Monday, July 10, 2017

Salmon P. Chase to Eli Nichols,* Walhonding, Coshocton County, Ohio, July 11, 1848

Cinti. Novr. 9 [1848.]

My Dear Sir, I recd. yrs of the 6th to day, & as I shall be obliged to leave the city to attend the Circuit Court at Columbus on M’day next & shall be much engaged in the meantime I anr it at once. In regard to State Policy, which the Free Democracy should adopt, I think it of great importance that it should be, in the first place, truly Democratic and, in the second, well considered & generally approved by our friends. Neither your views nor mine may be fully met, — yet if the general principles of the policy adopted be sound, I do not doubt that we shall both be satisfied, approximation to particular opinions is all that can be expected in the details of a general plan. I agree that the advantages of a paper currency, securely based upon & promptly convertible into specie, are such that there is no reasonable probability that its use will be dispensed with. The great problem then is to make it safe and deliver it from the monopolizing control of corporations & favored individuals. I am wedded to no particular plan. Let us have the most efficient. The most prominent objection likely to be made to yrs., is that it makes the Government of the State a Banker. I have been accustomed, myself, greatly to distrust Government Banking: but I have neither time nor place to state my reasons now. When we meet at Columbus we will talk the matter over. I am much obliged to Governor Shannon for his kind opinion of me, & cordially reciprocate his good will. I think, however, the times require, — and such I am assured is the opinion of the friends of our movement in our own & other states, — in the Senate of the United States, from Ohio, a man, who thoroughly understands & will steadfastly maintain the whole platform of the Free Democracy. I do not know but Governor Shannon is such a man. If so, I shall witness his elevation to any station which the Legislature or the People may confer upon him, with unfeigned pleasure. For myself, I have no aspirations for the office of Supreme Judge. I have devoted eight of the best years of my life to one great object — the overthrow of the Slave power and slavery by Constitutional Action: and I desire no position in which I cannot efficiently promote this leading purpose. On the bench I could do little for it:— not so much, I think, as I can in my present position.

Nor do I desire to be considered as a candidate for any other place. Some of our friends have been pleased to think I can be of use to our cause in the Senate: and men of other parties have said that, in the contingency that their strength in the Legislature shall prove insufficient to elect a candidate of their own, they will be satisfied with my election to that body. I am not weak enough to found any serious expectations or aspirations upon these views and expressions. I look upon the election of myself or any other Free Soiler as a contingent possibility — nothing more.

I trust that the Representatives of the Free Democracy in the General assembly, will act when they meet at Columbus, with the patriotic wisdom & independent firmness which the crisis will require. Upon all the questions which they will be called upon to decide, as virtual arbiters, between the other parties, I hope they will manifest strict impartiality, and decide then, without bias, as their own conscientious convictions demand. In selecting their own candidates, for whatever public stations, they should inquire not “Whence is he ?” — nor “With what party, did he act?” but “Will he, if elected, promote most efficiently the interests of our cause?” and “For whom can the suffrages of our fellow members be most certainly obtained?” It would be affectation in me to say, that I should not be highly gratified if the choice of the Free Soil members in the Legislature should fall on me, and that choice should be approved by a majority of their fellow members:— for I do believe that I understand the history, principles & practical workings of the Free Soil movement as thoroughly as most men, & nobody, I presume, will question my fidelity to it. If, however, that choice made on those principles should fall on another than myself — upon Giddings, Root, Swan, Hitchcock, Brinkerhoff, or any other of those true-hearted & able men who have so nobly sustained our cause during the recent struggle — no man will be more prompt than I to concur cordially in it or more desirous than I to see it confirmed by the Legislature. What I wish to have understood is this, — I do not seek any office:— much less do I claim any. I do not even desire any, however elevated or honorable, in which, while discharging faithfully its general duties, I cannot efficiently promote the cause of Free Democracy:— but should our friends have the power & feel the disposition to place me in a position, in which, while so discharging its duties, I can so serve our cause, the reproach of “sinister motives” —the cheap missile of malignant detraction — would have as little influence in deterring me from accepting it, as similar attacks have had on my past action against slavery. No man, I trust, is more sensitive to just blame than I:— few I am sure are more indifferent to censure felt to be undeserved.

* From letter-book 6, pp. 160. Eli Nichols was a worker for Chase in the Ohio Senatorial election, which resulted, after a contest of nearly three months, in Chase's election, Feb. 22, 1849. See Hart's Chase, 103-112, and T. C. Smith's History of the Liberty and Free Soil Parties, 160-175.

SOURCE: Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1902, Vol. 2, p. 139-41

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