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Youth and school-days-Elam Tilden - Martin Van Buren and Doctor Younglove-Cost of education - Lessons in elocution - Halstead's prescription-Chancellor Kent reads his last preface to his " Commentaries" - First essay as a political writer-Opposes a recharter of the United States bank-Van Buren's will-Defends President Jackson's nullification message Early views of a protective tariff - Silas Wright's peccavi The treasury an executive department.
SAMUEL JONES TILDEN, the fourth of seven children. of Elam Tilden and Polly Younglove Jones, was born at New Lebanon, in the county of Columbia and State of New York, on the 9th day of February, 1814, when his father was in the thirty-third year of his age and his mother in her thirty-second.
Samuel's grandfather, John Tilden, removed with his family and several of his neighbors, in 1790, from the village of Lebanon, in the State of Connecticut, and christened the place they chose for their future home New Lebanon, in honor of the one they had abandoned. Here Elam Tilden grew to man's estate, became the proprietor of a handsome farm, to the tillage of which he added the management of a fairly prosperous commercial business.
New Lebanon soon became what it still is, a quiet, cheerful rural village and the centre of a sober, carnest, and thoughtful population, mostly emigrants, or the immediate descendants of emigrants, from Connecticut, who had borne an honorable part in the war of the Revolution, in which they each had acquired a dignifying sense of their individual importance in shaping the destinies of a nation.
The village to-day consists practically of one long and broad street, both sides lined with the houses which constitute the homes of most of the inhabitants. At the head of
the Lebanon valley are the famous sulphur springs which half a century ago were the favorite summer-resort of the wealth and fashion of the nation, but which of late years have been frequented chiefly by invalids. Distant only a few minutes' ride from these springs, still flourishes a branch of the society of Friends, called Shakers. It was organized in 1779, and was the first society of that denomination planted in the United States.
The homestead in which Mr. Tilden was born, and which is still the property of the family, is a spacious frame building lying a little back from the street, shaded by majestic forest trees and well-affected shrubbery, and bearing the most unequivocal testimony to the relative worldly prosperity and social importance of its occupants.
Mr. Elam Tilden was a thoughtful man, the oracle of the village on most questions of public concern, a great admirer of President Jackson, and the neighbor and life-long personal friend of Jackson's successor, President Van Buren, who frequented his house and prized his political sagacity and judgment.
A more or less confidential correspondence with Senator Wright, which still survives, shows what value was attached to his political judgment in Washington; while, from his contributions to "The Columbia Sentinel," a weekly paper published in a town adjoining New Lebanon, we learn that he was regarded throughout his county as a no mean authority upon agricultural matters.
Mrs. Tilden was an affectionate and devoted wife and mother, and her children never ceased to be the objects of her supreme solicitude. Her mother's youngest sister was the wife of Moses Younglove, whose adventures as a prisoner after the battle of Oriskany have been already referred to.1 Having no children, they adopted Polly Jones, Mr. Tilden's mother; and theirs was, and continued to be, her home and that of her family while Mr. Younglove lived.
For full details of his captivity and sufferings, see Supplement.
Doctor Younglove was a man of prodigious energy and force of character, and was regarded with the profoundest reverence by the younger members of the family. His sufferings during his captivity were such that he could never after endure the sight of an Indian, and he had almost an equal aversion for an Englishman, a Tory, and a Federalist. He survived his captivity some fifteen years, but he never entirely recovered from its effects upon his health. He was a warm partisan of Jefferson and Madison, and neglected no opportunity of impressing upon his adopted grandchildren a respect for their political principles and examples. Mr. Tilden used to tell the following very characteristic anecdote of this uncompromising old Democrat which he had from the lips of Mr. Van Buren himself, who was fond of repeating it.
It was in 1812 and during the war then waging with England, and commonly styled by its partisans "The second war for American Independence." Younglove was a perfervid partisan both of President Madison and of the war. Van Buren was a candidate for the State Senate. On the day of the election Van Buren had seated himself on an elevated seat overlooking the polling-officers. In due time the tall figure and high-crowned white hat of Doctor Younglove was seen to enter and approach the inspectors. After very deliberately removing his white hat, he proceeded to put on his spectacles, then taking a ballot from his pocket he read it through with great care, and, while handing it to the inspector, said, bowing at the same time toward Mr. Van Buren with a critical smile, "I do not vote to-day for senator."
The trouble was that the old gentleman suspected Van Buren of being a little too well disposed towards Gov. De Witt Clinton, who was then a candidate for the presidency against Madison, and although the doctor had been a life-long friend of George Clinton, he would have nothing to do with any ticket contaminated with even a suspicion of disloyalty to Madison.