C[laiborne] W[atts] Gooch to MVB, 20-23 November 1833
20th, Nov 1833.
The arrest of R.B. Randolph, and the proofs against J.H. Pleasants have thrown the Richmond Community into a state of the most violent commotion. I was there on yesterday, and had the mortification to find that my very worst opinion the aristocracy & violence of the place was more than verified. Perhaps, there is no town in the U States more <rancuores> and aristocratical. The many followers of a few men of talents keep the place in commotion from years end to years end. But, there are, in fact, not more than 7 or 8 talented men among them; and they have passion and ambition full up to the steam heat of Calhoun or Clay. Yet, they know the value of circumspection in the general, & necessity compels them to practice it when their kett^l^es are ready to explode. But, on the present Occasion, the fever is up, and they pour out steam with lion-like bellowings. On day before yesterday Gov. Floyd issued an order to the military to be in readiness at a moments warning. This, necessarily produced much excitement & many Conjectures. His objects none can understand, but those in his immediate confidence. Violent threats have been made, of rescuing Pleasants if he should be ordered by Judge Brockenbrough to obey the Summons of the District court, and those of pulling down the Jail & releasing Randolph are even yet stronger. If I could violate my sense of honor, I could show Gov. F. in his true light. But that is impossible. When he was a Jackson man and a Van Buren man, he wrote to me often, & some of his letters cover two or three sheets, and would strongly compare with his latter course & conduct. I have had nothing to do with these matters; since I quit the Enquirer, but to lament the want of candour, the want of true patriotism in our public men and the Aspirants I have occasionally written for the press in strong terms.
The discussion of the case of Pleasants was bitter enough on the part of his council, and God Knows it was weak enough, on the part of the youthful deputy of the Dist. Attorney, (who has gone to St. Augustine to recover health, &) who if here, is a Calhoun nullifier, without a spark of talent & without health or the hope of it. His <partner>, our Treasurer is an honest, amiable, uninformed man; worthy of every confidence, <illegible> his
calbi calibre. I Know not what may be the result of the Present state of things in our metropolis. My own opinion is, that Gov. Floyd is determined to protect Pleasants. But, the judge never had an opinion of his own and I expect, every moment, to hear that he has yielded to the federal clamor of Richmond & taken shelter under constitutional state rights, in opposition to clearly <conceded> federal rights. He can hardly expect to escape censure, (of which he has more than maiden fear), by taking, at once, a bold distinctive stand. Whatever may be his opinion, these are my long concieved opinions of the man and the officer, amiable as I know him to be.
Randolph is greatly commisserated by the whole opposition and the Mongrels. He lives in great styl in Jail; with a suite of rooms, and an influx of company, greater than the President enjoys. From all that I can learn, the whole farce is unique. Day before yesterday Gov. Floyd and his son passed most of the day in jail with this bullying scoundrel Randolph. I have not time to tell you all that I gathered in town on this subject. When I went there, (the only time for 2 months) the troops had been just warned to hold themselves in readiness, and I had not learned the ondits, before I was told that I had gone to Richmond to rally the administration friends, and that commotion must ensue. I went there on business; and, hearing this, concluded it as soon as I could without going about; in the mean time, I convinced those whom I saw that I was an utter stranger to the whole matter: yet my poor opinion was given without mincing words. I went to see Ritchie & he showed me notes between himself and Stevenson, which I did not like, and they were in tune with what I said every where else from our good friends. They blamed the government for <
illegible> disturbing R. and for the process against Pleasants, on the ground, that it was giving consequence to, and, as it were, making martyrs of two of the most dispicable of human beings, saying, that this seeming persecution would do infinite injury &c, &c. It is this temporising slang which has brought the country to its present condition. Men are afraid of shadows. Why, in the cases alluded to, the Law is the persecutor. If Rascals will come under its operation, ought the administration to forswear < illegible> themselves by arresting the operation of the laws (constitutional Laws) to protect the worst men, and that too, because, forsooth, a noise may be made about it, and prostituted presses may cry out persecution! Our friends Stevenson and Ritchie, breathing the atmosphere they do, may really think that danger may grow out of the execution of the duty of the officers of the government. Have we come to this, that the laws cannot be executed, if against the interest or feelings of a faction within a circumscribed space! Shall the courts of the District or the officers of the Treasury be deterred from the performance of their proper duties, by the considerations, of whom it will please or displease? Shall they be restrained by the fear of popular clamor or the dread of abuse? It is true that Randolph and Pleasants will be the topics of conversation; that they will enjoy the sympathy of their friends. But if they gain fresh notoriety, it must be accompanied by an equal measure of infamy. The idea that the Government or its officers are afraid to do their duty lest they excite clamor, or make conspicuous, particular individuals, is not to be countenanced. There is a wide distinction between a public officer and an individual. The former dare not consult his feelings or personal considerations in relation to a positive duty.
