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THE COMPROMISE OF 1850 AN ISSUE IN THE NEXT STATE ELECTION
HOWELL COBB, WITH THE PRESTIGE OF THE SPEAKERSHIP, Quits CoNGRESS TO OFFER HIMSELF FOR GOVERNOR AS THE CANDIDATE OF THE NEW CONSTITUTIONAL UNION PARTY OF GEORGIA—Ex-GOVERNOR MCDONALD, A FORMER UNION MAN, IS THE CANDIDATE OF THE ExTREME STATE SOVEREIGNTY ELEMENT, BUT MEETS DEFEAT AT THE POLLS—ACT DIVIDING THE STATE INTO FORTY-SEVEN DISTRICTS REPEALED—COUNTY REPRESENTATION IN THE SENATE IS REVIVED—Two NEW JUDICIAL CIRCUITS—BLUE RIDGE AND MACON—THREE NEW COUNTIES-POLK, SPALDING AND WHITEFIELD-THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN OF 1852—THE GEORGİA WHIGS VOTE FOR DANIEL WEBSTER, AFTER THE GREAT NEW ENGLANDER'S DEATII—FRANKLIN PIERCE IS ELECTED—THE POWER OF THE WHIG PARTY IS BROKEN-JUDGE BERRIEN RESIGNS THE TOGA-ROBERT M. CHARLTON SUCCEEDS HIM UNTIL ROBERT TOOMBS IS ELECTED—SEVERAL NEW COUNTIES—TAYLOR, CATOOSA, DOUGHERTY, FULTON, HART, DICKENS, PAULDING, WORTH, CALHOUN, CHATTAHOOCHEE, CHARLTON, CLAY, CLAYTON, COFFEE, AND FANNIN—HERSCHEL V. JOHNSON DEFEATS CHARLES J. JENKINS FOR GOVERNOR IN 1856-EBENEZER STARNES AND HENRY L. BENNING SUCCEED WARNER AND NISBET ON THE SUPREME BENCH_MEMBERS OF CONGRESS DURING THIS PERIOD-ALFRED IVERSON SUCCEEDS WILLIAM C. DAWSON AS UNITED STATES SENATOR—THE KANSAS-NEBRASKA BILL-SQUATTER SOVEREIGNTY-RUMBLINGS OF THE COMING STORM— THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN OF 1856-JAMES BUCHANAN Is ELECTED—BUT THE NEWLY ORGANIZED REPUBLICAN PARTY THREATENS TO BECOME AN IMPORTANT FACTOR IN AMERICAN POLITICS—THIE KNOW-NOTHINGS—BRUNSWICK AND TALLAPOOS, CIRCUITS CREATED NEW COUNTIES-BERRIEN, COLQUITT, HARALSON, TERRELL, TOWNS, AND WEBSTER-DEATH OF GEORGE M. TROUP.
But the compromise measures of 1850 became an issue in the next state election. Despite the adoption of the Georgia platform, whose quieting effect we have just noted, the opponents of the compromise organized a party in the interest of extreme state rights, and, on a vigorous platform, nominated for governor, Hon. Charles J. MeDonald, a former chief executive and a former Union man. To prevent a repetition of the trouble just averted, it was necessary for the Unionists to band themselves together in a new party organization and to put forth a candidate. Accordingly, the constitutional union party was organized.
Speaker Cobb, a Jacksonian democrat, with the prestige of a national reputation, relinquished his seat in Congress to become the standardbearer of this new party, created to rescue Georgia from the impending
evils of disunion. Mr. Cobb was the strongest man in Georgia to make this race. His personal popularity, his great intellectual power, and his high official position, all combined to make him at this time Georgia's favorite son. In the campaign which followed, Toombs and Stephens both warmly supported Mr. Cobb, though formerly his opponents. Under the banner of Union, all whigs and democrats who wished to allay further strife united in this campaign, with the result that Mr. Cobb swept the state and won the governorship by a majority of 18,000 votes.
Since 1843 the state had been divided into forty-seven senatorial districts. But for some reason this grouping of counties had not given satisfaction; and in 1851 a constitutional amendment, having passed at the session of 1850, received final adoption, restoring the old system
of country representation in the State Senate. This new law remained in effect until 1861, when the present division of the state in forty-four senatorial districts became operative; but from 1853 to 1861 each county in the state elected its senator, as it had previously done from 1789 to 1845.
At this session of the General Assembly two new judicial circuits were created—the Blue Ridge Circuit, of which David Irwin became the first judge; and the Macon Circuit, to preside over which the first judge elected by the Legislature was Abner P. Powers.
