AUGUST   2020


Friday, November 07, 2014


I know that Abraham Lincoln read Shakespeare, which makes the events at the Illinois Republican state convention in Decatur on May 9, 1860, so revealing. Three times the 22 delegates demanded that Lincoln “identify your work!”, and three times their nominee refused to claim the boards supporting his campaign banners had come from logs he himself had split. Like Julius Caesar three times refusing the crown of a Roman king, each display of modesty drove the crowd into a greater frenzy. It was this invention of “Lincoln The Railspitter” which marked “Honest Abe” as a real contender for the Presidential nomination, one week later at the Republican National Convention. Clearly, Abraham was prepared to perform exactly the kind of theatrics required in politics.
Just a year earlier Lincoln appeared to have given up any Presidential ambitions. In March of 1859 he had written a friend, “Seriously, I do not think I am fit for the Presidency.” But two events in early 1860, changed his mind. First, at the end of February, Lincoln gave a speech at the prestigious New York City private college, the Cooper Union. His arguments against slavery were reprinted in newspapers across the north and positively received. And secondly, in the last week of April the Democratic Party convention in Charleston adjourned after 57 ballots, unable to agree on a nominee. With Democrats splitting into three wings, the young Republican party had a chance to win the November election.
Senator William Seward was the presumptive Republican nominee. At 70 members, his own New York delegation was the largest. The dour NYC banker and merchant Edwin Morgan (above), also a Seward man,   was the Republican Party National Chairman. And the crafty Thurlow Weed, “The Wizard of the Lobby”, who had helped build Seward's reputation for more than two decades, was in Chicago. Even eight members of the Illinois delegation were suspected of preferring Seward to Lincoln. Chairman Morgan had even chosen the city of 100,000 on the lake as a bribe for Illinois Party Chairman Norman Judd., as was the tempting offer to name Judd, Seward's nominee for Vice President.
All that Lincoln had to offer was himself, but for a few that was enough. Their leader was the imposing Judge David Davis (above). He had presided over the Illinois Eighth Circuit Court, deciding almost 90 cases lawyered by Lincoln. And although he decided only forty in Lincoln's favor, Davis trusted the younger man enough to ask him to substitute as judge occasionally. Davis described Lincoln as “a peculiar man; he never asked my advice on any question.” 
But when new lawyer Leonard Swett joined the circuit, he was introduced to Davis and Lincoln, dressed in their nightshirts, as they engaged in a boisterous pillow fight. Sett became Lincoln's most trusted friend. Also working for the prairie lawyer was Lincoln's longtime law partner, the big, jovial hard drinking Virginian born, Ward Lamon (above).
Judge Davis was an abolitionist. Lamon's family owned slaves and he hated abolitionists. Swett (above) preferred a good fight, a guitar and a jug of whiskey over politics. This diverse group, along with dozens of like minded others, sacrificed their time and money to win the nomination for Lincoln. 
They started late, having to beg families to give up their rooms at the Tremont hotel (above). Davis spent $700 out of his own pocket, and more for whiskey and food, but on the Friday, four days before the convention opened, the Lincoln men were headquartered at the Tremont, ready to the seduce the arriving delegates . Said Swett,  “I did not, the whole week I was there, sleep two hours a night.”
The delegates arrived by foot and horseback, carried on lake steamers or the dozen rail lines serving Chicago - 10,000 delegates, alternates, reporters and spectators, all converging five blocks from the Tremont, at a two story, 5,000 square foot timber building which had not existed five weeks earlier. They called the $6,000 structure “The Wigwam” (above). 
Writer Isaac Hill Bromley described the scene, “The stage proper (left) was of sufficient capacity to hold all the delegates, who were seated on either side of a slightly elevated dais...
 The galleries were reserved (FG)...the miscellaneous public (center)...four or five thousand stood in the aisles and all the available unoccupied space....the delegates could be seen from all parts of the auditorium...Something of convenience was sacrificed to dramatic effect. The convention was just then ‘The greatest show on earth.”
There were just 465 voting delegates from 24 states, and the District of Columbia. As they arrived, but especially the delegates from the four swing states that would likely carry the November election, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, they were met and courted by agents representing Seward, Lincoln and a half dozen other “favorite son” candidates. The Seward men,  headquartered in the upscale Richmond House, were particularly blunt in their tactics. Before the convention had even started, on Tuesday, 15 May, the Illinois delegation was offered a campaign chest of $100,000 for the fall, if they would vote for Lincoln as Seward's Vice President. The same offer was made to the Indiana delegation, and New Jersey. It was an attempt to derail Lincoln, and win the nomination for Seward on the first ballot. But it backfired. Illinois party chief Norman Judd felt betrayed. When the convention opened the next day at ten minutes after noon, Judd threw his full support behind Lincoln.
