefore essentially "a struggle for sectional domination."
The Tallmadge amendment was passed by the House, but rejected by the Senate, after a heated debate which convinced Southern statesmen that there was a distinct anti-slavery sentiment at the North. The adjournment of Congress threw the whole controversy into the crucible of public opinion. The latent hostility of men and women with humanitarian sympathies was at once raised to white heat. Mass meetings in city, town, and county passed resolutions against the spread of slavery and the admission of more slave States. Yet it can hardly be said that the public conscience was deeply touched. The leaven of abolitionism had to work many years before it could produce results in politics.
The whole question assumed a new guise when Congress met in December, 1820. The people of Maine had held a convention and formed a constitution, and were now applying for admission as a State. Here was a free State which would offset Missouri if it were admitted as a slave State. When the House passed a bill to admit Maine, the Senate promptly attached to it, as a "rider," a bill for the admission of Missouri without any prohibition of slavery. It was to this bill that Senator Thomas, of Illinois, representing a constituency divided against itself on the subject of slavery, offered an amendment in the nature of a compromise. He would admit Missouri as a slave State, but prohibit slavery forever in the rest of the old Province of Louisiana north of 36 deg. 30'. The Senate accepted this amendment and sent the bill to the House. Here the original Maine Bill was stripped of the rider and the Thomas amendment by large majorities. Shortly after this vigorous assertion of independence, the House passed a bill for the admission of Missouri with the prohibition of slavery. The deadlock seemed complete.
The constitutional aspects of the problem called forth some exceedingly able argumentation. Those who favored imposing a restriction upon Missouri argued, plausibly enough, that as Congress was given the power to admit new States, so it was fully warranted in exercising discretion and refusing to admit. Precedents existed for imposing restrictions. Three States carved out of the Northwest Territory had been admitted on condition that their constitutions should not be repugnant to the sixth article of the Ordinance of 1787. The State of Louisiana had been admitted under explicit conditions. It was fully competent for Congress, by virtue of its authority over Territories, to regulate all the stages in the process of framing a constitution, and then to give or to withhold its approval.
The most brilliant argument on the other side was made by William Pinkney, of Maryland. Conceding that the power of Congress was discretionary, he insisted that Congress might not exact terms which would interfere with the results to be accomplished. "What, then," he asked, "is the professed result? To admit a State into this Union. What is that Union?... An equal Union between parties equally sovereign.... It is into that Union that a new State is to come. By acceding to it the new State is placed on the same footing with the original States.... If it comes in shorn of its beams—crippled and disparaged beyond the original States—it is not into the original Union that it comes.... The first was a Union inter pares; this is a Union between disparates, between giants and a dwarf, between power and feebleness, between full proportioned sovereignties and a miserable image of power."
Yet there were Senators and Representatives from the North who would not be diverted from the discussion of the larger sectional and ethical issues involved in the extension of slavery. Chief among these was Rufus King, who then represented New York in the Senate. His cogent arguments made a profound impression. "The great slaveholders in the House," Adams wrote in his journal, "gnawed their lips and clenched their fists as they heard him."
[Map: House Vote on the Missouri Compromise March 2, 1820]
Meantime, a joint committee of conference was endeavoring to reconcile the differences between the House and the Senate. The House was put at a disadvantage by the approach of March 4—when the consent of Massachusetts to the admission of Maine would expire. It was finally agreed that the Senate should pass the bill admitting Maine as a separate measure, while the House should accept the Missouri Bill with the Thomas amendment. Missouri, in short, was to come in as a slave State, but slavery was forever prohibited in the rest of the Louisiana Purchase north of her southern boundary. An analysis of the voting in the House of Representatives reveals no clear-cut sectional divisions, though it forecasts a time when slavery might split parties along sectional lines. In New England and the Middle States public opinion had not yet crystallized into inflexible opposition to the spread of slavery; but the Northwest was distinctly in favor of a restriction upon Missouri. The Southwest and the South were a unit in desiring the admission of Missouri as a slave State.
