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History of Calhoun county, Michigan : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principle interests (Volume 1) online

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erty, and the financial burden to satisfy this judgment fell principally
upon the defendants, Gorham, Comstoek, and Hurd. These men have
been compelled to defray the greater part of the expense of defending
the suit, and ruin seemed certain.

Zachariah Chandler, then a stirring merchant of Detroit, had attended
the trials and watched the Crosswhite affair from its inception at Mar-
shall until the final verdict. His sturdy anti-slavery sentiments were
aroused. His keen political instincts enabled him to discover and trace
the pro-slavery influences brought to bear upon the trial, and being
satisfied that Mr. Gorham and his associates were victims of unjust laws,
, enforced by the slave-powers he called on Mr. Gorham at his hotel and
made his acquaintance. He voluntarily made himself a party to the
suit and assumed a share of the burdens. He promised and afterwards
paid, and raised a handsome sum of money toward the judgment and
thereby relieved some of the defendants from financial ruin. Thus
commenced the warm personal friendship between the sagacious, radical
and rash Zachariah Chandler and the sagacious, conservative and cau-
tious Charles T. Gorham, which continued until death, and which contri-
buted largely to the elevation and influence of both men in political life.

These Marshall men united the enemies of slavery, and under their
leadership in 1849, Charles Dickie was elected to the Senate, Erastus
Hussey, Hovey K. Clark and Nathan Pierce to the House, all radical
Abolitionists or pronoiinced anti-slavey men, and Calhoun County had
a solid anti-slavery delegation in the legislature of 1850. The county
took a leading position in opposition to the institution of slavery and
maintained it until slavery was no more.

As Lexington and Concord preceded the Declaration of Independence
and Yorktown, so Marshall preceded the Buffalo convention, the organ-
ization under the oaks at Jackson and the Emancipation Proclamation,
Appomatox and the Thirteenth Amendment. The sons of the brave men
of Lexington and Concord at Marshall in 1847, were more altruistic
than were their sires in 1775. The sires risked their liberty and prop-
erty for themselves, their kindred, their posterity. The sons risked
their liberty and their property, not for themselves, their kindred, and
their posterity, but for another, an alien race, a race of slaves. The sons
were braver than their sires. ■ The sires were unknown, disguised as
Indians and went at night when they defied the tyrant's law and threw
the tea into Boston Harbor. The sons were known, undisguised, and
went in the light of day when they defied the tyrant 's law and loosened
the bondsman's chains. When the voice of tyranny asked for their
names, quick and distinct came the response from one "Charles T. Gor-
ham. Put it down in capital letters, and take it back to Kentucky to
the land of slavery as a warning to others and a lesson to you," from
another, "Oliver Cromwell Comstoek, Jr. Don't forget to put down the
'Ji;nior' as I don't want my father to answer for my sins," from an-
other, "James ^I. Easterl.y" from another, " Jarvis Hurd," and from an-
other, "Asa B. Cooke." (Brave men were they.) (In the slave-holder's
declaration filed in court, while the names of the other defendants were



iiryTOKY OF CAi.iiurx COIXTV 71

printed in italit-s. Uie name of Chark'S T. Goi'liaiu was [jriiitcd in capilal
lettei-s. )

While the enemies of African slavery were organizing and eoncentrat-
iug their force upon measures to cripple the institution in JMichigau, the
friends of that institution were equally active in Kentucky. The cou-
stitutioual eouveutiou of 18-49 inserted a clause in the state constitu-
tion declaring the right of property in slaves to "be befoi-e and higher
than any constitutional sanctions. ' ' The Blue-grass State seems to have
antedated Seward in announcing the "higher law" doctrine. As before
stated, Francis Troutman's vei'sion of the Marshall affair had been laid
before the legislature of Kentucky and the legislature had instructed their
Senators and members of Congress to secure further guarantees for the
reclaiming of fugitive slaves. Henry Clay was a pei-sonal friend of
Francis Giltner, and being familiar with the whole Crosswhite affair he
took a personal interest in the case. On the 29th of January, 1850,
Mr. Clay introduced into the United States Senate his celebrated com-
promise resolution, demanding a more "effective fugitive slave law."

