The Whigs of Florida, 1845-1854


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The Whigs of Florida, 1845-1854
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University of Florida University of Florida monographs. Social sciences
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73 p. : map. ; 23 cm.
Doherty, Herbert J., 1926-
University of Florida Press
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Politics and government -- Florida   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


"Bibliographical note": p. 73. Bibliographical footnotes.

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Full Text

The Whigs of Florida


Herbert J. Doherty, Jr.


by Herbert J. Doherty, Jr.

University of Florida Monographs
No. 1, Winter 1959




by Herbert J. Doherty, Jr.

University of Florida Monographs
No. 1, Winter 1959


ID6>55 wh


Social Sciences Monographs

L. N. MCALISTER, Chairman
Associate Professor of History

Professor of Education

Professor of Political Science

Professor of Economics

Professor of Sociology

Professor of Psychology






n keeping with its desire to encourage research
in all branches of knowledge in which ad-
vanced degrees are awarded at the University of
Florida, the Graduate School is establishing two
monograph series, one in the humanities and one
in the social sciences. With this purpose the
administration of the University of Florida is in
hearty accord, and I wish for these publications
the kind of success that can result only from
There is general recognition throughout the
nation that the humanities and social sciences
have not been receiving the attention for their
researches that has been given to the physical
and biological sciences and the more applied
areas of learning. In establishing these new
publication channels the University is providing
an added incentive for liberal scholarship and
Perhaps it is inevitable in the present state of
world affairs that the balance of support will be
weighted on the side of those studies which have
as their aim the physical well-being of our
people. However, I am keenly aware that if we
are to maintain our civilization as well as our
existence, energy must also be invested in those
studies which have as their ultimate aim the
understanding and cultivation of man's social
and spiritual life. It is therefore a genuine
pleasure to wish the Graduate School and the
humanistic and social science faculties of the
University great success in their work of scholar-
ship and its dissemination.


Freely operative two-party political system
has not existed in Florida since the Whig
party flourished in the 1840's and 1850's. It is
my purpose here to narrate the history of that
party and to analyze the nature of its leadership.
This is a task which would have been impossible
without the innumerablecourtesies of Mr. Julien
C. Yonge and Mrs. Harriet Skofield of the P. K.
Yonge Library of Florida History at the Univer-
sity of Florida, and of Mrs. Alberta Johnson of
the Florida Historical Society. I am deeply
appreciative of their assistance.
For constructive suggestions and criticisms in
the development of this study, I am indebted to
Manning J. Dauer, William G. Carleton, and
Rembert W. Patrick. For wise counsel, encourage-
ment, and stimulation, I owe much to the late
Professor James Miller Leake of the University
of Florida.


1. Emergence of the Whigs 1

2. The Rise to Power 18
3. Years of Crisis 30

4. Decay and Decline 49
5. Who Were the Florida Whigs? 63
Bibliographical Note 73


TW hen John Branch, the last territorial governor of Florida,
issued a proclamation designating May 26, 1845, as the first
election day for the new state of Florida, two young political organ-
izations readied themselves for the contest for control of the new
government. The Democratic party held a convention on April 14
at Madison Court House to nominate its candidates, while Whig
party leaders moved in less public and less well organized fashion
to put forward their nominees.1 Both parties, as formally organized,
were scarcely six years old and had been born in the economic
stresses of the years following the great nation-wide economic panic
of 1837.
Though economic issues had provided the basis for party divi.
sions, the immediate stimulus for party organization had been the
summoning of a constitutional convention for the proposed state
of Florida. This convention was held from December 3, 1838, to.
January 11, 1839, a time when the failure of the territorially
backed banks was a hot issue, and the struggle between the banking
and the antibanking groups in the convention over stringent regula-
tion of corporations and government aid to them laid down lines
which were to separate Democrats from Whigs for more than a
decade. At the close of that convention the Democrats, who had
controlled its deliberations, formally organized, though they still
utilized the old terminology and styled themselves the "Jeffersonian
Republican" party of Florida.2
The Whigs less readily adapted themselves to party organization.
The groups opposing the new Democratic organization had usually
controlled the government of the territory since Florida had become
a United States possession, and their mode of operation was char-
acterized by behind-the-scenes manipulation rather than' by public
appeals for votes. The caucus, not the convention, was their sov-
ereign body. Informal agreements, gentlemen's understandings, and
government by clique were their most familiar tools. Generally
speaking, these loosely knit groups and factions were dominated by

1. Niles' Weekly Register, March 29, 1845.
2. St. Augustine Florida Herald, February 21, 1829.


the big landed interests of Florida, a lawyer-planter-speculator class
whose strength was concentrated in Middle Florida, an adminis-
trative district stretching from the Apalachicola River on the west to
the Suwannee River on the east. This was the early cotton-planting
black belt of Florida. Through the 1820's and 1830's, as govern-
ment increasingly seemed to be a monopoly of the Middle Floridians,
resentment grew in extreme East and West Florida. This dominant
clique soon became known as "the Nucleus," and until the panic
of 1837 the territorial Legislative Council was largely under its
sway. Its influence was most markedly seen in its efforts to put
the encouragement of the territorial government behind the pro-
motion of credit and transportation facilities.
Though little was done in the territorial period by way of de-
veloping transportation systems, considerable headway was made
in the chartering of banks. Of the institutions established, three
were most important: the Bank of Pensacola, the Union Bank of
Tallahassee, and the Southern Life Insurance and Trust Company
of St. Augustine.3 Under the pressure of the propertied interests
in the Legislative Council, the faith of the territory was pledged
for the redemption of bonds which these three banks sold in the
money markets of the world to secure their operating capital. The
chief beneficiaries of the whole system were the stockholders of the
banks, who had a privileged status in securing loans from them.
The Union Bank was the biggest and most important, and many of
its stockholders and directors were associated with the Nucleus.
In addition to its dominance in the legislature, the Nucleus con-
trolled the governorship during much of the territorial era. William
P. DuVal, governor 1822-1834, and Richard Keith Call, governor
1836-1839 and 1841-1844, were important figures in that faction.
Several members of the Nucleus had been associates or cronies of
Andrew Jackson, most notably Call, and they often benefited directly
and indirectly from his influence. The only post of importance in
Florida which was not in the hands of the Nucleus before the panic
was that of delegate to Congress. This was the only post subject to
election by the entire territory, and it was held from 1826 to 1838
by Joseph M. White, whose strength was based in great measure
upon his reputation as an opponent of speculators and monopolists.
Even before the panic of 1837 there was evidence that the close-
3. Dorothy Dodd, Florida Becomes a State (Tallahassee, 1945), pp. 43-44.



knit, aristocratic Nucleus was weakening. In part the national break
between the forces of Jackson and John C. Calhoun was reflected in
the Nucleus, but perhaps more significant was the rapid population
growth of Florida, particularly in the eastern portions where even
propertied groups began to speak out against the dominance of the
Middle Florida planters. The St. Augustine Florida Herald became
the strident voice of these dissatisfied Easterners.4
Those who created the Florida banks, of course, expected those
institutions to be beneficial to the whole community, but with the
panic of 1837 they found themselves unexpectedly receiving the
blame for the financial ruin which fell with impartiality on all
classes. The men of the Nucleus had been so intimately tied to
the banks, which received most of the blame for the depression,
that they could not evade being saddled by the public with responsi-
bility for the accumulated misfortunes of the day. Those who had
long opposed the preponderance of the Nucleus in territorial govern-
ment seized upon this opportunity to discredit the old leaders and
to break their long dominance. In the depression which followed
the panic, it was not difficult to convince the people that they had
been overlooked in the distribution of the benefits, that the govern-
ment which was theoretically theirs had been in the hands of a
wealthy few who had used it for their own ends and to the detri-
ment of the people. The most responsible voice of the Nucleus,
the Pensacola Gazette, early recognized the significance of the grow-
ing antibank movement and in the fall of 1837 observed that "it
is pretty evident that out of this very subject, badly understood and
almost incomprehensible as it is, there are about to grow up new
party distinctions."' As the attacks upon the bank men grew sharper
and assumed a tone of class conflict, the old ruling group became
more alarmed. Commented the probank paper in St. Augustine:
"It is an awful struggle between virtue and corruption, and none
can contemplate the consequences without the most fearful ap-
prehensions."6 In the face of the depression and the political storm
against them the old ruling groups became confused and divided,

4. For more detailed treatment of territorial factions, see Herbert J.
Doherty, Jr., "Political Factions in Territorial Florida," Florida Historical
Quarterly, XXVIII (October, 1949), 131-142, and "Andrew Jackson's Cronies
in Florida Territorial Politics," ibid., XXXIV (July, 1955), 3-29.
5. October 14, 1837. 6. St. Augustine News, September 11, 1840.


some groups acquiescing in the demands for the abolition of the
banks, some stubbornly standing for the banks and the repayment
of their obligations whatever the cost, and some advocating preserva-
tion of the banks but repudiation or evasion of the government-
endorsed bank securities,
Despite the fact that the economic issue was of overwhelming
importance in drawing party lines, other political issues should be
noted. National issues seem generally to have played a minor part
in territorial political contests. The nullification controversy did not
loom large, perhaps because Florida was not yet a state. Nullificar
tion was not endorsed by any important Florida newspaper or public
man. The protective-tariff issue stirred few public utterances in
the territory, but one attempt was made by Delegate White to secure
tariff protection for Florida oranges.7 Internal improvements were
desired by all Floridians, and the only criticism was directed toward
the fact that Florida did not get enough of them. All delegates to
Congress sought federal aid for road, canal, and railroad building,
as well as liberal land policies and relief from Indian troubles.8
Local political issues, before the financial panic of 1837, were
largely centered around personalities or sectional considerations. In
East Florida there was strong feeling for separation from Middle
and West Florida in order to escape the dominance of the Middle
Floridians and to delay the coming of statehood, which was un-
popular in the East. The eruption of war with the Seminole Indians
in December of 1835 and the economic distress caused by the dis-
astrous freeze of that year strengthened East Floridians in their
conviction that they could not yet bear the burdens of statehood.
The antibank forces found their greatest support in East Florida,
while the probank forces were strongest in Middle Florida where
division of the territory was unpopular and statehood was favored.
Paradoxically the antibank groups were to spearhead the statehood
movement, while the conservative probank forces found themselves
divided and ineffective upon that issue.
Before the panic of 1837 affected Florida, the movement for
statehood had been set in motion by Governor Call's sponsorship of
a referendum on the topic at the May, 1837, Congressional election.

7. Niles' Weekly Register, March 8, 1828.
8. James Bulger Mool, "Florida in Federal Politics: Statehood to Secession"
(Master's thesis, Duke University, 1940), p. 121.



The results were favorable to statehood because the overwhelming
majority given by Middle Florida and a good majority by West
Florida overcame East Florida's substantial majority opposed to
statehood.9 Though the governor suggested a state census before
calling a constitutional convention, since he feared Congress might
feel Florida's population was too small to warrant admission, the
territorial legislature authorized the holding of a convention in De-
cember of 1838, with the elections of convention members to be
held in the preceding October. Some opposition to the convention
was overcome by giving East and West Florida greater proportionate
representation than Middle Florida.10
This convention, convening on December 3, 1838, in the midst
of economic depression, furnished an admirable opportunity for
the emerging Democratic party. The Florida banks had suspended
specie payments in May and June of 1837.11 By the time conven-
tion members were to be elected, it was foreseen that the territory
might be called upon to make good the bonds which it had endorsed
for the broken banks, and it was upon this issue that the election
hinged in East Florida. Middle Florida, being more securely under
the control of the bank forces, did not have this issue presented
in a clear-cut fashion. It was such an important issue in the di-
visionist East, however, that the voters there lost sight of the fact
that the antibank men whom they sent to the convention were also
supporters of statehood, which most of the eastern voters opposed.
The assembling convention became the arena for the struggle
between the bank and antibank forces, with the controlling strength
of the latter early becoming evident with the election of a presiding
officer. David Levy, an antibank leader from St. Augustine, had
looked to this contest as a test of strength between the rival economic
forces, but this it was only indirectly, since sectional biases also
played a part. The antibank candidate, Robert Raymond Reid of
St. Augustine, defeated the probank candidate, William P. DuVal,
by a single vote. Greater majorities were later secured for articles
restricting the banks. Levy more correctly observed that the actions
which the convention took toward deciding the fate of the banking
institutions would decide the fate of the two parties.12

9. Dodd, pp. 34, 37-38. 10. Dodd, pp. 38-39.
11. Pensacola Gazette, May 13, June 10, 1837.
12. Journal of the Proceedings of a Convention of Delegates to Form



Despite the defeat of attempts by the more radical antibank
forces, led by Levy, to use the convention to intervene actively in
territorial affairs and to repudiate the "faith bonds," the record of
the convention was clearly antibank. Under the leadership of
Thomas Baltzell, a Jackson County antibank man, it petitioned
Congress to interpose its power to modify or repeal the corpora-
tion charters granted by the territory. The convention approved this
petition 38 to 18 despite bitter opposition. Edward C. Cabell, later
a Whig congressman, insisted that the petition transcended the
power of the convention and contained loose and unfounded alle-
gations intended to create public excitement.13
From the convention's committee on banking came the recom-
mendation for an article restricting the life and activities of any
corporations created by the state, forbidding the state to pledge its
credit to the support of any corporation, and depriving bank officials
of the right to hold public office. This committee was headed by
an aggressive, ardent antibank man from Middle Florida, James D.
Westcott. Levy, Reid, and Westcott constituted a triumvirate which
came virtually to dominate the new Democratic party. The bank
men deeply resented Westcott's activities, and DuVal on one oc-
casion sarcastically thanked him for "his universal action and un-
limited efforts to conduct the entire business of this body."'4
Though the antibank forces did not secure everything they wished
from the convention, the restrictions upon banks which were written
into the new constitution amounted to a substantial victory for their
cause. This success had been largely built upon the cooperation
of the East Florida delegation headed by Levy and Reid with the
Middle and West Florida antibank men led by Westcott.15
On the opposing side in the convention were found many able
men who later were Whigs and most of whom had earlier been
identified with the Nucleus. Among them the most prominent were
George T. Ward, Thomas Brown, William P. DuVal of Leon

a Constitution for the People of Florida (St. Joseph, 1839), p. 7; F. W.
Hoskins, "The St. Joseph Convention," Florida Historical Quarterly, XVI
(October, 1937), 107-108.
13. Convention Journal, pp. 41, 73-74, 116-117.
14. James Owen Knauss, Territorial Florida Journalism (DeLand, 1926),
p. 185.
15. For a detailed treatment of the constitutional convention, see Dodd,
pp. 47-66.


County, and Edward C. Cabell of Jefferson County. The two op-
posing factions were not so sharply divided on other issues, most
notably apportionment of seats in the state legislature. On that
question Westcott abandoned his Eastern friends, with the result
that they were disappointed in the allotment of seats to their
The members of the antibank majority in the convention, how-
ever, impressed with the success which they had secured by organ-
ized action, determined to consolidate their position in order to
wield power in territorial politics, as well as in the future new
state. For these reasons their meeting already referred to was held
in St. Joseph after the close of the convention on January 11, 1839,
and the "Jeffersonian Republican" party was formally called into
existence. Party officers were named from all sections of Florida,
well-turned resolutions were adopted in praise of the Jeffersonian
Republican faith, adherence to the Van Buren administration was
proclaimed, and committees of correspondence in every county were
planned,17 Increasingly after the convention the groups in opposi-
tion to the Democrats were called Whigs, although they themselves
were slow to adopt the name and were even slower to form an
effective organization. They had contemptuously dubbed the Demo-
crats "locofocos" during the convention, but they had little success
in making that term stick as a popular label in Florida.
In the 1838 elections success rewarded Democratic efforts to
win control of the lower house of the Legislative Council, and the
Democratic constitution was narrowly approved by the voters. In
the race for delegate to Congress, however, Thomas Baltzell, a
Middle Florida Democrat, was defeated by antistatehood, probank
Charles Downing of East Florida. A sectional disruption among
the Democrats seems to explain this. East Floridians were rankled
about the apportionment of legislative seats in the new constitution,
though many Democrats claimed with David Levy that they had
not supported Baltzell because they were not convinced that he was
a true antibank man.28
Late in 1839 the Democrats secured a triumph of major pro-
16. Dodd, pp. 60, 320-321. West Florida received 14 seats, Middle Florida
got 24, and East Florida was allotted 20.
17. Dodd, pp. 334-335.
18. St. Augustine Florida Herald, January 9, 1840; St. Augustine News,
May 11, 1839; Dodd, p. 71.



portions in getting President Van Buren to remove Richard K. Call
from the governorship and to replace him with Robert Raymond
Reid. Call had done much to make himself unpopular in Wash-
ington. He had long been critical of the Van Buren wing of the
Democrats, and he had been a bitter critic of the policies followed
by the Van Buren administration in prosecuting the war against
the Florida Indians.19 More recently Call had wearied the President
with incessant demands that the territorial secretary be dismissed.
John P. DuVal, a Democrat and a brother of former Governor
DuVal, held this post and was frequently absent from Florida for
months at a time on personal business.20 These facts, plus Call's
favoritism to the probank people, served to make him even more
unpopular among local Democrats than in Washington, and Reid
and Levy undertook a campaign to discredit the governor and effect
his removal. One important document in this campaign was an
able analysis of the political scene in Florida which Levy sent to
Van Buren in 1839. In it he urged that the government be placed
in "thoroughly democratic hands," and added, "I can satisfy the
administration that it [the governorship] is not now in hands at all
likely to advocate or advance its interests or to uphold the demo-
cratic movements."21
The decisive influence in Call's removal, however, seems to have
been a letter to the President by Secretary of War Joel R. Poinsett
in November, 1839. Poinsett had long been upset by Call's criti-
cisms of War Department policies in the Florida Indian war and
had been goaded by Levy and Reid to ask Call's removal. This
he finally did, citing disagreements on military policy as the grounds
for removal. Improvement could not be expected in Florida affairs,
he warned, "so long as the present Governor remains in power."
Martin Van Buren approved of this sentiment and scrawled on the

