Further Articles Regarding Henry Herbert and the Great Brawl of 1836
by Ann Neilson
As promised, here are two more articles regarding the great “fracas,” which occurred at the Washington Hotel in New York City in 1836.
From the Public Ledger, May 14, 1836
The Traveller says: “The parties in the fracas last week at the Washington Hotel, New York, are of the first respectability. Mr. Tompkins is a son of the late Vice President. He was a member of the N. Y. Assembly last year, and very generally esteemed as an honorable young man. Mr. Neile is a son-in-law of the late Gov. Yates. Mr. Herbert is one of the editors of the American Monthly Magazine.” The Traveller, we presume, forgot to tell its readers that the “respectability” of the parties is only an aggravation of the offence. We dislike to see paragraphs go out unfinished.—Boston Times.
So do we dislike to see paragraphs go unfinished, and we will finish our own by saying that respectability consists in true dignity of character; in respect for the laws, and for the rights and feelings of others. According to this definition, the parties concerned in this disgraceful affair are persons of the least respectability, for we have seldom heard of a more scandalous outrage against law, social order, and the feelings of considerate and honorable men. “Mr. Tompkins is the son of the late Vice President.” “What then’ [sic] Such behavior shows that he is far less of a gentleman than his father was.—”Mr. Neale is a son-in-law of the late Governor Yates.” Indeed! Does this palliate conduct that ought to be punished by a visit to the State prison, and would be so punished in a ruffian without ruffles? “Mr. Herbert is one of the editors of the American Monthly Magazine,” and the N. York Herald says he is a bit of English nobility, with a line of ancestors from the Plantagenets downward.
“What of your noble or ignoble blood
Has crept thro’ scoundrels ever since the flood?”
Go and pretend your [family?] is young
Nor own your fathers have been fools so long!”
For fools they must have been from the beginning, to produce such a compound of vulgar folly and brutal ferocity as that exhibited by this editor of the American Monthly Magazine. The literary department of New York is in precious hands! First respectability forsooth! First blackguardism.
From the Public Ledger, May 19, 1836
The Washington Hotel Fracas.—On Friday last the Grand Jury presented bills of Indictment against Messrs. McLeod, Herbert and Staples, for being engaged in the fracas in the Washington Hotel.—Immediately thereafter, bench warrants were issued to take the several individuals therein named into custody to be tried for a disturbance of the peace, with intent to kill, at the next term of the General Sessions. Brink and Welch, the two officers who caught Robinson, have these warrants.
Yesterday at ten minutes past eleven they proceeded to the City Hotel, and enquired “Is Mr. McLeod in?” “He is not,” said Mr. Cruttenden. “Where is he?” “I don’t know.” “Can we look in his room?” “You may, but he is not there.”
The officers proceeded, not to the lodgings of Mr. Herbert. He was not to be found—but we understand the greater portion of a new novel, intended to be published by the Harpers, was safe and sound.
It is highly probable that neither of these young men will be found. McLeod, we understand has gone to Philadelphia—Herbert to Boston, and the others nowhere. The officers intend to start in pursuit to-morrow. They wont[sic] catch them.
All this “hide and go seek,” is wrong. Let the fracas gentlemen one and all, deliver themselves up. They can be convicted of nothing—they are not half so guilty as Webb, who like a mad dog runs at large.—N. Y. Herald.