The federalist leaders saw that, while their party strength was confined to a continually decreasing territory, the opposing democracy not only had gained the mass of the original United States, but was swarming toward and beyond the Mississippi. They dropped to the level of a mere party of opposition; they went further until the only article of their political creed was State sovereignty; some of them went one step further, and dabbled in hopeless projects for secession and the formation of a New England republic of five States. It is difficult to perceive any advantage to public affairs in the closing years of the federal party, except that, by impelling the democratic leaders to really national acts and sympathies, it unwittingly aided in the development of nationality from democracy.
If the essential characteristic of colonialism is the sense of dependence and the desire to imitate, democracy, at least in its earlier phases, begets the opposite qualities. The Congressional elections of 1810-11 showed that the people had gone further in democracy than their leaders. “Submission men” were generally defeated in the election; new leaders, like Clay, Calhoun, and Crawford, made the dominant party a war party, and forced the President into their policy; and the war of 1812 was begun. Its early defeats on land, its startling successes at sea, its financial straits, the desperation of the contest after the fall of Napoleon, and the brilliant victory which crowned its close, all combined to raise the national feeling to the highest pitch; and the federalists, whose stock object of denunciation was “Mr. Madison’s war,” though Mr. Madison was about the most unwilling participant in it, came out of it under the ban of every national sympathy.
The speech of Mr. Quincy, in many points one of the most eloquent of our political history, will show the brightest phase of federalism at its lowest ebb. One can hardly compare it with that of Mr. Clay, which follows it, without noticing the national character of the latter, as contrasted with the lack of nationality of the former. It seems, also, that Mr. Clay’s speech carries, in its internal characteristics, sufficient evidence of the natural forces which tended to make democracy a national power, and not a mere adjunct of State sovereignty, wherever the oblique influence of slavery was absent. For this reason, it has been taken as a convenient introduction to the topic which follows, the Rise of Nationality.
OF VIRGINIA, (BORN 1743, DIED 1826.)
MARCH 4, 1801