MVB to James Kent, c29 November 1814

[MVB] to [James Kent], [c29 November 1814]

To his honor the Chancellor,

Acustomed sir as your offcial course has made ^rendered^ you with the licentious virulence with which the press has lately <termed> & conscious of the high political ground you have recently seen fit to assume, your first impressions will doubtless be, that the object of this address with is an exposure of your conduct & character to ^a^ course of those virulent invectives & malignant reproaches which characterise the times, which have been most ^so^ lavishly heaped on ^so^ many of the best men & purest patriots in the State ^Republic,^ which ^Sir^ most men have deprecated & <illegible> should have been discoun contumed and discountenanced by all. If such should be your apprehensions, dismiss them. No one man feels more repugnance to, no one dispises them more ^than myself^ He who some feel it his duty to address you, <illegible> if <illegible> views <illegible> <illegible> <illegible> <illegible> him on an occasion like the present may seem ^and as^ as a pledge of the sincerity of this profession, as proof of my unwillingness to be considered as assailing aught but your public conduct on a recent & most interesting occasion, I take pleasure in admitting that your private character is as far as I know or believe ^nont only^ without reproach not only without reproach but that worthy of all imitation. That much very much of your long offical course is entitled to the respect esteem & admiration of your country. sincerely Unfeignedly entertaining so exhalted an opinion of your character & past conduct you will not I hope doubt ^question^ my sincerity when I frankly assure you, that the public necessity of examining with fidelity the correctness of your offical conduct as a distinguished member of the councill of revision during their last session, is a task the most unpleasant <with> which that ever devolved on me, <illegible> however as it is the public Interest <imperiously> requires its faithfull discharge.

The War in which our country had for more than two years been involved having ^on the part of the enemy^ assumed a character of violence & barbaraty revolting to humanity, the unforse &c and unexpected & astonishing events on the continent having encreased the disposable force of the foe to an extent portending the utmost danger to our country & calculated to excite alarm if not dismay in the Stoutest heart, the invasion of many sections of the union, the conflagration of the Capitol & the officially threatened destruction of our sea port towns, <warning> us <illegible> & the approach of a powerfull & well appointed hostile army composed of veteran troops, towards the very heart of our own State, warnd us in language too loud not to be heard & too explicit not to be understood of the extreme danger which threatened the State.

Sensible of the necessity of calling into vigorous action the yet lattent energies of the State the governor called ^convened^ the legislature, & submitted to them the extent of the danger & suggested for their consideration the measures he deemed best calculated to meet the exigency of our affairs,. So palpable was the necessity of discussion & vigorous meas & efficent measures that at the commencement of the Session every eye was directed to them with unprecedented anxiety, shortly after its commencement the dispatches of our ministers at Genht were offically promulgated, their contents totally tore the film from they eyes of those ^few^ who yet relyed on the Justice of the enemy & to appearance subdued every feeling that was not devoted to an ardent support of the government. So and outragous were ^the^ demands which were made of us so deep & dreadfull would be was the degradation to which our blo beloved country would be reduced by yielding to them <illegible> <for> arrangement that both branches of the Legislature unanimously resolved "the recommended a vigorous prosecution of War as the only means of obtaining an honorable peace.

Influenced by feelings which produced a unanimity so honorable to the State they proceeded to the consideration of the various subjects submitted to them. Directing their observation to the ocean they felt as men should feel in contemplating the extensive injuries which had ben inflicted on their country on that element, ^they felt the <resolved>^ that it was there that their fellow Citizens had been stripped despoiled of millions of their hard earned property to <faced> ^<illegible> gratify^ the resentment & gratify ^<faced>^ the Cupidity of the foe. That it was there that the best energies of the nation had been impaired by the annihilation of his commerce, that it was there that ^thousands of^ her sons had again & again been <illegible> again been deprived of the heavens choicest blessing ^to man^ personal liberty. That it was there that her gallant tars seaman had again & again & again been subjected to ignominious stripes for refusing to raise their arms agt. their ^native^ country which gave them Birth. That ^it^ was on that proud element too ^that^ the ^enemy^ stung to madness by his repeated discomfitures had flung off all the restraints which civilization has imposed on warfare & even sought community & alliance with the pirates of Barratria the more effectually to annoy our country.

Feeling & knowing we all ^feel^ this & not knowing that it was only lawfull to attack an enemy at one point who assailed us at every point. Sensible of the great disadvantages under which american privateers laboured, arising from the vast superiority of the enemies naval power, they attempted to give facilities to a practice which the enemy followed & which our government allowed by the passage of the act to "encouraging privateering <illegible​>" the bill was sent to the councill of revission, where it met with the Strenuous opposition of the Chancellor & the chancellor only.

