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Walt Whitman to the Editors of The Daily Crescent, 26 September 1848

Eds. Crescent

There is a fair probability of the "malignants" of the whig party here coming into subjection soon, under the banner of Taylorism.1 Mr. N. B. Blunt2 has followed David Graham,3 and, though no one knows exactly "who's the next customer," it wouldn't be very surprising if it were Mr. Greeley4 himself. His paper has had an unusual squinting that way of late. The separate nominations for State officers by the whigs,5 hunkers and barnburners6 have exercised considerable influence toward re-marking distinct lines between the parties. Then there is the great probability of Fish's7 election, and whig success in the Legislature, which will result in some hundreds of appointments. The latter facts have contributed very much toward a general "harmonizing" of the whigs. The Clay8 men have a meeting at Vauxhall to-night, whereat the fiery and eloquent Virginian, John M. Botts,9 is to hold forth. It will doubtless be serviceable in letting the said Clay men drop gracefully into the open and expectant arms of Taylorism. Probably, however, as much mischief has already been done as could be done, on this point. Those among the masses who have been carried over from the whigs to "free soil" cannot easily be recaptured.

John Van Buren10 is roaming around through the interior of the State. During the last days of last week he addressed large meetings at Herkimer and Utica. All accounts agree in stating that Van Buren divides the western and interior parts of the State with Taylor. In those parts, Gen. Cass11 may be emphatically said to be "nowhere." In the eastern regions, in Kings county, and in two or three other counties, he does much better.

Capt. Bertrand12 and Mr. Watson,13 of the ship Alhambra, (for Antwerp, but put in here) whose case, under charge of murder by flogging a seaman, was detailed in one of my late letters, yet remain in prison here. The bail of Capt. B. has been fixed at $2500

Green, the ex-gambler,14 is again lecturing in town. He exhibits, at these lectures, some curious diagrams and tricks—quite sufficient to astonish such unsophisticated ones as your humble servant.

Bishop Onderdonk's15 case is again to come up before the Annual Episcopal Convention, which convenes at St. John's Church to-morrow. His friends are trying to move heaven and earth (particular earth) for a revocation of the sentence on the amorous Bishop, and a general white-washing of his character.

Theatricals are prospering better now than erewhile. At the Park, which was miserably attended for the first fortnight after its opening, the manager has brought out "Esmeralda," the Monplaisirs,16 Miss Bulan17 and Corby18 doing the leading characters. The piece has a good run, and still attracts fair audiences. At the Bowery, last night, Mr. Hamblin19 appeared as Hamlet, with Miss Mary Taylor20 as Ophelia! Forty years ago, Hamblin could have done justice to this sublimest drama in the language; he never can any more. Miss Taylor is shockingly out of place as a tragedy queen. Her voice is pleasing, but she cannot even begin to exhibit the beauties which "Shakspeare drew" of the love-sick daughter of old Polonius. Forrest21 played all last week at the Broadway to crowded and applauding houses. Mr. Collins22 commenced, last night, at the same place, a round of Irish characters. He is very popular, and really plays better than any Irish comedian at present among us. At the National, "Mose" and "Captain Tobin" continue to attract. That was a capital idea of Chanfrau's23 (or somebody else's), in carrying out an original representation of the New York rowdy and "b'hoy." It wouldn't be bad if the originality were extended farther and wider. Placide,24 Sefton25 and Vanderhoff26 are enacting "London Assurance"—that flippant production—at Niblo's, Astor Place. Mmlle. Adelaide Lehmann27 and Charles Winther28 glide, leap and hop through the "Sylphide," at Burton's, in Chambers street; and there are are concerts, and picture exhibitions, and panoramas, and dioramas, and all sorts of negro minstrels with twenty other kinds of amusements, good, bad and indifferent....The Acadia brought over Macready29 and Mrs. G. Barrett,30 who will probably play together. It is not known positively, but it is expected they will appear at the Park. Whichever house they don't play in should forthwith checkmate them by engaging Charlotte Cushman,31 who has more real genius than all the foreign actors that have come to us since the time of Edmund Kean32 and George F. Cooke.33 A plan is in operation for a grand benefit to the family of Mr. Simpson;34 it will come off the ensuing month.

I see that the Crescent City leaves here on the 2d of October, and is advertised to sail hence again on the 30th of the same month. The new steamer Falcon, Capt. W. T. Thompson,35 leaves for New Orleans—via Havana, same as the Crescent City—on the 16th of October; passage $75 and $60. The U.S. mail steam-packet California, to San Francisco and Astoria, and intermediate ports, leaves on the 2d of October.



