John Gorham Palfrey.

Correspondence between Nathan Appleton and John G. Palfrey intended as a supplement to Mr. Palfrey's pamphlet on slave power online

. (page 1 of 2)
Online LibraryJohn Gorham PalfreyCorrespondence between Nathan Appleton and John G. Palfrey intended as a supplement to Mr. Palfrey's pamphlet on slave power → online text (page 1 of 2)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

"''-'i '

E 449
Copy 1









« 1


1 846,














.? \^






Boston, 15th October, 1846.
Dear Sir,

You have published with your name a Pamphlet
consisting of twenty-four numbers on the slave power, first
published anonymously in the Boston Daily Whig,

In this pamphlet you have given my name a particular
prominence, devoting to it a large part of three different

In your ninth mmiber you attribute to me the unenvi-
able distinction of having caused the Mexican war. You
speak of " surprising news from Boston." " Mr. Appleton
and some of his friends had given their adhesion " (to the
slave power.) " The news of the new movement reach-
ing Washington." ''The game of opposition being up"
by this ''demonstration of Mr. Appleton" coming "as
unexpectedly as a thunder clap in a clear sky."

No " thunder clap" could have taken me as much by
surprise as did the perusal of this article. Any one read-
ing it would suppose that I had been engaged in some
deep intrigue, some strange plot against the peace of the
country. Now the simple fact was, that I had received a
letter signed by yourself and two other gentlemen to
which you requested an answer. I did not choose to be
guilty of the incivility of declining your request. I wrote


This ,vas my whole ac<i„n, ,„y whole den.o„stra,ion
as you are pleased to call ,,. This letter you thought
proper to publish, and ,t ,s to that pubheatL, that y u
attribute such tremendous results.

I wa^ at a loss whether to consider the whole thin^

article I thought .t due to a becoming self respect to set
«.e read, „, ^,^„^, ^^ ^^ _^^=^^^ ageu'ey .r the

wh w. "",7.^'='^ "'" '" *^' Papera communrcatiou

".hug to let the matter rest, as the readers of the Whi-
had my explanation before them ,n the same paper

But the case is changed when yo„ publish those num-
bers m a pamphlet, without this explanation or any Z-
ftrence to it, and under the sanction of your name the
origina charge fortified and commented on in two' a^
ditional numbers, in a manner to which I will „ appt
the appropriate epithet. ^^^

It is evident that the circulation of the pamphlet under
hese circumstances, ,s calculated to do me great ■ • '/
It affords no clue to the actual facts in the case. I th re
foie ask of you, as an act of simple justice th„ „ n

cause to be added to such of the pUhl^afs alfb: ^
c dated hereafter, an appendix, containing my letter of ^hl
10.1. November, 1845, addressed to Mes rs. idams S. m
ner and yourself, to which you attach s„ch imlt^Z'
ogether with my letter to the Editor of the BoTto rDa dv
VVhig, published in that paper on the 14th of lug t
This will be but the work of a few hours and I Z I
for granted you will see the propriety of k "

i am not disposed to make any comtnent on the person-,!;
.es,n which you have thought proper to indulge,' X he.:
"1 the original or the expurgated edition Thn,
much a matter of tTiie T, .™'"on. 1 hat is very

the facts in the case may be fairly presented before them.
There is nothing in either of the two letters which I ask
you to publish which I wish to retract.

I am sir, your very obedient servant,


To John G. Palfrey, Esq,.

The following are the letters referred to in the foregoing.


Boston, 10 November, 1845.

Gentlemen :

I have received a circular with your signatures, bear-
ing date the 6th inst. asking my aid and cooperation in
the measures taking by the Massachusetts Texas Commit-
tee, and requesting an early answer. AVith this last request
coming from gentlemen for whom I have the highest per-
sonal respect, I feel bound in common courtesy to comply.

I cannot however take part in this Texas movement.
For all practical purposes, so far as the people are concern-
ed I consider the question settled. I have opposed it, and
contributed funds to oppose it, so long as there appeared
to be any chance of preventing it. Massachusetts l:as
done her duty, and her Senators and Representatives will
continue to do theirs. Beyond that I cannot think it good
policy to waste our energies in hopeless efforts upon the

I observe amongst the parties to this movement, a great
number, if not a majority of those who have distinguished
themselves as members of the Abolition Party.

