Missouri split, and the Gov takes a snort

A correspondent writes to the New York Times from St. Louis.

Having, during the canvass, traveled through some thirty of the interior counties of the State, and having no political, or other reason for misstating the facts, I know that at least three-fourths, if not four-fifths, of the entire Democracy of the tier of Counties through which I passed, from the extreme north to the extreme south, are now enthusiastic in their preference for BRECKINRIDGE and LANE, and will doubtless establish this fact in November; and I shall not be surprised if before that time the Douglas faction, as an organization, abandon the field to their more popular rivals. The Bell and Everett men will make a most gallant fight for the Missouri prize, and, mark my words, if there be no compromise effected in the Democratic ranks, the “Ides of November” will show the bird of victory perched upon the banner of the “Union.”

The article’s headline speaks of a “quadrangular contest”, and although he starts out talking about the Missouri gubernatorial race, that’s just a symptom of the divisions for the presidential race. He predicts a Bell (“Union”) victory: the Chicago Press and Tribune (reported in the Times) predicts a three-way split in Missouri among Bell, Douglas, and Breckinridge, with Lincoln coming in well behind. That’s a pretty good forecast, as the first three got thirty-some percent of the vote apiece, and Lincoln got 10. That’s more than Lincoln got in any other slave state, but then again, he wasn’t on the ballot in most of them.

Robert Marcellus Stewart Gov. Robert M. Stewart

The St. Louis correspondent also tells a nice anecdote about Missouri Governor Robert Marcellus Stewart:

So much for politics. By the way, one of the most salutary regulations, in so politically excitable a community, is that prohibiting, under heavy pecuniary and personal penalties, the sale of liquor upon election day. Apropos of which, an amusing and characteristic incident occurred in connection with our Anti-Father Mathewsian* Gov. STEWART, now about to “leave those gay and festive scenes,” in and about the Capitol. Happening at Jefferson City on the morning of election day, I observed, about 9 o’clock, “Willful Bob” approach our hotel and proceed directly by a side door to the darkened bar-room. Soon after, a police officer entered and threatened the bar-keeper with the power of the law if he should sell liquor to any one on that day. “Sir,” said thirsty Bob, addressing the representative of municipal authority, “I will let you know that I am superior to municipal law, in this matter. It may decree fine and imprisonment, and I can remit them both. Go on, bar-keeper!” And the bar-keeper did go on, and Robert the bibulous got his electionday toddy, and went on up to the Capitol to take a glimpse at the voting.

By the way, Frank Blair was re-elected to the House, after the election of his opponent Barret was invalidated, and then he resigned to give the voters another chance. His address to St. Louis voters was reprinted in the August 17, 1860 New York Times:

I can hardly bring myself to inflict further mortification upon the American or Union coadjutors and sympathizers of Mr. BARRETT, lacerated as their feelings must be by the reflection that they have been entrapped and cheated by men for whom they can feel nothing but contempt; but I have a duty to perform to the public, and must call the attention of these defenders of the purity of the ballot, to a comparison of the returns from the Gravois coal diggings and the city of Carondelet, at the two elections of 1858 and 1860. The whole number of votes polled at Gravois, in 1858, was 185. In 1860, the whole number was 138 — a loss of nearly 50 votes in this small precinct, when the vote of almost every other precinct in the district is largely increased. In 1858, the returns gave BARRETT 153 votes, BRECKINRIDGE 24, and BLAIR 7; the returns of the recent election give BARRETT 68 votes, BLAIR 55, and TODD 15. The names of nearly one hundred Barret voters have disappeared from the poll book in this small precinct, and it is perfectly well known that every effort was made, by those implicated in the fraud committed there in 1858, to swell this vote in this election to cover up the fraud of that year. In Carondelet in 1858 Mr. BARRET received a majority of 127 votes; in the late election my majority is 76 on the short term, and 88 on the long term. Mr. BARRET’s vote is less than it was in 1859, although the aggregate increase is nearly 150 in the precinct. The names proven to be fraudulent in 1858 have this year disappeared from the poll book.

His point, of course, is that Barret was fraudulently elected. I have to admit, though, that the main interest of all this is thinking of Gravois as the “coal diggings” and Carondelet as an independent town in the county. BTW, the Breckinridge mentioned here was Samuel Miller Breckinridge, a candidate for the House running on the American party ticket, and a cousin of John Cabell Breckinridge, the presidential nominee. Both of them were grandchildren of John Breckinridge, Attorney General under Thomas Jefferson (see genealogical chart).

Okay, so to pull it all together here, the point is that Missouri was as thoroughly split into factions as the country itself; though a slave state, it had strong Unionist tendencies in the Bell and Douglas factions, although Breckinridge was popular also. Even Lincoln had some support, especially in the big city of St. Louis with its large German immigrant population. These deep divisions led to riots, as mentioned previously, and electoral fraud as well. There would be plenty more discord and violence in the next few years.

*Father Mathew was a 19th-century Irish priest who advocated abstinence from alcohol (see Father Mathew’s Crusade).

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5 Responses to Missouri split, and the Gov takes a snort

  1. Chris Moore says:

    Frank Blair is part of an interesting web of friends/relatives that spins through the Civil War, especially in Missouri. Frank & Montgomery Blair, B. Gratz Brown, Joseph Orville (JO) Shelby and John Hunt Morgan were all childhood friends in the Lexington, KY area where they all socialized with the Crittenden family. Blair, Shelby & Brown all moved to MO in their early adult life. All did well for themselves, but ended up on various sides of the day’s issues. Blair was strongly anit-slavery. As a Missouri Republican, Free-Soiler and Wide-Awaker he schemes & manipulates to keep MO in the union, later serves well under Grant & Sherman. After the war he runs as a Democratic for Vice-President and spews some really racist vitriol. Complex character.
    Shelby had one of the largest “ropewalks” or rope manufactures in the state (at Waverly) at the outbreak of the Civil War. One of his silent partners was Gratz Brown, a behind the scenes state powerbroker. Slave labor made it profitable. (BTW, hemp was a huge cash crop in MO in those days. Sadly, it was all used to make rope for the cotton planters further south.)
    Great side story on the Kentucky/Missouri migration and eventual stronghold of southern sympathizers in “Little Dixie” along the Missouri River valley. I have a fine biography of J.O. Shelby which covers many of these interlocking relationships, if you’re interested. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, who’d fought against JEB Stuart, Wade Hampton and the two Lee boys, called Shelby the finest southern cavalry commander he encountered.
    – CM

  2. Chris Moore says:

    Out of this group the Crittendens contribute both Union and Confederate Generals, F.P. Blair becomes a union general, Shelby and Morgan southern generals.

  3. Agathman says:

    And William Crittenden was one of the filibusters with Narciso Lopez who tried to “liberate” Cuba to become another slave state — he was captured and executed in Cuba in 1851. You’re right, an interesting bunch.

    And just to throw in a little genetics, John Hunt Morgan was the uncle of Thomas Hunt Morgan, a pioneering geneticist.

  4. Agathman says:

    And yes, I’d like to see that biography of Shelby.

  5. Pingback: Border State Governor’s Message | Blue Gray Review

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