Page images

But what appeared on the surface of things to be a great victory for slavery was only the precursor of a tragic drama enacted on the plains of Kansas, the effect of which was to write the doom of slavery in human blood. Westward the caravans began to move. In a mad rush, settlers from both the free states and the slave states started for Kansas, there to engage in a feudal fight which was destined to leave its crimson record upon every door-post and to find its sequel in one of the colossal conflicts of history.

It was the cry of bleeding Kansas to which the newly organized republican party responded in 1856 when John C. Fremont, of Missouri, was nominated on a free soil platform. Thousands of Northern whigs joined the New England abolitionists in supporting the free soil candidate; and while the new party polled a minority vote it mustered sufficient strength to excite the gravest fears as to what another four years might accomplish.

James Buchanan, of Pennsylvania, for President, and John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, for Vice-President, was the ticket nominated by the national democratic party in the famous Cincinnati convention of 1856. The principle of non-interference on the part of Congress was at this time reaffirmed.

During the campaign of 1856 another new party banner was foisted. Most of the northern whigs had gone into the anti-slavery camp; but there was quite a large contingent drawn into the American or knownothing party, a political organization unfriendly both to foreign immigrants and to Catholies and designed with the object professedly of securing a dominance of the native element. Its slogan was “America for Americans." As early as 1854 the know-nothing party had become an important factor in Georgia politics. Most of its adherents were old-line whigs. But Mr. Stephens, as we have seen, refused to join the new party, preferring to take an independent course; and it was at this time that he made the famous remark, when asked where he stood : I'm just toting my own skillet.” Mr. Toombs on most of the public issues of the day voted with the democrats. The leader of the knownothings in Georgia was Senator Berrien. But, dying in 1854, his mantle fell upon the broad shoulders of a young intellectual giant destined to become one of the commanding figures of an approaching era of division : Benjamin H. Hill.

Georgia's support was given in the campaign of 1856 to Buchanan and Breckinridge, and her ten electoral votes were cast by the following delegation: W. H. Stiles and J. N. Ramsay, from the state at large; and district electors, Iverson L. Harris, L. J. Gartrell, Thomas M. Foreman, John W. Lewis, Samuel Hall, James P. Simmons, J. P. Saffold, and T. W. Thomas.*

Governor Johnson was renominated for governor by the democracy of Georgia in 1855, but there were two other candidates for this office nominated by opposition parties. Judge Garnett Andrews, one of the ablest lawyers of the state, for years a judge of the Northern Circuit, was put forward by the know-nothings; while Hon. B. H. Overby, a Methodist preacher and a strong prohibitionist, once a fire-eating whig,

*"Lanman's Biographical Annals of the United States Government,” pp. 532-533. THE MITCHELL HOUSE: WHERE GOVERNOR TROUP DIED IN 1856, WHILE VISITING HIS OVERSEER BURIAL PLACE OF GOVERNOR GEORGE W. TROU'P, NEAR SOPERTON was nominated by the temperance forces. Governor Johnson, however, was elected, receiving 53,478 votes against 43,228 cast for Judge Andrews, and 6,284 cast for Colonel Overby. The last-named gentleman is today revered as one of the great pioneer leaders in crusade of reform which has since swept over the state and is destined in the near future to sweep the nation.*


Two new judicial circuits were created by the State Legislature in 1854: the Brunswick and the Tallapoosa. To preside over the courts of the Brunswick Circuit, Hon. A. E. Cochran was the first judge elected, while the first presiding officer of the Tallapoosa Circuit was Hon. Denis F. Hammond.

In 1855, the Legislature created six new counties, to wit: Berrien, Colquitt, Haralson, Terrell, Towns and Webster. All of these, except the county last mentioned, were named for distinguished Georgians who had recently passed away: John MacPherson Berrien, Walter T. Colquitt, Hugh A. Haralson, William Terrell, and George W. Towns. Webster was named for the illustrious orator of New England, though the original name proposed for the county was Kinchafoonee, for a creek constituting one of its water courses.f

On May 3, 1856, ex-Governor George M. Troup, while visiting one of his plantations in what was then Montgomery County, now Wheeler, died in an overseer's cabin (on the Mitchell place). For more than twenty years, Governor Troup had lived in modest retirement on his favorite plantation, called by him, Valdosta, in Laurens. County, some few miles to the south of the present city of Dublin. Governor Troup owned something like ten plantations in this section of Georgia, most of them on the banks of the Oconee River; and for the times he was a man of princely means, though he cared nothing for ostentatious display. He was buried on the Rosemont plantation, in Montgomery County, beside a beloved brother, whom he survived. His grave in the midst of a dense thicket is approached by a path leading through a field of corn. It is marked by a substantial monument occupying the center of a walled enclosure; but this shrine of patriotism, sacred to all Georgians, is seldom visited because of its remoteness from any traveled highway. It is reached by a drive of seven miles from Soperton, a town on the Macon and Dublin Road, between Dublin and Vidalia. Governor Troup was a man of eccentric habits, but fearless, upright, and uncompromising in his allegiance to principle. Altogether, he was one of the most unique, one of the most courageous, and one of the most patriotic of all the public men of Georgia; and his own rugged character is the only quarry which can furnish the memorial granite worthy to bear the name of Georgia's stout apostle of state rights: George M. Troup.

* H-J, 1855.

Supplementary data relative to entitled “Georgia Miscellanies.'

counties may be obtained fron


Vol. II-7

« PreviousContinue »