History of Ontario Co. & Its People
Vol. 1, Pub. 1911 Pg. 97 - 107
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MYRON H. CLARK ELECTED
Mr. Clark’s First Public Office That of
Sheriff of Ontario County--Gained Prominence in the Senate as an Advocate of the
Maine Law--Gubernatorial Nominee of the Seward Whigs, Free Soil Democrats, and
Prohibitionists--Beginnings of the Republican Party.
As pointed out in the last chapter, the
conventions held in this State in 1854, to voice the aroused sentiment of the
people against slavery extension, were not called “Republican.”
The only exception to this was in the case of Allegany county, where it
is claimed that, at a convention held at Friendship in May of that year, the
name Republican, first suggested by Horace GREELEY, was formally adopted and at
a subsequent date a county ticket was nominated and supported under that name.
James G. BLAINE, in a speech at Strong,
Maine, August 19, 1884, where and when occurred one of the several celebrations
of the 30th anniversary of the organization of the Republican party,
aptly said: “The place and the
time where the Republican party was first organized will, I presume, remain,
like the birthplace of HOMER, a subject of unending dispute.
Seven cities claimed the latter, and seven States may claim the former.
It could hardly be doubted that a great thought, common to the minds of a
million of men, would find expression at the same time at places widely
separated.” But it is pretty
generally conceded now that the first Republican State convention, Republican in
name as well as in fact, was that held “under the oaks” at Jackson,
Michigan, July 6, 1854. Republican
conventions were held and Republican tickets nominated that year in Michigan,
Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Maine.
In New York State, as we have seen, as in
all the Eastern States, except Maine, it was known as the Anti-Nebraska
movement, and its conventions made no independent nominations, but it
represented here the same coalition and voiced the same principals that in other
states raised the Republican flag, and in endorsing Myron H. CLARK, and his
associates on the Whig ticket, it made them in fact the first Republican
candidates for State office.
Governor CLARK recognized this in the
following letter written to A. N. COLE, of Allegany county, known widely as
“the Father of the Republican party” from the fact that he called the
Allegany county convention above referred to:
Canandaigua, August 12, 1884.
Hon. A. N. COLE, Wellsville,
My long time, Dear Friend:
note of the 9th instant, and a copy of the Genesee Valley Free Press
of the same date, were both received by me yesterday. You
request me to give my recollections about the origin and organization of the
Republican party; and to corroborate your statement in relation thereto,
published in the paper you send me, so far as I am able.
It affords me pleasure to comply with your
request; and to vindicate “the truth of history,” for the benefit of the
present generation of our citizens; many of whom can have but little
appreciation of the stirring times, politically, you and I passed through in
those early days of the party. The
organization of the Republican party in this State, was effected in 1854.
It was made up of the old Whigs, in large part; Temperance men, or
Prohibitionists; Free Soil Democrats; and the “Anti-Nebraska” party.
The nominating State Conventions in this State of each of those parties
were held as follows: The Whig
party, September 20, 1854, at Syracuse; the Free Democratic, September 25,
‘54; the Anti-Nebraska party, September 26, and the Temperance, or Prohibition
State Convention, September 27, ‘54. The
last three at Auburn. At each of
these four State Conventions, I received the nomination for Governor; each of
which I formally accepted, as the platforms of principles expressed and passed
by the several Conventions, taken altogether, were in accordance with my
political principles. These
nominations, and my acceptance constituted, in effect, the formation and
beginning of the Republican party in this State; although not then designated as
such, I believe, by any of them, except the Free Democratic. There has been no Whig State Convention or party, in this
State, since that time. The
Republican name may have been, and probably was, used in local, town, or county
conventions, previous to that time; but not by any State or National
My recollection coincides with your
statement, that the name for the new party, “Republican, no prefix!
no suffix; but plain Republican,” was suggested by Horace GREELEY.
The name began to be used in the papers very soon; whether in the New
York Tribune first, I do not remember. But
the Evening Chronicle, a Temperance and Anti-Slavery newspaper, published at
Poughkeepsie, dated October 3, 1854, six days after my nomination, published
“the Republican Platform.” upon
which (in connection with the Temperance plaform), I stood and was elected.
I send you a slip from that paper containing the platform, and editorial
comments upon the nomination, etc.
My political platform of principles, like
your own, then and ever since has consisted, mainly, of two planks; viz:
opposition to negro Slavery in the Nation; and Anti-rum, in the State.