The 54 members of the Pennsylvania delegation were pledged to vote for their “favorite son”, Senator Simon Cameron (above) on the first ballot. Cameron, meanwhile had assured Thurlow Weed he would sell his delegation for a cabinet post, and Seward expected to win the nomination on the second or third ballot. In fact almost half of Cameron's delegation hated him so much, they were secretly prepared to vote for anybody else. The only question was for who? 
In another sign Thurlow Weed had over played his hand, the dapper Illinois party chairman Norman Judd (above) managed to isolate the New York delegation in the back of the hall, and seated the Keystone delegates between the Indiana and Illinois delegations – 22 and 26 delegates each– where Illinois Lieutenant Governor Gustave Koerner and Indiana Gubernatorial candidate Caleb Smith could reminded the Pennsylvanians that Lincoln was an alternative to Seward and Cameron.
Missouri's delegate's were pledged to vote for Representative Edward Bates (above), despite his being an unrepentant Know Nothing, who despised Catholics and foreigners - such as the German Catholics in St. Louis, Chicago and Cincinnati.  
Bates was being marketed by the owner and editor of the New York Tribune, Horace Greeley (above). Even tho the newspaperman had never been west of Iowa, Greeley was an Oregon delegate, and would deliver Oregon's 8 votes, along with Missouri's 18, to Bates because Greeley was convinced Seward was too radical to carry the swing states - Ohio's 48 delegates were pledged to support Salomen P. Chase, who was even openly opposed to slavery, and therefore even more un-electable, than Seward. 
Seward's perceived radicalism also worried party leaders in Maine and Massachusetts – 16 and 26 delegates respectively. The New York Senator (above, right) had told the truth, that democracy and slavery were in "irrepressible conflict",  just as Lincoln had said "a house divided against itself, can not stand". But Seward told his truth in 1858, on the senate floor, and earned the hatred of Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis (above, left). The perception was that Seward was the radical. So the New Engenders had already reached a quiet deal with most of the delegates from Pennsylvania and Ohio to jointly, after the first ballot, abandon their favorite sons and support somebody, anybody, but Seward. The only question was, who?. The name that kept coming up was Lincoln. 
Although he had been a favorite son candidate at the 1856 convention, Lincoln was still an unknown quantity to most of the delegates But thanks to Judge Davis' strategy, he had become, the convention's second choice. If they couldn't have Seward, or Bates, or Chase, then the vast majority of delegates was willing to nominate Lincoln. But to strengthen that argument, Judge Davis figured Lincoln had to get at least 100 votes on the first ballot, just under half way to the 233 needed to win the nomination.
It is true that Lincoln telegraphed from Springfield, warning Judge Davis that he would not make political compromises to become President. But years later Chicago Attorney Wirt Dexter suggested that Davis was guilty of the same sin he had accused Thurlow Weed of - offering duplicate rewards to politicians from several delegations. “You must have prevaricated somewhat”, suggested Dexter. To which Judge Davis shouted in his high pitched voice, “PREVARICATED, Brother Dexter? We lied like hell!”
On Friday, as the temperature and emotions inside and outside the Wigwam climbed, Thurlow Weed pulled a final rabbit out of his hat - retired bare knuckle champion, Tom Hyer (above). The 6'2”, 185 pound boxer earned his living as an enforcer for William “Bill The Butcher” Poole, leader of a notorious five points gang, until Bill was shot and killed in an 1855 bar fight. 
The now 41 year old Hyer was reduced to a Know Nothing celebrity thug, and this Friday was leading a brass band and 2,000 New York “pug-ugly” Seward (above) supporters, marching to the Wigwam, singing “Oh, isn't he a dar-ling! With his grace-ful ways,. And his eye so gay. Yes, he's a lit-tle dar-ling. To me he is di-vine. He loves me too, with a heart so true. This charming beau of mine.” 
It was an impressive and enthusiastic parade, until Hyer and his iron voiced shouters reached the convention hall, where their way was blocked by a crowd of perhaps 25,000. When they finally worked their way to the doors and presented their tickets, they were denied entrance to the Wigwam. The spectator gallery, even the standing space between the aisles was already full. And every person inside and outside had a ticket. .
