Abbildungen der Seite

on one occasion burst forth in an eloquent impromptu appeal in their behalf, which is described as having thrilled its audience with a power and effect rarely surpassed. On both these occasions his course was such, that nothing less than the profound confidence of his friends and his party in his purity of motives, the general soundness of his views, and the value of his political support, could have preserved unimpaired the elevated position in his party which gave to his course its peculiar importance. In 1817 he opposed the election of Dewitt Clinton, which opposition continued till the death of that distinguished citizen in 1828, though never characterized by any feature of bitterness or unfairness. In 1820-'21, he was an earnest advocate of the Convention for amending the Constitution of the State, and was the author of a series of very influential articles, published in the Argus, entitled "Plain Thoughts, &c.," in which the extension of the right of suffrage was urged with all the arguments appropriate to the school of elevated and sincere democracy to which he belonged. When in the Legislature, in 1828, he took the lead in procuring the nomination of General Jackson by the Republican members of that body, advocating his claims strongly and ably in the caucus held for the purpose. In 1824 he had with similar ardor supported Mr. Crawford, in common with most of the Republican party of the State; and his very able vindication of that eminent statesman from the aspersions of anti-republicanism thrown upon him, in a series of papers over the signature of "Americanus," was highly influential in his favor, not only in the State but over the Union at large. He at the same time expressed a high admiration of the character of General Jackson, for whom it has been seen he had always entertained à peculiar enthusiasm; and awarded a very liberal measure of justice to the other competitors for the honor; while at the same time, on a survey of the whole ground, with the lights then open to the public eye, he gave the preference over all to Mr. Crawford. The zealous and efficient support that he gave to General Jackson's administration, before as well as after he became a member of his Cabinet, is well known. At the time of the Nullification excitement, Mr. Butler took the leading part in Albany, in a stormy and violent public meeting, in procuring the passage of resolutions of a decided antitariff character, and marked by a very conciliatory spirit towards the State of South Carolina, at the same time that they yielded to the Executive that support so necessary at so difficult a crisis.

In his general views of the Constitution, and of the true public policy of the country, Mr. Butler has always supported to the fullest extent the democratic doctrines of the Jeffersonian school. Adopted in early youth with all the generous ardor which those great and noble principles are so well calculated to excite, the only effect of time and the more mature judgment of manhood, has been to con

firm his conviction of their soundness, and deepen that sober enthusiasm in their behalf which is the true fruit of such conviction. He has on various occasions advocated them in public, in orations and addresses, which it is needless to specify, with marked ability and earnestness. In relation to the currency his opinions have exhibited a consistency which many of those would now be glad to boast, whose views, enlightened by the progress of events and the profound discussions that the subject has elicited, are now most sound and wise. We have seen that one of his earliest public efforts was in opposition to the Restraining Law, and with it to that whole system of special, monopoly legislation of which that law was the corner-stone. And if, at the delicate, and we may say fearful, crisis of affairs, on the accession of the present Executive, while the question of the repeal of the Specie Circular was under debate, Mr. Butler's counsels, eloquence and influence were perhaps more effective than those of any other individual, in deciding the firm and boldly sagacious stand taken by the Democratic party, not even the most violent of the opponents whose implacable hostility such a course could not fail to excite, could refuse him at least the credit of consistency with his early and well known opinions on the subject. The bias insensibly exerted upon public men by the connexion that may exist between their public course and private interests. is but too well known, as an influence of the most subtle kind, whose effect we have of late years had to lament in so many signal and fatal instances. In this connexion we are proud to be able to bear a testimony which the unfortunate contrast of so many others makes peculiarly honorable to Mr. Butler, namely, that, though in no way himself engaged in speculation of any character, few men were under a stronger pressure of private interest and private feeling, to pursue a different course from that which he adopted. And if the voluntarily facing the imminent probability of ruin and beggary, with the sacrifice of all the moderate fruits of a life of such incessant labor and activity as has been above sketched-which a different course of temporizing expediency seemed alone likely to avert-constitute any evidence of sincerity of conviction, and elevated purity of motive, we are proud to claim its benefit, from our own private knowledge, as, in a signal manner, the incontestable due of the subject of the present sketch.

But while Mr. Butler has been thus zealous and active as a politician, he has most amply proved that his acts have had their source in far nobler motives than any of personal ambition. Though there can be no doubt that he could readily have commanded, notwithstanding his youth, the highest honors that the great Republican party of New York could bestow, yet he not only always scrupulously abstained from seeking office, but declined it when offered to him-even to the extent of almost seriously displeasing many

of his friends. His refusal to retain the office of Attorney General, as likewise to accept one of the Departments of Mr. Van Buren's Administration, has been already noticed. On one occasion only, perhaps, may he now have cause to regret this determination; or if not himself, certainly at least not a few of the latter. We refer to the month of February, 1833, when one of the present Senators in Congress from that State, the Hon. Nathaniel P. Tallmadge, received the caucus nomination of the Legislature of New York by a majority of only seven votes over Mr. Butler,-those who voted for the latter having done so in opposition to his positive wishes and determination, as perfectly understood at the time. Of this a sufficient evidence will appear from the following paragraphs from the Albany Argus of the following day:

"The large vote given to Mr. Butler on the first ballot, when his entire unwillingness to be a candidate was so perfectly understood, was a gratifying compliment, and shows how deeply seated is the confidence of the democracy of the State in its highly gifted and disinterested son.

