Washington, Decr. 17, 1849.
My Dear Hamlin, I have just comedown from the Capitol. In the Senate we had a brief Executive Session — nothing done. Today we were to have elected Committees but the Old Line Caucus had not arranged matters to suit them, & the elections were put off till tomorrow. You know that in the Senate the Majority party selects in Caucus the majorities of such committees as they think fit so to organize & minorities on the others, & the minority party in caucus selects the balance. The committees thus selected have been hitherto adopted by common consent. What will be done tomorrow I cannot say. There was trouble yesterday between the friends of Benton & Calhoun in Caucus. I have not been invited to the Democratic Caucus. I do not think I should attend, as matters now stand, if I was: but it is not impossible that both Hale and I shall go in before the session closes. To a democratic Senator who spoke to me on the subject I answered that I thought that having been elected exclusively by Democratic & free democratic votes I ought to be invited; but whether I wd. attend or not I was not prepared to say. There was a discussion or conversation about inviting me; but of what character I dont know.
In the House they have been balloting, or rather voting for Speaker. Since the menaces of the Southern men the other day and their insolent proscription of every man, as unfit to receive their votes, except slavery extensionists the northern democrats have got their backs up and so many of them now refuse to vote for any extensionist that it seems impossible to elect any man whom the slaveholding democrats' will support, except by a coalition between these last, aided by the doughfaced democrats & the slaveholding Whigs. Rumors of such a coalition have been rife for a day or two; but the candidate of the extensionists, Lynn Boyd, has not yet received votes enough to enable those Southern Whigs who are willing to go for him, to effect his election. I am glad to be able to say that the Ohio delegation is firm on the side of the Free States, with two exceptions Miller & Hoagland. Until today I hoped that Col. Hoagland would abide with the body of the Ohio democrats; but he gave way today & voted for Boyd. This is the more to be regretted as Boyd was, as I hear, one of the foremost in clapping & applauding Toombs's insolent disunion speech the other day; and after he had closed his harrangue went to him & clapped him on the back in the most fraternizing manner.
Who, then, can be speaker? you will ask. To which I can only reply, I really cannot say. At present it seems as if the contest must be determined final by the Extensionists against the Anti Extensionists without reference to old party lines. An attempt was made today at a bargain between the Hunker Whigs & Hunker Democrats. A Kentucky member offered a resolution that Withrop should be Speaker; Forney, Clerk; & somebody, I can not say who, Sargeant at arms. The democrats voted almost unanimously to lay this resolution on the table — the Whigs, in great numbers, voted against this disposition of it. This looks well for those Hunkers who affect such a holy horror of bargains.
With these facts before you, you can form, better than I can, an idea of the probable shape of things in the future. To me it seems as if the process of reorganization was going on pretty rapidly in the northern democracy. I am much mistaken, if any candidate who will not take the ground assumed in my letter to Breslin, can obtain the support of the Democracy of the North or of the Country.
We are all looking with much interest to Ohio. Mr. Carter has received several letters urging him to be a candidate for Governor: but he will not consent except as a matter of necessity. He is a true man here, and so, above most, is Amos E. Wood. Judge Myers would be a very acceptable candidate to the Free Democracy:— so, also, I should think would be Dimmock. My own regard for Dimmock is very strong. Judge Wood would encounter, I learn, some opposition from the friends of Tod, and his decisions in some slavery cases would be brought up against him especially with Beaver for an opponent. Still, in many respects, he wd. be a very strong man. After all it is chiefly important that the resolutions of the Convention should be of the right stamp & that the candidate should place himself unreservedly upon them.
As to the Free Democratic State Convention, — I think it desirable on many accounts that one should be held; and that it be known soon that one is to be held. I do not think it expedient to call it expressly to nominate, but rather to consider the expediency of nomination & promote, generally the cause of Free Democracy.
I have written to Pugh urging the adoption by the House, if the Senate is not organized, of resolutions sustaining their members in Congress. I think much good would be done by resolutions to this effect.
Resolved, That the determination evinced by many slave state members of Congress, claiming to be Whigs & Democrats, to support for the office of Speaker no known & decided opponent of Slavery Extension, and indeed no man who will not, in the exercise of his official powers, constitute the Committees of the House of Representatives so as to promote actively or by inaction the extension of slavery, is an affront & indignity to the whole people of the Free States, nearly unanimous in opposition to such extension.
Resolved, That we cordially approve of the conduct of those representatives from Ohio who have, since the manifestation of this determination on the part of members for the Slave States, steadily refused to vote for any Slavery Extensionists; and pledge to them, on behalf of the State of Ohio, an earnest support & adequate maintenance.
I give these resolutions merely as specimens. They are not so strong as I would introduce. Perhaps, indeed, it will be thought best to introduce a resolution appropriating a specific sum to be applied to the support of the members here in case the continued failure to organize the House shall leave them without other resources.
The bare introduction of such resolutions into our Legislature would have the happiest effect. Can't you help this thing forward? I dont want these sample resolutions used in any way except as mere specimens & suggestions.
So far as developments have yet been made the Administration has no settled policy. In the present state of the country I confess I do not much fear Cuban annexation.
Write me often.
[SALMON P. CHASE.]
SOURCE: Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1902, Vol. 2, p. 189-92