19. St. Augustine News, December 8, 1838, July 31, 1840. For details
of Call's participation in the Indian war, see Herbert J. Doherty, Jr., "R. K.
Call vs. the Federal Government on the Seminole War," Florida Historical
Quarterly, XXXI (January, 1953), 163-180.
20. R. K. Call to John Forsyth, June 3, 1837, June [?], 1839, "Mis-
cellaneous Letters Received," State Department; Call to Martin Van Buren,
November 24, 1839, "Miscellaneous Letters Received," State Department,
National Archives.
21. David Levy, "Brief remarks concerning the Democratic cause in
Florida, with a suggestion, respectfully submitted to the President," Van
Buren papers, Library of Congress.


back of the letter: "Let Gov. Call be superceded [sic] & Judge Reid
appointed in his place."22
Call was an ardent, volatile man and he made a public issue of
his removal, charging that the President masked political motives
with military policy statements. He ridiculed Poinsett and Van
Buren and charged that "the petty corporations of this Territory
have claimed more paternal concern from the Federal Executive
than the Seminole War which is depopulating the country, con-
suming the substance of our people, and draining the last artery of
the national Treasury."23 The Whig newspapers echoed Call's bitter-
ness toward the Democrats, and the former governor, in a spirit of
revenge, endorsed William H. Harrison for the presidency and did
yeoman service for the Whig cause in the 1840 presidential canvass.
In the territorial elections of 1840 a lack of unity among the
Whigs was made obvious by their factionalism. The opposition
to the Democrats in Middle Florida was divided between "State
Rights" Whigs and Conservatives. The Conservative party was
sometimes referred to as the "Federal" Whig party, but its members
were bound together only in their adherence to the banks, and not
all of them were Whigs. It included William P. DuVal, Brown,
Ward, and other stalwarts of the old Nucleus who stood firm for
the banks, but it also included such probank Democrats as Benjamin
F. Whitner, Charles H. Dupont, and Leslie A. Thompson. Indeed,
by 1848 DuVal himself was in Democratic ranks.24
By contrast, the State Rights Whigs were realistic enough to see
that the banks could not be revived and that no political capital
could be made by insisting that they ought to be. Though the
members of this faction would not repudiate just debts or impair
the obligations of proper contracts, they rather speciously argued
that the territorial government had not possessed the power to
charter banks or pledge its credit to them. William Wyatt was the
main spokesman for this viewpoint, and the Florida Sentinel was
the organ of the faction.25
Though the groups maintained separate organizations, neither in
22. Joel R. Poinsett to Van Buren, November 29, 1839, Van Buren papers.
23. "Memorial of Richard K. Call," House Executive Documents, 26 Con-
gress, 1 Session, No. 136, pp. 13-14.
24, Tallahassee Floridian, September 5, 1840; Tallahassee Star of Florida,
August 18, 1841; Marianna Florida Whig, April 5, 1848.
25. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, September 17, 1841.



the 1840 election nor in that of 1841 did Whig candidates appear
on the ballot to weaken the Conservatives. After 1841 the Con-
servatives disappeared, and their newspaper, the Star of Florida,
tended toward an independent course, though inclined toward the
Whigs. The temporary alliance of Whigs and Democrats under the
Conservative label to support local banks was not a development
peculiar to Florida. Most scholars have noted similar movements
in Virginia under William C. Rives and in New York under Na-
thaniel P. Tallmadge, though there were also similar movements
throughout the Union. Such men as William L. May of Illinois,
Josiah Caldwell of Massachusetts, and John Ruggles and George
Evans of Maine were prominent in their leadership.26
In East Florida during the years after the panic of 1837 organized
opposition to the antibank forces had been growing, but had lacked
ties with the Middle Florida groups and had often worked at cross-
purposes with them. In 1838 a probank newspaper, The News,
was established in St. Augustine and led the opposition to the Levy-
Reid faction. In the late 1830's those who later were to be the
East Florida Whigs appeared before the electorate as the People's
party, and in 1840 they proclaimed themselves the "True Demo-
cratic Republican" ticket. After 1840 the News, and presumably
its backers, accepted the Whig label.27 In West Florida party spirit
was remarkably lacking, and bipartisan cooperation was frequent
through the territorial period, despite the presence of the pro-Whig
Pensacola Gazette under the able guidance of its editor Benjamin
D. Wright.
Having retained control of the lower house of the Legislative
Council in 1840, and still riding on the steam generated by the
bank and bond controversy, the Democrats entered the 1841 elec-
tions with the added advantage that the foreign bondholders of the
Florida banks were pressing the governor for payment of the interest
in default on the bonds of the Bank of Pensacola.28 This resulted
in a more sweeping Democratic victory in the house of the Legisla-
tive Council. The Democrats and antibank Whigs controlled the
26. Wilfred E. Binldey, American Political Parties (New York, 1947),
p. 161; Henry H. Simms, The Rise of the Whigs in Virginia (Richmond,
1929), p. 127; William G. Carleton, "Political Aspects of the Van Buren
Era," South Atlantic Quarterly, L (April, 1951), 168.
27. St. Augustine News, December 8, 1838, July 31, October 23, 1840.
28. Dodd, p. 77.



senate.29 The race for delegate to Congress was marked this time
by an East-West rift among the Whigs and by unity among the
Democrats. Since December, 1840, the Conservative organ in
Tallahassee had been highly critical of Downing, who by this time
had completely alienated West and Middle Florida by his incon-
sistent stand on statehood, a stand which was ultimately climaxed
by his flat opposition to it. Besides, he had accomplished little for
Florida in his second term and was under fire in East Florida on
that score.30 Consequently the Middle Florida Conservatives put
forth an outspoken defender of the banks, George T. Ward, as their
candidate. State Rights Whigs were silent on his candidacy, though
many evidently did not support him. For himself Ward asserted
that he was an old Whig and not a new recruit. Even after he had
been put forward for Congress, Ward had offered to let a conven-
tion choose between himself and Downing, but Downing refused
and insisted upon running. The Democrats, in a show of unity,
named David Levy as their candidate. His strength among the
antibank forces of Middle Florida, along with his East Florida
following, gave him the victory at the election of May, 1841,
although the combined vote of his two opponents was about 500
greater than his.31
Yet all was not dark for the Whigs in 1841, for the victorious
Whig presidential candidate had been inaugurated on March 4.
Charles Downing, the territorial delegate to Congress, had imme-
diately pressed upon the old general the claims of Call to the
governorship, fearing efforts made by William Wyatt to get the
post. Only four days after the inauguration Downing excitedly
dashed off a note to Call, saying: "I have seen old Tip, & he says
you shall be Gov."32 It is well that he acted as hastily as he did,
for less than four weeks later, exhausted by office seekers, the old
President was dead. By early April, Call had been reinstated as
governor and remained in that post until the expiration of his term
in 1844.

29. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, October 22, 1841; Tallahassee Star of
Florida, January 7, February 10, 1842.
30. Tallahassee Star of Florida, December 19, 1840; Dodd, p. 76.
31. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, May 21, 1841; Tallahassee Floridian,
June 18, 1841.
32. Charles Downing to R. K. Call, March 8, 1841, Call papers, Florida
Historical Society Library.



During 1842 the strongly antibank Legislative Council moved
to settle the bank-bond issue once and for all. Though Call did
not believe that the "faith bonds" should be repudiated, he believed
that the stockholders of the banks were unlimitedly liable and that
the territory bore no responsibility for payment until they had in-
dividually been prosecuted into insolvency by the bondholders, a
prospect for which the bondholders had no relish. This stand
undoubtedly cost Call support among the probank groups who held
stock. Call himself was one of the few members of the old Nucleus
who owned no bank stock. Brushing aside the Whig governor's
views, the legislators repudiated all territorial responsibility for the
bonds and passed acts calling for the cancellation of the bonds and
forbidding the issuance of more. These acts were passed over the
governor's veto.83 The 1842 Legislative Council took further notice
of the financial depression, which still dragged on, by indefinitely
suspending the collection of taxes. A stay law was approved pro-
hibiting the sale of property under execution, providing a small
payment could be made toward the judgment every sixty days.
Resolutions were also adopted urging the delegate to Congress to
press for Florida's early admission to the Union.34
Apparently the actions of the Legislative Council of 1842 worked
against the Democrats, perhaps because the repudiation of the bonds
took much of the popular appeal from the bank-bond issue. As
hard times persisted, the Whigs pointed out that Democratic meas-
ures had not solved the people's economic troubles, and called for
governmental and monetary reforms.35 At the October, 1842, elec-
tion the Whigs won control of both houses of the Council and re-
peated their victory in the fall of 1843. It should be pointed out
that the Whigs did not regain control of the Council because of the
revalidation of their old principles, rather it was a result of the modi-
fication of Whig ideas to bring them closer to those of the Democrats.
It was accepted that the banks could not be saved and that the
"faith bonds" never would be paid.
The Whigs also learned much from the Democrats about party
organization. Whig newspapers berated Westcott as an absolute

33. Florida House Journal (1842), pp. 17-18, 19-20; Acts and Resolu-
tions of the Legislative Council (1842), pp. 45, 53.
34. Acts and Resolutions (1842), pp. 22, 54, 55-56.
35. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, September 2, 30, 1842.



ruler of the Democrats, but admitted that the Whigs would do well
to copy his organizational methods. The Florida Sentinel com-
plained: "While the Whigs have suffered themselves to fall into
disorganization and sundered party ties, by personal disputes, doubts,
and recriminations. the little knot of Locofoco managers have
been industriously at work in strengthening their cords, and will
bind us hand and foot unless we make a Sampson-like struggle for
ourselves."" Copying Democratic techniques, the Whigs soon were
forming county organizations and using conventions both at the
county and district levels for the nomination of candidates.37
The two Whig-controlled Councils elected in 1842 and 1843
convened respectively in 1843 and 1844, and the problems with
which they had to deal were largely financial in nature. New tax
laws had to be passed, and there was still pressure from Middle
Florida for the creation of new credit facilities. Most Whigs, how-
ever, were reluctant to risk party fortunes on more banking experi-
ments, and no new institutions were chartered. On financial grounds
the question of statehood was again revived by the Easterners who
opposed it. Isaiah D. Hart, a Whig senator from Duval County,
introduced resolutions which would have nullified the St. Joseph
convention and would have required the delegate to Congress to
oppose Florida's admission until a new convention should be held.
The major argument in support of this move was that the people
could not bear the financial burdens of statehood. Although Hart's
resolutions failed of passage, the Council did pass substitute reso-
lutions declaring it unwise to enter into statehood at that time
and instructing the delegate to oppose statehood until a new con-
vention had been held or the people had approved the St. Joseph
constitution in a new referendum.38 In the 1844 session the anti-
statehood forces were powerful enough to secure the passage of
resolutions calling for the division of Florida into two territories
with separate governments. Congress turned down this request, but
notice was taken of preparations for a constitutional convention in
Iowa territory, and all actions on Florida's admission were postponed

36. August 12, 1842.
37. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, July 18, 1843; Tallahassee Star of
Florida, August 16, 30, 1844.
38. Florida Senate Journal (1843), pp. 53-54; Acts and Resolutions
(1843), p. 66.



until Iowa's application should be received.39 Thus, while avoiding
further favoritism to banks, the Whigs in these sessions had become
identified with the antistatehood forces.
David Levy was re-elected to Congress in 1843, despite the
uniting of the Whigs behind George T. Ward, and Levy promptly
took upon himself the task of readying his constituents for statehood.
Always a quiet advocate of statehood, he now became its loudest
champion. One important argument which he advanced was the
necessity of Florida entering the Union to balance Iowa and preserve
the political equality of the South with the North. He also empha-
sized that statehood would mean freedom from federal interference,
the election of all governing officers, and a greater voice in national
politics. He admitted that statehood would entail responsibilities
and some sacrifices, but he effectively minimized what the burdens
might mean to individuals. This initiative from an outstanding
Democrat was instrumental in crediting his party with the statehood
movement. Levy was so effective that a Democratic Legislative
Council was elected in 1844 to renew Florida's application for
Despite the fact that the Democratic Legislative Council meeting
in 1845 renewed Florida's application for statehood, over the objec-
tions of a few Whigs from East and West Florida, Congress had
not waited for this action. The Committee on Territories of the
House of Representatives reported a bill on January 7, 1845, for
the admission of both Florida and Iowa. It passed the House on
February 13, was approved by the Senate on March 1, and was
signed by the President on March 3.41 Governor Call's term had
expired in July of 1844, and President John Tyler had replaced
him with John Branch, a Democrat. Thus it was that the transition
to statehood was made completely under Democratic auspices.
Though the Democrats held a state-wide convention at Madison
on April 14, 1845, to name their slate of candidates f6r the officers
of the new state government, the Whigs proceeded through a caucus
of the Whig members of the Legislative Council. These gentlemen
hoped to find a candidate pleasing to both parties who might run

39. Dodd, pp. 82-83; Acts and Resolutions (1844), pp. 95-96.
40. St. Augustine Florida Herald, October 22, 29, November 5, 1844;
Dodd, p. 84.
41. Niles' Weekly Register, March 29, 1845; Dodd, pp. 85-86.



on a nonpartisan basis. They selected William Bailey, a wealthy
planter of Jefferson County and a Democrat, but he rebuffed their
overtures, saying that he would welcome Whig support if the Demo-
crats should nominate him. The Democrats were in no mood to
talk of nonpartisanship, however, and turned away from Bailey early
in their convention to give the gubernatorial nomination to William
D. Moseley of Leon County and the Congressional nomination to
David Levy. Levy, however, would accept the nomination only with
the understanding that he should be elected United States Senator
if the Democrats should win the legislature.42
At the close of the Democrats' convention the Whigs still had
no candidates. The caucus of Council members had earlier named
Joseph B. Lancaster of Duval County for Congress, but Whig meet-
ings in East Florida were advocating Benjamin Putnam of St. Johns
County. There was not time for a convention to be summoned, so
Middle Florida Whigs acted to bring some semblance of organization
to party ranks. Whig leaders from Leon, Wakulla, and Gadsden
counties met at the Leon County courthouse on April 22 and unani-
mously nominated Richard Keith Call for the governorship. To
placate the East, Benjamin Putnam was endorsed for Congress.
This group noted that they acted only because the "emergency"
necessitated some move on behalf of the entire party.4"
Though the campaign of 1845 was a hot one, it marked one
of the lowest ebbs of the Whigs' strength before their great triumph
of 1848. In addition to their hesitancy over candidates and their
bumbling party organization, the Whigs were losing newspaper
strength. The Tallahassee Star of Florida, which had been the
voice of the Conservative party and had usually favored the Whigs,
turned to neutrality in a "plague on both your houses" manner. The
only Whig bulwark in the East, the St. Augustine News, was pur-
chased from its Whig editor, Thomas T. Russell, by Albert A. Nunes
who carried it over to the Democratic ranks. Its retiring editor
lamented: "An able paper or a useful paper must have support."
Though the Star did not advocate the Democrats, it saw little hope
that Moseley could be defeated, and it set down the election of Levy

42. Niles' Weekly Register, March 29, 1845; Pensacola Gazette, May 3,
1845; Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, May 3, 1845; Dodd, pp. 87-88.
43 St. Augustine News, February 8, 1845; Pensacola Gazette, May 3,



as certain." Only the Pensacola Gazette and the Tallahassee Florida
Sentinel remained to serve the Whigs in 1845.
In the campaign neither party presented much in the way of a
program. The Whigs were attacked for their former connection
with the banks and the "faith bonds" and for their opposition to
statehood. Whigs charged the Democrats with being political spoils-
men and machine politicians who dictated to the people. Since
neither Moseley nor Putnam were widely known, the burden of
the campaign was carried by Call and Levy, who attacked each
other as ferociously as if they were contending for the same office.
The past records of both the parties and their candidates were the
major issues. Generally the constructive side of the Whig argu-
ments stressed unity, efficiency in government, and the subordina-
tion of partisan politics to the welfare of the new state. The Whig
campaign was eminently unsuccessful, and at the May 26 election
the Democrats won the governorship, the Congressional seat, and
both houses of the General Assembly. In the senate the Whigs won
but six seats in a total of seventeen, and in the house ten in a total
of forty. Thomas Brown was the only notable Whig representative,
and David S. Walker and Benjamin D. Wright were the most promi-
nent Whig senators. In the state-wide races the high man was Levy
with 3,614 votes, then Moseley with 3,292. Call drew 2,679 votes
for governor which put him 284 votes ahead of his running mate
Putnam.45 Call and Putnam together had majorities only in the
West Florida counties of Escambia, Santa Rosa, Walton, and Jack-
son, counties which were to be Whig strongholds throughout the
life of the party.
The first General Assembly convened on June 23 and, controlling
it, the Democrats were to choose Florida's first two United States
Senators. David Levy and James D. Westcott, virtually unchal-
lenged leaders of the party since the death of Robert Raymond Reid
in 1841, were elected by a strict party vote on July 1. Their
Whig opponents were Jackson Morton of Pensacola and Joseph M.
Hernandez of St. Augustine, each of whom was defeated by a 41
to 16 vote. The two Whig newspapers, in the face of the enormous

44. St. Augustine News, April 12, 1845; Tallahassee Star of Florida, April
18, 1845.
45. St. Augustine Florida Herald, May 6, 20, 1845; St. Augustine News,
April 26, 1845.



