Skip to main content
View PDF

MVB to [Philip Norborne Nicholas], [c1 November 1826]

My dear Sir,

I have been for weeks here still confined to the sick bed of a dear son or your kind favour should ^would^ have been sooner attended to. The general complaint abroad is that our ^state^ politics are inexplicable & although to us they are very simple we must admit that <certain> circumstances justify the <complaint> ^opinion^. I shall try to make you understand them. Our state you know before the <illegible> revolution of 1800 had for many years been federal. In that & the succeeding years the Republicans acquired the ascendancy & with short ^<& limited>^ exceptions have maintained it to this day. The messages of the two parties in the state are <both> the same now as they were then & have continued ^so^ <the same> from that time to the present. We can <poll> ^gain <illegible>^ 250000 votes but will not probably ^this year^ come up 20,0,000. There are I presume in the state 80000 voters of the old federal school all of which go agst us & have ^with trifling exceptions done so [. . .] <illegible>^ from 1800 to the prest day. with trifling exceptions <illegible> <we had under different views>. At the last election when we carried the State we had not 500 voters that <have ever> belonged to the Federal party at the coming election we shall probably poll between 90000 & one hundred thousand voters of which there will not be 100 ^federal^ voters <that> nor five hundred that have within ten years belonged to the Federal Party. The remaining voters are composed of the great mass of the old Republican ^Federal^ Party & those who ^have^ at different times left it ^ours^ & having once apostazised have ever since been <illegible> ^great^ [. . .], sometimes casting their weight on one side & sometimes on the other. [*]<illegible> that old Republican Party ^Believing the <illegible> & <illegible>^ our State could for years that ^<illegible> have ostensibly^ been carried on ^for some years^ but whilst at no time have ^they^ been strong enough to make a majority without the Federalists in a single town or village in the state.[*] They are composed of men who in 1804 followed the fortune of Burr in 1807 of Lewis & in 1813 of Clinton. Burr carried with him probably 1000 Lewis more & Clinton has now probably ^about^ five thousand ^(probably more)^ supporters in the State who formerly belonged to the Fed ^old^ Republican Party. To these & the Federalists were added in 1824 a new sect called the “Peoples party Men” who went agt. us in the Presidential and electoral questions & they all together effected our complete overthrow in that year. The latter section ^have^ principally returned to <their places> last fall & we carried the State. Most of the Burrites & Lewisites have done the same but having lost their ^political^ <chastities> they are prone to back sliding. The Party opposed to us ^& which is now led by Gov Clinton^ you will see is composed of in its main body of the old 98 Federalists with a few thousand deserters from ours making a powerful interest but an entirely unsafe one as they never can act more than two years together without quarreling. Since 1804 they have several times carried the state under different combinations but have invariably been again broken down in the second and third year. Our Party [is] now & has been throughout the same old Republican Party which secured the election of Mr Jefferson. Having been ^It has^ frequently lost its head & <illegible> suffered in its limbs but has always with out permanent injury to the body. Burr was one of its leaders he went off <illegible> & with his friends gave it great trouble but it survived ^regained its strength^ & the Burr faction were dispersed. The same was the case but upon a larger scale under Lewis & the same has at different times been the case with Clinton. These men never could have given us trouble but for the use of the Federal Party which since [t]he death of Hamilton has been at the service of every political adventurer that has fretted his busy hour on our political stage either as a chief actor or buffoon. <illegible> to The only exception to the charge ^exclusive^ Republican character of the Republican ^our^ Party of this state was that unfortunate accession of Federalists which it received in the contested election of 1820. Whilst struggling with Mr Clinton & the Federalists a very small number of the latter of known character & conspicuous names left their party & Joined ours. Their number was originally extremely limited say a few hundred & <illegible> after producing a good deal of jealousy & trouble in our ranks they have with a few honourable exceptions returned to their first love. It is owing in a great measure to the circumstances ^fact^ of ^that^ the names of the Hamiltons & Kings being ^therefore^ on one side & the Clintons <illegible> &c on the other that men in other states have been confused on the subject of our politics whilst in reality the two great parties have been but slightly affected by the