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In this manner the rights of the people were guarded, and the best interest of the State served. It is now 35 years since this gathering of representative men resolved upon a certain procedure. Their deliberations were carried out in a dignified manner, and so sure as these were matured, were they acted on with precision and dispatch which would do honor to the assemblies of the present.
LOCATION OF THE CAPITAL.
Notwithstanding the central position of Jackson city, and the hopes of its enterprising citizens that the wisdom of the State would point it out as the location of the capital, a bill was passed locating the offices and chambers of the State Legislature in the wilderness, at the imaginary village of Lansing, Ingham Co. The bill with some additions was to come into force Dec. 25, 1847, although it passed the Senate on March 12, the same year. The press of Jackson, in dealing with the subject, deals with it from a cool, rational and patriotic standpoint. The Patriot, in its editorial column, speaks as follows:
“ Thus the long vexed question has been settled, and the capital of the State has been placed well nigh in the wilderness. Those, however, who suppose that the proposed location is in a frog pond or on a dreary waste, are vastly mistaken. A flying visit a week ago to "Seymour's place,' so called, and through a portion of the town of Lansing, enables us to correct any false impressions that may have obtained in reference to the character of the country. The part of the town through which we passed (and that includes “Seymour's place ') is what is termed timbered or heavy openings. The surface is slightly undulating, the soil rich, and the face of the country delightful. The land is elevated and free from marsh; and for arable purposes can scarcely be excelled. Grand river runs to the town, and at this point it is no inconsiderable stream; the water is clear, the current rapid, and the banks high. At .Seymour's place a dam is erected across the river, and a saw-mill is in operation. The water-power seems to be extensive and valuable, and should that point be the place, a more desirable location for a village cannot well be desired. It is situated on the east bank of the river, and the country back is truly magnificent. On the whole, since Jackson could not secure the coveted honor, we are pleased with this location. It will cause that portion of the State to settle rapidly, its rich resources will be developed, and we shall see a thriving village grow up, where there is now but a single log house."
The course pursued by the people of Jackson in connection with the location of the capital was well calculated to bring them honor and even the capital, but the people represented in the Legislature looked at Ingham county without a prospect, and wisely argued that Jackson was following in paths that lead to prosperity. It was, therefore, their duty to build up another county, and from the moment the State Senate resolved on this course, the people of Jackson merged their ambition in patriotism, and approved.
UNDER THE OAKS.
The varied causes which led to the revolution in the minds of men, that called for new political ideas and ultimately made them practicable in 1854, have been inquired into and elucidated in the following pages. The fact that Jackson justly claims the honor of being foremost among the communities in opposition to the extension of slavery, will also be apparent after a perusal of the first paragraphs of the chapter. The historical material has been obtained by a careful examination of the contemporary records in the public prints. The files for that year of the Detroit Tribune, edited by Joseph Warren, who was so prominent in the movement, have not been found, but the Detroit Advertiser (Whig), the Free Democrat (Free Soil), the Free Press (Democrat) and the Jackson Citizen (Whig) are accessible and have been used in the compilation. The literary enterprise of the Detroit Post and Tribune has contributed more than anything else to the collating of all the facts in connection with that meeting of Northern patriots "under the oaks,” at Jackson in 1854, A year or two ago the idea of collecting each item of information connected with the formation of the Republican party suggested itself to that journal, with the result of placing before its readers over two pages of pure and simple history, dealing with one of the most important political changes that ever agitated a free people. This important contribution to history has been utilized here because it bears principally on the Jackson meeting, and, therefore, becomes identified 'with the county and the city of which this is a history.
THE OAK GROVE,
better known as “Under the Oaks,” was situated on a farm adjoining the village, called “Morgan's Forty," near the county
Between 3,000 and 4,000 persons assembled around the rude platform on that beautiful July 6 to denounce the extension of slavery and to expand, rather than contract, the cherished principles of the fathers of this republic.
