Изображения страниц

said: "I will go to Archie Dixon; he will stand by me." She stated her case, and he at once agreed to defend it for her, though she could pay him no fee. The bully, hearing of it, made his threats of what he would do. Mr. Dixon had heard of the threats, and, as soon as he rose to speak, he proceeded to pay the gentleman his compliments in that style of which he was so entirely the master. If there was one thing in which Mr. Dixon excelled more than another, it was the fierce and withering denunciation of meanness. The bully grew furious at once, and dared him to come out and he would whip him as he deserved. Mr. Dixon very coolly said: "Wait, I am not through with you yet ;" and went on with his speech, growing more vehement and contemptuous to the close. When he had finished speaking, he said: "Now, I am ready for you." They went outside, and, without waiting for the bully to attack him, he jumped upon him, knocked him down, and rolled him over and over down the court-house hill to the gate amid the shouts of laughter and applause of the people, who loudly jeered the defeated bully, as he slunk away without having been able to strike a single blow. He was

evidently completely taken by surprise, never having dreamed that this tall, graceful, slender strippling of the bar, with his sunny hair and flashing eyes, had muscles of steel and a heart of fire.

Outside of his law practice, Mr. Dixon made various ventures in a business way, and was usually very successful. He took a flat-boat loaded with corn to New Orleans once, when a very young man, and sold it at a good profit.

Some years later, he set up a store on the corner of Main and Second streets, employing Squire James Hatchett to sell the goods which he himself went to New York and purchased at auction sales, selling them at low prices and realizing handsome profits. In eight years he cleared eighteen thousand dollars in this busiAll of his means he invested in land and negroes,


and in 1854, he had become one of the wealthiest planters and largest slave-owners in Southern Kentucky. Having himself tilled the soil, he was a good judge of land, and his purchases were all judicious. His skill in managing men enabled him to secure the faithful services of the best overseers, who loved him as well as feared his disapprobation.

In 1830, he was elected to the Legislature from Henderson, and, says his biographer, "His course during the session he served was marked by his usual industry and talent." He presented a bill for the better protection of married women, which was afterwards adopted into the legislation of the State; and it was he who proposed the bill for the building of the Nashville Railroad. In 1836, he was elected to represent the counties of Henderson, Hopkins, and Daviess in the Senate. In 1841, he was again elected to the Legislature from the county of Henderson without opposition. In 1844, he was elected Lieutenant-Governor of Kentucky on the ticket with Judge Owsley, the Whig candidate for governor, whom he outran by several thousand votes. An ardent admirer and devoted political friend of Henry Clay, his canvass of Whig principles was so able, his eloquence so captivating, that he drew crowds to hear him wherever he spoke, and his popularity over the State increased daily.

In the performance of his duties as presiding officer of the State Senate for the next four years, he gave universal satisfaction. Of this his biographer says: "Ever present at his post, the promptitude of his decisions was only equaled by their inflexible justice." The four years during which he served as President of the Senate of Kentucky were replete with historical events which led to the disruption of the great Whig party, and, by the inexorable logic of sequence, to the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise.


1845-1849-Texas admitted to the Union-Origin of the war with Mexico-Gen. Taylor elected President in 1848-Victorious Whig Party and Administration face the momentous question of division of territory acquired from Mexico-Wilmot Proviso-Clayton Compromise-Oregon-Boundaries of Texas, New Mexico, and California-Mr. Calhoun's Southern Address.

The annexation of Texas followed immediately upon Mr. Polk's inauguration in March of 1845; and she was admitted with her slave constitution in December of 1845 to the Union of the States, the guns on the Capitol Hill thundering forth the announcement.

Her Constitution was an improvement on that of Kentucky, though very much like it: and it contained a provision that no new State should be formed out of any of her territory without her consent. This being as counter to the condition, inserted in the resolutions of Congress preceding her admission, which stipulated that States to be formed of the territory lying south of 36° 30′ should have slavery or not as the majority of inhabitants might elect, but in those formed of the territory north of that line, slavery should be prohibited forever.

This clause in her Constitution, of course, caused some opposition to her admission, as did also that one which forbade her Legislature to make any laws to emancipate any of her slaves without full consent of their owners and compensation therefor. These two provisions giving to Texas entire control of the slave question within her limits. But the bill for her admission passed, notwithstanding, by a vote of 141 to 56 in the House and 31 to 14 in the Senate, Mr. Webster voting nay.

It is not within the limits of this work to relate the

incidents or course of the war with Mexico which followed close on the heels of the annexation of Texas. But a brief resumé of its inception is in order.

Mexico had never forgiven Texas for achieving her Independence, nor the United States for acknowledging it, and had kept up hostilities against Texas, to a degree through all the years. In 1843, she had proclaimed that in the event of annexation she would declare war against the United States. President Tyler, in his next message, called attention to this threat, affirming that "Texas was an independent republic, and that we were free to enter into any treaty of alliance with her which the two republics saw fit, without regard to the threat or will of Mexico; that the latter had carried on for seven or eight years a species of warfare injurious to the United States and unjust to Texas; that it was time for that war to cease, and he had not hesitated to so inform the Government of Mexico."

In April of 1844, he sent to the Senate a treaty which he had negotiated with Texas, by which she transferred to the United States all her rights of independent sovereignty. The Senate rejected this treaty; but in anticipation of its acceptance, and in view of the threat of Mexico, the President had ordered a fleet to the Gulf of Mexico, and as large a military force as could be spared, to Fort Jessup, on the border of Texas. Whilst Mexico, in her resentment at the treaty negotiated by the President, issued her edicts, "ordering the desolation of whole tracts of country, and the destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions of existence."

The Presidential election of 1844 was carried by the strong popular feeling for annexation. In his message to Congress in December, President Tyler again declared that "it was time the war shall cease-that its continuance was calculated to exhaust both countries, and subject them to the interference of other powers, which, without the intervention of the United States, might eventuate to our serious injury." Referring to the edicts

of Mexico, "he promptly," says a distinguished writer, "laid down a principle of law, and proclaimed a doctrine as bold as the Monroe Doctrine, and worthy to be held as inviolable."" He said: "Over the manner of conducting war, Mexico possesses no exclusive control. She has no right to violate at pleasure the principles which an enlightened civilization has laid down for the conduct of nations at war, and thereby retrograde to a period of barbarism which, happily for the world, has long since passed away. All nations are interested in enforcing an observation of these principles, and the United States, the oldest of American republics, and the nearest of the civilized powers to the theater in which these enormities are proposed to be enacted, could not content themselves to witness such a state of things."

It is easy to see how, after Texas had become one of the United States, the first invasion of her soil by the Mexicans would inevitably lead to war with Mexico. It is also easy to understand that the victorious Democratic party, which had won its triumph through the popular sympathy for the "Lone Star" of Texas, would justly regard that war as absolutely necessary and proper; though it was denounced by the Whigs as entirely unnecessary, unjust and unholy. They had elected Mr. Tyler on the ticket with General Harrison in 1840, but seem to have had no sympathy with his views on this question, which indeed appear to have been derived from his life-long affiliation with the Democrats, rather than his newly-formed association with the Whigs. The country was at that time mainly divided into these two parties; and many of the Whigs of the Southern States, who still steadily adhered to their great leader, notwithstanding his defeat, were as pronounced in their condemnation of the war as those of the North.

But the prestige of the Whig party had been greatly

1 Col. J. Stoddard Johnston in letter to Courier-Journal.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »