The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (190721).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.
XV. Publicists and Orators, 18001850.
§ 23. His Nationalism.
|The thing which lifts him into a place of undoubted significance in the course of American history is this: he embodied the spirit of developing nationalism and gave it constant expression. As Jackson, though a nationalist, represented the attitude of domineering individualism so characteristic of the untutored frontier, Clay in a wider and a deeper way appealed to the lofty sentiments of the whole people. It is not a question now of broad interpretation of the Constitution, or of any theory of governmental authority, or of any opposition to states rights, or of anything that was legalistic or even argumentative in character; it is a question of the spirit which made America a nation, the sense of national existence, of power, of bigness, of duty, in a word, of reality. Without this sense, without this feeling in the hearts of Americans, the Union could not have resisted the corroding influence of slavery and could not have made itself, by a mighty effort, the huge, self-conscious, personal being that it is today. Of course, this was the work of others also; it was the natural product of modern life and culture; it rested on the elaborate argumentation of Webster and Marshall; but Clay by the spell of an attractive presence, by personal charm, and by the lure of a fervid eloquence awakened and developed this sentiment and made it irresistibly strong.