The History of New York State
Book XII, Chapter 6, Part 3

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

This was proved by the election returns. Steuben County, a Regency stronghold, gave Clinton 1,000 majority. In other parts, a like story was told. Of course, it was explained that Clinton's efficient administration and his plans for further public improvements were the reasons for the change in voting; but William B. Rochester ever afterwards harbored the suspicion that Van Buren had not been true to his word in that campaign. Still, neither Clinton nor Van Buren had reason to be elated over the election result. The Canal Builder had had a majority of 9,042 over Young in 1824, but in a vote of almost 300,000 Clinton, in 1826, received only 3,650 more than Rochester.

Van Buren emerged from the maze of perplexing politics with more hope than Clinton. Rochester's creditable showing in the campaign for the Governorship encouraged some of the Adams Assemblymen to think of Rochester as the successor of Van Buren, whose term as United States Senator would expire on March 4, 1827. They even formed a combination with some of the Regency legislators, but Van Buren was helped by the vote of Clintonians in the Senate and Assembly in sufficient number to offset this. Indeed, he was re-elected by a larger majority than even his friends had anticipated. Van Buren had played his cards well. In the election of Clinton and the defeat of Crawford, it has seemed that the cards were running so persistently against him, that he would not have strength to continue, but his imperturbable serenity, linked now and then, it must be admitted, with a dash of the abandon of a gambler, brought him out of the hole into political solvency and good credit again. As James Parton wrote of Van Buren at this period: "His hand was full of cards and all his cards were trumps." #8 Andrew Jackson, who was also a Senator, had been watching him interestedly. He had satisfied himself that there was not much justification for the somewhat general belief that Van Buren, on most subjects, was non-committal. On the contrary, Jackson soon realized that the Kinderhook man's Senatorial utterances showed positiveness, in straightforward argument without a suspicion of ambiguity, and with little chance for logical rebuttal, but he had apparently been amused at the surprising contortions of the Senator in New York politics. One day, with Van Buren in mind, General Jackson said to a young New Yorker: "I am no politician: but if I were a politician, I would be a New York politician." #9

The Anti-Masonic Movement--All the advantage that came to Van Buren was not of his own making or planning. Time worked with him; it removed Ambrose Spencer from the bench, and dragged Governor Tompkins to the grave. The "grim reaper" also caught DeWitt Clinton--long before his time, it seemed. Most New Yorkers were dumfounded when they heard on February 11, 1828, that the Governor had died. He had not yet reached his sixtieth year, and in physical aggressiveness and mental vigor had seemed to be still barely beyond his prime. Of course, Clinton and Van Buren had latterly been in double harness, working for Jackson; but, knowing the dominating characteristics of one and the masterly maneuvering of the other, it would have been surprising had Jackson been able to keep them running in tandem for very long. Maybe, Van Buren did not have such thoughts at that time. He may have joined the State--nay, the Nation--in mourning the passing of the great New Yorker. Certainly, at that time, the average American thought only of the good that the deceased New Yorker had accomplished during his public career. Friend and foe alike mourned him. His public works testified to his service to his State, and the destitute condition of his family seemed to prove him an honest man. Clinton in his aggressive career, had roughly shouldered many men out of his way, had seemed to be unscrupulous in some things; but the level of his private purse at the time of his death is indication of an incorruptible guardianship of the public purse. DeWitt. Clinton was at the height of his career, or only just beyond it, at the time of his death. There are some who think that his political career was to all intents ended when Van Buren struggled again into the forefront in 1826; there are others who think that the slander which implicated Clinton with the conspiracy to abduct the Free Mason Morgan, would have ended all chance that Clinton might have had of further advancement in political life. It cannot be said that Clinton was the idol of the people; nobody really loved him; few even liked him; and he himself liked few still; but those who recognized him as one of the great men of his time were legion. One of his eulogists thought of him as the "Pericles of our Commonwealth." Thurlow Weed spoke of him as "a great man with weak points"; and Van Buren was "greatly tempted to envy him his grave with its honours."

