Matthew Livingston Davis to MVB, 21 September 1834

PATRICK HENRY [Matthew Livingston Davis] to MVB, 21 September 1834

LETTER VIII.

Albany

Sir-

The manner in which the bill to raise twelve thousand men, originated in 1814, has been detailed. It was a measure recommended by Gov. Tompkins; and as the bill reported by Mr. Van Buren, differed from that reported by Gen. Root, it is proper to examine in what the difference consisted. The proposition of Gen. Root was, that the men should be raised by volunteer enlistments, and that as an enducement to enlist in the state service, their pay should be increased, by adding to the pay given by the United States two dollars per month. The state to be responsible to the troops for the whole amount of their wages.

Mr. Van Buren’s bill proposed that the men should be drafted, from the body of the militia, and compelled to serve, or supply a substitute. It contained a proviso also that the United States should first agree to pay them. Such were the points of difference as to the details. But there is another feature in your bill against which Gen. Root protested, and from the responsibility of which your pander would now protect you. He says, “Mr. Van Buren drew the bill for raising an army of 12,000 men to be placed under the command of patriot, Tompkins.” This is a profligate misrepresentation, and when published was known to be such.

On the 6th of October, 1814, this particular section of the law was discussed. As proposed by you, sir, it read, “That the troops to be raised by virtue of this act, shall be subject to the orders of the commander in chief of the armies of the United States.”

Gen. Root offered an amendment, which was, to strike out this clause, and insert, “That the troops to be raised by virtue of this act shall be under the command of, and subject to the orders of the commander in chief, (Tompkins,) but may be employed in any place and in any service in defence of the liberties and independence of this state and of the United States, which the commander in chief of the State may direct.”

This amendment of Gen. Root was opposed by you, and ultimately rejected. Thus taking from Gov. Tompkins the command of the State troops and placing them at the disposal of the United States, beyond any control of the Governor, although they were intended as substitutes for militia. With this fact recorded on the journals of the Senate, it requires an extroardinary degree of impudence, to assert such a falsehood as is contained in the remark, that the troops thus to be raised were, “to be placed under the command of the patriot Tompkins.”

But there is another view of this question, to which I will briefly advert. You are now endeavoring to impress the South with a belief that you are the friend of State rights. You know that your adherents in New York will support you as a State rights man; or as a nullifier, or as a consolidationist, or in any other character that you may deem it your interest to assume. If ever any man was fairly entitled to the epithet “political mountebank,” you, sir, are that man. Let me not, however, be misunderstood. By “your adherents,” I do not mean the friends of Gen. Jackson or of the late De Witt Clinton. I mean what I say-“your adherents.” But nous verrons. Your zeal in 1814, your “untiring exertions,” at that time, to take from the Governor of the State by a special act of the legislature, the command of the militia, and to place them exclusively under the command of the United States, is a lucid commentary upon your State right principles. It is not necessary to say whether you were right or wrong in exhibiting such extreme jealousy of Gov. Tompkins. He was known to be the ardent friend of the war, and and might, therefore, have been safely entrusted with the command of our militia. But I do mean to say, that your conduct on that occasion was in direct hostility to the dogmas of the whole South, as now contended for by them; and yet your friends Ritchie, Rives, Forsyth, and others of that school, are chaunting a political lullaby to the Southrons, in your behalf, on this very point.

It was intended to have explained the reasons which probably induced you to abandon Mr. Clinton. They are, however, so self evident that a brief notice only is requisite. You commenced life a politician by trade. In pursuing the trade, yours has “not been the zeal of ordinary men.” As soon, therefore, as Mr. Madison was re-elected, (Dec. 1812,) you began to arrange for abandoning Mr. Clinton. The Madisonain party were triumphant. You have ever had an instinctive antipathy to minorities. You were appointed Judge Advocate by the war department for the trial of Gen. Hull. You received on that occasion a generous fee. Your adherents say that you are grateful for favors bestowed. Here let the curtain be dropped; something must be left for the imagination of the reader.

I feel, sir, a strong inclination to detail a scene at Tammany Hall on a particular occasion, when you might have truly said to the Weskinki-“Pity the sorrows of a poor young man, whose trembling limbs have borne him to your door.” Although I do not pretend to have been personally present, yet the incident was so fully detailed to me, that I pledge myself for its accuracy. I will only give you such hints as will satisfy you that I am not unacquainted with the facts.

You went to New York, and if I am not mistaken, in company with Judge Spencer. A grand public dinner was to be given at Tammany Hall; you sighed for an introduction into the Sanhedrim; you were at that time an exile from the wigwam. Under the protection of Judge Spencer you did not wish to make your entree; unprotected you dare not to go. You called upon a gentleman well known as a Madisonian, and requested the favor of him to take you in charge, and have you in his safe keeping. You apprehended insult. You were taken by the gentleman to whom I alluded. Through his kindness you received an introduction, and thus found your way back into Tammany Hall. The details might be sport to some, but not so to others. As I know your memory is not always faithful, I will only remark, that your friend on that occasion is yet living. He was one of the Madisonian candidates for elector in 1812, was honored with your opposition, and yet had the liberality to escort you to the great Wigwam.

PATRICK HENRY

Editorial Process Complete