Democratic success, contented themselves with attempts to divide
Levy and Westcott. The Pensacola Gazette ran a sarcastic letter
paying tribute to Westcott as one who ran the Democrats as com-
pletely "as the autocrat of Russia rules his dominions .. The titu-
lary authorities of the state are but puppets in his hands and organs
of his will; they live by his permission and reign through his
power."46 The Florida Sentinel consoled the friends of Levy that
there had not been offices enough for the friends of both the Demo-
cratic bosses. Levy, the Sentinel said, was lucky to have come off
with an office for himself. That the Whigs may not have been on
a wild-goose chase is suggested by the fact that the Southern Journal,
a Democratic paper, was set up in 1846 in Tallahassee in compe-
tition with the old Democratic organ, the Floridian. The Journal
spoke highly of Levy. A battle between the two top Democrats
never came off, however. Westcott was content to fade from active
politics after his senatorial term, leaving Levy the unquestioned
senior Democrat.47

46. July 12, 26, 1845.
47. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, February 3, 1846. See also Tallahassee
Southern Journal, January, February, and March, 1846.



he election of Levy, or David Levy Yulee as he now called him-
self, to the United States Senate vacated Florida's seat in the
House of Representatives. The vacancy was to be filled at a special
election in October, 1845. The Whigs were understandably apa-
thetic about running a candidate so soon after their crushing defeat,
and Benjamin D. Wright expressed in his Pensacola Gazette the
view that it would be best for the Whigs to pass up the race. Into
this gloomy picture, however, strode the vigorous young Edward C.
Cabell, who had completed his law training at the University of
Virginia since taking part as a fledgling politician in the St. Joseph
convention. Only twenty-nine years old, an excellent though not
flamboyant speaker, practically a newcomer on the political scene,
he undoubtedly brought a breath of fresh air into Florida politics
and new hope to the Whigs. Declaring himself the Whig candidate
for the House of Representatives, he proceeded to rejuvenate his
party. The Gazette seemed startled that anyone should be "willing
to lead the forlorn hope," but endorsed young Cabell, saying: "It
shall not be ours to discourage any who may choose to do battle
with him and strike once more for the good old conservative cause
of the Whigs."1
To oppose Cabell the Democrats named William H. Brocken-
brough, a former member of the territorial legislature. Many
Democrats viewed him with suspicion, and he seems to have been
an unfortunate choice. He was reported to have been a Harrison
supporter in 1840 and probably had been a member of the old
Conservative party. A letter signed "Democrat" appeared in the
neutral Star, saying: "In the present juncture of affairs, a Democrat
may consistently give him [Cabell] his support." It must have
seemed odd to the electorate that the Democrats did not again ride
the bank and bond issue in this race, as they had in earlier ones.
The Gazette took this as evidence that the issue had about played
out; however, it would have been difficult to connect Cabell inti-
mately with the banks or the "faith bonds" because of his youth
and previous lack of involvement in politics. Cabell was by no
1. August 16, 1845.



means a doctrinaire Whig, and he refused to let his opponent place
him in the position of advocating the payment of the repudiated
As the official returns from the election came in, an extremely
tight race was indicated. By law all county returns had to be sub-
mitted by judges of probate to the secretary of state within thirty
days after the election. At that date Cabell had won a majority in
the returns received by that official, who duly certified his election
to the Democratic governor, and the latter in turn issued Cabell a
commission as Florida's duly elected Representative. The supporters
of Brockenbrough were loud in their protests that all the returns
were not in and that their candidate would have a majority when
all the votes should be counted. The hesitancy of the Whig press
about the soundness of Cabell's case seems an indication that claims
of the Democrats were well founded. At any rate, Brockenbrough
contested Cabell's election. In the contest he argued that Cabell
had not received a majority of all the votes cast and that because
returns had been made by unauthorized persons, a majority of the
votes legally returned was in his favor even at the time the com-
mission was issued to Cabell. Though Cabell had already been
seated, the House Committee on Elections upheld Brockenbrough's
argument that only judges of probate were authorized to make
returns and ruled out all returns made by county clerks, leaving
Brockenbrough with a majority of 114. The committee further
pointed out that if late returns were counted, Brockenbrough's
majority would be 169. On this evidence the committee recom-
mended unseating Cabell in favor of Brockenbrough, and the House
upheld the recommendation.3
Most Whigs, agreeing with the Apalachicola paper, seemed to
think that Cabell had been cheated and that "he owes his defeat
solely to the influence of party drill." The Pensacola Gazette, how-
ever, refused to shed tears over his ejection from the House. It
pointed out that who got the seat was not important; what mattered

2. Apalachicola Commercial Advertiser, May 9, 1846; Pensacola Gazette,
August 16, 1845.
3. Tallahassee Star of Florida, November 14, 1845; Niles' Weekly Register,
November 22, 1845; Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, December 2, 1845; U. S.
House of Representatives, Reports of Committees, 29 Congress, 1 Session,
No. 35; Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, 29
Congress, 1 Session, pp. 295-296.



was the fact that the Whig party had found good heart for the strug-
gle again.4
Since the contested term expired in 1846, the Congressional
campaign apparently never stopped between the 1845 and 1846
elections. The biggest issue in 1846 was Cabell's loss of his seat.
He claimed that Brockenbrough had usurped the right to represent
Florida and that the Democrats had been forced to get their party
in Congress to do for them "what the people of Florida refused to
do."5 Whig papers took up the cry, and everywhere Cabell was
painted as one sorely wronged by party machination. Such a man,
said one, "may be forced into retirement by the unjust decision of a
party majority, but he cannot be kept there."6 Not to his party, but
to his own efforts, did Cabell owe his growing strength. Diligently
he took to the stump and as the Florida Herald noted, "perambu-
lated the State" to organize a party. He did not allow the Democrats
to tie him to old issues, and he represented himself as one of the
people in terms which would have done credit to the most rabid
Democrat. His efforts probably more than those of any other single
man brought the Whig party through one of its darkest periods, and
in the doing Edward C. Cabell proved himself the most skilled prac-
tical politician among the Florida Whigs.7
The Democrats countered Cabell's campaign with charges that
he stood on no principles, that he merely cried about being unseated
in Congress. In an attempt to kill the contested election as an issue,
the Democratic state convention denied renomination to Brocken-
brough and named little-known William A. Kain, a state senator and
merchant from Apalachicola. Again, however, the Democrats seem
to have chosen a weak candidate, ard the heartened Whig forces
closed in for the kill. In addition to charging Democrats with the
theft of the last Congressional race, the Whigs saddled them with
charges of extravagance in running the state government. In their
exuberant campaign for statehood the sanguine Democrats had
generally underestimated the costs of state government and the

4. Apalachicola Commercial Advertiser, February 14, 1846; Pensacola
Gazette, December 13, 1845.
5. E. C. Cabell to Joseph Clisby, January 24, 1846, in Tallahassee Florida
Sentinel, February 10, 1846.
6. Apalachicola Commercial Advertiser, April 25, 1846.
7. St. Augustine Florida Herald, June 16, 1846; Palatka Whig Banner,
July 7, 28, 1846.



Whigs now gleefully contrasted the earlier estimates with the actual
costs. Criticism was also leveled at the Democrats for not winding
up the affairs of the local banks as rapidly as they had pledged to
do. The state constitution, said the Whigs, vested in the General
Assembly the power to regulate banks, and the Democratic Assembly
had failed to use this power to complete the liquidation of the terri-
torial banks, thereby violating solemn pledges. On national issues
Cabell declared himself at odds with state-rights extremists among the
Democrats and linked them with the old Federalists who had talked
of secession in the War of 1812. He declared that he favored a
tariff for revenue with incidental protection.8
Cabell narrowly defeated Kain (2,978 to 2,885) in 1846, but
with this election the reaction against the Democratic party began
to grow. Though the Democrats still controlled the General As-
sembly, the Whigs made heartening gains. The senate divided at
seven Whigs and twelve Democrats, while the house had seventeen
Whigs and twenty-two Democrats.9 The reasons for this reaction
can be traced to both local and national developments.
On the local scene the banking issue was fading, and there was
a tendency to forget the financial panic of 1837, now almost ten
years in the past. Too, the constitution of 1839, written by Demo-
crats in the heat of the panic, was appearing to more and more
men to be a hindrance with its restrictions on corporations. Proj-
ects for cotton mills, canals, plank roads, and railroads were filling
men's minds, and not only were credit facilities needed for these,
but state aid could be beneficial were it not for the restrictions of
the constitution. Even the anticlerical provision which barred minis-
ters from holding high political office was being turned against the
Democrats. The Whigs criticized, too, the Democrats' convention
system, terming it "prone to destroy the spirit of our institutions."
Furthermore, the bargain by which Yulee became Senator and the
unseating of Cabell were cited as proofs that the Deniocrats were
not at all reluctant to pervert the will of the people.10
There were many persons among the Whigs at this time who
8. St. Augustine Florida Herald, August 11, 1846; Tallahassee Florida
Sentinel, July 21, August 11, 18, 1846.
9. Niles' Weekly Register, December 5, 1846; St. Augustine News, Novem-
ber 13, 1846.
10. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, April 14, 1846; Palatka Whig Banner,
July 28, 1846.



also feared that the Democrats were too radical on national issues.
Though the annexation of Texas and the war with Mexico had
not been important political issues in Florida, many Whigs privately
opposed them and were disturbed by the annexationist spirit of
the Polk administration. When before being in the Senate a month,
Yulee introduced a resolution looking to the annexation of Cuba,
such men were horrified. The act met with severe criticism, and
the Pensacola Gazette in consternation termed the move indelicate,
improper, and impolitic." The Mexican War had been productive
of the Wilmot Proviso, an attempt to close to slavery the territory
acquired from Mexico, which squarely and explicitly laid the slavery-
antislavery issue before the country. Whigs had feared such a con-
sequence of annexationist policies and generally sought to suppress
sectional agitation, while Southern expansionists and extreme pro-
slavery men had more and more attached themselves to the Demo-
cratic party.12 The dominant interests of the national Whig party-
industrialists, common carriers, financiers, Ohio Valley farmers,
Southern planters-"all dependent more or less on the slave economy
of the Southern plantation," dreaded agitation of the slavery ques-
tion and were the forces which maintained the officially moderate
position of the national Whig party as long as they were able.'1
Whether Whigs or Democrats, Floridians were in agreement on
certain basic principles at this time. These principles were the right
to carry property, in this case slaves, into the nation's territories
and to maintain the institution of slavery where it already existed.
The main difference between Democrats and Whigs was the extent
to which these rights should be insisted upon. The Whigs were
less inclined to force the issue than were the Democrats, and were
more disposed to compromise on the extension of slavery to the
territories. Yet even before 1850 there was a free-soil element
among the Northern Whigs which troubled Southerners.4
After Cabell's election in Florida local Democrats tried to enlarge
11. January 10, 1846; see also Niles' Weekly Register, December 27,
1845; and William T. Cash, History of the Democratic Party in Florida
(Tallahassee, 1936), p. 26.
12. Ulrich B. Phillips, "The Southern Whigs," Essays in American History
(New York, 1910), p. 219.
13. Wilfred C. Binkley, American Political Parties (New York, 1947),
p. 177.
14. Arthur C. Cole, The Whig Party in the South (Washington, 1913),
p. 123.



upon the differences between Northern and Southern Whigs and
to paint the latter as subordinate to the former. The St. Augustine
News said of Cabell: "The Abolition Whigs now claim him as their
own, and struggle as he will, he is now bound to them hand and
foot by the ties of party."15 The Whigs, on the other hand, em-
phasized their moderation and conservatism. Cabell attacked sec-
tional viewpoints, declaring that the Whig party "embraced in its
comprehensive view the whole country. It is not influenced by a
narrow, contracted sectional policy."16 Many Northern Whigs made
great efforts to conciliate the South; Henry Clay expressed a willing-
ness to compromise his tariff views, and Daniel Webster thundered
against the abolitionists.17
Many Democrats were in sympathy with efforts to minimize
sectionalism at this time. Florida's Senator Westcott was unwilling
to advocate extreme state-rights ideas and joined with Cabell in
refusing to sign the "Southern Address" which Calhoun prepared
during the Thirtieth Congress and which demanded the suppression
of abolition activity and asked for unrestricted slavery in all terri-
tories. Westcott objected that it contained "no declaration of the
attachment of the South to the Constitution and to the Union."18
Yulee signed the declaration. The extremism of the Democrats and
the professed conservatism of the Whigs, North and South, ap-
parently worked to the benefit of the Whigs in the late 1840's.
In the state elections of October, 1847, the Whig party won
control of both houses of the General Assembly.19 The local issues
had revolved around a proposed amendment to the state constitution
to make Assembly elections and sessions biennial and around the
question of the payment of jurors. Both parties favored the amend-
ment, but Governor Moseley had vetoed a bill for payment of jurors
and the Whigs had campaigned for such payment. Controlling
both houses, the Whigs organized them along strict party lines, to
the disgust of Democrats who had been the targets of Whig criti-
cisms for doing the same thing. Daniel G. McLean of Walton
15. November 13, 1846. 16. Marianna Florida Whig, February 9, 1848.
17. Charles S. Sydnor, The Development of Southern Sectionalism, 1819-
1848 (Baton Rouge, 1948), p. 319; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Age of
Jackson (Boston, 1947), p. 371.
18. James Bulger Mool, "Florida in Federal Politics" (Master's thesis,
Duke University, 1940), p. 46.
19. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, October 19, 1847.



County became president of the senate, while Charles W. Downing,
son of the late territorial delegate, was named secretary. Joseph B.
Lancaster of Duval County became speaker of the house and Wilkin-
son Call, youthful nephew of former territorial Governor Richard
K. Call, was named clerk.20
The Whig-controlled General Assembly concerned itself in 1848
to some extent with the promotion of conditions favorable to busi-
ness and industry in Florida. By this time the Democrats were
mellowing in their radicalism toward corporations and government
aid to them. In 1844 Yulee had suggested that a cross-state railroad
be built by the new state government so that the people could avoid
the "impositions and exactions which a private chartered monopoly
would impose."21 After statehood was accomplished, however, talk
of government ownership diminished, though Yulee and others
continued to agitate for a cross-state railway. In the 1848 legis-
lature the House Committee on Internal Improvements recom-
mended action looking toward such railroad construction. It urged
that one-half million acres of land donated by Congress for internal
improvements be used in furthering such a road, and it recom-
mended that the Assembly "hold out inducements to companies
to subscribe the balance of the stock." In 1848, however, financial
conditions still seemed unfavorable for action of this sort, and such
a road was not chartered until the next session.22
More important political news was being made outside the
legislature, however, where public meetings, caucuses, and party
newspapers were whipping up the partisan fervor of a presidential
election year. This was a new experience to Floridians, who had
never had a vote in presidential contests before. There was con-
siderable feeling, mostly in West Florida and among the older Whigs,
that Henry Clay should be the party nominee. Jackson County
Whigs endorsed Clay and approved resolutions condemning the
Wilmot Proviso, criticizing the Mexican War as one of conquest,
opposing the annexation of Mexican territory, and praising both
20. Pensacola Gazette, December 4, 1847.
21. David Levy, Circular Letter to the People of Florida Relative to the
Admission of Florida Into the Union (n.p., 1844), P. K. Yonge Library of
Florida History, University of Florida.
22. Marianna Florida Whig, January 5, 1848; Arthur W. Thompson,
"The Railroad Background of the Florida Senatorial Election of 1851," Flor-
ida Historical Quarterly, XXXI (January, 1953), 184-185.



Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott for their military exploits.23 In
Middle and East Florida, and among younger men, General Zachary
Taylor, the hero of the Mexican War, was favored.
Only a month after the Jackson County meeting Peter Sken
Smith, a St. Augustine Whig, released to the Whig press of the
state a letter from Taylor which was intended to convey Taylor's
willingness to be president, but which revealed a lack of real political
interests or beliefs on his part. In the letter Taylor stated principles
later embodied in the famous "Allison letter" which got national
circulation, but he was not sufficiently attached to the Whig cause
in the Smith letter. In the latter document he asserted that: "If
I were nominated for the presidency by any body of my fellow
citizens, designated by any name they might choose to adopt, I
should esteem it an honor, and would accept such nomination pro-
vided it had been made entirely independent of party considera-
tion."24 In the later widely published letter to Captain J. S. Allison,
his brother-in-law, Taylor declared his allegiance to the Whig cause,
but attempted to maintain a detached attitude which would be
attractive to Democrats. Thereafter his strength grew until his
nomination at the Whig National Convention in June.
In Florida both Whigs and Democrats held their nominating
conventions in April, 1848. The Democrats, meeting at Madison,
chose for governor William Bailey, the Jefferson County planter
whom the Whigs had approached in 1845. Old William P. DuVal,
former territorial governor, former Conservative party member, and
once a supporter of William Henry Harrison, was nominated for
Congress. For presidential electors the Democratic convention desig-
nated John Milton, Jackson County planter, George R. Fairbanks,
St. Augustine lawyer and civic leader, and Charles H. Dupont,
Gadsden County lawyer-planter and a former member of the Con-
servative party. In 1848, it seems, sensing the tide against them,
Florida Democrats tried to select candidates that would be pleasing
to the Whigs.25
The Marianna Whig light-heartedly noted that having tried to

23. Marianna Florida Whig, October 27, 1847, March 8, 1848; Talla-
hassee Florida Sentinel, February 8, 1848.
24. Zachary Taylor to Peter Sken Smith, January 30, 1848, in Marianna
Florida Whig, March 15, 1848.
25. Marianna Florida Whig, April 5, 1848.



defeat Congressman Cabell with out-and-out Democrats, the Demo-
cratic party had been reduced to the adoption of a "heathen deity"
as its patron saint. When in accepting the Congressional nomina-
tion, DuVal cited his past record as "the best guarantee I can offer
for my future action," the Whig commented: "Ex-Governor DuVal
is known to be a most inveterate joker."26 The Sentinel took equal
delight in attacking DuVal's past course and ridiculing his defense.
Unlike the Democrats, the Whigs held no central convention,
but staged county meetings, each of which chose delegates to one
of three divisional conventions. Each divisional convention named
one presidential elector and large delegations to the Whig National
Convention. Some years earlier the neutral Star had observed of
the Whig party that it "operated without permitting the hand which
impelled the movement to be seen. And it therefore had the means
of combining influences and elements of power, which were also
unseen, and unappreciated."27 That there was such unseen collabo-
ration in 1848 is apparent in the ease with which the three con-
ventions named the same candidates. One convention made the
nominations which were then endorsed by the other two and re-
ferred back to the original county meetings for ratification. In this
manner the Whigs maintained the illusion of popular participation
which, they maintained, the Democratic conventions prevented.
The West Florida Whig convention renominated Representative
Cabell and selected for the governorship Thomas Brown. Brown
was a former member of both the Nucleus and the Conservative
party and had been intimately associated with the Union Bank. A
Tallahassee hotel man and former planter, he had also seen service
in both the territorial and state legislatures. As Zachary Taylor
was dubbed "Old Rough and Ready," so the Florida papers affec-
tionately stamped Brown "Old Matter of Fact." The West Florida
convention also named Jackson Morton of Pensacola as presidential
elector, with A. G. Semmes, a former Bank of Pensacola official, as
alternate.28 The Middle Florida convention endorsed the West
Florida nominations and added to the list Samuel Spencer as its
presidential elector, with George W. Call, Jr., brother of Wilkinson
Call, as alternate. In East Florida the slate was endorsed and John
H. McIntosh, a Duval County planter, was named as elector.
26. April 12, May 3, 1848. 27. October 17, 1845.
28. Marianna Florida Whig, May 3, 1848.



