History of Columbia County, New York
By Captain Franklin Ellis
Published by Everts & Ensign
Pages 45 to 56
Property in Men and Women - Politics and Parties in the County.
The first election by the people in what is now the State of New York was that of the "Twelve Men," in 1641, held under the Dutch rule. The first election under the English was that of the Assembly of 1665, for the promulgation of the "Duke's Laws." The first election under the authority of the people themselves was that one held in March, 1775, to elect deputies to the provincial convention, which met in New York, the 20th of April following, to choose delegates to the Continental Congress, which assembled at Philadelphia, on May 10, 1775. Down to the adoption of the State constitution in 1777, elections were held before the sheriffs by a poll or viva voce vote. The constitution provided for the ballot system to be tried, after the war then waging had ceased, as an "experiment," guarding the same, however, with a provision that "if the experiment proved unsatisfactory, the former method," or some other, should be returned to. In pursuance of this provision, a law was passed March 27, 1778, authorizing the use of the ballot in elections for governor and lieutenant-governor, but retaining the viva voce system for members of the Legislature; but in 1787, February 3, the restriction was done away, and the ballot system introduced generally. The inspector system was introduced at this time (1787), and, with some changes, still obtains. Local boards in each election district at first canvassed the returns; the result was recorded by the town clerk, who forwarded the same to the county clerk, who recorded it in his office and forwarded it to the secretary of state, who also recorded it, when the votes were canvassed by a State board, consisting of the secretary of state, comptroller, and treasurer, on or before the 8th of June, and who published the result. By the act of 1787, general elections were held on the last Tuesday in April, and might be held five days. By the act of April 17, 1772, a board of county canvassers was instituted, consisting of one inspector of elections from each town, and the attorney-general and surveyor-general were added to the State canvassers. The general election day was changed to the first Monday in November, and could be held by adjournment from place to place in each town or ward for three days.
In 1842, the date of holding general elections was changed to the Tuesday succeeding the first Monday in November, and the balloting confined to one day. By this last act the supervisors of the respective counties were constituted the boards of county canvassers, which system is in vogue at the present time.
Under the Assembly of 1691, electors were required to be residents of the electoral district at least three months prior to the issue of the writ, and to be possessed of a freehold worth forty pounds. "Freeman" of the corporations paying a rental of forty shillings per annum were also admitted to the right of suffrage. Catholics were not allowed to vote nor be elected, and Quakers and Moravians were at first virtually disfranchised, and remained so until they were allowed to affirm. Under the first constitution electors were required to have a residence of six months, and such as were freeholders of estates of twenty pounds in the county, or paid a rental of forty shillings per annum, and actually paid taxes, could vote for representatives to the Legislature. Freemen of New York and Albany, also, were voters for these and inferior officials without the proper qualifications; but to cast a ballot for governor, lieutenant-governor, and senators required the possession of a freehold worth one hundred pounds over and above all debts discharged thereon. In 1811 these values were changed to corresponding sums in the Federal currency, viz., two hundred and fifty dollars, fifty dollars, and five dollars. No discrimination was made against blacks and mulattoes, except that they were required to produce authenticated certificates of freemen. The constitution of 1821 extended the elective franchise to every male citizen of the age of twenty-one years, being a resident of the State one year preceding any election, and of the town or county where he offered to vote six months, provided he had paid taxes or was exempt from taxation, or had performed military duty, or was a fireman; and also to every such citizen being a resident of the State three years, of the county one year, who had performed highway labor, or paid an equivalent therefor during the year. Colored persons were not voters unless possessed of a freehold of two hundred and fifty dollars value, were residents of the State three years, and had paid taxes on the full value of their estates above incumbrances thereon. In 1826, the elective franchise was made free to all white male citizens, without property qualifications of any kind; that qualification, however, was retained for colored citizens. In 1845, the property qualification required for the holding of office under the constitutions of the State up to that date was abrogated by the people. In 1846, and again in 1860, propositions for equal suffrage to colored persons were rejected by the people by heavy majorities. By the amendment to the constitution adopted by the people Nov. 3, 1874, "Every male citizen of the age of twenty-one years, who shall have been a citizen for ten days, and an inhabitant of the State one year next preceding an election, and for the last four months a resident of the county, and for the last thirty days a resident in the election district in which he may offer his vote," is entitled to vote at such election. Elective officers under the first constitution were limited to the governor, lieutenant-governor, senators, and assemblymen; and the town officers, loan officers, county treasurers, and clerks of supervisors were appointed as the Legislature provided. All other civil and military officers were to be appointed by the council of appointment, unless otherwise designated in the constitution. Under the second constitution, the list of elective officers was greatly extended, and the power of appointment of those not elective conferred on the governor. In 1846, two hundred and eighty-nine officers were thus appointed. The list of appointive officers is very limited at the present time.
SLAVERY IN THE COUNTY.
The act for the manumission of slaves in the State of New York was passed in 1788, but previous to that time the Quakers had in several instances freed their servants. In 1799 the act for the gradual abolition of slavery in the State was passed.
The records of the county show bills of sales and deeds of manumission of slaves, a few of which we here give:
On the 23d day of December, 1786, Abraham Vosburgh sold to Barent Vander Poel a negro man named "Piet" for seventy pounds New York currency. The grantor warranted his title in Piet good, and would defend the same against all comers: "To have and to hold to the said Vander Poel, his hears and assigns, the said Piet forever."
Cornelius Sharp and wife gave a deed to manumission to Moses Frayer and wife and child, and by will devised to their former slaves all of their property, to take effect on the death of both Sharp and his wife.
A bill of sale disposes of "one negro girl 4 years old, a heifer, a loom, and 40 plank" for fifteen pounds.
Deeds of manumission of slaves were predicted on their ability to support themselves, proof of the same to be made to the satisfaction of the overseers of the poor of the town where they resided.
Further mention of this subject will be found in the histories of sever of the towns of the county.
COLUMBIA COUNTY POLITICS AND POLITICAL PARTIES.
Political parties, in the sense in which the term is now understood, cannot be said to have had any existence prior to the Revolution. During that struggle there were found everywhere (and Columbia county formed no exception to the rule) many who, from interest or a sense of duty, maintained their attachment to the crown, and upon these the name of Tory was bestowed as a term of opprobrium by their patriotic opponents, the Whigs; but these terms as then used did not apply to or indicate organized parties. At the close of the war, however, political lines began to be drawn, and we find that soon after three parties had developed themselves, of whom, and of their composition, Chancellor Livingston, in a letter written in January, 1784, spoke as follows: "Our parties are, first, the Tories, who still hope for power, under the idea that the remembrance of the past should be lost, though they daily keep it up by their avowed attachment to Great Britain. Secondly, the violent Whigs, who are for expelling the Tories from the State, in hopes by that means to preserve the power in their own hands. The third are those who wish to suppress all violence, to soften the rigor of the laws against the royalists, and not to banish them from that social intercourse which may by degrees obliterate the remembrance of past misdeeds, but who at the same time are not willing to shock the feelings of the virtuous citizens that have at every expense and hazard fulfilled their duty, by at once destroying all distinction between them and the royalists, and giving the reins into the hands of the latter, but who at the same time wish that this distinction should rather be found in the sentiments of the people than marked out by the laws."
