“And now, look you,” Calhoun continued, rising, and pacing up and down, “look what is the evidence. Van Zandt, charge d’affaires in Washington for the Republic of Texas, wrote Secretary Upshur only a month before Upshur’s death, and told him to go carefully or he would drive Mexico to resume the war, and so cost Texas the friendship of England! Excellent Mr. Van Zandt! I at least know what the friendship of England means. So, he asks us if we will protect Texas with troops and ships in case she does sign that agreement of annexation. Cunning Mr. Van Zandt! He knows what that answer must be to-day, with England ready to fight us for Texas and Oregon both, and we wholly unready for war. Cunning Mr. Van Zandt, covert friend of England! And lucky Mr. Upshur, who was killed, and so never had to make that answer!”
“But, John, another will have to make it, the one way or the other,” said his friend.
“Yes!” The long hand smote on the table.
“President Tyler has offered you Mr. Upshur’s portfolio as secretary of state?”
“Yes!” The long hand smote again.
Doctor Ward made no comment beyond a long whistle, as he recrossed his legs. His eyes were fixed on Calhoun’s frowning face. “There will be events!” said he at length, grinning.
“I have not yet accepted,” said Calhoun. “If I do, it will be to bring Texas and Oregon into this Union, one slave, the other free, but both vast and of a mighty future for us. That done, I resign at once.”
“Will you accept?”
Calhoun’s answer was first to pick up a paper from his desk. “See, here is the despatch Mr. Pakenham brought from Lord Aberdeen of the British ministry to Mr. Upshur just two days before his death. Judge whether Aberdeen wants liberty—or territory! In effect he reasserts England’s right to interfere in our affairs. We fought one war to disprove that. England has said enough on this continent. And England has meddled enough.”
Calhoun and Ward looked at each other, sober in their realization of the grave problems which then beset American statesmanship and American thought. The old doctor was first to break the silence. “Then do you accept? Will you serve again, John?”
“Listen to me. If I do accept, I shall take Mr. Upshur’s and Mr. Nelson’s place only on one condition—yes, if I do, here is what I shall say to England regarding Texas. I shall show her what a Monroe Doctrine is; shall show her that while Texas is small and weak, Texas and this republic are not. This is what I have drafted as a possible reply. I shall tell Mr. Pakenham that his chief’s avowal of intentions has made it our imperious duty, in self-defense, to hasten the annexation of Texas, cost what it may, mean what it may! John Calhoun does not shilly-shally.
“That will be my answer,” repeated my chief at last. Again they looked gravely, each into the other’s eye, each knowing what all this might mean.