To the last, Clinton had been positively for Jackson. Adams had offered the New York Governor the highest office in his giving, that of Secretary of State. But Clinton had declined the honor, and had made his championship of Jackson more definitely known. Van Buren had been equally emphatic. In September, 1827, Van Buren had permitted the New York Republicans to commit themselves to the support of only those who favored Andrew Jackson for the Presidential office. The State elections of 1827 clearly showed that the hero of New Orleans had captured the popular fancy. "From the moment Jackson became the standard bearer the crowds were with him." Adams, the cold correct writer-lawyer-diplomat-statesman, might command the respect of the thinking American, but the bluff, cheery, chivalric courageous Southerner of warm heart and fearless utterance and action was in an entirely different class. There was just the difference between the men that one commonly expects to find between a New Englander and a Southern. Jackson fired the fancy of the average man, and the Jackson party--at least in New York State--swept everything before it in the local elections of 1827, securing nearly all of the Senatorial districts and an overwhelming majority in the Assembly.

It was fortunate for Van Buren that he was able to put forward such a picturesque figure at this time when the people of Western New York were in such a state of excitement over the disappearance of William Morgan, a Free Mason, who had threatened to expose the secrets of the order. Free Masonry had had a remarkable growth in New York State. In Hammond's "Political History of New York" is the statement "that a majority of person holding official positions in the State were Masons. Legislative, judicial and executive officers--from presidents and Governors to deputy marshal and constables; from judges of the Supreme Court to justices of the peace; and from the grave and reverend Senator tot he town meeting orator--were, I religiously believe, solemnly pledged to perform the obligations and keep the secrets of Masonry.

Now, in the face of the supposed murder of Morgan by Masons, this widespread power of the order in the public affairs of the State assumed a sinister aspect. In the closet analysis it would be appreciated that as the Albany Regency controlled the State, and that as Van Buren, to all intents, controlled the Regency he must be classed as one of the leaders of the Masonic power in the State. His espousal of Jackson gave the people other cause for political thought. Jackson was a Mason and was proud to acknowledge that connection; but he was so far removed from the scene of the abuse of its power that he could not for a moment be grouped among those who came within the zone of suspicion. Van Buren's National activities seemed also to be an acceptable alibi, freeing him from implication in the crime. Of Clinton, however, the people had thought differently. His enemies had not hesitated to let it be known that he was one of the principal officers of the New York Masons; that Clinton had, indeed, commanded that Morgan's book be "suppressed at all hazards." In this way, they reasoned, Clinton had actually instigated the murder. Of course, the slander was soon stifled, but it is doubtful whether Clinton, had he lived, could have continued in his former popular favor in the face of insinuations such as this. He had been talked to for the Presidency, but had refused to allow his name to be used, and had more strenuously exerted himself in the Jackson movement. In this he was only following out more closely his plan of 1824; so it can hardly be supposed that the Morgan embroglio had even an indirect bearing on his declination of Presidential preferment. Moreover, it seems that Van Buren would have favored re-election of Clinton as Governor in 1828, even though Western New York, which was growing rapidly, was violently Anti-Masonic.

Death simplified the problem for Van Buren. Clinton was removed from both State and National calculations. After all, the Anti-Masonic movement had not yet spread much beyond Western New York. Of far greater consequence to the average voter was it to decide with which of the newly-formed political parties to affiliate. Van Buren's ceaseless hammering at the Adams administration had split the republican party in twain; the Adams-clay faction was to come into the 1828 campaign as the national Republican Party, later to be known as Whigs; and the Jackson-Van Buren faction, to be known as Democratic Republicans, and eventually as Democrats. In considering the factors that were likely to enter into the campaign for the Governorship in New York, the National Republicans seemed to give undue importance to the Anti-Masonic sentiment. They hesitated to nominate Associate Justice Smith Thompson for fear of offending the Anti-Masons. The question was not decided until a ballot was taken in convention. Thompson won by a close vote, but an endeavor to compromise with the Anti-Masonic group was seen in the nomination of Francis Granger, an Anti-Mason, for the Lieutenant-Governorship. An Anti-Masonic Convention met soon afterwards at Utica and nominated Francis Granger for Governor and John Crary for Lieutenant-Governor. Secretly Van Buren and Crary contrived to get Granger to decline the Anti-Masonic nomination, and to put at the head of that ticket a man of little prestige, Solomon Southwick, the visionary who had earlier illogical aspirations for the Governorship, and now seemed to think that he was the logical candidate, inasmuch as he had renounced his Masonic tie. John Crary was one of the Assemblymen who had fearlessly denounced the Regency and Van Buren for seeking to remove Clinton from the canal commissionership, and he had come to be known as "Honest John Crary"; but now, to those who knew of the Van Buren-Crary intrigue such an appellation seemed to be incongruous.

