History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson/First/I:5
Chapter 5: Intellect of the Southern States
Between Pennsylvania and Virginia stretched no barrier of mountains or deserts. Nature seemed to mean that the northern State should reach toward the Chesapeake, and embrace its wide system of coasts and rivers. The Susquehanna, crossing Pennsylvania from north to south, rolled down wealth which in a few years built the city of Baltimore by the surplus of Pennsylvania's resources. Any part of Chesapeake Bay, or of the streams which flowed into it, was more easily accessible to Baltimore than any part of Massachusetts or Pennsylvania to New York. Every geographical reason argued that the Susquehanna, the Potomac, and the James should support one homogeneous people; yet the intellectual difference between Pennsylvania and Virginia was already more sharply marked than that between New England and the Middle States.
The old Virginia society was still erect, priding itself on its resemblance to the society of England, which had produced Hampden and Chatham. The Virginia gentleman, wherever met, was a country gentleman or a lawyer among a society of planters. The absence of city life was the sharpest characteristic of Virginia, even compared with South Carolina. In the best and greatest of Virginians, the virtues which always stood in most prominence were those of the field and farm,—the simple and straightforward mind, the notions of courage and truth, the absence of mercantile sharpness and quickness, the rusticity and open-handed hospitality, which could exist only where the struggle for life was hardly a struggle at all. No visitor could resist the charm of kindly sympathy which softened the asperities of Virginian ambition. Whether young Albert Gallatin went there, hesitating between Europe and America, or the still younger William Ellery Channing, with all New England on his active conscience, the effect was the same:—
- "I blush for my own people," wrote Channing from Richmond in 1799, "when I compare the selfish prudence of a Yankee with the generous confidence of a Virginian. Here I find great vices, but greater virtues than I left behind me. There is one single trait which attaches me to the people I live with more than all the virtues of New England,—they love money less than we do; they are more disinterested; their patriotism is not tied to their purse-strings. Could I only take from the Virginians their sensuality and their slaves, I should think them the greatest people in the world. As it is, with a few great virtues, they have innumerable vices."
Even forty years afterward, so typical a New Englander as the poet Bryant acknowledged that "whatever may be the comparison in other respects, the South certainly has the advantage over us in point of manners." Manners were not all their charm; for the Virginians at the close of the eighteenth century were inferior to no class of Americans in the sort of education then supposed to make refinement. The Duc de Liancourt bore witness:—
- "In spite of the Virginian love for dissipation, the taste for reading is commoner there among men of the first class than in any other part of America; but the populace is perhaps more ignorant there than elsewhere."
Those whom Liancourt called "men of the first class" were equal to any standard of excellence known to history. Their range was narrow, but within it they were supreme. The traditions of high breeding were still maintained, and a small England, much as it existed in the time of the Commonwealth, was perpetuated in the Virginia of 1800. Social position was a birthright, not merely of the well born, but of the highly gifted. Nearly all the great lawyers of Virginia were of the same social stock as in New England,—poor and gifted men, welcomed into a landed aristocracy simple in tastes and genial in temper. Chief-Justice Marshall was such a man, commanding respect and regard wherever he was seen,—perhaps most of all from New Englanders, who were least familiar with the type. George Mason was an ideal republican,—a character as strong in its way as Washington or Marshall. George Wythe the Chancellor stood in the same universal esteem; and even his young clerk Henry Clay, "the mill-boy of the slashes," who had lately left Chancellor Wythe's office to set up one of his own at Lexington in Kentucky, inherited that Virginia geniality which, as it ripened with his years, made him an idol among Northern and Western multitudes who knew neither the source nor secret of his charm. Law and politics were the only objects of Virginian thought; but within these bounds the Virginians achieved triumphs. What could America offer in legal literature that rivalled the judicial opinions of Chief-Justice Marshall? What political essay equalled the severe beauty of George Mason's Virginia Bill of Rights? What single production of an American pen reached the fame of Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence? "The Virginians are the best orators I ever heard," wrote the young Channing; although Patrick Henry, the greatest of them all, was no longer alive.
