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Dear Sir, I was met, on my arrival here, by a confidential communication, through my nephew, the Speaker, from Mr. Webster who expressed some delicacy about broaching the subject of it to me personally, but hoped and intended to have a conference with me (as he had) before I left Albany. The subject was the contemplated appointment of Mr. Curtis as Collector of the Customs in New York, and the following was the purport of the communication.
That the Governor and. his friends are extremely anxious for the appointment of Mr. Curtis, who, although not personally popular, is represented as possessing an extraordinary share of tact or stratagem ; and as being able, by his skill in planning and combining, and his untiring industry in executing, to produce the most astonishing political results. That, with the office of Collector (which he considers as second only in influence to that of Postmaster -General) he could, on all important occasions, command the vote of the city of New York, and, par constquence, of the State. That he is the intimate friend of^Mr. Webster, and possesses such influence over him as to be able to direct all his important political movements, an instance of which was shown in his withdrawing Mr. Webster's name from the list of Presidential candidates without his knowledge or consultation with him, because he was fully satisfied that Mr. Webster could not then, as he now is, that he never can be elected to that office; and (although it might be disheartening and injurious to tell him so at this time) that he must not and will not be a candidate for the next term. That he (Mr. Curtis) has great respect for your political character, and opposed your nomination only because he was convinced that if you had been nominated you could not have been elected ; that, your position being altered, you are now the only prominent candidate of the Whig party for the next term, and can not fail of success, unless some most unexpected event should interpose to prevent it. That he (Curtis) is so strongly fortified in his application for the Collectorship, that he thinks nothing can defeat it. Although he would feel much gratification in having your good wishes, and finally, that they (Mr. Weed and the Governor) had offered these suggestions to me under the belief that I enjoyed your confidence ; and with the hope that your views in regard to Mr. Curtis may accord with those above expressed.
My reply to Mr. Weed was, in substance, that I knew but little of what was passing at the seat of Government, and was ignorant of your views, and more so of those of General Harrison, on the subject of the principal official appointments ; that I knew, as indeed your recent movements had proved, that you were extremely anxious to retire from the turmoil of politics, and have as little to do with the operations of the Government as would be consistent with your duties as a citizen ; but that, at the same time, it was characteristic of you not to withhold your opinions, if they should be asked, on subjects involving the interests of the country. I told him too, that I thought it would be presuming too much to expect you to interfere in behalf of Mr. Curtis, with a full knowledge, which you must be presumed to possess, of the industry and zeal he had displayed in defeating your nomination, and that too in a total disregard of the known wishes of a large majority of the Whigs of this State. Still, however, that it was proper you should know what were the opinions of the Governor and his friends, in relation to Mr. Curtis, and that I would mention the subject in my next letter to you.
Now I do not doubt that Mr. Curtis is a man of rare address and management ; nor that he wields the power over Mr. Webster's volitions that is claimed for him : nor that he will exert that power, and probably with success, in preventing his (Mr. Webster's) being a candidate at the next election : nor that it is his present wish and intention (especially if you should favor his views) to support you. And I have as little doubt that if he succeeds in obtaining the office, its patronage will be disposed in favors to his particular political friends.
On the preceding facts, which I thought it my duty to communicate to you, I shall express no opinion, for surely no one is better able than yourself to weigh and decide on the various considerations which grow out of them.
As I believe I have given you quite matter enough for one dispatch, I will stop here at the end of my sheet, and probably write you again, some few days hence, from Albany.
I am, as always, with great respect and regard, your obedient servant.
- Peter Buell Porter
- The Private Correspondence of Henry Clay, Edited by Calvin Colton, Ll.D. 1856