In compliance with your request I offer the following toast.
The State of Pennsylvania – she has been called the Key stone of the Union. Well has she proved herself to be so… Yr. obt. svt.”
Prior to his presidency, Jackson held several public offices, representing the people of Tennessee in the House of Representatives and the Senate before being appointed a judge in state superior court. With the War of 1812, Jackson became a major general of the Tennessee militia. Later, as commander of the southern district, he invaded Florida, which led to the U.S. seizure of the Spanish-owned territory. This victory bolstered Jackson’s popular support and played no small role in his 1828 election to the presidency. Jackson’s tenure ushered in the so-called era of Jacksonian Democracy, and with Pennsylvania’s ongoing support, he was reelected in 1832. In March 1834, Henry Clay’s Whig-controlled Senate censured the president following his attempt to dismantle the Bank of the United States. Pennsylvania’s Senators, Jackson supporters, included William Wilkins, who had resigned to become U.S. Minister to Russia, the day before our letter was written. Wilkins’ seat remained vacant until the end of the year when future president and Jacksonian Democrat, James Buchanan was elected to fill it. Our letter was written several months before the 1834 midterm elections that pitted Jacksonian Democrats against National Republican Party and Whig Party candidates, which left the Democrats retaining a majority in the House. After serving two terms, Jackson left office in 1837, far more popular than when he entered; his censure was expunged when Democrats regained Senate control in 1837.
Pennsylvania has long been known as the Keystone State, a reference to the central stone in masonry that keeps the other stones in place. The nickname refers to both its geographical location in the center of the thirteen colonies and for its role in early American history. The Declaration of Independence and Constitution were drafted in Philadelphia, the nascent country’s capital, and made it an appropriate location for Independence Day celebrations such as the one referenced in our letter. Pennsylvania has been demographically diverse since its founding and, in the 20th century it became a “keystone” of the Electoral College, whose 20 electoral votes and closely divided Republican and Democratic electorate still make it an important swing state. Between 1992 and 2016, Pennsylvania voted for the Democratic presidential candidate, but in 2016, Donald Trump won Pennsylvania’s popular vote by less than one percent, earning him crucial electoral votes. In 2020 the state was the subject of intense speculation and attention and its popular vote narrowly went in Joe Biden’s favor. The importance of Biden’s Pennsylvania victory is underscored by the numerous legal challenges mounted by the Trump campaign to question the validity of the results.
On July 4, 1834, the Democratic Committee of the 4th of July Democratic Festival of Philadelphia celebrated the 58th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The keynote speaker was Henry D. Gilpin, at the time a United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In the lower left corner of the second page of our letter, the name of William J. Crans, a Democratic Southwark District, Philadelphia politician, has been struck through. Several other names appear in pencil below Jackson’s signature, including Thomas D. Grover, also a Southwark District politician, and the salutation “Sir” has been corrected in pencil to “Gentlemen,” suggesting that our letter was a draft; in fact, Jackson inadvertently signed above the closing. If Jackson’s toast made it to the committee in time to be included in the festivities, there is no reference to it in Gilpin’s published speech. The committee apparently extended invitations to several prominent political figures, including former president James Madison whose reply, dated June 29, 1834, is in the collection of the Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/item/mjm021461/).
Rachel Jackson, the president’s wife, was Donelson’s aunt. Following the death of his father and his mother’s remarriage, the younger Donelson moved into the Hermitage with his aunt and uncle, where he served as Jackson’s private secretary. Prominent in Democratic politics, Donelson was instrumental in the 1845 annexation of Texas and served as Minister to Prussia before his vice-presidential bid on Millard Fillmore’s ticket.
Once separated, the leaves have been professionally rejoined, and a vertical repair passes through the end of Jackson’s signature that extends onto the third page. Docketed on the verso in an unknown hand. Folded with minor show-through; otherwise fine.