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Friday, September 3, 2021

Lorenzo L. D. Tanner

 by Richard White

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved by the author.

An African loving fanatic in Marathon, Cortland County, has sent a letter to the President, asking that he issue a “Compensation Proclamation,” giving to the negroes freed by the Emancipation Proclamation land in the South, all of which this lunatic says by right belongs to the freedmen. Tanner probably would like to be President, and this is a bid for the negro vote.

This was the opening “Editorial Sentiment” in Binghamton’s racially virulent Democratic Leader on March 29, 1872, regarding a petition authored by a long-time abolitionist from central New York to President Grant provide confiscated acreage in the South to the former slaves freed in 1863 by President Lincoln. “Compensation” and similar proposals such as land redistribution and agrarian reform were not new ideas. In fact, in 1862, President Lincoln signed two Compensated Emancipation Acts ended slavery in Washington, DC, and allowed former slaves to petition for reimbursement for their value. In 1865, the well-known slogan, “40 acres and a mule,” was popularized but never gained traction in Congress, and certainly not with President Johnson, whose viewpoint favored property restoration instead of compensation. In his classic The Struggle for Equality (1964), James McPherson explained Johnson’s amnesty proclamation in 1865. Subsequent pardons restored property rights to most rebels who would take an oath of allegiance. Still, he also points out that “abolitionists continued to work ”(410) for racial justice as Reconstruction developed as they had in the pre-War period.

Such a person was a little-known public-spirited resident who lived in the Marathon-Freetown-Galatia region of Cortland County, Lorenzo D. Tanner. L. D., as he was called, moved to this rural region of central New York from Oneida County in 1835 and practiced a variation of citizen advocacy. In a look back at his life, The Cortland Democrat, on March 16, 1934, stated that he “was an impressive figure [who] wrote letters to the newspapers on all public questions. In the slavery days, he was an uncompromising Abolitionist, and his opponents nicknamed him ‘Nigger’ Tanner.” For example, Cazenovia’s The Liberty Press on July 18, 1843, discussed L. D.’s participation at the village’s anti-slavery meeting and stated that “our excellent friend…L. D. Tanner of Freetown, moved the resolutions” condemning the inhumanity of enslavement.

Even before the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, Tanner’s activism spurred him to travel to a nearby village to rally against slavery, not because he was “lunatic,” but because of his prime belief in racial equality and freedom for African Americans. At the rally on September 2, 1850, at Freetown’s Baptist Church, Tanner attended and was asked to co-write the assemblage’s resolutions.

According to Cortland’s The Whig on September 26, the rally’s first purpose was to validate “the inalienable right to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as a paramount principle of America.

The second was to support the imprisoned William L. Chaplin, an agent of the New York State Anti-Slavery Society, who was jailed for helping two slaves trying to escape bondage in Maryland. As the rally neared its closing, seven resolutions were formulated and presented, and three were specifically about Chaplin’s incarceration. One insisted “that in that as much as the friends of slavery claim the right to extend it into the territories now free, we in our turn demand that the U. S. Constitution shall be amended by striking out those clauses which are claimed as its compromises.” Tanner’s style as a proponent of impartial freedom was quiet and “uncompromising,” and it presented itself through the tumultuous pre-war and war years.

His approach to Reconstruction issues remained dramatically solid and unaltered in his work for civil rights. In 1870, for example, L. D. challenged a prominent neighbor and future two-term Assemblyman, D. C. Squires, to debate the freedmen’s immediate future at the Union school house in Lapeer to the west of Marathon. On June 3, The Cortland Democrat captured the complexity of their first debate months earlier and its aftermath. While the paper did not estimate the length of the first face-off or the audience’s size, it did note that there was no formal decision regarding who won the debate and later published L. D.’s challenge to Squires to debate on the pages of this newspaper which Squires did not answer.

Two years later, an issue concerning the future of the Freedmen prompted Tanner to write to President Grant but, despite it being a petition to the President of the United States, there was limited reportage on this letter which was published in The Marathon Independent, which reprinted on March 26 an article originally appearing in the Cortland Democrat. In it, Tanner asked Grant “to issue a compensation proclamation in behalf of the freedmen. He asked that the President shall give the negroes their ‘forty acres and a mule’—at least he wants them to have the land they used to till for their masters.” While a letter from one constituent might impact a President, in this case, Grant’s mind was already made up. In his book, Grant (2017), historian Ron Chernow succinctly states the President’s stance on compensation. “Grant opposed land redistribution, which had excited so much hope among freedmen….On the other hand, he urged the continuance to safeguard black rights (565).” Yet even if Tanner were aware of the President’s view, he would not have been deterred in writing his letter.

In the mid-1800s, Lorenzo Tanner's efforts in support of freedom and justice has endured for more than empirical reasons. He was not a firebrand or a  charismatic, but he stands tall in New York State history. The offensive nickname-- both then and now--"Nigger Tanner"-- provides a powerful picture of the resilient racism that Tanner challenged.

About the author: Richard White's articles have appeared in Civil War HistoryThe Journal of Negro History, and other publications.

Friday, May 21, 2021

New York’s 1810 Election

By Harvey Strum of The Sage Colleges
Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved by the author

New York’s 1810 elections showed the importance of foreign policy issues in local and state politics. The foreign policies of President James Madison dominated the interaction between the Federalist controlled Assembly and Republican Governor Daniel Tompkins. Federalists and Republicans debated foreign policy during the summer of 1809 and in the November Common Council elections in New York City. Madison’s foreign policy became the main issue used by Federalists and Republicans in the spring 1810 state and congressional elections. Republicans called the Federalists Tories, lackeys of the British, and claimed they sought to drag the county into war with France. Their opponents viewed continued Republican rule as a disaster that would lead to more embargoes and war with Great Britain. The 1810 elections in revealed the connections between foreign policy and local and state politics. Foreign policy played a crucial role in local and state politics from 1807-1815.

David Erskine, British Minister to the United States, negotiated an understanding with the United States in 1809 offering to withdraw the 1807 Orders in Council and settle the Chesapeake/ Leonard Affair of 1807 creating a dramatic improvement in Anglo-American relations. President James Madison proclaimed an end to the embargo on trade with Great Britain. News of the Anglo-American accommodation pleased New York Federalists who hoped, as Robert Troup noted, that it would lead to a new treaty "whereby all future misunderstandings will be prevented, and a solid foundation laid for a lasting peace." Federalists welcomed the Erskine agreement because the "unhappy differences" between the two nations had "proved highly injurious to… trade." For landholders in western and northern New York, the Erskine agreement would spur settlement and Troup expected his agency would probably "take a more prosperous course.”[i]

The agreement might also encourage the Republicans to take more decisive action against the French. Congressman Herman Knickerbacker expected the President to support non-intercourse against France. Federalists believed the Republicans were "throwing off the Gallic Yoke of French Influence." In fact, Republican John Nicholas recommended the President and Congress authorize the arming of merchantmen and if necessary, engage in an undeclared naval war with France. If the French refused to stop their violations of American neutral rights, Federalists favored declaring "war against them, and it must be war interminable and exterminating." In the wake of the Erskine accord Republicans and Federalists wanted the President to adopt bolder policies toward the French.[ii]

Federalists praised President Madison. According to Gulian C. Verplanck the President had "begun well" and if he continued "a course of strict impartiality" toward the European belligerents the Federalists would support him. Ontario County Federalists toasted Madison, "President of the People, and not of a party." As long as Madison followed "George Washington principles" Federalists would endorse his foreign policies.[iii]

Federalists and Republicans celebrated the Erskine agreement and the end of commercial restrictions on June 10th, but bitter partisanship marred the festivities and the Fourth of July celebrations. About four thousand Federalists heard John Lovett and Philip Van Vechten condemn the Republicans for the "crime" of Anglophobia at a meeting in Albany. Federalists took credit for the Anglo-American reconciliation. They also toasted the Spanish victories against Napoleon, continued to assail the embargo and praised the Canadians, "enjoying liberty under a mild government, may our friendship be as lasting as the waters of the St. Lawrence." Federalists identified themselves as the true party of the people. How long could deferential politics survive in a society where even the elitist Federalists considered middle class farmers "the lords of the soil" and warned, "if this republic – the world's last hope – should ever be subverted," it will be because Americans placed too much confidence in their rulers.[iv]

Confrontations between Federalists and Republicans occurred at Fourth of July festivities in Canajoharie, Goshen, and Poughkeepsie. When Federalists and Republicans passed each other in separate processions in Ballston Spa it was "with such masks of jealousy, such sullen reserve." Republicans tried to use June 10th celebrations to blunt Federalist efforts "to transfer the triumph of our country to Great Britain and to credit the settlement from the government to themselves." Rensselaer Republican Seth Parsons described the opposition as "a faction envenomed with the deepest hostility to the Laws and Liberties of their country." The Federalists encouraged "civil discord and domestic insurrection" and tried to aid the British "a second time to colonize us by commercial restrictions."[v]

Even though Republicans rejoiced on June 10th at the "happy termination of our differences with Great Britain," by the Fourth of July their Anglophobia resurfaced. "Again, has the haughty genius of British tyranny been humbled," Seth Parsons boasted, "again have the rights of our country been vindicated.“ Republicans stressed American exceptionalism during the Fourth of July. Contrasting the United States with Europe, John T. Irving described this country as a "tranquil mansion" in a world of warring despots. "The melancholy scenes of poverty" prevalent in Europe did not exist in the United States, an empire of "bountiful profusion." The United States did not have the burden of a titled nobility demanding deference based on "birth and not …merit." Men of superior merit or virtue won prestige and honor, but they were "still only considered as equals." Republicans saw the United States as a society based on the equality of man. Deferential politics had no place in a state or nation of free men.[vi]

In the wake of the Federalist victory, Tammany created a special committee to investigate the decline in the Republican vote. The committee recommended the dissolution of factional Republican clubs, the cessation of attacks on fellow Republicans in the press and a unity meeting. Efforts of "Burrite and Lewisite, Madisonian and Clintonian CHIEFS" to end their differences at two private unity meetings in July and August 1809 met with limited success. A public meeting nearly turned into a brawl when Clintonians tried to get the meeting to adopt a resolution praising both Madison and George Clinton. The factional animosities and suspicions still proved too strong for New York City Republicans to join together.[vii]

In late July news reached New York of the British repudiation of the Erskine agreement. Immediately, the Republican press assailed the British and Republican Party leaders and organized public demonstrations against the British. The "infamous conduct of England," wrote a Cazenovia Republican editor, "exposed the cloven foot of perfidy." Republicans meeting at City Hall Park charged the British with "deception and … breach of good faith." They pledged to follow the President if Madison decided to "employ our invincible means." In reply to resolutions of support from New York City and Washington County Republicans, the President called upon New Yorkers for a "firm and patriotic support of the measures devised."[viii]

Unlike the Republicans, New York's Federalists believed the failure of the Erskine mission arose from an "unfortunate misunderstanding …and not from… perfidy and diplomatic deception" by the British. Robert Troup feared the British disavowal of Erskine would "place at a much greater distance" an Anglo-American accord. The failure of the Erskine agreement ended the honeymoon between the Federalists and President Madison. John Jay described Madison as a "Prince worse than Pharoah." When demonstrations against the arrival of the new British Minister Francis James Jackson erupted in Annapolis and Norfolk, Richard Harrison denounced them as "arrogant and absurd, but our lord, the mob, is not famous either for Wisdom or Moderation." While the President might not be "mad enough" to reject the Jackson mission, his "pretensions" might prove "sufficiently extravagant" to doom the renewed effort to reach an Anglo-American understanding.[ix]

Angered by the pompous, insulting, and negative attitude of Jackson, the President demanded his recall in November. Jackson accurately reported that his Federalist friends in New York City found nothing wrong with his conduct. Congressman Barent Gardenier considered the dismissal of Jackson "a proceeding worthy only of Barbarians.” Albany Federalists “all" thought “our Government is decidedly wrong" and even Rufus King believed the President intended the dismissal of Jackson as “a satisfactory offering to the French Emperor." Federalists feared Jackson's recall would lead to war. "The boys here are a little frightened," Peter De Witt wrote from New York City, "they fully believe in a rupture with England." Federalists questioned what the United States would gain from war. "What if we conquer Canada," asked editor Zachariah Lewis. "Have we not territory enough… are we still greedy for more?”[x]

After the abrupt termination of Jackson's ministry, he remained in United States circulating among the Federalist social elite. New York's Federalists swamped him with attention. They invited him to every ball, dinner or wedding including the wedding of Rufus King's eldest son. While Republicans attacked Jackson as an agent of Satan, Federalists treated him as an honored guest. Upstate, Federalists endorsed the friendly behavior of the city's Federalists toward Jackson. "If we were in New York," Robert Troup wrote, "we should follow your example."[xi]

Oliver Wolcott, Jr. led a faction of the Federalists who disagreed with Federalist defense of Jackson. He believed Jackson had "not come to settle with us but to insult and humiliate the country." Federalists ought to stand behind the President. For over a year Wolcott and his friends wanted the Federalist Party to adopt a more nationalistic position on Anglo-American relations and expel the Tories. "Some of our friends," Robert Troup reported, wanted the party to assume "Americanism." However, Troup felt the Federalists bore a responsibility to criticize “the perfidious and detestable policy of our Rulers." They had a duty to the nation, "nay, to God, himself… to arrest the progress of our nation to swift destruction." In good conscience the Federalists could not "be Americans" if this meant supporting the "dishonorable, disgraceful, and ruinous" policies of the Republicans. From this kind of Americanism, "may God… deliver me.” Federalists rejected the advice of Wolcott and other nationalists within the Federalist Party because they believed the stakes were too high – the fate of the nation – to endorse Administration policies. Federalists perceived Republican policies as a threat to "our constitution and our liberties." As long as the Republicans followed policies which the Federalists perceived would lead to an Anglo-American war and cooperation with Bonaparte, Federalists could not support Republican foreign policy.[xii]

Republicans considered Jackson's behavior as further evidence of "British insolence and perfidy." Angered by Federalist support for Jackson, Republicans described Federalists as British agents and "true son/s/ of John Bull." Jackson's conduct created "much warmth" among Congressional Republicans. According to Ebenezer Sage, the Congressman for the three Long Island counties, Jackson's actions had fostered a "strong War party” in Congress.[xiii]

In late November 1809 New York City voters went to the polls to elect the Common Council. This election demonstrates the relationship between local, state, and national politics and foreign policy. Federalists and Republicans ran their campaigns not on local issues but on foreign policy. 11 Federalists will have the support," predicted editor Zachariah Lewis, "of all who deprecate a useless embargo and an unnecessary war" and all who oppose "favoritism and prejudice toward foreign nations.” Republicans raised the cry of Tories and British agents to hurl against the opposition. The two parties quarreled over the Revolutionary legacy. Ninth Ward Federalists reminded voters "they remembered well the plains of Lexington and the bloody field of Monmouth, where Federalists, led our… patriots" to victory.” [xiv]

During the summer, Republicans tried to heal their split but failed. They ran two slates in the Common Council elections. Tammany identified its slate as Madisonian because of its support for Madison in the 1808 Presidential election while the Clintonians ran a separate ticket. Federalists obtained 3,928 (53%) votes to 3,454 (47%) for the Republicans citywide. Due to the Clintonians and Madisonians (Tammany) putting up competing slates in the Sixth and Seventh wards, the Federalists carried those two strongly Republican wards. Federalists interpreted their winning fifteen of the twenty council seats as proof the people would not elect men "who are the… advocates of embargoes, non-intercourse, and war.”[xv]

Meanwhile, Congress debated what policy to adopt in the wake of the repudiation of the Erskine accord and the recall of Jackson. New Yorkers complained of the "perpetual tornado of wind and words" having taken "the place of decision" in Congress. Congressman Ebenezer Sage lamented if only Congress had "honest men, not speculators." Congress moved to pass Macon I s Bill #2, which removed all restrictions on commerce but provided for the imposition of non-intercourse on either France or England if the other agreed to respect American neutral rights. Several New York Republicans including Congressmen Jonathan Fisk (Orange County), Gurdon Mumford, Sage, and Senator Obidiah German opposed the bill because they believed it contained not even "a pretense of resistance." However, the Republican majority passed the bill. News of the new law gave "a new life to the operations of our merchants" in New York.[xvi]

Back in New York the Federalists gained control of the Council of Appointment and the state's patronage when a Republican council member, Robert Williams, defected to the Federalists. While several prominent Federalists including Gouverneur Morris, and Abraham Van Vechten objected to deals with "Changelings" the majority of state's Federalist leadership chose patronage over principle and accepted the deal with Williams. In opposition, Federalists denounced the Republican practice of only appointing loyal party members to office. However, once in control of the Council of Appointment Federalists ejected every Republican from public office and replaced them with job hungry Federalists. By 1810 the spoils system had become an established political practice which even the Federalists did not change. New York politicians practiced the spoils system long before New Yorker William L. Marcy coined his famous phrase.[xvii]

Just as the Republicans divided over the spoils Federalists scrambled for lucrative offices. Filling the lucrative posts of Mayor and Recorder of New York City created the most conflict. When party leaders considered appointing Jacob Radcliff as Mayor, Gouverneur Morris cautioned against the appointment because Radcliff belonged to the nationalist faction along with Wolcott who supported Madison's ouster of Jackson. To Morris their support of the President was "not only reprehensible but impeachable conduct." Recommending having "nothing to do with such federalists," Morris argued "their Judgement is not to be relied on by us." Albany Federalists decided upon Radcliff. Disappointed friends of Robert Troup, Richard Varick and Nathaniel Pendleton nearly split the party in the city. The appointment of a Recorder posed similar problems as friends of Thomas Morris, Robert Benson, and Josiah Ogden Hoffman fought for the post.[xviii]

This scramble for offices alarmed several Federalist leaders. Abraham Van Vechten, an Albany Assemblyman appointed Attorney-General, feared some Federalists in the Assembly cared more about patronage than about the "interests of the party." They threatened to split the party to pursue their own selfish interests. This "mortifying and disgusting" conduct alarmed many Federalists who labored "for the progress of federalism from patriotic motives." The conflict over jobs so disgusted Troup he refused to have anything more to do with the appointments battle. Congressman James Emott (Dutchess) warned if this continued "I shall despair of the ascendancy of correct principles." By competing for public offices, Federalists turned the fight with Republicans into a "war about names not about principles." While Republicans considered patronage an established part of the democratic electoral process, Federalists could not resolve the moral dilemma patronage posed for a party based on "correct principles."[xix]

By driving "everything down before them" the Federalists forced the warring Republicans to unite for the 1810 election. Just prior to the wholesale removal of Republicans, Tammany’s organizing chairman, Mathew L. Davis, anticipated Clintonian opposition to a Tammany Assembly slate and swore "an eternal war against every mother son of them." A group of Lewisite Assemblymen and State Senators met in Albany to determine strategy during the campaign. Caught between the Clintonians and the Federalists, the Lewisites considered them­ selves a "poor set of true Republicans between Hawk and Buzzard." The removal of the Republicans including Mayor De Witt Clinton by the Federalist Council of Appointment produced temporary unity in Republican ranks. Clintonian Republicans backed the Tammany slate and upstate Clintonians and Lewisites arranged a deal. Clintonians backed Morgan Lewis for State Senator while Lewisites endorsed Tompkins' reelection. Republicans waged the 1810 campaign unified for the first time since 1801.[xx]

The 1810 campaign began with a direct confrontation between the Federalist Assembly and Governor Tompkins. After Governor Tompkins gave a vigorous defense of the Administration's foreign policy the Assembly reacted by adopting an anti-Administration reply. During the debate on the floor of the Assembly, Republicans Dr. Samuel L. Mitchell, Roger Skinner of Washington County, Daniel L. Van Antwerp of Saratoga, and Oliver C. Comstock of Seneca County defended the foreign policy of President Madison and called upon the Assembly to vote for a substitute reply introduced by Mitchell which approved of the Governor's speech and the conduct of the Administration.[xxi]

During the election campaign, Republicans assailed former British Minister Francis Jackson for his "vile attempts… to evade the just…claims of our government." They attacked the Federalists for their "fulsome adulation" of Jackson which insulted "every citizen who possesses American feelings." Republicans also attacked their opponents for filibustering in Congress, defending British insults, misleading the public, sowing subversion, and joining with "Tories to elect… men notoriously hostile to the government." They claimed the Federalists sought to "involve us in a war with France." Republicans charged Federalist gubernatorial candidate, Jonas Platt, a State Senator from the Western District, wrote a pamphlet in 1800 "derogatory to freemen." Platt favored elected representatives following their conscience and not merely representing the opinion of the majority of their constituents. To the Republicans this appeared "language suited to the courts of St. James and St. Cloud, but little adapted to a nation of freemen." Republicans hoped to recapture the Assembly using the issues of Anglophobia and democracy.[xxii]

In the Assembly Federalists Abraham Van Vechten, Daniel Cady (Montgomery), Thomas P. Grosvenor (Columbia) and Alexander Neeley (Dutchess) assailed the dismissal of Jackson, Republican sympathy for France and the danger of an Anglo-American war. The Federalist majority in the Assembly passed a resolution, in reply to Governor Tompkins' address, critical of Administration's foreign policy and opposing war with England, the only bulwark against Napoleon's ambition. During the campaign Federalists claimed the dismissal of Jackson merited "the decided disapprobation of the nation." In an electoral address to the voters of New York and Westchester, Gouverneur Morris charged the President planned to use Jackson's dismissal as a pretext for war. Federalists even portrayed the appointment of John Quincy Adams as Minister to Russia as part of a conspiracy to form a Franco-American alliance and start a war with the British.[xxiii]

While Federalists publicly attacked Macon's Bill #1 as a continuation of the Republican policy of commercial warfare, they privately approved of Macon's Bill #2 because the law removed non-intercourse and consequently, improved the economic prospects for Federalist merchants and upstate landowners. During the campaign Federalists raised two state issues-Clintonian influence and Republican loans of common school funds to political associates and relatives including Edmund C. Genet. Federalists charged Tompkins with subservience "to a powerful and unprincipled family" – the Clintons. However, Republicans concentrated on foreign policy. George Tibbits portrayed the election as an opportunity for the voters to "decide… whether a course of measures which have already nearly ruined the country shall be persisted in and even matured to a State of war" or elect Platt and send a signal to Madison to halt the disastrous Republican foreign policies.[xxiv]

When a mob "of the lowest order" burned an effigy of apostate Republican Robert Williams in Poughkeepsie, Federalists denounced the act because a mob could easily go "from burning a man in effigy to burning his home or cutting his throat." Federalists repeatedly expressed the fear Republican mob violence would lead to excesses similar to the French Revolution. They hoped to use the 1810 election as the means to "extirpate this degenerate species of French Jacobinism, not only from our councils, but… from the minds of our deluded fellow citizens." They also criticized Republican efforts to change the militia laws as leading to "a military conscription, similar to that of France.”[xxv]

Trying to counteract the image of Tompkins as the "Farmer's Boy" and Platt as an aristocratic lawyer, Federalists described their candidate as a man of the people, "whose habits and manners are as plain and republican as those of his country neighbors." Platt was not "a city lawyer who rolls in splendor and wallows in luxury." Seeking to appear as the true party of the people, Federalists attacked the enlargement of the army as a threat to American liberties and the Republican attempts to restrict Congressional debates as unconstitutional and endangering free speech. Federalists censured the Republicans for withholding information on foreign affairs from the public. They demanded "frankness, publicity and no secrecy.” While the Federalists tried to appear as the party of the people, they drew a distinction between themselves and the Republicans. In a republic representative did not have to blindly follow public opinion. After all, "the principle of binding instructions is of French origin – the Jacobin clubs of Paris."[xxvi]

Appealing to ethnic voters, Federalists sang,

Come Dutch, and Yankee, Irish, Scot

With intermixed relation.

From whence we came, it matters not.

We all make, now, one nation.

Through the press of apostate Republican James Cheetham, Federalists competed for the votes of Irish, German, English, and Scottish immigrants. Republicans countered, "Republicans are the true… and liberal friends of CATHOLICS." While Federalists sought the immigrant vote, they did not totally abandon nativism. “The appointment of FOREIGNERS to offices of… trust, is degrading to… Americans and tends to promote the emigration of… seditious subjects of other nations." Federalists sought the votes of both immigrants and nativists.[xxvii]

Black voters condemned the Republican Party for seeking to disenfranchise them and agreed to support the Federalists. Both political parties competed for the votes of Quakers, especially in Columbia County. Federalists Elisha Williams and Jacob Rutsen Van Rensselaer favored legislative exemption of Quakers from the $10 tax on individuals released from militia duty. Martin Van Buren tried to persuade a local Quaker leader to get his brethren to vote Republican. In western New York, the two parties competed for the votes of Methodists. Republican Methodists condemned Jonas Platt's alleged failure to show any evidence of a conversion experience. However, fellow Methodist Elias Vanderlip defended Platt's religious life particularly his conversion to Methodism. Federalists also appealed to mechanics, cartmen and laborers who comprised 4,000 of the city's voters. They especially tried to obtain the votes of ship-carpenters, blacksmiths, ropemakers and mariners.[xxviii]

"Unexpected success has followed the standard of our opponents," noted a surprised Morris S. Miller. "It is not in our power to account for the result… never was there more unanimity among Federalists" nor greater exertions. Miller felt the Federalists did everything they could and still lost. Republican Governor Tompkins won reelection defeating Platt 54 percent to 46 percent. A total of 79,600 voters cast ballots in the gubernatorial election, an increase of 9 percent from the 1809 senatorial election and 20 percent above the 1807 gubernatorial contest. Republicans swept all the State Senate seats at stake and won two-thirds of the Assembly seats. They also carried twelve of the seventeen Congressional seats. "The republic is safe," declared Charles Holt, editor of the Clintonian Republican New York Columbian. The Republicans triumphed, he added, over internal “apostasy and corruption as well as British influence.” By electing Tompkins, New Yorkers demonstrated, Federalist editor Paraclete Potter lamented, "Their approbation of the whole system of embargo, non-intercourse and non-importation laws." New Yorkers elected, he added, "an abject tool of Clinton.”[xxix]

Republicans benefited from higher voter turnout in 1810. They gained 1,664 votes (20%) in the Eastern District, 1,584 votes (20%) in the Middle District and 789 (15%) in the Southern District while the Federalists picked up 991 (11%), 1,007 (15%) and 372 (08%) respectively. In 1809 the Federalists elected two Senators from the Eastern District but in 1810 the Republicans succeeded in obtaining more votes in virtually every county in the district. Their sharp increases in Washington and Montgomery (17%) gave them the victory. In the Western District, the Federalists won three Senate seats in 1810. The Federalist vote dropped 1,596 (-10%) while the Republicans increased 2,138 (14%). In the strongly Republican county of Cayuga over 400 Republicans who voted Federalist in 1809 returned to the Republican Party. In Jefferson about 135 voters switched back to the Republicans. In Chenango and Otsego about 150 voters in each county who voted Federalist in 1809 did not go to the polls in 1810. With the removal of the embargo, 300 voters in those two counties who went to the polls in 1809 to express their discontent with the embargo did not vote. A sharp rise in turnout in Seneca, Schoharie, Ontario, Onondaga, and Herkimer reflected the ability of the Republican Party to mobilize voters and inability of the Federalists to stir the voters once the embargo ended.

