Mrs. Barney’s Letter, To Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, in reply to one from him, through his Private Secretary, rejecting her application to him, in favour of her husband [caption title].
“In this happy land, the panoply of liberty protects all without distinction of age or of sex.”
An attack on President Andrew Jackson’s “spoils system” and his “Office Harpies” by Mary Chase Barney, an outspoken Baltimorean, and later magazine-founder and editor.
After Jackson was elected president in 1828, Barney’s husband, Major William Barney, had applied to retain his post as Naval Officer for the port of Baltimore. He was rejected for the position as he had John Quincy Adams’ presidential candidacy. With eight hungry children to feed, Mrs. Barney writes of this injustice:
My husband, sir, never was your enemy. In the overflowing patriotism of his heart, he gave you the full measure of his love for your military services. He preferred Mr. Adams for the Presidency, because he thought him qualified, and you unqualified for the station. He would have been a traitor to his country, he would have had even my scorn, and have deserved yours, had he supported you under such circumstances. ... The natural timidity of my sex vanishes before the necessity of my situation; and a spirit, sir, as proud as yours, although in a female bosom, demands justice: At your hands I ask it: Return to him what you have rudely torn from his possession; give back to his children their former means of securing their food and raiment… (pp4–5)
Soon Barney’s attack went public. In the 1830s the young Whig Party reprinted Barney’s letter where it caught the attention of newspapers whose readers were “dubious as to the notion that a woman could have authored the essay [even though] Barney made no attempt to hide her identity or her gender. ... Barney kept the rhetorical heat on Jackson by starting her National Magazine [Baltimore, 1831–1832], a forum for discussing politics and for highlighting the evils of the Democratic administration.”¹
At her letter’s end, Barney deftly frames herself into the narrative: “Sir, I would be unworthy the title of American matron, or an American wife, if I did not vindicate his, and my children’s wrongs. In this happy land, the panoply of liberty protects all without distinction of age or of sex.”
Description: Mrs. Barney’s Letter, To Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, in reply to one from him, through his Private Secretary, rejecting her application to him, in favour of her husband [caption title].
[Washington, D.C.? 1829]. 7, [1 (blank)]pp. 8vo. Pamphlet, removed from a nonce volume. Scattered foxing; mild to final leaf; Very Good.
OCLC 48842713 records two copies (UNC, Chapel Hill; Johns Hopkins), with American Imprints 37705 adding the LOC copy. A few other editions are known. All are scarce. Note. 1. Wells, Women Writers and Journalists in the Nineteenth-Century South (Cambridge), pp97–98.