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There was not one Democratic newspaper in all Illinois that did not, with all its power, sustain the President and Governor Walker against the unfortunate and ill-judged action of John Calhoun and his associates at Lecompton.
Judge Douglas was at that time in Chicago; though no public meeting was held at which he could offer his views, there was no doubt entertained by any one, Democrat or Republican, as to his determination to sustain the President in the policy so recently declared by the administration. In a few days Democratic newspapers in other states came into Illinois sustaining the administration and denouncing the Lecomptonites. From the entire Northwest there was not a Democratic paper which opposed the administration by sustaining Calhoun. The papers of New York gave to the Democracy of Illinois the most unbounded assurance that the Democracy of that state would unite with their Western brethren in a vigorous support of the President. Some weeks later, the Washington Union, which, since the action of the Kansas Convention, had remained silent, appeared with an elaborate editorial, claiming in behalf of the slaveholder the constitutional right to carry his slaves into any state or Territory of the United States, and hold them in such state or Territory by virtue of a constitutional right, in defiance of the laws of such state or Territory. As this matter has been treated of in one of Mr. Douglas's speeches, it is unnecessary to do more here than to repeat that this article of the Union was the first indication that the Democracy of Illinois had that any change was contemplated in the policy of the administration; and following immediately upon this strange declaration of the most unsound and untenable propositions was a quasi endorsement of the Lecompton fraud, and a suggestion that the best course to pursue was to acquiesce in it, and thus get rid of a "distracting question." Still, so complete had been Mr. Buchanan's committal to the principles of the Kansas-Nebraska Act; so acknowledged and boasted of General Cass's devotion to unrestrained squatter sovereignty; so well known Mr. Cobb's liberal views, proclaimed so eloquently upon the hills and in the valleys of Pennsylvania during 1856; so emphatic had been Mr. Toucey's endorsement of the right of self-government, that human intellect refused to understand how, in one moment, and without any rational pretense or occasion, an administration could thus
suddenly give the negative to its past history and official acts, and render ridiculous at least a majority of its members by making them active supporters of proceedings planned and perpetrated in positive conflict with their opinions and speeches during a long, excited, and severe political contest of but very recent date.
Up to the appearance of these articles in the Washington Union, the Republican party had been panic-stricken. The only hope that that party could have had of perpetuating its existence in the Northwest was a want of fidelity on the part of the Democracy to the Cincinnati platform; and when the Democracy of the Northwest, without a dissenting voice, united in sustaining the administration in its Kansas policy and in repudiating the action of the Lecompton Convention, because it violated the Cincinnati platform, that party saw. its own extinction as plainly as it could be written. Its first hope was that Douglas, with a view of being considered the peculiar friend of the South, would sustain the Lecompton Convention. That hope being dissipated, the Republican party was preparing for its demise, when, from a quarter most unexpected, came words of cheering consolation, of hope, and of future glory. There is no use in disguising the fact, even were it possible to do so, that, had the administration, in December, 1857, remained true to its previously maintained policy, and urged upon Congress the duty of disregarding any and all propositions for the admission of Kansas tainted with fraud, and not approved by the free and deliberate choice of the people, the Republican party would have virtually ceased to exist as an organization in the Northwestern States. It would have at once been reduced to a mere handful of abolition fanatics, who by education, as well as natural tastes, habits, and associations, will always cling to the theory that the only way of elevating the negro is by removing every law, custom, or other hinderance to the degradation of the white man to the level of the negro. The thousands who had by their votes, during the previous three years, given a consequence and a power to the Republican party, because of a sincere belief that the policy of the Democratic party had been and would continue to be shaped and changed to promote the ends and purposes of the South as opposed to those of the North, upon the official declaration by the President that he would not sanction or approve of
fraud, nor consent to a violation of the leading principle to which he owed his own election, even to secure the admission of another slave state, would have abandoned the Republican party and rallied under the Democratic flag, having no longer any doubt of the honesty of their party. But no such course was pursued by the President. He did give his official approval to the result of fraud; he did give his executive recommendation to the completion of the violation of the Cincinnati platform by the admission of a state under a Constitution to which the people were not only no party, but which had been kept from them because it was known they would repudiate it. Hence these men, instead of being restored to the Democratic party by a prompt vindication of its honesty and devotion to principle, were repelled, and confirmed in their impression that the Democratic party had but one principle, and that was to promote the ends of slavery. The golden opportunity of putting an end to an organization which, in the hands of the unprincipled managers who have heretofore and ever will control its movements, must be dangerous to the peace and prosperity of the nation and to the supremacy of the Constitution, was neglected and lost. The subsequent action of Congress, of the executive and his cabinet, and of some of the Northern representatives of the Democracy, supplied the Republicans with sufficient proof to enable them to argue with plausibility that the Democratic party was one devoted to the interests of the slaveholding population of the Southern States.
