Monday, July 21, 2008

Calhoun Spotting

When Thomas Emory served in the Maryland State Legislature, he apparently had much on his mind. Between lashing out at the Jacksonians and keeping abreast of his prize race horses, Emory frequently jotted down notes to himself on the outside of the letters he received. Most were short reminders to write to so-and-so politician, and in one instance he listed the number of hogs he had butchered at Poplar Grove in his absence. Emory's notes are great since the collection has few letters by his own pen. The documents we do have tend to be rather scathing letters he wrote in the heat of frustration, but thought better of sending the next day. These papers are funny in another respect as well because of the conspicuous absence of any letters to or from some of the big-name politicians of the age. Emory had a pretty impressive political career in the state government and even came close to being elected governor in 1838. Although he never served in Congress or in any national office, the Poplar Grove collection contains letters from U.S. Congressmen and Senators, albeit mainly from Maryland.

A few weeks ago, we came across a series of notes Frederick Emory (grandson of Thomas) had written in the late nineteenth century about his own experiences looking through these very papers (for more information on Frederick and his childhood rummagings see Adam's post below on A Maryland Manor). One card dated December 22, 1896 stated, very simply, that he had removed the letters pertaining to the American Revolution to keep as "autographs." Bummer.
Born too late to have participated in the Revolution, Emory did know national figures like John C. Calhoun, and is rumored to have sold a few horses to Henry Clay (there is one letter from Henry Clay Jr. to William H Emory during their time at West Point, but that's it). Frederick remains my top suspect for the apparent absence of these letters, too. In the published papers of John C. Calhoun there are two entries pertaining to the Emory family, and as of yet we have found little other evidence of their relationship.

Today, however, we found some further evidence that Thomas had at least some correspondence with Calhoun. On the outside of a pretty mundane letter from January 3, 1834, about his power of attorney with the Badger family of Philadelphia, Emory scribbled on the left-hand side a series of reminders to himself, including one to write to "J.C. Calhoun" (see third remark from the top).


Emory may have written to Calhoun to discuss his upcoming speech on the dangers of Andrew Jackson's pet banks; a policy Calhoun called "a fearful crisis" that promised to alienate the citizens from their government. A sentiment Emory, a tried-and-true anti-Jackson man, would have sympathized with. (See, "Remarks of the Hon. J.C. Calhoun, delivered in the Senate of the U. States, on the Subject of the Removal of the Deposites from the Bank of the U. States," (Duff Green, 1834), 14).

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