The Welsh In Oneida County, New York  |  Evans  |  The Welsh and Politics |  22

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With Birney's nomination for president in 1844 by the Liberty Party, the contest grew more exciting. The abolitionists among the Welsh held frequent meetings, encouraging each other in the work and endeavoring to win converts. In a religious meeting at Penymynydd made up mostly of Congregational pastors, strong resolutions against slavery were taken. (15)

Early in the year the anti-slavery men among the Welsh of the county met in Utica Welsh Congregational church to discuss plans and to encourage each other. The preponderance of clergymen on the various committees and on the program was a striking evidence of the leading part taken by them in the movement. At this meeting a petition was formulated by Everett and accepted by the assembly, calling the attention of the government to the cause of the slave and praying on the part of the Welsh that governmental action be taken in the slave's behalf. This was circulated for signatures among the various Welsh settlements. No record of its fate is obtainable.

Y Cenhadwr was stronger than ever in the cause, for now beside the slaveholders it had the two old parties to assail. Both the Whigs and the Democrats had ignored the question of slavery in their platforms. The old stock difference in principles still remained, and a new issue had been injected into the campaign. President Tyler in the spring of 1844 had completed a treaty for the annexation of Texas, that slave state which in 1836 had seceded from Mexico and had been endeavoring since to enter the American Union. Though the treaty had been rejected by the Senate, Tyler's action had made the annexation of this vast slave territory a vital question. The Democrats with Polk had come out squarely for the reception of Texas. Clay before his nomination had declared in his Raleigh letter his opposition to annexation and it was generally considered by the public and the Whigs as well, although the platform had said nothing of it, that this was the party's platform.

This satisfied the anti-slavery Whigs who were opposed to the reception of more slave territory. It was Clay's attempt during the campaign to placate feeling in the South (that wanted Texas) by declaring that he was desirous of the annexation of Texas provided it could be accomplished by the United States with honor, and that the subject of slavery ought not to affect the question. That alienated many of these anti-slavery Whigs and gave the Liberty Party a chance to draw these into their ranks.

The Liberty Party favored the annexation of Texas, but as a free state, not as it was, and they had certain definite ideas concerning legislation for slavery which Congress was to make. They wanted the Fugitive Salve Act of 1793 repealed, believing that the opportunity thus afforded the slave of freedom in the free states would make slavery so insecure that it would soon crumble. They wished Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia and the slave trade between the states. They believed that the constitution by guaranteeing a republican form of government to the states had given Congress the right to abolish slavery in the states, since the two were incompatible. They did not, however, urge that Congress take such action. That was a radical step to be taken only after their other ends should be gained.

Everett found the principles of the Liberty Party entirely satisfactory and he urged them in
Y Cenhadwr to the best of his ability. He printed many articles sent in the form of letters to the Cenhadwr from supporters of the Liberty Party in the county. Birney was vigorously defended and Polk and Clay as vigorously attacked. Clay in particular suffered. A duelist, a slave master, a gambler and a drinker he is called (16) with the usual logic of campaign argument. Everett shows the inconsistencies Mr. Clay had exhibited so freely during that campaign and, for the benefit of the well wishers of the slave in the Whig Party, declares that Clay's Alabama letters have shown that he has no real interest in the cause of the slave. (17) Clay was more fiercely assailed than Polk, perhaps because a larger proportion of Welsh were within the Whig ranks, more likely because the Whigs were more opposed to slavery than the Democrats and as a consequence more easily won to the Liberty Party.

Everett is met with the argument that to vote for Birney is but to throw away the vote because there is no chance of election. "It is true", he answers, "that the cause is weak, but it is our privilege to stand for a good cause, though it is weak, and there is no hope for any good cause in the present evil world, unless some will stand for it in its weakness and humility. And moreover this cause, though beginning weak, is growing rapidly and through the unwavering righteousness of God its success is certain. (18)

The great mass of the Welsh did not take kindly to this active part in politics, which the abolitionists of their race were taking, and Everett with his followers suffered persecution for their cause. Their meetings were usually held in the church buildings, the social center for the Welsh, and it was not uncommon for the speakers to be assailed by hymn books and rotten eggs from the gallery. (19) One evening Everett drove to a Welsh settlement above Steuben where he was to speak, his two sons, John and Robert, accompanying him to protect him from possible violence. During the meeting, while the three were within and Everett was eulogizing Birney and his principles, some ruffians got at their horse, hacked the mane off unevenly, cut the tail short and broke up the harness. Everett and sons were able to repair the harness sufficiently to reach home again, but they could not so easily restore their horse to his proper appearance. From that time forth the poor steed formed the butt for the shafts of the hostile countryside and was generally known as "Bobtail Birney".

