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The Yale Historical Review Spring 2020

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This is the Spring 2020 Edition (Volume IX, Issue I) of The Yale Historical Review, an undergraduate publication of history.

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The Yale Historical Review Spring 2020

  1. 1. THE YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW Volume IX Issue ISpring 2020 New Mexico crypto-Jewish Memory, Origins to 2007 RACHEL KAUFMAN
  2. 2. THE YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW The Yale Historical Review gratefully acknowledges the following donors AN UNDERGRADUATE PUBLICATION The Yale Historical Review provides undergraduates an opportunity to have their exceptional work highlighted and encourages the diffusion of original historical ideas on college campuses by providing a forum for outstan- ding undergraduate papers covering any historical topic. Spring 2020 Volume IX Issue I American Historical Association Department of the History of Art, Yale University The Ethnicity, Race, and Migration Program at Yale Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations Department at Yale Jacob Wasserman Greg Weiss Annie Yi Premiere Patron George K. Miller Association of Yale Alumni Weili Cheng Department of History,Yale University Matthew and Laura Dominski Jeremy Kinney and Holly Arnold Kinney In Memory of David J. Magoon Sareet Majumdar Brenda and David Oestreich The Program in Judaic Studies, Yale University South Asian Studies Council, Yale University Stauer Undergraduate Organizations Committee Derek Wang Yale Club of the Treasure Coast Yale European Studies Council Zixiang Zhao Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies at Yale Peter Dominski J.S. Renkert Joe and Marlene Toot Yale Center for British Art Yale Club of Hartford Yale Council on Middle East Studies Founding Patrons Founding Contributors Contributors For More Information To access past issues or information reguarding submissions, advertisements, subscriptions, and contributions: Our Website: yalehistoricalreview.org Our Facebook: www.facebook.com/ yalehistoricalreview To provide feedback or questions: Our Email: yalehistoricalreview@gmail.com The Yale Historical Review is published by Yale students. Yale University is not responsible for its content. Cover by Kelly Zhou, SM '22 i VOLUME IX ISSUE I SPRING 2020
  3. 3. EDITORIAL BOARD Editor in Chief Heidi Katter, SM ’20 Sally Ma, MY ’21 Managing Editor Henry Jacob, SY ’21 Development Chair Isabel Guarco, BK ’20 Digital Director Adrian Rivera, JE ’20 Benjamin Waldman, BR ’20 Senior Editors Oona Holahan, BF ’21 Jisoo Choi, DC ’22 Varun Sikand, BR ’22 Shannon Sommers, TC ’22 Associate Editors Daniel Blatt, SM ’21 Maya Pasic, BR ’21 Tereza Podhajska, SY ’21 Matthew Sáenz, DC ’21 Copy Editors Vanessa Chung, SM ’20 Christopher Sung, GH ’21 Helena Lyng-Olsen, PC ’22 Isabella Yang, SY ’22 Kelly Zhou, SM'22 Rodrigo Chousal Cantu, PM ’23 Lane Fischer, MC ’23 Production & Design Editors ADVISORY BOARD David Blight Sterling Professor of History, African American Studies, and American Studies; Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition Beverly Gage Director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy and Professor of History Jay Gitlin Senior Lecturer of History; Associate Director of the Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders Glenda Gilmore Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History, African American Studies, and American Studies Norma Thompson Senior Lecturer in Humanities; Associate Director of the Whitney Humanities Center John Gaddis Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History Bruce Gordon Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History iiTHE YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW
  4. 4. The Spring 2020 Issue marks the revival of The Yale Historical Review (YHR) after a period of inactivity as a publication. We are grateful for inheriting a journal dedicated to making undergraduate historical inquiry stimulating and accessible to students, faculty, and other history enthusiasts. We strive to carry on the Review with commitment, curiosity, and innovation. When our board of editors gathered in March 2019 to discuss what the publication could and should beco- me, we could not have envisioned what has since transpired. The board has now grown to include over thirty students—larger than any previous board—and several exciting initiatives are in progress. Even more than the Review’s growth, we could not have foreseen the gravity of the historical moment in which this issue would be published. While early on we decided to revamp our website, we did not anticipate that the new digital platform would become necessary for transmitting historical scholarship to our readers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, we could not have predicted that this issue would coincide with devastating events of racialized police brutality—brutality that has occasioned impassioned protests and responses globally, and that the Review commits to addressing through a special issue devoted to racial injustice and social change. Before the events of the past few months, however, the Spring 2020 Issue was already underway.We were delighted to receive so many submissions and selected less than five percent of them to feature in this issue. Steven Rome’s essay details the growth of partisanship in U.S. politics by exposing the tensions between George Clinton and John Jay in the 1792 New York gubernatorial election. Kashif Azam interrogates how the Meerut Conspiracy Case in interwar British India influenced and contributed to a transformation in public support for the British Empire in the U.K. Rachel Kaufman draws on archival and literary sources to shed light on memory practices of crypto-Jews in New Mexico. Together, these essays employ diverse methodologies to illuminate his- torical events that inform issues remaining with us today—issues such as party politics, imperialism, and religious persecution. We are thrilled to share these essays with you, and hope you enjoy perusing them. To close the issue, we invite you to read an interview conducted by the Review with Peter V. and C. Vann Wood- ward Professor of History Greg Grandin. Grandin’s most recent book, The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America, won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction. We are delighted he sat down with us to discuss how his experience as a Latin Americanist has shaped his understanding of current transnational affairs and political issues—including, but not limited to, the Border Wall. As we reflect on the past, we acknowledge that this issue is only the beginning of a new chapter for The Yale Historical Review. Please stay tuned for the expanded content that will appear on the website and in print in the months ahead. LETTER from the EDITORS Sincerely, Heidi Katter, Editor in Chief Sally Ma, Managing Editor Henry Jacob, Development Chair iii VOLUME IX ISSUE I SPRING 2020
  5. 5. The Meerut Conspiracy: A Microcosm of Shifting British Attitudes towards Imperialism by KASHIF AZAM “We Shall Endanger the Political Ship”: The Legacy of the Clinton-Jay Crisis of 1792 by STEVEN ROME Whispered Tradition: New Mexico crypto-Jewish Memory,Origins to 2007 by RACHEL KAUFMAN CONTENTS An Interview with Greg Grandin Conducted by HENRY JACOB Peter V.and C.Vann Woodward Professor of History Transcribed by JISOO CHOI PAGE 1 PAGE 33 PAGE 17 PAGE 70 ivTHE YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW
  6. 6. SPRING 2020 "WE SHALL ENDANGER THE POLITICAL SHIP" The Legacy of the Clinton-Jay Crisis of 1792 by Steven Rome, GH ‘20 Written for “The Age of Hamilton and Jefferson” Advised by Professor Mark Peterson Edited by Sally Ma, Benjamin Waldman, Varun Sikand, and Daniel Blatt In this essay, Steven Rome (GH ’20) explores the 1792 New York gubernatorial election between John Jay (from the Federalist party) and George Clinton (from the Democratic-Republican party). Although Jay collected more votes than Clinton on Election Day, the legislature-appointed canvassing committee invalidated the votes of three counties on a technicality. As a result, Clinton won the election. His vic- tory ignited controversies amidst New York’s polarized political climate. Rome proposes that the tension surrounding this 1792 election represents the first instance of party politics in the U.S. and the first test of the nation’s republican philosophy. Specifically, the election crisis actualizes James Madison's concern in Federalist No. 10 about the evils of political factions. The crisis exposes how the U.S. government is susceptible to demagoguery. The resolution of the election crisis demonstrates the strength of the U.S. government in coping with conflicts. The 1792 New York imbroglio suggests that the U.S. government rests on nothing more and nothing less than the citizens' faith in the government—it relies on the citi- zens' willingness to work within the existing political system to make changes. The lessons Rome high- lights from the 1792 debacle inform how to approach the vulnerabilities of a partisan, republican system, which remain as pressing today as ever. ABSTRACT ON THE NEXT PAGE Disputed 1792 Gubernatorial Electon, Legislator Tally. [1] 1 "WE SHALL ENDANGER THE POLITICAL SHIP"
  7. 7. IFTEEN TIMES,the “huzzahs!”of New York mechanics reverberated throughout a brightly lit assembly hall. It was the Fourth of July, 1792, and this “large and respectable” group made a toast each year since the United States had declared its independence from Britain. The first toast went to the president of the United States; the second, to the state of New York. But by the third toast, things got interesting.1 Three days prior, George Clinton, a military hero of the Revolution, had been sworn in for his sixth successive term as New York’s governor. Yet by most accounts, his opponent—no less a patri- ot than John Jay, chief justice of the United States and co-author of the Federalist Papers—had won a majority of the popular votes. On a technicality, the legislature-appointed canvassing committee invali- dated the votes of three counties that likely would have swung the election for Jay. For good measure, per state law, it immediately burned the ballots. All of New York, it seemed, was soon up in flames. Jay’s supporters gathered on the streets and wrote incendiary newspaper articles. They talked of 1 The New-York Journal, & Patriotic Register, July 7, 1792. 2 Ibid. 3 Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2005), 52. 4 Walter Stahr contextualized Jay’s response to the election with regard to an earlier formative experience that dictated his personal restraint; Frank Monaghan took an aggressively pro-Jay approach in titling his chapter on the dispute “Clinton Filches the Governorship.” Walter Stahr, John Jay: Founding Father (New York: Hambledon and Lon- don, 2005), 289; Frank Monaghan, John Jay: Defender of Liberty (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1935), 325. The Clintonian perspective is most thoroughly presented in John P. Kaminski, George Clinton: Yeoman Politician of the New Republic (Madison: Madison House, 1993); Alfred F. Young, The Democratic Republicans of New York: The Origins, 1763–1797 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1967). 5 Young, The Democratic Republicans of New York; Mary-Jo Kline and Joanne Wood Ryan, eds., Political Cor- respondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), 1:117; Edward B. Foley, “The Founders’ Bush v. Gore: The 1792 Election Dispute and Its Continuing Relevance,” The Ohio State Universi- ty Moritz College of Law, Public Law and Legal Theory Working Paper No. 137 (2010); Foley, Ballot Battles: The History of Disputed Elections in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016). Kline and Ryan noted that the election produced a “period of change and transition,” altering the voting patterns across the state and destabilizing the overall political landscape. “first principles,” extraconstitutional conventions, and armed revolution. And on Independence Day, a celebration of unity and patriotism, a group of citi- zens made toasts to “the Governor (of right) of the state of New-York” and to “the rights of suffrage— may the violators of them receive the contempt of freemen and the punishment due to traitors.”2 Noth- ing short of treason was at stake in New York’s polar- ized political climate in the summer of 1792. Yet historians have largely overlooked or minimized the stakes of this tense moment. Sean Wilentz’s treatment of the controversy, which leaves little room for nuance, represents the conventional historical assessment of the episode: Clinton won “only because of flagrant voter fraud.”3 Biographers of the central characters have delved further, with Jay biographers detailing the disfranchisement of voters, while historians focusing on Clinton and his Democratic-Republican allies have devoted pro- portionately more attention to the unsavory elec- tion procedures employed by Jay supporters on the frontier.4 The limited scholarship on the election has focused on its implications for the growing Re- publican coalition in New York or contemporary election-rules controversies.5 Lost in these appraisals is a grasp of what the 1792 election meant to the development and mere existence of America’s brand-new political system. It presented two related crises threatening the legiti- macy of government. First, just years after the Con- stitution’s framers denounced the evils of factions, the dispute exposed congealing political coalitions. F INTRODUCTION: THE GOVERNOR (OF RIGHT) 3 "WE SHALL ENDANGER THE POLITICAL SHIP"
