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of this bill before us has that tendency; and the principle of this bill is called for by the humane and philanthropic spirit of the age. Our statute books are constantly undergoing changes. One by one the severer remedies of the law are being modified. A further advance in regard to property exemption seems now to be called for. Let not free, republican New Hampshire be behind all other States in this work of philanthropy. It is not humane to turn out into the streets the wife and children of a ruined husband. It is not in accordance with that liberal spirit of Christianity now so generally acknowledged, which teaches us that all the members of the great human family are brethren. Cherishing this same spirit, we are constrained to sympathize with the poor and the unfortunate ; and few can suffer a keener anguish than that which comes from severing the dearest relations and closest ties that bind us to existence. None but a heart of stone can fail to be pierced and broken at the sight of such a catastrophe. He whose soul is tempered to the adoration of a farthing, by long worshipping at the shrine of mammon, may think these tears, and wailing, and anguish weigh nothing in the scale against the collection of his debt. But with such a man we have not the fullest fellowship, nor the warmest sympathy. We would rather strip him of his power to oppress, and we would apprise him beforehand that thus far may he go, but no farther.
UPON THE STUMP.
- STATE TREASURER.
At the close of the legislative session of 1850, Mr. Harriman went West, to Wisconsin, to see the country ; intending, if satisfied with it, to settle there. But he was attacked by malarial fever, and made but a short stay. Having, on his return, been detained a week at Springfield, Mass., too sick to proceed, he at last reached home. The fever ran unabated for six months, and reduced him to a mere skeleton. Finally, with lobelia substituted for quinine as a remedy, the malady gradually gave way. The malarial fever burnt out the Western, and with returning health he preferred to remain in the healthy atmosphere of his native State.
In March, 1851, he and John S. Pillsbury, of Sutton, formed a partnership in mercantile business, under the firm name of Harriman & Pillsbury. They bought out Robertson & Carter, who had the leading store at Warner village. It was a country store, dealing in the usual miscellaneous commodities of such establishments, and had a large trade. Mr. Harriman liked the business, and the partnership was a very agreeable one. He continued in trade until the press of political and official engagements compelled its abandonment. But never once, in those days, did any one read in the names of the two partners inscribed upon the sign of that country store the names of two governors of “sovereign States," – Harriman, governor of his native New Hampshire; Pillsbury, of his adopted Minnesota.
As has been said, Mr. Harriman withdrew from the ministry in 1851. In the campaign preceding the March elec
tion of that year, he made his first “stump-speeches,” or, in other words, his first appearance upon the platform of political oratory, where he was to win the preëminent distinction of his life. The campaign was one of considerable interest and excitement. Rev. John Atwood, of New Boston, a Baptist clergy man and a life-long Democrat, somewhat prominent in political life as a member of the legislature and as state treasurer, was unanimously nominated by his party, in 1851, as candidate for governor. But the slavery question would not down” in politics; it was a Banquo to trouble the Democratic party still, despite even the compromise of 1850, of vaunted ghost-laying efficacy. Now that compromise included a Fugitive Slave Law that was very repugnant to Northern sentiment. Mr. Atwood, in view of his party's recent and rather strong declarations against slavery, ventured to deal a little with the ticklish, question on his own account, and, as he did not like the Fugitive Slave Law, he made bold to say so in a letter to a “ friend.” But he would fain use discretion; so he enjoined the “ friend” to keep the letter a secret till the final adjournment of the constitutional convention then in session at Concord. The "friend,” however, not heeding the injunction, permitted the letter to be copied and published. The Democratic candidate for governor all at once found the air full of hornets. A messenger, dispatched from Concord, straightway brought him thither, and in the night. Forthwith, in a council of the party leaders, a letter was prepared, which the candidate signed. On his way home, the next morning, going by way of Manchester, he told several gentlemen there that the second letter, which was already printed in the “New Hampshire Patriot,” misrepresented his position ; and that, advantage having been taken of his “fatigue,” he had signed it by compulsion. He declared that his first letter expressed his real sentiments, and that he would stand by it to the last. This coming to the ears of the Democratic leaders, they determined to have "the head of John the Baptist." The state convention, that had nominated, being forthwith reassem
bled, summarily decapitated, the recalcitrant candidate. Governor Dinsmoor, on his second year in office, was renominated for a third term. The fight then became a triangular one : Governor Dinsmoor being supported by the mass of his party; John Atwood, by the Freesoilers and a few Democrats ; and Thomas E. Sawyer, by the Whigs. There being no choice of governor by the people, the election fell to the legislature. The choice there lying between Dinsmoor and Sawyer, the two candidates standing highest on the popular vote, the former was elected by a small majority
In this contest, Mr. Harriman supported the regular, or Dinsmoor, ticket. He was a party man, and had been reared in the faith of the Democratic party. He loved his country, her constitution, and the Union; and his conviction was earnest, then and for some years afterwards, that the ascendency of the Democratic party was most promotive of the general welfare of that country, most consistent with due loyalty to that constitution, and most preservative of that Union. While he felt that slavery was a great evil, he distrusted Northern agitation as a means for its removal; and he hoped that, in some way (he knew not what; and who did ?), the evil might be peaceably removed, with the constitution and the Union preserved. He did not then realize — and few there were who did — slavery's dread capacity of harm, or its fell purpose, insidiously maturing, under Northern concession, into blood-red ripeness, to rule or ruin the nation.
Though a party man, Mr. Harriman wore no man's collar and no party's. He acted upon his own judgment and conscience. He disliked to break with friends, but preferred doing so to being placed in a false position. This independence was to have its full manifestation by and by.
Mr. Harriman took an active part in the lively campaign of 1852, which resulted in the election of Franklin Pierce to the presidency of the United States. His speeches for “Pierce and King," though among his earliest, were effective and promising efforts. He was getting name as a political orator, and he early received the encouraging congratulation of President Pierce, himself an accomplished speaker, who once said to him : “Mr. Harriman, you have as good a reputation as a public speaker as any man in New Hampshire."
In June, 1853, he was elected by the legislature state treasurer. He accepted the office, and, having given the required bond of $200,000, entered upon duty. He bought a house in Concord, and took there his family, then consisting of his wife, his daughter, Georgia A., a child of seven years, and his son, Walter C., of four. His third child, Benjamin E., was born the next year.1
About this time politics became deeply troubled. Slavery agitation, temporarily lulled by the compromise of 1850, was roused to unexampled violence by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, in connection with establishing the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska. This audacious attempt to extend slavery into territory that had been dedicated by solemn compact to freedom a third of a century before, pressed by so prominent a Democratic leader as Stephen A. Douglas, of the free State of Illinois, and sanctioned by the Pierce administration, filled the North with alarm and indignation. Even the compact array of the Democratic party was disfigured by ugly rents. Other causes, too, had produced in the ranks of that party, in New Hampshire and elsewhere, some disaffection towards the national administration. Moreover, another party had sprung up. It called itself “the American,” declared opposition to "foreign influence” in American affairs of church or state, and demanded certain restrictions upon naturalization. It had the organization of a secret society, and as its members revealed nothing to inquisitive outsiders, the party was also entitled “the Know-Nothing." With the dissolution of the Whig party and the disaffection in the Democratic camp, the new party proved somewhat effective, as a transition one ; affording, as it did, half-way house accommoda
1 The house in which Mr. Harriman then lived was on Warren Street, and afterwards became the residence of Mr. Stillman Humphrey.