Republican Party unity did not guarantee Republican Party success. Surprisingly, the Federalists gained additional votes in Columbia and New York, the two counties where unity between Republican Party factions should have aided the party the most. In the Middle District, the Republicans ran Clintonian James W. Wilkin and former Governor Morgan Lewis for State Senator. Both Martin Van Buren, for the Clintonians, and Robert R. Livingston worked "very actively" for the Clintonian-Lewisite coalition slate, but they could not carry Columbia. Even the majority of the Chancellor's own freeholders voted Federalist. Down in New York City the Clintonian-Tammany deal should have produced a Republican majority in the gubernatorial and state senatorial races but the Federalists won.[xxx]

As in previous elections, illegal voting took place during the gubernatorial election. Federalists claimed the Republicans in every district in the state created voters "from the dregs of the people, by Quit Claim deeds." A newly made voter would cast his ballot and then "assign his deed to another." Republicans even released criminals and made them voters. Clintonians and Lewisites cooperated in creating illegal voters. As a Federalist editor observed, "the Quids supported them." Federalist charges suggest the Republicans disregarded the election laws on a widespread scale in western New York, Albany, Washington, Orange, and New York counties. In New York City, the Republicans even resorted to multiple voting. Republicans countercharged Federalists evaded the election laws in New York City and Albany. "Many federalists who were not worth one cent," perjured themselves to vote. Martin Van Buren admitted the Federalists proved more skillful in creating voters than the Republicans in Columbia County. Federalists managed to create twice as many votes as Republicans in the county. As Alden Spooner, a Brooklyn Republican editor noted two years later:

By the big book of laws our rulers wrote,

No Man unassess’d, is permitted to vote;

Yet, said one to his neighbor, in these party days,

They will vote, tho unable one shilling to raise;

You mistake, said the other, in grog shops and stores

And Brooklyn Hotels, they have raised many scores! [xxxi]

The evidence supports the charges of illegal voting. According to the 1807 electoral census, Columbia had 2,968 qualified voters. By 1814 this rose to 3,232. Yet, 3,742 cast ballots in 1810. Van Buren claimed 600 "made votes," one-third Republican, two-thirds Federalist, and the returns suggest at least 600 men voted illegally. In 1807 and 1814 about 3,000 men qualified to vote in New York City but in 1810 3,726 voted. Jefferson County had only 835 legitimate voters in 1807 and 1,039 in 1814 but 2,122 cast ballots in 1810. Returns for other towns and counties particularly in western and northern New York suggest considerable evasion of the election laws. Even though the Republicans refused to permit a de jure extension of the franchise they repeatedly manufactured voters. This enabled them to have tighter control over the voters than an extension of the franchise. While the Federalists condemned illegal voting and could not compete with the Republicans in making voters in western New York, they did resort to the same practice, apparently, in the upper Hudson Valley, New York City, and parts of northern New York.[xxxii]

As a result of the Congressional elections, the Federalists dropped from eight to five seats. Lawyer Harmanus Bleecker easily won election in Albany defeating Republican John V. Veeder. The double district of Washington, Columbia and Rensselaer counties elected Federalists Asa Fitch and Robert Le Roy Livingston over Republicans Roger Skinner and James L. Hogeboom, former Assemblymen from Washington, and Rensselaer counties, respectively. James Emott won reelection in Dutchess County defeating former Congressman and Lewisite Republican Daniel C. Verplanck. Congressman Thomas R. Gold also won reelection defeating Republican Thomas Skinner in the Oneida-Madison district.

The Federalists did not challenge the Republicans in the Long Island district. Consequently, Ebenezer Sage got reelected over token opposition from fellow Republican David Gardiner. In the double district of New York City, Richmond and Rockland, Republicans Samuel L. Mitchell and William Paulding, Jr. obtained "a majority of votes… in all the counties" defeating Federalists Peter A. Jay and John B. Calles. A leading Clintonian, Pierre Van Cortlandt, Jr. defeated Federalist John Bradner in the Westchester-Orange district. Federalist John M. Bowers lost to Republican Arunah Metcalf, a farmer, in Otsego and Delaware counties. Republican candidate Daniel Avery, a large landowner, easily won election over former Republican Congressman John Harris in the Cayuga Seneca-Steuben­ Tioga district. Reelected to represent Chenango, Cortland, Onondaga and Broome counties, Clergyman Uri Tracy defeated Federalist Nathaniel Waldron. Later serving as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Peter B. Porter began his Congressional career trouncing Federalist Ebenezer Foote Norton in the district composed of Ontario, Genesee, Niagara, and Allegany counties. Federalist James McCrea lost to Essex County Assemblyman Benjamin Pond in the Saratoga-Essex-Clinton-Franklin district. Former land agent for Nicholas Low and former judge of Oneida County Republican Silas Stow succeeded in the district consisting of Herkimer, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties. Federalist Simeon Ford lost to Stow.[xxxiii]

Federalists lost the Ulster-Sullivan-Greene district when their candidate Garrit Abeel unsuccessfully challenged Republican Thomas B. Cooke. Republicans also recaptured the Cayuga-Seneca­ Steuben-Tioga district and the Schoharie-Montgomery district. Elected as a Federalist Thomas Sammons defected to the Republicans in 1810 and defeated Federalist candidate Richard Van Horne. During the 1810 Congressional elections, Federalists won majorities in the upper Hudson Valley counties of Dutchess, Columbia, Rensselaer, Albany and Greene, the Southern Tier counties of Steuben and Broome, and the counties of Madison, Oneida, St. Lawrence, Franklin, and New York.

As a result of the elections, the Federalists lost approximately twenty-seven seats in the Assembly. The Federalists lost Richmond, Kings, Westchester, Schenectady, Otsego, Schoharie, Montgomery, Herkimer, Jefferson, Clinton, Tioga, and Ontario. The following table indicates the major changes in voting behavior between 1809 and 1810 which resulted in the Federalist debacle:

In the counties the Federalists lost the Republicans increased their vote totals by 10-25 percent while the Federalists reported losses or virtually the same returns of 1809. The Republicans won Herkimer, Westchester, Schenectady, and Ontario because new voters went to the polls and voted almost unanimously for the Republicans. The gains made by Republicans in Otsego, Schoharie and Jefferson came primarily from the defection of voters from the Federalists. Voters who did not vote in 1809 but went to the polls in 1810 combined with voters who switched from the Federalists to the Republicans to give the latter a narrow majority in Montgomery. Republicans also made gains in Madison and Queens which remained Federalist in 1810 but with reduced majorities. Federalists retained 35 seats while the Republicans won 71.

Only in New York City did the Federalists gain Assembly seats. They captured six of the eleven seats, thus giving the Federalists a total of 41 seats in the Assembly. This unexpected partial Federalist victory in New York City especially surprised the Republicans because of the cooperation of the Clintonians and Tammany during the election. Looking for a scapegoat, the Republicans blamed the eight hundred free black voters who "almost to a man voted for the federal ticket." Republicans charged the Federalists allowed their slaves to vote as free blacks. Actually, James Cheetham's apostasy and defection to the Federalists may have brought over part of the Irish American vote. Republicans described their opponents as an alliance of Federalists, Tories, Negroes and Cheethamites.[i]

Displeased with the partial Federalist triumph, several hundred Republicans staggered out of Martling's Tavern and marched down Broadway. They attacked and beat up several Federalists they encountered on the streets and broke the windows in the homes of William Coleman and James Cheetham. They also broke the windows of Mechanics Hall, the Federalist meeting place and at the home of Johnston Patten, a prominent Federalist mechanic. Republicans blamed the incidents on the Federalists and charged fifty Federalists "well drenched with brandy" stoned the home of merchant Stephen Jumel. Republicans also condemned the Federalists for allegedly parading outside the home of Governor Tompkins in Albany shouting their support for Jonas Platt. Angered at the Republican violence, Federalists used the incident to demonstrate the difference between democracy, espoused by the Republicans, and republicanism, which the Federalists favored. "The tendency of the former is to anarchy," argued editor William Coleman, “while that of the latter is to produce order, to cultivate rational liberty." Federalists portrayed election rioting as a harbinger of more serious Republican violence. "We must be prepared to see the horrid scenes of Revolutionary France," they warned, "enacted in our streets." Riots and effigy burnings led Federalists to nightmarish visions of American Robespierres roaming the streets of New York. While many New York Republicans accepted minor election rioting as part of the democratic process Federalists feared the Republicans would imitate the excesses of the French Revolution and portrayed each incident of Republican violence as the start of an American version of the Reign of Terror.[ii]

With the removal of the embargo and the Jackson Affair, the Republicans entered the 1810 election campaign without the handicap of an unpopular measure and with the advantage that the Jackson incident permitted them to wrap themselves in the American flag. The Federalist successes in 1808 and 1809 depended upon Republican blunders. In 1810 the Federalists needed an issue. They tried to use the hostility produced by commercial restrictions and the failure of Anglo-American negotiations to keep their party in control of the Assembly and to provide the means to recapture the state house for the first time since 1801.

