A political history of the state of New York, Vol 1

THE preparation or this work was suggested to the author by the difficulty he experienced in obtaining an accurate knowledge of the movements of political parties and their leaders in the Empire State. «After living a dozen years in New York,» wrote Oliver Wolcott, who had been one of «\Vashington’s Cabinet, and was afterwards governor of Con– necticut, «I don’t pretend to comprehend their politics. ‘It is a labyrinth of wheels within wheels, and it is ·understood only by the managers.» Wolcott referred to the early decades of the last century, when Clintonian and Bucktail, gradu– ally absorbing the Federalists, severed the old Republican party into warring factions. In later years, Daniel S. Dickinson spoke of «the tangled web of New York politics»; and Horace Greeley complained of «the zigzag, wavering lines and uncouth political designations which puzzled and wearied readers» from 1840 to 1860,when Democrats divided into Conservatives and Radicals, Hunkers and Barnburners, and Hards and Softs; and when Whigs were known as Con– science and Cotton, and Woollies and Silver Grays. More recently James Parton, in his Life of Andrew Jackson, speaks of «that most unfathomable of subjects, the politics of the State of New York.» There is no attempt in this history to catalogue the prom– inent public men of New York State. Such a list would itself fill a volume. It has only been possible, in the limited space given to over a century, to linger here and there in the company of the famous figures who rose conspicuously above their fellow men and asserted themselves masterfnlly in in– fluencing public thought and action.

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