Letter to Henry Clay, 13 May 1844

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, Ill., May 13th, 1844.
Sir:—Your answer to my inquiry, “what would be your rule of action towards the Latter Day Saints, should you be elected president of the ,” has been under consideration since last November, in the fond expectation, that you would give, (for every honest citizen has a right to demand it,) to the , a manifesto of your views of the best method and means which would secure to the people, the whole people, the most freedom, the most happiness, the most union, the most wealth, the most fame, the most glory at home, and the most honor abroad, at the least expense; but I have waited in vain. So far as you have made public declarations, they have been made, like your answer to the above, soft to flatter, rather than solid to feed the people. You seem to abandon all former policy which may have actuated you in the discharge of a statesman’s duty, when the vigor of intellect and the force of virtue, should have sought out an everlasting habitation for liberty; when, as a wise man, a true patriot, and a friend to mankind, you should have resolved to ameliorate the awful condition of our bleeding by a mighty plan of wisdom, righteousness, justice, goodness and mercy, that would have brought back the golden days of our ’s youth, vigor and vivacity; when prosperity crowned the offorts [efforts] of a youthful , when the gentle aspirations of the sons of liberty were, “we are one.”
In your answer to my questions, last fall, that peculiar tact of modern politicians, declaring, “if you ever enter into that high office, you must go into it free and unfettered, with no guarantee but such as are to be drawn from your whole life, character and conduct,” so much resembles a lottery vender’s sign, with the goddess of good luck sitting on the car of fortune a-straddle of the horn of plenty, and driving the merry steeds of beatitude, without reigns or bridle, that I cannot help exclaiming; O frail man; what have you done that will exalt you? can any thing be drawn from your life, character or conduct that is worthy of being held up to the gaze of this as a model of virtue, charity and wisdom? Are you not a lottery picture, with more than two blanks to a prize? Leaving many things prior to your Ghent treaty, let the world look at that, and see where is the wisdom, honor, and patriotism which ought to have characterized the plenipotentiary of the only free upon the earth? A quarter of a century’s negociation to obtain our rights on the north eastern boundary, and the motley manner in which tries to shine as American Territory, coupled with your presidential race, and come-by-chance secretary ship, in 1825, all go to convince the friends of freedom, the golden patriots of Jeffersonian democracy; free trade and sailor’s rights, and the protectors of person and property, that an honorable war is better [t]han a dishonorable peace.
But had you really wanted to have exhibited the wisdom, clemency, benevolence and dignity of a great man in this boasted , when fifteen thousand free citizens were exiled from their own homes, lands and property, in the wonderful patriotic State of , and you then upon your oath and honor, occupying the exalted statien [station] of a senator of Congress from the noble hearted State of Kentucky; why did you not show the world your loyalty to law and order, by using all honorable means to restore the innocent to their rights and property? Why, Sir, the more we search into your character and conduct, the more we must exclaim from holy writ, the tree is known by its fruit.
Again, this is not all; rather than show yourself an honest man, by guaranteeing to the people what you will do in case you should be elected president; “you can enter into no engagement, make no promise, and give no pledges” as to what you will do. Well, it may be that some hot headed partisan would take such nothingarianism upon trust, but sensible men and even ladies would think themselves insulted by such an evasion of coming events! If a tempest is expected, why not prepare to meet it; and in the language of the poet, exclaim:—
“Then let the trial come; and witness thou,
If terror be upon me; if I shrink
Or falter in my strength to meet the storm,
When hardest it beset me?”