The question had recently been started anew as to when and where the present Republican party was founded and named, and claims have been put forward for Massachusetts and Wisconsin, in which States preparations were made for the celebration of its 25th anniversary. The first Republican convention in Wisconsin was held at Madison July 13, 1854, the call being issued July 9, after a number of “anti-Nebraska” meetings had been held in different parts of the State. The call invited "all men opposed to the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the extension of the slave power” to take part. No names were signed to it and no name for
any new party was indicated in it, but the convention which met in response thereto adopted the following as one of its resolutions :
Resolved, That we accept the issue forced upon us by the slave power, and in defense of freedom will co-operate and he known as Republicans.
In Massachusetts some preparation was made for a celebration on July 19. On that date, in 1854, a convention was held in Worcester, an organization effected, and the name Republican adopted by the following resolution:
Resolved, That in co-operation with the friends of freedom in sister States, we hereby form the Republican party of Massachusetts.
But the movement in that State at that time could not secure the co-operation of the Whigs, and in the succeeding election made but little showing at the polls, most of the anti-slavery strength being given to the Know-Nothing party.
On the 13th of July, 1854, a mass convention was held in Vermont of persons in favor of resisting, by all constitutional means, the usurpations of the propagandists of slavery.” Among the resolutions adopted was one which closed with these words: 6 We
propose and respectfully recommend to the friends of freedom in other States to co-operate and be known as Republicans.” A State ticket was nominated, but the State committees of the various parties being empowered “to fill vacancies," a Fusion ticket was afterward placed in the field, voted for and elected under the name of Fusion.
On the 13th of July, also, a convention was held in Columbus, Ohio, of those in favor of “breaking the chains now forging to bind the nation to the car of American slavery.” The canvass which was then inaugurated swept the State for the party which, during that canvass, was generally known as Republican.
On the same day a similar convention was held in Indiana, at which speeches were mady by Henry S. Lane, Henry L. Ellsworth and Schuyler Colfax, and the campaign resulted similarly to that in Ohio.
JACKSON ITS PROGENITOR.
But earlier than all these conventions was the Michigan mass convention held in the grove of oaks at Jackson on July 6, 1854. In reference to the claim of priority raised in behalf of other States, the late Henry Wilson says truly in his “Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America:" th
“But whatever suggestions may have been made, or whatever action may have been taken elsewhere, to Michigan belongs the honor of being the first State to form and christen the Republican party. More
than three months before the passage of the KansasNebraska bill the Free Soil convention had adopted a mixed ticket, made of the Free Soilers and Whigs, in order that there might be a combination of the anti-slavery elements of the State. Immedi
ately on the passage of the Nebraska bill, Joseph Warren, editor of the Detroit Tribune, entered upon a course of measures that resulted in bringing the Whig and Free Soil parties together, not by a mere coalition of the two, but by a fusion of the elements of which the two were composed. In his own_language, he took ground in favor of disbanding the Whig and Free-Soil parties and of the organization of a new party, composed of all the opponents of slavery extension. Among the first steps taken toward the accomplishment of this vitally important object was the withdrawal of the Free-Soil ticket. This having been effected, a call for a mass convention was issued, signed by more than 10,000 names. The convention met on the 6th day of July, and was largely attended.
"A platform drawn by the Hon. Jacob M. Howard, afterward United States senator from Michigan, was adopted, not only opposing the extention of slavery, but declaring in favor of its abolition in the District of Columbia. The report also proposed Republican' as the name of the new party, which was adopted by the convention. Kinsley S. Bingham was nominated by the convention as the 'Republican' candidate for governor, and was triumphantly elected, and Michigan, thus early to enter the ranks of the Republican party, has remained steadfast to its then publiclyavowed principles of faith.”
THE FREE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION AT JACKSON.
In 1852 there were three State tickets in the field in Michigan. The Whigs gave Zachariah Chandler, for governor, 34,660 votes; the Democrats gave Robert McCelland 42,798, and the Free Soilers, or Free Democrats, or Free-Soil Democrats, as they were variously called in contemporaneous records, gave Isaac P. Christiancy 5,850 votes.
