History of Ontario Co. & Its People
Vol. 1, Pub. 1911 Pg. 87 - 96
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POLITICAL REVOLUTION AT HAND
Ontario County’s Protest against Repeal
of the Missouri Compromise--Conscience Whigs Obtain a Newspaper Organ--A Roll of
Honor--Call for County Anti-Nebraska Convention--Delegates Elected to State
Convention--Resolutions against Slavery Extension.
Through the refusal, in 1851, of the
conservative or Silver Gray wing of the Whig party to follow the leadership of
William H. SEWARD, and the consequent defection of the Whig organ of Ontario
county, the Repository, the way opened for the establishment in Canandaigua of a
new paper to voice the sentiments of the Anti-Slavery or Conscience Whigs, and
Nathan J. MILLIKEN, of Seneca Falls, was called to undertake the task.
These were but the local expressions of a ferment that was permeating the
North. The people of the Free
States, both Whigs and Democrats, had become determined to prevent the extension
of the area of slavery, as had been shown as early as 1846 by the votes of their
representatives in Congress in support of the Wilmot Proviso excluding slavery
from new acquisitions of territory. Although
those representatives had supinely retreated from their position the following
year and the Whigs had nominated General TAYLOR on a platform silent on the
slavery question, public sentiment at the North was crystallizing and
intensifying, the people of the North were becoming impatient and disgusted at
the cowardly attitude of both the old parties, and, even as early as 1852, the
portents heralded the complete reorganization of political forces.
The editor of the new paper at Canandaigua
aggressively declared that “without seeking to enlist the interference of
government with the affairs of slavery, as now existing in the several States,
it will firmly and earnestly oppose its extension over territory now free, and
resist by all honorable means the admission of new slave States and the
encroachments of the slave power upon the rights and interests of the people.
Regarding the present law, providing for the
recovery of fugitive slaves, as unnecessarily stringent in its provisions, and
unjust in its practical operation, it will claim, and on all proper occasions
exercise, the privilege of urging its entire repeal or essential modification,
and of exposing to public condemnation the shameful and dangerous abuses by
which its execution is often characterized.”
This editorial, expressing the sentiments of
the Conscience Whigs of 1852, shows that the young men of that time were
animated by a spirit of liberty and supported principles of government that were
not only destined to create a new political organization, but that were to
direct the policy of that organization for years to come.
The election of General
Democratic candidate for the Presidency in 1852, was on a platform that solemnly
promised the country repose from slavery agitation, on the basis of the
so-called Missouri compromise, but Archibald DIXON, Henry CLAY’s successor in
the Senate, appearing as the champion of the arrogant slave oligarchy of the
South, in December, 1853, proposed that when the bill to organize the territory
of Nebraska should come before that body he would move that “the Missouri
compromise be repealed, and that the citizens of the several States shall be at
liberty to take and hold their slaves within any of the territories.”
The bill when reported from the committee,
of which Senator Stephen A. DOUGLAS, of Illinois, was chairman, proposed the
organization of the territories of Kansas and Nebraska.
It specifically declared the Missouri compromise inoperative and void and
that “its true intent and meaning was not to legislate slavery into any
Territory or State and not to exclude it there from, but to leave the people
perfectly free to regulate their domestic institutions in their own way.”
This was a fire brand that aroused the
people of the Free States.
To express the feeling of the people in
Ontario county, a public meeting was held, the call for which appeared in The
Times of February 23, 1854, and read as follows:
Freedom to the
The citizens of Ontario county, opposed to
the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the extension of Slavery into the new
territories of Nebraska and Kansas, as contemplated by the bill lately
introduced in the United States Senate, by Mr. DOUGLAS, are invited,
irrespective of party, to meet at the Court House, in Canandaigua, on Tuesday,
the 28th of Feb. instant, for the purpose of protesting against that
proposed violation of plighted faith.
J. B. SANDS,
E. W. GARDNER, Jr.
John S. BATES,
Wm. H. LAMPORT,
S. R. WHEELER,
R. SIMMONS, 2d,
P. P. BATES,
N. W. RANDALL,
John B. COOLEY,
H. N. JARVIS,
Jas. S. COOLEY,
J. P. FAUROT,
John J. LYON,
S. V. R. MALLORY,
D. A. ROBINSON, Jr.
T. J. McLOUTH,
Reuben MURRAY, Jr.
A. N. HUDSON,
T. E. HART,
A. G. MURRAY,
James M. BULL,
John P. HUDSON,
L. B. GAYLORD,
N. J. MILLIKEN,
Henry W. TAYLOR,
Solomon GOODALE, Jr.
Geo. L. WHITNEY,
Wm. F. REED,
Wm. G. LAPHAM,
E. G. LAPHAM,
Seth C. HART,
Of the men whose name appear on the above
roll of honor, only one, E. W. GARDNER, Esq., of Canandaigua, survives at this
writing, but they embraced representatives of both Whig and Democratic parties,
were from all parts of the county, and for the most part were prominent in
political movements of the succeeding months and in the organization of the new
This first Anti-Nebraska meeting must have
been a notable gathering. It is
recorded that it was attended by “a large number of the most influential and
respectable citizens of the county.”
