An Undeviating Jackson Man to the Editors of The Old Soldier, 7 February 1840Clinton County, Feb. 7, 1840.Editors of the Old Soldier:
Gentleman:—I have just seen and read the first number of the Old Soldier. There is not an article in it that I do not admire; and if future numbers are as good as this, it must be the means of rallying hundreds, if not thousands, to the standard of the hero of the North West.
I was not of that gallant band under Gen. Jackson, at New Orleans, on the ever memorable 8th of January; nor was I under Gen. Harrison at Tippecanoe; but I was with him at the equally memorable battle of the Thames. Let no one call him a coward: let no one call him a petticoat general;— thousands who shared with him the perils, the privations and glory of that campaign, can attest the contrary. The foes he contended with, the country through which he marched, without roads, and destitute of supplies for his army, all made against him; but I fearlessly say, and I call upon all who shared his difficulties to say, if in their opinion, any man, under the circumstances, could have conducted this war with more honor, or with more glorious results to the country.
I have known Gen. Jackson intimately, both before, and since he became President of the United States. I too, like the Old Soldier, in your first number, “have had the pleasure of voting for him three times,” although I differed with him in one or two cardinal points of his administration. I knew his honesty, and tried patriotism, and could not be induced to forsake him. I preferred him to a Bank of the United States, although I deemed such an institution useful and proper for the country. I still think so. I have conversed with hundreds of the old Jackson friends, and I confidently believe, aside from prejudice, and party dictation, that a majority of them still think with me. It is true that the leaders of the party have told us, that the Bank was a Monster, and was insidiously stealing away the liberties of the country. I tried for years to think so, but I never could; and the last few years of bank issues, bank speculations, bank suspensions, and bank paper shaves, which we have suffered whenever we have had to travel an hundred miles from the bank whose paper we had in our pockets,—have convinced me that our first opinion was right, and that nothing can now redeem the country, and her currency, but a Bank of the United States, well restricted and regulated. The country for forty years out of about fifty of its existence, has prospered under its operations, and we have reason to believe the same prosperity, in a few years, would attend its re-establishment.
Gen. Jackson, however, thought differently; and, I have no doubt, thought so honestly.—Believing that he did, I forgave him for that which I believed to be an error of the head; and sustained him, in preference to the Bank. Why I did so, I cannot very well tell, except that my party voted for him, and I thought I must do so too. Moreover, there was no candidate running against him with any hope of success. The Union Ticket, composed of Clay, Webster, White, and Harrison, I could not, at that time, very well go, although I went with alacrity the Jackson Van Buren Ticket.1 If, however, Gen. Harrison had been alone in the field against Mr. Van Buren, as he is now, I should not have hesitated.
In 1824, Gen. Jackson was, as some said, unfairly dealt with in Congress by a corrupt coalition between Mr. Adams and Mr. Clay. I never believed in this coalition, but I had other good objections to Mr. Adams. He was an eastern man, had no personal knowledge of the West, and the wants of its citizens. Gen. Jackson had, and he declared himself in favor of one Presidential term. It is true I voted for him to serve a second term. My feelings had become enlisted in his favor, and the strong voice of the country called upon him to serve two terms. Still my opinion of its correctness was not changed, and neither was his.—Mr. Van Buren has now served one term, and he shall never serve another with my consent. The same objections, too, exist against him that I had to Mr. Adams. He is an Eastern man, has no feelings in common with the West, except when it is his interest; he is a time-serving politician, as his whole history shows, and with which, I confess, I was unacquainted until he became President.2 He was an abolitionist when Missouri was to be admitted into the Union, and wished for free negroes to vote in New York; he is now anti-abolitionist to secure a second election. In 1828, he was opposed to graduating the price of public lands, opposed to pre-emptions, and opposed to giving the lands to the States in which they are situated, after having been sometime offered for sale. In 1812, he voted for Mr. Clinton, the anti-war federalist, against Mr. Madison, the Republican war-candidate, for the Presidency. He is now a democrat! Until it was seen that Gen. Jackson would be made President, he was in favor of Mr. Adams. He afterwards became the ardent supporter of that distinguished individual. He intrigued Mr. Calhoun out of the good graces of Gen. Jackson, and became the first favorite of that confiding and honest man. Mr. Calhoun denounced him as a scoundrel, and refused to speak to him. They have now formed a most unnatural coalition, and for the time being, are fast friends. The contract is, that Mr. Benton is to be cast aside, and Mr. Calhoun is to succeed Mr. Van Buren to the Presidency.3
I could ennumerate other objections to Mr. Van Buren, but these in all conscience, are enough. The reasons we voted for Gen. Jackson were, that he was honest, that he was a Western man, that he was patriotic, that years devoted to the service of his country proved it; and that for these services, his country owed him honor.
Now I ask the Old Jackson men, if we cannot support Gen. Harrison for the same reasons? It is needless for me, in this letter, to recount the claims of Gen. Harrison, to the good citizens of the West. Let them look to Ohio, Indiana, and our own Illinois; and whatever they can find interesting in their History, but bespeaks the eulogy of Harrison—whose whole life has been devoted to their growth, their government, and their defence.
Before closing, I suggest that the Old Soldiers meet in Convention, at some convenient point in the State, on the 4th of July, for the more perfect organization of the Harrison party.4An Undeviating Jackson Man.
1The Union ticket was the product of a split in the Democratic Party following the end of Jackson’s second presidential term in 1836. Democrats hoped to maintain Jackson’s electoral coalition by holding their first national convention and unanimously nominating Van Buren, but a minority instead supported White’s nomination. When White allied with several members of the nascent Whig Party, such as Clay and Webster, the Union ticket was the result, making White’s candidacy a precedent for Harrison’s official Whig nomination four years later.
Kenneth J. Winkle, The Young Eagle: The Rise of Abraham Lincoln (Dallas: Taylor, 2001), 190-91.
2This is a reference to the perception that Van Buren was a full-time politician, rather than someone whose primary efforts were concentrated elsewhere but worked in politics out of a sense of civil responsibility. Van Buren is sometimes labeled as the first such “professional politician” in American history.
3The rivalry between Van Buren and Calhoun was long in the making but the breaking point was their adversarial roles in the Peggy Eaton Affair. Several wives of Jackson’s cabinet members snubbed Eaton when Secretary of War Thomas Eaton married her after what was clearly an adulterous affair. Jackson sympathized with the couple and Van Buren did not similarly shun her, which endeared him to Jackson and set him apart from Calhoun and other rivals. There is no evidence that Van Buren tried to build an alliance with Calhoun, at Benton’s expense, during the Election of 1840.
Donald B. Cole, Martin Van Buren and the American Political System (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984), 203-205; Robert V. Remini, Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party (New York: Columbia University Press, 1951), 13-14.
4The Whigs held an 1840 state convention on June 3 and 4 in Springfield.
Martha McNiell Davidson, “Southern Illinois and Neighboring States at the Whig Convention of 1840,” Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society 20 (1914), 150-74.
Printed Transcription, 1 page(s), The Old Soldier (Springfield, IL), 15 February 1840, 3:1-2.