Robert Y. Hayne.
The renowned debate on the doctrine of nullification in which he was one of
the principals, if it were the only act of his life, must make the name of
Robert Y. Hayne forever illustrious. He was born in 1791, and admitted to the
bar before he was twenty-one, having been educated in Charleston, South
Carolina, his native State.
He volunteered early in the war of 1812 and rapidly rose to the position of
Major-General, being considered one of the best disciplinarians in the South. As
his old friend, Mr. Ehres, had been chosen to a seat in Congress, he succeeded
to his large practice, and before he was twenty-two he had the most lucrative
practice of any lawyer in his State.
He was elected to the South Carolina legislature as a member of the assembly
of 1814, and as speaker of that body four years after taking his seat and soon
was chosen Attorney General of the State. In every position young Haynes was
placed he not only acquitted himself
with credit but won for himself great esteem, and as soon as he was old enough
to be elligible for United States Senator he was sent by his State to defend
their interests at the national capitol.
Here he became a most aggressive opponent, culminating in "The battle of the
giants," the great debate on the interpretation of the constitution. Mr. Hayne's
speech on this occasion was heralded far and near, and it was classed by his
supporters with the mightiest efforts of Burke or Pitt. Mr. Webster's reply has
been generally acknowledged the superior effort of the two; but certain it is
that whatever may have been the tendency of the views espoused by him, Robert Y.
Hayne was an honest and sincere defender of the doctrine of the State Rights,
and was held in high esteem by his political opponents.
The obnoxious tariff laws passing, General Hayne was elected Governor of his
State; the people feeling that they could place the helm of their ship in no
safer hands during the trying ordeal they felt they were to pass through. In
replying to President Jackson's celebrated proclamation Hayne issued a
counter-manifesto full of defiance. Happily the compromise of Mr. [Henry] Clay postponed
for thirty years the threatened civil war.
The evening of the close of that great debate at a presidential levee, Mr.
[Daniel] Webster challenged Mr. Hayne to drink a glass of wine with him, saying, "General
Hayne, I drink to your health, and hope that you may live a thousand years."
Hayne's disposition is shown by his reply: "I shall not live a hundred if you
make another such a speech." If he felt there was merit in an individual he was
quickest to admit it even when it might be to his own detriment, and when it is
remembered that he was one of the first to compliment Webster on his great parliamentary success, his
noble qualities are shown in their true colors.
After serving in the gubernatorial chair with great distinction he retired to
become Mayor of Charleston. He now turned his attention especially to internal
improvements, and soon became president of the Charleston, Louisville &
Cincinnati Railway. This office he held at his death, which occurred in his
fiftieth year, September 24th, 1841. There are many things in the character of
General Hayne worthy of study.