A Republican Member of the Legislature elect to MVB, 22 December 1819
From the Albany Register.
To the Hon. Martin Van Buren.
A circular, the offspring of your pen, signed by yourself, and purporting to be signed by certain other senators, under date of the 25th of November last, addressed to some of the republican members of the Assembly elect, although not intended to be seen by me, has accidentally come to my hands. Why this production was sent partially, and not to all the members elect, is very obvious, it was intended to be kept secret from those whom you supposed would penetrate your views, and expose the fallacy and hypocrisy of your canting epistle. I am at a loss which most to admire, the management in preserving the secret so well, or the subtle sophistry displayed in the address.
The point and object of the circular is to persuade the friends of Gov. Clinton, who are elected members of the assembly, to convene with you and your friends, at what you call the customary meetings of the legislature, at the ensuing session, "in order to decide on the respective questions which it will become necessary for us to act upon, then to discuss with freedom such points of collision as may arise between us, and in the sequel, to put them to the only safe trial, the fairly expressed will of the majority."
This proposition was plausible and it discovers by its cunning, its legitimate parent.
The friends of Gov. Clinton, those who conscientiously believe that the whole course of his measures has been most beneficial to the state; that he has done more to advance the real prosperity of the people since he assumed the executive chair, than any one of his predecessors; those to whom he is endeared by acts the most splendid and useful; who feel that he has elevated his native state to a high rank in the union; are modestly and soothingly invited to discuss the points of collision between them, and a set of men who have by their unwearied and unceasing persecution for the last ten years of his life, hunted him like a beast of prey: nay more, they are solemnly called upon to put it to the vote by uplifted hands, whether they shall not renounce their conviction and their duty, by treacherously abandoning the man to whom they and the people of this state owe a debt of the deepest gratitude. This is seriously asking men to forego their reason, and to renounce every claim to honor or self respect.
Pray, sir, what is to be discussed at these same meetings, and with what tempers of mind will the disputants come prepared for any thing like a cool and temperate discussion? Are you and your friends open to conviction? Think you that if one of the ancient prophets was to appear, and advocate the cause of the governor, that he could convince you? It is a gross imposition, and you well know it to be so, to pretend that you and your associates, have proposed this meeting with any serious idea that you could convince, or be convinced yourselves. Like the crafty fowler you have spread your net to catch the unwary and the credulous—you count upon a majority of the republican members elect, if you are to have the power of pronouncing who are entitled to be considered republicans, and after discriminating the members elect, you propose to brand those with apostacy, who will not succumb, and put their convictions and consciences into your keeping.
We are not without practical experience upon the course you advise. During the last session, at several meetings which you and I attended, what disgraceful scenes did we witness! it resembled a Bear-garden-noise, confusion, turbulence and distraction reigned—personal crimination and recrimination utterly unworthy of republicans or gentlemen took place. Amid such a scene you profess to expect a free discussion upon the points in collision, between men whose minds are finally fixed—you expect the plain, calm, and temperate friends of the executive, to dispute with you, General Root and Peter R. Livingston, who are already gafted for the combat. We might with equal propriety be asked to reason with the veriest madmen in Bedlam.
No, sir, the door of debate is closed, I hope, forever, between the unalterable enemies and calumniators of Governor Clinton and his ardent and determined friends. It is vain to expect that you and your adherents will be silent in your determined course of persecution, or that the friends and supporters of the governor, who are such from a deep conviction that his public conduct deserves their support and gratitude, can in future act together.
I lament the actual posture of things with a more sincere regret than you can. Whilst I can profit nothing by the dissentions in the republican party, your prospects are much advanced. You have seated yourself at the head of your party, either by common consent, or by seizing on the vacant place, and in the event of your success, you will become lord of the ascendant. This cannot fail to animate your zeal, and to call forth all the talents for management, taught you by your prototype Aaron Burr. It is therefore entirely ridiculous for you to grieve and mourn at a state of things, which have been produced principally by your exertions. I beg you therefore to be of good cheer, and leave your whining and canting.
You sir, above all men in the state have the least pretensions to complain of the intolerance and illiberality of the administration. You were preserved in office for two years, although it was well known that you was the pivot of the opposition, and was organizing it in every quarter of the state.—The office you held, enabled you to prosecute your plans with much more effect; and still you was tolerated, in wielding that office to ruin and destroy your former benefactor and friend. Common sense, and the united opinions of the friends of the administration at length decided the governor, that he was bound to reduce you to the level of a private citizen.
You take great credit for having acquiesced in the nomination of Gov. Clinton in 1817, when this very act, was the result of political necessity, and you was well aware that an opposition then, would have crushed you and all your hopes forever.
The pretext for the meeting of the republican members of the legislature, is false and hollow. You pretend to wish and expect a reunion of the republican party.—The time has been, when great individual sacrifices of opinion were necessary: and when the question related to the selection of a candidate for office, it was right to expect private and personal predilections should be surrendered on the altar of public good. Do existing circumstances admit or require such sacrifices? I answer, unhesitatingly, no. There exists no longer an organized federal party; it is broken into atoms perfectly harmless. The leading men of that party have taken different sides with what once constituted the republican party;—some of them support and others oppose the state administration. There will be no federal candidate for governor; and therefore no sacrifices of private opinion are necessary, as was formerly the case, to produce unity of action against federalism. Under such a state of things, the cry that the republic is in danger from the thraldom of federalism, and that republicans must unite, is sheer deceit. Your circular does not even pretend that such danger exists. On the contrary, observes with what mildness and generosity you treat our ancient adversaries.—"Our earnest and zealous avowals of our attachment to the republican party, as such, and of our unchangeable determination to support it against the assaults of all its enemies, must not however subject us to the imputation of political intolerance. We entertain no such sentiments. Proof of this is not at this day necessary. The instance does not exist in which the republican party have treated, otherwise than with justice and magnanimity, such of their opponents as have united with them from pure motives and upright views, and there is no room to apprehend that they will ever do otherwise."
Thus we see that the doors of confidence and honor are set wide open to all federalists who come to your standard from pure motives and upright views. But who are to determine on the requisite proofs, and what is to constitute purity of motives and uprightness of views? I answer, hatred to De Witt Clinton. Any federalist who will so far forget the paramount interests of the state, as to join in the crusade against this individual, will instantly be adapted to your standard of purity and uprightness; and thus it is that we see Messrs. Hoffman, Gardenier, Coleman, Duers, and last though not least, Mr. Bonner, fraternizing with you, already grown to the stature of perfect men in purity and uprightness.
I have a few questions to ask you. How happened it, that this circular was not offered to the other republican senators for their signatures also? why was it concealed from them? why was it not sent to all the republican members elect, instead of being sent only to such as you apprehended might be cajoled and caught by the seeming fairness of your professions? You cannot answer these questions without admitting, that you and your associates have in fact, in the very act of invitation, committed an outrage upon those senators who, though on the spot, were never consulted, or even informed of your circular. You have yourselves confirmed the existing breach in the party, by withholding your invitation from many, very many, republican members elect, and thus treating them as undeserving a seat at your projected meeting of all the republican members.
In short, sir, as one of those thus treated, I inform you that my mind is definitively made up to avoid your meetings, under a full persuasion, that it is set on foot to entrap the unwary, and with a view of sacrificing, right or wrong, an independent, upright, and honorable man, who has administered the government of this state in a manner, calculated eminently to advance the interests and happiness of the people. In such a work I will hold no lot nor part, and I wish you all the success which ought to attend those, who delight in agitating the public mind and bringing down distinguished worth to their own petty standards.
A Republican Member of the Legislature elect.