History of Ontario Co. & Its People

Vol. 1, Pub. 1911  Pg.  118 - 124

Thanks to Deborah Spencer for transcription of these pages.


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Growing Strength and Confidence of the New Party--Fremont the Standard Bearer--Free Soil Democrats Unite with the New Political Organization--John C. Fremont Nominated for President--District and County Conventions--Republicans Name a Complete Ticket. 

The Republican party gained its first victory of a national character in the election of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, at the opening of the 34th Congress in December, 1855.  After a protracted contest, in which no less than 20 candidates were voted for, the Republicans, Anti-Slavery Whigs, Anti-Slavery Democrats, Anti-Slavery Americans, and other Free Soilers, united and elected Nathaniel P. BANKS to the office.  Bleeding Kansas, through the settlement of emigrants from the East, was slowly materializing into a Free and Republican State.  The attack upon Charles SUMNER in the United States Senate also helped to make the men of the North who thought alike realize that they must act alike, if they were to successfully oppose the aggressions of the slave power. 

The first movement toward the organization of a national Republican campaign was that voiced in the call, signed by the chairmen of the Republican State committees of Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin, for an informal convention of the Republicans of the Union to be held at Pittsburg, February 22, 1856.  Of the caucuses and conventions held in Ontario county preliminary to this convention we have no record, as the Times office, the under the management of Willson MILLOR, was burned out on February 6th of that year and the paper was not reestablished, except through the occasional issue of leaflets, until the first of the following May.  The other village papers did not attempt to report the primaries of the new party, the Repository being wedded to the Know Nothing cause and the Messenger flying the Democratic colors.

We learn from the latter, however, that the delegates elected to represent the Ontario-Seneca-Yates Congressional district in the Pittsburg convention were ex-State Senator William M. OLIVER, of Penn Yan, and ex-Congressman William A. SACKETT, of Seneca Falls. 

The Pittsburg convention named a national executive committee of which Edwin D. MORGAN, of New York was chairman, and adopted resolutions demanding repeal of laws favorable to the extension of slavery, favoring the admission of Kansas as a Free State, and declaring the national administration of President PIERCE to be identified with the progress of the slave power to national supremacy. 

The executive committee appointed at this convention promptly issued a call to the friends of freedom to send delegates to a convention to be held at Philadelphia, June 17, “for the purpose of recommending candidates to be supported for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States.”  Thus was inaugurated the first national campaign by the Republican party. 

The Republican State convention was called to meet in Syracuse, May 28. 

The convention for the Western Assembly district of Ontario county was held at Collin’s hotel, in East Bloomfield, May 16, and was presided over by Myron ADAMS, of East Bloomfield, as chairman.  Francis J. LAMB, of Canandaigua, acted as its secretary.  Roswell C. MUNSON, of East Bloomfield, and Shotwell POWELL, of South Bristol, were elected delegates to the State convention.

At the convention for the Eastern district, held at Clifton Springs, May 24, Jedediah DEWEY, Jr., of Manchester, acted as chairman, and Dolphin STEPHENSON, of Phelps, as secretary.  Thomas U. BRADBURY, of Farmington, and Cuyler F. GREENE, of Gorham, were elected delegates to the State convention, and Dolphin STEPHENSON, of Phelps, and G. B. SEARS, of Seneca, alternates.  Resolutions were adopted declaring, in addition to opposition to slavery extension, that the delegates felt “impelled to discard all former political differences and to unite for the common good,” etc. D. STEPHENSON, A. S. CRITTENDEN, and William JOHNSON were named as a district committee.  Thomas J. McLOUTH, of Ontario, John E. SEELEY, of Seneca, and M. H. LAWRENCE, of Yates, were selected as delegates, and Henry W. TAYLOR, James K. RICHARDSON, and A. V. HARPENDING, as alternates, to represent the 27th district in the National convention. 

The Times had been established in Canandaigua as the organ of that faction of the Whig party which hailed William H. SEWARD, then representing the State in the Senate of the United States, as their leader, and who supported him in his effort to make the party independent of slavery dictation.  It had surged the importance of his reelection to the Senate and rejoiced when he was reelected, but previous to that, at the time when the repeal of the Missouri Compromise had stirred the North to indignation and protest, as early as June, 1854, it had put at the head of its editorial columns this legend: 

For President, William H. SEWARD, of New York. 