The league between the States, created by the adoption of the articles of confederation, in 1777, had been entered into in time of public peril, as a means of mutual defense, and so long as the safety of the States remained in jeopardy it served the purpose of its creation. It was really a temporary offensive and defensive alliance, and had never been expected to become permanent as a plan and basis of government. In fact, it had none of the attributes of a government, for the Congress, as constituted under those articles, was little more than a convention of delegates from the several States, called together to deliberate and agree on public measures to be recommended by them to their respective Legislatures for adoption.
A short experience after the return of peace was sufficient to produce a universal conviction of the inadequacy of this method, and the necessity for establishing a new plan of government; but opinions differed widely on the question of what that plan should be; one side favoring the mere revision of the old articles of confederation, while the other demanded the adoption of a new constitution at the basis of a permanent and more consolidated government. The advocates of the constitutional plan became known as Federalists, their opponents Anti-Federalists; and these were, in fact, the first of the political parties of the United States.
In February, 1787, Congress resolved that it was expedient that on the second Monday of May following a convention of delegates from the several States should be held at Philadelphia, for the purpose "of revising the articles of confederation, and of reporting to Congress and to the several Legislatures such alterations and provisions as should when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the States, be adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union."
At the time and place appointed the national convention assembled for deliberation upon the different plans, of which there were proposed, first, the revision of the old articles of confederation, of which Robert Yates and John Lansing, of the New York delegation, were the uncompromising advocates; second, the adoption of a constitution establishing a strong and purely national government, in which plan Alexander Hamilton, also of the New York delegation, was the recognized leader; and, third, the "Virginia plan," offered by Mr. Randolph, of Virginia, and supposed to have been drawn by Mr. Madison, intended to represent the people in their numerical strength, as well as the States in their sovereign capacity; this being the one finally agreed on by the convention and recommended by the them to the States for their adoption.
In this State the opposition to the new constitution was very strong and determined. A resolution was passed in both branches of the Legislature for the call of a State convention in pursuance of the recommendation of Congress, and in the subsequent election of delegates to that convention the sole question considered was whether the candidates were for or against the adoption of the constitution. Columbia county elected the opposition, or Anti-Federalists, Messrs. Matthew Adgate, John Bay, and Peter Van Ness.
The convention met at Poughkeepsie, and organized June 17, 1788, by the appointment of Governor George Clinton as president. The body was largely Anti-Federal. William Jay, in his "Life of John Jay," states that out of the total of fifty-seven delegates, forty-six were Anti-Federalists. Hammond, in his "History of Political Parties," thinks Jay was mistaken, and gives the whole number as sixty-seven. Chancellor Livingston, as leader of the adoptionists opened the debate. It continued for three weeks, and would probably have ended in rejection, or at least conditional adoption of the constitution, but, in the midst of the deliberations, news arrived of its ratification by New Hampshire, which, as it completed the requisite number of nine States, left the question before the convention, not whether they preferred the old articles to the new constitution, but whether they would remain in the Union or secede. In this state of affairs a portion of the Anti-Federalists (advised, as was supposed, by Governor Clinton) yielded to the necessity, and on the 26th of July it was, by a vote of thirty to twenty-seven,* "Resolved, That the constitution be ratified, in full confidence that the amendments proposed by this convention will be adopted." And then, after all the members had subscribed to a circular letter to the other States, requesting their co-operation in an effort to obtain the adoption of the proposed amendments annexed to their ratification, the convention adjourned sine die.
The election in 1789 was warmly contested, and generally resulted in the success of the Federalists.† Hammond, in his "History of Political Parties," says such was the result in Columbia; nevertheless, we find that Matthew Adgate and John Bay, two of the stanch Anti-Federal opponents of the constitution in the convention of the previous year, were now elected to the Assembly. Peter Van Ness, who also as a delegate had been unwavering in his opposition, was elected by the House a member of the council appointment. The election in 1790 indicated no especial change of political opinions among the people.
In 1791 (Feb. 7) a division of senatorial districts was made, in which Columbia, Rensselaer, Washington, and Clinton formed the eastern district. The senators elected in this district in that year were Peter Van Ness, John Williams, Edward Savage, Alexander Webster, and William Powers, the last named being of Columbia county.
The political sentiment of the county was now inclining towards Federalism, and so continued for a number of years. In 1794, Ambrose Spencer was elected to the Assembly, and in 1796 he was elected senator by the Federalists.
Peter Silvester (Federalist) was elected to the Senate in 1797. In the four following years the county favored the Federalists, though the Republicans‡ had been confident of success in 1799. In 1800 the middle district (of which Columbia was made a part in 1796) elected Republican senators, viz., Daniel Van Ness, John C. Hogeboom, Solomon Sutherland, Jacobus S. Bruyn, and James W. Wilkin, though the county itself gave a majority against them. The number of votes cast for Hogeboom was eight hundred and forty-six; for Van Ness, eight hundred and fifty; for Sutherland, eight hundred and eighty-eight; for Bruyn, eight hundred and sixty; and for Wilkin, eight hundred and seventy-nine. The elected ticket received an average plurality of thirty-one in the city of Hudson, but in the county the opposing ticket received an average plurality of one hundred and fifty-six.
At the election held in that year for representative in Congress, John Bird received in the county ten hundred and forty-five votes, against eighteen hundred and sixty-six given for Henry W. Livingston. The three towns then embraced within the Livingston manor voted as follows: Clermont, for Livingston, one hundred; for bird, none; Germantown,¶ Livingston, forty-two; Bird, none; the town of Livingston, for H. W. Livingston, five hundred and forty; for Bird, Twenty-seven; showing either a remarkable unanimity of political opinion, or a no less remarkable personal popularity enjoyed by Mr. Livingston among the people of his own section.
In this year Columbia's favorite, the gifted Elisha Williams, was first elected a member of the Assembly. In the gubernatorial election of 1801 the county vote for the successful candidate, Governor George Clinton, was eleven hundred and twenty-six, and for his defeated opponent, Stephen Van Rensselaer, ten hundred and thirty-five.
In the election for members of Assembly in 1802, Samuel Edmonds received sixteen hundred and seventy-four votes; Aaron Kellogg, fifteen hundred and ninety-six; Moncrief Livingston, fifteen hundred and ninety-eight; and Peter Silvester, sixteen hundred and seventy-two votes; and these were elected by an average plurality of one hundred and twenty-four over the opposing candidates.
