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MVB to Rufus King, 14 January 1821

My dear Sir,

Our Legislature convened again on tuesday and are proceeding with composure and propriety. The convention bill has been discussed for two days and will tomorrow be rejected, it requiring you know two thirds to pass it. The whole subject will then be recommitted to a select committee who will probably report a bill authorising the sense of the people to be taken at the Spring election and if they approve directing the immediate choice of delegates, their convention & the submission of their doings to the people.

Connected with this question of a convention is a matter to which I wish to call your more particular and friendly attention. Although I have certainly not taken a lead in this business, being some what timid in all matters of Innovation; still I am thoroughly convinced that temperate reform & that only is the motive of those of our friends who urge it most strenuously. The apprehension that the generally approved parts of the constitution on the rights of property & opinion stand in danger from the contemplated measure is I believe entirely groundless. There are however some who have much at stake who I fear think otherwise & among that number is your friend Mr. V. Rensselaer. The extent of his political influence furnishes a strong temptation to Mr Clinton & his desperate followers to infuse into his mind the strongest apprehensions & their labours are assisted by occasional paragraphs in our news-papers. These thoughtless and senseless effusions of the moment which occupy the minds of their authors no longer than while they are penning them, are dressed up by our adversaries with great form & solemnity & appropriated with much address to the promotion of their ends.

I have observed with much regret that those efforts have been in some degree successfull and am very anxious that Mr V. R should be undeceived in this particular & knowing your friendship for him and his respect for you, I hope you will embrace the opportunity presented by his visit to Washington to converse freely with him on the subject. A carefull view of the present parties in this state & the materials of which they are composed ought to convince him that if there is safety for property and protection for principle to be expected from any quarter it certainly is from the Republican party. Where I ask are that portion of the community who having by their frauds become bankrupt in property and credit have therefore every thing to hope & nothing to fear from confusion to be found—let him tax his recollection & he will say they are in the ranks of Mr Clinto[n.] Where are that those political black legs who have alternately belonged to, deceived & betrayed all parties & who at a moment of quiet are politically defunct—let him apply the same process & he will find them pillars in the clintonian edifice. Where above all are that nefarious band of speculators who in 1812 & 13 preyed upon the very vitals of the governent and by their corrupt practices brought a disgrace upon the State which time alone can obliterate—practices which nothing but the purifying influence of the recent scrutiny aided by previous public indignation could have prevented from contaminating our old and demoralising our young men. Why they are all, all props & their leader is the very key-stone of the Clintonian arch. Of such materials is the active & efficient portion of the Clintonian party formed. Who compose ours? I say & say truly the Yeomanry of the State, who though they have not individually the largest have collectively the greatest interests at Stake—whose fidelity for twenty years is the strongest evidence of their future adherence to principle & whose very errors (viz their abandonment of the government in 1809-10 & 12 when they were not satisfied that all was right) afford the strongest confirmation of their Integrity. Mr VR ought to know that from a party thus constituted there is nothing to fear & from them he especially has nothing to apprehend. I know them well and the feelings which move them & I know that there is no man who notwithstanding the political asperities of the moment, has a stronger hold upon their best feelings than he has. The unquestioned integrity of his private character, his acknowledged benevolence his amiable disposition, & above all the mild & unostentatious manner in which he enjoys the wealth he possesses have produced those feelings & to ensure their continuance it is far from necessary that he should act politically with us. Much as we would feel ourselves honored by his cooperation we do not require it & we are safe without it. All we wish is that his countenance be not openly given and his influence lent to a man of such desperate fortune & unprincipled views as DeWitt Clinton is known to be. On this point there is great solicitude among the more reflecting portion of our friends. They are sensible of the momentous Interests which Mr VR. has in a wisely constituted and well administered government—they duly appreciate the feelings which that Interest—the delicate state of his health and the Situation of his family are likely to excite & they feel a commendable solicitude that his mind should be put at ease, that he should be perfectly satisfyed, that let the popular excitement produced by the political machinations of the man who has proof it is confessed caused the present ferment be ever so great. There will in the tumult of faction be found in the ranks of his adversaries those who will be able & willing to protect him & all his Interests from its violence.

You will see by the papers that your son has come in for his share of Mr Clintons abuse (who is the undoubted author of Heraclitus). He treats it with the contempt he ought. I have been strongly pressed by my adversaries, but of that I wish you to say nothing publicly to let Judge Yates go to the Senate & take his place on the bench (which they graciously suppose I could do), but have for reasons which I will hereafter give to you determined to breast myself to the opposition which is to be made on the Senator question.

Very sincerely your friend


Printed in King, Correspondence, 6:375-377.

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Source: NHi New-York Historical Society
Collection: Rufus King Papers (NHi)
Series: Series 3 (17 February 1815-2 December 1821)