Van Buren Becomes Governor--Van Buren's strategy showed itself in another surprising compact at this time. Jackson's election seemed to depend upon New York, and Van Buren did not mean to risk any chance of losing the Secretaryship of State that would be his in a Jackson cabinet. So, although he was United States Senator and had no desire to be Governor, he would prefer to step into the breach himself and run for governor on the Democratic ticket than to see the Governorship pass to the Adams-Clay Republicans. So he accepted nomination, supposedly endorsing the Masonic order. He had the audacity to link himself with one of the most prominent of the Anti-Masons. With his characteristic thoroughness, Van Buren went into the Anti-Masonic zone, to study the situation for himself. "The excitement has been vastly greater than I supposed," he wrote Hamilton, after a survey of the western counties had shown him how seriously he had miscalculated the strength of the movement. Of course, he was quite east as to Southwick. He knew that the Anti-Masonic candidate had little chance of election; but he was not so sure that the Jackson ticket might not fall between Thompson and Southwick. So Van Buren turned aside from Rochester to visit his old friend, Judge Enos T. Throop. The latter had, in January, 1827, presided at the first trail of the abductors of Morgan, and, to the delight of Anti-masons, had flayed the defendants before pronouncing sentence. Van Buren found Judge Throop receptive to his suggestion that they join hands and head the Jackson ticket, inasmuch as the success of Jackson would mean that Van Buren would be in the Governorship for only a few months, and that with his acceptance of cabinet office, Lieutenant-Governor Throop would become Governor.

Van Buren held firm control of the convention and, therefore, was able to get the almost unanimous nomination of Throop as Lieutenant-Governor Pitcher, who had expected at least to be preferred for the Lieutenant-Governorship, if not for the Governorship.

The campaign was almost as bitterly contested as that of 1800, when the fight was between Jefferson and Adams. Van Buren was able to bring upon Adams and his supporters as much odium as the Jefferson leaders had heaped upon the candidate's Federalist father in the opening years of the century; and Jackson had to bear the exposure of the most delicate secrets of his private life. In other States, then tactics of the Adams leaders was more ruthless than in New York State, where at least one of the National Republican leaders refrained from personal attacks upon Jackson and his wife. Thurlow weed, though a poor man whose hands were usually smeared with printer's ink, was probably the leading or rather the most forceful, Anti-Mason. He directed the publicity of that party and would not countenance the despicable tactics resorted to by some of the Adams party. As he says in his autobiography: ". . . .I look back now with astonishment that enlightened and able statesmen could believe that General Jackson would be injured with the people by ruthlessly invading the sanctuary of his home, and permitting a lady whose life had been blameless to be dragged forth into the arena of politics." Weed fought bitterly, though fairly, against Van Buren. Still, he was not able to defeat the great Regency leader. Van Buren was so confident of victory that he arranged with one of his friends to stake $500 "on joint account," that Thompson would be defeated; and to lay other bets on the extent of the defeat. Of course, he had dismissed all thought of Southwick. So had Weed, seemingly, for when he heard that Southwick had been substituted for Granger, he declared that Van Buren had "juggled" the Anti-Masons out of a candidate. Still, there was not public man so powerful or popular as Van Buren in New York at the time, and the latter's confidence in the outcome of the election was based on something sounder than personal vanity. Van Buren defeated Thompson by 30,000 votes, and Southwick by 100,000. He was now apparently at the zenith of his political power in New York, so strongly intrenched that no other political factor, or faction, could dislodge him for many years. The Anti-Mason keenly regretted that they had not followed Weed's advice. Weed himself was almost in tears half a century later at the thought that this victory of Van Buren in 1828 gave his party absolute control of the State for another twelve years.

