Francis W. Pickens and the Politics of Destruction

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

5. A Litany of Destruction

B y midsummer 1845 the Oregon question, the tariff, agitation over slavery, even the prospects of war with both England and Mexico took a backseat to concerns over the havoc that a prolonged and severe drought was inflicting on South Carolina. Throughout the Southeast the news was bad. Prayers were offered, meetings held, and pending doom acknowledged. The disaster threatened starvation for the poor and deprivation for the more fortunate.

In the state's political circles, however, speculation continued as to who would succeed Huger and McDuffie in the Senate and whether Calhoun would run for the presidency in 1848. Much to the approval of the Calhoun faction, Blair and his Globe had not been retained as the official organ of Polk's administration. Its successor, the new Washington Union, was already engaged in battle with the Charleston Mercury over the Oregon question and Polk's lack of movement on the tariff. Although the Mercury was following the Calhoun line and advocating that the nation take a soft posture in regard to Oregon, this was not the view held by most Carolinians.1

Calhoun was being urged by his closest advisors, who were making plans for 1848, to "pursue a conciliatory course towards Polk's administration."2 Although Calhoun continued to differ with Polk, especially over Oregon and the tariff, he was disposed to accept his advisors' recommendations and did nothing to irritate the administration before returning to the Senate.3 Calhoun was urged to travel "as a private citizen and make no developments by speeches or otherwise."4Pickens, knowing that his kinsman was planning to visit his son Andrew in Alabama, urged him to continue his journey and visit New Orleans, Nashville, St. Louis, and Cincinnati.5 In his reply Calhoun indicated that he did not contemplate going beyond Mobile or New Orleans; as far as he was concerned, "my public life is terminated . . . I shall never return to it, unless the country should demand my services, and then only on the principal of duty." He maintained that, if he took an extensive trip West, he would be "construed as a seeker of public favour."6

Calhoun's course gave encouragement to Pickens. Even though Huger had offered to resign his Senate seat so that Calhoun could return to Washington, the Carolinian had made no such moves.7 As the days of summer passed, Pickens realized that only one vacancy would occur. Contrary to all expecta-

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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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