History of Ontario Co. & Its People

Vol. 1, Pub. 1911  Pg.  79 - 86

Thanks to Deborah Spencer for transcription of these pages.

 

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VIII.  RISE OF ANTI-SLAVERY FEELING 

William H. Seward Defeated as the First Whig Candidate for Governor-- “The Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” Campaign of 1840--The “Raising” of a Log Cabin in Canandaigua--An Honored Ontario County Citizen Named as Postmaster-General in President Harrison’s Cabinet. 

We cannot follow, even briefly, the politics of the succeeding few years.  The Republican party, now become Democratic in name, continued in ascendancy, while the opposition in 1834, assuming the name of “Whig,” nominated William H. SEWARD as its candidate for Governor, but he was defeated at the polls.  Mark H. SIBLEY, of Ontario, was a prominent Whig in the Assembly of that year and received the Whig vote for Speaker.  The Anti-Slavery feeling began to find expression through public meetings in Ontario as elsewhere.  In 1836, the year in which Martin VAN BUREN was elected President and Mr. MARCY, Governor, both as Democratic candidates, the Whigs of New York made little noise in the campaign and small showing at the polls, and in State and local elections of succeeding years the tide seemed to be running in favor of the Democratic party, but the Whigs rallied in 1838 and elected William H. SEWARD, Governor.  He received large majorities in all the Western counties.  Henry W. TAYLOR was elected Member of Assembly on the Whig ticket in Ontario that year. 

The Presidential campaign in 1840 was a milestone in the history of Ontario county, as it was in that of every other section of the country.  The nomination of William Henry HARRISON for President, while a disappointment to the friends of Henry CLAY, aroused the greatest popular enthusiasm.  The campaign was marked by many unusual features, the building of log cabins, the singing of campaign songs as they had never been sung before and have never been sung since, and the assembling of great mass meetings. 

In Ontario county the feeling ran high; and, not to be outdone in work for the cause, the Whigs, as early in the campaign as the middle of April, arranged a great ratification meeting or “Raising” in Canandaigua.  The following account of the affair, condensed from the report in the local Whig organ, the Repository, affords a graphic picture:

 

The Log Cabin Raising. 

When Victory hung o’er our Flag proudly waving

And the battle was fought by our valiant and true;

For our homes and our loved ones our enemy braving,

Oh!  then stood the soldier of Tippecanoe,

The iron-armed soldier, the true hearted soldier,

The gallant old soldier of Tippecanoe.

--Old Song.

 

Last Thursday was indeed a proud day for the Whigs of Canandaigua, as well as for Ontario county.  Agreeable to previous invitation by the Tippecanoe Club, the Whigs of the neighboring towns assembled in this village, to assist in raising a Log Cabin, to be used as a committee room. 

The first procession which appeared was seen approaching from the southern part of the town and consisted of some 30 or 40 wagons, loaded with material for the building, with banners flying; a fine canoe, well manned by the hardy friends of the old hero, exhibiting a large flag with the word “Tippecanoe” painted on it, accompanied with a fine band of music.  We extracted the following from some of the banners which were carried by the wagons: 

“He is honest”

“He is capable”

“He is the man”

“No Sub-Treasury” 

The procession, made up of delegates from the south part of this town, Hopewell and Gorham, was joined near the Court House by delegates from East Bloomfield and Bristol and that from Manchester, and moved in fine style across the square to the site of the intended cabin.  The side walks crowded with animated spectators--the air rending with cheers and shouts for the hero of Tippecanoe. 

Before 11 o’clock logs had been collected enough to build a cabin two or three times the size of the one planned.  At 10 a. m., a numerous delegation from West Bloomfield came down Main street in admirable style with banners flying.  The West Bloomfield delegation carried these mottoes: 

“West Bloomfield will give 230 majority for Harrison & Tyler.” 

“William Henry HARRISON, the Log Cabin Candidate for President--the string always out.” 

“4th March, 1841--Matty, clear the White House for old Tippecanoe.”

 The following was borne by an old sailor:  

William H. Harrison, the main stay--- Matty, the flying jib.”  

The Farmington delegation was large and furnished some of the best timber on the ground.  

The scene now became higly interested and animating.  The street where the cabin was to be erected was literally blocked up with teams unloading the materials they had borne.  The large piazzas of the Ontario House were crowded with spectators, many of whom were ladies.  The excellent band of music belonging to this village enlivened the scene with spirited strains.  Perhaps never before has this village presented such a mingled scene of active bustle, good feeling, and enthusiastic delight, as was evinced on this occasion. 

