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must stand or fall according to the estimate placed by the popular judgment upon the principles and measures enunciated.
At the period under consideration, the opening of the nineteenth century, the whole framework of our government was but little more than an untried experiment, so far as respected its actual workings. We had gathered some strength as a nation, and the hopes of the old stepdame for an opportunity of resubjugation had become very much darkened. But it is not my purpose to write a treatise on governments, or the history of political parties outside the confines of the county, any farther than may be needful to explain results as we have found them.
The German population of the county was strongly imbued with the anti-federal feelings, when the federal constitution was ratified. After political parties assumed the names of federalists and republicans, a very considerable majority of that population was found acting with the latter; it was not brought out, however, to act effectively, until the April election in 1800. An able and efficient body of men, lawyers, merchants and others, had settled at Herkimer, whose influence, in conjunction with others in the county, decided the political character of the members.
Before the period here mentioned, Mathias B. Tallmadge, a republican lawyer, and connected by marriage with the family of Governor George Clinton, settled at Herkimer. I can not give the actual time Mr. Tallmadge came into the county, but I find he was elected a delegate to the convention of 1801, from this county, with Evans Wharry and George Rosecrants. He was afterwards elected to the senate of this state, in April 1802. Mr. Tallmadge was, no doubt, sent into the county as a political leader, and by this movement Governor Clinton extended his family influence to an important point in the state, then fast filling up with population from the older southern and eastern counties, and from the other states, particularly New England. It is not improbable that Evans Wharry, a native of Orange county, well known to, and a fast friend of Governor Clinton, was mainly instrumental in bringing Mr. Tallmadge into the county.
Mr. Tallmadge's contemporaries do not speak of him in terms of extravagant praise. He was not equal in point of talents and energy of character to any of his leading opponents. But the soil was congenial to his touch, and the harvest ripened to his hand; and such was the veneration and respect for the name of George Clinton in the Mohawk valley, and so deep seated was the anti-federal feeling in the county, strengthened and embittered by some of the acts of the federal government under the administration of John Adams, and particularly the stamp act, that it only remained to select the candidates, print and circulate the ballots, and the election from that moment became a " fixed fact," so far as this county was concerned. Mr. Tallmadge was appointed United States judge for the district of New York in 1805, and soon after removed from the county.
During the period of nineteen years, from 1800 to 1818, inclusive, republican members were elected to the assembly, with one solitary exception, and then that party only sustained a partial defeat in the county. At the spring election, in 1809, Thomas Manly and Rudolph Devendorff, federalists, and Christopher P. Bellinger, republican, were chosen members, the latter by some five or six votes. The federal party that year, for the first time since 1799, achieved a political triumph. This event has been charged to the restrictive measures of the general government, under Mr. Jefferson, which weighed heavily upon the navigating and grain-growing interests of the country.
Wheat had fallen from twenty-four shillings a bushel, before the embargo, to six shillings after that measure was enforced, and products found no foreign market. Daniel D. Tompkins was then governor, and the freehold vote in the state upon the choice of senators showed a little over seven hundred republican majority. Under the constitution of 1777, the political majority in the assembly controlled the choice of the council of appointment, composed of one senator from each senate district. It so happened, there was not, at this time, a single federal senator from two of the districts, and the majority in the assembly were forced to choose two members of the council who had been elected as republican. This was a gloomy prospect for those who were hopefully looking to the enjoyment of the "spoils of victory." While the republicans were reposing in security, supposing every thing would be safe with the casting vote of their favorite governor, the dominant party were actively engaged in looking up some disaffected republican senator, who could be brought over to their views. The constitution of the state had given the civil list appointments into the hands of the federalists, and all they lacked was instruments by which to exercise their power. They however found the man they wanted, in the person of Mr. Robert Williams, of the Middle district, who had been a Burrite,, Lewisite, Clintonian, and was elected to the senate by the republicans. He, it appears, was one of the trading politicians of that day, who set themselves up to the highest bidder; and he met the fate in after life that all such men deserve — the scorn and contempt of his former friends, and the studied neglect of those he had recently served. The federal council, after its organization, went to work with a zeal that met a warm response from its friends in every quarter of the state; but was far from being very agreeable to their opponents. This council appears to have done a pretty large and extensive business in the way of removals and appointments to office.
The party in power were no doubt induced to this course in view of the election of governor, about to take place, in the spring of 1810. The federalists had contested the election the previous year on the merits of the measures pursued by the national administration, and had succeeded. Those questions, though of grave importance, still remained to pass the ordeal of the popular judgment at the ballot box, but were not the only elements that entered into the contest, which became unusually excited and animated. The federalists were in office, and the reelection of Governor Tompkins would postpone to an indefinite period all hope to the federal party of a permanent restoration to power in the state and union; and the republicans were smarting under their recent defeat and consequent loss of office, by the treachery, as they alleged, of one who should have been a friend.
Mr. Hammond says, that "contrary to the expectation of both parties, the republicans were not only successful, but their success was complete. They achieved an entire and complete overthrow of their opponents. Tompkins was reelected by about ten thousand majority. The republican candidates for the senate succeeded in all the four districts, and in the assembly the republicans had a majority of almost two to one." •
It does not come within the objects of this publication to discuss the causes which produced the above result, or to speculate upon motives that may or may not have actuated political men or parties. At the election in April, 1810, the republican party in the county regained its ascendency, and the members of the new council of appointment were careful to revise and correct, in 1811, all the mistakes of their immediate predecessors.
A word of explanation should here be given in reference to the spirited, uniform success of the republican party in the county during the period of nineteen years. I have stated one exception. On a further examination, I find another. At the spring election, in 1815, Henry Hopkins, a gentleman who had uniformly acted with the federal party, was elected to the assembly with John McCombs and William D. Ford. One of the republican candidates first put in nomination died a few days before the election, and Mr. Hopkins was chosen by a majority of nineteen votes over George Paddock, who was taken up and supported by the republicans.
Many of the leading republicans in the county were, between 1816 and 1820, known as Clintonians; they sustained the measures of Governor De Witt Clinton, and selected candidates to the assembly friendly to that gentleman, who were of course chosen. I believe the members elected in the county, the three years previous to 1820, did not act with the bucktail opposition (so called) against the governor. Disaffection in the republican ranks manifested itself pretty decidedly throughout the state, towards the close of the governor's first term, and a meeting was called at the Court House in Herkimer, in the spring of 1819, to organize and nominate an assembly ticket. The meeting, although not very numerous, was composed of a considerable number of active republicans, and attracted some attention. John Herkimer, then one of the county judges, and afterwards member of congress, was appointed chairman. Michael Hoffman, Esq" submitted a series of resolutions, setting forth the grounds of complaint against the governor, and among them was one condemning, in pretty strong terms, the action of the council of appointment in removing Martin Van Buren, and appointing Thomas J. Oakley, a leading and distinguished federalist, to the office of attorney general. The resolutions were adopted and published, with my name appended as secretary. For this act of insubordination, the secretary was complimented with a supersedeas as a justice of the peace at the following July session of the council of appointment. The same meeting nominated candidates for members of assembly in opposition to the ticket already in the field friendly to Governor Clinton.
This division among the republicans brought out the federalists, who, on the eve of the election, nominated a full assembly ticket, which was chosen by a handsome majority, although the anti-Clintonian or bucktail republicans abandoned their ticket, and generally voted for the Clintonian candidates.
The result of the election showed a clear federal majority in the county at that time, and this was probably the fact;