Thus far we are the friends and admirers of Jonathan. But he must not grow vain and ambitious; nor allow himself to be dazzled by that galaxy of epithets by which his orators and newspaper scribblers endeavor to persuade their supporters that they are the greatest, the most refined, the most enlightened, and the most moral people upon earth. The effect of this is unspeakably ludicrous on this side of the Atlanticand, even on the other, we should imagine, must be rather humiliating to the reasonable part of the population.
The Americans are a brave, industrious, and acute people; but they have hitherto given no indications of genius, and made no approaches to the heroic, either in their morality or character. They are but a recent offset indeed from England; and should make it their chief boast, for many generations to come, that they are sprung from the same race with Bacon and Shakespeare and Newton. Considering their numbers, indeed, and the favorable circumstances in which they have been placed, they have yet done marvelously little to assert the honor of such a descent, or to show that their English blood has been exalted or refined by their republican training and institutions. Their Franklins and Washingtons, and all the other sages and heroes of their revolution, were born and bred subjects of the King of Englandand not among the freest or most valued of his subjects: And, since the period of their separation, a far greater proportion of their statesmen and artists and political writers have been foreigners, than ever occurred before in the history of any civilized and educated people.
During the thirty or forty years of their independence, they have done absolutely nothing for the Sciences, for the Arts, for Literature, or even for the statesman-like studies of Politics or Political Economy. Confining ourselves to our own country, and to the period that has elapsed since they had an independent existence, we would ask, Where are their Foxes, their Burkes, their Sheridans, their Windhams, their Horners, their Wilberforces?where their Arkwrights, their Watts, their Davys?their Robertsons, Blairs, Smiths, Stewarts, Paleys and Malthuses?their Porsons, Parts, Burneys, or Blomfields?their Scotts, Campbells, Byrons, Moores, or Crabbes?their Siddonses, Kembles, Keans, or ONeilstheir Wilkies, Laurences, Chantrys?or their parallels to the hundred other names that have spread themselves over the world from our little island in the course of' the last thirty years, and blest or delighted mankind by their works, inventions, or examples?
In so far as we know, there is no such parallel to be produced from the whole annals of this self-adulating race. In the four quarters of the globe, who reads an American book? or goes to an American play? or looks at an American picture or statue? What does the world yet owe to American physicians or surgeons? What new substances have their chemists discovered? or what old ones have they analyzed? What new constellations have been discovered by the telescopes of Americans?what have they done in the mathematics? Who drinks out of American glasses? or eats from American plates? or wears American coats or gowns? or sleeps in American blankets ?Finally, under which of the old tyrannical governments of Europe is every sixth man a slave, whom his fellow creatures may buy and sell and torture?
When these questions are fairly and favorably answered, their laudatory epithets may be allowed: But, till that can be done, we would seriously advise them to keep clear of superlatives.
1This article, immediately after Its publication, and for many years, led to intense indignation in the United States; indeed, one frequently finds the title cited now. The article appeared originally in the Edinburgh Review for January, 1820, Smith having been one of the founders of that periodical.
Six years after Louisiana entered the Union, Missouri applied for admission as a slave State. A violent agitation at once arose, continued for two years, and was finally allayed by the famous compromise of 1820. The outbreak was so sudden, its course so turbulent, and its subsidence so complete, that for many years it was regarded as phenomenal in our politics, and its repetition in the highest degree improbable if not impossible. The "Missouri question," as it was popularly termed, formally appeared in Congress in the month of December, 1818; tho during the preceding session petitions for a State government had been received from the inhabitants of the territory. When the bill proposing to admit the State came before the House, Mr. James Tallmadge, Jr., of New York, moved to amend it by providing that "the further introduction of slavery be prohibited in said State of Missouri, and that all children born in the State after its admission to the Union shall be free at the age of twenty-five years." The discussion which followed was able, excited, and even acrimonious. Mr. Clay took an active part against the amendment, but his great influence was unavailing in the face of the strong antislavery sentiment which was so suddenly developed in the North. Both branches of Mr. Tallmadge's amendment were adopted and the bill was passed. In the Senate the antislavery amendment encountered a furious opposition and was rejected by a large majority. The House refused to recede; and, amid great excitement in the country and no little temper in Congress, each branch voted to adhere to its position. Thus for the time Missouri was kept out of the Union.
