PARTY POLITICS IN OHIO, 1840-1850
BY EDGAR ALLAN HOLT, B. A., M. A., PH. D.
(Continued from the January, 1929, Quarterly)
THE ELECTION OF 1848 IN OHIO
The clash of sectional and personal interests in
Ohio did not end with the pronouncements of the State
conventions. The bitter anti-southern wing of the Whig
party, encouraged by the lavish praise bestowed on Cor-
win by the Whig State Convention, thought that he
might, after all, become the leader of the Whigs of the
Nation. On the other hand, Corwin had lost the confi-
dence of the Liberty leaders and could not, therefore,
hope to rally all the anti-slavery forces; nor could he
command the support of many moderate Whigs who
favored an energetic prosecution of the War. McLean
hoped to conciliate all these forces, but his "Jacksonism"
and his doubts as to the rights of Congress to abolish
slavery in the territories, prevented what might other-
wise have been unanimous Whig support. The friends
of Scott continued to press his interests in Ohio hoping
to find in him the only available candidate.
The overwhelming movement to nominate Taylor
continued in the face of open defiance from Ohio, a
defiance which grew with the cession of California and
New Mexico by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 261
May, 1848.1 Stevenson, editor of the Cincinnati Atlas,
expressed this sentiment well when he assured J. J.
Crittenden, of Kentucky, manager of the Taylor inter-
ests in that State, that "the Wilmot Proviso is 'stronger
in Ohio than Whiggery, democracy and military glory,
all combined. * * * "2 However, he added that Tay-
lor might carry Ohio if he would assume the "no terri-
tory" ground which Corwin regarded as a sine qua non
of his support. Outside of Cincinnati, where there was
considerable Taylor strength,3 the sentiment against
Taylor seemed overwhelming. When it became evident
that it would become difficult to defeat the Taylor move-
ment in the country at large, Whigs of the Ninth, Tenth,
Eleventh, Twelfth, and Twentieth Ohio Congressional
Districts announced that they would not support anyone
who was not pledged to oppose the extension of slavery
or the cession of further territory, or who was not "a
Whig, a whole Whig and nothing but a Whig."4
Similar action was taken by the Whigs of Trum-
bull, Lorain, Warren, Cuyahoga, Belmont, Lake,
Geauga, Greene, Clinton, and Ashtabula Counties.5
Anti-slavery Whigs took possession of a Clay meeting
in Cincinnati and passed resolutions refusing support to
any candidate who did not favor the exclusion of slavery
from all the territories.6 By March, almost every county
1 McMaster, op. cit., v. VII, pp. 526-527; Erwin H. Price has treated
"The Election of 1848 in Ohio," in Ohio Archaeological and Historical Pub-
lications, v. XXXVI, 1927, pp. 188-311.
2 Stevenson to Crittenden, September 7, 1848, Crittenden MSS., v. XI.
3 N. G. Pendleton to Crittenden, February 10, 1848, Crittenden MSS.,
v. XI; H. E. Spencer to McLean, February 24, 1848, McLean MSS., v.
XIV; Ohio State Journal, February 4, 1848.
4 Ohio State Journal, March 11, April 9, 11, 29, May 9, 1848.
5 Cleveland True Democrat, January 4, 1848.
6 T. C. Smith, op. cit., p. 127.
262 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
in Ohio had declared for Corwin or Clay; Richland and
Summit Counties had declared for Scott; and not one
expressed a preference for Taylor. The Lebanon Star
summarized these events "as a pointed rebuke of the in-
sane attempt of sundry Whigs to thrust a slave-holding
military Chieftain on the Whig party."7 The Hamilton
Intelligencer, edited by William C. Howells, urged the
Whigs to nominate a civilian, instead of a military chief-
tain, in order to make the Mexican War a real issue;8
and the Dayton Journal hastened to assure the leaders
of the State that a Taylor meeting at that place was
poorly attended and did not represent the Whigs of
Montgomery County.9 In the face of a continued de-
mand by Whig leaders of Ohio that Taylor express his
views on Whig principles,10 the General refused to com-
mit himself, simply repeating that he was not a party
man, that he would run even if Clay were the choice of
the National Convention, and that, although he would
accept the nomination of a Whig national Convention,
he would not be bound by pledges.11 This letter writing
left the Whigs of Ohio utterly at sea. Corwin, ready to
support Taylor on the "no territory" issue, privately ex-
pressed the opinion that the General's qualifications con-
sisted in "sleeping forty years in the woods, and culti-
vating moss on the calves of his legs."12 Ohio Whigs
were unqualifiedly opposed to Taylor's candidacy.
7 Lebanon Star, quoted in Ohio State Journal, March 22, 1848.
8 Hamilton Intelligencer, quoted in Ohio State Journal, March 7, 1848,
9 Dayton Journal, quoted in Ohio State Journal, April 5, 1848.
10 Marietta Intelligencer and Toledo Blade, quoted in Ohio State Jour-
nal, February 7, 1848.
11 Montgomery (Alabama) Journal, quoted in Ohio State Journal, April
1, 1848; Richmond (Virginia) Republican, quoted in Cincinnati Daily En-
quirer, May 1, 1848.
12 Stevenson to Clay, May 22, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXV.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 263
The movement for McLean is more difficult to ana-
lyze. The cession of Mexican territory by the treaty,
which ended the Mexican War, scrapped the rather sim-
ple Whig formula of opposition to the extension of
American territory and made it impossible to evade the
question of slavery in the territories. To many Whigs
of Ohio, McLean's view13 that Congress had no right
to deal with slavery in the territories seemed identical
with Cass's doctrine of popular sovereignty.14 Never-
theless, McLean was at least partially successful in keep-
ing the confidence of the extreme anti-southern men,
who hoped to use him as a figure around which the
North might rally against the pretensions of the South.15
The moderate and conservative elements of the Whig
party preferred McLean's position to the extreme prin-
ciples of Corwin. McLean's friends tried to organize
the State. At the Franklin County Whig Convention,
on February 26th, a secret committee was formed, com-
posed of Samuel Galloway, Lorenzo English, Robert
Thompson, J. Kilbourne, William Miner, John Greiner,
C. C. Rose, Demas Adams, A. F. Perry, and John Tees-
dale,16 and the latter toured the State in an effort to
persuade Whig editors to support McLean, although
most of them were already committed to other candi-
dates.17 The failure to secure greater newspaper sup-
port led to the proposal to establish a McLean paper at
13 National Intelligencer, December 22, 1847.
14 McLean to Chase, February 5, 1848, Chase MSS., v. VIII, Pa.
15 Giddings wrote Chase that "The political atmosphere is overspread.
Great events are rapidly transpiring.--My impression now is that Judge
McLean will be the candidate of the Whig party . . . It is true he does
not go as far as we do but I think his election would be a triumph of true
principles." Giddings to Chase, March 6, 1848, Chase MSS., v. V, Pa.
16 Teesdale to Miner, February 26, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XIV.
17 Teesdale to Miner, March 31, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
264 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
Columbus, but James Wilson, of Steubenville, a staunch
supporter of the Judge, thought that such a paper would
not do as much good as three or four "decidedly Whig"
papers.18 Liberty leaders, upon whom McLean counted
for support, disapproved of the proposal to make Tees-
dale the editor of a special McLean paper because the
latter was unpopular among Corwin's followers and en-
tirely too "Whiggish" to be an instrument of reform.19
That the "Xenia Clique" and other followers of Corwin
continued their hostility to McLean was evidenced by
the continued attacks of the Xenia Torch-Light.20 Whig
leaders in other states assured the friends of McLean
that if Ohio would unite on the Judge he would become
the national leader of the party.21 McLean's friends
tried to create the impression in Washington that Clay
could not be elected and that the only hope of success
for the party in 1848 was to unite on McLean.22
The supporters of Corwin, after they perceived that
their favorite could not be nominated, could not agree
as to the best policy to pursue. In a Convention of
Whigs of the Tenth Congressional District (Franklin,
Licking, and Knox), William B. Thrall, editor of the
Ohio State Journal, John A. Lazell, of the State Central
Committee, and James Noble, all friends of Corwin, de-
clared for Scott, although the friends of McLean se-
cured the appointment of Samuel Galloway as one of the
delegates to the Whig National Convention.23 McLean's
18 Wilson to McLean, January 26, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XIV.
19 Hamlin to Chase, May 14, 1848, Chase MSS., v. VI, Pa.
20 --?-- to McLean, March 8, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
21 Miller to McLean, May 7, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV; Smith to
McLean, March 29, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
22 Moorehead to Clay, May 3, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXV.
23 Miner to McLean, May 20, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 265
enemies sought to give the impression in Washington
that Scott would be more acceptable than the Judge, to
Corwin's supporters.24 The enmity of Corwin toward
McLean may be explained by the fact that the latter's
nomination in 1848 would probably defer or make im-
possible the selection of another candidate from Ohio
for several terms, although Greeley claimed that it was
caused by Corwin's fear that McLean would be hostile
to his ambitions.25 But Corwin soon reversed his tac-
tics. On May 19, an editorial in the Lebanon Star
promised to support McLean as a second choice to Cor-
win. Chase regarded the editorial as authoritative be-
cause Corwin was in Lebanon at the time, and Corwin
verified this impression by sending a marked copy of
the editorial to William Miner, with the words, "This
will be the position of the Whigs here."26 The position
of the anti-southern Whigs and of the Liberty leaders,
with reference to the McLean movement, must be ex-
plained further. A letter of Judge Wilson accounts for
much of the opposition to McLean. Wilson wrote that
"Some will have it that you [McLean] voted for Gen-
eral Jackson and opposed the election of Mr. Adams.
Others that you formed a portion of Jackson's Cabinet
--others again, that you were opposed to Clay."27 Since
McLean had been an independent, some National Re-
publicans feared that he would be hostile to their inter-
ests. Webster's friends wanted to know whether Mc-
Lean had any "unfriendly feelings" toward him,28 and
24 Caleb B. Smith to McLean, April 22, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV,
See also J. W. Allen to ? March, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
25 Teesdale to McLean, May 10, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
26 Miner to McLean, May 20, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
27 Wilson to McLean, January 26, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XIV.
28 Smith to McLean, May 1, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
266 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
the protestations of the Cincinnati Daily Gazette, a Mc-
Lean organ, failed to convince the Ohio State Journal
of his Whiggery.29
Although McLean was not anti-southern enough to
be acceptable to Whigs like Tilden and Root of the
Western Reserve,30 the Liberty leaders of Ohio began to
look to him, following the Judge's letter denouncing the
War, as a suitable candidate upon whom all anti-slavery
men could unite, in spite of the fact that the Liberty
party already had a candidate in the field. It will be
remembered that the Ohio Liberty leaders opposed the
nomination of Hale in the hope of being able to take ad-
vantage of schisms in the older parties. This dissolu-
tion of the old parties appeared imminent, and Steven-
son was correct when he wrote Clay that McLean was
trying "to detach Whigs from their party on anti-slav-
ery grounds, and to rope in the Liberty party * * *,
a scheme which contemplates either the withdrawal or
the sacrifice of Hale, and I am sure that Chase and
other leading Abolitionists, here and elsewhere, are in
the plot."31 Hamlin, editor of the Cleveland True Demo-
crat, supported McLean so strongly that Teesdale feared
he would endanger his chances among the moderate
Whigs.32 Corwin, fearing the effect of this Liberty and
Whig alliance on the southern Whigs, urged the Lib-
erty leaders to use discretion in their campaign for Mc-
29 Ohio State Journal, February 8, 1848.
30 Chase to McLean, May 25, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV. The Liberty
leaders, Chase and Hamlin, tried to rid Tilden of this impression before he
left as a delegate to the Whig National Convention; See also Whittlesey
to McLean, May 11, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
31 Stevenson to Clay, April 8, 1818, Clay MSS., v. XXV.
32 Teesdale to McLean, May 12, 1848, and Hamlin to McLean, May 15,
1848, in McLean MSS., v. XV.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 267
Lean;33 and Teesdale, also aware of the fact that the
support of the Liberty party was a "two-edged sword,"
warned against the sharp anti-southern articles which
Chase contributed to the Cincinnati Gazette.34 To the
time of the Whig National Convention, Chase assured
McLean of his support, and Hamlin lent encouragement
from northern Ohio, assuring the Judge that reports
that northern Ohio favored Scott were unfounded.35
Moreover, an additional weight was thrown into the
scales for McLean when Brinkerhoff announced his
support, an example which Chase thought 10,000 Demo-
crats of Ohio would follow.36
Encouraged by the endorsement of the Whig State
Convention, the movement to nominate Corwin gained
force until it became evident that he could secure no sup-
port from other states. Angered at the opposition of
the followers of McLean, the members of the General
Assembly, favorable to Corwin, forced the dismissal of
Teesdale as assistant clerk,37 and launched an ambitious
movement in New York for Clay, in order to neutralize
the movement for Taylor, so that Corwin might finally
be brought forward as a compromise condidate.38 The
Whigs of Ohio gladly would have supported Corwin,
had there been any possibility of securing his nomina-
tion. District and county conventions, all over the State,
instructed their delegates for Ohio's favorite son, with
Clay as a second choice,39 and an Ohio correspondent
33 Miner to McLean, May 20, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
34 Teesdale to McLean, May 8, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
35 Chase to McLean, May 20, 1848, and Hamlin to McLean, June 2,
1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
36 Chase to McLean, May 26, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
37 Wilson to McLean, January 26, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XIV.
38 Mower to McLean, January 29, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XIV.
39 Ohio State Journal, March 4, 6, 11, May 4, 1848.
268 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
of the New York Herald asserted that the demonstra-
tions for McLean and Taylor were merely feints to draw
off the supporters of Clay in order to allow the political
forces of the State to rally behind Corwin.40 Although,
on May 18, the Ohio State Journal declared for Corwin
because "a vast majority of the Whigs of Ohio prefer
him to any other man who has been named," his nomi-
nation was impossible and the important question was
to whom his support should be transferred. Teesdale
believed that the delegates from southern Ohio favored
Clay while those from northern Ohio would vote for
Scott.41 It was generally felt in Washington and in
Ohio that Corwin desired McLean's defeat in order to
improve his own chances for 1852,42 in spite of the fact
that on May 19 he publicly announced in the Lebanon
Star that his adherents would support McLean as a
Scott's strength, chiefly in northern Ohio,43 was
based on the belief that only a military hero could de-
feat Taylor in the National Convention. Follett de-
clared that the Whigs of northern Ohio were willing
to accept Scott simply because he was a northern man,44
and Tilden and Root labored to create enthusiasm for
Scott.45 Scott was endorsed by some district and county
conventions,46 thus making possible his support in the
Whig National Convention.