  • 1. Zachary Taylor (1784–1850), a Southern slaveholder and a well-known American miltary leader in the Mexican-American War, was the Whig Candidate for president in the 1848 United States Presidential Election. Taylor won the election and went on to serve as the twelfth president of the United States, from 1849 until his death in 1850. [back]
  • 2. Nathaniel Bowdich Blunt (1804–1854) was a lawyer and politician from the state of New York. Elected in 1850 and 1854 on the Whig ticket, Blunt served as the District Attorney of New York County for three years, until his death in 1854. [back]
  • 3. David Graham, Jr. (d. 1852) was a prominent attorney in New York. He was appointed as the Corporation Attorney of New York in 1842 and became responsible for handling the city's legal affairs. For more information, see William B. Ellison, History of the Office of the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York (New York: Martin B. Brown Company, 1907). [back]
  • 4. Horace Greeley (1811–1872) was editor of the New York Tribune and a prominent advocate of social and political reform. Greeley generally supported the Whig Party in his early years, though he helped found the Republican Party in 1854. He ran for president as Liberal Republican in the election of 1872. For more information on Greeley, see Robert C. Williams, Horace Greeley: Champion of American Freedom (New York: New York University Press, 2006). [back]
  • 5. The Whigs were a political party in the antebellum United States; the Whig and the Democratic Parties were the two major political parties in the United States as part of the two-party system. The Whigs were critical of the nation's expansion into Texas and of the Mexican-American War and favored a national bank. They preferred that Congress take the lead in lawmaking and opposed strong presidential power. Their supporters were primarily professionals and social reformers; they received much less support from farmers and laborers. The Democratic Party in this period opposed a national bank, and they advocated for strong presidential power, and the interests of slave states. [back]
  • 6. Barnburners and Hunkers were terms used to describe opposing sides of the fracturing Democratic party in New York during the mid-nineteenth century. The Barnburners held radical anti-slavery views and were willing to destroy banks and corporations to end corruption and abuses. The Hunkers were pro-government; they favored state banks and minimized the issue of slavery. The divisions between these factions in New York reflected the national divisions that would lead to the American Civil War (1861–1865). [back]
  • 7. Hamilton Fish (1808–1893), the Whig candidate for Governor of New York in 1848, won the election to become the sixteenth governor of the state, serving from 1849 to 1850. He was later elected a United States Senator from New York and served as the United States Secretary of State during the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant. [back]
  • 8. Henry Clay (1777–1852) was an attorney who went on to serve as a United States Representative and a United States Senator from Kentucky. Clay ran for president in the elections of 1824, 1832, and 1844, and, although he was unsuccesful in his bids for the presidency, he was one of the founders of the Whig Party and of the National Republican Party. [back]
  • 9. John Minor Botts (1802–1869) was a politician, planter, and lawyer from the state of Virginia. He represented Virginia in the United States House of Representatives and also served as Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs. [back]
  • 10. Martin Van Buren (1782–1862) was the eighth president of the United States, serving from 1837 to 1841. Whig candidate William Henry Harrison defeated the incumbent Van Buren in the 1840 election to become the ninth president of the United States. Van Buren later became an anti-slavery leader and was the Free Soil candidate for president in the 1848 election; the Whig Candidate Zachary Taylor (1784–1850) defeated Van Buren and went on to serve as the twelfth president of the United States. [back]
  • 11. Lewis Cass (1782–1866) was a statesman, politician, and military officer. He served as a Senator representing the state of Michigan, as the Secretary of War under President Andrew Jackson, and as Secretary of State under James Buchanan. In 1848 he was the Democratic candidate for president. Cass was a proponent of the Doctrine of Popular Sovereignty, which held that each territory should choose whether to permit slavery. Cass was also crucial in the implementation of Andrew Jackson's policy of Indian Removal. For more information on Cass, see The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–2005 (United States Government Printing Office, 2005), 797. [back]
  • 12. Charles A. Bertrand was the master of the ship Alhambra, which left New Orleans for Antwerp on August 29, 1848. A few days later Bertrand gave the order for the second mate to flog a sailor named Alfred Davoy (he was also referred to as David Cooper and Albert Burgess in newspapers of the period) for not performing his duties to the Captain's satisfaction (see "Law Intelligence," New York Daily Herald, September 22, 1848, 4). Davoy died as a result of his injuries, and Bertrand was tried for Davoy's murder in New York in August of 1848. According to a November 18, 1848, article, Bertrand was not convicted of the crime (see [In the Case of Captain Charles A. Bertrand], Alexandria Gazette, November 18, 1848, 2). [back]
  • 13. Henry Watson was the second mate on the ship Alhambra. [back]
  • 14. Jonathan H. Green (1813–1887) wa skilled card player and gambler. After retiring from gambling he led reform efforts against illegal gambling, becoming an agent for the New York Association for the Suppression of Gambling. He also published several memoirs of his gambling years and reform efforts. [back]
