“ . . . a republican government, which many great writers assert to be incapable of subsisting long, except by the preservation of virtuous principles.”
—John Taylor of Caroline
On a summer morning in 1842, near the end of its session, the U.S. Senate was busy receiving committee reports. The Committee on the Judiciary reported favorably on a bill to pay the estate of William Hull, whose heirs had petitioned for compensation for his government service. Hull had held appointments as general in command of the Northwest and as governor of Michigan Territory at the beginning of the War of 1812.
Mr. Calhoun of South Carolina shattered the quiet routine of the Senate. He rose to express amazement at what he had just heard:
He was, in the first place, surprised that the representatives of General Hull could ever think of presenting this claim to Congress. He would not be more so, if the representatives of [Benedict] Arnold should present a claim for his pay as a general in our service, after he had committed his treason, on the ground that he had held the commission of a general, which had not been revoked.
The deep and universal public condemnation of General Hull had never been reversed and never would be, Calhoun said. It was a matter John C. Calhoun knew well, having...