At the state level the bitterest race was that between DuVal and
Cabell. DuVal was alternately pictured by the Whigs as a joker
and as a scheming self-seeker. One widely circulated charge against
DuVal was that he was the father of the ill-fated Florida banks.
During his governorship he had vetoed the charters of several banks,
insisting that he could approve an institution only if it were truly
"the Planter's bank." This fact was made the basis of the charges
in 1848 that he was solely responsible for the establishment of the
banks and the "faith bonds" in Florida. This was bulwarked by
the fact that as a member of Congress from Kentucky he had cast
a vote three times in favor of the Bank of the United States. The
Sentinel concluded that "if connection with the Bank is a crime,
which the democracy affirms, then are the skirts of William P.
DuVal black, reeking and clotted with guilt."29
At its convention (June, 1848) in Philadelphia the Whig party
named Taylor as its presidential candidate, with Millard Fillmore,
an old-line Whig, as its nominee for vice-president. Taylor's con-
vention victory was due to a coalition of proslavery Whigs and
Northern Whig leaders who realized the popularity of Taylor with
the masses of people. The alliance was facilitated by Thurlow Weed
of New York.30 Though many of them had favored Clay, the Flor-
ida Whigs now closed ranks behind Taylor and Fillmore.
Meanwhile the Democratic National Convention, meeting at
Baltimore in May, had nominated Senator Lewis Cass of Michigan
and William O. Butler of Kentucky as their presidential and vice-
presidential candidates, respectively. Cass was feared by many
Southerners as an advocate of popular sovereignty, and in the North
he was disliked because he favored the annexation of Texas and
opposed the Wilmot Proviso.31 Florida Democratic nominees for
presidential electors had been instructed by their state convention
to oppose any candidate who favored popular sovereignty, and the
action of the national convention left Florida Democrats in an
awkward position, to the unmixed delight of the busy Whigs. While
the Florida Whig waited to see if Democrats would "sacrifice upon
the altar of party loyalty the dearest rights of the South," the Demo-

29. Quoted ibid., August 5, 1848; see also August 19, 1848.
30. Binkley, p. 178.
31. Allan Nevins, Ordeal of the Union (2 vols., New York, 1947), I,



cratic State Executive Committee decided to back the action of the
national convention. This not only pleased the Whigs, but divided
the Democrats. Benjamin F. Whitner, the chairman of the com-
mittee, resigned in protest and was replaced by John P. DuVal. The
Democratic Jacksonville News bitterly assailed the action of the
committee, asserting: "As East Florida has to do all the voting, she
is determined not to enter blindfold into a Presidential contest to'
gratify the whim of a few wire pullers in Tallahassee."32
The campaigning in Florida was hot and heavy during the sum-
mer and fall. Brown made a few speeches in which he impressed
his listeners with his gentleness and kindness of heart, but the real
burden was carried by the Congressional candidates. In addition
to the record of DuVal, the major issue was the relative merits of
the national candidates and parties in regard to slavery. Many
Whigs believed that the Democrats had exhibited a "lust for con-
quest and annexation" which endangered the Union, drained the
treasury, and sapped the energies of the country.33
As if circumstances were not already favorable enough to the
Whigs, a convention of Northern antislavery forces met at Buffalo,
New York, in August to form the Free Soil party. There the old
Jacksonian Democrat, Martin Van Buren, was named the party
candidate for president, with Charles Francis Adams for vice-
president.34 The effect of this action was that more voters were
attracted by the Free Soilers from the Democrats than from the
Whigs. Before the summer was over, the election of Taylor seemed
certain, and in Florida a Whig triumph seemed likely. Retaining
its most distinguished Northern leadership, and being rid of some
of its anti-slavery element, the Whig party was represented as being
the great middle-of-the-road national party which would preserve
the Union.
The state elections were held in October, while the presidential
election took place in November. In the Congressional race Cabell
defeated DuVal by 577 votes, 4,382 to 3,805. Thomas Brown won
the governorship from William Bailey, 4,145 to 3,646. In both
houses of the General Assembly the Whigs retained control and
again organized those houses.35 Erasmus D. Tracey of Nassau

32. Quoted in Marianna Florida Whig, July 1, 1848.
33. Ibid., February 16, July 15, 1848. 34. Nevins, I, 206-207.
35. Marianna Florida Whig, December 2, 1848.



County became president of the senate, and Benjamin Putnam of
St. Johns County became speaker of the house. Charles W. Down-
ing was held over as secretary of the senate, while William B.
Lancaster became secretary of the house.36 All four were East Flor-
ida men, probably to compensate for the fact that the governor
and representative were from Middle Florida.
Despite the increased majority for Cabell and the victory for
Brown, the Whigs added only three small counties to the list which
Cabell had carried in the mid-term election of 1846. In that year
Cabell had carried Escambia, Santa Rosa, Walton, and Jackson
counties in West Florida, Gadsden, Leon, Wakulla, and Madison
counties in Middle Florida, and only Nassau and Duval counties in
East Florida.37 All of these except Escambia, Duval, and Nassau had
favored statehood in 1839. Generally speaking, the counties which
had opposed statehood became Democratic counties. These Demo-
cratic counties were also usually the ones with the least population,
the least valuable farm land, the fewest slaves, and the smallest
cotton production.3s
In 1848 Hamilton and Calhoun counties were added to the
Whig list by the closest of margins, and Levy County was over-
whelmingly carried by the party. Cabell carried Columbia County
by five votes, while Brown lost it by twenty-one. In the November
presidential election Taylor carried all the counties which Cabell
had won and added to them Alachua and Marion counties in East
Florida and Washington County in West Florida. The vote for
the Whig electors was 4,539 to 3,238.39 The large vote in the
presidential and congressional races would seem to indicate that
the Florida voter was showing greater interest in the national
political issues than in those primarily of local significance.

36. Niles' Weekly Register, December 13, 1848.
37. Tallahassee Floridian, November 21, 1846.
38. Ibid., September 28, 1839; see also Seventh Census of the United
States: 1850 (Washington, 1853), pp 400-401, 407-408.
39. Marianna Florida Whig, December 2, 1848; Niles' Weekly Register,
January 10, 1849.



n 1849 and 1850 the Whig party in Florida reached the height
of its power and influence. Its leadership might be characterized
as "safe and sane," promoting programs of conservatism and moder-
ation, while the Whig newspapers were particularly capable and
well managed. In West Florida the Marianna Florida Whig was
published by Thomas B. Alexander and had come to be the leading
Whig voice of that section. In Pensacola the Gazette was still
functioning as a pro-Whig paper, but since the retirement of Ben-
jamin D. Wright from the editorship in 1846, it had come to be
viewed as less authoritative than before. In Tallahassee the Florida
Sentinel under the skilled hand of Joseph Clisby was maintaining
its position as the leading Middle Florida organ. Because of its
location in the capital, its prestige as an older paper, and its
moderate tone, it was undoubtedly the most influential Whig paper
in the state and was widely quoted by the other state papers.
In East Florida, where the Whigs had been weakest, determined
efforts had been made to strengthen the newspaper representation
of the party. After the Democrats bought out the St. Augustine
News, its former editor, Thomas T. Russell, briefly edited the
Florida Whig and People's Advocate at Jacksonville.' In Palatka
the Whig Banner was published for a short time by George M.
Grouard.2 Neither of these were important papers, however, and
Congressman Cabell took steps to establish a well supported, influ-
ential publication. With the assistance of Samuel L. Burritt, a
Whig lawyer and member of the state senate from Duval County,
he induced Columbus Drew to come to Florida in 1848 and to
commence the publication of the Florida Republican at Jacksonville.3
Young Drew, a Virginian born of English parents, had worked for
the National Intelligencer in Washington. Conservative in outlook
and attached to the Union, he proved an influential addition to the
ranks of Florida Whiggery, and under his hand the Republican
1. St. Augustine Florida Herald, May 6, 1845.
2. James Owen Knauss, Territorial Florida Journalism (DeLand, 1926),
p. 66.
3. Alice J. Drew, Columbus Drew, Something of His Life and Ancestry
(Jacksonville, 1910), pp. 93-95.



was soon ranked as one of the leading Whig journals of the South.
In addition to the four larger papers, smaller sheets of less influence
and permanency supported the Whigs in 1848. In Gadsden County
C. J. Bartlett's Quincy Times backed the Whigs, while on the
Gulf Coast the Apalachicola Commercial Advertiser under R. J.
Young and R. A. Dominge upheld the cause, and in frontier Ocala
the Argus helped bolster Eastern Whiggery.4
In the October, 1848, election the Whigs renewed their control
of the General Assembly. This session of the Assembly was respon-
sible for electing a United States Senator to fill the seat of James D.
Westcott, whose term would expire in March, 1849. It was a
foregone conclusion that Democrat Westcott would not be returned.
The Pensacola Gazette and the Marianna Florida Whig reflected the
desire of Whigs in their section for the selection of a man from
the "neglected" West. The Whig advanced Jesse J. Finley, a
Jackson County lawyer, while Pensacola interests pushed Jackson
Morton, a prominent businessman of that city.5 Rumors were afloat
that Cabell was intriguing for the office, but he does not seem to
have been interested in it.6
On December 11, 1848, a joint meeting of the two houses of
the General Assembly was held to choose the new United States
Senator. On the first ballot Morton and Finley were nominated, as
were George T. Ward of Tallahassee and Samuel L. Burritt of
Jacksonville. All were Whigs. Burritt led but did not receive the
required majority on the five ballots which were cast on that day.
His support came overwhelmingly from Democrats and a scattering
of East Florida Whigs. Finley's backers, seven in number, were
with one exception Whigs and were from Middle Florida and
West Florida. The support for Ward was almost exclusively from
Middle Florida Whigs; no Democrats supported him and only three
East Florida Whigs. After the third ballot John Ghent, an inde-
pendent, nominated a Pensacola Democrat, Walker Anderson, but
this maneuver did not draw away most of the Democrats supporting

4. Quincy Times, May 13, 1848; Ocala Argus, June 8, 1848; Knauss,
p. 34. 5. Marianna Florida Whig, November 25, 1848.
6. Jacksonville News, October 8, 1847.
7. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, December 12, 1848; Florida Senate
Journal (1848), pp. 48-50; Florida House Journal (1848), pp. 47-49.



This contest evidenced the strong sectionalism still remaining
among the Whigs and the laxity of their party discipline. The
jealousy of the Middle Florida group which existed among Easterners
and Westerners burst into the open. Both the Pensacola and
Jacksonville Whig papers were critical of the tendency of the Middle
Florida Whigs to make off with the lion's share of the spoils. "The
West is entitled to the appointment," wrote the Pensacola Gazette,
"and we insist upon our claim."s The Florida Republican in Jack-
sonville explained: "So far as a sectional claim is worth considering,
we denied any whatever to Middle Florida, conceded the first to
the West, and only preferred that of the East as 'next in point
of validity.' "
After the unsuccessful balloting ended on December 11, no
further attempt to elect a senator could be arranged until January 1,
1849. On that date only Ward and Morton were nominated, and
Morton was chosen on the second ballot by a vote of 30-27. An
alliance of the Democrats and Whigs who had supported Burritt
and those who had earlier supported Morton had been effected, so
that Florida's first Whig Senator was elected by twenty-two Demo-
crats and eight Whigs. The Whigs were Owen Avery and William
N. Richburg of Escambia, Charles A. Tweed and John Wilkinson
of Santa Rosa, Samuel Burritt and James W. Bryant of Duval,
William P. Moseley of Madison, and David S. Walker of Leon.o1
Democrats had been happy to defeat Ward, an old staunch champion
of Whig principles, by backing the less able Morton. It seems
likely that other considerations were connected, involving vote-
swapping on the chartering of railroads and the election of other
officers, but the evidence is slim and circumstantial.
The most important of the other offices which it fell to the lot
of the General Assembly to elect were the heads of the state execu-
tive departments. All those chosen were Whigs, and in every case
there was no important contest. Charles W. Downing was named
secretary of state; David Hogue, attorney general; Simon Towle,
comptroller; and William R. Hayward, treasurer. All were from
Middle Florida.1-
8. Quoted in Tallahassee Floridian, December 9, 1848.
9. January 18, 1849; see also December 21, 1848.
10. Florida Senate Journal (1848), pp. 144-145; Florida House Journal
(1848), p. 127.
11. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, January 9, 1849.



In addition to the election of the executive officers for which the
General Assembly normally was responsible, Governor-elect Thomas
Brown soon confronted the body with a dilemma concerning his own
assumption of office. Governor Moseley had been elected on May 26,
1845, according to proclamations for such election by the last
territorial governor and the surviving members of the Committee
of the Constitutional Convention of 1838. The constitution speci-
fied that the first officers of the state, no matter when elected,
should serve for four years from the first Monday in October. To
complicate matters, the proclamation of the Committee of the Con-
stitutional Convention had specified that the governor should serve
four years beginning May 26, 1845. Brown contended that under
the constitution, Moseley should have given up office in October,
1848, since his term should be dated from the October prior to
his election. Moseley contended that the office should not be occu-
pied by Brown until October, 1849, since his term should be dated
from the October after his election. The Judiciary Committee of
the General Assembly in 1845 had made a report upholding the
1849 date for which Moseley contended. Then Brown asked the
legislature in January, 1849, to resolve the issue.12
Differences of opinion marked the views of the legislators, and
many felt that a decision on the tenure of an office created by the
constitution was beyond the power of the General Assembly. There
was general agreement, with but few exceptions, that the governor
must take the oath of office in the presence of the Assembly, even
though Moseley had not done so. Ultimately the decision of the
legislature was to hold the inauguration on Saturday, January 13,
at ten in the evening, but no decision was reached as to when
Brown's term should begin. By the simple expedient of not getting
out, Moseley remained in office until October of 1849, and Brown
did not further contest the issue.13
On January 13 at the appointed hour Brown was escorted to
the speaker's stand in the Hall of Representatives and charged by
Representative David S. Walker to ever act as a sentinel for the
state. After the oath was administered by Chief Justice Thomas
Douglas, Brown delivered his inaugural address. He expressed grave

12. Thomas Brown to the Senate and the House of Representatives of
the Florida General Assembly, Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, January 9, 1849.
13. Jacksonville Florida Republican, February 1, 1849.



concern over the national controversies centering around slavery and
pledged his adherence to the sovereignty of the states, the rights of
the South, and the compromises of the Constitution. He startled
and angered many who heard and read his words, however, when
he cautioned that there was a vast difference between manly
resistance to unjust encroachment "and the empty vapouring and
gasconade which has become so common." He condemned the
"intrigues of partisan politicians" which had made disunion and
dissolution household words. "I believe," he warned, "that the
Northern fanatics have done much to weaken the attachment and
reverence of the people for the Union; and I fear as much has
been done by Southern demagogues as Northern fanatics."14
After the adjournment of the General Assembly, both Whig and
Democratic papers found some things to praise in its record. Most
universally approved was an act establishing a common school system,
to be supported by local taxation and the proceeds of the sale of
public lands given to the state by the federal government. The state
register of public lands was to be ex-officio the state superintendent
of schools, and the judges of probate were to be the county superin-
tendents. In each county school districts were to be administered
by three trustees popularly elected. They were to levy local school
taxes.'5 At the same session the legislature also made the offices
of register of public lands and judges of probate elective by the
people. Unfortunately, since public opinion did not endorse public
education at public expense, these two moves seem to have cancelled
each other and little or nothing was done to establish schools. Other
than these acts, the most generally approved bills were three railroad
acts, though there was much doubt that two of the roads would be
constructed.16 The road which did get under way was the Atlantic
and Gulf Railroad, which soon came under the control of David
The Assembly also passed resolutions decrying sectional strife and
all Northern actions which were marked by unkindness, wrong,
insult, and injury. They asserted that there was no party division
in the South on questions involving Southern rights and the institu-

14. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, January 16, 1849.
15. Tallahassee Floridian, January 20, 1849.
16. Ibid., January 13, 1849; Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, January 16,



tion of slavery, and they declared the willingness of Florida to join
with other Southern states in defense of their rights "by whatever
means the highest wisdom of all shall suggest."17
Concern for the rights of the South was growing among the
people of the state, though it was most vociferously expressed by
the radical wing of the Democratic party. Cabell had not joined in
Calhoun's "Southern Address" earlier, and he was taunted with this
fact in 1849. In Madison County a public meeting adopted reso-
lutions critical of Cabell, and a similar meeting was reported in
Gadsden County. A protest meeting in Jacksonville met with less
popular response, causing the Republican to conclude: "There is
not that excitement among the people which we are sometimes led
to believe exists."18 Many Whigs, however, approved Cabell's course,
feeling that the best way to protect Southern interests was by
cooperation between conservative, propertied interests North and
South. Slavery was a troublesome issue to them, if agitated in an
emotional way on a sectional basis, and was seen as dangerous to
the Union as well as to their interests. The attitude of these Whigs
was expressed by the Florida Republican when it declared that nine-
tenths of the Southern people would "stand up for the rights of the
South. Every true Southern representative will not fail to give his
vote and lift his voice in opposition to the schemes of northern
incendiaries; but few will be found rash enough to propose disunion
for a remedy. It is no remedy. It will kill, not cure, the patient."'9
The criticism at home of his action was not lost on Representative
Cabell, however. When the Whig caucus met in December, 1849,
to organize the House of Representatives of the Thirty-first Congress,
Southern members tried to commit the party to oppose exclusion
of slavery from the territories and its abolition in the District of
Columbia. On the defeat of this attempt, eight Southern Whigs,
including Cabell, withdrew from the caucus and refused to aid
in the organization of the House. The minority Democrats sub-
sequently elected Howell Cobb of Georgia to the Speakership.
Cabell defended his act as a blow for the rights of the South and
characterized those who were critical of him as Northern men or
timid and unworthy Southern men. He declared his belief that

17. Jacksonville Florida Republican, February 1, 1849.
18. March 15, 1849; Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, February 20, 1849.
19. June 14, 1849.