  8. 8. The founding generation worried that parties privi- leged self-interest ahead of the common good.To Jay sympathizers in 1792, it appeared that Clintonian officials on the committee overseeing the election did just that by ruling in favor of their preferred can- didate. But the Clinton folk countered that their op- ponents’ election tactics and reaction were evidence of a Jay-ite conspiracy for self-gain. At this time, to be sure, there was no “First Party System” of formal institutions; “party” was still a dirty word.6 Yet state and national leaders had started to converge around two distinct sets of ideas, and they competed against each other vigorously.7 Partisan distrust surged. Party politics, as they functioned in the 1792 controversy, destabilized the political system. The second crisis followed from the first. The party-line decision not to count all the votes implicated the central principle of self-govern- ment, threatening New Yorkers’ claims to having pure, republican institutions. From the Jay per- spective, Clinton partisans silenced the voice of the people and stole the election. Simultaneously, Clin- ton folk charged that Jay supporters were the ones hostile to republican values, for they were rebuking the constitutional process established to negotiate election disputes simply because they disliked the outcome. The election of 1792 produced a clash of two competing, and apparently irreconcilable, defi- nitions of republicanism. Given such high stakes, the dispute ultimately demanded the attention of the nation’s political lead- ers, forcing founding fathers Thomas Jefferson, Alex- ander Hamilton, James Madison, and James Monroe to grapple with the imperfections of the system they had created.The gubernatorial race helps to illuminate the larger, existential concerns beleaguering America’s founders. Were political factions truly a threat to the republic, as people feared? Was New York’s election of 1792 an example of the republican process of gover- nance slipping into ruin? 6 As Richard Hofstadter argued, the idea of a “legitimate opposition” did not exist at the founding, but it gradu- ally developed in early America; the transfer of power from the Federalists to the Republicans in 1801 marked a crucial moment of expanding the possibilities of two distinct political entities competing against one another. Hofstadter’s work, it should be noted, focused much more on the partisan tensions in the Adams presidency and exclusively on national politics. The 1792 state-level dispute in New York, however, attracted the attention of the national figures Hofstadter analyzed. Richard Hofstadter, The Idea of a Party System: The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States, 1780–1840 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969). 7 Monaghan identified the Clinton-Jay election as the “beginning of modern party politics in New York.” Monaghan, John Jay: Defender of Liberty, 325. The way events played out in the summer of 1792 suggests that in many ways, the opposite was true. Though parties seemed both temporary and destruc- tive, they emerged as a crucial element of the solution to the quagmire of 1792. Partisanship facilitated a re- strained response from the Jay camp. Motivated by a desire to maintain their party’s reputation and sink that of the Republicans,the Federalist leadership of Alexan- der Hamilton, Rufus King, and John Jay himself con- sciously rejected a direct challenge to the legitimacy of the election, turning down calls for violence and extra- constitutional conventions to annul the election result. While the French Revolution raged abroad, Ameri- ca’s self-proclaimed defenders of freedom, even those mechanics who spoke of treason on July 4th, did little Geroge Clinton, 1812. By Ezra Amez [2] 4THE YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW
  9. 9. more than write angry editorials. It mattered more to air their outrage than to produce a tangible reversal of the outcome. Politics, they understood, was an ongoing game. The Federalists could overlook their grievances with the current election because they had faith that there would be another election, and that, through a concerted political effort and public-opinion campaign to discredit their Clintonian enemies, they could win that next contest. Even as the nascent political parties of 1792 generated alarming agitation and political un- certainty, they emerged as a crucial mechanism to sta- bilize America’s republican project. HILE PARTIES may have ultimately exerted a calming force on the political process, it would have been difficult for New Yorkers in the midst of the 1792 firestorm to understand this stabilizing effect. In- stead, the entire affair, replete with shady dealings and self-seeking decisions, seemed to realize the worst fears of the Constitution’s framers. James Madison expressed the conventional dread of par- tisanship in Federalist No. 10, defining “factions” as 8 “Publius” [James Madison], “Federalist No. 10,” Nov. 23, 1787, in The Federalist Papers, Avalon Project: Yale Law School Lillian Goldman Law Library, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed10.asp. 9 Ibid. 10 The background facts cited in this paragraph represent the standard account of the conduct of the election, compiled from Stahr, John Jay: Founding Father; Kaminski, George Clinton; Young, The Democratic Republicans of New York; Alan Taylor, William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1995); and Foley, “The Founders’ Bush v. Gore. Besides Otsego County, the canvassing committee also rejected the votes of two other counties, Tioga and Clinton; both were small and were perceived to lean in favor of Governor Clinton. In both cases, someone other than an official deputy of the sheriff delivered the ballots to the secre- tary of state. 11 Coincidentally, Van Rensselaer played a pivotal role in another election controversy 32 years later; he likely cast the deciding vote for John Quincy Adams in the House of Representatives to resolve the three-way presidential stand- off in 1824. collections of citizens “actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and ag- gregate interests of the community.”8 Parties priv- ileged their own welfare above that of the nation, jeopardizing the capacity of the republican process to produce outcomes favorable to the public good. Madison found that factions produced the “mortal diseases” of “instability, injustice, and confusion” that had sunk all previous republics.9 In 1792, New York seemed doomed to the same fate. The Clinton-Jay election highlighted and exacerbated the existing polarization of politics, and incited leaders on all sides to bemoan the destructive and outsize influ- ence of parties on the political system in 1792. Even before the ballots were counted, par- tisanship wielded an influence over the seemingly mundane and convoluted procedures of administer- ing the election. In the last week of April 1792, New York voters went to the polls. The source of the 1792 maelstrom was Otsego, a large and heavily pro-Jay county in upstate New York.10 Richard Smith, the sheriff, had announced in January that he would not seek reappointment; state law dictated that the coun- ty sheriff collect the sealed boxes of ballots and send them to the secretary of the state. Governor Clin- ton named Smith’s replacement just a month before election day, selecting a politically neutral official in contrast with the staunchly pro-Jay Smith. Clinton sent the commission to State Senator Stephen Van Rensselaer, who happened to be Jay’s running mate for lieutenant governor, and whose district included Otsego.11 The Otsego administrator who ultimately delivered the commission to the new sheriff was Judge William Cooper, an unabashed Jay supporter partial to unseemly political tactics. But the new sheriff did "THE CATS PAW OF BASE AND DESIGNING MEN": THE CRISIS OF PARTISANSHIP W 5 "WE SHALL ENDANGER THE POLITICAL SHIP"
  10. 10. not receive the commission until May 11—eight days too late to deliver the ballots.12 Instead, Smith de- livered the votes; but, in the meantime, he had been elected supervisor of Otsego Township. And so, “in the most absurd touch,” writes Alan Taylor, “at the end of the polling Smith, acting as supervisor, sealed the Otsego Township ballot box for transfer to the county sheriff; becoming sheriff, he received the bal- lot box from himself.”13 The limited evidence avail- able suggests that Clinton, Rensselaer, and Cooper all schemed to delay the commission on the belief that it would help their preferred candidate. Every actor involved in the appointment process had a direct po- litical stake in the upcoming gubernatorial election, and they all acted accordingly, seeming to put their own interests first. But this malodorous suggestion of partisan interference was negligible compared to the stench that would follow. From the beginning, Jay supporters distrust- ed the majority-Clinton canvassing committee, illus- trating a deep-seated partisan outlook. By May 20, it was clear that the election would hinge on whether the committee counted Otsego’s votes, and Jay’s legal partner, Robert Troup, was wary. “Out of the 12 can- vassers we have but three friends,” Troup warned Jay, “and the leaders of the opposite canvassers are prepared for anything.”14 Troup assumed that the “friends” of Jay would count the Otsego votes, but he was suspicious 12 The primacy of a commission to this controversy invites a comparison a far more famous controversy in the next decade: the canonical Supreme Court case Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803). William Marbury, a last-minute judicial appointee of outgoing President John Adams, sued Secretary of State James Madison for his commission to become a justice of the peace. Madison, following the orders of newly elected Thomas Jefferson, refused. The timing of the delivery of the commission was paramount, because the election of 1800 created a jarring political shift: polit- ical power transferred from a Federalist coalition to a Republican one. Jefferson’s refusal to accept Adams’s “midnight appointments” was grounded in a form of partisanship; he represented a different political worldview than Adams and wanted his government to share his, not Adams’s. Politics and partisanship similarly dictated the controversies about the commission in the New York gubernatorial race. 13 Taylor, William Cooper’s Town, 178. 14 Robert Troup to John Jay, May 20, 1792, in Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, ed. Henry P. John- ston, 4 vols. (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1891), 3:426. 15 Troup to Jay, May 20, 1792, in Correspondence of John Jay, 3:424. 16 At this point, Clintonians appeared to be less vigilant about potential political malfeasance. After the polls closed, Governor Clinton wrote his brother that “both Parties are sanguine of a Majority.” He believed he had a signifi- cant majority in the southern part of the state but reports from the north were less conclusive. “All however is yet un- certain,” Clinton concluded, “& I presume will remain so until the Canvassing is over.” It was clear that the election was close, but Clinton did not outwardly suspect that his opponent’s backers would try to steal the election. George Clinton to James Clinton, May 2, 1792, in Kaminski, George Clinton, 212. The Clinton folk may have been less concerned about chicanery because the pro-Clinton legislature had selected the members canvassing committee. 17 Sarah Livingston Jay to John Jay, June 10, 1792, in Correspondence of John Jay, 3:431. Robert Troup agreed: “This reference was understood by us all as intended to procure a cloak for the Canvassers to cover their villainy in rejecting the votes of Otsego.” Robert Troup to John Jay, June 10, 1792, in Kaminski, George Clinton, 3:428. of the “opposite canvassers.” His use of the first-per- son plural underscored the existence of an “us” versus “them” dichotomy. “Clinton and his worthy adherents (the Livingstons) seem now to be driven to despair,” Troup continued. “All their hopes of success rest upon setting aside votes for you.” He painted Clinton’s “ad- herents” as self-interested; they would do anything to defeat Jay, using “a mere law quibble” to disfranchise Jay voters. He sarcastically noted that these same Clin- tonians are the “virtuous protecters of the rights of the people”—the so-called defenders of republicanism.15 Evidently, Troup was familiar with the basic principles of the Clintonian “adherents”; there was no official par- ty organization, but their principles were well enough known for Troup to mock them. In May, the Jay camp was already stewing with misgivings of Clintonian tac- tics to tilt the election.16 These misgivings erupted once the committee decided the election in Clinton’s favor,and Jay supporters lambasted the canvassers for appearing to put party over country.Sarah Jay wrote to her husband,who was riding circuit, informing him of his loss, highlighting that a majority of the committee was “partizans of Clinton.” She believed the committee’s request for New York’s na- tional senators, Rufus King and Aaron Burr, to weigh in on the controversy was only a mechanism to “cloak” their partisan machinations.17 In her eyes,Clinton’s elec- tion was illegitimate and shameful, as she would rather 6THE YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW
  11. 11. “lose a crown as you have lost the Office contended for, than gain an empire upon the terms Governor Clinton steals into his.”18 Such anti-party rhetoric extended to the public sphere. A September pamphlet bluntly pro- claimed that “the Clintonians are partizans, and their opponents patriots; because the former are for keeping their favorite in office, right or wrong, and the latter are for having him in rightfully and constitutionally, or not at all.”19 To be a partisan meant to subvert the will of the people and support one’s candidate no matter the legality; “partisan”was a slur, the antithesis of a “patriot.” Jay supporters lamented the role that a noxious party scheme played in deciding the election. In the newspaper discourse, too, Jay voters depicted partisanship as a destabilizing force. They charged that the self-interested partisans on the can- vassing committee threatened the entire political sys- tem. “This is not,” a newspaper writer declared, “as the tools of party would persuade you, a mere temporary evil […]. It is a serious and lasting mischief,” for it was an attack on the right of the people to choose their leader.20 Parties did not just dictate the election out- come; they seemed likely to inflict lasting damage by minimizing the severity of a legitimate republican crisis, losing sight of the public interest.“The day that a Gov- ernor connects himself with a party,”another Federalist wrote, he “becomes the cats-paw of base and designing men. He observes every thing through a […] partial medium: His ears estranged to the truth, are assailed for ever with the importunate tales of sycophants and furious zealots, whose private interests, or resentments, govern all their conduct.”21 Parties sacrificed virtue for “private interests,” turning a statesman into the pup- pet of “designing men.” Partisanship threatened to de- stroy the virtuous republican system by introducing the poison of self-interest. In the heightened discourse of 1792, parties loomed as toxic forces, and they seemed to be wreaking damage on New York’s institutions. 18 Sarah Livingston Jay to John Jay, June 10, 1792, in ibid., 3:431. 19 “Plain Sense,” “The Rights of Suffrage,” Sept. 10, 1792 (Hudson: Ashbel Stoddard, 1792), 6, 15. 20 “Brutus,” “To the People,” The New-York Daily Advertiser, June 19, 1792. 21 Hudson Gazette, July 19, 1792. 22 “Cato,” The New-York Journal, & Patriotic Register, June 20, 1792. 23 Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, June 23, 1792, in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson Digital Edition, ed. John Catanzariti, 42 vols. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2008-2018), vol. 24. 24 “Bashaw,” Merriam-Webster, 2018. 25 Thomas Jefferson to Monroe, June 23, 1792, in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 24. 26 The New-York Journal, & Patriotic Register, July 18, 1792. This charge, however, flowed in both direc- tions; Clintonians alleged that the Jay contingent was guilty of acting in dangerous, partisan ways. Rumors swirled that Judge Cooper coerced ineligible electors in Otsego to vote for Jay. Echoing the conspiratorial language of Jay supporters, one Clintonian writer inti- mated “designs of the blackest dye”in Otsego.22 Thomas Jefferson seemed to agree. Cooper was, he told James Monroe, “the Bashaw of Otsego, and furious partisan of Jay.”23 In Jefferson’s view,Cooper was an all-powerful, un-American figure who would do anything to help his candidate; a “bashaw” or “pasha” refers to a high-rank- ing official in Turkey or North Africa—nations that were hardly praised by Americans at the time for their transparent political processes.24 Jefferson claimed that Cooper held up the new sheriff’s commission because the “ex-sheriff [was] strongly in favor of Jay, and the new one neutral,” and that the “greater part” of votes in Otsego “were the votes of persons unqualified.”25 A Republican gathering in New York echoed Jefferson’s accusations, warning that “a dangerous party is forming within this state.” The canvassers were “patriotic & in- dependent,” immune to the “menaces of an angry and disappointed faction.”26 The Republicans used the same partisan-versus-patriot dichotomy as the Federalists. In the frenzied summer of 1792, seemingly politicians from all sides of the political spectrum agreed that a reckless party was endangering the state by pursuing its base and selfish interests. The partisan New York election highlighted a concurrent trend of ossifying partisanship in national politics. National leaders approached the Clinton-Jay race in the context of their parties’ national strategies and goals. Jefferson expressed concern to Madison at the nature of Clinton’s victory, “apprehend[ing] that the cause of republicanism will suffer, and it’s votaries be thrown into schism by embarking it in support of this man and for what? to draw over the Antifederal- 7 "WE SHALL ENDANGER THE POLITICAL SHIP"
  12. 12. ists, who are not numerous enough to be worth draw- ing over.”27 Supporting Clinton seemed to jeopardize the Jeffersonians’ grand plans. At the time, Clinton’s name was being floated for the upcoming vice-presi- dential election, so Jefferson’s logic was calculating. He was weighing whether the support of the “Antifederal- ists”was “worth”a potential division of the “votaries”of his Republican creed. Even though Jefferson attacked Cooper for being a “furious partisan,” his own political thinking betrayed a similar mindset. It is important to note that partisanship meant more than inane bickering; at both the national and state level, party labels carried ideological meaning, and the election between Clinton and Jay featured real,sub- stantive policy differences. Slavery was one key issue; though a slaveowner himself,Jay helped found the New York State Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves in 1785, favoring gradual, compensated eman- cipation. Clinton, by contrast, opposed manumission outright. Some historians, in fact, have suggested that Jay’s largest electoral obstacle was his association with abolition.28 Other salient election issues included the incumbent’s sale of public lands and associated scan- dals, as New Yorkers went to the polls in the midst of a bursting of speculative bubbles.29 Meanwhile, nation- al issues seeped into state politics, as voters perceived the gubernatorial race in part as a referendum on the national Federalist platform dominated by Alexander Hamilton’s proposals to establish a national bank and assume state debt. According to Alfred Young, national and state issues “mixed and overlapped”; this indicates that voters connected parties to policies.30 As two dif- ferent worldviews coalesced nationally, it was clear that the partisan battle raging in New York would have real, policy-level consequences. New York’s 1792 election unleashed a degree of party conflict that seemed to course through every response and perspective, prone to what Alexander Hamilton later called “the utmost keenness to party animosity.”31 Just as Madison forewarned in Federalist No. 10, partisanship and faction had produced “insta- 27 Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, June 21, 1792, in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 24. 28 Kaminski, George Clinton, 205; Stahr, John Jay, 283. 29 Young, The Democratic Republicans, 298. 30 Young, The Democratic Republicans, 277. 31 Alexander Hamilton, “The Defence No. 1,” July 22, 1795, in Alexander Hamilton: Writings, ed. Joanne B. Free- man (New York: Library of America, 2001), 846. 32 Madison, “Federalist No. 10.” 33 Madison, “Federalist No. 10.” bility, injustice, and confusion.”32 The New York elec- tion substantiated premonitions that pervasive parti- sanship would tear the nation asunder and exposed just how powerful partisan affiliations had become in shap- ing the political landscape. In fact, these intensifying divisions extended to disagreements about the nature of republicanism itself. HE "PARTY ANIMOSITY" of the 1792 affair was so alarming because it em- broiled the baseline principle of republican government. This was not as the founders foresaw their project. “If a faction consists of less than a majority,” James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10, “relief is supplied by the republican principle, which en- ables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote.”33 Republicanism would help to cure the problem of faction.But Madison’s theory seemed to explode in New York in 1792, because no one agreed whether the vote was “regular” and valid. The gubernatorial election put the abstract principle of republicanism to the test. Each side advanced legitimate arguments that their position best supported the principles and values of republican government. As the leaders and citizens negotiated the fundamental meaning of the country’s governmental framework, impassioned defenses of the republican pro- cess from both political camps threatened to spill over into an irreconcilable and perhaps violent conflict. "THE VITAL PRINCIPLE OF GOVERNMENT": THE CRISIS OF REPUBLICANISM T 8THE YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW
  13. 13. For advocates of Jay, the canvassing com- mittee’s decision violated the principal right of self-government, the power of the people to choose their leaders. “The people in framing this [state constitution],” William Duer, a Federalist suppor- ting Jay, wrote, “have reserved to the freemen and freeholders of the state, the right of chusing [sic] the Legislative Branches, and the two principal execu- tive officers of government at certain state periods.” Suffrage was hardwired into the constitution and was “the vital principal of government, by which it lives, moves, and has its being.—Not even an express act of the legislature can deprive the people of this ines- timable right.”34 The right to vote was the lifeblood of the republic. The system could only exist as long as this right was preserved, and therefore, even the constitutionally elected legislature could not inter- fere with it.The republican argument of Jay’s suppor- ters was simple: Suffrage is sacred. In a sense, Clinton supporters agreed, but they stressed that counting the questionable Otsego ballots would have undermined the sanctity of suf- frage elsewhere. A meeting of Clinton supporters in New York City in mid-July passed a set of resolu- tions that endorsed the canvass committee’s deci- sion on republican grounds. Since “the ballots of the county of Otsego [were] obtained by illegal influence, and [were] illegally returned, a destruction of them tended, in its consequences, to preserve inviolate the right of suffrage in other parts of the state.”35 If the committee accepted ballots that were the product of corruption, then corruption would taint the entire balloting system. The committee, therefore, deserved “the sincere and grateful thanks, of every friend to a free,unbiassed,and uncorrupted election.36 The source of the tensions in New York was not a disagreement over dueling principles; it was a disagreement over how to embody a single, shared principle. Precisely because suffrage was so important to all New Yorkers 34 “Gracchus” [William Duer], “Otsego Election,” New York Daily Gazette, June 12, 1792. 35 New-York Journal and Patriotic Register, July 18, 1792. 36 Ibid. 37 Albany Gazette, June 25, 1792. It is worth noting that on the same page Otsego voters made an appeal to “ev- ery friend of freedom,” there was an advertisement offering a ten-dollar reward for the return of an escaped 25-year-old slave. For those who were not considered “freemen and freeholders,” the rhetoric of republicanism rang hollow. 38 Lansingburgh Committee to John Jay, June 30, 1792, in Correspondence of John Jay, 3:435-36. 39 Albany Committee to John Jay, July 2, 1792 in ibid., 3:438-39. 40 “Brutus,” “To the People,” New-York Daily Advertiser, June 19, 1792. as the fundamental right of republican government, disputes about its proper execution between suppor- ters of Jay and Clinton sparked heated rhetoric and vicious political conflict. In June and July, pro-Jay activism in defense of suffrage surged. In Otsego, a group of citizens de- manded in a newspaper that the legislature “restore us to our RIGHTS OF CITIZENSHIP” and urged printers across the state to publish their declarations.37 On June 30, the citizens of Lansingburgh gathered to greet Jay on his return from riding circuit in New England. These “free men” expressed their “sincere re- gret and resentment” at the “wanton violation of our most sacred and inestimable privileges, in arbitrarily disfranchising whole towns and counties of their suf- frages.”38 Similarly, an Albany committee affirmed that “as free and independant [sic] citizens, we know no authority but what is derived from the voice of a majority of the people.”39 “The question,” added one newspaper, “is no longer, whether Clinton or Jay shall rule? but whether the people or the canvassers shall make your governor?”40 This populist rhetoric uni- versalized and magnified the stakes of the election controversy. The issue was not about who would hold office, but how officeholders would be selected. Would the people rule, or not? Jay supporters loosely echoed Jeffersonian rhetoric, embracing their identity as “free and independant men” and portraying themselves as a virtuous, oppressed majority of people. Ultimately, the election prompted a chorus of Jay proponents to reaffirm the basic, fundamental principle of self-go- vernment, that an honest majority should overrule the whims of a self-serving cabal. Given the importance of suffrage to the re- publican system, even some victorious pro-Clinton Republicans were uneasy with the circumstances of his reelection. Jefferson expressed his disquiet to Ma- dison: “It does not seem possible to defend Clinton as a just or disinterested man if he does not decline 9 "WE SHALL ENDANGER THE POLITICAL SHIP"
  14. 14. the office […].”41 In a letter to Monroe, he added that “retain[ing] the office when it is probable the majo- rity was against him is dishonorable.”42 In New York, Clinton ally Robert R. Livingston agreed. “I find the determination of the canvassers occasions much uneasiness,” Livingston wrote his brother. “I confess I could have wished that all the votes had been counted whatever might have been the event.”43 Jeffersonians were particularly torn because their entire program centered on a defense of republican rights against the attacks of Hamiltonian “monarchists.” Historian Al- fred Young captured this irony in his book, The Demo- cratic Republicans of New York, titling his chapter on the Clinton-Jay dispute “Federalists as Democrats.” 41 Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, June 21, 1792, in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 24. 42 Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, June 23, 1792, in ibid., vol. 24. 43 Robert R. Livingston to Edward Livingston, June 19, 1792, quoted in The Papers of Alexander Hamilton Digital Edition, ed. Harold Syrett, 27 vols. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2011), vol. 11. See Alexander Hamilton to John Adams, June 25, 1792, in ibid. 44 Young, The Democratic Republicans, 303, 323. 45 New-York Journal, & Patriotic Register, June 16, 1792. 46 Ibid. 47 “E.G.,” New-York Daily Advertiser, June 19, 1792. He argued that the Federalist embrace of suffrage rights spurred the development of the Republican movement in the state, which celebrated the “com- mon folk.”44 The 1792 governor’s race therefore pitted New York Republican champion George Clinton against his party’s guiding principle. In other ways, however, Republicans de- fended their support for Clinton on the basis of legi- timate republican principles. Judge William Cooper was a prime target. The New-York Journal devoted a full page to a series of affidavits of Otsego voters with stories of Cooper’s intimidation and fraud. Be- najah Church, an Otsego native, witnessed “Cooper lay hold of several persons by the arm, in order to induce them to vote, when, in fact, it appeared they had no inclination to do so.”45 A different memo- randum charged that “Cooper also mentioned, that if he heard any person speak in favor of Governor Clinton, he should take a fire brand and put his barn on fire.”46 Supporters of the republican project had reason to doubt whether the Otsego voters were truly practicing republican government, or whether a rogue figure was abusing the system for his own purposes. The decision of the compiler of this piece to write under the name “Candidus” underscored the suggestion that the Jay camp’s “republicanism” was impure and dishonest. Further, Clintonians contended that Jay sup- porters at large, and not just Cooper, were engaging in demagoguery, the chief threat to any republican system. In response to William Duer’s editorial, two writers penned letters in the Daily Advertiser the fol- lowing week accusing him of sowing discord for his personal gain. “[T]he yeomanry of the country,” the writer raged, “will not be gulled by false pretences [sic] (that their liberties are abused, and their pri- vileges trampled upon) into associations subversive of the peace, happiness and prosperity of the state, to answer the purposes of a factious junto, led by a de- magogue ever restless and uneasy in every station.”47 John Jay, 1794. By Gilbert Stuart [3] 10THE YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW
  15. 15. The Republicans who sided with Clinton were thus the true defenders of the “yeomanry,” for they sup- ported tranquility and order as opposed to the Jay partisans, who incited discord. Complaints that the canvassing committee violated republican principles were “false,” intended to dupe the common folk into joining the cause of a power-hungry demagogue. In painting Jay-ites as a self-interested fac- tion, Republicans sought to reclaim the mantle of the common man. Another writer, “A Friend to Or- der,” took a similar stance by claiming that Duer’s editorial was too legalistic and abstruse for the com- mon people.The “men of plain understanding” would side with the canvass committee, for they could not follow “the meanders of legal controversy”; they were “unperverted by professional obliquities, and good moral characters supported by the solid pillars of Christian beliefs.”48 To this writer, the Jay partisans were employing legal “sophistry” and professional expertise in order to confuse and delude the popu- lace. True republicanism was about “confidence” in fellow citizens, virtue, and “Christian beliefs.” These writers aimed to undercut the claim that Jay’s cause championed the rights of the people, painting Jay supporters as demagogues. Clinton and Jay suppor- ters alike, therefore, argued that they represented the people, and that their opponents did not. While Jay backers stressed that their candidate won the support of a majority of the people, Clintonians rebutted that such arguments were designed to hoodwink common folk with legal obfuscations. Many Clinton sympathizers echoed these cri- ticisms, asserting that pro-Jay appeals to republican values were specious. In mid-July, a “large and res- pectable number of citizens” gathered at Corre’s Ho- tel in New York and passed resolutions decrying the “dangerous party” that, “under the plausible pretext of applying to the legislature for redress of a sup- posed violation committed on the rights of suffrage,” was actually seeking “to disgust the people against the government, and to subvert the constitution the- 48 “A Friend to Order,” New-York Daily Advertiser, June 19, 1792. 49 The New-York Journal, & Patriotic Register, July 18, 1792 50 Ibid. For more pro-Clinton rhetoric centering on republican values, see “The Republican No. 1,” The New-York Journal, & Patriotic Register, Aug. 25, 1792. 51 Robert Troup to John Jay, June 13, 1792 in Correspondence of John Jay, 3:434. 52 Benjamin Walker to Alexander Hamilton, July 12, 1792, in The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 12. 53 “Plain Sense,” “The Rights of Suffrage,” Sept. 10, 1792 (Hudson: Ashbel Stoddard, 1792), 16. reof.”49 Members of the Jay faction were demagogues, flattering the people with promises to preserve their rights in order to destroy them. The true republican heroes were the pro-Clinton canvassers, who re- mained “uninfluenced by the interested opinions of seven lawyers which were obtruded upon them.”50 From the Clinton perspective, the lawyers who ar- gued Jay’s cause were out-of-touch and self-inte- rested, part of a greedy faction plotting to disrupt the lawful processes of election administration. This divisive rhetoric and polarization si- gnaled that New York was at risk of a violent ex- plosion. As early as June 13, Robert Troup wrote to Jay noting the “great ferment in the City.” People, he cautioned, were “determined not to let the matter pass over in silence.”51 On at least one occasion, a literal shot was fired; an argument between two po- litical figures in a tavern prompted one to challenge the other to a duel.52 A pamphlet writer went even further, explicitly invoking the possibility of a revo- lution: “There are firm bands of patriots, ready for action, at the sound of the trumpet of freedom, with leaders to direct them, who are experienced both in the field and in the cabinet.” The “action” could extend to the “field”; this could be an armed revolt. “We are on the brink of a revolution, which will pro- bably shake the state to its centre, and if there should be a danger, it will be to those only who oppose it.”53 This Jay sympathizer directly threatened those who opposed him. The specter of physical violence was no abstract threat. The “bands of patriots” of 1776 had successfully carried out a revolution against a world power, and their example loomed large. More recently, war veteran and farmer Daniel Shays led an armed rebellion against the state of Massachusetts in the winter of 1786–87, seeking to rally farmers in the countryside to revolt against the regressive tax system; and the passage of the excise tax on whiskey in 1791 incited protests and revolts on the frontier that eventually led to President George Washington leading federal troops himself to quell the insurrec- 11 "WE SHALL ENDANGER THE POLITICAL SHIP"