 At 11 o’clock, the first log, which was of live oak, and furnished by our worthy friend, Mr. Joel S. HART, of Hopewell, was laid with appropriate ceremonies by our venerable and highly esteemed fellow citizen, Abner BARLOW, Esq., assisted by several of our oldest and most respected citizens.  Mr. BARLOW is now 89 years old, and assisted in putting up some of the first log cabins ever erected in Ontario county and planted the first field of wheat west of Utica, which was some 50 years ago. 

The concourse was briefly addressed, in a happy manner, by E. P. PARRISH, the marshal of the day, after which the building began rapidly to rise. 

Let us look now into the dining room of our host, Mr. POWERS, and watch the busy note of preparation going on there.  Long tables were spread out groaning under the weight of substantial articles which had been sent by ladies from the several towns, consisting of boiled ham, pork and beans, acres of Johnny cake and mince pies, pickles, doughnuts, and other articles too numerous to mention. 

At the hour of 12, the dinner horn was heard at the door, and soon after the room was filled with the hardy sons who had been at work on the cabin, who partook bountifully of the fare and occasionally regaled themselves upon hard cider, the only beverage the use of which custom has sanctioned on such occasions, and which had been abundantly furnished by the committees of arrangements. 

At 1 o’clock a long procession appeared from Naples.  To the Democratic Whigs of Naples belongs the honor of furnishing the flag staff to the log cabin; and a noble one it is, being nearly 100 feet in length.  The building went up rapidly and by 4 o’clock was ready to receive the flag staff, etc. 

The Messenger, which was the Democratic or Van Buren organ, in describing the meeting, said that “One of the many odd contrivances to make up a show for the occasion was a large canoe, which was mounted on wagon wheels and drawn up and down the street by four horses.  It was filled, continued the opposition organ, “with some 30 or 40 assorted specimens of Whiggery.”  The Messenger saw a discouraging omen to the Whigs in the breaking of the cord just as the flag was being run up on a fine liberty pole.  Then after referring to the speeches, it said that “a Connecticut singing master” came out on the platform of the tavern, and taking a pitch pipe from his pocket, commenced a song as follows: 

“Come, all ye Log Cabin boys, we’re going to have a raisin’,

We’ve got a job on hand that we think will be pleasin’;

We’ll turn out and build old Tip a new Cabin,

And finish it off with chinkin’ and daubin’.” 

In response to an encore, the singer then rendered a very classical parody on “Auld Lang Syne,” beginning as follows: 

“Should gude old cider be forgot,

And never brought to mind.” 

The canoe mentioned was afterwards carried all over the county, its passengers always including a glee club.  Singing was a feature of all the meetings, and the songs had a swing and pepper that set the whole country afire and that earned for them immortality in the Walhalla of campaign literature. 

The Democratic opposition vainly attempted to offset the Whig’s singing campaign, and one of their efforts, written by a local bard, was a song, “The Gathering of the Factions,” to be sung at Canandaigua, on the 23rd of April, the date of the log cabin raising heretofore described, or, as the heading stated, “At the Raising of the Grocery for retailing old Federalism and hard cider.”  It read as follows: 

The Gathering of the Factions.

 “Little wat ye wha’s coming,

Pierson’s coming, Bemis’s coming,

Stout is coming, Worden’s coming,

Philpot’s coming, Dwight is coming,

Major General Granger’s coming,

Log Cabin Folks are a coming.

 

“Little wat ye wha’s coming,

Farnum’s coming, Northrup’s coming,

John is coming, Paul is coming,

Til and Jonas both are coming,

Farmer Willson, too, is coming,

A’ the Working Men are coming.

 

“Little wat ye wha’s coming,

Orson’s coming, Kibbe’s coming,

Hall is coming, Clark is coming,

Hudson’s coming, Jones is coming,

Ottley’s coming, Johnson’s coming,

Office Holders a’ are coming.

 

“Little wat ye wha’s coming,--

Codding’s coming, Frisbie’s coming,

The Doctor o’ the cloak’s coming,

Pitts and Garlinghouse are coming,

Robinson and Royce are coming,

A’ the Darkies sure are coming.

 

“Little wat we wha’s coming,--

Feds of ev’ry hue are coming,--

They gloom, they glower, they look sae big,

At ilka lift, they’ll take a swig,

Till cider stills each Tory Whig:--

Their gude old frien’, the De’il’s, coming.” 

