CHAPTER XXXI
THE DECLARATION OF WAR

IN March, 1829, when Henry Clay was the most conspicuous figure in American public life, he dined one Sunday with his political opponent, Samuel Harrison Smith, and the two fell to discussing the relative merits as statesmen of Madison and Jefferson. "Mr. Clay," says Mrs. Smith in an account of the dinner which she wrote to her son, "preferred Madison, and pronounced him after Washington our greatest Statesman & first political writer. He thought Jefferson had most genius--Madison, most judgment & common sense--Jefferson a visionary & theorist, often betrayed by his enthusiasm into rash & imprudent & impracticable measures--Madison, cool, dispassionate--practical, safe."*

It is not probable that Clay, who was an honourable man, would have used such language about Madison, if he himself had known that Madison was a man so ambitious and so weak that he was willing to buy a renomination to the presidency by plunging his country into an iniquitous war. Yet the Federalists charged that this was the very thing that Madison did, and that Clay sold the nomination for the war.

It was when news of more French outrages upon American commerce came, early in the summer of 1812, that, according to the story, Madison was visited by a committee of Republican leaders of the House of Representatives, with Henry Clay at the head, and informed that he must send a war message to Congress or the caucus of Republican members soon to be held would nominate some one

____________________
*
Family papers of J. Henley Smith, Esq., of Washington.

-316-

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