Hamilton Sharpe and the Electoral College

Hamilton W. Sharpe, pioneer settler of Lowndes county, post master and proprietor of Sharpe’s Store on the Coffee Road, was a contemporary of Levi J. Knight, original settler at the site of Ray City, GA (Ray City and most of Berrien County then being a part of Lowndes.)

Hamilton Wynn Sharpe

Hamilton Wynn Sharpe, Lowndes County, GA was selected in 1852 as representative to the Electoral College for presidential candidate Daniel Webster.

Hamilton W. Sharpe, although a Whig in politics declined to support the party’s nominee, Winfield Scott, in the Presidential Election of 1852.  While loyal Whigs like Judge Lott Warren, General Eli Warren, and Judge James Jackson Scarborough were all attending the 1852 Scott Convention in Macon, GA,  Hamilton Sharpe was across town, supporting third party candidate Daniel Webster, of Massachusetts, and vice presidential candidate Charles J. Jenkins, of Georgia.  Hamilton W. Sharpe was selected at the Third Party Convention as the  electoral college representative from Georgia’s 1st Congressional district.

1852 Political Cartoon. Third party candidate Daniel Webster challenges Winfield Scott and Franklin Pierce for the presidency of the United States.

1852 Political Cartoon. Third party candidate Daniel Webster challenges Winfield Scott and Franklin Pierce for the presidency of the United States.

Seventeen years earlier, at the 1835 Independence Day celebration at Franklinville, GA, Hamilton Sharpe, Levi J. Knight and others had joined a chorus of prominent Lowndes County citizens denouncing the actions of President Andrew Jackson and toasting the right of states to nullify federal law. Now Sharpe would vote for one of Jackson’s strongest supporters.

Georgia’s third party convention was widely reported in state and national newspapers.

Louisville Daily Democrat
August 25, 1852

Macon, (Ga.,) Aug. 18, 1852.
The Scott convention met here to-day. William B. Fleming, of Savannah, was chosen President. No joint nomination having been agreed to by the committee of the conference with the Webster committee, the convention appointed an electoral ticket and adjourned sine die.

Macon, (Ga.,) Aug. 18, 1852.
The third candidate convention met according to adjournment. The committee of twenty four reported through it chairman, R. P. Trippe, that there was no way through which a union with the Scott convention could be effected, and recommended the nomination of candidates for President and Vice President other than those now before the people. They reported the platform of the whig party as the platform of the third candidate party, and an electoral ticket as follows.
H. H. Cummings, of Richmond, and Edward T. Hill, of Troupe, for the State at large.
First District – Hamilton W. Shape, of Thomas.
Second District – Wm. M. Brown, of Marion.
Third District – Washington Pope, of Bibb.
Fourth District – Blunt C. Forrell, of Troupe.
Fifth District – Warren Aiken, of Cass.
Sixth District – Y. L. G. Davis, of Clarke.
Seventh District – John G. Floyd, of Newton.
Eighth District – Philip S. Semle, of Jefferson.
They also reported to support Daniel Webster for President, and Charles J. Jenkins for Vice President.
The report was unanimously adopted, and the following executive committee was appointed:
James T. Nisbett, of Bibb; W. S. Norman, of Monroe; Gen. B. H. Rutherford, of Bibb; R. M. Orme, of Baldwin; Thomas H. Pollhill, of Jefferson; Stephen F. Miller, of Macon; T. C. Sullivan, of Sumter; P. W. Alexander, of Chatham; Charles Turner, of Pike; W. S. Jones of Richmond; C. A. Cloud, of Chatham.
After the adoption of several unimportant resolutions, the convention adjourned.

Webster had been a strong supporter of Andrew Jackson and had opposed the nullification strategy of state’s rights supporters.

In December 1832, Jackson issued the Proclamation to the People of South Carolina, warning that he would not allow South Carolina to defy federal law. Webster strongly approved of the Proclamation, telling an audience at Faneuil Hall that Jackson had articulated “the true principles of the Constitution,” and that he would give the president “my entire and cordial support” in the Nullification crisis. He strongly supported Jackson’s proposed Force Bill, which would authorize the president to use force against states that attempted to obstruct federal law.

