Pioneers of Menard & Mason Counties|
Including Personal Reminiscens of
Abraham Lincoln & Peter Cartwright
By T.G. Onstot, 1902
Recollections of Presidential Campaigns
"Tippecanoe and Tyler Too."
The first presidential campaign I remember was that of 1840, when Harrison was sung into the presidential chair. The questions at issue I do not remember, except that Harrison lived in a log cabin, drank hard cider and sold coon skins. There were great gatherings that year. The excitement was at fever heat and even the little cubs were singing the praises of hard cider. If a person moved into the community it was necessary to know his politics in order to determine his standing.
A number of big meetings were held in Springfield and Jacksonville that year. Bands of singers would attend and make the welkin ring with their campaign songs, of which the following is a specimen:
Come all ye brave lads of old forty
Who rallied around Tippecanoe;
Come give us your hearts and your voices
For great Harry, the noble and true.
The Whigs carried the day, but Harrison died soon after being elected and John Tyler succeeded him in the presidential chair. No Vice-President that ever took the chair ever gave satisfaction to the party that elected him and Tyler was no exception. Millard Fillmore turned against his party and the Republicans would have crucified Andy Johnson if they had dared.
Nothing of much interest occurred from 1840 till 1844, when the slave power needed more territory for the expansion of slavery. "Polk and Texas!" was the cry and singing didn't count. The country was ready for the annexation of Texas. Texas was then an independent province that formerly belonged to Mexico, but had gained independence, with the Rio Grande for its western boundary and had never claimed territory further west.
"Polk and Texas" were triumphant, and the slave power, flushed with success, sent an army two hundred miles west of the Rio Grande, on Mexican soil, and provoked a battle and published to the world that American blood had been shed on American soil. The Whigs, while denying this, supported the war, as good loyal citizens, and furnished from Illinois a Baker and a Hardin, who were killed at Cerro Gordo.
Henry Clay, the idol of the Whig party, was snowed under by Polk, whose name was scarcely known by the American people, and the slave power held high carnival for the next sixteen years. Compromises were treated as things of no moment. The Whig party entered a weak protest and the free soil began to grow. The climax was reached in 1860, when the people rose in their might and said: "Thus far and no farther!"
There was a great rally in Peoria that year and good many Petersburg people attended. They went by way of Beardstown, from which point they took the steamer Jasper to Peoria. They were gone a week.
The tariff cut a big figure in this election. The Whig party was in favor of legislating millions of money into the pockets of the eastern capitalists, just as the Republicans have been ever since the organization of that party.
There were no telegraph lines nor railroads in the "forties" and it was six weeks after the election when we first heard the result. Our folks then lived across the street from Bale's carding machine. One night about eleven o'clock George U. Miles and Samuel Hill came and awakened Bale, telling him that Polk was elected. Miles was much exited. He has been a Whig but voted for Polk. They got out a cannon that had been made from a shaft of the steamboat Talisman. It was about five feet long, four inches in diameter and had a two-inch bore. It had often been heard at Springfield. Over one hundred shots were fired from this cannon that night and sleep was out of the question. Miles and Hill furnished the powder. Josiah Hartsell, who was nicknamed "Saleratus," was chief gunner. About daybreak "Saleratus" got reckless and began ramming clay down on the charges of powder. Finally the old cannon burst in a thousand pieces, filling "Saleratus'" legs and body with fine chips of iron that just penetrated the skin. I saw Dr. Allen pick out the scraps of iron, while "Saleratus" begged him to stop, that he was killing him.
The annexation of Texas soon brought on a war, as the Whigs said it would. Menard county furnished a company of which A. D. Wright was captain and it did valiant service. Only a few of that company are alive today. Time, with his relentless scythe, has cut a wide swath in the ranks of those who returned from the field of battle.
After the Mexican war the United States took some territory and paid the Mexicans $15,000,000.
Thomas L. Harris was a talented and cultured gentleman, who came from the east and engaged in the practice of law. For several years he struggled with poverty and at times went into the harvest field to work. He distinguished himself in the Mexican war and after his return home was elected to Congress. About this time disease began to prey upon him, and when the vote on the repeal of the Missouri Compromise act was taken, Major Harris was carried on his bed to the floor of the House that he might record his vote against the repeal. He died before the expiration of his term. No purer patriot and man than Thomas L. Harris has been called from labor to reward.
Transcribed by:Brenda Hamilton Johnson