To the editor:

I’m writing to express not only my own support, but also our late senator and son of Salem Nathaniel Silsbee’s likely support for the replacing of the portrait of Andrew Jackson with a work of art honoring the original inhabitants of Salem.

Nathaniel Silsbee was born in Salem in 1773 and became a wealthy merchant and influential local political leader. He served as our congressman, president of the Massachusetts Senate, and (most importantly to the issue at hand) as a senator for Massachusetts from 1826-1835. For most of these years, Andrew Jackson was the president. Silsbee opposed almost every measure put forth by Andrew Jackson and for good reasons. Jackson’s economic and foreign policies wreaked havoc on Salem’s shipping interests, and Jackson’s intense and viscous support of both the institution of and the expansion of slavery dismayed and infuriated abolitionist-leaning New Englanders.

In 1830 Andrew Jackson became the only president in American history to actively pursue a policy of genocide when he began pushing for the Indian Removal Act, an act that would forcibly remove Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek (even though many Creek fought alongside Americans against the British during the War of 1812), and Seminole peoples from the southeastern United States in order to clear room for the expansion of the cotton industry and slavery. Nathaniel Silsbee gallantly joined with the other senator from Massachusetts, the famous Daniel Webster, and fought every single measure in the halls of the Senate. Nearly the entire Massachusetts Senate and congressional delegation opposed the Indian Removal Act (one congressman from central Massachusetts voted in favor). After the Indian Removal Act was narrowly passed, Nathaniel Silsbee valiantly tried to pass amendments to it that would provide for some compensation to the tribes, or provide food, or some source of revenue ... all of which were narrowly struck down by Andrew Jackson’s supporters.

Throughout Andrew Jackson’s presidency, this son of Salem fought tooth and nail in the halls of the Senate for what was right. It’s important to remember that while Jackson did once visit Salem (as have thousands before and since, including several presidents who’s portraits we don’t hang up), he was never popular here. Jackson never won an election in Massachusetts (he lost in 1828,29,000-6,000. and in 1832m, 31,000-13,000). It’s high time we honored both our history and honored our legacy of resistance to that tyrant. Take his picture down. I believe Nathaniel Silsbee would agree.

Ben Winthrop

Salem

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