And it had kept the declaration in place all through the Free Soil campaign of that year, through the campaign of the next year, in which the party was organized and adopted the name Republican, and into the Presidential campaign of 1856.  William H. SEWARD, able, statesmanlike, eloquent, who had led the van in the fight for Free Soil during the preceding years, became the leader of the Republican party in New York State as he had been the leader of the dominant faction of the old Whig party.  He was the choice of the New York delegates for the Presidency in the National convention at Philadelphia, June 17, 1856.  He probably could have been nominated.  There was no strife among candidates.  It was too clearly shown that the contest must be fought for the sake of future good, not for present success.   

Thurlow WEED and other New York admirers of the great statesman wanted to avoid his sacrifice.  His name was therefore withdrawn, and he received only one vote in the balloting on the second day of that historic gathering.  The first formal ballot determined the result. 

John C. FREMONT, “the Pathfinder,” was chosen to lead the Republican army, yet ignorant of its own strength, doubtful of its future, but inspired by a noble purpose, in its first campaign for the Presidency.  William L. DAYTON, of New Jersey, was selected as its candidate for Vice President. 

Though the leaders of the Republican party in the 1856 campaign had little hope of electing their candidate for President, they believed they could carry most of the Northern States and so organize and establish the new party that the Free Soil sentiment of the Nation could successfully assert itself in succeeding contests. 

The Democrats who were opposed to the extension of slavery into free territory and to the outrages committed upon the free settlers of Kansas, had been finally alienated from the Democratic party by the pro-slavery principles enunciated by the Cincinnati convention, which had nominated James BUCHANAN for the Presidency, and were ready now to take the step that should make them members of the Republican party in full and regular standing.  In Ontario county they held a convention, at the court house in Canandaigua, July 19.  Chester LOOMIS, of Gorham, the year before the unsuccessful People’s candidate for State Senator, acted as chairman, and E. W. GARDNER, of Canandaigua, as secretary.  James C. SMITH, Elnathan W. SIMMONS, David PAUL, Chester LOOMIS, Charles J. FOLGER, and Thomas U. BRADBURY, were elected delegates to a State convention of the “Democratic-Republican” party, and James C. SMITH and Elbridge G. LAPHAM made speeches, which, the secretary reported, were able and eloquent, and “served up the Cincinnati platform and its candidates in true Democratic style.”  The men mentioned as active participants in this meeting, like thousands of Free Soil Democrats throughout the North, immediately took an active and influential part in support of the Republican party. 

In New York as in other States, that party nominated full State and local tickets and conducted a most aggressive and successful campaign.  The convention for selecting candidates for the State offices to the filled was called to meet in Syracuse, September 17.

At the convention for the First Assembly district of this county, held at Clifton Springs on September 13, 1856, David PICKETT, of Gorham, acted as chairman, and George B. DUSENBERRE, of Geneva, as secretary.  Thomas HILLHOUSE, of Geneva, afterwards State Comptroller, State Senator, and Assistant Treasurer of the United States, and Jedediah DEWEY, Jr., of Manchester, already mentioned as most active and prominent in the earliest movements toward the organization of the party, were elected delegates to the State convention, and George B. DUSENBERRE, of Geneva, county judge from 1861 to 1868, and A. G. CRITTENDEN, of Manchester, alternates.  Delegates to the Congressional convention were elected as follows:  Hon. John LAPHAM, of Farmington; Platt C. REYNOLDS, of Manchester; Jonathan PRATT, of Hopewell; Dolphin STEPHENSON, of Phelps, and A. J. SHANNON, of Seneca. 

The Second district convention, held at Canandaigua, August 30, was presided over by Doctor Z. PAUL, of Richmond, as chairman, and Myron S. HALL, of West Bloomfield, as secretary.  The Canandaigua delegates were Charles COY, Evander SLY, Joel M. HOWEY, Elisha W. GARDNER, and John H. MORSE.  Elbridge G. LAPHAM, afterwards member of Congress and United States Senator, and Edward BRUNSON, afterwards member of Assembly, were elected delegates to the State convention, and Josiah PORTER, of Naples; Richmond SIMMONS, 2nd, of Bristol; Z. PAUL, of Richmond; Myron S. HALL, of West Bloomfield, and Charles COY, of Canandaigua, delegates to the Congressional convention.

