1848: James Rood Doolittle to Charles A. Loomis

James Rood Doolittle

This interesting political letter was penned by James Rood Doolittle (1815-1897), who was born in Hampton, New York, and graduated from Geneva (later Hobart) College in 1834. He studied law following graduation, was admitted to the New York Bar in 1837, and began his law practice initially in Rochester. In 1841, he moved to Warsaw, New York, and from 1847 to 1850, he was the district attorney for Wyoming County.

Until the Missouri Compromise was repealed in 1850, Doolittle was a Democrat, which is evident from the content of this letter written in 1848. He had campaigned for Polk in 1844, and in 1847 — as a member of the Barn-burner Faction — he introduced the resolution at the New York State convention that slavery should not expand into free territories.

In 1851, Doolittle moved to Racine, Wisconsin, where he served as a judge of the first judicial circuit from 1853-1856. In 1857 and again in 1863, Doolittle was elected by the people of Wisconsin to represent them in the U.S. Senate under the Republican Party banner.

In 1848, Cass won the Democratic nomination for President. Zachary Taylor accepted the Whig party nomination, and Martin Van Buren was nominated by the new Free Soil Party. In this letter, Doolittle seems to be saying that though he is a Democrat, he believes that Taylor’s election as a Whig might not be such a bad thing for the Nation since Taylor, he believes, embraces policies that are more democratic in nature and would not likely tamper with the bank, tariff, and slavery questions that are, in his opinion, already satisfactorily settled.

The recipient of this letter was Charles A. Loomis, the son of Judge Chester Loomis (b. 1789) and Harriet Hobart (1791-1865) — the daughter of Rev. William Hobart. He studied law at Canandaigua where he was a contemporary student of Stephen A. Douglass. After establishing himself at St. Clair, Wisconsin, Loomis became a state senator — the post held at the time this letter was written to him.


[Addressed to Hon. Charles A. Loomis of the Senate, Lansing, Michigan]


Warsaw [New York]
March 22, 1848

Dear Charles,

I have not written you since I sent you a very short letter from Buffalo. You have of course watched our proceedings with some interest – from our relations heretofore – I feel at liberty with you to speak very freely and frankly and hope you will do the same, for if we cannot trust each other we cannot trust ourselves.

At Utica, there were about 40 delegates who were ready to nominate Taylor outright, fully conscious as we now are that we are in the midst of a political crisis, when every old issue is settled and new state of things is about to grow out of the existing war with Mexico (and which view is fortified by a new element which is just now about to be thrown into the political strifes of this country the French Revolution). The crisis demands a sort of insurrection power in the administration of the General Government, which the life and experience of a mere politician cannot give. It calls for a man to administer our affairs who has got a strength of character morally, mentally, and above all, who can fill the hearts of the people with enthusiasm and with unlimited confidence.

If, as is now likely, Europe is to be disturbed not only in France but every where with revolution, we need at the head of our affairs a man of strength and character abroad to be respected, if not feared. But enough of this.

Our delegation will most likely be rejected at Baltimore. If we can, we shall nominate somebody on spot — probably Taylor & Dix. If we are to be received with the Creswell crew, it will be a rejection and produce the same result. If we are admitted and the Creswellites rejected, we shall be placed in an embarrassing predicament after [we] are then overruled. I think the two-third rule a good rule for a minority to work with, and it would be but fair for New York to have the benefit of that rule to offset against what was done against her once, to make the game even.

You may say Taylor has been a Whig? If he is a Whig, why would he not be accept a Whig nomination when he certainly possesses a popularity, which would ensure his election. The fact is he is but accidentally thrown into association with the Whigs, not having voted at all for a good many years. And when the question of his nomination for the Presidency came up, he could not get rid of a Whig nomination except by believing that he would not accept a party nomination. The Whigs, upon that announcement, regard him as a man who will go for the Constitution and the high interests of the country without regard to mere party, which is the true doctrine of the Democratic Party — precisely the doctrine of Jackson. If the Democracy nominates him, not as a strict partisan but as the man whom the present emergency calls for, and pass on resolutions declaring the Treasury question settled, the Bank question settled, the tariff question settled, and our views on the Mexican question some-what similar to the sentiments contained in the enclosed, our views in reference to European matters and interference here &c. and election gives a strength and power and moral force to the administration which we have not had since Jackson.

Another thing in this desultory careless conversational letter John Van Buren and certain ones are hoping still for Martin at Utica. For one, I was determined not to recognize that among the possibilities and as you will see in my remarks in a left handed way about Canada, I strike at Van Buren’s doctrine that Texas was not independent in right as well as in fact, and in the evening after I spoke at the mass meeting and showed that Texas was rightfully independent of Mexico, all just as if Mr. Van Buren was among the men who have been. John, all the while, protested that his father was out of the question. But among his intimate friends, Mr. Van Buren was the man. I think likely [David] Wilmot of Pa. is in the same way.

"Old Zac" Zachery Taylor, 1849

One thing more, if Gen. Taylor could be nominated without any hazard to the Bank & Tariff issues, or the slavery issue, he would carry this state 50,000 over any man the Whigs could nominate. The enclosed remarks were published in the Advertiser in rather bungling manner. I have with a pencil corrected some words. Write me a letter, a long, frank confidential letter about Old Zach and your friend whom you represent, Gen. Cass. Yours truly, J. R. Doolittle.

P.S. Push through your homestead exemption by all means. The enclosed is too short to be worthy of much mention as a speech in these days of long speeches.

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