In 1801, Elisha Jenkins, of Hudson, was made comptroller. He had formerly been known as a leading Federalist in the county, but had transferred his allegiance to the Republicans, in 1798, with Ambrose Spencer, to whom it was said he owed his appointment. "It is not derogatory to Mr. Jenkins," says Hammond, "to say that he was far inferior to the person (John V. Henry) who was removed in order to make a place for him."
Mr. Spencer was appointed attorney-general of the State in 1802. He was a leader and a power in politics. At first he was a stanch Federalist, and as such had been elected first to the Assembly, in 1794, then to the Senate, but changed sides during the latter part of the session of 1798. This was not after the appointment of Mr. Jones as comptroller, and it was charged by the party which he abandoned that his course was actuated by disappointment and resentment that his own aspirations to that office had been ignored by Governor Jay. This charge, however, was denied by him, and was branded as an aspersion and a calumny.
The maxim that "to the victors belong the spoils," often supposed to have been first generally adopted at a much later period, seems, however, to have been at the time of which we write quite as much the rule of political action as at the present day. The most violent denunciations of political opponents, too, were in common, and wellnigh universal use, degenerating not infrequently into gross personal abuse, and even assault; and this was true not only as applied to the ruder and less cultivated classes, but also to those occupying the very highest social and political station.
In the year 1801, among the various removals of county officers made (probably chiefly, if not entirely, for political reasons) by the council, of which Ambrose Spencer was then a member, was that of the clerk of Delaware county, Mr. Ebenezer Foote, an influential Federalist, who had been a senator from the middle district, and who had received his appointment as clerk, in 1797, from the council, of which Mr. Spencer was then also a member. This removal was much complained of as having been made on purely political grounds, and, in general reply to these complaints a writer in the Albany Register, signing himself "A Friend of Justice," defended the action of the council, and charged Foote with official short-comings as the cause of the removal. Foote replied, denying the accusation, and charging Mr. Spencer with being himself the author of the publication, and with base and unworthy behavior as a member of the council and as a public man. Spencer retorted that he had not known nor heard of the article in question until he saw it in print; and as to the matter of Foote's removal, he added, "It was an act of justice to the public, inasmuch as, in removing you, the veriest hypocrite and the most malignant villain in the State was deprived of the power of perpetrating mischief. . . . If, as you insinuate, your interests have by your removal been materially affected, then, sir, like many men more honest than yourself, earn your bread by the sweat of your brow." Even the great De Witt Clinton, in speaking of a political adversary (Colonel John Swartwout), stigmatized him as "a liar, a scoundrel, and a villain."§
It was rather an unusual thing, however, even in those times, for gentlemen like Ambrose Spencer and De Witt Clinton to express their opinions in terms quite as violent as the above. Although the sentiments to which they gave utterance were by no means considered extreme in the political circles of that day, yet it was not uncommon for men of equal education and approximate position to express similar opinions in phrases less abrupt, if no less forcible. Of such character were the contents of a pamphlet published in 1802, and bearing the fictitious signature of Aristides. This, discarding coarse vituperation, assailed in polished terms, but with unrelenting bitterness, the private character as well as the public actions of nearly all the prominent men of the Republican party. Upon Dr. Tillotson, and the Livingston family in general, it showered a flood of the most unsparing denunciation, as being dishonest, false, venal, and governed by the maxim,
"Rem, facias rem.
Si possis recte, si non, quoque mode, rem."
"But," says Hammond, "the vials of his wrath, the dregs of his gall and bitterness, seem to have been reserved to be poured on the heads of De Witt Clinton and Ambrose Spencer. He charges them with everything vile, everything mean and malignant. William P. Van Ness is now the admitted author of this production. It is written with great talent. As a political writer, its style renders Mr. Van Ness unrivaled since the days of Junius; and yet every sentence and line of it seems to have been written with such intense hate and malice boiling in his bosom, that no man who possesses the least portion of the milk of human kindness would consent to enjoy the reputation for genius and talent to which the author is entitled, if the possession of that reputation must of necessity be connected with the evidence which this pamphlet affords of the extreme malignity of the heart of the writer."
But these comments bear much too severely on the brilliant Van Ness. A weapon so sharp as was the keen blade of his satire has ever proved too dangerous to be wielded by fallible human nature, and in this case we find no exception to this universal rule; but, in extenuation, may be urged the weighty plea of the general custom and practice of those political times, which countenanced such attacks, and even tolerated physical assault. And it should also be borne in mind that at that time Mr. Van Ness was naturally in a state of exasperation at the extremely severe accusations--however well founded--which had been made against his personal friend, Aaron Burr, in a political pamphlet then recently published. This pamphlet was almost as bitter, though by no means as able, as the publication of Aristides.
The newspapers of that time were generally violently partisan in character, and teemed with the grossest personal abuse of political opponents. Mr. Charles Holt, the publisher of a Republican paper called the Bee, at New Haven, Conn., who had been convicted, fined, and imprisoned for sedition in 1799, removed in 1802 and established his paper at Hudson by invitation from the Republicans of Columbia. "On the appearance of the Bee in Hudson," says Mr. Miller, in his "Historical Sketches," "a small paper, less than a letter-sheet in size, was issued from the office of Mr. Croswell [who was the editor and publisher of the Hudson Balance] called the Wasp, . . . and both Wasp and Bee stung with personal abuse." They were political opponents, most bitterly hostile, and were supported and applauded in their vituperation by their respective parties. As a specimen of the language employed in their articles, we quote from the Wasp a reference to its political antagonists: "With them vice and virtue are convertible terms, as party interest requires. Yes, in this combination may be seen in miniature the conspiracy of a Cataline, and although I have not Tully's powers of elocution, yet ere long I will lash the rascals with plain facts, and by a just exposition of their conduct I will make those pactitious scoundrels feel the just resentment of a just people; and if their callous souls are not impervious to the keenest remorse, they will fly the sight of honest men, and, like Nyctimente, bewail their fall in the dark."
In 1803, Mr. Croswell, the Federalist editor, made a most violent attack on President Jefferson, for which he was indicted by the grand jury of the county. He was tried in February, 1804, and found guilty under the then existing law, though he was defended by no less a lawyer than Alexander Hamilton.
These political controversies did not in those days always end in mere words. Mr. Holt, of the Bee, had upon one occasion printed an article which was extremely severe on Elisha Williams, who, becoming furious in consequence, laid in wait for Mr. Holt (having first taken the precaution of posting several of his political friends within supporting distance), and upon the appearance of the editor assaulted and knocked him down; an act disgraceful enough in itself, considering the high position of the perpetrator, and doubly so from the fact that Mr. Williams, who was himself a man of powerful frame, thought it necessary to provide reinforcements in advance when going to waylay a man who was not only naturally feeble and slight, but was also a cripple.
In those early times the bank question seems to have been a political one. The few banks then in existence appear to have been originated and used as party machines, and the chartering of new ones was not only made a party question, but was often accompanied by bribery and corruption to an extent comparatively as great as that to which the same agents are employed at the present day in the securing of legislature favors to financial projects.