In the fall of 1820, the Missouri question in another form returned to vex Congress. When the constitution of the State was presented to Congress, it was found to contain a clause which excluded free negroes. Again the two houses locked horns. Passions rose again. The work of the preceding session seemed about to be undone. But under the persuasive leadership of Henry Clay, a joint committee elaborated a resolution which was acceptable to both houses. Missouri was to be admitted on the express condition that the offending clause in her constitution should never be construed so as to authorize the passing of any law by which any citizen of any of the States of the Union should be deprived of his privileges and immunities under the Federal Constitution. The legislature of Missouri was to give its solemn consent to this fundamental condition. Then, and not until then, the President was to declare Missouri a member of the Union. The State complied with the requirement, though in the same breath protesting that all this was an empty form, since Congress could not thus bind a State. On August 10, 1821, President Monroe declared Missouri a State of the Union.
In the midst of this exciting controversy, Monroe was reelected President. Nowhere but in Pennsylvania was there any serious opposition. Old distinctions of party had so far disappeared that the venerable ex-President John Adams was chosen as a presidential elector in Massachusetts, and voted with his fourteen colleagues—who were half Federalists and half Democrats—for James Monroe. In the electoral count Monroe lacked only a single vote of a unanimous election.
When the electoral vote was about to be counted, an embarrassing question arose with regard to the vote of Missouri. As the State had not yet complied with the condition imposed by Congress, its right to vote was challenged. Again Clay appeared in his role of compromiser. The delicate question was adroitly avoided by having the President of the Senate announce the electoral vote with and without the votes of Missouri. At last the Missouri question was disposed of; but words had been uttered which could not be recalled; and wounds had been inflicted which left scars. The South could never quite forget that it had been charged with conniving at crime in maintaining slavery. "You have kindled a fire," said Cobb, of Georgia, to Tallmadge, "which all the waters of the ocean cannot put out, which seas of blood only can extinguish."
An account of the crisis of 1819 is contained in F. J. Turner's Rise of the New West (in The American Nation, vol. 14, 1906); a shorter and less satisfactory account in A. M. Simons's Social Forces in American History (1911). Much information may be gleaned from the pages of McMaster's history. Detailed information must be sought in the special studies already cited, such as R. C. H. Catterall, The Second Bank of the United States (1903), and P. J. Treat, The National Land System, 1785-1820 (1910). From the vast literature dealing with slavery and the slavery controversy, the following titles may be selected as especially important: W. E. B. DuBois, The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870 (1896); W. H. Collins, The Domestic Slave-Trade (1904); A. B. Hart, Slavery and Abolition (in The American Nation, vol. 16, 1906); N. D. Harris, The History of Negro Servitude in Illinois (1904); E. R. Turner, The Negro in Pennsylvania (1911); and a number of monographs in the Johns Hopkins University Studies. All the larger histories discourse with great particularity upon the Missouri controversy. Contemporary views of the congressional struggle are presented in J. Q. Adams's Memoirs, and in T. H. Benton's Thirty Years' View; or, A History of the Working of American Government, 1820-1850 (2 vols., 1854).
THE NATIONAL AWAKENING
There is a measure of truth in speaking of the War of 1812 as a second war of independence. In throwing off the shackles of British commercial ascendency, American society experienced much the same sense of elation and liberation as the peoples of Europe who contemporaneously rose in their might against Napoleon and asserted their right to independent national existence. The war was followed in the United States by an expansion of the vital forces of the nation in all directions. The earliest manifestations of this new national consciousness, however, were characteristically boisterous. An English traveler, who visited the United States soon after the war, found every man, woman, and child talking about the Guerriere, the Java, the Macedonia, the Frolic, Lake Erie, Lake Champlain, and the "vast inferiority of British sailors and soldiers to the true-blooded Yankees." The events of the war were commemorated in songs which this Briton declared—and no doubt truthfully—to be "frothy, senseless bombast." But whatever limitations of culture were disclosed by this outburst of national conceit, no one could doubt for an instant that an exuberant vitality was coursing through the veins of the nation.