40 New York Herald, quoted in Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, April 23,
41 Teesdale to McLean, March 6, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XIV.
42 Dowling to McLean, May 1, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
43 Teesdale to McLean, February 28, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XIV;
Whittlesey to McLean, May 11, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
44 Stevenson to Clay, May 18, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXV.
45 Hamlin to Chase, May 20, 1848, Chase MSS., v. VI, Pa.
46 Ohio State Journal, March 3, April 17, 25, May 9, 29, 1848.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 269
Clay's strength in Ohio depended upon the ability of
his friends to create the impression that he could win,
and upon the pledges he might make opposing the ex-
tension of slavery in the territories. Frequent defeats
and the lack of enthusiasm for Clay proved a tremen-
dous handicap. Chase preferred McLean, but an-
nounced he would support Clay if he would "take some
positive anti-slavery ground."47 Chase represented the
position of an anti-slavery leader with strong Demo-
cratic proclivities. Anti-southern leaders among the
Whigs also could support Clay if he opposed the exten-
sion of slavery in the territories. It was confidently ex-
pected that Clay would take this position--indeed, Stev-
enson and Bellamy Storer, of Cincinnati, said as much
in a public meeting in Cincinnati.48 When anti-southern
leaders, both Whig and Liberty, in May, signed a call
for a "People's Convention," in Columbus, Stevenson
urged Clay to make an explicit declaration against the
extension of slavery.49 Clay, sensing the gravity of the
situation, but still intent upon the presidency, asked Cor-
win whether or not he should withdraw, and Corwin
replied that any candidate who thought another person
had a better chance of winning the election should with-
draw; that Clay's Lexington resolutions had not quieted
the Abolitionists; and that, although he could obtain
more votes in Ohio than any other candidate from a
slave-holding state, he could not carry it against any
47 Chase to McLean, February 12, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XIV.
48 Stevenson to Clay, April 8, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXV. Stevenson
thought that Clay could command southern support by taking the legal
position that the law of a territory remained the same when transferred by
49 Stevenson to Clay, May 18, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXV.
270 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
Democrat from a free state.50 That Clay had really
lost the confidence of the anti-slavery leaders was
shown by Hamlin's statement in the Cleveland True
Democrat to the effect that Clay's "heart is not in the
anti-slavery enterprise--he is a slave-holder living in a
slave state, and freedom has nothing to hope from
him."51 Giddings, who had campaigned ardently for
Clay in 1844, now demanded a specific pledge from him
to oppose the further extension of slavery.52
Only for a brief period, in the fall of 1847, did sen-
timent in Ohio seem to favor Clay. This was occa-
sioned by the disgust of the regulars with General Tay-
lor's non-committal letters, and possibly if Clay had
taken strong ground against the extension of slave ter-
ritory at that time he might have obtained the support
of Ohio.53 But Clay refused, and hopes for his nomi-
nation passed so rapidly that his friends, embarrassed
by constant rumors that Clay would not run, insisted
that he give them a statement.54 Clay, still pathetically
interested in the presidency, sounded out the leaders as
to his chances. McLean told him that he should not run
unless there was the highest probability of success.
"Your fame," he wrote Clay, "is of too much value to
yourself and to your country to compromise it, in any
degree, on a hazardous result."55
Desire for the office finally overcame Clay, and, on
April 10, in a public letter, he decided to allow his name
50 Corwin to Clay, May 3, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXV.
51 Corwin to Clay, May 3, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXV.
52 Giddings to Chase, March 16, 1848, Chase MSS., v. V, Pa.
53 Stevenson to Crittenden, September 7, 1848, Crittenden MSS., v. XI.
54 Stevenson to Clay, May 18, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXV.
55 McLean to Clay, March 1, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXV.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 271
to go before the Whig National Convention.56 Clay's
letter announcing his position was really a revelation of
his weakness and of his gullibility,57 and it had a bad
effect on his chances in Ohio.58 although the Ohio State
Journal remarked that, excepting Ohio's favorite son,
Clay was the most popular man in the State and that
his past utterances had shown that he would resist the
extension of slavery in the territories.59 The Cincinnati
Daily Enquirer (D) went to the heart of the whole
matter with the declaration "There is something rich
in the idea advocated by his friends, that the use of his
name is essential to the salvation of the Whig party in
the free states; that he, a southern man, and a slave-
holder, should be, of all others of his class, alone accept-
able to the north!" The Enquirer maintained that the
really important consideration was Clay's attitude on
slavery in the territories.60 The Whigs of Ohio re-
mained cold and Clay's chief adviser in Ohio was forced
to admit in May that it might be wise to withdraw from
the race.61 The attitude of Corwin at this juncture is
difficult to explain. After having assured the friends
of McLean that his followers would support the Judge
as a second choice, he virtually repudiated that statement
and announced that he was urging the Ohio delegates
to vote for Clay first, Webster second, and finally, if a
56 Ohio State Journal, April 14, 1848.
57 James E. Harvey wrote that "It betrays a willingness to believe rep-
resentations that have not even plausibility to recommend them, and a mor-
bid passion for the Presidency which nothing but charity can extenuate.
It is evident that he plays his last card and that desperation guides the ven-
ture." Harvey to McLean, April 27, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
58 Teesdale to McLean, April 15, 1848, and Leavitt to McLean, May 3,
1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
59 Ohio State Journal, April 14, 1848.
60 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, April 13, 1848.
61 Stevenson to Clay, May 18, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXV.
272 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
civilian were not available, to go for Scott.62 John W.
Allen, editor of the Cleveland Herald, summarizing the
situation in the Western Reserve, maintained that "Cor-
win and McLean can (carry) this region with a rush.
Webster would carry it strongly and so would Scott,
unless his nativism of 1845 were fastened on him. It
would be hard work to do anything for Mr. Clay and
death to do anything for old Zack. The delegates from
this region only desire to know who has the most
strength to determine their action. * * * As to the
free States, I think there will be no quarreling after the
nomination. We desire to win and care less who the
servant we employ may be, than that he be honest and
capable and an orthodox Whig."63 In short, the pre-
convention campaign left the Ohio delegation unpledged
on everything except the defeat of Taylor.
Between January and May, 1848, practically all the
Democratic organs and county conventions in. Ohio fa-
vored Cass for president and William Butler, of Ken-
tucky, for vice president.64 But the political situation
was more complex than this apparent unanimity would
indicate. A portion of the old Van Buren-Jacksonian
Democracy was willing to accept the nomination of Cass,
who was understood to be sympathetic with the South.
His enemies labelled him an "arch-dough-face." Both
Medary and Allen had been disappointed by the Polk
Administration, the former by being refused a cabinet
and a consular appointment,65 and the latter by being
defeated in the conduct of relations with England in the
62 Stevenson to Clay, May 22, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXV.
63 Allen to --?--, May 12, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXV.
64 Ohio Statesman, April -- to May 25, 1848.
65 Medary to Allen, January 22, 1848, Allen MSS., v. VI.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 273
"Oregon boundary dispute," and both were willing to
acquiesce in the nomination of Cass. But Medary, al-
though appointed as a delegate, did not attend the Na-
tional Convention. He told Van Buren that he had no
confidence in any of the new leaders, and particularly
not in Cass's advisers, but he explained that he liked
Cass personally and would vote for him if nominated.
Medary claimed that the Democrats of Ohio acquiesced
in the selection of Cass because of the latter's defence
of the American claims in the Oregon question, and
because it was generally believed that the Administra-
tion was opposed to his candidacy. Medary also ob-
jected to making an issue of the Wilmot Proviso be-
cause "There were higher, better, safer and less ob-
noxious grounds to take."66
A small portion of the radical Democracy was unwil-
ling to accept the leadership of Cass, whom they identi-
fied as an ally of the slave power. That they were domi-
nated by a jealousy of southern influence in the govern-
ment, rather than by any moral scruples concerning slav-
ery, was evident from the composition of this faction.
Brinkerhoff, one of the most important, was grievously
disappointed with Polk, who refused to appoint him to
the position of paymaster in the army.67 That he had
no particular sympathy with negroes, was shown by his
desire to prevent them from coming into Ohio, and to
force slave-holders to care for them.68 Benjamin Tap-
pan, who also opposed the nomination of Cass and later
66 Medary to Van Buren, May 5, 1848, Van Buren MSS., v. IV.
67 Polk's Diary, v. I, p. 466.
68 Brinkerhoff to Chase, March 22, 1847, Chase MSS., v. II, Pa.
274 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
joined the Free Soil party,69 continually assured Polk,
in the hope of getting political preferment,70 that his
was the only Democratic paper in Ohio. A third mem-
ber of the Ohio Democracy who belonged to this anti-
southern, rather than an anti-slavery wing, was James
W. Taylor, of the Cincinnati Signal.71 Although a Demo-
crat, Taylor had thrown his influence to the movement
to nominate General Taylor, but he proposed to go over
to the Barnburners, of New York, a radical reform
group under the leadership of Van Buren, if Taylor
should adopt any other position than that of an umpire
on the question of slavery in the territories or if he
should fail to appoint enough northern men to public
office.72 Thus an element of the Democratic party in
Ohio, dissatisfied with the domination of the National
organization by the South, proposed to join a similarly
dissatisfied group from New York. They hoped to
appeal to the voters on the rather abstract question of
slavery in the territories, but only because the extension
of slavery meant an addition to the political power of the
The Democratic National Convention, which met in
69 Ohio State Journal, August 10, 1848. See Tappan-Blair Letters.
70 Polk's Diary, v. I, pp. 38-40.
71 James W. Taylor was born at Penn Yen, Yates County, New York,
in 1818; was admitted to the bar; moved to Ohio in 1841; delegate to the
Constitutional Convention of Ohio 1850-1851; State Librarian of Ohio
1854-1856; appointed by President Grant U. S. Consul to Winnipeg, Can-
ada, where he died April 28, 1893. For biographical sketch see Galbreath,
History of Ohio, vol. 2, p. 62.
72 Taylor ended the letter in which he explained his position to John
Van Buren, a Barnburner leader of New York and son of the ex-President,
with a rather obsequious request for a loan in order to rescue the Signal
from financial ruin. James W. Taylor to John Van Buren, April 18, 1848,
Van Buren MSS. v. LIV.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 275
Baltimore73 May 22, 1848, was a stormy one. The De-
mocracy of New York, already divided into the "Hunk-
ers," or regular Democrats, and the "Barnburners," sent
two sets of delegates.74 The difficulties raised by this
contest may be appreciated from an analysis in the
Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, which thought that the
Barnburners were "disorganizers," who should be
pledged to accept the nominee of the National Conven-
tion. On the other hand, the same paper declared that
if they were excluded from the Convention, because they
would not accept such a pledge, the delegates from Ala-
bama, South Carolina, and Georgia should be excluded,
also, since they were pledged not to accept any man who
would not promise to oppose the restriction of slavery in
the territories.75 The Convention decided to settle the
contest by pledging each faction to abide by the nominee
of the Convention. When the Barnburners declined to
be pledged, the Hunkers were given their seats in the
Convention by action of a committee. A warm debate
followed, in which the Committee report was tabled, and
the Convention voted to hear the claims of each faction.
The Barnburners denied that they were Abolitionists
simply because they had supported a resolution in the
Democratic State Convention of New York to apply the
principles of the Ordinance of 1787 to the new terri-
tories. On the fourth day, the Convention decided to
seat both delegations and give every other state a corre-
sponding increase of representation, but both Hunkers
73 There had been a loud demand among the Democrats of Ohio that
the National Convention should be held in Cincinnati on July 4, but the
proposal fell upon deaf ears in the East. Washington Daily Union, De-
cember 11, 1847, January 24, February 12, 1848.
74 McMaster, op. cit., v. VII, pp. 544-545.
75 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, May 4, 1848.
276 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
and Barnburners declined to accept the compromise and
withdrew from the Convention.76
On the fourth ballot, Lewis Cass was nominated for
president. McGrane, in his biography of William Allen,
gives Allen's account of the part he played in the Con-
vention, as related by Allen himself in 1873. According
to this account, the forces of Cass and Van Buren were
deadlocked, and a committee, composed of the friends
of each, visited Allen at Washington and offered him
the nomination for the sake of party harmony. Allen
refused the nomination and asked the committee to go
back to Baltimore and nominate Cass. To accept the
nomination, according to Allen, would have been an act
of treachery because he had been entrusted with the
management of Cass's campaign.77 Although this is Al-
len's own version of how an apparent deadlock was
broken, it is difficult to understand how Allen could have
played this role between the forces of Cass and Van
Buren when the latter had not even been placed in nom-
ination. McGrane explains Allen's preference for Cass
over Van Buren by Allen's desire to make the most
strategic political move, because Cass had the support
of the Democratic State Convention of Ohio, and be-
cause Allen did not sympathize with the recent anti-
slavery tendencies of Van Buren.78 It appears that sec-
tionalism dominated the anti-southern group in the Na-
tional Convention to a higher degree than it did those
who accepted the choice of the party. Moreover, as
Medary pointed out, Cass represented, to some degree,
the ardent expansionist sentiment of the Northwest
76 McMaster, op. cit., v. VII, pp. 544-545.
77 McGrane, op. cit., pp. 128-131.
78 Ibid., pp. 127-128.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 277
and a hostility to England which always appealed to the
provincialism of the American.79 William O. Butler, of
Kentucky, was nominated for vice president. The usual
Democratic doctrines were endorsed and the Convention
declared that all efforts of Abolitionists and others to
induce Congress to interfere with slavery were danger-
ous and should not be countenanced.80
Cass's nomination was well received in Ohio, al-
though it encountered the opposition of the same ele-
ments that had fought against his endorsement in the
State Convention. Brinkerhoff was on the verge of join-
ing the Free soil movement in Ohio, a movement by
which Chase and the Liberty leaders hoped to obtain the
support of all who were dissatisfied with the actions of
the National Conventions, irrespective of party. Brink-
erhoff wrote to Chase, "I have for some time openly
declared and still do that I will not vote for Cass.
Whether I shall vote at all depends on results. Should
things take such a course as to induce me to believe that
my approval and support of the proceedings of the Con-
vention [People's Convention of anti-slavery elements
at Columbus] to come off on the 20th and 21st, would
be of any use to the Great Cause, I will not be slow in
letting it be known."81 The Cleveland Daily Plain
Dealer greeted Cass's nomination with black type head-
79 Political strategy probably played an even larger share, because, on
May 2, Blair wrote Van Buren that "There is, on the part of Benton and
Allen, a willingness to fight the battle on northern grounds boldly and un-
compromisingly." Francis P. Blair to Van Buren, May 2, 1848, Medary
to Allen, January 22, 1845, Allen MSS., v. VI; Medary to Van Buren, May
5, 1848, Van Buren MSS., v. LIV.
80 McMaster, op. cit., v. VII, p. 546.
84 Brinkerhoff to Chase, May 27, 1848, Chase MSS., v. II, Pa.
82 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, May 26, 1848.
