Gambar halaman

every body, or any body for president, except William H. Crawford. Some of my readers, if I should have any, may think I do not treat this subject with the impartial pen of an historian. I wish to call things by their right names, and tell the plain unvarnished truth.

At the November election in 1823, Christopher P. Bellinger, John Graves and Caleb Budlong were chosen members of assembly, and were not unfriendly to Mr. Crawford. The electors of president and vice-president were then appointed by the legislature, and it was supposed, and such was no doubt the fact, that a majority of the legislature chosen that year, were, when elected, favorable to Mr. Crawford, assuming he would be the regular nominee of a democratic congressional caucus, and it hence became necessary in order to defeat Mr. Crawford in this state, to change the mode of appointing electors, and with that view early in the session of 1824, a bill was introduced into the assembly directing the appointment of electors to be made by the people through the ballot box by general ticket, at the annual election preceding the expiration of the official term of the presidency. I do not use the cant phrase of the day "restore the election to the people." The people never had exercised that power directly, and therefore it could not be restored to them. The bill passed the assembly, but was indefinitely postponed in the senate, which was virtually a rejection. At former periods in the history of the states, the federalists and republicans when in the minority in the legislatures, on which would devolve the appointment of electors, made efforts to change the law and refer the subject to the people directly, but the majorities in both instances considered it a sort of clap-trap affair and retained the power in their own hands. The rejection of the electoral law placed the democratic party in a very unenviable predicament. The democrats had now placed their necks under the axe which they used to decapitate the Clintonians three years before. The current of popular opinion set against them with a force perfectly resistless. Party drill, regular nomination, and personal appeals did not avail any thing. The Democratic county convention met as usual and nominated candidates for assembly, and concurred in the several state and senatorial district nominations. The same convention nominated Michael Hoffman to be supported as a candidate for congress. This was Mr. Hoffman's first appearance on the political arena in the county as a candidate for an elective office.

A meeting not very numerous, I believe, subsequently convened at Herkimer, and nominated John Herkimer member of congress for reelection, and Samuel Dexter, Jr., Warner Folts and Jacob Wire for the assembly. These gentlemen had all of them acted with the Democratic party during the last four years. This was a Peoplish movement, and it was understood at the time that the Clintonians proper or federalists did not appear openly in the affair, although they must have secretly encouraged it from the support given by them to the ticket at the election. There had not been during the summer and fall any organization of a people's party or any indication showing disaffection in the democratic ranks in the county. A large majority of the party in the county was supposed to be friendly to Mr. Crawford against all the other candidates, and when the convention met to make nominations, there was a fair prospect of an old-fashioned field fight between the veteran parties. Mr. Herkimer was an Adams man, and Mr. Hoffman an avowed Crawfordite.

The Clintonians generally supported what was called the people's ticket, and after the election, during which a good deal of bitter feeling was exhibited, the canvass showed that Mr. Clinton had 134 majority over Col. Young; Hoffman over Herkimer 244; the average of people's assembly ticket over the democratic was only 49. The democratic assembly candidates received the entire support of the party in good faith, yet all of them left it within a few years and attached themselves to other political organizations, and Messrs. Dexter and Folts were on the best of terms with the democratic members of the house during the whole session. This political tornado was not confined to Herkimer county alone, it swept over the whole state, and Mr. Clinton, who only two years before had been so reduced in popularity in consequence of his course on tho convention question, that his friends dared not to venture his being a candidate for governor against Mr. Yates, was now elected by 16,906 votes over Col. Young.

But the elements of dissolution existed in this people's party at its very formation. The only bond that brought them to act in concert, was the defeat of William H. Crawford; that once accomplished, and the union became a rope of sand. Mr. Clinton, whose position made him the strongest man in this state, among the coalesced minorities, did not favor the pretensions of Mr. Adams by any avowed or overt act of adhesion or preference. He expressed an opinion, before the question was actually decided, that Gen. Jackson would be chosen by the house of representatives; founded on the belief that the house would choose the candidate highest on the list and having the greatest number of votes, and thus conform its action to the declared will of the largest popular vote. These facts with others that might be here repeated clearly show, that Mr. Clinton did not sympathize with the Adams and Clay sections of the people's party which combined at the November session in 1824, to secure a majority of the electoral vote in this state for their respective favorites.

