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" Henry J. Kaymond 205

" Samuel Shellabarger 207

" Eeverdy Johnson 209

" Henry Wilson 211

" General O. O. Howard 212

" James H. Lane 214

" General Philip H. Sheridan 216

" Roscoe Conkling 217

" General Darius N. Couch 224

" James Speed 225

" General J. D. Cox 227

" James F. Wilson 229

" Edwin M. Stanton 230

" John A. Bingham 231

" Hamilton Fish 275

R. E. Fenton 298

" James G. Blaine 311

" Oliver P. Morton 336

" Rutherford B. Hayes 340

" William A. Wheeler 341

" Peter Cooper 346

" Thomas W. Ferry 349

" Chester A. Arthur 389

" William H. Robertson 409

" Galusha A. Grow 414

" John A. Logan 442

" Levi P. Morton 467

" Thomas B. Reed 488

" Garret A. Hobart 531

" Mark Hanna . 538



The Wilmot Proviso The Mexican War and the Democracy Atti-
tude of Political Parties in 1848 Free Soil Revolt of the Barn-
burners Compromise Measures of 1850 President Pierce and
the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise of 1820 The Kansas-
Nebraska Bill Complete Triumph of Slavery Despair of the
North Eli Thayer Organization for the Kansas Conflict
Governor Reeder and the Border Ruffians.

HE first foundation stone of the Republican party was a
hurried amendment, offered in the 29th Congress, that
became famous as the Wilmot Proviso. The declaration
that a state of war existed between the United States
and Mexico was approved May 13, 1846, and on the fifth of August,
President Polk sent a special message to Congress, in which
he suggested that " the chief obstacle in securing peace was
the adjustment of a boundary line that would prove satisfactory and
convenient to both Republics." In this message he asked that a
sum of money should be placed at his disposal, to be used at his dis-
cretion, in the adjustment of the term's of peace. As a precedent, the
President cited the example of Mr. Jefferson, who, in 1803, asked
and received a special appropriation from Congress for the acquisi-
tion of Louisiana. After the message was read, Mr. McKay, of
North Carolina, Chairman of the Ways and Means, introduced a
bill into the House directing that two millions of dollars be appro-
priated, to be " applied under the direction of the President to any
extraordinary expenses which may be incurred in our foreign inter-
course." The bill followed the simple phraseology of the Jefferson
act of 1803, word for word. An animated debate followed, in which
Robert C. Winthrop said he " could not and would not vote for this
bill as it now stood. ... It was a vote of unlimited confidence in
an administration in which, he was sorry to say, there was very little
confidence to be placed." As Mr. Winthrop had voted three months
before that war existed by the act of Mexico, Mr. Adams declared
that he now differed from his colleague with a regret equal to that
with which he had differed from him on the bill by which war was de-
clared. He announced his purpose to vote for Mr. McKay's bill in


any form, but suggested that it should expressly specify that the
money was granted for the purpose of negotiating peace with Mexico.
The bill was modified in accordance with Mr. Adams' suggestion,
and seemed on the point of passing through all its stages without
serious opposition.

The opposition to the annexation of Texas in the previous adminis-
tration was due in a great measure to the hostility of the Free States
to the extension of the area of slavery. It was certain that the two
millions of dollars that were demanded by the President would be
used for the acquisition of territory not embraced in the new State of
Texas. Would these acquisitions become Free or Slave States?
Twenty years before, Mexico had completely abolished slavery,
and it was a sound assumption that all the laud that might be ceded
to the United States would come to us as free soil. But in view of
the approaching exigency, Mr. Calhoun had enunciated the dogma
that the Federal Constitution carried slavery into every rood of terri-
tory acquired by the United States from which it was not excluded
by positive law of American enactment. This construction of the
Constitution, if assented to, would inevitably carry slavery into the
extensive territory that it was designed to wrest from Mexico. To
prevent a consummation that would thus add a vast region to the do-
main of the slave power, a hurried conference was held by some of
the Democratic members of Congress from the Free States, which was
participated in by such active Democrats of that period as Hannibal
Hamlin, of Maine; George Rathbun, Martin Grover, and Preston
King, of New York; David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania; Jacob Brincker-
hoff and James J. Faran, of Ohio, and Robert McClelland, of Michigan.
The result of the conference was the famous Proviso proposed by the
young Congressman from Pennsylvania, David Wilmot.