Southern institutions and the Union were in real peril from the
antislavery agitation.20
During 1849 feeling in the South, particularly among the Demo-
cratic followers of Calhoun, in favor of a convention of Southern
states to devise means for mutual protection had been growing. This
sentiment had been fanned by continued attempts in Congress to
enact the principles of the Wilmot Proviso, by efforts to bring
California into the Union as a free state, thus upsetting the sectional
balance of power, and by resolutions of Northern state legislatures
who ultimately all, except that of Iowa, asserted the duty of Congress
to prohibit slavery in all the territories. A number of legislatures
called for the abolition of slavery and of the slave trade in the
District of Columbia.21
Late in 1849 Senator Yulee suggested to Calhoun a meeting of
the governors of Southern states or the formation of a Southern
political party to offset the power of the Northern antislavery
forces.22 Calhoun evidently had been considering some such course,
and he succeeded in manipulating the call for a general convention
of Southern states through an invitation issued by a state convention
in Mississippi. The proposed Southern Convention was to be held
at Nashville in June of 1850.23 News of the proposal was met in
Florida with mixed reactions from the Whig press. The Jacksonville
Republican saw no harm in the mutual consultation of the slave
states, but the Tallahassee Sentinel feared that more harm than
good might result. The latter paper noted the ill feeling pervading
the halls of Congress and asserted: "It is mortifying to see a temper
pervading the national councils which would disgrace a village
debating society, and we are sorry to see the press and letter writers
fanning, instead of throwing water upon the flame."24
As the people debated the Nashville Convention, Governor Brown
remained silent and took no action to endorse the meeting or to
name delegates to it. Some intimation of his attitude might have

20. Jacksonville Florida Republican, December 13, 1849, February 7,
1850; James Bulger Mool, "Florida in Federal Politics" (Master's thesis,
Duke University, 1940), p. 50.
21. Allan Nevins, Ordeal of the Union (2 Vols., New York, 1947), I, 255.
22. Mills M. Lord, Jr., "David Levy Yulee, Statesman and Railroad
Builder" (Master's thesis, University of Florida, 1940), p. 73.
23. Jacksonville Florida Republican, January 10, 1850.
24. Ibid.; Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, January 14, 29, 1850.



been gathered, however, from the fact that the Whig newspapers
took an increasingly hostile view of the meeting, intimating that its
movers had disunion in mind.
Meanwhile, in Washington on January 29, 1850, Senator Henry
Clay of Kentucky presented to the United States Senate a series of
compromise resolutions which were to effect "an amicable arrange-
ment of all questions in controversy between the free and slave
states, growing out of the subject of slavery."25 Clay had returned
to the Senate from a seven-year retirement determined to engineer
another great compromise which might save the Union. The resolu-
tions which he introduced would admit California with no mention
of slavery, set up territorial governments in the rest of the Mexican
cession with no restrictions upon slavery, indemnify Texas for giving
up her claims to New Mexico, abolish the slave trade in the District
of Columbia, prevent the abolition of slavery in the federal district
without the consent of Maryland and the compensation of slave-
holders, provide a more stringent fugitive slave law, and record the
inability of Congress to hinder the slave trade between slave states.26
All over the nation extremists on both sides of the question
assailed the measures. In Florida the Democratic papers were
critical. The St. Augustine Ancient City dubbed the measures the
"surrender bill." The Whig Jacksonville Republican was disap-
pointed that nothing more "original" had come from the great states-
man, but noted that this might reflect the tremendous complexity
of the problem.27 Generally the Whig papers were favorable to the
compromise measures and highly critical of the attacks made upon
them in Congress by Calhoun and his followers. Though the Whigs
did not always question the South Carolinian's sincerity, they
probably agreed with the Florida Republican that "an idiosyncrasy
possesses him, which nothing can exorcise, but the clang of arms,
and the din of conflict over the fragments of a broken Union.""28
This paper deftly pointed out that Calhoun's batteries were directed
less against the North than against "our system of government," and
the editor lamented that Calhoun would destroy the glory of "the
most colossal power on the globe."

25. Jacksonville Florida Republican, February 14, 1850.
26. Nevins, I, 233; John B. McMaster, A History of the People of the
United States (8 vols., New York, 1883-1913) VIII, 12-13.
27. February 14, 1850, 28. April 11, 1850.



Ten days after Clay introduced his compromise measures, the
entire Florida Congressional delegation, Yulee, Morton, and Cabell,
sent a joint letter to Governor Brown calling upon him to endorse
the Nashville Convention and to arrange for Florida's representation
in it. They declared that "timely preventive" must be employed to
prevent the federal government from becoming an instrument of
ultimate ruin for the South. They saw united action by the people
of the South as the only effective check on this tendency. Organized
resistance, wisely directed, would arrest aggressions on Southern
Cabell, who had previously opposed a Southern convention, sent
a separate letter to Brown explaining his position. He related that
he had joined in the message because the Nashville meeting was
to be only an advisory session to "define the position of the South"
and to propose methods of redress in certain contingencies. "We
wish to prevent the passage of laws which we are pledged to resist,"
he wrote, "or, if we cannot prevent aggression and outrage, we
should be prepared to resist."30 Cabell had little hope for compromise
at this point and feared that the antislavery forces would triumph for
he told Brown: "I shall stay at my post, and resist, by all lawful
means, the consummation of measures hostile to the interest of my
state.... But as the sentiment of Congress is against us, and as
measures of compromise can only be carried by the influence of
men who are candidates for the Presidency ... I have little hope
that my resistance will be availing."31
Brown's reply to the joint letter of the Congressional delegation
was a repudiation of sectional measures, and it warmed the hearts
of all Union men. He flatly declared: "I consider such a convention
as revolutionary in its tendency, and directly against the spirit if
not the letter of the Constitution of the United States."32 He re-
gretted that he had been asked to take part in the movement, saying
that he had hoped the people could judge it without his involvement,
and he declined to appoint delegates to Nashville on the grounds
that he had no authority to take such action. He believed that there
was nothing the convention could do save constitute itself a

29. David Yulee, Jackson Morton, and Edward Cabell to Thomas Brown,
February 6, 1850, in Jacksonville Florida Republican, March 7, 1850.
30. Cabell to Brown, February 12, 1850, ibid. 31. Ibid
32. Brown to Yulee, Morton, and Cabell, February 22, 1850, ibid.



revolutionary body. If that should be the purpose, he wrote, "I
most solemnly protest against it. The time has not arrived for such
measures, and I pray God such a time may never arrive."
Brown observed that in the entire question of relations between
North and South, "Time has brought forth no wisdom-experience
has brought no knowledge. The Northern politician, gaining confi-
dence in this wordy conflict assumes a more threatening tone, and
the Southern politician, to keep even pace, must become more violent
in his manner of resistance, and threaten still louder And still
I believe that this glorious Union will firmly and safely weather this
The Whig press in Florida approved Brown's course, while the
Democratic press almost as unanimously opposed it. The Republican
spoke darkly of a few "Brutuses" who wished to destroy the Union
at Nashville, while the Floridian denounced those who "yielded" to
the view of Governor Brown.34 The Florida Whig reported that the
people of West Florida were not interested in the convention and
were as calm as if the legislators at Washington were attending to
the legitimate business of legislation rather than crying "to arms."
The Commercial Advertiser viewed the attitude of Whigs as concili-
atory but firm, while that of Democrats was harsh and abusive, and
it concluded: "The spirit of the Whig is decidedly better to operate
on the great conservative mind and heart of the North." The
Pensacola Gazette was amazed that Senator Morton had endorsed
the Convention, and the newspaper ranked Brown's slashing retort
with Jackson's squelching of nullification in 1832.35
Though he was a Whig, Morton's views on the sectional disputes
did not coincide with those held by most of the Whig hierarchy in
Florida. Rather they seemed almost to be a carbon copy of the views
of his abler senatorial colleague Yulee. Morton slapped back at
Brown as representing neither of the parties in Florida and as giving
aid and comfort to the adversaries of the South. The Nashville
Convention, he asserted, was designed to save the Union if that
were possible, or to save the South if it were not. He asked what
it would take to make Brown calculate the value of the Union and
declared: "The Nashville Convention will, I presume, suggest such
means and measures as may be advisable for the South to adopt to
33. Ibid. 34. Ibid., March 7, 21, 1850.
35. All quoted ibid., April 11, 1850.



preserve her liberty and independence. Call this 'revolutionary,' if
you choose, and 'make the most of it.' "3
Brown's reply, couched in terms of condescension, expressed
regret that Morton had not more experience in public affairs and
commented that when he had acquired it he would regret his action.
Brown remarked of himself that he had been born at the close of
the American Revolution, and asserted: "I do not wish to see another
revolution, and if I feel called upon to blush in this connection,
it is for those who pronounce this government a Russian despotism
-who would call a convention of modern politicians to remedy the
inherent defects in the great Charter of our liberties-who think
themselves able to improve it-who in respect to anticipated griev-
ances would change or destroy it-and who seek to delude the
people with dazzling schemes of a Southern Confederacy."37
Despite the opposition of Whig leaders to the Nashville Con-
vention, its popular appeal was apparently greater than the Whig
press had been willing to admit at first. By April the Florida
Republican was forced to concede that the Convention and the stand
of the Florida Congressional delegation were not unsupported, but
it insisted that support was not as unanimous as the Democrats made
out.38 Gradually the Whigs began to agree that since the Convention
could not be prevented, it might be best to send moderate men to
control it. Brown's refusal to appoint delegates to Nashville was
circumvented by supporters of the movement through bipartisan
courthouse meetings which selected delegates to district meetings in
East, West, and Middle Florida, which meetings in turn named
delegates to Nashville. At Ocala the East Florida meeting chose
Joseph M. Hernandez, Whig, and B. M. Pearson, Democrat, as
delegates. At Tallahassee the Middle Florida meeting named Charles
H. Dupont, Democrat, and Arthur J. Forman, Whig, as delegates,
with R. W. Williams, Whig, and Augustus E. Maxwell, Democrat,
as alternates. The West Florida meeting at Marianna selected Cabell
and James F. McClellan, a Democrat, as delegates. Hernandez and
Cabell did not attend the Convention."3
Meanwhile in Congress disunion sentiment had rapidly subsided

36. Morton to Brown, March 10, 1850, ibid., April 4, 1850.
37. Brown to Morton, March 30, 1850, ibid., April 11, 1850.
38. March 21, April 4, 25, 1850.
39. Jacksonville Florida Republican, May 9, 23, 1850.



in March and April. On the seventh of March Daniel Webster had
delivered a bold oration upholding Clay's compromise, denouncing
secessionists and abolitionists alike, and calling for the preservation
of the Union.40 Florida Whigs hailed the speech as a harbinger
of hope, and Cabell hailed both Clay and Webster as "bearing
themselves nobly toward the country.""41 Stephen A. Douglas of
Illinois and his friends busied themselves in the interests of a
compromise settlement. And on March 31 John C. Calhoun, the
genius of the radical Southern Democrats, died.
In an atmosphere of growing conciliation the Nashville Conven-
tion assembled on June 3 with Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia,
Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia repre-
sented, though some delegates had very dubious authority to speak
for their people. William L. Sharkey, a Mississippi conservative, was
elected president, and the whole tone of the meeting was far more
moderate than had been anticipated. Though the principal resolu-
tion of the meeting expressed a willingness to see the western
territories divided between the sections by extending the Missouri
Compromise line, the South Carolinians managed to get a resolution
passed condemning the Clay compromise measures. After the pas-
sage of resolutions, however, conservative counsel prevailed, and
the Convention adjourned to await the action of Congress on the
Despite the growing sentiment for a settlement on conciliatory
lines, the Florida Democratic press continued to rail at "submission"
to the Compromise. All Democrats did not take the line which
their press did, however, and one member of a Democratic state
convention publicly declared that the Tallahassee Floridian totally
misrepresented the views of the Florida Democracy. He declared
that the Whig Sentinel represented Democratic views on the Com-
promise far better than did the Democratic papers. The editor of
the Sentinel asserted that he had talked to no one, Whig or Demo-
crat, who was against the Compromise."4
Meanwhile the backers of the Compromise in Congress had been
fighting a long, bitter, uphill fight against the Southern extremists,
40. Nevins, I, 288-291, 315.
41. Jacksonville Florida Republican, March 21, April 25, 1850.
42. Ibid., June 13, 27, 1850; Nevins, I, 315-317.
43. St. Augustine Ancient City, June 22, 1850; Tallahassee Florida Sen-
tinel, July 9, 1850.



the Northern free-soil forces, and the administration of President
Taylor. Influenced by pride, jealousy, obstinacy, and hatred for
Clay, Taylor had thrown the full weight of his influence against
the Compromise. Calhoun's death on the last day of March,
however, was followed by Taylor's death on July 9. Not only were
the forces of opposition weakened by these events, but the forces
of compromise were strengthened, for the new President, Millard
Fillmore, threw the influence of his administration behind the Clay
By mid-August a series of bills embodying the principal features
of the Compromise had been enacted. California was to be admitted
as a free state, in the rest of the Mexican cession territorial govern-
ments were to be established with no reference to slavery restric-
tions, the slave trade in the District of Columbia was abolished,
Texas was compensated for giving up her claims to New Mexico,
and a stringent fugitive slave law was approved. The entire Florida
delegation opposed the California and slave-trade bills and favored
the organization of the territories.45 Cabell favored the indemnifi-
cation of Texas, while Morton and Yulee opposed it.46 All three
are believed to have favored the fugitive slave law, though Cabell
registered no vote on it in the house and there was no roll call on
the final vote in the Senate.47 Cabell was the only one of the group
to support the Compromise as a whole after its passage.
In the Congressional election of 1850 in Florida all other issues
were subordinated to that of the Compromise. The Democrats
vigorously attacked it, while the Whigs as warmly defended it.
In convention at Suwannee Springs, the Democrats named John
Beard for Congress and for the first time adopted no platform.
Beard's most outstanding public service to this time had been as reg-
ister of public lands. The Whigs tore into Beard and his party with
telling sarcasm. Beard was found to have been an ardent supporter
of Harrison in 1840 and was charged with having accepted office
at the hands of Whig President Tyler.48 The failure of the Demo-
crats to write a platform was charged to the fact that the Nashville
Convention had been meeting and the Compromise was still being
44. Nevins, I, 318-319, 337.
45. Congressional Globe, 31 Congress, 1 Session, pp. 1573, 1589, 1772,
1776, 1830, 1837.
46. Ibid., pp. 1555, 1764. 47. Ibid., pp. 1647, 1660, 1807.
48. Jacksonville Florida Republican, July 25, 1850.



debated in Congress at the time their convention met. Democrats,
said the Whigs, had not known what to favor and what to oppose.49
By general consent Cabell was to be the Whig standard-bearer in
Florida again. County meetings were held to endorse his candidacy
and to adopt resolutions favoring the Compromise. Since there was
no state convention, there was no formal Whig platform, but the
resolutions of the county meetings, the professions of Cabell, and
the editorials of the Whig press soon made the Compromise and
preservation of the Union the Whig campaign principles.50
Beard, in his campaign, formulated the stand which came to be
associated with the Democrats. It was simply opposition to the
Compromise. "I love the Union with a reasonable affection," wrote
Beard, "not with a servile or superstitious reverence, as some great
invisible deity." He could see nothing that the South had gained
in the Compromise and proclaimed: "For one I will never agree to
any such terms; they may call me traitor, disunionist, or what they
please; I would resist to the 'last extremity.' "51 This was the theme
Beard preached all over Florida.
Cabell accepted the gauntlet thrown by Beard and faced him
squarely on the issue. "Major Beard is for 'a dissolution of the
Union' because of the passage of the bills, which together make
up the 'Omnibus' or 'Compromise Bill.' I am not. The issues are
Union or disunion-I am for Union: Peace or war-I am for
peace."52 The Whigs also appealed to the old Jacksonian Democrats,
recounted Jackson's opposition to nullification, and told the "old-
fashioned Democrats" that their party now denounced their hero's
doctrines as federalism. Though Beard continued to attack the
Compromise and to attempt to brand it as a creature of the abolition-
ists, Cabell stood firm in his stand that it was a measure to keep
the peace, to save the Union. "Never," he declared, "either as
Representative or Candidate, will I assume the awful responsibility
of recommending to you a dissolution of the Union."53
Beard was not opposed on the stump personally by Cabell, who
was in Washington all during the campaign, but the Whig cause was
ably sustained by David S. Walker. Speaking often in conjunction
with Richard K. Call or George T. Ward, he campaigned for the

49. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, July 2, 1850. 50. Ibid., August 13, 1850.
51. Jacksonville Florida Republican, September 26, 1850.
52. Ibid. 53. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, September 17, 24, 1850.



re-election of Cabell and for his own election to the post of register
of public lands. Opposing Walker for this post was the Democrat
Mariano D. Papy. Papy expressly disclaimed the dissolution doc-
trines propounded by his fellow Democrat Beard, and advocated
division of the western territories by an extension of the Missouri
Compromise line.54 The Whig newspapers followed the line laid
down by Cabell and Walker, the Sentinel declaring that the election
would show whether or not the people of Florida stood on the
platform of the revolutionistss." The Republican urged, "Let us
unite in the State, and elect the Upholder of the South and Defender
of the Union, E. C. Cabell."55
In the October election Cabell and Walker were victorious, and
one Whig editor proclaimed that their triumph was proof that "the
people have declared for Compromise-have chosen peace-have
spoken in thunder tones for Union-and demanded adherence to
'non-intervention.' "56 The overall election results, however, show
that the Democrats had gained from the controversies of the previous
two years. Cabell's majority was smaller than in 1848, and the
Whigs lost control of the General Assembly, although the Demo-
cratic majority in the senate was only one and in the house of
representatives, two. Cabell's 1848 majority of 577 had dropped
to 481 as he defeated Beard 4,531 to 4,050. Though fewer votes
were cast in the race for register of public lands, Walker's majority
was 629 as he defeated Papy 4,414 to 3,785. Though he had run
on virtually the same issues as Cabell, Walker had not been involved
in the Nashville Convention controversy, nor had the lines been as
sharply drawn between him and his opponent as they had been
between Cabell and Beard.57
Cabell carried most of the more populous counties in the state,
which were also usually those having the most valuable farm land,
producing the most cotton and tobacco, and paying the greatest
amount of state taxes. Beard's strength was in the large but thinly
populated counties of South and East Florida and in sparsely popu-
lated Washington and Franklin counties in the West. He also
carried Jefferson County, a traditionally Democratic stronghold, and
54. Ibid., September 10, 1850.
55. Ibid., October 1, 1850; Jacksonville Florida Republican, October 3,
1850. 56. Jacksonville Florida Republican, October 16, 1850.
57. Pensacola Gazette, November 9, 1850; Tallahassee Florida Sentinel,
November 19, 1850.



the only black-belt plantation county of Middle Florida which never
succumbed to the Whigs. Except for Jefferson County, those carried
by Beard were the relatively poor, small farming counties.58
After the successful carrying of the Compromise measures and
the electoral triumph of Unionists all over the South, the reconvened
session of the Nashville Convention in November came as a distinct
anticlimax. Few delegates attended; two of the states originally
represented, Arkansas and Texas, had no representation; and the
debates attracted little public attention. The extremists dominated
this session, however, and it condemned most of the Compromise
and called for a Southern Congress to restore the rights of the South
or to provide for her safety and independence.59
Late in the same month, November, 1850, the fifth session of
the Florida General Assembly met in Tallahassee. In this session
much time was devoted to consideration of problems arising from
federal-state relations. In his message to the Assembly Brown dealt
with many topics, the most important touching upon education,
internal improvements, banking, and the sectional controversies.
Appalled by the fact that almost two-thirds of the school-age children
of Florida could not read and write, he urged greater emphasis on
public education. David S. Walker, who as register of public lands
was ex-officio state superintendent of schools, worked diligently to
promote a system of schools, but little real progress was made in
this line before the Civil War.60
In the field of internal improvements Brown recommended to the
Assembly that a board be created to control the lands granted by
the federal government to the state for the financing of such
improvements. This board was also to draft an overall plan for a
state-wide system of improvements to eliminate what Brown termed
"local disorganized projects." Following this recommendation, the
Assembly created such a board to consist of one member elected by
the Assembly from each judicial circuit and ex-officio members in
the persons of the governor, attorney-general, treasurer, and comp-
troller. The elected members were James W. Bryant, Archibald T.
Bennett, Richard K. Call, and John Darling."6
58. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, February 25, 1851; Seventh Census of
the United States 1850, pp. 400-401, 407-408.
59. Jacksonville Florida Republican, November 28, 1850; Nevins, I, 354.
60. Florida Senate Journal (1850-1851), pp. 86-87.
61. Ibid., pp. 9-11; Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, January 28, 1851.