On the second day after the opening of the next Congress, December, 1819, Mr. John Holmes presented a memorial in the House of Representatives from a convention which had been lately held in the District of Maine, praying for the admission of said district into the Union "as a separate and independent State, on an equal footing with the original States." On the same day, and immediately after Mr. Holmes had taken his seat, Mr. John Scott, territorial delegate, brought before the House the memorial presented in the previous Congress for the admission of Missouri on the same terms of independence and equality with the old States as prayed for by Maine.
From that hour it was found impossible to consider the admission of Maine and Missouri separately. Geographically remote, differing in soil, climate, and products, incapable of competing with each other in any pursuit, they were thrown into rivalry by the influence of the one absorbing question of negro slavery. Southern men were unwilling that Maine should be admitted unless the enabling Act of Missouri should be passed at the same time, and Northern men were unwilling that any enabling Act should be passed for Missouri which did not contain an antislavery restriction.
Mr. Clay, then an accepted leader of Southern sentimentwhich in his later life he ceased to bemade an earnest, almost fiery, speech on the question. He declared that before the Maine bill should be finally acted on, he wanted to know "whether certain doctrines of an alarming character, with respect to a restriction on the admission of new States west of the Mississippi, were to be sustained on this floor." He wanted to know "what conditions Congress could annex to the admission of a new State; whether, indeed, there could be a partition of its sovereignty."
Despite the eloquence and the great influence of the Speaker, the Southern representatives were overborne and the House adopted the antislavery restriction. The Senate refused to concur, united Maine and Missouri in one bill, and passed it with an entirely new feature, which was proposed by Mr. Jesse B. Thomas, a senator from Illinois. That feature was simply the provision, since so widely known as the Missouri Compromise, which forever prohibited slavery north of 36° 30' in all the territory acquired from France by the Louisiana purchase. The House would not consent to admit the two States in the same bill, but finally agreed to the compromise; and in the early part of March, 1820, Maine became a member of the Union without condition. A separate bill was passed, permitting Missouri to form a constitution preparatory to her admission, subject to the compromise, which, indeed, formed one section of the enabling Act. Missouri was thus granted permission to enter the Union as a slave State. But she was discontented with the prospect of having free States on three sideseast, north, and west.
Altho the Missouri Compromise was thus nominally perfected, and the agitation apparently ended, the most exciting, and in some respects the most dangerous, phase of the question was yet to be reached. After the enabling Act was passed the Missouri Convention assembled to frame a constitution for the new State. The inhabitants of the Territory had become angered by the long delay imposed upon them, caused, as they believed, by the introduction of a question which concerned only themselves, and which Congress had no right to control. In this resentful mood they were led by the extremists of the convention to insert a provision in the constitution, declaring that "it shall be the duty of the General Assembly, as soon as may be, to pass such laws as may be necessary to prevent free negroes or mulattoes from coming to or settling in this State under any pretext whatsoever." As soon as the constitution with this obnoxious clause was transmitted to Congress by the President, the excitement broke forth with increased intensity and the lines of the old controversy were at once reformed.
The parliamentary struggle which ensued was bitter beyond precedent; threats of dissolving the Union were frequent, and apprehension of an impending calamity was felt throughout the country. The discussion continued with unabated vigor and ardor until the middle of February, and the Congress was to terminate on the ensuing fourth of March. The House had twice refused to pass the bill admitting Missouri, declaring that the objectionable clause in her organic law was not only an insult to every State in which colored men were citizens, but was in flat contradiction of that provision in the Federal Constitution which declares that "the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States."
