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Future President Van Buren Recommends a Man he Doesn’t Know to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun
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Van Buren had served as Attorney General of New York from 1815 to 1819. His successor Samuel A. Talcott (1789-1836) asked the recently elected Senator from New York for a recommendation for an uncle of his wife. In response to Talcott’s request, Van Buren penned this letter to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun.

MARTIN VAN BUREN. Autograph Letter Signed, August 1, 1821, 1 p.

Inventory #23995.02       Price: $750

Complete Transcript

Dr Sir/

            Mr Grosvenor brother of the late Thomas P. visits Washington with the view of soliciting some appointment in your department. I have not the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with Mr. G. but at the request of my friend Mr Talcott Attorney Genl of this State, whose wife is a connection of Mr G., I take the liberty of adding my wishes for his success, to those of his friends.

                                                                        With respect & esteem / yours

                                                                        M. V. Buren

                                                                        Albany August 1st 1821

The Honble. / John C Calhoun <2>

[Address:] The Honble. / John C. Calhoun / Secretry at War

Martin Van Buren (1782-1862) of New York was the first president who had not been born a British subject. He was admitted to the bar in 1803, and joined the Democratic-Republican Party supporting Aaron Burr and George Clinton. He served in the New York Senate from 1813 to 1820, as New York Attorney General from 1815 to 1819, and U.S. Senator from 1822 to 1828. After serving as New York governor for less than three months in 1829, he became Andrew Jackson’s Secretary of State (1829-1831), minister to the United Kingdom (1831-1832), and Vice President (1833-1837). Van Buren was elected president after Jackson’s second term. The Panic of 1837 marred his presidency, and he lost a bid for reelection in 1840 to William Henry Harrison.

John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) was born in South Carolina and had minimal education as a child. His brothers financed his tuition at Yale College, from which he graduated as valedictorian in 1804. He studied law in Connecticut and was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1807. Calhoun served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1811 to 1817, then as Secretary of War under James Monroe from 1817 to 1825. He was Vice President for both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson from 1825 to 1832. He represented South Carolina in the U.S. Senate from 1832 to 1843 and 1845 to 1850, and served as Secretary of State under John Tyler and James K. Polk from 1844 to 1845. Calhoun was an ardent defender of slavery and of the related political theories of states’ rights and nullification, through which states could nullify federal legislation with which they disagreed. His theories provided intellectual justification for the secessionists of 1860-1861.

Thomas P. Grosvenor (1778-1817) graduated from Yale College in 1800 and practiced as an attorney before representing New York in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1812 until his death.  Four of his brothers were living in 1821, when Van Buren wrote this letter: Godfrey Malbone Grosvenor (1773-1860), who served in the Maine House of Representatives in 1822; George Henry Grosvenor (1783-1838); Seth Keyes Grosvenor (1786-1857); and Stephen Keyes Grosvenor (1791-1839). It seems likely that Stephen Keyes Grosvenor, who became colonel of the 17th New York Cavalry militia regiment in 1822, was the subject of this letter. He was a merchant in Buffalo, and he married Lucretia S. Stanley, a first cousin of Talcott’s wife, in 1816.


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