Brown noted that a request for a bank charter would be made
of the Assembly, and he urged sympathetic consideration of the
propriety of establishing a bank moderately capitalized "upon sound
principles and under salutary restrictions."62 When this application
was made, the Assembly approved it and chartered the State Bank
of Florida at Tallahassee. The proposed bank could not meet the
high standards set for it, however, and never progressed beyond the
paper stage. It is interesting to note, nonetheless, that the charter
was granted by a legislature with a slight Democratic majority, a
fact indicative of the almost imperceptible change taking place in
the outlook of the Democrats. Not only were Whigs who feared
for the rights of the South infiltrating Democratic ranks, but the
Democrats themselves were losing their concern over "monied mo-
nopolies." The softening of the economic differences between the
parties probably goes far to explain the generally harmonious nature
of this session.63
In reference to sectional troubles Brown strongly urged willing
and cheerful submission by all sections to the paramount law of
the land. Nothing short of that, he declared, could preserve the
Union "in real vitality or even in hollow semblance." Brown feared,
however, that such submission might not be given, and he invited
the Assembly to give him the power to call a state convention "for!
the purpose of devising a remedy" in the event of the repeal of thei
fugitive slave law or any other "aggressive" measure. He also laid
before it the Nashville recommendations for a Southern Congress.
The Nashville recommendations were not acted upon by the
Assembly, to the hearty approval of the Sentinel, which remarked
that this omission should serve to "check any attempt to get up
bastard representations by Court House meetings, in which not a
tenth of the people are represented." Despite Brown's request for
power to summon a convention, and although various other measures
were before the legislature in reference to the right of secession, the
absurdity of secession, fugitive slaves, and the right of revolution,
no action was completed in this session on any such proposition
concerning slavery.64

62. All references to Brown's message to the legislature are to the text
published in Jacksonville Florida Republican, December 5, 1850, and in
Pensacola Gazette, December 7, 1850.
63. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, January 28, 1851. 64. Ibid.



This session of the Assembly was responsible for the election of
a United States Senator to succeed Yulee in 1852. Many assumed
that Yulee would automatically be re-elected by the Democratic
majority, but Yulee himself had become aware of a combination
against him even before the legislature had assembled. Though he
received the endorsement of the Democratic caucus in December,
the power of the disaffected Democrats was of serious proportions
because in joint session the Democrats outnumbered the Whigs
only 31-28. The hostility toward Yulee had several bases. Among
Whigs, and possibly among some Democrats, opposition was based
upon his radicalism on sectional issues. There was also feeling that
he had neglected South Florida, which angered Democrats from
Key West and from Hillsborough County. Furthermore, commercial
interests which would not be served by Yulee's Fernandina to Cedar
Keys railroad, chartered by the legislature of 1848-1849, wished
to remove him from a position which he had utilized to shower
benefits upon the road. This again involved the Key West Demo-
crats who saw such a railroad drawing off much of their shipping
traffic. Rival railroad interests in Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and
Pensacola, both Whig and Democratic, were anxious to weaken
Yulee. It would be difficult to say how many legislators opposed
Yulee on political grounds, how many on economic grounds, or how
many because of his stand on national issues-but the mixture of
motives must be recognized.65
Thirty votes constituted the majority to elect a United States
Senator, and on two ballots Yulee received twenty-nine, while the
remainder were blank. On the third ballot Yulee's vote fell to
twenty-eight, and on the fourth thirty-one votes were cast for
Stephen Russell Mallory of Key West. Disaffected Democrats had
joined with the Whigs to defeat Yulee, just as in 1849 disaffected
Whigs had joined the Democrats to defeat Ward.66 Though Yulee
contested Mallory's election on the grounds that he had been elected
29-0 on the first ballot, he was unsuccessful in the contest.
Whigs were not laboring under the delusion that Mallory was
their man. They made it plain that neither man would have been

65. The railway rivalries are discussed in some detail in Arthur W.
Thompson, "The Railroad Background of the Florida Senatorial Election of
1851," Florida Historical Quarterly, XXXI (January, 1953), 181-195.
66. Florida Senate Journal (1850-1851), pp. 278-279.



their choice had they the power to select a Senator, but Mallory
was the best they could do under the circumstances. Though lead-
ing Democrats realized that Mallory's views on sectional controversies
were much the same as Yulee's, Whigs insisted that his views were
unknown. As the Sentinel put it, the Whigs had "bought a pig
in a poke."67 Nonetheless, their object-to be rid of Yulee-was

67. February 4, 1851.



The results of the election of 1850 in Florida seemed to show that
Floridians were not yet ready to support the cause of secession
or disunion. Yet at the same time Cabell's reduced majority and the
loss of the legislature to the Democrats suggest that the confidence
of the people in the Whig party had been shaken. Since there were
no vital local issues in this election, this loss of confidence probably
centered in the ability, or the lack of it, of the Whigs to protect
the vital interests of the South. Throughout Florida, as throughout
the rest of the South, the year 1851 saw the formation of Southern
Rights associations and Constitutional Union clubs. Both move-
ments aimed at rallying Southerners of both parties to their banners
and both had a measure of success, but over the long run the
Southern Rights groups won out. Generally the leadership of the
latter was in the hands of radical Democrats, while the Union
movement was in the hands of Whigs.
Neither Southern nor Northern extremists were willing to accept
the Compromise, and as the months went on, the extremes grew
in influence and numbers at the expense of the moderate middle
ground. In 1851, however, the middle-of-the-road groups seemed
to have triumphed. Daniel Webster noted with sarcasm that all
politicians were now saying "they always meant to stand by the
Union to the last."' The Congressional short session of 1850-1851
was held in an atmosphere of great good feeling and cordiality and
the phrase "the finality of the Compromise" was on all lips. Among
the Democrats moderates were for a time strengthened, and talk
of secession gave way to acceptance of the Compromise and an
emphasis on Southern "rights."2
In Florida pro-Union public meetings were held, usually by
Whigs, though one was sponsored in Key West by Democrats. The
Sentinel expressed Whig approval of the Union movement and took
favorable notice of attempts to organize a Union party, particularly
in Georgia. It declared that "whenever a Union party shall be

1. Allan Nevins, Ordeal of the Union (2 vols., New York, 1947), I, 346.
2. Nevins, I, 348-349; Avery O. Craven, The Growth of Southern Na-
tionalism, 1848-1861 (Baton Rouge, La., 1953), p. 121.



organized on broad, generous, liberal, constitutional ground, we
propose to be with it."3 Conservative Union meetings were soon
noted in the North as well, and in New York businessmen and
merchants gave much time and money to the movement. These
were aimed at weakening the free-soil forces in both parties.
Promoters of the Union party in the South were using an appeal
which the sectionalists had used in the 1840's. They urged the
uniting of all Southerners into one party, but they would have this
party cooperate with Northern conservatives to control the Union
and stifle extremists. Richard K. Call urged such action upon
Floridians. He pointed out that if all conservatives submerged their
"party strife," extremists would not be able to play them off against
each other. If a national Union party could not be formed on such
grounds, then, he urged, a Southern Union party should be formed
not for sectional purposes but to hold the balance between the
opposing political parties of the North.4
Representative Cabell became an advocate of a Union party early
in 1852, as he became increasingly fearful of the disruption of the
Whig party. In the North the Clay-Webster Whigs were sharply
dividing from the free-soil Whigs, and the latter were growing in
influence. Southerners who had endorsed the Compromise had
almost universally warned that the fugitive slave law provision must
be honored by the North. Yet as the fifties grew on, free-soil Whigs
everywhere were rejecting that law and attempting to nullify it
through the action of local governments.5
Cabell spoke on the subject of parties in the House of Representa-
tives on February 3, 1852, charging that the Northern Whig party
had run wild on the slavery question. Yet he went on to urge that
the Union party movements of the South should ally themselves
with the Whig party because the Whig free-soilers were going over
to the Democrats and Southern Whigs and Northern Union Whigs
were the only dependable allies of the Unionists. Though a Whig,
he pointed out that he had given all aid in his power to the Union
associations in the South and had tried to induce the Whigs of
Florida to unite themselves with a Constitutional Union party. He

3. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, February 18, 1851.
4. R. K. Call to Joseph Clisby, November 29, 1851, ibid., December
2, 1851.
5. Nevins, I, 350-353.



strongly urged the nomination of Millard Fillmore as the Whig
presidential candidate and warned that a different nominee might
render impossible the survival of the Whig party in the South.
When asked if he would support Winfield Scott, he answered:
"unhesitatingly, NO. I will not support him, but will do all in my
power to defeat the election of any man who, in such times as these,
withholds his opinions from the public," and he added, ". I think
I express the sentiment of the Southern Whig Party."6 Cabell was
in close association with Robert Toombs and Alexander H. Stephens
of Georgia in supporting the Union movement and in opposing
In the two years after 1850, two things that stand out are the
fluidity that came to national political lines and the damage that was
done to political parties. Not only were there rifts between Northern
and Southern wings of the parties, but there were divisions within
each of those wings. The Whig party which had done the most to
promote the Compromise was the worst sufferer from its strains
and stresses. Its Northern wing was torn apart when the free-soil
forces bitterly assailed the Clay-Webster Compromise Whigs. Its
Southern organizations in several instances had lost their solidarity
in the short-lived Union movements which had sought to bring
together Southern Democrats and Whigs in one organization. In
Florida the Union party movement had never been as strong as, for
instance, it had been in Alabama or Georgia, and old party lines
seemed stronger. Yet as the free-soil elements came to dominate
Northern Whiggery, the Florida Whigs increasingly found them-
selves at odds with the national Whigs, and the Florida leaders
became more nervously defensive about their predicament.
The Democrats, better organized and older as a party, suffered
less than the Whigs, and their Southern organizations with the help
of big city machines determined to keep their national party "right"
on slavery. The Florida Democrats in 1852 began to modify their
program, soft-pedaling the disunionists. Democratic papers por-
trayed their party as the great party of the South which had never
thought of breaking up the Union, while the Democratic state
convention in April, 1852, adopted an inoffensive platform depre-
cating the "mischievous and unwise" agitation of the slavery ques-
tion. The Whig Sentinel observed that the platform planks "mean
6. Congressional Globe, 32 Congress, 1 Session, pp. 451-456.



whatever interpretation may be put upon them, and do credit to the
political tact of the gentlemen who drew them."7
For governor the Democrats chose James E. Broome, after nine
ballots. A Leon County planter, Broome had come from South
Carolina in 1837 and had been a vigorous opponent of the Compro-
mise of 1850. The Florida Whig described him as "a Secessionist
in the abstract and the concrete, of the strictest sect of the South
Carolina separationists." As a concession to the moderates, Augustus
E. Maxwell was nominated to oppose Cabell in the Congressional
race. Maxwell had been a defender of the Compromise and was
unanimously chosen on the first ballot. Even the Whig conceded
that he was "generally popular."8
Gagging at the attempt of Democratic papers to paint their party
as the defender of the Compromise and to whitewash Broome's
extremism, the editor of the Sentinel incredulously cried: "Do they
imagine ... that they can cause the people to forget their course but
a short time ago, when some of them declared that the Compromise
'tore the Constitution to tatters,' and that they 'would rather see the
Union dissolved than the adoption of Compromise Measures?' "
The Whig campaign opened with spirited county meetings
designed to rally the people behind the Compromise as a final settle-
ment of sectional issues. The first meeting, in Gadsden County,
issued a call for a state-wide Whig convention, endorsed the Com-
promise and Fillmore, and named delegates to the proposed state
convention. Ward was suggested for the governorship and Cabell
for Congress. Though many Whigs were cool to the idea of a
convention, it gradually gained support.'o
Meanwhile reports came from Washington of a caucus of the
Whig members of Congress to call a national convention. South-
erners had tried to have the caucus commit the convention in
advance to support the finality of the Compromise, but they had
been overruled. A number of Southern Whigs thereupon walked
out and joined in publishing an "Address of Southern Whigs to
Whigs of the United States." In it they declared that they had
wished to induce the Whig party to assume national grounds by

7. April 27, 1852.
8. Quoted in Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, May 11, 1852; see also June
22, 1852.
9. Ibid., June 8, 1852. 10. Ibid., May 4, 1852.



endorsing the Compromise and terminating agitation on the slavery
question. They predicted the defeat of the party if such action were
not taken." The schism in the national party was daily growing.
Whig county meetings in Florida continued to be held in Jackson,
Santa Rosa, Jefferson, Marion, Columbia, and Duval counties. In
Duval resolutions were adopted endorsing tariff and internal
improvement views and smacking of "native Americanism." Two
speakers, J. P. Sanderson and James W. Bryant, voiced their
willingness to desert the Whigs if free-soil forces controlled the
national convention. Sanderson was later a presidential-elector
candidate, and Bryant was a delegate to the national convention.
The place and time for the state convention were finally set by the
Middle Florida district meeting which designated July 14 at
On the eve of the Whig National Convention, which opened at
Baltimore on June 16, Cabell rose again in the House of Repre-
sentatives to hurl a warning at the Northern wing of his party. The
Compromise measures, he cautioned, must be sustained and a
candidate chosen who would uphold them. While he conceded that
he did not intend to join the Democratic party "and adopt its prin-
ciples and heresies," still he threatened that "if Northern Whigs
cannot meet us here; if they are resolved to go on with the slavery
agitation, and to repeal the fugitive slave law, the party ought not
to be preserved." Pointedly he attacked the candidacy of Winfield
Scott and pressed the claims of Fillmore to the presidency.13
The Whig National Convention rather rapidly and easily ap-
proved a platform accepting the Compromise as a final settlement
of the questions which it embraced. Members of the extreme anti-
slavery wing immediately charged a bargain by party managers by
which a Southern platform would be given in exchange for Southern
acceptance of Scott. The charge probably was not without founda-
tion. Several Southern delegates switched to Scott, who triumphed
over Fillmore and Webster on the fifty-third ballot' William A.
Graham of North Carolina was then named for the vice-presidency.
As it turned out, the staunchest Southern Whigs would take Scott,
but they were a minority.'4 The extreme antislavery men walked

11. Ibid. 12. Ibid., May 18, 25, June 1, 15, 1852.
13. Congressional Globe, 32 Congress, 1 Session, pp. 682-685.
14. Nevins, II, 27-29; Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, June 29, 1852.



out and named their own presidential and vice-presidential candi-
dates in another convention.
Florida Whig papers were generally disappointed, but decided to
accept Scott. The Pensacola Gazette said nothing more could be
asked of Scott than that he stand on the platform. The Sentinel
countered charges that Seward was backing Scott with the news
that Van Buren supported the Democratic nominee, but acknow-
ledged that Floridians had a special reason to dislike Scott. The
"reasons of a local character" which made Scott so distasteful to
Floridians arose from an order which he had issued during the Indian
war in 1836. Its substance was a criticism of the civilian popula-
tion of Florida for showing what Scott termed panic and cowardice
in the face of Indian depredations. Scott tried to remedy the situ-
ation in 1852 by stating that new information had caused him to
believe that his censures had been unmerited.15 The damage, how-
ever, had been done.
The Democratic National Convention in Baltimore had mean-
while chosen Franklin Pierce and William R. King to head their
ticket and had pledged adherence to the Compromise and an end
to slavery agitation. Pierce was not encumbered with any past
national record and was a highly "available" candidate. Since the
two-thirds rule prevailed in the Democratic convention, the South
had a larger voice both in the naming of candidates and the adop-
tion of principles than it did in the Whig convention. In a great
ratification meeting in Tallahassee, Augustus Maxwell was enthusi-
astically applauded when he extolled Pierce as a great defender of
the Compromise. The Sentinel reported, however, that when James
E. Broome rose in the same assembly and stated his opposition to the
Compromise, he received as great an ovation as had Maxwell in
praising it.16
The Whig state convention met in July at Tallahassee and was
clearly under the control of the staunchest old party leaders. Richard
K. Call was chosen presiding officer, and Lewis I. Fleming and
Columbus Drew were secretaries. George T. Ward explained to
the convention the events that had transpired in Baltimore, and
the nominees of the national convention were approved, with only