It was a fair question, however, whether this national feeling would find expression in any permanent literary form. A literature of its own America did not possess: every one with literary tastes was forced to this humiliating admission. Writing from Berlin in 1801, John Quincy Adams hailed the first number of Dennie's Port Folio with delight. "The object," he declared, "is noble. It is to take off that foul stain of literary barbarism which has so long exposed our country to the reproach of strangers and to the derision of our enemies." But the periodical had a very limited circle of readers, and its literary merits were slight. The Anthology and Boston Review, founded in 1805, had a wider influence upon letters in America; but it is memorable chiefly as the forerunner of the North American Review, modeled upon the English quarterlies, which was first published by William Tudor, in the year 1815, at Boston.
The publication of American books at this time was a hazardous enterprise. "The successful booksellers of the country," wrote one who recalled his own experiences in the book trade, "were for the most part the mere reproducers and sellers of English books." Yet American publishers often showed commendable enterprise. In 1817, Byron's Manfred was received, printed, and published at Philadelphia in a single day. Walter Scott, Moore, Miss Edgeworth, Miss Porter, and Lord Byron were the favorite British novelists and poets whose writings were reprinted in America. Among the American publications advertised by booksellers, were sermons, geographies, and schoolbooks; but rarely any productions which belonged to the category termed by contemporaries belles-lettres.
The slender literary product of the United States from 1815 to 1830 is contained in magazines rather than in books. Prose and verse which could never have found a publisher separately appeared in periodicals of every description. Most of these were ephemeral publications. The more serious reviews, like the American Biblical Repository, the American Law Journal, and the religious reviews, had a longer life; but the lighter magazines, like the Ladies' Literary Cabinet, the Young Ladies' Parental Mentor, and the Casket: or Flowers of Literature, Wit, and Sentiment, rose and fell on the fickle tide of public taste. Even the West had its magazines. Lexington, Kentucky, which disputed with Cincinnati the proud title, "Athens of the West," published the Western Review, one number of which contained a review of Don Juan within six weeks after the poem was published in England.
In the September number of the North American Review, in 1817, appeared an original poem of such merit as to mark an era in the history of American verse. There was in William Cullen Bryant's Thanatopsis, it is true, no such youthful exuberance of feeling as the first stirrings of poetic genius in a new world might be expected to exhibit. The sense of refined form seemed almost un-American; yet there are lines in the poem which suggest the primeval background of American life and its influence upon the American mind. In 1819 appeared Washington Irving's Sketch-Book—the first American book which was widely read in England; and in 1821, Cooper published The Spy, which was the first to win favor on the Continent. Both Cooper and Irving were more or less conscious imitators of English prose writers, the one of Scott and the other of Addison; and they lacked consequently that originality which critics have always demanded as the hall-mark of a genuinely native art. It is easy to forget, however, that the Americans were not a primitive people. They were folk with a literary inheritance, of which albeit they often showed little knowledge. It was not for them to invent new forms, but to press new wine into old bottles. Of Irving, moreover, it should be said that he drew freely upon a vein of delicious humor, as in his Knickerbocker History of New York, which may be truly characterized as American.
The annals of American art in these years are even more bare. Benjamin West, to be sure, was born in Pennsylvania, but he achieved eminence in England. That he could succeed Sir Joshua Reynolds as President of the Royal Academy was a tribute to his fame, but equally convincing proof that he had ceased to be identified with the land of his nativity. Gilbert Stuart owed much to West, but his return to America in 1792 saved him from complete subservience to English models. As a portrait painter he developed power and individuality. Posterity may well be grateful that the portraits of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison were painted with fidelity to nature as Stuart saw it, rather than in the grandiose manner of West. Two other names, Malbone and Allston, deserve brief mention. The one achieved some distinction as a painter of miniatures; the other is remembered both as artist and man of letters in the literary circle which was forming about Boston. The name of Jonathan Trumbull completes the list of American artists. What David was to the great actors in the revolutionary drama in France, Trumbull was to the notable characters of the American Revolution. In his conception of his themes he was perhaps the most genuinely American painter of his time.
