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which she had fought so well in days of yore. It required twenty-eight years more of sectional legislation, aggravated by other causes of quarrel, to bring her to this pitch: but she endeavoured to make her adherence to it consistent with the welfare of her own citizens; and, with this view, she passed, in her own State Assembly, the celebrated “ Nullification Act,” which nearly set the whole of the Union on fire. By this Act the recently-imposed protective duties were set aside, as far as she was concerned, and foreign merchandise was admitted on the terms of the tariff of 1828, which, grievous as they were, the South had accepted, though sorely against her will, and from which therefore she felt that she could not honourably recede.
The Union was in a tremendous uproar. New England is frantic at the audacity of the Palmetto State, and raises a cry for war, much in the style of the more modern time. Above all, Massachusetts is clam. orous for the use of force to bring back the rebels to their allegiance. Her leading statesman, a man of great ability, Webster, the John Bright of America, x seems to have taken leave of his senses. “No shrinking from rebels !” this is his tone; “no abandonment of the sacred principles of protection; no compromise. New England requires a prohibitory tariff, and she will have it; there is no need to spoil our
game by making terms with Kentucky or Missouri. New England needs no allies.” So the two States of the Union, which are most what may be called representative States, the most perfect instances that could be found of the two opposite characters which I described a few pages back, stand forth as enemies. The Cavalier is opposed to the Roundhead—the fiery hot-blooded Dara, to the bigoted cold-blooded Aurungzebe. Each possesses one of the foremost of the statesmen left to the Union. Webster heads the voice of Massachusetts : South Carolina is guided by Calhoun.
The rest of the Federation seem to stand for the moment looking on, as these two formidable champions face each other. Had they been conterminous, it is impossible to say what might have been the result. But, fortunately, there are many broad States between them, and neither can act upon the other without drawing along with him a vast mass of allies who are somewhat more difficult to stir. And while the slow process is going on, a mediator rushes to interfere, Clay of Kentucky.
No fitter mediator, either man or State, could have been found. Kentucky is a Southern State, and she is a Western State. Of old, she was a part of the wide dominion of Virginia ; and when, by an act of the Federal Legislature, Virginia consenting and approving, she set up for herself as an independent State, she did not sever herself from Southern feelings and sympathies, as did Ohio and the other Western States, which had also once belonged to the “Old Dominion.” Not only are her sentiments Southern, but her interest is for free trade. But she has condescended to sell herself for a mess of pottage, which, being interpreted, is a duty on hemp, a great Kentuckian staple; and by that act she has ranged herself on the Northern side in the great battle of the tariffs.
Clay was no less fitted to be the mediator than Kentucky was to have produced the mediator. Along with Webster and Calhoun, he ranks on the foremost line of American statesmen of that time, or indeed of any time,-certainly not inferior to the former, probably not to the latter, and perhaps superior to both. He was a Southerner, and the South had every reason to be proud of him; and yet he was the founder of the “Whig” party, as it was called, which, splitting off from the great body of the Democrats on a purely personal question, by degrees was led to give itself somewhat of a Northern tinge. He was a decided Protectionist; but he thought that the doctrine should be of universal application, and be made to benefit the South as well as the North. He thus was fitted to stand between Webster, who held that there should be a high tariff as a protection to the interests of New
England, and Calhoun, who held that, at least for any protective purposes, there should be no tariff at all.
He now came forward with a proposal for compromise, which in brief was to the effect that there should be a gradual reduction of duties, the process to last over ten years, at the end of which time they might be brought to a point at which, perhaps, they might be tolerated; but that the principle of a high tariff, at least for revenue, should always be retained.
I say a high tariff, for no duty was to be reduced unless it was over 20 per cent; and even after the reduction, the reduced duties would not be under 10 per cent. So that Clay's proposal could not be considered extravagantly Southern; and the free-traders, if they had acted in the same spirit as the Northern Protectionists acted, might have said that it was not enough. But no word of the kind was heard. Calhoun declared that, so far from objecting to the delay of ten years, he should have opposed any bill which had had for its object to make heavy reductions of duty at once, on account of the great derangement it would have caused to Northern trade. I wonder whether, had the case been reversed, Webster or any other gentleman from Massachusetts would have made a similar declaration.
Probably not. For at the bare notion of being asked to surrender the least atom of the plunder which they were hoping to gain from their Southern neighbours, Massachusetts, and all New England, set up a yell of fury. Webster could not see what all this fuss was about. There was no danger to the Union that he knew of, as Clay had pretended; and it was preposterous that poor innocent New England should be made to give up her darling duties, which were so profitable to her, to please the Southerners, or anybody else. If Jupiter's eagle could have spoken, he would probably have used much the same language when Hercules gave him to understand that he must in future look for his dinner in some other place than in the vitals of Prometheus.
I doubt whether even the enormous influence of Clay would have been enough to save the Union at this crisis. But fortunately America possessed at the moment of which I am speaking a fourth great statesman; and fortunately, also, he happened to be in a place where, since his time, great statesmen have not often found themselves — namely, the White House at Washington. This was President Jackson. Like Clay, he was a South-Western man. He was of Tennessee, a State which stands to North Carolina in the same relation as Kentucky stands to Virginia. Like Clay, he was the chief of a party. And unlike Clay, his life had been one long success. The two had passed their days in a bitter life-long contest, not for