An Original Jackson Man to the Editors of The Old Soldier, 2 March 1840
Clear the way—again!
Let the Old Soldiers and Jackson men speak. We like to hear them. Let them come! There is honesty in their words, patriotism in their hearts, and conviction in their arguments.county, March 2, 1840. Messrs.[Messieurs] Editors—
I have seen and read with great interest the two firstnumbers of your paper. Like the old soldier, whose name it bears, truth, honesty, and patriotism, are its leading characteristics.
I see in it that the old soldiers and Jackson men are contributing to its pages, and testifying, from personal observations, to the character, services, and patriotism of General Harrison. Like them I saw some service in the late war, and like them I was the friend of General Jackson, and honestly aided in making him twice the President. Like them, however, I cannot claim the honor of having battled at Tippecanoe, at the Thames, nor at New Orleans, where victory rewarded their gallantry, but I can say that I was at the melancholy contest of the River Raisin, and I now bear in my body the leaden [?] that sanguinary engagement.
Some have censured . . . having reinforced G. . . occasion. I cannot . . . [dence till avai?] . . . men. . . shed at that massa. . . Raisin was unknow[n?] . . . contrary to his orders. . . . contemplated a movement [against?] . . . he did all in his power to aid us; but the [weather?], the roads, and the distance he was from us, being one hundred and fifteen miles, rendered it impossible.
The battle was fought on the morning of the 22d of January, 1813. On the night of the 16th, Gen. Harrison, then at Upper Sandusky, learned that “Gen. Winchester meditated some unknown movement against the enemy.” On the morning on the 17th he mounted his horse and with his aid, Major Haskill, rode forty miles through the snow and the swamps to Lower Sandusky in seven hours and a half. A battalion was dispatched on the morning of the 18th, but it was not until the morning of the 19th that he heard Col. Lewis had been sent with a detachment to the River Raisin, distant from Lower Sandusky 75 miles. Fearing there was danger in this movement, Gen. Harrison immediately started a regiment, with orders to make forced marches to his assistance, and immediately mounted his horse, and determined to go in advance of the regiment to the rapids on the Maumee, where he expected to find Gen. Winchester. He reached the rapids, a distance of 38 or 40 miles, on the morning of the 20th; but to his astonishment Gen. Winchester had left, on the day before with a large portion of his force for the River Raisin, 36 or 38 miles ahead. Gen. Harrison could do nothing more until the regiment he had preceded, should arrive. The insufficiency of the ice, the swamps and the roads delayed the regiment and it did not come in time to prevent or to share the fatal catastrophe. He did all he could to save us—mortal man could not have done more. Gen. Winchester had been ordered to occupy the Rapids and to prepare for a march upon Malden. His movement to the River Raisin was unauthorized and unknown. Gen. Harrison, however, knew the chivalry of his men, and their great desire to do fighting before they were disbanded, and feared they would go rashly into an engagement. The result proved the correctness of his fears. No man but a general would have anticipated such a result, and no man but a General, enterprizing and brave, under the circumstances would have attempted to avert it.1
Like the Old Soldiers above referred to, I have known Gen. Harrison long, and well, in war and peace, in private and in public life. I believe him to possess the Jeffersonian [re]quisites for office, Honesty and Capability.—[?] believed the same of Gen. Jackson and ther[e]fore supported him for the Presidency. I ha[d] also other reasons for supporting him; some o[f] which I will name:
1st. I believed the country n[eeded] a change; the offices a thorough examinat[ion] and th[e] extravagant and dishonest officers [r]emoved.
2d. I believed if Gen. Jackson were elected, we should have a plain, honest and economical administration—that he would not be the President of a Party, but of the American People.
3d. I believed in one Presidential term, and so did he, as is shown by his declarations at the time, and his messages since.
4th. I believed in a strict accountability of the Public officers, and that they should not use their offices for political or selfish purposes.
5th. I believed in a Western man as President, who knew our wants and interests to a proper extent, and would have the honesty and firmness to servethem.
6th. I believed that Mr. Adams who was then in power was rather in favor of a splendid Government, was disposed to extravagant expenditures, and was, in no respect, that plain, simple Log Cabin patriot like Gen. Jackson.
In some respects, I must confess, I was disappointed in the Administration of Gen. Jackson. But a powerful and talented party were arrayed against him; my feelings strongly enlisted in his favor, and I was disposed to overlook his partizan acts. I believed in the honest patriotism of the man, and I was disposed to forget, and forgive, where I could not approve; and under these feelings I supported him for a second term contrary to principle.