In the pages of his autobiography, Trumbull recounts an interview with his father which may take the place of any further comment on the dearth of artistic feeling in the United States. The young man was arguing passionately for his vocation. The father, a typical Yankee, listened with commendable patience, and complimented the lad when he had finished. "'But,' added he, 'you must give me leave to say, that you appear to have overlooked, or forgotten, one very important point in your case.' 'Pray, sir,' I rejoined, 'what was that?' 'You appear to forget, sir, that Connecticut is not Athens'; and with this pithy remark, he bowed and withdrew, and nevermore opened his lips upon the subject. How often have those few impressive words recurred to my memory."
The names of Bryant, Cooper, and Irving are linked with the city of New York which enjoyed for a brief time that primacy in the world of American letters which it was fast acquiring in commerce. The center of literary and scholarly activity in the next generation was Boston, where the New England renaissance began. In this revival of letters Harvard College had a notable part. In 1806, John Quincy Adams was appointed Professor of Rhetoric and gave a course of lectures which moulded the taste of that school of orators to which Edward Everett belonged—a school of oratory which found its models in Demosthenes and Cicero. Everett became Professor of Greek in 1815; and George Ticknor, Professor of Belles-Lettres in 1816. Prescott graduated in 1814, Palfrey in 1815, and George Bancroft in 1817,—all three to add to American historiography works of enduring excellence. In 1817, young Ralph Waldo Emerson entered college.
It was Boston, however, rather than Harvard College, which created the atmosphere that these young scholars—all from Boston families—breathed: for the Athenaeum, the American School of Arts and Sciences, and the Massachusetts Historical Society had begun to exercise an increasing influence on the younger generation. Harvard College, like all colleges of the day, was hardly more than a species of higher academy whither boys went at a tender age to continue their study of the classics and mathematics, and incidentally to cultivate rhetoric and belles-lettres.
The liberation of the American mind from time-honored traditions and conventions appeared markedly in the ecclesiastical revolts and religious revivals of the age. Unitarianism took its rise quite as much in protest against the teaching of Calvinism, that man was brought into the world hopelessly depraved, as against the orthodox conception of Christ's nature. The definite separation of Unitarianism from Congregationalism dates from 1815 when William E. Channing published his memorable letter to the Reverend Samuel C. Thacher. The writings of Buckminster, Channing, and other theological liberals have a distinct place in the annals of American intellectual life. Universalism also took its rise at this time and spread with remarkable rapidity under the lead of Hosea Ballou. In western Pennsylvania and Virginia, the Campbells, father and son, led a departure from the established Presbyterian order. The Society of Friends was also rent by the teachings of Elias Hicks.
Revivals had been a recurring feature of New England religious life since the latter years of the seventeenth century. That they stimulated many forms of religious activity appears in the annals of missionary enterprises at home and abroad. In 1810 the American Board of Foreign Missions and in 1814 the American Baptist Missionary Union were founded. In 1812 four young missionaries went out to India; and five years later other devoted young men began their labors among the Cherokees and Choctaws of the Southwest. There is something at once heroic and pathetic in the humanitarian zeal of a people, whom Europeans still regarded with disdain, to carry to the remote ends of the earth a Christian civilization which they had themselves hardly attained. But an incomprehensible idealism has from first to last been interwoven in the texture of American character.
After the cessation of European wars the United States stood singularly aloof from the Old World, yet in the affairs of South America they did not cease to take a lively interest. The successive revolutions by which the provinces of the Rio de la Plata, Chili, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico threw off the yoke of Spain woke a thrill in the people of the United States, for they thought they saw the events of their own revolution repeated in the exploits of San Martin and Bolivar. To the imagination of Henry Clay, this was a sublime spectacle—"eighteen millions of people struggling to burst their chains and be free." He would have had the United States recognize these sister republics and join hands with them in forming an American system independent of Europe. And when the Administration hesitated, he exclaimed: "We look too much abroad. Let us break these commercial and political fetters; let us no longer watch the nod of any European politician; let us become real and true Americans, and place ourselves at the head of the American system."
