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1838 Buckshot War

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BUCKSHOT WAR, 1838, a disputed-elec tion case in Pennsylvania, of national import ance as bearing on the nature of the "domestic violence,* from which the constitution requires the Federal government to protect the States. As usual, fraud under legal forms was met by retaliation in defiance of them. The legislature that year had to elect a United States senator; and the return of Democratic candidates in Philadelphia gave that party a majority on joint ballot, though the Senate was 22 Whig (Anti Masonic) to 11 Democratic. But the Demo cratic congressional candidate in one of the city districts was defeated; his party charged it to frauds in the Northern Liberties district (now in Philadelphia), and the 10 Democratic election Judges threw out its entire vote of some 5,000, giving him the certificate of election. At once the seven Whig judges met and gave the certifi cate not only to their candidate, but to their legislative candidates who were not elected even with the Northern Liberties vote: obviously to fight till their congressman was restored. The secretary of State was chairman of the Whig State committee, received the Whig certificate first (professedly at least), refused to acknowl edge any others and publicly advised his party to claim the election and hold out. Armed crowds of both parties collected at Harrisburg 'to see fair play° when the legislature met, 4 December; and for some days the sessions were held with a roaring mob outside. The Whig returns alone were handed in by the secretary of State; the Whig senate organized, and then adjourned on account of the mob; one member is alleged to have threatened them with "ball and buckshot,° whence the name. In the Rep

resentatives' hall both parties organized and chose speakers, the Whigs, T. S. Cunningham, and the Democrats, William Hopkins; the former then adjourned, whereupon the latter held the hall with a guard and the Whigs had to meet outside. The Whig governor, Joseph Ritner, called on the Senate militia to be ready to rescue the capital from a 'lawless and appealed to the commandant, at Carlisle, and next to President Van Buren, for help against 'domestic violence,* which was refused on the ground that this phrase referred only to insur rection against lawful authorities whereas this was only a political struggle to cietermine who the lawful authorities were, in which the gov ernment could not decently interfere. (The same excuse was afterward made for leaving Kansas at the mercy of the Border Ruffians, though the Federal court put the United States soldiery into their hands). About 1,000 militia were brought to Harrisburg; but after a fort night's stay departed, as the city was entirely quiet, and the rival houses holding regular ses sions. The cooler Whigs, however saw that the secretary of State could not justify his assumption of power; enough Cunningham members joined the Hopkins house to give it a majority, and on the 25th the Senate acknowl edged it as the true one, whereupon the other broke up and its members gradually drifted in—all but Thaddeus Stevens (q.v.), who would not take his seat during the session. The legislature elected as senator Daniel Sturgeon, then State treasurer, who as such refused to honor Ritner's bill for the employment of the militia.