By the time of the 1810 elections Congress and President Madison had abandoned commercial restrictions which had antagonized the voters of New York. The efforts of the Federalists to pin the blame for the failure of Anglo-American negotiations upon the President failed. Attacking England proved more effective than censuring President Madison and Congress. Voters in the upstate counties severely hurt by the embargo--Schenectady, Montgomery, Clinton, Herkimer, Ontario, Jefferson, Otsego and Schoharie and the downstate counties of Kings and Westchester returned to the Republican column.

Republicans who abstained from voting in 1809 because of their opposition to the embargo and new voters who went to the polls in 1810 generally voted Republican. Also, in several counties large numbers of voters who voted Federalist in 1809 either did not vote in 1810 or switched to the Republicans. The Republicans won the gubernatorial election, swept the State Senate seats, elected 71 of 112 Assemblymen and won control of twelve of the seventeen Congressional seats. The Federalists were reduced to their core area--the upper Hudson Valley, a scattering of towns in the Mohawk Valley, the Southern Tier counties of Broome and Steuben and parts of Allegany, Madison-Oneida counties, St. Lawrence-Franklin counties, western Ontario, central Westchester, and the lower three wards of New York City. However, the Federalists still remained stronger in 1810 than before the embargo in 1807. In 1807 they controlled only nineteen Assembly seats but in 1810 they retained forty-one. The resurgence of Federalism in 1809 proved the only force able to unite the feuding Republicans even temporarily. Republicans stood more united in 1810 than at any time from 1801-1820. Their loss of the Assembly in 1809 and of control of the Council of Appointment and with it the control of the state's patronage, provided the catalyst for the temporary alliance of Republican factions in 1810 spring elections.

The returns indicated a record turnout of voters for the gubernatorial race. Even with the thousands of illegal voters created by the Republicans and Federalists, the turnout probably stood in the mid ninety percentile. According to the 1807 electoral census 121,000 men could vote and assuming this rose to about 135,000 by 1810 (in 1814 about 152,000 could vote) than about 80-82 percent of the electorate cast ballots for Assembly and Congress, a significant rise from the 67 percent of 1808. The difference in turnout between the Congressional-Assembly and gubernatorial voters suggests about 55 percent of the electorate who could only vote for Congress and the Assembly voted. During the first party system in New York lower income voters, those who could only qualify for the Assembly-Congressional elections, voted in considerably smaller percentages than the middle- and upper-income gubernatorial voters. As a whole the 1810 elections further suggest the likelihood of high voter turnout and the probability that during the latter stages of the first party system, this tended to favor the Republican Party. Enlarging the electorate by “illegal” means became part of the democratic revolution in New York in the early national period suggesting the truth of what historian David Fischer called the American age of democratic revolution.

About the author: Harvey Strum is a history and political science professor at Russell Sage College in Troy and Albany. His most recent publications include: America’s Mission of Mercy to Ireland, 1880, New York History, 2018; Schenectady’s Jews, Zionism, New York History Review, 2019, 2020.


[i] David Gardiner to John L. Gardiner, May 1, 1810, MWC, MnU; New York Columbian, May 10, 19, 1810; New York Public Advertiser, April 26, 1810.

[ii] New York Evening Post, April 28, 1810; New York Commercial Advertiser, April 28, 1810; Poughkeepsie Journal, May 2, 1810. Canandaigua Ontario Repository, May 15, 1810; New York Public Advertiser, April 30, 1810; New York Columbian, April 30-May 9, 1810.

[i] Robert Troup to Sir John Johnstone, May 2, July 19, 1809, Pulteney Estate Letter book, Cornell University. Other accounts of the 1810 election: Dixon Ryan Fox, The Decline of Aristocracy in New York (New York, 1919); Jabez Hammond, The History of  Political Parties in the State of New York,( 2 vols. .Albany, 1842); Alexander Flick, ed. History of the State of New York , (10 vols. New York, 1933-37); Ray Irwin, Daniel D. Tompkins (Kingsport, 1968); Jerome Mushkat, Tammany: Evolution of a Political Machine, 1789-1865 (Syracuse, 1971); Harvey Strum, “New York and the War of 1812,” (Ph.D. diss., Syracuse University, 1978); John Brooke, Columbia Rising (Chapel Hill, 2010. See chapter seven. Gustavus Myers, History of Tammany Hall (1917, reprint, New York, 1968); Daniel Cole, Martin Van Buren, and the American Political System (Princeton, N.J, 1984); John Niven, Martin Van Buren, and the Romantic Age of American Politics (New York, 1983). For background on Republican divisions, Craig Hanyan, De Witt Clinton: Years of Molding, 1769-1807  (New York, 1988). Steven Siry, De Witt Clinton and the American Political Economy, Sectionalism, Politics, and Republican Ideology,1787-1828 (New York, 1990); Evan Cornog, The Birth of Empire: De Witt Clinton and the American Experience, 1769-1828  (New York, 1998); Craig Hanyan and Mary Hanyan, De Witt Clinton, and the Rise of the People’s Men  (New York, 1996). There appears to be no biography of the Federalist gubernatorial candidate in 1810, Jonas Platt. The excellent new study, Richard Barbuto, New York’s War of 1812:Politics, Society, and Combat (Norman, Oklahoma, 2021) briefly mentions the military appointments in 1810., 18.

[ii] Charles Dudley to Thomas Dudley, June 10, 1809, Box 31, Herman Knickerbacker to George Tibbits, June 10, 1809, Box 13, George Tibbits Papers, New York State Library (NYSL); Daniel Mills and James Scriven, Jr. to Jacob Houghton, July 4, 1809, Trojan Whig Society records, NYSL; John Nicholas to Wilson C. Nicholas, May 11, 1809, Wilson C. Nicholas Papers, Library of Congress( LC); Canandaigua Ontario Repository, July 11, 1809; Robert Watts to John Watts, July 4, 1809, Watts Papers, Columbia University; John Jay to Richard Peters, July 24, 1809, John Jay Papers, Columbia University; Albany Balance, May 19, 1809; Herman Knickerbacker to Bethel Mather, June 10, 1809, Briggs-Mather Family Papers, New-York Historical Society ( N-YHS).

[iii] Canandaigua Ontario Repository, July 11, 1809; Gulian C. Verplanck, Oration before the Washington Benevolent Society, July 4, 1809 (New York, 1809); Albany Balance, May 19, 1809.

[iv] Albany Balance, June-July 1809; Canandaigua Ontario Repository, June-July 1809; Cooperstown Federalist, June-July 1809; Ballston Spa Independent American, June-July 1809; New York Commercial Advertiser, June-July 1809; New York Evening Post, June-July 1809; New York Herald, June-July 1809; New York American Spectator, June-July 1809; Goshen Orange County Patriot, June-July, 1809; Salem Washington Republican, August 1809; Poughkeepsie Journal, June-July, 1809; Henry Schuyler to Ebenezer Foote, May 27, 1809, Foote Papers, Library of Congress ( LC).

[v] Poughkeepsie Political Barometer, June-July 1809; New York Aurora, May 1809; New York American Citizen, June-July 1809; New York Public Advertiser, June-July 1809; Cooperstown Otsego Herald, June-July 1809; Cazenovia Pilot, June-July 1809; Seth Parsons, "Oration, July 4, 1809," Hoosick Misc. Mss., N-YHS; John T. Irving, Oration Delivered Before the Tammany Society, July 4, 1809 (New York, 1809); Tammany Society Toasts, Box 25, Tammania, Kilroe Collection, Columbia University.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] New York Public Advertiser, July-August 1809; New York American Citizen, July-August 1809; Mushkat, Tammany,  38-40; John T. Irving to William P. Van Ness, August 18, 1809, William P. Van Ness Papers, N-YHS.

[viii] New York Public Advertiser, July-August 1809; New York American Citizen, July-August 1809; Cazenovia Pilot, July-August 1809; Cooperstown Otsego Herald, July-August 1809; Mushkat, Tammany, p. 39; Republican Party, New York County, Circular Letter from the General Committee of the Republican Party of the City and County of New York (New York, 1809); Washington County Republicans to James Madison, September 14, 1809, Jesse Billings to James Madison, September 22, 1809, James Madison to New York Republican Committee, September 24, 1809, James Madison to Washington County Republicans, October 9, 1809, Reel 11, Madison Papers, LC; William L. Marcy, Oration (Troy, 1809).

[ix] Richard Harison to Roswell Hopkins, July 31, 1809, Richard Harison to George Harison, August 19, 1809, Letter book, 1802-1814, Richard Harison Papers, N-YHS; George Newbold to Francis Baring, September 29, 1809, George Newbold Letter book, N-YHS; Albany Balance, August-September 1809; Utica Patriot, November 21, 1809; John Jay to William Wilberforce, November 8, 1809, John Jay Papers, Columbia University; New York Evening Post, August-November 1809; New York Commercial Advertiser, August-November 1809; Charles Dudley to Thomas Dudley, October 10, 1809, Box 31, Tibbits Papers, NYSL; Gouverneur Morris to J.B. Nicholls, November 10, 1809, Reel 3, Morris to Le Ray de Chaumont, November 26, 1809, Reel 5, Gouverneur Morris Papers, LC; Luther Bradish to Ichabod Brush, July 27, 1809, Luther Bradish Papers, N-YHS; Robert Troup to Sir John Johnstone, August 3, 1809, Pulteney Estate Letter book, Cornell; Rufus King to Christopher Gore, August 3, 1809, Christopher Gore to Rufus King, August 16, 1809, Rufus King Papers, N-YHS; Barent Gardenier to Peter Van Schaack, December 3, 22, 1809, Peter Van Schaack Papers, Columbia University.