Much surprise has been expressed, that Mr. Van Buren and his friends did not at once consent to change the mode of appointing electors, appeal to the popular vote of the state, and some of his warm friends and the advocates of Mr. Crawford's election censured him and them for not doing Bo. Mr. Van Buren possessed a clear and comprehensive political sagacity; this his greatest and most bitter opponents allowed and feared. The disturbing and disquieting controversy growing out of the Missouri compromise, had not been forgotten. The south had enjoyed eight presidential terms, and the north one, since the adoption of the constitution. The sectional preferences and prejudices of the north were against the candidate preferred by Mr. Van Buren, and many of his influential friends in this state; and there was but little prospect of controlling or changing the direction of those prejudices and preferences, except through the agency of a regular caucus nomination, made by the republican members of congress, and even that might fail in the absence of any great national question on which an appeal could be made to the patriotic feelings of the people. A regular nomination could not be obtained for Mr. Crawford, and the era of good feeling doctrine promulgated under Mr. Munroe's administration had soothed the political asperities which had existed between the old republican and federal parties, not a little sharpened by the events of the war of 1812. A democratic electoral ticket pledged to support Mr. Crawford, would probably have obtained a plurality of the votes given in the state, if backed by a regular congressional nomination, and the friends of all the other candidates had presented, and in good faith supported, separate tickets; but if the minorities should combine, as they did in the legislature, and divide the candidates for the electoral college, assigning a given number to each of their favorites, and go down to the election with but one ticket, there would not have been much question as to the result. The democratic ticket might have succeeded, if there had been no issue on the electoral law ; and that issue would not have been raised, if there had been only two candidates in the field for the presidency.

That there would be a democratic majority elected, on whom would devolve the appointment of the electoral college, and that such majority would act in accordance with the wishes of Mr. Van Buren and his friends, if the caucus system was strictly adhered to, was quite as certain in July, 1823, as it was at the meeting of the legislature, in 1824. That there would be no choice by the college in December, 1824, was pretty well settled in the minds of politicians before the New York election in November, 1823, so that the whole object aimed at by the friends of the several candidates was, to place their respective favorites in a position to be chosen by the house of representatives. That was the issue in this state, and this indicated too clearly to be mistaken what course Mr. Crawford's opponents would take in case a plurality or majority electoral law should be passed. Even the loss of the election did not place the power of choosing democratic electors out of the reach or beyond the control of the democratic party; if there had been no dishonorable violation of the most solemn voluntary pledges, Mr. Crawford might have as easily obtained the whole thirty-six electors as four.

At the November election in 1825, the Democrats regained the ascendency in the county by a majority of about six hundred, and the Clintonians lost the election in the state. This result again placed the political power of the state substantially in the hands of the democratic party. From this time to 1847, the democrats invariably elected their regularly nominated members of assembly, and with one exception, in 1846, their county officers. The candidates of the party never failed of an election by the people during the above period, with the exception noted, although in that time, the state had been several times lost and won to the democratic party, and the country had seen the election of two whigs to the presidency, General Harrison, in 1840, and General Taylor, in 1848.

The rejection of Mr. Van Buren by the Baltimore convention in 1844, the disaffection manifested by a section of the democratic party in this state against Governor Bouck, who was elected in 1842, and the disagreement among leading democrats in regard to the canal policy of the state, had combined to produce a feeling of estrangement in the democratic ranks, which was distinctly exhibited at the annual election in 1846. Governor Wright was then a candidate for reelection. My intercourse with Governor Wright,

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »