Leander Munsell to the Editors of The Old Soldier, 23 March 1840
. . .eers and Soldiers of the War of  . . . and the few, very few, remaining [?] of the revolution.
Permit one, in humble life;—one who, like you, has known the difference between sleeping on beds of down, in the domestic domicil, and the privations and sufferings of a soldier’s life;—one who can estimate the difference between the earning and deserving the soldier’s fame, and the poltroon who would rob that soldier of his honor—to address you in the language of sincerity and truth.
When our country is invaded,—when war with all its desolating horrors is raging around us, duty, patriotism, all the better and nobler feelings that find lodgment in the human heart—prompt us to fly to the rescue of our bleeding country—to defend our institutions, our altars, and our homes! Such has been your conduct,—such will ever be the conduct of the American people, while virtue and liberty are prized by her sons.—From external enemies she has nothing to fear. Her sons will repel all armed aggressions from abroad. But has the patriot no cause of alarm? Has he nothing to fear for the liberties and well being of the country? From within, he has much, very much, to apprehend. Under the syren[siren] song of liberty, democracy and equal rights, is being built up a power in the Executive that, if not checked, will soon be too strong for all the barriers that oppose it, and our liberties will wither and fade under its overshadowing influence. And this power is sought to be extended and perpetuated, by means as revolting as its purposes are unholy.
No sooner have the people brought forward their candidate for the Presidency, than the press—the administration press—many of which had lauded him, commence a systematic course of vituperation and calumny.1 He who led your army at Tippecanoe, is an old dotard! He who erected and defended Fort Meigs, is an old Granny! He who conquered at the Thames, is a Coward! To you, who saw him at Tippecanoe, who struggled with him in that fearful conflict—to you who were with him in the siege of Fort Meigs,—to you who were with him when Tecumseh fell—and the more savage Procto[r] fled, leaving . . . [?] prisoners of war; I . . . baseness . . . and a–. . . knew there—. . . know. We have . . . [the?] years—of “auld lang syne”—and I have yet to converse with one, who did not deeply reverence their beloved commander,—who would not be willing, if again going to meet the enemies of their country, to have him for their leader.
But here I beg to say, lest I may be misunderstood or misrepresented, that mere military services, however splendid, however important, should not alone be a passport to the highest civic honors of the country. They should be the reward of high civic merit and qualifications. But surely if not a passport to civil office, it should not be a barrier when accompanied by capability, honesty and moral worth. Much less should it subject the individual to contumely and reproach. We claim for Gen. Harrison a place among the proudest of our countrymen, in point of civil qualifications; and a long life spent in the service of his country, attest his claims on her gratitude. Yet, how has he fared? How has he been requited? All the harpies and tools of power, have assailed him from one end of the Union to the other—Old Granny—Coward—old dotard! has been charged, and reiterated from the Treasury bench, to the village post-office. The administration by its pensioned agents and minions, has ransacked every city, town, and hamlet in your country, filling them with slander, heaped on the head of this much injured veteran.2 Surely they, or I, miscalculate its influence on American bosoms. Surely the bosoms of his countrymen, will repel this foul attempt on their soldiers’s fame—this insult on their understanding! Can that cause be just which requires such dishonest support? Can that system be pure that resorts to such corrupt means to further their ends? Can their objects and aims be honest and honorable, and intended solely for the benefit of the country, when they commence by endeavoring to pluck from the aged warrior’s brow, the laurel won in his country’s battle fields, and to tarnish his unsullied reputation? And rather would they blot from your country’s history some of its brightest pages, than that General Harrison should be thought a Soldier? Can the cause of truth be promoted—virtue rewarded—the cause of our country advanced—the heart of the patriot cheered to the performance of duty—our liberties perpetuated—our homes and . . . altars defended . . . courses . . . every . . . on all who opposed them? Must all—all—be submerged in one common ruin, who presume to oppose their mad and ruinous ambition?
They would fain create jealousy between the Soldiers of the different armies commanded by Generals Jackson and Harrison, as though it was necessary to the fame of one that the other should be depressed—as tho’ the same common country could at the same time have but one General, or one army deserving its honor and gratitude. The brave are ever generous as well as just.—They will rescue from unmerited obloquy the fame even of any enemy. And will not brave Americans do justice to Gen. Harrison, by whomsoever they might have been commanded? They will! Next fall’s elections will tell in language that will reach the White House at Washington, that the way to win the heart of the American Soldier is not by assailing its country’s defenders.—When time in its ever during progress shall have swept the noisy vermin who assail your General to the land of forgetfulness—or, if remembered at all, only with indignation, pity or contempt,—the names of Harrison and Jackson will be found filling the proudest pages of your country’s history.
And shall we not succeed? Shall we not place in the seat of Washington one worthy to fill it? That hope that nerves and cheers my mind—that throb that beats so loudly at my heart—tells me, we will. Then let us stand to our arms. Let us put on our armor for the conflict. Let us meet the enemy at every assailable point. Let us carry the war home to him;—and soon will we see them faulter—soon they will cower before us;—soon will they yield; soon will they be compelled to abandon the position they so unworthily fill, and retired rebuked by the voice of their indignant countrymen. But, should we fail; should Gen. Harrison and his patriotic followers be borne down in the ensuing contest; should the Executive, with all his weight of patronage, his 100,000 pensioners, backed by the public power—prove too strong for the Constitution and its supporters, and that hallowed instrument be openly assailed or secretly undermined, and our most valuable rights frittered away; still is there consolation to the brave, the virtuous, and the good, in the reflection that we have done our duty—that we have stood by our country in her great emergency. For me, though humble I be—though my arm may be weak, and my body borne down in the onslaught, and my voice lost in the whirlwind and the storm; yet, while life’s purple current continues to flow; while I can present my breast to the assailant, or my voice be heard cheering my associates in defence of the Constitution, I shall be found at my post; and should we be successively driven from one defence to another, I will be found fighting in the last trench, or defending the last rampart of my country.LEANDER MUNSELL.Paris, 23d March, 1840.
1Instead of trying to defend Martin Van Buren, who became increasingly unpopular due to his stumbling response to the Panic of 1837, Amos Kendall, director of the Van Buren re-election campaign, launched a newspaper campaign attacking Harrison’s physical fitness for office, military exploits, and civic achievements.
Gail Collins, William Henry Harrison (New York: Times Books, 2012), 109.
2Democrats utilized their control of local postmasterships to get their campaign literature to the public and restrict Whig campaign literature from the mails.
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.
Printed Transcription, 1 page(s), The Old Soldier (Springfield, IL), 15 April 1840, 4:1-2.