Webster had been a long-standing opponent of slavery; in an 1837 speech he called slavery a “great moral, social, and political evil,” and added that he would vote against “any thing that shall extend the slavery of the African race on this continent, or add other slaveholding states to the Union. But, unlike his more strongly anti-slavery constituents, … “Cotton Whigs” like Webster, …emphasized good relations with Southern leaders.  He did not believe that Congress should interfere with slavery in the states.  

After the Mexican-American War Webster voted against the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in which the United States acquired the Mexican Cession, not because of objection to the potential expansion of slavery into the territories, but because he was strongly opposed to any acquisition of Mexican territory at all  (with the exception of San Francisco). Webster became a prominent supporter of the Compromise of 1850 which allowed the people of each territory to decide whether or not slavery would be permitted. The compromise also included a more stringent Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  Southern Whigs called the law “the Act for the recovery of fugitives from labor.” In the North, it became the most controversial portion of the Compromise of 1850, and Webster became closely involved in enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law.

Disputes over fugitive slaves were widely publicized North and South, inflaming passions and raising tensions in the aftermath of the Compromise of 1850. Many of the administration’s prosecutions or attempts to return slaves ended badly. 

One such case was that of Thomas Sims, an African American who escaped from slavery in Georgia and fled to Boston, Massachusetts in 1851. He was arrested the same year under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, had a court hearing, and was forced to return to enslavement. Sims was one of the first slaves to be forcibly returned from Boston under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The failure to stop his case from progressing was a significant blow to the abolitionists, as it showed the extent of the power and influence which slavery had on American society and politics. On April 13, Sims was marched down to a ship and returned to Georgia under military protection. Sims exclaimed that he would rather be killed and asked for a knife multiple times. Many people marched in solidarity with Sims to the wharf.  Upon his return to Savannah, Sims was publicly whipped 39 times and sold in a slave auction to a new owner in Mississippi.  – wikipedia

The full resolutions of the Georgia Third Party Convention of 1852 were printed in the Savannah Republican, August 20, 1852.

Resolutions of the Georgia Third Party Convention of 1852. Hamilton W. Sharpe, of Lowndes County, GA was selected for the party's ticket for the Electoral College.

Resolutions of the Georgia Third Party Convention of 1852. Hamilton W. Sharpe, of Lowndes County, GA was selected for the party’s ticket for the Electoral College.

Sharpe’s hopes for a third party victory in the election of 1852 were dashed when Daniel Webster died October 24, 1852, nine days before the election.

On a positive epilogue,  Thomas Sims eventually escaped enslavement again, and returned to Boston in 1863. In 1877 he received an appointment to a position in the U.S. Department of Justice.

Related Posted:

Levi J. Knight ~ Settling Lowndes County 1827-1836

  1. Wayne County Beginnings 1803-1827
  2. Settling Lowndes County 1827-1836
  3. Seminole Wars 1836 – 1842
  4. Antebellum Wiregrass 1843 -1860
  5. Civil War 1861-1865
  6. Wiregrass Reconstruction 1866-1870

Settling in Lowndes County

About 1827 Levi J. Knight and his new bride Ann Herrin Clements homesteaded  on land on Beaverdam Creek, near the present day site of Ray City, GA.  In their first year on Beaverdam Creek, the Knights established a household and prepared to begin a family.

The Knight homestead was situated in Lowndes County (present day Berrien County).  When the first Superior Court in Lowndes County was convened at Sion Hall’s Inn on the Coffee Road, Levi J. Knight served as foreman of the Grand Jury. At that time, the only post office in Lowndes County (which then encompassed present day Lowndes, Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Lanier, and parts of Tift, Colquitt, and Echols counties) was  at the home of Daniel McCranie on the newly opened Coffee Road.   When Franklinville, GA became the first town in Lowndes County in 1828, the post office was moved there.  Located west of the Withlacoochee River about 9 miles southwest of the Knight property, Franklinville served as the first county seat of Lowndes County and a courthouse of hewn logs was constructed there at a cost of $215. According to Huxford’s “Sketch of the Early History of Lowndes County, Georgia“, Franklinville was a small trading community of one or two stores and a few houses. Hamilton W. Sharpe, a fellow Whig, regarded Franklinville a place of intemperance. Settlers in Lowndes County did most of their trading at Tallahassee, St. Marks or Newport, Florida, or traveled to Centerville on the St. Marys River.