Up to the year 1799 there were in the State of New York but three banks, and the people thought this number was too great, for the system seemed to them too much like that of the old Continental paper money, the evils of which all either recollected or had heard of from their fathers, and the name of bank, too, carried with it the idea of a chartered combination of the money power against the interests of the poor. The three banks in existence were the Bank of New York, the Bank of Albany, and the Bank of Columbia, at Hudson; all in the hands, or under the influence, of Federalists.
That Columbia county had been able to secure for herself one of these coveted charters at that early day, and in spite of the strong popular prejudice against them, shows clearly upon what a commanding position of political influence among the counties of the State (inferior only to New York and Albany) she had been placed by the number and transcendent abilities of her leading men.
In the year above mentioned the Legislature was petitioned to incorporate The Manhattan Company, for "supplying the city of New York with pure and wholesome water;" an object which seemed to be most laudable one, especially in view of the ravages which had been made in the city by the then recent visitation of the yellow fever. This plausible scheme found favor with the unsuspecting legislators, and the desired charter was granted during the last days of the session of 1799. As it was uncertain what amount might be required for the project, a capital of two million dollars was authorized, and, in view of the possibility that this sum might more than cover the outlay, it was provided that "the surplus capital may be employed in any way not inconsistent with the laws and constitution of the United States, or of the State of New York." But not long after the close of the session it was discovered that in this seemingly insignificant clause was contained a grant of banking privileges to Aaron Burr and his Republican associates, who had thus secured by indirection what they knew it was impossible to obtain otherwise, viz., an offset to the power wielded in the interest of the Federalists by the Bank of New York. Hon. Ambrose Spencer, of Columbia, was soon afterwards largely interested in the Manhattan banking concern. Whether he was so interested from the first we are unable to say, but it appears more than probable.
Then came the project of the State Bank at Albany, which was chartered in 1803. The petition was signed by Ambrose Spencer, John Taylor, Elisha Jenkins, Thomas Tillotson, and others; Columbia county being, as usual, well in the foreground. No concealment was here made of the fact that this was a measure urged in the Republican interest, for it was alleged in the petition that not only did the trade and commerce of the capital city require another bank, but that the then--existing bank--the Bank of Albany---was owned by Federalists, and that its power was used oppressively against business men who were members of the Republican party.
The petitioners also asked that, in addition to banking privileges, they might receive a grant or lease of the Salina salt springs for a long term,--say sixty years,--at an annual rent to be paid by them to the State of three thousand dollars during the first ten years, three thousand five hundred dollars during a second term of equal length, and four thousand dollars yearly thereafter; the company to be bound to furnish, and have always ready for sale at Salina, merchantable salt, at a price not exceeding five shillings per bushel. It is not probable that any among its advocates or opponents realized the enormous value of the concession asked for, but there were not lacking those who felt that it was too extravagant to be granted, and as a result this provision of the bill was finally stricken out.¤
This occasion seems to have marked the commencement of the system of bribery (to use a plain term) which has since that time grown to such alarming proportions. In the marking out of the scheme, and before the petition was presented, the members of the company had agreed on an allotment of stock among themselves, and had reserved a surplus to be placed where it would do the most good to the project,--among the members of the Legislature. Two differing statements have been made of the manner in which this stock fund was used. Both agree that it was distributed among Republican members exclusively, and that it was guaranteed that its price would be above par; but they differ, in that by one account it is made to appear that the distribution was only made among such Republicans as voted for the charter, and by the other, that it was placed with all Republican members, without regard to the manner of their voting. It is most probable that the latter was the course actually pursued, but in either case the intent and the result would be the same, for any member who would accept the more direct proposal would not fail to see that the value of his stock depended wholly on the granting of the charter, and would then vote in accordance with his own interest.
Bills to incorporate the Merchants' Bank of New York and the Mercantile Company of Albany failed to pass. It was alleged by the friends of those projects that it had been agreed between them and the promoters of the State Bank that mutual support should be given to secure the passage of the three bills, but that when the State Bank had secured their own object they forget the agreement, and not only failed to assist but secretly opposed them.
The Merchants' Bank was again before the Legislature in 1804, but with no better result. In 1805 they made a third and determined effort for a charter. It was regarded as a Federal measure, and was strongly opposed by the Republicans, under lead of De Witt Clinton and Judge Spencer. Its most powerful champion in the Assembly was William W. Van Ness, of Columbia, who, although he had then just made his first appearance in that body, was the recognized Federal leader. The opposition was overcome, and the bank received its charter.
These matters are referred to more at length, as showing the commanding political position held by Columbia county, by reason of the eminent abilities of her public men.
The political power possessed by Judge Spencer, not only while he remained a member of the council of appointment, but for years afterwards, seems most remarkable, as well in the great influence which he wielded in the making of appointments as in the control which he habitually exercised over men and measures within the lines of his party. In explaining this, Hammond says, "It must be borne in mind that all officers, including sheriffs, clerks of counties, and justices of the peace, were appointed by the council at Albany. The appointment of justices conferred a more effectual means on the central power of influencing the mass of the community than all the other patronage within the gift of the government. The control over these officers carried the influence of the central power into every town and even the most obscure neighborhood in the State. . . . By some such means Judge Spencer acquired and possessed great power in creating yearly the appointing power, and the ability to create generally carries with it the ability to control the thing created. I must not be understood as intending to represent or even to insinuate that Judge Spencer yielded his assent to any measure or the support of any man when he believed or suspected that such assent would prejudice substantially the great interests of the public. Far from it. On the contrary, I believe him to have been honest and patriotic in his views; but I believe he looked on these matters as mere personal questions, and thought he had a right to pursue a course calculated to advance his own views and interest when that interest was not incompatible with the public good. . . . Judge Spencer was truly a great man; but he was not only fond of power, but of exercising it. He was industrious, bold, enterprising, and persevering. To these qualities it may be added that he was a man of commanding intellect, and one of the ablest judges, if not the ablest judge, in the United States.
He was appointed to the bench of the Supreme Court Feb. 3, 1804, to fill the vacancy occasioned by the resignation of Judge Radcliff. In reference to that appointment Hammond remarks, "It is a somewhat singular coincidence that William W. Van Ness, then a young lawyer and a zealous Federalist, of Columbia county, afterwards a judge of the Supreme Court, was removed from the office of surrogate of the county of Columbia for political reasons by the same council and at the same time that Mr. Spencer was appointed a judge. Did either one or the other anticipate what would be their official, social, and political relations for several years succeeding the year 1818?"
Upon his elevation to the supreme bench, Judge Spencer removed his residence to Albany, and ceased to be a citizen of Columbia county.
In 1804 the county gave a majority for the defeated gubernatorial candidate, Colonel Burr, the vote being as follows: Aaron Burr, twelve hundred and ninety-one; Morgan Lewis, eleven hundred and sixty-two; plurality for Burr, one hundred and twenty-nine.