Every one admitted that Virginia society was ill at ease. In colonial days it rested on a few great props, the strongest being its close connection with England; and after this had been cut away by the Revolutionary War, primogeniture, the Church, exemption of land from seizure for debt, and negro slavery remained to support the oligarchy of planters. The momentum given by the Declaration of Independence enabled Jefferson and George Wythe to sweep primogeniture from the statute book. After an interval of several years, Madison carried the law which severed Church from State. There the movement ended. All the great Virginians would gladly have gone on, but the current began to flow against them. They suggested a bill for emancipation, but could find no one to father it in the legislature, and they shrank from the storm it would excite.
President Washington, in 1796, in a letter already quoted, admitted that land in Virginia was lower in price than land of the same quality in Pennsylvania. For this inferiority he suggested, among other reasons, the explanation that Pennsylvania had made laws for the gradual abolition of slavery, and he declared nothing more certain than that Virginia must adopt similar laws at a period not remote. Had the Virginians seen a sure prospect that such a step would improve their situation, they would probably have taken it; but the slave-owners were little pleased at the results of reforms already effected, and they were in no humor for abolishing more of their old institutions. The effects of disestablishing the Church were calculated to disgust them with all reform. From early times the colony had been divided into parishes, and each parish owned a church building. The system was the counterpart of that established in New England. The church lands, glebes, and endowments were administered by the clergyman, wardens, and vestry. Good society in Virginia recognized no other religion than was taught in this branch of English episcopacy. "Sure I am of one thing," was the remark in the Virginia legislature of an old-fashioned Federalist, with powdered hair, three-cornered hat, long queue, and white top-boots,—"Sure I am of one thing, that no gentleman would choose any road to heaven but the Episcopal." Every plantation was attached to a parish, and the earliest associations of every well-bred man and woman in Virginia were connected with the Church service. In spite of all this, no sooner had Madison and his friends taken away the support of the State than the Church perished. They argued that freedom of religion worked well in Pennsylvania, and therefore must succeed in Virginia; but they were wrong. The Virginia gentry stood by and saw their churches closed, the roofs rot, the aisles and pews become a refuge for sheep and foxes, the tombstones of their ancestry built into strange walls or turned into flagging to be worn by the feet of slaves. By the year 1800, Bishop Madison found his diocese left so nearly bare of clergy and communicants that after a few feeble efforts to revive interest he abandoned the struggle, and contented himself with the humbler task of educating boys at the ancient College of William and Mary in the deserted colonial capital of Williamsburg. There the English traveller Weld visited him about the year 1797, and gave a curious picture of his establishment:—
- "The Bishop," he said, "is president of the college, and has apartments in the buildings. Half-a-dozen or more of the students, the eldest about twelve years old, dined at his table one day that I was there. Some were without shoes or stockings, others without coats. During dinner they constantly rose to help themselves at the sideboard. A couple of dishes of salted meat and some oyster-soup formed the whole of the dinner."
Such a state of society was picturesque, but not encouraging. An aristocracy so lacking in energy and self-confidence was a mere shell, to be crushed, as one might think, by a single vigorous blow. Nevertheless, Jefferson and Madison, after striking it again and again with the full force of Revolutionary violence, were obliged to desist, and turned their reforming axes against the Church and hierarchy of New England. There they could do nothing but good, for the society of New England was sound, whatever became of the Church or of slavery; but in Virginia the gap which divided gentry from populace was enormous; and another gap, which seemed impassable, divided the populace from the slaves. Jefferson's reforms crippled and impoverished the gentry, but did little for the people, and for the slaves nothing.