True greatness never wavers, but when the compromise was entered into by you, for the benefit of slavery, there was a mighty shrinkage of western honor; and from that day, Sir, the sterling Yankee, the struggling Abolitionist, and the staunch Democrat, with a large number of the liberal minded Whigs, have marked you as a black-leg in politics, begging for a chance to shuffle yourself into the Presidential chair, where you might deal out the destinies of our beloved for a game of brag, that would end in, “Hark from the tombs a doleful sound.” Start not at this picture; for your “whole life, character and conduct” have been spotted with deeds that cause a blush upon the face of a virtuous patriot; so you must be contented in your lot, while crime cowardice, cupidity or low cunnuing [cunning] have handed you down from the high tower of a statesman, to the black hole of a gambler. A man that accepts a challenge or fights a duel, is nothing more nor less than a murderer, for holy writ declares that “whoso sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed;” and when in the renowned city of , the notorious dropped from the summit of a senator to the sink of a scoundrel, to shoot at that chalk line of a Randolph; he not only disgraced his own fame, family and friends, but he polluted the sanctum sanctorum of American glory; and the kingly black gauards throughout the whole world, are pointing the finger of scorn at the boasted “asylum of the oppressed,” and hissing at American statesmen, as gentlemen vagabonds and murderers, holding the olive branch of peace in one hand, and a pistol for death in the other! Well might the Savior rebuke the heads of this with, wo unto you scribes, Pharasees, hypocrites, for the government, and Congress, with a few honorable exceptions, have gone the way of Cain and must perish in their gainsayings, like Korah and his wicked host. And honest men of every clime, and the innocent, poor, and oppressed, as well as heathens, pagans, and Indians, every where who could but hope that the tree of liberty would yield some precious fruit for the hungry human race, and shed some balming leaves for the healing of nations, have long since given up all hopes of equal rights, of justice and judgement, and of truth and virtue, when such polluted, vain, heaven daring, bogus patriots, are forced or flung into the front rank of government, to guide the destinies of millions. Crape the heavens with weeds of wo; gird the earth with sackcloth, and let hell mutter one melody in commemoration of fallen spendor! for the glory of has departed, and God will set a flaming sword to guard the tree of liberty, while such mint-tithing Herods as , , , and , are thrust out of the realms of virtue as fit subjects for the kingdom of fallen greatness; vox reprobi, vox Diaboli! In your late addresses to the people of South Carolina, where rebellion budded but could not blossom, you “renounced ultraism,” “high tariff,” and almost banished your “banking system,” for the more certain standard of “public opinion.” This is all very well, and marks the intention of a politician, the calculations of a demagogue, and the allowance for leeings of a shrewd manager, just as truly as the weather cock does the wind when it turns upon the spire. Hustings for the south, barbacues for the west, confidential letters for the north, and “American system” for the east:
“Lull-a-by baby upon the tree top,
And when the wind blows the cradle will rock.”
Suppose you should also, taking your “whole life, character and conduct,” into consideration, and as many hands make light work, stir up the old “ party,” the “National Republican party,” “High Protective Tariff party,” and the late coon skin party, with all their parapheralia [paraphernalia], “ultraism, ne plus ultraism,—sine qua non, which have grown with your growth, strengthened with your strength, and shrunk with your shrinkage, and ask the people of this enlightened Republic, what they think of your powers and policy as a statesman; for verily it would seem, from all past remains of parties, politics, projects and pictures, that you are the , and the people are the potter; and as some vessels are marred in the hands of the potter, the natural conclusion is, that you are a vessel of dishonor.
You may complain that a close examination of your “whole life, character and conduct,” places you as a Kentuckian would pleasantly term it, “in a bad fix,” but, Sir, when the has sunk deeper and deeper in the mud, at every turn of the great wheels of the , while you have acted as of the principle drivers, it becomes the bounden duty of the whole community, as one man, to whisper you on every point of government, to uncover every act of your life, and enquire what mighty acts you have done to benefit the ; how much you have tithed the mint to gratify your lust; and why the fragments of your raiment hang upon the thorns by the path, as signals to beware.
But your shrinkage is truly wonderful! Not only your banking system, and high tariff project, have vanished from your mind “like the baseless fabric of a vision,’ but the ‘annexation of ’ has touched your pathetic sensibilities of national pride so acutely, that the poor Texians, your own brethren, may fall back into the ferocity of , or be sold at auction to British stock jobbers, and all is well, for ‘I’, the old senator from Kentucky, am fearful it would militate against my interest in the north, to enlarge the borders of the union in the south.— Truly ‘a poor wise child is better than an old foolish king, who will be no longer admonished.’ Who ever heard of a nation that had too much territory? Was it ever bad policy to make friends? Has any people ever become too good to do good? No, never; but the ambition and vanity of some men have flown away with their wisdom and judgment, and left a creaking skeleton to occupy the place of a noble soul.
Why, Sir, the condition of the whole earth is lamentable. dreads the teeth and toe nails of . has the rheumatism brought on by a horrid exposure to the heat and cold of British and American trappers; has caught a bad cold from the extreme fatigue in the patriot war; South America has the headache, caused by bumps against the beams of Catholicity and Spanish sovereignty; Spain has the gripes from age and inquisition; trembles and wastes under the effects of contagious diseases; groans with the gout, and wiggles with wine; Italy and the German states are pale with the consumption;— Prussia, Poland, and the little contigious dynasties, dutchies, and domains, have the mumps so severly, that ‘the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint;’ Russia has the cramp by lineage; Turkey has the numb palsy; Africa, from the curse of God, has lost the use of her limbs; China is ruined by the Queen’s evil, and the rest of Asia fearfully exposed to the small pox; the natural way from British pedlars; the islands of the sea are almost dead with the scurvy; the Indians are blind and lame, and the , which ought to be the good physician with ‘balm from Gilead,’ and an ‘asylum for the oppressed,’ has boosted, and is boosting up into the council chamber of the government, a clique of political gamblers, to play for the old clothes and ol[d] shoes of a sick world, and ‘no pledge, no promise to any particular portion of the people’ that the rightful heirs will ever receive a cent of their Fathers’ legacy! Away with such self important, self agrandizing, and self willed demagogues! their friendship is colder than polar ice; and their professions meaner than the damnation of Hell.