15. Pensacola Gazette, June 26, 1852; Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, July
6, 1852; Winfield Scott to Thomas Randall, June 7, 1852, in Pensacola
Gazette, August 21, 1852. 16. June 15, 22, 1852.



the representatives of Gadsden County voting in the negative. The
convention then nominated Ward for the governorship and Cabell
for Congress. After the nominations, however, the convention was
plunged into a tumultuous controversy when a letter arrived from
Cabell declaring his intention not to support Scott under any con-
ditions. Ward's reaction was a flat refusal to be a candidate on the
same ticket with Cabell. A secret session followed at which attempts
were reportedly made to strike Cabell from the ticket, but they
were not successful. The convention then nominated both Ward
and Cabell again, and great pressures were brought to bear upon
Cabell who ultimately agreed to "acquiesce" in the nomination of
After the convention adjourned, the Democratic Jacksonville
News reported the death of the Whig party "by political suicide,"
and added: "The body will be embalmed and kept over ground
till November, when it will be laid in a grave."18 The Floridian
taunted the Whigs, saying that surely no Democrat who had previ-
ously admired Cabell's independence could now support him for
re-election. While the Pensacola Gazette explained away Cabell's
repudiation of Scott as due to the bad influence of such men as
Robert Toombs and Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia, Cabell him-
self simply stated that he had believed he was fighting the fight of
his people and that "if I have erred at all it is from too great zeal
in the advocacy of a righteous cause."19 The career of the popular
young Congressman was dying of the sickness of the Whig party.
During the campaign in the state more attention was devoted to
the gubernatorial race than had hitherto been the case. This interest
stemmed from the fact that Broome was considered the leader of the
radical "South Carolina school" in Florida. The lines were sharply
drawn between Broome and Ward, the latter an ultraconservative
Unionist standing squarely on the Whig national platform. By con-
trast, in the Congressional race both Cabell and Maxwell were de-
fenders of moderate measures and sectional conciliation. Ward
was joined in his campaign by the incumbent governor, Thomas
17. Pensacola Gazette, July 24, 31, 1852; Dorothy Dodd, "The Secession
Movement in Florida, 1850-1861," Florida Historical Quarterly, XII (July,
1933), p. 16.
18. Quoted in Pensacola Gazette, August 14, 1852.
19. Tallahassee Floridian, August 21, 1852; Pensacola Gazette, July 31,
1852; Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, September 28, 1852.



Brown, who fought Broome almost as vigorously as if he were the
Whig candidate himself. The Whig press etched in sharp lines
the picture of Broome as a secessionist, a radical, a destroyer of the
When the official returns were compiled, Broome was found to
have defeated Ward by 292 votes, 4,628 to 4,336. Maxwell
defeated Cabell by only 22 votes, 4,590 to 4,568. In addition, the
Democrats won decisive control of both houses of the General
Assembly. "The Whigs of little Florida," wrote the Sentinel, "have
gone down with the national flag at their masthead, in a gallant
struggle, under the most unfavorable circumstances, to uphold the
integrity and nationality of the Whig party."21
The presidential election followed the next month, and Pierce
and King swept all before them. Interest in Florida had dropped
considerably between the two elections, however, and 1,996 fewer
votes were cast in November than in October. The Whig presi-
dential electors carried only Nassau, Walton, and Holmes counties.22
The results of this election were a bitter vindication of the fears and
futile efforts of Cabell. He, more than any other Whig leader in
Florida, realized that the party schism was real, was serious, and
was virtually impossible to compromise. It was this realization which
motivated his fruitless search for new alignments and which explains
his interest in the Union party movement.
In contrast to the Whigs, the Democrats had made great efforts
during the winter of 1851-1852 to reorganize and reunite their
party. Under the pressure of popular opinion the national party
had accepted the "finality of the Compromise," and the Florida
branch of the organization had made a quick about-face to show a
moderate, more conciliatory attitude. This fact, taken in conjunc-
tion with the internal dissension of the Whigs, goes far to explain
the trend to the Democrats in Florida. The fact, too, that Demo-
cratic state nominees in 1852 were taken from both moderate and
extreme factions possibly attracted a wider range of voters. The
rapid growth of the state and the patterns of immigration into it
also had some influence. Between 1850 and 1860 the number of
South-Carolina-born inhabitants in Florida almost doubled, and the
number of Georgians increased by about 50 per cent. The largest
20. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, September 28, 1852.
21. Ibid., October 19, November 23, 1852. 22. Ibid., December 7, 1852.



number of nonnative Floridians were from Georgia and South Caro-
lina, in that order, and together they constituted about one-third of
the total population by 1860. One would expect that much of the
new population of the forties and fifties went to the frontier regions
of East and South Florida, but some of it must have gone to the
old Middle Florida regions and influenced to some degree the shift
of the old Whig counties into the Democratic column.
The most important change in the election map of 1852 was the
loss of both Gadsden and Leon counties by Cabell and Ward. Tra-
ditionally Whig counties, their defection put the richest part of
Florida's black-belt into the hands of the Democrats. Leon and
Gadsden, with traditionally Democratic Jefferson County, were the
top three counties from the standpoint of slave population, cash
value of farms, bales of cotton produced, and sources of revenue
for the state government. They were not the largest counties from
the standpoint of white population, though Gadsden was first, Leon
was third, and Jefferson was sixth.23
Cabell lost three counties in East Florida-Alachua, Marion, and
St. Johns-which he had carried in 1850. He had carried Marion
in 1848 and had tied it in 1846. Surprisingly, however, he added
three East Florida counties-Nassau, Columbia, and Orange-
which he had not carried in 1850. None of these counties had a
large slave population, except Nassau where it was on the decrease.
His opposition to Scott may have been influential in these acquisi-
tions, since Scott was particularly unpopular in the East, where most
of the Indian war had been fought. On the other hand, consider-
ing the narrowness of his defeat, it may well be that the decisive
factor in the Congressional race was Cabell's "acquiescence" in Scott's
The decisive Democratic sweep in 1852 left the Florida Whigs
confused and dispirited. Gradually the old leaders seemed to be
dropping away, and young men were coming to be attracted to the
Democrats. In 1852 both Daniel Webster and Henry Clay died,
and with them died the most important conservative influences
among the Northern Whigs. In Florida Cabell left the political
scene to become president of the Pensacola and Georgia Railroad,
and in 1859 he moved to Missouri where he spent the remainder
23. Seventh Census of the United States: 1850 (Washington, 1853),
pp. 400-408.



of his life. Only the three larger Whig papers still survived, the
Florida Sentinel, the Florida Republican, and the Pensacola Gazette.
Throughout 1853 there was little to arouse political interest among
Whigs, and the columns of their press were mostly occupied with
business news and reports of Southern commercial conventions.
By 1854, however, sectional issues had been newly inflamed by
the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. This bill in large measure grew out of
the desire of business interests of the old Northwest, among whom
Stephen A. Douglas was important, to have a transcontinental rail-
road built on a Northern route. The bill, largely managed by Doug-
las, was enacted to organize territorial government in the areas
through which such a railroad would run. To avoid fanning the
slavery issue into flame again, and to get Southern support for the
bill, Douglas was willing to leave the question of slavery to be
settled by the people in the area being organized. Though the impli-
cation of this was that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was invali-
dated, a Southern Whig move to amend the bill so as explicitly to
repeal the Missouri Compromise was successful. Defenders of the
Kansas-Nebraska Act tried to argue that the 1850 Compromise had
already repealed the Missouri Compromise, but to no avail. North-
ern opinion was shocked at the invalidation of what had come to be
viewed as a solemn compact, a hallowed tradition, and a storm of
controversy and indignation was let loose in the nation.24
Florida Democrats, remembering that in 1850 their failure to
write a state platform was attacked by the Whigs as reflecting their
confusion about sectional issues, began to raise objections in 1854 to
holding a state convention. The Ancient City declared that a con-
vention would be inexpedient, and the Republican reported that
some Democrats were fearful that the convention might drop incum-
bent Representative Maxwell as the 1846 convention had dropped
Brockenbrough. Nevertheless, a convention was scheduled for Madi-
son in July.25
Meanwhile, a Whig meeting in St. Johns County suggested a
party convention at Lake City, then called "Alligator," and other
counties endorsed the idea. The Sentinel was cool toward a state
convention, but the Republican urged one so that united support

24. Nevins, II, 95-96, 109; Wilfred C. Binkley, American Political Parties
(New York, 1947), pp. 109-191.
25. Jacksonville Florida Republican, June 29, 1854.



for the candidates might be obtained. The latter paper took note of
the Kansas-Nebraska Act and reported that it had serious objections
to the measure, but that it approved of the repeal of the Missouri
At Madison the Democrats approved the Kansas-Nebraska Bill as
"a measure conceived in a spirit of justice to all the States" and
renominated Maxwell for Congress.27 The Whigs dropped the
idea of a state convention, after St. Johns and Duval County meet-
ings had endorsed Thomas Brown for Congress and had agreed to
dispensing with the state meeting. Brown had earlier been put for-
ward by Leon and Gadsden counties. The local issues in this race
for Congress were either personal or of little consequence. Whigs
emphasized the attraction of Brown to "the solitary backwoodsmen
and pioneers," called for a tariff on Canadian lumber, and defended
the right of the people to cut light wood on the public land. Demo-
crats urged a fusion of Whigs and Democrats in the light of what
was happening to the national Whig party, but Whigs insisted that
there was no reason why party lines should not be maintained in
local elections.28
Brown swept aside petty issues and conducted his campaign largely
on the Kansas-Nebraska issue. He charged that Democrats who had
introduced the measure had reopened the slavery controversy, thus
violating their pledge to the "finality" of the Compromise of 1850.
Had he been in Congress, he affirmed, he would have opposed con-
sideration of the measure. He trimmed a bit, however, in admitting
that had he failed in blocking its consideration he would have voted
for it. His support would have been given because it repealed the
Missouri Compromise, which was in his view merely a forerunner
of the Wilmot Proviso. This curious attitude was perhaps a con-
cession to growing Southern hostility toward measures restrictive of
slavery. Some Whigs felt that Brown's record as governor might be
interpreted as lacking concern for Southern rights, and the attempt
was made in this campaign to give him a more pronounced pro-
Southern coloration.29
The Whig cause could not be saved, however. Except in Gadsden

26. Ibid., July 13, 27, 30, August 3, 1854. 27. Ibid., August 3, 1854.
28. Ibid., August 10, 17, 24, September 7, 1854.
29. Ibid., September 28, 1854; Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, August 29,



County, the Middle Florida planters who left the party in 1852 did
not come back, and enough voters deserted the Whigs in Wakulla
and the western stronghold of Escambia to lose those counties for
them. In the East, of the six counties which Cabell had carried in
1852, Brown lost Columbia, Putnam, and Levy, and added only
Hamilton, where there had been a tie vote in 1852. About 1,000
more votes were cast in 1854 than in 1852, and one might assume
that the new voters were all Democrats. Whereas Cabell had lost
in 1852 by 22 votes, Brown lost by 1,074. Maxwell was victorious,
5,638 to 4,564.80
After the Congressional election of 1854 the Whig party never
again functioned on a state-wide basis in Florida. This election did
not mark the end of the two-party system in the state, however, even
though it did emphasize the fact of Democratic dominance in Florida
politics. Less than two months after this election Whig papers began
to take notice of the "Know Nothing" movement, and in 1855 the
larger portion of old Whig leaders identified themselves with the
movement, which called itself the American party. Formal organiza-
tion of the party came at a state convention in Tallahassee in Novem-
ber, 1855. Presiding over it was Thomas Brown, and old-line
Whigs clearly dominated the gathering. Richard K. Call played a
prominent role in the American National Convention in 1856,
where he turned down moves to nominate him for the vice-presi-
dency and successfully nominated for that office Andrew J. Donel-
son.S1 Millard Fillmore was the presidential candidate. As in the
Whig convention of 1852, radical antislavery men split off from the
American convention. In 1856, however, they became Republicans.
In the 1855 local elections the Americans, and candidates still
calling themselves Whigs, made encouraging headway in areas
where the Whigs had been traditionally strong. Though the main
strength of the American party lay among the old Whigs, some
Whigs had become Democrats, while some Democrats had become
Americans. Notable examples of these two trends were George W.
Call, Jr., and William W. McCall. Call, an ex-Whig, was a Demo-
cratic presidential elector in 1856, while McCall, an ex-Democrat,
was an American presidential elector. The American state slate was

30. Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, November 23, 1852, November 7, 1854.
31. Ibid., November 28, 1854, September 11, December 11, 1855; Jack-
sonville Florida Republican, March 6, 1856.



David S. Walker for governor and James M. Baker for Congress-
man. The Democrats named Madison S. Perry for the governorship
and George S. Hawkins for Congress. Perry, like his predecessor,
Broome, was of the radical wing of the party, as was also Hawkins,
a former New York lawyer.32
The Democrats decisively won all of the state-wide races, Ameri-
can strength being for the most part in old Whig regions. In the
General Assembly the Democrats retained control, 29 to 16 in the
House and 13 to 7 in the Senate. There had been virtually no
change in the relative strength of the Democrats and their opponents
in the legislature since 1852. This control had enabled the Demo-
crats to return Yulee to the Senate in 1855 in place of Morton. The
Democratic triumph of 1856 and the split in the national American
party were correctly viewed by men on both sides as the death blow
to the American party in Florida."8
In 1858 there was no organized political opposition to the Demo-
crats, though John Westcott, with the support of Governor Perry,
tried to unseat Representative Hawkins, who was supported by
Yulee. Westcott ran as an "Independent Democrat," but he made
a poor showing and was defeated. The major point of contention
among Democrats in this race was rivalry over railroad interests."4
Not until 1860 did the old Whigs again bestir themselves to a last
effort against the Democrats, this time in the guise of the Constitu-
tional Union party. In the spring and summer of 1860 county
meetings were held all over the state, and a state convention at
Quincy named delegates to a national convention which nominated
John Bell of Tennessee for president and Edward Everett of Massa-
chusetts for vice-president. The state convention chose for the gov-
ernorship Edward Hopkins, an ex-Whig, and for Congress Benjamin
F. Allen, an ex-Whig and editor of the Florida Sentinel.35
Union or secession were the only issues of this election, and on

32. Jacksonville Florida Republican, October 4, 11, 18, 1855, July 16,
1856; Tallahassee Floridian, June 28, 1856; Dodd, "Secession Movement,"
p. 22.
33. Tallahassee Floridian, November 29, 1856; Jacksonville Florida Re-
publican, November 26, 1856.
34. Jacksonville Florida News, August 28, 1858, March 17, 1859. See
also Thompson, "Political Nativism in Florida, 1848-1860," Journal of South-
ern History, XV (February, 1949), 61.
35. Fernandina East Floridian, May 17, July 19, 1860.



their demand for secession if Lincoln should be elected, the Demo-
crats carried all before them. Again the Constitutional Union Party
made a good showing where the Whigs and the Americans had
been strong.36 The Americans and the Unionists can both be
classified as conservative, antisecession parties which tried to regroup
dissident elements into an opposition party to replace the defunct
Whig organization. The leaders of all these parties were the same
men. After their defeat in 1860, a few of the most ardent of these
conservatives turned their efforts toward slowing the tide toward
secession. Richard K. Call, George T. Ward, and Columbus Drew
were notable in this unsuccessful effort.
For most of these older men, their day was done. Yet some of the
younger Whigs lived on and played political roles during the Civil
War and afterward. Probably most notable of them was Richard
Call's nephew Wilkinson Call. A staunch Whig, a defender of the
Americans and the Constitutional Unionists, young Call lived on to
become a United States Senator, serving from 1879 to 1897 as a
liberal Democrat. Other Whigs who played prominent parts in post-
war politics included David S. Walker, governor 1866-1868; Ossian
B. Hart, Republican governor 1873-1874; George F. Drew, Demo-
cratic governor 1877-1881; John L. Crawford, Democratic secre-
tary of state 1881-1889; Benjamin F. Allen, secretary of state 1863-
1868; Robert H. Gamble, comptroller 1868-1873; Columbus Drew,
Democratic comptroller 1877-1881; and Jesse J. Finley, inter-
mittently Democratic member of the United States House of
Representatives between 1876 and 1882, and briefly United States
Senator in 1887.

