Washington, DC to Lowell, Massachusetts: 1836. Envelope or Cover. This four-page stampless letter measures 15.75” x 10” unfolded. It is dated “Feb 17th 1836” and bears a red circular “City of Washington” postmark dated “Feb 18” with a manuscript “25” rate marking, the cost to mail a letter a distance of over 400 miles. The letter is in nice shape. Transcript provided.
In this letter, Robinson, a former Massachusetts state representative and senator, describes three days spent observing Congress to his friend, Dr. Bartlett, a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Although appalled, he also thinks it “fine sport” for the opposition to berate President Jackson and Vice-President Van Buren.
Of note, he reports Representative (and future Virginia Governor) Henry A. Wise rising to first propose the “Gag Rule” that eventually would ‘table’ all slavery petitions, preventing them from being read in the House.
More significantly, he provides a transcription of a fiery anti-Jacksonian speech by John Calhoun.
“I attended . . . the House on Monday, and there was more confusion, calls to order, stupid & silly speeches on points of order and gross personalities than I ever witnessed in the Mass H. R. . .. The Van Buren party . . . as a body . . . are a very light concern. The speaker appears to be a pretty fair sort of a man, but you have no idea of the utter contempt that is manifested towards him by many members of the opposition party. On Monday Mr Wise of Va. in the course of the debate on a motion not to receive an Antislavery memorial, made a more furious attack upon the administration than I ever heard in a Lowell caucus There was not much eloquence or civility displayed on the occasion, but it was evident that the whole Southern feeling was aroused. . .. I spent yesterday & today . . . in the Senate chamber. There sits Van Buren with his whiskers trimmed up. . .. Calhoun looks like a tiger just ready to break loose and devour every thing in his way. He is terribly savage. . .. He rose in considerable agitation & addressing himself to the Vice President said ‘Sir, I meant to be understood that there is now a great contest between the advocates of arbitrary power & the friends of Liberty. The president has nominated his successor. The post office & the press are in the hands of the advocates of arbitrary power. My letters are opened before I receive them. This is the only avenue we have to the ears of the people. . ..’ His speech was the most savage I ever heard in my life. . .. ‘There is a storm ahead, Sir. I see it The South are becoming united. They put Gen. Jackson into office. They couldn’t put him out, for they were divided. Gen Jackson . . . had done the state some service, but he was audacious, he did not keep his word. He has nominated his successor. . .. His nominee has none of the lion or the tiger. He belongs to a different class of animals to the fox to the weasel. We of the South put down the last administration. We did it up in fine style. We put Gen Jackson in, but we shall not put in his nominee. We shall put him out. We shall do it, Sir.’ . .. The Van Buren men say such things ought not to be tolerated. But I think it is fine sport." Very good. Item #009441
A marvelous first-hand account by a Whig politician who clearly enjoyed the invective heaped upon the Jacksonians by renegade Southern Democrats led by the firebrand, Senator John C. Calhoun.