The defeat, apparently final, of the admission of Missouri, created intense indignation. Southern senators and representatives charged that they were treated unjustly by the North, and dealt with unfairly in Congress. In pursuance of the compromise of the year before, Maine had been admitted and her senators were in their seats. The organs of Southern opinion accused the North of overreaching the South in securing, under the name of a compromise, the admission of Maine, while still retaining the power to exclude Missouri. A feeling that bad faith has been practised is sure to create bitterness, and the accusation of it produces increased bitterness in return. The North could easily justify itself by argument, but the statement without argument apparently showed that the South had been deceived.
The course pursued by the senators from MaineJohn Holmes and John Chandlerin voting steadily for the admission of Missouri, tended greatly to check recrimination and relieve asperity of feeling. Mr. Holmes was a man of ability, of experience in public affairs and of eminent distinction at home. With a rare gift of humor, and with conversational talent almost unrivaled, he exerted an influence over men in private and social intercourse which gave him singular power in shaping public questions. He was an intimate friend and political supporter of Mr. Clay, and their cordial cooperation at this crisis evoked harmony from chaos, and brought a happy solution to a question that was troubling every patriotic heart. They united in a final effort, and through the instrumentality of a joint committee of seven senators and twenty-three representativesof which Mr. Holmes was chairman on the part of the Senate, and Mr. Clay on the part of the Housea second and final compromise was effected, and the admission of Missouri secured.
This compromise declared that Missouri should be admitted to the Union upon the fundamental condition that no law should ever be passed by her Legislature enforcing the objectionable provision in her constitution, and that by a solemn public act the State should declare and record her assent to this condition, and transmit to the President of the United States an authentic copy of the Act. Missouri accepted the condition promptly but not cheerfully, feeling that she entered the Union under a severe discipline, and with hard and humiliating conditions.
It was in this compromise, not in the one of the preceding session, that Mr. Clay was the leading spirit. Tho the first was the more important, and dealt with larger questions of a more enduring nature, it did not at the time create so great an impression on the public mind as the second, nor did its discussion produce so much antagonism between the North and the South. Thirty years after these events Mr. Clay called attention to the fact that he had received undeserved credit for the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which be had supported but not originated. On the other hand, he had received only the slightest mention for his agency in the second compromise, which he had really originated and carried through Congress. The second compromise had passed out of general recollection before Mr. Clay's death, tho it had made him a Presidential candidate at forty-three years of age. . .
The Missouri question marked a distinct era in the political thought of the country, and made a profound impression on the minds of patrotic men. Suddenly, without warning, the North and the South, the free States and the slave States, found themselves arrayed against each other in violent and absorbing conflict. During the interval between the adoption of the Federal Constitution and the admission of Missouri, there had been a great change in the Southern mind, both as to the moral and the economic aspects of slavery. This revolution of opinion had been wrought in large degree by the cotton-plant.
When the National Government was organized in 1789, the annual export of cotton did not exceed three hundred bales. It was reckoned only among our experimental products. But, stimulated by the invention of the gin, production increased so rapidly, that, at the time of Missouri's application for admission to the Union, cotton-planting was the most remunerative industry in the country. The export alone exceeded three hundred thousand bales annually. But this highly profitable culture was in regions so warm that outdoor labor was unwelcome to the white race. The immediate consequence was a large advance in the value of slave-labor, and in the price of slaves.
1 From Blaine's "Twenty Years of Congress." By permission of Mrs. Walter Damrosch and James G. Blaine, Jr., owners of the copyright. Copyright, 1884.
In building our cabin it was set north and south; my brother used my father's pocket-compass on the occasion, for we had no idea of living in a house that did not stand square with the earth itself. This showed our ignorance of the comforts and conveniences of a pioneer life. The position of the house, end to the hill, necessarily elevated the lower end, and the determination to have both a north and south door, added much to the airiness of the house, particularly after the green ash puncheons had shrunk so as to leave cracks in the floor and doors from one to two inches wide. At both the doors we had high, unsteady, and sometimes icy steps, made by piling up the logs cut out of the wall. We had a window, if it could be called a window, when, perhaps, it was the largest spot in the top, bottom, or sides of the cabin at which the wind could not enter. It was made by sawing out a log, and placing sticks across; and then, by pasting an old newspaper over the hole, and applying some hog's lard, we had a kind of glazing which shed a most beautiful and mellow light across the cabin when the sun shone on it. All other light entered at the doors, cracks, and chimney.