In the heated discussion of the so-called compromise measures, in their
various forms and phases in Congres.s from January 29th until Septem-
ber 18th, 1850, when the fugitive slave law was signed by the president
Marshall and IMarshall men were ever upon the lips of the champion
of slavery. Gen. Gorham, Dr. Comstock, Rev. Randal Hobart, and other
old line Democrats were denounced as Abolitionists and negro thieves.
]\Ien of high standing and culture were branded as vagabonds, villians
and robbers. The abusive tirades were repeated and enlarged upon by
the pro-slavery press, and on the pro-slavery stump north and south,
and Marshall became the cynosure of the whole land. This intemperate
discussion of the Troutman version of the "Abolition mob" as he termed
it, was gratif.ying to the south, but it was consolidation of the free-soil
sentiments of the north. The Crosswhite case, a.s it has been shown, was
the proximate cause of the obnoxious Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. That
case demonstrated the fact that the less stringent law then in force,
could not be enforced in the liberty-loving communities of the north,
and the arrogant south undertook to intimidate the north with lieavy
penalties.

The fugitive slave law was prepared by the most radical pro-slavery
champion. It provided for numerous United States Commissioners to be
appointed, gave them the power of .judge to remand men to slavery,
deprived the alleged slave of his own testimony, right of jury trial and
habeas corpus. It gave the commissioner a ten dollar fee if he decided
for the master, and a five dollar fee if he decided for the slave. United
States Marshals were required to make arrests, and if they refused, they
should be fined $1,000 and be made to pay for the slave. The Marshals
and Commissioners could call upon by-standers to assist in making
captures and if a citizen refused he could be imprisoned six months,
fined $1,000 and made liable for $1,000 damages. This despotic law
violated every human impulse and made the usual Christian courtesies
a crime, and in fact made every man, woman and child a slave catcher
at the request of the master. This infamous law designed to protect
the institution of slavery was overruled and produced an irresistible



72 HISTORY OF CALHOUN COUNTY

wave of anti-slavery sentiment and opposition, which dehiged the whole
land and undermined the institution itself. Public sentiment was so
strong in Marshall in 1847 that the old law could not be enforced, and
now that same sentiment, more earnest than ever, would not enforce
the new. It was boldly announced in private and in public, in the
press, in the pulpit, on the platform, and on the floor of Congress that
freemen would not enforce the law. The sentiment of the people was
expressed by the resolution of a Massachusetts mass meeting in these
words, "Law or no law, constitution or no constitution, union or no
union, the hospitality of ^Massachusetts will never be violated by the
delivery of a fugitive from oppression, to tyrant's again." This law
had shocked the moral sensibility of the whole north, it had added new
fuel to the anti-slavery flame, and tended to unite all factions against it.

The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 developed an unexpected force which
fired the hearts of freemen everywhere, and hastened the doom of
slavery. That law caused the graphic delineation of the evils of slavery
in Uncle Tom's Cabin. The author of that narrative had abstained for
years from all consideration of the subject of slavery, but when she
learned of the cruel, un-Christian and inhuman provision of the statute
and heard men contend that it was the citizen's duty to enforce it, she
tells us in her concluding chapter that she could "only think that these
men and these Christians cannot know what slavery is ; if they did, such
a question could never be opened for discussion," and from this arose
a desire to exhibit it in a living dramatic reality. Thus this cruel law
has awakened and inspired its own Nemesis. The gifted author com-
menced gathering material and perfecting her plan, and in June, 1851,
the publication of that mighty political narrative was commenced as a
serial, in the National Era. an anti-slavery paper published at Wash-
ington and was continued until April, 1852. Some of the personal ex-
perience of Adam Crosswhite and wife in fleeing from bondage are
woven into that story. The narrative in the National Era was read and
re-read. Nearly half a million copies were published in book form in
rapid succession, and scattered all over the north and the English-speak-
ing world. It was cjuickly translated into twenty different languages,
and it has done more for universal freedom than any other, if not all
other causes combined. It was dramatized and put on the stage and
acted all over the north. It revealed the horrors of slavery, touched the
great heart of humanity, and united the people in one common pur-
pose to limit and destroy the curse. Hnd it not been for the Fugitive
Slave Law of 1850, Uncle Tom's Cabin would never have been written,
and the evils of slavery would not have been thus revealed.

In 1852 the Whig and Democratic parties, both blind and oblivious
to the swelling tide of anti-slavery sentiment, accepted the Fugitive
Slave Law of 1850 as a finality, and promised to enforce it. There had
been for a long time a strong anti-slavery sentiment in the Whig Party.
The writer, when a boy, heard Gen. Cass prophesy that the Whig Party
would eventually be abolitionized. This surrender to the slave-power
drove hundreds of Whigs out of the party, and its doom as a national
party was sealed. After the old parties had made their nominations
and announced their pro-slaverj' platforms, the Free-Soil Party held



HISTORY ov CALiiorx CorXTV 73

a coiiveution and iioiniimted .John V. Hale of New Hampshire, tor pi'esi-
deut and George \V. Jidiau of Indiana for vice-iM-esiih'nt. Tlie i)latl\)i'iii
contained these planks.

