Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Patrick Henry-Onslow Debate: Liberty and Republicanism in American Political Thought

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Patrick Henry-Onslow Debate: Liberty and Republicanism in American Political Thought

Article excerpt

Patrick Henry-Onslow Debate: Liberty and Republicanism in American Political Thought. Edited by H. Lee Cheek Jr., Sean R. Busick, and Carey M. Roberts. (Lanham, Md., and other cities: Lexington Books, 2013. Pp. [xviii], 112. $70.00, ISBN 978-0-7391-2078-1.)

By the spring of 1826, John Quincy Adams's presidency seemed like a disaster. During a Senate debate on March 30, 1826, John Randolph, the acerbic senator from Virginia, insulted Secretary of State Henry Clay and President Adams by implying that they had formed a league of corruption in the government. On March 31, Clay demanded satisfaction from Randolph for his slighted honor, and the two men dueled on April 8. Though both men escaped injury, the incident exemplified the broken political process in Washington, D.C. After the duel, some writers charged that Vice President John C. Calhoun, in his role as Senate president, bore some responsibility for the duel by refusing to call John Randolph to order on March 30. On May 1, 1826, the National Journal of Washington published an essay by "Patrick Henry" attacking Calhoun as a man of "thirsty ambition" who had allowed Randolph to proceed only because the senator had attacked the Adams administration (p. 2). "Patrick Henry," answering a defender of Calhoun from the April 24 edition of the Washington National Intelligencer, noted that the vice president had failed to exercise the powers inherent in his office as Senate president. "Patrick Henry" dismissed excuses that the vice president's powers as Senate president were "appellate only" and that they did not extend to restricting a senator's freedom of speech in debate (p. 3). Calhoun responded on May 20, 1826, under the pseudonym "Onslow," after Sir Arthur Onslow, a famous Speaker of the House of Commons of Great Britain. …

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