Advised of the exposed situation of the City of Newyork & the great probability of its being attacked, sensible of the extensive <present​> injury which ^would arise from^ the possession of that first City by the enemy as well as the powerfull effect it would inevitably have in the future prosecution of the War, they passed to provide for its safety as far as their power extended became the subject ^an enteresting subject^ of their deliberations. By the interruption of our commerce many ^Thousands^ of the offices & men to whom it furnished employment were without business & many without the means of Subsistence, <active>, brave enured to Service & always patriotic, they had tenderd their services to govermnt on terms to the later most reasonable. His Excellency The Govr. had on his own responsibility enlisted one thousand ^of them to <serve> as sea fencibles^. This situation afforded the gratifying opportunity of at one affording ^giving^ relief to ^a^ meritorious class of men & at the same time contributing essentially to the defence of the City. The opportunity was ^as^ it ought to have been embraced with alacraty. A Bill was passed confirming the enlistments which had been made & authorising the extension of them to 2000. It was sent to the councill of revision where it was objected to by the Chancellor and the Chanclr only as improper to become a law.

Alive to the extreme importance of the City of Newyork as well to the State as to the union, the legislature felt that nothing was done for it as long as more could be done consistent with this duty to the residece of the State. By our ^our^ militia laws, the people of colour are exempt from military duty, many of them are trust worthy respectable, very [ma]ny of them have on repeated occasions rendered their country essential service to their country behaved with the utmost gallantry in the naval service & most of them ^have^ by the pressure of the times been deprived of their customary employment. The greater proportion of them resided in Nyork. A Bill was pass[ed] authorising the enlistmt of two regiments which were intended for its defence. The Bill was sent to the councill, where the Chancellor & the Chancellor only objected to its becoming a law.

The experiment of filling up the ranks of the regular army by voluntary enlistments had been <properly> tryed & its impracticability was fully ^incontestably^ established. The ^general^ ineffiicency of the ordinary militia service was assented to by all. The extraordinary expence <alter> about on ^inseprable from^ that service had been sorely felt by the nation & its gross inequality & injustice ^during^ from the limited almost unlimited extension of exempts had become a subject [of] well founded clamour throughout the State.

To avoid as far as practicable those evils under which the <constituents> wh people laboured & at the same time to have provided for them that defence which the Situation of the country rendered indispensible was the anxious wish of all classes of the community. To effect it was the ardent desire of both branches the Legislature. A Joint committee, consisting of men of different political principles were appointed, full time was taken to examine every proposition that was submitted to them. & a After a full & fair discussion a Bill authorising the raising of 12000 men, for the defence of the State upon terms which will be shewn to be ^constitutional^ Just & equitable was passed by the votes of nearly two thirds of both hou the members. The Bill then passed It was sent to the councill of Revision, where like its predecessors it met with the decided & violent opposition of the Chancellor and the Chancellor only

These Sir were all ^the principal^ the acts who that ^men^ passed by the legislature at their extra Session which had for heir immediate object the defence of the State & the support of the country in the prosecution of the War. Of <this> it has been seen that there is not one which has been exempt from your opposition.

<But> sir I may ^be^ told that in <avoiding> on the various acts ^laws^ which I have enumerated you acted in your Judicial capacity, under the obligations of an oath & consequently exempt from all responsibility save one. I admit it Sir. I cheerfully admit it, for I love & venerate the Judicial institutions of my country & will if I know my own soul to the last moment of my life do all that in me lies to preserve cherish & support them. I know full well sir that in those fair systems, which have hitherto, thank god withstood ^as well^ the <illegible> seductions of foul pollution as the we all destroying ravages of party Strife, there is no one feature more excellent than that very irresponsibility of our Judges.

But Sir, as a lawyer exemption from personal or pecuniary responsibility by no means precludes the right propriety of a public examination of their acts. On the contrary it is always the right of the Citizen candidly truely & respectfully to discuss investing the correctness ^of those acts^. There are times Sir when those acts ^they^ are so intimately connected with the welfare of the State that the exercise of that right becomes an ^imperious^ duty. The present is that time. The Standard of rebellion is unfurling in the east. Sentiments which a short time since dared scarely to be allow breathed in Wispers are now proclaimed from the house tops. Opposition to the laws of the union is inculcated as a duty & its seperation s treated as a matter of business & calculation. Every effort is making to spread the Contagion among us. a vast All prospects of ^a speedy^ peace have vanished. Our Commissioners are returning. The next campaign must may decide our fate ^& the fate of millions yet unborn.^ & A large majority of the people of this State conceive much of its safety to depend on the execution of the laws in question. Many unfortunately ^too^ many of our Citizens are so enured to opposition that but little of reflection is indulged in. You have arraigned three of those laws as unconstitutional. Your opinions are widely published in almost every paper & hawked about the Country. The rights & duties of the people in relation to laws which are deemed to be so, are of nature which the times may render to delicate for discussion. You are the first Judicial officer in the State. If you ^are^ right, the laws may remain a dead letter. Our cities may be sacked & our country ravaged by the foe, but you may stand "conscious & erect." But if you are wrong, may not thousands of <illegible>​ but ^ignorant and^ deluded men draw down upon themselves & their families distress interminable. They may. So It is not therefore the <bounden> ^a sacred^ duty of every to dis investigate, calmly &, as far forth as the nature of the subject will admit dispassionately, the validity of the objection you have made & if practicable ^to^ remove the obstacles which have been raised to the execution of laws the most salutary. As a Citizen having a common Interest in my countries Welfare I have assumed a portion of this duty & before I quit ^the subject^ I pledge myself to shew that the grounds you have taken is in every sense untenable and unfounded.

Editorial Process Complete