Hampton Reminiscences -- Part III
By Enoch P. Young
(July 3, 1824 - January 11, 1910)
The Exeter News-Letter
October 23, 1903
- Part III -
EDITOR - The Exeter News-Letter. -- Aside from our religion, few of us, perhaps, are ever more sensitive of dictation, than when attacked for our politics. While wandering around in the political pasture, I had thoughts that led me to ask myself the question: Is one in ten among the voting forces able to give valid reason why he is Democratic or why he is Republican in his politics? Father and perhaps grandfather were, is answer enough for some. No ambition or desire to take time himself and study for himself the economics held as sacred by party leaders. Party leaders ofttimes do and say bitter things of each other.
The Civil War was a crucible, severe, proving that love of country is immeasurably stronger than party ties. We love our country regardless of party. In those times, party name was as forgotten. Cheerfully we gave up treasure and the comforts of home, even life itself, that the Stars and Stripes might ever continue to float over this, a free and united people, a nation the greatest, grandest and happiest home for the downtrodden of misfortune's sons and daughters from over all the earth, regardless of color, nationality, or language. With the Stars and Stripes for our banner, and God as our counsellor and defender (may we ever so conduct ourselves as to be worthy of His friendship) then we can defy the world. No nation will dare refuse under such protection a fair and impartial hearing of complaints, from the humblest of American citizens.
Although but a lad, I remember distinctly when Andrew Jackson was elected to his second term in the presidency of these United States, and the excitement occasioned by his opposition to the national bank. It was extremely radical. Copper coins circulated plentifully, caricaturing Jackson in various ways and devices, representing some prominent vote or saying of his. One of them, represented by what might be supposed was gold, was a bag tied, and Jackson holding it at arm's length by the neck labeled "Scrub Treasury," with a saying of his,"I take the responsibility," inscribed on the coin. In those times, newspapers were scarce and infrequent. No printing presses with lightning speed as now. No railroads, steam nor electric, no telegraph nor telephone, no express companies nor steamboats crossing the ocean, only then beginning their use on rivers. Then getting news from Washington took two weeks, from New Orleans nearly a full month. Election returns came in slow. No California nor Alaska as part of this nation then. Oregon was all the possessions this nation could then claim on the Pacific coast. Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia river, then only a small trading post, was the principal if not then the only American seaport and harbor on that western coast, with no highway across our country. Gold had not been discovered in California. Fremont had not been sent across to discover a passage to the Pacific by land. It seemed a long time before I could cast my first vote, but I never forgot Andrew Jackson, a man brave and firm in his convictions of duty and right. If I was not born a Jacksonian, he was one I ever regarded as a safe pattern in politics.
Our next president was Martin Van Buren, who served his full term. William Henry Harrison was next, the poetic part of whose election canvas was "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too," and the log cabin craze. Harrison lived but a few weeks as President, and was succeeded by vice-President [John] Tyler [10th President of the US]. Next was James K. Polk. During his administration occurred the Mexican war. Next was Zachary Taylor, the leading hero of that Mexican war. He lived as President but a few weeks and was succeeded by the vice-President. Next was Franklin Pierce, one of the favored party idols from New Hampshire [14th President of the US]. And so far as my vote could go he had it in its full strength, till he was tested on the question of human slavery in new states and territories, Kansas and Nebraska. I was among the many thousands in the Democratic party that divided with him then.
"Party, right or wrong," as some advocated, was no Bible for us. Human slavery was the test question. It eventually brought about radical changes in the political makeups of the old parties. The name Whig soon ceased or was as forgotten. One man I knew, however, whose home was in Hampton, declared he would vote the Whig ticket or nothing and died as he had promised.
Democrats and Republicans are the leading banners in politics to-day, mergings from the old parties, with constantly changing issues. Anti-slavery, with such leaders as John P. Hale and Amos Tuck as its champions, is now needless as an issue. It has retired for, way down the coming ages, the fruits of self sacrificing, liberty loving ancestors, the many thousands who prized pure principles, and the perpetuity of human freedom, far greater inheritance than the spoils of office. Both old parties had come to be managed altogether too much by the spoilsmen. Home caucusing was being unheeded. A few leaders named the candidates. The man who would go deepest in his breeches pocket for the shackles, too often was the winner. State and county cliques appeared usually as masters of [unreadable], seeming to ostracize almost entirely home caucusing, until the Know Nothing fire brand burned up, the hay, wood, and stubble, and the cliques' power went up in smoke, notably, the two days and nights Know Nothing state convention held in a large hall in Smyth's block in Manchester, where their delegate from all over the state met and made nominations to be supported by them at the coming election, state, congressional and county, all made by the same delegates, dividing off and doing the business as separate conventions. I was one of Hampton's delegates at that convention. I had before been in state and county conventions. Never was I ashamed that I had a part in this. This was one where the candidates were selected by the convention then assembled. Outside interference, with previously prepared printed tickets, was not popular with that crowd, as certain parties then learned to their sorrow -- more than one received nomination there, and election after, a big surprise to himself. It was a party, many of them determined men, made up from all the old parties, independent of office themselves, but tired of the slums into which our old parties had nearly perished.
That well organized work soon accomplished that for which it was created, and retired to enjoy all of which it had labored. It had shaken the wrinkles out of the old parties. The Concord and sheriff cliques are now as an unknown quality seldom heard of. But few of us older ones remember them and their methods.
Hampton's annual election in 1855, probably no year in my remembrance has politics in our town met with such confusion. It was hard by times to tell for sure, even by the shrewdest leaders in politics, if he was acting with his own party or no. The Know Nothing element poured down so blinding, that with leaders among all the old parties, future results were hard to foretell. Men seemed ready to jump out of their old party frying-pan right into the Know Nothing blaze, the night before election, and become full-fledged, Simon pure, straight Know Nothings, for sake of representative nomination to the legislature. They then felt sure of being triumphantly elected. But that one was the only case in Hampton that day where union could boast. Early on that day commenced the tug of war. Each of the old parties, regardless of their love of Know Nothingism, early had their batteries as if shotted for battle and struggle for election of board of selectmen commenced for final victory. All day long, after the election of representative, till long after candle-lighting. (Tallow candles for lighting were used almost exclusively then, 48 years ago), did a fierce battle with ballots continue, and still no choice. Then adjournment till nine o'clock next morning, when it seemed every voter in town was again ready for the fray.
Noon came, still no choice. Late in the afternoon, this second day, on the eighteenth balloting, Enoch P. Young was declared elected. Two more ballotings, and Jesse Lane was declared elected. Two more ballotings, and Alba C. Taylor was declared elected. Twenty-two ballotings, by apparently the whole voting force of the town, for nearly two whole days, to elect Hampton's board of selectmen. Such determination and grit is rarely seen in any field.
E. P. YOUNG.