The “Forty Million Debt” Made Tommy Cry

Loco Foco Hardtimes Token

Loco Foco Hardtimes Token

From the Albany Evening Journal.
DISTRESSING SCENE! — The Forty Million Debt! — We have read much in the Argus about the anticipated sufferings to be produced by the ‘Forty Million Debt.’ but was not aware that it had actually created present and alarming distress among the People, until the last Saratoga Whig came to hand, from which it will be seen that an entire Family has been thrown into a state of dreadful suffering on account of the apprehended evils of this horrid ‘Debt!’ — The last intelligence, it will be seen, left this distressed Family in a ‘deluge of tears.’ We shall look anxiously for further particulars in the Argus: —

From the Saratoga Whig.

A ‘CRYING SPELL.’ — A short time since, a young man, son of a disappointed Locofoco office seeker, after listening to a long tirade of abuse against the present State Administration between his father and another rabid Locofoco, who had both that morning been gloating over a late number of the Albany Argus, which was filled with sundry abuses of Governor Seward and the other State officers, and various misrepresentations as to the ‘forty million debt,’ went home, and seating himself on the floor, set up a most dolorous crying, ‘

What is the matter, my dear little Tommy,’ said his mother. The lad made no reply, but continued crying louder than before. ‘Why, bless my soul!’ said the anxious mother, taking Tommy on her knee, ‘something serious ails the child! — Tommy, tell your mother this minute where it aches the hardest.’

‘It don’t ache none,’ replied Tommy.

‘What does ail you, then?’

‘Daddy says the forty million debt is coming, and we shan’t have anything to eat — then I shan’t have no more bread and lasses — boo, boo, boo!’

O lordy, lordy! it’s the forty million debt that ails my child! Them whigs will kill us all, and distress the rest to death, that’s sartin. Boo, boo, boo!’ {The old lady sets in crying.}

At this juncture of affairs the office seeker enters, and inquires the cause of their grief.

‘Why, my dear husband,’ said the old lady, ‘Tommy is afraid the forty million debt will starve us all to death, poor little fellow.’ {Tommy and his mother set up a most lamentable wailing.}

‘Here,’ said the office seeker, ‘may be seen the practical effects of that odious recommendation! When will men see the horrible thing in its proper bearing. I’ve spent most of my time the past six months in trying to show up this distressing thing in its true light — but men won’t mind anything I say; and my property is going to ruin, just on account of this thing. I’m heartily discouraged!’ {Commences crying in company with his wife and child.}

The kitchen maid now enters, and trembling, inquires what has happened.
‘O! do see poor little Tommy,’ said the old lady, ‘it’s the forty million debt what ails him — see how he tumbles about the floor — boo, boo, boo!’

‘It’s bit him! said the maid, ‘and he’s either got the hydrofogia or the dismonitory symptoms, true as the world. Poor Tommy!’ {Maid chimes in with the others, and cries most bitterly.}

Mingo, the ostler, attracted by the groans and sobs, comes running from the barn, and with ‘eyes like bullets,’ inquires ‘wat made sich a debble ob a fuss!’

‘It’s forty million deaths what’s all but killed little Tommy,’ replied the maid.

‘Dem’s the same critters wat bit my heel todder night in de dark, and skare dis chil mos to def! What ail you too, massa, eh?’

‘O Mingo, it’s the cursed Seward debt,’ replied the office seeker.

‘Yes! the Steward’s debt!’ cried the old lady.

‘It’s the Slewed to death,’ sobbed the maid.

‘The Stewed dead!’ yelled Tommy.

‘Gosh amighty! de screwed bed!’ ejaculated Mingo —

Then they all set up a crying O!

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Oct 22, 1839


William H. Seward

From ‘A POLITICAL HISTORY OF NEW YORK’ by DeAlva Stanwood Alexander, page 35 in Vol. II. [emphasis mine]

The chief criticism of his opponents grew out of his acceptance of Ruggles’s estimate that the canals would more than reimburse the cost of their construction and enlargement. The Argus asserted that Seward, instead of sustaining the policy of “pay as you go,” favoured a “forty million debt;” and this became the great campaign cry of the Democrats in two elections. On the other hand, the Whigs maintained that the canals had enriched the people and the State, and that their future prosperity depended upon the enlargeii. 36ment of the Erie canal, so that its capacity would meet the increasing demands of business. In the end, the result showed how prophetically Seward wrote and how wisely Ruggles figured; for, although the Erie canal, in 1862, had cost $52,491,915.74, it had repaid the State with an excess of $42,000,000.

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