A Tippecanoe muse furnished the Repository the following additional stanza to this song: 

“Ah, little wat we wha’s coming.--

Stanch old Jackson men are coming,--

With sturdy teams they onward jog,

Each mounted on a hickory log;

And what is more, they’ve tucked a slab in,

To help the Whigs build Old Tip’s Cabin.” 

The young men’s Whig committee in this campaign was headed by John S. BATES, and included Albert G. MURRAY, LeDran BROWN, Sidney S. LAMPMAN, G. W. BEMIS, George L. WHITNEY, and E. B. NORTHRUP. 

Excitement grew as election day approached.  The fact that Francis GRANGER and Jared WILLSON, the Whig and Democratic candidates respectively for Congress, were both residents of Canandaigua, and that Alvah WORDEN, of Canandaigua, whom the Messenger contemptuously referred to as “the brother-in-law of W. H. SEWARD,” the Whig candidate for Governor, ran on the same ticket as a candidate for the Assembly, must have made the county a veritable storm center. 

In the success that crowned the “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too,” campaign, Ontario had its share.  It gave HARRISON 4,828 votes, as compared with 3,451 for VAN BUREN and 152 for the Abolition ticket.  The county gave William H. SEWARD for Governor 1,294 plurality, and Mr. GRANGER led his popular opponent by 843 majority.   

Upon the inauguration of President HARRISON in 1841, Ontario was again given notable recognition in National politics by the appointment of its honored citizen, Francis GRANGER, as Postmaster General in the cabinet of which Daniel WEBSTER was at the head as Secretary of State.  Mr. GRANGER retired from office, with the other members of the cabinet, a few months later, upon the death of President HARRISON, but in this distinction he was accorded an honor that rounded out a political career of great activity and usefulness.  The son of Gideon GRANGER, who previous to his removal from Connecticut to Canandaigua had served successively in the cabinets of JEFFERSON and MADISON as Postmaster General, Francis GRANGER had a laudable political ambition, and, as we have seen, took a prominent part in the politics of the county and State.

He was a recognized leader in the Clintonian, Anti-Masonic, and Whig parties, and was repeatedly honored by his political associates with support for the highest public offices, including those of Governor, United States Senator, and Vice President.  Unfortunately his candidacy was several times unsuccessful, through the mischance of events or the treachery of pretended friends, but through all the years he maintained in eminent degree the confidence of the people of the State, as well as his immediate constituents. 

President Tyler, in his reorganized cabinet, had also an Ontario county statesman in the person of John C. Spencer, whom he made Secretary of War, and later Secretary of the Treasury.  Mr. SPENCER had been a prominent figure in Western New York and for a long time had a very large influence in shaping State politics.  He was Secretary of State through the two administrations of Governor SEWARD, and, as we have seen, was repeatedly elected to the Legislature and Congress.  

The closing years of the 50-year period which we have been considering saw the beginning of what was to be a complete re-organization of party lines.  Slavery had become an imminent issue.  The Free Soil slogan was raised by Mr. SEWARD in this State, and was winning recruits from both the old parties.  The recently victorious Whigs were irretrievably divided, the opposing factions being known as “Silver Grays” and “Woolly Heads,” the latter constituting the Seward wing.  The Free Soil Democrats became “Barnburners” and the old liners became “Hunkers,” “Hard” or “Soft” as their prejudices or interests inclined.   

The times were changing.  The leaders of neither of the old parties seem to have had the sagacity to discern or the courage to meet the ground swell of the more aggressive political force at hand.

They were most of them patriots, and theirs likely the wiser way to deal with the generally recognized evils of slavery.  But it was not to prevail. Opposition to the “Institution” was no longer confined to the cranks or radicals.  The young, forceful men all through the North, inspired by high principle, were impatient of delay.  The new occasion was breeding new leaders.  Neither prestige nor birth could stand in the way.  The day for temporizing and comprising was almost passed, and be it said in honor of many of those who had held high positions in one or the other of the old party organizations, that while they hesitated, with the conservatism of experience, to make the plunge, foreseeing perhaps the long train of war and sectional dissension that was to follow, they finally allied themselves with the new political movement and gave loyal adherence to the policy enunciated by the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia conventions and to the new duties typified in the leadership of SEWARD, FREMONT and LINCOLN. 

So it was all through the North.  So it was in Ontario county, and thus was ushered in the second half century of Ontario county politics, a half century fraught with new and momentous issues.

 

 Html by Dianne Thomas  

 

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