Tuesday, August 04, 2009

"You are reversing the policy of which you have heretofore professed to be the advocates"

Having set forth, on January 4, 1848, his understanding of liberty and the dangers presented by the war against Mexico, John C. Calhoun turned to more practical, political considerations in order to try to make his case. Focusing on the Democratic Party – which was, after all, driving the bus – Calhoun urged its members to return to their doctrinal roots. Less politely, it might be said that he accused them of being no better than their Whig adversaries.

As you probably know, the party of Jackson usually presented itself as the defender of certain core principles: minimal government and governmental spending, low (or at least moderate) tariffs, balanced budgets, free trade and hard money. Democrats routinely lambasted their rivals, the Whigs, as Federalists in disguise – proponents of massive spending, inflated protective tariffs, and corporations and “monster” banks that preyed on the common man by ensnaring him with debts and encouraging the use of worthless paper money.

By advocating continuation of the war against Mexico, Calhoun argued, the Democrats were abandoning their principles and betraying their constituents:

Mr. President, in my opinion, all parties are interested in giving this matter the only direction that can be given to it with any prospect of a favorable result. Let me say to the friends of the administration [the Democrats], if you go on, and some accident does not meet you – if you go on in the prosecution of this war from year to year, - you will find that it will overthrow you. Do you not see that, as far as the internal affairs of the government are concerned, you are reversing the policy of which you have heretofore professed to be the advocates?

What party has been opposed to the re-creation of a great national debt? The Democratic or Republican party. Well, sir, this war is involving you in a greater debt than the opposite party [the Whigs] could have done, perhaps, in any circumstances short of war. This very campaign, which you look upon so lightly, will be almost as great a charge on the country as the debt of the revolution.

What party has always been against the extension of the patronage of Executive? Well, sir, you are doing more towards the extension of that patronage, and, above all, towards the continuance of that extension, than has ever been done under our governments.

Well, sir, what party professes to be most in favor of a metallic currency? And do you not see that, as your treasury notes and stocks accumulate, you are in danger of being plunged again in the paper system to the utmost extent?

What party has always been in favor of free trade? But do you not see that, by accumulating charges and burdens upon the people by the debts which have now been contracted, you never will, during your time, have an opportunity of making any considerable reduction in the tariff?

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