The Democrats in this state have, for some years, had rather an uphill road to travel. All the influence of office and men in office has been against us. The state administration, and nearly all the state officers belong to the ranks of our enemies. There is but a single Jackson man in Our Capital except Daniel, & that is Col. Burfoot, the Treasurer. Of him I have a good opinion, tho' he is a Leigh man. The Bank officers are all against us. When you carry a check to be paid, you will be fortunate if you are not asked some impertinent question about politicks or do not recieve some dictation on politicks. The Grandees have got possession of every thing, and they rule with a rod of iron. I have seen enough of men, to discriminate between the Swaggering hypocrite, and the honest man and Patriot. Look to our Federal offices. Who fills them? I mean about Richmond the marshall, <
illegible> Clerk, the Collector &C &C, are all dead weights, of the old federal stamp. The Post Master is recieves a high pension from the government independent of his income, as Postmaster. But, his office is a sinecure. He farms it out, and does not go into ^it^ or visit Richmond (about 200 miles from his residence) scarcely once a year. If he had any influence, it would be wielded against the Democratic cause. His office is managed by ignorance and prejudice; and if the late agent who visited it were to speak frankly, he would say that it is any thing but what it ought to be. I had some correspondence lately with two or three of my friends in Washington; to one of whom I sent the Sketch you saw in the Globe of B.W. Leigh. That miserable scoundrel Pleasants knew all about it at once, and within a dozen hours, I expect that he will Know of this letter, if not of its whole contents. Honest men cannot maintain, with success, honest principles, when lawless & reckless men have both the disposition and the means to check mate them. In Richmond, which has some influence on the state our party and principles have a most memorable support. It is the hot bed of aristocracy, and our friends have no nerve. I have neglected my own interests and family concerns for about 5 years, to try and maintain the doctrines of Mr. Jefferson, and the administration of Gen. Jackson. The Enquirer is well rooted in the country. It has <eased> on several occasions, and never will be bold & heard The miserable wre wretches by which it is surrounded & who would pull it down at any hazard. No, sir, it will be cautious, it will not step forward and take the position it ought. I quit it on that account. I respect Mr. R. We have never have a difference, and whatever others may think, I assure you that if I were to take the trouble to do so, Mr. R. would listen to my common sense views, in preference to others. I have had many proofs of this, so many that his enemies bore him about it. He was running away on the deposite question, doubting the authority of the President, even to remove the Secty of Treay &C. I sent him a message, to pause, and followed it by "Anti-Bank," which suspended his second <stilting> number, and closed that question with him. After all, the Enqr. has a heavy circulation & much influence. But, Sir, it will not do the good it is capable of. Mr. R. Knows so little about men or business, is so credulous, so curious, that he will not make the most of his advantages in an honest promotion of his politicks & principles. He will not press the sound, enlightened opinions of his party with zeal, when They conflict with <fence> men. Hence his alleged tergiversations, hence the confidence the enemy has in him, and the support they give him. Sir, I repeat that we are gone, "horse, foot, and dragoons." Gone! Gone! If the press remains yea nay. If all the offices be given to our enemies, smoothe, hypocritical enemies! If the aristocracy be the only favorites!!! In Virginia the Anglo men, the proud, curled-nosed Aristocrats are yet numerous. They are hardly done snorting and blowing their noses, when they are compelled to sit along side of a Tennessee Farmer, a Kinderhooker or plebian! Hard necessity! Oh! Birth! Oh! Pedigree!! How many brilliant lights hast thou put under a bushel from their envy and rancores hate! The people, yea, the <taxpaying> people now in this country, the political and physical power. To delude and decieve them in the devious resort!
