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This discontent manifested itself politically; third-party candidates seeking reform were common in the mostly-agricultural West and South in 1888, an election which saw Republican Benjamin Harrison displace incumbent president Grover Cleveland. Of the third-party candidates at the state or local level who ran as reformers, not many succeeded, as voters more often selected a mainstream-party candidate who promised to support similar policy changes. In July 1890, the first People's Party was founded in Kansas,[1] that fall its candidates secured four congressional seats and control of the lower house of the state legislature; its legislators then elected the first United States Senator from the Populist Party (as it came to be called), William A. Peffer.[a] In the South, party loyalties were tied up in issues of states' rights and fears that an electoral split would allow the Republican Party, to which most African Americans were loyal, to return to power at the state level and empower that minority. Nevertheless, leader's of the Farmer's Alliance (as many elements of the Populists were known in their early days) in several southern states boasted that their positions now commanded majority support in the legislature. They demanded greater government intervention in the economy, included) subsidized loans to farmers, government ownership of the railroads (often charged with too-high rates), and direct election of senators, and the elimination of the Electoral College for election of the president and vice president by popular vote.[1][1]

Governor of New York[edit]

William Seward was sworn in as New York's governor on January 1, 1839, inaugurated in front of a crowd of jubilant Whigs. At time, the annual message by the New York governor was published and discussed to an extent that only a president's would be today.[2] Seward biographer Walter Stahr wrote that his address "brimmed with his youth, energy, ambition, and optimism".[3] Seward took note of America's great unexploited resources, and stated that immigration should be encouraged in order to take advantage of them. He urged that citizenship and religious liberty be granted to those who came to New York's shores.[2] At the time, New York City's public schools were run by a Protestant group, and used Protestant texts, including the King James Bible. Seward believed the current system was a barrier to literacy for immigrants' children, and proposed legislation to change it.[4] Education, he stated, "banishes the distinctions, old as time, of rich and poor, master and slave. It banishes ignorance and lays axe to the root of crime".[3] Seward's stance was popular among immigrants, but was disliked by nativists; their opposition would eventually help defeat his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860.[5]

Although the Assembly had a Whig majority, at the start of Seward's first term as governor, the party had only 13 legislators out of 32 in the state Senate. The Democrats there refused to co-operate with Governor Seward except on the most urgent matters, and he initially found himself unable to advance much of his agenda.[6] Accordingly, the 1839 legislative elections were crucial to Seward's legislative hopes, and to advancing the nominations of many Whigs to state office whose posts required Senate confirmation. Both Seward and President Van Buren gave several speeches across New York State that summer. Henry Clay, one of the hopefuls for the Whig nomination for president in 1840, spent part of the summer in Upstate New York, and the two men met by chance on a ferry, but Seward refused to formally visit Clay at his vacation home in Saratoga Springs in the interests of neutrality, beginning a difficult relationship between the two men. After the election, the Whigs had 19 seats, allowing the party full control of state government.[7]

Following the election, there was unrest near Albany among tenant farmers on the land owned by Dutch-decended patroons of the van Rensselaer family. These tenancies allowed the landlords privileges such as enlisting the unpaid labor of tenants, and any breach could result in termination of tenure without compensation for improvements. When sheriff's deputies in Albany County were obstructed from serving eviction writs, Seward was asked to call out the militia, and after an all-night cabinet meeting, did so, though quietly assuring the tenants that he would intervene with the legislature. This mollified the settlers, though Seward proved unable to get the legislature to pass reforming laws, and this question was not settled until after Seward had left office.[8]

In September 1839, a ship sailing from Norfolk, Virginia to New York City had been discovered to have an escaped slave on board. The slave was returned to his owner pursuant to the Fugitive Slave Clause of the Constitution, but Virginia also demanded that three free black sailors, said to have concealed the fugitive aboard ship, also be surrendered. This Seward would not do, and the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation inhibiting trade with New York, while in Albany the legislature passed acts protecting the rights of African-Americans against Southern slavecatchers. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, such North-South clashes as what came to be called the Virginia Case, predicted as "new irritation" by former president Jefferson in 1820, helped widen the chasm between North and South.[9]

Both Seward and Van Buren were up for re-election in 1840. Seward did not attend the December 1839 Whig National Convention in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but Weed did on his behalf. They were determined to support General Winfield Scott for president, but when Weed concluded he could not win, he threw New York's support to General William Henry Harrison, to the outrage of supporters of the third contender, Senator Clay. These grievances would not be quickly forgotten—one supporter of the Kentuckian wrote in 1847 that he was intent on seeing the "punishment of Seward & Co. for defrauding the country of Mr. Clay in 1840".[10]

