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Jackson Toasts The Union

July 2024
1min read

I’d like to have been a waiter at Brown’s Indian Queen Hotel in the City of Washington in the year 1830. While I would like to confine my duties to a single evening, April 13, it would be worth a year carrying dishes just to be there that evening. The dinner menu doesn’t matter—no one now remembers. It was the toasts that counted. And not the twenty-four regular ones (real drinkers there were in those days) but the volunteers. The President of the United States had decided to use the occasion. He was ready for his many enemies in rebellious South Carolina, where the wretched word nullification had been heard again in regard to a federal tariff. Hayne had opposed Webster in the Senate, and the President had had enough of it. In the days before the dinner he had scribbled out several possible toasts and pitched them into the fire until he got the right one. Holding up his glass that evening, white hair shining, everyone on his feet, Martin Van Buren on a chair so he could see, Old Hickory fixed his glance on John C. Calhoun: “Our Union: It must be preserved.” Calhoun had risen with the rest, and his hand trembled so that a little yellow wine trickled down the side of his glass.

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