  • 15. A graduate of Columbia College, Benjamin Tredwell Onderdonk (1791–1861) was the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York for over thirty years. His career was marked by controversy, including allegations of misconduct. During Onderdonk's tenure as Bishop, multiple affidavits were filed by women alleging that he had made unwelcome advances toward them and engaged in inappropriate touching. Oderdonk was brought to trial before the House of Bishops, and he was suspended, meaning that he remained the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese in New York, but that he could no longer perform his duties. [back]
  • 16. Hippolyte Monplaisir (1821–1877) was a French choreographer and a dancer, who performed with his wife, Adèle Bartholomin, a French ballerina. [back]
  • 17. Anna Bulan was a dancer and a member of the Monplaisir ballet troupe in the summer of 1848 (T. Allston Brown, A History of the New York Stage from 1732 to 1901 [New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1903], 1:377). [back]
  • 18. Mr. Corby was a member of the Monplaisir ballet troupe. He performed comic dances and danced roles that involved the humorous and grotesque (Joseph N. Ireland, Records of the New York Stage from 1750 to 1860 [New York: T. H. Morrell, 1867], 2:495; "Music and the Fine Arts," The Anglo American [November 6, 1847], 68). [back]
  • 19. Thomas Souness Hamblin (1800–1853) was a Shakespearean actor, businessman, and theatre manager. Under his management, New York City's Bowery Theatre became a successful venue for American working-class theatre. Hamblin occasionally booked opera and ballet events, but primarily produced melodramas, romances, farces, and circus acts that appealed to the working class Bowery B'hoy audiences of the Bowery district. In 1848, Hamblin bought the lease to the Park Theatre, which he renovated and reopened; however, the theatre was destroyed by fire a few months later. [back]
  • 20. Mary Taylor was a singer and actress. She was a popular perfomer at the Olympic Theatre and the Bowery. Whitman heard Taylor sing at the Olympic in 1847 (Susan M. Meyer, "Theatres and Opera Houses," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings [New York: Garland Publishing, 1998]). [back]
  • 21. Edwin Forrest (1806–1872) was an American stage actor, well known for his Shakespearean roles. He was also notorious for his feud with William Macready, a British actor, which ended in an 1849 nativist riot at New York's Astor Opera House that left twenty-five dead. [back]
  • 22. John Collins (1811–1874) was an Irish comedian and singer ("American," Theatrical Times, October 28, 1848, 6.). [back]
  • 23. Frank S. Chanfrau (1824–1884) was an actor and theatre manager who, in 1848, played the part of the Bowery b'hoy Mose in Benjamin Baker's (1818–1890) hit play A Glance at New York in 1848. Chanfrau would continue in this role for much of his career. [back]
  • 24. Henry Placide (1799–1870) was born in South Carolina, and he later performed on stage at the Park Theatre as a comedian and a singer. [back]
  • 25. John Sefton (1805–1868) was an English actor who gained renown throughout New York for his portrayal of Jemmy Twitcher in the play, the Golden Farmer. He played an "English pickpocket" and his performance was considered a "unique and laughable personation, that has never been equaled in this country." By 1845, Sefton had played Jemmy Twitcher 360 times in New York City. At one point, he served as the "stage-manager" of the Garden Theatre in New York City (Joseph N. Ireland, Records of the New York Stage from 1750 to 1860 [New York: T. H. Morrell, 1867], 2:167, 444; N. M. Ludlow, Dramatic Life as I Found It: A Record of Personal Experience (St. Louis: G. I. Jones and Company, 1880), 326, 502). [back]
  • 26. Whitman may be referring to the actor and elocutionist George Vanderhoff (1820–1885). [back]
  • 27. Born in France, Adelaide Lehmann (1830–1851) was a dancer who performed with her sisters as part of the family troupe, The Lehmann family. They toured the United States in the 1840s. [back]
  • 28. Part of the Ravel family troupe, Charles Winther was a "graceful and daring" rope equilibirst and performer (Joseph N. Ireland, Records of the New York Stage from 1750 to 1860 [New York: T. H. Morrell, 1867], 2:364). [back]
  • 29. William Macready (1793–1873) was a British stage actor, who played Shakespearean roles, including Richard III. He performed in London, New York, and Paris. [back]
  • 30. Little is known about Mrs. G. Barrett, who was an actress and the wife of the British actor George Horton Barrett (1794–1860). [back]
  • 31. Charlotte Cushman (1816–1876), an American stage actress who also lived in Europe and was adept at playing both male and female roles. Some of her more notable roles were in Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, with Cushman even performing at the Globe Theatre. In 1848 Cushman met and became romantically involved with journalist and actress Matlida Hayes (1820–1897); the couple had a ten-year relationship. [back]
  • 32. Edmund Kean (1787–1833) was a well-known Shakespeare actor, touring in his native England as well as overseas. [back]
  • 33. George F. Cooke (1756–1812) was an English Romantic actor. First apprenticed to a printer, Cooke left the print shop in favor of the stage, and after appearing in numerous roles in London, he undertook an American tour. The start of the War of 1812 saw Cooke stranded in New York City, where he passed away as a result of liver disease. [back]
  • 34. Edmund Simpson (1784–1848) was an English actor and theatre manager. He worked alongside Stephen Price (1782–1840) who leased the Park Theatre in New York, and, after Price's death, Simpson became the sole manager. Simpson held the position until 1848, when he retired; he died later that year. [back]
  • 35. William T. Thompson captained The Falcon, a paddle steamer. Thompson made voyages between New Orleans and such destinations as Cuba, Charleston, and New York on the steamer between 1848 and 1849. [back]
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