Anson G. Henry and Others to the Readers of The Old Soldier, 2 March 18401
To the Readers of the Old Soldier.
Some time since the undersigned sent a Circular to particular individuals in several Counties of this State, urging them to use their best exertions to organize, and form into “battle array” the friends of Gen. Harrison, for the approaching contest. This Circular we marked “Confidential.” We did so, because we knew, that nothing short of the utmost secrecy, on the part of even our own friends, could enable it to “clear the clutches” of the Post Office, and reach any tolerable portion of its points of destination. As we anticipated, it has been pirated from the mail, and published in the Van Buren papers.2 Of course, all copies of it, which have not reached their addresses, will not now be permitted to do so. We therefore urge upon our friends in those counties, which this circular has never reached, (if the paper containing this article shall ever reach them) to go to work, and organize themselves in the most efficient manner, for routing the enemies of the country and of Gen. Harrison, from the councils of the nation.
The Van Buren papers raise many objections to the Circular in question. They affect the greatest horror, that it should have been marked “Confidential.” Had they not better reserve their horror for the contemplation of the fact, that their friends “robbed the mail” to get hold of it? And does not the fact that they did thus rob the mail, justify, nay, even imperiously require, every honest man to use every possible precaution, to enable his communications to pass unembezzled through the post offices, to their destination?
But, again, it is objected that we, the undersigned, are the editors of “The Old Soldier,” as it is urged appears from this confidential Circular. This assumption the Circular does not warrant. In it, we say “the Old Soldier” will be superintended by us. Of course we are responsible for its contents; and we desire to shun no part of the responsibility, arising from its management. But while we say this, we also say to the friends of Gen. Harrison every where, that they, as well as we, are the editors of “the Old Soldier.” And we now invite them—particularly those who have seen Gen. Harrison, where cowards dared not show their heads—where storms of “leaden rain and iron hail”3 carried death and desolation in their course—where his erect figure, stationed on the loftiest rampart, and seen from every part of the theatre of action; and his voice, rising in trumpet tones above the roaring of the death-dealing tempest,—gave “form and spirit to the war;”4 them, we invite to aid us, in filling its columns with such “burning truths” and “confounding arguments” as may sear the eye-balls, and stun the ears of the Old hero’s thousand-tongued calumniators.
What credit or discredit “the Old Soldier” may derive from our names, is not for us to determine. We have not thrust those names upon the public; but now that our enemies have, we only say: “There they are; let those assail them who can.” Upon the authority of those names, (whether that authority be good or bad,) we assure the readers of “the Old Soldier,” that nothing shall appear in its columns, as facts, which we do not, on the fullest investigation in our power to make, believe to be true. No “vile falsehood” shall enter them. It is our intention, that our friends every where may, without fear of successful contradiction, repeat whatever they may find, stated as a fact, in the columns of “the Old Soldier.”
But the Van Buren papers object to the friends of Gen. Harrison organizing. We urge that organization; and we insist that it is not for our opponents to inveigh against it. They set us the example of organization; and we, in self defence, are driven into it. If they now wish disbanding, let them again set the example. Let them disband their [double-drilled-army] of “forty thousand office holders,” a part of whose regular tactics it is to pilfer letters and papers from the mails, lest the old soldiers, who have fought and bled with Gen. Harrison, may all learn that he is now a candidate for the Presidency.5
With our own friends, we justify—we [urge]—organization on the score of necessity. A disbanded yeomanry cannot [successfully meet an] organized soldiery.
[The old] soldiers of the war of 1812-13- and [’]14, remember, that previous to that war, there was no organization amongst them; but that, immediately on learning that an organized foe was invading their land, they, too, organized—met—conquered—killed and drove the foe beyond the “world of waters.” To those old soldiers we say—An organized army of office-holders is now fitting out an expedition against your old commander. They arecoming armed—(not with bristling steel, because that bedazzles their eyes—not with powder and balls, because the smell of sulphur offends their nostrils, but) with falsehood, slander, and detraction, upon the characters of yourselves and your chieftain, established in the hard and bloody conflicts with your country’s invading enemies. That army too, must be met. Organization must again be had. We, your sons, and younger brothers, will form the rank and file; you shall be the generals, and commanders-in-chief. Thus organized, we will meet, conquer and disperse Gen. Harrison’s and the country’s enemies, and place him in the chair, now disgraced by their effeminate and luxury-loving chief.6A. G. HENRY,R. F. BARRETT,*E. D. BAKER,J. F. SPEED,A. LINCOLN.*Dr. Barrett having taken the office of Fund Commissioner, does not think it proper for him longer to participate in the superintendence of the “Old Soldier,” and he, therefore, withdraws from it.
1Abraham Lincoln was one of the editors of the Old Soldier, so the text to which his signature was affixed is attributed to him, but the extent of his participation in its composition is unknown.
2The implication here is that Democrat appointed postmasters removed the circulars and published them in Democrat newspapers. Democrats did utilize their control of local postmasterships to get their campaign literature to the public and restrict Whig campaign literature from the mails. The Sangamo Journal made this charge when it printed the circular on February 21, 1840.
Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 111; Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 21 February 1840, 2:2-3.
3This is a line from John Pierpoint’s “Warren’s Address to the American Soldiers,” which imagined a poetic speech by Joseph Warren to the American patriots defending Bunker Hill at the outset of the American Revolution.
John Pierpoint, “Warren’s Address to the American Soldiers” in Poems of American Patriotism, edited by Matthew B. and N.C. Wyeth (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1922), 32-33.
4This is a line from the anonymously written poem, “The Battle of Tippecanoe.”
William McCarty, ed., Songs, Odes, and Other Poems, on National Subjects (Philadelphia: William McCarty, 1842), 3:239-41.
5The editors make reference to Democrats appointed to federal offices, who received federal income. Whigs believed this made these men dangerously loyal to their party and President Van Buren, giving them an advantage in the upcoming election. The Whigs had good reasons to fear: the number of federal officeholders had been greatly expanded by the system to take the 1840 census, and the officeholders did involve themselves in advancing the Democratic cause. This was particularly true of postmasters, who distributed copies of the Extra Globe, the official campaign sheet and, according to some, blocked distribution of Whig campaign literature.
Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 21 February 1840, 2:2; Major L. Wilson, The Presidency of Martin Van Buren (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1984), 197; Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War, 111.
6The supplied text in the last three paragraphs comes from a copy of this letter published in the Sangamo Journal.
Amos Kendall, director of Van Buren’s re-election bid in 1840, instead of trying to defend the president, who had become increasingly unpopular due to his stumbling response to the Panic of 1837, launched a newspaper campaign attacking Harrison’s physical fitness for office, military exploits, and civic achievements. Harrison had only a sparse legislative record, so Kendall and the Democratic press often focused on his military career, where there was more grist for the mill. Charges of cowardice at Battle of Tippecanoe and negligence at the Second Battle of River Raisin were common in Democratic newspapers.
Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 28 February 1840, 1:4; Gail Collins, William Henry Harrison (New York: Times Books, 2012), 109-10.
Copy of Printed Transcription, 1 page(s), The Old Soldier , (Springfield, IL) , 2 March 1840, 2:2-3,