83 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, May 29, 1848.
278 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
lines "The Great West Triumphant," and interpreted
the nomination as a victory of the Northwest over the
South in which the two-thirds rule had been unable
to defeat the will of the people.82 This view was even
more clearly expressed in an editorial which declared
that "The fear of falling again into Southern hands,
and plodding through another administration under
Southern rule, has been gloriously relieved. A man has
been nominated whose birth, education, relations and
associations, are all of the Free States."83 The regular
Democrats hoped to keep the dissatisfied elements of the
State in line by interpreting the nomination as a victory
over southern domination.84 The Ohio Whigs, on the
other hand, considered Cass's selection as a victory for
the South, the Ohio State Journal declaring that "Any
other northern man might possibly show some inde-
pendence, but with Cass they [the South] felt safe."85
Thus both parties viewed the issue as one between the
rights of the North and the domination of the South.
The extension of slave territory was to both parties in
Ohio a symbol of the rule of the "Slave power" in na-
The Whig National Convention met in Philadelphia,
June 5, 1848. That Taylor was the choice of a ma-
jority of the Convention was clear from the beginning.86
The anti-southern wing of the Whigs was anxious to
support McLean, since Chase had pointed out that if a
candidate acceptable to the Liberty men were nomi-
nated, the Whigs would secure the support of the anti-
84 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, May 30, 1848.
85 Ohio State Journal, June 1, 1848.
86 Harlan to Chase, June 2, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXV.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 279
slavery forces of the North.87 The Whigs of New Eng-
land and Indiana were ready to cast their votes for Mc-
Lean if Ohio would lead the way,88 but, although seven
members of the Ohio delegation were ready to support
him, the majority thought that he could not be nomi-
nated, and that, in order to defeat Taylor, it was neces-
sary to support Scott, a northern military man.89 Fully
aware that he had small chance of success, Samuel Gal-
loway, representing the McLean delegates, had pre-
sented the name of the Judge to the Convention and
had promptly withdrawn it.90 McLean's friends in-
sisted that his defeat was due to the division of the
Whigs of Ohio,91 but the Judge was probably defeated
by the wide-spread distrust of his orthodoxy on gen-
eral Whig principles and by the lukewarmness of the
support of the anti-southern groups in Ohio. Ohio gave
one vote to Taylor, McLean and Clay, and twenty votes
to Scott on the first ballot, in spite of the fact that there
was no enthusiasm for the latter in the delegation.92
Ohio continued to support Scott until after the nomi-
nation of Taylor, when ex-Governor Joseph Vance
seconded the motion to make Taylor's selection unani-
mous, and made a plea for unity. Vance acknowledged
that he had opposed the nomination of Taylor largely
because of the fear that his nomination would disor-
87 Chase to McLean, May 25, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
88 Thompson to Corwin, May 15, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXV.
89 Whittlesey to McLean, June 12, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
90 Galloway to McLean, July 14, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV; this
occurrence later led to a misunderstanding between Chase and the Ohio
State Journal, the former maintaining that McLean was not bound by the
decision of the Convention, while the latter asserted the contrary and pub-
lished a letter from Galloway to show that his name was presented. Ohio
State Journal, July 31, 1848.
91 Smith to McLean, June 13, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
92 Stevenson to Clay, August 10, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXVI.
280 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
ganize the Whig party in Ohio.93 The unwillingness of
the Whigs of Ohio to support Clay bitterly disappointed
Horace Greeley who had labored hard to procure the
nomination of the Kentuckian.94 In order to sow the
seeds of discord in the Whig ranks, the Ohio Democrats
sought to prove that Crittenden, apparently an ally
of Clay, was in reality working for Taylor95 and that he
was responsible for Clay's defeat.96
The Convention also brought Corwin's duplicity to
light. It appeared that, although he had assured the
workers of Clay during the pre-convention period that
Ohio was for Clay, he really had used Clay's name to
neutralize the Taylor movement. After that had been
accomplished, Corwin organized a movement in favor
of Scott in order to produce a hopeless confusion in the
political situation in Ohio. His friends on the Western
Reserve planned a meeting of the Whigs in Columbus
to ratify the nomination of the Whig National Conven-
tion if it should be any other person than Taylor. Should
Taylor be the nominee, Corwin's friends hoped that
Corwin would be the choice of the proposed Columbus
Convention. As matters turned out, the Whigs, who
were dissatisfied by the action of the Philadelphia Con-
vention, finally went into the Free Soil movement and
Corwin was left stranded, as far as his own ambitions
No platform was adopted by the Whigs in 1848; but
93 Ohio Slate Journal, June 14, 1848.
94 Greeley to Clay, June 21, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXV.
95 See letters of Vance and Stevenson to Crittenden in Crittenden MSS.
96 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, July 28, 1848.
97 For this very interesting situation see George M. Botts to Clay,
August 23, 1848, and Stevenson to Clay, August 10, 1848, in Clay MSS.,
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 281
it was understood that the party endorsed the principles
of Taylor's letter to J. S. Allison, to the effect that
he was a Whig but not an ultra-Whig; that the veto
should never be used except in cases of violations of
the Constitution or hasty action by Congress; and that
the will of the people on such issues as the tariff, the
currency, and internal improvements should be carried
out by the President.98
The reaction of the Whigs in Ohio to Taylor's nom-
ination was not unexpected. On June 17, in an address
urging support of the nominee of the Convention, the
Whig State Central Committee stressed Taylor's ad-
herence to Whig principles and quoted from his letters
to prove that because he opposed the use of the veto,
he would not defeat an act of Congress extending the
Wilmot Proviso to the new territories."99 The Ohio
State Journal announced that, though it would have pre-
ferred a civilian to a soldier, and a citizen of the North
to a citizen of the South, Taylor was far better than
Cass, who was servile to the slave interests.100 But
Taylor's nomination awakened little enthusiasm among
the "staid, discreet, and ardent Whigs."101 Anti-south-
ern papers all over the State openly repudiated the nom-
ination, the Ashtabula Sentinel, Giddings' organ, as-
serting that "They [the Whigs] will not be likely to
surrender their honor nor their principles for the pur-
pose of sustaining a man whose hands are red with the
blood of innocence and who is in favor of extending the
98 For events of Convention see Ohio State Journal, June 12-13, 1848;
Niles' Register, July 5, 1848.
99 Ohio State Journal, June 17, 1848.
100 Ohio State Journal, June 10, 1848.
101 Ohio State Journal, June 17, 1848.
282 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
cause of slavery upon territory now free and of erecting
new slave markets on soil that is now consecrated to
the rights of man."102 The Elyria Courier denounced
the Whig Central Committee for attempting to "seduce
the Whigs of the State from their principles."103 By
June 21, the following papers refused to support Tay-
lor: the Warren Chronicle, Massillon Telegraph, Ohio
Star, Ashtabula Sentinel, Cleveland True Democrat,
Medina Whig, Painesville Telegraph, Lorain Courier,
and Butler County Whig. The Mt. Vernon Times, Ohio
Repository, Conneaut Reporter, New Lisbon Palladium,
and the Akron Beacon awaited Taylor's statement con-
cerning his attitude on the Wilmot Proviso.104 On the
Western Reserve, where the defection was greatest, the
Whigs of Trumbull and Geauga Counties, refused to
ratify Taylor's nomination.105 The Cleveland True
Democrat repudiated the nomination in violent terms--
"And this is the cup offered by slaveholders for us to
drink. We loathe the sight. We will neither touch,
taste nor handle the unclean thing. We ask the Whigs
of Cuyahoga County to live up to the pledges they have
made."106 Lewis D. Campbell, a Whig member of Con-
gress and a delegate to the National Convention, pub-
licly renounced Taylor at a meeting of Whigs in Ham-
For a time it appeared that the whole Whig party
of Ohio would repudiate the nomination, but as time
102 Ashtabula Sentinel quoted in Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, June
103 Elyria Courier quoted in Ohio State Journal, July 7, 1848.
104 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, June 21. 1848.
105 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, July 7, 1848.
106 Cleveland True Democrat, June 10, 1848.
107 Ohio State Journal, July 26, 1848.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 283
elapsed and it became more evident that the Free Soilers
would endorse Van Buren, the ancient enemy of the
Whigs, for the presidency, the Whigs began to fall in
line behind the party candidate. From the first, a few
papers like the Maumee River Times had hailed the
nomination as the best which could have been made un-
der the circumstances and ended an editorial with the
exclamation, "All hail, then, General Taylor! the Peo-
ple's Candidate, and the People's President."108 "Rough
and Ready Clubs" were formed in Ohio by the Old
Guard of the Whig party, in an effort to exploit Taylor's
well-known traits,109 but the people refused to respond
with the enthusiasm they had shown in 1840. The re-
action of William L. Perkins, a prominent Whig of the
Western Reserve and a delegate to the National Con-
vention, was typical. For two days after the nomina-
tion, he indignantly rejected Taylor and wrote a letter
to that effect to the Ashtabula Sentinel. After closer
examination of Taylor's Allison letter, he changed his
mind and urged the regular Whigs of Ohio to support
Taylor because he was the lesser of two evils. Taylor
had been fairly nominated in a Convention, in which
the Whigs of Ohio had participated, and now, by the
Allison letter he had promised to abide by the wishes
of the representatives of the people. Perkins frankly
admitted that Taylor was the only man who could beat
Cass and that he had been selected because the Whigs
were tired of being beaten. The chief Whig organ of
the State welcomed Perkins's letter as the "dictate of
sound patriotism, enlightened policy, and true philan-
108 Maumee River Times, quoted in Ohio State Journal, June 14, 1848.
109 Ohio State Journal, June 15, 16, 1848.
284 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
thropy."110 Nevertheless, as Perkins explained to Ew-
ing, it was difficult for Whigs who had announced their
opposition, to come to the support of Taylor. Perkins
assured Ewing that if Hale received the Free Soil nomi-
nation, the Whigs would lose Ohio but that if Van
Buren were nominated, it might be possible, with strong
support from southern Ohio, to carry the State for Tay-
lor."111 Corwin, nonplussed at the miscarriage of his
plans for a defection movement headed by the Whigs of
Ohio under his leadership, admitted to William Greene
that if he "could see any future beyond '52 he would
not vote for Taylor," but, as Chase wrote to Sumner,
"Corwin * * * has bent the knee and received the
yoke and goes for Taylor."112 On July 20, Corwin wrote
from Washington urging the support of Taylor on the
ground that he had been fairly nominated and that the
interests of the North were safe in his hands since he
would not veto acts of Congress.113 Although some of
Corwin's followers emphasized the safety to the North
which would result from Taylor's doctrine of Congres-
sional supremacy,"114 others were defiant. In fact Co-
110 Ohio State Journal, July 6, 1848; Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer,
July 19, 1848.
111 Perkins to Ewing, July 24, 1848, Ewing MSS., v. VII.
112 Corwin to Greene, June 15, 1848, quoted in "Selections from the
William Greene Papers, I," in Quarterly Publications of the Historical and
Philosophical Society of Ohio, 1918, v. XIII, No. 1, p. 28; Chase to Sum-
ner, June 20, 1848, quoted in "Selected Letters of Salmon P. Chase, Feb-
ruary 18, 1846, to May 1, 1861," in loc. cit., v. II, p. 138.
113 Ohio State Journal, August 8, 1848.
114 Ohio State Journal, August 9, 1848; The Ohio State Journal an-
nounced that "We are still, as ever, in favor of applying the principle of
the Ordinance of '87, whenever it may be applicable; and herein, if General
Taylor be not with us, he can not be more full against us than his com-
petitor--and we have the assurance that should that principle be applied
by the representatives of the people, it would not meet with a regal 'I forbid'
of General Taylor, as we have the pledge that it will from his competitor."
Ohio State Journal, June 12, 1848.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 285
lumbus Delano actively canvassed the State for Van
Buren until after the State elections in October. He
then publicly declared that he could not support Van
Buren because a vote for him was a vote for Cass, and
that Taylor had given sufficient assurance in the Allison
letters that he would not veto an act of Congress em-
bodying the principles of the Wilmot Proviso, while
Cass had stated that he would veto such an act.115 Peter
Odlin, a delegate to the National Convention, shared
Clay's friends could do little except acquiesce in the
nomination, although Peter Van Trump, of Columbus,
was very indignant, asserting that the Ohio delegation
had betrayed Clay chiefly through the machinations of
Vance."117 But Clay's supporters insisted on more satis-
factory evidence of Taylor's attachment to Whig princi-
ples before they would endorse the General. The reac-
tion of Stevenson was perhaps more typical. He ac-
curately summarized the situation in the declaration that
"Though I have a weak stomach for the fight, on two
grounds I must go for Taylor: first, because having
gone into the Convention, honor binds me to the result;
and second, in any aspect, Taylor is preferable to Cass,
and I can see no means so likely to be effective to destroy
Cass as running Taylor, though I confess I do not feel
intensely confident this will be effective * * *."118
Other Whigs, like Greeley, who fought hard for the
nomination of Clay, felt a delicacy in hoisting the stand-
115 Ohio State Journal, October 27, 28, 1848.
116 Ohio Statesman, August 31, 1848.
117 Van Trump to Clay, July 26, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXVI.
118 Stevenson to Clay, June 19, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXV.
286 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
ard of Taylor at once but later began to support the
nominee of the Convention.119
With the exception of the Liberty portion of Mc-
Lean's strength, his supporters reluctantly ratified the
Whig nomination. Although Galloway abhorred "the
spirit, manner, and motives by which General Taylor
was brought before the public," he thought Cass was
incomparably worse,120 while Teesdale, who had just
bought the Summit County Beacon, agreed to support
Taylor if McLean did not accept the nomination, which,
it was expected, the Free Soilers would offer him.121
McLean dallied with the Free Soilers just long enough
to ascertain that he had no chance of election. He re-
fused to come out openly for either candidate, although
he privately assured an anti-slavery leader that he was
opposed to the extension of slavery and wished that he
might believe "that all who express the same views were
sincere."122 Teesdale then announced his support of
Taylor in the Summit County Beacon on the ground
that he had been honestly nominated.123 William Miner,
another supporter of McLean, favored Taylor because
he wanted to see some removals from office.l24
Although a schism in the Whig party had been re-
vealed in December, 1847, when Giddings and three or
four other Whig members of Congress refused to sup-
port Robert C. Winthrop, the caucus nominee of the
Whigs for the Speakership of the House, because he
119 Greeley to Clay, June 21, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXV.
120 Galloway to McLean, July 14, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
121 Teesdale to McLean, June ?, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV.
122 McLean to Morse, October 26, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XVI.
123 Ohio State Journal, August 5, 1848.
124 Miner to McLean, October 27, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XVI.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 287
was an adherent of the "Slave Power,"125 the anti-south-
ern elements of the major parties were unwilling to join
the third party until after their own national conven-
tions. Until Taylor was nominated, Giddings still had
faith in the anti-slavery character of the Whig party
and refused to join Chase in a call for an anti-slavery
meeting in Columbus in case neither of the old parties
nominated an anti-southern candidate because he felt
that such an action would "impugn" his motives.126 The
same attitude was taken by Brinkerhoff, who refused to
join the third party movement until after the Democratic
National Convention. His position was accurately
stated in his assurance to Chase that he was "willing to
do and sacrifice anything, if the result be certain and
important," but that he was not willing to take part in
a "movement likely to effect nothing but the destruction
of what little influence" he then had.127 In a similar let-
ter Tappan advised Chase not to call a convention of
the people until after the Democratic National Conven-
The nomination of Cass and Taylor completely
alienated the anti-southern elements of both parties, and,
while the anti-slavery Van Buren Democrats of New
York were forming plans which resulted in the nomi-
nation of the ex-President on June 22 at Utica, New
York, by the New York Barnburners,129 a group of
Whigs, dissatisfied by the nomination of Taylor, issued
125 Giddings, Joshua A., History of the Rebellion; Its Authors and
Causes, p. 262.
