Masque of Honor Chronicles

October 18, 1817


The closing paragraph of my answer to the first address of Mr. Mason, the application of which is now sanctioned by his own acknowledgement, leaves me nothing further to add in replying to his second address of last Wednesday than that I cannot forfeit my claim to the character of a gentleman other that pronounce him a blackguard and a bully.


The next week, an outraged Armistead Mason published his reply.


If Mr. Mercer intends, in the last Washingtonian, to apply the terms “blackguard and bully” to me, I cannot hesitate to pronounce him to be an INFAMOUS LIAR AND SCOUNDREL!



You well know, fellow citizens, that notwithstanding the assaults which were attempted on my person and the falsehood and malignity with which my character was assailed during the late Congressional election for this district, I abstained from retorting on my aggressors any part of those outrages. That so far from appealing for support to the party feelings which divide you, I sought in all my private conversations and in my public addresses, as I had steadily done in the last years of my life, to allay those angry passions which political discussion is so well calculated to inflame.

I thought my position to not respond to such aggression was sustained by the public feeling throughout America and in my own heart. I found no sentiment against my position or my party at the time.  It was not so long ago when I was the only federalist in my own family and yet I recognized in the ranks of my political opponents, many men to whom I am connected by the ties of consanguinity and yet the stronger bonds of friendship.

All persons who have prepared lists of the names of individuals found upon the poll of General Armistead T. Mason at the last Congressional election, who, at the time of the election, appear to have had no title to vote, are requested to forward such lists without delay to the Offices of the Washingtonian. Further, they are requested to include the names of all persons whose names are misspelt.

Notice in the Genius of Liberty November 1817


I publish this letter jointly with Mr. John McCarty and with this brief remark:  Every man who directly or indirectly insinuated or implied, which some scoundrels have publicized, that I cowered from the contest with Mr. John McCarty at the last Loudoun election, is a liar and vile calumniator!


An excerpt from a notice published by Armistead in November 1817.

…The truth is Mr. Mercer hesitated because he was doubtful of himself. In the irritation of the moment he hoped to be able to work himself up to the sticking point but as soon as his passion subsided and he was left calmly to “commute with himself, he found his nerves to find his coward heart to sink within him. It is then that he assumes the cloak of religion to save himself from disgrace; for he knows as was as any other man that an affection for religion (even the most hypocritical) like “charity , covereth a multitude of sins”. And after laboring for years to cheat the world into the belief that he is a hero in spirit, he abandons at once a character which all his arts can no longer enable him to maintain, and he pleads religion (which with sorrow he said is prostituted by being made the cant of every hypocrite and mantle of every vice) an apology for the cowardly and disgraceful abandonment. I now proclaim to the world that he is a consummate hypocrite and a most contemptible coward!

December 1817

Seeing that General Mason has published my letter unaccompanied by his own, “I publish the joint letters” being all the communications that ever transpired between General Mason and myself, “with this brief remark that every man” may distinctly understand why I wrote to General Mason to what part of his letter I replied and to what part I did not reply.


Notice in the Genius of Liberty December 1817

January 21, 1818.


The publication of General Mason of the 23rd of December imposes upon me the unpleasant task of speaking of myself in a newspaper; therefore I pray the indulgence of the public. Let me also assure the public that as much as I hate talking about myself in the newspaper, I equally despise the bully or the boaster and detest a public “war of words”. I had thought that my answer to General Mason left no doubt of my meaning. But I feel it is my duty to clarify that I, as well as others, expected General Mason to request an honorable reparation for my conduct at the Loudoun election. Let me assure the public that on that occasion and in this instance, I have never sought a quarrel with any man. And let me also be clear that I refuse to acknowledge the foul and contemptible trash which his internal strife now has cast before the public.

John M. McCarty, Brown’s Hotel, Alexandria, District of Columbia January 21, 1818.

January 31, 1818


It can no longer be doubted that the infamous defamation that has been published against me under the sanction of John M. McCarty’s name have been connived and encouraged by him. Mr. McCarty says that he had nothing to do with the defamations against me, yet his declaration is detestable as it would be from any man so unprincipled and base as to make such statements. Mr. McCarty appears to be a little dull on the subject of principle, as the proverb instructs “there is none so blind as those who will not see”.

In his last publication, motivated by the most dishonorable and dastardly conduct and is false from beginning to end, Mr. McCarty says that he expected me to challenge him at the Loudoun election. He indeed behaved like an accomplished blackguard and bully on that occasion. But he seems to have forgotten the chastisement I gave him on that occasion. In front of a crowded courthouse, as I pronounced him an impertinent scoundrel! Further, for his abusive and indecent language as well as for his taking a dishonorable oath, I publicly pronounced him an infamous scoundrel and perjurous villain.  And now, after all of that, he says that he expected me to call on him for honorable reparation for his conduct. If he really believes that I should have challenged him (which I do not believe one word) he must have strange ideas of what Honor requires if he thinks that this is the best apology that can be offered to redress his recent most dishonorable conduct.

