« ZurückWeiter »
case with some of those which Fox and Burke and Pitt hurled at each other's heads during parallel parliamentary epochs. Specimens of Franklin's retorts are preserved which are as fresh and keen as when they originally went whizzing to their mark. It is probable, too, that Randolph's peculiarities heightened and gave a degree of extraneous and scenic effect to what he uttered. His pride, his isolation, his rich appointments, his claims to a baronial family consequence, his aristocratic assumption of superiority, his capricious and dangerous temper, all set him apart, and made him a popular marvel. His personal appearance, also, was unusual and striking. He was tall and excessively meagre; his face cadaverous and beardless. There was something in his general aspect which reminded one of his lineage from the royal Powhattan. His eye was piercingly brilliant; and had the power of freezing or burning as it reflected the passion-torrent within. The shrill key of his voice approached that of those victims of jealous barbarity who watch Eastern harems, and its least whisper smote on the ear like the ringing clink of metal. Each word seemed vitalized into a substantive thing—an impinging material body—by the intensity of his mental action, and the vehemence of his feelings. His modes of thought were so eccentric and took such unexpected turns—his attacks were so capriciously made or withheld, that curiosity always stood tiptoe awaiting some wonder. Lastly, strange gleams of approaching or actual insanity came to increase the feverish interest of the spectacle. He did not lack genius. His declamation was often splendid. In some respects he had great penetration. None could so skillfully appeal to the feelings and prejudices of his own class in Virginia and elsewhere. He well understood the pulse of a deliberative body. We shall soon find Mr. Jefferson speaking of his “popular eloquence.” This does not seem to accurately define his kind of oratory. It certainly was neither profound nor philosophic. It never exhausted the facts of the topic. It rarely even instructed. It piquantly seized upon some striking analogy, or some overlooked flaw, and coruscated about it with a medley of historic and semi-poetical illustration, uttered in a unique way, by a most unique man. And having roused a train of feeling, he could keep it up and urge it along with much apparent effect. But there was no depth in the current thus set flowing. Men listened as in a good dramatic exhibition. They laughed, they almost wept. When it was over, they drew one long breath, and then fell back into common life, as if nothing had happened. No stern resolves were planted in the bosom, as if the hearer had been listening to Otis or John Adams. Men gazed not aslant for arms or firebrands, as if Henry's fiery invocations had been ringing in their ears. It would be easy to descend two or three grades lower among American “popular” orators, and still find those superior to John Randolph. Before wonder and adulation, or the fever-fire of excitement, had turned his brain, Randolph did not lack considerable judgment in political affairs. His integrity was unquestionable. He scorned meanness, duplicity, or cowardice. His loves, like his hates, were sincere and vehement. He could be a captivating companion, and the pure and noble Macon loved him like a brother to the end of his life. But every good gift had a concomitant bad one. He was a bundle of opposite extremes, curiously bound together in one incongruous and diseased human frame. He was a living antithesis. We have mentioned some of his parliamentary and other contradictions. His private ones were not less marked. His integrity, for example, did not place him above the most paltry suspicions of other men, whose standards were notoriously as high as his own; and the virulence and egotism of his temper made him ready to pour out these suspicions at once, and if chafed by opposition, to swell them to a torrent of invective. His courage was combined with quarrelsomeness. He was more than ready to put every dispute on the footing of personal offence. He fought a number of duels for words which were uttered in parliamentary debate, and which were characterized by less than his own habitual personalities. If not truculent by disposition (and we do not believe he was) his overstrained pride and punctiliousness generally left no other escape from a controversy with those who acknowledged what is termed the “code of honor.” Even his friendships and hates, deep though they were for the time being, rarely survived an important difference of opinion. Or rather, love of opposition and change was a disease of his organization. He followed Jefferson devotedly for years, and then broke off on the provocation, or pretence, we have seen. He loved Mr. Madison, and soon fiercely hated and denounced him. He was enthusiastic in his admiration of Monroe, and afterwards poured out on him epithets implying contempt. He was one of the earliest supporters of General Jackson, and one of the first to abandon him. He insulted Mr. Clay in the Senate, fought with him, and then rushed in a dying state across the country, as fast as his horses could be driven, to be reconciled to him. He clung to Macon, Tazewell, and a little knot of friends through all; but had one of these been elected President, Randolph would probably have denounced him within six months of his inauguration.
Jefferson was his first and longest official love. His character during the first Presidency of the former was sounder and more even than ever afterwards. Admiration and wonder had not fostered his worse qualities into full bloom. He had not, since the full development of his powers, tasted the acid luxury of opposition.' Disappointment in love (to adopt a hypothesis hinted at by Mr. Garland) and long physical disease, had not reached that acme which unhinged him. The coming madness had not touched his brain.”
