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1st June, 1830.
SIR: Though you intimate, in your letter of yesterday, that no further communication with me is necessary on the subject to which it refers, I feel my self impelled to notice some of your remarks, lest my silence should be construed into an acquiescence in their truth or justness. I shall be as brief as possible.
You say that I have entirely mistaken your letter of the 13th May, in supposing that it questioned either my motives or conduct. I am not aware that I have imputed to you an impeachment of my motives; but I certainly did understand that you had questioned the sincerity and frankness of my conduct; and I must add that your present letter, notwithstanding the most demonstrative proof which I had offered to the contrary, shows clearly that I understood you correctly, and of course was not, as you suppose, mistaken.
I have no douht that there are those who, actuated by enmity to m?, and not friendship to you, have, in the most artful manner, for years intimated that I have been secretly endeavoring to injure you, however absurd the idea; but I must express my surprise that you should have permitted insinuations, as base as they are false, to operate on you, when every word and act of mine gave to them the lie direct. I feel conscious that I have honorably and fully performed towards you every duty that friendship imposed, and that any imputation to the contrary is wholly unmerited.
You mistake in supposing that I have any dispute with Mr. Crawford. That he bears me ill will is certain; but whatever feeling of unkindness I ever had towards him has long since passed away; so much so, that, instead of returning his attacks on me, the line of conduct which I had prescribed to myself, was, to bear patiently and silently all that he might do or say, leaving it to time and truth to vindicate my conduct. If I have apparently departed from the rule that I had prescribed in this case, it was not because there was any disposition on my part to alter the line of my conduct; but when you interposed your name, by placing in my hands a copy of his letter, addressed to Mr. Forsyth, I was compelled, by an act of yours, in order that my silence might not be interpreted into an acknowledgment of the truth of Mr. Crawford's statement, to correct his misstatements, and to expose the motives of enmity which actuated him, and which sought to use you as an instrument of its gratification.
You intimate, that, at some future time, when you may have more leisure, you will place the subject of this correspondence in a different light. I wish you to be assured, I feel every confidence, that, whenever you may be disposed to controvert the correctness of either my statement or conduct in this af fair, I shall be prepared on my part to maintain the truth of the one, and frankness, honor, and patriotism of the other, throughout this whole transaction. That you honestly thought that your orders authorized you to do what you did, I have never questioned; but that you can show by any document, public or private, that they were intended to give you the authority which you assumed, or that any such construction was placed on them, at any time, by the administration, or myself in particular, I believe to be impossible.
You remark that my letter of the 29th instant is the first intimation you had that I had taken a different view from yourself of your orders. That you should conceive that you had no intimation before, is to me unaccountable. I had supposed that the invitation of Mr. Monroe, in his letter to you of the 20th October, 1818, with the intention that the different views taken by you and myself of the orders should be placed on the files of the Department, and my letter to you of the 13th April, 1828, covering a copy of my letter to Major Lee, in which I refer to the public documents, and private correspondence between you and Mr. Monroe, as containing the views taken of your orders, and the offer which I made to present my views more fully, if not given sufficiently explicit in the documents referred to, were at least an intimation that we differed in the construction of the orders; and I feel assured that neither "my conduct, words, actions, or letters/ afford the slightest proof to the contrary.
The charge which you have made against me, of Secret hostility and opposition, which, if true, would so vitally affect my character for sincerity and honor, and which has caused a rupture in our long continued friendship, has no other foundation but that of a difference between us in the construction of your orders orders issued by myself, the intention of which I, of course, could not mistake, whatever may be their true construction in a military point of view, and the right and duty of interpreting which belonged especially to me, as the head of the War Department. The mere statement of these facts must give rise to a train of reflections, the expression of which I cannot suppress.
Your course, as I understand it, assumes for its basis that I, who, as Secretary of War, issued the orders, have some motive to conceal my construction of them, as if I had no right to form an opinion whether the officers to whom they were given had transcended them or not, while the officer was at perfect liberty to express and maintain his construction. My right, as Secretary of War, was at least as perfect as yours, as commanding officer, to judge of the true intent and limits of your orders; and I had no more motive to conceal my construction of them than you had to conceal yours. The idea of concealment never entered my conception; and to suppose it, is to suppose that I was utterly unworthy of the office which I occupied. Why should I conceal? I owed no responsibility to you; and if you were not afraid to place your construction on your orders, why should I be afraid to place mine? It was an affair of mere official duty, involving no question of private enmity or friendship, and I so treated it.
In conclusion, I must remark, that I had supposed that the want of sincerity and frankness would be the last charge that would be brought against me. Coming from a quarter from which I had reason to expect far different treat ment, and destitute, as I know it to be, of the slightest foundation, it could not fail to excite feelings too warm to be expressed, with a due regard to the official relation which I bear to you.
I have the honor to be,
Your most obedient servant.
- John C. Calhoun