126 Giddings to Chase, April 7, 1848, Chase MSS., v. II, Pa.
127 Brinkerhoff to Chase, March 28, 1848, Chase MSS., v. II, Pa.
128 Tappan to Chase, April 7, 1848, Chase MSS., v. XII, Pa.; Hamlin
advised Chase to the same effect. Hamlin to Chase, March 18, 1848, Chase
MSS., v. VI, Pa.
129 McMaster, op. cit., v. VII, p. 548.
288 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
a call for a Free Soil National Convention at Buffalo.130
A week before the convention which nominated Taylor,
an appeal had appeared in the Cincinnati Gazette, signed
by three thousand voters, and calling for a Free Terri-
tory Mass Convention at Columbus on June 21. The
call, from the pen of Chase, invited all who opposed the
extension of slavery.131 Tappan, with his Democratic
sympathy for the Barnburners of New York, thought
that the Columbus Convention should be postponed until
after the meeting of the New York Barnburners, in
the hope of strengthening the Free Soil movement by a
coalition with the Barnburners, in case the latter nomi-
nated the proper person.132 Stanley Matthews, a pro-
tege of Chase and a Liberty leader with Democratic
proclivities, also opposed a nomination by the Columbus
People's Convention, and favored the adoption of strong
anti-slavery resolutions, the selection of delegates to the
Free Soil Convention at Buffalo, and an invitation to the
anti-slavery forces in other states to join the move-
ment.133 Hale, the Liberty candidate for president, did
not attend the Columbus Convention for fear of embar-
rassing its operations, but he announced his willingness
to withdraw as a candidate in case there was a chance
to unite all the anti-slavery forces under another
leader.134 The defection movement spread so rapidly
that, six days before the assembling of the People's Con-
vention in Columbus, Chase predicted that if a popular
man were named on the Free Soil ticket he would carry
130 Wilson, Henry, The Slave Power, v. II, p. 142.
131 T. C. Smith, op. cit., p. 129; Ohio State Journal, April 28, 1848.
132 Tappan to Chase, May 29, 1848, Chase MSS., v. XII, Pa.
133 Matthews to Chase, June 12, 1848, Chase MSS., v. XIV.
134 Hale to Chase, June 8, 14, 1848, Chase MSS., v. VI, Pa.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 289
Ohio.135 Conventions of Liberty men met over the State.
endorsed Hale for president and announced their sup-
port of the People's Convention,136 and Chase labored
unceasingly to obtain a large attendance. His efforts
called forth the favorable comment from the Ohio State
Journal that "He is distinguished for his energy and
ambition. As a speaker, he stands at the head of the
Free Territory interests in Ohio, and is looked upon as
the champion of its reason, and the leader of its argu-
The People's Convention met at Columbus, June 21,
with more than a thousand delegates present. Signifi-
cant of the willingness of the Liberty leaders to defer
to anti-southern Whigs and Democrats was the fact that
the president, Nicholas Sawyer, of Cincinnati, was a
Democrat, and the chief officers were either Whigs or
Democrats. At the suggestion of John C. Vaughan,
(Whig Free Soiler) the meeting recommended the hold-
ing of a Free Soil National Convention, at Buffalo, in
August. After addresses by Chase, Lewis and Birney
and the reading of a sympathetic letter from Giddings,
the Convention adopted strong anti-slavery resolu-
tions.138 Many of the leaders in the Free Soil movement
also were aware of the great popular demand for other
reforms along economic and political lines. Hamlin
wrote to Chase urging that, although the Free Soil
movement should not adopt free trade and direct taxa-
135 Chase to Hale, June 15, 1848, quoted in "Selected Letters of Salmon
P. Chase, III, February 18, 1846 to May 1, 1861," in loc. cit., v. II, p.
135. (House Documents, v 104.)
136 Matthews, Garretson and others to Liberty Convention of Columbus,
June 17, 1848, Chase MSS., v. XIV.
137 Ohio State Journal, July 25, 1848.
138 T. C. Smith, op. cit., p. 130.
290 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
tion at once for fear of giving too much of a "shock" to
the established order, it should endorse a tariff for reve-
nue so graduated as to protect all interests, and "hold
out the right hand of fellowship to all nations of the
earth for entering into a liberal system of free trade."
Hamlin also advocated such democratic principles as a
state convention to form a new constitution,"139 the elimi-
nation of small notes from circulation and the infusion
of a specie currency, legal reform, exemption of home-
steads from taxation, the advancement and improve-
ment of free schools, repeal of the Black Laws, and a
limitation of the extent to which the State could go into
debt.140 Although these principles were not incorporated
in the platform of the Columbus Convention, they were
approved in a perfunctory manner by another state con-
vention of the Free Soil party in December, 1848.141
The new movement spread so rapidly that by July
the National Era declared that it did not have room to
publish even brief notices of Free Soil meetings in Ohio
and that it seemed as if the old party organizations were
disintegrating.142 On the day following the Columbus
Convention, the Barnburners met at Utica with dele-
gates present from Ohio, Illinois, Connecticut, Wiscon-
sin and New York, and nominated Van Buren for presi-
dent. J. W. Taylor, of Cincinnati Signal fame, was
present to lend encouragement from the Democratic
bolters of Ohio.143
Van Buren's letter of acceptance astounded the regu-
139 See Chapter VII.
140 Hamlin to Chase, May 14, 1848, Chase MSS., v. VI, Pa.
141 See Chapter VII.
142 T. C. Smith, op. cit., p. 130,
143 Ibid., p. 125.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 291
lar Democrats of Ohio, the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer
declaring that "Mr. Van Buren has wedded himself to
the one idea and wrecked his great reputation as a com-
prehensive statesman in the whirling vortex of a paltry
faction";144 while the Plain Dealer thought that "Ambi-
tion, either for himself, his son, or his family name; evil
counsels listened to in his retirement, from that whis-
pering gallery where envy holds her court; the poig-
nancy that invariably results from political defeat;
either one or all these causes tell the true interpretation
of this estrangement."145 Although Edward M. Shep-
ard, Van Buren's biographer, acquits his subject of un-
due desire for revenge, he admits that the use of Polk's
administration of the patronage to defeat the Barnburn-
ers in state politics may have influenced Van Buren's
decision to lead a defection movement in the Democratic
party, in spite of a former pledge that he would never
head such a movement.146 Although the regular Demo-
crats of Ohio professed sympathy with the principles of
the Barnburners, they asserted that this local quarrel
should not be allowed to extend beyond New York.147
The attitude of the regular Democrats of Ohio in oppos-
ing Van Buren was dictated by their appreciation of the
growing power of the West and by their belief that the
success of Cass would bring an end to southern dictation
in national affairs. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) de-
clared that southern influence had been predominant
even in the North. "The prominent politicians of both
144 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, June 29, 1848.
145 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, June 27, 1848.
146 Edward M. Shepard, Martin Van Buren, (American Statesman
Series, ed. by John T. Morse), pp. 340-370.
147 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, June 2, 1848; See also Washington Daily
Union, June 7, 1848; Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, July 12, 1848.
292 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
parties," this Democratic paper asserted, "to even be
trusted by their constituents of the slave states--had
to proscribe anything like anti-slavery sentiments in
their bosoms, as well as utterly to profess, utterly to ab-
hor any political doctrine that had the least kinship to
the unclean thing. That southern influence was in fact
a despotism."148 The regular Democrats thus appealed
to the voters to support a man from the free states who
had a chance of election and who would have their in-
terests in view rather than a slaveholder from a slave
The question now arose as to whether the Liberty
men would cooperate with the more powerful Free Soil
movement to the extent of deserting Hale. Many of
them felt that such a union would endanger their aboli-
tion doctrines,150 but a powerful impetus toward concilia-
tion was given by the National Era and the Cincinnati
Herald. A Liberty Convention, held at Columbus on the
same day as the People's Convention, endorsed the Buf-
falo meeting but resolved not to support any one who
would not favor Liberty principles.151 From June to
August, "Free Territory" and Liberty conventions co-
operated in the union movement to the extent of electing
delegates to the Buffalo meeting.152 The strategy of the
148 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, July 18, 1848.
149 Ohio State Journal, June 29, 1848; Ohio Statesman, June to October,
150 George Bradburn, of Cleveland, who thought the Liberty Convention
of 1847 "Taylorized" by nominating Hale, declared that McLean was the
"judicial lyncher" of Van Zandt. Bradburn to Chase, June 25, 1848, Chase
MSS., v. XIV.
151 T. C. Smith, op. cit., pp. 132-134.
152 Ohio State Journal, July 8, 1848; The disaffected Whigs of Massa-
chusetts held a convention on June 28, to protest against the nomination of
Taylor. Lewis D. Campbell and Giddings represented Ohio in this meeting
where Charles Sumner and Charles Francis Adams renounced the Whig
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 293
anti-southern leaders was to merge the Barnburners
with the Liberty men, and the discontented elements of
the two major parties. The anti-slavery leaders of Ohio
were anxious to have McLean chosen by the Free Soil
party at its Buffalo Convention and to that end negotia-
tions were carried on between him and the Free Soil
leaders.153 But the Judge doubted the expediency of al-
lowing his name to be used. To all proposals to use his
name as a vice presidential candidate he returned a de-
cided negative,154 although it was hinted that he would
be given the nomination for president in 1852.155 On
August 2, McLean informed Chase that in order to pre-
serve his "judicial character from reproach of any kind"
he should not accept the nomination, but two days later
he disclosed that he "might not refuse the nomination"
if there should be a "general upheaving" in his favor.156
Promises from Washington that he would be made the
standard-bearer of the Whig party in 1852, if he main-
tained his position of neutrality,157 probably did more
party. It was purposely held after the Columbus Convention in order to
take advantage of any move which the Ohio malcontents might make.
Sumner was anxious that McLean should be made the leader of the new
movement since they had lost faith in Corwin. Sumner denounced the
nomination of Taylor as the consummation of a conspiracy between the
"lords of the lash and the lords of the loom," and appealed to the dis-
contented of both parties to join the new movement declaring that the
issues of the tariff, internal improvements, and banks were "obsolete ideas."
Giddings announced his support of Van Buren with the declaration that he
could carry Ohio by a majority of 20,000. Sumner's Works, v. II, pp.
226-240; Sumner to Chase, June 12, 1848, Chase MSS., v. XIV; Ohio State
Journal, July 6, 1848.
153 Giddings to McLean, July 13, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XV; Thomas
Bolton, Edward Wade, E. S. Hamlin and others to McLean, July 12,
1848, McLean MSS., v. XV; Sumner to McLean, July 31, 1848, McLean
MSS., v. XVI.
154 McLean to Denny, July 31, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XVI.
155 Sumner to Chase, July 7, 1848, Chase MSS., v. XIV.
156 McLean to Chase, August 2, 1848, Chase MSS., v. VIII, Pa.
157 Whittlesey to McLean, July 24, 1848 and J. W. Allen to McLean,
June 24, 1848, in McLean MSS., v. XV.
294 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
than anything else to prevent McLean from actively can-
vassing for the Free Soil nomination. Although Chase
would support McLean for president and John Van
Buren for vice president, he thought that the father of
the latter should be made the presidential candidate with
the Judge occupying second place on the ticket, because
of the moral effect of having representatives of the two
major political parties standing together on the slavery
question.158 As a matter of fact, McLean had no chance
to secure the nomination because the Barnburners, by far
the largest element in the new movement, insisted on the
primacy of Van Buren, and some of the Liberty leaders
were suspicious of McLean's adherence to Liberty prin-
ciples. No "general upheaving" took place and in
August McLean virtually allied himself with Taylor by
publishing a letter to a Whig committee announcing his
refusal of the Free Soil nomination, and asserting that,
without the sanction of law, slavery could not exist in
the territories and that the territorial legislature of a
territory could exercise no power not conferred on it by
act of Congress.159
The Free Soil National Convention was composed of
anti-southern Whigs, Free Soil Democrats, Liberty Men
and the New York Barnburners, the last two elements
being the largest. It was understood from the begin-
ning that the struggle for the nomination would come
Whigs. By a compromise, the Barnburners secured
though Giddings had the support of the anti-southern
158 Chase to McLean, August 2, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XVI; Samuel
J. Tilden assured Chase that the Barnburners of New York were favor-
able to McLean's candidacy for vice president; Tilden to Chase, July 29,
1848, Chase MSS., v. XV.
159 Ohio State Journal, August 21, 1848.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 295
Whigs. By a compromise, the Barnsburners secured
the nomination of Van Buren while they accepted the
anti-slavery principles of the Liberty party. The liberal
nature of other features of the platform showed a desire
to appeal to a variety of elements demanding economic
and political reform. This part of the party program
formed no part of Liberty principles, although a few
men like Hamlin and Chase favored them. The Free
Soil party demanded cheap postage, retrenchment in
governmental expenses and the abolition of unnecessary
offices, the election of public officers by popular vote, a
system of internal improvements, a Homestead Law,
early payment of the public debt, and a tariff for reve-
nue. In a comprehensive and catching phrase, the new
party advocated "Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor,
and Free Men." The Convention then selected Charles
Frances Adams, of Massachusetts, as Van Buren's run-
ning mate.160 Van Buren was denounced by the regular
Democrats of Ohio as a traitor to the party and he was
sharply reminded of a former statement that he would
never lead a defection movement. Moreover, it was
pointed out that the platform was silent about slavery
in the District of Columbia, possibly because Van Buren
had declared in 1836 that he would veto such a bill.161
The Ohio State Journal, in an effort to detach the Lib-
erty party and the anti-southern Whigs from the new
movement declared Van Buren's selection was a victory
for the Barnburners, who merely adopted Free Soil prin-
160 For details of the Convention, see T. C. Smith, op. cit., pp. 138-143;
Chase described the Convention as an enthusiastic gathering of 20,000 dele-
gates and asserted that McLean could have had the nomination. Chase
to McLean, August 12, 1848, Chase MSS., v. XVI.
