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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]