Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Salmon P. Chase to Charles Sumner, July 11, 1848

Cincinnati, November 27, 1848.

My Dear Sir: Thanks for your welcome and cheering letter. It is truly grateful to me to feel how responsive to each other are our judgments and sympathies. Our struggle is ended — only for the present, I would say rather, it is just begun, did not the recollections of eight years of effort, amid difficulties and discouragement far formidable than any which now encompass us, carry me back to a much earlier date of the beginning of the Contest than many assign. The Buffalo Convention of 1848, and the movements which immediately issued in that, I would call the beginning of the end. I think that now, through the twilight of the present and the mist of the future, the end may be discovered — at least by eyes annointed with faith.

You have fought a glorious battle in old Massachusetts. Young Wisconsin, alone, can claim equal honors with you. You have had to contend with long-seated prejudices arrayed against our Presidential nominee and against the overbearing money power of the Lords of the Loom. Under the circumstances, you have, I suppose, equalled if not exceeded your own most sanguine expectations. We are looking now, with great anxiety for the result of the second trial in the District of Judge Allen and our noble Palfrey. Most earnestly do I hope that Massachusetts will honor herself by sending those true sons to represent her in the next Congress. She and Liberty will need them there.

Here in Ohio we did not do near so well as we expected — not near so well as we should have done had the vote been taken immediately after the Buffalo Convention. Many causes conspired to diminish our vote. The principal were the general impression, that the contest was between Taylor and Cass, and the idea, unceasingly disseminated, that General Taylor would not veto, would, in fact, favor the Wilmot Proviso. No man labored harder to produce these impressions than Mr. Corwin. He traversed the whole state, speaking to large assemblies and to small, at the principal points and obscure villages, saying every where, I know Gen. Taylor will not veto the Proviso”, and endeavoring to convince the people, by his stories of Gen. Taylor's action in reference to the Seminole negroes, that he was, in fact, a man of antislavery opinions and sympathies. Whether he succeeded in convincing himself I don't know; but certain it is that he exerted a mighty influence in checking the development of anti-Taylor sentiment, and in persuading many who had resolved to oppose the Philadelphia nomination, to come out in favor of it. All this operated against us in two ways. While Mr. Corwin succeeded in detaching two or three votes here and two or three there from the Free Soil Cause, securing them for Taylor, the very fact of the defection of these votes induced more or less of those who had resolved to with-hold their votes from Cass and give them to Van Buren, to forego their determination and to fall back into their old ranks. This process, placing us between the upper and the nether millstone and diminishing our force by every turn of the wheel, was carried on very actively for several weeks preceding the election; and though we did all we could to counterwork it, yet, being scattered over a large territory with hardly any pecuniary resources and a very imperfect organization and little or no mutual concert or cooperation among our Committees or speeches, all our efforts did not avail much. The battle is now over and Senator Corwin and his co-workers have the satisfaction of having quietly reduced the Free Soil vote, without any other result than that, (which the Free Soilers have predicted ever since the nomination of Taylor), of giving the electoral suffrage of Ohio to General Cass. Whether Senator Corwin has shared in the impression he has endeavored to make upon the people I do not know. One thing is certain; he has lost entirely the confidence of the sincere and earnest antislavery men of the State. The very men, who eight months ago were his warmest friends — in fact his only reliable and fast friends in the State — are now converted into his most decided and stern opposers. They still admire his talents and esteem his social qualities, but they no longer respect his principles.

The results of the contest leave us here in Ohio, in a peculiar position. The election of Taylor makes his supporters anxious that their promises to the people in his behalf shall be, in some degree, kept. Should he veto the Wilmot Proviso or conduct his administration so as to indicate disfavor to it, we may look for another revolt among the Whigs. On the other hand the defeat of Cass has secured the last link that bound a large number of Democrats — in fact a great body of them in this State to the Slave Power. They have no longer any bond of union in their old organization. The spoils are gone — and the South is gone. Under these circumstances many of them are turning a wistful eye toward the Buffalo Platform, and I should not be greatly surprised if the coming winter should witness a union between the old Democracy and the Free Democracy in our Legislature upon the principles of our Platform. Already such a union is foreshadowed by the tone of the newspapers, and the course of events in the northern part of the State. Should it take place in any considerable section of the State it must pervade the whole. In the Legislature the Free Democrats together have the majority; and they may unite in the election of a senator; though this is more doubtful than their union in future contests. Whether this union takes place or not — and it can only take place through the adhesion of the old Democracy to one principle — the course of the Free Democracy it seems to me lies clear before them. Their path, no less of safety than of honor is straightforward. They have no choice, except shameful dereliction of principle, or bold and resolute perseverance.

This is true of every other State as it is of Ohio; and I am glad to see that the choice of our friends everywhere seems to be already made. Nowhere do I observe adjudications of wavering or retreat.

I agree with you that it is of great importance that an address should be issued to the People of the union embracing the topics and indicating our future course as suggested by you. It will be difficult to get any delegation appointed by the State Committee to prepare such an address. It seems to me that your suggestion that it should be issued by the Free Democrats in Congress is a good one; or possibly, it might come, with as much effect, from the Free Soil association of the District of Columbia, having been prepared with the advice and concurrence of our friends in Congress and out of Congress who may be gathered in Washington at the commencement of the session.

Our own State Convention will be held on the 29th, June, when we shall doubtless issue an address to the People of Ohio, and define our position on questions of State policy.

I shall be very glad to hear from you frequently. Our former correspondence and your published writings had taught me greatly to esteem you; and our limited intercourse last August was sufficient to make me feel towards you the strongest sentiments of friendship. Is it not Cicero who tells us that the strong ligament of friendship is “idem velle et idem nolle”? And is not this the tie between us! At any rate I claim your friendship by this title and shall hope that you will manifest your allowance of the claim, by writing me as often as your engagements will allow.

Faithfully and cordially yours,

SOURCE: Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1902, Vol. 2, p. 141-5

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