In the Electoral College, New York cast twenty votes for Andrew Jackson and sixteen for John Quincy Adams for President. The full vote of the Electoral College gave Jackson 178 votes, and Adams received only 83. This confirmed the popular vote, which was as follows: Jackson, 647,231; Adams, 509,097.

So it came about that Van Buren was Governor of New York for only a short time--from January 1, to March 12, of 1829. On the latter day he resigned to become Secretary of State in the Jackson administration and at the same time Enos T. Throop advanced from Lieutenant-Governor to Governor, as the constitution provided.

Weed and Seward--It cannot be said that Weed was disappointed with the showing of the Anti-Masons. On the contrary, he was encouraged. Had they had a stronger candidate than Southwick, what might they not have accomplished. So he set to work determinedly to father together "and cement into a solid fighting mass all the heterogeneous elements that Clinton had left and Van Buren could not control," though many years were destined to pass before he had these elements under one party flag. His immediate power was with the Anti-Masons of western New York, and he deserved their esteem, for he had suffered much for their cause. As an editor in Rochester, Weed had been the most aggressive in charging that Morgan had been murdered by Free Masons; and he had been active in identifying a drowned body as that of Morgan. Whereupon Weed was charged with mutilating the body to make it resemble Morgan. That Weed did not materially profit by this prominence is indicated by the following incident referred to by Alexander. Weed dwelt in a cheap house in an obscure part of the village of Rochester in 1828. Sometimes he had to borrow clothes "to be presentable." "One day," says Henry B. Stanton, "I was standing in the street with him, and Frederick Whittlesey when his little boy came up and said, 'Father, Mother wants a shilling to buy some bread.' Weed put on a queer look, felt in his pockets and remarked; 'That is a home appeal, but I'll be hanged if I've got the shilling.' Whittlesey drew out a silver dollar and gave the boy who ran off like a deer." #10 yet, points out Alexander, "at that moment, Weed, with his bare arms spattered with printer's ink, was the greatest power in the political life of Western New York." #11

Possibly, it was his impoverished personal state that suggested to his friends and admirers a plan whereby he and the party might be helped. The Anti-Masons needed a newspaper at Albany. A subscription paper was circulated, and $2,500 was quickly gathered. With this fund at his command Thurlow weed was asked to launch the paper, and was offered a salary of $750 to edit it. "You have a great responsibility resting upon your shoulders," write Frederick Whittlesey, "But I know no man who is better able to meet it." So Weed went to Albany and on March 22, 1830, launched the first issue of the Albany "Evening Journal." Its subscribers number 170, but mainly because of his "sententious and pungent" editorials, this little paper was destined to have within ten years after its establishment, "the largest circulation of any political paper in the United States."

The birth of the "Evening Journal" marked the reorganization of the Anti-Masonic party. The movement was destined to spread far beyond the former centre of disturbance, although as a political party it was to prove to be only a flare which, though noticeable and disturbing for some time, soon faded. It was responsible for making some men and breaking others. Among those whom it brought forward was Millard Fillmore, of whom more will be written. He greatly impressed Weed at the Adams convention in buffalo in 1828; and Weed pushed him into the Assembly. He carried him farther, though it is doubtful whether Fillmore advanced as rapidly as an Anti-Mason as he might have under the stronger parties.