Now I beheve our fathers did wisely in establishing the
umon of the States under the existing constitution. It is
at least questionable whether the Abolition movement is
reconcilable with duty under that constitution. At any
rate that movement as conducted was calculated, in my
opinion to produce and has produced, nothing but evil. It
has banded the South into a solid phalanx in resistance to
What they consider an impertinent and unjustifiable inter-
ference with their own peculiar rights and business. It has
thus exasperated their feelings, and by its operation on
their fears mcreased the severity of the slave laws. It has
postponed the period of emancipation in the more northern
slave states, which were fast ripening for that event.

n/r n^f ''' ^ '''^^ ^''^°" '' ^'^' '^^'''^^ the election
of Mr. Polk, and the admission of Texas into the Union

I cannot sympathize with their cry of -Accursed be the

coT."' r ' r"'' '"^ ''^'''' ^°"^^ ^^ ^^- -"timents
CO ta ned m the documents enclosed to me. I cannot funds to aid in their dissemination.
With much respect, I am, gentlemen,

Your most obedient servant,

rr .T ^- APPLETON.

i Messrs. Charles F. Adams,

John G. Palfrey,

Charles Sumner.

(T/Us letter ,cas sent under cover to Charles Su^nncr; Esq.)


From the Boston Daihj Whig Uth August, 1S46.
To the Editor: —

In tho Daily Wl.ig of 1st inst., I find n,y „„„« repeated through
a column and an half of matter, the whole object of thich pnrporl

to be, to make it appear that tliis humble individual was the cause
of the removal of the United States troops from Corpus Christi to
the Rio Grande, and of course of the war with Mexico.

Heaven bless us ! Is this in joke or in earnest ? Is your face-
tious correspondent indulging his fancy in a playful romance, or in
brooding over the slave power and the evils of slavery has he
himself falle» into bondage to one single idea ? I will not decide*
The article is elaborately written, and has all the air and manner
of sober belief.

But what is the ground work for tliis hypothesis ? In Novem-
ber last three gentlemen addressed to me a written communication,*
with their signatures attached to it. They asked my co-operation
in certain measures relating to the admission of Texas. They
asked me to furnish funds for the circulation of certain printed
addresses and circulars of which they enclosed me copies.

At this time the act admitting Texas into the Union had passed
both houses of Congress and become a law. The only condition
was, that her Constitution should conform to the constitutional

In the mean tune a new Congress had been elected with an
immense majority, as was well known, in favor of the admission of
Texas. Under these circumstances, I considered the attempt to
prevent the aimexation of Texas, by jietition, as futile as would be
the attempt to roll back the current of the Mississippi. I was not
disposed to be a party to it.

Amongst the papers which I was asked to assist in circulating
was an address intended to be sent to every clergyman in the
country, urging them to devote one Sunday at least to the discus-
sion of this political question. I could not think favorably of this
proposal. But the contemptuous manner in which the constitution
of the United States, the bond of our national union, was sneered
at, in one of the circulars, gave me unmingled disgust.

The gentlemen who addressed me the note were personal
friends whom I highly esteemed. They requested me to give
them an answer. In common courtesy I was bound to do so. I
sent them the letter to Avhich your correspondent attaches such
immense importance. I regretted to see my friends playing into
the hands of the disunionists, the party whose political course luid»

'This is not precisely correct, the body of tiie letter was printed, the sig-
natures only were written.


ions. I spoke only for mv.^-lf T . ^^^'^^'^^^ ^7 o^^'" opin-
nrnoH,;.! " -y ;^^ ™yselt. I consulted no one. How then
came tin. dangerous letter, this -t/mnder clap" publishedr tT
parses to ^kor. U ... aUresseci tk.nsares ^jt'dTi, with'
out comment, but M'ithout consulting me at ^11 If ll , '
the immediate cause of the a.^re^ni L "^

publishers as much in fault as rSe^;'it.TT, ''""'; ^'\ "^* "^^
publicitinn Tf, '"'•^ lue Miitei .^ It was not written for

It as a " demonstration" of 3Ir. Annlef n„ "n- 1 *i 'intense

its character ? Were they not aw^e Ifit. f "^ "' '""""

I have not l.n.vo .u ' dangerous tendency ?

to Congress by 780,000 persons ; an effect trnlv T it
contained in faet no other ,alis„,an „t a f« sLlkChf ", ,.

opm,on I have hel.l throngh good and ^hron "l v , Th„U , !

: Id'ti'::;'"""'""'" "-^ ^^-^ ^'^.:^^^^L^x

«7o T ! n ™''' """^"l-'tanding ,he destrue.iye tanff of

»™P^.o those .hieh .».ine..ahi>,trrrnr:;

.ouVre:o:r:tsV;r:r "ir^ ,r r*-

-h dae, to set this .atter L .s .rS helr^rtde^
August 8, 1846.


