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Address of Republican members of the New York Legislature, 9 April 1819 


At a meeting of the Republican members of the Legislature, held in the Senate chamber on the evening of the 9th April, 1819, Roger Skinner, Esq. of the Senate, was called to the chair, and Hart Weed, of the Assembly, appointed secretary.

The committee appointed by the previous meeting to prepare an address, reported the following, which was unanimously adopted, and ordered to be printed:


Of the Republican members of the Senate and Assembly of the State of New-York, to their constituents.

Fellow Citizens

The period for adjournment of the legislature being near at hand, and having, as we persuade ourselves, faithfully discharged our public duties, we cannot separate without calling your attention to the political situation of the state, and to those extraordinary measures which have fallen under our personal observation during the present session. It is always a privilege of freemen to address their fellow citizens on subjects intimately connected with their rights; it is always their duty to communicate with them on points connected with the safety of the country, the interest of the state, and the ascendancy of principle: To whom, therefore, can the members of the legislature address themselves with more frankness and sincerity than to their constituents; to those friends who have honored them with their suffrages, confided to them the destinies of the state, and who require of them, as trustees, a faithful account of their official and political conduct. In the ordinary course of affairs such communications may not be necessary, but there are times when silence becomes censurable, and inactivity criminal; there are times when a firm and energetic appeal should be made to a virtuous people, and a sense of justice, of equal rights, and of honest reciprocity, unite to make that appeal at the present moment our sacred and paramount duty. The republican party a few years ago exhibited a proud spectacle of union, talent and influence. Reposing on that security arising from a conscious discharge of every patriotic duty, we were not sensible that ambition was undermining the interest of our party, and erecting a standard of opposition, which collected the disaffected from every rank, and accumulated by the hope of reward, by the allurement of office, and the prospect of influence, all the shreds and remnants which alternately had been in the possession of every party existing in the state. In calling your attention to the present distracted situation of the republican party, it will be necessary to go back to the period when the present chief magistrate was put in nomination for that distinguished and responsible situation. We could indeed advert to the course which Mr. Clinton pursued in relation to the war; we could trace him in his associations with the opponents of that sacred contests, but these facts would only go to strengthen the general belief that he was not a suitable candidate to designate for the important office which he now holds. By a species of management not foreseen or capable of being resisted, his nomination was obtained; a nomination which received the assent of many, under an honest conviction that they would thereby preserve the unity of the party, but who now, satisfied of their error, cheerfully embrace the first opportunity to redeem it. A distinguished politician who had once bitterly opposed him, painted him in dark colors, charged him with unchastened ambition, became his warm advocate, admitted his past faults and errors, plead for him, not what he had been, but what he would be, the friend of the people, and the warm supporter and advocate of the republican party. Under regrets for the past, hopes for the future, anxious doubts, and still more anxious solicitudes, was Mr. Clinton's nomination confirmed, and his election secured by republican votes.

He was received as a penitent, chastened by adversity, and reformed by conscience and common sense. It will remain to be seen what reliance was to be placed on his political principles, or the professions and pledges of his friends. The first session of the legislature after his election, the Republicans, in conformity with the old successful custom, met in caucus, to fix on a suitable candidate as speaker: Although the result of this caucus nomination was the choice of a citizen, the devoted personal friend of Mr. Clinton, and by no means entitled to the distinguished preference he received over the other Republican members, still no objection was made to him; and the Republicans, faithful to their pledge, united their suffrages, and placed him in the speaker's chair, thus giving an incontestible evidence of their devotion to approved customs, and their strict adherence to a plighted faith. The next public and political duty was the choice of a council of appointment, and in this choice the germs of a selfish opposition were first discernable. It had been customary to permit the members from each district to unite in fixing on a candidate, and it appeared after a fair and honorable nomination that a citizen, independent of the influence of Mr. Clinton, was chosen for the western district. Then first commenced a system, having for its object the complete subserviency of the Republican party; then it plainly appeared that the will of the majority, the result of custom and successful experiment, was to be surrendered to the views of the Governor, and those of his personal friends; then was it placed beyond doubt, that the party must either succumb to their control, or be shorn of its strength and character by divisions and dissentions. It was resolved at the meeting of the Republican members, that the council of appointment should be chosen the next morning; a plan was laid to defeat the nomination of Mr. Seymour, as a member of that council, by postponing his election, until, by proper discipline, it could be prevented. In pursuance of that plan, a motion was made in the assembly, by Mr. Brayton, a prominent friend of the Executive, to postpone the choice of a council, until the ensuing Monday. This motion was supported by the federalists, and such of the Clintonians as could, at that early day, be brought into a measure of the kind; but the time was not propitious; the project was defeated, by a majority of nine votes only. Mr. Seymour was elected, and the blow which would, at that time, have destroyed the peace and harmony of the party, was, for the present, averted. Reflecting men saw, in this act, the clearest evidence that the apprehensions which they entertained at the time of Mr. Clinton's nomination, were well founded. The Republican party, awakened to a consideration of what was due to its character attentively regarded the measures of the Governor. In a short time, the removal from office of old and trusty Republicans, and the appointment of devoted friends, of doubtful character, and evanescent claims, gave tokens of what might be expected from a chief magistrate, who discharged his public duties with a single eye to the permanency of his power, and the increase of his influence. Most of his measures, of a public character, during the first session of his administration, confirmed unfavorable presentiments, and indicated too plainly the devious course which the chief magistrate of the state contemplated to pursue; and which, in the second year of his administration, was more broadly and fully displayed. At the commencement of the present session, we met, as usual, with the friends of Mr. Clinton, to make choice of a Speaker—and, after a fair ballot, it was decided that Mr. Thompson had a majority of votes, and the caucus was pledged to support him as Speaker.—This pledge was openly violated by the friends of Mr. Clinton, as we have the best reason to believe, by and with his consent and advice, and General German, a citizen devoted to his views, and distinguished for his hostility to the late war, and to the administration of the general government, was chosen by a resolution of the house—the federal party nearly uniting in affording him their support.

