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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 36


This is the grave of William Marcy.

2016-06-04 17.26.36

An early doughface, or northern politician who served southern masters, Marcy was a big wig in the New York Democratic Party during the antebellum era. Born in Southbridge, Massachusetts in 1786, he graduated from Brown in 1806 and went into the law, moving to Troy, New York. He was a leader in the Albany Regency, which was a group of Democrats who controlled New York politics in the 1820s and 1830s. He was elected to the Senate in 1831 as a major supporter of Andrew Jackson’s policies. He resigned that position in 1833 to serve as governor of New York. He soon came under attack from Whigs for his doughface policies, which were not necessarily unpopular in New York because New York City was a major center of southern support in the North, thanks to its many business connections with the region. But in 1838, he was defeated for reelection by William Seward and the Regency was finished.

Marcy then went to the national stage, serving in the Cabinet for various presidents who wanted his expertise to expand the United States in order to acquire more land for slavery. James K. Polk named him Secretary of War, placing him effectively in charge of a war that stole half of Mexico for the interests of the slave power. He really wanted the 1852 presidential nomination and was a leading candidate, but because of the labyrinthine infighting of party politics of that era, instead it went to a nobody alcoholic named Franklin Pierce. Marcy then served as Secretary of State under Pierce. There, he worked closely with Secretary of War Jefferson Davis to force Mexico to sell more land to the United States in order that a transcontinental railroad could be built connecting the South to San Diego and thus strengthen American slavery even more. He also came up with the idea the Ostend Manifesto, which was a document basically demanding that Spain cede Cuba to the United States. Again, the rationale for this was the expansion of slavery, the cause to which Marcy dedicated his public service. He died in 1857, three months after leaving the Cabinet.

William Marcy is buried in Albany Rural Cemetery, Menands, New York.

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