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8. First fleet and celebration.

9. The route.

10. Opposition to canal.

11. The lateral canals.

12. Advantages derived from.

The State Constitutiox of 1821

Population of New York in 1820. — The popula-
tion of the State had now risen to 1,400,000, ot whom
40,000 were colored, and 10,000 of these were slaves.
This was an increase of 413,000 in ten years, largely
due to the fact that a great proportion of the immi-
grants entered at Xew York city and consequently re-
mained in the State. These, for the most part, made
desirable citizens.

The prisons. — Xot all the conditions in Xew York
State were favorable. Among the relics of a by-gone
age, imprisonment for debt still remained.

In Xew York city alone, 1,984 debtors were im-
prisoned in the year 1817, and more than 1,000 of
these for debts under the sum of fifty dollars. Xor
was this all. The condition of the prisons everywhere
was shocking to the last degree. A committee from
the Humane Society found, among other evils, seventy-
two women, sentenced for all sorts of crimes, confined
in one room. The condition of the men's department
was even worse. Sometimes the doors closed on a man
and he was forgotten, — remaining a prisoner for years.

The governor once reported that the prisons ivere so
full he had been obliged to pardon some of the oldest offend-
ers to make room for others^. Xor were these conditions

*See McMaster, Vol. IV.

376 Origin of the Mormons [Period IX

exceptional. They existed everywhere. At that time
the " Humane Societies " were beginning to seek means
for prison reform *.

Origin of the Mormons. — In the year 1819, there
lived in the town of Manchester, Ontario county, one
Joseph Smith who early in life began to exhibit pecul-
iar traits of character. His education was meagre; he
was visionary, fanatical in religious matters, and of
not untarnished moral reputation. When about eigh-
teen, he claimed to have supernatural visions and angel
visitors. One of these visitors, according to his ac-
count, told him where were buried certain ancient rec-
ords of the original inhabitants of America, with their
principles of government. They were to be found
near the top of a hill now known as Mormon Hill f, in
the town of Palmyra. These records Smith finally
obtained and translated into poor English.

This Book of Mormon was first published in Pal-
myra in 1830, and in that vicinity the first converts to
the new faith were made.

There have been doubters who claimed that the
Book of Mormon was written by one Solomon Spauld-
ing of Cherry Valley, and that it was stolen and copied
by Sidney Rigdon, a printer and convert. The original
"Book" has been considerably improved upon since
its first appearance.

The story of the emigration of the Mormons to Ohio,
to Xauvoo, Illinois, their persecutions, and their subse-

* The act abolishing imprisonment for debt was
passed by the legislature of Xew York April 26, 1831.

fFor picture of Morman Hill, see Bardeen's Geog-
raphy of the Empire State, page 79.

1820] '^The Bucktails" 377

quent removal to Utah, where they have several times
threatened to disturb the peace of the republic, — all
within the memory of men still living, — reads like a
fanciful tale.

New York politics in 1820. — A new element, led
by the " Tammany society ", now entered into politics
and attempted to defeat the re-election of Governor
DeWitt Clinton. They were called " Bucktails ''*.
Their leader was Martin Van Buren and their professed
object was to save the State from the " certain bank-
ruptcy " into which Mr. Clinton was leading it.

The new party issued an address calling themselves
ex-federalists, stating that the federalist party being
now defunct, they proposed to join the great " demo-
cratic party". This was signed by fifty well-known
opponents of Mr. Clinton, and they put in nomination
for governor, Daniel D. Tompkins, then vice-president.
The vote was large, — Mr. Clinton receiving 47,447
votes; Mr. Tompkins 45,990.

When great interests are at stake, when any danger
threatens State or nation, the American people prove
their loyalty to honest measures and constitutional
government. At other times they often seem merely
to play at a game which they call " politics ".

(jovernmeiit interference in State politics,

1821. — In his message to the legislature (1821) Gov-
ernor Clinton urged a change in the State constitution,
which would take the choice of presidential electors
from the legislature and give it to the people, while at

* So called from their wearing, in processions, etc.,
the tail of a deer in their hats.

378 Constitutional Revision OF 1821 [PeriodIX

the same time he vigorously denounced the use of
federal patronage to influence State elections.

The charge brought a storm of wrath from the men
who had been engaged in this practice. They, in turn,
charged Mr. Clinton with attempting "to sever the
relations of allegience and good feeling between the
general government and the State of New York ".