Thus, inauspicious for the republican party, commenced the second year of Mr. Clinton's administration. The sacred observance of a pledge is a paramount duty between man and man; and the fulfilment of a promise is ever the herald of confidence and honor. Yet how much more sacred does this pledge become, when the representatives of a free people, the chosen guardians of the people's rights and interests, voluntarily assume it? How truly may it be compared to the law of the Medes and Persians, "which altereth not." Yet was this pledge violated by the friends of Mr. Clinton, in conjunction with his former opponents; and thus was a blow given to the character of the state, and of the integrity of the republican party. While thus, however, frankly expressing our feeling on this subject, is is proper that we should state, that of the number of those who thus violently tore themselves from the republican party, there are some who, on discovering the misrepresentations which had been made, and the imposition which had been practised upon them by the designing, have indignantly dissolved all political connexion with men who taking advantage of an honest confidence, had, in an unguarded moment, obtained their assent to the measure; and with a promptness which reflects on them the highest honor, have reunited with their old friends. Soon after, a notice in writing was, in the usual way, affixed on the doors of the capitol, calling a meeting of the republican members, at the senate chamber; another notice was also put up, requesting the attendance of the republican members, friendly to the administration of the state, at the same time and place. The meeting convened, and instead of uniting with us as republicans, and consenting to be regarded as a part of the meeting, the friends of the executive disclaimed all wish to mingle with us in our deliberations, as one party. After some altercation and some warmth, the meeting was adjourned to a distant day, then to convene to nominate a candidate for senator to Congress. At which meeting, after debate, crimination and recrimination, it was proposed by a friend of Mr. Clinton, to call over the names of all the members of assembly, without reference to party, leaving it optional with the federalists to attend or not; thus aiming at the very existence of the republican party a deep and deadly blow—thus attempting, by a bold and daring effort, to destroy those landmarks which for years have been erected and by which our country has been guided to truth, liberty and principles. Then was it apparent to the most sceptical, that Mr Clinton and his supporters, no longer regarded with veneration and respect, the old Republican party, of which he once proudly avowed himself a member, and as which, he was elected chief magistrate. It then satisfactorily appeared, that his object in the distraction of the Republican party, was the erection of a new one, devoted to his personal views, to be composed of the disaffected from all parties, to be dependent on his will, and derive their existence and support from his patronage and protection. THE LINE WAS THEN DRAWN, and we met no more with men, who forgot the sacred obligations of duty, and surrendered independence to the will of a solitary individual. A Council of Appointment was chosen—and the federal party, with some honorable exceptions, voted with the friends of Mr Clinton, urged by hope of reward, or an understanding, as to remuneration, yet more positive. A Senator of the United States was attempted to be chosen, but the views of the Republican party were thwarted by selfish operations, and personal considerations; and the state of New York, at present is only partially represented in the councils of the nation. The views of Mr. Clinton gradually unfolded, until they were too plain to be misunderstood. With a Council of Appointment more completely devoted to his views, he removed Republicans from office, of worth and approved honesty, and substituted his private friends of doubtful political character and claims. A variety of minor appointments were bestowed on federalists, and offices of distinguished importance were held out to them with the view of retaining their services, and keeping alive their hopes. Even now, an active and laborious federalist, celebrated alike for his judicial capacity, and political adroitness, as well as for his vindictive feelings towards Republicans, is his cabinet minister, and promoter of all his plans and objects. If we turn to his measures, not purely of a political nature, if such measures are known, we find no evidence of that great and accomplished mind, which the devotion of friends taught us to expect; we do not even perceive that efficiency in measures, which should be anticipated from public declarations.

