Thomas Ritchie to MVB, 31 January 1829
Jany. 31, 1829.
I am somewhat puzzled in addressing you; and, if we did not live in a free Country, my modesty perhaps would keep me from approaching you. Circumstances indeed seem to be daily making a
political distinction of rank between us (if in such a country as ours rank follows office.) I am in status quo; you have attained the <situation> of governor of the most distinguished state in the Union; and perhaps may be called to the one of the Executive Offices in Washington, while I remain the humble, and unassuming Editor of a newspaper. If, therefore, I should be so much of a Republican, as but duly to appreciate the distinctions between us; if I should be so proud as not to duly respect you any more for being the governor of N York, I trust you will excuse my sentiments, throw this Letter into the fire, and drop any further Correspondence with so eccentric an acquaintance.
Seriously speaking, I ought before to have congratulated you on your Election. You have already given me Evidence that the Confidence of your People has not been misplaced. I have read your message with great satisfaction. It opens views, particularly of the Principles of the general government, which have commanded the applause of those, with whom I have conversed. And the only great question is in what way are those principles to be realized? How is our general govt. to be brought back to the purposes
with ^for^ which it was originally created? Shall we quietly wait the Progress of Events? Shall we explain the Constitution of new Amendments? and limit the government to its specified < illegible> sphere? And clear up the difficulties and discords which have crept into our public councils, into our State Legislatures, & into the great body of the people? I thought, & sincerely & deliberately & ^have^ long thought, that the best course was to call the states once more face to face, in a Federal Convention, to say what they did <mean> of their own Instrument. And to grant or deny power, according to the best lights of forty years experience. I threw out this proposition; and though I do not absolutely despair of it succeeding, under better auspices than mine, yet it is highly improbable, without great exertion from distinguished men, that it can go down at present. Well, suppose that to be the case, is there no other way to terminate the feuds among the States; to distribute more equally the benefits & <illegible> of the Partnership among all the parties; to save the rights of the States from encroachment, and yet to secure to the general govt. all the energies which are so desirable for the common good? Or, as some of our politicians think, is it best to wait the progress of Events, and leave the remedy to time? When I had the pleasure of seeing you in Richmond, I was struck by your views ^of the benefits^ which we might promise ourselves for Gen. J's election, that there would the time to make the attempt to settle these question,s &c. Can you ^again^ trust me with your opinions upon this subject, when you have leisure to throw them, in short hand, upon paper?
I know not whether I ought to touch upon the prospects of your going to Washington. I confess, however, without going further that the present time, and keeping our eye ^fixed^ upon the reform which Gen. J's administration is to introduce, I wish to see you there. The principles you have laid down in your message, and on which I have already touched in the letter, can, I think be efficiently advanced by your accepting a seat in the Cabinet, and it is for this purpose I want to see you there. I want to see you there, not for yourself, but for your country. I make, Sir, no affected distinctions. I will not commit myself for any course of Events, that may look beyond the period of the next Administration:
now ^And^, excuse my frankness, how I express my hope that you will not. To do one's duty to one's country, is after all the only sure way to promote our own happiness. Self love & <illegible> are, in politics, as in morals, indisputably the same. It is not, therefore, with any other view, than because I think you <gratified> to <save> the <nation>, to assist the progress of reform, & to bring back more <simplicity> into our public councils, & to re-establish the true principles of the Constitution, this I wish to see you sharing the confidence & the councils of A. Jackson. Whether he will call you to his Cabinet, I really have no means of judging but if he should, I hope you would accept the seat of office. You know best, however, your own duties, and I will trust that you will discharge them.
Mine is a life of Drudgery; and my <illegible> press so heavily upon me, that I am compelled to write with rapidity, not to <weigh> very well about I do write and not to study the graces or even the legibility of penmanship.
The Ladies are well. I have given away your acquaintance, my Elder daughter, to G. E. Harrison of Brandon, of <illegible> place & sister you
surely ^may^ recollect, some account in your friend Paulding's “Letters from the South.” My < eldest> second daughter is at Mad. <Ligoigner’s>, in Pha. A father, you see, cannot avoid tattling about ^what^ so deeply concerns him. I believe your Son has not yet paid his flying visit <through here>. Has he gone to St. Louis, as he intended in 1827?
With best wishes, I am Dr. Sir,