Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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ALBANY REGENCY, The (IN U. S. HISTORY), the name given to the politicians who, from 1820 until about 1854-5, unofficially managed the machinery of the democratic party in New York. It would be difficult to give an exhaustive list of those who, at various times, were recognized members of "the Regency"; but a partial list would include Martin Van Buren, who graduated from it upon his election to the United States senate in 1821, but still remained in close alliance with it: William L. Marcy, who graduated to the senate in the same manner in 1831; Silas Wright, until his election to the senate in 1833; John A. Dix, until his election to the senate in 1845; Edwin Croswell, editor of the "Albany Argus," and State printer; Benj. F. Butler, who was Attorney General under Van Buren, (see ADMINISTRATIONS): Azariah C. Flagg, secretary of state and afterwards comptroller of the state; Benjamin Knower, treasurer of the state; Roger Skinner; Dean Richmond; Peter Cagger; and Samuel A. Talcott. Although, as has been said, several of these "graduated," the graduates were expected, whenever necessary for the success of the party and the regency, to return to the field of state politics. Thus Van Buren in 1828, Marcy in 1832, and Wright in 1844, returned from the senate to accept a nomination for the governorship at the hands of the regency.


—About 1819-20, when the system of nominating conventions began to be used, the regency began to be recognized as a political factor, and as the business of nominations was further abandoned to these smaller and irresponsible bodies the regency obtained progressively a stronger control over the conventions and thus over the action of the party. This control was not necessarily obtained by corrupt means. Those delegates to the conventions who were ambitious of office were controlled by the knowledge that the regency never forgot or forgave insubordination or rebellion, and never forgot or abandoned a friend who had suffered in its service; the great mass of delegates were controlled by the conspicuous success which usually followed a deference to the discreet and experienced politicians who composed the regency. In this way, and, in emergencies, by a judicious use of the State printing and other contracts, the Albany regency (so called from the fact that its members lived at the capital of the state) continued to reward its friends, punish its enemies, control the party, and keep New York generally democratic, until its opponents in great measure accepted its machinery and overthrew it by its own methods. This last result, however, was much assisted by the split in the New York democratic party in 1848 (see NEW YORK, BARNBURNERS, FREE SOIL PARTY) and subsequent years, and when this division had lasted long enough to deprive the regency of the state patronage its most efficient weapon was gone, and its former power departed. (See DEMOCRATIC-REPUBLICAN PARTY).


—See 2 Hammond's Political History of New York, 157, 429; Hammond's Life of Silas Wright; 2 von Holst's United States, 21; Mackenzie's Lives of Butler and Hoyt; Mackenzie's Life of Van Buren, 29, 168; Sedgwick's Political Writings of Leggett.


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