(6) "That slavery is a sin against Goil, and a crime against m;in,
whieh no human enaetment or usage ean make right, ami tiiat Ciiris-
lianity. humanity and patriotism alike demand its abolition.

(7) "Tliat tiie fugitive act of 1850 is repugnant to the eonstitution,
to the priueiples of the eommon law, to the spirit of Christianity, and to
the sentiments of the eivilized world ; we therefore deny its force on
the American people and demand its immediate and total repeal.

(21) "That we inscribe on our banner 'Free-Soil, Free-Speech, Fi'ee-
Labor, and Freedom,' and under it will tight on and tight ever, until
a triumphant victory shall reward our exertions. ' '

The sentiments of JIarshall men, as expressed by words and deeds
at the fugitive door in 1847, were here again proclaimed in a national
platform. The agitation continued, but the pro-slavery party triumpheii
at the election. The foes of slavery were as yet unwilling to repudiate
old party atifiliations, and unite in a national crusade for lil)erty. The
chastening of another pro-slavery scourge w^as required.

Slavery liad been prohibited from all the territories lying north of
tliiitx-six (li'>;ri('s and thirty minutes north latitude in 1820 by the so-
called .Missnuii Compromise. This act was copied from the ordinance of
1787. excluding slavery from the Northwest Territory. The Wilmot Pro-
viso followed the same principle, and the principle had been repeatedly
applied. The slave-power determined to break down this barrier and to
repudiate this Jeff'ersonian policy. A bill was pending in the Senate to
organize the Territory of Nebraska. Senator Archibald Dixon of Ken-
tucky, on the 16th of January, 1854, introduced an amendment to repeal
the law passed in 1820 as a solemn compact between the slave and the
free states. Then commenced the discussion of the Kansas-Nebraska
Bill. Lewis Cass, 1847, as we have seen, in his Nicholson letter, repudi-
ated the principle of excluding slavery from the territories by act of
Congress, and endorsed the policy of allowing the people of the Terre-
tory to determine whether slavery should or should not exist. Thus
the doctrine of popular sovereignty was proclaimed. Under the leader-
ship of Stephen A. Douglas, this doctrine was endorsed by the pro-
slavery party, and in the discussion continued on this issue. The most
earnest debate of modern times ensued in Congress, in the press, in the
pulpit, on the stump, and by the fireside. The bill i-epealing the re-
striction of slavery passed the Senate March 3d, the House ilay 24,
and was signed by the President iMay 30th, 1854. The Democratic
party had thus repudiated the principles of its founder. Then com-
menced the struggle between the friends of slavery and the friends of
freedom in Kansas. The application of the principles of popular sover-
eignty in the territories on the slavery issue, meant force against force —
war between the contending parties actually existed. John Brown was
a product of that struggle, and his subsequent raid on Harper's Ferry,
but a subsequent guerilla skirmish resulting from the war in Kansas.
The bad faith of the slave power, the hot discussion, the bloody struggle



74 HISTORY OF CALHOUN COUNTY

and the bitterness resulting therefrom caused men to seek a practical
remedy — an end of the eonHict.

