« AnteriorContinuar »
H. R. Bigelow and Justus Ramsey, Republicans, would have been elected “by the disaffected Democrats” in place of Willis A. Gorman and William B. McGrorty, if fraudulent votes had not been cast.23 The latter two were the very men whom the Pioneer and Democrat had denounced as “bogus Democrats” before the election. This newspaper admitted on July 1 that "irresponsible and unscrupulous men in the Democratic party" had been guilty of frauds, but it gave no names.24
The Republicans were also charged with grave malpractices. “Wagon loads of voters" were said to have been "transported from Rice county to Waseca on the day of the election, and at least two hundred illegal votes polled in the county.”25 In the case of T. H. Armstrong's claim for the seat of Boyd Phelps, the Democrats seem to have found a similar case as between Freeborn county and the town of Austin.26 Colonizing seems to have been a favorite form of fraud.
The Pembina country, comprising the seventh council district, had probably changed little since 1850 when Sibley described Pembina as "a settlement on our side of the line of the British possessions" which contained "upwards of a thousand souls, principally persons of mixed Indian and white blood.”27 In this region a few fur traders dominated all politics. Elections were probably more or less a farce. It is, however, somewhat surprising to learn that a leading Republican should charge by a resolution introduced in his own convention, that no election whatever had been held in Pembina.28 The six delegates from that district presented carefully prepared credentials, which are still preserved for us; and in these documents a perfectly regular and legal election is briefly described.29 The Republicans appointed a committee to investigate the charge in the resolution which has been mentioned, but nothing seems to have been done. 30
It is not easy to say upon what points the election turned. A Republican writing to Ramsey from Mankato reported that the Democrats in that region had spread the word that the Republicans were “Know Nothings," and that some "good Germans in Mankato were fooled this time."31 The anti-liquor stand of the Republicans probably also served to alienate the Germans, who
33 St. Paul Advertiser, June 6, 1857.
26 Dem. Deb., pp. 397-98. * Minn. Hist. Col., 1:41. 28 Rep. Deb., p. 88.
20 Minnesota archives, Governor's office election records, 1849-1858, in the manuscript division of the Minnesota Historical Society.
30 The Republicans enjoyed telling the story, probably of later date, that in territorial days the Democrats used to count first all the votes from the rest of the territory, ascertain how many votes were needed to carry the election, and then send word to the Pembina district, from which the returns were always tardy. The Pembina Democratic leaders, the story runs, always contrived to return enough votes to carry the election for their party. Minn, Hist. Col., 9:210.
$1 I. T. Williams to Ramsey, June 4, 1857, in Ramsey Papers, 1857. The charge of Know. Nothingism was also used by the Republicans against the Democrats.
would otherwise have stood with the anti-slavery party. With others the charge that the Republicans stood for negro suffrage had some weight; an embittered voter in St. Anthony cast his ballot' for “some white man.” Where real issues were so completely lacking, the personalities of candidates must have been the deciding factor in many cases. Chance, or an early start, probably helped some candidates to win. The one thing which it is perfectly safe to say is that the problems of the nature and contents of a state constitution received pitifully little attention.
It is impossible to speak with certainty of the total popular vote, or to ascertain the popular majority. The returns were never adequately canvassed, and indeed a canvass would have been of little value in view of such complications as the running of citizens' tickets, the peculiar case of Mr. Wait, and the probable polling of large fraudulent votes in some districts. Nevertheless the Democrats claim to have received a popular majority of over sixteen hundred votes throughout the territory.82 Granting that there was substance to this claim, it can possibly be explained by the fact that the Democrats were relatively strong in the large towns, where a high percentage of the voters participated, and that the Republicans were strong in the agricultural districts, where the vote was much lighter.
One thing is certain, and that is that fifty-eight Republicans received certificates of election as contrasted with only fifty Democrats. The latter lost one of the fifty, but finally added six more to their number, making fifty-five in all, by seating six persons who had not received official credentials, and who disputed the elections of six Republican credential holders. The Republicans, on the other hand, kept their fifty-eight delegates to the end, and added one who did not have credentials. Thus the total number who served in the two wings of the convention combined was not one hundred and eight but one hundred and fourteen.
3. THE ATTEMPT TO ORGANIZE THE CONVENTION. Due to the poor communications throughout the territory, the returns from the election of June 1 came in very slowly. Upon the basis of purely local reports, the Pioneer and Democrat of St. Paul early boasted that the Democrats had carried the election. As the news began to arrive from the southern portions of the territory, however, it became evident that the election would be very close and might even go in favor of the Republicans. Each side became extremely anxious and nervous over the result and it is probably true that both sides in their anxiety to win took advantage of technicalities in the law to help their own side.
