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scheme of improvements? Who could deny his claim to that position for the purpose of securing its adoption and conducting its prosecution? Who could deny even that his advancement to that position was absolutely essential to the success of the measure ? When the only popular favorite was relinquishing the office and there was no other statesman indicated by any general preference for it, why should it be denied, under the exigent circumstances already mentioned, to Mr. Clinton ? Spontaneous demonstrations presented him before the public as a candidate, the party machinery refused to work in the hands of his adversaries and he was elected in the summer of 1816, to the office of governor, practically by the unanimous voice of the people. It seemed, for a short time, as if all partisan organizations had been permanently broken up, and as if party spirit had been extinguished forever. Notwithstanding all these pleasing auguries, the period of his administration was filled up, like former ones, with violent and embittered political controversies, cherished and fomented by jealousies of parties connected with the federal administration at Washington. In all these controversies he was always the subject—desire to advance him at last to the presidency of the United States, irrespective of all existing combinations, constituting the motive of one party; and determination to rebuke and punish what was called his unchastened ambition, the motive of the other. He triumphed in 1819, being reëlected, though by a very small majority, over Daniel D. Tompkins, who, while yet vice-president, became the opposing candidate and brought into the canvass a popularity never before overbalanced. His adversaries availed themselves of just complaints against the constitution to move the call of
convention for its amendment, and the measure was eminently popular. Mr. Clinton, perhaps unnecessarily, and at least unfortutunately, hesitated so long as to become identified with the opposition to it. The convention made reforms which diminished the power of the executive and judiciary and conceded an enlargement of the right of suffrage, with other popular rights, while it adopted his canal policy, which had already been auspiciously begun and might now be supposed sure to be carried on to a successful conclusion. Mr. Clinton wisely declined to be a candidate, under such circumstances, for a reëlection as governor under the new constitution, and Joseph C. Yates was called to the office with a unanimity equal to that which had attended Mr. Clinton's elevation to the same place. Faction, however, disorganized the triumphant party in 1824. At the same time, the legislature in its interest abused its triumph over Mr. Clin. ton by removing him without notice and without cause from the now obscure office of canal commissioner in which he was serving, as be had served from the first, only as an adviser and without any com. pensation. Indignation awakened by this injustice and combined with popular discontents, resulting from other causes, bore him at the end of the same year back into the office of governor by a very decided vote; but the new combination which had secured this result was committed to the support of Jobn Quincy Adams, as its head in the federal government, while Mr. Clinton's sympathies or his views of duty or of interest determined his inclination toward, first William H. Crawford, and then Andrew Jackson as candidates for the presidency. He was thus once more in his old position, sustained by a party from whom he withheld his confidence and sym. pathy, and opposed by the one to which he looked for ultimate support. He was barely reëlected in 1826, while the legislature was opposed to his policy and interests.
His administration of the state government, however, which continued throughout a period of twelve years, with the exception of an intervening period of two years, was one of unequaled dignity and energy, devoted to just and necessary reforms and to the great enterprises of moral and social improvement. He had the good fortune to mature the system of finance which enabled the state, unconscious of expense or care, to begin and carry out his policy of internal improvement, and to break with his own band the ground in the beginning of the enterprise on the fourth of July, 1817; and overcoming constant, unremitting and factious resistances, he had the felicity of being borne, in October, 1825, in a barge on the artificial river that he seemed, to all, to have constructed, from lake Erie to the bay of New York, while bells were rung and cannons saluted him at every stage of that imposing progress. No sooner had that great work been undertaken in 1817, than the population of the state began to swell with augmentation from other states and from abroad, prosperity became universal, old towns and cities expanded, new ones rose and multiplied. Agriculture, manufacture and commerce, the three great wheels of national industry, were quickened in their movement, and wealth flowed in upon the state from all directions. He inaugurated the construction of branches of the Erie canal, by which it was ultimately connected with the internal lakes, with Lake Ontario and with the Susquehanna, the Allegany and the St. Lawrence rivers, and by his counsel and advice, now sought in all directions, he hastened the opening of those canals in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, which in connection with those of New York and with natural channels now constitute a system adequate to the internal commerce of an empire, and is interrupted only by moun. tains which defy the prowess of man.
De Witt Clinton, witnessing the enjoyment of the continually enlarging realization by the public of the benefits of his labors and in the midst of growing popular perplexities concerning the balanced probabilities of his yet rising to the highest honors of his country, or of his sinking once more and irretrievably beneath the heel of domestic faction, died at Albany, the seat of his authority and the chief theatre of his active life, on the 11th day of February, 1828. Need it be added that party spirit was hushed into profound silence, that the legislature provided for his family, bereft as they were of parent and of fortune, that a grateful people celebrated his departure from the earth with all the pomp of national sorrow, and that posterity, already advancing on the stage, hails his shade with the homage deserved by a benefactor of mankind. The course of human nature in similar cases and circumstances is always the same.
NOTE.-In 1839, and again in 1841, Governor Seward, in his annual messages to the legislature, recommended the erection of a monument, by the state, to the memory of De Witt Clinton, and at the same time paid an eloquent tribute to his character and distinguished public services. Mr. Seward's "Notes on New York," also, contain several allusions to Mr. Clinton in the his. tory of the canals and other great enterprises of the state. See Volume II., pp. 87, 210, 296, &c.