History of Ontario Co. & Its People

Vol. 1, Pub. 1911  Pg.  125 - 134

Thanks to Deborah Spencer for transcription of these pages.

 

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THE NEW POLITICAL LEADERS 

The Campaign in Ontario County for “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Men, Free Labor, and Fremont”--Clubs Organized and Meetings Held--Joshua R. Giddings Speaks in Canandaigua, His Native Town--Success Won in the County and State, but the National Ticket Defeated. 

“New occasions teach new duties” and discover new men.  The crisis into which the country was plunged by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise brought new leaders to the fore in every community.  Men who, like William H. SEWARD and Abraham LINCOLN, were quick to feel the approach of the tidal wave of public indignation against the slavery propaganda and had the courage to cast off old party ties for conscience sake, came in 1856 to the front of the new Republican party.  The old party leaders, many of them not less patriotic, but more timid, and perhaps less discerning, stepped one after another to the rear. 

As it was in the arena of National and State politics, so it was in Ontario county.  The older, more experienced, and up to that time most trusted leaders in both the Whig and Democratic parties failed to see, or, seeing, lacked the courage to grasp, the opportunity presented in the new political organization.  Men younger in years, untrained in party management, and comparatively obscure, became the Republican leaders.  Nathan J. MILLIKEN, James C. SMITH and Albert G. MURRAY, the Canandaigua members of the Republican central committee of the county in that year, were only 35, 39 and 46 years old respectively.  Myron H. CLARK, elected Governor in 1854 by a coalition of the political forces that were later destined to form the new party, was 50 years of age.  Elbridge G. LAPHAM, who became one of its first “spellbinders,” was 45.  Edward BRUNSON was 32, Edwin HICKS was only 26, and William H. SMITH only 27.  Emory B. POTTLE, its first candidate for Congress, was 41. 

The campaign of the Republican party in the memorable year of 1856 was one that appealed to the noblest emotions.  Men engaged in it because they hated slavery and loved freedom, because they felt that the destiny of the Nation was at stake, because they esteemed principle before party.  Its rallying cry-- “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Men, Free Labor, and Fremont”--was in itself an inspiration. 

In Ontario county the lines were closely drawn, and the triangular contest fought out with unflinching courage.  The Republican ticket, headed by the names of Fremont and Dayton, bore that of John A. KING, as the candidate for Governor of the State.  Its local candidates, as we have seen, were as follows:  For Congress, Emory B. POTTLE; for county judge, Henry W. TAYLOR; for justice of sessions, George W. STEARNS; for superintendent of the poor, John LAPHAM; for coroners, John Q. HOWE and Rollin GREGG; for member of Assembly, First district, Samuel A. FOOT; for member of Assembly, Second district, Zoroaster PAUL. 

The American ticket, headed by the name of Millard FILLMORE, its candidate for the Presidency, carried that of Erastus BROOKS, for Governor; Andrew OLIVER, for Congress; Ambrose L. VAN DUSEN, for Assembly, First district; and William S. CLARK, for Assembly, Second district. 

The Democratic candidate for President was James BUCHANAN; for Governor, Amasa J. PARKER; for Congress, Darius A. OGDEN; for county judge, Jabez H. METCALF; for Assembly, First district, Cornelius HORTON; for Assembly, Second district, Henry MUNSON. 

The work of the Republican campaign was pursued along three lines--through the newspapers, through the organization of clubs, and through public meetings. 

The Times at Canandaigua and the Geneva Courier were the local newspaper organs of the party, and it is needless to say that both were vigilant and aggressive in argument and retort.  The former fairly bristled with exhortations to the voter, devoting at least one full page and sometimes two full pages of every issue during the campaign to the cause it had so deeply at heart, its editorials being emphasized by italic and capital type, quite different from the quieter style of modern newspaper typography. 

The call for the organization of a Fremont and Dayton club in Canandaigua was published June 26, as follows: 

Meeting for Organization 

All electors of the town of Canandaigua, without regard to past political differences, who are opposed to the Slavery extension border ruffian policy of the Pierce administration, and in favor of the election of Fremont and Dayton, are invited to meet at the Town Hall, Saturday evening, June 28th, 1856, for the purpose of organizing preparatory to the opening of the Presidential campaign. 

