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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

Jackson was a frontiersman and a soldier


Among

the politicians who must be considered in the running for the presidency, the ablest was Henry Clay of Kentucky. He was the greatest parliamentary leader that America has known. He was unrivalled in the art of reconciling conflicting views and managing conflicting wills. We have already seen him as the triumphant author of the Missouri Compromise. He was a Westerner, and was supposed to possess great influence in the new States. Politically he stood for Protection, and for an interpretation of the Constitution which leaned to Federalism and away from State Sovereignty. Second only to Clay--if, indeed, second to him--in abilities was John Caldwell Calhoun of South Carolina. Calhoun was not yet the Calhoun of the 'forties, the lucid fanatic of a fixed political dogma. At this time he was a brilliant orator, an able and ambitious politician whose political system was unsettled, but tended at the time rather in a nationalist than in a particularist direction. The other two candidates were of less intellectual distinction, but each had something in his favour. William Crawford of Georgia was the favourite candidate of the State Rights men; he was supposed to be able to command the support of the combination of Virginia and New York, which had elected every President since 1800, and there lingered about him a sort of shadow of the Jeffersonian inheritance. John Quincey Adams of Massachusetts was the grandson of Washington's successor, but a professed convert to Democratic Republicanism--a
man of moderate abilities, but of good personal character and a reputation for honesty. He was Monroe's Secretary of State, and had naturally a certain hereditary hold on New England.

Into the various intrigues and counter-intrigues of these politicians it is not necessary to enter here, for from the point of view of American history the epoch-making event was the sudden entry of a fifth man who was not a politician. To the confusion of all their arrangements the great Western State of Tennessee nominated as her candidate for the Presidency General Andrew Jackson, the deliverer of New Orleans.

Jackson was a frontiersman and a soldier. Because he was a frontiersman he tended to be at once democratic in temper and despotic in action. In the rough and tumble of life in the back blocks a man must often act without careful inquiry into constitutional privileges, but he must always treat men as men and equals. It has already been noted that men left to themselves always tend to be roughly democratic, and that even before the Revolution the English colonies had much of the substance of democracy; they had naturally more of it after the Revolution. But even after the Revolution something like an aristocracy was to be noted in the older States, North and South, consisting in the North of the old New England families with their mercantile wealth and their Puritan traditions, in the South of the great slave-owning squires. In the new lands, in the constant and necessary fight with savage nature and savage man, such distinctions were obliterated. Before a massacre all men are equal. In the presence of a grizzly bear "these truths" are quite unmistakably self-evident. The West was in a quite new and peculiar sense democratic, and was to give to America the great men who should complete the work of democracy.


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