In this year William Van Ness, Moncrief Livingston, Peter Silvester, and Jason Warner, Federalists, were elected to the Assembly by an average plurality of two hundred and eighty votes over their opponents; Mr. Van Ness, who had three months previously been removed from the office of surrogate, running considerably ahead of his ticket. He made his first appearance in the Legislature at the special session called in November, 1804, for the election of United States senator and presidential electors. At the regular session, convened in January, 1805, he at once, and by general assent, assumed the leadership of the Federalist party in the Assembly, and, as we have seen, achieved a notable success in his advocacy of the charter of the Merchants' Bank. This may be regarded as the commencement of his short but surpassingly brilliant public career.
The vote of the county in 1807 for governor was as follows: for Daniel D. Tompkins, thirteen hundred and six; for Morgan Lewis, fifteen hundred and six; being a plurality of two hundred in favor of the unsuccessful candidate. The city of Hudson gave Lewis one hundred and eighty, and Tompkins one hundred and eighty-six votes.
In this year Hon. W. W. Van Ness was elevated to the supreme bench, and Jacob Rutsen Van Rensselaer soon after became one the of Federalist leaders in the lower house. In 1808 the Federalists achieved a triumph in the State, the first in a period of ten years. Upon the result of this election being known, William W. Van Ness wrote to his friend, Solomon Van Rensselaer, at Albany, in a jubilant strain, as follows:
"CLAVERACK, 30th April, 1808.
"Dear Sir,---Federalism has triumphed most gloriously in this county. We have at least 600 majority; 200 more than we ever had. If Rensselaer County is faithful we shall carry both our members of Congress. Hasten to communicate this to our friend, Abraham Van Vechten. Let somebody write us about members of Congress, &c., &c., in Rensselaer and Washington counties as soon as possible."
In 1810 the county again gave a majority against the successful candidate for governor, viz." for D. D. Tompkins, sixteen hundred and fourteen; for Jonas Platt, twenty-one hundred and thirty-four; Platt's plurality, five hundred and twenty. The vote of Hudson stood---Tompkins, two hundred and thirty-nine; Platt, three hundred and three. The gubernatorial contest in the county in 1813 resulted in a vote of seventeen hundred and seventy-nine for Stephen Van Rensselaer, against twelve hundred and sixty-four for governor Tompkins, who was re-elected.
In 1812, Columbia's most distinguished son, Martin Van Buren was elected to the Senate, and made his first appearance in the New York political arena at the November session in that year.
Hostilities against Great Britain had been declared by Congress on the 20th of the preceding June, and the war question had now become almost the only one which divided political parties. The Federals opposed the war on the ground that we had no cause for declaring it, or at any rate that there was much greater cause for war against France than against England, and that had war been declared against the former country, all our difficulties with the latter would have been removed. Others believed that the government had rushed into hostilities prematurely, and before the nation was prepared for their proper prosecution; but a large majority of the Republican party believed that the war was a just one, and that the proper time had arrived for its declaration.
Mr. Van Buren supported the war, and measures for its vigorous prosecution were warmly and powerfully advocated by him in the Senate, but were no less vigorously and ably opposed by Elisha Williams and Jacob Van Rutsen Rensselaer in the Assembly. Frequent conferences became necessary on account of the collisions which constantly occurred between the Federalist House and the Republican Senate. "In these conferences," says Holland, in his life of the statesman, "the measures in dispute were publicly discussed, and the discussion embraced the general policy of the administration and the expediency of the war. The exciting nature of the questions thus debated, the solemnity of the occasion, the discussions being conducted in the presence of the two houses, and the brilliant talents of the parties to the controversy, drew vast audiences, and presented a field for the display of eloquence unsurpassed in dignity and interest by the assemblies of ancient Greece. Mr. Van Buren was always the leading speaker on the part of the Senate, and by the vigor of his logic, his acuteness and dexterity in debate, and the patriotic spirit of his sentiments, commanded great applause."
Mr. Van Buren was appointed attorney-general in 1815, and in the following year was re-elected to the Senate for a term of four years. In the election of 1816 the county again gave a majority to the unsuccessful candidate for governor, the number received by Governor Tompkins being twelve hundred and eighty-nine against fifteen hundred and sixty-one for Rufus King,---a plurality of two hundred and seventy-two votes.
Upon the question of the nomination for governor in 1817, the Republican (or Democratic) party seemed hopelessly divided, one faction favoring and the other opposing the nomination of De Witt Clinton. A large majority of the Federalists, having little hope for the success of a candidate of their own, desired and labored for the nomination of Clinton. "Among those most active in their endeavors to produce this determination of the party," says Hammond, "were Judges Van Ness and Platt, Jacob Rutsen Van Rensselaer, Elisha Williams, and generally the leading Federalists of the city of New York. The ardent temperament of Judge Van Ness and some other Federalists would not permit them to remain neutral on the question respecting the nomination then agitated among the Republicans."
The opposition to Clinton within the ranks of the Republican party came chiefly from the Tammany Hall branch, which Mr. Clinton himself, in derision, named the Bucktail party, from the fact that a leading order of the Tammany society upon certain occasions wore a part of the tail of a deer in their hats.¥ This designation came to be generally applied to their adherents throughout the State, as well as in New York city, and thus originated the name of a party which flourished for a number of years, and which was celebrated by Fitz-Greene Halleck in verse, of which the following is a specimen:
"That beer and those Bucktails I'll never forget,
But oft, when alone and unnoticed by all,
I think--is the porter-cask foaming there yet?
Are the Bucktails still swigging at Tammany Hall?"
One of the principal leaders of the party was Mr. Van Buren, and Columbia became known as one of the Bucktail counties of the State as regarded general political questions. The Clintonians, however, polled nearly the entire vote of the county for governor in 1817,¦¦ the figures being for Clinton, thirteen hundred and thirty-one; for all others, thirty-four. This result merely showed that the Bucktails permitted the election to go for Clinton by default, as, notwithstanding the apparent unanimity, the number of votes received by him was considerably less than one-half the number polled for King and Tompkins in the preceding year.
In 1820 the county went with the majority in the State, giving Clinton sixteen hundred and eighty-nine votes, against twelve hundred and sixty-four cast for his opponent, D. D. Tompkins.
On the question of calling the convention of 1821 for revising the State constitution, the vote of the county was as follows:
1825.---For election of presidential electors by districts, sixteen hundred and seventy-seven; for their election on general ticket by plurality, two thousand eight hundred and seventy.
1826.---For election of justices of the peace, and for the extension of the elective franchise, three thousand nine hundred and twenty-three; for election of justices, and against extending the franchise, eight; against both propositions, nine; against the election of justices, and in favor of extension of franchise, three.
The county vote of 1826 stood--for governor, De Witt Clinton, two thousand five hundred and fifty-two; William B. Rochester, two thousand four hundred and ten; the latter being the Bucktail candidate. That party was then in a state of splendid discipline, and carried both branches of the Legislature, through Mr. Clinton's great personal popularity made him governor. In this year Aaron Vanderpoel made his first appearance in the Assembly, to which he had been elected in the fall of 1825, as a Clintonian.
