1861: Levi Clark to Charles M. Heaton

This letter was written by Levi Clark (1799-1862) of Newark, New Jersey, who was married to Eliza Crane (1801-1834). Levi wrote the letter to his brother-in-law, Charles M. Heaton (1805-1899), of South Bend, Indiana. Charles was married in 1833 to Ann Crane (1810-1899), a milliner. In politics, Charles threw his support behind fellow South Bend editor, journalist, and politician Schuyler Colfax who rewarded him with a good position in the government land office at Washington in 1860 where he remained for the next twenty years.

Due to his friendship with Colfax and his appointment to the Land Office in Washington D. C., Levi requests a letter of introduction from Charles to enable him to meet with Colfax, attempt to resolve his land title issues in Kansas, and hopefully also land himself an appointment in and Land Office in Kansas or with the Indian Bureau under the new Lincoln Administration. City directories suggest that Levi remained in Newark until his death in January 1862, less than a year after this letter was written.

Though it was no doubt painful to Levi, his tirade against the corruption of the former Buchanan Administration is almost comical to read. The letter was written on 4 March 1861—the very day of Lincoln’s inauguration and day Levi hoped Lincoln would begin to “turn out to the last one the most corrupt set of unmitigated scoundrels there is in this or any other country ever produced.”

“The iconic national bird, representing the Union, is strong and healthy at the beginning of Democrat James Buchanan’s administration, but by the time Republican Abraham Lincoln assumed the Presidency, it is gaunt and emaciated reflecting the secession of 11 southern states from the Union. This political cartoon highlights the rising tensions over states’ rights during the antebellum period and the ultimate dissolution of the Union in 1861. The fact that Buchanan’s administration was riddled with corruption and charges of bribery and graft, only worsened the toll that years fighting over slavery and states’ rights had taken on the nation’s vitality.”
Artist: M. A. Woolf

Transcription

Newark, Essex County, New Jersey
March 4, 1861

Dear Sir,

I take pen in hand to write to you. I am in very good health. My family are also well and I hope these few lines will find yourself and family well. [My son] Wesley and his wife and his youngest child have been here on a visit today. They are well and also [my son] Ira is well and at work at his trade in New York. Mrs. Stephens was here a few weeks ago and they were all well at Bloomfield.

I returned from that Territory of Kansas (now become a State) the latter part of last September. I had in that Territory made an attempt to preempt me a good farm. I had expended twelve hundred dollars on it expecting to get a title for it under the Preemption Law of September 4th 1841. But under such a government as we have had, it has been no easy matter to get a title out of the hands of the corrupt officials and I have not obtained mine yet although fairly entitled to it.

I shall go to Washington pretty soon to see what the new [Lincoln] Administration will do for us poor fellows—about twenty in the immediate neighborhood where I settled that is in the same fix with me about their titles. Of one thing I am very certain, we cannot have a worse government than we have had for from the time of Adam down in any age or country, a more corrupt and rotten government than Old Buchanan’s there never was. This very day, thank kind Heaven, the old public functionaries actives and I hope President Lincoln will make a thorough cleaning out of the Augean Stable and turn out to the last one the most corrupt set of unmitigated scoundrels there is in this or any other country ever produced.

I had hoped and expected that the Hon. Schuyler Colfax would have a seat in President Lincoln’s Cabinet but I may be disappointed. I will take the liberty to ask the favor of you (as you are personally acquainted with Mr. Colfax) to give me a letter of introduction to him and in it request the favor of him to recommend me for Register or Receiver in anyone of the Land Offices in the State of Kansas, or if they are already filled, to an Indian Agency in Kansas of the Lincoln Administration. You may think strange that I should apply for an office under the government at my time of life, but if I was not out of pocket about $1500 in try to get my farm, I would not. But as it is, I would like to get indemnified for my losses that I have sustained by Buchanan’s government. I can get Speaker Pennington, Chief Justice Hornblower, A. C. M. Pennington and other prominent men here to recommend me and James H. Lane and Marcus J. Parrot of Kansas besides, if you will be so good as to grant my request.

I wish you would write to me immediately. Direct to 465 Washington Street, Newark, Essex County, New Jersey. I would have come by South Bend on my way home to see my brother Stephen in Cincinnati, but alas! when I got there I found him dead. When I come out again, I will come by the way of your house. Give my best respects to Mrs. Heaton and Miss Mary that I saw in Leavenworth, and all the friends and relatives.

I add no more but remain your friend & brother, — Levi Clark

to Charles M. Heaton

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