An autograph letter signed by Samuel D. Ingham to John Branch about Sam Houston’s bludgeoning of an anti-Jackson Congressman. Samuel D. Ingham.
An autograph letter signed by Samuel D. Ingham to John Branch about Sam Houston’s bludgeoning of an anti-Jackson Congressman
An autograph letter signed by Samuel D. Ingham to John Branch about Sam Houston’s bludgeoning of an anti-Jackson Congressman

An autograph letter signed by Samuel D. Ingham to John Branch about Sam Houston’s bludgeoning of an anti-Jackson Congressman

Probably Washington, DC to Tallahassee, Florida: 1832. Disbound. This one-page stampless folded letter measures 15.5” x 13” unfolded. It was signed by Samuel Ingham on “15 Apr ‘32” and sent to John Branch in Tallahassee, Florida. It was probably privately carried, perhaps by Ingham himself, to Norfolk, Virginia where is was dispatched by coastal steamer to Florida. It bears a red circular Norfolk, Va postmark dated April 19 along with red “STEAM” and “FREE” handstamps. (Branch was a Congressman at the time, and mail sent to him required no postage.) Branch had departed for Washington, DC by the time the letter arrived, so it was forwarded to him in Washington, DC. At that time, the cover received a manuscript “forwarded” marking and a scarce oval Tallahassee postmark with a “high a” in Fla. (See p53, ASCC.). Very good. Item #009439

Ingham and Branch had both been strong supporters of Andrew Jackson and members of his cabinet; Ingham was the Secretary of the Treasury and Branch, the Secretary of the Navy.

Both men, whose wives had been leaders along with Floride Calhoun in the “Pettycoat Affair,” were forced to resign by Jackson who believed them to be in league with John C. Calhoun—a former Jackson loyalist and his Vice-President- who had split with Jackson over the “Tariff of Abominations” and “Nullification Crisis.” (The Pettycoat Affair was a major scandal in which nearly all of Jackson’s cabinet members and their wives ostracized Secretary of War John Eaton and his wife.)

Following their resignations, Ingham involved himself with coal mining, paper manufacturing, and the organization of a railroad; Branch became a member of the House of Representatives from Florida.

In this letter, Ingham provides Branch with the details of Sam Houston’s infamous bludgeoning of Ohio Representative William Stanberry and then despairs that Jackson’s protégé, Martin Van Buren, would succeed him as President:

“You will have heard by the papers that the ‘hand of force’ is being introduced here – Stanberry had made some allegasion to the Indian contract – Sam Houston wrote to him demanding to know whether he avowed the remarks reported in the papers – S wrote in his answer that he was not responsible any where else for what he s’d in the house. he was not disposed & there was no obligation on him to avow or disavow – Houston it seems had threatened violence and had been on the look out for him and on Friday evening after dark standing talking with Buckner of Mo. opposite S.s lodgings he saw S coming across the St. when very close he accosted him and with a blow from a heavy bludgeon brought him to the ground and repeated his blows until till S. was quite disabled four of the bones of his left hand broken S. had a pistol in his pocket but could not use it – yesterday the matter was bro’t before the House for breech of Privilege and after a long debate 140 to 26 voted to arrest Houston, who is now in custody to be arraigned at the Bar tomorrow and interrogated &c. &c. – Tis said that H. had sworn that he w’d kill Duff Green and Prentis before he returned. . .. So it goes – V.B. no doubt will be nominated in Baltimore and for want of an opponent in the states he may be elected – think of this“

Sam Houston, a Tennessee politician and ally of Jackson who would later become the first President of Texas, had traveled to Washington in the spring of 1832 as an emissary of the Cherokee Nation to assist in negotiating several tribal issues. While there, a discussion of the Indian Removal Act took place in the House of Representatives during which William Stanberry, an enemy of Jackson, accused Houston of colluding with Jackson to obtain a contract to provide rations to the Cherokee. As Ingham reports, Houston took extreme offense and attempted to challenge Stanberry to a duel. When Stanberry ignored and then curtly dismissed them, Houston waited to ambush Stanberry outside of his lodging at Mrs. Queen’s boarding house on Pennsylvania Avenue. In the dark, he approached the Congressman and asked, “Are you Mr. Stanberry?” When Stanberry replied that he was, Houston shouted, “Then you are a damned rascal” and began beating the Congressman with a heavy walking cane. In defense, Stanberry drew a pistol from his coat, pressed it to Houston’s chest, and pulled the trigger. The gun misfired, after which Houston continued to beat Stansberry senseless. When Houston’s case was tried in court, he was defended by Francis Scott Key. Although Houston was found guilty, Key was able to limit his punishment to a mere $500 fine. Houston’s U.S. political career, however, was destroyed, and shortly thereafter, he emigrated to Texas.

The turmoil, however, did not end for Ingham, Branch, and Duff Green (who Ingham mentioned in the letter). Green was the editor of the United States Telegraph, the principal newspaper promoting Andrew Jackson’s campaign for President and later in supporting his administration until the schism with Calhoun occurred. Then, after a severe beating by one of Jackson’s congressional supporters, Green became even more vehemently anti-Jackson and published an article summarizing the Pettycoat Affair. In it he identified Ingham and Branch as principals in fomenting the Eatons' shunning. Eaton, then, repeatedly challenged Ingham to a duel. After Ingham refused, Eaton and some friends threatened him, stalked him, and hovered ominously around his house each evening. Ingham, in turn, hired a team of bodyguards and informed President Jackson, who in an attempt to avoid further controversy, silenced Eaton.

For more information, see Marzalek’s The Pettycoat Affair: Manners, Mutiny and Sex in Andrew Jackson’s Whitehouse and “Houston, Sam” in Hatch’s Encyclopedia of the Alamo and Texas.

A unique and remarkable letter between formerly loyal supporters who abandoned President Jackson for John Calhoun and were fired from their cabinet positions during the Pettycoat Affair, describing Samuel Houston’s infamous attack upon an anti-Jackson Congressman that ended his career in U.S. politics but led directly to his new life in Texas.

Price: $1,250.00

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