161 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, August 20, 1848.
296 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
ciples for convenience,162 and concluded that "We cannot
forsake our long-tried and cherished party associations
to mingle with the ringed, streaked, and speckled of the
Jacobs of Buffalo. * * *"163
The Free Soil movement, as a practical party in
Ohio, was composed largely of anti-southern Whigs
with conservative tendencies. But the addition of more
liberal-minded Whigs, like Hamlin, and radical Demo-
crats, like Norton S. Townshend of Lorain County, pro-
vided a leadership for the party which impelled it to ac-
cept more democratic principles. Moreover, the conserv-
ative anti-southern Whigs, finding themselves abused by
the regular Whigs, were inclined to accept the doctrine
of their new allies more readily. That the Free Soil
party of Ohio also attracted the support of the poorer
classes, interested in political and economic reform, was
evidenced by the character of the audiences which lis-
tened to Whig and Free Soil orators.164 Moreover, many
Free Soil leaders of northern Ohio belonged to the
"Land Reform Association," of Cleveland, a branch of
the National Reform Association, which opposed all spe-
cial privileges and particularly land monopolies.165
George W. Allen, a candidate of the Free Soil party for
Congress from the Tenth Congressional District, is-
sued an address to the people which was wholly de-
voted to plans for the distribution of government land
among the poor. Allen's address, breathing a spirit of
162 Ohio State Journal, August 12, 1848.
163 Ibid., August 9, 1848.
164 Briggs to Chase, September 15, 1848, Chase MSS., v. XV.
165 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, May 16, 1848. This branch numbered
such members as B. Mahan of Oberlin, Joel Tiffany of Elyria, Norton S.
Townshend of Elyria, Darius Lyman of Ravenna, Enos P. Brainerd of
Ravenna, J. L. Ranney of Ravenna, and George S. Marshall of Cleveland.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 297
social revolt, directed the attention of the new party
to the danger of land monopolies rather than to the
wrongs of negro slavery.166
This tendency of the Free Soil party toward radi-
calism compelled the Democratic party to become more
liberal in its pretensions, in order to hold the believers
in Jacksonian democracy. Weller, the Democratic can-
didate for governor, approved the policy of the Na-
tional Reform Association for the distribution of land,
but Ford, the Whig, refused to reply to their interro-
gations.167 A Democratic candidate for the General
Assembly, from Cuyahoga County, found it advisable
to make strong appeals for the labor vote, declaring
his opposition to "exclusive moneyed monopolies," and
claiming membership with the "workers."168 In order
to counteract the new radicalism, the Whigs became
more conservative and appealed for support as the de-
fenders of the Constitution, the established institutions
and the traditions of society. After all, this was the
logical role for them to assume since the more liberal
portion of the Whig party as well as its anti-southern
wing were now in the ranks of the third party which
supported the "radical" doctrines of the Van Buren
democracy. It should be said, however, that the Free
Soil party, as a party, was careful not to assume too
advanced a position on these matters of reform, in
order not to antagonize those anti-southern Whigs and
Democrats who had joined the new movement.
It was evident from the beginning of the campaign
line against the inducements of the Free Soilers. Prac-
166 Ohio State Journal, July 29, 1848.
167 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, October 7, 10, 1848.
168 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, September 19, 1848.
298 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
tically all political observers agreed that the Whigs
would lose far more votes by the nomination of Taylor,
that the fortunes of Cass and Taylor in Ohio depended
on the ability of the party leaders to hold the voters in
who was a southerner and had not been approved by
the Whig State Convention, than the Democrats would
lose by the nomination of Cass, who was a northern
man and had been approved by the Democratic State
Convention. Open defiance of Taylor marked the at-
titude of many Ohio Whigs even after the nomination.
The support of Cass by the masses of the voters of his
party was secured by the strong stand of Medary, Val-
landigham and Allen, who were able to rally most of
the old Jacksonian Democrats to his support. But there
was little enthusiasm behind their efforts, and some
Democrats joined the Free Soil movement, partly as a
result of natural interests and personal jealousies; partly
because of their opposition to the further extension of
slavery; and partly because of the influence of the
nomination of Van Buren, their former leader.
Among those Democrats who supported the third
party were the ubiquitous James W. Taylor, of the Cin-
cinnati Signal;169 George M. Swan, of Columbus;170 sev-
eral Democratic leaders of Dayton;171 Jacob Brinker-
hoff, of Richland County, still suspicious of his newly-
found allies;172 Charles Cist, of Cincinnati;173 and ex-
169 James W. Taylor came from New York to Ohio in 1841; edited the
Cincinnati Signal; moved to Sandusky, Ohio and edited the Democratic
170 Ewing to Van Buren; October 17, 1848, Van Buren MSS., v. LVI.
171 Jewett to Chase, October 6, 1848, Van Buren MSS., v. XV.
172 Brinkerhoff to Chase, October 18, 1848, and Hamlin to Chase, August
1, 1848, in Chase MSS., Vols. II, VI, Pa. Hamlin wrote Chase in regard
to Brinkerhoff: "Strange combination! It is only a little while since I
was making poetry on him for speaking one way and voting another. But
he is fully straight now and will practice what he preaches."
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 299
United States Senator Benjamin Tappan. The latter's
course was determined to a large extent by personal con-
siderations. Replacing Thomas Morris in the United
States Senate, in 1839, because the latter was too zealous
in the defense of abolition petitions, Tappan had de-
clared in the Senate that "Whether slavery shall be abol-
ished in the District of Columbia or not, belongs not to
them to say; much less does it belong to the women of
Ohio to agitate questions of public policy, which their
own State Government has often declared it wrong in
her citizens to meddle with."174 In 1844, the Whigs con-
trolled the General Assembly and Thomas Corwin had
replaced Tappan in the United States Senate, but not
until the latter had voted in favor of the annexation of
Texas. Three and one-half years after the passage of
the resolutions to annex Texas, during which time he
not only supported the Polk administration175 but urged
Polk to run again in 1848,176 Tappan, in July, 1848, pub-
lished a letter in the New York Evening Post explain-
ing his vote on Texas annexation and questioning the
good faith of the President in that incident. Tappan
now joined the movement to nominate Van Buren on
the Free Soil ticket. He explained his apparent incon-
sistency by asserting that he and three other senators
had supported the joint resolution for the annexation
of Texas, permitting the President to negotiate with
Mexico, only after they had received assurance from
Polk through Senator Haywood, of North Carolina, that
he would choose the method of negotiation with Mex-
173 Flamen Ball to Chase, August 18, 1848, Chase MSS., v. I, Pa.
174 Cong. Globe, 26th Cong., 1st Sess., v. VIII, No. II, pp. 161-162.
175 Johnson to Polk, October 6, 1848, Polk MSS., v. LXXVII.
176 Polk's Diary, v. IV, pp. 38-40.
300 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
ico. A letter from Francis P. Blair to Tappan, also
published in the Post, corroborated Tappan's state-
ment.177 Benton seemed to have been under the same
impression.178 Polk and all his Cabinet denied the ex-
istence of such a promise,179 and Blair's story loses force
when it is remembered that he and Polk were bitterly
hostile at the time over the control of the Administration
organ.180 After three years of the closest friendship
with the Administration, Tappan proposed to join the
Free Soil party and to strike a blow at the "slave power"
which had "plotted" the annexation of Texas.
The Democratic leaders in Ohio made strenuous
efforts to prevent a defection from their ranks in 1848.
They found the voters absolutely opposed to the ex-
tension of slavery. While local Democratic conventions
adopted resolutions repeating the slavery clause of the
platform drawn up by the last Democratic State Con-
vention, and opposing the further extension of slavery,
they discouraged joining a "bolting movement" based on
this principle alone.181 In order to convince the Demo-
crats that the election of Cass would not mean the fur-
ther extension of slavery, Senator Allen, whose seat in
the Senate was at stake, brought his great influence to
bear in an effort to secure support for the man whom
he and his supporters had formerly opposed.182 Allen
emphasized that the campaign between Taylor and Cass
177 Tappan and Blair letters in Ohio State Journal, August 10, 1848.
178 Benton, Thomas H., Thirty Years' View, v. II, pp. 635-638.
179 Polk's Diary, v. IV, pp. 46-47; Buchanan to Polk, November 9, 1848;
Johnson to Polk, October 6, 1848; Walker to Polk, November 6, 1848;
Bancroft to Polk, October 13, 1848; all in Polk MSS., v. LXXVII.
l80 Polk's Diary, v. I, pp. 87-357.
181 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, September 14, 18, 1848; Ohio States-
man, August 17, 21, 1848.
182 Washington Dailv Union. June 22, 1848; McGrane, William Allen,
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 301
was a contest of the masses against the classes;183 a
strategic move in view of the fact that the Van Buren
movement drew largely from the poorer classes.184 The
Plain Dealer considered Cass, who favored popular sov-
ereignty, in comparison with Van Buren, as the "most
unswervingly consistent Anti-slavery man of the two."185
Rallies of the Democracy of Cuyahoga County were
described as "Democratic Cass and Butler Free Soil
Meetings."186 Weller labored to prove that, by a cor-
rect interpretation of Cass's Nicholson letter, the people
of the territories were free to make their choice and
that slavery could not be extended into those regions
because of their geography.187 Cass's residence in the
North helped him among anti-slavery Democrats.188 The
Plain Dealer declared that "It is by southern adminis-
trations, sectionally speaking, and almost an unbroken
series of them since the foundation of the government,
that has [been] produced this high-wrought, frantic
and dangerous sectionalism. Should the South now
succeed in adding still another southern executive--
not a statesman, not even a civilian, but a princely slave-
holder--well may we fear northern rebellion and a vio-
lent dissolution of the Union."189 Ohio Democrats
pointed out that members of their party in the South
were deserting Cass for Taylor because the former was
from an abolitionist state and associated with Aboli-
tionists.190 At a Democratic rally in Portage County,
183 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, October 4, 5, 1848.
184 See letters of Ohio Free Soil leaders to Chase in Chase MSS.
185 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, October 25, 1848.
186 Ibid., October 3, 1848.
187 Ibid., June 20, 1848.
188 T. C. Smith, op. cit., p. 148.
189 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, August 21, 1848.
190 Ibid., October 31, 1848.
302 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
Reuben Wood, afterwards governor of Ohio, appealed
for the support of the anti-slavery elements by pointing
out that Cass, by association, sympathy and interest was
opposed to slavery.191 Medary was not willing to go as
far as his fellow-editors, in conciliating anti-southern
Democrats. Although admitting that Taylor owned
slaves, the editor of the Statesman declared that the
Democracy of the North and West held the "Union
above all price"; that they would not endanger its safety
by advocating "unjust doctrines"; and that they would
leave the question of slavery to the people of the terri-
tories where it rightfully belonged.192
Late in the Congressional session of 1847-1848, the
Clayton Compromise Bill, providing for a government
for Oregon, California, and New Mexico, was passed.
By its provisions Oregon was to receive the usual type
of territorial government with a delegate in Congress;
but New Mexico and California were given no delegates
and the legislative power was vested in a governor, sec-
retary and judges of the Supreme Court. Oregon could
choose between free soil and slavery, while the legisla-
tive powers of California and New Mexico were for-
bidden to enact any laws concerning slavery. The bill
passed the Senate but failed in the House.193 The Dem-
ocrats argued, in Ohio, that Cass, judging from his
Nicholson letter, would veto such an enactment of Con-
gress; while Taylor, by the terms of his Allison letters,
was pledged to sign it. Since the geography and soil
conditions of the territories in question would effectively
prevent the spread of slavery unless Congress estab-
191 Ohio Statesman, July 7, 1848.
192 Ohio Statesman, July 19, 1848.
193 McMaster, op. cit., v. VIII, pp. 527-532.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 303
lished it by law, the position of the Democratic candi-
dates seemed to represent true free soil doctrine.194
The dissatisfaction among the Ohio Whigs, over the
nomination of Taylor, far exceeded the Democratic dis-
content over the work of their National Convention.
But Van Buren's attraction for the Democrats, of
course, was much greater than his appeal to Whigs, who
had learned in previous campaigns to dislike the Little
Magician. Giddings thought Van Buren would be sup-
ported less readily by the Whigs than any other possible
candidate.195 Harrison G. Blake, Whig Free Soiler of
Medina County, typical of those anti-southern Whigs
who were more anti-southern than Whig, had favored
the nomination of Hale, but finally supported Van
Buren whom he had opposed ever since he had come
on the "political stage of action," because he thought he
was the only man before the people who was "right" on
the slavery question.196 The Medina Whig, a Free Soil
paper, declared that "The masses of the people opposed
to the extension and perpetuation of slavery * * *
will learn, with chagrin and mortification" that the Buf-
falo Convention sacrificed principle for availability, by
nominating Van Buren.197 Chase found, however, that
194 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, August 27, November 4, 1948; Frederick
Grimke, an able Democratic ex-judge of the Supreme Court of Ohio,
regretted that the Compromise Hill did not pass. He asserted that "It
would not only produce more harmony between the two sections of the
country; it would produce more repose at the north; for I have observed
that the class of considerate, and highly intelligent men at the north feel
themselves exceedingly annoyed by the presence of Abolitionists, whose
manners and cultivation are in general so alien to their own." Grimke to
Greene, August 7, 1848, Greene MSS.
195 T. C. Smith, op. cit., p. 147.
196 Blake to Chase, September 22, 1848, Chase MSS., v. XV; Hamlin
to McLean, September 16, 1848, McLean MSS., v. XVI.
197 Medina Whig quoted in Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, August 18,
304 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
the Abolitionists of the Western Reserve were coming
to the support of Van Buren in spite of their political
opposition to him in earlier campaigns, and despite a
lingering doubt as to his attitude on slavery in the Dis-
trict of Columbia.198 When such men as Joseph M. Root,
Representative in Congress from the Huron District,199
and Giddings200 entered the campaign in behalf of their
former enemy, the Whig leaders of the Western Reserve
were really alarmed.201
The position of the Whigs was further complicated
by the gubernatorial situation. Constant appeals were
made by the party press to the voters not to allow de-
fection on National politics to endanger the success of
the party in the State.202 Since Ford was the official
leader of the Whigs in Ohio, his attitude on the nomi-
nation of Taylor seemed crucial, but Ford kept dis-
creetly silent, in the hope of retaining the Free Soil vote
as well as that of the regular Whigs.203 He explained
his dilemma in a letter to Chase. After naively admit-
ting that he wanted to defeat Weller because the latter
was a pro-slavery candidate, Ford explained that an
avowal of his attitude toward Taylor would make de-
feat certain; and that, therefore, it was his duty to the
State and Nation to remain silent.204 The Democrats
198 Chase to Van Buren, August 21, 1848, Van Buren MSS., v. LVI.
199 Ohio Statesman, October 31, 1848.
200 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, September 27, 1848.