[x] Ballston Spa Independent American, August-December 1809; Cooperstown Federalist, November-December 1809; Utica Patriot, November 21, 1809; New York Washington Republican, September-December 1809; Canandaigua Ontario Repository, December 1809; New York Commercial Advertiser, November-December 1809; New York Evening Post, November-December 1809; Annals, 11th Cong., 1-2nd Sess., 1809-1810, 723-724, 805-815, 829-840; Goshen Orange County Patriot, December 1809; Peter De Witt to Cornelius De Witt, November 17, 1809, De Witt Family Papers, NYSL; Richard Harison to Isaac Bostwick, October 14, 1809, Letter book, 1802-1814, Richard Harison Papers, N-YHS; Rufus King to Timothy Pickering, December 25, 1809, Robert Troup to Nathaniel Pendleton, January 23, 1810, King Papers, N-YHS; James Jackson to Earl of Bathurst, January 22, 1810, Precis of James Jackson, Vol. I,. 44, New York Public Library ( NYPL.).

[xi] Jonathan Goodhue to Benjamin Goodhue, January 24, February 17, 1810, Goodhue Papers, New York Society Library; Robert Troup to Nathaniel Pendleton, January 23, 1810, King Papers, N-YHS.

[xii] Oliver Wolcott, Jr. to Frederick Wolcott, December 7, 1809, Alice Wolcott Collection, Litchfield Historical Society; Robert Troup to Nathaniel Pendleton, January 23, 1810, King Papers, N-YHS.

[xiii] Salam Washington Register, November 23, 1809; New York Public Advertiser, November-December 1809; Poughkeepsie Political Barometer, November 1809; Hudson Bee, November-December 1809; Cooperstown Otsego Herald, November-December 1809; Annals, 11th Cong., 2nd Sess., 1809-1810, pp. 809-825; Samuel Mitchell to John Quincy Adams, Jan­ uary 7, 1810, Reel 409, Adams Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society ( MHS); Ebenezer Sage to John L. Gardiner, December 1, 1809, David Gardiner to John L. Gardiner, March 1, 1810, Malcolm Wiley Collection (MWC), University of Minnesota, ( MnU);  Ebenezer Sage to Henry Dering, December 12- 15, 18-22, 25, 1809, Henry Dering Papers, University of Michigan (MiU)

[xiv] New York Commercial Advertiser, November 21-24, 1809; New York American Citizen, November 26-December 1, 1809; New York Public Advertiser, November 21-26, 1809; New York Columbian, November 21-26, 1809; New York American Spectator, November 21, 1809; New York Washington Republican, November 25, 1809; Goshen Orange County Patriot, December 5, 1809; Mushkat, Tammany, 39; George Newbold to n.n., November 24, 1809, BV Newbold, N-YHS.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] William Rhinelander to Mary Robert, January 18, 1810, Smith­ Robert Papers, N-YHS; David Gardiner to John Gardiner, January 4, March 1, 1810, Ebenezer Sage to John Gardiner, January 21, February 26, March 26, April 1810, MWC, MnU; Ebenezer Sage to Henry Dering, December 12-15, 18-22, 25-27, 29, 1809, January 1, 2, 7-13, 8, 15, 16-19, 18, 25, February 1-2, 21, 26-27, 29, March 2, 4-10, 15-17, 19-23, 24, 26, 29-30, 1810, Henry Dering Papers, MiU; Annals, 11th Cong., 1-2nd Sess., 1439-1440, 1446, 1454, 1489, 1494, 1654, 1916, 1931, 2051.

[xvii] Samuel Mitchell to Catherine Mitchell, February 3, 21, 1810, Samuel L. Mitchell Papers, MCNY; Mushkat, Tammany, p. 40; Hammond, Political Parties, I, p. 280; Gouverneur Morris to Abraham Van Vechten, January 6, 1810, Vol. 19, Reel 3, Gouverneur Morris Papers, LC; Abraham Van Vechten to Ebenezer Foote, January 13, 1810, Foote Papers, NYSL.

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] James Emott to Peter Van Schaack, February 4, 1810, Peter Van Schaack Papers, Columbia University; Robert Troup to Rufus King, January 12, February 23, 1810, Robert Troup to Nathaniel Pendleton, January 23, 1810, William W. Van Ness to Robert Troup, February 8, 1810, King Papers, N-YHS; Gouverneur Morris to Abraham Van Vechten, January 24, 1810, Vol. 19, Reel 3, Gouverneur Morris Papers, LC .Charles King, ed., Life and Correspondence of Rufus  King (6 vols. New York, 1894-1900), V: 183, 186; Fox, Decline, 111.

[xx] Mushkat, Tammany, 39-40; Mathew L. Davis to William P. Van Ness, January 2, 1810, Mathew L. Davis Papers, Misc. Mss., N-YHS; Jonathan Thompson to John L. Gardiner, April 20, 1810, MWC, MnU; Martin Van Buren to De Witt Clinton, April 9, 19, 1810, De Witt Clinton Papers, Columbia University; Henry Rutgers to Daniel Tompkin8, March 21, 1810, Derek Brinckerhoff to Daniel Tompkins, March 7, 1810, Box 6, Daniel Tompkins Papers, NYSL; Hammond, Political Parties, I,  286.

[xxi] Ibid., p. 283; Albany Balance, February-March 1810; Samuel L. Mitchell to Catherine Mitchell, February 13, 1810, Mitchell Papers, Museum of the City of New York (MCNY); Hugh Hastings, ed., Public Papers of Daniel D. Tompkins, Governor of New York State, 1807-17 ,( 3 vols .Albany, 1898-1902), II:  238-240.

[xxii] Hudson Bee, January-April, 1810; Cooperstown Otsego Herald, January-April, 1810; Plattsburgh American Monitor, December 23, 1809; New York Journal, January-April, 1810; New York Public Advertiser, January-April, 1810; Poughkeepsie Political Barometer, January-April, 1810; Sag Harbor Suffolk Gazette, February 1810; Salem Washington Register, February 1810; New York Columbian, January-April, 1810; Troy Farmer's Register, January-April, 1810; Jedediah Peck, et al., Address of the Republican Members of theConvention… To the People of the Western District (Canandaigua, 1810); "Albany County Republicans," April 7, 1810, Broadside, NYSL; "Order of the New Mayor," April 25, 1810, Broadside, N-YHS; New York County Republican Committee, A Circular Address to the Republican Electors… (New York, 1810). Democratic Party, Suffolk County, An Address… To the Electors of. Suffolk (Sag Harbor, 1810); Republican Party, Albany, Proceedings of the Republican Meeting… (Albany, 1810); Republican Party, New York State, Republican Nomination and Address to the Electors (Albany, 1810); John Rodman to Mary Fenno, February 1810, Box 10, Gulian Verplanck Papers, N-YHS; Robert R. Livingston to James Madison, January 8, 1810, Reel 11, Madison Papers, LC; "Republican Party, New York," March 13, 1810, Broadside, MWC, MnU.


[xxiii] Albany Balance, January-April 1810; Albany Gazette, January- April, 1810; New York Evening Post, January-April, 1810; New York Commercial Advertiser, January-April, 1810; Poughkeepsie Journal, January-April, 1810; Goshen Orange County Patriot, January-April, 1810; Canandaigua Ontario Repository, January-April, 1810; Herkimer American, February-March, 1810; New YorkAmerican Spectator, January­ April, 1810; Abraham Van Vechten to Ebenezer Foote, January 12, 1810, Foote Papers, NYSL; Gouverneur Morris, To the People of the United States, manuscript, Gouverneur Morris Papers, Columbia University; Gouverneur Morris, "Electoral Address," manuscript copy, Gouverneur Morris Papers, Columbia University; Gouverneur Morris to Timothy Pickering, January 6, 1810, January 24, 1810, Gouverneur Morris to William Meredith, January 27, 1810, Reel 3, Gouverneur Morris to David Parish, May 16, 1810, Reel 5, Gouverneur Morris Papers, LC; Elisha Williams to Peter Van Schaack, March 26, 1810, Peter Van Schaack Papers, Columbia University; Killian K. Van Rensselaer to Harmanus Bleecker, March 15, 1810, Van Rensselaer Papers, AI; New York Federalist Corresponding Committee, "More French Kindness," Broad side, N-YHS; Peter W. Yates, "Plato," Manuscript copy, Miscellaneous Manuscripts, N-YHS; John Jay to Judge Richard Peters, February 26, 1810, John Jay Papers, Columbia University; Samuel M. Hopkins to Samuel A. Law, April 14, 1810, Box 1, Samuel A. Law Papers, NYSL.

