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The Dorr Letters Project

Thomas Wilson Dorr to Aaron Whiter Jr. Esq.:
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In this letter to Woonsocket attorney Aaron White Jr., the son of the prominent Boston abolitionist Mary White, Thomas Dorr recounts his May 10 meeting with President John Tyler. Dorr reports that Tyler's cabinet was divided in terms of authorizing the use of force against the People's Government. Dorr then reports on a compromise effort led by Secretary of State Daniel Webster, who arranged a meeting at a New York City hotel between Dorr, Dutee Pearce, and John Whipple. Dorr informs White that he would return to Providence after meeting with Whipple and Webster. Dorr says that he will call on militia units to protect him from arrest.


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New York, May 12th, 1842
Aaron White Jr. Esq.
My Dear, Sir

I would have written to you before; but I
have been literally upon a flying visit, having traveled to & from Washington
with the expedition of the mail. I spent two days there; and my time was wholly
occupied with the business of my mission. I have seen many of our most act-
ive friends in Congress, and they urge us to go on with one voice. In fact
the only fear expressed has been, that our strength might not hold out,
and that we should give up to our opponents. We have the moral & in-
tellectual weight of Congress on our side, and perhaps the numerical weight,
after a full and fair discussion; but this I will not positively assert.

You will have seen, before this, by the President’s 2nd letter to
King, that he does not consider us to have committed any act of insurrection
by choosing & organizing our government, appointing some officers, and com-
municating with the general and state governments. The fact is
the cabinet were divided upon the point of using force against Rhode Island;
and it became necessary to say, that they would by & by, when the people had
done their utmost. The movements of the democracy here and in
other places, and the general expression of public sentiment in our favor
have alarmed the administration with the fear of an American War of
the People against the Government; and they begin to pause. Mr. Webster
has invited a meeting of men of both parties, here tomorrow – I mean of the
Representatives of the People’s & of the old Charter party – to consult on our
controversy, & bring it to a close if possible. Mr. W. stated that he
wished me to understand, that he was in favor of peace. I have
neither the ability nor the disposition to sacrifice the rights of the People; but Mr.
and myself have thought it our duty to remain here and see what

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may come of the interview desired by Mr. Webster.

The President is apparently a very good natured weak man,
unequal to his situation, and having his mind made up for him by others.
Any one might suppose from conversing with him, as Dr. Brown did,
that he was a strong People’s man. He has great confidence in the
liberality of the Algerine Assembly; who, he believes, are disposed to make
every concession to the People! Webster & he take the ground, that the
People of this country can make no changes of the government without the
forms prescribed in the Constitution; and, where there is no written Constitution
without the permission of the Legislature! They are both Tories
of the rankest sort.

Our hopes must rely on the aid & strength of the People of the States, to whom, I am happy to say, we shall not look in vain. I hope before I leave this city to obtain assurances of 1000 volunteers to act in case a government solider shall set his foot on the soil to put down the People.

I have been received everywhere with a truly cordial spirit. There is a real heart and soul in democracy; and never where they more truly manifested than now.

I shall return to Providence as soon as possible, and forthwith call on the military to protect me and others from any arrest under the Algerine law.

As soon as I arrive I hope to see you, and communicate many particulars, which cannot be included in the limits of a letter.

I am truly & sincerely your friend,
T. W. Dorr


Does Dorr appear to be ready to compromise? What actions, if any, did President Tyler take in May 1842?