MVB to Gansevoort Melville et al., 3 June 1844
June 3d, 1844.
I have had the honor to receive by the hands of Mr Gansevoort Melville your communication requesting me in behalf of a Convention of Delegates from the several wards of the City and County of New York, to preside at a mass meeting of the democracy, to be held on the 4th inst., to respond to the nominations of the Baltimore Convention.
Upon retiring from the Presidency, I thought it would best comport with the respect which was due to that high station, and to those by whose favor I had been raised to it, to restrict my participation in the political contests of the day to the faithful exercise of the rights of suffrage, with unreserved expressions of my opinions upon public questions, to those who deemed the latter of sufficient importance to call for them. The adoption of this rule was at the time publicly announced to my political friends, and has ever since been scrupulously observed. Subsequent events have only confirmed the propriety of its continued and permanent observance. It is, therefore, with unfeigned regret that I find myself constrained by circumstances which I cannot and ought not to disregard, to decline the request to preside at a meeting of a portion of my fellow citizens than whom no men possess stronger claims to my respect, my confidence and my esteem. (Loud cheers.)
But let no one for a moment suppose, that in thus yielding to the properties of my position, I am in the slightest degree influenced by lukewarmness, much less hostility to the success of the nominations to which it is the purpose of those you represent to respond. Far, very far is that from being the true state of my feelings. I have known Messrs. Polk and Dallas long and intimately I have had frequent opportunities for personal observation of their conduct in the discharge of high and responsible public duties. The latter has by my appointment represented the country abroad with credit and usefulness—they are both gentlemen possessed of high character—of unquestioned and unquestionable patriotism and integrity, able to discharge the duties of the stations for which they have been respectively nominated, with advantage to the country and honor to themselves. Concurring with them in the main, in the political principles by which their public lives have been hitherto distinguished, I am sincerely desirous for their success. I am by no means unapprised that occurrences remotely connected with these nominations which have caused pain and mortification in the breast of many sincere friends throughout the Union, who have honored me by their continued and disinterested friendship. But I am very sure that I can also rely on their past fidelity and honor for a ready concurrence in the saving principles of our political creed that no personal or private feelings should ever induce us to withhold our support from nominations, the success of which would be conducive to the permanent interest of the country. Those, therefore, who think as I do, that its future welfare is in a great degree dependent upon the success of those great principles in the administration of the Federal Government, which we have hitherto espoused, and in respect to which the two great parties of the country have for years been divided, cannot, I am sure, fail to merge all minor considerations in sincere and undisguised efforts to promote the success of the candidates of the democratic party.
And now, said Mr G.M. let me call your most especial attention to what remains of this letter)
Having now said all that the occasion calls for in regard to the general objects of the meeting, I must be indulged in a few parting words to the lion-hearted democracy of the city and county of New York. Never before has a public man been honored by the support of truer, firmer, or more disinterested friends than they have been to me In prosperity I have scarcely known where to find them; in adversity they have been with me always, through evil and through good report, I have found the masses of the New York Democracy, the same unobtrusive but unshrinking friends. The happiest, by far the happiest day in my whole political career, was that on which on my return from Washington, they met me on the Battery in the midst of a storm of wind and rain which would have kept fair weather friends at home, and extended to me, a private citizen like themselves, their hard hands, and opened their honest hearts in a welcome as cordial as man ever received from man. (Great cheering.) (And now said Mr. G.M.-attention once more to the conclusion of this precious document.) They need no assurance to satisfy than that I shall be forever thankful for their unsurpassed devotion to my welfare—they know that I can never cease to cherish with grateful recollections the honored relation of Representative and Constituent, which has existed between us for so long a period, in such varied forms, and which is now forever closed.
I have the honor, gentlemen, to be very respectfully, your friend and obd’t servant,
M. VAN BUREN.
(Tremendous cheering for some minutes)