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HISTORY OF GREENE COUNTY.

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POLITICAL HISTORY.

PARTY government is the present, and possibly the future, though not the ideal, feature of our so-called republic; and men have in America been divided into political parties for 120 years. Upon the passage of the Stamp Act, in 1765, parties for the first time began to take definite shape and manifest open antagonisms, and the words Whig and Tory then had a plainer meaning in America than in England. The Stamp Act was denounced by the Whigs as direct taxation, and so general were the protests that for a time it seemed that only those who owed their livings to the Crown, or expected aid and comfort from it, remained with the Tories. The Whigs were the patriots.

After independence was achieved, of course all Americans were Whigs. In the first years of the United States as a federal union, under President Washington, there came about a division into "Particularist" and "Strong Government" Whigs, these soon adopting the more euphonious designations of Anti-Federals and Federals. The former, under Jefferson's lead, afterward became known as Republicans, which name was in the early part of 1806 dropped for that of Democrats. Hence Jefferson is often referred to as the founder of the Democratic party. If, however, this distinction can be claimed for any one man, the friends of Andrew Jackson have perhaps a stronger case.

The Democrats were in power in this country from 1801 to 1825, when John Quincy Adams, "the last of the Federalists," was chosen by Congress to fill the office of President, the people having failed to elect. General Jackson, however, had received a plurality of the popular vote, and the remembrance of this fact was one of the chief causes of Jackson's subsequent election in 1828. The elevation of General Jackson to the presidency was a triumph over the high protective policy, the federal international improvement policy, and the latitudinous construction of the Constitution, as well as of the Democracy over the Federals, then known as National Republicans. This election was also the permanent re-establishment of parties on principle, according to the landmarks of the early years of the Government. For although Mr. Adams had received confidence and office from Mr. Madison and Mr. Monroe, and had classed with the Democratic party during the "era of good feeling," yet he had previously been a Federal; and on the re-establishment of old party lines which began to take place after the election of Mr. Adams in the House of Representatives, his affinities and policy became those of his former party; and as a party, with many individual exceptions, they became his supporters and his strength.

The Democrats re-nominated Jackson in 1832, while in December preceding the National Republicans nominated Henry Clay. The hero of New Orleans was elected a second term by a goodly majority.

The Democracy being in power, the followers of Clay gradually adopted the name of Whigs, which was suggested by the fact that in England the opposition to the Government was known by that appellation. Hence, more than any one man, Henry Clay is looked upon as the founder of the Whig party, which played an important part in American politics for some twenty years. In 1836 they nominated General William Henry Harrison, who was defeated by Martin Van Buren, the choice of the Democratic party. In the closing year of Jackson's administration, however, a step had been taken which ultimately brought about the temporary downfall of his party. This step was the distribution of revenue among the States in 1837, which was designed to enhance the value of the State stocks held by the United States Bank. The result was far different, however, and thousands are still living who can tell of the financial crisis of 1837 and the general stringency following.

It is natural for the people to charge financial and other troubles, from war down to crop failures, upon the party in power. So it was in those times, and the result was the ascendency of the Whigs after the next election, in 1840. On the Whig ticket, General Harrison, of Ohio, was the candidate for President, and John Tyler, of Virginia, for Vice-President. Mr. Clay, the most prominent Whig in the country, was not deemed available, and the leading men in the party were again put aside to make room for a military man, a step prompted by the example previously set by the Democrats in the case of General Jackson. The men who managed presidential elections believed then as now that military renown was a passport to popularity and rendered a candidate more sure of election. The contest before the people was a long and bitter one, the severest ever known in the country up to that time, and scarcely equaled since. The whole Whig party and the large league of suspended banks, headed by the Bank of the United States, making its last struggle for a new national charter in the effort to elect a President friendly to it, were arrayed against the Democrats, whose hard-money policy and independent treasury schemes were met with little favor in the then depressed condition of the treasury. The Democrats worked for the re-election of President Van Buren, with Richard M. Johnson, of Kentucky, as Vice-President, but the Whigs were ultimately successful.

The question of extending slave territory by the annexation of Texas was the principal one in the campaign of 1844, and avowedly so in the platforms. The Democracy nominated James K. Polk for President and George M. Dallas for Vice-President. The Whigs nominated their great leader, Henry Clay, with Theodore Frelinghuysen for Vice-President. Owing largely to the influence of a third party, the Free-Soilers, Clay was defeated in one of the closest elections ever held.

Another presidential year brought forward new men and new issues. The Democrats nominated General Lewis Cass for President, and General William O. Butler for Vice-President. The Whigs took advantage of the popularity of General Zachary Taylor, for his military achievements in the Mexican war, just ended, and his consequent "availability," nominated him for the presidency over Clay, Webster and Scott, who were his competitors before the convention. The party which had been made by the greatness of the latter won an easy victory.

