| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
TAYLOR—UNION OR DISUNION
 POLK had no chance of being re-elected as President. For many
people looked upon the war with Mexico as a great wrong, and as a
stain upon the flag. So even although it had given to the United
States California, and all its untold wealth, Polk was not forgiven
for having brought the war about. And while the people were rushing
from all corners of the globe to California, a new President was
This new President was no other than General Zachary Taylor, who
had become famous during the Mexican war, for people did not blame
him for the war. He had only obeyed orders as a soldier must and
every one admired his bravery and skill.
He was a rough old soldier, and his men called him Old Rough
and Ready. And when he first heard that people wanted to make him
President, like Jackson, that other rough old soldier before him,
he simply laughed at the idea.
"I am not vain enough to think that I am fit to be President," he
said. "I would gladly see some other citizen more worthy chosen
for that high office."
Old Rough and Ready was a soldier, and nothing but a soldier.
He knew nothing at all about politics, and had never even voted.
However when people insisted that he should be President, he began
rather to like the idea, and at length consented to be a candidate,
and was elected.
Because of the discovery of gold, thousands and
thou-  sands of people
flocked to California. And although many returned to their homes
again, many also remained in California, and made their homes
in the new-found sunny land. So it came about that California was
peopled faster than any other part of America, and in less
than two years after the discovery of gold, it asked to be admitted
to the Union as a state.
But before it was admitted a fierce battle had to be fought, for
the Californians wanted the state to be admitted as a free state.
Now part of California lay south of the Missouri Compromise Line,
so the Southerners were angry, and declared that California must
be divided into two, and that the Southern part must come into the
Union as a slave state.
The Southerners felt that they had a right to be angry. For they
had helped to bring on the Mexican War for the purpose of getting
more territory south of the Missouri Compromise Line, so that they
should be sure of slave states to balance the free states of the
north. They had won the land, and now victory would be turned to
defeat if the new states were admitted as free states.
So they threatened, as they had threatened before, to break away
from the Union if they were not listened to.
No sooner was Taylor inaugurated than he had to turn his attention
to this great matter. The Southerners were determined to use all
their power to get their way, and Senator John Caldwell Calhoun, an
old man, who for years had been a champion of slavery, determined
to speak once more for the cause.
Calhoun was so old and ill that he could hardly walk, and he tottered
into the Senate Chamber leaning on the arms of two friends. He was
far too feeble to read his speech. So, pale and deathlike, he sat
in his chair while a friend read it for him.
"The South must have a share in the new territory,"
 he said. "If
you of the North will not do this, then let our Southern States
separate and depart in peace."
This was the great statesman's last word to his country. Three weeks
later he lay dead. He was the greatest of Southern politicians.
He really believed that slavery was a good thing, and that life in
the South would be impossible without it. And loving his country
deeply, he could not bear to think of its ruin.
"The South! the poor South!" he murmured, as he lay dying. "God
knows what will become of her."
The next great speech was made by Daniel Webster. Twenty years had
come and gone since he made his first great speech for Union. Now
thousands turned to him, begging him to reconcile the North and
South. And on the day he made his speech the Senate Chamber was
packed from floor to ceiling.
"I speak to-day," he said, "not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a
Northern man, but as an American, having no locality but America.
I speak to-day for the preservation of the Union. Hear me for my
But to the men burning with zeal against slavery his speech seemed
lukewarm. "The law of Nature," he said, "settles forever that slavery
cannot exist in California." It was a useless taunt and reproach to
the slave holders to forbid slavery where slavery could not exist.
He blamed the North for having fallen short in its duty to the
South, and declared that the South had just cause for complaint.
Many applauded this speech, but to others it was like a blow in
"Webster," cried one, "is a fallen star! Lucifer descending from
A third great speech was made four days later by William H. Seward.
He spoke whole-heartedly for union.
 "Slavery must vanish from the Union," he said, "but it would
vanish peacefully." He brushed aside as impossible the thought that
any state should break away from the Union. "I shall vote for the
admission of California directly," he said, "without conditions,
without qualifications, and without compromise."
But still the debate went on. Summer came and on the 4th of July
there was a great ceremony for the laying of the foundation
stone of the Washington Monument.
The President was present and sat for hours in the blazing sun.
Then feeling very tired he went home and drank iced milk and ate
some cherries. That night he became very ill, and a few days later
"I have tried to do my duty," he said. Then the brave and honest
old soldier laid down his heavy burden and was at rest.
Once again a sad procession left the White House, and wound slowly
through the streets lined with soldiers. Behind the funeral car
was led the President's old war horse which he would never mount
again. The people wept to see it, and the whole nation mourned for
the brave old soldier who had tried to do his duty.
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