Francis W. Pickens and the Politics of Destruction

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

3. A Vile Association

T he Speaker of the House of Representatives, James K. Polk, had decided to quit Congress in 1839 in order to seek the governorship of Tennessee. The campaign for a new speaker for the upcoming Twenty-sixth Congress, scheduled to convene in December, had begun early in the fall. Although Pickens was not in Washington during the period of early politicking, his chances were considered excellent, since he served as Calhoun's chief spokesman in the House and was also courted by the Van Buren administration. He had led the fight for the independent treasury and had helped bring about the new relationship between the senator and the president.1 The Van Buren leaders had caucused and decided that Pickens would be their choice. The Globe on 30 November announced that "the election of Mr. Pickens would give general satisfaction to the Democratic Party. His honesty and ability are known and appreciated." The New York Sun conceded that Pickens would be elected. All of this was done as a move to reaffirm the ever vulnerable alliance of expediency.2 In spite of reports appearing in some southern newspapers that F. H. Elmore's brother-in-law, Dixon H. Lewis of Alabama, desired the position, the administration's solid backing and Calhoun's presumed support seemed to pave the way for Pickens.3 Pickens probably worried little about Lewis's candidacy; after all, Calhoun, Rhett, and Hunter lived with him.4 Unfortunately, a family crisis and business affairs prevented him from being present at the initial caucuses. On 11 August Eliza, who had been ill for some time, gave birth to a son, Eldred; she had failed to recover from the ordeal, and her condition became critical. Afflicted by ulcers and with her patience exhausted, "she frequently wished for death."5 She was a woman of delicate health who had previously given birth to five daughters and a son. Her son, Andrew, and one daughter, Frances, had died in infancy; Susan, Eliza, Maria, and Rebecca needed her attention, however. In the spring of 1838 Pickens had decided to enlarge Edgewood, and surely all the construction was a taxing irritant for his wife. Servants had to be managed, and during the spring and summer of 1839 parties were given and guests were frequently present. Eliza's role in the life at Edgewood would have been enough to weaken the strongest constitution. Francis was of little help, as he was involved in politics or seeing to his nearly 6,000 acres of land and 189 slaves.

-47-

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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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