  16. 16. tion in 1794.54 The state was thus in a crisis, not just because a partisan conflict had divided the political community in two, but because those camps belie- ved that their counterpart was fundamentally hostile to the system of government. Both sides’ fervent de- fenses of republican government threatened to des- troy the very system they cherished. And so, at this critical moment, the nation’s leading figures waded into the conflict and offered their advice on how to keep the system they had created afloat. ITH NEW YORK foundering amid crip- pling partisan conflict and clashing stances on the nature of republicanism, the elec- tion had provoked an existential crisis. What next? As Sarah Jay told her husband, “[Senator Rufus] King says he thinks Clinton as lawfully Gover- nor of Connecticut as of New York but he knows of no redress.”55 The constitution itself offered no resolu- 54 See Leonard L. Richards, Shays’s Rebellion: The American Revolution’s Final Battle (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014) and Thomas P. Slaughter, The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolu- tion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988). 55 Sarah Livingston Jay to John Jay, June 10, 1792, in Correspondence of John Jay, 3:433. 56 The Federalist New York State Assemblyman Josiah Ogden Hoffman, who would become the attorney general, raised in one letter the possibility of a “quo warranto”—a writ used in court to challenge the legitimacy of an office- holder’s title. No one seems to have pursued this option, and scholars have not found other examples of proposals to resolve the crisis through the courts. Hoffman himself was reluctant to challenge the authority of the canvassing committee. See Foley, “The Founders’ Bush v. Gore,” 31–32. 57 “Plain Sense,” “The Rights of Suffrage,” Sept. 10, 1792 (Hudson: Ashbel Stoddard, 1792), 19. 58 Rufus King to Alexander Hamilton, July 10, 1792, in The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 12. 59 Jefferson, for instance, believed that each generation had the right and power to construct a new constitution for itself; and he even embraced violent revolution to the extent that it protected and preserved liberty. See, for in- stance, Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, Feb. 22, 1787, and Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, Sept. 6, 1789, in Thomas Jefferson: Writings, ed. Merrill D. Peterson (New York: Library of America, 1984), 889–90, 959–64. 60 Rufus King to Alexander Hamilton, July 10, 1792, in The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 12. tion, and the ballots were destroyed.56 Yet a precedent of complete inaction would be damaging as well; if, as King believed, Clinton was a completely illegitimate governor, then the people’s claim to a free, self-gover- ning society would be vacuous. At this crossroads, John Jay,Alexander Hamilton,RobertTroup,King,and other Federalist actors charted a middle course that both championed the republican right of suffrage and pre- served an orderly and peaceful process of governance to avert a constitutional showdown. And the primary tool of their middle course was none other than the cause of the crisis in the first place: partisanship. In the summer of 1792, many Jay-ites expressed their support for pursuing extraconstitutional means to nullify the election result, but the Federalist leadership almost uniformly rejected the propriety of resorting to “first principles.” The two commonly proposed “modes of redress” both relied on the state legislature: Either it would void the election itself, or it would call a conven- tion through which the people could invalidate the com- mittee’s decision.57 Echoing the concerns of many,Rufus King wrote to Hamilton with urgency: “I do not clearly see the prudence of an appeal to the People.”58 He was, after all, a Federalist; talk of resorting to the people was far more common in the Jeffersonian vocabulary.59 There was also a pragmatic concern about the efficacy of a convention: would Clinton surrender the post? “But Mr. Clinton is in fact Governor,” King stressed, “and though he may not be free from anxieties & Doubts, he will not willingly relinquish the Office—the majority, and a very great one are now against him—should he persist, and the sword be drawn, he must go to the wall—but this my dear Sir, is a dreadful alternative.”60 King envisioned a standoff between the people and the governor, and his "TO RENDER HIM ODIOUS": PARTY ACTIVISM AND THE PRESERVATION OF THE REPUBLIC W 12THE YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW
  17. 17. halting writing indicates the extent to which he shudde- red at the violent implications. Prolonged discord would erode “confidence in the security of our Government”; going forward, any time a dispute arose,“first principles” could be invoked and the entire system would be on the precipice of destruction.61 For the Federalists, direct ap- peals to the people to resolve the crisis did more harm than good, in both the short- and long-term, to the fra- gile system of republican government. This restrained response stemmed directly from the example that John Jay himself set. As he told the citizens of Lansingburgh, “every event is to be re- gretted that tends to introduce discord and complaint.” But he did not feebly acquiesce to the decision either; with guarded language, he aligned himself with the cause of republicanism and suffrage. “The people of the State know the value of their rights,” Jay asserted, “and there is reason to hope that the efforts of every virtuous citizen to assert and secure them will be no less distinguished by temper and moderation, than by constancy and zeal.”62 Jay adopted the language of repu- blican rights and celebrated the people’s efforts to pro- tect them; he just wanted them to act in a responsible manner. For Jay, preserving republican government was about both principles—“the value of their rights”—and process—“temper and moderation.” Others agreed. A district court judge from Rhode Island wrote to Jay praising his “delicate, prudent, and cautious manner […]. We had better fail—having done all that faithful citizens and guardians of the laws ought to do, then proceed by methods disgraceful to a good cause.”63 For the Federalists, process was pivotal. It was better to “fail”—for Clinton to remain governor—than to un- leash a torrent of violence, revolution, and confusion. But even if the Federalists would “fail”to install Jay as governor, they understood that the controversy could help them in other ways—and simultaneously avoid a destabilizing, radical response. “I have not, as you will imagine, been inattentive to your political squabble,” Alexander Hamilton wrote Rufus King. He 61 Ibid. King specifically anticipated such an electoral dispute in presidential elections, and eight years later he proved prescient in the protracted resolution of the tie in 1800. 62 John Jay’s Reply to the Lansingburgh Committee, June 30, 1792, in Correspondence of John Jay, 3:437. 63 Henry Marchant to John Jay, Aug. 14, 1792, in Correspondence of John Jay, 3:445. 64 Alexander Hamilton to Rufus King, June 28, 1792, in The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 11. 65 Ibid. 66 Ibid. 67 Alexander Hamilton to Rufus King, July 25, 1792, in ibid., vol. 12. agreed that Jay was the rightful governor, but he feared that a “ferment” of opposition could produce uncon- trollable consequences.“Tis not to be forgotten that the opposers [sic] of Clinton are the real friends to order & good Government; and that it will ill become them to give an example of the controversy.”64 Hamilton, like King, dreaded a violent conflagration. But he had ex- plicitly partisan calculations in mind as well. He iden- tified the “opposers of Clinton” as one political group with certain shared characteristics in contrast, impli- citly, with Clinton’s supporters. The contest between Jay and Clinton was, at its root, a partisan contest, and Hamilton did not want the Jay-ites’ response to under- mine their claim to being the party of “order & good Government.” “Some folks are talking of Conventions and the Bayonet,” Hamilton continued. “But the case will justify neither a resort to first principles nor to violence.”65 Amendments to the constitution and im- peachment of canvassers were possible remedies, but anything more would be too dangerous—not just for society as a whole, but for the reputation and image of the Federalist party. Furthermore, Hamilton explicitly believed that the “opposers of Clinton” could use gubernatorial controversy to their advantage. In his letter to King, he noted, “it will answer good purposes to keep alive within proper bounds the public indignation.”66 Ha- milton did not want Jay supporters to stay silent; he wanted to maintain “public indignation.” The “good purposes” of maintaining popular dissatisfaction with the election decision presumably included principled reasons, but there was also a political motivation behind Hamilton’s words. In a follow-up letter to King, Hamilton reiterated his desire “that a spirit of dissatisfaction within proper bounds should be kept alive; and this for National purposes, as well as from a detestation of their principles and conduct.”67 Hamil- ton recognized that there was an instrumental, parti- san use of the “indignation” that the controversy had fomented—specifically with regard to the “National” 13 "WE SHALL ENDANGER THE POLITICAL SHIP"
  18. 18. election for vice president, which would pit Clinton against John Adams.68 He viewed the state-level mat- ter with the angle of national party politics in mind, even as he urged a nonviolent and moderate response. Indeed, critics of the canvassing committee did just what Hamilton desired: They channeled their fury into public denunciations of Clintonians.Hamilton did not formally instruct his backers on how to respond, but they converged around the belief that doing no- thing was not an option. “If we tamely submit to this flagrant attack upon our rights,” Robert Troup wrote to Jay on June 13, “we deserve to be hewers of wood and drawers and drawers of water to the abandoned despots who claim to be our masters.”69 In Lansing- burgh, a committee of citizens employed nearly iden- tical language, “trust[ing] the sacred flame of liberty is not so far extinguished in the bosoms of Americans as tamely to submit to wear the shackles of slavery, wit- hout at least a struggle to shake them off.”70 Though the rhetoric was grandiose, it suggested that speech itself was a just and proper response. “[A]t least a struggle” to resist the anti-republican decision was sufficient to avert “submission”—and thus slavery. To preserve the “sacred flame of liberty,” the fire needed to be stoked and fanned; yet it did not necessarily need to burn any- thing. Similarly, an editorialist denounced violence but grasped the need to act “when the dearest rights of man are wantonly attacked.” In such a case, “silence in him, who has a tongue to speak, becomes a crime.”He urged aggrieved men to “boldly assert your rights,” assemble together, and “freely communicate your sentiments.”71 The only safe bulwark against the despotism of the canvassers’ decision, according to Jay supporters, was public outrage and activism. This campaign in the public sphere emerged as an alternative to more aggressive and radical solutions to the crisis of republicanism. At the end of August, Robert Troup wrote to Hamilton, first calling the 68 Hamilton’s partisan opponents—the supporters of Clinton for vice president—likewise employed this partisan lens in their response to the New York election. Monroe anticipated that the dispute, which was “not flattering” to Clinton, would help the “adversary party.” Though Monroe acknowledged Clinton’s blemishes, he underscored that the Jeffersonians ought to support Clinton because he was “a center of the republican party in that State.” James Monroe to Thomas Jefferson, July 17, 1792 in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 24. See also Kline and Ryan, eds., Political Correspondence of Aaron Burr, 1:137. 69 Robert Troup to John Jay, June 13, 1792, in Correspondence of John Jay, 3:434. 70 Lansingburgh Committee to John Jay, June 30, 1792, in ibid., 3:436. 71 “Brutus,” “To the People,” New-York Daily Advertiser, June 19, 1792. 72 Robert Troup to Alexander Hamilton, Aug. 25, 1792, in The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 12. 73 Ibid. canvassers’ decision “wicked & abominable” and “sub- versive of the most sacred right that can be enjoyed under any government.”He, too, believed that “to sub- mit to it” would render republicanism meaningless. However, Troup never aimed to actually change the outcome.