Nowhere in America existed better human material than in the middle and lower classes of Virginians. As explorers, adventurers, fighters,—wherever courage, activity, and force were wanted,—they had no equals; but they had never known discipline, and were beyond measure jealous of restraint. With all their natural virtues and indefinite capacities for good, they were rough and uneducated to a degree that shocked their own native leaders. Jefferson tried in vain to persuade them that they needed schools. Their character was stereotyped, and development impossible; for even Jefferson, with all his liberality of ideas, was Virginian enough to discourage the introduction of manufactures and the gathering of masses in cities, without which no new life could grow. Among the common people, intellectual activity was confined to hereditary commonplaces of politics, resting on the axiom that Virginia was the typical society of a future Arcadian America. To escape the tyranny of Cæsar by perpetuating the simple and isolated lives of their fathers was the sum of their political philosophy; to fix upon the national government the stamp of their own idyllic conservatism was the height of their ambition.
Debarred from manufactures, possessed of no shipping, and enjoying no domestic market, Virginian energies necessarily knew no other resource than agriculture. Without church, university, schools, or literature in any form that required or fostered intellectual life, the Virginians concentrated their thoughts almost exclusively upon politics; and this concentration produced a result so distinct and lasting, and in character so respectable, that American history would lose no small part of its interest in losing the Virginia school.
No one denied that Virginia, like Massachusetts, in the War of Independence, believed herself competent to follow independently of other provinces whatever path seemed good. The Constitution of Virginia did not, like that of Massachusetts, authorize the governor to "be the commander-in-chief of the army and navy," in order "to take and surprise, by all ways and means whatsoever, all and every such person or persons (with their ships, arms, ammunition, and other goods) as shall in a hostile manner invade or attempt the invading, conquering, or annoying this Commonwealth;" but although Massachusetts expressed the power in language more detailed, Virginia held to its essence with equal tenacity. When experience showed the necessity of" creating a more perfect union, "none of the great States were unanimous for the change. Massachusetts and New York were with difficulty induced to accept the Constitution of 1787. Their final assent was wrung from them by the influence of the cities and of the commercial class; but Virginia contained no cities and few merchants. The majority by which the State Convention of Virginia, after an obstinate contest, adopted the Constitution, was influenced by pure patriotism as far as any political influence could be called pure; but the popular majority was probably hostile to the Constitution, and certainly remained hostile to the exercise of its powers. From the first the State took an attitude of opposition to the national government, which became more and more decided, until in 1798 it found expression in a formal announcement, through the legislature and governor, that the limit of further obedience was at hand. The General Assembly adopted Resolutions promising support to the government of the United States in all measures warranted by the Constitution, but declaring the powers of the federal government "no further valid than they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by said compact, the States who are parties thereto have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose, for arresting the progress of the evil and for maintaining within their respective limits the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them."
Acting immediately on this view, the General Assembly did interpose by declaring certain laws, known as the Alien and Sedition Laws, unconstitutional, and by inviting the other States to concur, in confidence "that the necessary and proper measures will be taken by each for co-operating with this State in maintaining unimpaired the authorities, rights, and liberties reserved to the States respectively or to the people."
These Virginia Resolutions, which were drawn by Madison, seemed strong enough to meet any possible aggression from the national government; but Jefferson, as though not quite satisfied with these, recommended the Kentucky legislature to adopt still stronger. The draft of the Kentucky Resolutions, whether originally composed or only approved by him, representing certainly his own convictions, declared that "where powers are assumed which have not been delegated a nullification of the Act is the rightful remedy," and "that every State has a natural right, in cases not within the compact, to nullify of their own authority all assumptions of power by others within their limits." Jefferson did not doubt "that the co-States, recurring to their natural right in cases not made federal, will concur in declaring these acts void and of no force, and will each take measures of its own for providing that neither these acts, nor any others of the federal government not plainly and intentionally authorized by the Constitution, shall be exercised within their respective territories."