At the time of the quarrel between Mr. McCarty and myself, I was an unmarried man. Before I left the Loudoun hustings, I announced to the Rev. John Mines, among others, that I did not myself feel aggrieved by his conduct as I had fully balanced the account with my own verbal response back to him.  I stated that I would not prosecute the quarrel further but that if Mr. John McCarty thought to acquire a reputation at my expense by challenging me, I would disappoint him. Because if he were to challenge me while I remained single, I most certainly would fight him. This determination on my part was publicly known and I have no doubt that Mr. McCarty was well apprised of it.

On the day of the Loudoun election, I believe that Mr. McCarty came from Alexandria predetermined to provoke a quarrel with me so that he would receive the notice and favor of the Federalist party. But after having traveled all the way to Leesburg he discovered that he could not provoke me to challenge him, he then realized that he “had got the wrong sow by the ear”. Finding that he could not acquire the reputation he had sought at my expense, he then decides to lend his name to the basest misrepresentation to create the impression that I had shrunk from him in that quarrel.

If this is not true, then I ask then how should he have behaved? What would the conduct of a truly honorable man have been? What would the honorable man have done when he saw his good name being employed by unprincipled scoundrels who were intent on spreading falsehood and defamation? He would at once promptly and voluntarily have forbidden his name to be used in such a manner!  What was the conduct of Mr. John McCarty? He silently acquiesced. And why? Because he thought that would be a way to gain the reputation which he had been denied at the hustings. A man who feels like he cannot achieve a reputation in an honest and manly way, must indeed want one badly if he must behave like a thief to steal one. When I wrote him to know whether he sanctioned the defamation, he replied most distinctly and “unequivocally” that “he never did sanction the calumny of any printer against me”; and he authorized me to publish his letter. I did so. And what is his conduct? Regardless of the solemn obligations of private confidence, which are held sacred and inviolable by all honorable men, he, without my consent or knowledge, publishes my letter and involves me in a vexatious lawsuit with a dirty fellow for whom I suppose he will be a witness. Further, he accompanied the publication of my letter with some remarks of his own where he restates the obvious and then creates ambiguity to create the impression that I did indeed cower from him.  It then became my duty again to denounce those impressions. Mr. McCarty’s actions prove his guilt. And stung by the language which his own vanity and folly has brought upon himself, he sets to seek revenge for what he most certainly deserves.

But it so happened at just about the time that I received and published his answer, Mr. Mercer, who had until then was considered the champion of his party, gave way. And the men who had been pricking him on, mortified and chagrined at Mercer’s disgrace to their party, eagerly saw the opportunity to widen the breach between Mr. John McCarty and myself, in the hope that he would offset the dishonor of Mr. Mercer’s conduct. Flushed with this hope, they did not fail. For Mr. John McCarty, lacking principle and possessing excessive vanity and folly, surrendered himself to their hands and has become their dupe – the shake-bag of the Federal party. It cannot be denied that they have made a very judicious selection, for Mr. McCarty is of no importance to society. He certainly will not be missed by anyone should he perish in a fight with me. If his nerves do not fail him, Mr. McCarty is as likely to accomplish their objective as any other desperado that they could engage. For Mr. McCarty can rest assured that honorable men will never regard him as anything better than a hired assassin. I cannot help feeling greatly humiliated that, at one time, I was compelled to treat him as an equal –  a man who has since permitted himself to be used as the vile instrument of the basest and meanest men. It must be acknowledged that there is not a single point of comparison between myself and Mr. John McCarty. And although I was ignorant of his true character when I called him a gentleman, I would now class him as he deserves to be classed, with M’Intyre and Heiskill, with whom he has associated himself and leave him there in the mud with them. My only purpose now is to satisfy the world that I am not the aggressor in this affair and that I am only acting in self-defense.

I should do great injustice to my feelings should I conclude this address without expressing my deep regret that I have been compelled to publish publicly my opinion of Mr. John McCarty. For his brothers and all his family who I cherish as friends and relatives, the necessity imposed on me say such things is most certainly painful to them and is extremely painful to me. But whatever may be the final result of this controversy, I most sincerely hope that it will not be permitted to affect the amicable relations which exists between us and our families.

ARMISTEAD T. MASON Selma, January 31st, 1818

February 16, 1818


I cannot condescend to reply in detail to the publication of a man, whose late pusillanimous conduct has sunk him beneath the scorn and pity of mankind. I refer the public however to the altercation at the hustings – to the correspondence – and the publications that have passed between General Mason and myself – and leave that public to decide whether if he had possessed the feelings and principles of a gentleman, he would rather not have demanded of me honorable reparation for injuries that so deeply affects his honor as to have given rise to his late publication then to have sought redress by vulgar misrepresentation. General Mason’s refusing to call on me for the indignity I offered him at the hustings and also for the insults contained in my several communications to the public (the last of which was particularly calculated and intended to close a “war of words” and to draw that challenge from him, which he in a previous publication substantially pledged himself to send) leaves no other conclusion than that GENERAL ARMISTEAD T. MASON IS A DISGRACED COWARD.

JOHN M. MCCARTY, Mrs. Peyton’s Boarding House, Alexandria, February 16, 1818