Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Salmon P. Chase to Edward S. Hamlin, January 24, 1849

Cincinnati, January 24, 1849

My Dear Hamlin: You know I mentioned to you at Columbus that I thought of writing a frank letter to Giddings on the subject of the State of things at Columbus and the Senatorial election. I have done so at last, and now enclose to you a copy of the letter. I do not know whether or not you will deem it expedient to make any use of it. I leave this altogether to your discretion. Perhaps it would be good policy to shew it to Randall & Riddle & possibly to others: but you know best, and can do as you please.

I learn from Washington that Giddings wrote to Randall in respect to me some two weeks ago, expressing his conviction that I am a sincere & earnest friend of the Free Soil Cause! and saying that, if he cannot be elected, he wishes that I may be; and that he has also written, more recently, to Morse, to the same effect.

I had a letter today from Clinton, from Mr. Hibbin, a member of the Free Soil Committee of that County, stating that Jones ejected from the House had come home “in agony” lest he might be “rejected by the People,” “and fortified with a letter from Beaver, Chaffee & others” certifying to the genuineness of his Freesoilism! & recommending him to the support of the Free Soilers! What do you think of that? I do wish these gentlemen would just reflect what they would say of Townshend & Morse if they should give to Trimble, Jones' opponent and just as good a Freesoiler as Jones himself, such a letter. Mr. Hibbin writes me that an effort is made to have the democrats support the regular freesoil Candidate, and that some conferences have been had between Committees of the old & the free democracy on the subject. He fears, however, that no union can be had. Vaughan will go up to Clinton tomorrow and see what he can do. We all feel the great importance of having a reliable freesoiler returned from Clinton and, if the democrats, to whom the prevention of Whig ascendency is as important as it is to us, would only help cordially, the thing could be done. Perhaps they will but I fear they will not.

Yesterday I understood from Columbus, by your letter and from other sources, that Pugh & Peirce would be certainly admitted, and the black laws repealed by Democratic votes; today I learn from Brough that some of the Democrats have bolted from their engagement to vote for the repeal, and that the admission of Pugh & Peirce is again in doubt. How is this?

You know I have agreed with you that the most expedient course is to repeal the clauses dividing Hamilton County, both on the ground of unconstitutionality & inexpediency, and then, inasmuch as all parties regarded these provisions to a certain extent in the election, to declare the seats vacant & send the election back to the people. Men, convinced of the unconstitutionality and injustice of the law — to say nothing of the fraud and usurpation of power by which it was passed — might vote to declare the seats vacant, on the ground that the election was held under it's unconstitutional provisions: but, of course, men so convinced could never vote to admit Spencer & Runyon. If we look at the strict right of the case, however, it will be difficult to escape the conclusion, if we believe the division clauses unconstitutional as I certainly do, that Pugh & Peirce must be admitted without sending the election back. If the law were repealed the general expediency of the case and its influence as a precedent might be considered; but, if it be not repealed, such considerations should, I think, have no weight. For if the law be not repealed & the election be sent back, the Governor will doubtless order an election in the first district. All the Hamilton County members might thereupon vacate their seats, and probably, under the circumstances, would feel it to be their duty to do so. But suppose they should not. The Democrats would again run a ticket to be voted for throughout the county. The Freesoilers might do the same. The Whigs would run candidates only in the first eight wards of Cincinnati. The clerk would again give the certificates to the Democratic members. They would again come up with their prima facie evidence, and the whole business would have to be gone over again. In the meantime a Whig may be elected from Clinton; and in that case, supposing no other seats disturbed, there would be thirty-five Whigs & Freesoilers, (counting Kiddle, against my will & conscience, among the last,) to thirty five Democrats, Democratic Freesoilers & Independents. It is obvious, therefore, that unless some change of views shall have taken place by that time in the minds of members, both sets of claimants will be again rejected. And thus great expense & much ill blood will be occasioned for just nothing at all. These considerations seem to me conclusive against sending the election back to the people unless the law be first repealed. If the law be not repealed, I see no way out of the difficulty except by the admission of Pugh & Peirce.

And it is quite manifest that it will not do, to delay action on the case, until after the Clinton election; for in case Jones should be returned from that County, there would probably be enough Whigs, & Free Soilers who consider themselves virtually committed on this question, to defeat any proposition for their admission by a tie vote: wherefore a proposition for the admission of Spencer & Runyon would be defeated also, and the consequences of an attempt at a special election would be such as I described. I should be very glad to see Morse's bill, including the provision for the repeal of the Black Laws pass — and pass by democratic votes. I hope to see it. It should if possible be pushed through in advance of a vote on the admission of Pugh & Peirce.

But should an aggreement to vote for it be made an indispensible condition for voting for the constitution and right in the case of Pugh & Peirce? It seems to me it should not. I would say, Get as many votes pledged to that great measure of Justice & Humanity — the repeal of the Black Laws, — as possible. But I should dislike to make my vote on one question of right, contingent absolutely upon other men's votes on another question of right. The Democrats should undoubtedly vote for Morse's bill. Sound policy as well as Democratic Principles require it of them. I would be satisfied, however, if enough of them, including Pugh & Peirce, would vote for it, to ensure its passage with the aid of Whig & Freesoil votes. In fact, I am inclined to think that the admission of Pugh & Peirce to their seats, and the vindication, thereby of a great principle of constitutional right, would so dispose the Democrats to good will towards the Free Soilers, that they would give votes enough for the bill to insure its passage, whether pledged to do so or not. Col Brough tells me that as soon as he can get a printed copy of the bill he will publish it, and come out in support of it: and he thinks, if he can do it, anybody else may.

But why should I trouble you with these considerations, all of which have doubtless occurred to your own mind, when, being on the spot, you can so much better judge of their weight than I can?

I have just recd. your letter of yesterday and find as I suspected that my suggestions were unnecessary. Consider this as an answer and you in my debt. I will attend to what you say as to the Cold. woman. A President of the Board of P. W. must be elected by the Legislature this winter although future Election by the People may be provided for. You should have that. If not, unless something better can be done you might take the Judgeship — but this would lay you up, which I should not like; and Bolton must be consulted.

SOURCE: Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1902, Vol. 2, p. 156-60

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