University of Virginia Library

Search this document 




My Dear Friend:—Haven't you been in a terrible kind of
a pucker ever since my last letter to you, to know what the
President was going to say about me and Daniel? If you
haven't I have. I never felt so uneasy for a fortnight hardly


Page 239
in my life. If I went to bed I couldn't sleep, and I've got up
and walked the floor as much as half the night almost every
night since. I've wished the bank to Guinea more than fifty
times, for there's been such a hubbub here about the bank this
fortnight past, that I couldn't get a moment's chance to talk
with the President about anything else. We'd have cabinet
meetings once in a while to see about moving the deposits,
and Mr. Duane, and Mr. Cass, and Mr. McLane would talk up
to the President so about it, that he'd conclude to let 'em
alone and do nothing about it, and let Congress manage it
jest as they'd a mind to. And then we'd go home, and Mr.
Kendil would come in and talk the matter over, and read
some great long letters from Mr. Van Buren, and get the
President so confused that he would lose all patience a'most.

But Mr. Kendil is the master feller to hang on that ever I
see; he's equal to the toothache. And he talked and palavered
with the President till he finally brought him over, and
then the President put his foot down, and said the deposits
should be moved, whether or no. And then the botheration
was to see who should move 'em. The President told Mr.
Duane to do it; but he said his conscience wouldn't let him.
Then the President told Mr. Taney to take Mr. Duane's place,
and see if his conscience would let him. Mr. Taney tried it,
and found his conscience went easy enough; so Mr. Duane
packed up and went home to Philadelphy. We were all
dreadful sorry to lose Mr. Duane, for he was a nice man
as you will see one in a thousand. It's a pity he had such a
stiff conscience; he might have staid here in the Treasury
jest as well as not, if it hadn't been for that.

But this storm about the bank begins to blow over, and
the President's got, in a manner, cooled down again. This
morning, after breakfast, we took the papers and letters jest
as we used to, and went away into the East Room to read


Page 240
the news and chat awhile; and it really did my heart good
to see the President set down once more looking so good-natured
in his great arm-chair smoking his cigar. After I had
read over the news to him awhile, and got him in pretty good
humor, I made bold to out with it, and says I, “Gineral, there's
one question I want to ask you.” And says he, “you know, Major,
I always allow you to ask me anything you're a mind to;
what is it?” “Well,” says I, “when we had that talk here,
about a fortnight ago, you begun to say something about me
and Daniel; and jest as you got into the middle of it, Mr.
Kendil come in, and broke it right off, short as a pipe-stem.
It's been running in my head ever since, and I've been half
crazy to know what it was you was going to say.” “Well,
let us see,” says the Gineral, “where was it I left off? for
this everlasting fuss about the bank has kept my head so full
I can't seem to remember much about it.”

“Why,” says I, “you was talking about nullification;
how the tops were beat down a little, but the roots were all
running about under ground as live as ever, and it wouldn't
be long before they'd be sprouting up again all over the
country, and there'd be a tougher scrabble to keep 'em down
than ever there had been yet; and then you said if I and
—, and there that plaguy Kendil came in—I've no
patience with him now when I think of it—and broke it right
off.” “Ah, now I remember,” says the Gineral, “how 'twas.
Well,” says he, “Major Downing, it is a solemn fact, this
country is to see a blacker storm of nullification, before many
years comes about, than ever it has seen yet; the clouds are
beginning to gather now; I've seen 'em rolling over South
Carolina, and hanging about Georgia, and edging along into
old Virginny, and I see the storm's a gathering; it must
come; and if there isn't somebody at the helm that knows
how to steer pretty well, the old ship must go down. I an't


Page 241
afraid,” says he, “but what I can keep her up while I have
the command, but I'm getting to be old, and must give up
soon, and then what'll become of her I don't know. But what
I was going to say was this: I've been thinking if you and
Daniel, after I give up, would put your heads together, and
take charge of her till the storm has blown over, you might
save her. And I don't know who else can.”

“But how do you mean, Gineral?” says I. “Why, to speak
plain,” says he, “if nullification shows its head, Daniel must
talk and you must fight. There's nothing else will do the
job for it that I know of. Daniel must go into the Presidential
chair, and you must take command of the army, and then
things will go straight.” At this I was a little struck up;
and I looked him right in the eye, and says I, “Gineral, do
you mean that Daniel Webster ought to be President after
you give up?” “Certainly,” says he, “if you want to keep
the country out of the jaws of nullification.” “But,” says I,
“Gineral, Daniel is a Federalist, a Hartford Convention
Federalist; and I should like to know which is worst, the
jaws of nullification, or the jaws of Federalism?” “The
jaws of a fiddlestick!” said the President, starting up and
throwing his cigar out of the window as much as two rods;
“but how do you know, Major Downing, that Daniel is a
Federalist?” “Because,” says I, “I've heard him called
so Down East more than a hundred times.” “And that's jest
all you know about it,” says he. “Now, I tell you how 'tis,
Major Downing, Daniel is as thorough a Republican as you
be, or as I be, and has been ever since my proclamation came
out against nullification. As soon as that proclamation came
out, Daniel came right over on to the Republican ground, and
took it upon his shoulder, and carried it through thick and
thin, where no other man in the country could have carried
it.” Says I, “Gineral, is that a fact?” And says he, “Yes,


Page 242
you may depend upon it, 'tis every word truth.” “Well,”
says I, “that alters the case a little, and I'll write to Uncle
Joshua and the editor of the Portland Courier, and see what
they think of it; and if they think it's best to have Daniel for
President we'll have him in, and I'll take my turn afterward;
for, seeing the people are bent upon having me for President,
I won't decline; though if it is thought best that I should
wait a little while, I won't be particular about that. I'm
willing to do that which will be best for the country.”

So I remain your loving friend,