Charles COY, Edwin HICKS and Lanson DEWEY were named as a campaign committee.  The State convention made these nominations:  For Governor, John A. KING; for Lieutenant-Governor, Henry R. SELDEN; for Canal Commissioner, Charles H. SHERRILL; for Inspector of State Prisons, Wesley BAILEY; for Clerk of the Court of Appeals, Russell F. HICKS. 

The 29th Congressional district convention was held at Geneva, in Linden Hall, October 4, Hon. John LAPHAM acting as chairman, and A. T. KNOX and M. S. HALL, as secretaries.  The three counties of the district--Ontario, Yates, and Seneca--were fully represented.  On the first formal ballot for candidates for member of Congress, Emory B. POTTLE, of Naples, received 13 votes, to 6 cast for Addison T. KNOX, and one for J. E. SEELEY, and was declared the nominee.  J. V. VAN ALLEN, of Yates; Isaac FULLER, of Seneca, and Henry W. TAYLOR and Thomas HILLHOUSE, of Ontario, were named as the central committee for the campaign. 

The county nominating convention was held at Canandaigua, October 14, 1856, Simri COLLINS acting as chairman and William H. SMITH and William CARSON, as secretaries.  Candidates for county offices were nominated as follows:  For county judge, Henry W. TAYLOR; justice of sessions, George W. STEARNS; superintendent of poor, John LAPHAM; coroners, John Q. HOWE and Rollin GREGG.  An apportionment of delegates to represent the several towns in future conventions was made as follows:  Canandaigua, 7; Phelps, 7; Manchester, 5; Farmington, 5; Gorham, 5; Victor, 4; East Bloomfield, 4; Bristol, 4; Naples, 4; Hopewell, 4; West Bloomfield, 3; South Bristol, 3; Seneca, 9; Richmond, 3; Canadice, 3.  Nathan J. MILLIKEN, James C. SMITH, Albert G. MURRAY, Ira R. PECK and A. J. SHANNON, were named as the county committee for the ensuing year. 

The nominating convention for the Eastern district named the Hon. Samuel A. FOOT, of Geneva, for reelection to the Assembly.  That for the Western district placed Zoroaster PAUL in the field as its candidate for membership in that body.  Elnathan W. SIMMONS acted as chairman of the convention last named and Elisha W. GARDNER and Martin REMINGTON as secretaries.  The delegates were as follows: 

Canandaigua-- Willson MILLOR, Elisha W. GARDNER, Spencer GOODING, Ansel DEBOW, Martin REMINGTON, Holmes C. LUCAS, and Charles P. JOHNSON. 

Victor - Asa WILSON, Rufus HUMPHREY, Hiram LADD, Melancton LEWIS. 

East Bloomfield - Nelson PARMELE, Henry W. HAMLIN, Joseph STEELE, Loren H. BRUNSON. 

West Bloomfield - James H. HALL, S. C. BROWN, John WOOD. 

Richmond - Parley BROWN, D. L. HAMILTON, Zoroaster PAUL. 

Bristol - Elnathan W. SIMMONS, William A. REED, Seymour REED, Richmond SIMMONS, 2d. 

South Bristol - Simri COLLINS, Theron BUELL, Amos CRANDALL, Jr. 

The work of this convention, held on the 24th of October, completed the Republican ticket.  The party had presented candidates for the Presidency, State offices, Congress, county offices, and the Assembly. 

These were opposed by two full tickets, one nominated by the Americans or Know Nothings, who were trying to save their now rapidly disintegrating party from complete extinction, and the other nominated by the Democratic party.  This last was made up of those members of the old Democratic party who had resisted the call to unite in the formation of a new political organization and was destined eventually to absorb the anti-Seward Whigs and that portion of the American party which deprecated any action that might lead to a break with the South. 

The canvass of 1856 was a lively one, and beyond the substantial victories gained in State and local elections, served the all-important purpose of welding the diverse Free Soil elements that had been theretofore clinging to their old party names into one compact organization-- “Republican, no prefix no suffix; but plain Republican.”


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