The presidential election of 1852 was the last campaign in which the Whig party appeared in national politics. It nominated a ticket with General Winfield Scott as its candidate for President. His opponent on the Democratic ticket was General Franklin Pierce. A third ticket was placed in the field by the Abolition party, with John P. Hale as its candidate for President. The political see-saw now brought the Democrats in power again.

Thus at the beginning of the civil history of Greene County the Democrats were in control, with Franklin Pierce as President, and the Whig party was disintegrating as a national organization. The citizens of Greene County having come from those Eastern States where the Democrats were in the ascendancy, retained their politics after settling here, so that this was a Democratic county during its infancy. The Whigs, however, never had a fair test of strength in this county, for in local elections personal popularity went much farther than partisanship, and before the county's politics was settled by a presidential election, the death of the Whig party was an accomplished fact, and a new organization, the Republican party, arose from its ashes. Henceforth the giant parties were Democrats and Republicans, the latter absorbing all the elements then existing opposed to the further extension of slavery. The new party was born in a number of places almost simultaneously, but in each case with the same motives and with similar constituent elements. The movement assumed definite shape in the summer of 1854, when for Governor of this State James W. Grimes was nominated by the Republicans, to oppose Curtis Bates, the choice of the Democracy. Iowa had hitherto been under the control of the latter party, but the Republicans now carried it, in their first campaign, and it has since remained in the ranks of Republicanism by majorities sometimes running as high as 80,000. Mr. Grimes's personal ability had much to do with the successful organization of the Republicans in Iowa. In this county the first Democratic convention was held on the banks of Hardin's Creek, in the woods back of Phillips' house, three miles below New Jefferson, to nominate candidates for county offices, to be filled at the August election in 1855. Every person present was nominated for some one of the county offices. The following is the ticket put in nomination: County Judge, William Phillips; Clerk, S. G. Crumley; Treasurer and Recorder, James H. Phillips; Sheriff, Isaac D. Crumley; Prosecuting Attorney, Norman S. Daniels; County Surveyor, Allen J. Currence; Coroner, John Barr. The ticket was successful by varying but decisive majorities. At the general election of August, 1856, there were but two votes in the county for the Republican State ticket, to 106 for the Democratic ticket.

The first national convention of the Republican party nominated John C. Fremont for President, and William L. Dayton for Vice-President. Its platform consisted of a series of resolutions, of which the most important was the following:

"That we deny the authority of Congress, of a Territorial Legislature, of any individual or association of individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any Territory of the United States while the present Constitution shall be maintained."

The Democratic convention nominated James Buchanan for President, and John C. Breckinridge for Vice-President. It adopted a platform which contained the material portions of all its previous platforms, and also defined its position in regard to the new issues of the day, and declared (1) that the revenue to be raised should not exceed the actual necessary expenses of the Government, and for the gradual extinction of the public debt; (2) that the Constitution does not confer upon the General Government the power to commence, and carry on a general system of internal improvements; (3) for a strict construction of the powers granted by the Constitution to the Federal Government; (4) that Congress has no power to charter a national bank; (5) that Congress has no power to interfere with slavery in the States and Territories, the people of which have the exclusive right and power to settle that question for themselves; (6) opposition to Americanism.

Buchanan was easily elected, and to this result Greene County contributed by a vote of 117 to 74; majority, 43. The county remained Democratic until 1863, when war issues produced a change. At the general election of 1857 local issues predominated. The Democratic majorities ranged from 7 to 51. The new Constitution, submitted to electors at this time, received 112 votes to 73 against it. This is the organic instrument still in effect in Iowa. The people having suffered from too many elections, one of the provisions of the new Constitution was to the effect that but one general election be held each year in October three years out of four, and in November in presidential years. This rule was followed for the next twenty-five years. The Democratic majority at the October election was 68 in a total vote of 170, and in October of the following year 22 in a total vote of 230. This was the closest election yet held in the county, but the margin in 1859 was yet smaller. Samuel J. Kirkwood and Augustus C. Dodge were the candidates for Governor on the Republican and Democratic tickets respectively, and a warm canvass was followed by a very full vote at the polls. Out of 272 votes in Greene County, Dodge's majority was 20. The majorities for the county offices were even less: judge, 15; treasurer and recorder, 3; sheriff, 2; drainage commissioner, 8; superintendent, 9; surveyor, 9; coroner, 17.

