Page:The American review - a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (1845).djvu/86
Mr. Clay—The Texas Question.
derived from the personal character of the man, and justifying the most enthusiastic admiration that could be felt for him. The views at present offered, however, are mainly grounded on his letter written last spring, in which he expresses his opinion on the annexation of Texas. It does really seem wonderful that lower considerations, arising from collateral aspects of the question, should have kept in the back-ground the truly elevated position Mr. Clay there assumes, especially when contrasted with that of others who have addressed the public on the same matter. Mr. Polk is for "immediate annexation" reason or no reason, come war come peace, irrespective of national honor, national treaties, the common law of mankind, and even the law of God himself. Gov. Cass and Gen. Jackson rise a little higher. They have a show of reasons, in its pretended importance as a military frontier; reasons, to be sure, which no man's common sense can appreciate, yet still they may be called reasons, if their authors will have it so. Mr. Van Buren, in a manner more honorable to himself, views the question in its relation to foreign nations, to peace and war, the present national treaties, and present obligations. Mr. Calhoun and the southern democrats advocate it on account of its tendency to perpetuate their favorite domestic institutions. The northern abolitionists take ground above all these, and oppose it because the measure is at war with the interests of freedom, and would extend the area of slavery. Mr. Clay, we hesitate not on saying, assumes a position even higher than this; a position which, for its abstract grandeur, ought to call forth the warm admiration of friend and foe, whether at the south or at the north, whether pro-slavery or ultra-abolitionist. It is a position characteristic of himself, because it exhibits that trait which has ever been most prominent during his whole public life. This letter shows him to be what he is, and ever has been, a rational man. Contrast with it the contemptible epistle of Polk to Kane, on the subject of protection; contrast with it the letters of the various democratic candidates, before the Baltimore ; contrast with it those miserable productions which, on the eve of an election, are sometimes drawn from men whom third parties, in their usual way, succeed in making hypocrites. The letter of Henry Clay is for the nation; it is for all time—for all similar cases. It contains words of wisdom, and maxims of statesmanship, that may be quoted, and, we believe, will be quoted, centuries hence. The temporary questions connected with Texas may, in a few years, cease to have any interest; even a war with Mexico, or with England, after having produced the usual amount of blood and death, would pass away, and might even leave some lessons of salutary wisdom to compensate, in some degree, for the evils it had occasioned. Much as such events are to be deprecated, their evils are temporary and remediable. So, also, may we say in regard to the bearings of the question on the subject of slavery, fraught, as they evidently are, with the most tremendous issues. Slavery is but an incident to bur original condition and present frame of government, and, be the period longer or shorter, will, in the course of events, have an end. Those who oppose the annexation on this account, do so from noble and elevated motives, and the majority of such, we are persuaded, will cordially support the man who agrees with them in the result, although he arrives at it from considerations more purely national, and more deeply connected with the vital interests of our confederacy. We say that there is a higher reason than those which are connected with the subject of slavery, and this is the reason which naturally and spontaneously presents itself to the mind of Henry Clay. Let us, in imagination, follow him to the retirement of his chamber, as he sits down to answer a request for an expression of his views on this subject. We may suppose him fully aware of the use to which such an answer will be applied; we may imagine the deep personal interest he has in so constructing it as to please the majority, from whose suffrages he is ardently desirous of obtaining the end of a noble ambition. All these influences would strongly concur in inducing him to view the question as other men do, in its merest temporary aspects; and to those temporary aspects he does give an attention commensurate with their importance. But this is not enough for Henry Clay; as he writes on, and his soul becomes warmed, all these considerations vanish. The fixed and long-cherished habits and thoughts of the statesman, which we may suppose, for a moment, to have been superseded by personal