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.
In this timely 2 ½ pp, 7 ½ x 11 ¼, ALS, May 8th, 1831, Washington County, Penna, Ritner writes to attorney William Ayres in Harrisburg, PA, offers his anti-masonic sentiments in seeking to defeat Andrew Jackson.
“I fully coincide with you, respecting the strangeness of the Politicks of the United States. I am not, however, of opinion that the late explosion at Washington is unfortunate to our government. I rather incline to the belief that a real benefit will result to the country at large and of course to the permanence of our republican institutions from that explosion. Something of the kind was necessary to give anti-masonry full scope of actions and persecution, for opinion sake, had rivetted on the public mind. No movement could be made, which displeased the Knights of Halter...but what they cried and spared not that it was a plot got up to break down Jackson and his friends. Now when he and his sunshine and summer friends are breaking each other down...of course, anti-masonry will be triumphant.
“...The course pursued by the administration of Genl Jackson cannot be approved by any hones, intelligent Pennsylvanian – that the messages of the two administrations are diametrically opposite is a fact which cannot be questioned; and if Governor Wolf still supports Jackson, it must be because his masonic oaths bind him to do so...Jackson and Wolf are in direct opposition to each other.
“I am, however, not of the opinion that H. Clay is gaining in Pennsylvania at least not in the West. It is very evident though that Jackson is losing but Jackson’s loss is not going over to Clay. It is coming to anti-masonry. The impression...which the Clay masons as well as the Jackson masons are still laboring to keep impressed on the public mind – that the anti-masons would finally support Clay has done immense mischief to the anti-masonic cause. It was the sole cause of our defeat last fall and if any of the western counties will be unrepresented in the convention on the 25th, it will be owing to this impression...I am warranted in saying that in this county, the Clay masons will support Jackson in case they find that their favorite [Clay] cannot get the vote of the stae, and if there should be a prospect of the anti-masonic candidate being successful...
“I am happy to hear that you are firm and unwavering in the good cause. Let us once show an anti-masonic candidate for President nominated an anti-masonic principle and the people will have confidence in the anti-masonic party. They will come to the polls and not remain at home as they did in the two last elections. Let those who are not masons or who are see the evil of it...and the necessity of electing a better President than Jackson, a better Gov. than Wolf. Join the anti-masons as the only certain course by which they can attain their object and they will be successful...”
Fine integral address leaf. Red seal mostly intact. Small seal tear affecting nothing. Light bleed-through, but a historically important letter
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