On the 17th of July, 1827, a convention of protectionists was held at Albany. This convention asserted in strong terms the power and the duty of congress to pass laws for the protection of home manufactures, and for the encouragement of the wool-growing industry of the country. Among the prominent men who composed this body were Elisha Williams, James Vanderpoel, and Jacob Rutsen Van Rensselaer, delegates from Columbia county.
The Anti-Masonic party, which had its origin in the mysterious incident of the abduction or disappearance of William Morgan from Genesee county in September, 1826, first appeared as a political power in 1827, when it developed sufficient strength to carry the elections in the counties of Genesee, Monroe, Livingston, Orleans, and Niagara in the face of the Bucktail and Adams organizations,--a result which astonished even its own adherents. Its operation, however, was as yet confined chiefly to the western portion of the State.
The Clintonian party ceased to exist in 1828, in consequence of the death of their leader, Governor Clinton, February 11 in that year.
The "Jackson party," which first became generally known as such in 1828, was made up from the old Bucktail party, a portion of the Clintonians, and a majority of the adhering Masons, who sought this shelter from the unsparing proscription of the Anti-Masonic party. And at the head of the Jackson party in New York stood Martin Van Buren, its candidate for governor.
Its antagonist was the National Republican or Adams party, whose candidate in 1828 was Smith Thompson. In this party were found the greater portion of the former Federalists. Its most prominent member in Columbia county was Elisha Williams, who, with Killian Miller, were then among its leaders in the Assembly. Ambrose L. Jordan was a supporter of this party, and was known as an Adams Democrat. So also was Captain Alexander Coffin, of Hudson, who was made president of the Adams State convention, held at Albany on the 10th of June in that year. Aaron Vanderpoel, who had been elected to the Assembly as a Clintonian in 1825, was now an adherent of the Jackson party.
The result of the election of 1828 was a plurality of one hundred and thirty-six votes against Mr. Van Buren in his native county,--viz., for Thompson, three thousand five hundred and sixty-one; for Van Buren, three thousand four hundred and twenty-five; and for Solomon Southwick (Anti-Mason), eighty. This seems like rather a remarkable result, except that it placed Columbia again in her old position on the side of the defeated candidates.
In 1829 the county again became Democratic, electing to the Assembly Messrs. A. Vanderpoel (formerly Clintonian), Oliver Wiswall, and Jonathan Lapham by an average plurality of seven hundred and seventy-seven over the opposing ticket.
In the election of 1830, Columbia gave to Enos T. Throop, the Democratic candidate for governor, three thousand three hundred and eighty-four votes, against two thousand five hundred and eleven for Francis Granger, the Anti-Masonic candidate. John W. Edmonds (Jacksonian) was at this time first elected to the Assembly, and in the following year was raised to the Senate, by a plurality of eight hundred and fifty-one votes over the opposing candidate.
The Anti-Masonic vote of the county was largely increased in the election of 1832, Francis Granger receiving three thousand six hundred and eighty-eight votes for governor, against three thousand nine hundred and fifty-three given for Wm. L. Marcy, the Democratic candidate. The Jackson presidential electors received three thousand nine hundred and sixty-give votes, against three thousand six hundred and eighty-two given for the opposing ticket,--a majority of two hundred and eighty-three.
About this time the Anti-Masonic party went out of existence, having accomplished its object, the overthrow of Freemasonry, or at least the extinction of nearly every Masonic lodge in the State. Upon the ruins of this and the National Republican party arose the Whig party, whose first gubernatorial candidate was William H. Seward,** in the election of 1834. In that election Columbia gave him three thousand eight hundred and sixty-four votes, against four thousand one hundred and fifty for W. L. Marcy, Democrat. Among the scattering votes given in that year were one for Henry Clay for governor, and one for John C. Calhoun for lieutenant-governor. In 1833 one vote had been given for Andrew Jackson for member of Assembly.
In 1836, Mr. Van Buren received in his own county three thousand seven hundred and sixty-seven votes for the office of President, the vote given for the Harrison electors being three thousand and fifty-one. For governor, Marcy received three thousand hundred and forty-three, against three thousand and eighty-six for Jesse Buel, Whig. In 1838 the vote of the county for governor stood four thousand and sixty-eight for Marcy, and four thousand and eleven for Seward, the successful candidate.
It was during the exciting campaign of that year that a name which has since become as familiar as a household word--the name of Samuel J. Tilden--was first heard as that of a champion in the political arena. He was a that time a law-student, and but twenty-four years of age. The circumstances of his appearance upon the rostrum in the neighborhood of his birthplace were as follows: Nathaniel P. Talmadge, then a member of the United States Senate, having separated himself from the Democratic party and joined the Whigs, had been announced to speak in Columbia county upon the issues of the day and in opposition to the financial policy of President Van Buren, and it was the hope of the Whig projectors of the meeting that many of the wavering voters in this county might be converted to Whig principles by the powerful reasoning of the senator. It was especially for the benefit of these doubtful ones that the meeting was held; but although the attendance of pronounced Democrats was not desired, yet the word of notification had been passed along their line, and they were present in large numbers.
The address of Mr. Talmadge was a most forcible and eloquent one, and during its progress he particularly emphasized the assertion that it was not he nor the Whig party who had changed their position and principles, but that it was the Democratic party who had abandoned their political faith and traditions. The address and the argument were most able, and, when the speaker closed, one of the Whig leaders offered a resolution, which passed without opposition, inviting a reply from any Democratic speaker present who might be so disposed. The young Democrats, who were mostly gathered in the rear of the hall, regarded this as a challenge, and shouted loudly for Tilden, who, perhaps by premeditation, was near at hand, and promptly took the stand just vacated by the senator.
After discussing the main question of the controversy, he adverted especially to Mr. Talmadge's statement that it was the Democrats who had changed position while he himself had remained consistent. By way of testing the truth of this declaration he turned to the Whigs on the platform, and addressing each in turn, asked who it was that had changed,--whether it was themselves or the senator who had been opposed to them in the late presidential contest, but was now their political friend and champion? Finally, addressing the chairman of the meeting, the venerable Mr.--------Gilbert, he said, in a tone of mingled compliment and expostulation, "And you, sir; have you changed?" and the honest and straightforward old man vehemently answered, "No!" Mr. Tilden skillfully availed himself of this declaration of his old neighbor and friend, and used it against the senator with such telling effect that the meeting, which had been called in the interest of the Whigs, was turned to the advantage of their enemies, and the young opponent of Senator Talmadge had achieved great popularity with the Democracy of his native county. Two years later, Oct. 3, 1840, at New Lebanon, Mr. Tilden made another speech of remarkable power, which is yet well remembered and often mentioned by the older residents of the county.
