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to call out a single man to defend the invaded territory and habitations of an adjoining State,—on the unworthy position that the militia could not be required to pass beyond the boundary lines of those States of which they were citizens.
During the four years passed by Mr. Wright in college, the number of the class to which he belonged averaged about thirty. Then, as now, every student was a politician, and called himself either a Federalist or Democrat. Of the latter there were in this class only four, of whom it will readily be conceived that young Wright was one of the most ardent. His politics were never better known than at this period of his life. In October, 1815, he commenced the study of the law with Mr. Martindale, who resided at Sandy Hill, Washington county, New York, where he remained about eighteen months; when he removed to the office of Roger Skinner, Esq., which presented superior opportunities for acquiring a knowledge of the details of business, as he was at that time the attorney of the United States for the northern district of that State.
In January, 1819, Mr. Wright completed his preparatory legal studies, and was licensed to practice as an attorney of the Supreme Court of New York. His health being impaired by intense application to his books and at his desk, he spent the ensuing summer in travelling on horseback for its restoration, and with the view of selecting a place where he might settle himself permanently.
In October, 1819, he removed to Canton, in the county of St. Lawrence, and opened an office. The village was new, and the business in the courts both limited and unprofitable, so that the young lawyer made but little by his practice. His father was able to advance him only two hundred dollars to "start with," with one half of which he purchased a few books, while the other half served for a time to assist him to meet his immediate necessities.
We can easily imagine how forlorn must have been the situation of young Wright, in this the commencement of his professional career-without property or any relatives or friends near him, and surrounded by strangers-and when he saw that he must rely solely on his own efforts and merits to sustain himself. Yet we do not doubt, could the truth be known, that in this trying crisis he found precious consolation in the conviction that he must rise by the force of his abilities to distinction. It is this early suffering and training that prepare men of great talents to make their way good up the steep and rugged ascents of fame.
Finding that his small means were rapidly wasting away, Mr. Wright consented to accept the office of village postmaster, the emoluments being equal perhaps to one or two dollars a week. Here he had full opportunity to manifest that naturally kind and obliging disposition, of which, wherever his subsequent course of
life has led him, he appears to have equally every where left the most pleasing impression.
After some time Mr. Wright was appointed the captain of a militia company; and the memory of the village chroniclers bears testimony that the able and amiable Senator was one of the most indulgent and popular of militia captains, and that "the boys" soon became warmly attached to him. The next public office which he held was that of a justice of the peace, the duties of which he discharged entirely to the satisfaction of the people, and thereby extended his acquaintance with them. He was not long afterwards commissioned as the Surrogate of the county of St. Lawrence, a situation rather more important and profitable than those which he had previously held.
But the public soon appreciated justly the abilities, studious habits, attainments and integrity of the young barrister. In the fall of the year 1823, without the slightest expectation of such an event on his part, Mr. Wright was nominated by his Democratic friends as a candidate for the office of Senator in the State Legislature. There was an overwhelming Federal majority in the county of St. Lawrence when Mr. Wright first settled in it; yet he had taken especial care to express, in the most public manner, his devotion to the principles of the Republican party. Still he was elected for the term of four years, and took his seat on the first Tuesday of January, 1824. During this winter the contest for the Presidency was waged in New York, as well as in other States of the Union, with the utmost violence. It resulted in the election of Mr. John Q. Adams by the House of Representatives, in February, 1825. The individuals voted for were Crawford, Jackson, Adams, and Clay. A caucus, composed of a portion of the members of Congress, had been held at Washington, which had nominated Mr. Crawford as the candidate of the old Republican party. At one time Mr. Calhoun's claims had been earnestly pressed in Pennsylvania, by many leading politicians who were devoted to his interests, but the great mass of the people there had espoused the cause of General Jackson.
The friends of Jackson, Clay and Adams had refused peremptorily to submit their claims to the arbitrament of a caucus, which caused the division, distraction and defeat of the Democracy. Mr Wright, adhering as he has ever done to the principles of his party, advocated Mr. Crawford's election.
In order to defeat this wise, honest and fearless man, in New York and the contiguous States, a large number of politicians exhausted all their ingenuity and skill, secretly and assiduously, in exciting prejudices against the South. Appeals were made in behalf of Mr. Adams to the pride of the people, and it was urged
that all the other candidates were southern men. By these means large numbers were decoyed from the Democratic into the Federal ranks.
From the time of the adoption of the Federal Constitution, up to the period of which we are now speaking, the electors of President and Vice President in the State of New York had been chosen by the Legislature. The Federal party which supported Mr. Adams, having ascertained that the Republicans had elected a large majority of their friends to the Legislature, in order that they might have another chance, raised the cry that the electors ought to be chosen by the people. The followers of Mr. Clay, who were comparatively few, aided in this movement. As matters then stood, it was certain that Mr. Crawford would receive the undivided vote of the State. The conductors of the Federal presses joined in with this cry, and every where proclaimed that those members of the Assembly who should refuse to repeal the law which had been so long in force, without complaint from any quarter, were enemies to liberty, to the Constitution, and to the rights of the sovereign people!
It was insisted by the Republicans that there was much danger that the election of the President might be referred to the House of Representatives—that there bargain, intrigue, and management might be practised-that so great a State as New York should neither divide her vote in the electoral college, and thereby impair her strength, nor aid in any way in taking the election to a body where her political weight could not be an atom greater than that of Rhode Island or Delaware.