Mr. Clinton replied by producing a mass of evidence,
including a letter from Mr. Van Buren, asking for the
removal of certain postmasters " to alarm the Clin-
tonians in office ". The legislature responded by elect-
ing Van Buren to the United States Senate, thereby
defeating the governor's proposition. They did, how-
ever, allow a convention to revise the old constitution
made in 1777.

Constitutional revision of 1821. — A special elec-
tion for delegates to a constitutional convention was
held in April, 1821, and in the following August those
delegates assembled at the capitol in Albany. This
convention was in session until November, and was
presided o^er by Daniel D. Tompkins.

The first constitution had been an experiment, and
many of its defects were now plainly seen. Its framers
had intended to lay a broad foundation in a constitu-
tion which should secure to every citizen all the rights
to which, as a citizen, he was entitled ; yet they had
been so warned of the dangers that lurked under a
free ballot that they hedged in the privileges of the
elective franchise by so many safe-guards as practically
to deprive many citizens of its benefits. To vote for
governor, lieutenant-governor, or senators, a man must
be a freeholder to the value of £100, above all debts

1821] Changes Made 379

charged thereon. To vote for members of assem.bly,
he must own a freehold of £20 or pay an annual rent
of forty shillings; yet persons who were freemen in
the cities of Albany and Xew York could vote for
members of assembly without property qualifications.
Changes by the revision. — 1. The constitution of
1821 extended the franchise to all white male citizens,
of the age of 21 years who had paid taxes within the year
or were exempt from taxation ; but colored persons were
not allowed to vote unless they possessed a freehold
worth 1250 above all debts and incumbrances thereon.

2. The council of revision was abolished and its
powers were transferred to the governor.

3. The council of appointment, which had become
a gigantic institution, — in 1821 controlling 6,000 ap-
pointments in the civil list and 8,000 in the military,
— was abolished, and its powers divided between the
governor and senate and the two houses in joint session.

4. The entire judiciary of the State was made ap-
pointive, even to justices of the peace.

5. The establishment of new lotteries was prohib-
ited, and those in existence* were regulated and their
extinction provided for.

6. The time of holding general elections was changed
from xipril to November.

7. Provision was made for a constitutional revision
once in twenty years, and for amendments to the con-
stitution at any time by a two-thirds vote of the legis -
lature, after which all amendments were to be sub-
mitted to the people.

* For the benefit of schools.

380 The Albany Regency [Period IX

8. The terra of the governor's office was changed
from three to two years.

These amendments were ratified February, 1822.

The Albany regency. — At the time of the adop-
tion of the new constitution in 1822, the politics of
New York came into the hands of a group of men,
who on account of their almost absolute control of
State affairs were known as "the Albany regency".
Of this combination Mr. Van Buren was the recog-
nized leader. Among its members were AVilliam L.
Marcy, State comptroller, Samuel L. Talcott, attor-
ney-general, Benjamin Knower, treasurer, and Edwin
Crosswell of the " Argus", State printer.

To this powerful combination should be added, Silas
Wright, Azariah C. FJagg, John A. Dix, James Por-
ter, Thomas W. Olcott, and Charles E. Dudley. It is
probable that no party in this country ever had a more
powerful leadership.

Governor Clinton became entirely powerless in the
face of such a combination, and at the end of his
term, 1822, by the advice of his friends he declined
a re-nomination.

New York under the revised constitution.— In
1822 the first Xovember election occurred. This was dur-
ing Mr. Monroe's second term as president, — the period
so often referred to as "the era of good feeling".
After years of war and waste, times were improving
and everywhere the people were inclined to give the
general government a fair chance. Old parties and
party lines had nearly disappeared. Federalists and
anti-federalists, republicans, democrats, Clintonians,

1822] The People's Party 381

and bucktails laid aside their differences and united in

electing Joseph C. Yates

governor. At the meeting

of the legislature in 1823

the State government was

organized under the new

constitution. John Savage

was made chief -justice of

the supreme court; Nathan

Sanford was appointed chan-

josEPH c. Yates. 1768-1837 ccllor ; J. Van Xcss Yatos,

Governor. 1823-24 secretary of state ; W. L.

Marcy, comptroller; S. A. Tallcott, attorney-general;

and Simeon DeWitt, surveyor-general *.

