University of Virginia Library

Search this document 




My Kind and Dear Old Friend:—The President's message
to Congress makes cracking work here. Mr. Calhoun shows
his teeth like a lion. Mr. McDuffie is cool as a cowcumber,[1]


Page 184
though they say he's got a terrible tempest inside of him, that
he'll let out before long. For my part, I think the President's
message is about right. I was setting with the President in
the east room last night, chatting about one thing and another,
and the President says he, “Major Downing, have you read
my message that I sent to Congress to-day.” I told him I


Page 185
hadn't. “Well,” says he, “I should like to have you read it
and give me your opinion upon it.” So he handed it to me,
and I sot down and read it through.

And when I got through, “Now,” says I, “Gineral, I'll tell
you jest what I think of this ere business. When I was a
youngster, some of us Downingville boys used to go down to


Page 186
Sebago Pond every spring and hire out a month or two rafting
logs across the pond. And one time I and Cousin Ephraim,
and Joel, and Bill Johnson, and two or three more of us had
each a whopping great log to carry across the pond. It was
rather a windy day, and the waves kept the logs bobbing up
and down pretty considerable bad, so we agreed to bring 'em
along side-and-side and lash 'em together and drive some
thole-pins in the outermost logs and row 'em over together.
We went along two or three miles pretty well. But by and
by Bill Johnson begun to complain. He was always an uneasy,
harum-scarum sort of a chap. Always thought everybody
else had an easier time than he had, and, when he was
a boy, always used to be complaining that the other boys had
more butter on their bread than he had. Well, Bill was rowing
on the leward side, and he begun to fret and said his side
went the hardest, and he wouldn't give us any peace till one
of us changed sides with him.

No Page Number


Page 188

“Well, Bill hadn't rowed but a little ways on the winward
side before he began to fret again, and declared that side went
harder than t'other, and he wouldn't touch to row on that side
any longer. We told him he had his choice, and he shouldn't
keep changing so. But he only fretted the more, and begun to
get mad. At last he declared if we didn't change with him in
five minutes, he'd cut the lashings and take his log and paddle
off alone. And before we had hardly time to turn round, he declared
the five minutes were out, and up hatchet and cut the
lashings, and away went Bill on his own log, bobbing and
rolling about, and dancing like a monkey, to try to keep on
the upper side. The rest of us scrabbled to as well as we
could, and fastened our logs together again, though we had a
tough match for it, the wind blew so hard. Bill hadn't gone
but a little ways before his log begun to roll more and more,
and by and by in he went splash, head and ears. He came up
puffing and blowing, and got hold of the log and tried to
climb up on to it, but the more he tried the more the log
rolled; and finding it would be gone goose with him pretty
soon if he staid there, he begun to sing out like a loon for us
to come and take him. We asked him which side he would
row if we would take his log into the raft again. `Oh,' says
Bill, `I'll row on either side or both sides if you want me to,
if you'll only come and help me before I sink.'”

“But,” said the President, “I hope you didn't help the foolish
rascal out till he got a pretty good soaking.” “He got
soaked enough before we got to him,” says I, “for he was just
ready to sink for the last time, and our logs come pesky near
getting scattered, and if they had, we should all gone to the
bottom together. And now, Gineral, this is jest what I think:
if you let South Carolina cut the lashings you'll see such a
log-rolling in this country as you never see yet.” The old
Gineral started up and marched across the floor like a boy.


Page 189
Says he, “Major Downing, she shan't cut the lashings while
my name is Andrew Jackson. Tell Sargent Joel to have his
company sleep on their arms every night.” I told him they
should be ready at a moment's warning.

I wish you would jest give Cousin Ephraim, up to Augusta,
a jog to know why he don't write to me and let me know how
the Legislater is getting along.

