Glasgow Daily Times
Last week, a conversation with a guest got me thinking about the history of politics in Kentucky and some of the reasons (nonreasons, twists and quirks) for change from time to time.
Kentucky was 42 years old when our first governor, John Breathitt, died in office and James T. Morehead succeeded to the governorship and was followed by five Whigs in succession.
The first, James Clark, died suddenly after being elected. He was a Virginian followed by Charles H.
Wickliffe. Each of these was noted by specifically working to develop and continue a safe banking policy.
Robert P. Letcher followed as governor when times were hard and accomplishments were hard to come by. William Owsley followed in a period marked by the annexation of Texas and the Mexican war. The last Whig to serve was John Crittenden, who resigned toward the end of his term to become attorney general in President Fillmore’s cabinet. John Helm, who was then lieutenant governor and a Democrat, succeeded to the governorship for the rest of that term of less than a year.
After the death of Helm and four years by Lazarius Powell, slavery issues split the Whig Party and the new Republican Party was born.
Having no party now, enough of the Whigs joined the new (“Know Nothing”) Party and elected Charles Morehead as governor in 1855. This “Know Nothing” group tried to stay out of the slavery question, but couldn’t get enough support to stay alive in Kentucky. As a result, Beriah Magoffin, a Democrat, was elected.
For a while it seemed hard for one to keep up with their party of choice: There was the Temperance Party, an offspring of the Sons of Temperance Society and polled very few votes in Kentucky in 1855. Coming along was the newborn Republican Party demanding that slavery should not be extended over a square inch of the United States Territory and that the Kansas-Nebraska Act should be immediately repealed. In the next presidential election only 134 Republican votes were cast in Kentucky.
There was in the 1850’s a growing concern that the Union was in grave danger and just what they should (or even could) do about it. There was no doubt that the Whigs had been the Union Party and accused the Democrats of being for secession. The Democrats denied this and professed devotion to the Union. Finally, the “Know Nothing” Party decided that the question of slavery and secession could not be ignored and the Republican Party refused to ignore it. The Democrat Party split, and it’s a good thing that there is more of this next week.