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March 6, 2014

A futile patriotism

Cooperstown Crier

---- — From the Otsego Herald

for Sat., March 5, 1814

Compiled, with comments


SPEECH OF THE HON. MR. HOLMES, in the Senate of Massachusetts, During the Debate on the reported Answer the Governor/s Speech [A Republican State Senator, John Holmes strongly objected to the anti-war attitude taken by the Federalist-controlled State of Massachusetts].

After having, during a war of eighteen months, taken their ground against their country and in favor of its enemy; after having condemned their own government, and justified the aggressions and atrocities of the enemy, in every particular, without a solitary exception, an attempt to dissuade them from this course, must in this case be desperate. I might as well attempt to convert an Atheist by scripture; I might as well go into the church yard, rebuke the tombs, and expostulate with the sleeping ashes of the dead.

No, sir, it is not them, whom I expect to convince or edify; it is an apprehension, that silence may be deemed an acquiescence in these inflammatory proceedings; it is for the sake of my political friends, that I stand forth the advocate of my injured country.

In the commencement of a war, slander and abuse are wonderfully successful. There was danger for a while, that the outrages of party might drive the administration from office, or compel them to make an ignominious peace. But truth prevailed. Notwithstanding every attempt to throw a stumbling block in the way of the administration...their popularity has increased, and the people are more united than at the commencement of the war.

You speak of the growing discontents of the people: Where is your evidence? [Even] in the city of New York, at a very late election, the American cause prevailed by a change that was truly astonishing. And all this in time of war against the incessant clamors and slanders of party, without any sedition act, or other act to screen the administration.

But [they say] this war is unjust. This charge has been refuted more than a thousand times. But that makes no difference; they can renew it. The right of Blockade, Orders in Council, and Imprisonment [of American sailors] are brought up, and all justified with greater obstinacy than in the British Parliament.

We are charged with driving the aborigines from their inheritances. It is but a short time since Mr. Jefferson was an object of ridicule, for his regard for the Indians and his disposition to civilize them. Now, that they are the allies of his Majesty, all hostility against them is evidence of a determination to exterminate them. Never was a charge more unfounded, cruel, or pernicious. We have used them as children. They had no ground of complaint against us. What good motive could have induced [the Governor of Massachusetts] to infuse into the minds of ... these Indians, that the United States are determined to drive them off. It will awake them to vengeance, and the innocent blood which may flow in consequence, may one day be required of us, who disseminate charges so groundless, and injurious.

COMMENT: John Holmes (1773-1843) was at the beginning of a long political career, which would lead him to become a member of Congress, and then for two terms a Senator from the newly created state of Maine. But now his was denouncing the opposition of the Federalist-controlled state of Massachusetts to the War of 1812, in a long speech (of which we have quoted only a few excerpts) that was widely reprinted and is, indeed, still in print (Library of Congress, “Three speeches of Mr. Holmes, in the Senate of Massachusetts. 1814”). Note: When I place the title of an article in quotation marks, I am taking it directly from the Otsego Herald.

“To be Let”

FOR a term of years, that valuable FARM, known by the name of Smith Hall, situate in the town of Laurens. As it is presumed those who wish to Lease this Farm, will look at it, a description is unnecessary. I. COOPER, Adm’r to the Estate of R. R. Smith, dec’d. Cooperstown, March 4, 1814.

COMMENT: Smith Hall was built in 1773, before the American Revolution, the first frame house west of Cherry Valley. It was built by Richard R. Smith (1735-1803), who had visited the area in 1769, and whose travels (“A Tour of Four Great Rivers,” (1906, reprinted 1964 and more recently), edited by Francis W. Halsey, is one of the major sources of information for the early Otsego county area. When, on April 3, 1775, the Colonial Legislature of New York (in its final act before the Revolution) created the “Old England District” as a part of the newly formed Tryon County, covering much of today’s Otsego County, Smith Hall was designated as the place where its first local elections should be held. Smith Hall remained an important historical landmark until the middle of the 20th century, when it was destroyed by fire.

Isaac Cooper (1781-1818) was the second son of William Cooper of Cooperstown, and until his early death was an important figure in local affairs. “Smith Hall,” in 1814, was undoubtedly well known to most residents of Otsego County.

Ethan Allen’s Captivity

Just received, and for sale at H. & E. Phinney’s Bookstore, A NARRATIVE OF THE CAPTIVITY OF COL. ETHAN ALLEN, from the time of his being taken by the British near Montreal, on the 25th Sept., 1775, to the time of his exchange, on the 6th of May, 1778: Containing, his Voyages & Travels, with the most remarkable occurrences respecting himself and many other Continental persons, of different ranks and characters, which fell under his observation in the course of the same; particularly the destruction of the prisoners at New York, by Gen. Howe, in the year 1776, and 1777; interspersed with some political observations. Written by himself. Price 62 ½ Cents. Feb. 26, 1814.

COMMENT: Ethan Allen (1738-1789) is best known as the leader of the “Green Mountain Boys,” and a founder of what became the state of Vermont. After the Revolution, he sought to protect Vermont from the territorial claims of New York and New Hampshire. His memoirs, however (which like this are still in print), remain important sources of information concerning life during the American Revolution.