The President at this interview invited General Scott to remain and take supper with him. He declined, on the ground that he desired to call on his friend ex-President Adams before leaving. To this President Jackson replied, “That’s right; never forget a friend.”
On his journey he met with an accident and sprained his ankle. This turned out a fortunate thing, for it enabled him to delay so as to spend needed time in Charleston, Savannah, and Augusta without exciting any suspicion of the real object of his visit. Had it been known that he was there to make preparations for defense and to strengthen the garrisons, it would have excited the populace who sustained the action of the convention, and might have resulted in open hostilities. He visited Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney, and gave oral confidential orders to enlarge and strengthen both places. Orders were also sent for re-enforcements in single companies, which excited no alarm. These important matters being accomplished, he went to Savannah and posed as a sick man, for the reason that an early return to Fort Moultrie might have excited alarm. In the latter part of January he returned by sea to Fort Moultrie, but his presence there was unknown to all outside of the fort.
In the meantime the leaders of nullification had, at a large meeting, agreed that no attempt to execute the ordinance should be undertaken before the adjournment of Congress on March 3d following. The Legislature of South Carolina, at its meeting in December, had passed laws for the raising of troops and providing money for the purchase of arms and ammunition, and many organizations of volunteers had been formed wearing the palmetto cockade and buttons. A very decided and unexpected rebuff was given by the Court of Appeals of South Carolina, which decided, in the case of State vs. Hunt (2 Hills, S.C. Reports), that the ordinance which required the citizens of South Carolina to take a test oath of exclusive allegiance to the State was unconstitutional. It is a curious piece of history that the palmetto buttons worn by the volunteer nullifiers were manufactured in Connecticut.
There was in Charleston, as in other parts of the State, a very large number of Unionists. Both parties in Charleston held frequent meetings, and it was with great difficulty that riots or encounters between the two were prevented.
The officers of the army and navy at and near Charleston during these perilous times showed great prudence. Their first public display was the celebration of Washington’s birthday; but the most intense nullifier could raise no objection to this. During these exciting times a fire broke out in the city of Charleston, and General Scott, being one of the first to observe it, called for volunteers and went to the scene, and, with the assistance of the naval volunteers and men of the army, succeeded in extinguishing the fire. This act of General Scott, seconded by army and navy men, had much to do with quieting the intense political excitement in Charleston.