The Era of Good Feeling
Let us see. We have read of how many presidents now? Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison. And now, after the war had closed, when the country was at peace again, and both Democrats and Republicans were so glad over having conquered the English again, that they were almost willing to be good friends with each other, there came another president—James Monroe. Because of the quiet, peaceful times, during which Monroe was president, the years of his administration have been called the "era of good feeling."
One of the pleasantest things during his administration was the visit of Lafayette to America. Lafayette was a young Frenchman who, in the war of the Revolution, had come over to our assistance in a most brave and noble way. He was much loved by Washington, and by all indeed who had known him in those trying days. And now, an old man of more than sixty years, he came again to see the country for which he had fought so long ago.
Everybody was glad to see him. There were the old men and women who had been in the Revolution with him, happy indeed to sit down and talk over old times with him. The younger people, too, were hardly less glad; and so hi journey from city to city, and from town to town, was one long holiday. The people of every town turned out on parades, much as did they when Washington traveled from Mt. Vernon to New York to be made president.
Everywhere he went, he was met with honor and bursts of welcome. And it was well that it should be so. If American had in her years of success forgotten the brave Lafayette, who left his country to come to her aid when she was poor and in trouble, it would have been a disgrace to us all.
When Lafayette returned home, the United States fitted out a ship to carry him. This ship they named from a certain battle of the Revolution in which Lafayette had been wounded.
I wish I could tell you that this "era of good feeling" lasted a long, long time; but, alas! I am afraid it was, as people say, only the calm before the storm; for even before Monroe's administration was quite over, there began to be serious disputes and contests upon the "slavery question."
You see the Southern people had always kept slaves, ever since that time way back in the early days of the Colonies when slaves had been brought over in the Dutch trading vessels, and had been sold to the planters. Help was needed so much in those days that colonists eagerly bought these black men from Africa to work their farms. To be sure, those Dutch traders had no more right to steal these black men and sell them than they had to steal Englishmen or Frenchmen, neither had the colonists any more right to buy them; but the colonists reasoned like this:
"They are such wild, ignorant creatures, they are really little better than my cattle. And after a little while they will be far better off here on my plantation, with plenty to eat and drink and a warm cabin to sleep in, then they were wandering about in the wilds of Africa."
This sounded reasonable, and no doubt the Southern people were honest enough and kind enough in it all, but they forgot that these black men, low and ignorant as they were, were nevertheless human beings, —and that is reason enough why no man had any right to buy and sell them. What would you think now, children, to hear of men and women and little children being bought and sold?
As there were no State laws against slavery in those days, and even in later days, there began to be slaves here and there in all the colonies, in the North as well as in the South; but it was not very long before the States, one by one, began to make laws forbidding this selling of men and women who chanced to be black instead of white; until at last no States but the Southern now held slaves. The Southern States held that they must have these black people to do their work for them, because they were so big and strong, and were used to the hot climate of the tropics.
And so this had been going on all these years; but in the time of Monroe there began to be a strong feeling that this was wrong, and that something ought to be done to put a stop to it.
And something was done—a most terrible something, as very likely your grandpapas and gramdmammas can tell you; but I will not tell you just here about it. I want you first to hurry on with me over a few more administrations, and then I will tell you all about the "something" that was done, which, in the end, freed these black men and women and their little black boys and girls.
When John Quincy Adams took his seat as president, the United States were twenty-four in number. Quite a growth, you see, since the days of the thirteen little States that made Washington their President.
It was during this administration that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson dies. I have already told you that these two men, these life-long friends, died upon the same day.
It is said that a Fourth of July celebration was being held in the village where Mr. Adams lived; and he had sent to it a toast: "Independence forever." As he lay dying, at sunset time, those who watched by his bed could hear the distant shouting at the village, when the people heard the old man's last message.
One more event in this administration we must speak of, and then we will pass on to the administration of the plucky General Jackson, the man who made it so hot for the English at New Orleans during the war of 1812. The first railroad was laid during this administration—a little road only three miles long, leading from the granite quarries at Quincy, Mass., to the wharves. These cars were drawn by horses, and I fancy it was a funny enough looking train of cars. It was not until two years later that an engine was used. On the previous page is a picture of the first train of cars drawn by a real engine.