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Displaying items by tag: Politics

Monday, 07 November 2022 20:57

The Dunkers' View on Voting

If you have not already heard, tomorrow is Election Day. So, it seems like a good time to share this article we found at HSMC last week.

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This article was written in 1956 and discusses the Church of the Brethren, also known as the Dunkers. For the two centuries prior to 1956, many Dunkers resided in Pennsylvania, including here in Montgomery County. Much like the Quakers and Mennonites, the early Dunkers were known for practicing pacifism. For the Dunkers, that included refusing to participate in elections. Not only did they not vote, but they were also unlikely to hold a public office or participate in public legal issues. This included litigation. According to this article, members of the Church would risk censure if they filed a lawsuit. Instead of going through attorneys and court systems, they were expected to go to Church officials for an arbitration instead.

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Meeting House in Lower Salford, HSMC Photo Collection

Interestingly, although participating in politics and other public systems was generally frowned upon, there does not appear to be any evidence that members were punished for doing so. There are even cases where some Dunkers served in public offices. The most notable one was Pennsylvania's own Governor Martin G. Brumbaugh! He served from 1915 to 1919, during World War I.

It was not until 1956, during their annual conference, when the Dunkers officially declared that voting and participation in public affairs should be encouraged in their congregations.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 12 August 2021 19:00

President Hughes?

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Last week I was scrolling through old Times-Herald’s for a research request, and I discovered this interesting headline.

Hmm, I don’t remember a President Hughes.

In 1916, incumbent Woodrow Wilson was running against Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes. Since the Civil War, Republicans had dominated the White House, Grover Cleveland’s two terms being the only ones for a Democrat between Abraham Lincoln and Wilson. Wilson was able to win the presidency because of a split in the GOP between the progressives (led by Theodore Roosevelt) and the more traditional Republicans led by President William H. Taft.

Charles Evans Hughes was governor of New York from 1907 to 1910 when President Taft nominated him for the Supreme Court. At the Republican Convention of 1916, Hughes was a compromise candidate between the Roosevelt and Taft contingents. He was highly regarded for his intelligence and moderation. Many believed that if the Republicans could unite behind Hughes, he would defeat Wilson.

The Daily Herald, as the paper was known at the time, was staunchly Republican. Notice on these instructions for voting, not only is the Republican box marked, but the other three parties (Democrats, Progressives, and Socialists don’t even appear!).

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It heavily promoted Hughes as well as the local Republican candidates in both its articles and its advertising. This reflected Norristown and Montgomery County’s political tendency. Remember, not even native son and Democrat Winfield Scott Hancock won in Montgomery County.

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The paper's gung-ho Republicanism and the general feeling that Republicans would unite behind Hughes led to the Herald’s “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment. It was not the only paper to declare Hughes the winner as he led in the early returns. But Wilson carried the Solid South and a few swing states, including California.

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The Herald reported the uncertainly on Thursday, November 9, and a special edition later that day declared Wilson the winner. On Friday, it ran Wilson’s picture (smaller than Hughes).

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The Ardmore Chronicle, a weekly, ran a large picture of Hughes in its last issue before Election Day. A week later, it reported the election still up in the air although the Herald had reported Wilson the winner two days before.

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Norristown did have a Democratic paper, The Daily Register. It was just as strong in its support of Wilson as the Herald was of Hughes. It endorsed Wilson early and promoted Democratic rallies. The Register is a little more fun than the Herald because it has political cartoons, which were absent from the Herald.

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The Register declared Wilson the victor right away and reiterated the claim with more evidence in the following days.

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It ran this odd cartoon later in the week.

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Losing the election wasn’t the end for Charles E. Hughes. He had resigned from the Supreme Court when he accepted his party’s nomination, so after the election he returned to private practice. He served as Secretary of State under Harding, and in 1930, President Hoover appointed him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 18 July 2019 15:17

The Buckshot War of 1838

We recently put some new paintings on display in our Reading Room at HSMC. One of them is a portrait of former Pennsylvania Governor David Rittenhouse Porter. In 1838, Porter ran against incumbent Governor Joseph Ritner and won by roughly 5000 votes. Porter’s victory shocked the Anti-Masonic Whigs, causing Burrowes (Chairman of the Whig Committee) to demand an investigation of what he believed to be a fraudulent election. Burrowes instructed supporters of Governor Ritner to “treat the election held on the 9th of October as if it had never taken place.”[1]

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Governor David Rittenhouse Porter, HSMC Collection

When the Philadelphia votes were tallied, it was revealed that the legal voting returns from the Northern Liberties District (representing about 5000 voters) were withheld at the request of defeated Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, Charles J. Ingersoll. He claimed he lost due to voter fraud since the tally books from the sixth and seventh wards were lost.[2] In response to Ingersoll, six of the seventeen voting return judges submitted their own voting results, which favored the Anti-Masonic Whig candidates. As a result, both parties submitted separate voting results on the State House floor and elected their own Speakers for the State House of Representatives.

Similar problems were found in the State Senate. When Senators were denied their seats due to fraudulent voter returns, a crowd of angry onlookers threatened violence against Anti-Mason Whig leaders Burrows, Stevens, and Penrose. This caused the men to flee the State Senate floor by jumping out a window. The Norristown Herald and Free Press and other papers claimed the mob was led by Philadelphia Loco-Focos. [3]

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Norristown Herald and Free Press, December 12, 1838

The scene became increasingly unstable when the PA State Arsenal was taken by Anti-Mason Whig supporters. Governor Ritner called for the PA militia to be sent to Harrisburg to keep the peace. When General Patterson arrived with his troops in Harrisburg, he was asked if he would support Governor Ritner and the Anti-Mason Whig leaders. Patterson proclaimed that “he had not come for political purposes” and would only act if actual physical violence broke out among the angry crowds.[4] Governor Ritner even appealed to President Van Burren to help put an end to the situation in Harrisburg. The President denied Governor Ritner help, deeming the situation as one that must be settled by the State of Pennsylvania. Without a federal supply of troops or ammunititon, Governor Ritner ordered thirteen rounds of buckshot cartridges to be given to the State troops, giving this event its name. 

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Photograph courtesy of Capital Preservation Committee and John Rudy Photography

Ultimately, a group of Anti-Mason Whig Representatives joined their Democratic counterparts, giving the Democrats the majority in the State House of Representatives.[5] This settled the major disputes in the Legislature and allowed Governor Porter to be inaugurated as the ninth Governor of Pennsylvania. 

Sources:

[1]Egle, William Henry, M.D. “The Buckshot War,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Vol. XXIII 1899 No. 2, p. 143 https://www.jstor.org/stable/20085847?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

[2] Norristown Herald and Free Press, October 17, 1838, page 2.

[3] Norristown Herald and Free Press, December 12, 1838, page 2.

[4] Egle, William Henry, M.D. “The Buckshot War,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Vol. XXIII 1899 No. 2, p. 151 https://www.jstor.org/stable/20085847?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

[5] Malawskey, Nick, “Tight election, voter fraud worries, power grab – no, not now, but 175+ years ago,” December 19, 2016, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2016/12/tight_election_voter_fraud_wor.html


Published in Found in Collection