“My object,”he admitted,“has been to make a strong impression upon the public mind of the deep corruption of Clinton & his party and thus to render him odious. We have pretty well succeeded in this ob- ject & I trust our sucess [sic] will be more complete.”72 All along, Troup claimed, he simply hoped to foster resentment at Clinton and his cronies. He refused to quickly “submit” to the canvassers’ decision not be- cause he sought to nullify the election, but because he intended to use the perceived corruption as politi- cal fodder to stain the Republican party. And, Troup boasted, “we”—his party’s team—largely succeeded; the completion of their success, presumably, would be the defeat of Clinton in the vice-presidential elec- tion in the fall. The partisan advantage that Jay-ites gained from their anti-Clinton rhetoric, then, served as a consolation for their decision not to pursue an aggressive plot to reverse the canvassers’ decision. It was partisanship, therefore, that enabled Fe- deralists like Troup to redirect their indignation in such a way as to preserve stable institutions. “I have no ap- prehension that we shall endanger the political ship,” Troup concluded to Hamilton. “It is the interest of us all that she should be kept in her present course with a fair wind &c. Be not therefore uneasy—but at the same [time] do not forget that allowances should be made for the keen anguish we suffer from the wound we have received.”73 The 1792 election threatened to throw the nation off course—to send a wave of violence and di- sorder crashing down on a tottering and untested boat that had set sail just fifteen years prior. The Federalists, though they had good reason to be angry, did not want to jump ship. To regain stability, without passive sub- 14THE YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW
  19. 19. mission to the recent turbulence, they employed parti- sanship—a conscious effort to make Clinton odious.By working hard to muster discontent, Federalists would make sure that the Clintonians lost the next election, whose stakes were even higher.The existence of parties, however loosely organized,enabled them to reject more radical alternatives, and instead, invest in the very pro- cess and system that had just betrayed them. HE NEXT ELECTION, of course, also involved Clinton. The culmination of the partisan efforts of Hamilton and the Fe- deralists was the vice-presidential race in the fall of 1792. John Adams defeated Clinton 77 to 50 in the electoral college, and Hamilton’s and Jay’s po- lite style could not mask their glee.74 The historian John Kaminski has tied the loss to the irreparable damage the New York dispute wrought on Clinton’s reputation, claiming it “ruined his chances for the vice presiden- cy.”75 On December 18, Hamilton wrote to Jay that “the success of the vice-president is as great a source of satisfaction, as that of Mr. Clinton would have been of mortification and pain to me.”76 The next day, Jay replied, “rejoic[ing] with you in the re-election of Mr. Adams. It has relieved my mind from much inquietude. It is a great point gained; but the unceasing industry and arts of the Anties render perseverance, union, and constant efforts necessary.”77 Beneath his self-restraint, John Jay, too, was a political animal. He had been extre- mely concerned about Clinton defeating Adams, and he distrusted the “Anties,”his term for the pro-Clinton party of opposition. The world of 1792 was a partisan world, even for Jay. It was a world in which rival fac- 74 Moreover, the Federalists gained control of the state assembly in the next elections and turned “that body into a political machine which reduced Clinton’s power to a minimum.” Monaghan, John Jay: Defender of Liberty, 340. 75 Kaminski, George Clinton, 217. 76 Alexander Hamilton to John Jay, Dec. 18, 1792, in Correspondence of John Jay, 3:451-52. 77 John Jay to Alexander Hamilton, Dec. 19, 1792, in ibid., 3:453. tions practiced “industry and arts” destructive of good government; it was a world in which, even after a major victory, perseverance and constant efforts were necessa- ry to resist the opposing side. And yet, despite the apparent cynicism at the end of the tumultuous year, this partisan mindset—one of points gained and lost, of winning teams and losing teams—had very likely saved the stability of the state, and perhaps the Union itself. It was this system, while still forming and very much fluid, that created a third option between complete submission to alleged an- ti-republican practices and utter violence and chaos.To keep the “political ship” on course, anger was channe- led into institutions and processes by which committed citizens could work within the system to change it. For supporters of Jay, those institutions failed in 1792; Clintonians, meanwhile, worried that such animated criticism of institutions would derail their efficacy and legitimacy. Both sides valued and tried to preserve the political process, even as they vigorously disputed how to do that. It was, of course, still incumbent upon the lawmakers to put the institutions they preserved to good use; the Shays’ and Whiskey Rebellions both stemmed from the perception that government was unresponsive to people’s wishes and unable to provide for their needs. People became willing to give up on the system—and indeed to violently oppose it—when they lost confidence in its ability to function effectively. The New York imbroglio demonstrated the vulnerabilities of a partisan, republican system, which remain as pressing today as ever. American government remains an experiment, susceptible to hyper-parti- sanship, demagoguery, and election disputes, the same elements that provoked such a crazed political environ- ment in 1792. Then and now, republican government rests on nothing more and nothing less than the faith of the people in the process of government. Jay and the Federalists, as the losers in 1792, did much to actualize that faith. By focusing on the next election, on how to rally public opinion against one’s political opponents without devolving into recklessness, the inequities and injustice of the 1792 debacle could be accepted and set aside—but clearly not forgotten. CONCLUSION: IT IS A GREAT POINT GAINED T 15 "WE SHALL ENDANGER THE POLITICAL SHIP"
  20. 20. BIBLIOGRAPHY Primary Sources Catanzariti, John, ed. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson Digital Edition, vol. 24. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2008–2018. Hamilton, Alexander, John Jay, and James Madison. The Federalist Papers. Avalon Project: Yale Law School Lillian Goldman Law Library. Accessed October 25, 2019. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/sub- ject_menus/fed.asp. Freeman, Joanne B., ed. Alexander Hamilton: Writings. New York: Library of America, 2001. Johnston, Henry P., ed. Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 3. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1891. Kline, Mary-Jo and Joanne Wood Ryan, eds. Polit- ical Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr, vol. 1. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983. Newspapers, accessed via America’s Historical News- papers: New-York Journal, & Patriotic Register; New-York Daily Advertiser; Hudson Gazette; New York Daily Gazette; Albany Gazette. Peterson, Merrill, D., ed. Thomas Jefferson: Writings. New York: Library of America, 1984. “Plain Sense.”“The Rights of Suffrage.” Hudson: Ashbel Stoddard, 1792. Syrett, Harold C., ed. The Papers of Alexander Hamil- ton Digital Edition. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2011. Ernst, Robert. Rufus King: American Federalist. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968. Foley, Edward B. Ballot Battles: The History of Dis- puted Elections in the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. ———.“TheFounders’Bushv.Gore:The1792ElectionDispute AndItsContinuingRelevance.”TheOhioStateUniversity MoritzCollegeofLaw,PublicLawandLegalTheory WorkingPaperNo.137(December2010). Hofstadter, Richard. The Idea of a Party System: The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States, 1780–1840. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969. Kaminski, John P. George Clinton: Yeoman Politi- cian of the New Republic. Madison: Madison House, 1993. Monaghan, Frank. John Jay: Defender of Liberty. New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1935. Richards, Leonard L. Shays’ Rebellion: The American Revolution’s Final Battle. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014. Slaughter,Thomas P. The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. Stahr, Walter. John Jay: Founding Father. New York: Hambledon and London, 2005. Taylor, Alan. William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persua- sion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1995. Wilentz, Sean. The Rise of American Democracy: Jef- ferson to Lincoln. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2005. Young, Alfred F. The Democratic Republicans of New York: The Origins, 1763–1797. Chapel Hill: Uni- versity of North Carolina Press, 1967. [1] Lefferts, John.“John Jay & George Clinton: Dis- puted 1792 Gubernatorial Election, Legislator Tally Including Three Disqualified Counties of Tioga, Otsego & Clinton.”1792. Antipodean Books, Maps & Prints. https://www.antipodean. com/pages/books/23882/new-york-state-poli- tics-john-lefferts/john-jay-george-clinton-disput- ed-1792-ny-gubernatorial-election-legislator-tally [2] Ames, Ezra. "George Clinton, by Ezra Ames." 1812. New York Historical Society. https://www. nyhistory.org/web/crossroads/gallery/viewer/ george_clinton_by_ames.html [3] Stuart, Gilbert. "Portrait of John Jay." 1794. Wikipedia Commons. https://commons.wiki- media.org/wiki/File:John_Jay_(Gilbert_Stu- art_portrait).jpg Secondary Sources Image Sources 16THE YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW
  21. 21. SPRING 2020 THE MEERUT CONSPIRACY A Microcosm of Shifting British Attitudes Toward Imperialism by Kashif Azam, NYU '19 Written for “History Capstone: Writing British History” Advised by Professor Lauren Banko Edited by Varun Sikand and Daniel Blatt Kashif Azam’s (NYU ’19) paper contextualizes the Meerut Conspiracy Case,which began in British India,within the broader realm of popular support for the British Empire. The legacy of the Meerut Conspiracy Case with respect to interwar imperialism has been largely overlooked, but through an analysis of parliamentary discussions, newspaper reports, letters, pamphlets, and theater, Azam illuminates the scope and nature of a profound trans- formation within the British psyche regarding imperialism.The initial Meerut arrests were met with enthusiastic support in the press, and only minor qualms among leftist organizations. However, a series of government blun- ders, beginning with a jurisdictional conflict and culminating in tyrannical sentencing, transformed the Conspi- racy Case from an anti-communist crusade to a rallying cry for anti-imperialism. The Conspiracy Case was a public humiliation for the British Empire during the interwar period and revealed the tensions that would chip away at the U.K.’s imperial status in succeeding decades.The British would grant the crown colony independence less than fifteen years after the trial concluded. Meerut was a footnote in the grand scheme of the Indian inde- pendence movement; however, by examining the case through the lens of British popular support, Azam reveals how the case embodies a microcosm of shifting British attitudes towards imperialism.This shift was not instant, nor caused entirely by events in Meerut, but ultimately it contributed to the dismantling of the British Empire in India. ABSTRACT Pamphlet cover calling for the release of the Meerut Conspiracy prisoners. [1] ON THE NEXT PAGE 17 THE MEERUT CONSPIRACY
