MacDougall

The Otsego Herald for Jan. 10, 1820, compiled, with comments:

Problems and opportunities

Speech of De Witt Clinton (1769-1828) to The Senate and Assembly.

Overall state of economy

Since the last session of the Legislature the distresses of the community have continued to increase; and in consequence of the general uneasiness excited by this unpropitious state of things, meetings have been held in several places to solicit your interposition.

Immediately on the termination of the late war, a fatal blow was given to the manufacturing interest by the importation of vast quantities of foreign fabrics, neither required by our wants nor our comforts. In all sections of the country, and in all descriptions of society, the progress of extravagance and luxury has been alarming.

In individuals, expenditure has exceeded income; and in our collective capacity, as a nation, the aggregate value of our exported productions has been greatly inferior to the cost of foreign commodities.

The demands of foreign markets for the products of agriculture have been diminished by the state of general peace, and the pernicious multiplication of banking institutions, and the inordinate diffusion of paper currency, have produced the most serious calamities. In cases of this description, government may alleviate, but can never remove the evils. ...

I would suggest to you whether a portion of our funds might not be usefully employed in loans for the purpose of alleviating the pressure on the community.

COMMENT: So long as France and England were at war, from our Revolution until after the defeat of Napoleon in at the Battle of Waterloo on June 15, 1815, many of the able-bodied men in Europe were soldiers fighting with each other, rather than being farmers or workers.

American products, agricultural and manufactured, could thus be sold in Europe at great profit. But this changed with the end of the War of 1812 as Europe’s soldiers returned home, and America’s economy was plunged into a deep and lengthy recession. Like many others, Governor Clinton also condemned Americans’ love for unneeded luxury.

The Erie Canal (and others)

Internal trade must erect our towns on the lakes and rivers, and our inland villages, and internal trade must derive its principal aliment for the products of our agriculture and manufactures. ... Already do we perceive the establishment of villages on the boarder of the great Canal, and the raw materials of the husbandmen, obtained with comparative ease and cheapness, will be converted into articles of accommodation and comfort. ...

The middle section of the western Canal — comprising a distance of more than 96 miles, has been completed. On the 23d day of October last, the commissioners navigated it from Utica and Rome — and on the 2th of November the Champlain Canal was also in a navigable state. In less than two years and five months, 120 miles have been finished, and thus the physical practicability of uniting the waters of the western lakes with the Atlantic ocean, has been established. ...

The whole length of the western section is about 163 miles, and of the eastern about 97.... The expense will be about 4 millions of dollars.

Other programs

To establish the means of conveyance by land, to disseminate literature and science, to promote schools, academies, colleges and learned institutions, to promote benevolence in healing of the sick, of comfort for the poor, and of instruction to the ignorant, it is necessary that a system of economy and retrenchment should be applied to all the measures of government. ...

Hidden weapons

Our present criminal code does not sufficiently provide the consequences which may result from carrying secret arms and weapons, whereby human life may be endangered, or destroyed in sudden affrays or premeditated injuries. ... Unless it is judicially treated an essential right of every free citizen may be impaired or invaded.

DE WITT CLINTON, Albany, January 4, 1820.

COMMENT: I could only include what seemed to me to be the most important of topics, for today’s readers, in Clinton’s long address.

Poem

“The origin of the present fashion of short dresses.”

Maria, when a hoyden girl,

Had frocks and flounce galore,

And as it was the fashion then,

They touch’d the ground and more!

They swept it for a space around —

Say full a foot — with ease —

But ah! Maria finds that now

They scarcely reach her knees.

School Regulations

District School Clerks. of the town of Otsego, are requested to call on the subscriber, for a copy of “Instructions for the better government and organization of Common Schools.” — GEORGE POMEROY, Town Clerk, January 1, 1820

COMMENT: Jedediah Peck (1748-1821), an able opponent of William Cooper from Burlington, Otsego County, first established the New York Public School System in 1812. He is considered a major figure in early Otsego County history, and an early populist politician. 

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