MEREDITH READ SR. (July 21, 1797-November 29, 1874) was an American lawyer, politician from
Philadelphia, PA, one of the founders of the Republican Party and Chief Justice
of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Both of his grandfathers – George Read and
Samuel Meredith – served in the Continental Congress. Although his family had
been Federalists, he became an ardent supporter of the Free Soil wing of the
Democratic Party. In the 1860 Republican Convention in Chicago, he received one
vote for presidential nominee. Still, he
supported Lincoln as the nominee.
JAMES BUCHANAN (April 23, 1791-June 1, 1868) served as the 15th President of the United States (1857-1861), immediately prior to the Civil War. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the 17th Secretary of State and served in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives from Pennsylvania before becoming President. Buchanan aspired to be President who would rank in history with George Washington. Historians fault him for failing to deal with slavery and secession. The support Buchanan received from Pennsylvania was considered important for his extensive political career, which explains why Read goes through such lengthy to convince Buchanan of important political support, apparently responding to a letter from Buchanan in which Buchanan has questioned the support of another Pennsylvania politician. This is a beautifully written letter and a wonderful example of political Americana as Buchanan was building his run for the presidency.
Nearly all the letter is a LS, but Meredith has added the final two paragraphs in his hand, obviously when he edited the letter as he also made some corrections in the text. 7 ¼ pp, 7 ¾ x 12, Philadelphia, Dec. 7, 1843, Read writes to Buchanan.
“…I am the mutual friend of two gentlemen to whom I am much attached…I have done what I could to advance their views. One I desire to see President of the United States and the other Gov. of Penn. Their interests and feelings I believe to be identical. To the one who is absent from the state I believe the other has been a sincere friend under circumstances when less pure men might have sought their own aggrandizement at the expense of both friendship and honor. Most of the facts are within my own knowledge and I have proof in my possession for all that I shall say. You will do me the justice to believe that I state these matters only to place another friend in his true light so that his sincerity and honor up to this moment shall appear unquestionable.
“In 1834, when you were thought of for U.S. Senator, if Mr. M had been pressed in the summer as a candidate for Governor, it would have secured his nomination, but jeopardized perhaps your election with the powerful foes that you then had in the Democratic Party. Mr. M’s name was withheld until that event took place.
“In January 1836 for the harmony of the party, Mr. M asked his friends to sacrifice every prejudice and every feeling however natural and [regarding] every individual on the Wolf electoral ticket…to make it the ticket of the whole party. This was done. The two papers at Harrisburg, the seat of government, were united and the party presented an individual…against the Bank of the U.S., which the papers thus established and pledged to me to oppose in every shape and form either as a national or a state institution. In the spring, you and others of Gov. Wolf’s friends were anxious that he should receive an appointment at Washington. Gen. Jackson consulted Mr. M. who, forgetting past differences, wrote a wordy letter expressing a desire that Gov. Wolf [governor of Pennsylvania from 1829-1835] should receive the appointment of Comptroller of the Treasury...
“In Dec. 1836, your re-election came round, which would have been endangered if either Mr. M had refused to assent to Gov. Wolf’s appointment or had not taken every measure to harmonize the party. There was also another danger which he alone could aver. The whole opposition in both houses was desirous to defeat you. They numbered 45 and declared that they would vote for Mr. M. if he was a candidate. If Mr. M. had chosen to allow himself to be an irregular candidate, he would have had Democratic votes enough to elect him Senator.
“He was not the man, however, to violate party ties or to elevate himself at the expense of a friend, although that friend had differed with him upon a point of great interest to himself. The letter of Mr. M to Col. John Milton of the 1 Dec. 1836, directed him if his name was used in any way to withdraw it, at the same time stating that there was only one event to which…his name could be used and that was in case a majority of the Democratic members of the Legislature should deem it necessary to insure the choice of Democratic Senators. I believe in this case, Mr. M. acted only as a man of honor and as a Democrat ought to have done but we have seen so many instances of deviation…He should at least have the credit of doing his duty.
“In 1832, before he left the U.S. he did all in his power to harmonize the party…in his own county and to induce them to support David R. Porter, who had been a leading friend of Gov. Wolf’s and whose nomination then received your approbation.
“In 1840, the friends of Mr. M. cordially united in the election of Dr. Sturgeon to the post of Senator. He, though an excellent man, was more amenable citizen and a consistent Democrat, had also [been] a leading friend and officeholder of Gov. Wolf.
“In 1843, when it was deemed essential to your success in your re-election as Senator (in addition to other offices) that a Buchanan convention should assemble on the 11th of January, which had a meeting held in Reading, at which delegates were elected to it and when he learned that his name was made use of to defeat you, he sent off immediately a letter to Mr. M. Lanahan speaking of you in the highest terms, which was read in Convention of both houses and I understood was read with enthusiasm and approbation.
“On the 4th of July last, Mr. M presided at reading and one of the regular toasts was James Buchanan as the next President of the United States, and at the general county meeting of Berks, a resolution was passed unanimously in your favor.
“Knowing as I do the peculiar position of the bench of Democracy, I know that no other man but Mr. M could have affected this, and that it was the strongest proof of friendship that he could give you. It is to be recollected that these are acts of a man who possessed the power to undo, as well as to do, who has the love of the Democracy of Berks, and who has the most powerful friends in every quarter of the state. He has committed himself and his county without reserve, a county without which a democratic triumph in Penn. never can be complete.
“Mr. M has always had 70,000 people…who would always elevate him to any office within their grip.
“Under these circumstances, Mr. M stands in a position occupied by no other person in the state. Of unsullied integrity of high honor, never holding any office but that of minister, except by the voice of the people, of great popularity with the masses, believed by his opponents in politics to be invincible of nominated, he is entitled to ask of his friends their ordeal and…support, particularly when it is considered that the elevation of the most prominent candidate opposed to him would be a declaration that M. Mahlenberg shall never be governor of Penn when the leading friends of Mr. M. in many parts of the state are those who formerly opposed him.
“…The time of your letter shows that designing men have been trying to bring back or to create suspicions which I trusted had been dismissed forever.
“…As to the supporters of Mr. M., I believe they include Buchanan, Van Buren, Cass and Johnson & all kinds of men who are democrats. He and his county have expressed their views but he cannot…be called on to reveal other Democrats entertaining different views being favorable to him. Such men as Gov. Boaman and thousands of others scattered over the state who are his warm friends, are equally enthusiastic for you. Your best friends…in this city & county are also Mahlenberg men.
“Mr. M might equally impute to you unfriendliness to him because some of Mr. Shunk’s friends are your friends and some of Mr. S’s friends here are Cass men not Buchanan men.
“As to Mr. M being ruled by particular men, that is not his character and such a supposition does him great injustice. My inference would be the very contrary of yours, that if the Gov. of the State, his friends would become your friends by following the wishes of a popular and powerful Chief Magistrate.
“Lancaster County is the native county of Mr. Mahlenberg and I am certain from my information that the people, if not interfered with by the politicians of the city, would prefer him…These gentlemen are your friends…
“I have no fear…to say that I think you are mistaken in supposing Mr. M would be satisfied with the proposition indicated in your letter…You will pardon my frankness…”
Folds and expected toning, but very readable and docketed on verso 1844 Dec. 7 Letter to Hon. J. Buchanan.
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