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
“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,
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
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
N. J. MILLIKEN,
F. W. ALVERSON,
J. C. FAIRCHILD,
D. F. ALVERSON,
A. O. KELLOGG,
O. M. SMITH,
M. A. OLDS,
I. W. MITCHELL,
L. B. TRUE,
H. S. TOUSLEY,
R. B. CRAWFORD,
J. C. HOLMES,
J. S. HENDERSHOT,
J. W. BARNES,
J. J. STEBBINS,
W. E. WILLIAMS,
R. C. PRATT,
B. R. PRATT,
L. R. WHITTAKER,
J. H. CHAMBERLAIN,
H. C. LUCAS,
A. A. BROWN,
W. BROWN, Jr.,
S. K. DOOLITTLE,
R. L. HUNTLEY,
Otis K. PARSHALL,
John S. MULLEN,
Andrew VAN WIE,
Abram VAN WIE,
R. G. CHAMBERLAIN,
F. O. MASON,
E. W. GARDNER, Jr.,
S. S. BRIGGS,
Wm. H. BENNETT,
T. E. HART,
S. PARRISH, 2d,
Joel M. HOWEY,
Thos. C. BURLING,
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
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
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.
Perhaps the most notable meeting of the
campaign in this county was that advertised as follows:
A Convention of the
Friends of Freedom
In Ontario County, will be
held at the
Court House In The
Village of Canandaigua
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
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
Your country bids you rise,
Her faithful champions be,
And herald wide, “Free Soil, Free Men,
Fremont and victory.”
We go for Free Kansas, Free Press and Free
And many great things that Freedom doth
We want no old fogies to crush us with
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
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
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!
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:
We have not done quite as well for the
Republican State ticket, but have probably given it about 2,000 over its leading
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
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.
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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