Hon. Albert LESTER, presided; and there were
six vice presidents; Henry W. TAYLOR, of Canandaigua; Amos JONES, Esq., of
Hopewell; Amos A. POST, Esq., of Seneca; Hon. John LAPHAM, of Farmington;
Barton STOUT, Esq., of Richmond; and Judge Lyman
CLARK, of Manchester.
T. HINCKLEY and J. C. SHELTON acted as secretaries.
A committee of five, consisting of E. G.
LAPHAM, Gideon GRANGER, Orson BENJAMIN, M. A. WILSON, and Peter S.
offered the following resolution:
Resolved, That we, the citizens of Ontario
county, standing upon all the compromises of the Constitution, and willing to
abide by all the preserved rights of the States, have viewed with regret the
proposition now pending before the American Congress to repeal the Missouri
Compromise, and thus open the vast territories of Nebraska and Kansas to the
incursions of slavery; and we enter our SOLEMN PROTEST against this violation of
The speeches which followed were evidently
not couched in as moderate language as that of the resolution.
Judge TAYLOR denounced the Douglas fraud; Hon.
Alvah WORDEN appealed to
the audience whether they would submit if the bill became a law, and was
responded to in a spirit and manner the most emphatic and enthusiastic; E. G.
LAPHAM spoke eloquently and most earnestly against the Nebraska bill and urged
all parties of the North to unite and resist the further extension of slavery;
M. O. WILDER urged the necessity of acting then, if the whole of the United
States was not to be surrendered to slavery; Hon. Joshua A. SPENCER, of Utica,
present as a spectator, declared that Canandaigua was the place of all others
where a meeting of this kind should be held.
It being the former home of Stephen A. DOUGLAS, he should know of this
meeting, and know what his early friends and neighbors thought of “fraud,
dishonesty, and falsehood.” Ontario
county should speak out in such tones as to cause his knees to knock together
with fear. So the speeches were
mentioned in the succeeding issue of the local Anti-Slavery organ, and the
reporter added these comments:
“The meeting, composed as it was, of all
parties, and nearly a third of it composed of gray-haired men who were voters
and active citizens when the Missouri compromise was passed, was one of the most
solemn and earnest protests against its repeal that there yet has been.
If it has no influence at Washington, it will have a good effect here.
In response to the earnest and powerful appeals of the speakers, the
people will be aroused to act. They
will hereafter prevent the election of ‘Northern men with Southern
principles,’ and take the forsaken position of our forefathers that slavery,
instead of being extended, shall be abolished wherever Congress has the power to
do it. So mote it be.”
Political revolution was in the air!
The “domestic institution” of the South had overstepped the bounds of
The meeting held in Canandaigua, February
23, 1854, was not a political convention in the usual sense of that term.
Neither the men who called it nor those who participated in its
proceedings had any clear conception of what was to result from the movement on
which they had embarked. They
assembled simply as citizens to protest against a threatened violation of what
was considered throughout the North as the plighted faith of the Nation, but
that the issue was recognized as a momentous one and as likely to lead to a
serious division between the North and South is evidenced in the report we have
of the speeches made at the meeting.
The events of the succeeding weeks in that
pregnant year of 1854 intensified the feeling of the people.
Upon the passage by Congress of the bill for the organization of the
territories of Nebraska and Kansas, with the proviso that slavery might be
extended to those territories, public indignation over the matter increased.
The demand for organized action by the friends of liberty became more and
more insistent, and finally it was determined to call an “Anti-Nebraska”
State convention, to be held in Saratoga, August 16.
This was really the first step taken in New
York State toward the organization of the Republican party.
Similar conventions were held in all the Free States.
In Michigan, Wisconsin, Maine, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, the
coalitionists adopted the name “Republican.”
But in New York the call was not for a convention at which to organize a
new party. It is true the National
Whig party was practically dead, “died of an attempt to swallow the Fugitive
Slave law” according to the popular verdict.
It could neither speak nor keep silence on what had become the paramount
issue, slavery extension. But under
the inspiring leadership of William H. SEWARD, its dominant or “Woolly Head”
faction in this State was holding its forces together and its leaders were
reluctant to surrender its organization or confess it a wreck. They yet hoped to rally the opponents to slavery extension
under the Whig banner and so unite the North.
The call for a county mass meeting at which
to elect delegates to this proposed State convention read as follows:
The undersigned respectfully invite the
electors of the County of Ontario, without distinction of party, who disapprove
of the late pro-slavery legislation of the present Congress, and who are in
favor of the repeal or modification of the Nebraska and Kansas bill, and
likewise of the fugitive slave law of 1850, the rejection of new States applying
for admission to the Union with slavery tolerating constitutions, and the
abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia and in all the territories of
the United States, to assemble in Convention at the Court House in Canandaigua
on Saturday, the 5th day of August, at 12 o’clock M., for the
purpose of appointing five delegates from each Assembly district to the great
State convention, to be held at the village of Saratoga Springs, on Wednesday,
the 16th day of August next, and for the purpose of expressing their
views in relation to the growing assumptions and aggressions of the slave power.