These petty annoyances were not, however, the most serious results of Everett's anti-slavery propaganda. But a small proportion of his congregation sympathized with him and they were much aroused by the active part he was taking in politics. Everett would make no compromises and as the opposition strengthened against him, merely redoubled his efforts. Matters finally came to a crisis when in the summer of 1844 a meeting was called of the church to consider the question of Everett's removal. The forces against him were strong and at one time it looked as though he would have to go. But his old friends, forgetting the cause of their complaint, rallied to his support and it was voted that he be retained. The other preachers already mentioned, though not so prominent in the work as Everett, had to bear their share of the persecution.

As Election Day grew nearer the excitement among the Welsh grew more intense. The Whigs, the party that had been most bitterly assailed in
Y Cenhadwr and in the public meetings, were not content to remain quiet under these attacks. On the 22nd of October there appeared from the press of R.W. Roberts in Utica the first number of the Seren Oneida (Oneida Star), a Whig newspaper. But the single issue appeared before election and that was devoted entirely to the campaign with particular reference to the Welsh abolitionists in Oneida County. (20) The leading article was written by D.E. Morris, a man of the highest character and some prominence among the Welsh in Utica, becoming in the following year an alderman of the city, and withal an earnest friend of the slave. But like most of the Welsh at the time, though they belonged to the anti-slavery branch of their parties, they were still loyal to the old organization and looked only with dislike upon those radicals who were advocating the principles of the Liberty Party. This party he dubs the "Libel Party". The Cenhadwr, he thinks, has either given or sold itself to that party. He takes exception to several articles that have appeared in Y Cenhadwr and he bemoans the fact that the abolition sentiment is making their ministers politicians and that as such they are open to telling untruths. Better than any other he expresses that Welsh hatred of their church being in any way connected with politics. He had thought more of the editor of Y Cenhadwr than of any one who had crossed the Atlantic. He is sore at heart that this dear friend has gone into Oneida County and become a disgrace and a shame to his countrymen. "It is a pity that a minister of the gospel has turned a politician. He is doubtless the cause of the greatest disturbance that has ever taken place among our people in this community."  He goes on to say that the cause of the slave can find its champion only in Clay, that the Democrats are working to admit Texas merely to get more slave territory and that Birney has no chance of election.

Such was the burden of the leading article in the
Seren. A number of others followed attacking Birney and repeating from the Detroit papers the fable that he had turned locofoco. Toward the later part of the paper the weapons of the editors were turned against Polk and the Democrats.

That a newspaper should have been founded with the express purpose of combating the arguments of the abolitionists indicates the pitch to which the feeling of the Welsh had been aroused. The Whigs had feared that which actually took place, that the Liberty Party would be able to draw enough support from the Whig ranks to give the electoral vote of New York to Polk and so give him the election, but it was the feeling that the principles of the Liberal Party were striking at the vitals of the Whig organization, that in that party lay the seed of forces which, if they were to develop, would eventually undermine the Whig Party, and it was the fear of the potential power of these abolitionists that struck deep into the Whig mind and caused the bitterness of thus campaign among the Welsh. Measured by the size of the vote they polled in the November election - Remsen gave Alvin Stuart, the Abolition candidate for governor, 31 votes and Steuben gave him 37 - these Welsh abolitionists had little over which to rejoice. But it was a large increase over any vote they had received before and even if that had not been true, they might yet have felt satisfied, for they were working for the future. The seed which Everett and his followers were sowing in 1844 was to bear fruit a thousand fold in 1856. They were preparing the field for the Republican Party which, with its doctrine of the limitation of slavery, was to command the support of the Welsh in Oneida almost to a man.

Y Cenhadwr during this campaign and during the years preceding was fighting valiantly for the abolition cause, Y Cyfaill, the other Welsh paper, had adhered closely to its policy of neutrality as between the parties. Its columns were open letters, many of which, in their size, amounted to contributed articles, on both sides of the slavery controversy, but the editor himself took no part in the discussion, consistently refusing to take one side or the other. Seren Orllewinol, which was started in July of 1844, ignored the slavery question at that time.

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