O. BENJAMIN,

N. J. MILLIKEN,

F. W. ALVERSON,

J. C. FAIRCHILD,

Isaac PARRISH,

D. F. ALVERSON,

Geo. COOK,

A. O. KELLOGG,

O. M. SMITH,

M. A. OLDS,

I. W. MITCHELL,

A. HILLS,

Joel DAILEY,

John HOWEY,

L. B. TRUE,

H. S. TOUSLEY,

R. B. CRAWFORD,

Cornelius DAVIS,

Addison STEARNS,

J. C. HOLMES,

J. S. HENDERSHOT,

J. W. BARNES,

Wm. TOZER,

J. J. STEBBINS,

W. E. WILLIAMS,

Charles COY,

R. C. PRATT,

B. R. PRATT,

Levi HERENDEEN,

L. R. WHITTAKER,

J. H. CHAMBERLAIN,

Edwin HICKS,

H. C. LUCAS,

J. HOTCHKISS,

L. WARRICK,

Zebina LUCAS,

Warren BROWN,

William WARRICK,

A. A. BROWN,

W. BROWN, Jr.,

Thos. COCHRAN,

S. K. DOOLITTLE,

R. L. HUNTLEY,

Otis K. PARSHALL,

John JOHNSON,

John S. MULLEN,

Andrew VAN WIE,

Abram VAN WIE,

R. G. CHAMBERLAIN,

Stephen HARRIS,

John HUTCHINS,

F. O. MASON,

E. W. GARDNER, Jr.,

S. S. BRIGGS,

Wm. H. BENNETT,

John MOSHER,

T. E. HART,

S. PARRISH, 2d,

Joel M. HOWEY,

Ansel DEBOW,

Robert McBRIDE,

R. STEVENS,

Thos. C. BURLING,

Stephen SAXTON. 

At the meeting thus held, Orson BENJAMIN was called to the chair and Elihu M. MORSE acted as secretary.  Elisha W. GARDNER, John MOSHER, Riley STEVENS, Joel M. HOWEY, and Holmes C. LUCAS were named as a committee to arrange with the county committee for a mass meeting, and Nathan J. MILLIKEN, Stephen SAXTON, Elisha W. GARDNER, Willson MILLOR, and Chauncey REMINGTON, a committee to draft a constitution and name permanent officers.  Edwin HICKS made a happy and effective speech.  At an adjourned meeting, upon nomination of the committee named, these officers were elected:  President, Orson BENJAMIN; vice presidents, Chauncey REMINGTON, George COOK and Robert McBRIDE; treasurer, John MOSHER; secretaries, Edwin HICKS and Elihu M. MORSE. 

At a subsequent meeting, in August, there was another shuffle, and the list of officers was revised as follows:  President, James C. SMITH; vice presidents, Evander SLY, Charles COY, Holmes C. LUCAS, Charles P. JOHNSON, George COOK, H. N. JARVIS, Chauncey REMINGTON, and Joel M. HOWEY; treasurer, John MOSHER; executive committee, John MOSHER, John MORSE, and Allen WOOD; secretaries, Elihu M. MORSE and G. G CORNELL. 

The Canandaigua club raised a pole on September 24.  The local paper declared:  “It is an undeniable fact that the Fremont and Dayton flag in Canandaigua floats from a taller pole, waves over a bigger party, and represents a nobler cause than any other in town.” 

The club’s headquarters was established on the second floor of the Bemis block, in the room now occupied by E. Chapin CHURCH at an insurance office, and was open daily, Sundays excepted, with newspapers and documents, a warm fire, and comfortable seats, for the use of “all true Republicans.”

Other Fremont and Dayton clubs were noted as having been organized as follows: 

Rushville--President, Chester LOOMIS; vice presidents, John WISEWELL, Hiram TORREY, Joseph BLODGETT, George W. STEARNS, David CHRISTIE, Guy SHAW, Smith BOSTWICK, David REDOUT; secretaries, S. S. CATLIN, D. MORRIS, J. SAYER.  This club raised a white oak pole, 100 feet high and only 10 inches in diameter at the base, and challenged the State to produce a finer one. 

Later the young Republicans of Rushville organized a club, with these officers:  President, Forest HARWOOD; vice presidents, James DELEVAN, J. O. FANNING, Lyman WASHBURN; secretaries, F. B. SEELYE and C. F. GREEN; treasurer, S. S. CATLIN.  This club put up a Fremont cabin. 

Bristol--President, Stephen A. CODDING; vice presidents, Elnathan W. SIMMONS and Elijah JONES; secretary, Washington L. HICKS; treasurer, B. T. CASE. 

