Description[Andrew Jackson] Joseph Ritner Autograph Letters (Five) Signed Containing Jacksonian Era Political Content on the national, state (Pennsylvania), and county (Washington County) level. All letters are dated between 1832 and 1837 and are written to William Ayers of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Joseph Ritner (1780-1869) of Washington County, Pennsylvania, served as Pennsylvania's eighth governor from 1835-1839. These letters bear some foxing, with minor separations at some folds. The lower margin of page three has been excised from Ritner's letter dated January 17, 1835; as a result, the signature has been removed.
Ritner was a member of the short-lived Antimason Party, a single-issue party that organized in 1828 and aspired to become a major party, as these letters show. In his letter dated June 23, 1834, Ritner describes the party's single-issue: "The true bond of union among antimasons is, opposition, extirpating opposition, to the Masonic institution; & Clay, & Jackson, being both, adhering masons, neither of them can have, or feel, any friendship either for us, or our cause, and of course neither of them, can receive our support as an anti-mason."
In the letter dated May 8, 1837, Ritner, now governor of Pennsylvania, writes of "the strangeness of the Politicks of the United States. I am not however of opinion, that the late explosion at Washington, is unfortunate to our government. . . . The course pursued by the administration of Genl Jackson cannot be approved by any honest, intelligent Pennsylvanian . . . if Governor [George] Wolf still supports Jackson, it must be, because his Masonic oaths bind him to do so. . . . I am however not of opinion, that H. Clay, is gaining in Pennsylvania, at least not in the West. It is very evident though, that Jackson is losing - but Jacksons loss is not going over to Clay - it is coming to antimasonry." Ritner lost two gubernatorial elections to George Wolf, a Jacksonian Democrat, in 1829 and 1830, but defeated him in 1835.
The letters also contain information on various elections, public school laws and land bills, the Second Bank of the United States, and William Henry Harrison, whom Ritner admired: "There is certainly no man in the Union, of whom I have any knowledge, who deserves more from his country - I served a six month tour under him in the winter of 1812-1813, no General ever paid more attention to his duty, nor evinced more deep concern for the health, and comfort of the troops under his command than Genl Harrison. . . . I would rejoice to see him at the head of affairs [letter dated January 14, 1835]."
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