Seward himself was renominated for a second term by the Whig convention against Democrat William Brock, a former state legislator. Seward did not campaign in person, as was customary at the time, but ran affairs with Weed behind the scenes and made his views known to the voter through a Fourth of July speech and lengthy letters declining invitations to speak, printed in the papers. In one, Seward expounds upon the importance of the log cabin—in which Harrison was famously born—where Seward had always found a far warmer welcome than in the marble palaces of the well to do (evoking the aristocratic Van Buren). Both Harrison and Seward were elected.[11] The New York governor, nevertheless, was distressed at running well behind Harrison, winning by only 5,000 to the President-elect's statewide margin of 14,000. This was ascribed to opposition to his pro-immigrant stances. Although Seward would serve another almost thirty years in public life, his name would never again pass before the voters.[12]

In his second term, Seward was involved with the trial of Alexander McLeod, who had boasted of his supposed involvement in the 1837 Caroline Affair, in which Canadians came across the Niagara River and sank the Caroline, a steamboat being used to supply William Lyon Mackenzie's fighters during the Upper Canada Rebellion. McLeod was arrested, and the British Foreign Minister, Lord Palmerston demanded his release as he could not be held responsible for actions taken under orders. Although the Van Buren Administration agreed with Seward that McLeod should be tried under state law, the new Whig government, and its Secretary of State, Daniel Webster did not, and urged that charges against McLeod be dropped. There was a series of testy letters between Seward and Webster, and also between the governor and the new president, John Tyler, who had succeeded after Harrison's death after a month in office. McLeod was tried and acquitted in late 1841. Stahr points out that Seward got his way in having McLeod tried in state court, and the diplomatic experience served him well as Secretary of State.[13]

Electoral history[edit]


Election Political result Candidate Party Votes % ±%
United States Senate special election in Ohio, 1898[14]
January 12, 1898. Special election necessary because of the resignation of John Sherman to become United States Secretary of State, March 4, 1897. Governor Asa Bushnell appointed Mark Hanna as senator, March 5, 1897, pending a meeting of the Ohio legislature. Hanna was elected on the first joint convention vote (73 votes needed for election). "Short term" election, to expire March 4, 1899. See note to the long-term vote in next box for additional information as the votes on both elections were identical.
Republican hold Mark Hanna Republican 73 50.69
Robert McKisson Republican 70 48.61
John J. Lentz Democratic 1 0.69
United States Senate election in Ohio, 1896
January 14, 1896. The two houses of the Legislature met separately on January 13 and voted for senator. In the Ohio Senate, the result was Foraker 21, Brice 6, Groat 1; in the Ohio House of Representatives the vote was Foraker 87, Brice 21, Blandin 1, Neal 1, Thomas 1, Kagey 1. As the each house gave a majority of its vote to Foraker, he was declared election after the reading of the journals in joint convention.[15]
Republican gain from Democratic Joseph Foraker Republican 116
Calvin Brice Democratic 27
Edwin J. Blandin Democratic 1
Lawrence T. Neal Democratic 1
John H. Thomas Democratic 1
Isaac Kagey People's 1
George A. Groat People's 1
United States Senate election in Ohio, 1896
January 14, 1904. From March 4, 1897 for six years. Each house met on January 13 and gave a majority of its vote to Foraker. He was declared elected in joint convention following the reading of the journals; 71 votes needed for election. The breakdown was: House, Foraker 86, Clarke 21; Senate, Hanna 29, Clarke 4. Hanna died before this term commenced. Charles Dick was elected by the legislature on March 2, 1904 for the remainder of the term ending in 1905, and for the full term ending in 1911.
Republican hold Mark Hanna Republican 115 82.14
John H. Clarke Democratic 25 17.86
  1. ^ a b c Morgan 1969, pp. 282–285.
  2. ^ a b Taylor, pp. 44–45.
  3. ^ a b Stahr, p. 60.
  4. ^ Stahr, pp. 68–70.
  5. ^ Goodwin, p. 83.
  6. ^ Hale, p. 141.
  7. ^ Stahr, pp. 64–65.
  8. ^ Stahr, pp. 65–66.
  9. ^ Goodwin, pp. 83–84.
  10. ^ Stahr, pp. 66–67.
  11. ^ Stahr, pp. 49–51.
  12. ^ Taylor, pp. 49–51.
  13. ^ Stahr, pp. 76–80.
  14. ^ Legislature 1898, pp. 39–41.
  15. ^

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