In the history of Virginia thought, the personal opinions of Jefferson and Madison were more interesting, if not more important, than the official opinion of State legislatures. Kentucky shrank from using language which seemed unnecessarily violent, but still declared, with all the emphasis needed, that the national government was not "the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself, since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers," but that each party had an equal right to judge for itself as to an infraction of the compact, and the proper redress; that in the case of the Alien and Sedition Laws the compact had been infringed, and that these Acts, being unconstitutional and therefore void, "may tend to drive these States into revolution and blood;" finally, the State of Kentucky called for an expression of sentiment from other States, like Virginia not doubting "that the co-States, recurring to their natural right in cases not made federal, will concur in declaring these Acts void and of no force."
These famous Resolutions of Virginia and Kentucky, historically the most interesting of all the intellectual products of the Virginia school, were adopted in 1798 and 1799. In 1800, Jefferson their chief author was chosen President of the United States, and Madison became his Secretary of State. Much discussion then and afterward arose over the Constitutional theory laid down by Virginia and Kentucky, and thus apparently adopted by the Union; but in such cases of disputed powers that theory was soundest which was backed by the strongest force, for the sanction of force was the most necessary part of law. The United States government was at that time powerless to enforce its theories; while, on the other hand, Virginia had all the power necessary for the object desired. The Republican leaders believed that the State was at liberty to withdraw from the Union if it should think that an infraction of the Constitution had taken place; and Jefferson in 1798 preferred to go on by way of Resolution rather than by way of Secession, not because of any doubt as to the right, but because, "if we now reduce our Union to Virginia and North Carolina, immediately the conflict will be established between those two States, and they will end by breaking into their simple units." In other letters he explained that the Kentucky Resolutions were intended "to leave the matter in such a train as that we may not be committed absolutely to push the matter to extremities, and yet may be free to push as far as events will render prudent." Union was a question of expediency, not of obligation. This was the conviction of the true Virginia school, and of Jefferson's opponents as well as his supporters; of Patrick Henry, as well as John Taylor of Caroline and John Randolph of Roanoke.
The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, giving form to ideas that had not till then been so well expressed, left a permanent mark in history, and fixed for an indefinite time the direction and bounds of Virginia politics; but if New England could go no further in the lines of thought pursued by Fisher Ames and Timothy Dwight, Virginia could certainly expect no better results from those defined by Jefferson and Madison. The science of politics, if limited by the Resolutions of Virginia and Kentucky, must degenerate into an enumeration of powers reserved from exercise. Thought could find little room for free development where it confined its action to narrowing its own field.
This tendency of the Virginia school was the more remarkable because it seemed little suited to the tastes and instincts of the two men who gave it expression and guided its course. By common consent Thomas Jefferson was its intellectual leader. According to the admitted standards of greatness, Jefferson was a great man. After all deductions on which his enemies might choose to insist, his character could not be denied elevation, versatility, breadth, insight, and delicacy; but neither as a politician nor as a political philosopher did he seem at ease in the atmosphere which surrounded him. As a leader of democracy he appeared singularly out of place. As reserved as President Washington in the face of popular familiarities, he never showed himself in crowds. During the last thirty years of his life he was not seen in a Northern city, even during his Presidency; nor indeed was he seen at all except on horseback, or by his friends and visitors in his own house. With manners apparently popular and informal, he led a life of his own, and allowed few persons to share it. His tastes were for that day excessively refined. His instincts were those of a liberal European nobleman, like the Due de Liancourt, and he built for himself at Monticello a chateau above contact with man. The rawness of political life was an incessant torture to him, and personal attacks made him keenly unhappy. His true delight was in an intellectual life of science and art. To read, write, speculate in new lines of thought, to keep abreast of the intellect of Europe, and to feed upon Homer and Horace, were pleasures more to his mind than any to be found in a public assembly. He had some knowledge of mathematics, and a little acquaintance with classical art; but he fairly revelled in what he believed to be beautiful, and his writings often betrayed subtile feeling for artistic form,—a sure mark of intellectual sensuousness. He shrank from whatever was rough or coarse, and his yearning for sympathy was almost feminine. That such a man should have ventured upon the stormy ocean of politics was surprising, the more because he was no orator, and owed nothing to any magnetic influence of voice or person. Never effective in debate, for seventeen years before his Presidency he had not appeared in a legislative body except in the chair of the Senate. He felt a nervous horror for the contentiousness of such assemblies, and even among his own friends he sometimes abandoned for the moment his strongest convictions rather than support them by an effort of authority.