[xxiv] Ibid.; Annals, 11th Cong., 1st-2nd Sess., pp. 1235, 1439, 1449, 1460, 1636, 1669; Rufus King to Timothy Pickering, January 26, 1810, Rufus King to Christopher Gore, January 2, 1810, Rufus King to Jonathan Trumbull, January 24, 1810, King Papers, N-YHS; King, V, pp. 194-196; Robert Troup  o Richard Williams, January 27, 1810, Robert Troup to Sir John Jwistone, March 16, 1810, Pulteney Estate Letter book, Cornell; James Emott to Peter Van Schaack, February 4, 1810, Elisha Williams to Peter Van Schaack, March 26, 1810, Peter Van Schaack Papers, Columbia University; John Jay to Judge Richard Peters, February 26, 1810, Jay Papers, Columbia University; Richard Harison to n.n., March 26, 1810, Richard Harison Papers, N-YHS; Gouverneur Morris to Timothy Pickering, January 6, 1810, Vol. 19, Reel 3, Gouverneur Morris Papers, LC; Gouverneur Morris to Timothy Pickering, January 24, 1810, Reel 29, Pickering Papers, MHS; Vincent Mathews to Abraham Van Vechten, April 7, 1810, Vol. 8, p. 75, X973, C72, Mss. .Collections, Columbia University; Jonathan Dayton to John Gardiner, February 21, 1810, MWC, MnU; Federal Young Men of Schaghticoke to Trojan Whig Society, February 9, 1810, Whig Society Papers, NYSL; Utica Patriot, January 30, 1810; Jonathan Goodhue to Benjamin Goodhue, February 17, 1810, Goodhue Pape NNS; Thomas R. Gold to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., December 24, 1809, Oliver Wolcott, Jr. Papers, Connecticut Historical Society( CtHi); Oliver Wolcott to Frederick Wolcott, April 20, 1810, Alice Wolcott Collection, LIHS; Killian K. Van Rensselaer to Harmanus Bleecker, March 15, 1810, Van Rensselaer Papers ,Albany Institute of History and Art  ( AI).

[xxv] Poughkeepsie Journal, February 28, 1810; Canandaigua Ontario Repository, March 1, 1810; Albany Balance, February 6, 1810; Annals, 11th Cong., 2nd Sess., 1810,  1503, 1576.

[xxvi] Goshen Orange County Patriot, April 10, 1810; Utica Patriot, January 16-30, 1810; Canandaigua Ontario Repository, March 6, 1810; George Tibbits to Caleb Bentley, April 13, 1810, Box 25, Tibbits Family Papers, NYSL.

[xxvii] "Platt and Liberty," Broadside, NYPL; Fox, Decline, 115; James Cheetham, "Address to Republican Adopted Citizens," Broadside, N-YHS; New York American Citizen, April 2-3, 1810; New York Journal, April 14-24, 1810; Albany Balance, March 13, April 24, 1810; "To the Independent Electors of... Montgomery and Schoharie," Broadside, N-YHS; Albany Gazette, January-April 1810.

[xxviii] Ibid.; New York Evening Post, April 23, 1810; Martin Van Buren to De Witt Clinton, April 19, 1810, De Witt Clinton Papers, Columbia University; New York Commercial Advertiser, April 25, 1810; Mathew L. Davis to William Peter Van Ness, February 13, 1810, Mathew Davis Papers, Misc. Mss., N-YHS.

[xxix] William North to George W. Featherstonehaugh, April 16, 1810, Duane-Featherstonehaugh Collection, N-YHS; Elisha Williams to Peter Van Schaack, March 26, 1810, Peter Van Schaack Papers, Columbia; Jonathan Dayton to John Gardiner, February 21, 1810, Jonathan Thompson to John Gardiner, April 20, 1810, MWC, MnU; William W. Van Ness to George Tibbits, April 13, 1810, George Conant to George Tibbits, March 22, 1810, Morris Miller to George Tibbits, March 19, 1810, Tibbits Family Papers, NYSL; Theodore Sedgwick to Theodore Sedgwick, April 9, 1810, Sedgwick Papers, MHS; Martin Van Buren to De Witt Clinton, April 9-19, 1810, De Witt Clinton Papers, Columbia University; Peter A. Jay to Charles Caldwell, April 14, 1810, Morris Miller to Peter A. Jay, May 8, 1810, Jay Papers, Columbia University; Samuel L. Mitchell to John Quincy Adams, May 9, 1810, Reel 409, Adams Papers, MHS; Albany Balance, May-June 1810; New York Columbian, May 3-19, 1810; New York Public Advertiser, May 1-21, 1810; Poughkeepsie Journal, May 9, 1810; New York Commercial Advertiser, May 1810; New York Evening Post, May 1810; Cooperstown Otsego Herald, May 1810; Cooperstown Federalist, May 1810; Canandaigua Ontario Repository, May 1810; New York Mercantile Advertiser, May 3, 1810; Goshen Orange County Patriot, May-June 1810; New York American Citizen, May-June 1810; Consortium for Political Research, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

[xxx] Martin Van Buren to De Witt Clinton, April 9, 1810, De Witt Clinton Papers, Columbia University. For further detail on the making of votes in Columbia County, Brooke, Columbia Rising, 331-334. For a general analysis of making votes in New York, Harvey Strum, “Property Qualifications and Voting Behavior in New York, 1807-1816,” Journal of the Early Republic,  1:4 (Winter 1981), 347-372.

[xxxi] Goshen Orange County Patriot, May 8, 1810; New York Commercial Advertiser, May 7, 1810; Albany Balance, May 2-20, 1810; New York Public Advertiser, May 8, 1810; Cooperstown Otsego Herald, May 19, 1810; Martin Van Buren to De Witt Clinton, April 28, 1810, De Witt Clinton Papers, Columbia University. Alden Spooner published “The Qualified Voter,” in Brooklyn Long Island Star, April 29, 1812.

[xxxii] Ibid.

[xxxiii] Samuel L. Mitchell to John Quincy Adams, May 9, 1810, Reel 409, Adams Papers, MHS.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Letters of Chaplain Thomas K. Beecher - 141st New York Volunteer Infantry

By George R. Farr
Copyright © 2021 All rights reserved by the author.


Rev. Thomas Beecher of Park Church and Congressman Alexander Diven came together with other prominent citizens of Chemung, Steuben, and Schuyler counties to raise an infantry regiment in the summer of 1862. Diven, along with Congressman Robert Van Valkenburg had been asked by President Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward to go home and raise such a regiment. As a result of this effort, the 107th NY Volunteer Infantry was raised and sent off to Washington in August with Diven as it's Lieutenant Colonel and Congressman Robert Van Valkenburg as its colonel.

The raising of the 107th had resulted in having an excess of 400 men that could not be included in that regiment. As a result, recruiting efforts continued, and a second regiment was raised, the 141st, and sent off towards Washington in late September with Beecher as its Chaplain.

The 107th participated in the battle of Antietam on September 17th and by the time the 141st arrived it was camped at Maryland Heights near Harper’s Ferry. The 141st, on the other hand, went into camp near Laurel, Maryland almost directly north of Washington and some distance from the camp of the 107th. Diven and Beecher would not see each other again until October when Beecher visited the camp of the 107th NY on Maryland Heights.

During the time Beecher was chaplain of the 141st he wrote letters to Charles Fairman for publication in the Elmira Advertiser. He wrote often and the letters were long and full of goings-on at the camp and Beecher’s personal feelings about many facets of camp life. The following are excerpts from those letters.

Visitors to his tent:

My tent flap is my front door, and a very dirty door it is getting to be. At least fifty times a day when the door is closed and tied on the inside, a pair of sunburned hands part the opening and an honest face looks in.

“Say helloa! Is this _____” Beecher cuts the man off in mid-sentence. “Shut that door”,   says the Chaplain abruptly.

“Did you knock?”

“Didn’t know the rules sir. Sorry.”

“All right call your name and wait for an answer, and never enter a tent until you have leave. Now come in.”

Let any man go through this dialogue forty times a day and toward the end it begins to get funny.

And he went on to write.

I should be mortified if you suppress my letters as unworthy to print. So then dear Fairman, if you ever get a stupid letter from me, too stupid too print, just insert an item; “We have received a long letter from Chaplain Beecher, which after reading, we conclude not to print.

Sunday in Camp:

Shall I tell you of our Sunday? At first dawn you may easily hear that ‘tis Sunday for the camp is far quieter than usual, even though a soldier’s duty does not cease on any day. Indeed, a duty that begins with a solemn enlistment oath may well be counted a religion and have its place even upon the Lord’s day.

At quarter of ten our adjutant forms parade while the Chaplain fixes a box pulpit out in a neighboring meadow. Then the battalion marches out and forms in front of the Chaplain—close compact and attentive. A short prayer of invocation—a hymn—a passage or two from the articles of war –a short lesson from scripture, with very few words of explanation or reminder—a prayer—and the song doxology complete a catholic regimental service.

Our Sunday is over—the Drum Major has executed what he calls a “Flammer doodle” to call the Companies into line for roll-call. I hear a half-dozen Orderlies calling names and men answering. This finishes the daily duty. In a little time, the lights will be out and the camp dark, all but the officer’s tents.