Gorham--President, David PICKETT; vice presidents, George B. COOK, J. BLOOMINGDALE, O. J. RICE; secretary, Isaac MOOR; treasurer, O. J. RICE; executive committee, J. H. VAN OSDALE, Jr., Isaac MOOR, A. BROWN, Robert MOODY, Henry DOUGLASS, William SQUIRES, Jonathan PHILLIPS, E. Darwin BAINBRIDGE, Henry MAPES. 

Farmington--President, John H. NICHOLS; secretary, Elias H. KNIGHT; executive committee, J. R. DENNIS, J. BLACKMORE, and E. H. ALDRIDGE; treasurer, E. H. ALDRIDGE. 

East Bloomfield--President, Myron ADAMS; vice presidents, Edward BRUNSON and Roswell C. MUNSON; secretary, R. C. STILES; treasurer, William P. JUDD; business committee, Ira R. PECK, Edward BRUNSON, C. W. HIGBY, Henry W. HAMLIN, Henry GAINS, David A. RAINSFORD, and Elisha STEELE. 

Cheshire--President, John JOHNSON; vice presidents, Holmes C. LUCAS, Philander STILES, and R. L. HUNTLEY; treasurer, J. HUTCHENS; secretary, R. L. HUNTLEY; corresponding secretary, Holmes C. LUCAS.  Mr. POTTLE was the speaker at a pole raising in Cheshire, September 13. 

Naples--President, Alfred GRISWOLD; vice presidents, David G. TEETS and S. H. SUTTON; secretaries, A. T. NELSON and L. SPRAGUE.

Perhaps the most notable meeting of the campaign in this county was that advertised as follows:

 

PEOPLE’S  COUNTY MEETING

A Convention of the

Friends of Freedom

In Ontario County, will be held at the

Court House In The

Village of Canandaigua

------on---------

Saturday, August 30th. 

Hon. Joshua R. GIDDINGS.

Of Ohio, the eloquent and faithful champion of Human Liberty, will address the meeting.

 

Gen. James W. NYE, And several other speakers of celebrity have been invited and are expected to attend. 

The people of Ontario County are invited to come up and hear this discussion of the great question of  

FREEDOM IN KANSAS 

Freedom on our Great Highways of Commerce; Freedom of the Ballot Box and of the Press; and Freedom of Conscience and Speech in the Senate of the Nation.  They are invited cordially, without distinction of former party preferences, or present predilections, to hear a candid investigation of the great issues that affect the American People at the present crisis. 

The names of the Speakers announced guarantee a rare treat and good time.

By Order of Com. 

This meeting was postponed, on account of the prolongation of the term of the Congress of which Mr. GIDDINGS was a member, but it was finally held in Bemis hall, October 22, and that eminent Anti-Slavery orator, himself a native of Canandaigua, spoke to a full house; General B. F. BRUCE also delivered addresses, one in the afternoon and one in the evening.

The afternoon meeting was first organized in the park, but the weather was bad and it was finally adjourned to the hall.  Owing to these unfavorable circumstances, the attendance failed to meet the expectations of the ardent Canandaigua Republicans. 

Other speakers from outside the county assisted in the campaign, but it is evident that the main reliance was on home talent.  Led by Emory B. POTTLE, of Naples, the nominee for member of Congress, and truthfully described by the local Republican newspaper of that day as “one of the most accomplished and forcible speakers in this part of the State,” the county “spellbinders” included such speakers as Henry W. TAYLOR, James C. SMITH, Elbridge G. LAPHAM, Edwin HICKS, William H. SMITH, Francis J. LAMB and Elisha W. GARDNER. 

The meetings were everywhere well attended; great enthusiasm was shown; Fremont and Dayton poles were raised and in two instances (in Gorham and Bristol) were cut down by political opponents; glee clubs sang: 

Arise!  Your country bids you rise,

Her faithful champions be,

And herald wide, “Free Soil, Free Men,

Fremont and victory.” 

Or this: 

We go for Free Kansas, Free Press and Free Speech

And many great things that Freedom doth teach.--

We want no old fogies to crush us with wrong,

So clear out the way for Jesse and John.

 

Thus the Republicans of old Ontario organized the first National campaign of their party.  They fought a good fight, those fathers of ours!  They kept the faith.  Alas, that so many of them have finished their course. 