36. Tallahassee Floridian, November 17, 1860.



Studies of the Whig party in the South generally have assumed
a close correlation between the Whig strongholds and the heavy
slaveholding and cotton-producing areas. To a considerable extent
that general pattern was true in Florida. Though it is true, as it was
throughout the South, that planters and great slaveholders and men
of wealth were to be found in both parties, the fact that Whig
strength centered in the rich plantation counties should not be
minimized. In Florida, as elsewhere, the planters were generally
the leaders in public affairs and were in the minority in the popula-
tion. Clearly neither party could have won success had it depended
solely upon that class for support. Yet it is such an intangible thing
as the influence of this class, which cannot be statistically measured,
which must be looked to for one of the keys to political alignment.
In certain areas of Florida the "big" men were Whigs, and they
exerted an important political influence upon the small farmers,
professional men, overseers, merchants, shippers, and craftsmen.
There was a definite correlation, as will be shown, between property
ownership and political affiliation. Whigs in Florida tended to be
men of greater property holdings than were Democrats.
In the eleven counties which were strongholds of Whiggery in
Florida, the proportions of slave to white populations varied consid-
erably, ranging from about one slave for every ten whites in Holmes
County to eight slaves for every three whites in Leon County. Yet
these were extremes, for in five of those eleven counties (Jackson,
Gadsden, Madison, Nassau, Duval) the slave-white populations
were about equal in number. In the remaining four the discrepancy
was not great, the slave-white ratio being in Wakulla one to one and
one-half, in Escambia one to two, in Santa Rosa one to two and
one-half, and in Walton one to four. By contrast, ifi the twelve
counties which were Democratic strongholds, only one (Jefferson)
had more slaves than whites. The ratio there was about two slaves
to one white. In none of the other Democratic strongholds did the
slave population approach equality with the whites in numbers. St.
Johns County, with 1,417 whites to 993 slaves, came closest to bal-
ancing. Dade County was most disproportionate, having 147 whites



to 11 slaves. Of the five counties which cannot be counted strong-
holds of either party the slave-white ratio in two was one to three,
in two others one to two, and in the fifth it was about even. The
total slave population of the eleven Whig counties was 25,883 as
compared with 13,639 in the twelve Democratic counties. The five
uncommitted counties numbered their slave total at 3,778.1

SantasMiddle Florida

Washio eoDval
Wa Colum ba

Alachua I StJohn
West Florida

This map is based upon returns from five Congres-
sional elections, from 1846 through 1854, and two
gubernatorial elections, 1848 and 1852. The Whig Henand
counties gave Whig majorities in most of these races,
and the Democratic counties gave Democratic ma-
jorities in most. Santa Rosa, Walton, Jackson, and
Duval returned Whig majorities in all seven races.
Gadsden and Leon barely won their Whig labels
with Whig majorities in five and four of these races
respectively. The doubtful counties returned Whig
majorities in three of the seven races. The Demo-
cratic counties returned Democratic majorities in all Hlborougb StLude
seven races, except for Columbia, which was Demo-
cratic five times, and Alachua, Putnam, and St.
Johns, which were Democratic six times each. .


Doubtful counties

SDemocratic counties

The total valuation placed on the farm land of these eleven Whig
counties was $4,187,391, as contrasted with $1,416,113 for ten
Democratic counties. (Two of the Democratic counties made no
returns on farm land values.) It is also interesting that the value of
land in one Whig stronghold, Leon County, was $1,751,959, or
slightly more than one-third the value of land in all eleven Whig
counties, and more than the value of all the ten Democratic counties
reporting. While all the Whig counties were not big cotton pro-

1. Seventh Census of the United States: 1850 (Washington, 1853), pp.
400-401, 407.



ducers, all the big cotton-producing counties were Whig strong-
holds except one, Jefferson County. More Democratic counties than
Whig counties were tobacco-growing areas, but the greatest volume
of tobacco was raised in six Whig counties with one, Gadsden, pro-
ducing in 1850 more tobacco than all the rest of the state. One of
the eastern Whig strongholds, Nassau County, was the state's rice-
growing center, producing 404,305 pounds of rice in 1850, four
times as much as its nearest rival, Columbia County.
Four of the top five counties in the state, so far as value of farm
land, number of bales of cotton produced, number of slaves, and
size of white population are concerned, were Whig counties. They
were Leon, Gadsden, Madison, and Jackson counties. These might
be termed "typical" Whig counties in that the dominant interests
in them most closely resemble the conventional idea of the interests
that composed the Southern Whig party. While these plantation
Whig counties of Middle Florida were generally the backbone of
Whig strength, there were also Whig strongholds that were com-
mercial centers rather than rich agricultural areas. Duval County
in the East and Escambia County in the West fit into this category.
Duval was the home of the port of Jacksonville, which in the 1850's
was the center of an extensive lumber industry. It was also the
port through which the agricultural produce of all East Florida
drained by the St. Johns River was shipped out to the world. Escam-
bia County was the home of the port of Pensacola, where lumber-
ing was important, but probably the exporting of cotton from south-
ern Alabama was of more importance. The Alabama regions con-
tiguous to Escambia were heavily Whig, as was the territory drained
by the rivers emptying into Pensacola Bay. The little East Florida
county of Nassau, which boasted the largest rice production, also
was noted for its commercial activities, centering in Fernandina,
which sat at the mouth of the St. Mary's River, the river draining
southern Georgia and extreme northern Florida.
The strongholds of the Democratic party in Florida were for the
most part the thinly populated poorer counties which usually had
more whites than slaves. The staunchest Democratic counties were
the sparsely settled South Florida counties of Hernando, Hills-
borough, St. Lucie, Monroe, and Dade, the two small West Florida
counties, Washington and Franklin, and the rich Middle Florida
county of Jefferson. Very close behind these counties in their devo-



tion to Democratic candidates were the North Florida counties of
Columbia, Alachua, Putnam, and St. Johns. The counties which
showed no consistent loyalty to the candidates of either party were
Levy, Marion, and Orange in East Florida, Hamilton in Middle Flor-
ida, and Calhoun in West Florida.
In the columns of both parties were counties which defy the gen-
eralizations which have been laid down. Jefferson County, among
the Democratic strongholds, is one such. It ranked third in value of
farm lands, second in bales of cotton produced, and second in num-
ber of slaves. About 65 per cent of the population was slave in 1850.
Despite these facts, and the fact that it was surrounded by Whig
counties, it never returned a Whig majority in any state-wide race
and never elected a Whig to the state legislature. There is no clearly
apparent explanation for the position of Jefferson County. The only
evidence contributing to an explanation which this writer has found
is a survey of twenty-six important plantations in the county which
showed that ten of them were settled by South Carolinians. This,
compared to the fact that five were settled by Georgians, four each by
Virginians and North Carolinians, and one each by natives of New
York, Kentucky, and Tennessee, would seem to indicate that the
South Carolina and Georgia planters were more influential in the
county than any other group. Georgians and South Carolinians were
more often than not Democrats, as we shall later statistically show,
and this is borne out in this specific case in reference to the particular
individuals examined by this survey.2 In addition the manuscript
census returns show 1,178 of Jefferson County's 2,775 whites were
born in Georgia and South Carolina, a considerably higher proportion
than for the state as a whole.
Whig counties which do not fit the conventional pattern are the
West Florida group, Santa Rosa, Walton, and Holmes. All were
staunchly Whig, though they were poor, thinly populated counties
producing practically no cotton or tobacco and having few slaves.
Explanatory factors may be derived from the facts that all bordered
on heavy Whig areas in Alabama, and that Holmes was formed
from Jackson, which was the banner Whig county of the state.
Santa Rosa and Walton were both astride the water routes from the
southern Alabama cotton fields to Pensacola's docks.
2. "Jefferson County Plantations," compiled by the Federal Writers Project,
W. P. A. (typescript), in P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History.



Two unusual counties in West Florida bear further examination.
Calhoun and Franklin, located at the mouth of the Apalachicola
River, were bitter rivals for the business of that great stream. Frank-
lin, in which the city of Apalachicola was located, was a Democratic
stronghold. By the measure of Duval and Escambia, which were
commercial centers, it should have been Whig, for much of its
income was derived from shipping the cotton which came down the
Apalachicola and its tributaries from Georgia and Alabama. How-
ever, unlike the situation in both Duval and Escambia, the rivers
which joined to form the Apalachicola River drained areas in Georgia
and Alabama which were heavily populated, long settled, and largely
Democratic in politics. Calhoun County boasted of St. Joseph as its
leading city. Its developers, who were in large measure bank men,
planters, and land speculators who were Whigs, sought by various
railroad and canal schemes to divert the lucrative traffic which Apa-
lachicola enjoyed. The efforts of this group were well known, thanks
to the Apalachicola Gazette. These facts, taken together, help to
explain why Franklin was Democratic and why Calhoun alternated.
Until 1850 the main appeal of the Whig party was to the
propertied and commercial interests, their dependent classes, and
those under their influence. These men were attracted by the down-
to-earth, materialistic goals of the party-banks, benefits and pro-
tections for business interests, stimulation of internal improvements,
relatively sound financial policies, and the promotion of education
-and they were annoyed by the Democrats' more abstract goals-
political democracy, equality of opportunity, and restriction of corpo-
rate privilege. By 1850, however, the material goals of the Whigs
had become subordinated to that of the preservation of the Union,
and in Florida this brand of Whig nationalism seems temporarily to
have attracted agrarian interests, large and small, of such strong
Northeast Florida Democratic counties as Columbia, St. Johns, Put-
nam, and Alachua. When the national Whigs split on this very
issue, many of these interests returned to their old loyalties, and
many Florida Whigs went with them, as local Democrats seemed
to lose their concern for the abstract principles they had promoted
in the 1830's and 1840's and as the Democratic party remained the
one national political organization in the country.
Judging from analyses of county voting records, then, the people
who were the backbone of Whig voting strength in Florida were the



large-scale cotton and tobacco planters of Middle and West Florida,
with their dependent classes and the small farmers within their in-
fluence; the cotton and rice planters, lumber men, and shippers of
East Florida; the commercial and lumber interests of extreme West
Florida; and the covetous merchants and speculators of St. Joseph,
eyeing the lucrative trade of Apalachicola.
An analysis of a different sort seems to confirm these generaliza-
tions in large measure. The backgrounds of the individual citizens
who took part in Florida politics fall into a general pattern which
does not do violence to these generalizations. For the purposes of
this second analysis, the record of all state legislators from 1845
through 1854, of all candidates for governor, representative, and
register of lands, and of all United States Senators between 1845
and 1854, were sought out. The attempt was to find the age, the
occupation, the place of birth, the number of slaves, and the
value of the real estate of each of these political figures. In most
instances the information was found.3
In regard to the state legislators, it was theoretically possible for
311 men to have held seats in the General Assembly between 1845
and 1854. Because of the fact that many men served several times,
as closely as this writer can compute, 237 men actually served in the
General Assembly during that time. Of that number the party affili-
ations of 4 could not be ascertained, and census enumerations of 37
could not be found. The analysis of legislators, therefore, is based
on the remaining 196-82 Whigs and 114 Democrats-who could
be identified in the Census of 1850, that is, about 82 per cent of
the men who actually sat in the Assembly.
So far as slaveholding is concerned, the difference between Whig
legislators and Democratic legislators was not marked. Whigs, with
an average of 18.8 slaves and a median of 11 slaves, tended to own
slightly more than did Democrats, who averaged 14.2 slaves and had
a median figure of 7 slaves. Twenty-six per cent of the Democrats
reported no slaves, while only 12 per cent of the Whigs reported

3. Microfilm copies of the original white and slave schedules of the
Seventh Census of the United States, in Yonge Library of Florida History.
The term "median" used frequently in the paragraphs that follow differs from
"average" in that a median designates a point so chosen in a series of
property or slaveholding figures, listed in order from lowest to highest, that
half of the figures are above it and half are below it.



There is a far more marked difference between Democrats and
Whigs in the matter of real-estate ownership than in slaveholding.
Though the average property holdings were about the same,
$3,462.50 for Democrats as opposed to $3,493.29 for Whigs, the
median figure reflects a greater difference. The median value of
property held by Whigs was $1,850, while the Democrats' median
was only $800. Thirty-seven per cent of the Democrats reported no
real estate, while only 29 per cent of the Whigs reported none.
There is little difference between Whig and Democratic legislators
in occupations except that more Whigs than Democrats were in the
farmer class: about 42 per cent of the Whigs and about 39 per cent
of the Democrats. Forty-one per cent of both Whigs and Democrats
were in the business and professional classes, with the Whigs leading
in lawyers, about 20 per cent to the Democrats' 17 per cent. Seven
per cent of the Democrats told census enumerators they were planters,
while 6 per cent of the Whigs classed themselves as such. The differ-
entiation between farmers and planters was not clearly made, how-
ever, since many who called themselves farmers possessed slaves and
property enough to be thought of as planters, while some who called
themselves planters reported so few slaves and so little property that
they must have been flattering themselves.
There is a more marked difference between Whigs and Demo-
crats in regard to place of birth. Only about 6 per cent of the Whigs
and 9 per cent of the Democrats were born in Florida. More Whigs,
almost 28 per cent, came from North Carolina than any other single
state, while the largest number of Democrats, almost 36 per cent,
came from Georgia. The percentage of Democrats from states of the
lower South (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi)
was 64.2, while only 19.9 per cent came from the upper South
(Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina). With
Whigs the reverse was true. Forty-one per cent of the Whigs came
from the upper South, while 37.3 per cent were from the lower
South. Eighteen per cent of the Whig legislators were from abroad
or from Northern states. Only 13.4 per cent of the Democrats were
from abroad or from the North. The average age of Democrats was
almost 39 years, that of Whigs almost 42.
Whig legislators, then, tended to own a few more slaves and con-
siderably more land than did their Democratic colleagues. Whigs
tended to be slightly older than Democrats, and they were more often



from the North or from the upper South than were Democrats. It is
probably not unusual that there was so little difference between
Democrats and Whigs where occupations were concerned. The men
of affairs of both parties are those who might logically be expected to
take part in politics, and the breakdown in the occupational category
for members of the legislature may not reflect the breakdown among
Democratic and Whig voters. In this entire group of legislators, only
five Democrats and five Whigs were what might be termed "working
Moving up the ladder to the higher political offices of state-wide
importance, there were sixteen persons who were candidates, success-
ful and unsuccessful, for the offices of governor, representative, or
register of public lands between 1845 and 1854. Four served as
United States Senators in the same era and one of these four, who
was a candidate for representative, is included in the other sixteen
so that a total of nineteen persons, seven Whigs and twelve Demo-
crats, was under scrutiny at the higher levels of state political lead-
ership. The average age of the Whigs was almost 48 and that of the
Democrats was 44 years.
Slaveholding information was available on all of the top officials
except two Democrats. The average number of slaves held by Whigs
was 72 and by Democrats, 63; however, two of the ten Democrats
owned no slaves and only one, William Bailey, owned more than 100.
Bailey's holding of 389 Negroes was 145 more than the total owned
by all the other Democrats. All of the seven Whigs were slaveholders,
and three of them-E. C. Cabell, G. T. Ward, and R. K. Call-each
owned 100 or more slaves. The low man was D. S. Walker, with 4
slaves, while R. K. Call was high with 143. The median for Whigs
was 84, for Democrats, 18.5. Information on the holding of real
property was available for six of the seven Whigs and nine of the
twelve Democrats. The average value of Whig property was
$25,617, while the Democrats' average was $11,278; however, five
of the nine Democrats reported no real property at all, and Bailey,
with property valued at $81,000, possessed almost four times as
much as the remaining three property-owning Democrats. All of the
Whigs reported real property, with the smallest amount being $3,000
worth reported by Walker and the largest amount being Call's
$75,000 worth. The Whig median was $21,100, while techni-
cally the Democrats' median was zero.



Thus at the highest levels of leadership, where party politics and
programs were shaped, the slaveholding and real-property differences
between Whigs and Democrats were far sharper than at lower levels.
This may be even more significant when considered in light of the
fact that these men appeared before the electorate of the entire state
in races which were more impersonal than the local legislative con-
tests. In the latter, personalities and local influences could count
for more than party records and principles.
Considering the fortunes of the two parties in Florida and the
character of their leadership as revealed by the census returns, it may
be possible to form a generalization. If we may judge by the occu-
pancy of the governorship and the seat in the federal House of
Representatives, and to a lesser extent control of the state legislature,
the people of Florida turned to the men of wealth and conservatism
in time of prosperity and in time of national crisis. On the other
hand, they turned to the men of more moderate means and liberal
or even radical views in time of financial distress, and after the lead-
ership of the wealthy conservative group appeared inadequate in
defending Southern interests in national crises.
No major political party in American history has ever been
exclusively based on the support of, or on an appeal to, the interests
of an "upper" or a "lower" class, though the Federalists perhaps came
closest to it. The United States has been such a predominantly
middle-class country that the major parties through most of our
history have made their appeals to that class. This was true of the
parties in ante-bellum Florida, where there were never any property
qualifications for voting. Whigs and Democrats in Florida both
appealed to and drew their strength from the all-pervading middle
class. It is apparent, however, that the leadership of the Whig party
was more predominantly drawn from the wealthy slaveholding, land-
owning, upper South "gentry" than was the leadership of the Demo-
cratic party.
In addition to this difference in leadership between the two
parties, we should point to the doctrinal differences. The Whigs
were more concerned with material progress and national unity
and were less concerned with political democracy and the rights
of man than were the Democrats. The Whigs also tended to repre-
sent a "status quo" outlook which established vested interests might
be expected to do, while the Democrats reflected a greater sense of



fluidity and change which newcomers and younger men "on the
make" might be expected to do. Finally, to some extent, the party
differences involved Florida's version of the tidewater versus back-
country struggle. The Whigs were primarily the party of the rich,
earlier settled, plantation areas of Middle Florida, while the Demo-
crats were primarily the party of the new, frontier, small-farmer
regions of East and South Florida.
An emphasis given in some scholarly circles in recent years has
tended to blur the differences between American parties, and indeed
this may be a needed corrective to the hasty tendency of survey
histories and of the oversimplifiers to identify parties exclusively as
parties of the "common man" or of the businessman or of farmers
or of laborers. Such emphasis, however, renders a disservice when
it leaves the impression that there was or is no difference between
political parties except that one is in and one is out. Though the
differences may often be differences of degree and may often appear
to be slight, generally the active and influential interest groups in
opposing parties have clear-cut and often sharply conflicting desires.
That they hide, minimize, gloss over, and pretend that these differ-
ences do not exist is necessitated by internal compromises and by the
fact that both parties seek the votes of the great middle classes
and groups not concerned with their special interests-and this also
makes easy the propounding of the thesis that there is no difference
between parties.
That there are differences between American political parties is
one generalization that it is hoped this study in small measure has
helped to document.



The most important sources for this study
were Florida newspapers, the manuscript
schedules of the United States Census of 1850,
and the Florida Historical Quarterly. Original
files of many of the newspapers are in the P. K.
Yonge Library of Florida History at the University
of Florida, and microfilm copies of the holdings
of the Library of Congress for this period are also
available there. The Yonge Library also has on
film the census schedules. Two collections of the
papers of Richard Keith Call, one in the Southern
Historical Collection, University of North Car-
olina, and the other in the Florida Historical
Society Library, University of Florida, were used.
A few references were made to items in the
Andrew Jackson Papers and the Martin Van
Buren Papers in the Manuscripts Division of the
Library of Congress, and to items in the State
Department files at the National Archives. The
files of Niles' Weekly Register were available in
the University of Florida Library.
The footnotes will serve to provide bibliograph-
ical information about all secondary sources to
which reference was made.


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