Absquatulators! Whigs vs. Locofocos

From the O.S. Journal.

Inverse “Absquatulation” — The Tables Turned — The Ass Standing to Hay, but wouldn’t eat!

The scene in the Senate, yesterday afternoon, on the passage of the bill to amend the Congressional Districting law, was “rich” (as the Senator from Hamilton would say) beyond anything that has been witnessed this session. The majority proceeded with the business before them very orderly, and with no seeming haste, offering to the minority full swing at the bill. In the first place, it will be remembered, the State Printer discovered that the copy of the bill laid on the table of Senators, was a “forgery.” This astute discovery being exposed, what was next to be done? There was a bill — it was no forgery — should they stand up to the rack “fodder or no fodder,” or should they “absquatulate.” —

Unfortunately, they had passed a law during the session of 1842-‘3, when running over with patriotism at the outrageous conduct of the Whigs, which might be a little troublesome should they attempt that Constitutional remedy, so they began casting about for a substitute. They could play Dummy! — So they opened their mouths and proclaimed aloud that they couldn’t talk! — they would walk up to the rack, but they wouldn’t touch that bundle of hay, the vile thing — their “democratic” stomachs revolted at being obliged to eat their own trash — no! they would starve first! — they felt indignant! — and if the majority would stuff them, they would stand mute, their mouths sealed, and if all their friends would do the same thing, it would be some time before the majority got the bundle of hay eaten — that it would! — (Here the scene changed — the open mouths were shut — and there sat the Senators, the one from Hamilton and the one from Richland taking the lead, playing “absquatulation” on an inverse rule. They would not speak, not they — the majority might whisk the bundle of hay under their noses, but they wouldn’t open their mouths, if they died for it!)

At this point of the proceedings, a new act in the drama was being enacted by the majority. The first part had been broad farce — that which was to follow, was clearly tragi-comical. Mr. Kelley, from Franklin, rose, and began reading the proceedings of “an unprecedentedly large  meeting of citizens from different portions of Ohio, convened at the Market-house in Columbus, on the evening of Tuesday, August 11th, 1842,” to express their opinion of absquatulation in the abstract and in the concrete — of “absquatulaton” direct, and of “absquatulaton” inverse.

At this meeting presided as Chairman, “the Hon. DAVID T. DISNEY, of Hamilton county.” Mr. K. read the patriotic remarks of the Hon. Chairman, on taking the Chair, in explanation of the objects of the meeting. “This is no matter of party interest,” said the eloquent chairman — “it is above and beyond mere party — it is one which appeals to the heart and judgment of every man — it is an assault upon your Constitution — it is a dissolution of your Government.”

During the reading of the very moving remarks of the chairman, the muscles of the Senator from Hamilton were observed to twitch. The scene was “rich, racy, to use his own favorite expression.

It was supposed too that some slight recollection of the provisions of the Constitution was flitting across the minds of the dumb members, just at this time, wherein it is provided — that “each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, and punish its members for disorderly behavior.” There was a rule compelling the members to think of absquatulation direct, that is, resigning, when they would no longer be members. But then it occurred to the logical mind of the member from Richland, that it was not “disorderly” to refuse to talk. He seemed to think that “disorder” consisted in kicking up a fuss generally, like the member from Hamilton in the lower House — taking off your coat, rolling up your sleeves, and kicking up your heels. And “absquatulation” inverse, was not “absquatulation” direct — for though the mind might be absent, the body was there. They could count their bodies, but they couldn’t count their noes, for they wouldn’t open their mouths, Constitution or no Constitution!

Well — there say the Dummys. Mr. Kelley proceeded with the reading of the proceedings. He had got through with the pathetic speech of the Chairman, and he came next to the preamble of the Resolutions. From this he read — “And, whereas, the power to repeal the bill about to be passed, was boldly claimed upon the floor of the Senate, by one of the Senators who aided in this revolutionary attempt, AND THAT POWER NEVER DENIED, it is now too late to claim that if the law was odious to the People, still would it be saddled upon them for the next ten years”!!!

At the reading of this, the lips of the Dummys dropped, and it was supposed they would open their mouths. But this bill does not follow out the remedy above conceded — it does not repeal, it only AMENDS! Of course, said the Senator of Hamilton to himself, I admit the doctrine of Repeal — ain’t I going for repeal of the Bank Law? To be sure I am — and if these Whigs would only go for Repeal, I would be with ’em but not to amend! No, no — repeal, destroy, break down, but never amend and build up!

