• Gov. Joseph Ritner Warns Against Prejudice Toward Certain Anti-Masons, Clay, Jackson, Adams

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    JOSEPH RITNER (March 25, 1780 – October 16, 1869) was the eighth Governor of Pennsylvania, elected as a member of the Anti-Masonic Party.  He was elected Governor in 1835 and served to 1839. Controversy surrounding his 1838 electoral defeat led to the Buckshot War. During the War of 1812, Ritner served first as commander of a Washington County militia company, the Rifle Rangers. Ritner became involved in the Anti-Masonic movement in the late 1820s.  As an opponent of slavery, Ritner was the inspiration for a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier, entitled ‘Ritner,’ in which Whittier praised the anti-slavery sentiment of Ritner’s annual message to the state legislature. When the Anti-Masonic Party ended, Ritner supported the Whigs.  In the mid-1850s, Ritner joined the Republican Party and was a delegate to the 1856 Republican National Convention. 


    2 ½ pp, 7 ¾ x 12 ¾, ALS, Ritner writes to his friend attorney William Ayers in Harrisburg, PA.


    “...I am well pleased with the account Mr. Lawrence gave of the convention – I know, that many of our friends feared that the convention might do mischief instead of benefitting the cause, which those who got it up professed to serve – However, let the motive of the projection of the convention have been what it may, the convention did not travel beyond the record – I see that nothing was done, inconsistent with what was publicly professed...


    “As it regards the principal subject you treat of in your letter, I will only observe that were all true, that the Anti-Masons of Harrisburg have been charged with, I would not complain- it is true, that I regretted & sincerely regretted that there should be, even slight suspicion in our ranks, in regard to any leading matter, that concerned the whole party—but I could not regret, that any portion of the party, should express a desire to give up a former candidate, for one, they thought would receive a stronger support at a future election...All I would ask in regard to that matter is that when the nomination is fairly made, all will give the candidate nominated a cordial, active and efficient support.


    “I know that there exists a feeling with some in regard to what they call Clay-anti-masons & Jackson anti-masons which I sincerely wish was entirely vanished from our ranks.  There ought to be no such feeling amongst anti-masons – Where ever it exists, it is prejudice, and nothing but downright prejudice; & really there can be no such a being in truth, as either a Clay anti-mason or Jackson anti-mason – The true bond of union among anti-masons is opposition, extirpating opposition to the masonic institution; & Clay & Jackson being both adhering masons, neither of them can have or feel any friendship either for us or our cause and of course neither of them can receive our support as anti-masons—We as a party ought not to enquire in the selection of candidates whether he formerly was a Clayman or a Jacksonman and we ought only enquire ‘is he capable, is he hones,’ is he in ‘favour of the supremacy of the Constitution & the laws’ and opposed ‘to secret combinations,’ that may set the Constitution & laws at defiance – You observe that you strongly suspect that the election in this country, last fall, was injured on the ground, that some think a Clay anti-mason is not as good as a Jackson anti-mason – In this respect I think you have been misinformed at least your suspicion is not founded in fact—In this county, as well as in every other county in the state, the anti-masonic party is composed of men from all the parties that formerly existed among us – the majority were formerly Jackson men, at least so far as I am personally acquainted but many indeed nearly all the leading Jackson-men – those who were known as public men still, with a few exceptions, belong to the old Jackson party – Most of the leading men (except those who are mason) have acted at elections with the anti-masons of those who formerly belonged to the Adams or Clay party – Now in order to satisfy you that there has been no want of courtesy in that portion of our party here who were formerly Jackson-men towards those who had been Adams or Clay-men. It will only be necessary to inform you...that at every election since 1829, the organization of our party, a majority of our ticket was made up of former Adams & Clay men...Our member of Congress & our present sheriff are both anti-masons. Neither of them would have thought of standing a poll without the support of the anti-masonic party – and both of these gentlemen had been Adams men – I do not mention the above facts with any intention to exonerate that portion of our party who were Jackson men from the prejudice, the existence of which I sincerely regret. I only mention them to show that on the other side, there is also prejudice; and I may safely say that with the former Adams & Clay men, this prejudice seems the most inveterate – This prejudice must be got rid of – Every good and intelligent man among us ought to exert himself to do it away – the masons, I mean those who hate their obligations to the lodge, paramount to their obligations to their God and their Country – both Clay masons & Jackson masons have fostered, and nurtured that prejudice to the injury of the country, as well as against the anti-masons...

    “It would seem that now, a good spirit is pervading this country, and if it continues if nothing occurs to mar the good feeling, and the disposition to action, prepatory to the coming context, we will do better than heretofore – The townships are organizing with more alacrity than was anticipated by the most sanguine among us, and the numbers that attend the meeting, show a healthful condition of our party...Jos Ritner” 


    Toning, folds, seal tear.  Nice integral address leaf with clear oval postmark.

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