In 1829, Levi  was Justice of the Peace for the 658th District, Lowndes County:

Digest of Georgia, 1837. Establishment of election districts in Lowndes County, GA

Digest of Georgia, 1837. Establishment of election districts in Lowndes County, GA

Election Districts and Elections. Courts and elections to be held at the house of Sion Hall,  1825, vol. iv. 128 –  Removed to the house of Francis Roundtree, 1826, vol. iv. 134 –  Elections in the  15th district to be held at the house of Daniel Burnett; in the 16th, at the house of Silas Overstreet, 1828, vol. iv. 179 –  At Jesse Goodman’s, the place of justices’ courts in Capt. Williams’ district; at Sion Hall’s, the place of justices’ courts in Capt. Pike’s district; at John Townsend’s, being the court ground in Studhill’s district; at Levi Knight’s, the court place in Knight’s district; at Lewis Roberts’, the justices’ court place in Johnson’s district; and at Mr. Davis’, in Cowart’s district, 1829, vol. iv. 185—One dollar to the presiding magistrate for attending at the court-house to consolidate the returns, 1829, vol. iv. 409

Levi J. Knight received power of attorney from his father-in-law, William Clements, of Wayne County, on 19 Nov. 1830, “to appear for him in the Courts in Alabama and to sue for and collect all demands he has against Angus McDonald…” Angus McDonald had served as deputy clerk of the superior court of Wayne County. Georgia.  On December 24, 1822 William Clements had put up surety on the $1000 bond of Angus McDonald, guardian of Sidney Pilcher who was the orphan of Harriet Burney. Apparently, Clements had to make good on the surety, and he wanted Levi J. Knight to get his money back.

Ann gave birth to their first son,  William Washington Knight in 1829. Three more children were born over the next three years; Elizabeth (1830), John G. (1832), and Sarah (1833). During this period Levi J. Knight served out  his term (1829-1833) as Justice of the Peace, and returned to his experience as a surveyor, again mapping lands the state had gained from the Indians. As the state surveyor of Cherokee lands, Section 3, District 13, he took field notes  recording the distances and points demarcating the district and land lots, land features, roads, and watercourses. These field notes, along with those of other surveyors, were conducted prior to the distribution of lands in the 1832 Land Lotteries in Georgia.

Career in Public Service
“Levi, J. Knight, a planter of Berrien County…held several county offices; for a number of years he represented the county and was senator from his district in the general assembly.”
“He was commissioned a justice of the peace of the 658th district of Lowndes County in 1829, and served until 1832, when he was elected State senator from Lowndes County. He was again elected justice of the peace and commissioned October 15th, 1838. He served again as senator through the sessions of 1834-35 and 1837 to 1841. In 1845 he was again elected justice of the peace and served four years. In 1851 he was elected State senator from the 5th district, which then included Berrien County, and served through the session of 1851-52.”
Levi J. Knight was Sheriff of Wayne County (1824), Justice of the Peace of Lowndes County (1829-1833), State Senator from Lowndes County (1832, 1834, 1837, 1841). He was Senator from 5th District (1851-1856). He was Justice of the Berrien Inferior Court 1861, and a Delegate to the State Constitutional Convention in 1868.
Levi J. Knight or one of his sons occupied a seat in the Georgia General Assembly for a period of forty years.

 Levi J. Knight was elected to the State Assembly as  Senator from Lowndes County in 1832 and 1834.  It was in this time that the Whig Party was rising against what was seen as executive excesses of “King Andrew” Jackson.  The Whigs favored national development and over time built an unlikely coalition of  anti-slavery, pro-slavery, and anti-masonic supporters. Levi J. Knight became a strong supporter of the Whig party and served as the Lowndes delegate to the Whig state conventions on several occasions.

