Famous Americans of Recent Times eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 523 pages of information about Famous Americans of Recent Times.

Mr. Calhoun proceeds to suggest the measures by which these calamities can be averted.  The government must be “restored to its federal character” by the repeal of all laws tending to the annihilation of State sovereignty, and by a strict construction of the Constitution.  The President’s power of removal must be limited.  In earlier times, these would have sufficed; but at that day the nature of the disease was such that nothing could reach it short of an organic change, which should give the weaker section a negative on the action of the government.  Mr. Calhoun was of opinion that this could best be done by our having two Presidents,—­one elected by the North and the other by the South,—­the assent of both to be necessary to every act of Congress.  Under such a system, he thought,—­

“The Presidential election, instead of dividing the Union into hostile geographical parties, the stronger struggling to enlarge its powers, and the weaker to defend its rights, as is now the case, would become the means of restoring harmony and concord to the country and the government.  It would make the Union a union in truth,—­a bond of mutual affection and brotherhood; and not a mere connection used by the stronger as the instrument of dominion and aggrandizement, and submitted to by the weaker only from the lingering remains of former attachment, and the fading hope of being able to restore the government to what it was originally intended to be,—­a blessing to all.”

The utter misapprehension of the purposes and desires of the Northern people which this passage betrays, and which pervades all the later writings of Mr. Calhoun, can only be explained by the supposition that he judged them out of his own heart.  It is astounding to hear the author of the annexation of Texas charging the North with the lust of dominion, and the great Nullifier accusing Northern statesmen of being wholly possessed by the mania to be President.

Webster, Clay, and Calhoun,—­these were great names in their day.  When the last of them had departed, the country felt a sense of bereavement, and even of self-distrust, doubting if ever again such men would adorn the public councils.  A close scrutiny into the lives of either of them would, of course, compel us to deduct something from his contemporary renown, for they were all, in some degree, at some periods, diverted from their true path by an ambition beneath an American statesman, whose true glory alone consists in serving his country well in that sphere to which his fellow-citizens call him.  From such a scrutiny the fame of neither of those distinguished men would suffer so much as that of Calhoun.  His endowments were not great, nor of the most valuable kind; and his early education, hasty and very incomplete, was not continued by maturer study.  He read rather to confirm his impressions than to correct them.  It was impossible that he should ever have been wise, because he refused to admit his liability to error. 

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Famous Americans of Recent Times from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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