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C[ornelius] P[eter] Van Ness to MVB, 20 August 1823

Dear Sir

Your letter of the 15th in answer to mine of the 1st instant, was received last evening.

The first intimation I had of your being unfriendly to me came to a friend of mine from a person who is unfriendly to me, and was predicated upon a conversation said to have taken place in the Senate Chamber last winter. To this I paid no attention. The next information was communicated to a friend of mine from this State while on a visit at Washington from a person (not from my brother direct or indirect) residing there, since the last session of Congress. The last came from another friend of mine residing in the eastern part of this state, who has been travelling this summer in your state. He met in Albany a Gentleman of this town by whom he sent me word that you was very hostile to me. It was after this that I determined to write you; though I concluded to wait untill certain events had passed, so that there should be no appearance of my wishing an explanation with a view to any particular object at this time, as I have not commenced this correspondence with any views so selfish and temporary. Now for the otherside. I am satisfied with your frankness; I only regret that you did not in the first place require an explanation as I have now done.

With respect to the application in behalf of Mr Cantine; I regretted at the time most sincerely that I could not gratify you. I then looked upon it as a good opportunity to satisfy you that I was your friend, and that you had influence with me; but it was impossible under the circumstances of the case. When I appointed Mr Tillotson Col. Barclay, for certain reasons, agreed that I should make the selection. At that time Mr Bradly, the U. S. Agent, and a most intimate and valuable friend of mine, both personally and politically, pressed Mr Hall of New Hampshire, formerly a member of Congress, and a friend of Mr Bradly, and indeed an acquaintance of mine whom I respected. Mr Bradly was very much disappointed at my selection, and immediately renewed the application for Mr Hall, in case Mr Tillotson should not continue in the office while it lasted, which was then suspected; and I pledged myself accordingly. At the time yourself & Judge Skinner wrote to me in behalf of Mr Cantine, I was not only in this situation with Mr Bradly and Mr Hall, but it was entirely uncertain whether I should have the appointment, as I had no reason to believe that Col. Barclay would again yield it to me. And in fact he contended for it, having a favourite candidate, and we finally, when we met in Boston in May 18221 decided it by lot. It fell to me, and I could not do otherwise than appoint Mr Hall. I think Mr Tillotson has acquired a Knowledge of these facts, and he can be appealed to if my statement should need confirmation.

As to any remarks I may have made when in Albany in the winter of 1821, or at any other time, indicative of hostility to you, I solemnly declare, I have no idea of having made them; and I am the more unconscious of having done so, from the fact which I as solemnly state, that my feelings were the reverse of that. I was in the habit of conversing freely on the politicks of your State when there, and as your name generally came in question, it is barely possible that, without at all impeaching your motives, I may have admitted, or expressed an opinion of, the impolicy of some favourite measure of yours; or I may have said something which was miscontrued into hostility; but it is a truth, that I have no recollection of any remarks of the kind. This I well remember, that the person with whom I conversed most on these subjects, generally had a good deal to say about you & your family, not of the most favourable cast, about that time & previously, (I believe he had at this time pretty much hauled round) and from the make of the man I suspect that, in order to curry favour with you, he unfolded his budget with alterations and additions.

I have however, from an allusion in your letter recollected a fact that occurred during this visit at Albany which operated a little on my feelings at the time though I should think not sufficient to call forth any improper expression. I did not dine with you at that time, but I called on you in the morning and spent some time with you, and it happened that you had a dinner party on the same day, at which both the Mrs Swarwouts attended (who boarded where I did) attended, and from their having heard me state that I had seen you on that day, they came to me when they started to know if I was going. Now this in itself is no great affair, but at the moment it looked to me like something of pointed neglect. The thing however soon passed off in my mind, and had you not mentioned my dining with you I might not now have thought of it. I ought to add that that was the only time that I recollect of ever thinking that I was not treated by you with perfect politeness and friendship.

If I could really be made to believe that I had done that which appears to have been stated to you, I should set it down for one of the extraordinary things of this world. I could furnish the most abundant and extensive testimony of my uniform language with respect to you, both in this State & Newyork. I really took a great interest in your contest about the Senatorship, and rejoiced at your success. I have long considered, that although your lot was cast in a large state, and mine in a small one, there might be times and occasions in which we might be mutually serviceable to each other; and when I received the information I have mentioned, I was so unconscious of having given any cause, that I could not have been more surprised to have heard the same thing of any friend I have in the world.

As to your situation with my brothers, it has nothing to do with the case. My prospects and expectations are entirely separated from theirs, and I neither ask nor expect any favours from them. Instead of being under any obligations to them, the balance has long been greatly in my favour, and so it will continue [to] stand. I have thus given you [h]onestly a full explanation. If it is not satisfactory, I do not know that I can say more.

yours cordially

C.P. Van Ness

Marginalia:

[on envelope]

<however> the fault follow the order go on prepare yourself

Notwithstanding <he> is the fault, follow the order come on prepare yourself

Source: DLC Library of Congress
Collection: MVB Papers (DLC)
Series: Series 4 (3 December 1821-31 December 1824)