The annual message of Mr. Buchanan, in which he formally proclaimed his approval of Lecomptonism, was received with a most depressing effect upon the party in Illinois. Though he had never been the choice of the party in Illinois, yet, on account of his advanced age, and the fact that he must have felt how many risks the party had always undertaken in advancing him from one high position to another, despite the absence of all personal popularity on his part, and want of striking qualities in his character, Democrats in the West entertained that respect for him which years and long service always excite in the breasts of an intelligent and refined people. While they deplored what they could not but regard as a great error, viewed as a matter of governmental as well as party policy, yet no word of unkindness or reproach was uttered. The message was published in all the papers of the state; and while the
Republicans were jubilant over it, the Democratic papers published it silently-one only, a weekly paper, edited by a federal office-holder, venturing very slight approval of it. The subsequent messages of the President, both by their manner as well as by their language-the very stupid exhibition of ill-concealed venom by Mr. Bigler, in his speech, which was represented as being an authorized expression of the views of the administration, and the Quixotical effort of Dr. Fitch to read Douglas and all who thought with him out of the party-could not fail to modify very greatly the personal interest previously entertained by the Democracy in the venerable President. The debates in Congress and the proceedings there have already been spoken of in these pages, and it will only be necessary to refer to them now as explaining proceedings in the state. On a previous page will be found some notice of a meeting held in Chicago in December responsive to the speech of Douglas in the Senate on the 9th of December. The names mentioned in those proceedings are of some moment, not because of any consequence attaching personally to the individuals, but as illustrating the depths to which rancorous enmity stooped for the selection of fitting instruments to accomplish its ends.
The resolutions of that meeting were reported by a committee consisting of the following persons: Thomas Hoyne, exUnited States Attorney; Iram Nye, ex-United States Marshal; Isaac Cook, ex-United States Postmaster; Brock M'Vickar, Surgeon United States Marine Hospital; William Price, postmaster; Thomas Dyer, B. F. Bradley, and H. D. Colvin.
The chairman of the meeting was Dr. Daniel Brainard, exSurgeon to the United States Marine Hospital, who appointed this committee, and who gave as his reason for placing upon it the federal officers appointed by Mr. Buchanan, as well as ⚫ those who had been removed, that it was right that the administration should know and be made to feel that no Democrat in Chicago, in office or out of it, could permit so gross a violation of the principles of the party to pass without expressing in the strongest terms a reprobation of the act. The meeting was addressed by Dr. Brainard and others; their speeches were not published, because the friends of Mr. Douglas and those who really desired harmony in the party thought that, if peace and harmony were to be restored, it could be better accomplished by suppressing the fierce invectives employed, and
sweeping denunciations, not only of Lecomptonism, but of its supporters. Had these speeches been preserved, it would be refreshing at this time to read how Mr. Bigler was denounced as an overgrown dunce, and Dr. Fitch as a bogus senator whose Pomeroy Letter* ought to have consigned him to a political oblivion so profound that not even a Lecompton Convention could resuscitate his memory.
The President subsequently appointed Messrs. Hoyne, Nye, Brainard, and Cook to office, they having become opponents of Douglas and supporters of Lecomptonism.
In February, Cook, one of the above-named committee, proceeded to Washington, and was nominated to the Senate as postmaster; he was then a defaulter to the government in a
*As Dr. Fitch, of Indiana, was one of the "foreign" disturbers in the Illinois contest, and as he was generally styled on the stump "Pomeroy Fitch," it may not be out of place to state why he was so called. At one time he was nominated for Congress in Indiana by the Democracy, whose platform was the Nicholson Letter. Just previous to the election, some Abolitionists in the district, not satisfied with the Whig nominee, addressed a letter to Fitch, propounding questions to him, to which Fitch replied: his reply secured the Abolition vote. The correspondence was secret, and not known to the Democracy until too late to take action upon it. The correspondence on the part of the Abolitionists was conducted by Mr. Pomeroy. We give the letters without comment, except to say that Dr. Fitch very honorably kept all his pledges to Mr. Pomeroy, as will be seen by reference to the journals of the House of Representatives at the time.
"Plymouth, August 4, 1849. "SIR,-As there are a few who think you have not been quite definite enough on some of the questions involved in the present canvass, I wish you to answer the following questions, to wit:
"1. Will you, if elected, vote for the unconditional repeal of slavery in the District of Columbia?
"2. Will you vote for the abolition of the inter-state slave-trade?
"3. Will you vote for the Wilmot Proviso being extended over the Territories of California and New Mexico, and against any law authorizing slaves to be taken there as property?
"Please answer the above questions yes or no, without comment.
"With pleasure I answer 'YES' to the above questions.
"Entertaining the views indicated in my answer above, I shall not only vote 'yes' on these measures, but if no older or abler member, whose influence would be greater than mine, introduce them into Congress, I shall do it myself, if I have the honor of holding a seat there.
"G. N. FITCH."