The Whigs were now beginning to want a hand in the government. They had been out of power so long, that they thought it worth while to try to find a man as their candidate who would be likely to catch the vote of the people.
The settled upon "Old Zach," or as he had come to be called during the late war, "Old Rough and Ready." This wasn't as exciting a time as that campaign when Log Cabins and Hard Cider had been the campaign watch-words; but it was somewhat like it. Now everything was "Rough and Ready,"—there were "Rough and Ready" hats and "Rough and Ready" boots; —and at the end, the Whigs, to their great delight, succeeded in electing their "Rough and Ready" president. President Taylor died before his term of office was ended, and his Vice-President, Millard Filmore, served the remainder of the term. After Filmore came Franklin Pierce, and after Pierce, James Buchanan.
The administrations of these presidents are so swallowed up in the great question of "slavery," that I shall not try to keep them separate in this little history. You have heard already of the slavery question, but you did not know, I think, how in all this time the excitement regarding it had been increasing. The political parties which in Washington's time were divided on the form of government, and later, on the war with England, and later still, on "State Rights," were now divided on the one great question of slavery. For some time, whenever a new territory wanted to join the Union, there had been a hot fight in Congress over it. The question would be, not whether there were people enough in the territory, or whether they would be likely to be of service to the Union, but, "Will this new State be a slave-state?" If it seemed likely that it would be a slave-state, then the North would fight against its admission. They wanted no more slave-states. On the other hand, if it was not to be a slave-state, the South would fight just as hotly against it.
Away back when South Carolina had made an attempt to leave the Union, and "Old Hickory" had brought it so quickly to terms, he had said then—wise, far seeing old man that he was:
"This disturbance about the tariff is only a make believe; the real object in trying to withdraw from the Union is to secure the right to hold slaves. Slavery, or the Negro Question, will be the next trouble this country will have to face."
And surely enough his prophecy was coming true. Henry Clay and Daniel Webster worked harder than ever in these days; for the South again had threatened to leave the Union—this time making no pretence to keep back their real object, the slave question.