But the timid in the more popular branch of the Legislature became alarmed, and gave way, so that the Federalists gained the ascendancy there. A bill was passed in the lower House, giving the choice of Presidential electors to the people, which was thrown upon the Senate for its action. This body contains thirty-two members, of which seventeen were a bare majority. Every member, except one, was a Democrat on paper, and had been returned as such; and yet, when this bill was called up for discussion, only seventeen had the courage to oppose it, and denounce the views and schemes of those who had concocted and passed it. They stood to their posts unterrified, and rejected the bill. Immediately, every where throughout the State, they were assailed by the Federal opposition, and branded as usurpers and tyrants"-as the "infamous seventeen 99 -as the "immortally infamous seventeen;" and so great was the height to which the popular fury was excited by the assiduous arts of the agitators, that they were burned and hanged in effigy in many parts of the country.
At the general election of November, 1824, the Democracy was utterly defeated. The candidate of the Opposition for the Executive chair received a majority of seventeen thousand votes. Gene
ral James Tallmadge, who had belonged to, and been a leader in, the Republican ranks, went over to the enemy. He was elected Lieutenant-Governor by a majority of thirty-four thousand,
A large number of the seventeen remained in the Senate during the session of 1825. The "victors" quarrelled, and fell into distraction. In this condition of affairs, these seventeen exercised a controlling power over the acts of the Legislature. A vacancy was about to occur in the Senate of the United States. An individual who had belonged to the Democratic party, but who had deserted and gone over to the Federalists, was presented to the Senate, a majority of whom declared that they would not vote for this individual, nor would they accept of his nomination. The House refused to designate any one else, and there was, precisely as has been again recently witnessed, no election. At the ensuing general election in 1826, the Republicans-precisely as we trust will again be witnessed-carried the State, and one of their friends was chosen the Senator.
It was at this election that Mr. Wright was nominated to represent the district in which he resided, in the Congress of the United States. He had acquired a high reputation for ability and independence in the discharge of his official duty. This was the first occasion on which any one of the seventeen had come before the people, since the memorable events already detailed had occurred. The contest was bitter beyond all former example, yet Mr. Wright beat his competitor by five hundred votes. In December, 1827, he took his seat. This was the year before the second contest between Jackson and Adams. The Republican party in New York had rallied, and espoused the cause of the former. At the election of 1828, Mr. Wright was again a candidate for Congress, in what was called a double district; and notwithstanding that there was much foul play and treachery practised against him, he was successful. His certificate, however, was refused him, and he was compelled to contend for his seat before the House of Representatives, where a decision was made in his favor.
Early in February, 1829, whilst Mr. Wright was employed in the discharge of his duties at Washington, he received from the Legislature of New York the appointment of Comptroller, whose services, with regard to the financial affairs of that State, correspond precisely with those of the Secretary of the Treasury, with regard to the financial concerns of the Union. This office is held for three years. Mr. Wright served out his first term to the entire satisfaction of the public, and was re-elected in 1832. In this year, William L. Marcy, who was a Senator in Congress from New York, was chosen Governor, and was sworn into office on the first day of January, 1833. Mr. Wright was elected to succeed him, and forthwith took his seat. His first term expired on the third of
March, 1837, but on the first Tuesday of the preceding February he was reelected for the constitutional period of six years.
Opportunity to display his eminent abilities was all that Mr. Wright required to secure his rapid advancement. Within twelve years the "village justice" had become one of the Representatives of the sovereignty, of the "Empire State," containing nearly two millions of people. In October, 1833, occurred the famous removal of the deposites. The Opposition, who held the majority in the Senate, determined to attack this bold measure there, and to pass a direct and disgraceful censure upon the Executive. It is unnecessary here to advert to the extensive preparations that were made to render this premeditated assault fatal to the Administra tion, the history of that stormy and eventful period being doubtless still fresh in the memory of most of our readers.
When Congress assembled in December, the galleries of the Senate chamber were enlarged, that a greater number of the crowd might find admission. The leaders in that body declaimed loudly, and were even cheered by the clamorous plaudits of the auditors. One of them proclaimed that the nation was in the midst of a revolution, "bloodless as yet;" and another, who addressed a multitude that had assembled in a neighbouring city to welcome his arrival on the Sabbath day, declared that "in times of revolution there were no Sabbaths."
Committees, comprehending large numbers, were raised in the cities, and deputed to wait on the President and demand the restoration of the public monies to the custody of the Bank. The parent institution, as well as some of its branches, made heavy and rapid curtailments of their discounts. Efforts were used to spread the panic from the towns into the country, and amongst all classes, as if the existence and prosperity of a great people depended upon the will and policy of a single corporation. Those who were associated in this conspiracy predicted universal ruin, and distributed in every direction inflammatory and abusive publications against the Administration.
Those men, however, who viewed these scenes through the medium of an unclouded reason, thought that if an institution chartered by Congress could, in a time of profound peace, when there was no national debt-no calamity resting upon the country -cause such deep and extensive excitement, it must be clothed with a power which would under different circumstances be dangerous to the liberties of the people, and enable it to become in effect the government. Week after week rolled away, and the orators poured forth their thundering philippics, and essayed innumerable arts to drive the Executive-a man distinguished above any other man of the nation for the fixedness of his purposes and the intensity of his will-from the bold and perilous position which he had assumed.