The Francis Preston Blair Family in Politics - Vol. 1

By William Ernest Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
POLITICAL CROSSROADS

We ought to weigh well what we can only once decide.

-- PUBLIUS SYRUS.

THE campaign of 1824 opened with five prominent aspirants to the office of President. They were Henry Clay, "the mill-boy of the slashes," and affectionately termed "Harry of the West"; Crawford of Georgia; young John C. Calhoun of South Carolina; John Q. Adams of New England; and Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, already known far and wide as the hero of New Orleans. Since about 1815 Clay had been watching the growing esteem of the Westerners for Jackson. He had seen his American System become a political question over which the fight became one of Democrats against Democrats. His system had gradually been adopted by New England as her factories had multiplied. The middle group of states had enthusiastically adopted the plan, but the South turned a cold shoulder to it. Southern antipathy for the system increased as the cotton planters came more and more into political leadership. This opposition was Clay's chief source of weakness and finally proved to be the factor which kept him from the presidency.

Clay earned his reputation by dint of long and useful service. He was fully entitled to recognition as one of the foremost political leaders. But there was growing up in the West a set of young men whose hearts beat for a hero of a different type from that of the statesman and politician. Jeffersonian democracy, so long in power, was growing more conservative as it became older. The new western democracy, which was to borrow the name of Jackson, was on the threshold of power. To stem the growing popularity of his antagonist from Tennessee, Clay, in the halls of Congress, hurled his anathema at General Jackson who had invaded

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