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DeWitt Clinton’s Statement on a Political Faction in New York, [before 10 December 1801]

DeWitt Clinton’s Statement
on a Political Faction in New York

[before 10 Dec. 1801]

A statement of interests in N.Y. by Dewitt Clinton1 to mr Cheetham.

It is presumed that no serious evil can result from the designs of the little faction which has existed for a short time previous to the Presidential election, & which is governed by no principle but is solely devoted to the aggrandisement of an individual. it possesses neither talents, property virtue or any of the attributes of general confidence. it’s strength is founded on the secrecy of it’s plans, the arts & rapid movements of it’s leader, & the prevelent opinion that he has in a great degree regulated the appointments in the genl. govmt for his state. the most influential of his adherents have derived their consequence from this latter source.

How far the contagion has spread cannot be ascertained, as the subjects of it dare not expose it. the following have been suspected of being under an undue bias in the respective counties hereafter mentioned, to wit.

Suffolk. none Washington none
Queens do. Clinton. do.
Kings do. Essex do.
Richmond do. Saratoga. qu. as to mr Comstock,
bror in law of Govr. Fenner of R. Isld.
New York. you know. Schoharie. qu. as to Geo. Tiffany & brother
Westchester. none of any consequence. Montgomery.   none.
Dutchess. the same. Oneida    do.
Rockland none Otsego. qu. as to some individuals.
Orange. George Gardiner & Peter Townsend. Herkemer.    none.
Ulster. none of any consequence. Ontario. qu. as to Oliver Phelps
Columbia. the Van Ness’s Steuben.     none
Green none Tioga    none.
Delaware do. Cayuga qu. as to Joseph Israel Smith &c
Albany do. Onondago    none
Renslaer do. Chenango    do.

so far as Hamilton’s weight will go, the federal party will not join him. some however of minor consquence will. and these combined with the renegadoes of the Republican party will form as curious a compound as history ever recorded.   the following representatives may be relied on.

Smith. Mitchell. V. Cortlandt. Elmendorf. Thomas. Bailey.

Two measures will effectually destroy these unprincipled intrigues.

1. An uniform mode of chusing electors.

2. A designation in the electoral balots of the office voted for.

MS (Profiles in History, Beverly Hills, California, 1998); entirely in TJ’s hand; undated, but see the next document.

Individual: Aaron Burr.

In 1800, Adam Comstock, a Rhode Island native who moved to New York after the Revolution, represented Saratoga County in the New York Assembly from 1792 to 1804 and in the state senate from 1806 to 1809 (Kline, Burr description begins Mary-Jo Kline, ed., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr, Princeton, 1983, 2 vols. description ends , 1:374n). George Tiffany and his younger brother Isaac Hall Tiffany were graduates of Dartmouth College, in the classes of 1786 and 1793, respectively. They both studied law before moving to Schoharie County (George T. Chapman, Sketches of the Alumni of Dartmouth College [Cambridge, Mass., 1867], 43, 71).

George Gardner (Gardiner) was a prominent Republican in Newburgh, Orange County, New York. Peter Townsend, of Chester, arranged for Burr’s election to the state assembly by placing his name on the assembly ticket in Orange County (Kline, Burr description begins Mary-Jo Kline, ed., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr, Princeton, 1983, 2 vols. description ends , 1:421, 429, 2:842–3). Van Ness’s: Peter Van Ness, first judge of the Columbia County Court of Common Pleas, and his eldest son John Peter served as Republican electors in 1800. John and his younger brother William P. Van Ness attended Columbia College and became attorneys. They were lifelong friends and political allies of Burr. In 1801, John P. Van Ness took a seat in Congress, which he forfeited in 1803, after TJ appointed him a major of militia for the District of Columbia (Alfred F. Young, The Democratic Republicans of New York: The Origins, 1763–1797 [Chapel Hill, 1967], 251n; Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ; Kline, Burr description begins Mary-Jo Kline, ed., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr, Princeton, 1983, 2 vols. description ends , 1:584; 2:612–13).

Oliver Phelps, the Massachusetts land speculator who, along with Nathanial Gorham, gained title to three million acres in western New York, moved to Ontario County in 1796 (Young, Democratic Republicans of New York, 232–3; Kline, Burr description begins Mary-Jo Kline, ed., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr, Princeton, 1983, 2 vols. description ends , 1:44–5, 341). A former Dutchess County resident, Israel Smith settled at Cayuga in 1800. He was the brother of Mary Smith Swartwout, wife of U.S. marshal John Swartwout, and the nephew of Burr’s political ally Melancton Smith (Kline, Burr description begins Mary-Jo Kline, ed., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr, Princeton, 1983, 2 vols. description ends , 2:785).

May be relied on: John Smith, Samuel L. Mitchill, Philip Van Cortlandt, Lucas C. Elmendorf, David Thomas, and Theodorus Bailey all represented New York in the Seventh Congress (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ).

1TJ perhaps added remainder of sentence at a later sitting.

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