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DEMOCRATIO ANTISLAVERY IN OHIO IN 1848, 1849, AND 1850—COMPOSITION OF THE OHIO LEGISLATURE IN 1848–949—WHIG APPORTIONMENT OF 1847–'48 IN HAMILTON COUNTY-FREE-SOIL CAUCUS-TOWNSHEND AND MORSE—ACTION OF THE CAUCUS– THE MORSE AND TOWNSHEND COALITION WITH THE OLD-LINE DEMOCRATS.–ELECTION OF MOR. CHASE TO THE UNITED STATES 8ENATE-WEIG CHARGES OF TTS IMMORALITY-WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PRINCIPAL ACTORS IN THE COALITIONExTRACTS FROM LETTERS OF MR. CHASE—WERDICT OF THE PEOPLE OF ORIO-HISTORY OF THE REPEAL OF THE “BLACK LAws”—NoTEs To CHAPTER xII.
N Ohio and New York, more than in the other free States, the Democracy felt the impulse of the antislavery movement. In the former, the State Convention which assembled at Columbus on the 8th of January, 1848, had declared: “That the people of Ohio, now, as they have always done, look upon the institution of slavery in any part of the Union as an evil, and unfavorable to the full development of the spirit and practical benefits of free institutions; and that, entertaining these sentiments, they will at the same time FEEL IT To BE THEIR DUTY TO USE ALL THE POWER CLEARLY GIVEN BY THE NATIONAL COMPACT, To PREVENT ITS INCREASE, To MITIGATE AND FINALLY To ERADICATE THE EVIL.” The doctrine contained in this statement of the creed of the Ohio Democracy was that avowed and supported by Mr. Chase, but the action of the National Democratic Convention destroyed whatever hopes he might have entertained that the Democracy of the nation would put themselves in accord with the Democracy of Ohio. He went into the movement which culminated in the Buffalo Convention therefore, with all his energies; and in the canvass which followed took an active part, but confined his efforts almost wholly to Ohio. That canvass was marked by extraordinary features. There were in the State three strong parties. The great mass of the voters belonged, of course, either to the Whig or to the Democratic party, but a very considerable number were Independent Democrats, or Free-Soilers, who supported the Buffalo nominations. The election for members of the Legislature showed the effect of this political condition. Much the greater number were Democrats and Whigs; but some, not uninfluential members, had been elected as “Independent Democrats” or Free-Soilers, either by a union between Old-line Democrats and Free-Soilers, or between Whigs and Free-Soilers; and two had been elected as Independent Democrats over the nominees of both the old parties. The Legislature, thus chosen, had in its hands nearly the whole appointing power of the State. A United States Senator was to be elected; two Judges of the Supreme Court were to be appointed, and a great number of less important offices were to be filled. This was the political situation at the time of the meeting of the Legislature in December, 1848. An important question engaged the attention of that body at the very beginning of the session, which arose out of the election of members in Hamilton County. For a long period of years Hamilton County had constituted but a single election district, and in 1847 was entitled to two senators and five representatives. The county being Democratic, all these members were of course Democrats. At the session of 1847–48, however, the Whigs succeeded in making a division of the county, by means of which one Whig senator and two Whig representatives would be elected in a fraction of the county, and one senator and three representatives would be elected by the Democrats in a large part of the county.
