Message Accepting the Democratic Presidential Nomination
Washington, May 29th, 1835.
GENTLEMEN: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 23d instant. The nomination you have been deputed to announce to me presents the only contingency, upon the occurrence of which, I could consent to become a candidate for the high office of president of the United States. When my name was first associated with the question of general Jackson's successor, more through the ill-will of opponents than the partiality of friends, I determined to wait for the development of the views of the republicans of the union, and to pursue that course only winch their unbiassed judgment should finally recommend. I deemed that course to be due to the administration, of which I was a member—to the best interests of the country—and to the indivisibility of a political party, by the original organization of which, the overthrow of republican principles in the United States was prevented, and upon the ascendancy of which we can alone depend for their preservation. To the offers of support which were at that period occasionally made to me from different quarters of the union, I respectfully replied, that the public good, in my opinion, required the services of general Jackson for a second term,—that the agitation of the question of his successor, at that early period, must of necessity embarrass the administration—and that it was my desire that my name should not be connected with the subject. From that time to the present, I have neither solicited the aid nor sought the support of any man in reference to the high office for which I have been nominated; unless my replies to interrogatories from my fellow-citizens upon public questions, and my sincere endeavors to make myself worthy of the respect and confidence of the American people, are liable to that construction. For the truth of this declaration, I can safely appeal to the hundreds of honorable men who composed the recent convention—to the numerous editors and politicians throughout the union, who have distinguished me by their preference, and to my private correspondents, and intimate friends, not excepting the considerable number of persons, once my friends and associates, whom the fluctuations of political life have converted into opponents. In none of these classes, or in any other of our community, is there a man who can truly say, that I have solicited his political support, or that I have entered or sought to enter with him into any arrangement, to bring about the nomination which I have now received, or to secure my elevation to the chief magistracy of my country.
The liberal men of all parties, I trust, and you and those you represent, I am sure, will pardon me for having thus spoken of my own conduct in reference to a point upon which I have been the silent object of attack, as causeless as it has been violent and unremitted; especially, as I alone can answer for it in relation to all my countrymen, although thousands may be ready to answer in relation to themselves.
Under these circumstances, the democracy of the nation in convention assembled, having, as you inform me, with a degree of unanimity that I cannot too highly appreciate, pronounced me worthy of so great a trust, I cannot hesitate in making their wishes the rule of my conduct. I do, therefore, with a deep, and I hope abiding sense of the honor conferred upon me by their preference, accept the nomination which has been tendered to me by the convention.
I am not aware that there is any point of interest in the general policy of the federal government, in respect to which, my opinions have not been made known by my official acts—by my own public avowals, and by the authorised explanations of my friends. If there be any such, however, you may rest assured of my ready disposition to comply, on all suitable occasions, with the wishes of my fellow-citizens in this regard. I content myself, on this occasion, with saying, that I consider myself the honored instrument, selected by the friends of the present administration, to carry out its principles and policy; and that as well from inclination as from duty, I shall, if honored with the choice of the American people, endeavor to tread generally in the footsteps of president Jackson—happy if I shall be able to perfect the work which he has so gloriously begun.
It cannot be denied, that there is no country in the world, whose inhabitants are so well secured in their civil and religious rights, and enjoy so large a share of prosperity and happiness, as the people of the United States. For this, they are indebted less to salubrity of climate and fertility of soil, than to our excellent system of government; by which, more than by any other, every man is protected in the application of his powers and faculties to his own benefit. That dissatisfaction should nevertheless occasionally arise, even under the best administration of a system capable of producing such happy results, is not to be wondered at. Until the wit of man shall be able to devise some plan of representative government, by which all who think themselves qualified, may be, at the same time, admitted to a participation in the administration of its affairs, we must not expect to be relieved from the spirit of complaint, nor even surprised to find it most vehement at a period of the greatest prosperity. But, between partisan complaints as to the management of our government, or even diversities of opinion in relation to the wisdom of supposed improvements in the details of its construction, and a desire to undermine and overthrow it, there is an immeasurable difference. Whilst the one can at worst, but produce partial and temporary obstructions in the public service, success in the other would inevitably plunge our country, from its present lofty eminence, into an abyss of anarchy and ruin.
We hold an immense stake for the weal or woe of mankind, to the importance of which we should not be insensible. The intense interest manifested abroad in every movement here, that threatens the stability of our system, shews the deep conviction which pervades the world, that upon its fate depends the cause of republican government. The advocates of monarchical systems have not been slow in perceiving danger to such institutions in the permanency of our constitution, nor backward in seizing upon every passing event by which their predictions of its speedy destruction could be in any degree justified. Thus far, they have been disappointed in their anticipations, and the circumstances by which they were encouraged, however alarming at the time, have in the end, only tended to show forth the depth of that devotion to the union, which is yet, thank God! the master passion of the American bosom.
Thoroughly convinced that the overthrow of our present constitution and the consequent destruction of the confederacy which it binds together, would be the greatest sacrifice of human happiness and hopes that has ever been made at the shrine of personal ambition, I do not, hesitate to promise you, that every effort in my power, whether in public or private life, shall be made for their preservation. The father of his country, foreseeing this danger, warned us to cherish the union as the palladium of our safety; and the great exemplar of our political faith, Thomas Jefferson, has taught us, that to preserve that common sympathy between the states, out of which the union sprang, and which constitutes its surest foundation, we should exercise the powers which of right belong to the general government, in a spirit of moderation and brotherly love, and religiously abstain from the assumption of such as have not been delegated by the Constitution.
Accept, gentlemen, my thanks, for the kind manner in which you have performed the duty assigned to yon, and believe me to be, very sincerely, your friend and obedient servant,
M. VAN BUREN.
To Andrew Stevenson, esq, President, and James Fenner, Edward Condit, Upton S. Heath, Robert Strange, J. B. Nevitt and Franklin Cannon, esqrs. vice presidents of the late national convention.
Sources consulted: Wm. M. Holland, Life and Political Opinions of Martin Van Buren, (Hartford: Belknap & Hammersley 1836) pp 359 - 362. Niles Weekly Register June 13, 1835 pp 257-258.
Message to Martin Van Buren, esq. of New York:
Sir: A convention of republican delegates from various parts of the union, for the purpose of selecting suitable candidates for the offices of president and vice-president, assembled in Baltimore on the 20th instant, and unanimously agreed to present to their country, your name for that of president of the United States. We have been requested to communicate to you this nomination, and ask your acceptance of the same. We take pleasure in performing this duty, and respectfully solicit an answer at such time as may suit your convenience to give one.
With sentiments of high esteem and respect, we have the honor to be, your obedient servants,
A. STEVENSON, President.
UPTON S. HEATH,
J. B NEVILLE,
Vice-Presidents of the National Convention.
Martin van Buren, Message Accepting the Democratic Presidential Nomination Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/363210