Wilmot was in his first session of his term in Congress. He was
only thirty-three years old, and as yet entirely unknown outside of
the district that had chosen him as its representative. For twelve
years he had been a practicing lawyer at Towanda, where he had ac-
quired a leading position at the bar. He was a young man of power-
ful frame, with a mind that partook of the rugged strength of his
body. His most noteworthy qualities were his strong common sense
and his tenacious courage. He was able, without any claims to bril-
liancy, either as an orator or statesman. As a speaker he was clear,
incisive, and sensible, and convinced rather by his sincerity than his
eloquence. His district had always given Democratic majorities, and
he was himself an intense Democratic partisan. It has been claimed
by a modern writer of Republican antecedents that the Wilmot
Proviso as a restrictive measure was nugatory, because the only


territory to be acquired was New Mexico and California, where
slavery was already prohibited by Mexican law; and that it only
served to bring on the slavery agitation, that finally resulted in the
Civil War. This is a very narrow view of a declaration that cleft the
old parties asunder, and that became the watchword of a new party
that was destined to save the Union by destroying slavery. The Wil-
mot Proviso made the name of its author familiar throughout the
length and breadth of the land, and will cause him to be remembered
in history as the foremost champion of the principles that finally tri-
umphed in the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln,
crowned by the surrender at Appomattox.

The gist of the Wilmot Proviso was that neither slavery nor in-
voluntary servitude, except for crime, should ever exist in any terri-
tory acquired by the United States from Mexico. Mr. Wilmot moved
to add this Proviso to the first section of the bill making the two mil-
lion appropriation. It was adopted in Committee of the Whole by 80
ayes to 64 noes, onlv three members from the Free States votine;

i/ O

against the proposition. The bill as amended w r as then reported to
the House, and Mr. Rathbun, of New York, moved the previous
question, but was met by Mr. Tibbatts, of Kentucky, with a motion
that the bill " do lie on the table." It will thus be seen that the
Southern Representatives were willing to defeat the bill in order to
kill the Proviso. This motion was not agreed to by a vote of 93
noes to 79 ayes. Among the Representatives who voted with the
minority w r ere Stephen A. Douglas and John A. McClernand, Demo-
crats, of Illinois, and Robert C. Schenck, Whig, of Ohio. The bill
was then passed w T ith the Proviso in a Democratic House by 85 yeas
to 80 nays, and sent -to the Senate in the last hours of the session.
A motion was made to strike out the Proviso, whereupon Senator
John Davis, W T hig, of Massachusetts, rose in debate, and continued
his speech until the hour fixed for the adjournment. Thus the bill
and the Proviso failed together. Among the conspicuous Whigs in
the House who voted for the Proviso were Washington Hunt, of
New York; Joseph R. Ingersoll and James Pollock, of Pennsylvania;
Robert C. Winthrop, of Massachusetts, and Truman Smith, of Con-
necticut. Among the Democrats were Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine;
Preston King, of New York; John Wentworth, of Illinois; Allen G.
Thurman, of Ohio, and Robert McClelland, of Michigan. Only one
member south of Mason and Dixon's Line, Henry Grider, Whig, of
Kentucky, voted w r ith the majority.

At the next session of Congress the desired appropriation, in-
creased from two to three millions of dollars, was made without the
obnoxious Proviso; but, notwithstanding the cow r ardice of the Whigs,


and the surrender of the Northern Democrats to the demands of the
South, the principle involved in the Wilmot restriction became a
potent factor in the succeeding Congresses and the political con-
ventions. In the 30th Congress, of which Robert C. Winthrop, Whig,
was chosen Speaker by a majority of only one vote, a resolve em-
bodying the substance of the Wilmot Proviso was offered by Harvey
Putnam, of New York, but was laid on the table, on motion of
Richard Brodhead, of Pennsylvania, by 105 yeas to 93 nays. In this
Congress there were two new members, both of whom afterw r ards
became prominent in Republican politics Abraham Lincoln, of Il-
linois, and Horace Greeley, of New York. Neither of them made
any distinct impression upon the country. It is remembered of Lin-
coln, that when it was alleged on the floor of the House that Mexican

