Sunday, October 9, 2011

Partisan Politics in Hudson . . . 1839

A reader sent this account from the Columbia Republican, which was reprinted a hundred years later in the Hudson Daily Star, of a midterm visit to Hudson on July 19, 1839, by President Martin Van Buren. Van Buren, it will be remembered, was a Democrat. The city leaders of Hudson at the time were Whigs, as was, obviously, the editor of the Columbia Republican.

Mr. Van Buren's reception in this city, on Friday last, was anything but satisfactory to his friends; it was unattended by any demonstration of joy, and the whole affair, from the beginning, has been one of vexation and mortification to his "democratic fellow citizens" throughout the country. The . . . interested friends and relations of Mr. Van Buren induced both Whigs and Tories to believe that the people would pour into the city by thousands, and that the President's welcome, would be quite as enthusiastic as that given to the illustrious Lafayette, when our streets presented a compact mass of human beings, whose willing and unbidden voices rent the air with acclamations of gratitude.

It was supposed that Mr. Van Buren's advent into his native State would be marked by peculiar demonstrations of joy and that as he approached his native county, where he was reared, and where in youth and in manhood, he laid his deep and dark scheme of ambition, that he would be greeted by a pageant, brilliant, glorious and unprecedented in the history of Presidential tours. Such were some of the bright anticipations of our "Democratic fellow citizens"--but alas! how far removed from reality.

After the Common Council has wisely refused to squander the people's money in defraying the expense of Mr. Van Buren's electioneering tour, and had indignantly refused to degrade their official stations, by doing personal homage, the Fire Department, (whose splendid appearance on gala days have won for them an enviable reputation) were requested to turn out--but they too by a vote of 10 to 3, refused to be used. Thus in effect, did the City of Hudson refuse to receive Mr. Van Buren; not because she is inhospitable--but because her people are too patriotic to give countenance to such gross departures from Republican usages as have disgraced every step of the President's progress. 

Foiled in every attempt to call out the people of Hudson, Mr. Van Buren's friends relied almost entirely upon foreign aid, and the known "attachment" of Loco Foco office holders. Accordingly, circulars were sent in all directions--the surrounding counties were scoured, the neighboring cities and villages were visited, and every strong hold of "democracy" laid under contribution--in short every device that craft and desperation could invent, were put in requisition, and for five days the most active exertions were made to secure and bring in the "democracy of numbers."

At length the day arrived--the sun shone brightly, and the Locos were delighted that the elements had not conspired against them, and their hearts were also cheered by the timely arrival and sweet music of a hired band. By half past ten the steam boats and stages had all arrived, the military from the neighboring towns were here, and the array of office holders, expectants, Loco Foco editors, reporters, &c., were all on duty. Never has a more complete demonstration of the advantage of the spoils system been given; and the Whigs may learn a useful lesson from the exhibition thus afforded them of the unsurpassed discipline of the opposition troops. . . . 

[The President] was received at the Public Square by the people from the surrounding counties, and the few citizens of Hudson who saw proper to turn out. There were a few feeble shouts, but these were forced, and rather farcical. The procession now moved down Warren street, the whole force, including the military amounting to a trifle more than 400. These were 146 on horseback, 112 on foot, and 36 "carriages," including all sorts, and (principally) hired for the occasion--no farm wagons filled with the good old farmers of Columbia, but office holders from Troy, Albany, New York, and all the villages along the river. The progress through the city was slow and silent; no ringing of bells, no cheering, no waving of handkerchiefs, no demonstrations of joy at the arrival of the "favorite son". . . . 

In the evening, Mr. Van Buren received calls from ladies and all others who saw proper to call upon him, but generally his partizan friends--indeed, we have not heard of a single Whig who presented himself.

Mr. Smith, the gentlemanly proprietor of the Hudson House, very properly, considering the honor conferred upon him, illuminated part of his house, and at 10 o'clock the hired band performed a few choice pieces, when retiring, the lights were extinguished, the few remaining office holders, weary of glory, retired one by one, to the repose of their pillows, and by eleven o'clock the President was "alone in his glory." How sweetly he slept, we leave the reader to conjecture. 

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