The attack upon Charles SUMNER in the United States Senate, in May, 1856, aroused the indignation of the North regardless of party, and Silver Grays, Democrats, and Know Nothings vied with Republicans in expressing condemnation.  Meetings were held for that purpose both in Canandaigua and Geneva, and many who had until then held aloof from the new organization, entered its ranks never to return to their old party affiliations.  The outrages in Kansas provided constant food for public excitement.  Virulent attacks were made upon General FREMONT, by Know Nothing (American) and Buccaneer (Democratic) newspapers.  He was charged with being a Roman Catholic and a slave holder, but these canards had small effect with the voters.  Republican enthusiasm and Republican confidence increased as the campaign proceeded.  Newspaper after newspaper came over into the Republican camp.  Straw votes taken on the railroad trains, hereabouts as elsewhere in the State, showed a large preponderance of Fremont and Dayton sentiment.  And these wisps proved correct indicators of the way the political wind was blowing. 

The Republicans carried the State for their National ticket by a vote of 276,007, as compared with that of 195,878 for Buchanan and 124,604 for Fillmore.  They elected their candidates for State offices, and were generally successful in the local contests. 

In Ontario county and in the Ontario-Yates-Seneca congressional district, the party that a year before had struggled bravely for bare existence and, despite its combination with political foes, had gone down in defeat at the polls, now developed conquering strength, obtaining a clear majority over both the opposing tickets.  

The Times used five columns of its editorial page to report the local result, as follows: 

New York for Freedom!

Ontario County.

Fremont 2,437 ahead of Fillmore!

Fremont 2,813 ahead of Buchanan! !

 

Clean Republican Majority Over All, 719. 

The Republicans of this county have achieved a glorious triumph.  Old Ontario once more stands proudly by the flag of Freedom, having given Fremont and Dayton an overwhelming majority over the combined forces of Buchanan and Fillmore.

The vote in the several towns for Presidential electors was as follows:

Fremont

Fillmore

Buchanan

Canandaigua      

578

393

281

Bristol

253

70

53

Victor

230

153

84

Farmington

260

61

27

Hopewell

180

132

42

South Bristol

136

87

24

Richmond

223

36

49

Canadice

129

48

20

Naples

309

101

48

Gorham

281

163

62

Phelps

419

267

368

Seneca

754

340

366

Manchester

352

129

176

West Bloomfield

197

81

32

East Bloomfield

250

133

56

Total

4,551

2,194

1,638

We have not done quite as well for the Republican State ticket, but have probably given it about 2,000 over its leading opponent. 

Our candidates for county offices and for Members of Assembly run about even with those for State offices, and of course

Are All Elected! 

Hon. S. A. FOOT represents the 1st and Zoroaster PAUL the 2d Assembly district.  Hon. Henry W. TAYLOR is the County Judge elect; John LAPHAM, Esq., Superintendent of the Poor; and Rollin R. GREGG and John Q. HOWE, Coroners.  The Hinoos are completely “whipped” and laid out in every town of the county. 

Mr. POTTLE leads Oliver for Congress in this county about 2,000 and in Yates about 2,100.  He is likewise ahead in Seneca County.  His plurality over Oliver will not be far from 4,500. 

The State. 

New York, true to her ancient faith and to the teachings of her patriotic statesman, has declared for Freedom and Fremont with decided emphasis.  She has given the Republican electoral ticket a plurality of many thousands, and  

ELECTED ALL THE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES 

for State offices, and likewise a large majority of Republican Members of Assembly, which with the existing Republican Senate secures the election of a Republican United States Senator.  Our noble Empire State is thus triumphantly redeemed. 

Evidently the new party had come to stay and to conquer, but for once the Union did not go as did New York.  Buchanan received the electoral vote of all the slave States and also of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana, Illinois, and California, and was elected. 

The Republicans were defeated in the National contest, but they had gained such substantial victories throughout the North and had welded themselves into so compact a party organization, that they could look to the future with confidence. 

As the Young Men’s Fremont and Dayton club, of Canandaigua, declared, in resolutions adopted at a meeting held immediately after election, they were determined to “fight on, fight ever” in defence of the principles enunciated in the platform adopted at their party’s first National convention.  The club reelected its officers at this meeting and appointed Francis J. LAMB, Chauncey REMINGTON, and John MOSHER a committee to arrange for a series of political lectures “for the purpose of enlightening the public mind in regard to the principles and intentions of the party.” 

Fremont, the gallant Pathfinder, had been defeated at the polls, but the cause of Free Speech, Free Press, Free Men, Free Soil and Free Labor was to march on to victory.

 

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