PATRICK HENRY [Matthew Livingston Davis] to MVB, 15 September 1834
Sept. 15th, 1834.
During the year 1812, and for sometime previous, you was a resident of Hudson. Mr. James A. Hamilton was also a resident of the same place.- Congenial spirits, an intimacy was formed, which has ripened into a most affectionate and tender friendship. The ties which now bind you together are indissoluble. They are the ties of policy and of interest.-Each to the other is known. At that period you were nominally rallying under different standards; but really had the same objects in view. It was the design of both to discredit the war; of both, to bring into disrepute the authors and advocates of the war; of both, to decry Southern men, and Southern measures; of both, to destroy the well earned popularity of Jas. Madison, and thus defeat his re-election.
On the 8th of July, 1812, an address of the Hudson federalists was published. The object was, to convene a meeting of the party in the county, for the purpose of denouncing the President and the war.-Among other federalists, it was signed by James A. Hamilton; and the convention referred to,
Resolved, That the war is impolitic, unnecessary, and disastrous; and “that to employ the militia in an offensive war” (that is to enter Canada,) “is unconstitutional.”
It was with such men that you were acting during the summer and autumn of 1812, in opposition to James Madison; and yet, your adherents have impudently represented you as the early friend of the war. It is not alone the policy which you pursued in 1812, that I am anxious to hold up to condemnation; but the profligacy, also, of assailing and traducing the opponents of the war, after having acted in concert with them at its commencement; and not having abandoned them until they and you, were defeated in the presidential contest.
The whole summer and autumn of 1812, the enemies of Mr. Madison were indefatigable, throughout the state of New York, in their efforts to prevent his re-election. Nor was you, sir, a calm or an idle spectator. Your denunciations of the war, and its authors, were loud and strong. The papers which were supported by you and your friends (I do not allude to acknowledged federal journals) were in the constant habit of using language, such as the following, which is extracted from one of them:
August, 1812. “An administration which enters into war, without revenue, without preparation, and without of plan, or with preparation worse than none, pursues a miserable course,” &c. Again,
October, 1812. “Madison has begot war; war begets debts; debts begets taxes; taxes begets bankruptcy,” &c.
“Clinton will beget peace; peace begets riches and property; property begets harmony,” &c.
Such was the language of the public prints (in this State) which advocated your views and your policy. Is it unfair, or uncandid, to infer that it was done by your authority, and with your approbation?
These references are made for the purpose of shewing how the war, in 1812, “absorbed your whole soul.” It has already been remarked, that Mr. Clinton was nominated at a caucus held in this city, on the 29th of May, 1812. Mr. Madison was nominated in Congressional caucus, on the 22d of May, 1812; and here I have a word for your friend and champion, Mr. Ritchie, of Richmond. The old man is good at a somerset. His present support of you is evidence of the fact. Do you believe, as he evidently does, that Virginia can be made to follow his bidding?-While you were thus opposing, Mr. Ritchie was, with equal zeal, supporting Mr. Madison. On the 12th of February, 1812, the Virginia legislature held a caucus to nominate electors. It continued, during the evenings of the 13th and 14th.
Andrew Stevenson, was Chairman;
Thomas Ritchie, was Secretary.
After giving the ticket the editor of the Enquirer remarks, “It is proper to say, that but one sentiment reigned, through the meeting, and that the only test laid down, whether they should or should not vote for such and such an elector was-whether he would or would not vote for James Madison as President of the United States.”
On the 3d of November, 1812, the legislature met in this city for the purpose of choosing electors. You took your seat as a member of the Senate. Governor Tompkins, in his message, announced, that since the last session war had been declared. A committee, consisting of Messrs. Wilkins, Van Buren, and Platt, were appointed to draft a respectful answer. That answer is laconic, cold, and heartless. It contains no sentence approbating the war, or complimenting the patriots who had the firmness to assert the nation’s rights. It contains no denunciation of that government who had plundered our property, incarcerated in floating dungeons our defenceless citizens, and who by their wrongs, had driven us to take up arms in self-defence. And yet, with this official document, staring us in the face, you are unblushingly pronounced a friend to the late war.
The following is your chilling language:
“The Senate fully concur with your Excellency in the sentiment, that at a period, like the present, when our country is engaged in a war with one of the most powerful nations of Europe, difference of opinion, on abstract points, should not be suffered to impede or prevent our united and vigorous support of the constituted authority of the nation.” Consummate modesty!
In this manner you refer to the war in 1812. But in 1814 you had you had abandoned your late friends. You was again on a committee to answer the Governor’s message. How changed your tone. Speaking of Mr. Madison and his cabinet, you say-“An administration, selected for its wisdom and its virtues will, in our opinion, prosecute the war till our multiplied wrongs are avenged, and our rights secured.” Indeed! how patriotic. But why was not this discovery made in 1812? Why did you oppose an administration “selected for its wisdom and its virtues?” Why did you attempt to overthrow and cast it down? Why did you not, in 1812, speak of avenging our “multiplied wrongs” and “securing our rights?”
In 1816 you was on a similar committee. Peace had now been proclaimed. In your reply to the Governor, you say-“The war in which the nation has been involved, was not only righteous in its origin, but successful in its prosecution.” Did you, or did you not, know in 1812, that “the war was rightous in its origin?” Why was you dumb-founded on the subject at that time?
My next letter will notice your course in the caucus of November, 1812, when you opposed the nomination of Col. Henry Rutgers and others, as presidential electors; and then your vote in the Senate, on this nomination, will be reviewed. These acts are fine specimens of your early zeal in favor of the war.