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The Bolter Bolted

This article appeared in the Dayton Journal and Advertiser on August 28, 1852


“The Bolter Bolted”

                This is the title of the most extraordinary pamphlet of 16 pages issued by an Association of Democrats, and intended to set forth their reasons for opposing Mr. Vallandigham,--Judge Holt is the principal contributor to the first number.  We make large extracts from the pamphlet, without comment, as the matters treated of sufficiently explain themselves.

                The title at the head of this paper indicates its purposes.  It is presented to the Democracy generally and the Democrats of the county of Montgomery in particular by an association of Democrats who had hoped that yet for some time to come, they might share in the labors and triumphs of Democracy in common with their fellow citizens of the party, but who are said to be “indelibly marked,” by reason of their preference of one of the candidates for Congress for speedy and certain political decapitation.  We hope to escape literal stabbing by the bullies who, despairing of carrying the election by reason and argument, resort to the knife.  How many, or whether any additional numbers of this paper will be needed during the present canvass, must depend upon what may transpire hereafter.  It is not proposed to issue it at any stated periods.  The present number is made usSIC chiefly of Judge Holts address, and the relation of a few occurrences of his political life.


To The Democratic Electors of the Third Congressional District—more especially of Montgomery County,

                FELLOW CITIZENS: The political campaign is now fairly open.  The candidates for President and Vice President of the United States on either side are now before the people.  So also the candidates for State, congressional and county officers.

                The merits of our nominees for President and Vice President, and the remarkable unanimity with which these nominations have been received and indorsed throughout the Union, give us a most cheering prospect—may I not safely say certainty of success.

                The nominees for State officers are well known, and need no commendation.

                The Convention; on Saturday last, presented me a ticket for county officers, composed of men who, for attachment to democratic principles, and their ample qualifications; cannot be surpassed.  Let us, then, with unity of purpose and energy of action, resolve on success, and the day is ours.

                The Congressional nomination—the character of the faction, so far as this county is concerned, by which it was procured—the means employed to that end, and the claims of the nominee, in view of his political conduct since he came among us,  in my judgement, demand a fair and dispassionate review.  Such a review is my purpose to give, as soon as I can be released from professional duty on the circuit of the courts.  This review will involve the question, how far, and under what circumstances, the action of a convention is binding upon the party and its individual members.

                I have been taught to believe in, and be governed by, the action of our Conventions, as a means by which we concentrate our strength and secure the ascendancy of our principles, by selecting proper men as our representatives; and when these selections are made, they are binding upon the party.  If it be otherwise—if one individual can be justified in rebelling against this authority—say, if it is to be made the highway to preferment, let all have the advantages of it.

                Until within the last few years, we have been, in this county, a harmonious Democracy, dwelling and acting together as brethren in unity.  The inquiry is an important one , what has caused the disturbing strife and embittered feelings which now prevails?  There was an Achaa in the camp of Israel.  he was sought out and cut off.  There is an Achan in our camp.  Let him be sought out and cut off, whoever he be that disorganization may be discountenanced and harmony restored.  At present, I can only request my friends, and the Democracy generally, to suspend their decision until a full investigation shall be had, then to be governed by the dictates of their own conscience and judgement.

                In pursuing this matter, I shall not act rashly, but take counsel of the staid, prudent, and long tried Democrats of the city and country—not passing by the young men of the party, whose impulses are right, and who unhackneyed in intrigue and the clandestine maneuvering and management of mere party hacks, incline to act from such impulses.

                Although conscious of acting for what I believe will eventuate in the permanent success of the Democratic party, yet it would not be true to say that private feeling has no influence in my action.  Every man wishes, or ought to wish, to deserve and secure the good opinion of his fellow men.  For the last two years, I have been the object of a most virulent political denunciation and of false accusations, by an unscrupulous clique in this city.  It has been said that a slander oft repeated and continued , at length gains credence.  These attacks I have borne, if not patiently, certainly in silence, until forbearance ceases to be a virtue.

                For the present, I conclude by again recommending an earnest, energetic, and persevering support of the other parts of the ticket, and in the decision which the Democracy shall finally make of the congressional nomination I shall acquiesce;  promising that, with my old political yoke-fellows, and the young men of our party who are soon to take our places, to labor for the prevalence of those Democratic principles which I believe to be essential to the prosperity and happiness of the whole people.


The foregoing paper I expected to have appeared in the “Empire” on the day on which it was written which was on the Monday next succeeding the congressional nomination.  On that day I handed it to one of the proprietors, but the demands of the columns of that paper seemed to have been such that room was not found for its insertion.  I now proceeded, through the instrumentality of the press, in a manner free to every body, to the review indicated in that article.