201 J. Durbin Ward to Crittenden, September 2, 1848, Crittenden MSS.,
202 Ohio State Journal, June 12, 17, 20, 24, 26, 1848.
203 Stevenson wrote that the Whigs were passing resolutions in their
county conventions to the effect that voting for or against Taylor was not
a test of Whiggery and that "Our candidate for Gov . . . is playing Gen.
Mum as to Taylor, thinking thereby he may whit into the Executive chair
of the State . . . even though Taylor loses the State." Stevenson to Clay,
July 26, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXVI.
204 Ford to Chase, July 29, 1848, Chase MSS., v. XV.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 305
taunted Ford for his attempt to straddle the issue,205
and composed the following parody on the difficulties of
the Whig candidate:
To bolt or not to bolt, that is the question;
Whether it is nobler in the mind, to suffer
The stings and arrows of outrageous locos
Or to take arms against the Taylor bloodhounds,
And by opposing, end myself? To bolt--to dodge;
No more,--'and by a dodge to say we choke
Our conscience,-'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To bolt; to dodge.
Aye, there's the rub!206
But Ford continued his silence on Taylor's candidacy
to the end of the campaign. The Democrats charged
that the Whig Central Committee had destroyed a let-
ter defining his position,207 and had ordered him to re-
main silent until after the State election in order to
gain the Abolition vote.208 Ford's policy gained some
votes among the Free Soilers who regarded him as an
opponent of Taylor.209
With the embarrassment of Ford's non-committal
position hanging over them, the Whigs strove valiantly
to stem the tide of defeat in Ohio. Giddings and his
supporters were in open revolt. Appeals were sent to
Governor William H. Seward, of New York, and to
Horace Greeley, of the New York Tribune, to aid Cor-
win in a whirlwind campaign in behalf of General Tay-
205 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, July 7, 1848; Cincinnati Daily En-
quirer, July 6, 1848.
206 Western Empire quoted in Ohio Statesman, August 1, 1848.
207 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, October 4, 1848; Ohio Statesman, July
208 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, September 22, 1848.
209 Chase to Briggs, September 27, 1848, Chase MSS., v. XV.
306 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
lor on the Western Reserve.210 On the Reserve, Seward
found things "infinitely" worse than he had expected.211
The regular Whigs, in a bitter war on the deserter,
Giddings, nominated an independent for Congress after
Giddings had been selected by the Whigs in a district
convention.212 In a long address to the "Free Soil Men
of Ohio," Greeley appealed for support of Taylor as
the best way to realize their principles because a vote
for Van Buren would be a vote for Cass.
Probably the most effective weapon used by the Ohio
Whigs in 1848, was the Allison letter which they inter-
preted to mean that if the opponents of slavery exten-
sion would elect a Whig Congress, the interests of the
North would be safe because Taylor was pledged not
to use the veto. Greeley developed this argument and
it was used with great effect by all Whig campaigners
and particularly by Corwin, who even intimated that
Taylor favored the Wilmot Proviso.213 Ewing advised
Taylor not to write any more letters on the slavery
question, since the Whigs of Ohio were willing to accept
him on the basis of the Allison letter.214 But Ewing was
too optimistic. The defection of the Whigs went on so
rapidly that, in September, Taylor wrote another letter
210 Stevenson to Clay, September 9, October 2, 1848, Clay MSS., v.
XXVI; Whittlesey appealed to Follett to save the Western Reserve from
the "vandals." Whittlesey to Follett, October 11, 1848, quoted in "Selec-
tions from the Follett Papers, IV," in loc. cit., 1916, v. XI, No. 1, pp.
30-31; Crittenden to Ewing, September 1, 1848, Ewing MSS., v. VII.
211 Seward to Follett, November 9, 1848, quoted in "Selections from the
Follett Papers, IV," in loc. cit., 1916, v. XI, No. 1, p. 33; See also J. W.
Allen to Crittenden, September 9, 1848, Crittenden MSS., v. XI.
212 Elisha Whittlesey, a former law instructor of Giddings, charged his
pupil with having secured undue mileage allowances. T. C. Smith, op. cit.,
213 Hamlin to Chase, September 14, 1848, Chase MSS., v. VI; Washing-
ton Daily Union, October 1, 1848.
214 Ewing to Taylor, July 22, 1848, Ewing MSS., v. VII, (Letter marked
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 307
to Allison to strengthen the impression that he would
not use the veto to defeat the anti-slavery opinions of
the majority. In spite of this second letter, Van Buren
continued to gain in Ohio.215 It would be difficult to over-
emphasize the use made in Ohio of this doctrine of
Congressional supremacy. For the Free Soilers, it
proved very embarrassing.216 By August, Ohio Whigs
no longer urged the choice of Taylor as the lesser of
two evils;217 but gave the positive assurance that he
would not only allow a territorial bill to pass embodying
the principles of the Wilmot Proviso, but that he posi-
tively favored that method of settling the question.
Of course the Democrats denounced this argument
as pure sophistry. Was it reasonable that Taylor, a
southern slaveholder who used bloodhounds to catch his
runaway slaves, would neglect the welfare of his sec-
tion, and prevent the extension of its "peculiar insti-
tution"? Southern Whig papers were quoted to prove
that quite the opposite interpretation of Taylor's atti-
tude on slavery in the territories prevailed in the
South.218 The Democrats pointed out the ambiguity of
215 Stevenson to Clay, October 2, 1848, Clay MSS., v. XXVI.
216 Jewett to Chase, September 1, 1848, Chase MSS., v. XV; in regard to
Corwin's labors to that end, George M. Swan wrote Van Buren that "Thim-
blerigging is less reputable business compared to his labors in cajoling the
people of Ohio into the belief that General Taylor is a Wilmot Provisoist,
by intimations that he had in his possession a private letter to that effect.
Thomas Ewing so declares and Mr. Corwin does not deny it." Swan to
Van Buren, October 17, 1848, Van Buren MSS., v. LVI; Ohio Statesman
September 21, 1848; Wilmot Proviso, (Massillon, Ohio), quoted in Cin-
cinnati Daily Enquirer, September 23, 1848; The Whig State Central Com-
mittee issued a secret circular in which they emphasized their belief that
Taylor would not veto any measure prohibiting slavery in the territories.
Ohio Statesman, September 22, 1848.
217 Ohio Statesman, June 22, 1848.
218 Natchez (Mississippi) Courier, quoted in Ohio Statesman, August 22,
1848; The Statesman declared that "while thus in the North Whiggery
claims General Taylor as the opponent of slavery, in the South he is claimed
as its friend, and his southern birth and his southern property as all cited
308 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
Taylor's statements,219 and the Enquirer called atten-
tion to a pamphlet issued by the "Rough and Ready
Club," of New Orleans, arguing that the election of
Taylor would afford the greatest possible protection to
the South and West, and that these sections had noth-
ing to fear from the Wilmot Proviso if Taylor were
president, because he was a slaveholder, a native of Vir-
ginia, and a citizen of Louisiana with every feeling and
interest identified with the southern Whigs.220
In the energetic campaign carried on by the Whigs
in order to meet the double attacks of their enemies,
Thomas Corwin, who had occupied the most advanced
ground in opposition to the Mexican War, was the out-
standing figure. The Democrats pointed out the incon-
sistency of Corwin's new position;221 and the anti-south-
ern leaders in Ohio, who had only recently thought of
him as a possible candidate for the presidency, be-
moaned his lack of principle.222 Corwin confined his at-
tention largely to the Western Reserve, where Whig
fortunes were at lowest ebb. According to Whig ac-
counts his campaign was very effective.223 The Free
Soilers thought that he was received very coldly.224 Wil-
liam Dennison, Thomas Ewing, Joseph Vance, William
as evidence, which cannot be gainsaid, to show that in feeling he is arrayed
against the party that supports him in other sections." Ohio Statesman,
August 11, 1848; Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, July 15, 1848.
219 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, September 10, 1848; Washington Daily
Union, May 5, 1848.
220 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, September 10, 1848.
221 Ibid., August 23, 1848; Washington Daily Union, September 14, 1848.
222 Giddings to Chase, September 20, 1848, Chase MSS., v. XV.
223 Ewing to Crittenden, September 24, 1848, Crittenden MSS., v. XI;
Vance to Crittenden, September 21, 1848, v. XI; Ohio State Journal, Sep-
tember 23, 1848.
224 Bolton to Chase, September 18, 1848, Chase MSS., v. II, Pa.; Corwin
was burned in effigy at Cleveland, and no remonstrance was made although
he was making an address at the time. Hamlin to McLean, September 16,
1848, McLean MSS., v. XVI.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 309
H. Seward, Governor Metcalfe of Kentucky, and in the
latter part of the campaign, Columbus Delano,225 were
other Whig orators who joined Corwin in a desperate
attempt to save the party from dissolution; but the fail-
ure of McLean and Clay to interest themselves vigor-
ously in behalf of Taylor greatly injured the party in
Ohio.226 This flying squadron of Whig orators was kept
busy denying minor charges calculated to prejudice
northern votes against Taylor. The Democrats claimed
that Taylor used bloodhounds to catch his runaway
slaves, and Corwin hastened to explain that they were
only used in tracking the slaves.227 The charge that
Taylor had sworn at the Third Ohio Volunteers and
described them as cowards and thieves, during the Mex-
ican War, brought a categorical denial from the
Whigs.228 Another fact which the Democrats kept be-
fore the public was that Taylor was a man of wealth,
and that he owned more than two hundred and eighty
slaves, valued at $150,000.00.229
Weller, the Democratic candidate for governor, was
loyally supported by the Democratic organization and
consequently the margin of his defeat was very small,
in spite of the fact of the Free Soil support of Ford.
Weller was attacked by the Whigs as a "hard-money,
sub-treasury free trade, pro-slavery, annexation Loco-
foco, of the straightest sect" and a "pitiful toady of the
Southern Slavocracy."230 He was one of the two mem-
225 Ohio State Journal, July 22, August 8, 1848; Ohio Statesman, No-
vember 3, 1848.
226 Vance to Crittenden, September 21, 1848, Crittenden MSS., v. XI.
227 Ohio Statesman, September 19, 1848.
228 Ohio Statesman, August 4, 5, 1848; Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, No-
vember 1, 1848.
229 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, July 8, 1848.
230 Ohio State Journal, January 25, 1848.
310 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
bers of Congress from Ohio who had voted for the
"gag" rule,231 and his participation in the Mexican War
was conclusive proof that he was a supporter of south-
ern expansion. His resolution to censure Giddings for
his conduct in the Creole case completed the proof of
his abject servility to the South.232 The Whigs added
that Weller had acted the coward during a military en-
gagement, and that, as one of the commissioners of the
Surplus Revenue Fund, he had loaned money without
requiring proper securities.233
The Ohio Black Laws again became an issue during
the gubernatorial campaign, Ford unreservedly favor-
ing their repeal apparently because of pressure from
the Free Soilers.234 The Democrats of the Western
Reserve avoided the issue but their brothers in the
southern part of the State opposed repeal, the Enquirer
drawing a gloomy picture of what would happen to
southern Ohio if repeal, an open invitation to negroes
to come to Ohio, were carried out. That organ ap-
pealed to all the latest race prejudices of whites who
were forced into economic competition with the incom-
ing blacks. The Democrats denied that the Black Laws
were cruel, and argued that they were measures to pre-
serve the State from the offal of slavery.235 The En-
quirer declared that "Ford, and his Abolition neighbors
on the Reserve, may well grow large and liberal-minded,
and soar above all petty and vulgar prejudices on ac-
231 Niles' Register, v. XVI, p. 15.
232 Ohio State Journal, August 22, 1848.
233 Ohio Statesman, May 2, 1848; Ohio State Journal, July 10, October
234 Chase to Ford, July 11, 1848, quoted in "Selected Letters of Salmon
P. Chase, February 18, 1848, to May 1, 1861," in loc. cit., 1902, v. II, pp.
235 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, September 14, 1848.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 311
count of color. They have easy times in the way of
paying the piper. It is not their poorhouses that are
filled--nor their criminal courts that are burdened-
their white laborers are not subjected to such a competi-
tion, nor their properties subject to be plundered by
such a people. The southern portion of the State takes
all that. Hamilton County has heaped upon her shoul-
ders a back-breaking load, by way of foretaste to the
delightful burden she may prepare for, when the Re-
serve has it all her own way--at our expense."236 The
issue was far more clearly drawn in 1848 than in
The Whigs also emphasized what they termed Cass's
lack of enthusiasm for internal improvements, a good
campaign argument in Ohio where the people favored
internal improvements by the Federal Government, al-
though the Democratic organization had always ren-
dered a perfunctory obeisance to the traditional Demo-
cratic principle of strict construction. In July, 1847, a
Convention was held in Chicago in the interest of in-
ternal improvements, and Cass, among others, was in-
vited. When "circumstances" prevented his attend-
ance238 the Whigs interpreted his action as opposition
to western interests. The Democrats, in answer, pointed
to Cass's vote in the last Congress in favor of a River
and Harbor Bill.239 The Plain Dealer maintained that
Cass had always favored internal improvements in op-
position to certain "crack-brained and hair-splitting
politicians" of the party, and that he had refused to
236 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, September 26, 1848.
237 Geauga Whig, (Ford's organ), quoted in Ohio Statesman, November
30, 1848; See also Ohio Statesman, January 31, 1848.
238 Ohio State Journal, July 3, 1848.
312 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
attend the Chicago Convention because he knew that
it was arranged by the Whigs for political purposes.240
Both parties endeavored to make political capital out
of Cass's efforts, while Minister to France in 1841, to
defeat the British proposal to allow her men-of-war to
search suspicious vessels off the Coast of Africa in order
to suppress the slave-trade. Cass had defeated French
ratification of the British treaty and, therefore, was
roundly abused by the anti-slavery interests on the
charge of being pro-slavery. But his position, that only
a belligerent can exercise the right of search, was cor-
rect from the standpoint of American and international
law.241 The Whig papers condemned Cass as an apol-
ogist of the slave-trade; while the Democrats lauded
him as a patriotic defender of the old American doctrine
of resistance to the right of search.242 The Enquirer
appealed to the anti-British complex of its readers by
assuring them that the aristocracy of England hoped for
the election of Taylor because of their hatred of Cass.243
The importance of the ever-increasing foreign vote,
due to a large immigration of Irish and Germans in the
'forties, cannot be overlooked in the election of 1848.
The Democrats not only pointed out that the Whigs
were the traditional enemies of the newcomers, having
inherited this nativist attitude from the Federalists, but
that their candidate was endorsed by every native Amer-
239 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, June 7, November 3, 1848.
