They knew that their blood and breeding, though making it probable that they would with proper effort succeed, yet entitled them to no success which they could not fairly earn in open contest with their rivals.--THEODORE ROOSEVELT.
WHEN the Blairs retired to Silver Spring, the Southern aristocracy was in its heyday. The newly rich family, surrounded by its slaves and tied by blood to the South, lived the full life of plantation owners while its head associated and corresponded with the Northern Democracy, the sentiment of which was fast rising against the extension of slavery. Blair's position was unique, but his conscience was torn by conflicting emotions. Should he lean toward the Slavocracy and all it stood for, or should he stand with Benton and Van Buren, Wright and Wilmot? His love for his country was to determine his course. Stephen Decatur said: "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong." The sentiment was, in effect, that of the Blairs. "The Constitution, it must be preserved," was their belief. What the Constitution was, and what it should be, were questions which had been answered by Jefferson and Jackson. While the father of the Blair family thumbed the Jackson letters to refresh his memory with Jacksonian philosophy, his country took its greatest leap in the attainment of its present boundaries.
The time was one of great change. Large caravans plodded along the long trails to the West. Thousands of farmers trekked to Oregon, and thousands sought the gold regions of California, where gathered adventurers from all over the world. The Isthmus of Panama assumed significance in the eyes of Americans.