The anti-slavery sentiment in Michigan was intense, and anti-slavery
men were now ready to act. Marshall men took the final lead in start-
ing the crusade against slavery. Hovey E. Clarke, chairman of the
State Central Committee and Erastus Hussey then of Marshall with
others called a mass meeting of the Free-Soil party to meet at Jackson,
Februarj^ 22, 1854. All who favored the national free-soil platfonn of
1852 were invited to this convention. Hovey K. Clarke was chairman
of the committee on resolutions and drafted the platform adopted by
the convention. Erastus Hussey was also a member of the committee
on resolutions and a member of the committee on nominations. The
resolutions denounced the proposed repeal of the Missouri compromise
and endorsed the free-soil platform of 1852. Kinsley S. Bingham was
nominated for governor, Nathan Pierce for lieutenant-governor and
Hovey K. Clarke for attorney-general. Numerous addresses were made
before the convention. Halmer H. Emmons of Detroit, afterwards
United States eii-cuit judge, an anti-slavery Whig, was called out for
a speech. He endorsed the platform, commended the nominees of the
convention, expressed the earnest desire that before election day, all
friends of freedom might stand upon one platform, and pledged to resist
the extension of slavery. Mr. Emmons made a powerful speech in favor
of union, which, like the speech of Patrick Henry in the Virginia con-
vention of 1775, carried everything before it and inspired men on to
action. As Patrick Henry inspired "the first general recommendation
for a general congress by any public assembly" in 1774, so Halmar H.
Emmons made the first appeal in a state convention for united actions
in 1854. Messrs. Clarke and Emmons as counsel for the JIarshall men
in the slave suit, had been aroused and inspired by that drama. This
speech and Mr. Emmons' influence was a power in bringing about har-
mony and united action all over the State. Seth Lewis, the editor of
the Marshall l^tatesman, reflecting the local sentiment, all through the
Kansas and Nebraska discussion, contended that it was the duty of
citizens to vote for none but anti-slavery men. Charles M. Bordwell
was elected supervisor of Eekford.and Charles D. Holmes of Albion,
in April, 1854, on the anti-Nebraska ticket, and the States7)ian advocated
the union of all anti-slaverj' men in a new party. A mass meeting of
Calhoun citizens met at Marshall. May 30th, 1854, and under the leader-
ship of Erastus Hussey, Hovey K. Clarke, Charles T. Gorham, Nathan
Pierce, George Ingersoll, resolved: "That waiving all previous party's
preferences we are willing to unite and co-operate with all the friends
of freedom, in an eternal war against the extension of slavery in the
United States." It endorsed the nominee of the Jackson convention,
approved the mass meeting of the freemen called to meet at Kalamazoo
on the 21st of June and appointed a committee of three from each town-
ship for the purpose of organizing anti-slavery men. Joseph Warren,
editor of the Detroit Tribune during the Kansas-Nebraska debates in
Congress, like his illustrous namesake, Dr. Joseph Warren, in the
Boston Gazette in yeai-s preceding the war for independence published
editorials of masterly boldness and earnestness to arouse the friends



IirSTOKY OF CALIlOrX COrXTY 75

of freedom to aetion. aiul to unite all the enemies of slaver\- upon one
platform and under one party. The iuHuence of the Detroit Tribune, the
leading state paper of the Whig party cannot be over-estimated, in
moulding public opinion. Other papers in the State republished these
articles and supi)lemented the cause ; meanwhile Horace Greeley, the
master leader of the political movement was urging it on in his mighty
editorials in the Xcw York Tribune and scattering them broadcast
throughout ]\lichigan and other northern states. Zacbariah Chandler,
the Whig candidate for governor in 1852, contributed his Herculean
strength, and traveled all over the State to organize an anti-slavery
party. His intiueuce wrought great results and his political opponents
gave him the sobriquet "of the traveling agent of the new Abolition
party." On the 25th of May, a ringing call was made for a mass meet-
ing of all the citizens opposed to the repeal of the Missouri Compromise,
to meet at Kalamazoo in a mass convention the 21st of June follow-
ing, ilen of all parties met at this convention. Hovey K. Clarke was
again chairman of the connnittee on resolutions and drew the resolutions
adopted. These resolutions denounced the repeal of the Jlissouri Com-
promise and reaffirmed the Free-Soil platform of 1852. They also recom-
mended concentration of the anti-slavery forces, offered to withdraw
the ticket nominated at Jackson and surrender their organization, as
means to an end, and authorized the appointment of a committee of
sixteen to carry out this purpose. Ei'astus Hussey was also a member
of the committee of resolutions and a member of the committee of six-
teen to withdraw the ticket.

Mr. Clarke made a telling speech in favor of his resolutions and they
were enthusiastically adopted. The action of this committee under the
leadership of ilarshall men, cleared the way for the union of the Abo-
litionists. Free-Soilers, Wilmot Proviso Democrats, and Anti-slavery
Whigs into one organization. Men of all parties saw the way clear and
went to work in earnest.