Three counties were also at this time added to the map of Georgia. Polk was laid off from Paulding and named for President James K. Polk, of Tennessee; Spalding was organized out of Pike and Henry and named for Hon. Thomas Spalding, of St. Simon's Island, a wealthy planter and a former member of Congress; while Whitefield was formed out of Murray and named for the great pulpit orator of the Church of England, who founded the famous Bethesda Orphan House, near Savannah, Rev. George Whitefield.
In the national campaign of 1852, both the whigs and the democrats planted themselves squarely on the compromise measures of 1850. The former nominated Gen. Winfield Scott, a hero of the Mexican campaign. The latter put forward Franklin Pierce, of New Hampshire. The Georgia whigs could not consistently support General Scott. Not only were his laurels won in Mexico somewhat wilted by a court-martial but his position on the Fugitive Slave Law was not sufficiently orthodox. Consequently, in a state convention the Georgia whigs decided to support Daniel Webster, of Massachusetts, for President, and Charles J. Jenkins, of Georgia, for Vice-President. Webster died before the election, but thousands of ballots were cast on which his name appeared.* This was done, of course, as an expression of principle and to préserve a party organization. Still another whig contingent, on a platform of extreme state rights, nominated George M. Troup, of Georgia, and John A. Quitman, of Mississippi, on a presidential ticket.
There was also division among the democrats. Some of the unionists nominated an independent ticket, with Pierce's name, however, at its head. The vote cast in Georgia was as follows: For Pierce, on the regular democratic ticket, 33,843 votes; for Pierce, on the union ticket, 5,773; for Scott, 15,779; for Webster, 5,289; for Troup, 119.7
The following presidential electors were chosen in 1852 to cast the state's ten electoral votes for Pierce and King (William R. King, of Alabama), to wit: From the state at large, Wilson Lumpkin and Herschel V. Johnson; district electors, Thomas M. Foreman, R. H. Clark, H. G. Lamar, Hugh A. Haralson, I. E. Brown, William L. Mitchell, R. W. Flournoy and William Schley. I
This election completely overthrew the power of the whig party in Georgia. Its hostility to slavery alienated most of its former adherents, leaving few men of influence and power in the state to uphold the whig banner.
But the party's decline was foreshadowed in the congressional elections of 1850. The following strong delegation was chosen at this time to represent Georgia in the Thirty-second Congress (1851-1853): Joseph W. Jackson, James Johnson, David J. Bailey, Charles Murphy, Elijah W. Chastain, Junius Hillyer, Alexander H. Stephens, and Robert Toombs. Messrs. Toombs and Stephens were the only two members of the delegation who had been in active affiliation with the old whig party, nor did they continue long to remain in this political fold. Mr.
Mr. Webster's popularity in Georgia was due largely to his celebrated 7th of March (1850) speech, in which he rebuked the New England abolitionists. Says a distinguished Washington correspondent: “Boston's reply was the closing of the doors of Faneuil Hall to her most illustrious citizen. One of the successors of Webster, in the present Senate (Mr. Lodge), would walk backward and cover him with a quilt, while the other (Mr. Hoar) has written a splendid chapter, in the perusal of which we may speculate that Webster on March 7 postponed secession ten years, during which the North waxed strong enough to successfully grapple with it when it could no longer be postponed. Mr. Hoar thinks that as Webster's vision was strongest and clearest he saw what men like (Thad) Stevens could not see and acted best for the country. At least, Mr. Hoar makes a suggestion of that import.'' -"Essays by Savoyard,” pp. 59-60.
7"Georgia and State Rights,” U. B. Phillips, p. 168. "Lanman's Biographical Annals of the United States Government,” pp. 530-532.
Toombs was the first to transfer his allegiance to democracy; while Mr. Stephens, though prompt to renounce the whigs, was slow to join the democrats. To quote an expression used by Mr. Stephens at this time, afterwards a famous campaign slogan, "he was simply toting his own skillet."
United States Senator John M. Berrien, desiring to relinquish the toga, on account of physical infirmities, resigned his seat in 1852, and to succeed him Judge Robert M. Charlton, of Savannah, was appointed under a temporary commission, the Legislature of 1851 having already elected Robert Toombs to this office for a full term of six years, to begin March 4, 1853.
Several new counties were created in the next two years. On January 15, 1852, an act was approved creating the new County of Taylor, out of lands taken from three other counties, to wit: Talbot, Macon, and Marion. The new county was named for President Zachary Taylor. In 1853, the Legislature created seven additional new counties as follows: Catoosa, Dougherty, Fulton, Hart, Pickens, Paulding, and Worth; while in 1854 seven more were created, as follows: Calhoun, Chattahoochee, Charlton, Clay, Clayton, Coffee, and Fannin.
