The History of the Germans in Buffalo and Erie County, N.Y. - Part I, pages 62 - 66

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The whole military power of Buffalo was assembled at the foot of Genesee Street, near the canal, with the exception of artillery, to protect five workingmen, two surveyors and a few teams. While serving, Lieutenant Solomon Scheu of Company A of the 65th Regiment, showed his sympathy for the dissatisfied laborers and declared that a daily pay of six shillings would not be too much. This expression vexed the sheriff so much, that he had Lieutenant Scheu arrested. The episode had no bad consequences for the military and political life of this benevolent lieutenant. The soldiers remained armed for a whole week. The strikers went to work again under the former conditions, because they were forced by need. With the sheriffs assistance the contractors had conquered.

In the Political World

The two historical national parties were still, since the President's election of 1840, against each other. "Here Whig!" and "There Democrats!" was the war-cry. Both great parties took the same reserved position concerning the question of slavery, being the matter of life and death for the nation, with the difference that the democratic party followed the slave-holders command more willingly because the slave-states belonged to them. The majority of the democrats in the Northern states consisted of emigrants. The German-American citizens too, with few exceptions, joined this party. [1.] In their principles they were against slavery, but they reconciled themselves by the fact that slavery in the southern states depended on state laws made by their citizens. The northern states had no right to interfere with this law, and neither had congress. The Germans stuck to their party with such great faithfulness, that even the reading of the opposed parties papers or the visiting of their meetings was strictly forbidden. The voter who changed his party was called "Turncoat," and he who belonged to no party was held in political contempt.

The Germans were no good friends of the Whigs," because they had good reason to consider them protectionists, monopolists, puritans and nativists. The democracy, the real popular party, was the friend of the emigrants and the opponent of those who wanted to be puritanical guardians.[2.]

As usual, the party that steered the vessel of state was blamed for the "bad times" that followed the panic of 1836.

The campaign began at that time much earlier, than after the construction of railroads and telegraphs, for they needed more time for their agitations. In 1840 they therefore started much sooner with their work for the President's election.

[1.] The German text reads "Even the German-American citizens from the 1848 migration embraced this [the Democratic] Party with few exceptions. Return to text

[2.]This paragraph has no German text counterpart. Return to text

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Toward the end of April there was a "German Democratic Organization of Buffalo" formed. The characteristic of their constitution was: "Increase of political knowledge and sticking to the democratic principles." Every German was allowed to become a member of this society, even if he was no citizen yet. E.G. Grey was President, J.M. Zahm (brother of the publisher of the "Weltbürger") was Secretary of the Association. The campaign which was in Erie County, the stronghold of the "Whigs," became very heated, Dr. F.K. Brunck, a very animated democratic public speaker, took part in it, encouraged by his friend Philipp Dorschheimer, whose acquaintance he made in Lyons. In spite of the ardour of the German democrats in the county, General Harrison, the Whig candidate for President, received twice as many votes as his democratic opponent Van Buren.

During the campaign a number of Germans joined the "Whigs", with whom they remained for the future until the "Free Soil" predecessor of the republican party attracted them.

The Log Cabin

In the summer of 1842 when ex-president Van Buren returned to his home in the state of New York, arriving from his journey through the western states and passed Buffalo, he was welcomed by the Germans with the greatest joy. To honor him they arranged a procession with torches in which 3,000 people took part. Van Buren answered Dr. Brunck's speech in a very flattering way for the Germans. The English newspaper spoke highly about this parade the following day.

At the governor's election, 1842 the democrats had lost a majority of 342 votes for Harrison. In the county the "Whigs" lost at the governor's election 2400 votes. This result was caused by the unity and the ardour of the Germans. In 1843 all the democratic candidates were elected at the city election. The democratic candidate for the mayor's office, Joseph G. Masten had a majority of 460 votes.

Caption under picture at right center reads Philipp Dorschheimer

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This was the first election under the charter in 26 years, in which the democrats were victorious.

The Germans took great interest in the campaign of 1844 between Polk and Clay in which the democrats made every effort to make amends for 1840.