circumstance. <illegible> Mr Clinton notwithstanding his overweening confidence in his own popularity was satisfied by the result of the last falls election that he could not acquire any thing like a permanent foothold in the state without conciliating the Republican interest & from ^for^ that or a worthier <cause> ^reason he^ <illegible> <fared> better last winter than he has ever before done since he left the Party. This had the effect of softening & in some ^few^ instances of <undoing> entirely objections agt him. Very many prominent men in our party although they could not support him were yet willing that he should continue in his present place. But unfortunately for him he did not go far enough to secure the favour of our side but far enough to sour many of his old supporters. It was early ^soon^ seen that the <sense> ^temper^ of our party would imperiously required a nomination agt. Mr Clinton & I myself first suggested ^that of^ Mr Rochester as the Candidate ^was first suggested by me^. It is not worthwhile to detain you by the reasons which pointed to him as the fittest man. They were local & related exclusively to our state politics which do & always will take precedence of those of the nation. Mr Rochesters farther & Mrs Clays father ^(Major Hart)^ were for many years in business together & that circumstance has led to an intimacy between him & Mr Clay. Although by no means zealous he may justly be ranked among the supporters of the administration. <illegible> When first brot forward the friends of Mr Adams said that I had brought about his nomination in the belief that he would be greatly defeated & thus throw discredit on the cause of Mr Adams. As the prospect changes they begin to claim him & will shortly boast of his nomination as evidence of Mr Adams' popularity in the State. But they know the true state of the cause to be otherwise. For the first time in this state neither party have ^in their official proceedings^ claimed to be the friends of the general administration in the official proceedings. This fact of itself should satisfy all that Mr Adams is not at this time <illegible> strong in the State. <Although> Heretofore at public conventions resolutions have ^invariably^ been passed upon this subject and charging <illegible> others to be enemies ^always one and sometimes^ both <always> and always one or the other claiming to be the particular friends of the general administration. Upon that point both are now silent. At the Utica convention the Adams men desired to speak but gave it up because they doubted success & knew <at best> that they would certainly have trouble. Of this I am correctly & particularly informed. In our Convention no man would have dreamt of such a thing. The opposition prints all say that our convention was composed of the men who supported Mr Crawford & whom they chose to call my friends. In point of fact 7/8s of that Convention or more were <illegible> decidedly opposed to Mr Clinton Adams' reelection.  So matters stand upon that head. In the election Adams will probably not receive 100 federal votes & yet we shall in all probability succeed in our ^Gov &^ legislature & Gov & certainly in our representation in Congress which will be better than it has been for 20 years. Mr Clinton may escape by the skin of his teeth but the probability is that the poor fellows political fortunes will ^be^ wrecked in the coming contest. After it is over our attention will be turned to national politics. If Clinton fails he will give up & retire. If he succeeds by a small vote it is my impression (but in that I may be mistaken) that he will throw off all reserve & try to regain the confidence of the Republicans for by coming out agt. Mr Adams. Of Rochester I have already spoken. He is a warm personal friend of mine & if elected, will have good sense enough to let that subject alone & confine him self to <illegible> state affairs. The bone & muscle of the old Republican party will go agt. Mr Adams on all counts. They will do better than they did at the last election. They then had to contend with an <extent> of personal unpopularity on the part of Mr Crawford which was really mysterious.

I have already spun out this letter to such an unconscionable length that I cannot now answer your queries as to the future. If Genl Jackson & his friends will put his election on old Party grounds restore the old systems & avoid if not condemn the <excesses> of the last campaign we can by adding his personal popularity to the yet remaining force of the old party feelings not only succeed in electing him but our success when achieved will be worth something. We will ^shall^ see what they are willing to do <illegible>. The <illegible> of New Jersey are assuring that it <continues in revolting>. No State of thing can exist in which we cannot, make it up three times over in this State.

The section between the [*]bracketed stars[*] is marked out with an X in the original manuscript.

Source: DLC Library of Congress
Collection: MVB Papers (DLC)
Series: Series 5 (1 January 1825-3 March 1829)