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offering a series of resolutions embodying these views."17 The discussion which followed developed no difference of sentiment on the principles involved, but showed that the Republicans, like their predecessors of the Democracy, were anxious to handle the subject in as politic a manner as possible. When the convention opened, Byron Paine offered a resolution which was in these words: "Resolved, that the fundamental principles of the Republican party are based upon the equal rights of all men; that those principles are utterly hostile to the proscription of any on account of birthplace, religion, or color; and that this convention is opposed to all secret political organizations which favor such proscription or adopt secret measures or take upon themselves obligations inconsistent with the Republican's faith, and with fair and honest action as members of the Republican party." The resolution was adopted by acclamation.
Like the Democratic convention, the Republican gathering also had its tense moments over the K. N. subject. Mr. A. M. Wood, of Fond du Lac, was challenged as a suspect. He was duly catechised in regard to the purity of his Republicanism, and when he declared himself ready to vote for foreigners should such be placed in nomination, the leaders pronounced themselves satisfied. But this does not mean that all suspicion was thereby banished from the convention. In order to meet the requirement of a ticket which would attract German votes, the Republicans nominated Charles Roeser, of Manitowoc, editor of the pioneer Wisconsin German Republican newspaper, for treasurer.
The campaign which followed was grotesquely personal. We need not here discuss the charges against Barstow on account of the supposed excessive cost of the State Asylum for the Insane or the charges based on the alleged mismanagement of the school lands. These matters necessarily played a large part in the canvass. But the energies 17 Sentinel, Sept. 6, 1855.
of the opposing newspapers were expended mainly in the effort, by hook or by crook, to fasten on the head of each ticket the charge of being a Know-Nothing or of being in league with the Know-Nothings for the purpose of securing their support in the election.
The Casey incident in the Democratic convention, which except as partisan ammunition would not have received even passing notice, was fastened upon by the Republican press for the purpose of convincing the voters that Barstow was too close to the evil one in the form of the Know-Nothings. Casey's statement was cleverly supported. The Milwaukee News, a Democratic paper, had made a prophecy to the effect that no doubt the KnowNothings would attempt to control the Democratic convention, and the Pinery, another Democratic paper, confessed that "this Barstow ticket is certain of the whole vote opposed to the Maine law and a considerable share, if not the whole, of the Know-Nothing vote." To the partisan, here was a complete chain of evidence, from Democratic sources! One paper says the convention is very likely to be controlled by the "dark lantern boys"; another asserts boisterously that the candidate for governor is a KnowNothing; and a third calmly speculates on the proportion of the Know-Nothing vote which their candidate will poll! One can imagine the glee with which Rufus King put these incidents together for the consumption of the Sentinel's readers.18 And in this style of campaigning he was ably abetted by David Atwood of the State Journal, and other Republican editors. If the Republicans were actually arranging for the delivery to their gubernatorial candidate of the bulk of Know-Nothing votes, as was charged and as the facts of the election seemed to imply, they at least were able to throw up a very effective dust screen behind which to carry out their designs.
18 See especially the Sentinel for Sept. 20, 1855.
The opposite party promptly adopted the same tactics. They charged "as per arrangement" (so the Sentinel put it) that Bashford was a Know-Nothing, and a little later the Madison Democrat not only repeated the charge but threatened to prove it. Democratic papers like the Democrat kept that idea before the people during the entire campaign, coupling it with frequently reiterated statements that the Republicans were determined to foist on the people another "Maine law" (prohibition) such as Governor Barstow had vetoed during the preceding session of the legislature. All of this was for the purpose of preventing any break in their foreign vote. "They know full well,” said the Sentinel, "that if our adopted citizens vote independently and divide, as native citizens do, the Barstow ticket will be beaten out of sight. Hence all these appliances to rally the foreign-born voters in a body, to sham democracy.
The campaign was not devoid of humorous aspects. Sometimes editors found their emotions of antipathy too strong to be adequately expressed in the vocabulary at command. That gave their opponents an opportunity to raise the laugh against them. Thus, on September 26 the Sentinel printed a little squib which ran as follows, under the caption "HOLD HIM:"
Is there nobody over in Sauk County who will reason with the editor of the Democrat? Or is he so excited as to be past reasoning with? Certainly something ought to be done with him, for such enthusiasm cannot last until election without something giving out. He is disturbed about the Republican nominations, and calls upon his American K. N. friends not to vote for it [the Republican ticket]. Hear him: “Will the American K. N. support their sacrilege? No, Never-Whigs, demagogues, and broken down politicians banded together in infamy, are seeking to ruin the fair glory of our youthful state-will our honest and intelligent citizens be lured by their Syrene [sic] song and allow this putrescent mass of moral corruption, whose touch is but to destroy, be fastened upon us? Our hills and valleys, our woodland and prairies answer NO, NOT FOREVER."