The conception of an American system did not originate in the ardent mind of Henry Clay. It was as old as the Union itself. Foreign encroachment had been feared from the very birth of the nation. "You are afraid of being made the tool of the powers of Europe," said Richard Oswald to John Adams while peace negotiations were pending at Paris. "Indeed I am," rejoined Adams. "What powers?" asked Oswald. "All of them," said Adams; "it is obvious that all the powers of Europe will be continually manoeuvring with us to work us into their real or imaginary balances of power.... But I think that it ought to be our rule not to meddle." Washington's refusal to enter into an alliance with France and his firm insistence upon neutrality were inspired by this same fear. Jefferson's negotiations for the purchase of New Orleans were motivated by the fear that France, once in possession of the mouth of the Mississippi, would threaten the isolation of the United States and drive us into the arms of Great Britain. "Jefferson is an American," Adet once said, with rare insight, "and by that title, it is impossible for him to be sincerely our friend. An American is the born enemy of European peoples."
The corollary of the principle of non-intervention was abstention on the part of the United States from the affairs of Europe. Could the United States, then, recognize the colonies of Spain as independent republics without emerging from its traditional isolation? President Monroe would have been glad to recognize the South American republics even before they had demonstrated their ability to maintain their independence; but his cool-headed Secretary of State prevailed upon him to await further evidence. It was not until 1822, indeed, that the President recommended to Congress the establishment of missions in the new republics of South America. Spain protested emphatically against this action; but Adams, now sure of his ground, justified the action of the Administration by an appeal to facts. So long as Spain was attempting to reduce the colonies by arms, the United States had observed "the most impartial neutrality." But war had ceased, and the United States had "yielded to an obligation of duty of the highest order, by recognizing, as independent states, nations which, after deliberately asserting their right to that character, had maintained and established it against all the resistance which had been or could be brought to oppose it."
In the year 1823, the traditional principles of American foreign policy were put to a severer test. Soon after the Congress of Vienna, that combination of the great powers was consummated which contemporaries usually but erroneously styled the Holy Alliance. Austria, Prussia, Russia, and Great Britain covenanted together to meet at fixed periods to consult upon their common interests and to consider the measures "most salutary for the repose and prosperity of nations, and for the maintenance of the peace of Europe." Three years later, France was admitted to the councils of these "self-appointed keepers of the world's peace." Innocent enough in its public professions, this association of the great powers was converted by Metternich of Austria, who had acquired a remarkable ascendency over the mind of his own sovereign and over that of the impressionable czar, into an instrument of reaction and repression, whenever and wherever the specter of revolution raised its head. Within a few years revolutionary uprisings occurred in Italy and Spain. The so-called legitimate sovereigns were driven from their thrones and constitutional governments were established. In successive congresses at Troppau and Laybach, the three powers, Austria, Russia, and Prussia, resolved to suppress these revolutionary movements. An Austrian army was commissioned to carry out this policy of intervention, as it was termed; and the King of the Two Sicilies was restored to his uneasy throne. Neither Great Britain nor France took part in these congresses. It now remained to chastise the revolutionists of Spain. At the Congress of Verona in 1822, the representative of Great Britain openly protested against any intervention in Spain. But again the three powers, now joined by France, resolved to restore the deposed Fernando VII. Early in the following year a French army crossed the Pyrenees and entered Madrid. It was commonly believed that the restoration of the monarchy was to be followed by a reduction of the revolted colonies and a restoration of the Spanish colonial empire.
