Silas Wright Jr. to MVB, 4 April 1826
April 4, 1826.
My dear Sir:
The time for our adjournment is now fixed upon and we shall soon have done what shall at all be done to prepare for our Fall contest. Much alarm and excitement is prevailing, not only here, but in New York and elsewhere, from the course taken by Noah, and by the allegations that some of us with yourself, are inclining to join with Mr. Clinton against the National Administration. These allegations have been more or less made for some time, but did not become loud or effective until the Advocate came out as you will have seen. Many of our strong friends are fearful, and nearly all of them cannot under any terms be brought to join Mr. Clinton, or to consent to endeavor to sustain ourselves without running a candidate for Governor against Clinton. If he had nominated Redfield as Judge of the 8th Circuit and taken any ground, the result might have been different but now I think it perfectly fixed. My object, therefore, is to inform you truly what I think will be done; what course I have myself consented to; and what course will in my opinion alone save us from an entire division and failure at our next election.
A caucus will be held by our friends in the Legislature before our adjournment, the time and place of holding a State Caucus will be fixed upon to consist of delegates from the counties equal to their representation in the Assembly, and an address recommending the holding of such a caucus issued, and the declared objects of the caucus stated to be the nomination of Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Thus I expect we shall leave this subject and this city. You will readily ask what can we offer to such a convention? If you should ask what men want to be offered I could answer you more easily, Tallmadge, Young, &c. But it is much more difficult to say what man WE ought to offer to such a caucus and through them to the electors. Your colleague* however is more talked of now by our friends than any other man. Tallmadge is the candidate of a very few of the Adams men, but they would probably be pleased to exchange him for Sandford. What may be the state of things next fall is now impossible to predict, but if the feeling with which we leave here should remain, I think there is little doubt he will be nominated by our friends. We are not unaware of the appearance which running him will give abroad, nor of the unpleasant situation in which you may suppose yourself placed by this course. But my reflection and the appearance in the state have induced me to believe that no other measures will be so likely to give US the power of the State, when most WE shall want it. I admit if we could hold our election without any reference to the question of Governor it would be probably better for us. But it is perfectly settled that if we do not get up a candidate against Clinton, the Adams and Clay part of our friends will, and such a candidate the great body of our political friends throughout the state would enlist themselves to support against Clinton. If WE should favor Clinton there would be an effectual split in our own ranks which could not be healed. If we should not favor Clinton OUR SERVICES would be required for the opposite candidate whoever he might be, or we should equally be suspected and opposed. Again, if we should not favor Clinton, his friends would not favor US in our Congress, Senate, and Assembly tickets, the success of which would be the only object in our declining to having a candidate for Governor. Should WE decline to support the candidate run against Clinton because he was friendly to Adams, this would inevitably induce the friends of that candidate, two thirds of whom, so far as the state is concerned, would be our friends, not only to run Congress, Senate and Assembly tickets, but to run them pledged to Adams. In any event then, from this state of things, it does appear to me, that we should be between two fires without the least prospect of escaping the flames INSTEAD OF BEARING OFF THE SPOIL. We should put ourselves precisely in the situation the federalists in this state have been in for years past, acting under colors not our own, and doing journey-work. But suppose we take up your colleague, and make him OUR own candidate. He is here considered a republican; by the Adams men he is considered an Adams man, and by us, in truth, NOT MUCH DIFFERENT. But would not the very fact of taking him up, without any reference to his feelings in regard to national politics, and purely on the ground of his democracy, draw after it, as a necessary consequence, the acquisition of the Administration strength of this state, while the question of national politics would not be drawn into the formation of our Congress, Senate and Assembly tickets? Would not Clinton then be looked upon not only as our state opponent, but with those who might then be disposed to involve national politics as our national opponent and therefore, the only question in nominating a Congressman, &c., be, is he Anti-Clintonian? If this would be the effect, the administration question would be virtually excluded from our election, and we should be left to select men for Congress and the Legislature from our sound strength and altogether uncommitted as to national politics.
I have heard but one formidable objection to this course which is, that the governor if we should be successful would have a powerful influence in giving the legislature an inclination towards Administration men; and WE should be stopped from resisting him. I obviate this first by saying that now and probably one year from now, you cannot render any question of national politics very nearly felt by the electors of this state, and if you can, next year, obtain such a legislature as we have elected this year, they will be equally free and willing to sustain their friends without reference to those questions, which I venture to predict, will even then, to the members of our Legislature be secondary to questions of state interest. Second, I consider Sanford different, and to be calculated upon different from most other men. In the Senate, he will be an Administration man while the Administration appear strong and likely to sustain themselves. As governor of the state he would labor to become popular and continue in that office, without reference to the national politics further than should be absolutely necessary to accomplish that object. Any influence, then, that an election under these circumstances might give him, would be exercised towards state objects, and as cautiously as his opinions and actions upon responsible subjects are usually manifested.
This is my manner of speculating upon this important subject, and if I am any way correct, it would seem that the chances are in OUR favor, over and above the fact, that in the same proportion that the attachment of the federalists of the state are fixed up[on] Adams, they must be withdrawn from Clinton, and their hostility to Sanford consequently proportionably diminished.
Again—I have thought that, and still think, taking the future prospects for four years of what will be the state of national politics, that I had rather have your colleague here as Governor, than where he now is, and should WE have the power next winter, I think WE could better fill that place for the future contest. So much in the most perfect haste, as my reason for consenting and advising to the course I have pointed out to you, as to our state election. If I am wrong, write me and tell me so, as frankly as I have given you this tedious, ill digested detail. If you can at all concur in these views, endeavor to influence your colleague to hold himself willing to serve his friends in the way here suggested.
Do not by this letter suspect that any change in my feelings, or those with whom I have acted, has taken place favorably to the administration of Messrs. Clay, Adams & Co. It is not so, but on the contrary, we have viewed with much interest the alarming manner in which the splendid project of this new Holy Alliance has been pushed on to its organization. We have been much pleased at the bold and fair manner in which that project was met; and equally mortified, that more of your body were not found ready to resist a measure so directly at war with the policy of our government and the nature of our institutions.
But my own opinion is, the times of ’98 are at hand, and that WE should even be willing to take almost any measures which appear most likely to fortify us for the combat, that New York at that time may be found not only correct, but strong in Congress. I think that contest will commence its decisive character in the next Congress and although we should elect an Adams Governor, if a Legislature elected at the same time should return to the Senate, two Senators of an entire different character, the effect would be altogether obviated. You will not accuse me of an intention to flatter, when I say I am strongly anxious for your re-appointment, and I do not think your colleague as Governor of this state would be as likely to defeat that object, as he would in his present station.
You will consider this letter entirely confidential, but are at liberty to give our views to any friends you may think proper to communicate them to. I shall be anxious to hear from you. With sentiments of the warmest friendship,
I am your ob’t servt.
S. WRIGHT, Jr.
Printed in William L. Mackenzie, The Life and Times of Martin Van Buren . . . (Boston: Cooke, 1846), 203-204, and Autobiography of Thurlow Weed, ed. Harriet A. Weed, 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1883-1884), 1:376-378.