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Remarkable handwritten letter from a "mortified" Buchanan, vowing retribution, after the defection of southern Democrats led by John C. Calhoun, elected a southern Whig over a northern Democrat as Clerk of the House of Representatives, framed in the Gallery of History style to 35x21.
Autograph Letter Signed: "James Buchanan", 1 page, 8x10. Wheatland, 1850 January 12. To A. Boyd Hamilton Esq., Philadelphia. In full: "I am deeply mortified but not much disappointed at Forney's defeat. I was not prepared, however, for the defection of Southern Democrats; although I know Calhoun well. The five from S.C. are his friends & Venable of N.C. is his mere creature. Hubbard of Alabama is devoted to him; but what are the antecedents of Ewing of Tennessee I do not know. If this vote should be brought distinctly to the knowledge of the Democracy of Venable's District, he can never be re-elected: & he will then add another individual to the hecatombs which Calhoun has already sacrificed. But I am too much provoked to write upon the subject. Without some of the free soilers or Southern Whigs I did not from the first perceive how Forney could be elected; but a defection on the part of Southern Democrats never entered into my calculation. Perhaps, however, his defeat is all for best. I think the first renewal of your note will be on the 12th March. I shall certainly pay all the discount upon it. I offered to loan you the money without interest; & not being able to make the loan you shall pay no interest. Two hundred dollars; every nine weeks or 63 days is all you shall pay. From your friend." Integral leaf addressed by Buchanan to: "A. Boyd Hamilton Esquire/Philadelphia", "Lancaster Pa. Jan. 13" and "5" postal markings. In addition to the duties involved in organizing the House and presiding over its activities at the commencement of each Congress, the Clerk is charged with a number of legislative functions. Some of these, such as the constitutional requirement of maintaining a Journal, have been in existence from the time of the first Congress and still exist today in the 106th Congress. On January 3, 1850, the names of eleven men had been placed in nomination for the position of Clerk of the House of Representatives. Democratic Pennsylvania Congressman James Thompson nominated Lancaster newspaper publisher and Buchanan friend, JOHN W. FORNEY. On the first ballot, Forney received 98 votes and Thomas J. Campbell of Tennessee received 77. The remaining 33 votes were split among the nine other candidates. Since no one had a majority, a second vote was taken. On the 20th ballot held on January 11, 1850, the day before Buchanan wrote this letter, Campbell received 112 votes to Forney's 96 with 111 the majority needed for election. The defection of Southern Democrats to Campbell, who had served as Whig Congressman from 1841-1843, secured his election and Forney's defeat. It was a short-lived success for the 64-year-old Campbell, who died just three months later on April 13, 1850. Of the Southern Democrats mentioned by Buchanan in this letter, North Carolina Congressman ABRAHAM W. VENABLE was not renominated by the Democrats in 1852. Alabama's DAVID HUBBARD was not reelected in 1850. Tennessee's ANDREW EWING didn't seek reelection in 1850. Senator JOHN C. CALHOUN, the 68-year-old South Carolina Democrat and leader of the Southern Democrats in Congress, died just two months later, on March 31, 1850. The defection of Southern Democrats away from a Northern Democrat to a Southern Whig was a precursor of the other events leading to the Civil War 11 years later. It was no longer Democrat versus Whig; it was now North versus South. Forney was elected as Clerk of the U. S. House of Representatives in 1851 serving as Clerk until 1856. When Buchanan was elected President in 1856, Forney did not get a political appointment, even though he left the clerkship to work for his friend's election. During the Buchanan White House years, Forney supported Stephen A. Douglas' wing of the Democratic Party against the President's policies. He was reelected Clerk of the House in 1860, serving until 1861. Switching parties to Republican, Forney served as Secretary of the Senate from 1861 to 1868. As for A. BOYD HAMILTON, the recipient of this letter, on March 3, 1851, Speaker of the House Howell Cobb reported "for proposals for executing the printing of the Thirty second Congress...that sealed proposals were received from various persons, (eleven in numbers) which were duly opened, as required by the said resolution; that, after a full examination and comparison of all the proposals, it was ascertained that A. Boyd Hamilton, of Philadelphia, was the lowest bidder for the printing...and that contracts and bonds, with security deemed sufficient, have been executed by the said A. Boyd Hamilton for the execution of the printing for which his proposals were accepted."(from The Journal of the House of Representatives, page 427). Hamilton then established a printing shop in Washington, D.C. Buchanan wrote this letter during a rare interval in which he held no public office. Horizontal fold across blank area. Circular stain on verso from wax seal (no show-through). Lightly soiled verso. Fine condition. Framed in the Gallery of History style: 35x21¼.

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Born: April 23, 1791 in Cove Gap, Pennsylvania
Died: June 1, 1868 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

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