It was at this juncture that Canning, who had become the head of the British ministry, protested against the policy of intervention and sought for ways and means to make the protest effective. The one power whose traditions of liberty and whose interests in this particular seemed to be identical with those of Great Britain was the United States. In truth, their interests were far from being identical. Two years before, in a conversation with the British minister at Washington, the Secretary of State, in his most uncompromising manner, had challenged the right of Great Britain to the valley of the Columbia River or to any part of the Pacific Coast. And so recently as April of this critical year 1823, Adams had taken alarm at the appearance of a British naval force off the coast of Cuba and had warned the Government at Madrid that "the transfer of Cuba to Great Britain would be an event unpropitious to the interests of the United States." At the same time Adams stated his conviction that within half a century the annexation of Cuba to the United States would be "indispensable to the continuance of the Union itself." Coupled with this prophecy was the equally frank assurance that the United States desired to have Cuba and Porto Rico "continue attached to Spain"—for the present.
[Map: Russian Claims in North America]
It was in midsummer of this year, too, that Adams protested against the ukase of the czar which had asserted the claim of Russia to the Pacific Coast as far south as the fifty-first degree, and to a maritime jurisdiction one hundred Italian miles from the coast. Adams records in his diary that he told the Russian minister "that we should contest the right of Russia to any territorial establishment on this continent, and that we should assume distinctly the principle that the American continents are no longer subjects for any new European colonial establishments." The time had come when the United States was bound to take more than a sentimental interest in the affairs of Spanish America. The disintegration of the Spanish colonial empire not only invited the Intervention of European powers in the internal affairs of the new republics, but also exposed portions of the North American continent to their aggressions.
On several occasions Canning conferred with Richard Rush, the minister of the United States resident in London, to ascertain whether his Government would join Great Britain in a public declaration against any "forcible enterprise for reducing the colonies to subjugation on behalf of or in the name of Spain; or which meditates the acquisition of any part of them to itself, by cession or by conquest." England had no designs upon the distant colonies of Spain, Canning asseverated; at the same time it "could not see any part of them transferred to any other power with indifference." Not trusting implicitly in Canning's altruism, Rush wisely suggested that Great Britain should first recognize the South American republics as a preliminary to a joint declaration. To this Canning would not commit himself; and Rush would not assume responsibility for a public declaration on any other conditions.
On receiving the dispatches from Rush recounting these interesting conferences, President Monroe took counsel with the two Virginia oracles, Jefferson and Madison. Both advised him to meet Canning's overtures and to make common cause with Great Britain—the one nation, as Jefferson put it, which could prevent America from having an independent system and which now offered "to lead, aid, and accompany us in it." Monroe was disposed to follow this advice. He not only drafted a message to Congress upon these lines, but he went further and urged the recognition of Greek independence in a way which departed widely from the traditional aloofness which earlier Presidents had maintained in matters of European concern. On the other hand, Adams was decidedly of the opinion that Canning's invitation should be declined. He did not wish the country to appear "as a cock-boat in the wake of the British man-of-war." Moreover, Adams was considerably alarmed at the reactionary principles which the Russian ministry had avowed in a communication addressed to the minister at Washington. He urged the President to seize the occasion to make an explicit declaration of American principles. "The ground I wish to take," said he, "is that of earnest remonstrance against the interference of European powers by force with South America, but to disclaim all interference on our part with Europe; to make an American cause and adhere inflexibly to that."
Yielding to his contentious Secretary of State, President Monroe redrafted his message to Congress. In its final form, December 2, 1823, this famous state paper contained the essential principles of what has come to be known as the Monroe Doctrine. It was asserted "as a general principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers." The message expressly disclaimed any purpose to interfere in European politics; but respecting the affairs of the Western hemisphere a direct and immediate interest was frankly avowed. "The political system of the allied powers is essentially different in this respect from that of America." "We should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States."
The immediate effects of the message are not easily traced. It is not clear, even, that the favorable treaty made with Russia in the following year was the outcome of what Canning somewhat contemptuously styled "the new Doctrine of the President." Russia, it is true, agreed to waive her claims below fifty-four degrees forty minutes and to exclusive jurisdiction in Bering Sea; but the conflicting claims of England in the Northwest remained, and Canning predicted that England would "have a squabble with the Yankees yet in and about those regions."
