Francis W. Pickens and the Politics of Destruction

By John B. Edmunds Jr. | Go to book overview

2. A Provocative Course

D uring the spring of 1834 the battle over nullification was closing, but the seeds of suspicion and disunion were sown. The nullification issue continued to cause disharmony within the state, and for a while Calhoun found himself being led, rather than leading. It was time for factional differences to be put away in order that larger issues facing the state and nation might be addressed.1"This is no time for discord," Calhoun wrote to Pickens, "the period is eminently perilous."2 A South Carolina appellate court's decision to declare unconstitutional the test oath of loyalty that had been required by the nullification convention and upheld by the Palmetto legislature was irritating to the ultra-Nullifiers. This verdict threatened again to open the floodgates of controversy and to disrupt the excitable Carolinians. Calhoun, whose own political plans depended on concert at home, wrote his kinsman, "Take no rash, or violent measure; do nothing that can excite sympathy for our opponents, or endanger the peace of the state . . . let every nerve be exerted to carry the fall election; but in the meantime let all other movements be suspended."3

As tenuous peace once again settled over the state, Pickens was given an opportunity to turn from politics to other pursuits. He had recently moved his growing family into his new home at Edgewood plantation. The house, which his father had begun building for him in 1829, was constructed in stages and was of a rambling one-story design on nine-foot stone pylons. It was noted for its large rooms, gleaming mahogany furniture, paintings, and other works of art; the well-stocked library reflected Pickens's love for intellectual pursuits and the good life. The gardens were laid out in a formal English design with statuary and boxwoods, and near the garden was a pond that enhanced the view from the house. The most unique feature of Edgewood was an avenue of intertwined cedars; this route was lighted on festive occasions with bonfires of fat pine to guide guests to the house.4 Although his cotton crop for 1833 had been "very short" because of wet, cold weather, Pickens continued to add to his acreage by buying more land adjacent to his Edgefield and Selma, Alabama, properties.5 Like the holding of political office, the acquisition of land and slaves was a visible sign of power and importance. In gaining property Pickens was both fortunate and shrewd. As executor of Eldred Simkins's estate, he managed his wife's property and that of Simkins's other heirs. In

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Francis W. Pickens and the Politics of Destruction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1. Young Radical 3
  • 2. a Provocative Course 21
  • 3. a Vile Association 47
  • 4. Harbinger of Doom 71
  • 5. a Litany of Destruction 95
  • 6. an Insolvable Dilemma 112
  • 7. a Mere Office-Seeker 120
  • 8. the Rose of Texas 137
  • 9. a Fire-Eater Down to the Ground 150
  • 10. Governor and Council 167
  • 11- "There Can Lay No Peace for Me" 173
  • Notes 183
  • Bibliography 223
  • Index 241
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