Boston, Oct. 17th, 1846.


Your note of the 15th instant, reached me through
the Boston Post Office, after some little delay, occasioned
by its being mailed to Cambridge, where I do not send for


I cannot sufficiently express my surprise at the treat-
ment I receive. You have been for years a leader of the
Whig Party, of which I have been an humble but a trust-
ed member. Some of us who last Autumn undertook to
obtain an expression of the freemen of the Common-
wealth on the pending measure of the annexation of
Texas, understood ourselves to be standing precisely on
the Whig platform, as laid down in the Resolves of a suc-
cession of Massachusetts Whig Legislatures. It is now
the opinion of many, that a secession from the ground
taken in those Pvesolves was determined on, in high quar-
ters in Boston, as early as the beginning of last Summer.
As a member of a sub-committee, I signed a large num-
ber of printed circular letters, intended to be addressed to
such as, from their past course, might be expected to favor
the object. The circulars then passed into other hands,
to be so addressed. To one sent to you, you replied in
terms understood to indicate a purpose on your part to put
down the movement, as far as your influence would go,
by heaping a load of undeserved odium on some of those
who were conducting it. Your letter was published by the
Texas State Committee, for reasons which have since been
set forth in an editorial of the Boston Whig ; which
reasons appear to me to be very valid and sufficient. I
had however nothing to do with its publication. In the
presence of others I heard a part of it read by a gentleman
in relations of particular friendship with you, and I took
it to be addressed to him just as another letter on the same


subject was addressed to Mr Adam, r i

"s be,„g i„ answer to one of ,t cTreul. s r r," °" °'
of my having anv Dor.nnM "'""'''"' I had signed, or

til i. met my ey iHl e n """ '""' '' ^''>«^^". •>"-

of .he persons Tdd s 717" "'" "^ "=""^ ^ °-

herore the p,.M,e, s.T^mati ef ^Z;'':: ^f • °*-'


'he hgln. I. pre t taf . T' " "°"" "°' ''^^ ^^^"
tiser and other Zera-^n'r ''''*'''"' '" '^e Adver-
.hey e,ren,ated Z^ll^ ^^Z ''Zn^T'
has gone out over the -lobo T "^^^'^^

vin*cat.on. i suhm,: t ■,?:., or X'asTr J't ^'t ^

~r yTdTLf : " r "-' -• "°" '-™ ^^^^

ietter whfch eon, s t t'" "'™^' " """^'hing in ,he
circulate the n.s . It J;'' ^° ^° '^'^ ^ '^ -k me to
your mind. I lianne. el to '^ ™'"™' P'''™^'°" "^
ocal was your lan^u,!e H ™T' '" ""'''"^''^ =5"'^-
stood as meanitt ,°hTh J°" '"'" ''"^ ^^^" ""''"-

were words that w,/ ""''' ^^""^^'i ''^ ">^ "'"on"
in using. "^ '"' "^Tre-'y '""'^d you to join „s

A."rr;r/t:::t:frTi:aV:»^^" '-'-" -

cation, and never expected to n!,hr , ''•" '" "'"' '''PP''-
»»"er, betng "qu.tecomom" ^"^^^"'^"'°"' "'^

We my cha'ae.e'r ,rtrha" ds :^ C^J^T' ^'"^
course, I was notmsensible to the ,'rdsh n 'r'„ "^ '"^
I undertook last summer to f , ^ ""^ '"'^"""■•
Slave Power to the w". uTf """^ "^^^'^ °» '"«
when I be<.an thern thn 7 , , ^'^ °°' °""''-^'' '° ■"".


War," and, " it is to that publication [the publication of
your letter] that you [Ij attribute such tremendous re-
sults." Pardon me for asking you to give that paragraph
a second reading, and to consider whether it sustains your
remarks. In that number I have spoken of what appeared
to have been understood at Washington of the secession
of yourself and others from the ground hitherto occupied
by the brave Whig party of the North, which party had
hitherto been the chief agent in keeping a profligate ad-
ministration in check in its enormous usurpations upon
right and freedom ; and I have guessed that the adminis-
tration was emboldened in its bad designs by seeing
the party which it dreaded thrown into confusion and dis-
abled in its strong Northern hold. Certainly you do not
think it incredible that the government should be relieved
and encouraged in pursuing a favorite policy by seeing
opposition to it in a formidable quarter enfeebled or aban-

