Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wide Awake Clubs of Franklin County

The political campaigns and elections of 1860 between the Democratic and the newly-formed Republican Parties were fraught with many thorny issues, among them slavery in the United States.  Into this hot political contest came the formation of local groups called "Wide Awake Clubs" made up of Republican-affiliated young men.   These groups held rallies and host speakers and police the polling stations, but their most remarkable feature was the torch-lit parades at night in which they engaged, many wearing capes and other military-like uniforms. 

These clubs, which encouraged support of local, regional and national Republican-Party candidates and platforms, while springing up throughout the Northern half of the country, were organized on the local level.  Wide-Awake rallies in large cities such as Boston, New York City and Chicago consisted of hundreds of thousands of particiants.  While not nearly as huge as in more populous areas, Franklin County had several Wide Awake Clubs.

This article from the June 7, 1860 Malone Palladium noted the spread of the Wide Awake campaign to Chateaugay and urged the formation of a Malone group:

By August, it appears that such a club had, indeed, been formed:

From August 16, 1860 Malone Palladium

The Palladium was effusive in its description of huge Wide Awake rallies in Malone in July 1860:

... and in Brush's Mills (Brushton) in August 1860.  (The whole article can be found here, but it is difficult to read parts of it.)

After the election of 1860, the term "wide-awake" continued to be used to describe those that were politically active and usually progressive in outlook.


Additional Resources:

"Young Men for War": The Wide Awakes and Lincoln's 1860 Presidential Campaign by Jon Grinspan (Journal of American  History. 96.  Sept. 2009.  357-78)

Wikipedia entry "Wide Awakes"

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