Doc. 132.--letter from Commodore Stewart.
Bordentown, May 4, 1861.My dear Sir: Agreeably to your request I now furnish you with the reminiscences of a conversation which passed between Mr. John C. Calhoun and myself in the latter part of December, 1812, after the declaration of war by the Congress of the United States against Great Britain on the 18th of June previous. On the assembling of Congress, in the early part of December, I found that an important portion of the leading democratic members of Congress had taken up their quarters at Mrs. Bushby's boarding-house, among whom was Mr. Calhoun, a new member from South Carolina--and I believe this was his first appearance in the House of Representatives. In consequence of this I took Lieutenant Ridgley, my confidential officer, and the first lieutenant of the frigate Constitution, of which vessel I then held the command, and was preparing for sea at the Washington Navy Yard, left our lodgings at Strother's, and obtained board at Mrs. Bushby's with them. Ridgley was a witty and able talker, who could aid me in demonstrating the necessity for, and the high policy of a formidable naval force wherewith to carry on the war with England, which I considered could only be done with effect through her being victoriously struck at on an element over which she deemed herself sole mistress. This appeared to me to constitute her most tender point. By this movement I found myself judiciously located to enable me to urge upon Congress any patriotic measures which seemed best calculated to meet and discomfit the self-sufficiency and arrogance of our oppressive enemy. Mr. Calhoun's age, I thought, approximated my own, which was thirty-four; and being a man of the highest order of talent, and representing a State in our Union which scarce ever permitted themselves to be represented by inferior ability in the national councils, I could not have commenced my object with one more fitted for the purpose I had in view. He was also a high-minded and honorable man, kind and friendly as well as open and confiding to those he deemed worthy. We soon formed an intimacy, and I frequently had long conversations with him on the war, the subjects relating thereto, and matters growing out of its existence — the navy being the most prominent — the gunboats, the merchants' bonds then on the tapis in Congress, and other matters of political or minor interest. One evening I struck on the divided views of our sectional interests of the war — stated to him that the opposite feelings on this subject had puzzled me exceedingly, and asked him how it was that the planting States were so strongly and so decidedly in favor of the war, while the commercial States were so much opposed to it. With this latter section of our country it seemed to me that the punishment of England, through the medium of war, ought to meet their highest approbation and call for their greatest efforts, as they were the greatest sufferers, through her instrumentality and power over our commercial affairs, since 1792, which were so arrogantly urged by plunder and impressment on the highway of nations, while the southern portion of the Union had felt but little in comparison. I observed, with great simplicity, “ You in the South and Southwest are decidedly the aristocratic portion of this Union; you are so in holding persons in perpetuity in slavery; you are so in every domestic quality; so in every habit in your lives, living, and actions; so in habits, customs, intercourse, and manners; you neither work with your hands, heads, nor any machinery, but live and have your living, not in accordance with the will of your Creator, but by the sweat of slavery, and yet you assume all the attributes, professions, and advantages of democracy.” Mr. Calhoun replied: “ I see you speak through the head of a young statesman, and from the heart of a patriot, but you lose sight of the politician and the sectional policy of the people. I admit your conclusions in respect to us southrons. That we are essentially aristocratic I cannot deny, but we can and do yield  much to democracy. This is our sectional policy; we are from necessity thrown upon and solemnly wedded to that party, however it may occasionally clash with our feelings for the conservation of our interests. It is through our affiliation with that party in the middle and western States that we hold power; but when we cease thus to control this nation through a disjointed democracy, or any material obstacle in that party which shall tend to throw us out of that rule and control, we shall then resort to the dissolution of the Union. The compromises in the Constitution, under the circumstances, were sufficient for our fathers; but, under the altered condition of our country from that period, leave to the South no resource but dissolution; for no amendments to the Constitution could be reached through a convention of the people under their three-fourths rule.” I laughed incredulously, and said, “well, Mr. Calhoun, ere such can take place, you and I will have been so long non est that we can now laugh at its possibility, and leave it with complacency to our children's children, who will then have the watch on deck.” Alas, my dear sir, how entirely were the views of that “young headed statesman” circumscribed by the patriot feelings of his heart. What he then thought an impossibility for human hands to effect, for ages on ages to come, he now sees verified to the letter as predicted by that far-seeing statesman, John C. Calhoun. Even this noble republic is disrupted, its Constitution rent into shreds and tatters, by party follies and the wickedness of its people's selfishness. Had they but inherited a moiety of the virtues of their fathers, who bled and impoverished themselves through a long and bloody war to establish the independence and liberty, welfare and happiness of their posterity for all time to come; had they worshipped the true and living God instead of the “ almighty dollar,” they would not now have beheld the millions of patriots arming for the strife against traitors to their country, to the Constitution and the laws, once more to baptize in blood, for liberty's sake, the blessings which rational liberty accords under our Union. Had a prophet arisen in 1812, and predicted as John C. Calhoun did, nothing short of divine inspiration could have given credence to his foreshadowings. Alas, I have lived to see its accomplishment! He has gone to the tomb of his fathers, the pride of his section, honored for his talents and for his efforts in council, while your humble servant still lingers on the brink, under the national anathema of degradation, as a reward for many years of faithful services; which degradation was accorded him simultaneously with his reaching the head of the service to which his whole life had been devoted. You see, my dear sir, I have no disposition to “ bury my light under a bushel,” but will ever be ready to accord justice to whom justice is due. Thus in death we show the ruling passion stronger than in life, and as it is with individuals, so it is with nations — the blackest spot found in the heart is ingratitude. Accept the assurances of my regard and esteem.
--N. Y. Evening Post, May 10.