In 1839 the question of the election of mayors by the people was submitted to the electors of the county, resulting in a vote of four thousand seven hundred for, and three against the proposition.
In the memorable presidential contest of 1840 the county was Democratic, though not strongly so,--the number of votes given for the Van Buren electors being four thousand four hundred and seventy-eight, as against four thousand two hundred and ninety for the Harrison ticket,--a plurality of one hundred and eighty-eight. For governor, William C. Bouck, Democrat, received four thousand five hundred and seventeen votes, against four thousand two hundred and seventy-two cast for Seward,--two hundred and forty-give plurality. There were five anti-slavery votes cast in this election, these being the first of the political complexion cast in the county.
The first reference to the existence of an anti-slavery sentiment in Columbia county is an account of an unsuccessful attempt to hold a meeting of that description in the city of Hudson in November, 1835. Two and a half years later (April 26, 1838), a large anti-slavery meeting was held in the Baptist church in the same city, and was "addressed by James G. Birney, late a slaveholder in Kentucky," and H. B. Stanton, both these gentlemen then being secretaries of the National Anti-Slavery Society, and Mr. Birney being afterwards the candidate of he Liberty party for President of the United States.
At that meeting (the call for which was headed by Captain Alexander Coffin, Rev. John Lester, and Nathaniel Pinne) the Columbia County Anti-Slavery Society was formed and organized by the choice of the following officers, viz.: President, Henry P. Skinner; Vice-Presidents, Rev. Charles Lester, Alexander Coffin (then ninety-eight years of age), Rev. Peter Prink, Dr. ------- Door, Harvey Gott, Martin Beebe, Chalres Esselstyn, and Daniel Baldwin; Corresponding Secretary, Silas Stone; Recording Secretary, S. S. Hathaway; Treasurer, H. D. Humphrey, Executive Committee, Rev. Seth Ewer, Eli Mosier, Thomas Marshall, Josiah St. John, and I. V. Bassett. It appears however, that the society never accomplished any result in the influencing of votes in this county, for the highest number ever cast for a candidate was less than the number of original officers of the society.
Columbia's vote for governor in 1842 was, for Wm. C. Bouck, four thousand two hundred and seventy-eight; for Luther Bradish, three thousand three hundred and sixty-two. In 1844, for governor, Silas Wright received four thousand seven hundred and thirty-six votes; Millard Fillmore, four thousand two hundred and ninety-four.
The presidential vote of the county in the same year was, Polk (Democratic), four thousand six hundred and ninety-two; Clay (Whig), four thousand three hundred and twenty-two; and the candidate of the Liberty part, eleven; total, nine thousand and twenty-five.
At this time commenced the existence of the Anti-Rent party as a political power, the first movement in Columbia being the organization, in the town of Taghkanic, in November, 1844, of the "The Taghkanic Mutual Association," with the following officers, viz.: President, John I. Johnson; Vice-President, James M. Strever, George I. Rossman, Peter Poucher, Samuel A. Tanner, and George I. Finkle; Treasurer, Philip B. Miller; Recording Secretary, Anthony Poucher; Corresponding Secretary, Peter Poucher; Executive Committee, John Bain and James M. Strever.
The object of the society was "to blot from the statute book the last relics of Feudalism," and the members pledged themselves to use all lawful and honorable means to rid themselves and the people of the burdens imposed by the manorial system; and to that end they pledged themselves never to make nor accept (without the consent of a majority of the association) any proposition for the payment of rent or purchase of soil to or from any person claiming to hold under the Livingston or Van Rensselaer patents.
The movement, however, did not become entirely a political one until after the arrest and conviction of the anti-rent leaders for the foolish and lawless excesses committed in December of the same year. The convictions had the effect to make many anti-rent converts, and to lift the faction to the numerical dignity of a political party; and the policy adopted by this party was to elect all town and county officers from their own ranks, to vote for no State, civil, judicial, or executive officer unfriendly to them or unpledged to their cause, and to disregard all former political opinions. This policy caused politicians to fear and to be anxious to conciliate them; and so rapidly did they grow in influence and strength that the gubernatorial candidate of the party (Governor John Young) was elected, in 1846, by a majority of about ten thousand, to which Columbia county contributed by the following vote: For John Young (Anti-Rent), four thousand two hundred and four; for Silas Wright (Democratic), three thousand three hundred and eighteen. Governor Young at once pardoned all the anti-rent convicts, on the ground that their offenses had been political rather than criminal, and that it was the wise policy of all good governments to forgive and restore to citizenship all political offenders after the law had been vindicated and peace restored.
The vote of the county in 1846 on the question of a new State constitution was as follows: For a new constitution, five thousand two hundred and eighty-two; against, nine hundred and one. For constitutional amendment giving equal suffrage to colored persons, six hundred and sixty-six; against said suffrage, five thousand two hundred and sixty-one. The only town giving an unanimous vote against colored suffrage was Clermont. The vote of Germantown on that question was one hundred and forty against, and six in favor of the suffrage; Hillsdale voted nineteen for, and three hundred and fifty-six against the measure; Livingston, four for, and two hundred and sixty against it; and several other towns in about the same proportion.
The influence of the Anti-Rent party in the convention was sufficient to procure the insertion of a clause in the new constitution abolishing all feudal tenures and incidents, and forbidding the leasing of agricultural land for a term exceeding twenty years. The Legislature at successive sessions passed laws which bore heavily against the landlord interest, and so far the party seemed to have accomplished its mission.
But for several yeas after the legitimate occupation of the party seemed to be gone its organization was kept up, mainly for the purpose, as is said by many, of enabling a few leaders to hold its vote ready for sale to aspiring candidates, or to one or the other of the great parties, or perhaps to both parties at the same time. For this purpose the meetings were regularly held, though frequently not attended by more than two or three persons; these, of course, always being party managers. It is related that upon one of these occasions a few faithful ones met at one of the country taverns, and after fortifying themselves with spirituous sustenance, proceeded at about nine P.M. to organize for the transaction of the important business which had called them together. Without a moment's delay or hesitation the "meeting" was opened and organized by the spokesman, Mr. Finkle, in the following words: "Gentlemen, please come to order. I move that -------- Becraft be chairman of this meeting. I second the motion. All in favor of -------Becraft as chairman of this meeting say aye; aye carried. Mr. Becraft git right round here and take the chair;" the operation of making, seconding, and putting the motion, voting affirmatively upon it, announcing the result, and inducting the chairman into his office, being all performed by Mr. Finkle without the least assistance, and without once pausing to take breath. The business of the meeting was dispatched with almost equal celerity, and it was then adjourned.
As late as 1851 Columbia sent delegates to and Anti-Rent convention held in September of that year, at Albany, upon which occasion the counties of Albany, Rensselaer, Schoharie, Delaware, Greene, Ulster, Sullivan, Otsego, Oneida, Dutchess, and Montgomery were also represented. The party, however, did not exist long after that time.