Mr. Van Buren has none of the qualities to sustain him that I admired in Gen. Jackson.—He is a second John Quincy Adams, with more aristocratic feelings, and much less honesty. I have examined his whole history, and I cannot find in it the time or the place he rendered services to his country, or ever did a noble, disinterested act. He seems never to have been governed by any fixed principles, but self-preservation and self-aggrandizement. He has watched closely the rise of political parties;—but has been most unfortunate in his selection of sides in the beginning; has always changed from the weak to the strong side, when it was possible, and has often profited by the change. In 1812 he opposed the war, voted for the federal anti-war candidate, against Mr. Madison the republican war candidate, but when Harrison, Scott, Renselaer, Brown and Jackson, had nearly fought it through, he became full of fight—in words.2
In 1819, he opposed the admission of Mis[sou]ri into the Union as a slave State, and . . .ed free negroes to vote in his own3. . . .w “uncompromising” in his hostili[ty] . . .ion and is “the northern man wit[h] . . .etings.
[W]hen the New York canal was project. . .mmortal Clinton and was unpopular, he w. . .inst it. In a few years it became popular, and he became its friend.
In 1824 he was against Gen. Jackson; and through ’25 and ’26 he supported the administration of Mr. Adams, and wished office under him. He failed to get it. In 1827 he and Mr. Cambreleng took a trip all through the South. He could not fail to see that Gen. Jackson must be elected. On his return home he cut Mr. Adams, and became the supporter of General Jackson.
In 1827 or ’28 he was opposed to granting pre-emption rights to the poor settlers on our western lands; now to gain a few votes for a second term he recommends them in his messages. I could enumerate a dozen other changes—his whole life is one of turnings and twistings for self interest; and although he has been long in public life he never originated or advocated with ability a great measure.
I will now drop the sycophant, and take up the patriot and soldier. Gen. Harrison professes very much the same principles that General Jackson did. Forty years of public service, in war and in peace, have proved him honest. The Magician’s charm is broken—the country calls for a change—and in that change it cannot be worsted. Gen. Harrison believes in a plain, economical and democratic administration; in one Presidential term; a strict accountability of public officers; is against proscription for political opinions; is a western man in feeling and residence. Then why may not the old Jackson men, who are true to the principles we profess, go in for him? It is consistent and proper for them to do so; and I shall, as surely as I live.An Original Jackson Man,
And a Soldier at the River Raisin.
1Amos Kendall, director of Martin 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. Critics censured Harrison for his conduct during the defeat at the Second Battle of River Raisin.
Gail Collins, William Henry Harrison (New York: Times Books, 2012), 109-10; Charles S. Todd, Benjamin Drake, and James H. Perkins, Sketches of the Civil and Military Services of William Henry Harrison, rev. and enl. ed. (Cincinnati: J. A. & U. P. James, 1847), 48-64.
2Van Buren, like other Northern Democratic-Republicans, broke with Madison in the 1812 election and voted for dissident Democratic-Republican DeWitt Clinton, who opposed the war and had the support of the Federalist Party. Van Buren immediately abandoned Clinton after his loss, causing the two to become bitter rivals for control of the Democratic-Republican party in New York.
Van Buren’s opponents after the War of 1812 regularly condemned him for his reluctance to join the fighting--he turned down the offer of a military commission--and for not doing enough in the New York Senate to support the war effort. In point of fact, Van Buren was a War Hawk who crafted and shepherd through many piece of war legislation, included the raising of troops. In September 1814, he authored a radical measure allowing the governor to conscript 12,000 men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five to defend the state. The New York Legislature passed the bill, but the war ended before it could become operational.
Donald B. Cole, Martin Van Buren and the American Political System (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 36, 40-41, 56-57 ; Ted Widmer, Martin Van Buren (New York: Henry Holt, 2005), 41-42, 49; John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Autobiography of Martin Van Buren, Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1918 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1920), 2:45-49; Donald B. Cole, “Van Buren, Martin,” American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 22:159-60; “An Act to Authorise the Raising of Troops for the Defense of this State,” New York Senate Journal. 1814, 38th Session, 47-51.
3Reference to Van Buren’s actions at the New York State Constitutional Convention of 1821. During the campaign of 1840, Whigs sought to counter the Democratic claim that Harrison was an abolitionist by repeating an accusation, originally made in the 1836 election, that Van Buren endorsed enfranchisement for free blacks during the 1821 convention. Van Buren voted in favor of giving blacks the right to vote, but later in the convention voted that they be excluded unless they possessed property valued at $250.
Nathaniel H. Carter, William L. Stone, and Marcus T. C. Gould, Reports of the Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of 1821, Assembled for the Purpose of Amending the Constitution of the State of New York (Albany, NY: E. and E. Hosford, 1821), 178-92, 557; Donald B. Cole, Martin Van Buren and the American Political System, 70-71.
Printed Transcription, 1 page(s), The Old Soldier (Springfield, IL), 14 March 1840, 2:3-4.