This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 character, survive such alienation as rendered its parts hostile to the security, prosperity, and happiness of one another. It was reasonably argued that, as the legislatures of fourteen of the states had enacted what were termed “personal liberty laws,” which forbade the cooperation of state officials in the rendition of fugitives from service and labor, it became necessary that the general government should provide the requisite machinery for the execution of the law. The result proved what might have been anticipated—that those communities which had repudiated their constitutional obligations, which had nullified a previous law of Congress for the execution of a provision of the Constitution, and had murdered men who came peacefully to recover their property, would evade or obstruct, so as to render practically worthless, any law that could be enacted for that purpose. In the exceptional cases in which it might be executed, the event would be attended with such conflict between the state and federal authorities as to produce consequent evils greater than those it was intended to correct. It was during the progress of these memorable controversies that the South lost its most trusted leader, and the Senate its greatest and purest statesman. He was taken from us— “Like a summer-dried fountain,
When our need was the sorest—
” when his intellectual power, his administrative talent, his love of peace, and his devotion to the Constitution might have averted collision; failing in that, he might have been to the South the Palinurus to steer the bark in safety over the perilous sea. Truly did Webster—his personal friend, although his greatest political rival—say of him in his obituary address, “There was nothing groveling, or low, or meanly selfish, that came near the head or the heart of Mr. Calhoun.” His prophetic warnings speak from the grave with the wisdom of inspiration. Would that they could have been appreciated by his countrymen while he yet lived! While the compromise measures of 1850 were pending, and the excitement concerning them was at its highest, I one day overtook Clay of Kentucky and Berrien of Georgia in the Capitol grounds. They were in earnest conversation. It was the 7th of March—the day on which Webster had delivered his great speech. Clay, addressing me in the friendly manner which he had always employed since I was a schoolboy in Lexington, asked me what I thought of the speech. I liked it better than he did. He then suggested that I should “join the compromise ”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.