This never before published letter by 45 year-old Senator Salmon Portland Chase (1808-1873) comes from a private collection. It was datelined from Cincinnati in mid-October 1853 after the recent election in which the Whig party disintegrated. In his letter, Chase laments that the Liberty Party with the antislavery platform he had helped to create was unable to win over the influence of all of the Democratic Party—still populated by both progressives and conservatives. Chase considered himself an Independent Democrat (or “Free Democrat”) and though he indicates in this letter he was about ready to give up politics, he was later inspired to unite the remnants of the Whig Party with the anti-slavery members of the Free Soil Party to form the Republican Party and win election as the first Republican Governor of Ohio in 1855.
Four months after writing this letter, Chase and Joshua Giddings co-authored the “Appeal of the Independent Democrats in Congress to the People of the United States” that was published in the New York Times in late January 1854 and which manifesto is regarded to be the earliest draft of the Republican Party creed. In 1861, Chase was selected by Abraham Lincoln to serve as his Secretary of the Treasury.
Chase wrote the letter to Alexander Sankey Latty (1815-1896), an Irish emigrant by way of Canada, who came to the United States in 1837. His first job was to oversee the workforce building the Miami and Erie Canal between Defiance and Toledo. Later he managed the construction of the Paulding Reservoir. He was then elected Auditor of Paulding County—his position when this letter was written in 1853.
October 19, 1853
My Dear Sir,
I am greatly obliged to you for sending me the returns in Paulding county. The vote evinces great independence of thought and action among the Democrats, and I hail all such indications as proofs of the coming time when democracy will vindicate her consistency upon all questions of American policy.
The general result surprises everybody not because it is so, but because it is so much so. The Whigs have literally thrown down their arms and fled disgracefully from the field. Our Independent Democracy has done well, though we have failed on several districts electing about 10 Representatives & Senators where we ought to have succeeded. Still our gains are very handsome. The Old Line has not gained a man where we were strong, and we have on the contrary gained several where they were strong.
Of course the election is decisive against my reelection unless a division shall take place in the legislature between the friends of the Ohio Platform and the friends of the Baltimore Platform. I do not anticipate any such thing. My belief is that the Baltimore Platform will now be endorsed and I do not think there will be found strength enough in the legislature to make any available resistance. Indeed, I think that consistency now demands an endorsement of the Baltimore Platform bu those who practically support it. Should this advancement be made, it is quite probable that the future will witness a new organization of parties; the Independent Democracy taking the progressives & the administration party taking the conservatives.
So far as the result affects me personally, I do not regret it. My service in the Senate has not been a very agreeable one. Adhering faithfully to the professed principles of the Ohio Democracy, I have been neither sustained nor encouraged by its support. I have had the approbation of my own conscience; but not the backing of party. I have no wish to protract my term under such circumstances. I would prefer to resign the term I now hold; and, indeed, I seriously think of doing so before the rising of the next legislature. Once out of office and I do not know that any consideration will tempt me again out of the private ranks.
[John Ikirt] Cable of Carrollton writes me that he will probably leave that place & that his son [Fielding Cable], now editor of the [Ohio] Picayune, will sell out and accompany him. I have written him about your wish for a press in Paulding. He could be the very man for you.
You say nothing of your health. I hope most earnestly that it has improved. Do take care of yourself. True manhood is scarce.
While I do not desire to be again a candidate for any office, I do not mean to abandon the cause of freedom, progress, & living democracy. No: “fight on & fight on,” is still my motto.
My God bless you & yours. Most sincerely your friend, — S. P. Chase