Hence I have always been opposed to the
Democratic party, although occasionally I have supported Democratic candidates
for local offices, when they have been better men than their Republican
The Republican party, thus made up and
organized, on the principles and platforms originally adopted, has, with the aid
of Providence made good beginning and much progress in the National branch of
its work; whilst it has almost wholly ignored the temperance question, in its
subsequent State Conventions; which I have very much regretted, believing it to
be of paramount importance to the people, and the party.
I have, however, advised against the Prohibitionist party making a
National ticket, believing it would be more practical, and useful, to confine
its efforts to local, municipal, and State politics.
I nevertheless hope, and trust, that the Republican nominees for
President and Vice-President, may be elected.
I shall give them my vote, and influence, to bring about that result.
With sincere regard and respect. I
Very truly yours,
Myron H. CLARK
Governor CLARK erred in saying that the
Republican name had not been used prior to the time mentioned by any State
convention, but otherwise his review summarizes the 1854 campaign in this State.
The cooperation of the several parties mentioned in support of his
candidacy for the governorship constituted in effect the beginning of the
Republican party in this State.
Myron H. CLARK was serving his second term
in the State Senate, as the representative of the 29th, or
Ontario-Livingston, district, at the opening of the year 1854.
Born in Naples, October 23, 1806, and a merchant by occupation, he had
been elected sheriff of Ontario county on the Whig ticket in 1837, and having
become a resident of Canandaigua had been elected in 1851 and again in 1853 as
State Senator. He had gained recognition as a competent, conscientious
legislator, was one of the leaders of the Seward wing of the Whig party, and as
chairman of the special committee which reported the Maine bill, designed to
prohibit the sale of liquor in the State except for medicinal purposes, had
gained State prominence.
The temperance question was a burning one in
the State at that time, being hardly inferior in popular interest to the slavery
question. It was the subject of
heated debates in both houses of the Legislature.
Senator CLARK made a telling speech in support of the Maine measure, and
it was finally passed, but to the great disappointment of the mass of the people
it was vetoed by Governor SEYMOUR.
Following the adjournment of the
Legislature, the press continued the discussion, and almost immediately there
were suggestions that Senator CLARK would be an available candidate for the
“The Carson League,” published in New
York, an organ of a State temperance organization of the same name, strongly
urged his nomination. Not only did
The Times, the local Free Soil organ, commend the suggestion as gratifying to
its editor personally and as pleasing to the community in general, but the
Ontario Messenger, an ultra Democratic paper, declared:
“Since Mr. CLARK has been a member of the Legislature, he has proved
himself to be one of the most able, consistent, and dignified temperance
advocates in that body, and has won the confidence and esteem of men of all
parties.” “Here at home,” the
Messenger continued, “where Mr. CLARK is known, it need hardly be said that
the compliment intended by such a nomination is fully appreciated and could not
be bestowed on a more worthy and deserving gentleman.”
The Carson League of Ontario county, which
was an organization for the enforcement of the then existing excise law and was
officered by Jesse CAMPBELL, of Canandaigua, as president; Hiram H. SEELYE, of
Seneca, as vice president; A. D. PLATT, of Seneca; T. E. HART, of Canandaigua,
and Israel WASHBURN, of Phelps, as executive committee; John RAINES, of
Canandaigua, grandfather of the late Senator John RAINES, author of the present
Liquor Tax law, as treasurer, and Francis J. LAMB, of Canandaigua (now of
Madison, Wisconsin), as secretary and agent, sent delegates to the State
temperance convention instructed to favor Senator CLARK’s candidacy.
The Whig convention for the Second Assembly
district, held at Hick’s inn, in Bristol, September 16, was presided over by
Hiram ASHLEY, of Richmond, as chairman, and Alexander H. HOWELL, of Canandaigua,
N. J. MILLIKEN, editor of The Times, was
elected delegate to the State convention and Solomon GOODALE, Jr., was nominated
for member of Assembly.
The First district convention, held at
Clifton Springs the same day, nominated William H. LAMPORT, up to that time a
Silver Gray or anti-Seward Whig, for member of Assembly.
There is no record as to who was the delegate elected to the State
At this last named convention held in
Syracuse, September 20, an informal ballot developed 10 gubernatorial
candidates, but Mr. CLARK led from the first and on the third formal ballot he
received a majority of the votes cast and was declared the nominee.