Later generations have read strange meanings into the message of President Monroe. Even contemporaries were not clear as to its import. Interpreted in the light of its origin, it was a candid announcement that the United States did not purpose to meddle in the affairs of European states or of their existing dependencies, and a protest against the increase of power of European states in America either by intervention or by new colonization.
In the concluding volume of Henry Adams's History of the United States are excellent chapters on American literature, art, and religious thought. W. B. Cairns's On the Development of American Literature from 1815 to 1833 (1898) contains much interesting information about periodicals. Barrett Wendell's A Literary History of America (1900) is full of pungent comment on early men of letters. C. C. Caffin, The Story of American Painting (1907), and H. T. Tuckerman, Artist-Life, or Sketches of American Artists (1847), record the small achievements of American art. John Trumbull's Autobiography, Reminiscences, and Letters, from 1756 to 1841 (1841), is a book of great interest. E. G. Dexter's A History of Education in the United States (1904) is an excellent manual. The Unitarian Movement can be best followed in J. W. Chadwick's William Ellery Channing (1903). The history of the various denominations may be found in volumes of the American Church History Series. The genesis of Monroe's message is described by F. J. Turner, The Rise of the New West(in The American Nation, vol. 14, 1906), and F. E. Chadwick, The Relations of the United States and Spain (1909). Both of these accounts are based on W. C. Ford, John Quincy Adams: His Connection with the Monroe Doctrine (in Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings, 1902). An excellent essay is that by W. F. Reddaway, The Monroe Doctrine (2d. ed., 1905).
THE NEW DEMOCRACY
By the year 1824, the West had become a section to be reckoned with by those who were calculating their chances in the presidential race. Since the war six Western States had been admitted into the Union. The population west of the Alleghanies had increased by nearly a million and a half within a decade. The relative importance of this new section appears in the census returns. In 1790, less than six per cent of the total population lived west of the Alleghanies; in 1820, nearly thirty-two per cent were domiciled in this vast region. In the National Legislature the West had acquired notable weight. By the apportionment of 1822, it had forty-seven out of two hundred and thirteen members of the House; in the Senate, eighteen out of forty-eight. But these figures do not tell the whole tale. As Professor Turner has well said, rightly to estimate the weight of Western population we must add the people of western New York and of the interior counties of Pennsylvania, and of the trans-Alleghany counties of Virginia, as well as the people of the back-country of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, North Carolina, and Georgia. "All of these regions were to be influenced by the ideals of democratic rule which were springing up in the Mississippi Valley."
[Map: Distribution of Population 1820]
Economic conditions bred a democratic society in the West. What Gallatin said of Pennsylvania was true of the greater West: "An equal distribution of property made every individual independent and produced a true and real equality." The basal characteristic of the West was individual ownership of land; and the reaction of the sense of proprietorship upon individual character was the most significant fact in the history of its population. Intense individualism and rugged self-reliance were the salient characteristics of the Westerner. So far as he reflected upon his social relations, he believed in complete social equality. In numberless instances the pioneer had migrated to escape the social inequalities and depressing conventions of older communities; and he was not minded to encourage the reproduction of these conditions in his new home. "America, then, exhibits in her social state an extraordinary phenomenon," wrote De Tocqueville in his notable study of American democracy. "Men are there seen on a greater equality in point of fortune and intellect, or, in other words, more equal in their strength, than in any other country of the world, or in any age of which history has preserved the remembrance."
Life on the frontier, where a man wrestled with the primitive forces of Nature and conquered by dint of his indomitable will, made the Westerner perhaps overconfident in his ability to deal with all obstacles in the way of human achievement and withal somewhat impatient under the restraints imposed by the more complicated social order in the older communities to the East. The sweep of the prairies and the wide horizon lines of the Middle West may have exercised a subtle influence upon temperament. At all events, the Westerner was buoyant and optimistic, taking large views of national destiny and of the possibilities of human achievement in a democracy.
