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MVB to John W. Taylor, [31 October 1814]


The bill authorizing the raising of twelve thousand men in this State has become a law. It now becomes necessary for congress to act upon it and until they do so the Governor will not commence the organization of the corps

I cannot conceive on what grounds the U. S. can for a moment hesitate to accept of the troops on the terms we offer them. This State will expend using of two millions out of her own resources and without remedy over, to raise them, When raised they are put under the command of the President, properly armed at the expence of this state, and all they ^we^ ask from the Genl. Government is, that in addition to what they would by law be obliged to do for our raw and untutored militia, that they shall be at the expence of clothing them which may cost thirty dollars a man, while according to their present terms of enlistment every man cost them three hundred and fifty dollars at least independently of the enormous expences attendant on the dilatory process of enlistment & independently moreover of the stubborn fact that experience has fully proved that all dependence on voluntary enlistment is vain.

But it may be said that the Bill reserves to the soldier the right of indulging in those constitutional scruples as to crossing the lines which have disgraced the militia of this state. To which we answer,

Ist. The reservation of this right was unavoidable public opinion would not have endured ballotting in the last resort for regular soldiers co nomine, and had we attempted it we should by trying to save the nation have lost the State.

2d. The only way in which men could be got of that name was by voluntary enlistment and that has been tryed until we are all sick of it. Every body knows that the attempt would have been a useless waste of public money by a criminal indulgence in an exploded experiment.

3d. The power of the Genl Govrmt. will be equally extensive over those troops as it now is over the militia of this state. They now have, have had and during the war will continue to have more than that number of our Militia in their pay and subsistence. And can any man doubt that the expence of the clothing will be saved in the economy of the troops alone, laying out of view the infinitely great superiority of their services. That one company of their troops will be better than a battalion of ordinary militia

4th. There will exist no ground on which to dispute their liability to cross the lines. The Genl Government have power to call forth the Militia “to repel invasion” The State of war has entirely changed this question since the period when it was first started, then we were as respects the Canadas exclusively invaders. Not so now. We are now invaded & will continue to be so until the Canadas are taken. Repelling invasion, means defeating threatened invasion. The british Govrmt. have again and again declared their determination to occupy part of our Territories and are now in possession of some of it, and finally they claim a great part of it as a sine qua non of a peace. The limits of a letter will not admit of what may be said upon this subject. The notion is already exploded in public opinion and nothing is easier than to silence it effectually.

5ly If it was true that they would have to be kept in this state the object would still be great and adequate for the Genl Govermt. They must defend New-York Buffaloe and Sackets harbor and Plattsburgh and many other places. What would have been the state of the war now if a force of this kind had last year been posted at those places and our Genls. been thereby enabled to consolidate the whole force at any one point The enemy would have been driven from fort George Burlington heights Kingston and at last Montreal.

6th. And lastly, These troops will go wherever the interest or the honor of the nation require them to go. I will forfeit my head if they dont. The officers are to be appointed from the most respectable men in the community without regard to party. The old Militia officers are to be laid up and young men taken, young men who love their Country and pant for glory. The Governors desk already groans with petitions from the most respectable ^young^ men in the state, most of them from federalist, all from men who wish to join the Corps to fight. To imitate not the good old seventy sixers who God bless them have fought too much before to be able to fight much more now, but Scott, Brown, Gains Porter Riply and spirits like theirs. Can you believe that such men or the troops under their command will stop at any time, that they will return to their homes and exchange the hisses of their fellow Citizens for the plaudits they profess to seek no sir no, it is a madness rash madness to indulge in any apprehensions on that score.

Upon the whole we have made you an offer which we think great, we have had hard, very hard work to get it. The opposition will strain every nerve to make it profitable to themselves in the spring election. They clamor much about taking two millions from the Citizens of this State and giving it to the U. S. but it will not do; their own people will desert them in numbers. We shall get from them all who are worth having that is those who will fight. These crafty, cunning politicians ^that^ would injure us, let them scold on.

If you can as well as not add any thing on the part of the u. S. to make it more palatable it will be well Such as allowing the money paid for the men in the first instance against the old state ballance or any thing like that. If not take it as it is. Go on vigorously and manfully and we will support you or with you find honorable political graves.

I propose to visit you the latter part of December ^November^ to see how you look. If any other time would be better for me write me.

Yours very sincerely


Martin Van Buren

October 31. 1814

Recd. Nov. 4th.

Ansd Nov. 6th

In the hand of Benjamin Franklin Butler

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Source: NHi New-York Historical Society
Collection: John W. Taylor Papers (NHi)
Series: Series 2 (1 January 1812-16 February 1815)