The "demonstration" of yourself and your friends was
of course too important a part of the history to be passed
over. It consisted of whatever you and they said and
did, at that critical time, to discourage and check further
opposition to the annexation of Texas. Your letter was
not the " demonstration," but it was the most salient part
of it known to me, presenting the argument against us in
the most tangible and explicit form ; and as such I referred
to and quoted it. You call upon me to print an account
of the circumstances under which it was published, in or-
der to shew that I have miscalled it by the name of the
" demonstration" of which I speak. But I have not called
it so. On the contrary, I have distinguished between
them. My language is (No. 9.) '' The demonstration of
Mr. Appleton and his friends, whejiever and Jiotcever
else it might have been raade^ was simultaneous with and
vjas apparently occasioned hy,^^ &c. ; and I then refer to
your letter as part of that demonstration of yourself and
those who acted with you. How could I do better?
These were your sentiments, carefully written out under


your hand. Referring to that, I was in no danger of mis_
representing you. I could not refer to any of your letters
not before the public. I could not refer to any of your
conversations, which might have been incorrectly reported.
When you say, " this [the letter] was my whole action^
my whole demonstration," I cannot understand you as in-
tending to declare that you did not express the same sen-
timents in other forms.

You wrote a letter to the Editor of the Whig respect-
ing my remarks, which he published. You did not see
lit to address me upon the subject, though I believe it was
known to you that I was the author of the papers. Pre-
viously to the publication, the editor asked me if I would
make any comments upon it. I declined. I did not and
have not said of it, nor will I, what the Advertiser said of
the comment of my friend on your first letter, that it v/as
"too puerile to deserve publication." But I did not attach
to it any considerable importance. Nor, I was fain to think,
did you. I have it not now by me. But my recollection
cannot be in error as to its being light and sportive in its
tenor and tone, and further, if I remember rightly, in the
unpublished note with which you accompanied it, you
expressed yourself to a great degree indifferent whether it
was published or not, and left it at the disposal of the
friend to whom it was sent.

You now ask me " as an act of simple justice" to pub-
lish it, and by the offensive language with which you ac-
company the request, you of course decline to put it on
any other ground. Were there any alleged misstatement
of a fact, the claim of justice would be good. But such
is not the case now in hand. I do not perceive that there
can be any danger of misapprehension of what I have said
of a demonstration of yourself and your friends. On the
two occasions on which I have referred to your letter
(Nos. 9 and 22, pp. 26 and 77 of the pamphlet,) I have
distinctly said that it was in reply to an application in be-
half of the Texas Committee to you for aid. So far from
intimating that you published it, I have not, I think, any-


where spoken of it as having been published at all. As you
appear however to attach some importance to the point, I
will, should the papers come to a second edition, state that
it was published by the Slate Texas Committee. I may
also publish your letters, though at present I think I shall
not do so. In that case I shall of course accompany them
with this note, or with such other comment as may then
seem to me to be proper.

You speak of '-'personalities." I am not aware that I
have been stung by the bitter personality with which I
was first assailed, into any transgression of the legitimate
freedom of discussion of the course of men exerting great
influence on public affairs. As to unworthy personalities,
I will try patiently to bear, but I do not intend to deal in
them. In connexion with my humble name, I have with-
in a few weeks heard not a few such, with which I am
told " all State Street rings from side to side." You have
perhaps seen the Atlas of three or four days ago. Did I
ever use a personality like that, of any man of any fair
standing ? But I let it go, " content to leave my charac-
ter in the hands of the public."

I do not allow myself to be pained by your overbearing
language. It is best that we should understand one
another. I am not to be so overborne. Doubtless in sta-
tion and influence you have greatly the advantage of me.
But I, as much as yourself, am a freeman of Massachu-
setts, in the enjoyment as yet of political privileges, in-
herited from ancestors who did their full part in winning
them, and which, please God, I will do my best to se-
cure for their posterity and mine. Nothing, I think, will
stay me from doing what I judge I ought to do, in duty
to them and to my country

I am sir, your obedient servant.


Hon. N. Appleton.



Deak Sir : ^"'^°^' ^^^^^ ^cx. 1846.