Another young man who came even more prominently into the Anti-Mason party at this time, and of whom Weed probably thought more highly, was William Henry Seward. Weed "saw in him, in a remarkable degree, rapidly developing elements of character which could not fail to render him eminently useful in public life," also, "unmistakable evidences of stern integrity, earnest patriotism, and unswerving fidelity"; and in addition, "a rare capacity for intellectual labor, with an industry that never tired and required no relaxation." Seward with one of those who stood behind Weed in the "Evening Journal" enterprise, in 1830. At that time he was twenty-nine years old, though his somewhat effeminate bearing made him seem to be seven or eight years younger. Seward's youth and early manhood had developed incidents which showed him to have courage and determination, despite "a delicacy of habit and character almost feminine." Normally self-restrained and possessed of marked filial respect with no inclination toward profligacy or waywardness, Seward had nevertheless chafed under parental discipline. When nineteen years old he ran away to Georgia, and there demonstrated that he could make way for himself. While teaching school he studied law, and within a year graduated with honor from Union College. Two years later, he was admitted to the bar, and accepted as an associate of Elijah Miller, of Auburn, New York. He soon made this partnership more binding by marrying the daughter of Lawyer Miller. Law brought Seward into politics, and although a Bucktail Republican, he could not countenance the tactics of Van Buren and the Regency in 1824, when the attempt was made to oust Clinton from the canal commissionship. Young Seward campaigned vigorously for Clinton and became so prominent during the next four year that he was called upon to preside at a junior convention of Adams Republicans in 1828. He and Thurlow weed exchanged views regarding public affairs, and as might be expected, the young man was drawn to anti-Masonry. Seward had confidence inWeed; he had none in Van Buren; moreover, he was sincerely convinced that the Jacksonian policy would involve "not only the loss of our national system of revenue, and of enterprises of State and national improvement, but also the future disunion of the States, and ultimately the universal prevalence of slavery." So Seward had a definite national purpose to fight for; and the coterie of brilliant young lawyers that constituted his political circle saw that they could pursue their purpose with less restriction in the Anti-Masonic party than in the national (Adams) republican party, which was swayed by older men, Thurlow Weed, who was the outstanding leader among the Anti-Masons, was an old sage in political wisdom; yet he was still in his early thirties; Seward was not yet thirty. Whittlesey, Tracy, and Fillmore were also in the thirties. So it is not surprising to find that in some instances the Anti-Masonic leaders resorted to the impetuosities of youth. Weed especially gave freer rein to his thoughts in editorial utterances in the opening years of the Albany "Evening Journal" than he manifested in maturer years of political campaigning.

The tremendous power of Weed's pen had a marked influence upon both the "Journal" circulation and upon the pulse of the Anti-Masons. The party met in convention at Utica in August, 1830, and nominated Francis Granger for Governor. This nomination was acceptable to the Adams Republicans also; therefore the fight was between the Democratic Republicans and the Anti-Masonic party. It was not until considerable heat had been generated that the Bucktails, in convention at Herkimer, on September 8, 1830, succeeded in nominating Throop, a strong movement in favor of Erastus Root having been manifested. His supporters resented his rejection, New York City Bucktails especially being disgruntled. Just before election it seemed that Granger would defeat Throop, bit it was later seen that Granger had placed too much emphasis upon the Anti-Masonic movement and too little upon the anti-Masonic party. In other words, he was inclined to be more destructive and constructive, more vindictive than helpful, more eager to stamp out a secret society which, in its normal functioning, was a helpful brotherhood--but at best, only a fraternity--than to centre his political efforts upon the broader phases of public affairs. So Acting-Governor Throop, who had shown no outstanding qualities as an administrator but who had had the good sense to drop consideration of the Masonic incident after excoriating the alleged Morgan abductors who had been brought into his court for sentence, was given another term of Governor, his majority over Granger being almost 8,500. Western New York favored Granger by two to one in some sections. He had a substantial majority in the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Senatorial districts, but the Hudson River counties were solidly Masonic, though very many of the Free Masons were normally of the Adams branch of the Republican party. They voted with Bucktails and the Regency for Throop because they preferred government by the Regency than persecution by the Anti-Masons. Ezekiel Williams, another candidate for Governor, received 2,332 votes.