In 1835, Levi J. Knight gave the Fourth of July oration at the county courthouse at Franklinville to a large crowd and enthusiastic crowd, “We have come up on the jubilee of our country’s liberty, to honor the day that gave birth to the greatest republic in the world.”  The celebration was followed by a banquet with a round of regular toasts to Washington, Jefferson, LaFayette, and to former Georgia Governor, George Michael Troup, as well as some to denounce the excesses of President Andrew Jackson.

Some time in the 1830s the Lowndes County center of government moved from Franklinville to the growing settlement of Lowndesville. Located about twenty miles south of the Knight homestead, Lowndesville was near the confluence of the Withlacoochee and Little Rivers. This location was touted by some to become a riverboat landing and the prospect of river transportation was hoped to foster a pioneer boom period for the community, but according to Montgomery M. Folsom  that dream was never realized.

When the community had grown to about 25 families, the name of the town was changed to Troupville in honor of Georgia Governor George M. Troup.  Troup was an outspoken proponent of the State Rights theory, which asserted that individual states were not bound by Federal law. Levi J. Knight and many other pioneers of old Lowndes County were Troup supporters, and in 1834 Levi J. Knight and his father William A. Knight were instrumental in forming the  the State Rights Association of Lowndes County, GA.  Troupville quickly became the leading town in the region. In Troupville there were stores, hotels, churches, doctors, lawyers, newspapers, entertainment, even a bowling alley. The Knights were among the planters of Lowndes County who made Troupville their center of trade  (Map of Old Troupville, GA with Notes on the Residents).

In 1836 another daughter was born to the Knights, Mary Adelaide Knight. As a young woman, Mary would become the bride of Thomas M. Ray who, along with her father, founded the original grist mill at Ray City.

In the spring of 1836 there were reports and rumors of Indians attacking pioneers in other parts of the state. The Seminole War was brewing… and that summer the original settlers of Ray City, GA were engaged in Indian skirmishes.

  1.  (1942). History of Lowndes County: Georgia, 1825-1941. Valdosta, Ga.: General James Jackson chapter, D.A.R. Pg 5-6.
  2. Georgia. 1837. A digest of the laws of the state of Georgia: containing all statutes and the substance of all resolutions of a general and public nature, and now in force, which have been passed in this state, previous  to the session of the General assembly of Dec. 1837.pg 995
  3. THE SOUTH GEORGIA HISTORICAL AND GENEALOGICAL QUARTERLY, VOL. 1, JULY 1922, NO. 3, pp. 03-05.OLD RECORDS BOOK “H” OF BONDS, WAYNE COUNTY, GEORGIA, COURT OF ORDINARY, FIRST 77 PAGES.
  4. Huxford,F. 1971. Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume VI, The Jesup Sentinel, Jesup, Georgia 1971. pg 139.’
  5. Huxford,F. 1954. Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume II, Press of the Patten Publishers, Adel, Georgia, pg 176.
  6. Huxford, F. 1975, Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume VII, Jesup Sentinel, Jesup, Georgia. pg 226.
  7. Huxford, F. 1967. Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume V, Herrin’s Print Shop, Waycross, GA. pg 162.
  8. Georgia Surveyor General. 1832 – SURVEY RECORDS – FIELD NOTE BOOKS – Cherokee, Section 3, District 13, Levi J. Knight, 1832. http://find.sos.state.ga.us/archon/?p=collections/findingaid&id=324&q=&rootcontentid=231131#id231131
  9. Memoirs of Georgia, Volume I, Southern Historical Association, Atlanta, Georgia, 1895, Book, page 316
  10. Huxford, F. (1916). History of Clinch County, Georgia, , comp. and ed. by Folks Huxford. Macon, Ga: J.W. Burke. pg. 265
  11. Loyless, T. W. (1902). Georgia’s public men 1902-1904. Atlanta, Ga: Byrd Print. Pp 166.