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Congress from Virginia, and this appears to have been the opinion of Webster.1 All such explanations seem less rational and easy to believe than that Tyler, though led by anger at the dictatorial behavior of Clay into rashness in the exercise of his constitutional prerogative, was actuated in the main by courage and consistency. It was not unnatural that honest misunderstandings as to matters of fact should grow out of the negotiations for a compromise on a bill to organize a national bank. If the conflicting evidence be set aside or sifted fairly to obtain the truth, and the undisputed part of Tyler's record, together with his character as manifest therein, be studied, it will appear that he acquitted himself in his quarrel with the Whigs only as might have been expected from a brave and determined man and a stanch believer in state rights.
Tyler organized a new cabinet readily enough; but, though Clay remained in control of Congress, the special session adjourned on September 13, 1841, with nothing to show for its work. The bank project was dead forever, and the fall elections showed that a reaction had set in. Of the states that had voted for Harrison, Georgia, Maryland, and Maine went over to the Democratic column, and in some others the Whig majority was much reduced.2 Clay may have been right in ascribing the result to Whig indifference;* but none the less it meant Whig demoralization. Of the remainder of Clay's programme little was carried out in the regular session of 1841-1842. A loan was authorized to meet the needs of the treasury, which were great; the tariff was readjusted, first on a temporary, and later on what was intended for a permanent, basis; and a measure was passed providing for the distribution of the proceeds of the public lands among the states, which was made ineffective by a proviso that it should not take place when tariff duties were over twenty per cent. On the whole, the triumph of the Whigs in 1840 had come to naught. March 31, 1842, Clay resigned, with a touching farewell speech to the Senate; and, leaving the vain strife to work itself out, turned his whole attention to reorganizing the masses of his party.2
1 Von Hoist, United States, II., 432; Niks' Register, LXI., 55; Adams, Memoirs, XI., 14.
'Nties' Register, LXI., 48, 74, 103. Vol. xvn.—s
ADJUSTMENT OF THE MAINE BOUNDARY CONTROVERSY
IN its management of foreign affairs, the Whig administration met with more success. Though it had to face serious and perplexing troubles with England over the northeastern boundary of the United States, over the friction between the two countries on the Canadian border of New York, over the right of search in suppressing the slavetrade and over the status of slave-carrying vessels in English colonial ports, all these questions were at length peaceably adjusted. Amid the loud domestic quarrels, the notes of international dissension were the less distinctly heard; but the danger of war with Great Britain was threatening, and to the man that averted it should be given due credit.
That man was Daniel Webster. Unsuited as he was in many respects for political leadership,1 he was a great diplomat, and it was fortunate that he did not break away from Tyler along with the other members of the cabinet in 1841. In refusing to resign, while he was supported by the advice of the Massachusetts delegation in Congress, he gave the reason also that he did not think it consistent with his duty to the country to risk embarrassing the president when such delicate negotiations were pending. If this was not his real reason, it was abundantly good and sufficient.1 He remained in office till his work was done and a treaty which removed the danger, at least for the moment, was ratified.
'Schurz, Clay, II., 313.
The friction on the frontier of Canada grew out of the "Caroline affair," which occurred in December, 1837. Navy Island, on the Canadian side of Niagara River, was then occupied by a body of Canadian insurgents and their sympathizers from the United States, against whom the west shore was protected by a considerable body of Canadian troops. The Caroline was a steamer owned by a citizen of Buffalo, usually plying between Buffalo and Schlosser, on the United States side of the river, but which, for the sake of greater profit, was used as a ferry-boat to carry armed men and munitions of war between Schlosser and Navy Island. On the night of December 29, while on the east side of the river, near Schlosser, the steamer was attacked by a party of volunteers from the Canadian troops. One of the crew, a citizen of the United States, was killed, and the Caroline was set on fire and allowed to drift over the rapids to the falls.1
'Adams, Memoirs, XL, 13; Nibs' Register, LXL, 35; cf. Schouler, United States, IV., 395.
The attack on the Caroline was approved by both the Canadian and British governments, and Colonel McNab, the officer who had ordered the attack, was knighted. Secretary of State Forsyth at once made complaint to the British minister of the "extraordinary outrage committed ... on the persons and property of citizens of the United States within the jurisdiction of the State of New York"' The Canadian government took the responsibility for the destruction of the "piratical craft"; and, January 8, 1838, Van Buren asked for appropriations to back up his demands for redress, and the secretary of war called upon New York and Vermont to furnish militia for the defence of the frontier.3 The filibusters evacuated Navy Island, and the vigilance of the United States authorities prevented the organization of any effective invasion of Canada; but there was strong local sympathy in Vermont, New York, and Michigan for the Canadian insurgents, which manifested itself in efforts to aid them, including the destruction of the Canadian steamer Sir Robert Peel in the St. Lawrence River. The Caroline affair was still unadjusted when Webster became secretary of state.
1 Tiffany, Relations of the United States to the Canadian Rebellion of 1837-1838, pp. 33-37.
3 Richardson, Messages and Papers, III., 404. 3 Bancroft, Seward, I., in.