In this letter, William T. Sammons (1800-1873) shares his opinion of political matters with his congressman, Hon. Hugh White (1798-1870) who was a Whig and served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1845 to 1851, representing upstate New York. Sammons expresses relief that the Oregon Question seems to have been resolved by a treaty with England, but he worries that the War with Mexico and the agitation between the manufacturing and agricultural interests in the United States triggered by the Tariff of 1842 (sometimes called the “Black Tariff”) may yet create uncontrollable conflict. Clearly he has no confidence in the Polk administration to bring these matters to a peaceful conclusion.
William T. Sammons was the son of Maj. Thomas Sammons (1762-1838) and Mary Wood (1773-1851). William was married three times and had children by at least two of his wives. Later in life, William relocated to Will County, Illinois where he died.
Hugh White graduated from Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y., in 1823; studied law but did not practice; entered business at Chittenango in 1825 and afterwards at Rondout; active in the building of the Michigan Southern & Northern Indiana Railroad; moved to Cohoes, N.Y., in 1830; was greatly interested in the development of water power from the Mohawk River; organized the Rosendale Cement Works; elected as a Whig to the Twenty-ninth, Thirtieth, and Thirty-first Congresses; chairman, Committee on Agriculture (Thirtieth Congress); resumed his business activities; and died in Waterford, N.Y. (Source: Library of Congress)
Addressed to Hon. H. White, Member in Congress, Washington D.C.
Sammons Ville [New York]
July 18th 1846
I return you my thanks for the various publick documents I have received from you during the session of Congress. I received a number of speeches from you from different members on the Oregon Question. That matter produced a stronger sensation on my feelings than any other question that was before us as a Nation. A war with England could not be a small one. United States and England — two of the most powerful Nations in the world who for a time to a great extent have laid by the sword for the plough shares and mind seemed to be employed in entirely different channel than to invent machinery for the destruction of man.
[This,] when every improvement seemed to be going forward in the arts and sciences in the improvement of machinery and mechanical invention where a fair specimen may be had, I have no doubt, at the Patent Office at Washington and also the wonderful improvement that has lately been made by Prof. [Samuel F. B.] Morse of conveying intelligence from one portion of our country to another with the speed of lightning — all this to be laid by and the resources of the Nation to be gathered up for the purpose of building Navies, equipping Armies &c.
And why is all this? Is it to satisfy the ambitious notions of such men as [William] Allen, [Lewis] Cass, and company, or is it believed that we can conquer or destroy England? That will not be be thought of. The only thing that in my humble opinion I could see grow out of it would be a long and bloody contest and finally to be settled by treaty with an immense National Debt. But thanks to a kind Providence, that matter appears to be settled.
But we have others that is not. The War with Mexico and a War with certain men on the Tariff of 1842 seems to be matters which are agitating the country and how we are to get out of it, it may be that Mr. Polk and his friends may answer. My opinion is with no credit to him or his friends — but time will show the result.
As to the political situation of our state [of New York], you no doubt understand that better than I do. All I can say is we are watching the movements of the Convention and what effect that may have on the Political destinies of this state. Time also will show. And who the next candidates for Governor will be, I cannot say. I, however, think [Silas] Wright will not be taken up. But of that, we shall also see if time permits.
But I must draw my scroll to a close and in so doing that the assurance that I shall be pleased to hear from you as often as convenient and in so doing you will much oblige your friend, and humble servant, — Wm T. Sammons
- Sammons probably refers to Silas Wright, Jr. when discussing the gubernatorial candidates. Wright served as the Governor of New York from 1845 to 1846 during which time this letter was written. His democratic administration was not viewed favorably by the Empire State voters however and he was defeated in his bid for re-election by the Whig candidate, John Young. Wright died the following year.
- In his annual address to Congress on December 2, 1845, Polk recommended giving the British the required one-year notice of the termination of the joint occupation agreement. In Congress, Democratic expansionists from the Midwest, led by Senators Lewis Cass of Michigan, Edward A. Hannegan of Indiana, and William Allen of Ohio, called for war with the United Kingdom rather than accepting anything short of all of Oregon up to Parallel 54°40′ north.