The anti-Masons, however, secured quite a respectable minority of. Senators, including William H. Maynard, William H. Seward, and Albert H. Tracy, and had good representation in the Assembly also. So the young men had no reason to be discouraged, but the Fifty-fourth legislature, which convened on January 4, 1831, possessed a strong Regency majority in both houses.

The Broken Minister Becomes Vice-President--Van Buren was only seventy days in authority as governor of New York, and in that period he delivered only one message; but this was quite typical of him. It is said that this message must rank "among the ablest State papers in the archives of the Capitol." Undoubtedly it was masterly. Such excellence is demanded of a man whose public policies must ever foster, and never hinder, his personal ambitions. In political life, opportunism is generally synonymous with insincerity. On only one question does Van Buren seem to have been sincere; he urged a general law for chartering banks without the payment of money bonus, and suggested that there be established a "safety fund" to which fund all banks must contribute, so as to secure dishonored banknotes. This was a constructive measure of prime importance, though, as was ultimately proved, it did not create a financial reserve ample enough to meet such a stringency as that of 1837.

Van Buren tried to guard himself against misfortune in cabinet office by seeing that his place as United States Senator was taken by a friend who would not mind resigning in his favor if necessary in the future. Charles E. Dudley, a man of mild personally and no personal ambition, was his successor. Marcy went to the bench of the State Supreme Court after notable service as State Comptroller, and Silas Wright received the latter appointment. Green C. Bronson, an excellent lawyer, became Attorney-General. Bronson had served in the Assembly as a Clintonian in 1822, but latterly had been helpful to the Regency. He was aggressive and capable, one of the intellectual young men upon whom Van Buren relied. Bronson was forty years old, and although his career comes almost wholly into legal and judicial history, he was destined to be numbered among leading New York Democrats for more than twenty years after becoming Attorney-General. Silas Wright was only thirty-five years old when he became State Comptroller, and at the same time assumed the place of the capable Marcy in the Regency. Wright had been in public life for eight years, and in that time had held many offices, including that of State Senator and Congressman. The people of St. Lawrence County--a Clintonian stronghold--thought so highly of Wright that although he broke faith with them in voting with the Regency in 1824 against the bill that would have given the people the choice of Presidential electors, they forgave him. Basically, they knew he was honest, and that his change of mind came by sincere conviction. Wright was not brilliant in debate, but he was determined, and, despite an unpleasant delivery, was able to attract and convince by his sincerity and logic. Above all, his frank, open countenance at once assured his hearers that he was not a politician. Silas Wright was a legislator, but had no aptitude ore inclination for the wiles of the politician. In this science he would never vie with Van Buren, nor could he assume the stolid imperturbability of Marcy; but Van Buren's cause might have been in more convincing hands had Wright, not Marcy, been United States Senator in 1831, when the opposition saw an opportunity of shaking the Government, and of bringing extreme humiliation, if not irretrievable disaster, to Van Buren, by refusing to approve his appointment as Minister to England, whither he had already gone.