aggression had begun on American
soil, he met the allegation by a reso-
lution and a speech, in both of which
he insisted on the designation of the
spot. This word was repeated so
often in Mr. Lincoln's resolution that
he was nicknamed " Spot " Lincoln.
Greeley w r as chosen to fill a vacancy;
he served for only three months, and
was not renominated. It was during
the existence of this Congress that
the war with Mexico was brought to
a successful termination, that the
treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was
concluded and ratified, and that fif-
teen millions of dollars were voted
for the payment of the ceded terri-
tory without a restriction of any kind on the subject of slavery. The
Mexican Government was anxious to obtain a guaranty from the
United States that slavery should not be re-established on soil that
had once belonged to Mexico, but Nicholas T. Trist, the American
Commissioner, answered haughtily that if the territory about to be
ceded " were increased tenfold in value, and, in addition to that,
covered a foot thick with pure gold, on the single condition that
slavery should be forever excluded, he would not entertain the offer
for a moment, nor even think of sending it to the government. No
American President would dare to submit such treaty to the Senate."
The Mexican war, from its inception to its close, was a crusade in
behalf of slavery. The Democratic party had precipitated the war.
but gained no political strength through its successful conclusion.



With the exception of General Zachary Taylor, who conducted a vic-
torious campaign at the beginning of the struggle, but was checked
and his army crippled by orders from the government at Washing-
ton after the battle of Bueua Vista, and of General Winfield Scott,
whose brilliant campaign from Vera Cruz to the city of Mexico
was supplemented by a quarrel with the Secretary of War and orders
to turn over the army to General William O. Butler, a political
general, all the prominent military*- leaders were active Democrats
in their respective States. The Major-Generals were William O. But-
ler, John A. Quitman, and Gideon J. Pillow, and the Brigadier-Gen-
erals were Joseph Lane, James Shields, Franklin Pierce, George Cad-
walader, Caleb Cushing, Enos D. Hopping, and Sterling Price. Not
one of these had seen service in the field, or had any pretense to mili-
tary fitness. There was not a W'hig
in the list, and even the graduates
of the Military Academy at West
Point were compelled to serve in un-
important subordinate places, or to
seek service through State appoint-
ments in volunteer regiments. In-
deed, the administration went even
further, and sought to send Thomas
H. Benton out to Mexico, with the
rank of Lieutenant-General, to su-
persede Taylor and Scott. A bill to
enable this to be done was actually
adopted in the House, and was only
stopped in the Senate by a con-
vincing speech of Mr. Badger of
North Carolina. Colonel Benton himself was heartily in favor of
his appointment to the supreme command, and, notwithstanding
his recognized unfitness for the position, he seriously believed to
the end of his life that a mistake had been made in the failure
of the Senate to gratify his ambition. He declared in the auto-
biography prefixed to his " Thirty Years' View " that his appoint-
ment as Lieutenant-General over Scott and Taylor " could not have
wounded professional honor," as at the time of his retirement from
the army after the war of 1812, he ranked all those who had since
reached its head. The effort at making a Democratic hero out of the
war was a failure, and not only was President Polk disposed of as an
available candidate for re-election, but Taylor's popularity gave him
a strength so irresistible that it brought him the Whig nomination
for the Presidency in 1848, to the chagrin and mortification of Mr.



Clay, and the fierce indignation of Mr. Webster, who resented the
selection as a nomination rt unfit to be made." Taylor was placed be-
fore the people simply on his record as a soldier, unhampered by poli-
tical declarations, and after a " Stars and Stripes " canvass, he was
elected by a plurality over Cass and Van Buren that was almost a
popular majority, as well as by an overwhelming majority in the
Electoral College.