People's party. — The question of submitting the
choice of presidential electors to the people was the
leading issue in the November elections of 1823. The
refusal of the legislature to give this power to the
people resulted in the formation of the "people's
party", which in 1824, succeeded in carrying a num-
ber of the counties.

This legislature removed DeWitt Clinton from the
office of canal commissioner, an act so evidently parti-
san that it caused great indignation throughout the

The result was his re-nomination and triumphant
election in the following year (1824) to the office of
governor, — a just recognition of his services to his
State and country.

'''This office Mr. DeWitt held nearly fifty years. To
him the State is indebted for the long list of classical
names given to its interior towns.

382 Visit of Lafayette [Period IX

Visit of Lafayette, 1824.— The year 1824 is
memorable for the visit of the illustrious Lafayette to
our State and country. He came by invitation of the
United States government, and landed in New York
city Aug. 15 amid the ringing of bells, the salutes of
artillery and the shouts of the people.

In his course through the State he was everywhere
received with manifestations of affection, and on his
departure from the country a magnificent ovation was
again given him in the metropolis.

Questions settled. — Among the matters brought to
a successful issue by Governor Clinton during his last
term of office were the* following.

The people were at last allowed by ballot to select
their own method of choosing presidential electors.
They voted (1825) in favor of the " district plan ",
one elector from each congressional district, the men
thus selected choosing two additional electors. By
this means, the vote of the State would very naturally
be divided, as it was, subsequently, in 1828.

In the next year, 1826, two other questions were
submitted to the people.

1. A proposition to allow justices of the peace to be
chosen by the towns in which they served. Against
this, only 1,663 votes were cast in the whole State.

2. The extension of the elective franchise, by re-
moving all property qualifications, except the one of
$250 required for colored voters. This was also carried
by a large majority.


1. Eeasons for rapid growth of population, 1820.

1824] Summary 383

2. Early prisons; conditions of; efforts for improve-

3. New York politics in 1820.

4. First government interference with State politics.

5. Constitutional revision of 1821; changes made.

6. The "Albany regency"; leaders; power of.

7. A quiet election, 1822; reasons for.

8. The people's party; origin.

9. War on Mr. Clinton, 1823; result of, 1821.

10. Visit of Lafayette, 1824.

11. Presidential electors ; methods of choosing, 1826.

12. Justices of the peace and elective franchise, 1826.


Political Parties

^^ The Morgan affair". — There was living in
Batavia, in 1826, one William Morgan, a Free Mason,
who on account of some personal difficnlty announced
his intention to publish a pamphlet exposing the
secrets of free-masonry.

Many contradictory stories of what followed have
been reported; the exact facts will probably never
be known.

It is told that he was arrested on a charge of larceny
made by the master of a masonic lodge ; but on trial
was pronounced " not guilty" and was discharged, to
be immediately imprisoned for debt at Canandaigua.
From that jail he disappeared. Masons were charged
with abducting and drowning him in Niagara river.
Thurlow Weed, then an editor in Rochester, under-
took to fasten the crime on
the masons.

A body was found in the
river which was claimed to
be that of Morgan, and Weed
was accused of mutilating
this to make it resemble the
abducted man. The crime
was then charged to the anti-

ThUKLOW W'KEU, 1797-1882 rni rv • 1 1 Ti* 1

The aiiair took a political


1825] Death of Daniel D. Tompkins 385

turn, and spread to other States. The anti-masonic
movement was led by some of the most aspiring politi-
cal men of the time.

New York and iiatioual polities. — Xever in the
history of the country were politics more complicated
than in the campaign of 1824. Governor Clinton was
at the height of his popularity, and was Xew York's
choice for the presidency, but he declined to consider
the nomination. There were five candidates in the
field. The vote of New York was divided — thirty of
her electors voting for General Jackson, and sixteen

John Quincy Adams, 1769-1848 Axdkew Jai kson. 1767-1845

President. 1825-29 President. 1829-37

for John Quincy Adams. The electoral college failing
to make a choice, the election went to the house of
representatives, and Mr. Adams was declared president.
Death of Daniel D. Tompkins, 1825.— Daniel D.
Tompkins had served his State and country long and
well, but his last days were clouded with suspicion.
During his administration, while the finances of both
State and nation were being taxed to their utmost.
Governor Tompkins had taken grave responsibilities
which his enemies used to his injury.