Atlanta, the county-seat of Fulton, became, fifteen years later, the new capital of the state.
As Governor Cobb's term of office drew to a close, two candidates for governor entered the field: Herschel V. Johnson and Charles J. Jenkins. Strictly party lines were not drawn in this election. It was more of a fight between candidates, both of whom were firm believers in the sovereignty of the state. · Mr. Jenkins was a whig, and while as a national organization the whig party in Georgia was dead, its former members rallied to the support of Mr. Jenkins, whose personal popularity also brought to him a large element of democratic strength. The contest was probably the closest on record in Georgia, considering the number of votes cast, Mr. Johnson receiving 47,638 against 47,128 cast for Mr. Jenkins.
Two vacancies occurred this year on the Supreme Bench. Hon. Hiram Warner resigned to enter the race for Congress and Hon. Eugenius A. Nisbet, at the expiration of his term, was not a candidate for re-election. To fill Judge Warner's unexpired term of two years, Hon. Ebenezer Starnes was elected by the Legislature on November 15, 1853. At the same time, Hon. Henry L. Benning was elected for a full term of six years to succeed Judge Nisbet.
From 1853 to 1855, the following state delegates represented Georgia in Congress : James L. Seward, Alfred H. Colquitt, David J. Bailey, William B. W. Dent, Elijah W. Chastain, Junius IIillyer, David A. Reese, and Alexander H. Stephens. Dr. Reese was the only member of the delegation elected at this time as a whig. Mr. Stephens was returned as an independent. All the other members were democrats.
Only two of these were re-elected to the Thirty-fourth Congress (1855-1857): Messrs. Seward and Stephens. The newly elected mem
1 For any further particulars in regard to these counties see section on “Georgia Miscellanies.'
|| H-J, 1853, p. 34.
bers were: Martin J. Crawford, Robert P. Trippe, Hiram Warner, John H. Lumpkin, Howell Cobb, and Nathaniel G. Foster.* All of these were democrats except Mr. Foster, who was elected on the American, or know-nothing ticket. Judge Hiram Warner, in his successful race for Congress this year, defeated the afterwards illustrious Benjamin H. Hill, who was put forward by the know-nothings. Some account of the origin of this party will be found further on in this work.
To succeed Hon. William C. Dawson, whose term as United States senator was to expire on March 4, 1855, the Legislature, in the rall of 1853, elected Hon. Alfred Iverson, of Columbus, a southern rights democrat.
Georgia's delegation to the Thirty-fifth Congress (1857-1859) was as follows: James L. Seward, Martin J. Crawford, R. P. Trippe, L. J. Gartrell, Augustus R. Wright, James Jackson, Joshua Hill, and Alexander H. Stephens. All of these were state right democrats except Mr. Hill, who was a strong unionist.†
Brief was the respite from internal dissentions secured by the compromise measures of 1850. Calhoun had passed away in 1850; Webster and Clay in 1852. The great issue of slavery was again opened with volcanic results when Stephen A. Douglas, of Illinois, in the United State Senate, introduced a bill to organize Kansas and Nebraska as territories. This was in 1854. Meanwhile the Fugitive Slave Law had been virtually nullified in many of the Northern and Western states, thus widening the breech. The Kansas-Nebraska Bill proposed to repeal the Missouri Compromise of 1820, excluding slavery from the territories north of a certain parallel, 36 degrees, 30 minutes, and to allow the people therein to settle the question for themselves. This became known as “Popular” or “Squatter Sovereignty.” The principle was an altogether new one, unknown prior to the Compromise of 1850, when Utah and New Mexico were admitted on these terms. Mr. Douglas secured the adoption of his measure, the effect of which was to remove entirely out of the sphere of congressional legislation the question of establishing slavery in the territories. From this time on the question was to be settled by the people themselves. In other words, the principal of squatter sovereignty was substituted for the principle of congressional restriction. This measure was passed in the Senate by a vote of 37 to 14 and in the House by a vote of 113 to 100. The South was a unit for the bill, democrats and whigs voting together. It was also supported by Northern democrats. Opposition came solely from Northern whigs.
Great satisfaction was felt in Georgia over what seemed to be a generous concession to the South made by the democrats at the North, for the sake of the Union; and loud were the expressions of approval heard on every hand, commending the statesmanship of Mr. Douglas, the Little Giant. At first the whigs were inclined to be non-committal, but eventually joined in the demonstration, contending that the democrats had simply stolen whig thunder. I