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MVB to B[enjamin] F[ranklin] Butler, 8 November 1833


My dear Sir

I bespeak for the proposition I am about to make yours and Mrs. Butler's most deliberate consideration, before you conclude to reject it. I say Mrs. B's, because in whatever relation so essentially to your future welfare, she ought of right to be consulted; & she has on a former occasion shown herself so much wiser than we were, that it would be positive injustice, to refuse to call her into counsel now.

The appointment of Mr Daniel to the office of attorney Genl. was published, by mistake, before his positive acceptance had been ascertained. He has been with us, & after a full & frank conversation with the President, has decided not to accept it. With the reasons for that decision, which he came to with the greatest pain & reluctance, it is unnecessary, now, to trouble you. Mr Daniel is a gentleman of the very highest character, & very respectable talents, but does not entertain that confidence in them which his friends think would be justifiable ^& there were urgent family & personal obstacles^ The President thought, as I informed you, that he ought to go south for this appointment, & having in good faith done so, he will now regard the accidental circumstance of the publication of Mr Daniel's appointment a fortunate incident, if ^it^ shall, as he hopes, enable him to bring into his cabinet, one, who, every member of it would be delighted to see here, & that is yourself. Before this had occurred, I would not myself have proposed it to you, had the matter been at my disposal. Now, I think it free from difficulty, or objection. If I can <illegible> <illegible> that you <illegible> The President will with the greatest pleasure confer the appointment upon you, & I am as solicitous as I could possibly be upon any subject that you shall accept it. Independent of the public considerations which are amply sufficient to justify this solicitude, I feel that if not indispensable, (though extremely important,) for the present, it is, in reference to a possible future, most fitting as it respects myself that you should be here in some such ^a^ situation. Not one word is necessary, I know, to satisfy you that I would not press my personal solicitude upon you, as I [. . .] for the first time freely do, if I were not entirely satisfied, that what I ask of you will promote your own interests, & those of your family; or at the least that it will certainly not prejudice them <illegible>. I think so in respect to all the points, which, in such a case arise for consideration, & I will briefly assign my reasons. Although, as you will recollect, I readily concurred in your objection to taking the place off Senator, I have ever since been impressed with the belief that it would <illegible> <illegible> ^was^ a sacrifice, which you might with propriety have made. I gave in to your views, partly because I feared that from your gentlemanly & pacific disposition, (although not wanting in spirit when its exhibition is necessary), the rough & tumble of the Senate might not please you; but principally, because I was apprehensive, that it might affect the interests of your family in a pecuniary point of view. That now presented steers entirely clear of these objections, & has advantages which ought not to be lightly overlooked. Although you are not the slave of mad ambition, you are as you ought to be tenacious of your professional standing. That cannot be increased at home, and can only be made national, by becoming identified with national concerns. Depend upon it my dear Sir, that this is so. The fact presses itself upon my observation almost daily, when I find how little is known, or cared, abroad, about you who are at the very top of the ladder at home. Mr. Wirt Mr Webster, Mr Pinckney and Mr Taney, although possessing the same talents, would not have gone beyond a passing observation, out of their own states, if they had not entered upon the national theatre. You recollect to have barely heard of Mr Taney, whilst at the Maryland Bar, now, although the same man, he is known & respected as a man of talents throughout the Union. The reasons why it is so, it is unnecessary to go into: the fact is sufficient, & undeniable, that the great body of the people, will only look for the great men of the nation, amongst those who are actually engaged in its service. <illegible> Although you are too wise to be craving for a distinction of this sort, you are at the same time too wise to be indifferent to it. Providence has cut you out for its acquisition in this very place, & you have no right to turn your back upon the occasion, which presents it to you, in so honorable, & entirely unexceptionable a manner. In a pecuniary point of view, it cannot, I deliberately think be otherwise than beneficial. The salary is #4500 besides office messenger clerks &c & occasional compensation from the government for services with which do not necessarily appertain to the office. You can enter upon the business of the S. Court of the U.S. with advantages, which, if not immediately equal to those of Webster, (who makes his thousand’s, not to say tens of thousands by it) they very soon would be; and the President says it will be competent for you, without prejudice to the public interest, to attend the higher courts at Nyork & Albany. ^All previous atty Genls who desired it have done so in respect to their own States.^ To the former place you will next season be able to go in 15 hours, & to the <illegible> ^latter^ in a day & a night. What then is there to prevent you from increasing your provision for your children, which I admit to be obligatory on you? Nothing that I can see. I beg of you You can live as cheap here as in Nyork. Your manner of living can be regulated by your own taste, & as every body knows that you are not a man of pleasure or parade, nobody will gossip about you. By taking this course you will accomplish what you are all so anxious about, viz, that you can be more with your family than heretofore. The only exception need be, your visits to Nyork during the sittings of the courts, when you can take your family with you, without stopping between this & Ny., especially when the railroad ^the <illegible> making of^ which is under full operation, is completed. I recollect when the subject was before contingently discussed, & when you concluded that you could not take it, that Mrs Butler did not like the idea of bringing her daughters up here. Upon reflection, I think she will find that objection not so well founded as she then supposed. Mr McLane, Mr Taney, & Mr Woodbury and Gov Cass, have each a houseful of little girls of the very finest character, & I am quite sure that the society for Mrs B. & the children would be at least as good here, as in Nyork; & if she cannot possibly do without hearing something more on the subject of temperance she can count upon Govr Cass <illegible> as a never failing source. He has as much of the true spirit in him as Norton & Delevan combined, & Mr. Van Vechten & Courtlandt Van Rensselear to boot. But to return from this digression, you must come. I tell you frankly that I have made up my mind so decidedly, that it is best for the public, for you & yours, for my self, & that you will prove so useful & acceptable to the President, that I cannot think of a declination with composure. As you were willing in the exuberance of friendship to come with me in 1829, as under Secretary, and give up the finest professional prospects man ever had, I shall think you must have undergone some strange metamorphosis, if you now refuse to come into the Cabinet upon with those professional prospects enhanced instead of abandoned. This must in the first instance be strictly confined to Messrs Flagg, Croswell, Dix, & John, with whom I wish you to advise. If contrary to my earnest hope you determine to decline, not a word must be said upon the subject. If you ac ^act^ the wiser part, you may, as is usual in such cases, consult with your friends generally, after your mind is made up. I have not included the Gov, because he is <illegible> busy with his message, but ^you^ may ^of course^ speak to him of course if you wish it. Tell Mrs. B. I shall never forgive her if she throws any obstacles in the way. I intend to be in Nyork on Wednesday of next week, & hope you will meet me there.    It will, in case of acceptance be necessary that you should come down immediately, for a day or two ^only^ to sign some patents which are waiting the Atty. Genls signature, & there is no authority to appoint an acting atty. After that you may return & make your arrangements for the winter. If you conclude as you ought to do, I wish you would write at once to the President as he is very anxious to have the matter closed. Remember me [. . .] kindly to Mrs. B. & the children and believe me

Very truly yours,


P.S. The President has read this letter & approves it. He does not write you himself because I have told him that it is not necessary at this time.


Source: NjP Princeton University
Collection: Butler Family Papers (NjP)
Series: Series 7 (4 March 1833-3 March 1837)