Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/340

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Southern Historical Society Papers.


In the decade between 1840 and 1850 the warder on the watch tower had been the great son. I had almost said the great soul, of South Carolina. In blistering speech, Calhoun had defined the bond which held the gathering host of pillage. He called it "the cohesive power of public plunder." The spoils system, he said, "must ultimately convert the whole body of office-holders into corrupt sycophants and supple instruments of power;" and, again, "let us not deceive ourselves—the very essence of free government consists in considering public offices as public trusts." With what subtle analysis, ground fine in debate, he stripped naked the sophistries of senates: with what "iron worded proof" he chained truth to truth. The high, the brave, the incorruptible, must make enemies; and the higher, the braver, the firmer, and more discerning the sense of duty, the more implacable the enmity. He, too, is entitled to be "loved for the enemies he made." The man whom corruption is powerless to corrupt shall he not be hateful to corruption? His moral force had matched itself, not in vain against the "corrupt squadron." It may be a day will come when the force of words, beautiful as wise, in the speech upon the force bill, will strike home to the scorner: "Does any man in his senses believe that this beautiful structure—this harmonious aggregation of States, produced by the joint consent of all—can be preserved by force? Its very introduction will be the certain destruction of the Federal Union. No, no, you cannot keep the States united in their constitutional Federal bonds by force. Force may indeed hold the parts together, but such union would be the bond between master and slave; a union of exaction on one side, of unqualified obedience upon the other." The event which changed his hope into despair was the war with Mexico. He saw in the victory of war the direct menace to the victory of peace; in the midst of vociferation for the "rights of man," he saw the rights of States undone; an impracticable freedom made the pretext for the destruction of a possible and extant one. "Every senator," he said, "knows that I was opposed to that war, but no one knows but myself the depth of that opposition. With my conception of its character and consequences, it was impossible for me to vote for it." The smoke is rolling away from the