There was danger, indeed, that in cutting loose from the irritating restraints of the older communities, the people of the West would sacrifice much of the grace and many of the intellectual and spiritual refinements of an older civilization. "In this part of the American continent," observes De Tocqueville, "population has escaped the influence not only of great names and great wealth, but even of the natural aristocracy of knowledge and virtue." It seemed to two young New Englanders who traversed the vast region from the Western Reserve to New Orleans in 1813, in the interests of missionary societies, that the people were wrapped in spiritual darkness, "being ignorant, often vicious, and utterly destitute of Bibles and religious literature." The General Bible Society of the United States was founded in 1816 to dispel this irreligious gloom. Within five years this organization and its numerous auxiliaries had distributed one hundred and forty thousand Bibles and Testaments through the new States.
Yet the irreligion of the West was painted darker than it really was. Methodism had struck root where other denominations could not thrive. Its methods and organization, indeed, were peculiarly adapted to a people which could not support a settled pastor. "A sect, therefore, which marked out the region into circuits, put a rider on each and bade him cover it once a month, preaching here to-day and there to-morrow, but returning at regular intervals to each community, provided the largest amount of religious teaching and preaching at the least expense." The Baptists, too, secured a footing in the new communities and labored effectively in creating religious ties between the old and the new sections of the country. In religion as in politics the people of the West were responsive to emotional appeals. The circuit rider, with his intense conviction of sin and his equally strong conviction of salvation through repentance, wrought great crowds in camp meetings into ecstasies of religious excitement. Odd religious sects and strange "isms" were to be found in the back-country. At New Harmony on the Wabash River were the Rappites, a sect of German peasants who came first to Pennsylvania under their leader George Rapp, and who afterward returned thither. At Zoar in Ohio was the Separatist community led by Joseph Baumeler. Shaker societies were formed at many places; and Mormonism was just beginning its strange history through the revelations of Joseph Smith in western New York.
The intellectual horizon of the Western world was necessarily limited. Absorbed in the stern struggle for existence, the people had no leisure and no heart to enjoy the finer aspects of life. Education was a luxury which only the prosperous might possess. The purpose to make elementary education a public charge developed tardily. Outside of New England, indeed, a public school system did not exist. Throughout the older portions of the West the traveler might find academies and so-called colleges, but none supported at public expense. The State of Indiana, it is true, entered the Union with a constitution which made it the duty of the legislature to provide, as soon as circumstances permitted, "for a general system of education, ascending in a regular gradation from township schools to a State University, wherein tuition shall be gratis, and equally open to all." But years passed before circumstances permitted the realization of this ideal. Meantime, the prosperous planters of the Southwest employed tutors for their children, and the well-to-do farmers of the Northwest paid tuition for their boys at academies. But young Abraham Lincoln had to teach himself Euclid and to cipher on the back of a wooden shovel, by the flickering embers of a log-cabin fire.
The new Commonwealths entered the Union as self-confessed democracies. In all the States formed after the War of 1812, with one exception, property qualifications such as prevailed in the older States were swept away and the right to vote was accorded to every adult white male. In Mississippi alone there was the additional qualification that a voter should be enrolled in the militia or have paid a state or county tax. Everywhere, too, the principle was accepted that representation should be based upon population and not upon property. The men who framed these new constitutions believed that they were establishing the rule of the people. It was, indeed, unthinkable that, believing themselves equal in all other respects, they should not accept the principle of political equality and popular sovereignty.
There is evidence in these new constitutions, however, that the people placed less reliance in their legislative bodies than did the people of the Revolutionary era. Instead of general grants of legislative power, there are specific prohibitions and positive injunctions. Important limitations are imposed upon the form and mode of legislation. It is clear, too, that fear of an over-strong executive had given way to a belief in the necessity of having a stronger countervailing influence, capable of checking the legislative. Everywhere the governor was made elective directly by the people and given the veto power. The conviction was often expressed in constitutional conventions that the governor was peculiarly the representative of the people, a popular tribune who would protect them against the indiscretions of their legislative representatives. The extension of the elective principle to all important offices was accompanied also by a general conviction that life tenure of office is undemocratic. "Rotation in office," said Andrew Jackson, voicing a popular feeling, "is a cardinal principle of democracy."