Tuesday 9th Frank & Mrs Mitchell returned this
morning & Oakes A went from Bridgewater to the
convention at Springfield. Mother Mrs
Stevens & self & Susan passed the afternoon
at Mr Torreys. The Col was very clever
gave us lots of peaches. Harriet Mitchell
came home with them this morning and spent
the evening here.
Evelina and others enjoyed an afternoon call on John Torrey, who was evidently quite amusing, and came home with at least one basket of peaches. Frank Morton Ames brought his Aunt Harriett Mitchell back from a party in Bridgewater, but his oldest brother, Oakes Angier Ames, didn’t return with them. Instead, he traveled west to Springfield, probably by rail, to attend a Whig Convention. At the age of twenty-two, Oakes Angier was diving into politics, and the Whigs in Easton thought well enough of him to represent them at the meeting.
Led by Senators Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, the Whig Party had developed in the 1830’s as an anti-Andrew Jackson party, and had managed to put four presidents in the White House, including its present occupant, Millard Fillmore. The party would soon dissolve over the issue of slavery, leading many of its northern adherents to attach themselves to the new Republican Party. Many were against slavery because it conflicted with an economy based on free-trade. But in the meanwhile, the Whigs wanted modernization and strong policies to guide economic growth. Jeffersonian in their preference for Congress over the Presidency, they would have said they opposed tyranny.
The convention in Springfield was held on one day, September 10, “to make the customary arrangements for the annual State elections”.* The group of about 1,000 attendees nominated the Hon. Robert C. Winthrop of Boston as candidate for Governor and the Hon. George Grennell of Greenfield as candidate for Lieutenant-Governor. The keynote speaker at the convention, Ezra Lincoln, spoke of state matters, but spent a moment on national issues as well:
“…[I]t is felt throughout the country that a crisis of no ordinary difficulty exists. Whether we look to the debates and the proceedings of Congress; to the popular elections throughout the country; to the tone of public opinion, as indicated throughout the Union by the press, and the discussions everywhere taking place, we cannot be insensible to the fact that the stability of our institutions is put to a severe test. It is probably left to this generation to ascertain, by a severe experiment, the soundness and vitality of those principles which were embodied by our fathers in these Constitutions, as well as of the several States, as of the Union…” *
Oakes Angier and others at the convention could not have known how severe the experiment ahead of them would be.
* Proceedings of the Whig State Convention, Held at Springfield, Massachusetts, September 10, 1851.