I have written you a long and warm letter, which I am compelled to submit to the post office, and which you will be at no loss fully to understand and appreciate. I am sorry that there is so much egoism in it. I have unbounded confidence in the firmness and wisdom of the President, and whilst I do not pretend to trouble him with my poor views, yet, I am willing that he may hear them thro’ my friends, who think with me. I know that Mr Clay and his friends wish to be exonerated from the load of the sinking Bank. They are clawing off. Why do not our presses hold him “on to it”? Is he not identified with it? Why should he be let off? As to Calhoun he is utterly dead. Clay is our only opponent. As to Leigh he is nothing, and Can be slayed when occasion requires. The movements in his favor in Virginia can be all turned against him when the proper time arrives. That has been looked to.
As I expected, our Judge has decided in favor of Pleasants. I have not looked into the merits of the case & forbear an opinion at present. But Randolph's case is the one which gives most interest, and most heats the blood of the President’s enemies. It was the other day under the consideration of Judge Marshall, who will go the full length he dare, for Randolph. Of this you may be certain. His ^(the Judges)^ family connexion is very extensive, his honest admirers are numerous, and his brainless followers outnumber all. Yet, all these get the cue; and they play their parts, accordingly. Of this whole <
illegible> mosaic mass you may form some idea. The people are not with them, and if warned, will eschew whatever comes from that quarter. But who will sound the rams horn when he is to be set upon and almost slayed alive, denounced, spoken ill of, nay, even slandered with an industry that tires not in ^even to^ his private character & vocation. The people of this state are well disposed. They are true democrats. They are confiding & may be too easily decieved. But I must repeat that our enemies have been too much the favorites of the government. They now think they can do as they please, that the administration is actually afraid of them!! The people do not see thro' this thing; and evil results from the want of visible Banners.
What did Wm S Archer mean by saying to Rives or Stevenson at the springs that "all such politician as they must go over the Board." &C. We know that Mr. Archer has set his soul upon a Mission to London or France, that he is subject to testy humours, and really has no great knowledge either of men or business. He belongs to the corps grandee and, like spoilt children of high expectations, may be expected to pout and jerk about sometimes. It is understood that Stevenson is to be nominated to London, and, I am sorry a better appointment cant be made, tho' something is due to him for his zeal. It is this general impression that has so much increased Archer. Now, between the two men, the difference for common sense and useful purposes, is great, and in favor of S. If this appointment takes place the blowing speaker will surely burst. Humanity requires that a few strong <belts> should surround him. Yet, I wish him well. These remarks are jocular, and may be regarded as evidence of sincerity among friends. We all have our faults. But, for a man to get mad like Archer, & cut Capers, because his more light footed, glib-tongued, and I must add, more prominent & experienced Rival is about to clutch the envied Prize, looks too much like child’s play. Has he no magnanimity!
I am really afraid that the beastly propensities of man, his carnal selfishness, his envy, his hillish wish to rule and Lord it over the rest of his race, are all so fixed in human nature that neither the mild precepts of Christianity nor the sober dictates ^of^ reason can be interposed as a check, and that, in the midst of this whirlwind of passion the fair fabric of our liberties must be overturned. And, in the end it will be but a poor miserable, wretched struggle, displaying more of the mean vices of mankind than of his Godlike attributes. Hamilton & Burr, the older Adams & his son; yea, Virginia’s Washington and Jefferson have all passed over the political billows of their day and time. They sleep with the dead. But in life they enjoyed
but little happiness. Jefferson may be an exception. He has often pointed out to me the vanities of life & the feiry horrors of politicks. He said it was his fortune to live in an age in which the day-star of liberty but glimmered in the horison, that Caring only for the spread of its light, he risked every thing in the cause of free government. He has won immortality. So did Washington. Gen Jackson, by the same true patriotism, has cannonized his name. Who else has done this thing? He has never been the man to stand about in a little buckram authority, merely for the pleasure of hearing the rustling sound. No! Nor did Washington, nor Jefferson. They looked to the good of mankind, and promoted it with honest, disinterested zeal.
Saturday—The Enquirer of yesterday will give you some idea of the news. The want of an opportunity to Richmond has detained this letter. It is written in haste, and may be hardly worthy of your perusal. Please put it into the fire after read. Circumstances require no answer to be made to it.
Accept my most cordial respect & good will