Henry J. RAYMOND, editor of the New York Times, was nominated to the
office of Lieutenant-Governor. The
resolutions declared that in their struggles against the principles involved in
the Nebraska bill, the Whigs of New York invited “the cooperation, on terms of
equality and fraternity, of all sincere and earnest champions of Free Labor and
The Times, voicing the sentiment at least of
the Seward Whigs of Ontario county, said this in its issue of the following
“Myron H. CLARK, the nominee for Governor,
is a citizen of this place, with whom most of our readers are personally
acquainted. He is a man of
excellent judgment, and large experience in public affairs.
Plain and unassuming in his language and deportment, he is yet possessed
of great energy and decision of character--is sound to the core on all the
prominent political questions of the day, and firm as a rock in support of
whatever he believes to be right. It
has been truly said that he is a self-made man, but he is none the less well
made for all that; and whoever has observed his course in the Senate, where he
now holds a seat on his second term, will be a witness to the statesmanlike
qualities he has displayed in that body, and to the enlarged and liberal views
which have ever governed his legislative action.”
It is interesting to note in passing that
the local Whig ticket of that year was completed by the nomination of James L.
SEELEY, for member of Congress, George RICE for superintendent of poor, Lyman
CLARKE for justice of sessions, and Buell S. BARTLETT for coroner.
Mr. CLARK’s nomination to the governorship
was immediately endorsed by the Anti-Nebraska convention at its adjourned
session, and successively, as stated in Governor CLARK’s letter above quoted,
by the Free Soil Democratic convention and the Temperance convention.
The succeeding canvass was a bitter one and
doubtful to the end, the Silver Gray wing of the Whig party being in open
alliance with the Know Nothings in support of the latter’s candidate, Daniel
ULLMAN; the Soft Shell Democrats rallying to the support of their party
candidate, Horatio SEYMOUR, and the Hard Shell Democrats having a candidate,
also, in the person of Greene C. BRONSON.
The four-cornered fight ended in the
election of the Whig-Anti-Nebraska-Free Soil-Temperance candidate by a small but
sufficient plurality, the vote being as follows:
Myron H. CLARK, 156,804; Horatio SEYMOUR, 156,495; Daniel ULLMAN,
122,282; Greene C. BRONSON, 33,850. Ontario
county gave CLARK 2,431, SEYMOUR 1,280, ULLMAN 3,148, and BRONSON 348 votes.
William H. LAMPORT was elected to the Assembly in the First district by
486 plurality, but Solomon GOODALE, the Whig candidate in the Second district,
was defeated by Oliver CASE, his Democratic or Locofoco opponent.
There was great rejoicing in Canandaigua
when it was finally known that its distinguished citizen, Myron H. CLARK, had
been elected Governor of the State. A
celebration, opening with a salute of 100 guns, and closing with a banquet at
the Canandaigua hotel, was held on the evening of November 29.
About 100 guests participated in the affair, Orson BENJAMIN acting as
toastmaster and chairman. Speeches were made by J. J. CHAMBERS, of Albany; Emory B.
POTTLE, of Naples; Stafford C. CLEVELAND, of Penn Yan, and Ira R. PECK, of East
Bloomfield. Sentiments were offered
by several of the guests.
Thurlow WEED, the great Albany politician,
sent a letter of regret in which he proposed the following toast:
Canandaigua--A village equally distinguished
for its picturesque beauties and its social refinements.
The executive honors so long anticipated by its eminent citizens have
finally rewarded onostentatious personal worth and unswerving political
The opposition made fun of the celebration,
but it may be presumed that the Woolly Heads and their friends of the coalition
read the jibes with equanimity. They had won. Their
candidate for Governor, standing on a platform declaring for Free Labor and Free
Soil, had been elected. The
Republican party of New York State, in effect, had been born, though not yet
The political pot had boiled furiously in
1854. While party leaders clung to
the old names, they participated in coalition movements.
The party voters divided into antagonistic and openly recognized
factions--the Democrats into Hard Shells and Soft Shells, as they resisted or
acquiesed in the disposition manifested by their party organization to yield to
the demands of the Southern slave power--the Whigs into Woolly Heads and Silver
Grays, the former being the appellation derisively given those who sympathized
with William H. SEWARD in his opposition to slave power aggressions, and the
latter that which was applied to those who, following the lead of Francis
GRANGER of Canandaigua, from whose beautiful silver gray hair the faction
derived its name, deprecated any reopening of agitation over slavery questions.