About 1846 came the split of the Democratic party into the "Hunker" and "Barnburner" factions. The first political meeting of the "Hunkers" (as such) was a very numerous one held at Hillsdale, and presided over by the Hon. John F. Collin, one of the most prominent leaders in the county. A tall flag-staff was raised amidst the greatest enthusiasm, and speeches were made by John H. Reynolds, of Kinderhook, James Van Santvoord, Henry A. Collin, and others. The "Barnburner" movement soon resulted in the formation of the Free-Soil party, which, in 1848, nominated ex-President Van Buren as its presidential candidate. The vote of Columbia in that election stood: for Lewis Cass, Democrat, two thousand one hundred and twenty-one; for General Taylor, Whig, three thousand nine hundred and forty-three; for Martin Van Buren, Free-Soil, two thousand one hundred; for the Liberty party candidate, five.
In 1850, Horatio Seymour received three thousand seven hundred and eighty-one votes, and Washington Hunt three thousand seven hundred and ninety-six votes, in Columbia, for the office of governor.
In the presidential election of 1852 the county gave Franklin Pierce (Democrat) four thousand four hundred and fifty-give votes, and Winfield Scott (Whig) four thousand one hundred and forty-two votes, for the office of President, seven votes being given to the Free-Soil or Liberty candidate.
The vote of the county cast in 1854 for the four gubernatorial candidates who were then in the field was, for Horatio Seymour, two thousand three hundred and eighty; for Myron H. Clark, two thousand four hundred and forty-four; for Daniel Ulman, fifteen hundred and eighty-two; for Greene C. Bronson, nine hundred and ninety-four.
In the presidential elections which have occurred since that time the vote of Columbia has been cast as follows:
|1856.--||For James Buchanan (Democrat)||3020|
|For John C. Fremont (Republican)||3818|
|For Millard Fillmore ("American")||1981|
|1860.--||For A. Lincoln (Republican)||5108|
|For J. C. Breckinridge (Democrat)||4722|
|1864.--||For A. Lincoln (Republican)||4872|
|For G. B. McClelland (Democrat||5240|
|1868.--||For U. S. Grant (Republican)||5354|
|For Horatio Seymour (Democrat)||5661|
|1872.--||For U. S. Grant (Republican)||5452|
|For Horace Greeley (Democrat)||6047|
|1876.--||For Samuel J. Tilden (Democrat)||6311|
|For R. H. Hayes (Republican)||5799|
The votes cast in Columbia county on popular questions submitted to the people since the year 1850 have been as follows:
|1858.--||For convention to revise the constitution. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||3597|
|Against same. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||1916|
|1859.--||For State loan to pay floating debt. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||2743|
|Against same. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||1734|
|1860.--||For equal suffrage to colored persons. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||1881|
|Against same. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||5646|
|1864.--||For amendment to allow soldiers voting. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||4062|
|Against same. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||587|
|1865.--||For State bounty act. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||6448|
|Against same. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||762|
|1866.--||For constitutional convention. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||5060|
|Against same. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||4794|
|1869.--||For amended constitution. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||4504|
|Against same. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||3801|
|For uniform rate of assessment and taxation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||4526|
|Against same. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||3782|
|For property qualification for colored men. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||4703|
|Against same. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||3368|
|1870.--||For For act creating a State debt. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||4442|
|Against same. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||5070|
|1873.--||For appointment of judges of court of appeals and Supreme Court||2136|
|Against same. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||3896|
|For appointment of city and county judges. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||2049|
|Against same. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||3787|
|1874.--||Eleven proposed constitutional amendments submitted at this election received majorities ranging form 2000 to 5000|
|1877.--||For amendments to Sections 3 and 4, Article V., constitution. . . . .||7219|
|Against same. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||693|
*The Columbia county delegation remained steadfast, and opposed the ratification in the final vote.
†Governor Clinton was, however, re-elected by a majority of four hundred and twenty-nine votes. Hammond says, "That Governor Clinton succeeded in this election is a high evidence of his personal popularity. His friends around him were slain, but he himself walked off the field of battle in triumph."
‡ The Anti-Federalists had now become more generally known as Republicans, and were often known as Democrats.
¶Similar results were often shown in the vote of Germantown. In 1801 it gave Hezekiah L. Hosmer, for Congressman, forty-six votes and his opponent none. In the same year it gave Van Rensselaer, for governor, sixty-five votes, and his antagonist, Clinton, one vote; the Federal Senatorial ticket in the same election receiving sixty-give votes, with none opposing. In 1802 the vote of the town for representative in Congress stood fifty-nine for Livingston to three for John P. Van Ness. In 1804 it gave Burr, for governor, fifty-eight votes, and Morgan Lewis, for the same office, four votes; but in the next election of governor (1807) Lewis received the lion's share,--seventy-six votes, against one solitary vote given for his opponent, D. D. Tompkins. In 1810 the town gave Platt, for governor, seventy-eight votes, against four for Tompkins; in 1813, Thompkins held his own in the town, receiving four votes, to eighty-six cast for his competitor, Van Rensselaer. In 1816, Rufus King received seventy-five, and Tompkins' supporters had increased to nine; but in 1820 Tompkins received but six votes in the town, against eighty-five cast for his antagonist, De Witt Clinton.
§ This choice language occasioned a duel between the parties. Swartwout demanded an apology or recantation; Clinton replied that he (Swartwout) had charged him with opposing Aaron Burr from base motives, and that he had used the offensive language solely in reference to that charge. If that were withdrawn he (Clinton) would recant or apologize. Swartwout would not withdraw, and so they fought. Clinton said he was fighting a man against whom he had no personal enmity, but nevertheless he fired five shots at him; and two of these having taken effect, the surgeons interposed and prevented further hostilities, though contrary to the expressed wish of Swartwout.
¤Vide Hammond, vol. i. p. 329.
¥ This is what the Indian missionary, Heckewelder (most excellent authority in all Indian matters), says of the chief Tamanend, or Tammany, and the origin of the society which bears his name:
"He was a Delaware chief who never had his equal. The fame of this great man extended even among the whites, who fabricated various legends respecting him, which I never heard, however, from the mouth of an Indian, and therefore believe them to be fabulous. In the Revolutionary war his enthusiastic admirers dubbed him a saint, and he was established under the name of St. Tammany, the patron saint of America. His name was inserted in some calendars, and his festival celebrated on the first day of May in every year. On that day a numerous society of his votaries walked together in procession through the streets of Philadelphia, their hats decorated with bucktails, and proceeded to a handsome rural place out of town, which they called the wigwam; where, after a long talk or Indian speech had been delivered, and the calumet of peace and friendship had been duly smoked, they spent the day in festivity and mirth."
¦¦ A gubernatorial election was held in 1817, on account of Governor Tompkins having been elected vice-president of the United States.
**Mr. Seward had been first elected to the Senate, in 1830, by the Anti-Masonic party in the seventh district.