If Jefferson appeared ill at case in the position of a popular leader, he seemed equally awkward in the intellectual restraints of his own political principles. His mind shared little in common with the provincialism on which the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions were founded. His instincts led him to widen rather than to narrow the bounds of every intellectual exercise; and if vested with political authority, he could no more resist the temptation to stretch his powers than he could abstain from using his mind on any subject merely because he might be drawn upon ground supposed to be dangerous. He was a deist, believing that men could manage their own salvation without the help of a state church. Prone to innovation, he sometimes generalized without careful analysis. He was a theorist, prepared to risk the fate of mankind on the chance of reasoning far from certain in its details. His temperament was sunny and sanguine, and the atrabilious philosophy of New England was intolerable to him. He was curiously vulnerable, for he seldom wrote a page without exposing himself to attack. He was superficial in his knowledge, and a martyr to the disease of omniscience. Ridicule of his opinions and of himself was an easy task, in which his Federalist opponents delighted, for his English was often confused, his assertions inaccurate, and at times of excitement he was apt to talk with indiscretion; while with all his extraordinary versatility of character and opinions, he seemed during his entire life to breathe with perfect satisfaction nowhere except in the liberal, literary, and scientific air of Paris in 1789.
Jefferson aspired beyond the ambition of a nationality, and embraced in his view the whole future of man. That the United States should become a nation like France, England, or Russia, should conquer the world like Rome, or develop a typical race like the Chinese, was no part of his scheme. He wished to begin a new era. Hoping for a time when the world's ruling interests should cease to be local and should become universal; when questions of boundary and nationality should become insignificant; when armies and navies should be reduced to the work of police, and politics should consist only in non-intervention,—he set himself to the task of governing, with this golden age in view. Few men have dared to legislate as though eternal peace were at hand, in a world torn by wars and convulsions and drowned in blood; but this was what Jefferson aspired to do. Even in such dangers, he believed that Americans might safely set an example which the Christian world should be led by interest to respect and at length to imitate. As he conceived a true American policy, war was a blunder, an unnecessary risk; and even in case of robbery and aggression the United States, he believed, had only to stand on the defensive in order to obtain justice in the end. He would not consent to build up a new nationality merely to create more navies and armies, to perpetuate the crimes and follies of Europe; the central government at Washington should not be permitted to indulge in the miserable ambitions that had made the Old World a hell, and frustrated the hopes of humanity.
With these humanitarian ideas which passed beyond the bounds of nationality, Jefferson held other views which seemed narrower than ordinary provincialism. Cities, manufactures, mines, shipping, and accumulation of capital led, in his opinion, to corruption and tyranny.
- "Generally speaking," said he, in his only elaborate work, the Notes on Virginia, "the proportion which the aggregate of the other classes of citizens bears in any State to that of its husbandmen is the proportion of its unsound to its healthy parts, and is a good enough barometer whereby to measure its degree of corruption. . . . Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue."
This doctrine was not original with Jefferson, but its application to national affairs on a great scale was something new in the world, and the theory itself clashed with his intellectual instincts of liberality and innovation.
A school of political thought, starting with postulates like these, was an interesting study, and would have been more interesting had Jefferson's friends undertaken to develop his ideas in the extent he held them. Perhaps this was impossible. At all events, Madison, although author of the Virginia Resolutions, showed little earnestness in carrying out their principles either as a political or as a literary task; and John Taylor of Caroline, the only consistent representative of the school, began his writings only when political power had established precedents inconsistent with their object.
