Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Salmon P. Chase to George Reber,* June 19, 1849

June 19, 1849.

My Dear Sir. I have not often recd. a letter which afforded me so much gratification as the few lines from you which I found on my table last Saturday on my return from Frankfort. Our limited intercourse last winter had given me, a very pleasing impression of your Character; but I confess I was not prepared for so generous an estimate of myself and my motives as your letter expresses. I have been so much & so perseveringly misconstrued and maligned that the surprise of justice from an opponent almost equals the pleasure. Your opposition to my election never awakened in my breast the slightest dissatisfaction. You did not agree with me in political opinions, and holding your own views honestly you could not properly aid in placing me in a position of trust and influence, which would enable me the more effectively to recommend & advance my own opposite views. I am a Democrat unreservedly. Investigation & reflection satisfied me long since that the leading measures & maxims of the Democracy were right. And yet I did [not] act with the Democrats, because, I could not so long as it was under the leading of slave holding and subservient politicians without violating my convictions of duty. I was obliged, therefore, to act with that forlorn hope of Freedom the Liberty Party — than which I verily believe there never was a party composed of truer or nobler spirits. Last winter I desired to see the Democrats & Freesoilers in our Legislature act together, because I knew that many in the old Democratic line were tired of the alliance with Slavery & felt sure that a liberal & conciliatory course on the part of the Freesoilers towards them would do much towards breaking up that alliance and bringing the entire party upon our platform. I was satisfied moreover that in the Hamilton County matter and the apportionment question the right was on the side of the Democrats. Policy & Justice, therefore concurred in recommending to my mind the course actually adopted, as most fit in itself for adoption and best adapted to the advancement of the general cause of Freedom. I must observe, however, that it was no wish of mine that the offices to be filled by the Legislature should be divided exclusively among democrats & Freesoilers. I was anxious that the Whigs themselves should signalize their own sense of justice, by yielding such modifications of the apportionment law as moderate and fair minded men could agree on & that the Freesoilers & Democrats on the other hand should concur in the appointment of Whigs to a reasonable proportion of the offices to be filled.

Had this course been pursued, I am satisfied that much good would have resulted from it. An era of good feeling would have arisen among the contending parties and the honor & peace of the State put in jeopardy by the contentions growing out [of] the apportionment law, would have been restored & secured. I will not say that in the counsel I gave last winter I was not uninfluenced by personal considerations: but I can say that I do believe that I was not influenced by such considerations in any extraordinary degree. Certainly I neither modified nor compromised in any way, my political principles. I made no pledges — came under no obligations which at all, impair my absolute independence of party restraint. If the Democratic party shall prove itself in truth & earnest, a free democracy, I shall rejoice in being instrumental in promoting, by honorable means, its ascendancy. But [if] the Democratic Party shall determine in spite of all remonstrances and all efforts to prevent it to go down to Egypt for help and renew an unnatural alliance with the Slave holding Oligarchy, I shall, with God's help, go straight on in my old course, and whether with few or many, enter upon the political battle of 1852 as I went into those of 1844 and 1848, under the banner of “No Nationalized Slavery” “No more compromises of Freedom” I think however you will admit that the signs of the times do not indicate any such course of the Democracy. Excuse the infliction of so long a letter upon you. Read it with patience & good humor and I will charge no other fee for complying with your request to be enrolled among my personal friends.

P. S. I send you the Report of the Commissioner of the land office, the extended and carefully prepared tables are of more than ordinary value.

* From letter book 6, pp. 24 and 26.

SOURCE: Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1902, Vol. 2, p. 178-9

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