19 Sentinel, Sept. 11, 1855.
And King comments: "Ho, Excelsior! Good for the Baraboo hills!"
Shortly before the election the Milwaukee American (Know-Nothing organ) announced that the "Americans" would vote the Republican ticket, because the Democratic ticket was unworthy of support, while they were satisfied, in general, with the candidates nominated by the Republicans. This announcement, as may be supposed, caused a sensation. Thereupon the Democrats redoubled their efforts to convince the foreign-born that an actual fusion had been effected between the "Shanghais" (Republicans) and the Know-Nothings; that Bashford was unquestionably a member of the order, as had often been charged, without denial from him; that he had been slipping quietly from place to place, arranging matters with the K. N. lodges; and, in a word, that the confession of the American more than confirmed all that the Democrats had charged. This statement of the American was a genuine embarrassment to the Republicans. They did not wish to alienate the promised K. N. support, neither did they care to sacrifice such foreign votes as they had hoped to secure. As is usual in such cases, they took the path of least resistance, and on the eve of the election Bashford came out, in a letter to General King of the Sentinel, declaring merely that he was not a member of the order of Know-Nothings, or of any other secret order.
But the Republicans were not through with the "dark lantern boys" yet, for the day after the election the American made the direct claim that, if the Republicans should prove successful, it would be on account of the votes thrown to the Republican ticket by the American party. Its words were: "The American party of Wisconsin has achieved for the Republican party its victory—if victory it has obtained. Without their aid the party would have been routed in the present canvass."20 Thereupon both Sherman Booth and
20 Daily American, Nov. 7, 1855.
General King entered denials, asserting that the show of aid proffered to the Republican ticket by the Know-Nothings frightened away the foreign vote and led to the defeat of their ticket-if it was defeated. The Sentinel estimated the foreign defections at ten thousand. But the American returned the charge, saying:
In the hundreds of councils [lodges of the K. N.] now in full operation in this state active preparations were made to poll the entire vote for Bashford and the remainder of the Republican ticket. The state council authorized an appropriation of means sufficient to send working men through the state to insure a united and concentrated effort on the part of the order in behalf of the Republican ticket. This was done and upwards of twenty thousand votes have been polled through this instrumentality.21
These statements are proof that the Know-Nothing party in 1855 elected to support the Republican nominees rather than to put up an independent ticket. They do not prove the existence of an understanding between the Republican and Know-Nothing organizations; yet in politics there is usually some fire where the smoke is a dense pall, as in this case it was. We cannot, of course, accept as anything more than a rough estimate the American's assertion that more than 20,000 "American" votes were polled.22 But the net result of the campaign, especially the above disclosures, was to convince the public, and especially the foreign-born, that Republicanism was deeply tainted with the KnowNothingism which they both hated and feared.23
21 Daily American, Nov. 10, 1855.
22 The official canvass for the state (Sentinel, Dec. 19, 1855) shows that Barstow received 36,355 votes, Bashford 36,198. A recount gave Bashford a very slight advantage. More interesting, as revealing a possible K. N. influence on the result, is the fact that Bashford was absolutely the high man on the Republican side, while Roeser, the one foreign-born candidate, was the low man. Roeser's vote was only 32,872. Kuehn, the foreign-born candidate on the Democratic side, received 38,657, which was more than went to any other candidate on his ticket except Barry, who ran for state superintendent of public instruction. The figures suggest that the Know-Nothings pulled Bashford over the line, but were cold toward Roeser as a foreigner. They also suggest that many German Democrats went to the polls to vote for Kuehn and no one else.
23 This paper is necessarily a sketch rather than a definitive treatment of the subject, for the reason that our means of information are as yet incomplete. It is hoped that those possessing letters, journals, or diaries throwing further light upon Know-Nothingism in Wisconsin will favor the Historical Society with their records.-EDITOR.