Hamm, John, (State senator) and James Hampson, (General Assembly representative), Columbus, Ohio
Autograph Letter, to Ezekial Cox, Zanesville, Ohio, June 12, 1828

folio, 3 pages plus stampless address leaf, some weakness at folds and hole from seal opening with loss of a few words of text.

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An important Ohio political letter from the tumultuous months before the presidential election when a new Democratic Party was still forming around the candidacy of Andrew Jackson and supporters of his opponent, John Quincy Adams, mostly remnants of the defunct Federalist Party, simply called themselves “Anti-Jacksonians”. The party lines were still so blurred that, as this letter from two Jacksonian state legislators makes clear, there was a great deal of mutual suspicion, approaching paranoia, about conspiracies and plots that grew out of confused loyalties. The text is particularly interesting because of the writers’ use of two forgotten political slurs – “Blue Lights” referred to former Anglophile Federalists who had been accused, for over a decade, since the War of 1812 which they had adamantly opposed, of having made friendly signals to British ships in order to warn the enemy of American blockade runners putting to sea from Connecticut.  The other innuendo as the reference to John Quincy Adams as “King John the Second”, reflecting the Jacksonian claim that he and his “Blue Light Federalists” sought to reunite America with England, the new nation’s former colonial master. 

Both Hamm, the co-author, and Cox, the recipient, were notable Jacksonians.  Hamm was a doctor who had served as a Surgeon in the War of 1812 before being elected to the legislature; he became so powerful in the politics of his county as to win a diplomatic appointment through political patronage.  After Jackson’s election, Hamm was appointed the third American envoy to Chile after its independence from Spain. Cox, also an uncompromising Jacksonian Democrat, was the son of a Revolutionary War General and pioneer publisher of the first newspaper in eastern Ohio which became the most influential Jacksonian paper in the state. His better-known son, Samuel “Sunshine” Cox, was a US Congressman during the Civil War and was later appointed US Ambassador to Ottoman Turkey by Democratic Grover Cleveland.

      The text:

“Among many of our very best friends (among whom we always class you) we have neglected to write to you supposing that you would in the common course receive everything going on here worth knowing. You are aware of our great difficulties of getting along here among a pack of as thorough going and [rude?] trained blue-lights as ever were permitted to run at large! However, so it is we are yet alive, and as much in the bargain! We had expected, that among our friends who came on here, that you would have been among the number. To those who came here they proved a great consolation; for believe us, that you can form, and we can describe, no conceptions of the conspiracies and plots which are hourly carried on here to put down every body who will not sing hosannas to King John the 2d. As you know, we have endeavoured, with all our might, to pursue a neutral attitude amidst these conflicting elements. How far we have succeeded, time must tell. There are very many trials, with which we are beset, which it is impossible now to give you any thing like a correct understanding. We have written to but very few of our friends. This is no place for pleasure or amusement to representatives who are disposed to do their duty to those who sent them here.

Among our difficulties, you will know, that we have with us one person that there is no harm in keeping a watchful eye over. A word is enough – but how it will yet end is very uncertain. We have made and are daily making sacrifices on your account, and that of all our friends. Nothing that human [impunity?] or industry can effect will be withheld on our part until the close, but we are not at liberty to promise much on that particular subject, for this and the reasons heretofore advanced. For while we keep a sharp look out, we in our turns are well watched, and perhaps more constantly watched than any two members in both branches of the General Assembly. The friends of John 2 are a majority in both branches and they exercise this authority in accordance with the mandates of Grimble, King and Company.

As to our local interests – school Lands – Sale of Section 16 – Taylors dam etc. I hope will prove somewhat satisfactory to the public. Write to Mr. [J.C.]Stockton [Representative], but not on the subject because he will tell. But write to him that the Blue Lights in Zanesville are boasting that they have got him – and any thing else which you may think will flatter him. We also think, that a number of you had better write to him soon, and continue it until the very close of the session! You know what we wish it done for, and you must not neglect it. Your brother Saml. J. Cox, also ought to write to him. Our success here upon that one point, greatly depends on what we advise. Pay the postage on all your letters to here!!!

Tell your brother Saml. To write immediately, also, to Mr.Stilwell on the same subject – by this means we may (possibly)make such arrangements to insure success. In other words unless something is done this creature will come out for ________ By our division we shall be defeated. You have no idea of the duplicity of this man! Our enemies at home are writing to him, and inflaming him against us and all our friends at home. We know that Mr. Stilwell can with [?] what is necessary here – that is to unite with us in [words missing].a candidate whom we many rely upon, when [words missing] The mischief he does is through the Blue Lights; and at the same time by palming himself upon the credulous of our side.

All we want is union among the Muskingum delegation here and then we may stand a better chance of success in the election of an Associate Judge…”