  22. 22. N THE MORNING of March 20, 1929, British authorities in India took action against aplottooverthrowtheRaj.1 Acrossthecitiesof Bombay,Calcutta,and Poona,thirty-two plot- ters were arrested and charged with “conspiring to deprive the King of his sovereignty in India.”2 Among the accused were three Englishmen: Ben Bradley, Lester Hutchinson, and Philip Spratt,all of whom were accused of being agents oftheCominterninvitedtotraveltoIndiawith“thespecific task of engendering a revolutionary espirit de corps within India'sowngrowingtradesunionmovements.”3 TheBritish Raj hoped to use the subsequent trial—referred to in the press as the Meerut Conspiracy—to stamp out Commu- nist influences in India in one swift strike. Unfortunately for them, the trial was anything but swift.The prosecution dragged on for four years,becoming the longest trial in In- dian history and costing the British Empire £120,000 from start to finish (the equivalent of over £7,450,000 in 2017).4 The arrests were initially met with jubilation, a symbol of the might of the British Empire in the face of destabilizing forces following the Great War. However, as the trial dragged on, public opinion shifted to favor the defendants—who categorically denied their invol- vement in any conspiracy. By 1933, both domestic and 1 The British Raj was the central administrative apparatus of the Indian subcontinent. The system was insti- tuted after the Indian Sepoy Rebellion against the East India Company in 1858. Queen Victoria officially adopted the title “Empress of India” in 1876, and subsequent British monarchs would maintain that title until the decolonization and subsequent partition of India in 1947. 2 Meerut Case," Daily Telegraph (London), Apr. 12, 1933, p. [11]. The Telegraph Historical Archive, http://ti- nyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/8HmZL4. Accessed November 7, 2018. 3 John Callaghan, "Indian Communists and Trade Unionists on Trial: The Meerut Conspiracy, 1929-1933," British Online Archives. Accessed November 26, 2018. https://microform.digital/boa/collections/36/indian-commu- nists-and-trade-unionists-on-trial-the-meerut-conspiracy-1929-1933. 4 Reuter, "Famous Indian Trial Ends." Daily Telegraph, Jan. 17, 1933, p. 9. The Telegraph Historical Archive, http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/8HmGB3. Accessed November 7, 2018. 5 Michele L. Louro and Carolien Stolte. “The Meerut Conspiracy Case in Comparative and Interna- tional Perspective,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, & the Middle East 33, no. 3 (2013): 310-15. doi:10.1215/1089201X-2378103. 6 References to the Conspiracy can be found in a plethora of texts on Indian independence and Indian commu- nism. While a comprehensive review would be unfeasible, I have provided a few examples below. “While by the Meerut trial, the British government succeeded in neutralising communists, breaking up the commu- nist-led Workers and Peasants Party, the more radical national elements were won over by the Congress leadership through its new mass movement.”: Irfan Habib, "The Left and the National Movement." Social Scientist 26, no. 5/6 (1998): 3-33. doi:10.2307/3517546. “Meerut was the place of many events of all India importance connected with the Indian freedom struggle. It was the place from where the Revolt of 1857 started. The other events of all India importance connected with the nation- alist movement were, trial of labour leaders in the so-called Meerut Conspiracy…”: Girija Shankar, “Meerut and the Nationalist Movement: Summary," Proceedings of the Indian History Congress 34 (1973): 61. http://www.jstor.org/ stable/44138690. international activists decried the Raj as tyrannical and accused them of purposefully misrepresenting the ac- cused as Bolshevik agents. Jahawaral Nehru, one of the preeminent political figures in the Indian subcontinent, remarked that the prosecution was “trying to understand without great success what communism and the various internationals are.”5 The Meerut trial saw a convergence of British anti-communist and colonial policy. This inquiry into the Meerut Conspiracy exa- mines the reception of the Conspiracy Case in British popular media in order to uncover the evolution of Bri- tish receptions of the event throughout the trial. British sympathies underwent a significant shift from 1929 to 1933,from anti-Communist to anti-imperialist.In order to contextualize the analysis within the greater body of Meerut scholarship, I first survey the developments and limitations in the present historiography. WHILE THE MEERUT CONSPIRACY features prominently in histories of Indian Communism and Nationalism, scholarship on the impact of the event in Britain is virtually nonexistent.6 An Alternative Reading of the Meerut Case INTRODUCTION O 19 THE MEERUT CONSPIRACY
  23. 23. Today, interpretations of the Meerut Conspi- racy range widely from communist and nationalist perspectives, to more social lenses such as youth acti- vism and trade unionism. The traditional narrative— that the trial backfired for the British and bolstered anti-imperialist movements—has recently been un- dermined. However, a significant shortcoming in the recent scholarship is that the authors ignore the im- pact of the trial as a global phenomenon, instead res- tricting the analyses to India and its institutions and political movements.7 In “Separating the Wheat from the Chaff,” Ali Raza bewails that “the literature [of the Conspi- racy] generally contends that the Raj failed in its ob- Modern historiography on the subject is particularly limited, with the most recent group of articles being published simultaneously in the Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (CSSAAME) in 2013. https:// read.dukeupress.edu/cssaame/issue/33/3. Another significant contribution to the literature is Insurgent Empire, in which Priyamvada Gopal describes the significant role of colonial political movements in shaping and informing later domestic movements. Priyamvada Gopal, Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent (New York: Verso Books, 2019). 7 Barring a brief mention in Luoro’s 2017 article on the Johnstone Affair in which she states “For such an ex- tensive and significant trial, little has been written on the Meerut Conspiracy Case.” Michele Louro, “The Johnstone Affair and Anti-Communism in Interwar India,” Journal of Contemporary History 53, no. 1 (January 2018): 38–60. doi:10.1177/0022009416688257. 8 Ali Raza, “Separating the Wheat from the Chaff: Meerut and the Creation of ‘Official’ Communism in India,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, & the Middle East 33, no. 3 (2013): 316–30. doi:10.1215/1089201X-2378112. jective to administer a fatal blow to ‘communism’ in India. Instead, it is commonly thought that the trial actually provided a fillip to communist politics in India.”8 Raza challenges a traditional narrative that portrays the accused as veteran Communists, arguing that reality was far less black-and-white. His work expands the horizon of acceptable topics of analysis, but does not dislodge the Indo-centric framing of the Conspiracy Case. Michele L. Louro and Carolien Stolte at- tempt to remedy Raza’s ambiguity in “The Meerut Conspiracy Case in Comparative and International Perspective.” The authors build on Raza’s complaint and make two crucial arguments about the nature of Calcutta, India 1930s. By Marc Ryckaert [2] 20THE YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW
  24. 24. the conspiracy as well as the scholarship surrounding it. Their first assertion echoes Raza in claiming that the Meerut prisoners were not a monolithic entity, and that the accused “varied widely in their political affiliations within India and internationally.”9 Thus, any future scholarship on the subject should refrain from making such broad generalizations. Their se- cond claim is that the “trial remains a significant but understudied aspect of histories of leftist politics in South Asia,” and emphasizes the influence of the trial in both domestic and regional politics. Louro and Stolte argue that the Meerut Conspiracy is not an end, but rather a means to an end.10 Although it provides an international perspective, the work fails to account for global developments such as Stalinism and the Great Depression. In “Where National Revolutionary Ends and Communist Begins,” Luoro tackles the notion that the Meerut trial uniformly furthered Indian anti-imperialist movements, and in “Trade Unions on Trial: The Meerut Conspiracy Case and Trade Union Internationalism,” Stolte provides an “al- ternative reading of the Meerut case as situated at the heart of anti-imperial internationalism in the interwar years.”11 Stolte illuminates the ideological differences present within the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) at the time of the trial and de- monstrates how the Meerut trial exacerbated these rifts. She develops a framework that distinguishes the Meerut Conspiracy Case as a focal point for his- tories of colonialism, international communism, and Indian nationalism, and concludes that “paradoxical- ly, it was the Comintern, the primary target of the Meerut case, that helped drive a wedge between the [League Against Imperialism] and [the Indian Na- tional Congress].”12 Both authors attempt to interve- 9 Ibid., 313. 10 Ibid. 11 Carolien Stolte, “Trade Unions on Trial: The Meerut Conspiracy Case and Trade Union Internation- alism, 1929-32,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, & the Middle East 33, no. 3 (2013): 345–59. doi:10.1215/1089201X-2378130. 12 Michele L. Louro, “‘Where National Revolutionary Ends and Communist Begins’: The League against Imperi- alism and the Meerut Conspiracy Case,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, & the Middle East 33, no. 3 (2013): 331–44. doi:10.1215/1089201X-2378121. 13 Franziska Roy and Benjamin Zachariah, "Meerut and a Hanging: ‘Young India,’ Popular Socialism, and the Dy- namics of Imperialism," Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 33, no. 3 (2013): 360-377. 14 Perhaps the most prolific historian on the subject of domestic perception of the British Empire is Bernard Porter. His scholarship has raised significant questions and offered concrete solutions about the nature of the British Empire throughout its history. For more information see: Bernard Porter, Critics of Empire: British Radical Attitudes to Colonialism in Africa 1895-1914 (London: Macmillan, 1968). Alternatively see: Bernard Porter, The Absent-minded Imperialists: Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). 15 The most pertinent example of this phenomenon is Lester Hutchinson’s electoral victory in the 1945 elections. However, even before this, members of the Labour Party and Communist Party were represented in the House of Lords, and were very vocal critics of Imperial activities. ne into existing historiographical interpretations of the Meerut Conspiracy, but fail to acknowledge the impact of the incident outside the subcontinent. A final addition to the recent historiography on the Meerut Conspiracy Case comes from Franziska Roy and Benjamin Zachariah. In “Meerut and a Han- ging: 'Young India,' Popular Socialism, and the Dyna- mics of Imperialism,” the authors discuss another dy- namic of the conspiracy—the youth movement. Roy and Zachariah reiterate the divisive nature of the trial, and assert that “wider solidarities [among the Indian public] around the persecution of anti-imperialists… broke down under the weight of the many political divergences that manifested themselves at the time [of the trial].”13 Critiquing the traditional historiography, the authors claim that the trial succeeded in dama- ging the Communist movement in India; however, this analysis solely pertains to India. In my study, I analyze the impact of the Conspiracy Case on British sentiment. British an- ti-imperialist movements first came to the forefront during the 1890s, a time when the public learned of atrocities committed by British soldiers during the Boer Wars, such as Emily Hobhouse’s investigation into Lord Kitchener’s concentration camp program.14 Expressions of anti-imperialism in the domestic theater varied dramatically from mild critiques of co- lonial policy in newspapers to mass demonstrations and organized protest. These growing sentiments were not limited to private citizens, as anti-impe- rialist—and even outright communist—Members of Parliament began to hold more sway in office following the war.15 While the Meerut Conspiracy would eventually come to dominate anti-imperialist activism, initial reporting of the arrests framed it as more of an anti-communist operation. 21 THE MEERUT CONSPIRACY