Oh! man! when such a great dilemma of the globe, such a tremendous convulsion of kingdoms, shakes the earth from center to circumference; when castles, prisons houses, and cells raise a cry to God against the cruelty of man; when the mourning of the fatherless and the widow causes anguish in heaven; when the poor among all nations cry day and night for bread and a shelter from the heat aud storm; and when the degraded black slave hold up his manacled hands to the great statesmen of the , and sings,
‘O, liberty, where are thy charms,
That sages have told me were sweet!’
and when fifteen thousand free citizens of the high blooded of North America, are robbed and driven from one state to another without redress or redemption, it is not only time for a candidate for the presidency to pledge himself to execute judgment and justice in righteousness, law or no law, but it is his bounden duty, as a man, for the honor of a disgraced and for the salvation of a once virtuous people, to call for a union of all honest men, and appease the wrath of God, by acts of wisdom, holiness and virtue! The ferven[t] prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Perhaps you may think, I go too far, with my strictures and inuendoes because in your concluding paragraph you say: “It is not inconsistant with your declarations to say, that you have viewed with a lively interest the progres[s] of the Latter Day Saints, that you have sympathised in their sufferings, under injustice as it appeared to you, what has been inflicted upon them; and that you think, in common with all other religious communities they ought to enjoy the security and protection of the constitution and the laws.” If words were not wind, and imagination not a vapor, such ‘views’ ‘with a lively interest’ might coax out a few Mormon votes; such ‘sympathy’ for their suffering under injustice, might heal some of the sick, yet lingering amongst them, raise some of the dead and recover some of their property, from Missouri, and finally if thought was not a phantom, we might in common with other religious communities, ‘you think,’ enjoy the security and protection of the constitution and laws! But during ten years, while the Latter day Saints have bled, been robbed, driven from their own lands, paid oceans of money into the Treasury to pay your renowned self and others for legislating and dealing out equal rights and priveleges t[o] those in common with all other religious communities, they have waited and expected in vain! If you have possessed any patriotism, it has been vailed by your popularity for fear the saint[s] would fall in love with its charms. Blind charity and dumb justice never do much towards alleviating the wants of the needy, but, straws show which way the wind blows. It is currently rumored that your dernier resort for the Latter day Saints, is, to emigrate to , or ; such cruel humanity; such noble injustice; such honorable cowardice; such foolish wisdom, and such vicious virtue, could only eminate from . After the saints have been plundered of three or four millions of land and property, by the people and powers of the sovere[i]gn state of ; after they have sought for redress and redemption from the County Court to Congress, and been denied through religious prejudice, and sacerdotal dignity; afier [after] they have builded a city and two temples at an immense expense of labor and treasure; after they have increased from hunereds [hundreds] to hundreds of thousands: and after they have sent missionaries to the various nations of the earth, to gather Israel according to the predictions of all the holy prophets since the world began, that great plenipotentiary; the renowned Secretary of State, the ignoble duelist, the gambling Senator; and Whig candidate for the presidency, : the wise Kentucky Lawyer, advises the Latter Day Saints to go to to obtain Justice and set up a government of their own; O ye crowned heads among all nations, is not a wise man aud very patriotic! why Great God! to transport 200,000 people through a vast prairie; over , to , a distance of nearly 2000 miles, would cost more than four millions! or should they go by Cape Horn, in ships to , the cost would be more than twenty millions! and all this to save the from inheriting the disgrace of , for murdering and robbing the saints with impunity! and , who make no secret to say, if they get into power, they will carry out exterminating plan to rid the country of the Latter Day Saints, are
“Little nipperkins of milk,
Compared to “’s” great aqua fortis jars.”
Why, he is a real giant in humanity: send the Mormons to and free from debt and disgrace! Ah! sir, let this doctrine go to and fro throughout the whole earth, that we, as said, know your cause is just but the government can do nothing for you, because it has no power; you must go to , and get justice from the Indians.
I mourn for the depravity of the world; I despise the hypocrisy of christendom; I hate the imbecility of american statesmen; I detest the shrinkage of candidates for office, from pledges and responsibility; I long for a day of righteousness, when he, “whose right it us to reign, shall judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth,” and I pray God, who hath given our fathers a promise of a perfect government in the last days, to purify the hearts of the people and hasten the welcome day.
With the highest consideration,
for virtue and unadulterated freedom,
I have the honor to be, your ob’t s’v’t.
Hon. , Ashland, Ky. [p. [2]]