                Mr. Vallandigham, the nominee for a seat in Congress from this district, came to reside in Dayton in the year 1847.  He was then supposed to be a gentleman, a young man of fair promise—was kindly and cordially received by the Democratic citizens of the city and county, and by none more so than by the writer of this chapter of his biography. He had expressed a wish, before his arrival among us, to introduce himself to the people of the county in the capacity of an editor of our Democratic paper.  I had, at that time an interest in the press by way of lien, for money which I had advanced about eleven years before, to relieve it from embarrassment, which computing annual interest at six per cent and deducting charges which the press had against me, amounted to about $400.  To encourage Mr. Vallandigham, who professed that his means were very limited and also Mr. Muns, his partner,--a young man whom I regarded, as I still do, with the kindliest feelings—I disposed to them my interest in the press for $150, giving them their own time for payment.  Thus much for the “material aid” which he received from the hand of a friend, afterward most egregiously betrayed.

                Our relations, social as well as political , became of the most friendly, familiar, and, on m part, confiding character, and so continued up to the winter of 1849-50, when my terms of office on the bench expired.

                While holding my Courts during the fall anterior to the expiration of my term of office, the vacancy about to occur was often spoken of.  A Convention to revise the Constitution was then contemplated, and it was not expected that the incumbent, whoever might be elected, would hold the office more than one, or two, years at farthest.  Not a member of the bar, that I heard of, was desirous, or even willing, to sacrifice his business for so short a time.  Co. Smith was the only member that seemed to hesitate, and he at length declined.  I may say further, that it was generally said to me, you now have the place, no professional business to sacrifice, and you had better stand it, at least until the office shall be superseded by the new Constitution.  It was under such circumstances that I agreed to be a candidate for re-election.

                Early—probably the first day of the session—Mr. Vallandigham went to Columbus, whilst I was holding my last term in Dayton, which continued until the 27 day of December.  Before closing the term, we heard in Dayton that Mr. Monfort of Greenville was endeavoring to obtain the office.  This gave me no uneasiness because, in the first place, I did not credit it, he having been among the foremost to urge me to be a candidate for re-election.  In the second place, I supposed, from his age and other circumstances, that his claims would not be recognized. And thirdly, I know that Mr. Vallandigham was there, whom I considered by fast friend; who had told me, as well as Sheriff Clark and others, that he had no aspirations for the office.  After closing my term, I went to Columbus, and found Mr. Monfort, and Mr. V. also, anxious solicitors for the office.  I need not say what was my surprise to find myself thus betrayed; not only so, but to find a man, whom I had considered an honorable man, thus clandestinely endeavoring not only to supplant me, but, to obtain office, concealing his movements from the people of the circuit, and even from the bar, who may be considered in some sense the representatives of the people in respect to judicial appointments.


                I soon found that the two young solicitors for the place, instead of presenting my name, had succeeded in getting almost all the Democratic members committed to their respective interests. The next morning after my arrival, Mr. V. come to my room and informed me that he was a candidate for judgeship—remarking, with a profession of much candor and fairness to the effect that he had not announced himself as such waiting my arrival, that I should have no ground to accuse him of unfairness.  Surprised at the information and resolving to know how the matter stood, I immediately repaired to the room of a member to whom I had been introduced the evening before and mentioning the vacancy, inquired of him if he knew whether I had any opposing candidate.  He replied that he had not heard my name mentioned as a candidate and inquired if Mr. V. lived in the circuit.  On my answering in the affirmative, he said that Mr. V. had said to him that he was not then but he might be a candidate and that in case he should be, desired my support.  Not knowing that you were a candidate, I committed myself to him.  So I found it to be with almost every member whom I conversed with except those who were committed to Mr. Monfort.  This is an instance and fair specimen of Mr. V.’s prevarication and seems to comport with his sense of fairness and honorable competition.

                The consequences of this was that he defeated me, defeated himself, and brought about the election of a whig, and the further consequence, that the legislature at the next session soon found it necessary to make two circuits out of my old circuit and to appoint an additional Circuit Judge.  So that the people had to pay the expenses of two circuits and two President Judges instead of one and all brought about by the clandestine maneuvering of an ambitious stripling, whose pin feathers were but just shooting through the skin.  The treachery of Mr. V. toward me and my exposure of that treachery put an end to our social intercourse.

                Immediately after finding Mr. V. a candidate, I addressed notes of inquiry to several prominent Democrats in different counties in the circuit, and received their answers.  Unused to personal electioneering, and unwilling to importune members for their support, I prepared a short address and abstract, to be read in the meeting of the members to nominate the various officers to be elected, gave it to a member, and before the nomination was made returned home.  Communications of the kind had previously been read in such meetings, and I preferred it to personal electioneering.


                In the Spring following, an election was had for Delegates to a Convention to revise the Constitution of the State.  Without a request or intimation on my part, my name was announce as a candidate for one of the Delegates from this county to be considered by the nominating convention afterwards to be holden.  On the day of the convention he made an agonizing struggle to prevent my nomination.  Of this, I had no right to complain, unless this threat, made to some of the delegates, that he would bolt the nomination if I should be nominated, furnishes just ground for complaint. But after the nomination was made, and with great unanimity, I, 16 to 7 on the first ballot, it became his duty according to the usages of the party up to that time to submit.  Instead of this, however, he carried his threat into execution, bolted the nomination, procured the name of the nominee scratched wherever he could, and boasted of it afterwards.  This election was, unquestionably, the most important one which has been held for fifty years.  Fundamental principles of great moment were to be adopted, which would control, not only the legislation, but the action of every department of the government, probably, for twenty years, perhaps for half a century; and yet, from sheer spite and personal animosity, and that too, engendered by his own delinquency and disappointed ambition; he was willing to compromit, to far as his influence would go, the permanent interests of the Democratic party.

