Correspondence of Robert M. T. Hunter, 1826-1876, Vol. 2, ed. Charles Henry Ambler. Washington D.C.: American Historical Association Annual Report, 1916, p. 233-234.
This letter is describing William Old’s response to R. M. T. Hunter’s description of the Land bill and praising him for winning support for it. William asks for a copy of the bill as well as reassures Hunter that there may be small opposition to his Land bill, but it is of no significance.
[PETERSBURG, VA.?], October 5th, 1857.
DEAR SIR: I received your letter a few days since and was much pleased at the information contained in it. Your explanation of the history of the Land bill prepared by you, would have seen an absolute defence, had it been before the country at the time, so far as the democracy of this and the other Atlantic States were concerned. You are no doubt aware that, the proposition, not only gave an opportunity of assault to your opponents in the Dem[ocratic] party in the State but most unfortunately, made some of the warmest friends of State Rights, cold towards you under the belief that too much was yielded to the Northwest. Instead of comparing it with the Homestead bill, they took the bill as an original proposition to the settlement feature of the bill. I have no recollection of the details of the bill and have nothing by me to afford me any information on it. You have just now clearly a majority so large in the legislature, that I do not apprehend, any serious opposition; still events may transpire which will strengthen the aspirants, and it may be the policy of your opponents to make an attack although an inefficient one so far as you defeat for the place of Senator is concerned. They have never been very confident of success in an effort to defeat you for the Senate, but to furnish evidence of strong democratic opposition to you in this state, will aid Wise as much, (almost as your defeat) in his objects. Hughes will be forced to assail you on this bill, if opposition is made to you and he is forced to concur in it, although now I think it will be no labor of love to him, he must cease his opposition to you on this bill. Wise is I think estopped from using it, if anything can prevent him from indulging his spleen and answering the appeals of his vanity. In case you are assailed, it would be well for some friend in the Senate and House of Delegates to be prepared with a defence; I am in a situation to assail Wise, and shall not fail to take advantage of it, if it is prudent to do so. But it may not be so, yet some of us should be in possession of the means of defence on this bill; no explanation of the bill has ever been made which we can make use to, that I remember. Can you furnish me with a copy of the bill, and any additional facts or reasons which I can use to sustain it, other than those contained in your letter to me.
Your situation now is such that I have refrained from sending Pryor some articles I had prepared. They were attacks upon the Enquirer, and I think the country press has rendered them unnecessary. The friends of Wise will now devote themselves entirely to preventing your receiving the support of V[irgini]a in the next Dem[ocratic] Convention. If they cannot succeed in raising opposition in the Legislature, we can treat their hostility displayed elsewhere, as the effect of disappointment and malice. I am writing as you will perceive in a manner the most disconnected, for I am at our County court and interrupted every moment or two. My only object in writing now is to ask you to furnish me with a copy of your bill, and with such suggestions in regard to it, as will enable me to meet an attack if one shall be made on it, and any assault made on you of any importance will be on that bill. Your position with regard to the Administration nobody really doubts, the only question being whether you will gratify the Gubernatorial editor of the Enquirer by yielding to him enquiry. I am with all of your friends with whom I have conversed utterly opposed to you noticing that paper. But I am disposed to think, that it would be well if some portion of the people or members of the legislature could elicit an expression from you. Such an exposition would certainly silence the Enquirer, and coming on the back of the united expression of the democratic press, would do much to complete its discomfiture in its efforts to represent the democracy. It is from the influence of this paper alone that the States Rights party in this state have anything to fear – any blow it may receive now will go far to destroy it. I am writing under such continued interruption, it is impossible to continue.