* Professor Tucker states that in an early period of Mr. Jefferson's Administration, Randolph once read to him (Tucker) and George Hay, of Richmond, a passage from one of Godwin's novels, in which “the excitements and the triumphs of a leader of the opposition are very forcibly depicted,” and the “remarks that he made and the emotion he exhibited'’ conveyed the impression to his hearers that he felt “a painful contrast between his then position in Congress and that which he had held in the preceding Administration."—Tucker's Jefferson, vol. ii. p. 189. * The President's estimate of John Randolph has been the theme of some speculation. (See Benton's Thirty Years' View, vol. i. p. 473.) He undoubtedly treated him with all the respect and confidence with which he would have treated any person to whom his !. in the House of Representatives assigned the position of leader: and it is not proable that Randolph's punctilious and exacting temper suggested the omission of any of the mere forms of attention. But we find no confidential personal or political correspondence between them. We do not believe any really confidential relations ever existed between them. Jefferson was too penetrating not to fully understand the want of balance and reliability in his character. We soon shall see hints enough of this in a letter to Monroe, where good taste and tact required him, under the particular circumstances, to award to Randolph all the credit to which he was entitled. In reality, there were few points of temper, disposition, judgment, or even political views, where there was much room for congeniality between the two men. The last portion of this remark may sound strangely, as Randolph was an ultra State-rights man, and was as austerely as Jefferson in favor of simple, pure, and republican forms. But his democracy was mostly theoretical. Indeed, it ceased to be even his theory. Burke became his political idol, and this early and fiery champion of republicanism spent his last days in o: and gibbering through his desolate ancestral halls against the overthrow of entails an aristocracy in Virginia; and he justly held Jefferson accountable as their overthrower. We should not quite tell the whole story if we should omit to mention that there was an imputed proximate cause for Randolph's defection from the Administration. Christopher Clark, his colleague and warm admirer, having heard him often speak of making a voyage to Europe at this period, opplied to the President and Secretary of State to give him the English mission. Mr. Clark pushed his point far enough to discover that neither Jefferson nor Madison considered M. Randolph fitted for that position. It was not
The breach having been effected, Randolph soon threw off the restraints of moderation. Varnum, Bidwell, and other Republican leaders, who continued to be treated exactly as he himself had been treated by the President, and who made no more sacrifices of personal independence than he had done, were “Charles Jenkinsons”—“backstairs favorites” to “carry down secret messages to the House”—and, as if venom was not per fect without scurrility, he has the credit on one occasion of having stigmatized them as “the pages of the Presidential water-closet !” It is not necessary to enlarge on this class of details.
Such was the origin of the “Quids;” for the little handful that followed Mr. Randolph subsequently took that name. One of their earliest measures was to concert an opposition to Madison for the succession, and for that object they made themselves clamorous advocates of Monroe. In a letter to the latter, soon after the close of the session (May 4th) the President thus characteristically gave his impressions of Randolph's defection, and the history of its result:
“Our old friend, Mercer, broke off from us some time ago; at first professing to disdain joining the Federalists, yet, from the habit of voting together, becoming soon identified with them. Without carrying over with him one single person, he is now in a state of as perfect obscurity as if his name had never been known. Mr. J. Randolph is in the same track, and will end in the same way. His course has excited considerable alarm. Timid men consider it as a proof of the weakness of our Government, and that it is to be rent into pieces by demagogues, and to end in anarchy. I survey the scene with a different eye, and draw a different augury from it. In a House of Representatives of a great mass of good sense, Mr. Randolph's popular eloquence gave him such advantages as to place him unrivalled as the leader of the House; and, although not conciliatory to those whom he led, principles of duty and patriotism induced many of them to swallow humiliations he subjected them to, and to vote as was right, as long as he kept the path of right himself. The sudden defection of such a man could not but produce a momentary astonishment, and even dismay ; but for a moment only. The good sense of the House rallied around its principles, and without any leader pursued steadily the business of the session, did it well, and by a strength of vote which has never before been seen. Upon all trying questions, exclusive of the Federalists, the minority of Republicans voting with him has been from four to six or eight, against from ninety to one hundred; and although he yet treats the Federalists with ineffable contempt, yet, having declared eternal opposition to this Administration, and consequently associated with them in his votes, he will, like Mercer, end with them. The augury I draw
believed that the latter had prompted the application, but it was believed that he resented the refusal as much as if it had been made to himself. A later Administration pursued a different course, but with no different ultimate result.
from this is, that there is a steady, good sense in the Legislature, and in the body of the nation, joined with good intentions, which will lead them to discern and to pursue the public good under all circumstances which can arise, and that no ignis fatuus will be able to lead them long astray. In the present case, the public sentiment, as far as declarations of it have yet come in, is, without a single exception, in firm adherence to the Administration.
+ * - + + * + * + +
“The great body of your friends are among the firmest adherents to the Administration, and in their support of you will suffer Mr. Randolph to have no communications with them. My former letter told you the line which both duty and inclination would lead me sacredly to pursue. But it is unfortunate for you, to be embarrassed with such a soi-disant friend. You must not commit yourself to him.”
We will resume our account of the proceedings of the first session of the ninth Congress. On the 17th of January (1806), the President communicated a special message in regard to British captures, which were calling out memorials from the merchants of all our seaport towns. He declared that the principle now sought to be overthrown by British authorities (the right of neutrals to trade with belligerents in ports not blockaded and in articles not contraband) was supposed to have been settled in our favor by the joint Commission—and that Great Britain had actually paid us damages, under the awards of that Commission, for infractions of this right. He stated that our minister had made unavailing representations on the subject, and also in regard to impressment, concerning which latter a hope had existed of satisfactory arrangement, but which now had passed away.
The message being referred to a Committee of the Whole, various propositions for retaliatory action rapidly followed. Gregg, of Pennsylvania, moved to suspend all further importations from Great Britain until satisfactory arrangements were made in regard to captures and impressments." Clay (of the same State) proposed a retaliation in kind for interdictions against American vessels; that foreign vessels should not carry merchandise from the United States to their own ports, or bring their own merchandise to our ports where the same privilege was not extended to American vessels; and that no foreign vessel should import any merchandise into the United States not the product of the nation to which the ship belonged, unless expressly per