240 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, May 27, June 12, 1848.
241 J. S. Reeves, American Diplomacy Under Tyler and Polk, pp. 33-38.
242 Ohio Statesman, June 28, July 6, 1848; the Enquirer declared that if
it had not been for Cass "The decks of a vessel, above which floated the
glorious stars and stripes, could be polluted by the tread of some upstart
minion of England's navy with impunity..." Cincinnati Daily Enquirer,
June 21, 1848; Cincinnati Daily Gazette, June 26, 1848; Cleveland Daily
Plain Dealer, November 6, 1848.
243 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, September 27, 1848.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 313
ican paper in the East.244 The Enquirer asked the for-
eigners if they would join the "motley throng which
enrolls in its members the church-burning Nativists of
Philadelphia?"245. That the Democrats were clearly
alive to the necessity of retaining their already formid-
able hold on this class of voters is seen from the follow-
ing announcement of a political meeting in Cleveland:
"1000 Laborers Wanted! Irishmen, Germans and La-
boring Men" to be addressed by a Cleveland me-
chanic."246 Although the Whigs made energetic efforts
to reach the Germans and Irish with campaign ma-
terial,247 the Democrats were successful in retaining their
allegiance,248 an enthusiastic Democrat writing that
"The Irish Catholics are right to a man. The Germans
are fired with unappeasable resentment against the Na-
tives and their well-known allies."249
Some effort was made by the Democrats to turn the
election of 1848, like that of 1847, into a patriotic refer-
endum on the Mexican War. In their gubernatorial
candidate, the Democrats had the incarnation of patriot-
ism. The Ohio Statesman declared that the oft-quoted
statement that Ohio had been in the "forefront of oppo-
sition to the War" would be verified if Ford were
elected;250 while the Enquirer argued that Weller's de-
244 Ohio Statesman, June 16-30, 1848; Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, June
245 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, October 25, 1848.
246 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, October 31, 1849.
247 Whittlesey to Follett, October 19, 21, 1848, quoted in "Whittlesey Se-
lections from the Follett Papers, IV," in loc. cit. 1916, v. XI, No. 1, pp.
248 Jacob Reinhard, editor of the Westbote, made particular efforts to
retain all the Germans in the Democratic ranks, Ohio Statesman, October
249 Humphrey to Allen, April 17, 1848, Allen MSS., v. XVI.
250 Ohio Statesman, September 23, 1848.
314 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
feat would be interpreted as a condemnation of the War
with Mexico: "The struggles and sacrifices and brilliant
triumphs of our brave troops, as having been put forth
in a war against God * * * * Yes, the bloody hands
of Tom Corwin may then well be raised in tri-
umph * * * *"251 However, the excitement over
slavery in the territories almost completely absorbed the
interest of the voters.
Ford was chosen by a narrow margin in an election
which was not finally determined until after the votes
were officially canvassed by the General Assembly.252
The Free Soilers held the balance of power, both in the
House and on joint ballot of the Legislature. Most of
the Free Soil members came from the Western Reserve,
the old Whig stronghold.253 If two Free Soilers should
join the Democrats in the House, the Whigs would be
outvoted. A bitter legislative fight followed, aggra-
vated by a dispute over the seating of two Hamilton
County Democrats.254 Taylor Whigs explained Ford's
small majority on the ground that "he lost many Whig
votes that stood too over plumb to vote for a man the
least bit tinctured with abolition" and because he failed
to endorse Taylor.255 The Plain Dealer maintained that
"Old fashioned federalism, new light Van Burenism,
fanatical Abolitionism, National Reformism, par excel-
lence Free Soilism, and every other ism known in this
wizard age, have joined, or rather conspired, to elect
Ford," and that only a nonentity like the Whig candi-
251 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, August 30, 1848; See also Washington
Daily Union, December 27, 1848; Ohio Statesman, September 25, 1848.
252 Ohio Statesman, January 20, 1849.
253 Ibid., October 23, 1848.
254 See Chapter VI.
255 Vance to Crittenden, October 24, 1848, Crittenden MSS., v. XII.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 315
date could have combined all those elements.256 The
Enquirer concluded that the Democrats had virtually
won a victory, since Ford's election had been conceded
by a large majority in September, and because the Dem-
ocrats won a majority of seats in the next Congress.257
The Enquirer explained these results on the ground that
the progressive and liberal tendencies of the Democratic
party attracted the younger voters; that the Whigs were
disgusted with the nomination of Taylor; and that nine-
tenths of the foreign voters were in the Democratic
party.258 In some cases the election of Free Soil
members to the General Assembly had occurred in the
face of bitter opposition from both major parties. In
Summit County, the Free Soilers coalesced with the
Democrats to elect an anti-slavery Democrat (Lucien
Swift), while in other counties the third party threw
its strength to the Whig candidate.259 In many cases,
the Whig party was badly demoralized, having lost its
hold on the Western Reserve for the first time since
the organization of the party in Ohio.
The narrow margin of victory in the State election
convinced the Whigs that Ohio would cast its votes for
Cass unless vigorous steps were taken immediately. On
256 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, October 11, 1848.
257 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, October 22, 1848; The Daily Union judged
the close vote to be a victory for the Democrats and declared the result to
be largely due to the speaking of Allen and Weller and to the sterling work
of Medary. Washington Daily Union, October 15, 18, 1848; There were
eleven Democrats elected to Congress, among whom were David T. Disney,
Edson B. Olds, Charles Sweetser, Moses Hoagland, and Joseph Cable; five
Taylor Whigs, Robert C. Schenck, Moses B. Corwin, John L. Taylor,
Samuel F. Vinton and Nathan Evans; two Whigs who were not Taylor
Whigs, William F. Hunter and Lewis D. Campbell; and three Free Soilers,
John Cromwell, Joshua R. Giddings and Joseph M. Root. Ohio Statesman,
October 21, 1848.
258 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, October 15, 1848.
259 Ohio State Journal, October 25, 1848.
316 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
the day of the State election, Ewing wrote that if Ford
carried the state by 12,000, Taylor would win; but that
if the Whig gubernatorial candidate had a majority of
only 6,000, Ohio was lost for the national candidate. At
the same time, Ewing pointed out that if support of Ford
were represented as a test vote in the presidential elec-
tion, the Whigs would lose 5,000 votes which would
otherwise be cast for Ford.260 Cass carried Ohio by
a plurality: 154,769 for Cass, 138,349 for Taylor, and
35,344 for Van Buren--the latter obtaining most of his
support from the counties of the Western Reserve, and
carrying only Ashiabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lo-
rain, and Trumbull.261
It was evident that the Free Soil movement had al-
most wrecked the Whig party in Ohio. Vance believed
the refusal of McLean and Clay to endorse Taylor and
the enmity of the farmers in the sugar-maple region of
Ohio, against the competition of slave labor in the sugar
districts of Louisiana, had injured the party in Ohio.262
Chase concluded that Cass carried Ohio because it was
generally believed that Taylor would not veto the Pro-
viso. The Cleveland True Democrat thought the small
Free Soil vote was due to the inherent prejudice of the
Whigs of the Western Reserve to Van Buren.263
The reaction of the major parties to Taylor's elec-
tion is interesting. To the Democrats it appeared to
be a Southern triumph and an indication that the South
had deserted Cass because Taylor would preserve the
interests of slavery more securely.264 The Ohio States-
260 Ewing to Crittenden, October 6, 1848, Crittenden MSS., v. XII.
261 Ohio Statesman, November 22, 25, 1848.
262 Vance to Critenden, November 13, 1848, Crittenden MSS., v. XII.
263 T. C. Smith, op. cit., p. 155.
264 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, November 23, 1848.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 317
man and the Enquirer maintained that it was a vote
of the East against the West, and that it was "time
the West had set up for itself, if selfishness is the pre-
dominant and ruling idea in the East and South."265
The reaction of the Plain Dealer also revealed the grow-
ing dislike of the voters of both parties in Ohio to
the influence of the South in the government. For
"Forty-eight years the South, with less than one-third
population have had the administration of this Govern-
ment," so ran the comment of the Plain Dealer, "and
they have used its patronage and power to strengthen,
extend, and perpetuate the dominion of slavery * * * *
The people of the North have decided to continue this
power in the hands of slaveholders another four years
* * * * It was a crisis at which the Free States, if
ever, should have had the management of the govern-
ment, and settled all sectional questions in favor of free-
1848 witnessed the birth of a formidable third party,
dominated by a protest against southern dictation, and,
on the surface, the extension of slavery. The Whig
party in Ohio had been torn asunder by the nationaliz-
ing influence of party organization, on the one hand;
and the insistent demands of the sectionalism of the
Northwest, on the other. The Democratic party, al-
though it felt the strain to a considerable extent, was
able to avoid a breach as an older organization with
strong traditions of party loyalty. The election of 1848
265 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, November 17, 1848; the Union protested
against this interpretation declaring that if they, in the East, had failed to
sweep the country, it was not from any Democratic opposition to the can-
didate from the West. Washington Daily Union, November 14, 1848.
266 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, November 10, 1848.
318 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
began the disintegration of political parties which culmi-
nated in the formation of the Republican party in 1854.
The struggle between the economic and political interests
of the Northwest and those of the Nation as a whole
continued and formed the basis for the rivalry of the
parties in Ohio for the remainder of the decade.
THE APPORTIONMENT BILL OF FEBRUARY, 1848
From its admission into the Union to 1840, Ohio
had, for the most part, been under the control of the
followers of Jefferson. A number of causes combined
to break this control and make of Ohio during the 'for-
ties a bitterly contested battle-field. The most important
was the transformation of the Whig party from an or-
ganization somewhat "tainted" with Federalism into
one which deigned to engage in the saturnalia of a
"Hard Cider" campaign and trumpet through the state
its pretensions to Jeffersonianism. The Whig party pa-
raded as the "poor man's friend" and its leaders talked
much of the homely virtues. Another cause was the
failure of the national Democratic organization to re-
alize the power of the growing Northwest and the conse-
quent neglect to reward its followers in that section with
patronage in proportion to their importance. Other im-
portant reasons were the recurrent financial depressions
growing out of the panic of 1837 and the stringency of
specie during the early 'forties. Financial intimidation
of debtors by the holders of wealth added followers to
the Whig ranks--followers who accepted the prosperity
arguments of the Whig orators with a facility which an-
ticipated the success of the "full dinner pail" appeal of
later years. These forces resulted in a close political
division of the State. Perhaps as a consequence, gerry-
320 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
mandering, a device which lent itself to the schemes of
wily politicians, was frequently used in Ohio to defeat
the will of the majority of the voters and to insure po-
litical control to the party which happened to have a
majority in the Assembly.
Both in aim and in methods of resistance to its exe-
cution, the Whig Apportionment Bill of February, 1848,
resembled the earlier attempt of the Democrats in 1842
to divide the State into congressional districts in order
to secure control of the congressional delegation. This
attempt had been defeated, as has already been pointed
out, by the resignation of the Whig members of the
House, which left the Assembly without a quorum.1
The first Ohio State Constitution provided that the
General Assembly should apportion representation
among the several counties in proportion to population.2
The controversy over the constitutionality of the act
passed by the Whig Legislature on February 18, 1848,3
in accordance with this provision of the State Constitu-
tion, became so bitter that it convulsed the State for
two years; interrupted legislative procedure for weeks;
led to a realignment of parties and to the election of
Salmon P. Chase to the United States Senate.4
Before the State elections were held in October,
1847, attention had been called by Whig papers to the
need of a fair districting of the State, on the ground
that the Democrats had been able to control the General
1 Ohio Senate Journals, v. XI, Part 2, pp. 340, 348, 353, 354, 395-396
Vote for passage stood 18-17; See also Chapter II. McMaster, op. cit., v.
VII, p. 71. Ibid., p. 67. Ohio Senate Journals, v. XL, Part 2, p. 400.;
Niles' Register, August 27, 1842, p. 403-404.
2 Article I, Sections 2 and 6.
3 Laws of Ohio. v. XLVI, pp. 57-64.
4 See Chapter VII.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 321
Assembly, previously, by gerrymandering.5 The issue
assumed additional importance because upon the 1848-
1849 Legislature depended the election of a successor to
William Allen to the United States Senate. The Ham-
ilton Intelligencer favored dividing the State into single
member districts; and the Clermont Courier recalled
how the Democrats in 1839-1840 had united Clermont,
Brown, and Clinton Counties in order to overcome Whig
Reapportionment had not figured in the campaign
of 1847, and the Democratic leaders, therefore, were
all the more surprised, when on January 12, 1848, an
apportionment measure was introduced by the Whigs
in the Senate, providing among other things, for the
division of Hamilton County into two electoral districts
and assigning two senators and five representatives to
the whole County as before.7 This measure the Demo-
crats denounced as unfair, unjust and unconstitutional,8
and centered their fire on the proposed division of Ham-
ilton County. The Whigs, of course, defended the act,
the Cincinnati Chronicle declaring that it provided for
representation of the business and commercial classes
5 Carroll Free Press, quoted in Ohio State Journal, September 7, 1847.
6 Hamilton Intelligencer, quoted in Ohio State Journal, November 13,
7 Laws of Ohio, v. XLVI, pp. 57-64. As finally passed, the Law pro-
vided that the General Assembly of Ohio should be composed of thirty-six
senators and seventy-two representatives, to be apportioned as follows--"To
the County of Hamilton, two senators and five representatives, to be elected
as follows: So much of said County of Hamilton, as is comprised within the
limits of the district now constituted by the First, Second, Third, Fourth,
Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Wards of the City of Cincinnati, shall
compose the First District, and shall be entitled to one senator and two
representatives; . . . So much of said County of Hamilton, as is not in-
cluded in the First District, shall compose the Second District, and shall be
entitled to one senator and three representatives . . ."
8 Ohio Statesman, February 19, May 10, 1848.
322 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
of the city which hitherto had been outvoted by the
suburban and rural population.9
The Democratic press of the State was united in the
assault on the Apportionment Bill of 1848. The Mount
Vernon Banner described it under the caption, "Revo-
lution at the Capitol"; the Guernsey Jeffersonian re-
ferred to "High-handed Federal Villainy"; and the Lan-
caster, (Ohio), Eagle considered the measure "Revolu-
tionary in the extreme."10 Samuel Medary's attacks,
as editor of the Ohio Statesman, afford a typical ex-
ample of the violent journalism of the 'forties. Med-
ary spared neither the Bill nor its authors.11 Democratic
leaders and Democratic newspapers followed his lead-
ership, although some papers, like the Cincinnati Daily
Enquirer, adopted a milder and more conservative
The Bill passed the Senate,13 was amended slightly
9 Cincinnati Daily Chronicle, quoted in Ohio State Journal, February 1,
1848. It became clear in the campaigns of 1848 and 1849 that the division
of Hamilton County had been proposed as early as 1843, but that the "older"
and "wiser" Whigs had opposed the scheme on the ground of constitutionality
and expediency. Nevertheless, zealous and partisan Whigs determined to
press the matter; and, in the 1844 session of the Legislature, R. F. Payne
(W), at the instance of the Hamilton County Whigs, had brought the pro-
posal before the Judiciary Committee only to have that committee, which
was composed of three Whigs and two Democrats, again reject the plan as
unconstitutional. The Senate then requested an opinion from the attorney-
general, Henry Stanbery, and the latter reported, on January 17, that the
General Assembly had the power to divide Hamilton County for purposes
of representation. J. J. Coombs, B. F. Cowen, and R. F. Payne were the
Whig members of the committee; Edward Archbold and James H. Ewing,
the Democrats; Senate Journals, v. XLVI, p. 245. Cincinnati Daily En-
quirer, January 26, 1848.
