Tuesday 14th. . . . Father, mother & Sol went to Ionia to a Republican mass
meeting. They had a great meeting. They thought there were about three thousand people. They had badges to wear, which consisted of white watered ribbon & red satin to, 10 inches long, with
first at the top an eagle, then Freemont & Dayton, then the portrait of Freemont, then, free speech & free men, then Slavery shall not travel into Kansas by our votes. Thirty-two ladies,
representing the states went from Lyons. The one representing Kansas wore a black cape.
The presidential election of 1856 saw sharp divisions among the American people. Rosette records her family's alignment with the new Republican party, which nominated John C. Frémont as candidate. He won 1.3 million votes, ultimately, but only 1200 votes in slave states, and Democrat James Buchanan defeated him with 1.8 million votes. Frémont was not deterred from politics, though, and ran on the "Radical Democracy Party" ticket against Abraham Lincoln in 1864.
In 1856, though, Frémont enjoyed the support
of lawyer Abraham Lincoln in the only political campaign speech Lincoln ever made in Michigan--in Kalamazoo August 27, just a few days before
Rosette's journal opens. Did Rosette's father Jacob or her brother Solomon, both of whom voted with the abolitionist Republican party, hear that speech? It is interesting that the Kalamazoo
attorney who invited Lincoln was also the previous (investment) owner of Jacob Ramsdell's farm in Ionia County. They may well have been acquainted, if not friends, when the Ramsdells lived in
Kalamazoo the previous decade. Jacob Ramsdell was a prominent early citizen of that city--he laid out the plan of its
streets and was elected county judge before moving to Ionia County in 1845.
The journal recounts a couple of political meetings beyond this one in Ionia County, and in one Jacob Ramsdell made a speech in lieu of the no-show speaker, and was with another man elected delegate to the county convention. One nearby county was so thoroughly in harmony with the abolition sentiment that 90% of its men voted for Frémont. This 1856 election was important enough to Solomon that it is mentioned in his 1900 biography in The City of Grand Rapids and Kent County, Michigan.
For a fascinating additional note about campaigns and fashion, something Rosette might well have been excited about, given her
loving detail of the "badges" from the mass meeting, please subscribe to
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John C. Frémont was a handsome fellow, as can be seen in this stock image style popular for many campaigns in his era.
Here is something of the slogan Rosette records in her journal:
Frémont & Dayton
Free Speech Free Press