Jas. ANDERSON, Jr.
S. V. R.
J. MORSE, Jr.
S. T. SEWARD,
T. H. KELLOGG,
V. R. W.
Not all those who signed the call for the
county mass meeting of February 23, endorsed the progressive step embraced in
this supplementary movement. Among
the signers of the first call were a number of “Silver Grays,” as that
faction of the Whig party was called which had taken the ground that to reopen
the slavery agitation would be to disrupt the Union.
Alvah WORDEN, one of the local leaders of that faction, had spoken
eloquently in support of the resolution adopted.
But the Silver Grays, many of whom were sincere opponents of slavery
extension, distrusted Seward’s leadership, and refrained from identifying
themselves with a movement that had in it the possibilities of disunion.
Some of the Democrats, too, who had participated in the earlier meeting
held aloof from this. It was hard
for the leaders of either party to take a step that meant the loosening of old
Francis GRANGER and Alvah
WORDEN, like many
other Whig leaders, never came into the Republican party, though Mr. GRANGER at
least rendered valiant service to the Union as a War Democrat.
E. G. LAPHAM, on the other hand, was a type of the younger leaders of the
Northern Democracy who, after a little natural hesitation at the leap,
identified themselves with the new political organization and gained recognition
as among its most earnest supporters and advisers.
The Ontario county Anti-Nebraska convention
was held in the court house at Canandaigua on the day appointed, Saturday,
August 5. Ira R.
PECK, of East
Bloomfield acted as temporary chairman and Orson BENJAMIN, of Canandaigua, as
Committees were appointed as follows: On organization--Jedediah DEWEY, Jr., Frederick W. COLLINS, John S. BATES, S. A. CODDING and Thomas STRINGHAM; on resolutions--N. J. MILLIKEN, Silas C. BROWN, Orlando MORSE, Edward BRUNSON, and E. W. SIMMONS. Upon recommendation of the committee on organization, permanent officers of the convention were chosen as follows: President, Henry PARDEE, of Victor. Vice-Presidents, J. H. MASON, of Canandaigua; T. J. McLOUTH, of Farmington; Platt REYNOLDS, of Manchester; Zebina LUCAS, of Canandaigua; A. J. SHANNON, of Seneca. Secretaries, Myron ADAMS, of East Bloomfield; E. W. SIMMONS, of Bristol, and John MOSHER, of Canandaigua.
PARDEE declined to act as chairman of the meeting and Jedediah DEWEY, Jr., of
Manchester, was elected in his place. Committees
were appointed to nominate delegates to the Saratoga convention, as follows:
For the Eastern district, William D. GREGORY, Lucius HOW,
and Alfred DEWEY; and for the Western district,
Joseph GARLINGHOUSE, A. G. MURRAY, and
Silas C. BROWN. On recommendation of these committees, delegates were elected
as follow: For the Eastern
district, John M. BRADFORD, Charles W. BASIN, Hiram ODELL, Thomas J. McLOUTH,
and John Q. HOWE: for the Western
district, Lyman HAWES, Asa BALL, E. W. SIMMONS, Ira R. PECK,
and John MOSHER.
Resolutions were adopted declaring that the
South, in procuring an organization of the territories of Nebraska and Kansas
under laws designed to effect the establishment of slavery therein, had released
the North from obligations to sustain or respect any compromises save those of
the Constitution: pledging the
members of the convention to use all constitutional means to defeat the
unhallowed project of slavery extension, to ensure the repeal or modification of
the Nebraska and Kansas bill, to procure the repeal or modification of the
Fugitive Slave law of 1850, the rejection of new States applying for admission
to the Union with slavery tolerating constitutions, and the abolition of slavery
in the District of Columbia and in all the territories of the United States;
pledging them, irrespective of party, to support no candidate for Congress who
was not fully committed to an active and vigorous advocacy of the measures and
policy herewith set forth; tendering thanks to Hon. Andrew
representative in Congress from this district, for his manly and determined
opposition to the infamous Nebraska swindle; approving of the organization and
object of the Emigrant Aid Society; and deprecating the proposition to nominate
a State ticket at the Saratoga convention.
The Saratoga convention of the 15th of August was notable for the resolutions adopted upon the recommendation of a committee of which Horace GREELEY was chairman. These resolutions declared the right of the general Government to prohibit “the extension, establishment, or perpetuation of human slavery in any and every territory of the United States,” denounced the doctrine of Popular Sovereignty as a surrender to the slave power, asserted that “free labor and slave labor cannot co-exist on the same soil,” and approved the efforts then in progress for the colonization “with free souls and strong arms” of Kansas and other territories. The convention then adjourned until September 26, for the purpose of taking action in regard to the nomination of candidates for State offices.
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