Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Salmon P. Chase to Edward S. Hamlin,* Columbus, Ohio, January 16, 1849

Cincinnati, January 16, [1849].

My Dear Hamlin: I have had my supper, — I have donned my dressing gown & slippers;—my wife is beside me in our snug dining room;— everything is comfortable around me;— and I am writing to a friend in whom I repose full confidence. At this moment I cannot find it in my heart to indulge a single unkindly or uncharitable thought toward any human being. To be sure, I do feel as if a certain individual, who rejoices in the initials S. P. C., might be a good deal better employed, than in political navigation; and sometimes find it difficult to suppress a rising sentiment of indignation against him, when I think of his preposterous folly in venturing to have opinions of his own, & even, what is scarcely credible, daring occasionally to act upon them. But with the exception of the slight disturbance occasioned by the conduct of this individual the current of my thoughts flows quite smoothly tonight. I wish you were here to sit down & chat with me. How pleasantly we might contrive to dispose of an hour or two!

But I can easily imagine your actual situation, — not half so pleasant as mine — sitting in the Standard office, at the long pine? table, scribbling some Editorial for the paper perhaps a defence of Townshend & Morse, — perhaps a gentle hint to our amiable friend Chaffee. Well, I am sorry for you. If wishes could “execute themselves” — as the rascally slaveholders who preside in the Supreme Court of the United States say of the fugitive clause in the Constitution — you should have a nice large cushioned leather library chair, with the easiest flowing gold pen, and the blackest ink and the finest blue wove paper, a bright fire, a warm carpet, and all the etcetras which could make an editorial sanctum attractive and delightful. Then you should have a plentiful income coming in like the tides into the Bay of Fundy, and a long, long list of faithful paying subscribers, constituting a congregation that the Pope — and every editor, you know is an infallible Pope — might be proud to preach to. But I can almost fancy you exclaiming “Stop! Stop! What is the fellow after? Does he want to drive me to suicide by reminding me so ruthlessly of the vast difference between the ideal & the actual?” and so I will stop; for I want no such responsibility on my shoulders or conscience.

I suppose you see the True Democrat regularly, and of course, have noticed the course of Briggs towards Townshend, Morse & myself. The object seems to me plain enough. If he can cut Townshend & myself down, & terrify Morse into unhesitating acquiescence into the decisions of the Whig Freesoil Caucus the course will be left clear, he thinks, for the unchecked sway of Free Soilism of the Whig stamp. But I think he must fail in his reckoning. He cannot, 1 believe, hurt Townshend or myself, nor do I imagine that his threats or menacing intimations will have much effect on Morse. I feel, however, a good deal of solicitude to know whether Mr. Morse maintains his independent position. I shall be much disappointed if he does not. To recede now would be worse than never to have taken it. How is it with our good friend, Mr. Van Doren? Is he regarded now as an Independent Free Soiler or a Whig Free Soiler?

I do wish that the Free Soilers in the Legislature could unite on the only practical basis of union. That is let the Democratic Free Soilers, & the Whig Free Soilers, and the Independent Free Soilers (which terms I use for distinction's sake only) meet together and confer freely on the course best to be pursued in every case of importance. At these meetings let mutual and perfect toleration be exercised by each towards all the rest, and let everything which is done or spoken be under the seal of the most sacred confidence. If they can after a comparison of views find a ground on which all can stand honestly & in good faith, let them take it and maintain it no matter who may be benefitted or injured by it. If they cannot find such a ground but, after the best efforts to reach it have failed, they find themselves, in consequence of honest convictions, influenced or not influenced by former party associations, unable to agree let each take his own course, with perfect respect for the others and with fixed determination not to ascribe or even indulge the supposition of improper motives. Of course such conferences of Free Soilers should allow the attendance of none, however antislavery or personally worthy, except those who adopt, in good faith, & without reservation, the National & State Platforms of Free Democracy, and have fully made up their minds and openly avowed their determination to act permanently in & with the Party organized upon them. I can think of no way so well calculated to prevent discord and secure a mutual good understanding as this. I do not know whether even this way is practicable.

I have this moment, (Tuesday 12 M) recd. your letter and thank you for it. Vaughan has written a reply to Briggs for the Cleveland True Democrat. It does not put the action of Morse & Townshend on the true ground precisely but I think it will do good. It does more than justice to me. Vaughan I am glad to find, agrees with us as to the prima facie right of Pugh & Peirce and thinks the division clauses should be repealed. I do not think he has considered the question as to the unconstitutionality of the law. I am glad Riddle proposes to introduce a bill to repeal the clauses. It is the right thing to do at this time, and he is the right man to do it. It will reflect credit on him, and do much service to Townshend & Morse. I regretted to see Beaver's remark that the division clauses of the apportionment law wd not be repealed while the First district remains disfranchised. This will do no good. The true question is, “Is the repeal right?” If it is, it cant be done too soon. I would write to Randall, but I did write to him a few days since, on the subject of the Governor's Return, as friendly a letter as I could & took great pains here & with friends elsewhere to set his action in that matter in the most favorable point of view. But I have heard nothing from him, & don't wish to seem to force a correspondence on him. Suppose you find out, as you easily can, why he dont write?

It seems to me that you must come out in defence of Townshend & Morse: and I am not sure that justice does not require a frank statement of the whole action in Columbus, resulting in the virtual expulsion from the caucus of all the Democratic & Independent Free Soilers.

I have no time to write further without losing the mail. I am very glad your cough is better.

* Edward S. Hamlin was a member of Congress from Ohio, 1844-45. He was an ardent worker for Chase, and at this time was the editor of an anti-slavery paper at Columbus, the Ohio Standard.

SOURCE: Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1902, Vol. 2, p. 145-8

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