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Thomas Cooper to the editor of the Columbia (S.C.) Telescope [Algernon Sidney Johnston], 18 March 1837

Mr. Editor:

The Mercury, and the Telescope, are usually regarded abroad, as exhibiting more nearly than any other papers the leading opinions of South Carolina on the passing politics of the day. A comment appeared in the Mercury of the 14th inst., on Mr. Van Buren's Inaugural Address, which I do not believe is, and I am quite sure ought not to be a fair exposition of the public sentiment in this State.

It is not from any merit in the stile of this critique, that I call your notice toward it, for a writer who can talk of entombing the Constitution in the apple dumpling, is hardly at liberty to find fault with other people's nonsense—nor is it from any argument it contains that public attention should be drawn toward it, for of any thing like argument, it is perfectly innocent—but from the ill tempered virulence that pervade sthat article, and its unfair perversion of Mr. Van Buren's sentiments and promises.

I am no advocate for any of General Jackson's doctrines or conduct; nor can any friend to his country approve of the influence which has so much contributed to elevate Mr. Van Buren to the Presidency.

But if a politician is to be regarded as having committed an unpardonable crime, because he has profited by the good opinion of his friends in his pursuit of the highest office in the U. States, I fear we should find very few candidates guiltless of that offence, whether they belong to the North or to the South.

Mr. Van Buren delivered his Inaugural Address, at a moment when the excitement concerning the slavery question was at the very highest. The public at large were in doubt what view the new President would take of that question, and on which side his great influence would be thrown. To satisfy public anxiety, he declares in strong language, that unless in the (impossible) case of the Slave States themselves wishing it, he shall think it his duty to veto any bill for abolishing Slavery in the district of Columbia. And what reason could he have, for making this declaration but that he deemed himself sanctioned by the Constitution which he professes to regard as the Polar star of his conduct? It must arise from a strange perversity of intellect, that such a veto is considered as a boon held out by Mr. Van Buren, and not a declaration founded on a sense of constitutional duty!

"Gentlemen (says a Debtor to his Creditors) I am about retiring from business, but whenever you send in your claims upon me, I promise you they shall be punctually paid." Oh, oh, says a creditor, so sir, the payment of our debts against you, is to depend upon your promise, is it? You promise forsooth! sir, we despise your promise; we are not to be insulted in this way. No, sir, our debts are secured by law sir: yes sir, by the law of the land sir, and a fig for your promises. Do yon mean to insult us sir, by substituting your promise for a positive duty? No, no sir, we are not such fools as you take us to be! To whom in such a case would that epithet apply? Hitherto, Mr. Van Buren, young in office seems willing to go with the South, full as far as the South had any reason to expect from him under existing circumstances. Is it a crime in Mr. Van Buren that he is willing in some great and leading questions to adopt the Southern side, and to pledge himself to do so? Why are we to abuse a man for proffered friendship, when we have no good reason to doubt his sincerity? Men who have lived in the world, well know how much more easy it is to make an enemy than a friend. If the sentiments of this very weak writer were the real sentiments of South Carolina, which they are not, would not Mr. Van Buren be justified in saying, "if you are offended at my proffers of friendship—if I can do nothing to please you—be it so. I might as well try the opposite course."

Whatever Mr. Van Buren's general politics may be, it is much too soon to pronounce him incorrigible. He is evidently a man of talents and a gentleman; and will be very apt to consider his own interest not in a narrow but an enlarged point of view. He is upon his trial before the public; and he is entitled to reasonable time and fair play. On our parts it is neither wise nor honest to condemn prematurely. None of us would like to be so treated ourselves. Nor do we gain any thing by indulging in needless acrimony of expression, or cherishing the very bitterness of party warfare.


Source: DLC Library of Congress
Collection: MVB Papers (DLC)
Series: Series 8 (4 March 1837-31 December 1837)