THE HAMILTON COUNTY DIVISION. 91
This division was denounced by the Democrats as unconstitutional; they charged that it was a fraud upon the people of the whole State. The Whigs declared that it was not only constitutional, but was a measure of public justice. The question of the constitutionality of the act was undoubtedly one upon which scrupulous men might honestly differ; but that it was singularly unequal and unjust in its operation could not be denied, and some not uninfluential members of the Whig party opposed it for that reason. Mr. Chase, immediately upon the passage of the act—and long before his election to the United States Senate was possible or even thought of stated his emphatic conviction that it was unconstitutional. The Democrats acted upon their professions, and ignored the division. No senator was to be elected in 1848, but they voted for two representatives upon the Democratic ticket common throughout Hamilton County. The Whigs voted for two candidates in the district created by the Whig apportionment; if the act making the division were to prevail, the Whig candidates would of course be entitled to membership, seeing that they had a majority of votes in the new district, but the county clerk—a Democrat—gave certificates of election to the Democratic candidates. Upon the meeting of the Legislature, early in December, 1848, there appeared as claimants for seats from Hamilton County—Pugh and Pierce, Democrats, and Spencer and Runyon, Whigs. Now, the Legislature itself was peculiarly constituted, in respect of political parties; and for the first time in the history of the State, the Free-Soil members met in caucus for consultation touching the course proper to be pursued by them. There were present at that consultation thirteen Free-Soilers; eleven of whom had been Whigs, and were elected by the aid of Whig votes, upon united Whig and Free-Soil tickets. Two members of the caucus—Colonel John F. Morse, of Lake County, and Dr. Norton S. Townshend, of Lorain—had been elected as “Independents,” or in opposition to the candidates of both the old parties. Dr. Townshend was of Democratic antecedents, and Colonel Morse had formerly acted with the Whig party. It was proposed by one of the Whig members, that all legislative questions should be canvassed and decided in caucus, and that all the Free-Soilers should consider themselves as pledged and bound to vote in the Senate and House as the majority of the caucus should determine. To this all present were asked to give distinct personal consent, and all consented except Dr. Townshend and Colonel Morse. The former said that he could not pledge himself to take a Whig view of all the questions presented for legislative action, as inevitably he must if he consented to be governed as was proposed. Eleven of the thirteen members of the caucus were practically Whigs. He expressed a willingness at all times to consult with them, but he reserved to himself the right to vote according to his own convictions of duty, and as in his judgment the cause of freedom should require. Colonel Morse fully indorsed the position taken by Dr. Townshend, and also declined to give the required pledge. Hereupon, one of the Whig members proposed the expulsion of both Townshend and Morse from the caucus. In reply to this, Dr. Townshend was allowed the opportunity to say, that eleven of the members present had been elected by Whig votes, and were therefore not independent of the Whig party; and that as only Colonel Morse and himself had been elected in opposition to the candidates of both the old parties, they (that is Colonel Morse and himself) would in future consider themselves as the true Free-Soil party in the Legislature, and would not thereafter consult with any members who had been elected otherwise than as they had been— as Independent Democrats. Morse and Townshend then retired from the caucus. The importance of this action will be fully understood when the reader is informed that the eleven Whig Free-Soilers, united with the Old-line Whig members of the Legislature, exactly equaled in numbers the Old-line Democrats; and that in joint ballot of Senate and House, Morse and Townshend held the “balance of power.” Under these circumstances, Morse and Townshend at once became objects of much natural solicitude to both Whigs and Democrats; and on their side, conscious of the strength of their position, and that they sought no selfish ends, they became exacting for the right, as they understood it, and secured at length not only the repeal of the “black laws” and the election of Mr. Chase to the United States Senate, but prevented the election
THE MORSE AND TOWNSBLEND COALITION. 93
of any known pro-slavery man to the bench of the Supreme or inferior courts of the State; great and important results, indeed! wrought as they were by two men who belonged to a political organization which was at that time both hated and feared Colonel Morse had long been a near neighbor and friend of Joshua R. Giddings—the distinguished and courageous antislavery agitator in Northern Ohio–and desired his election to the Senate. Dr. Townshend desired the election of Mr. Chase, but both cared more for the antislavery cause than for the elevation of any particular man, or for the advancement of any party. They consulted, and determined that Colonel Morse should confer with leading Whig members with a view to union in political action. The basis of the proposed union was, that if the Whigs would join Morse and Townshend in procuring the repeal of the “black laws,” and the election of Mr. Giddings to the United States Senate, they would join the Whigs in electing the Whig candidates into the State and judicial offices. Dr. Townshend was at the same time authorized to confer with leading Democrats, and to arrange with them a union, if the Whigs should decline—the conditions being that, if the Democrats would join in the repeal of the “black laws” and the election of Mr. Chase to the United States Senate, they—Morse and Townshend, the Independent Democratic party in the Legislature—would unite to support certain Democratic measures and nominations. The great majority of the Whig members promptly acceded to the proposed coalition, but three or four “silver-grays” were perseveringly obstinate, and finally defeated it; not because they found in it any culpable degree of corruption, but because they were too intensely pro-slavery to be brought into the support of so avowed and resolute an antislavery candidate as Mr. Giddings. The whole body of the Democrats chose to accept the alliance; nor was it difficult for them to do so, for the reasons particularly, that they were unembarrassed by the necessity of subordinating their action to the dictation of a national Democratic Administration; and because, secondly, there were some Old-line members sufficiently imbued with antislavery sentiments to prefer Mr. Chase to any other candidate. These exerted a large influence