With such simple conceptions as their experience gave them in politics, law, and agriculture, the Virginians appeared to be satisfied; and whether satisfied or not, they were for the time helpless to produce other literature, science, or art. From the three States lying farther south, no greater intellectual variety could be expected. In some respects North Carolina, though modest in ambition and backward in thought, was still the healthiest community south of the Potomac. Neither aristocratic like Virginia and South Carolina, nor turbulent like Georgia, nor troubled by a sense of social importance, but above all thoroughly democratic, North Carolina tolerated more freedom of political action and showed less family and social influence, fewer vested rights in political power, and less tyranny of slaveholding interests and terrors than were common elsewhere in the South. Neither cultivated nor brilliant in intellect, nor great in thought, industry, energy, or organization, North Carolina was still interesting and respectable. The best qualities of the State were typified in its favorite representative, Nathaniel Macon.
The small society of rice and cotton planters at Charleston, with their cultivated tastes and hospitable habits, delighted in whatever reminded them of European civilization. They were travellers, readers, and scholars; the society of Charleston compared well in refinement with that of any city of its size in the world, and English visitors long thought it the most agreeable in America. In the southern wilderness which stretched from the Appomattox to the St. Mary's, Charleston was the only oasis. The South Carolinians were ambitious for other distinctions than those which could be earned at the bar or on the plantation. From there Washington Allston went to study at Harvard College, and after taking his degree in the same class with young Buckminster, sailed in the same year, 1800, for Europe with his friend Malbone, to learn to express in color and form the grace and dignity of his imagination. In South Carolina were felt the instincts of city life. During two or three weeks of the winter, the succession of dinners, balls, and races at Charleston rivalled the gayety of Philadelphia itself; and although the city was dull during the rest of the year, it was not deserted even in the heat of summer, for the sea-breeze made it a watering-place, like Boston, and the deadly fevers sure to kill the white man who should pass a night on one bank of the Ashley River were almost unknown on the other. In the summer, therefore, the residents remained or returned; the children got their schooling, and business continued. For this reason South Carolina knew less of the country hospitality which made Virginia famous; city life had the larger share in existence, although in the hot weather torpor and languor took the place of gayety. In certain respects Charleston was more Northern in habits than any town of the North. In other warm countries, the summer evening was commonly the moment when life was best worth living; music, love-making, laughter, and talk turned night into day; but Charleston was Puritanic in discipline. Every night at ten o'clock the slamming of window-blinds and locking of doors warned strangers and visitors to go not only to their houses, but to their beds. The citizens looked with contempt on the gayety of Spanish or Italian temper. Beneath all other thoughts, the care of the huge slave population remained constant. The streets were abandoned at an early hour to the patrol, and no New England village was more silent.
Confident as the Carolinian was in the strength of the slave-system, and careless as he seemed and thought himself to be on that account, the recent fate of St. Domingo gave him cause for constant anxiety; but even without anxiety, he would have been grave. The gentry of the lower country belonged to the same English class which produced the gentry of Virginia and Massachusetts. The austerity of the Puritan may have been an exaggerated trait, but among the Middletons, Pinkneys, Rutledges, and Lowndeses the seriousness of the original English stock was also not without effect in the habit of their minds. They showed it in their treatment of the slave-system, but equally in their churches and houses, their occupations and prejudices, their races and sports, the character of their entertainments, the books they read, and the talk at their tables. No gentleman belonged to any church but the Anglican, or connected himself with trade. No court departed from the practice and precedents of English law, however anomalous they might be. Before the Revolution large numbers of young men had been educated in England, and their influence was still strong in the society of Charleston. The younger generation inherited similar tastes. Of this class the best-known name which will appear in this narrative was that of William Lowndes; and no better example could be offered of the serious temper which marked Carolinian thought, than was given by the career of this refined and highly educated gentleman, almost the last of his school.