Our cabin was twenty-four feet by eighteen. The west end was occupied by two beds, the center of each side by a door, and here our symmetry had to stop, for on the side opposite the window were our shelves, made of clapboards, supported on pins driven into the logs. Upon these shelves my sister displayed, in ample order, a host of pewter plates, basins, dishes, and spoons, scoured and bright. It was none of your new-fangled pewter made of lead, but the best of London pewter, which our father himself bought of the manufacturer. These were the plates upon which you could hold your meat so as to cut it without slipping and without dulling your knife. But, alas! the days of pewter plates and sharp dinner knives have passed away.
To return to our internal arrangements. A ladder of five rounds occupied the corner near the window. By this, when we got a floor above, we could ascend. Our chimney occupied most of the east end; there were pots and kettles opposite the window under the shelves, a gun on hooks over the north door, four split-bottom chairs, three three-legged stools, and a small eight by ten looking-glass sloped from the wall over a large towel and combcase. Our list of furniture was increased by a clumsy shovel and a pair of tongs, made with one shank straight, which was a certain source of pinches and blood blisters. We had also a spinning-wheel and such things as were necessary to work it. It was absolutely necessary to have three-legged stools, as four legs of anything could not all touch the floor at the same time.
The completion of our cabin went on slowly. The season was inclement, we were weak-handed and weak-pocketedin fact laborers were not to be had. We got our chimney up breast high as soon as we could, and got our cabin daubed as high as the joists outside. It never was daubed on the inside, for my sister, who was very nice, could not consent to "live right next to mud!" My impression now is, that the window was not constructed till spring, for until the sticks and clay were put on the chimney we could have no need of a window; for the flood of light which always poured into the cabin from the fireplace would have extinguished our paper window, and rendered it as useless as the moon at noonday.
We got a floor laid overhead as soon as possible, perhaps in a month; but when finished, the reader will readily conceive of its imperviousness to wind or weather, when we mention that it was laid of loose clapboards split from red oak, the stump of which may be seen beyond the cabin. That tree must have grown in the night, for it was so twisting that each board lay on two diagonally opposite corners; and a cat might have shaken every board on our ceiling.
It may be well to inform the unlearned reader that "clapboards" are such lumber as pioneers split throughout; they resemble barrel-staves before they are shaved, but are split longer, wider, and thinner; of such our roof and ceiling were composed. "Puncheons" are planks made by splitting logs to about two and a half or three inches in thickness, and hewing them on one or both sides with the broadax; of such our floor, doors, tables, and stools were manufactured. The "eave-bearers" are those end logs which project over to receive the butting poles, against which the lower tier of clapboards rest to form the roof. The "trapping" is the roof timbers, composing the gable end and the ribs. The "trap logs" are those of unequal length above the eave-bearers, which form the gable ends, and upon which the ribs rest. The "weight poles" are small logs laid on the roof, which weigh down the course of clapboards on which they lie, and against which the course above is placed. The "knees" are pieces of heart timber placed above the butting poles, successively, to prevent the weight poles from rolling off.
1 From an anonymous article by "A Pioneer," printed in Hart's " Source Book of American History."
1 From Goodrich's "Recollections of a Lifetime." Webster at that time had practised law in Portsmouth and Boston, and served two terms in the House of Representatives from New Hampshire. In the following year he was sent to Congress by a Massachusetts district. As a lawyer he had acquired a national reputation, in 1818, by his success in the famous Dartmouth College case.
2 Afterward better known as the English philanthropist, Lord Shaftesbury.
3 Dr. Joseph Warren, President of the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, Major-General of the Massachusetts forces in 1775, and killed at the battle of Bunker Hill. His death has long been a familiar scene in a painting widely reproduced. It was Dr. Warren who sent Paul Revere on his famous ride to Lexington.