Charles D. Cooper to Philip Schuyler2
[Albany, April 23, 1804]
The malignant attack which my character has sustained in an anonymous hand-bill, to which your letter of the 21st inst. directed to the chairman of the Federal electioneering committee of this city3 is annexed; and in which you contradict certain facts contained in a letter, said to have been written by me to Andrew Brown, Esq. of Bern, will be my apology for repelling the unfounded aspersions which have been thus dishonorably obtruded on the public. My letter to Mr. Brown4 was committed to the care of Johan J. Deitz, Esq. of Bern; but to this gentleman, I hope, cannot be imputed the embezzling and breaking open of a letter, a crime which in England has met with the most ignominious punishment.
Admitting the letter published to be an exact transcript of the one intended for Mr. Brown, and which, it seems, instead of being delivered according to promise, was Embezzled and Broken Open; I aver, that the assertions therein contained are substantially true, and that I can prove them by the most unquestionable testimony. I assert that Gen. Hamilton and Judge Kent5 have declared, in substance, that they looked upon Mr. Burr to be a dangerous man, and one who ought not to be trusted with the reins of government. If, Sir, you attended a meeting of federalists, at the city tavern, where Gen. Hamilton made a speech on the pending election,6 I might appeal to you for the truth of so much of this assertion as relates to him. I have, however, other evidence to substantiate the fact. With respect to Judge Kent’s declaration, I have only to refer to Theodorus V. W. Graham, Esq.7 and Mr. James Kane,8 of this city, whose veracity, I trust, will not be impeached; but should the fact have escaped their recollection, I am not in want of other evidence, equally respectable, to support it. Mr. Van Rensselaer,9 a few days before he left town for New-York, in a conversation with me, declared in substance what I communicated in the letter to Mr. Brown, as coming from him; and I am perfectly willing to repose myself on his well-known candour for the truth of this declaration.
I asserted, in the letter which has been so disgracefully Embezzled, and the Breaking Open of which must be ranked with the lowest species of villainy, that many of the reflecting federalists would support Judge Lewis. Will this be considered a rash assertion, when it is known, that two federal gentlemen, high in office in this city, have declared they would vote for him? Judge Pendleton,10 of New-York, made the same declaration in this city, under the impression, however, that no federal candidate was to be offered. Oliver Phelps,11 when in this city, on his way to Canandaigua, stated, that Gen. Hamilton, and about one hundred federalists in New-York, would not vote for Mr. Burr.
It is true, that Judge Tayler intimated to me, the conversation Mr. Van Rensselaer had with him, to which you allude, but it was subsequent to my having written and dispatched the letter for Mr. Brown.
I beg leave to remark, sir, that the anxiety you discovered, when his Honor the Chancellor was about to be nominated, induced me to believe, that you entertained a bad opinion of Mr. Burr, especially when taken in connection with General Hamilton’s harangue at the city tavern; and although I have never suggested that you would act on the one side or the other in this election—yet, presuming on the correctness of your mind, and the reputation you sustain of an upright and exemplary character, I could not suppose you would support a man whom I had reason to believe, you held in the lowest estimation.
It is sufficient for me, on this occasion, to substantiate what I have asserted. I have made it an invariable rule of my life, to be circumspect in relating what I may have heard from others; and in this affair, I feel happy to think, that I have been unusually cautious—for really sir, I could detail to you a still more despicable opinion which General Hamilton has expressed of Mr. Burr.
I cannot conclude, without paying some attention to your friend, Dr. Stringer; I have to regret that this gentleman, so renowned for the Christian virtues, should have consented to dishonour your name, by connecting your letter with an anonymous production, replete with the vilest falsehood and the foulest calumny.
I am, Sir, with due respect, Your humble servant,
CHARLES D. COOPER.
2. The Albany Register, April 24, 1804.
3. Schuyler’s letter to Dr. Samuel Stringer, chairman of the Albany Federal Republican Committee, reads: “Having seen a letter subscribed with the name of Charles D. Cooper, dated on the 12th instant addressed to Andrew Brown, Esq. Bern, making sundry assertions relative to the part that General Hamilton, Mr. S. Van Rensselaer, Judge [James] Kent and others would act in the approaching election: I think it proper to mention, that while Chancellor [John] Lansing[, Jr.] was considered as the candidate, General Hamilton was in favour of supporting him; but that after the nomination of Chief Justice [Morgan] Lewis, he declared to me that he would not interfere. And I can further inform you, that Stephen Van Rensselaer, Esq. who has lately left this city for New-York, declared his decided opinion in favour of the election of Colonel Burr, and that he has uniformly declared that opinion since Mr. Lewis was first nominated. That in a late conversation with John Tayler, Esq. in whose house the above mentioned Charles D. Cooper resides, and whose near connexion he is, I observed to Judge Tayler, that I had been informed that it was reported that Mr. Van Rensselaer and myself were in favour of Judge Lewis, and that Judge Tayler answered, that he had never heard that such a report was circulated respecting Mr. Van Rensselaer or myself; but that on the contrary, Mr. Van Rensselaer had declared to him, that he should vote for Colonel Burr.
“I further declare, that on or about the 3d of April instant, Judge Kent declared to me, that in a late conversation with Judge Lewis, he informed the judge himself, that he was in favour of the election of Colonel Burr:—and Also that Judge Kent did, at a prior day, make a declaration to me in favour of Colonel Burr, in preference to Judge Lewis; and I have understood that he, Judge Kent, has been uniformly of this mind since the nomination of the Chief Justice.”
For information concerning the New York gubernatorial election, see “Speech at a Meeting of Federalists in Albany,” February 10, 1804; H to Robert G. Harper, February 19, 1804; Rufus King to H, February 24, March 1, 1804; H to King, February 24, 1804.
4. Cooper’s letter to Brown, dated April 12, 1804, reads: “You will receive some election papers, and some of them in the German language. I presume you will make use of them to the best advantage: have them dispersed and scattered as much as possible. The friends of Col. Burr are extremely active, and will require all our exertion to put them down. It is believed that most of the reflecting Federalists will vote for Lewis. Gen. Hamilton, the patroon’s brother-in-law, it is said, has come out decidedly against Burr; indeed when ‘he was here he spoke of him as a dangerous man, and who ought not to be trusted.’ Judge Kent also expressed the same sentiment. The patroon was quite indifferent about it when he went to New-York. It is thought when he sees Gen. Hamilton and his brother-in-law Mr. [John B.] Church (who Burr some time ago fought a duel with, and of course, must bear Burr much hatred) I say many feel persuaded that Mr. Renselaer will be decidedly opposed to Mr. Burr. If you think any of us can aid you in the election in your town let us know and we will give you what assistance is in our power; can you send me word what you think will be the result of the election in your town?
Charles D. Cooper
“Perhaps it will be of use to shew the part of this letter that relates to the Patroon, Hamilton and Church, to some of the patroons tenants. I leave it to your discretion. In haste.” (New-York Evening Post, July 23, 1804.)
5. James Kent, a Federalist, was a judge of the New York Supreme Court.
7. Graham was an Albany lawyer.
8. Kane was an Albany merchant.
9. Stephen Van Rensselaer, the eighth patroon, had been married to Elizabeth Hamilton’s sister, Margarita Schuyler Van Rensselaer, who died on March 14, 1801.
10. Nathaniel Pendleton.
11. Phelps, a large landowner in Ontario County, had been nominated for lieutenant governor on Burr’s ticket.