The masses of the people thoroughly aroused by the heated discussions in
Congress and in the press over the passage of the Fugitive Slave law and that
admitting slavery to the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, had learned to
exercise the right of bolting the “regular” party nominations. But, as we have seen, the men who in New York State opposed
the aggressions of the slave power, and who in 1854 had united to elect Myron H.
CLARK to the governorship on a Free Soil and Free Labor platform, had not as yet
been willing to admit that they were anything but Whigs or Democrats or
The year 1855 was to see another step in
advance taken by the New York State Free Soilers--a step already taken, as we
have seen, in several other Northern States.
Mr. CLARK, for political reasons, did not resign the office of Senator
until the close of the year, and then a county “People’s Convention” of
electors who were “in favor of restricting slavery” was called to elect
delegates to a district convention which would nominate his successor.
It will be noted that the Free Soilers had
reached a point where they were ready to stand up and be counted independent of
former party affiliations.
This “People’s Convention” was held in
Canandaigua, January 20, 1855. Officers
were elected as follows: President,
Charles H. LOOMIS; vice presidents, Dr. WEBSTER, of East Bloomfield; George
DUNKLE, of Hopewell; Elnathan W. SIMMONS, of Bristol; E. BLODGETT, of Gorham;
and E. S. GREGORY, of Canandaigua; secretaries, Harvey STONE, Charles B.
JOHNSON, and Sereno FRENCH. Eighteen
delegates were elected “to confer with a like number from Livingston
county,” as follows: First
district--Staats GREEN, of Hopewell; Lebbeus KNAPP, of Hopewell; Harry GREGORY,
of Hopewell; Thomas J. McLOUTH, of Farmington; Cornelius HORTON, of Phelps; Dr.
J. H. HOWELL, of Phelps; E. DICKINSON, of Seneca; Samuel MORRISON, of Seneca;
Hiram AXTELL, of Manchester. Second
district--Nathan J. MILLIKEN, of Canandaigua; Henry WILSON, of Canandaigua; Ira
R. PECK, of East Bloomfield; Lyman HAWES, of Richmond; Francis MASON, of
Bristol; Asahel GOODING, of Bristol; William C. DRYER, of Victor; Emory B.
POTTLE, of Naples; Silas C. BROWN, of West Bloomfield.
This county convention was held on Saturday.
On the following Monday, January 22, the 29th District
convention to nominate a candidate to the vacancy was held, this also in
Canandaigua. Owing to a
misunderstanding, the other county of the district, Livingston, was not
represented by delegates, but S. C. BROWN, William CARTER, and Ira GODFREY, of
that county, present as spectators, were invited to take seats in the
convention. Lyman HAWES, of
Richmond, was elected chairman, and J. Q. HOWE, of Phelps, and Ira R. PECK, of
East Bloomfield, officiated as secretaries.
An informal vote for candidates for the
State senatorship resulted as follows: Chester
LOOMIS received 7 votes; S. FOOTE, 2; E. W. SIMMONS, 4; Charles J. FOLGER, 1;
blank, 1. On a second ballot, Judge
LOOMIS received 11 votes, Dr. SIMMONS 3, and Judge FOLGER 1.
Judge LOOMIS was thereupon declared the
nominee, and upon motion the following resolution was adopted:
Resolved, That we regard all secret
political organizations as anti-Republican in their tendency and dangerous to
the institutions of our country, and that we will not hold political fellowship
with those whom we have reason to believe are connected in any way with such
orders; nor will we support for office any candidate who holds any connection
with such organization.
The resolution thus adopted by the
People’s convention was an indication of the local revulsion against the
secret methods of the American or Know Nothing party, which had
then reached the culmination of its strength as a National political
organization. This party had its
origin in 1852, under the name of “The Sons of ‘76,” or “The Order of
the Star Spangled Banner,” and was an oath-bound society designed to exclude
Roman Catholics and all foreigners from public office.
Its real name and object were not revealed to a member until he took the
higher degrees, and as a result when asked questions regarding the order he
naturally and invariably replied, “I don’t know.”