Yours of the 1 7th reached me on the 20th in.f

.a^ r;-:rzsr:;: -
f.m>,sh,„g your readers wi.h a co,feet sta.ement'f.T'
grounds on which that opinion was f^Led ' "' "'
Your answer of ten pages introduees a number of new
ssues, some of w,>,oh appear to nre wholly "rre evant I

m paidon me for passing over very summarrly.

ieaI™ft:wL^";;;^.'''" "'^'-'^ ^ - 'oryearsa
uu >vmgpaity —an assert on howevpr fl^t^o

known or heard of my interferencl 7T \ . """""

consu ted about flinm ^r /> . ' ^^ ^ °^6"

no. have app^ved "' °"""" ' P-^ably should

You then refer to mv letter nf Inct m

were the Texas movem m That t::.;:
"- yourself wUh others, st,gmat.ed hy X^r^


imputation under (my) hand of disloyalty to the Union" —
and that you consider my request to you to publish that
letter, as asking you "to circulate the insult anew."

I must be strangely incapable of using language suited
to convey my meaning or to express my feelings, if there
is the slighest ground for these charges — I had no idea of
heaping odium on any one, nor of saying a word disre-
spectful or offensive to you, or either of the gentlemen
who sent me the letter which I was answering. My ob-
liquity of vision continues, and I cannot with all the light
you throw upon it, perceive how I could, with these feel-
ings have expressed myself more cautiously and carefully.

I had lately seen in the book called the " Liberty Bell"
printed for the Anti-Slavery Fair of 1845, an article in
which the phrase, " Accursed he the Union " was many
times repeated in a manner giving me a disgust bordering
upon horror.

The name of the writer was attached to it, and I ob-
served that name amongst the signers of the address which
1 was asked to furnish funds to circulate, together with
those of many others, who from their connection with
that Society, I had reason to suppose approved of that
sentiment. It was in reference to this circumstance that
after having referred to the political action of the "Aboli-
tion party " I used the folloAving language. " I cannot
sympathise with their cry of ' accursed be the Union,'
and I cannot but regret some of the sentiments contained
in the documents enclosed to me. I cannot furnish funds
to aid in their circulation."

How you can construe this as casting "undeserved odi-
um" on those whose own sentiment I quoted in their own
words, or as imputing "disloyalty to the Union" to your-
self, is past my comprehension — I did not then believe,
nor did I intimate, that you and some others whose names
I regretted to see attached to that address, did sympathise
with that cry — But I thought the following expression
came somewhat too near it for me — " Be it that the
United States Constitution nullifies our consciences and


religion,''^ — which certainly to me sounds rather odd from
the lips of those who liave sworn to support that Consti-
ution. Neither as matter of fact or of taste could I assist in
circulating the following — " Remember the Bowie Knife
horrors between the whites themselves with which the whole
South teems.'^ These quotations are only samples. I am
bound in charity to believe, as I certainly hope, that some
of those who sianed that address did so without reading it.

You seem desirous, by violent special pleading, to avoid
the application of your expression, " the demonstration of
Mr. Appleton and his friends" to the simple fact of the
publication of that letter, made by yourself and your asso-

You intimate that I might have said the same thing in
conversation, and that the letter might have seen the
light through my agency. I do not perceive the perti-
nency of these suggestions, but for your satisfaction will
assure you that I never had the slightest idea of publish-
ing it myself I never had any agency in its republica-
tion or circulation. And I have no recollection, in the
numerous instances in which it was mentioned to me, of
ever being called on to make any explanationof it. Cer-
tainly, I never heard of its casting any unjust imputation
on any one. I wish you at the same time to understand
that I never made any complaint on account of its publica-
tion. It was unexpected to me, but I never complained of it.

You refer to my letter to the Editor of the Whig, and
would seem to imply, that it ought to have been addressed
to yourself. I should have thought it indelicate to do so
as your article was anonymous, even had I not considered
the intimation made to me, of its authorship, private.

It is true that letter was written in perfect good humor
and I make no objection to the character you give it, as
" light and sportive in its tenor and tone." At the time
I wrote it, I had not seen your No. 11, and was not aware
of the tremendous personal consequences which you de-
duced from my letter of November.

Our social relations had always been friendly. On


readin- that number I found myself fallen very low m
your esteem. Regret it as I might, of this I had no
right to complain-but I thought it somewhat unkuid to
publish it to the world. I regretted on your own account
tlie comments with which you thought proper to accom-
pany this annunciation in your original publication, and
fn its amended form, I cannot but think the expression
uMr Appleton's position is not favorable to elevated
views of public policy," any thing but complimentary to
the whole mercantile community, as embraced m the same


Online LibraryJohn Gorham PalfreyCorrespondence between Nathan Appleton and John G. Palfrey intended as a supplement to Mr. Palfrey's pamphlet on slave power → online text (page 1 of 2)