To conclude this brief appeal—we find the state divided and distracted in its political relations, and administered solely with reference to the views and advancement of the men in power. From such prospects we can only find relief in the virtue, intelligence and firmness of a free people. We can only look for redress in the manly exercise of those republican principles which it is our pride to avow; we can only anticipate a better state of things from that resistance which it is our duty to make, and which we contemplate making. We cannot, fellow citizens review the sacrifices which you have made in trying times, to serve your country and give stability to our republican institutions, without feeling that humility which would arise at seeing your power prostrated at the feet of men who gave no proof of devotion to country, offered no sacrifices for its liberty or prosperity—on the contrary, were passive when you were active, and whose energies were exerted to depress, impair and destroy those efforts which you were patriotically making in support of our common country and its rights. It is with deep regret that we feel it our duty to present to your view a picture thus humiliating to the character of our state. Gladly would we avoid exposing a course of ruinous measures, if they could even be called errors of opinion; but that "forbearance ceases to be a virtue," and the voice of truth and reason calls for a radical change.

Actuated, as we hope we are, by motives exclusively of a public nature—having no interest distinct from yours, and being desirous, in all our intercourse with the people, to observe that frankness, freedom and sincerity which alone becomes the representatives of freemen, WE THINK IT DUE TO YOU TO OUR OPPONENTS AND TO OURSELVES, TO DECLARE OUR FIRM CONVICTION, THAT A LASTING AND SALUTARY REFORM CAN ALONE BE EFFECTED BY AN ULTIMATE CHANGE OF THE CHIEF MAGISTRATE OF THE STATE. ALL MINOR EFFORTS WOULD BUT INCREASE OUR PERPLEXITIES, AND RENDER OUR TRANQUILITY DOUBTFUL AND PRECARIOUS. For that crisis, therefore, every sound Republican should prepare himself. And while thus freely avowing our sentiments on this interesting subject, we have sincere pleasure in expressing our belief, that a change thus important, can and will be made. We trust, however, that we will not be understood as wishing to withhold from the chief magistrate, either that respect which is justly due to him, or your and our support in all measures connected with the interest or the honor of the state. We, however, are persuaded, that we have given full proof that we are not actuated by such unworthy motives; and it will be our pride and pleasure to continue to do so to the end.

We seek for no coalition with political opponents; we offer no bribes—we promise no offices. Citizens who are disposed to abandon their former opposition to the great republican family, must apply to the peoplesatisfy them of their sincerity, and receive from them such demonstrations of confidence as they may merit. This is the genius and spirit of republicanism which shrinks from bowing at the shrine of an individual, or of receiving favors from his gift; but which rather appeals to the wisdom, the patriotism and support of the people, the legitimate sovereigns of our country, and the sole depositories of power.—Supporting, as we have done, the general government in trying times—enjoying the esteem and confidence of the republican party throughout the union—professing our attachment to the general administration of our country, on sincere and disinterested grounds, and resolved, as usual, to support all their just and honourable measures, we commence the work of regeneration at an auspicious moment, when every republican state is with us—when our citizens, tired of these constant irritations, are sensible of the necessity of changing the order of things. With a happy prospect of tranquility and political influence in view, our success is certain; and we respectfully invite you fellow citizens, to co-operate with us in promoting, perfecting and perpetuating those principles of our revolution—those principles which predominated in 1798, and in the gloomy period of 1813. We have a great, flourishing and happy state; we have noble institutions, which are worthy of the devotion and protection of good men; we have many enlightened citizens, capable of administering the government with a strict reference to the will of the people; our works of improvement, which will prosper while they continue unshackled by political management, are proud monuments of our enterprize; our destiny is great and happy, and only can be successfully promoted by a rigid adherence to our republican institutions, and a constant devotion to the will of the people, and to the interest and honor of the state.


Middle district






Southern district







Eastern district




Western district 
















JAMES ELLS, Delaware,


JAMES FROST, Schenectady,

JOHN GALE, Washington,


SIMON A. GROOT, Schenectady,

JAMES GUION, Westchester, 









R.R. HUNTER, New-York,



JAMES M'CALL, Allegany,

WM M'FARLAND, Washington,






S.B. ROMAINE, New-York,



PETER H[. . .]E, New-York,





HART WE<L>D, Putnam,





The grammatical errors in this transcription were present in the original printed document. 

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Source: National Advocate (New York, NY)
Collection: N/A
Series: Series 3 (17 February 1815-2 December 1821)