The man responsible for this feat of legerdemain was Lincoln's hard drinking Virginian troubadour,.Ward Lamon (above). He had printed up several thousand counterfeit tickets for the Wigwam, and the Lincoln supporters had presented their forgeries at 9 a.m., flooding the building an hour before the Tom Hyer's men had arrived. The Seward forces made desperate calls for the Sargent-at-arms to check spectator tickets, but given that the day before Judge Davis had charged the Seward forces with handing out counterfeits, and that the building was crammed almost to bursting, the functionaries decided not to get involved in the infighting. Besides, the real battle was on the stage, among the delegates.
When Lincoln's name was placed in Nomination, the screaming was so loud the Wigwam’s windows trembled “as if they had been pelted with hail.” Said Swettt, “Five thousand people leaped to their seats, women not wanting...A thousand steam whistles, ten acres of hotel gongs, a tribe of Comanches might have mingled in the scene unnoticed.” On the first ballot, Seward (being thrown overboard) led as expected,. with 173 votes. But Lincoln (at the stern) was second with 102 votes. Cameron got 50 of Pennsylvania’s 54 votes, just ahead of Ohio's Salomen Chase's 49 votes. The best that Horace Greeley's (right of Lincoln) candidate Edward Bates (right of Greeley)  could collect was 48, with 8 other favorite sons getting less than 14 each.
Immediately Lincoln's men moved for a second ballot, before Thurlow Weed (above) could get the attention of the chairman, or could reach out to sway delegates. At the same time Judge Davis managed to solidify a deal with the the sleazy Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania, agreeing to make him Lincoln's Secretary of War. In fact the Pennsylvania delegates had already agreed to bolt for Lincoln, and on the second ballot Weed gained 11 votes for Seward, but Lincoln gained 79, most of those coming at the expense of Cameron and Bates.
Seward's fate was sealed on the third ballot. He lost 4 votes. Lincoln gained another 50 votes, most coming from Maryland, Kentucky and Virginia. The Rail Splitter was now just one vote away from the nomination. The Wigwam erupted in shouting, cheering and cursing, until the chairman of the Ohio delegation, David Cartter, got the chairman's attention, and stuttered, “I-I arise, Mr. Chairman, to a-announce the ch-change of four votes, from Mr. Chase to Abraham Lincoln!” .
Writer Bromley observed the pandemonium as delegation after delegation clamored for the Chairman's attention to shift their votes to Lincoln “On the platform near me...the Indiana men generally were smashing hats and hugging each other; the Illinois men did everything except stand on their heads; hands were flying wildly in the air, everybody’s mouth was open, and bedlam seemed loose. The din of it was terrific. Seen from the stage it seemed to be twenty thousand mouths in full blast…” The final count for the official third ballot gave Lincoln 364 votes. Lincoln had won.
Buckeye newspaperman Murate Halsted disagreed. “The fact of the Convention was the defeat of Seward rather than the nomination of Lincoln.” That may have been true in May of 1860, perhaps even in March of 1861 when Lincoln took the oath of office as President. 
But on January 1st, 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation became law, Lincoln became more than a mere politician, more than a mere victor. He achieved the potential that diverse group of men from the 8th Circuit Court had seen in Lincoln, the reason they had sacrificed and worked,to make him president, not because he could be, but because they knew he should be.

On that Friday evening, some of the delegates who had just voted to nominate Abraham Lincoln, were lining up out side of McVicker's Theater, to see Tom Taylor's two year old play, “Our American Cousin” (above). In one month short of five years, Abraham Lincoln would finally see the play, at Ford's Theater in Washington, the night he was murdered. And in 1869 the Wigwam burned down
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Wednesday, November 05, 2014


I am not surprised the killer apologized. And on that Christmas Eve morning, when “short drop” Calcraft slipped the noose around his neck, twenty-four year old Frederick Baker probably took comfort from having made the apology. He should not have. The hangman, Mr. William Calcraft, had ushered some 450 souls to their final reward over his fifty year career, and Frederick would be far from his last job, although he would be one of the last public ones. But Calcraft’s technique of dropping his subjects no more than 18 inches insured that Frederick, like all the others, would take from three to four minutes to slowly strangle to death, kicking and writhing in full view of the 5,000 people (mostly women) gathered to witness his well earned demise. And the confession he had made and the denial it included was simply final proof that Fredrick Baker was a liar to the very last moment of his life.
On Tan House Lane in the “…pleasant little market town…” of Alton, stood the modest home of bricklayer George Adams, his wife Harriet and their seven children. Tan House Lane was a back street off the main road (the High Street) which led north from Alton to London, 45 miles distant. The Lane was just 400 yards long and terminated in a flood meadow owned by a man named Hobbs who used to grow leeks there. Beyond, crisscrossing foot paths bisected the hops fields that supported Alton's half dozen breweries and their pubs. One of those footpaths, known as the Hollow, led across fields and farms to the even smaller village of Shalden, some three miles away.