Van Buren had secured the Senatorship for Marcy in Sanford's place; and although the Regency head thus acknowledged his appreciation of Marcy's services in State politics, and at most times would wish for no more capable a lieutenant with whom to map out the tortuous roads and byroads of a political campaign, there came a time in the United States Senate when the Marcy characteristic of wily intrigue was out of place, and outspoken, fearless defense of Van Buren was more the demand of the moment. For two years Van Buren had been giving most efficient service as Secretary of State; so capable was he indeed that jealousies arose, inasmuch as he was growing more and more like "Presidential timber." Jackson's eyes were resting more and more favorably upon him. This stirred others to search for something with which to blight the Kinderhook oak, for they believed they knew of other Presidential timber just as sound, nay! Sounder. Calhoun, especially, was hostile to Van Buren. Long after April, 1831, when Van Buren resigned cabinet office, Jackson was aware that cabinet dissension was making his administration difficult; but he did not know how to alter the state of affairs until Van Buren chivalrously pointed out the way by voluntarily resigning. He hoped that by so doing it would be no longer necessary for Jackson to maintain his so-called "Kitchen Cabinet," a coterie of practical politicians who privately advised the President. Jackson recognized Van Buren's unselfishness by appointing him Minister to England soon afterwards. Van Buren departed, but when, in the following December, the question of his confirmation came up, enemies of Van Buren came running from all directions. Calhoun was in flat opposition, but Webster fired his shots from a higher plane. Reciprocal trade relations between British American colonies and untied States had been refused by the Adams administration; but the Jackson government through its Secretary of State, Van Buren, reversed this policy, thinking that this was in accord with the wishes of the people, as expressed in the recent election. Unfortunately, in submitting instructions to the United States Minister to England, Van Buren, departed from diplomatic custom by referring to party contests in an official dispatch. For this breach, a dozen Senators conspired to reprimand Secretary Van Buren. Of course, those who were close to the body politic knew that the censure originated in the minds of Van Buren's enemies, and that if this opportunity had not come, they would have searched and found, or made, another. Webster found himself willing to pardon any slip based in "true patriotism and sound American feeling," but he did not think these should "be sacrificed to party." Clay saw in Van Buren's instructions the prostration of the American Eagle tot he British lion. He also referred to "the odious system of proscription practiced in the State of New York, which he alleged, Van Buren had introduced into the general government."

In defense of Van Buren, Senator Marcy might "have covered himself in glory"; there were enough good points in Van Buren's career to have confounded all the critics. For instance, his patriotic impulse during the War of 1812 resulted in the Conscription Act, which he drafted, and which was declared by Benton to be "the most drastic piece of war legislation ever enacted into law." Marcy lost the opportunity of holding the defense to the nobler phases of the ex-secretary's public acts; instead, he lowered the argument tot he plane of ward politics. Political proscription he defended on the score that both sides did it; personally, he could see "nothing wrong in the rule that to the victors belong the spoils of the enemy." This curse of party politics was not of Van Buren's making; it was conceived and practiced in New York and other States long before he reached man's estate. Although the Albany Regency, which he headed, was especially thorough in dispensing party patronage, it was also remarkably efficient in its choice of public servants, but the average citizen did not know this, and to Marcy's "celebrated and execrable defense Van Buren owes much of the later and unjust belief that he was an inveterate spoilsman." #12

Still, it mattered little at the moment what Marcy said; there were enough of Van Buren's enemies in the Senate to bring about his removal from diplomatic office. Confirmation of his appointment was accordingly denied. "It will kill him," boasted Calhoun in Benton's hearing. Others just as happily shared that opinion, but Benton thought differently. He did not forget that the general tendency of humans is to lean toward the persecuted "under-dog." "You have broken a minister and elected a Vice-President," he declared. "The people will see nothing in it but a combination of rivals against a competitor." Some other shrewd political students agreed with him. Thurlow Weed thought Van Buren's rejection would "change the complexion of his prospects from despair to hope." Lord Auckland, when he heard of the Senate action, said to Van Buren in London: "It is an advantage to a public man to be the subject of an outrage."

It was so. Van Buren's home State was the first to get up in arms. They called upon the President "to avenge the indignity offered to their most distinguished fellow-citizen"; and President Jackson fanned the flame of resentment against the Senate by declaring, in reply, that Van Buren's "signal success" as Secretary of State had not only justified his selection, but that his public service "had in nowise diminished confidence in his integrity and great ability. The President assumed "entire responsibility for the instructions given the American minister at London." In the indignation meetings that followed, it became clear that Van Buren would strengthen the Jackson ticket by his nomination as Vice-President. So, while the ex-secretary was still in London, he was nominated for the Vice-Presidency, the Democratic National convention, at Baltimore, in May, 1832, giving him, on the first ballot, 260 votes out of 326. #13 Upon his return from London in July, Van Buren was so enthusiastically received that some of his followers did not think themselves rash in predicting that he would eventually succeed Jackson as President. Certainly, the humiliated minister was not politically dead.

