Wikiquote:Transwiki/American History Primary Sources The Era of Good Feelings


A New Nationalism


“The republic, reposing on the laurels of a glorious war, gathers the rich harvest of an honorable peace.  Everywhere the sound of the axe is heard, opening the forest to the sun and claiming for agriculture the range of the buffalo.  Our cities grow and towns rise up as if by magic....  The busy hum of 10,000 wheels fills our seaports....  The republic lives, and in honor!”
Hezekiah Niles, editorial in the Niles’ Weekly Register

c. 1815.

“Every nation should anxiously endeavor to establish its absolute independence, and consequently be able to feed and clothe and defend itself.  If it rely on a foreign supply that may be cut off... it cannot be independent.
Rep. Henry Clay, explaining the rationale of his American System.


“What can add more to the wealth, the strength, and the political prosperity of our country?  The manner in which the facility and cheapness of intercourse added to the wealth of a nation had been so often and ably discussed by writers on political economy, that he presumed the House to be perfectly acquainted with the subject.  It was sufficient to observe that every branch of national industry — agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial — was greatly stimulated and rendered by it more productive....
“It gives to the interior the advantages possessed by the parts most eligibly situated for trade.  It makes the country price, whether in the sale of the raw product or in the purchase of the articles of consumption, approximate to that of the commercial towns.  
“In fact, if we look into the nature of wealth, we will find that nothing will be more favorable to its growth than good roads and canals.  An article, to command a price, must not only be usable but must be the subject of demand; and the better the means of commercial intercourse the larger is the sphere of demand.
“The truth of these propositions... is obvious, and has been tested by all countries where the experiment has been made.  It has particularly been strikingly been exemplified in England, and if the result there, in a country so limited and so similar in its products, has been to produce a most uncommon state of opulence, what may we not expect from the same cause in our country, abounding as it does in the greatest variety of products, and presenting the greatest facility for improvements?
“Let it not be said that internal improvements may be wholly left to the enterprise of the states and of individuals.  He knew, he said, that much may justly be expected to be done by them; but in a country so new and so extensive as ours, there is room enough, said he, for the general and state governments and individuals in which to exert their resources.  
“But many of the improvements contemplated., said Mr. C., are on too great a scale for the resources of the states or individuals; and many of such a nature that the rival jealousy of the states, if left alone, might prevent.  They required the resources and the general superintendence of this government to effect and complete them... 
“Whatever, said Mr. C., impedes the intercourse of the extremes with this, the center of the republic, weakens the Union.  The more enlarged the sphere of commercial circulation, the more extended that of social intercourse; the more strongly are we bound together; the more inseparable are our destinies.  
“Those who understand the human heart best know how powerfully distance tends to break the sympathies of our nature.  Nothing, not even dissimilarity of language, tends more to estrange man from man.  
“Let us then, said Mr. C., bind the Republic together with a perfect system of roads and canals.  Let us conquer space.  It is thus the most distant parts of the republic will be brought within a few days travel of the center; it is thus that a citizen of the West will read the news of Boston still moist from the press....
“The first great object was to perfect the communication from Maine to Louisiana.  This might be fairly be considered as the principal artery of the whole system.  The next was the connection of the [Great] Lakes with the Hudson River.  In a political, commercial, and military point of view, few objects could be more important.  The next object of chief importance was to connect all the great commercial points on the Atlantic — Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Charleston, and Savannah — with the Western states; and, finally, to perfect the intercourse between the West and New Orleans.”
Rep. John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, speech in the House of Representatives on February 4, 1817, supporting internal improvements what would come to be called the American System.


“Our country!  May she always be in the right; but my country, right or wrong.”
Stephen Decatur, hero of the wars against the Barbary pirates


“The States have no power, by taxation or otherwise, to retard, impede, burden, or in any manner control the operation of the constitutional laws enacted by Congress....
 “We admit, as all must admit, that the powers of the government are limited....  That the power to tax involves the power to destroy... [is] not to be denied....”
Chief Justice John Marshall, Supreme Court decision in McCulloch v. Maryland.


“[T]he occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.... [W]e should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.”

President James Monroe, the Monroe Doctrine (contained in his annual State of the Union address).


“The measure of the poverty of a nation is marked by that of the degree it which it neglects and abandons the care of its own industry, leaving it exposed to the action of foreign powers....  But there is a remedy, and that remedy consists in... adopting a genuine American system.  We must naturalize the [industrial] arts in our country; and we must naturalize them... by adequate protection against the overwhelming influence of foreigners.” 
Rep. Henry Clay, speech in the House.
The Missouri Compromise and the Problem of Slavery

1819. “The territory of Missouri is beyond our ancient limits, and the inquiry whether slavery shall exist there is open to many of the arguments that might be employed had slavery never existed in the United States. It is a question of no ordinary importance. Freedom and slavery are the parties which stand this day before the Senate; and upon its decision the empire of the one or the other will be established in the new state we are about to admit into the Union.”

Sen. Rufus King, in Senate debate on admitting Missouri to the Union as a state.


“If you persist, the Union will be dissolved.  You have kindled a fire which all the waters of the ocean cannot put out, which seas of blood can only extinguish.”
Rep. Thomas Cobb of Georgia.


 “This momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror....  In the gloomiest moment of the Revolutionary War I never had any apprehension equal to what I feel from this source.”   

Thomas Jefferson on the problem of slavery.