Although the Whigs at the outset had accepted the doctrine of
the Wilmot Proviso with avidity, it was not long until the Whig-
managers foresaw that if it was persisted in it would give almost the
entire South to the Democrats. On the other hand, a pro-slavery
policy would rend the Whig party throughout the North. In conse-
quence a non-committal plan was adopted as the only safe one. Ac-
cordingly, no resolutions formulating distinct principles w r ere adopt-
ed by the Whig convention at Philadelphia that nominated General
Taylor for the Presidency, and repeated efforts to interpose a resolu-
tion affirming the principles of the Wilmot Proviso were met by suc-
cessful motions to lay on the table. This pacified the majority of the
Whig party at the time as an unavoidable expedient, but there were
many " Conscience Whigs " in New York, New England, and Ohio,
who had pronounced views on the subject of slavery, and refused to
support the candidate. In Massachusetts the revolt was led by Henry
Wilson, E. Kockwood Hoar, and Charles Francis Adams. In New
York a defection was avoided only through the activity of Mr. Seward.
In Ohio the discontent was almost as pronounced as in Massachusetts.
This defection in the Whig party only failed to be disastrous because
of the revolt of the Free Soil element in the Democratic party under
the leadership of Van Buren. For a number of years the Democrats
of New York had been divided into two factions, which bore respect-
ively the name of Hunkers and Barnburners. The Hunkers, under
the leadership of Mr. Marcy, President Polk's Secretary of War, were
pro-slavery Democrats. The Barnburners, with Silas Wright as their
leader, were Free Soilers. Each faction sent a delegation to the
Democratic National Convention at Baltimore. The Convention ad-
mitted both delegations, but the Barnburners declined to compromise
a principle, and retired. Returning to New York, a great meeting was
held in the City Hall Park, at which the cowardice of Northern Sena-
tors, W'ho had voted with the South, was vigorously denounced and
strenuously condemned. The delegates issued an address, written by
Samuel J. Tilden, calling Democrats to independent action, and a
convention was called to meet at Utica on the 22d of June, at which
Van Buren was nominated as the Free Soil candidate. He accepted
the nomination, but w r as distrusted by the " Conscience Whigs," who


pretended to doubt his sincerity; and many of them refused to support
him, although his nomination was supplemented by that of a later
convention of the Free Soil element, held at Buffalo on the 9th of
August. The declaration of principles by the Buffalo Convention
was, after the Wilmot Proviso, the most explicit fulmination against
slavery extension that had been made up to that time. It may be
justly regarded as the second foundation stone of the Republican
party. Among those who participated in this convention were Joshua
R. Giddings, the famous Abolitionist; Salmon P. Chase, and Charles
Francis Adams. The real objects of the Barnburners were to be re-
venged upon Cass, the Democratic candidate for the Presidency, and
to wrest the political control of New York from the Hunkers. This
accomplished, many of them were willing to forget their anti-slavery
professions, and reunite with the old party in its pro-slavery crusade.
Among these were C. C. Cambreling, Dean Richmond, John Van
Buren, Sanford E. Church, and Samuel J. Tilden. Among those who
were sincere, and adhered in later years to the principles the/ pro-
fessed, the most prominent were Preston King and James W. Wads-

The election of General Taylor and the discovery of gold in Cali-
fornia were almost simultaneous. It must be confessed that the latter
event had greater effect upon the slavery agitation than the former.
The pro-slavery leaders had counted upon a large increase in slave
territory by the acquisitions from Mexico. It was their intention to
consecrate to slavery by positive legislation the vast domain between
Texas and the Pacific Ocean. This was prevented by the unexpected
emigration to California after this important discovery. In less than
a year the Pacific slope was filled with a hearty, resolute population,
and California asked for admittance into the Union as a State, with
slavery forever prohibited in the newly organized Commonwealth.
Contrary to the expectation of the South and the Southern leaders,
President Taylor, in a special message to Congress early in 1850. rec-
ommended that the new State, with its anti-slavery constitution,
should be promptly admitted. Congress was not disposed to regard
any plan of the administration with favor, while the slave power was
determined to obtain a part of the newly acquired territory. Repeat-
ed efforts were made to cut off from California the territory south of
36 degrees 30 minutes, but finally the opposition was overcome, and
the entire area was admitted as a Free State. The bill organizing
New Mexico as a territory was passed two days later. The questions
for adjustment that engaged the attention of the 31st Congress in-
cluded the Texas boundary, and the payment to that State of ten
millions of dollars indemnity for the loss of territory to which it laid



claim ; but a measure that gave greater offense at the North than even
the extension of slave territory was the obnoxious Fugitive Slave
Law, which was made a part of the Compromise of 1850. If President
Taylor had lived, it is believed the offensive measures, to which Mr.
Clay gave the last services of his distinguished career, would have
been defeated, whereas the accession of Vice-President Fillmore, upon
the death of the President, opened the way for the success of the plan
of Compromise. It had been known long before President Taylor's
death that Mr. Fillmore was not in sympathy with the policy of the
administration. This was all the more surprising because Fillmore
was among the most pronounced of anti-slavery Whigs during his ser-
vice in Congress, and had been placed on the ticket with General
Taylor in 1848, because it was believed that his nomination would

