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"Of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind when it has once seized on it like a lichen on the rock." - Mary Shelly, Frankenstein, ch. XIII
The Unionist 1:37
(April 17, 1834)
WESTMINSTER, April 8th, 1834.
Mr. Editor,—‘How are the mighty fallen!’ Jacksonism and Judsonism, recently so flourishing in Canterbury, have met a sad and total overthrow. All the efforts of our gallant Col. to ride into office on the storm of an anti-negro excitement have utterly failed, and discomfited and chagrined, the Col. declares, as I am told, that the Canterbury people may take care of the black school for themselves—he fights against it no longer. Alas for us! Who shall now head our opposition against that nuisance, that abomination in our eyes! Verily, if the Col. deserteth the post he has so bravely occupied the past year, it will be to the opposers of the school ‘as when a standard bearer fainteth.’ But I intended to tell you something of the contest, which has terminated in such a disastrous overthrow of the Col’s party here. At our first trial for representative, we failed of making a choice, and Col. Judson had a plurality of two or three votes or so over Baldwin. The second trial however showed the Col’s folks how the freemen, when fairly waked up, could ‘shed fast atonement for the first delay.’ The Col. had the leave of about 60 majority of the electors, to enjoy the sweets of domestic felicity and of neighborly intercourse with his kind friends on the green, uninterrupted by the cares of office.
We now tried for our second representative, and I leave you to guess how the subjects of two Andrew’s twisted and turned to get their beloved in. Mr. Lyon of course could not expect to take the second chance if the Col. himself lost the first; so he stood back, as in duty bound, for his superior officer, and the struggle was between Clarke and Judson. Now we Westminster chaps have an idea that Clarke is about as fit for any office in our gift as the Archbishop is, or ever was, and so we gave him to understand as much by our votes. We have no notion of supporting black laws or black law men, or Jacksonmen or Judsonmen. The Col’s efforts to buy up the Anti-masons by an offer of a share in the spoils of victory, provide unavailing. Our Anti-masonic neighbors think that those who offer the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, or any part and parcel thereof, had better be sure they have them to give, before they fall down and worship, for such considerations, and then they won’t bow the knee to such a Baal as our Judsonian friends set up. Mr. Judson accordingly was again notified by 70 majority, that we don’t want him to go to New-Haven on our account this year. I presume he understands our meaning by this time, for if he didn’t comprehend it at two intimations, he must have begun to guess what it was by the time we had given about a hundred majority against his candidates for Senator, Governor, &c. OLD WESTMINSTER
Westminster is a section of Canterbury, located about three miles west of the Canterbury Female Academy (on today's state route 14). The Westminster Congregational Church was the home parish for William Monteflora Harris and his family, including Sarah Harris. It still exists today.
from The Liberator, April 26, 1834, p. 66 (4:17:66)
The Liberator at the Fair Use Repository
Commentary and Analysis
This article, written in the best biting sarcastic style of nineteenth-century political free-for-alls, was republished in The Liberator, with this laudatory heading:
ANDREW T. JUDSON.
“The following amusing account of the Canterbury election is copied from the Brooklyn Unionist—a paper, which, from its commencement, has been an able advocate of our colored population.” (emphasis added).
Among the intriguing features of this political letter-to-the-editor is the linking of reform issues, in this case the alliance of anti-Masonic tendencies with the anti-slavery party. This is one of those quixotic, yet also revealing, by-ways of reformism, not unlike the anti-Catholicism of some like George Bourne, or the strong Temperance politics of almost all the Abolitionists. The late famed historian, David Brion Davies, launched his great career with a classic article on this topic: "Some Themes of Counter-Subversion: An Analysis of Anti-Masonic, Anti-Catholic, and Anti-Mormon Literature," Mississippi Valley Historical Review 47: 205-224 (September 1960). This article analyzes how what we are now experiencing in American politics - an extreme polarization which demonizes the other - arose in specific nineteenth-century contexts.
The identity of the author, "Old Westminster," is likely a solvable puzzle, but it is not obvious to me at the present. A comparison of subscriber lists to the Unionist and to voters in the Westminster section of town, cross-referenced with a census report on ages, would reduce the number of candidates considerably, but is beyond my current capacity.
The defeat of Andrew Judson at the polls after his work on the Black Law and against the Canterbury Female Academy, was rightly a triumphant moment for the Abolitionists, and, by extension, for The Unionist, which had created an effective counter-voice to the political status quo that had elected Judson.
On the usual technical dating issue, since the complete Unionist of April 10 exists, we know that this letter was not published in that issue. This makes April 17 the most likely date, despite the Liberator not running it until nine days later, on April 26.