386 Death of DeWitt Clintoi^ [Period IX

Broken in health and spirit, and charged with being
a debtor to the State in the sum of more than $100,-
000, he died June 11, 1825.

Posterity has been more just to him than his con-
temporaries. Years after his death it was found that
the State was debtor to him for $92,000. Justice
came late, but it exonerated the memory of a man who
in life was the victim of unrelenting partisan hate.

Death of DeWitt Clinton.— DeAYitt Clinton was
for the last time elected governor in 1826. The wis-
dom of his policy of internal improvements had been
fully demonstrated; his bitterest enemies conceded his
ability. In the second year of his term, in his own
home, surrounded by his family he died, February 11,
1828, without an hour's illness.

The voice of criticism was hushed. Men reviewed
his life, recognized its worth and mourned his loss.

The purity of his private character was never ques-
tioned, and after his long term of 33 years in the public
service, at the very summit of his popularity, he died
poor. The State, in recognition of his worth and dis-
tinguished public service provided for his minor chil-
dren by voting to them $8,000, — the salary for the time
their father had served as canal commissioner without

It has often been said that DeWitt Clinton loved
New York as no other man ever loved it. His critics
are already forgotten, but the passage of the years has
only added fresh lustre to his name.

The remainder of Mr. Clinton's term was tilled by
Lieutenant-Governor Pitcher.


The State Baxks


Martin Van Burex. 1782-1862
Governor. 1828-29
President. 1837-41

Martin Van Buren^ governor; Andrew Jack-
son^ president^ 1828. —

Again occurred at the same
time, the election of gover-
nor of ^ew York and pres-
ident of the United States.
Martin Van Buren was at
this time the most skilful
political leader in the State,
and he threw the whole
weight of his influence for
General Jackson, — the hero
of Xew Orleans — carried
New York for him, and was himself elected governor.
In his first message to the legislature (1829) Gover-
nor Van Buren advised the establishment of a safety-
fund for the redemption of notes of the State banks,
and liberal appropriations for education.

He also proposed a change in the method of choos-
ing presidential electors. The district plan of 1825
had proved unsatisfactory. By act of legislature passed
April 15, 1829, the present system, — by one general
State ticket, — was adopted.

State banks ; the safety fund. — The banks of the
State, until the passage of the free-banking law of
1838, were part of a gigantic monopoly. iS^o charters
could be granted except by a vote of two-thirds of
both houses of the legislature. The State banks were
very profitable, and the stock was distributed to politi-
cal favorites as a reward for services rendered.

388 The Worki:i^gmen's Party [Period IX

By recomraendation of Governor Van Buren the
legislature established a safety fund, each bank con-
tributing a percentage as a guarantee of the redemp-
tion of the notes of all.

Though the system was by no means perfect, to this
law was largely due the fact
N that bills of New York State
banks were for a number of
years preferred to those from
any other State.

In March, 1829, Mr. Van
Buren accepted the position
of secretary of state, under
President Jackson. Lieuten-
ant-Governor Throop a s -

Enos Thompson Throop, 1784-1874

Governor, 1829-33 sumed tnc office of gover-

nor, and was elected to that office in 1830.

Silas Wright, Thurlow Weed, William H.
Seward. — Three men who were destined to exert a
wide influence on the affairs of Xew York came into
prominence at this time. Silas Wright was born in
Massachusetts in 1795 ; Thurlow Weed in Xew York
in 1797; and William H. Seward in Xew York in 1801.

This trio of sagacious, far-seeing politicians had
much to do with Xew York history in the next thirty
years ; Mr. Wright as a financier, Mr. Weed as a jour-
nalist, Mr. Seward as a public speaker and statesman.

The woriiingmen's party. — Until 1830 New York
city had really governed the State, but now the rapid
growth of the interior towns began to demand recogni-

1830] The Whig Party 389

tion in politics, and those in public affairs were learn-
ing that they could not reckon without the people in
the smaller towns and rural districts.

A " workingmen's party" was now formed, which
in its platform declared that the laboring people did not
receive their share of public offices. Politicians flocked
into this new party and soon controlled it. Manu-
facturers and farmers demanded recognition. Con-
gress was asked to protect certain industries by suffi-
cient duties on imports. New York had become an
agricultural State, and slavery was everywhere regarded
as an enemy of free labor.

