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Silas Wright [Jr.] to MVB, 2 January 1844

My Dear Sir, 

Permit me in great sincerity to wish you a happy new year, and to ask you to extend that wish to every member of your family. Our day yesterday was beautiful, and the consequence was a very great press at the President's House. I was there about one oclock, and never saw more people, and never so few whom I knew. It is said that very few of the prominent whig members, or their families, presented themselves. Still I douted not that the Capt. is delighted this morning, and is now more than ever satisfied that the masses are clearly for him, and that he is even more personally popular with them than even Genl. Jackson was. The fact that the Clay whigs staid away will increase his confidence and his joy. It is not happy to be so constituted? Mrs. Robert, it is said, stood by the reception till she fainted and fell. I never knew the city so entirely destitute of strangers, at this season of the year, or the hotels appearing so desolate. You will ask where our crowd could have come from? I suppose mostly from the City and from Georgetown, Alexandria and Baltimore. I never saw so few carriages at the levee by quite the half, and yet I doubt whether there were ever more people, so that you will see I shall agree with the Capt. that it was a democratic turn out. Indeed I never knew half so many of the dignitaries and their ladies walk.

But enough of this, as you have a more direct interest now <discussing> here, of which it is my object to speak, and not of the proceedings at Court on New Year's day. You have been made a Candidate for the vacancy upon the bench of the Supreme Court, for a week past, and for a portion of the time your prospects have been said to be decidedly promising, better even than those of our friend Spencer. You must not suppose me as attempting to hoax you or to play off a joke upon you. I am telling you the mere truth, and for the last week I half expected your nomination to us as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

The first intimation of this fact which came to me was from Genl. Mason of Michigan, the Father of the late Gov. Mason, whom you doubtless know very well. He called upon me very diplomatically and broke the subject to me in the most solemn and formal manner. I can usually keep my face, when I try hard to do so, and have any warning that the effort will be required, but this took me too much by surprise, and I did not succeed at all but met the suggestion with a most immediate fit of laughter. Seeing that this annoyed the Genl. more than I could suppose it ought, the idea at once occurred to me that he had been sent to me from a high quarter. I, at once changed my manner and left him at liberty to talk on. I discovered too that he had a carriage at the door, and apologized for detaining him and leaving his driver exposed to the storm, for I think he had sat an hour and it rained and blew most violently. He said that was of no consequence and remained I think for full another hour. I told him very gravely that I was sure you would not seek, or accept, the place, if your name had not been and was not to be connected with the Presidential election at all and so believing I must suppose you would be compelled respectfully to decline the offer if made situated as you was, but really treated the matter decorously. This seemed to please him and he talked very freely, professed to be strongly your friend, but was perfectly convinced you could not be elected President, if nominated; and what was more sagacious, entertained quite as deep a conviction that the consequence of your appointment as Judge would be my nomination for President with the certainty of an election. I asked him, very gravely, if Mr. Tyler thought as he did upon that point, and then he said he had not seen, or conversed, with Mr. Tyler upon either subject, but he knew that your name had been presented to him as a proper one to be used in his nomination of Judge, and that too by some of your best friends. In the Course of the Conversation, he often asked me if I thought either you, or your friends, could look upon your nomination by the President as an act of hostility to you, or as an attempt to degrade you, and whether, if you were nominated, your friends in the Senate, and even I could vote against you, and he seemed anxious to have my answers upon these points. I finally told him that to propose a man for a place upon that elevated bench, and thus proclaim to the Country his fitness, and that by a political opponent, could not be tortured into an act of hostility; that no man in this Country was so high as to be authorised to feel himself degraded by the offer of such a position, and that I certainly could not vote to reject your nomination for such an office. These replies seemed to delight him, and his answer was quick and triumphant, with deep laughter, "you are right, you are right, you can’t vote against him.

At length, rising to go, he asked me what, upon the whole, I thought of the proposition. I replied, very steadily looking him in the face, "tell Mr. Tyler from me that, if he desires to give to this whole Country a broader, deeper, heartier laugh than it ever had, and at his own expense, he can effect it by making that nomination." This did not seem to please him, and he left at once.

I laughed myself almost sick, not entertaining a doubt, as I do not now, that the Capt. had sent him to me. Still I kept the communication wholly to myself, only getting my wife to help me keep it and to help me laugh; and did not hear another word upon the subject for two or three days, when all at once the matter became one of public notoriety, and conversation, and laugh; and since that time I have it from our Davis, who gets his news from Parmelee, that the President has been, upon various occasions, determined to send your name, and has considered the movement one of the most happy which ever occurred to a statesman, and that his friends had had great trouble to keep him from doing it.

My information of yesterday, however, is that your prospects are at an end and that Spencer's name will be given to us tomorrow.

I had intended to have said a word to you upon another subject, but my time is consumed and my sheet full, and I must therefore defer it for a future occasion.

In Much Haste

I am Most Truly Yours

Silas Wright

Capt Tyler's Levee on the 1st

The Judgeship &

Gen Mason's interview

Source: DLC Library of Congress
Collection: MVB Papers (DLC)
Series: Series 12 (5 March 1841-31 December 1844)