During the exciting contest in Congress in the winter of 1853–4, the possibility of uniting all classes of those opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska bill and the policy which it indicated, was frequently discussed, but steps to this end were not taken until late in the spring
The Free Democracy, as they styled themselves in the call for their State convention, were the first in the field for the campaign of 1854. Their call was issued Jan. 12, and was for a State convention to be held at Jackson, Feb. 22. It was signed by U. Tracy Howe, Hovey K. Clarke, Silas M. Holmes, S. A. Baker, S. B. Thayer, Samuel P. Mead, Samuel Zug, J. W. Childs and Erastus Hussey as the State Central Committee.
Before the issue of that call a county convention at Ionia had been held, and resolutions of denunciation and warning adopted. The Eaton county convention, held Jan. 20, denounced both of the old parties and the fugitive slave law. Addresses were made by the Rev. W. B. Williams, of Charlotte, and Mrs. O. C. Buck, of Eaton Rapids.
Anti-Nebraska meetings were also held of those who were not specifically committed to the Free Soil organization, among them one at Detroit, Feb. 18, in the call for which appear the following well-known names: Oliver Newberry, Jacob M. Howard, Z. Chandler, Howard, Smith & Co., Geo. B. Pease, W. S. Wood, Wm. B. Wesson, Fred Morley, Baker & Conover, John S. Jenness, Lyman Baldwin, Francis Raymond, Silas M. Holmes, F. Buhl, J. Owen, J. A. Vandyke, Samuel Zug, R. W. King, Daniel Scotten, Wm. A. Butler & Co., Richmond & Backus, Henry P. Baldwin, A. C. McGraw, D. Bethune Duffield, T. A. Parker, Edward Kanter, Seymour Finney, A. H. Dey, Geo. Kirby, T. K. Adams, Joseph Warren, Jacob S. Farrand, A. J. Brow, S. Folsom and Marcus Stevens. This meeting was largely attended, and was officered as follows: President-Major Jonathan Kearsley, Vice Presidents--Oliver Newberry, Shubael Conant, John Gibson, C. C. Trowbridge, B. Wight, II. P. Baldwin, Henry Chipman, James A. Van Dyke, John Owen, Duncan Stewart and Peter Fischer. Secretaries—C. A. Trowbridge, D. Bethune Duffield, E. N. Wilcox. Speeches were made by Major Kearsley, James A. Van Dyke, Zachariah Chandler, Samuel Barstow and D. Bethune Duffield.
The committee on resolutions consisted of Samuel Barstow, Jacob M. Howard, Joseph Warren, James M. Edmunds and H. H. Leroy, and a series of stirring resolutions were reported and adopted.
The idea of a union of all the anti-Nebraska men into one political party had not yet, however, been seriously entertained as a practical matter, and the Jackson convention was held as a convention of the Free Democratic party. It was called to order by Hovey K. Clarke as chairman of the State Central Committee, and organized with the appointment of D. C. Leach as temporary chairman, and C. Gurney as secretary.
The committee on resolutions reported a series (prepared by Hovey K. Clarke, it is understood) which were taken up, amended, and adopted as follows:
The Free Democracy of Michigan assembled in convention on the anniversary of the birthday of Washington, deem it an appropriate occasion to express our veneration for the character of this illustrious man, and our appreciation of the wisdom and patriotism which laid the foundation of our national prosperity in the admirable instrument, the Constitution of the United States. We desire now and always to proclaim our attachment to that Union among the people of the United States, of which the constitution is the bond, and that its great purpose "to establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity,” is, and ever shall be, ours. And, as a political party organized to promote this purpose, we believe it to be our duty, a duty which is especially and solemnly enjoined upon every man who has sworn to support the constitution, to support every measure calculated to advance this purpose, and to resist with the energy of inflexible principle every scheme which may defeat or retard it. We therefore
Resolve, 1. That we regard the institution of domestic slavery, which exists in some of the States of the Union, not only as a foe to the domestic tranquillity and the welfare of such States, but as subversive of the plainest principles of justice and the manifest destroyer of the blessings of liberty. As an institution, we are com