1847: A. D. Hanley to Hon. David Johnson

The 1835 Michigan Constitution provided that the seat of government would remain at Detroit until 1847 when a permanent location would be selected by the legislature. Several more central locations in the state were considered, one of which was the city of Jackson, founded in 1829 in south central Michigan, and at a major crossroads. Many citizens in the state preferred a location farther north, however, and Lansing — still a virtual wilderness — was eventually selected as the capital. Several politicians and residents from Jackson lobbied hard for the siting of the capital in Jackson, but its location, and the general lack of support for the proposal by the town merchants doomed Jackson’s selection.

This interesting letter written by Jackson resident, A. D. Hanley, explains that the town’s merchants, already established and profitable, were not anxious to invite the inevitable outside competition that would come from siting the capital at Jackson. A railroad already served the community and prospects for steady growth seemed probable regardless. In this letter, Hanley responds to David Johnson, a Jackson County democrat then serving in the State Legislature who apparently felt that the citizens of Jackson County weren’t doing enough to win over supporters in their home county or to lobby members of the legislature for siting the state capital at Jackson.

I have not yet been able to positively identify the author of this letter who signed his name simply A. D. Hanley, but it does appear that he was a resident of Jackson, was connected politically, and was probably employed as an attorney. He mentions his being encouraged by others to seek the appointment of prosecuting attorney in Jackson County but that office was given to Fidus Livermore instead. Please comment if you know who he was.

Stampless Envelope

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Addressed to Hon. D. Johnson, Detroit, Michigan

Jackson [Michigan]
January 28th 1847

Dear Sir,

Yours of the 26th was just received and I think you must be in the midst of one of your gloomy spurts. That the people of this town have not done their duty in relation to the Capital, there cannot be a doubt. But that some of us have acted to the extent of our power and ability cannot be questioned…. What would you have a poor ___ do more than give liberally for Loby members and to sign all that he is able to pay, then take bonds and in all suitable ways try to induce others to act in the matter. I have sent time and money and so has some others but we have done all we feel called upon to do. We have filled up bonds and presented them to men able to give and have urged the subject ____ upon them but they hesitate to sign them. We cannot stand by one man for weeks to get him to sign a bond. Backers say he will not be benefited at all by the location of the Capitol here. Some of our merchants say that it will bring in competition so that they cannot sell goods and buy wheat as well as they can now. I have been out in the country. They say if the village do not do more or something, they cannot give, and justly so. I hope you will not get out of all politics and abandon the village entirely. I have made my bond for one hundred dollars if that is enough and if there was any kind of prospect of getting a sufficient, I would give more.

Since I came home I have not seen those who have been engaged in the matter. In reference to the ___land matter you simply said in your first letter that it was dismissed with costs. We wrote to Gould for an ex but got no answer. Now from that little statement it ought not to appear strange to you that he wants a little more light on the subject & wished while you was engaged as a member of the House to enquire of the Hon. David Johnson how this matter stood so that our business might go on notwithstanding the Legislature now in session since [G. Thompson] Gridley went to Detroit I have been informed that he got up a petition or certificate in his own hand ____ designed by a part of the board showing reasons against _____ appointment. This is unjust, I believe. I have been spoken to to apply for that office & have been offered assistance & I had hoped [Gen. Fidus] Livermore would see that his prospect was dark & that he would be willing that I apply. I do not feel as though it would be just for me to do anything in the ______ as long as Livermore thinks there is a good chance for him to get the office [of Prosecuting Attorney]. I believe in fair play and if I had firmness enough I would see it in this matter.

I came from Grass Lake [Michigan] on the cars yesterday & so Gridley on his return. He talks low, cannot smile even, and looks much grieved. When you wrote me a letter some time since in reference to the Capt. He took the letter out of the office & brought it to me. I opened it and read the same. He then wished to see it. You simply said in reference to Prosecuting Atty that you thought [Sanford M.] G[reen] would get it. but you could defeat him like a book. I told him the first page on which this statement was contained was printed & folded the same up by doubling the first page under and gave the letter to him to read. He then read the balance & then turned the first page over and run his eyes down the same. I cannot say as he saw this part of the letter but conclude he did for he soon turned pale, closed up and left.

Judge Ransom

Welling told me privately and it must be so regarded that he saw accidentally a letter written by Judge [Epaphroditus] Ransom in which Ransom pledged himself to G[reen] to use his influence for him and among other things he was glad to learn that you was disposed to go for him then pledging you for Ransom.

I know that you are in a hard spot but hope when you write to those who are truly your friends and are in no fault that you will write in a little better temper. Gordon Case will be in hot water unless you do something for him. I am &c. — A. D. Hanley

Write me on the receipt of this.


David Johnson was from Jackson County, Michigan and a democrat.  In 1844, he was elected to the State Legislature.  He was Justice of the Michigan State Supreme court 1852 – 57 and a candidate for US Representative from Michigan 3rd District in 1864.

G. Thompson Gridley was very active in the campaign of James K. Polk and was appointed Prosecuting Attorney to replace David Johnson when he went to the Legislature.  He later was president of the village of Jackson, helped write its charter.  In 1867 he was appointed Assessor of Internal Revenue of the Third Congressional District of Michigan.

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