But Lewis and his coworkers were craftily laying the train of powder that would lead to an explosion, and in the spring of 1830 they were ready to apply the match. When the President had been worked up to the right stage of suspicion, it was suddenly made known to him that it was Calhoun, not Crawford, who in Monroe’s Cabinet circle in 1818 had urged that the conqueror of Florida be censured for his bold deeds. This had the full effect desired. Jackson made a peremptory demand upon the Vice President for an explanation of his perfidy. Calhoun responded in a letter which explained and explained, yet got nowhere. Whereupon Jackson replied in a haughty communication, manifestly prepared by the men who were engineering the whole business, declaring the former Secretary guilty of the most reprehensible duplicity and severing all relations with him. This meant the end of Calhoun’s hopes, at all events for the present. He could never be President while Jackson’s influence lasted. Van Buren had won; and the embittered South Carolinian could only turn for solace to the nullification movement, in which he was already deeply engulfed.
Pursuing their plans to the final stroke, the Administration managers forced a reconstruction of the Cabinet, and all of Calhoun’s supporters were displaced. Louis McLane of Delaware became Secretary of the Treasury; Lewis Cass of Michigan, Secretary of War; Levi Woodbury of New Hampshire, Secretary of the Navy; and Roger B. Taney of Maryland, Attorney-General. Van Buren also retired, in conformity with Jackson’s announced intention not to have any one in the Cabinet who was a candidate for the succession; and Edward Livingston, Jackson’s old Louisiana friend, became Secretary of State.
It was decided that a fitting post for a successor while awaiting his turn—particularly for one who was not popular—would be the ministership to Great Britain; and Van Buren duly traveled to London to take up the duties of this position. But when the appointment was submitted to the Senate, Calhoun’s friends adroitly managed matters so that the Vice President should have the satisfaction of preventing confirmation by his casting vote. “It will kill him, sir, kill him dead,” declared the vengeful South Carolinian to a doubting friend. “He will never kick, sir, never kick.” But no greater tactical error could have been committed. Benton showed the keener insight when he informed the jubilant Calhoun men that they had “broken a minister,” only to elect a Vice President.
THE WEBSTER-HAYNE DEBATE