The four years of Buchanan's administration were rife with political discussions on the slavery question, the status of the negro, and the troubles in Kansas. The Southern Democrats, true to the supposed interests of their section, became more aggressive in their demands in behalf of slavery, while their brethren in the North followed the lead of Douglas in endeavoring to compromise the slavery question. The two wings differed more and more widely as the months went by, and in their national convention at Charleston were unable to agree upon a platform or a candidate, so that the Southern Democrats withdrew in a body. The convention re-assembled at Baltimore, and after a protracted struggle nominated Stephen A. Douglas and Herschel V. Johnson. Their platform declared that the decisions of the Supreme Court respecting the status of slavery in the Territories should be respected. The Southern Democrats, however, held another convention and nominated John C. Breckinridge and Joseph Lane. The platform adopted contained, in regard to the main question at issue, the statement that slaves in the Territories should be recognized by the Government as property.

The Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin, and resolved that Kansas should be admitted as a free State, and that the Government should effectually prohibit slavery in the Territories. A so-called Constitutional Union Convention was also held, which nominated John Bell and Edward Everett.

The conclusion of this many-sided political fight was the election of Lincoln, who received, however, but two-fifths of the popular vote.

In this county the canvass was exceedingly warm, and 267 votes were cast, Douglas receiving a majority of twenty-five over Lincoln. Neither Breckinridge nor Bell received any votes in Greene County. The majorities averaged about the same all the way down the State and local ticket.

In the State and county election of 1861 less than half the vote was drawn out, and there was a vast amount of "ticket scratching," and scarcely any two received like majorities, these ranging from one up, in a total vote of 120. For Governor, Merritt's majority over Kirkwood was thirty-four. In 1862 the majority on the State ticket was fifteen; on county ticket, considerably larger. The civil war strengthened the Republicans in this State so that it was almost perfunctory that any other party made nominations. Colonel William M. Stone had made himself so popular by his services in the field that in the summer of 1863 he was nominated for Governor against James M. Tuttle. A large vote was polled in this county, which was swept, for the the first time, by the Republicans. Stone's majority in Greene County was 29, and the county ticket was even more successful. The county has remained in the Republican column since, nearly a quarter of a century.

In 1864 the war was being waged on a scale never before seen in history, at vast expense, and it was uncertain how long the Confederacy could maintain armed resistance. The Republicans were generally unanimous in supporting the coercive policy of the Government, while the Democrats, on the other hand, were in favor of a change of policy, and of peace on any terms that would save the Union. The Republican convention of 1864 therefore renominated Abraham Lincoln by a unanimous vote, save Missouri, whose delegation voted for Ulysses S. Grant. Andrew Johnson was nominated for Vice-President. The platform approved the emancipation proclamation, declared slavery dead, pledged support for the further prosecution of the war, and demanded the unconditional surrender of the rebellious States. The Democratic convention nominated George B. McClellan and George H. Pendleton, and adopted a platform criticising the methods of the administration. Lincoln received 212 electoral votes to McClellan's twenty-one, the people indorsing the old maxim "that it is dangerous to swap horses while crossing a stream." The Lincoln ticket received a majority of 50 in Greene County, and the Republican county ticket's vote was slightly larger than that for President.

In 1865 the Republican majority was larger than the Democratic vote, being over 100 in a total vote of nearly 300. In 1866 the total vote was increased by 70, and the Republican majority by about 60. These were discouraging times for the Greene County Democracy, but they put up their full ticket every year, and in 1867 were gratified by the partial success of cutting down the Republican majority to 86, in a total vote of over 500. The population of the county was now steadily increasing, as may be seen by the regularly swelling total vote. The forces of the two parties were well trained in these years, and generally voted straight. "Ticket scratching" was discountenanced.

Both parties desired to nominate General Grant in 1868, but the Republicans stole a march on their opponents by holding their convention first. Schuyler Colfax was named for Vice-President. The Democratic convention was for a long time unable to decide between Pendleton, Hancock, Hendricks and others; but on the twenty-second ballot Horatio Seymour, whose name had been scarcely mentioned before, was unanimously nominated, together with Francis P. Blair for Vice-President. An active canvass followed, in which the brief expression, "Let us have peace," in Grant's letter of acceptance, was liberally employed by Republican journals and orators to tone down what were regarded as rapidly growing race and sectional differences, and with such effect that Grant carried all of the States save eight, receiving an electoral vote of 214 against 80. His majority in this county was 190, the largest ever given in the county up to this time. The total vote was less than the previous year.

In 1869 the Republican majority leaped to over 250, or more than the Democratic vote. The latter was less than one-third the total vote, which was nearly 700. The Democrats made no nominations in this county except for auditor and treasurer, but the vote was very close on those two offices, the majorities being 42 and 31 respectively. In 1870 there was but one ticket in the field, the Republican nominees having a "walk-over." In 1871 there were two tickets, but the majority for the controlling party was increased without effort to 350.

