Francis W. Pickens and the Politics of Destruction

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

4. Harbinger of Doom

I n early 1843 the campaign was not going well. Money was in short supply, and coordination was poor. Calhoun worried that Van Buren's successes would destroy his presidential plans.1 The new tariff measure threatened to become disruptive. Even though Pickens urged Calhoun to "reflect cooly and calmly" upon the steps he might take in the next year, he admitted that he "would appeal to arms and the God of battles sooner than acquiesce permanently" in the principles of the tariff. He urged his kinsman not to make "an open rupture from the great mass of the Republican party" and to "wait and try every reasonable remedy: in hopes of sustaining the highest measures of redress."2

In a letter dated 14 July 1843, Pickens outlined all the difficulties that the Calhoun forces were encountering and as if to say, "I told you so" reminded Calhoun of the advice he had given that had not been taken.3 Pickens felt that Calhoun's chances of receiving the nomination were rapidly diminishing, so he reminded his kinsman of his generosity and work on his behalf.4 It is obvious that Pickens considered Calhoun to be the problem--he had lost his former ability to capture the public imagination. He still had the same followers, but they, too, had changed. Pickens analyzed the situation: "And where are your men--who are your friends? McDuffie (although honest) is broken down, and will be a splendid failure as soon as he gets into the Senate. Robert Y. Hayne is dead, and James Hamilton might as well be . . . Rhett is energetic, but entirely selfish and totally bankrupt--and is looking solely to office. Elmore is in the same condition. Hunter is a pure and intellectual man, but has no action or influence in Virginia. Lewis is energetic and talented, but is carried off by impulse . . . and besides he is too fat to be very active."5

The Calhoun forces found that, despite their efforts at containing anti-tariff feelings, the state was on the verge of creating a protest. This would be perceived by the North as another radical move on the part of South Carolina. Pickens suggested to Governor James Hammond, who still clung to the tenets of nullification, that "some sort of resolution ought to be prepared on the subject of the tariff, but let them be temperate and dignified. We ought to pass nothing that would look like a threat."6 The tariff was becoming the great sore spot that threatened to undo Calhoun's presidential plans. Before the passage of the tariff of 1842, southern leaders had worked diligently but unsuccessfully

-71-

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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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