The anti-slavery feeling was growing, and so gradu-
ally one question after another crept in to disturb
what had become known as " Knickerbocker rule " in
the State.

The whig party had its birth in Xew York in
1832. James Watson Webb, editor of the "Xew
York Courier and Enquirer", while in attendance up-
on the anti-masonic convention which nominated AVil-
liam AVirt for president, in a letter to his paper pro-
posed the union of all President Jackson's opponents.
He claimed that the president was guilty of every sort
of usurpation, and speaking of Jackson's supporters
said, " They are tories; we, therefore, who oppose him
are whigs "*. For many years the name was used to
designate the opposition to the democratic party.

* A reference to English politics during the Ameri-
can revolution.


Governor William L. Marcy [Period IX

William Learned Marcy. 17
Governor, 1833-39

William L. Marcy^ governor.— In 1835i William
L. Marcy resigned his seat
in the United States senate,
to become governor of New
York*. He was a man of
wide education, experienced
in public affairs, and eminent
in his profession as a law-
yer. He was twice re-elected
to the office of governor.

With New York's " favor-
ite son" in President Jack-
son's cabinet, and Mr. Marcy governor, it was evident
that the State would be "kept in line" for Jackson
in his fight already begun against the United States

This was made doubly certain, when in 1831, Mr.

Van Buren having been
appointed Minister to Eng-
land during the summer re-
cess, and having gone prop-
erly accredited to the Court
of St. James, the senate,
under the leadership of
Henry Clay, refused to con-
firm him.

When Mr. Van Buren re-
henry ('lay. 1777-1852 tumed to liis home a pri-

vate citizen, by the "malice" of the whig majority
the United States senate, a wave of indignation swept

* His place in the senate was filled by Silas Wright.

1832] Summary 391

over the State. Indeed, no more impolitic course
could have been taken. Mr. Van Buren's friends
carried the State for Jackson in 1832, and trium-
phantly elected their "favorite" to the presidency
four years later.


1. "Morgan affair", 1826.

2. Xew York politics, 1824.

3. Death of Governor Tompkins, 1825.

4. Death of Governor DeWitt Clinton, 1828; his
character and services.

5. Martin Van Buren governor, 1828; bank plans.

6. I^ature of early banks.

7. Silas AY right, Thurlow Weed, AVilliam H. Sew-

8. N"ew parties, workingmen's; whigs, tories.

9. Knickerbocker rule in the State.

10. Mr. Van Buren minister to England; his rejec-
tion and the result.

The Pa^^ic of 1.S37

The United States bank. — This institution was
founded with a capital of 35 millions, and it held a
deposit of public funds to the amount of 7 millions.

Its circulation was 12 millions and its annual dis-
counts amounted to 40 millions. Its charter would
expire in 1836 and its renewal had been requested.
New York instructed her representatives to vote
against this. The bill passed, but was vetoed by Presi-
dent Jackson. The ground of his attack on the bank
was variously stated. His friends said it was a politi-
cal machine and was " unsound " ; his enemies insisted
that his opposition grew out of a personal quarrel.

The president determined to aholish the bank but
he first secured an investigation into its affairs. The
house of representatives expressed its confidence in
the bank by a vote of 109 to 46.

There was a peculiar provision of law requiring that
the United States funds should be deposited in this
bank " itnless the secretary of the treasury should otherwise
determine ' ' .

The president placed William Duane of Philadelphia
in the treasury department for the purpose of diverting
the deposits to other institutions. Duane refused to
do as he was expected; he was therefore removed, and
Roger B. Taney was transferred from the attorney-


1833] U^N^iTED States Deposit F\j:sb 393

general's office to that of secretary of the treasury.
He ordered the removal of the funds. By this arrange-
ment, all payments were made from the bank, but all
deposits were made elsewhere in certain selected State
banks, thereafter known as ^^ Pet banks ^\ By this
means the funds were soon all removed from the United
States bank *.

United States deposit fund, 1832.— The United
States had now no debt, and the revenues were in
excess of expenses. The question was, what shall be
done with the surplus ?

In June, 1836, a bill passed congress by which the

Online LibraryWilliam Reed PrenticeHistory of New York state (Volume 1) → online text (page 21 of 34)