So in common parlance the members of the organization were called Know
Nothings. The order increased with
wonderful rapidity. The general
political unrest, the widespread disgust with the management of the Whig and
Democratic parties, and the innate love of man for the mysterious, contributed
to its growth. It became a power in
1854 in local and State elections, a fact that was evidenced by the 122,282
votes cast for Daniel ULLMAN, its candidate for Governor of New York, in that
year. But the slave power was
destined to be the cause of its disruption, as it had been that of other
parties. When its National council
at Philadelphia, June 5, 1855, adopted resolutions supporting the Fugitive Slave
law and the Southern contentions generally, its fate was sealed.
The council thereupon split, and though the
order lived to embarrass Republican candidates in the National campaign of the
next year and at various local elections intervening, it rapidly disintegrated.
As before stated, the election of a
successor to Senator CLARK in the Ontario-Livingston district took place at the
time when the Americans, Know Nothings, or Hindoos, as they were variously
known, were at the height of their power. Elisha
W. GARDNER, of Canandaigua, who was an active participant in the exciting
political events of that year and assisted in the organization of the bogus
lodges that were instituted to break the strength of that most un-American of
parties and to disclose to the people the true inwardness of its promoters,
states that the convention or “council” at which it nominated a candidate in
opposition to Judge LOOMIS was held in secret, the Saturday before the Tuesday
on which election was held. He
recalls that this council, as was the case with all meetings of the party, was
called, not by public notice, but my means of pieces of paper cut in cabalistic
forms, whose meaning was known only to members of the order, and posted or
scattered on the streets.
Judge LOOMIS, the People’s candidate, had
already served one four-years’ term, 1835-1838, in the State Senate, as one of
the representatives of the old Seventh district, under the constitution of 1821,
and was a well known and highly respected citizen.
The Know Nothing candidate was Rev. William
H. GOODWIN, a Methodist Episcopal clergyman then living at Geneva, and though
the Ontario Messenger, the Democratic organ, and The Times, speaking for the
Seward Whigs, united in hurling hot shot at his candidacy, he was elected over
Judge LOOMIS. The Repository, as
the local organ of the Silver Grays, supported the Know Nothing candidate, and
it is manifest that most of that wing of what had been the Whig party voted for
him. In Ontario county, Mr. GOODWIN
received 3,337 votes as against 2,257 for Judge LOOMIS.
This special election was held on Tuesday,
January 30, 1855, and under authority of a special act of the Legislature the
vote was canvassed and Senator GOODWIN took his seat in time to vote against the
reelection of William H. SEWARD to the United States Senate.
On the night preceding this election, at a
public meeting in the court house in Canandaigua, Elbridge G. LAPHAM, then a
prominent Democrat, but destined to rise to prominence in the Republican party,
made a strong speech in support of the People’s candidate, the beginning, if
we are correctly informed, of the custom that he afterward followed as a
Republican campaigner in making the closing speech of each succeeding campaign
to his own townspeople.
In the town elections held in this county in
April of that year, the issue presented by the surprising growth of Know
Nothingism united with the ever insistent question of slavery extension to make
an extremely exciting campaign. As
an indication of the trend of public sentiment at that time, it is interesting
to note that the call for the Cheshire, or No. 9, caucus, to be held at the home
of N. R. BOSWELL, March 28, was for a meeting of “all citizens opposed to the
violation of solemn compromises to the extension of slavery, and to all secret
and irresponsible societies.”
The calls for caucuses to nominate
candidates for town offices in other towns were couched in equally significant
language. The Know Nothings won out
in Canandaigua, their nominee, Ebenezer HALE, being elected, but the “Antis”
carried eight of the towns of the county as compared with a Know Nothing, or
Hindoo, list of six. In Bristol the
vote on supervisor was a tie, and Francis MASON, the Whig incumbent, held over.
The county board of supervisors of that year
was as follows:
Anti-Hindoos--Thomas R. PECK, West
Bloomfield; Henry W. HAMLIN, East Bloomfield; Francis MASON, Bristol; David A.
PIERPONT, Richmond; Nathaniel G. AUSTIN, Canadice; David COYE, South Bristol;
David PICKETT, Gorham; Daniel ARNOLD, Farmington; N. K. COLE, Manchester.
Know Nothings--Ebenezer HALE, Canandaigua; William S. CLARK, Victor; A. T. NELSON, Naples; Robert CHAPIN, Hopewell; S. B. POND, Phelps; James M. SOVERHILL, Seneca.
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