Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Martin Van Buren Says, "Ouch!"

I'm not sure I agree with this, but the first sentence of the quote is too wonderful to pass up:
The one thing missing from the Bucktails' program was a consistent and principled set of state policies. Emphasizing patronage and party discipline, they concentrated on the dead issue of Federalist elitism and evaded the substantive questions of their own times. As good Republicans, for example, the Bucktails were ostensibly opposed to the overwhelming power of banking institutions, but bankers who endorsed the Bucktail faction had no trouble getting what they needed from the legislature. . . . Under Van Buren's leadership, the strength of the Republican Party became synonymous with republicanism itself, and party loyalty alone became the test of the common good.

Harry L. Watson's Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America is just wonderful.

About the illustration:
A satire condemning the duplicity and conspiracy of the "Bucktail" faction of New York Democrats in their April 1824 ouster of New York's ex-governor DeWitt Clinton from his post as canal commissioner. The Library's impression of the print has the missing letters in the names of the figures filled in by hand. Twelve men stand in a room, with a platform, table, and lamp on the right. On the left G[ardiner] is about to exit saying, "I will run home and ask the people how they will like it before I give my vote." To the left of the platform P[ierson] says to B[ourne], "I hope we shall give you a united vote for the removal of Mr. Clinton I have long wished an opportunity to have revenge on him for blowing up the old Burr Conspiracy." B[ourne]: "I am delighted with the prospect! Clinton has always been my devil--it will be impossible to pull him down to our level if we do not dishonor him. I recommend secrecy as success depends upon our taking the members by surprise at the moment of adjournment." Others in the room speak (counterclockwise, from the far left): S[eama]n: "I beg of you to pause ere you adopt any more lobby measures--we were sent here for public good--yet all our measures have for their object individual benefit. This base deed will produce a reaction and may make him Governor. The republican party so justly famed for justice and liberality will in their haste to free themselves from this odium forget and forgive everything." M[ors]e: "The North river squad think the Canal a benefit to ourside [sic] of the City and they will therefore disapprove our dishonoring its founder." D[rake]: "I wish I could be excused from voting, my conscience tells me it is wrong my judgment tells me it will dishonor the State--but the lobby requires it and it must be done." H[yatt]: "I vote here against the measure but if a majority of this meeting decide in its favor I will vote for it in the house tomorrow as my creed is the majority must rule." B[enedict]: "It is inconsistant with a Soldiers honor to build up or pull down any man to gratify angry or sordid passions --besides this lobby influence must be check'd or it will ruin the State." [Henry] W[heaton]: "I will support the measure to punish him for the injury he did our profession by recommending the fee bill and extending the jurisdiction of the judges." [Clarkson] C[rolius]: "I will support the measure in hopes of appeasing the wrath of the Bucktails altho' I fear they are too hard baked to be gull'd in this way. Besides My Insurance Co. & the lobby." W[ar]d: "My vote shall be given for this removal because he is the author of all our troubles about the electoral law. When Govr. he recommended to the Legislature the restoration of the peoples rights." T[own]: "It is true he has been my Benefactor and I ought to shudder at the deed but three months tuition in the hands of the lobby does away these squeamish feelings." Above, in a cloud, is Columbia with an American flag and an eagle, saying, "I renounce them and their ways."

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