  25. 25. FTER THE RUSSIAN revolution of 1917, the specter of communism threatened Eu- rope’s existing power structures. Vladimir Lenin exacerbated the fear of a global com- munist revolution when he called for Communists of all countries to “rally around the revolutionaryThird Interna- tional.”16 The establishment of the Communist Internatio- nal (Comintern) created an apparatus through which the radical ideology could proliferate, creating an existential threat that endangered the other European powers. The British government’s anti-communist policy during the period is often overshadowed by the overt political repres- sion of the United States. But the idea that “traditions of political toleration in the UK forestalled the extremities of political repression that culminated in the McCarthy era in the U.S.” has been thoroughly debunked.17 In “Covert and Overt Operations: Interwar Political Policing in the 16 John Riddell, “Founding the Communist International: Proceedings and Documents of the First Congress,” March 1919 (New York: Pathfinder, 1987), 8. 17 “Contrary to popular and historical accounts, the interwar British security regime was considerably more strin- gent than the American one.” See Jennifer Luff, “Covert and Overt Operations: Interwar Political Policing in the United States and the United Kingdom,” The American Historical Review, Volume 122, Issue 3 (June 2017): 727–757. 18 Ibid. 19 Ibid. United States and the United Kingdom,” Jennifer Luff points out that between 1927 and 1946, authorities in the United Kingdom carried out secret investigations of “thousands of unwitting industrial workers suspected of Communist sympathies…many [of whom] were fired or blacklistedfromgovernmentemployment.18 Akeycharac- teristic of these operations was that they were “distingui- shed by their invisibility and their lack of accountability,” which allowed the British apparatus to avoid the public spotlight that hindered their counterpart in Washington.19 These British interwar anti-communist operations coincided with the arrests of the Meerut conspirators in 1929, but the Meerut Case was not successfully silenced by authorities.While the British Intelligence Services were never directly implicated in Meerut,news of the arrests ma- gnified the government’s persecution of ideological dissi- dents. Yet, initially this spotlight was largely celebratory. In fact,when news of the arrests first came to light,the British press and public—barring the most radical circles—enthu- siastically celebrated the capture of the communist plotters. Drawing upon geographically and ideologically different newspapers assists in revealing the initial and evolving public stances towards the Meerut Conspiracy. The Manchester Guardian, a left-leaning publication born out of the industrial hub of Manchester, was one of the Bombay, India 1930s. By Unknown [3] "TO DEPRIVE [HIS MAJESTY]" A 22THE YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW
  26. 26. largest papers of the time.20 In contrast, The Telegraph was a staunchly conservative publication based in London, boasting around 90,000 readers—almost double that of The Manchester Guardian.21 The Times of India, a Bom- bay-based English paper was—and remains—the largest English language paper on the subcontinent, and its ar- ticles provide a much more comprehensive account of the Conspiracy Case. Combined, these publications offer a glimpse into the public perception of the trial in mainland Britain,tracking shifts in public attitudes. News of the Meerut arrests was first published in the Guardian on March 21,1929 under the headline:“Alle- ged Plot in India.Official Blow at Communists.”22 The ar- ticle listed standard details of the event such as the charges pressed,the locations of the arrested,notable figures among the accused,and also mentioned that a“considerable stir has been caused all over India by the action of the authorities.”23 Meanwhile,TheTelegraph’s coverage of the initial arrests on March 21, 1929 remained muted. A small segment of the paper—half of which was occupied by the title—read: “In- dianPoliceand‘Red’Agitators.Raidsinseveralcities.Many Arrests. ‘Waging War on the King.’Treason Charge.”24 In stark contrast, the Times of India’s coverage of the arrests was far more comprehensive than both The Telegraph’s and The Manchester Guardian’s, touching on both the Commu- nist affiliations of the arrested and the public disturbances causedbythepoliceactivities.OnMarch21,1929theTimes of India led with a straightforward headline: “A Round-Up of Communists.Labour Leaders Arrested.” The phrasing used to describe the arrests in each publication indicates their political sympathies. For exa- mple,the Guardian introduced doubt into the legitimacy of the arrests by describing them as a reaction to an “alleged” plot, not so subtly implying that the entire operation was based on shaky ground.The Guardian also called attention to the public disturbances caused by the arrests.By shifting the conversation from Communism to civic disruption,the Guardian exposed its leftist sympathies.The Times of India contradicted the Guardian's claims, remarking that “al- though nine persons were arrested and about forty premises searched in the space of a few hours, the raid was carried 20 James Curran, Impacts and Influences: Essays on Media Power in the 20th Century (London: Methuen, 1987), 29. 21 Ibid. 22 "ALLEGED PLOT IN INDIA." The Manchester Guardian, Mar. 21, 1929, p. 11. 23 Ibid. 24 "Indian Police and 'Red' Agitators." Daily Telegraph, Mar. 21, 1929, p. 13. The Telegraph Historical Archive. 25 “Bombay Leaders Sent to Meerut.” The Times of India, Mar 21, 1929, p. 11. 26 Ibid. 27 Ibid. 28 "Commons Sitting of Thursday, 21st March, 1929.” House of Commons Hansard Sessional Papers. Fifth Series, Volume 226. 29 Ibid. 30 Ibid. out with the greatest secrecy—so much so that not a soul in the sleeping city even suspected what was afoot.”25 Un- surprisingly, The Telegraph made no mention of the public disturbances caused by the mass arrests; instead,they dedi- cated a majority of the article to highlighting the commu- nist affiliations of the accused,such as “Philip Spratt,a Bri- tish Communist,who has figured in Indian labour troubles for some time past.”26 TheTelegraph’s coverage of the arrests projected an atmosphere of nonchalance, especially when compared to accounts in other papers, and a factor behind this dismissive tone could be related to the aforementioned activities of the British intelligence apparatus.The Times of India provided a far more nuanced account of the arrested. Regarding Phillip Spratt,they wrote that“[he was] connec- ted to the labour movement in Bengal.”27 On March 21,the House of Commons spoke brie- fly of the “wholesale arrests reported to have taken place in Bombay, Calcutta, Poona, and other Indian cities.”28 The first query regarding the arrests was raised by Labour MP Ernest Thurtle over whether “this action [was] taken at the instigationofthehomeGovernmentornot,”aquestionthat the Under-Secretary of State of India refused to answer and deemed “wholly improper in the circumstances.”29 Several other MPs barraged the Under-Secretary with questions regarding the validity of the arrests, raising questions over whether the “trial [will] be public and open and according to ordinary procedure.”30 Communist MP Saklatvala even accused the authorities of misrepresenting the facts. [M]P Saklatvala: The Noble Lord said that these men were all alleged to be Communists.What is the signifi- cance of that? Does it mean that they were members of the Communist party,or not,and,if so,how many were members? Also, were they arrested simply because they were members of the Communist party? Under-Secretary [of India]: No; I said in my answer that they are arrested because they are charged by the appro- priate authorities with conspiracy to deprive the King of the sovereignty of British India.The meaning of the 23 THE MEERUT CONSPIRACY
  27. 27. term "alleged to be Communists" is that they are belie- ved to be members of the Communist party. MP: If certain persons are arrested for having committed, or being alleged to have committed, a certain act, what was the relevance in the Noble Lord stating that they are alleged to be members of the Conservative or the Communist party?What is the motive of mentioning it? Under-Secretary: I wished to give the fullest information in my power. I gave the information that reached my Noble Friend from the Government of India.If the hon. [honorable] Member asks for information,it is my duty to give it as fully as I can. MP: That is exactly my complaint, that the information is not full, and it is only a mischievous insinuation. How many are members of the Communist party,and why is that necessary to be mentioned as having any relevancy to the subject? Under-Secretary: I do not wish to say anything the hon. Member regards as offensive to his party. If he will put down a question for Monday,I will ascertain,if it is pos- sible,how many of these 31 alleged Communists are en- rolled members of the Communist party.31 Saklatvala’s assertion that there was no actual conspiracy and the British government targeted these men because of their ideology was a tendency which do- minated public discourse. Furthermore, the Under-Se- cretary’s reluctance to answer Saklatvala's queries em- bodied the reluctant attitude of the British authorities toward Parliament. Over time, this dismissiveness exa- cerbated Parliament's frustrations with the prosecution and bolstered MP support for the prisoners.However,in the immediate aftermath, parliamentary attitude towar- ds the trial was mostly apathetic, if not supportive, out- side of some minor queries.32 Throughout the following weeks, public percep- tion continued to favor the prosecution. Communism and treason were two heavily stigmatized labels. At face value there was no reason for a British citizen to lament the ar- rests of treasonous Communists. Newspaper headlines primarily described government justification of the arrests, condemning the men as guilty in the court of public opi- nion. Even The Manchester Guardian did not question the legitimacy of the arrests, only complaining about the civic disturbances caused by the police. The most vocal critique 31 Ibid. 32 Ibid. Only three MPs voiced any critique of Meerut and the discussions on “Indian Arrests” made up an almost insignificant portion of the session (roughly equivalent in importance to a Methodist Church Union Bill discussed short- ly thereafter). 33 "WIDESPREAD SOVIET CONSPIRACY." The Times of India, Jun. 14, 1929, p. 9. of the arrests came from Parliament, when MP Saklatvala voiced concerns over the validity of the case and questioned whether there even was a conspiracy. HE FIRST PUBLIC CONTROVERSY surrounding the Meerut Conspiracy Case oc- curred at the location of the trial itself.Despite the fact that a majority of the March arrests were made in the city of Bombay, the authorities trans- ported the convicts to Meerut—where the arrest warrants were issued—to stand trial. The decision was deliberate and significant.The British Raj followed a uniform crimi- nal code, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) of 1860; however, princely states and certain districts, such as Meerut, were exempted from several provisions in the IPC. Critically, one of these exemptions maintained that,for specific cases in Meerut,the defendants forfeited the right to a jury trial. One of the first petitions by the accused was to protest Meerut’s jurisdiction over the proceedings and demand that the case be transferred to Allahabad. The Meerut Court rejected the appeal,which provided fodder for sup- porters of the prisoners.However,these grievances did not immediately gain traction. On June 14, the day of the Court’s decision, the Times of India reported that “so far as 21 of the accused were concerned, the decision of the government to hold the inquiry at Meerut was to circumvent certain provi- sions of the law.”However,they noted that the ruling was justified because the law declared that any right to a trial by jury was nullified “in every trial the King-Emperor was the complainant.”33 The Times of India also sported a sensationalist headline—“Widespread Soviet Conspira- cy”—suggesting that at this stage the Times of India did T "TO CIRCUMVENT CERTAIN PROVISIONS OF THE LAW" 24THE YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW

This is the Spring 2020 Edition (Volume IX, Issue I) of The Yale Historical Review, an undergraduate publication of history.

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