‘Tis past ten. The walls of our tents are black with flies, driven in by the cold. We may have our first frost by morning. We three tent-mates will have to snug up close together and keep warm as little pigs do, for we have no extra blankets. The whole camp is dark, save the light of the guard’s fire. Let me hasten to fold this sheet, put out my candle, shut my eyes and see the procession of my dear friends at home, and pray for them as they pass. God bless and keep you—keep you strong and single-minded.


Will you ask the clergy of Elmira to send me a recipe, a good moral tonic to cure swearing? There’s not a man in the regiment, but is willing to quit. I’ve read the commandment of God by Moses and the general order by Colonel Hathaway. One of our guards said to the colonel the other night after trying to stop swearing two days faithfully, “Just wait a bit colonel, give me some time to get some other words handy like and I’ll get done swearing at all, I will by God I will.”     

Now you have to understand that the humor in this story is that “I will by God I will” was considered swearing.

The Experiments:

Being of an investigating nature, I’ve been looking experimentally into the subject of beds. Laying aside all traditions and prejudices, I began with first principles and have this night finished my round of experiments. Shall I report? Our soil here is a stiff light-yellow clay with a few gravel stones mixed in. There was a grass stubble on its surface.

My first experiment was to lay a sheet of rubber down, then a blanket double, then the Chaplain and over him shawl and blanket. Sleep was good, but crickets peopled the grass and made bad noises and crept with prickly feet up and down the flesh. Grass not good, clean it out.

Exp. 2. Drive three stakes in a line, set up a narrow board on edge, throw straw between the board and tent wall. Rubber sheet, blanket, chaplain, $c., as before. Result,--pleasant sensation at first reminding one of beds at home, but by and by the chaplain feels like meat boiling in too little water; raw and cold above the straw, moist and steaming in the straw. Throw out straw, clean up tent.

Exp. 3. Bare, hard dry ground, blankets, chaplain, as in the last experiment. Slept well, except dreams of bridge building and strength of materials. One’s body touches at three points—head, thighs and heels. The trunk presents a fixed arch, the limbs a drawbridge. The strain is too great, the abutments crush and settle. Sleep is good, but not much rest. 

Exp. 4. Take axe and spade and make up a bed by artificially moulding the ground to the form of the Chaplain. Consider a well used hog wallow recently deserted, and how nicely it fits and welcomes the occupant’s return, and you have the archetype of the chaplain’s fourth bed. Result satisfactory, perfectly so, except that an old man campaigner says that the ground is unhealthy.

Exp. 5. A Manilla hammock such as the natives sling up between two trees, and swing in the wind therein, held the chaplain for four nights. Slung between two tent poles the slack was excessive and the narrowness oppressive. One seems to shorten at both ends, and to be perpetually “dressing on the center.” When first tucked in, the reminding is of a mummy or a patient in pack at Watercure. Fault—one cannot turn over, nor get out of bed without help. Send back the hammock to the courteous Colonel.

Exp. 6. A sacking bottom, well stretched, blankets, chaplain, &c. as in Exp.’s one, two and three. Result—very cold. Wind sucks under and blows up through. Mem.—Plan a good one if one can have five blankets and a shawl. Otherwise very bad in cold weather. Last night water froze a quarter inch at my tent door.

Exp.7. The floor, the modelled ground a la hog hollow. To this I return from all my experimenting. The ground—the bare ground. Bring me the axe and the spade, let me make my bed. Lie down chaplain, make your mark. Friend Bailey scrape away where he touches, copy the curves,--ease off that lump—pick away that stone,--there that fits. The wallow is perfect. In five minutes more it will hold.

Visiting the 107th NY at Maryland Heights near Harper’s Ferry:

There have been twenty-two or twenty-three deaths in the 107th and sick ones in far larger numbers. In my judgment the sickness has been due to over-marching and over-eating combined. Few men know the ravenous appetite that is bred by an outdoor life. And fewer still are ever wise enough to “stop hungry.” But experience is a very faithful teacher, and if God please, the Chaplain will discourse good counsel tomorrow morning, touching the same subject. (Beecher was not aware of the fact that the ground on which the camp was situated was in fact almost solid rock and adequate latrines could not be established. This fact was responsible for the spread of disease in the camp and the resulting in the deaths of many soldiers.)

This afternoon in company with Dr. Beadle, the chaplain experimented with Col. Diven’s black horse a riding. I insist that equestrianism is a most unnatural and semi-barbarous accomplishment. —It is a shame to “put upon” a dumb beast such duty, and a greater shame to put men to such uses. —Call the “human frame divine” a log, the horse a wedge and mother earth a beetle or maul, and you have the essentials of horseback performances. —Had man been intended for such performances, he would have been created with an angle iron to withstand the strain. But war creates necessities, and necessities are their own law. Round these mountain roads men must ride who never road before. —And so, behold the chaplain wandering forth in search of the 64th regiment.

We found it and many times the chaplain had to stop his horse and chat with unexpected friends. He found that to stop one’s horse is easier than to stop one’s self. The rider is apt to gone on after the horse is halted dead. If he goes on too recklessly, he is sure to go off. I overheard the chaplain asking Dr. Beadle how he looked and whether anybody was laughing.

I am now sitting on a stone wall amid the ruins of Harper’s Ferry. An hour or so I was by the graveside of Marcus Dawson of Co. D. There upon a point commanding a view of the Shenandoah valley for miles lies the graves of fourteen men of the 107th fallen by fever now at rest. I know nothing of Dawson save as a Christian I have assisted in burying him. But I saw in the hospital the body of a young man, three days dead, whom I myself enlisted. I have his name in one of my old books, as I looked upon his blanket shroud, I earnestly tested myself, was I right in telling him to enlist. I called to mind my speeches and my pleadings and my statements of July. Thank God I have not one word to repent of.

Reverend Beecher was also something of a poet as the following lines of free verse illustrate. While visiting the camp of the 107th NY that overlooked the village of Harper’s Ferry from Maryland Heights he made the following observations.


Scenes of waste everywhere, everybody on the move and nobody knowing anything or able to tell you anything.   Through the elegant cast iron sash of the arched windows is seen the long drawn vacancies of the old armory buildings burned with fire.  Deserted, doorless and sashless houses.  Horses eating hay in parlors. Enterprising photographers set up their cameras in ownerless houses.  Aetna insurance plates stand over doors long since burned.  Sutlers peddle soft bread, tobacco and sausages from deserted dwelling houses where children played, hospitals fill with sick breaths rooms where beaux have visited and sweethearts charmed.   Cavalry horses gnaw in the young orchards.  And over all floats and clings the grime and dust where 10,000 feet each day do the pulverizing and constant winds the distribution.   


There’s a need of schoolmasters in the 27th District still. Shall I give you specimens of what I daily read in the shape of literary murder of captain’s names? Captain Tuttle figures as Tuthill, Tutil, Totel, Tuttell.  Your friend Captain Baldwin, and by the way camp agrees with him better than your office. He is plumping rapidly enough to suit a Fejee gourmand. Where was I, oh yes! Captain Baldwin is written down on letter backs as Balden, Bawlding and Bolden. Captain Logie is transmuted into Loga, Logy and Logah. And Captain Claugharty is the worst. A man with such a name ought to live bachelor and afflict none of the next generation with such a name to misspell.  

Chaplain’s Duties:

The readers of your paper have had rest long enough. It is time that Chaplain’s drill should begin again. By the by speaking of Chaplain reminds me of Fred Burritt, your correspondent, and his private letter about chaplains. Abating something for the easy style of the letter, I wish to say amen to the general sentiment, as to the uselessness of chaplains in military service. Of work properly belonging to a chaplain there is not enough in six regiments to employ one man. I should not work two hours, if I confined myself to my proper official duties.

Much more I might add, but I do not purpose an essay upon army religion. I intended at first merely to say that in my judgment the army would gain by dismissing all chaplains and trusting to the voluntary acts of officers and men. I would this day prefer to have my commission revoked and my stay with the regiment, and my support made to depend upon my military parish.

And yet even while enjoying the most advantageous social position in my regiment of any chaplain of whom I have yet heard of, I am clearly persuaded that as a chaplain I am nearly or quite useless. Were it not that there has been a world of other work, I should long since have relieved the regiment of my presence—and the treasury of my support.

This letter went on and on in the same vein, and it was obvious that Beecher had become uncomfortable with his position as chaplain of the 141st.

He had a falling out with Colonel Hathaway most likely over his brother’s James’ recent appointment as Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment His appointment was viewed as having been unduly influenced by the chaplain and had resulted in the current and popular Lieutenant Colonel William E. Bonham leaving the regiment. 

It was during this period that Beecher wrote to Hathaway’s superiors and accused him of trying to overthrow the government. This type of activity ultimately resulted in his resigning from the regiment on January 10, 1863. His brother James remained for a short while, but was rescued from his predicament by his sister who helped him obtain an honorable discharge from the army shortly hereafter.  

This article was taken from the letters published in the Elmira Advertiser

About the author: George R. Farr grew up in Horseheads, NY, and presently lives in the town of Elmira (West Elmira). He is a graduate (1957) of Upsala College and also studied at Rutgers U., Seton Hall U., Elmira College, and Corning Community College. He has lectured extensively on the American Civil War and local history.