— In this state of suspense the bill was gone through with, and put on its passage in the Senate. The time had arrived for seeing how many intended to play “absquatulation” in dumb show. The Constitution requires a quorum of two-thirds to do business. The question was put — a sufficient number, under a sense of duty imposed by their oaths while members, answered to their names to make a quorum, and the bill passed. Thus ended “absquatulation” inversed — and so ended this game of wickeness and folly. We have not heard this morning from the Dummys, whether they have recovered their speech or not. The bill has yet to pass the House.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Mar 18, 1845


Alfred Kelley

Alfred Kelley: His Life and Work

by the Hon. James L. Bates 1888 (Read it online HERE)

Locofoco “Absquatulation.”

Our readers will learn, by perusing the proceedings of the State Legislature, that the Locofoco members of the Senate arrested the proceedings of that body on the 14th instant, by absenting themselves from the Senate chamber while the Apportionment Bill was under consideration in that body. This high-handed act was committed by every Locofoco member of the Senate, with the exception of Messrs. Archbold and Spindler, thus leaving the Senate without a quorum for the transaction of further business. A call of the Senate took place, and the proper officer sent for the absentees, who announced that he could find but two of them, and that they refused to return to the Senate. The reason the “Absquatulators” assign for the course they have pursued, is, that the majority were about to pass an Apportionment Bill which contained a provision for dividing the county of Hamilton into two districts, which provision they claim to be unconstitutional; and rather than see the constitution violated, they say they were determined to commit the “treasonable” act of breaking up the Legislature, and dissolving the State Government. They well knew that unless the present Legislature passed a law to apportion the members among the several counties of the State, there existed no authority under the constitution for holding another election for members of the Legislature, and that the State Government would be at an end, — and yet they deliberately vacated their seats.

We are somewhat anxious to know what our neighbors of the Experiment will say to this “treasonable” act of his Locofoco brethren. —

When the Whig Senators resigned, at the extra session in 1842, for the purpose of preventing the passage of the bill to divide the State into Congressional Districts, no person was louder or more bitter in his denunciations of those who felt it their duty to defeat that unjust measure in the only constitutional manner that was left to them, than the editor of the Experiment. Their resignations, too, only had the effect of postponing the apportionment bill until the next session of the Legislature, and the people then had ample time to elect their Congressmen before they were required to assemble at the national capital. But now, the absence of the Locofoco Senators, if persisted in, will prevent an organization of the State Government next winter — leave the office of Auditor of State vacant — defeat, among other important measures, the passage of the bill making appropriations for the support of the State Government for the ensuing year — and leave the affairs of our State in confusion.

The Statesman and other Locofoco papers, uphold and approve the course pursued by the refractory Senators, and we have no doubt our neighbor will be found following in the footsteps of his illustrious leader — Sam Medary.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Feb 22, 1848


Samuel Medary

For more on Samuel Medary:

Historical Collections Relating to Gwynedd (Pennsylvania)
By Howard M. Jenkins
Second Edition 1897

Scroll down a bit HERE.

The Legislature.

This body adjourned sine die on Friday last, having been in session about eleven weeks, during which time a large amount of business has been accomplished. The session was prolonged somewhat in consequence of the factious course pursued by the fifteen Locofoco “Absquatulaors.”

The bill dividing the State into Legislative districts for the ensuing four years, which caused so much squirming among the Locofoco, became a law in spite of the fifteen Locofoco Senators who fled from the Senate at the bidding of Sam Medary, and issued their decrees from “No. 18.” We learn from the Cleveland Herald, that the following is the mudus operandi by which the bill was passed into a law:

The Senatorial Absquatulators and their party associates in the House who had signed and sealed a contract to back up the revolution, were completely out-generaled in the final action on the apportionment bill, and by one of the quietest as well as most worthy men in the house.

The House some time previous passed the Senate Apportionment Bill with amendments. It was sent to the Senate for concurrence. The Senate disagreed. The House insisted on its amendments — then moved a reconsideration, and receded from some of its amendments. — The bill was again sent to the Senate. The Senate were about to take the vote upon the question of concurring with the remaining House amendments, when the absquatulation took place. Peaceful and legal measures were employed to bring the recreants back to duty, and these failing, the Whigs of the House “did up the job in a hurry.”

