1843 - In addition to his legal and teaching career David Hoffman was also an active participant in both Baltimore and national politics, first as a Federalist and later as a Whig. As a member of the Federalist party in1812 Hoffman -- along with the Revolutionary war hero "Light Horse" Henry Lee, local firebrand Alexander Contee Hanson and others --was involved in a pitched street battle with those who supported President Madison's declaration of war. (1) Later still, Hoffman would take part in the nation's first presidential convention in Baltimore, serving as one of the Presidential electors for the Whig candidate William Henry Harrison. (2)
While it has been maintained that Hoffman was "too self righteous" for politics he did in fact enjoy an active, albeit low profile, influence that might have grown into more had he acted earlier. (3) In 1841 President Tyler and Webster offered Hoffman the opportunity to serve as a Commissioner to Mexico,an opportunity Hoffman turned down.(4) By the time Hoffman next sought a political appointment in the foreign service, President Harrison had already died, and Hoffman had lost what little political capital he might have had. That Hoffman was aware of his attenuated connection to new President John Tyler andWebster is particularly apparent in thecautious, almost pleading , nature ofHoffman’s request (reprinted below)for a foreign mission post. (5) Of the two posts that Hoffman sought,Spain and Austria, the first was held by Washington Irving (1840-1846) while the second was not filled during Webster's tenure. (6)
Hoffman probably did not help himself in his application to Webster for the Austrian mission by citing personal reasons for desiring the position and all the while maintaining that the President had "assured him"an appointment once a position came open. (7) Hoffman's approach to Webster again shows how his self absorbed personality often hindered his own efforts. Convinced that he had been promised the position outright Hoffman assumed that his legal training and past political activities qualified him for the appointment.Hoffman was unable to see how little qualified he really was for a position that, given the escalating tension with Austria over Hungarian independence, would have required a high degree of circumspection and patience - personal traits that Hoffman lacked.
1. Robert J. Brugger, Maryland a Middle Temperament, 1634-1980. (Baltimore: Published by the Johns Hopkins University Press, in association with the Maryland Historical Society, 1986). 178. [return to text]
3. Calcott, George H. , A History of the University of Maryland. (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1966), 35.[return to text]
4. Harold D. Moser, Editor, The Papers of Daniel Webster, Correspondence, 1840-1843. (Hanover, Dartmouth College, University Press of New England, 1982), 5: 412. The letter is mentioned in the calendar of 1841.
6. For a discussion ofDaniel Webster's various appointments see volume one, series three ofThe Papers of Daniel Webster, Diplomatic Papers (1841-1843).[return to text]
[Feb. 1, 1843]
D. Hoffman - private file
To The Honorable-Private-
I suppose you are always too much occupied to read long letters
- and yet I believe you have
Now, my dear Sir, my nature would revolt at the slightest attempt
at supplanting any order.-I
Not less than three years have been greatly devoted to politics;
and now some more permanent
With Sincere Regards
Baltimore, February 4, 1843
*David Hoffman, "Letter to Daniel Webster, Feb. 1, 1843". Microfilm version of the Papers of Daniel Webster. The Library of Congress, Special Collections.