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Anti-Federalists Mock “His Worship” James Duane
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his arguments are so solid, so firm, so clear, & so conclusive as incontestably to prove that the battle of Lexington happened in the year 1775… those arguments with the more solid one if Possible to wit, the tremendous Mountain called Antonys Nose do so clearly and undeniably move than an Election is an Act of Legislation

Anthony’s Nose is a peak along the Hudson River at the north end of Westchester County.

DAVID GELSTON. Autograph Letter Signed, to John Smith, New York, January 20, 1789. 2 pp., 7½ x 12¼ in. With New York Daily Advertiser, January 20, 1789, New York: Francis Childs. 4 pp. This issue publishes Duane’s remarks in full on page 2. Among the many ads on pages 1, 3 and 4 are those for the sale of stock certificates, wanted to purchase shares in the Bank of the United States, Hayman Levy selling furs, renting a house, sherry wine, auctions of real estate, sale of an enslaved woman and child, Cuban cigars, ship’s passages, etc.

Inventory #23868       Price: $1,100

Historical Background

The U.S. Constitution specified that Representatives would be elected directly, but Senators would be chosen by state legislatures. New York’s legislature convened in December 1788, and debated “An Act for prescribing the times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators of the United States of America, to be chosen in this State.” At first, the Assembly, with an Anti-Federalist majority, favored election of U.S. Senators by the Assembly only, while the Senate, with a Federalist majority, insisted that both houses have a say. On January 5, 1789, James Duane, Federalist Senator and Mayor of New York City, spoke to a joint session about the bill, defending the Senate’s proposed role. In this letter to fellow Anti-Federalist John Smith, Gelston dismisses Duane’s speech.

On January 27, 1789, New York drew six congressional districts, and voters went to the polls in early March to select Representatives for the first Federal Congress. But the legislature adjourned without electing U.S. Senators; both sides thought they would win the upcoming state elections. In April, voters elected a large Federalist majority to the Assembly, and Governor George Clinton called a special session to elect U.S. Senators. The Council of Revision (the Governor, Chancellor, and members of the state Supreme Court) vetoed the Assembly’s bill, arguing that it was unnecessary. If the houses chose the same candidate, he was elected, but if they chose differently, they would meet for a joint ballot (the first time that happened was in 1802). On July 16, the legislators selected Senator Philip Schuyler and Assemblyman Rufus King, both Federalists, to represent New York in the U.S. Senate.

Complete Transcript

                                                                        New York Jany 20, 1789

John Smith Esqr

Dear John—

            I wrote you a very long letter about the 1st Inst another longer yet about the 9th & one yesterday by Mr Hughes—to neither of which have I recd any answer. this will be handed you by Melancton Smith Esqr and will be by my present determination the last I shall write you until I receive at least one from you.

            I would not let so favorable an opportunity as the present pass with sending you at least my name. I have this day been favored through the medium of Mr Childs paper[1] with his Worships Speech at the Conference, his arguments are so solid, so firm, so clear, & so conclusive as <2> as incontestably to prove that the battle of Lexington happened in the year 1775, and as it really happened in that year, so the first Congress met in Philada in 1774. those arguments with the more solid one if Possible to wit, the tremendous Mountain called Antonys Nose do so clearly and undeniably move than an Election is an Act of Legislation, that what mortal in his senses can any longer doubt, there is any difference between, passing an Act to regulate Elections, and enacting in the same Law the whole number of Persons to be Elected. Mr Smith going off. adieu

                                                                        yours as ever

                                                                        David Gelston

David Gelston (1744-1828) was a Long Island-born merchant who signed the articles of association in 1774, agreeing to boycott British imports. He represented Suffolk County in the New York Provincial Congress from 1775 to 1777, in his state’s Constitutional Convention in 1777, and in the State Assembly from 1777 to 1785, the last term as speaker. Gelston moved to New York City in 1787. Two years later, the Assembly appointed him to the last session of the Congress of the Confederation. He served in the state Senate from 1791 to 1794 and 1798 to 1802. He worked closely with Aaron Burr. President Thomas Jefferson appointed him as Collector of the Port of New York in 1801, and he remained in that position until 1821.

John Smith (1752-1816) represented Suffolk County in the New York State Assembly from 1784 to 1785, 1787 to 1794, and 1798 to 1800. A Democratic Republican, he won election to the U.S. House of Representatives to fill out a term and was re-elected twice. In 1804, he resigned to take a seat in the U.S. Senate. In 1813, President James Madison appointed Smith as U.S. Marshal for the District of New York, a position he held until 1815.

Melancton Smith (1744-1798) was born on Long Island and moved with his family to Poughkeepsie. He represented Dutchess County in the New York Provincial Congress in 1775, and moved in 1785 to New York City, where he became a prominent merchant. He helped found the New York Manumission Society and represented New York in the Congress of the Confederation from 1785 to 1787. In the Ratifying Convention in the summer of 1788, Smith was initially a leading opponent of the Constitution, but he eventually broke ranks with other Anti-Federalists and voted for it, angering New York Governor George Clinton. Smith died in the yellow fever epidemic in New York City.

James Duane (1733-1797), born in New York City, was admitted to the bar in 1754. He established a lucrative practice and owned a house in Manhattan, another in the country, and an estate of 36,000 acres near Schenectady, New York. He served as a member of New York’s Committee of Sixty, represented the state in the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1784. He signed the Articles of Confederation in 1778. He served on the committee that drafted New York’s constitution in 1777. Duane was a member of the Federalist Party and served in the New York Senate from 1783 to 1790. The Council of Appointment appointed him as the 44th Mayor of New York in 1784, and he served in that position until 1789. That September, President George Washington appointed him as the first judge of the United States District Court for the District of New York, where he sat until ill health forced his resignation in 1794.

Additional Background

In June and July 1788, New York’s ratification convention met to consider the U.S. Constitution. A majority of delegates were initially opposed, but the convention ultimately ratified the Constitution on July 26, 1788, by a vote of 30 to 27. It also attached recommended amendments.

On February 7, 1789, the Assembly resolved to ask the first federal Congress to call a second general convention to consider amendments to the Constitution. In June, James Madison presented to Congress proposals for amendments, and in September, Congress passed twelve amendments and sent them to the states for ratification. By December 1792, the required three-quarters of the states had adopted ten of those amendments as the Bill of Rights.

*This item is also being offered in part II of The Alexander Hamilton Collection

[1] Francis Childs (1763-1830) published the New York Daily Advertiser (1785 to 1796), the third daily paper in America.

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