In pursuance to a preconcerted arrangement, when the Locos in the House were somewhat off their guard, Mr. Park, of Lorain, rose and offered a resolution, which he sent to the chair. Now Mr. P. is a philanthropist as well as a Solon, and a portion of his business this session as well as the previous one, had been to get the Legislature to allow a cripple among his constituents by the name of Coppins, to peddle without license. Of course when Mr. P. offered his resolution the Locos thought it must pertain to the Coppins project, and paid no attention to it. What made them still more off their guard was the fact that the Speaker was not in the Chair, but it was occupied at the time by Dr. Truesdale, of Trumbull. The resolution was read rather rapidly, the Whigs voting  Aye, and the Locos two or three of them saying No, and it was declared carried before the opposition collected themselves enough to ask for a division of the question, to call the ayes and nays, or to absquatulate!

When they finally came to their senses, they found that the resolution declared that the House receded from all the amendments of the House to the Apportionment Bill, which the Senate had not concurred in, and that the bill was a law!

Uncle Toby says “our army swore terribly in Flanders,” but that swearing we are told, was not a priming to the oaths of Ohio Locofocoism at the successful maneuvre of Mr. Park, of Lorain. Absquatulation at once fizzled out! and the Legislators who had sneaked to the tavern, sneaked back to the Senate Chamber! —

Farmer Park had blocked the Revolution!

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Feb 29, 1848

The Revolution — The Great Day.

Thanks to the vigilance of our city authorities or to some other cause, no violence has yet been perpetrated, no wrong has been done, no hen roost has been robbed, no watchful mother goose had been untimely torn from her callow offspring.

Rain, that stern and relentless enemy of popular movements, sat in early in the morning, and has fallen during the whole day; and powder and patriotism have alike suffered under the influence of its rigid conversatism. The advances of the Revolutionary army have been made under cover of their umbrellas; and have given no alarm and done no damage.

The plan of taking possession of the vacant public buildings at Franklinton, organizing there a provisional government, and making that place the capital of the State of Locodom, which was projected yesterday, has, as we are informed, been abandoned, at least until the weather changes.

— O.S. Jour.


The agony is over. The long talked of Convention of the disorganizing, revolutionary Democracy has met and separated. The great cloud which arose with so much bluster, has spent itself in wind, and now is not even so large as Tom Thumb’s hand. The great bull-frogs of the party; as John Brough and others of acknowledged parts, hopped about a little, with an occasional boo-o-boo, marked with the melancholy languor which distinguishes the moanings of a dying calf. The reptile tribe, who have been for years winding their coils tighter and tighter about the consumption-stricken carcass of Locofocoism, as Sam Medary and his abettors, moving sluggishly in their slimy beds, emitting now and then a hiss which only served to make the little polliwogs of the Democratic family, wiggle their little tails like mad. Yes, the agony is over, and the sun shines as brightly as ever, the stars twinkle at night, without any apparent diminution of lustre, the earth rolls along in her orbit, and thank fortune the constitution still stands! Law and order reigns, and the evil day — the day of anarchy and blood, if not altogether abolished, is at least far away.

Cleveland Herald.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) May 23, 1848


Below is an excerpt that gives some context to the above news articles. To read more, click the link below.

Volume 38 OHIO HISTORY: The Scholarly Journal of the Ohio Historical Society

Party Politics in Ohio, 1840-1850 (continued)
by Edgar Allan Holt



The first Ohio State Constitution provided that the General Assembly should apportion representation among the several counties in proportion to population.

The controversy over the constitutionality of the act passed by the Whig Legislature on February 18, 1848, in accordance with this provision of the State Constitution, became so bitter that it convulsed the State for two years; interrupted legislative procedure for weeks; led to a realignment of parties and to the election of Salmon P. Chase to the United States Senate.

Before the State elections were held in October, 1847, attention had been called by Whig papers to the need of a fair districting of the State, on the ground that the Democrats had been able to control the General Assembly, previously, by gerrymandering. The issue assumed additional importance because upon the 1848-1849 Legislature depended the election of a successor to William Allen to the United States Senate. The Hamilton Intelligencer favored dividing the State into single member districts; and the Clermont Courier recalled how the Democrats in 1839-1840 had united Clermont, Brown, and Clinton Counties in order to overcome Whig majorities.

Reapportionment had not figured in the campaign of 1847, and the Democratic leaders, therefore, were all the more surprised, when on January 12, 1848, an apportionment measure was introduced by the Whigs in the Senate, providing among other things, for the division of Hamilton County into two electoral districts and assigning two senators and five representatives to the whole County as before. This measure the Democrats denounced as unfair, unjust and unconstitutional, and centered their fire on the proposed division of Hamilton County.

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