10 Editorials from these papers quoted in Ohio Statesman, February 26,
11 Ohio Statesman, January 17, May 10, 1848.
12 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer for this entire period. There had been
friction between the Broughs, John and Charles (editors of the Enquirer),
and Medary, since the campaigns of 1844 and 1846, when Medary supported
Van Buren and "Hard Money," while the Broughs sided with Cass and
13 Ohio Senate Journals, v. XLVI, pp. 339-340, January 28, 1848.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 323
by the House and returned to the Senate on February
14. Seeing that its passage was certain, the Demo-
cratic senators vacated their seats in order to prevent
a quorum.14 In a paper submitted to the Speaker of
the Senate, setting forth the reasons for their with-
drawal,15 the Democratic Senators declared the Bill was
a "daring infraction of the Constitution and a violation
of all established usage," and argued that, "To divide a
county for representatives and senators, and to appor-
tion one part of the county to one legislative district and
a part of it to another is a plain act of revolution on the
part of the majority who attempt it; it is a fundamental
change of our political organization plainly forbidden by
the Constitution."16 The Democrats consented to return
only if the bill were purged of its objectionable feature
or if the Senate should consider other measures.
The seceding Democratic senators also drew up an
address to the people, notable as a document of social
protest. After referring again to the unconstitution-
ality and injustice of the Apportionment Bill and the in-
ability of the minority to get redress from the courts,
they concluded, "The remedy is now in the hands of the
people. The Democrats have struggled valiantly but
hopelessly for four years against invasions of every de-
scription upon the rights of the people. Law upon law
went upon your statute-books * * * all having one
tendency to destroy that political equality upon which
alone rests the fabric of our democratic government.
Rights were granted to wealth and denied to labor,
14 Ohio Senate Journals, v. XLVI, p. 560.
15 Ohio Statesman, February 15, 1848; Ohio Senate Journal, v. XLVI,
16 Letter printed in Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, February 15, 1848.
324 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
burthens were placed upon labor and wealth was ex-
empted from them. Link after link was added to the
chain and the helpless would have stood before mocking
Whiggery, this giant growing rapidly in the favor of
the people of Ohio."17 The issue was joined for a real
political battle and Medary eagerly accepted the Whig
challenge. His paper gave high praise to the decamp-
ing Democratic senators,18 whom Whig papers, like the
Ohio State Journal,19 denounced as "absquatulators",
accusing Medary of instigating the withdrawal of the
Democratic senators.20 To the reply of the Democrats
that they were only exercising the same right claimed
by the Whigs in 1842, the latter replied that the situa-
tions were not analogous, because in 1842 the Whigs had
resigned during a special session of the Legislature con-
vened for a specific purpose.21 To discredit the Demo-
crats with the voters, the withdrawal was denounced by
the Whig press as a revolutionary and treasonable con-
spiracy to prevent all legislation of which the Democrats
did not approve. "People of Ohio! You are now
threatened with civil revolution * * * equal repre-
sentation is no cardinal principle with the anarchy, the
overthrow of all your state institutions they have in
contemplation,"22 -- so ran one protest.
The Democrats sought a possible compromise, but
the Whigs refused to discuss such proposals and ad-
journed the Senate on February 16 and 17, for lack of
17 Ohio Statesman, February 15, 1848.
18 Ibid., February 15, 1848.
19 Ohio State Journal, February 15, 1848.
20 Ibid., February 26, 1848.
21 Ibid., February 19, 1948.
22 Ibid., February 16, 1848.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 325
a quorum.23 On February 18, while the Bill was still
before the Senate, the House receded from its amend-
ments which were of little practical significance anyway,
and notified the Senate of its action. Thereupon, the
presiding officers of the Senate and House signed the
Bill, and it was declared law.24 This action was de-
nounced by the Cincinnati Enquirer as a "mockery of
all form, a transgression of all rules, a violation of all
the laws which ever governed legislation in Ohio, an
outrage upon all principle, and all common-sense."25 On
February 25, forty-one Democratic members of the
General Assembly issued an address to the people of
Ohio intended as a battle-cry for the coming campaign.26
The Whigs promptly issued a counter-blast, upholding
the constitutionality and fundamental justice of the Ap-
Democratic meetings all over the State protested
against the measure as a deliberate and unconstitutional
attempt by the Whigs to thwart the will of the people.28
At Dayton, the Resolutions Committee, with C. L. Val-
landigham as chairman, produced a strong indictment
of the Whigs, charging that the Apportionment Bill not
only was unconstitutional and unjust but that it was not
law; and argued that if the Governor did not call a spe-
cial session of the General Assembly to pass a new ap-
portionment measure the State would be without a legal
23 Ohio Statesman, February 17, 1848; Ohio Senate Journals, v. XLVI,
24 Ohio Statesman, February 19, 1848; Ohio Senate Journals, v. XLVI,
25 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, February 21, 1848.
26 Ohio Statesman, February 25, 1848; Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, March
27 Ohio State Journal, February 26, 1848.
28 Ohio Statesman, March 15, 1848.
326 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
government.29 In the columns of the Western Empire,
(Dayton), Vallandigham declared that the Bill had not
been passed according to parliamentary procedure.30
The Dayton gathering also urged the Democratic State
Central Committee to call a State Convention at an early
date in order to devise "a uniform course of action for
the Democratic party throughout the State. * * *"31
On March 3, the Democratic State Central Committee
complied and called a State Convention "to determine
upon such measures as may be deemed advisable to meet
the exigencies of the time."32 The date selected was
April 20, but this was later changed to May 10.
The Whigs, taking their cue from the Dorr Rebellion
in Rhode Island, pronounced the proposals of their op-
ponents as revolutionary. The Ohio State Journal be-
moaned the fate of the State: "One week, only one
week, and this fabric of government under which we
have dwelt * * * will be swept away, and all those
institutions which have been organized in the hope to
secure to the citizen the possession of life, liberty, and
property, will be gone as the baseless fabric of a vision
--gone, gone, forever."33 Nearly every Whig county
convention adopted resolutions upholding the Apportion-
ment Law and condemning the Democratic members
for withdrawing from the Senate.34 The conservative
portion of the Democracy unquestionably feared the
29 Ibid., March 1, 1848.
30 The Ohio State Journal pointed out that David T. Disney (D) had
once signed an appropriation bill after his term expired and if that law
were valid, by the same token this law was legal. This the Enquirer ad-
mitted, but claimed that Disney had said that if the law had been contested
it would have been thrown aside. Ohio State Journal, March 20, 1848.
31 Ohio Statesman, March 1, 1848.
32 Ohio Statesman, March 3, 4, 1848.
33 Ohio State Journal, May 3, 1848.
34 Ibid., March 1, April 5, 1848.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 327
effect of these charges, and endeavored to reassure the
voters on the one hand, and to restrain the more radical
members of their own party on the other. The Cincin-
nati Daily Enquirer favored settling the matter in the
courts,35 and, although not rejecting the proposed Dem-
ocratic State Convention, regarded the latter only as
means to take counsel with the party membership.36
While this party warfare was going on in the news-
papers, the Democrats, in county conventions, adopted
resolutions condemning the Apportionment Bill; ap-
proving the course of the fifteen seceding Democratic
senators; and appointing delegates to the State Conven-
tion of May 10.37 The Richland County Democrats
resolved, "That it becomes the freemen of Ohio, who
are determined to maintain their liberties, to resist and
oppose this high-handed usurpation and tyranny by all
means within their power and to defeat it peaceably if
they can, but forcibly if they must."38 The Ashland
County Democratic Convention took equally strong
grounds resolving to "stand by the people of the other
counties of the State, even to the last resort of vio-
With feeling running high, the leaders of the Demo-
cratic party met in Columbus, May 10, 1848,40 elected
Rufus P. Spalding chairman of the Convention, and
appointed a committee on resolutions headed by David
T. Disney. The importance attached to the Conven-
tion may be seen from the presence of such outstanding
35 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, March 21, 1848.
36 bid., March 4, 1848.
37 Ohio Statesman, March 21, May 10, 1848.
38 Ibid., April 21, 1848.
39 Ibid., May 1, 1848.
40 Full proceedings of this Convention are given in the Ohio Statesman,
May 10, 11, 1848.
328 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
leaders of the party as Samuel Medary, A. F. Edger-
ton, John Brough, David T. Disney, C. L. Vallandig-
ham, Edson B. Olds, T. W. Bartley, E. B. Flood, and
H. C. Whitman. The Convention met at a time when
the Democratic party in Ohio found itself jockeyed out
of a favorable position on the question of slavery in the
territories,41 and therefore the Apportionment Law was
seized upon as a new issue in the hope of rehabilitating
the political fortunes of the Democracy. Since there
were signs that the Whigs also were divided on the ap-
portionment question, conservative Democrats felt that
a radical move on their part would discredit them in
the eyes of the people at the moment when fortune was
playing into their hands. In the Convention, Brough,
a leader of the more conservative wing of the party,
attempted to tone down the sharp resolutions presented
for adoption. Resolutions finally were adopted to the
effect that there was no law by which the General As-
sembly could be formed after the second Tuesday in
October; that the Governor should call an extra session
to pass an apportionment law; and that if the Governor
failed to call such a session, Democrats should abide by
the Apportionment Law to the extent of voting in full
force at the next election, "with a view to ulterior
measures for the preservation of their past political
rights." These "ulterior measures," an ominous threat
according to Whig critics, were the refusal of Demo-
cratic senators and representatives to take their seats
in the Legislature. By such tactics, the Democrats
hoped to force a call for a constitutional convention by
the Whigs. Another resolution provided that if the
41 See Chapter V.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 329
Governor did not call an extra session of the Legisla-
ture, a Democratic State Convention should assemble on
the first Monday in December "to devise the necessary
measures for securing the action of the whole people
on the subject of a new Constitution."42 Another revo-
lutionary act was the appointment of a Committee of
Public Safety consisting of twenty-one members, one
from each congressional district, to meet at the call of
the chairman "to confer for the public good."43 A com-
mittee of five was appointed to draft an address to the
people of Ohio, and eight days later a document of ten
thousand words appeared, repeating all the old argu-
ments against the Whig Apportionment Law,44 and con-
cluding with an appeal to the people, but assuring them
at the same time, that the remedy was "peaceable,
natural, and constitutional."45
The Whigs dubbed the Democratic Convention a
"Dorr Convention" and a "Jacobin Revolt."46 The main
Whig organ of the State warned its followers "that
measures to revolutionize the State and subvert the
Constitution are still in progress--that not one item
of the infamous plots and plans of May 10 has been
abandoned or neglected--that the machinery of treason
and anarchy has been silently, but constantly at work--
42 Ohio Statesman, May 10-11, 1848.
43 Years afterward, with an ironical flourish, Medary, a member from
the Tenth Congressional District, resigned from the Committee of Public
Safety. The appointment of a Committee of Public Safety was a step
which the Hamilton County Democratic Convention had not taken, chiefly
because of the opposition of John Brough. The failure to do this brought
protests from the Hamilton County Democrats. Cincinnati Daily Enquirer,
April 17, 18, 19, 1848. Brough probably did this in order to nip in the bud
an "independent" movement among some of the Democrats who were in-
clined to seek Whig support, especially in 1849, by agreeing to the legality
of the Apportionment Law.
44 Ohio Statesman, May 18, 1848.
45 Ibid., May 19, 1848.
46 Ohio State Journal, July 1, August 8, 1848.
330 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
and that every threat, even to that of force, bloodshed
and murder, will most assuredly be carried out and ful-
filled to the letter, if the result of the election shall fur-
nish the means by which it may be done."47 The Whig
emphasis on law and order was probably partly in-
duced by the unfavorable position of their party in the
State on national issues.48 Many Whigs were bolting
the Taylor ticket49 in 1848, and state leaders hoped, by
stressing the "revolutionary" tactics of the Democrats,
to keep insurgent Whigs in line.50 By July, the Paines-
ville Telegraph (W) was convinced that state issues
were far more important than national questions, and
declared, with the approval of the Ohio State Journal,
that the question was "Whether we shall maintain law
and order in the State, and preserve the Constitution
and government in its present useful and reliable form,
or cast it at loose ends to the management of such cor-
rupt demogogues as Sam Medary, Dr. Olds, and John
The first reaction of the Democratic press52 and
Democratic county conventions53 was to applaud the
work of the State Convention of May 10. At the same
time, there was evidence of a desire to avoid the charges
of revolutionary tactics.54 The Dayton Western Em-
pire, for example, declared, "We contemplate no vio-
47 Ibid., September 18, 1848.
48 Chase to Sumner, November 27, 1848, quoted in "Selected Letters of
Salmon P. Chase," in loc. cit., v. II, pp. 142-143.
49 E. S. Hamlin to McLean, September 16, 1848. McLean MSS., v. XVI.
50 Ohio State Journal, August 24, 1848.
51 Ibid., July 10, 1848.
52 Approval was voiced by such papers as the Akron Democrat, Coshoc-
ton Democrat, Wayne County Democrat, Hillsboro Gazette, Georgetown
Standard, Knox County Democratic Banner, Guernsey County Jeffersonian,
Ohio Sun, Western Empire, quoted in Ohio Statesman, May 20, 1848.
53 Ohio Statesman, May 20-September 4, 1848.
54 Ohio Statesman, September 4, 1848.
Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 331
lence. It is folly to talk of bayonets and bloodshed. We
propose simply to fold our arms, stand by and see if the
Whig party can carry on this government without our
cooperation."55 The Cincinnati Daily Enquirer vig-
orously refuted the charges of the Cincinnati Daily Ga-
zette (W) that the plans of the Democrats were revo-
lutionary and claimed for the Democrats the right to
vote for all the representatives from Hamilton County;
and in case that right were denied, to contest the election
in a peaceable manner.56 The Enquirer advised every
Democratic voter to cast his ballot for the senator and
the five representatives to be elected from Hamilton
County.57 This was in direct contravention to the Ap-