Since the convention would have full power over its own organization, and since those who held credentials would alone be empowered to participate
32 Dem. Deb., pp. 16, 17.
MAP NO. 8. RESULTS OF THE ELECTION, JUNE 1, 1857. Vertical shading indicates counties carried by the Republicans, horizontal shading counties carried by the Democrats, and both together indicate counties from which were sent divided delegations. The county lines are based
upon a map published in 1857 by J. H. Colton, New York, 1853. (1857).
in the opening session, it became the object of each side to gather in as many credentials as possible. In the St. Anthony district, which was entitled to six delegates to the convention, the contest was very close. In the days before the campaign, the St. Anthony Express, a Democratic newspaper, had advised the voters of its party to be very careful when voting to indicate whether they were voting for councillor delegates or representative delegates.33 Even after the legislature had passed the act providing that every district should elect two delegates for each representative and two for each councillor to which it was entitled, there was some question whether the convention itself would not, in organizing, exclude the councillor delegates. Since St. Anthony was at one and the same time a council district and an undivided representative district, it was desirable, according to the Express, to make absolutely clear upon each ballot the position which the candidate voted for was supposed to fill. But though the Democratic newspaper of St. Anthony gave the advice, the Democratic politicians refused to follow it. The Republicans, on the other hand, took warning and on the ballots which they printed, they designated certain candidates as standing for election from the council district and others as standing for election from the representative district. In the election, therefore, the Republican voters voted for delegates for specific places, whereas the Democrats voted for six candidates without any other designation than that of “delegate." It devolved upon the register of deeds of the county to issue certificates of election and the register of deeds of Hennepin county was the Reverend C. G. Ames, a Republican. He took it upon himself, very likely upon the advice of others, to declare that certificates could be issued only to those who ran for a specific position either that of councillor delegate or that of representative delegate, and upon this basis he gave certificates to six Republicans. On the basis of actual votes cast he should have issued certificates to four Democrats and two Republicans, since St. Anthony constituted one undivided district for the election of both councillors and representatives.34 There was no justification for insisting upon a distinction so fine as that between councillor delegates and representative delegates. A similar case arose in Houston county where a Republican candidate was given a certificate in preference to the Democratic candidate who had a larger vote. One Democrat in Hennepin county, Mr. R. P. Russell, was given a certificate over his Republican opponent for the same reason that four Republicans were given certificates in St. Anthony. Mr. Russell refused, however, to accept the certificate. He said that his Republican opponent had received more votes and was actually entitled to the credentials.85
The action of Mr. Ames in Hennepin county was denounced by the Democratic newspapers throughout the territory, and even the Republicans found
23 Rep., Deb., p. 302.
some difficulty in justifying what had been done. The Democrats charged the Republicans with an intention of violating the wishes of the people by fraud and even if necessary by violence, and they warned them that they would not tolerate Republican control of the coming convention. The Republicans, on the other hand, many of whom were new to the ways of politics, feared greatly that the Democrats would cheat them of their victory. The Democrats controlled not only the territorial government but also the city government of St. Paul, where the convention was to be held, and it was the fear of the Republicans that the Democrats would somehow gain control of the convention and refuse to seat some of the Republican delegates.36
Spurred on by their anxiety to gain control of the convention for themselves, the Republicans began to arrive in St. Paul several days before the day set for the convention. On the evening of Saturday, July 11, they were already present in sufficient numbers to hold a caucus in one of the St. Paul hotels. They attempted in vain to get in touch with the Democrats to come to some agreement as to the hour for opening the convention, and as to the preliminary procedure. The Democrats were much slower in arriving. It is reported that the six delegates from the Pembina district were still at Little Falls when their credentials were being reported to the Democratic convention.37 Certain it is that there is no way of telling from the Democratic debates just how many members were present at the beginning, nor even as late as July 27 when the members were sworn in. Nevertheless there were enough Democratic delegates in St. Paul to carry on some preliminary negotiations with the Republicans. On Sunday night, July 12, at the Fuller House, a group of Republicans came across ex-Governor Gorman who told them that the Democrats were about to go into caucus in one of the rooms of the hotel.38 The Republicans claim to have made the offer at this time and to have signed a paper to the effect that they would agree upon 12 m. as the hour for the calling to order of the convention.39 This signed paper was taken by Gorman into the Democratic caucus, but was not signed by the Democrats, and the Republicans did not see it again. Instead, about 11 o'clock that evening, ex-Governor Gorman handed the Republicans a resolution adopted by the Democratic caucus saying that they would “meet at the usual hour for the assembling of parliamentary bodies in the United States.” The Republican fears were only increased by this reply. They were men with little parliamentary experience, at least many of them, and they had no way of knowing what was the usual hour. They were afraid that this was simply a Democratic trick to take advantage of them and one of them later recalled
36 Rep. Deb., p. 30. There seems to be little doubt that their fears while possibly warranted, were caused principally by the utterances of a few irresponsible newspapers.
37 Ibid., p. 296.