• Confidential Letter Reveals Undermining Jackson's Cabinet To Advance Van Buren

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    FRANCIS ORMAND JONATHAN SMITH (1806-1876) was a lawyer politician from Maine who served in the Maine House of Representatives (1831), in the Maine Senate (1833) and in the U.S. House of Representatives (1833-1839).  He also had a hand in the development of the telegraph by providing capital and partnership to Samuel Morse.


    3 pp, 8 x 10, ALS, April 28, 1831, Portland, being Confidential Correspondence to EZRA CARTER JUNIOR (1804-1887) disclosing the crumbling of President Andrew Jackson’s Cabinet and the roles of Martin Van Buren and John Eaton in hostilities with John C. Calhoun.  Smith instructs, “Let no treacherous hand lay hold on this letter.”


    Smith discloses his theory that Martin Van Buren and his friends were the sources for hostilities between Jackson's Cabinet and Calhoun, thereby compromising Calhoun's chances at succeeding Jackson as President. "By creating a breach between Jackson and Calhoun, it was supposed that the Jackson party might in a mass become prejudiced against the latter, and thereby leave the way clear for Jackson's mantle to fall directly on Mr. Van Buren. The attempt so far succeeded as to create the desired difference about an old and unimportant affair, between the President and Mr. Calhoun." Smith then refers to a published work of Calhoun's, "The Correspondence," and remarks that Van Buren, as well as his friends in the party and the press, used this to perpetuate a claim that Calhoun's loyalty to Jackson was diminishing.


    Smith is sympathetic to Calhoun, writing: "The motive attributed to him, however, by Mr. V.B.'s friends, and by the presses in their interest, which did not so fully understand the subject then at this time, was this- that he, Mr. Calhoun, was willing to break with the Jackson party, and set up for the Presidency himself. A more erroneous view of his motive could not be contrived...But to trace the workings of things at Washington, so far as they are understood, Mr. V. Buren denied that he was at the bottom in persuading Jackson into a rupture with Calhoun about and old and unimportant affair. Mr. Calhoun's friends, however, discredited this statement, so far as to believe that if Mr. V. Buren was not the agent, he was the man for whose ulterior benefit the whole movement was made, and he knew of it from the beginning, and suffered the intrigue to be carried on."

    Smith alludes to the similar "unfair" actions against Calhoun from Secretary of War, John Eaton "a Van Buren man," and the lengths that Calhoun's friends in the Cabinet, namely Samuel Ingham (Secretary of the Treasury) and John Branch (Secretary of the Navy) went to in order to discredit both Van Buren and Eaton. "Mr. Calhoun's friends observing these things, in all probability went forward to Jackson, and said to him in plain terms ... things ought not so to be - we cannot and will not give you our cordial support, if you permit them longer - you must remove these men from the Cabinet, in order to restore harmony in the party and if you would preserve the party." Consequently, Eaton, Van Buren, Branch, and Ingham were all compelled to resign their posts in 1831. However, Smith noted that this solution fared better for Van Buren and Eaton. "This result will no doubt be for the good of the common party. Although it cannot be looked upon as exactly fair in the President, (because it had become necessary to remove Eaton & V.B.-) to turn out Branch and Ingham, who were not under the suspicion of any intrigues, and who only could be objected to on the grounds of their friendship for Calhoun. The attempt to attach blame to Calhoun is a perfect failure, and V.B.'s particular partisans begin now [to feel] it to be less so. The enemies of our party can make nothing of these events. But should V. Buren's friends press his claims for either the Vice Presidency, or Presidency at this time, the party will be divided."

    Van Buren's actions yielded great payoffs, and furthered his cause against Calhoun. Following these resignations, "Jackson appointed a new Cabinet, and sought again to reward Van Buren by appointing him Minister to Great Britain. Vice President Calhoun, as President of the Senate, cast the deciding vote against the appointment-and made a martyr of Van Buren." (Frank Freidel and Hugh Sidey: The presidents of the United States of America. White House Historical Association, 2006; p. 23).  In 1832, Van Buren was elected Vice-President, and in 1836, President.

    Expected toning. Folds. Small fold tears.  Seal tear affects a few words. Nice early integral address leaf with postmark.


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