hold to their allegiance a large class
of Whigs who resented the candida-
ture of a Louisiana slaveholder. In
these expectations the Whigs were
disappointed, the "Conscience
Whigs " most of all. Mr. Fillmore
gave the full influence of his adminis-
tration to the Compromise of 1850,
and signed in detail the measures that
were considered as a final and com-
plete adjustment of the slavery ques-
tion. This finality proved to be illu-
sory, but it marked the close of a stir-
ring epoch in American history, that
was to be followed by another even
more stirring, not to say revolution-
ary. With the close of this epoch

most of the men that had made it memorable passed off the stage.
Calhoun had died early in the year. Clay and Webster had finished
their life w r ork, and soon were laid to rest the one at Ashland in
Kentucky, and the other at Marshfield, in Massachusetts. Benton,
too, had finished his career of thirty years in the Senate from the
Compromise of 1820 to the Compromise of 1850. New men were to
take their places in guiding the policy of the Republic, among whom
William H. Seward, an anti-slavery Whig; Salmon P. Chase, a Free
Soiler of Democratic affiliations; Jefferson Davis, an ultra Southern
Democrat; and Stephen A. Douglas, a Northern Democrat, less ultra
but not less dangerous, were the most prominent in the Senate with
Thaddeus Stevens and William Pitt Fessenden as the most earnest,
active, and uncompromising opponents of slavery in the House. These



were the giants of the new era the gladiators who contested in the
arena of American politics during the next decade.

The two National Conventions of 1852, both of which assembled at
Baltimore, declared their adhesion to the Compromise of 1850, includ-
ing the Fugitive Slave law, which was especially named in both plat-
forms. The Convention that nominated General Pierce for the Presi-
dency declared that " the Democratic party will resist all attempts at
renewing in Congress and out of it the agitation of the slavery ques-
tion, under whatever shape or color the attempt may be made."

Notwithstanding that the Democrats were reunited, enthusiastic,
and aggressive, with the Northern Democracy fully accepting the
Compromises as a finality, the Whigs entered upon the Presidential
canvass of 1852 with strong hopes of success. But it was not long until
it became apparent that the party was hopelessly divided on ques-
tions of principle. The Northern Democrats with Southern principles
were willing enough to support their candidate; but a Northern can-
didate on a Southern platform proved unsatisfactory both to the
Whigs of the North and of the South. The result was that the Whig
defeat was overwhelming. General Scott, the Whig candidate, car-
ried only four States Vermont and Massachusetts in the North, and
Kentucky and Tennessee in the South, receiving only 42 electoral
votes to 254 for General Pierce. Notwithstanding his overwhelming
electoral strength Pierce's absolute majority of the popular vote was
only 58,896. He received a total of 1,651,274 votes to 1,386,580 for
Scott, and 155,825 for John P. Hale, the Free Soil candidate. These
figures ought to have shown that the result was by no means con-
clusive, but the Democrats looked forward to a long lease of power.
The slavery question was settled. Both parties were pledged to the
finality of the settlement. The Free Soil vote in none of the States
was great enough to be alarming. The country was prosperous. Both
sections w r ere apparently satisfied with the settlement of the slavery
question, and the new administration opened auspiciously. When
Congress met in December, 1853, President Pierce, in his first annual
message, declared that the Compromise legislation of 1850 had given
renewed vigor to our institutions, and restored a sense of repose and
security to the public mind. This " repose " he said should suffer no
shock during his term, if he had power to avert it. A little more than
one month later, in January, 1854, the repose upon which the Presi-
dent had felicitated himself and the country was seriously disturbed
by an intimation in the Senate from Archibald Dixon, of Kentucky,
who had been chosen to succeed Mr. Clay, that when the bill to organ-
ize the Territory of Nebraska should come before that body he would
move that " the Missouri Compromise be repealed, and that the citi-

Online LibraryGeorge Oberkirsh SeilhamerHistory of the Republican party (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 61)