                I have been asked whether in opposing Mr. V., I am not condemned out of my own mouth.  No, my democratic friends, not so.  I admit that two wrongs do not make a right.  But if the Conventions were fairly elected and organized and in nominating Mr. B. a known BOLTER, it fairly represented the Democracy of the District, then they have licensed bolting and abrogated the binding force of the action of Conventions.

                Every Democrat, therefor, is at liberty to support, or reject the nomination.  If on the other hand, the Convention were a packed one gotten up and the nomination made by bargain, intrigue, and management, and in their action did not represent the will of the Democratic party, then the nomination is not binding and every Democrat may vote for the nominee, or scratch his name, or vote for any one else whom he may prefer.  It will not do to say that A. B. may bolt a nomination, and that it shall place him in the highway to preferment, and that C.D., and the rest of the alphabet, shall be read out of the party for the same thing.

                It may be asked, what shall we do then? –how het out of the dilemma in which we are placed?  The way is easy.  The Democratic voters should reject the nomination, and say to their delegates you have not represented us truly in nominating a BOLTER.  By voting for him, e shall encourage disorganization, and render worthless the instrumentality of Conventions, by which alone we concentrate our strength.  One decision of the kind, my Democratic friends, made by the unambitious voter of the county, will put this bolting matter at rest.  Without such a decision, we shall continue divided, distracted, defeated.  Much better lose one election, and thus get the Achan out of our camp, than be defeated for the next ten yours.  It is positively certain that the staid sober-minded Democracy of this county and district, will not submit to the dictation of a reckless, unprincipled, bolting faction.

                I may as well here as elsewhere, meet the charge which Mr. V. , and his right bower, James Brooks, (a chapter of whose biography will be subjoined,) have made and repeated a thousand times, that is, that I bolted his nomination for President Judge of this circuit.  This he pleads in justification of his own bolting.  My answer to this, is a flat, prompt denial.  And he is a lawyer enough to know that this puts him upon the proof of his assertion by competent evidence.


                I now invite the sober minded Democracy of Montgomery to the present position of one party, and our prospects; promising that, with the exception of the disorganizers, James Brooks, and one Delazon Smith, a personage of some notoriety, we have been a united and harmonious Democracy until the advent of Mr. Vallandigham.  How is it now?  How is our front divided, and our column in disorder? What has become of the unity of feeling which used to pervade our ranks, and how are our energies paralyzed by discord? and what has produced it all?  I leave these questions to be answered by thid Democracy of the county.

                But again: how is it proposed by this new faction, to allay this embittered feeling, and restore unity of purpose and harmony in action? Intoxicated with their success in obtaining the nomination, they have already proscribed a large number of the most able, faithful, and reliable Democrats; old and young, and proclaimed that they are marked, “indelibly marked,” for the political guillotine.  Next to Vallandigham, or side by side with him Brooks leads the faction.  And who is James Brooks, that he should lead the Democracy, the true Democracy of the county?  A chapter of his biography may answer.

                During the administration of Capt. Tyler, a small faction grew up in this city, consisting of the Helfenstein family, James Brooks, and one Delazon Smith, with a few adherents.  Of all associations of sheer office seekers this clique stood pre-eminent until the recent establishment of the firm, “Vallandigham, Brooks & Co.”  Delazon wanted an appointment to do something or other, at some place or other, and for all time to come at Congress wages.  Brooks wanted the Post office in this city, and the Helfensteins all the remaining offices within the gift of the President.  Delazon was then the editor of our Democratic paper.  To effect their object, it was proposed that Delazon should doff the Democratic banner which floated at the head of the paper, and in its place hoist the Tyler flag.  No sooner said than done, and Delazon commenced his editorials with the most fulsome panegyrics on the Tyler administration.  The chagrin and indignation of the Democracy is remembered.  Being the chairman of the Executive Committee, I have not forgotten the trouble and difficulty which we encountered to restore our Organ to the true faith.  Delazon , the first, like Delazon the second, was vain, conceited, ambitious and stubborn, and Brooks stood at his back holding him to the Tyler flag.  We had meeting after meeting, but could make but little impression upon either, until we procured the efforts of Col. Sawyer, to whom the Democracy is much indebted for his efficient aid in getting Brooks silenced, Delazon ousted, and the Press restored.  So highly, however were the services of the faction appreciated by the Captain, that Delazon got an appointment for undefined services for an indefinite period, at $8 per day, and Brooks got the Post –office.—The public feeling in regard to that appointment, as expressed in public meeting and by a popular vote, is taken from the “Empire” of that day.