In 1846 David Wilmot, democratic member of Congress from Pennsylvania, made a motion to amend a bill, which appropriated $2,000,000 toward annexation of Mexican territory. This amendment, the so-called "Wilmot Proviso", provided for the exclusion of slave-holding in the territory in question. When the "Wilmot Proviso" was rejected by Congress, the proposer of this act (the excluding of slavery in the new territories) formed a new party under the name "Free Soil". The latter held the first convention in 1848 in Buffalo - the only National Convention of this party that ever has taken place - and nominated Martin Van Buren as the candidate for president. The candidate of the "Whigs" was General Zachery Taylor of Kentucky, the candidate for vice-president was Millard Fillmore from Buffalo. General Louis Cass from Milwaukee was the candidate of the

Caption under picture at right center readsWilkeson Homestead

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democrats. In consequence of the joining the "Free Soil" party by many democrats of the northern states, the "whigs" were victorious. Many Germans including Philipp Dorsheimer [1.] joined the "Free Soil" party and later became members of the republican party of city and county, organized on the 14th of September, 1855, an assembly of citizens in the old "Court house". The German republicans had their mass-meetings in Ziegele's Hall at the south-east corner of Main and Virginia Streets. This hall received the name "Fremont Hall". The meeting took place during the campaign of 1856.

A number of "Christian women" tried to shorten the German's joyful times and to convert the "wicked" people to temperance. [2.] On the 17th of March, 1850, a meeting took place in the First Presbyterian Church to organize a temperance society, which consisted of many hypocrites. In a second meeting Ginsteniani, president of the so-called Free catholic union, was made editor of a German temperance newspaper which was to be established. This plan was never carried out.

The temperance union of this place engaged other party men in the state to "bless" New York with the same liquor bill as they had in Maine. In the mean time the hypocrites continued in the city with their agitations.

It was not until May, 1851, that the Germans realized that their personal rights and liberties were threatened. In an assembly of German citizens at Gillig's Hall they protested in speeches and resolutions against the partial and narrow-minded manner in which the aldermen, influenced by the hypocrites, allowed or refused licences. The German citizens were supported little or not at all by other citizens, unfavorable toward the temperance actions, while the always active hypocrites were assisted by the powerful alliance of the puritan clergy and of the "Christian women". When Governor Seymour in 1854 had vetoed a shocking liquor-bill, that had passed by the legislature, which was in favor of the hypocrites, the Germans expressed their

Caption under picture at right center reads Jacob Scheu, Chairman of Mass-meeting, April 7, 1854

[1.]The German text spells his name "Dorschheimer". Return to text

[2.]The German text reads "It was here that a number of Christian women proposed to bring a halt to the pleasurable enjoyments of the Germans, end their wet and merry recreation on Sundays and return the sinful people to sober hypocrisy and temperance." Return to text

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thanks for this action in a mass meeting held on the 7th of April. Jacob Scheu was chairman of the meeting. An address of thanks to the governor was accepted with loud applause, after the meeting was adjourned a torchlight procession took place in his honor.

The procession was preceded by marshals. At the head marched the "Turn Verein" [Gymnastics Club], consisting of 100 men. This was followed by the "Arbeiter Verein" [Workmen's Association], and a great number of citizens. Music bands were distributed in the parade.[1.] Numerous standards and transparencies with proper inscriptions were carried. Amid the thundering of cannons at the corner of Main and Genesee Streets the procession passed through Main, Exchange, Michigan, Seneca, Pearl, Court, Batavia, Michigan, and Genesee Streets, backing to the starting point in front of "Gillig's Hall", where three hearty cheers were given for Governor Seymour. Rotten eggs were thrown out of some houses on Seneca Street upon the marching people by temperance fanatics. This incident instead of quieting the enthusiasm inflamed it still more.

In consequence of the passing of a new strict liquor bill in 1855, the brewers and saloonkeepers formed a "mutual union of protection".

Caption under picture at right center reads S.W. Corner of Main and Mohawk Streets , Business District of the 1850s

[1.]The German text reads "There were three music bands in the parade and numerous banners and transparencies with appropriate sayings were carried." Return to text


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Revised November 28, 2004
Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks