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INCONSISTENCY AND HYPOCRISY



or



MARTIN VAN BUREN.



ON THE



QUESTION OF SLAVERY.



No event in the history of political parties in this country since the establish-
ment of the government, has excited more surprise, than the recent nomina-
tion of Martin Van Buren by the Buffalo Convention, as the Free-Soil, or
Anti-Slavery Candidate for the Presidency.

If all the public and private records which compose the political history of
this fortunate partisan had been burned up in a general conflagration, and the
recollection of his intrigues and corruptions, blotted forever from the memory of
men, or if a lapse of two, or three generations had intervened, and a new order of
things, and a new race of men had sprung up, the position which Mr. Van
Buren now occupies as the representative of the abolition sentiment of the
North, no man might think proper to attack.

But when we find on every printed page, and in the memories of our women
and children, even, the record and the recollection of his former corrupt opin-
ions and practices, of what Martin Van Buren was, in contrast with what hc
now pretends to be, it is impossible to forbear exposing the glaring effrontery
inconsistency, and hypocrisy manifest in the declarations which he has so re-
cently promulgated. Mr. Van Buren, ever since he came upon the stage of
public life, has been remarkable for nothing so much as the uniform success
with which he has employed the machinery of party in the acquisition of power.
Introduced early into public station in the State of New York, first as Surrogate
of Columbia County, and sub>;equently, by gradual steps, ascending to be Judge
Advocate, State Senator, Dtlcgntc to the Constitutional Convention, Governor,
Secretary of State of the United States, Minister to England, Vice President,
and finally to the Presidency, — on every round of this ladder, to the pinnacle
of power, we find him the same unscrupulous, intriguing, partisan leader, pre-
serving, and perpetuating his succession to power, and eminence, by a distribu-
tion of the public patronage, and the public treasure, among the greedy and
misguided creatures of his cupidity, and ambition.

Never rising to the dignity of the Statesman, by any broad and comprehensive
views, or commanding even the respect of his associates in the public service,
he has never had the assent of tJie people to the principles of hia political life,



or the confidence of those through whose exertions his elevation has been accom-
plished.

Honest and sagacious men have always mistrusted him, while those of his
own party who were acquainted with his secrets, have used and despised him.
The evidences of this want of respect, and confidence, on the part of those who
professed to be his friends, and of their thorough knowledge of his character for
chicanery and duplicity, are to be found every where. M. M. Koah in 1834,
speculating upon the then impending Presidential election, writes as follows,
"every paper almost that we open, speaks contemptuously of Van Buren's pros-
pects for the Presidency ; but they speak without knowledge of the labors of
the man, and the vast machine of intrigue, and corruption that he has set in

operation in every part of the Union they do not see

the fox prowling near the ham; the moh hurroicing near the ground; the
pilot fish who plunges deep in the ocean in one spot, and comes up at another to
breathe the air.

" If it were the free, unbought, unthreatened voice of public opinion, his chance?
could not be counted ; but Van Buren trusts nothing to the good opinion of the
people ; their will, their wishes, their desii'es, their frank and unbiassed suffrages,
he rejects and repudiates ; his appeal is to the interests and the /ears of men, he
secures those whom he imagines controls public opinion, he buys the leaders,
and makes them accountable for the rank and file. ^^

And again, a more truthful a'-id graphic portrait of the man, was never pen-
ned, than that which appearec"! In the New York Evening Post in 1841, (a pa-
per devoted to his interests.)

" Mr. Van Buren has little moral faith of any kind, barely enough to need no
artifical excitation of body or mind. This deficiency drives him into an artificial
code of political pi'actice, in which he refers all social actions to individual inter-
ests, and all political actions to combinations of those interests. He believes

firmly in the force of management He belongs wholly to

the present time, and may be said to represent trading or business politics. He
is the very impersonation of party in its strictest features of formal discipline
and exclusive combination."

Mr. Brownson, also, in the January number of his Review, of 1844, uses the
following language with reference to Mr. Van Buren's probable nomination by
the Baltimore Convention; — "But the reappearance of Mr. Van Buren on the
stage, changes the whole aspect of affairs. He comes not alone, but as the chief
of a band, which the country had devoutly hoped was dispersed^ never to be
collected again. He comes as the representative of the same old corrupt, and
corrupting system of party tactics, followed by the same swarm of greedy spoils-
men, with their appetite for plunder sharpened by the few years' abstinence
they have been forced, through the remains of the original virtue and patriotism
of the country, to practice."

But it is not worth while to accumulate proofs of the general profligacy of
Mr. Van Buren's character, and career, as a politician. The good, or evil, which
may have resulted from his identification with the administration of the govern-
ment, must be left to the judgment of impartial history. We have never had
but one opinion of the man, and we must do him the credit to say, that we have
always believed him consistent.

By means of his pro-slavery principles, and declarations, he secured the influ-
ence and votes of the South, and. thus crept into the Presidential Chair; and
when in 1844, that influence, and those votes, were given to a genuine southern
man with southern principles, and were not to be had for the highest bid of any
northern dough-face, Mr. Van Buren turned his back upon the South, to court th^



abolition party of the North, upon which he had heaped every degree of insult and
opprobrium. It was no exaggeration of the truth for Mr. J. R. Giddings, of
Ohio, to speak of his new poHtical high priest and exemplar, in the following
strain : " I may be led to confide in the honor of a ."lave-holder ; but a • SER-
VI LE DOUGHFACE ' is too destitute of that article to obtain credit with me.
MR. VAN BUREN has placed the evidence of HIS SERVILITY
CONSPICUOUSLY upon the records of his country. There it will remain,

AND BE REGARDED AS AN ENDURING MEMENTO OP THE DEGENER-
ACY OF THE MAN WHO FILLED OUR PUBLIC STATIONS.

"Although a Northern man, it became the boast of his friends that he pos-
sessed " Southern principles," and he soon gave SATISFACTORY EVI-
DENCE of his devotion to the interests of his employers (slave merchants.)
Indeed, had he been bred up in the business, he would scarcely have discovered
MORE ATTACHMENT to the INTERESTS OF SLAVE GROW-
ERS and SLAVE DEALERS ANXIETY FOR

THE SUCCESS of that « execrable commerce," appears to HAVE BEEN
UPPERMOST IN HIS MIND, and to have superseded ALL OTHER
MATTERS of State policy."

We are not disposed to make any extended comment upon the change
which has come over the spirit of Mr. Giddings's dream, otherwise than
to remind him that he stands in very much the same relation to Mr. Van Buren,
that Dr. Faust did to the Devil.

Faust. — Who does what no one ever told him,

Must thank himself for what himself has wrought,
Who has the devil, let him, hold him.
Another time he may not so be caught.

Mephistopheles. — Oh .' if you wish, I make the composition,

.^nd from this very instant join ijour train.
Without a salary ; but on one condition,
Your soul with my slight art to entertain.

But Mr. Giddings's opinion, with whatever increased value that opinion may
have at the present moment, is not necessary to Mr. Van Buren's conviction on
the grounds which we have alleged against him ; we choose rather that his own
acts should speak for themselves, and we doubt not they will be sufficient to sat-
isfy every discriminating reader, of his complete recklessness and dishonesty, in
parading himself as opposed to the extension of slavery in the territories, and as
favorable to its Abolition in the District of Columbia.

Mr. Van Buren's first declarations upon the subject of Slavery, reach as far
back as the date of the Missouri Compromise. During the agitation of that
question, in 1819, a meeting was held at Albany, to consider the propriety of
restricting the extension of Slavery beyond the Mississippi. It was a meeting
composed of gentlemen of both political parties ; Mr. Van Buren's name had
been used in the call, and had been placed upon the Committee, appointed to
draw up a Memorial to Congress.

When the meeting was held Mr. Van Buren was absent from the city. The
Memorial which was adopted, expressed the sentiments of the agitators. A
single paragraph will show its scope, and spirit.

" With all due submission to the superior wisdom and intelligence of Con-
gress, your memorialists respectfully suggest, that since the expiration of the
time limited in the Constitution (1800) the Legislature (Congress) has pos-
sessed the poioer of prohibiting the introduction of Slavery into any State there-
after to be admitted into the Union, whether that State was formed from Terri-



4

tory comprised within the original limits of the United States, or from Terri-
tory acquired hy treaty beyond those limits ; and consequently, that it now pos-
sesses indisputable power to render the prohibition of the further extension of
Slavery in such neiv State, a condition of its admission into the Union. That
there was nothing contained in the treaty by which the Missouri Territory was,
with the rest of Louisiana, ceded to the United States, to restrain the exercise
of such power in regard to the State now proposed to be erected therein ; and
that it is highly just and expedient that Congress should on the present occasion,
as well as in all other future cases, in the admission of new States into the
Union, interpose to prevent, in the most effectual manner, the further increase of
Slavery in this Nation."

Before despatching this paper to Congress, Mr. Van Buren was invited to
co-operate with the Committee, and sign the document which had been prepared.
lyiis he refused to do, and for the following reasons:

" He sincerely deprecated the existence of Slavery in the United States, and
was willing to concur in any measure to prevent its extension West of the
Mississippi, consistent with the Constitution, and not calculated to disturb the
settlement of the question of Slavery, made by that instrumc7it, nor to endanger
the rights and securities of Slave-owners. But he was not willing to unite in
any course of proceedings from which such results might be apprehended ; nor
to join in any denunciation, political or otherwise, against the people of the
South. Notwithstanding his great personal respect for the other members of
the Committee, as well as those whose names appeared in the proceedings of
the meeting, he could not approve the spirit by which the resolutions adopted
by it were characterized."

Being further importuned, he addressed the following letter to the Committee:

" Sir : — You had permission to use my name as a Committee to call a meet-
ing of our citizens to express their opinion on the Missouri Question, and the
propriety of your doing so has not been questioned by me. You surely cannot
suppose, that the use of my name for that purpose, imposed on me an obligation
to sign whatever Memorial might be agreed upon by the meeting. Being out
of town when it M'as held, and having had no hand in forming or adopting the
Memorial, I declined signing it. My reasons for doing so, further than you are
concerned in calling the meeting, I presume it is not your intention of inquiring
into.

Yours, respectfully,

M. VAN BUREN.
January 2Qth, 1820.

Henry T. Jones, Esq."

Such was Mr. Van Buren's position at one of the most important periods of
our history. Thus he stood in 1819, before the admission of Missouri, upon the
miserable pretext that to memorialize Congress upon the subject of the further
extension of Slavery into new Territories, was to " endanger the rights and securi-
ties of Slave-oivners." It is upon this very ground that Mr. Calhoun and his
adherents of the South claim a share in the soil of California and New Mexico, for
the uses of Slavery. To no other man could the remark of John Randolph be
more appropriately applied, than to Martin Van Buren, — '• We do not govern
you of the North by our black Slaves, but by your white Slaves."

All Mr. Van Buren's subsequent letters and speeches, sustain the grounds
which he assumed on the question of the Missouri Compromise. This was the
creed of his party, and to it he hung, as long as his party would hang to him.



In 1834, commenced the great Abolition excitement. In the early part of
that year inquiries were made of Mr. Van Buren, for his opinions upon the
Slave agitation, and these were given in substance, as follows :

"The subject is, in my judgment, exclusively under the control of the State
Governments ; and I am not apprised, nor do I believe that a contrary opiriion,
to an extent deserving consideration, is e7itertained in any part of the United
States! .... "I do not see on what authoi'ity the General Government
could interfere, without a change in the Constitution, even at the instance of
the Slave-holding States."

Mr. Wright, then a Senator in Congress, being appealed to by several
members of the Virginia Legislature for Mr. Van Buren's sentiments, replied :

" The Constitution of the United States does not, in the opinion of Mr. Van
Buren, give to Congress the right to interfere with the relations between master
and slave iii any of the States ; and he would consider it highly impolitic for
that body to pass a law abolishing Slavery in the District of Columbia"

Mr. B. F. Butler, Mr. Van Buren's principal manager, throughout his polit-
ical career, and the friend by whose consummate tact the Abolition Delegates
were duped into his nomination at Buffalo, was then Attorney General of the
United States, and in reply to a note addressed to him by Mr. Garland of Vir-
ginia, re-affirmed the statements made by Mr. Wright, fortifying his lucid and
unanswerable exposition by facts, showing that there is scarcely a shadow of
difference among the great mass of the intelligent and reflecting people of the
Middle and Southern States.

Later in the same year, it was found that the abolitionists were circulating in
great numbers, their incendiary publications through the Southern States, and
matters had reached such a pitch of excitement, that the interference of Congress
was loudly called for. A bill was accordingly introduced in the Senate, which
provided that Postmasters should be allowed to open mail bags, and if any incen-
diary documents were found, to destroy them.

When thfs bill came to a vote, it resulted in a tie, and Mr. Van Buren, a$
Vice President in the chair, gave his casting vote in its favor. This vote was
perfectly consistent with his avowed principles, and only shows that he was pre-
pared by one of the most questionable acts to be found anywhere on the public
records, to play the subservient tool of the South, in order to secure its Presi-
dential votes.

We have evidence of the successful manner in which he managed his part, in
his nomination, which followed soon after, as the Democratic candidate for the
Presidency.

In his letter of acceptance of that nomination, he re-afiirms, and strengthens
his former opinions, and acts.

He says; — "Thoroughly convinced that the overthrow of our present Con-
stitution, and the consequent destruction of the confederacy wliich it binds to-
gether, would be the greatest sacrifice of human happiness and hopes that lias
ever been made at the shrine of personal ambition, I do not hesitate to promis(^
you, that every effort in my power, whether in public or private life, slinll be
made for their preservation. The Father of his Country, foreseeing tliis danger,
warned us to cherish the Union as the palladium of our safety; and the great
exemplar of our political faith, Thomas Jefferson, has taught us, that to preserve
Hiat common sympathy between the States, out of which the Union sprang, and
which constitutes its surest foundation, we should exercise the powers which
of right belong to the General Government, in a spirit of moderation and
brotherly love, and religiously abstain from the assumption of such as have not
been delegated by the Constitution."
The Hon. Andrew Stevenson, presided over the National Convention.



On a motion of Hon. Silas Wright, a Committee was appointed to draft an
address, expressive of the views of the Convention, and Mr. Wright was placed
upon the Committee as its Chairman : at his request the President of the Con-
vention was added, and the address was written by Mr. S.

It was sent to Mr. Wright, and not only signed by them, (Mr. S. and him-
self,) and published with their signatures, but Mr. Van Buren, and Mr. Wright,
in letters to Mr. Stevenson, expressed their cordial approval of it.

It must therefore be taken, as the public, explicit, and carefully considered
opinion of Mr. Van Buren, on the subjects embraced in it. Parties stand in
very much the same relation to each other now, that they did in 1835,
and most of the passages which we have marked for quotation, are equally
applicable.

" We come now, fellow citizens, to another objection to the convention, or
rather one of its nominations, and to another effort at discussion of a \ery dif-
ferent character, and probably one of the most mischievous and vv^icked

THAT HAS EVER BEEN MADE AGAINST THE PEACE AND HAPPINESS OP

ANY country! it is the ATTEMPT TO CREATE SECTIONAL
PARTIES AND DISUNION, and to alienate one portion of our country
from the rest, by charging upon the supposed defects of our complicated politi-
cal system, the calamities which evil men are endeavor'.ng themselves to bring
about. This is a subject of transcendent and universal interest, and one that
demands to be well weighed and considered by all parties and all men ! And
here we will take occasion to remaik, that it is on this weak side of human na-
ture, in appeals to the most degrading and dangerous purposes of the human
mind, that those who seek to betray nations to their purposes, and to kindle the
torch of discord, cdwa.ys resort. It is here, that ambition as well as fanati-
cism (always prolific in the allurements and delusions necessary to accomplish
their purposes) direct their batteries. It is the point, moreover, in which not
only free governments, but our own peculiar system, can be most effectually
assailed. Hence it is, that in different parts of the country, we see mischievous
and misguided men, attempting to weaken the bond of union, and exciting the
North against the South, and the South against the North. The peculiar dif-
ferences in the social organization of those two sections of our country, is ever a
ready and fruitful object to create those jealousies and dispositions. It has ever
been a fundamental article in the I'epublican creed, that those relations were
not, by our constitutional charter, brought within the scope of federal powers,
and that Congress has as little right to interfere with the domestic relations and
local institutions of the United States, with the relation of master and apprentice
in Massachusetts, or master and slave in Virginia, as they have to meddle with
similar social relatioyis in Great Britain, France, and Spain. So deeply rooted
is this conviction not only in the minds of our brethren of the Northern and Mid-
dle States, but in the minds of the whole republican party of the Union, that it
is incorporated in the democratic creed, and constitutes one of the broad lines of
separation between the strict constructionists of the Jeffersonian school, and the
latitudinarians and consolidationists under the Protrean colors. Republicanism
is the safest guaranty of the stability of our Union. No man or set of men can
interfere, or even wish to interfere with the reserved rights of states, embracing
their domestic institutions and social relations, and call himself a democratic re-
publican, or a friend to union."

" True republicans can never lend their aid and influence in creating
GEOGRAPHICAL PARTIES in the East, West, North, or South. They can
never engage in such schemes without violating their principles ; principles
which tell them they are all brothers, each left a rich inhei-itance by their fath-



ers, never to be cancelled, while they forbear to meddle with the local feelingg
and domestic relations of each other."

" Under such circumstances, how wicked as well as unfounded are those sA-
tempts to excite and influence the South, and create sectional parties on such a
basis! Who can look to such a state of things without dismay and horror?
Was it not, fellow citizens, against the danger of indulging such ieelings, and on
the importance of discouraging them, and preserving harmony and union, that
our revolutionary fathers endeavored so deeply to impress their countrymen ?
Will you pardon us, while we ask you to read and listen to their eloquent and
pathetic exhortation !

"' But this DETESTABLE EFFORT TO ALIENATE ONE PORTION OP OUR

COUNTRY FROM THE REST, and enfeeble the sacred ties that now li)ik together
its various parts, can never succeed. The people of America have too much
good sense to enter into the perilous and gloomy scenes, into which these Advo-
cates of Disunion would lead them. They will not harken to the unnatural
voice xohich tells them, knit together as they arc, by so many cords of affection,
they can no longer live together as members of the same great family ; can no
longer be mutual guardians of their mutual happiness ; can no longer be fellow
citizens of our great and flourishing empire. They will shut their ears against
this unhallowed language. They will shut their hearts against the poison it
contains. The kindred blood which flows in their veins ; the mingled blood
which they have shed in defence of their sacred rights ; consecrate their union,
and excite horror at the idea of their becoming aliens, rivals, enemies!^ "

" This was the admonition of a man of the soundest and most experienced
head, and the purest and most patriotic heart. Need we say, it was that of
JAMES MADISON, one of the most distinguished founders of our Constitu-
tion. Hear, too, the solemn warning of WASHINGTON, the great Virginian
and Savior of his country, against the dangers of GEOGRAriiiCAL discrim-
inations and these insidious and daring attempts at disunion and disaffection.
In his valedictory, and affectionate admonition, at the moment he was retiring
from public life forever, he too, warned his countrymen :

" ' Union, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you — it is
justly so — it is the main pillar in the edifice of real independence ; the support
of your tranquillity at home ; of your peace abroad ; of your safety ; of your
prosperity ; and of that very liberty which you so dearly prize. That is the
point of our political fortress, against which the batteries of internal and exter-
nal enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and
insidiously) directed. Frown, therefore, indignantly, upon the first
dawning op any attempt to alienate one portion of our country

from THE REST; OR TO ENFEEBLE THE SACRED TIES WHICH NOW LINK
TOGETHER ITS VARIOUS PARTS.' "

These thoughts, it will be recollected, were expressed at a time when southern
votes were deemed necessary to the election of Martin Van Bureu to the
Presidency.

In September, 1835, a meeting of the citizens of Albany M^as held in that
city, "to embody and express the predominant sentiments in relation to the un-
constitutional and incendiary movements of the abolitionists, and their agents,
&c." The call was signed by A. C. Flagg, John Van Buren, John A. Dix,
James Vanderpoel, John Hermans, John Keyes Paige, Jeremiah Osborn, Cor-


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Online LibraryHugh Lawson WhiteInconsistency and hypocrisy of Martin Van Buren (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 3)