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Leonidas [MVB], "LEONIDAS on the subject of the note from Chief Justice SPENCER," 25 January 1820

Leonidas on the subject of the note from Chief Justice Spencer.

It gives Leonidas no pleasure to connect the name of the chief justice, with the party politics of the day. Whatever may be thought by those who are incapable of separating political opposition from personal hostility, it would be more grateful to his feelings, to contribute his best efforts to snatch his honor from associations, which if they do not dishonor, certainly destroy his usefulness—to place him on ground where he might receive the respect of the republican party without exposing its peace and unity to the instability and intemperance of his political course. As chief justice, he might render himself an ornament to the bench, and an honor to the state—but a successful politician he can never again be. To suppose otherwise, would be to disdain all confidence in the republicans of this state. If in view of our political history for the last five years, and with a perfect knowledge of his present course, they can once more consent to pass under the yoke—then, indeed, has that proud and independent spirit which once characterized them, been broken down—then, indeed, will they be fit only for slaves; and the question, as to who shall be the task master that shall mark them for his own, a matter of indifference. Such, however, can never be their condition, for I know well how highly the strongest feelings of their natures will be aroused by the mere contemplation of a state so abject, so mean.

Leonidas has felt it his duty to lay before the republicans of the state what he considered an open and unequivocal avowal of the political creed of the new school—a creed which has been zealously supported in the ‘court gazette,’ which was taught in public places by its professors here; and with respect to which, he supposed there was not intended to be the least reserve. A creed, of the existence of which, it was all important that the republicans of the state should be satisfied; and to remove all doubts on that point, no course was deemed more eligible than to fix its authenticity, by tracing it to one of the fathers of the school. This was done on authority which was supposed, and is yet deemed, indisputable. In the last Register, we are however favored with a note from the chief justice, which is called a denial of its existence, and is the occasion of these passing remarks. That the note under consideration evinces a degree of fluttering and confusion unusual to its author, must be obvious to the most casual reader; and obtuse indeed must be the faculties of that man who cannot perceive at a single glance, the severe and unpleasant ordeal to which it might be subjected.

Such, however, is not the wish of Leonidas. Not even the unbroken tissue of misrepresentations which appeared in the last Register, and the columns of scurrility which have for six months past graced the semi-weekly numbers of a paper, for the support to which the Chief Justice has largely contributed, will induce to more than a simple analysis of its contents. Thus much justice demands and duty requires.

The allegation of Leonidas was, that Chief Justice Spencer had declared to Gen. Brown, “that there was no longer a republican party in this state as such, and that henceforth our citizens will only be known as the opposers and supporters of Mr. Clinton’s administration.” The declaration was one calculated to rouse the dormant spirit of the party. It struck a chord which vibrated through all its parts, and excited the feelings of the most torpid, and was well calculated to produce an exertion which would shatter into a thousand fragments the artful combinations of the allies. If true, it ought to have that effect; if not, it was proper that it should be corrected. This might have been effected either by application to Gen. Brown, to refute it, or at least by a clear and unequivocal denial of it. Has either been done? Of the former we have heard nothing—How stands the latter? “Instead of saying (says his honor) there is no longer a republican party as such,” the observation was, or was intended to be, “there is no longer a federal party as such in the state.” While on the one hand, an application to Gen. Brown from the Chief Justice, if his sentiments have been misrepresented, would be in every respect proper, and certain of success, on the other a call from Leonidas to volunteer his testimony, might not be complied with. But suppose Gen. Brown confirms the statement of Leonidas, the answer would be, the chief justice “did not intend to say so,” and of course the enquiry be rendered fruitless. This is extraordinary—the chief justice is not apt to be misunderstood. On the contrary, it is one of the most commendable features in his character, that while others muffle themselves in mystery and mince out their sentiments with caution, he, unlike the “circumspect Buckingham,” who helped king Richard to the throne, is distinguished for fearless and unequivocal avowals of the points he wishes to carry.

But why should we dispute about words? The substance of the allegation is, that the old lines of party demarkation were to be disregardedthe antiquated appellations of republicans and federalists laid aside, and that henceforth our only political denominations would be, the opposers and supporters of Mr. Clinton's administration. Is this denied by the Chief Justice? It is not. On the contrary, the editor of the Register, in stating the conversation referred to, repeats it in the following explicit and unequivocal language: “We have understood that Judge Spencer mentioned in the conversation alluded to, that the federalists were disbanded, and would probably never again rally and act in a body, but would unite with the two sections of the old democratic party, and that thus two new parties would be formed, the one friendly and the other hostile to the present administration. This is undoubtedly true.” Now how all this can be effected, and the old republican party longer exist as such, is respectfully submitted to that constellation of talent and genius by which the present administration is surrounded, by which it is to be borne through all its vicissitudes, and sustained amidst the perils and embarrassments which encompass it.

The complaints of the publication of a private conversation must in this particular be conceded to be most extraordinary. If the conversation was nothing more than what is stated in the note of the chief justice, in cannot surely be supposed that the least privacy was intended to be attached to it; for that has been published on the “house tops,” and is the standing potion administered by the friends of the administration to remove the scruples and allay the apprehensions of the timid and the halting. If it was more, what was it? Has the chief justice reason to complain of the publication of his opinions of political men and matters? Let his friends—let all who have had ears to hear and memories to retain for the last four or five years, answer the question. Leonidas thinks he has not, and sincerely hopes he may not have. The scrupulous correctness of General Brown in this respect is well known to all who have the honor of his acquaintance. Leonidas derives his information from a source which precluded all doubt as to its correctness. The subject was communicated to him publicly and without reserve. He understood and believed it to be an avowed and cardinal point in the policy of the executive and his friends. But if Gen. Brown shall say that the chief justice has been misrepresented, Leonidas will not only declare his authority, but if required, avow himself.

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Source: Albany (NY) Argus
Collection: N/A
Series: Series 3 (17 February 1815-2 December 1821)