I remain your loving friend,


Editorial Note.—South Carolina took very violent ground against Mr.
Clay's American system, and especially against the tariff for the protection
of manufactures, threatening to nullify the tariff law, and in case an attempt
was made to enforce it, to secede from the Union. And notwithstanding the
triumphant election of General Jackson, in 1832, gave ample assurance that
all she had asked and desired would soon be accomplished, she refused to be
pacified, and, like a rowdy in a passion, declared she'd have a fight anyhow.
Accordingly, in less than three weeks after the triumph of her principles in
the overwhelming re-election of General Jackson, on the 24th of November,
she issued her famous Nullification Ordinance, under the following title: “An
ordinance to nullify certain acts of the Congress of the United States, purporting
to be laws laying duties and imposts on the importation of foreign
This ordinance, after enumerating the grievances complained of under the
acts of Congress, and requiring all the officials of the State to take an oath,
“well and truly to obey, execute and enforce this ordinance, and such act or
acts of the Legislature as may be passed in pursuance thereof,” goes on to
“And we, the people of South Carolina, to the end that it may be fully
understood by the Government of the United States and the people of the
co-States, that we are determined to maintain this, our ordinance and declaration,
at every hazard, do further declare that we will not submit to the application
of force, on the part of the Federal Government, to reduce this
State to obedience,” &c.; and, finally, that any attempt to enforce these acts
of Congress shall be considered “inconsistent with the longer continuance
of South Carolina in the Union; and that the people of this State will henceforth
hold themselves absolved from all further obligation to maintain or
preserve the political connection with the people of the other States, and will
forthwith proceed to organize a separate Government, and do all other acts
and things which sovereign and independent States may of right do.”
This ordinance was the act of a State Convention, held at Columbia, and
was signed by more than a hundred of the most prominent and influential
men of the State. It was to take effect on the first day of February following,
and placed the State in open rebellion to the General Government. The
ordinance was officially communicated to President Jackson early in December,
and on the 10th of that month the President issued his famous proclamation
against Nullification.
This was an able and patriotic document, and added
much to the popularity of the President among all conservative citizens
throughout the country; so much so that, according to the testimony of
Major Downing and Uncle Joshua, the Democrats of Downingville had the
greatest difficulty imaginable to keep the Federal party from praising it.
After an elaborate constitutional argument upon the subject, in which
South Carolina is shown to be clearly and grossly in the wrong, the President
makes a touching and forcible appeal to the feelings and patriotism of the
citizens of that State, from which we make some brief quotations:
“Fellow-citizens of my native State, let me not only admonish you, as the
first Magistrate of our common country, not to incur the penalty of its laws,
but use the influence that a father would over his children whom he saw rushing
to certain ruin,” &c. * * * * *
“You are free members of a flourishing and happy Union. There is no
settled design to oppress you. You have, indeed, felt the unequal operation
of laws which may have been unwisely, not unconstitutionally, passed; but
that inequality must, necessarily be removed. At the very moment when
you were madly urged on to the unfortunate course you have begun, a change
in the public opinion had commenced.” * * *
“I adjure you, as you value the peace of your country, the lives of its
best citizens, and your own fair fame, to retrace your steps. Snatch from
the archives of your State the disorganizing edict of its Convention; bid its
members to re-assemble, and promulgate the decided expressions of your will
to remain in the path which alone can conduct you to safety, prosperity and
honor. Tell them that, compared to disunion, all other evils are light, because
that brings with it an accumulation of all. Declare that you will never
take the field unless the star spangled banner of your country shall float over
you; that you will not be stigmatized when dead, and dishonored and
scorned while you live, as the authors of the first attack on the Constitution
of your country. Its destroyers you cannot be. You may disturb its peace;
you may interrupt the course of its prosperity; you may cloud its reputation
for stability, but its tranquility will be restored, its prosperity will return,
and the stain upon its national character will be transferred, and remain
an eternal blot on the memory of those who caused the disorder.”
The proclamation then closes with an appeal to the citizens of the United
States. We make a brief extract or two:
“Fellow-citizens of the United States:—The threat of unballowed disunion,
the names of those, once respected, by whom it is uttered, the array of military
force to support it, denote the approach of a crisis in our affairs on
which the continuance of our unexampled prosperity, our political existence,
and perhaps that of all free Governments may depend. Having the fullest
confidence in the justness of the legal and constitutional opinion of my
duties which has been expressed, I rely with equal confidence on your undivided
support in my determination to execute the laws—to preserve the
Union by all constitutional means—to arrest, if possible, by moderate, but
firm measures, the necessity of a recourse to force.”
“Fellow-citizens:—The momentous case is before you. On your undivided
support of your Government depends the decision of the great question it
involves, whether your sacred Union will be preserved, and the blessings it
secures to us as one people shall be perpetuated. No one can doubt that the
unanimity with which that decision will be expressed will be such as to inspire
new confidence in republican institutions, and that the prudence, the
wisdom and the courage which it will bring to their defense will transmit
them, unimpaired and invigorated, to our children.”