"It is due to Mr. Butler to say, what is known by every body here to be the fact, that if he had consented to be a candidate, there would have been not only the utmost unanimity in the selection, but that none of the distinguished and justly esteemed citizens for whem votes were cast, would have consented to the use of their names in competition with him."

It is only within a recent period that the violence of partisanship, in the embittered political struggles which have agitated the country, has 1 roceeded to the length of attacking the personal or public character of MR. BUTLER. The manner in which some papers have recently assailed him with abuse, counteracting its own objects by its own excesses, adds, however, another to the many instances already familiar, which prove that no elevated purity of life can protect a public man from such assaults, however harmlessly every envenomed shaft of calumny may fall in the dust beneath his feet. Without any farther notice of this matter-of-course species of abuse, we shall barely allude to the only definite charge we have heard or read adduced against him, which was by Mr. Bond, of Ohio, in his speech in the House of Representatives at the last session of Congress,-to the effect, that he had in his official capacity as Attorney General, under the express dictation of the President, contradicted a legal opinion before given by him in his private professional capacity. We allude to it, only to pronounce it a miserable calumny-of which more cannot be said than that it is equally base and baseless. And as for the very paltry sneer, so recklessly hazarded in manifest indifference to the truth-to intimate an habitual servile submission to General Jackson's opinions and wishes-we allude to it only to take the occasion to assert the No member of his Cabinet exhibited so often probably as Mr. Butler a firm independence and resolution, in the collisions of opinion occasionally occurring, because his position at the council


[ocr errors]

board as its general legal adviser brought him more often than any other into direct contact with almost every question arising. Numerous instances of this trait might be readily cited-in some of which it seemed carried rather far--were it necessary or proper to do so. The very case adduced by Mr. Bond as his chief ground of attack, contained in fact an evidence of its falsehood. We will but allude to one other act within our own knowledge, in which when the President had yielded to urgent applications of the strongest personal and political interest, to reinstate a cadet dismissed from West Point, Mr. Butler then Head of the War Department, refused to permit such an interference with the proper duty of his office, which he threatened to resign, if the order should be persisted in. We make this denial and refutation, only from respect to Mr. Butler's fair and spotless fame not to the attack upon it; which we here dismiss without farther notice.

The preceding sketch, hastily thrown together, will after all but imperfectly convey the general idea we would impart, to those of our readers unacquainted with the man, of Benjamin Franklin Butler. Having now retired from public life, we feel at greater liberty to speak freely our high appreciation of his many claims to the respect, confidence and affection of his country and his friends, than might otherwise perhaps have been the case. We repeat, that the Democratic party is amply entitled to feel proud of him, as one of the ablest, and at the same time most disinterested and pure of its members. And such as his past career has been, proving him “an Israelite without guile, in whom there is no reproach”—as a patriot, lofty and pure-as a democrat, sincere and ardent-as a statesman, philosophical and sagacious-as a politician, liberal and disinterested-as an advocate, eloquent, calm, persuasive, and forcible-and as a man, in a general sense, possessing one of those admirably organized minds so rarely met with, in which different qualities of excellence are so harmoniously blended and tempered, without an undue excess of any, as to produce, on the whole, one of the best and purest of characters that we can easily conceive-piety without bigotry-philanthropy without fanaticism-enthusiasm without quixotism-boldness without rashness-firmness without obstinacy-calmness without coldness-sagacity without cunning-all the dignity of self-respect without any of the hauteur of pride-the expansive wisdom of the man of study, reflection and practical experience of life, with the single-hearted simplicity of the child— we cannot use a stronger expression than our conviction, that he fully merits all that high appreciation and attachment, which is most earnestly entertained by those who have had the most intimate opportunities of observing and knowing him, in every aspect of his public and private character.

[blocks in formation]

How shall I know thee in the sphere which keeps
The disembodied spirits of the dead,
When all of thee that time could wither sleeps,
And perishes among the dust we tread?

For I shall feel tl.e sting of ceaseless pain
If there I meet thy gentle presence not,
Nor hear the voice I love, nor read again

In thy serenest eyes the tender thought.

Will not thy own meek heart demand me there?

That heart whose fondest throbs to me were given. My name on earth was ever in thy prayer,

Shall it be banished from thy tongue in heaven?

In meadows fanned by heaven's life-breathing wind,
In the resplendence of that glorious sphere,
And larger movements of the unfettered mind,
Wilt thou forget the love that joined us here ?

The love that lived through all the stormy past,
And meekly with my harsher nature bore,
And deeper grew, and tenderer, to the last,
Shall it expire with life, and be no more ?

A happier lot than mine, and larger light
Await thee there, for thou hast bowed thy will
In cheerful homage to the rule of right,

And lovest all, and rendered good for ill.

For me, the sordid cares in which I dwell,

Shrink and consume the heart as heat the scroll, And wrath has left its scar-that fire of hell Has left its frightful scar upon my soul. VOL. V. NO. XIII.—JANUARY, 1839. D

« ZurückWeiter »