S. Wright [Jr]. to MVB, 8 April 1844
8 April 1844
My Dear Sir,
I seize a moment, this morning, to acknowledge your favor of the 5th <Int>, which came to me yesterday and to thank you for it. I was not aware that my hasty letter to you indicated the feeling you think you see in it, and yet I am not surprised that it has some evidence of disturbed feeling, for the two letters did, at the moment disturb me not a little. Yet I very soon came to look upon the matter calmly and steadily, though not pleasantly. It appeared to me then, as it does yet, to put all other questions in the shade, and to involve consequences much more momentous than the result of a single election. Thus looking at it, I found the subject too grave for experiment, and being compelled to make up my mind that the question must be met, I have been calm and unimpassioned in feeling, though I certainly do not yet look forward with anticipations unattended by the deepest apprehensions. It is entirely possible that I have an exaggerated estimate of the feeling which this question is to excite, and I hope this time prove that it is so. At present, however, I feel little as no sensitiveness about your position, because that is swallowed up in my deep apprehension for the Union itself. I perceive that your mind is made up, and I do not doubt that your conclusions are the result of the most perfect investigation and the most mature reflection you are capable of giving the question upon its merits. Under these convictions I have not a fear that I shall have any cause to find fault with the opinions you may presume. Even if I should find myself compelled to dissent from any of them, which I do not at all apprehend, it will be enough for me to Know that they are honestly entertained and patriotically published to prevent the slightest difference of feeling. Your letter shows me that you look at the question as I do, as one of the gravest impact, and calling for as much regard to the character and standing of the Statesman and patriot past, present, and future, as to the present position of the candidate, and thus looking at it, and being compelled to speak, you cannot err very widely.
I may now give you the impression that I have become too indifferent to your position as a candidate and to the success of our party. That is impossible. I never can feel indifference upon either point, and my great apprehension, for years, has been that my anxiety on both might mislead my judgement and <illegible> to fatal errors.
Yet I have felt, ever since I seriously reflected upon the presence of this great question, that it changed the aspect of the whole case, and made it more noble, more desirable, more important, more patriotic, to take boldly the side of truth and principle, though it may be disasterous in a popular sense, than to temporize with a matter which may prove to be so vital to the perpetuity of our institutions, and to the peace, happiness, and prosperity of our country.
I have endeavored to keep my mind from forming any conclusions as to my personal action, until I should see the shape in which the matter is to be presented for action. Then I shall want all the advice of my numerous and faithful friends and it is my fixed determination to follow their advice to every extent that conscience will permit, and I have no fear that it will be tried to fulfil the obligation to the utmost extent they will advise me to go.
My principal object in writing to you now is to say that Mr. Butler left me at 5 minutes before six Oclk. this morning, calling as he did on his way to the Rail Road. He wrote to you I presume fully on Saturday evening, and although he said nothing to me of what he wrote, I feel assured that he gave you as full a history of what he had learned here, and his reflections upon it, as he had given to me in the course of that day, and as he might have learned other and further facts as respects, after I saw him at 2 Oclk p.m. on Saturday, he may have been able to give you information which I have not.
(His call this morning was to tell me that he spent the evening with his friend Spencer, last evening, and what he learned from him. I presume he told you that he has assured by Mr. Nelson that a Treaty would not be made, without the <assurance> and consent of Mexico. Spencer tells him that is not at all certain, that they have no assurance that the consent of Mexico can be had, and that Mr. Tyler is entirely indifferent whether it is had or not. Mr. Butler may have said something to you about the form of a Treaty, and the absence from it of any stipulations about slavery <&c>. Mr. S tells him that Mr. Tyler will probably insist upon the insertion of such stipulations, and in short that his object is so to frame the Treaty and bring up the question as to embarrass both yourself and Mr. Clay to the utmost possible extent, perfectly regardless of the consequences either to the success of the measure, or to the Country. Of the truth of this, so far as he shall be able to contest the matter, I cannot have a doubt. The consciousness of this disposition on his part, and the fear that it would be found to exist to an equal extent with the present Secy. of State, have been the foundation for my exiled apprehensions about the question itself. I confess the letter you send me from Mr. Carr gives me some hope that the latter person does not entertain all the feelings I had feared. I return you that letter herewith. It was news to me, but I had seen things in the Post and elsewhere, which give probability to this report. I called on Mr. Calhoun on Saturday, and he seemed very happy and as much at ease, as quiet, and far from restlessness as I ever saw him. Spencer is not in confidence, and tells Butler so, and says the condition of his holding on where he is is silence and non-interference, and, as you would expect, adds that he would quit, did he not Know that the Treasury would be made common plunder if he does.)
He further tells Butler, and assumes to Know the fact, that Clay will not come out against the annexation, but if driven to the wall will come out qualifiedly for it; that he entertains a firm conviction that you will favor it, and says you are not to get that whip now upon him. Now, whether friend S. exactly know Mr Clay’s views it appears to me may be somewhat doubtful. (He proposed to Butler that an understanding might be produced, if he would consent to forego his journey and they two could operate together to produce it, by which Mr. C. and yourself should take the same ground, and thus put it out of the power of Mr. Tyler to disturb the existing parties with the question. You know that Butler has a confidence in him which I have not, and at this moment I should distrust his judgement more than his motives. B. refered him to me as the negociator for this purpose, but he said I did not Know him as B. did, and should not place the requisite confidence in him &c. &c. But finally authorised B. to tell me if I chose to come and see him, perfectly confidentially, he would consult with me as he would with him, about such an arrangement. All this had excited our friend B. very much, and he seemed to suppose it was best for me to see S. I told him he had got me in a scrape, for if he did not hear from me now he would be mad, and that I did not think well of the proposition at all. At this Point the Rail Bell rand and we parted. I have concluded to give you the history, and wait to hear from you, unless I shall happen to meet S. or shall hear from him, in either of which cases, I will Keep sufficiently wide steerage not to do any harm, and not to offend him until I do hear. If you think it at all desirable I will undertake with him and find out what he Knows, but I am sure the friends of C. here you have none of their confidence, and I suspect he very much wants ours. If you think Best to let him alone, a single line to that effect will be enough, and I will Continue to pass the matter off in a way not to offend him.
I return you Mr. Bancroft’s letter. He wrote me lately saying that he proposed to send the result of his labours to me. I replied last evening and advised him not to do so, but to send them to you and have you summon a Council of <critics> at your House. I told him, as the <truth> is, that I was so harassed here that I could command neither time nor mind to devote to a correction of such a work, as it could not be done under constant and irritating interruptions, and that I could not shut myself out from them even for one half day, without giving mortal offense somewhere.)
You must not permit yourself to fear that, because I become occasionally vexed with these tormenting interruptions, and croakings and <illegible> fault findings, that I am to lay the blame to you. It is not so that I look at my position here. The desire to serve our principles and our party brings these troubles, and so far from your being in fault for them, they come upon you much more heavily than upon me. And if I am weak enough to exhibit my vexations occasionally, you must not let it effect you, and certainly not offend you.
I have been very remiss lately in expressing in my hasty letters the affectionate remembrances of Mrs. W. and myself towards Mrs. Van Buren, the Major, the Doctor, and especially the Boy, but I hope they are always believed to be understood, and since your high compliments to the good sense of Mrs. W. on account of the judgeship, if I can always be within the reach of orders I should be very likely to be called upon always to express them towards yourself.
With Great Respect
I am Most Truly Yours