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PATRICK HENRY [Matthew Livingston Davis] to MVB, 3 October 1834



My last letter left you advocating, in legislative caucus, the unanimous nomination of De Witt Clinton for the office of Governor. This caucus, it will be remembered, was held on the 27th of March, 1817. After his election in April you soon ascertained that you had not the confidence of, and would have but little or no influence with, the then dominant party. You were disappointed, and again became the opponent of Mr. Clinton. The summer of 1817 was devoted to petty intrigues, to embarrass him as Governor. Your position, when the legislature convened in 1818, was as ludicrous as it was mortifying. The great body of the people considered Mr. Clinton as the father of the canal system. You were struggling to destroy his power and influence, and yet you were compelled from motives of policy, to vote appropriations for the very object which of all others would most increase his present popularity, and hand down to posterity his name as a public benefactor. From this period, therefore, until the hour of his death, you were his most malignant reviler and embittered foe. Envy and hatred rankled in your bosom; while avarice and ambition prompted you to adopt any and every measure which you supposed would cripple his administration. It is due to you to say, that you are prolific in expedients of this character. All your talent in that line, was called into operation. And now, that he is mouldering into dust and ashes, his once devoted and ardent friends are required, and as liege subjects are expected, to elevate you and your followers to power and place, as remuneration for your and their past acts, towards that friend whom they professed to admire. Can such things be?

In 1819, Rufus King’s time of service expired as a Senator of the United States. It presented a field of chicanery and intrigue. You were now in your native element. No effort of an expanded or lofty mind was necessary for your purpose. Cunning, duplicity, and a species of grovelling management, were the means by which your object was to be accomplished. The legislature convened in January, 1819. The democratic party, or Clintonians and anti Clintonians, united, were as three to one to the federalists. Your object was to prevent the choice of a Senator during the session. You would then be in a position, during the summer of 1819, to negotiate with the federal party for the promotion of your own sinister views.

To accomplish your present purpose, it was necessary, first, to guard against a reunion of the democratic party; and next, to prevent the Clintonians from uniting with the federalists in support of Mr. King.

At the commencement of the session, January 6th, 1819, the federalists voted for Gen. German, the Clintonian candidate, for speaker of the House, and he was elected. Immediately the papers under his influence began to cry aloud, that the federal party had the control of Mr. Clinton, &c. A volume would not contain what was published on the subject. I will, therefore, only make a very few short extracts from the leading prints, for the puspose of exhibiting the apparent temper of the times, and hereafter presenting in bold relief, your unparalled duplicity.

A few days after the election of General German, these journals commenced their attacks as follows:-

January 11th. “The federal party is triumphant in this State, and they decide Mr. Clinton’s fate. Some sacrifices may be expected from him to preserve his power; one of which, we presume, will be the re-election of Mr. King.” Put a pin there. Again,

January 12. “Mr. Oakley has obtained an indefinate promise of re-electing Mr. King to the Senate.” Put another pin there.

January 15. “I commended Mr. King for his faithful attachment to his party, and I admire his party for their faithful attachment to him,” &c.

“Our letters deprecate, correctly, the discreditable system of puffing, which is adopted in favor of Mr. King.”

January 16. “If a federal gentlemen is appointed to the Senate, let other States in the Union be satisfied that the administration of this State is under federal influence. If Mr. Clinton is the republican we are taught to believe, then no federalist will be appointed.”

February 1. “No hope of success or triumph should lead to any alliance with political opponents. The republicans will not move to the right or to the left. They will support their candidate, and no other.”

Such was the language of those prints over which you had a control; and such was yours in the winter of 1819. What was it in 1820? That shall be answered in due time, by extracts from your own letters, now in my possession.

For the information of those who are not acquainted with the mode of appointing a Senator, it is proper to state, that each house nominates a candidate; that a majority of all present is necessary to a nomination; that the two bodies meet together and compare nominations; if they agree, the choice is made; if they disagree, they decide between the two by joint ballot.

On the 2d of February, 1819, the two houses proceeded, separately, to the nomination of a candidate. The votes were in Senate,

For Samuel Young, (Madisonian) 13
John C. Spencer, (Clintonian) 10
Rufus King, (Federal) 4

Neither candidate having a majority of the whole number there was no nomination.

In the House the votes were,    

For Samuel Young, (Madisonian) 43
John C. Spencer, (Clintonian) 51
Rufus King, (Federal) 34

Thus, no nomination was made by either branch of the legislature. Nor was there, during the session, any further effort to make one; and when they adjourned the State was unrepresented in the Senate of the U. States.

And now, sir, commenced the billing and cooing between you and certain federal leaders, which ultimately ripened into a league, that secured the re-election of Mr. King, and the appointment to office of a band of mercenaries, whom you have ever, from that day to the present time, held in durance vile.

On the 16th of February, 1819, the New York Evening Post, as a pulse feeler, says-“A single act is wanting; (the re-election of Mr. King) let it then be done, we care not by whom, and we will hail it as the harbinger of better times, when our motto shall be, oblivion to the past, prosperity to the future.”

This was too general for your purpose. Field Marshall Coleman made the discovery, and having made it, opened a new battery. On the 10th of March he compliments Mr. King in the highest terms of panegyric, for the efforts he had made in the Senate against the South on the Missouri question. On the 30th of March he denies that Mr. Clinton had influence in procuring the loan for the city corporation during the war. On the 31st of March he assails him for his opposition to Mr. King; and continues these attacks, until you, sir, by arrangement, were “committed to the support” of that gentleman for the Senate.

There is one circumstance connected with this period of time, so remarkable, that I cannot omit noticing it here. While you and the Evening Post were thus assailing Mr. Clinton, for not opposing the election of a federal gentleman to the Senate of the United States, the city of N. York was honored with the presence of Gen. Jackson, the now President of the United States. He was invited to a dinner at Tammany Hall, and on the 23d of February, 1819, (note the date) he gave as toast-

“De Witt Clinton, the Governor of the great and patriotic State of New York.”

How strangely altered are the times.


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Source: United States' Telegraph (Washington, DC)
Collection: N/A
Series: Series 7 (4 March 1833-3 March 1837)