Opposing Jackson and Van Buren in the campaign of 1832 were Henry Clay and John Sergeant, representing the National Republicans, and William Wirt and Amos Ellmaker representing the Anti-Masons, for President and Vice-President, respectively. The Anti-Masonic party convened in Baltimore in September, 1831, and the National Republicans gather in the same city in December of that year. Neither party adopted a platform, and , as a matter of fact, "the campaign of 1832 seemed to be without an issue, save Van Buren's rejection as minister to Great Britain and Jackson's wholesale removals from office. However, in the Jackson attack upon the United States Bank, the opposition seemed to draw together.

Marcy's Patched Pantaloons--The national Republicans in New York State held a convention at Albany in June, 1831; and its delegates unanimously supported nomination of Clay at the Baltimore convention in December. The Anti-Masons had acted independently in nominating Wirt, but in other respects were in accord with the National Republicans. The President's action, in vetoing the re-chartering of the United States Bank, however, unified the opposition in New York State. In June a convention of Anti-Masons nominated Francis Granger for Governor, with Samuel Stevens for his Lieutenant-Governor. An electoral ticket headed by James Kent and John C. Spencer, was also announced. A month later, the Anti-Masonic State and electoral tickets were adopted by the National Republican.

Meanwhile, the Democrats, or Democratic Republicans, moved cautiously. The future was somewhat perplexing, and the strongest man they could think of for the Governorship was Marcy, who did not want the nomination. He feared that Jackson's vetoing of the bank charter would let loose a lot of money to be used for electioneering. Also he shrank from the ridicule he must endure as a result of his penuriousness while on the State payroll, as a justice of the Supreme Court. It seems that the State was liable for the personal expenses of the judges during court sessions; and Marcy seems to have been scrupulously exact in accounting for expenditures. Thurlow Weed, who was determined to elect Granger, discovered that in one of Marcy's bills for court expenses was an item of fifty cents paid "for mending his pantaloons." It was a legitimate charge, and those who made fun of him were careful not to suggest, or insinuate that the judge was dishonest. Their cause was sufficiently helped by the merriment they were able to raise at the mention of the "Marcy's pantaloons." Sometimes, the jester is able to lay low the most doughty knight. Thurlow Weed reveled in the opportunity and the pages of the "Evening Journal" during the months of this campaign adequately testify tot his qualifications as a jester. The patched trousers confronted Marcy everywhere. On one trip by stage coach, Marcy suddenly heard the driver shout, as they neared a rough section of road: "Now, ladies and gentlemen, hold n tight, for this hole is as large as the one in the Governor's breeches." Most exasperating of all was the thought that little could be don’t to check the buffoonery. How bitterly Marcy must have regretted that, when itemizing his expenses on court duty, he had not exercised a little of his customary political caution; but his thoughts were judicial at that time, and law demands the truth. So the item was truthfully recorded, "without a particle of reflection as to how it would appear in print." Maybe, it was only a button that the tailor supplied, but in breeches anecdotes it was always a patch.

However, while it made life poignant for Marcy for some time, the jocularity was not politically expensive. March, thanks to a queer twisting of the public thought on the United States Bank issue, emerged triumphant over Granger. Marcy received 166,410 and Granger 156,672 votes. Of course, the common people--those with much money--rejoiced in Jackson's attack upon the "monster monopoly," the United States Bank, which was "endangering the liberties of the country." It was only to be expected that the common people should reason so, and that they should be found largely in the ranks of the Democratic party; but, by the contrary, it would seem that the moneyed interest, the wealthy people, so-called aristocrats, and the land owners should have rallied to the Jackson opposition, the National Republican party. As a matter of fact, however, rubbed shoulders with the opponents of banks. Rich and poor combined to elect the Jackson ticket; and in this way Marcy was able to offset the overwhelming advantage that Granger held in the Anti-Masonic western counties.

 

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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