An issue raised in Missouri gave immediate rise to the Liberal Republican party, though the course of Horace Greeley had long pointed toward the organization of something of the kind, and with equal plainness it pointed to his desire to be its champion and candidate for the presidency. In 1870 the Republican party in Missouri, then in control of the Legislature, split on the question of the removal of the disqualifications imposed upon the rebels by the State Constitution during the war. Those favoring the removal of disabilities were headed by B. Gratz Brown and Carl Schurz, and they called themselves Liberal Republicans. Those opposed were called and accepted the name of Radical Republicans. The former quickly allied themselves with the Democrats, and thus carried the State, though Grant's administration "stood in" with the Radicals. The liberal movement rapidly spread, and its leaders at once began to lay plans to carry the next presidential election, Horace Greeley was nominated for President and B. Gratz Brown for Vice-President. The Democratic convention indorsed these nominations, but a few dissatisfied Democrats named Charles O'Conor and John Quincy Adams. The Republicans re-nominated General Grant, with Henry Wilson for Vice-President. The Republicans were overwhelmingly successful, not so much from the popularity of Grant as from the unpopularity of Greeley. In this county the vote was: Grant, 743; Greeley, 117; O'Conor, 113; a plurality of 626 in a total of nearly 1,000 votes. This majority has been won by the Republicans two or three times since. The majorities on county ticket were from 414 to 812.

In 1873 the majority on State ticket was 200; on county ticket, somewhat more. In 1874 the majorities ranged from 340 to 500, and in 1875 they were as high on State ticket, but fell to less than 100 on all the county offices except auditor.

The troubles in the South and the almost general overthrow of the "carpet bag" governments impressed all with the fact that the presidential election of 1876 would be exceedingly close, and the result confirmed this belief. The Republicans nominated Rutherford B. Hayes and William A. Wheeler, and the Democrats, Samuel J. Tilden and Thomas A. Hendricks. A third party had sprung into existence, called at first "Greenbackers," but latterly "National Greenbackers," who desired to relieve the financial crisis of 1873 and the hard times following by a large issue of irredeemable paper money. They nominated Peter Cooper and Samuel F. Gary. After a contest for months over the returns of the election, Hayes was declared elected. The vote in this county was: Hayes, 1,310; Tilden, 480; Cooper, 184. The majority of 830 marks the highest point of the Republican wave in this county.

In 1887 Gear's plurality for Governor was 480; the majorities for county offices ranging from 149 to 313. The average Republican majority was over 200, and in 1879 over 700. The difference was caused by "fusion" in 1878 between Democrats and Greenbackers, while in 1879 separate tickets were run. There was a contested election in 1878. For recorder, M. O. Robertson received 1,015 votes to 1,005 for James C. Toliver; but on a re-count, and deducting certain votes decided to be illegal, Toliver was seated by a majority of two. The total vote in the county was now over 2,000.

The year 1880 brought with it another presidential election. The nominees were: Republican, James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur; Democratic, Winfield S.Hancock and William H. English; National Greenback, James B. Weaver. The Republicans won, largely owing to the issue of a protective tariff. The vote in Greene County was: Garfield, 1,645; Hancock, 457; Weaver, 398; Garfield's plurality, 1,188. The majority for clerk of courts was 922; plurality for recorder, 485. The average plurality in 1881 was 900, there being no fusion. At the special election of June, 1882, 2,345 votes were cast, and the majority for the prohibition amendment was 799. In November, 1882, the Republican majorities were nearly all over 800. Thomas C. Bigger was chosen recorder, however, by the narrow margin of 47. In the autumn of 1883 occurred the memorable joint canvass of the three candidates for Governor, Sherman, Kinne and Weaver. Nearly 2,700 votes were cast in Greene County, Sherman's plurality being 595.

For 1884 the nominations for President and Vice-President were: Democratic, Grover Cleveland and Thomas A. Hendricks; Republican, James G. Blaine and John A. Logan; National, Benjamin F. Butler; Prohibition, John P. St. John. The campaign was a very bitter and disagreeable one, and will be remembered with little pride. The issue was partly personal, but Cleveland was elected principally on the demand for civil-service reform. Blaine has always been very popular with the Republican party, and they were confident of winning with him as their candidate. The election was a very close one, Cleveland's plurality in New York, the pivotal State, being but about 1,100. One of the incidents of this contest was the fact that many Republicans stoutly maintained that Blaine was elected, for weeks after the day the ballots were cast. The vote in Greene County was: Blaine, 1,924; Cleveland 1,525; Blaine's plurality, 399. This reduced figure was due to fusion on the part of the Democrats and Greenbackers.

In 1885 Governor Larrabee's plurality was 404, the same figures obtaining substantially on the whole Republican ticket.


Transcribed by Cheryl Siebrass January, 2018 from Biographical and Historical Record of Greene County, Iowa. Published in Chicago, Ill.: The Lewis Publishing Co., 1887, pp. 477-483.


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