Charleston was more cosmopolitan than any part of Virginia, and enjoyed also a certain literary reputation on account of David Ramsay, whose works were widely read; and of Governor Drayton, whose "Letters written during a Tour through the Northern and Eastern States," and "View of South Carolina," gave an idea of the author as well as of the countries he described. Charleston also possessed a library of three or four thousand well-selected books, and maintained a well-managed theatre. The churches were almost as strictly attended as those in Boston. The fashionable wine-party was even more common, and perhaps the guests took pride in drinking deeper than they would have been required to do in New York or Philadelphia.
Politics had not mastered the thought of South Carolina so completely as that of Virginia, and the natural instincts of Carolinian society should have led the gentry to make common cause with the gentry of New England and the Middle States against democratic innovations. The conservative side in politics seemed to be that which no Carolinian gentleman could fail to support. The oligarchy of South Carolina, in defiance of democratic principles, held the political power of the State, and its interests could never harmonize with those of a theoretic democracy, or safely consent to trust the national government in the hands of Jefferson and his friends, who had founded their power by breaking down in Virginia an oligarchy closely resembling that of the Carolinian rice-planters. Yet in 1800 enough of these gentlemen, under the lead of Charles Pinckney, deserted their Northern friends, to secure the defeat of the Federalist candidates, and to elect Jefferson as President. For this action, no satisfactory reason was ever given. Of all States in the Union, South Carolina, under its actual system of politics, was the last which could be suspected of democratic tendencies.
Such want of consistency seemed to show some peculiarity of character. Not every educated and privileged class has sacrificed itself to a social sentiment, least of all without understanding its object. The eccentricity was complicated by another peculiar element of society. In South Carolina the interesting union between English tastes and provincial prejudices, which characterized the wealthy planters of the coast, was made more striking by contrast with the character of the poor and hardy yeomanry of the upper country. The seriousness of Charleston society changed to severity in the mountains. Rude, ignorant, and in some of its habits half barbarous, this population, in the stiffness of its religious and social expression, resembled the New England of a century before rather than the liberality of the Union. Largely settled by Scotch and Irish emigrants, with the rigid Presbyterian doctrine and conservatism of their class, they were democratic in practice beyond all American democrats, and were more conservative in thought than the most aristocratic Europeans. Though sharply divided both socially and by interest from the sea-coast planters, these up-country farmers had one intellectual sympathy with their fellow-citizens in Charleston,—a sympathy resting on their common dislike for change, on the serious element which lay at the root of their common characters; and this marriage of two widely divergent minds produced one of the most extraordinary statesmen of America. In the year 1800 John Caldwell Calhoun, a boy of eighteen, went from the upper country to his brother-in-law's academy in Georgia. Grown nearly to manhood without contact with the world, his modes of thought were those of a Connecticut Calvinist; his mind was cold, stern, and metaphysical; but he had the energy and ambition of youth, the political fervor of Jeffersonian democracy, and little sympathy with slavery or slave-owners. At this early age he, like many other Republicans, looked on slavery as a "scaffolding," to be taken down when the building should be complete. A radical democrat, less liberal, less cultivated, and much less genial than Jefferson, Calhoun was the true heir to his intellectual succession; stronger in logic, bolder in action. Upon him was to fall the duty of attempting to find for Carolina an escape from the logical conclusions of those democratic principles which Jefferson in 1800 claimed for his own, but which in the full swing of his power, and to the last day of his life, he shrank from pressing to their results.
Viewed from every side by which it could be approached, the society of South Carolina, more than that of any other portion of the Union, seemed to bristle with contradictions. The elements of intellectual life existed without a sufficient intellectual atmosphere. Society, colonial by origin and dependent by the conditions of its existence, was striving to exist without external support. Whether it would stand or fall, and whether, either standing or falling, it could contribute any new element to American thought, were riddles which, with so many others, American history was to answer.