A call "inviting all our fellow citizens, without reference to former
political associations, who think that the time has arrived for a union
at the north to prevent liberty from being overthrown and down-trodden,
to assemble in mass convention on Thursday, on the 6th of July next,
at one o'clock P. M." signed by more than ten thousand freemen of the
State had been issued. Charles T. Gorham, Hovey K. Clarke, Erastus
Hussey and over one hundred other Marshall men signed this call and
two hundred citizens of Calhoun Count}' attended this convention. In
the organization of the convention, Charles T. Gorham was vice-presi-
dent, and a member of the committee, to nominate candidates. Erastus
Hussey was a member of the committee on platform. The first Republi-
can platform, denouncing the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, de-
manding the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law, and taking a decisive
stand against the extension of slavery was unanimously adopted. The
committee of the Free-Soil party appointed at Kalamazoo for that pur-
pose withdrew its ticket nominated on the 22nd of Februar.y, and sur-
rendered its organization and the Free-Soil party became immerged
in the Republican party. Thus under the oaks at Jackson was organ-



76 HISTORY OP CALHOUN COUNTY

ized the mighty Republican party*^" and it commenced its immortal
career for liberty and humanity. !\Ir. Gorham rendered most valuable
service on the nominating committee, and especially in bringing forward
the name, and securing the nomination of Kinsley S. Bingham^" for
governor. Mr. Bingham had been a Democratic member of Congress,
and was the only member from this State who had the courage to refuse
to follow the leadership of Gen. Cass and vote for the Wilmot Proviso.
He had been read out of the Democratic party for that reason. This
nomination was most fortunate. Gov. Bingham was a man of rare poise,
and as an organizer, harmonizer and vote-getter and political leader,
he never had a superior in the State. As governor and United States
Senator, the state of Michigan can look to him as a model. It had
been expected that Hovey K. Clarke would be the nominee for attorney
general, but the nominating committee concluded, that the name of
Jacob M. Howard, 8' a former member of Congress, would draw more'
votes from the Whig party, and as that party had not yet announced
its course, he was nominated with the hearty approval of ilr. Clarke.
The nominating committee had a most delicate and difficult duty to per-
form in reconnnending a ticket, made up of AVilmot Proviso Democrats,
anti-slavery Whigs, Pree-Soilers, and Abolitionists, so as to meet the
approval of all factions. This duty was most faithfully and wisely per-
formed, and the report was unanimously adopted by the convention.
While Michigan was the first state to organize the new anti-slavery
party, the same causes existed elsewhere, and other states quickly fol-
lowed in her footsteps. The ticket thus nominated was elected by a
large ma.jority in November. The success, the influence and history of
the party thus organized is known of all men.

The Calhoun county convention of the Whig party, to nominate dele-
gates to the state Whig convention met at Marshall, September 30th,
1854, and appointed delegates and instructed them to vote against the
nomination of a Whig state ticket. The Whig convention to nominate
state officers met at ^Marshall on the 4th of October. 1854. This con-
vention determined not to nominate a state ticket, endorsed the princi-
ples and policies of the Republican party and issued a stirring address
to the Whigs to unite and work to stop the extension of slavery. This
was the end of the Whig party in Michigan. It completed the fusion
of the anti-slavery men in the State. For earnest patriotism, devoted
to the liberty and union of purpose, these men can only be compared
with the men in the Congress of 1776, and in the Federal Constitutional
Convention of 1787. The resolutions of the Free-Soil conventions at Jack-
son and Kalamazoo were drawn by Hovey K. Clarke and the platform
of the Republican convention was drawn by Jacob il. Howard. The
resolutions and addresses of the Whig convention were drawn l)y James



so See Michigan in Our National Polities, by A. D. P. Van Biiren, Vol. XVII, pp.
254-266, also The Eepubliean Party, a True History of its Birth, by Albert Wil-
liams, Vol. XXVIII, p. 478, this series.

90 See sketch, Vol. XXXV, pp. 475-478, this series.

"1 See sketch. Vol. XXXV, pp. 462-464, this series.



IIISTOin' OF CAI.llOIX COIXTV 77

Van Dyke,'-'- As liold d.n-lai'ation of priiu-iplrs, a.s I'anicst ccnsfrratiuus
to liberty, as patriotic t-alls to duty, as rallying appeals for action, as
assurances of harmony and unity, and as pledges to return to the
Jetfersonian policy of restricting slavery, these papers were master-
pieces. These declarations of principles and policies were published,
ratified and followed throughout the north. They performed the func-
tions of a second declaration of indeiiendence. As the name of Jefferson
is immortalized for penning the Declaration of Independence in 1776, so
should the names of Clarke, Howard, and Van Dyke be immortalized
for penning the second declaration of independence in. 1854.

The Crosswhite case set JIarshall men thinking and aroused their
love of liberty and hatred of slavery. They were the pioneers in the
movement and did much to give JMichigan the honor of organizing the



Online LibraryWashington GardnerHistory of Calhoun county, Michigan : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principle interests (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 74)