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Walt Whitman to the Editors of The Daily Crescent, 1 November 1848

Oh, but we are in the midst of exciting times, now! Every vacant wall, despite of its "Stick no bills here," is covered with huge posters; and politicians have even adopted the plan of hiring boys with bulletin-boards, on which party announcements are pasted, to perambulate the streets. All the newspapers give up their columns to articles characterized by the various moods, potential, imperative, subjunctive and indicative—though I use those terms not exactly in the grammatical way. The large balls, and the back parlors of taverns, "teem" with political gatherings, or with secluded caucuses or committee meetings. O, indeed, but we are in the midst of exciting times!

Probably this excitement does not pervade any other part of the land so much as New York city. From what opportunities I have had for observing, there is, indeed, elsewhere, a remarkable apathy and lukewarmness. Here, however, the opposite currents meet: the results are divers dashing whirlpools. Alas, and a-lack-a-day! but the Republic is sure to be ruined, any how!

How is it going? perhaps you ask. No mortal man can tell, or even make a truly reliable judgment. For me—I stick to my prediction of a month ago, that, as the most probable event, Van Buren1 will get this State. If he does, it will be one of the most remarkable triumphs ever achieved on the ground of an abstract principle, in our Republic! The Administration, using without scruple its immense scope of power against the ex-President—openly putting itself in the field against him; both of the old phalanxes united in an enmity toward him; no chance of his carrying any other State than this—and thus not the remotest probability of his being President; hardly a prominent, well-known leader, except a few of the faithful old VanBuren guard, coming out for him; and yet, I tell you again, Martin Van Buren is going to get the thirty-six electoral votes of New York. It is rather hazardous to say so—but I venture to say it.

At danger of being somewhat trite, I cannot help calling the attention of your readers to the superiority of American institutions over those of all other governments on earth, as exhibited in the operations of an election for the Presidency. What in France would cause collisions certainly, and perhaps massacres, will here cause but a collision of opinion, and all will peacefully submit to the decision of the majority. Rightly viewed, indeed, these contests are purely contests of opinion, and not in behalf of men. Every candidate should, therefore, inscribe, fully and plainly upon his banner, his principal rules of action. Warm partisans will put forwards some excuse for the not doing of this by their favorite candidate; but in reality there is no fair excuse for it.

The weather continues warm and damp, helping forward the remarkable plenteousness of bilious attacks which has marked the past four months hereabout. Our "beautiful slattern" of a city is reveling in dirt, like a pig; the gutters are horrible. Fall lingers about in the appearance of the willows and the grass—those latest verdant of growing things.

No gossip or news of any interest. Politics engross every body's attention; and so will it be till next Tuesday—after which I hope to commune again more frequently with your readers.



  • 1. 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]
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