Saturday, December 16, 2006

Simon Fleishman: testimonial on behalf of Dr. J. A. Jones - More treasures from the GA Weekly Telegraph

We remember Simon Fleishman as the only one of the five adult Fleishman men living in the Jackson-Gadsden area during the 1850s and 1860s to remain in the South through the entire Reconstuction era. Simon, like Benjamin, also had a distinguished war record. Simon turns up in the Georgia Weekly Telegraph under unexpected cirucumstances. In Feb., 1873, the Telegraph reported in a puff piece - virtually an advertisement - about the "unparalleled success" of Dr. J. A. Jones in treating the "most inveterate and dangerous diseases." Among other patients, the Telegraph cited Dr. Jones' successful correction of the vision problem of "Mr. Simon Fleishman, of the mercantile house of S. Cohen, Esq., in Americus." The Telegraph also included the following statement from Simon:
"For twenty-five years my eyes have been deformed and very crooked. I came to Dr. Jones yesterday, who by a delicate, but very skillful, operation, has made my eyes straight and perfect. I feel very grateful to him and recommend him as a skillful and reliable surgeon.
I am a clerk with S. Cohen, merchant in Americus, Ga.

I was present at this operation, and testify to the truth of the above statement.
Clothing merchant in Brown's Hotel Block, Macon, Ga."
[Ga. Weekly Telegraph, Feb. 18, 1873]

Thursday, December 14, 2006

William Saunders, Hamilton and the 1868 election

Articles I recently discovered in the Georgia (Macon) Weekly Telegraph warrant revisiting Florida's Fall 1868 Congressional campaign.
Soon after Charles Hamilton was elected in May 1868 to represent Florida for the remaining months of the 40th Congress upon Florida's readmission that summer, he had to campaign again to be renominated to stand as the Republican candidate in that Fall's election if he were to join the 41st Congress in 1869. Governor Reed had postponed the Congressional election in his state until December 29th and actually canceled Florida's participation in the national November election having designated electors to support U.S. Grant, the Republican nominee for President. Florida's Republican Party met in early November and Hamilton was renominated. He was opposed, however, by William Saunders, a leader of the "radical," "mule team" faction at the state constitutional convention that past winter, who declared his candidacy for Congress as an independent. In its report on Florida politics dated Nov. 15, 1868, the Weekly Telegraph prints the following:
"Saunders, independent colored candidate for Congress, in quite a lengthy circular to voters of the State, denounces the nomination of Hamilton by Representatives as a fraud upon colored voters, and says Hamilton's supporters boasted of having cheated colored Republicans out of their last chance.
Saunders in a circular dated Headquarters Union League of Florida, addressed to members of the League, says the Republican Nominating Convention have put up a man whose name alone insures defeat, and calls on colored Republicans to send a live black man to the next Congress. Saunders signs himself Grand President Union League of Florida."
Two days later, the Telegraph's correspondent reported that "A circular of the 'Unterrified Tiger Committee,' published to-day endorses and recommends Col. Wm. U. Saunders as the people's candidate for the 41st Congress - as a representative man of his race and of the people of the South. Saunders takes the stamp at once." [GA Weekly Telegraph, Nov. 20, 1868].
The Democratic press adopted Saunders' critique of Hamilton and in a transparent attempt at encouraging a split of Republican voters to the benefit of the Democratic candidate for Congress, the Tallahassee Weekly Floridian newspaper repeatedly compared Hamilton unfavorably to Saunders and claimed that the Republican Party had given up hope of Hamilton's prevailing in the election.
The reality of Hamilton's level of black support was quite different, however, than that declared by Saunders and his cynical supporters in the press. In an article dated Nov. 19th, the Telegraph's Tallahassee correspondent reported that the "official paper" (presumably the Republican Tallahassee Sentinel), carried a "proclamation" signed by "Robert Cox, Chairman" and "A.C. Lightboom, Secretary, both of who are colored," purportedly representing the voters of Leon county after meeting to consider the choices for congressional candidate. According to the Telegraph, they proclaimed that "finding Saunders' course will ruin the State, and more especially the Republican party, and will bind us hand and foot, that Democracy may triumph, and having seen the condition of the colored men of Georgia, who have been prostrated from the condition of manhood which the Constitution gives them, by having Democracy as rulers, say they know the split in the Republican ranks, particularly in the colored element of the population of that State, brought them to their present condition; that the Constitution of this State opens the doors to every former rebel, however vicious, allowing him to vote; that they cannot afford to have a split in their midst, without swamping. They appeal to every colored man in the State to stand firm in support of C.M. Hamilton, the regular nominee, who is a good Republican, and asks Saunders to stay still awhile, when he shall be taken care of, and notify him that if he enters the field justice, noted as a great tiger hunter, will shoot him politically dead." [GA Weekly Telegraph, Nov. 27, 1868].
Hamilton, campaigning with "untiring energy" prevailed with 9,749 votes, three thousand more than his Democratic opponent, and well ahead of Saunders' total of 877 votes. Little did the 28 years old Charles Hamilton know that this electoral triumph would be the pinnacle of his political career.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Engraving of Hamilton

Through Googlebooks, I just found a fairly substantial contemporary biography of Hamilton in "The Fortieth Congress of the United States: Historical and Biographical," by William Horatio Barnes, (1870). While there is nothing new of significance in this portrait, it does include an engraving obviously derived from the one of the Brady studio "official" photographs. It is likely that Barnes solicited the biographical questionnaire notes found in the Florida archives. Barnes does include a few interesting sentences that certainly warrant quoting in this blog. After Hamilton joined the Veteran Reserves Corps, Barnes writes that "Lieutenant Hamilton's tall and soldierly appearance and superior qualifications attracted the notice of his superior officers, and he was given an appointment on the staff of General Martindale, Military Governor of the District of Columbia (Barnes, 244). Discussing Hamilton's responsibilities as Bureau officer, Barnes writes that "No officer of the bureau in the State of Florida identified himself more thoroughly with these great ends of official duty than Colonel Hamilton. His reputation for efficiency and just administration was so wide-spread that the poor and oppressed, ignorant that State lines could interpose an obstacle in their way, came hundreds of miles, out of the lower borders of Alabama, to lay their grievances before his tribunal." Following his "unanimous" nomination for Congress at the Republican State Convention on Feb. 25, 1868: "In the canvass that followed the zeal and eloquence with which he addressed the people was inspired by the desire as much for the adoption of the State constitution as the palladium of freedom and equal rights, as for his own election." Barnes includes a lengthy quote from the "Florida Union": "Col Hamilton received the nomination of the party and secured its vote at the election in May, on the double ground of fitness for the position, and of his services in behalf of his party; his consistent course as a radical Republican, in all matters involving political questions, and his unwearied and successful exertions in behalf of Union men and freedmen while an officer of the bureau at Marianna. During his few weeks in Congress last spring, he took a prominent and active part for so young a member, and comes back to his constituents with a good record and without reproach."
UPDATE: reproductions of the Hamilton engraving [Digital ID: 1250164] are available for purchase from the New York Public Library through the "Digital Gallery" section of its website.