On the hot lazy Saturday afternoon, August 24, 1867, sometime after one thirty, seven year old Lizzie Adams and her year eight year old sister Fanny were playing with their neighbor, eight year old Minnie Warner, in the flood meadow, when a man appeared. He was dressed in a black frock coat, light colored waistcoat and trousers and wore a top hat. The girls immediately realized he had been drinking. Still, the man seemed pleasant enough, and offered Minnie and Lizzie a half penny each if they would run a race to The Hollow, while he and Fanny followed. The two girls agreed and scampered off. When they were all rejoined at the Hollow the man congratulated the girls and paid them.
He then offered them a full penny if they would go into a nearby field with him and eat some berries. Again, the offer of a penny was strong inducement and the three girls opened the gate and went into the  field. They spent some time eating berries, before the man offered Fanny a half penny if she would walk with him to Shalden. Fanny took the coin, but something made her refuse to take the man’s hand. He paid the other two girls their last penny and told them to go home. Then he swept up little Fanny in his arms and carried her away.
We have gained some small insight into the fate of "Sweet" Fanny Adams (above) in the 150 years since her ordeal. The lessons were paid for by the thousands of those innocents who have followed her. According to a study released by Washington State,  44 % of child victims were killed by strangers and 42% by family or acquaintances. Two thirds of the perpetrators had prior arrests for violent crimes, but just half had prior arrests for crimes against children. In 76% of homicide cases involving child abduction, the child was dead within three hours. And in 74% of the cases, the victim was a female under the age of 11. Of course none of this insight explains why Frederick Baker sexually assaulted 8 year old Fanny Adams, then killed her and then butchered her corpse. The crime itself may be beyond explanation or understanding. And that may be the saddest thing of all about Fanny's brutal death; the idea that there is little we can do or have done to prevent it from happening again and again.
Later testimony from his co-workers suggested that Fredrick Baker caved in Fanny’s head with a stone, and by three o’clock had returned to his job as a clerk in the office of Mr. William Clement. Later, around five o’clock, Frederick allegedly walked back to the murder scene and butchered and dismembered the little girl’s corpse. It was done quickly and clumsily. She was decapitated. Her legs and internal organs were scattered in the tall grass, haphazardly. And for some reason Frederick carried her eyes all the way to the River Wye before throwing them in. Did he think hiding her eyes was going to keep anyone from seeing what he had done?
During the inquest at the Alton Old Town Hall (above) Minnie Warner and Lizzie Adams identified Frederick as the man who had carried Fanny off. Mrs. Harriet Adams and their neighbor, Mrs. Gardner, testified they had met Frederick coming out of the meadow when they first went to look for Fanny, sometime after five. When Alton Police arrested him the next day at his workplace, Frederick’s wristbands were still spotted with blood. It was noted that his pant legs and socks had been wet when he had returned after lunch the day of the murder. And a diary entry found in his desk, read, “24th August, Saturday; killed a young girl. It was fine and hot.”
The Alton Police (standing in front of their station on the High Street, above) knew Frederick from previous arrests for drunkenness and fighting. It would be testified in his defense that Frederick’s father had “shown an inclination to assault even to kill, his children.” It was also alleged that Frederick had recently attempted suicide after a girl had rejected him, that his sister had died of a “brain fever”, and that a cousin had been in mental asylums on four separate occasions. None of that made a difference. The jury convicted Frederick in just fifteen minutes.
The night before his execution, Christmas eve-eve, Frederick Baker wrote to George and Harriet Adams. He wrote that he was sorry for murdering their Fanny, and had done it in “an unguarded hour” only because she would not stop crying. It was done, he insisted without “malice aforethought” and without “…pain or struggle”. Frederick assured the grieving parents he had not molested Fanny, but he offered no other explanation as to why she had been crying when he had murdered her.
The slow execution of Frederick Baker, as gruesome as any parent of a murdered child might wish for, did nothing to save the lives of the uncounted children who have followed Fanny. But every child saved during the vital first three hours of an abduction by an Amber Alert, must thank Donna and Jimmy Hagerman, who in 1996 pushed to change the way U.S. police respond to child abductions, after their daughter, Amber Hagerman (below) was murdered. And those children saved by Amber's sacrifice can also thank those who ask questions about these monsters in our midst, rather than simply calling for their blood. Spilling blood may be a just punishment, but it never saved a life.
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