William B. Franklin’s highly unlikely supporter for Governor
My last post was devoted to the local support, especially that of the York Gazette, of York native General William B. Franklin to be the 1863 Democratic candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania. The Democratic nomination eventually went to Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice George W. Woodward, who lost the fall election to incumbent Republican Governor Andrew Curtin.
Alexander K. McClure was a Pennsylvania newspaper editor and publisher and an influential Republican politician. He was also a good friend of Curtin, who was in ill health and did not want to face another term as Governor, especially during the stressful time of war. According to McClure’s 1892 book Abraham Lincoln and His Men of War Time: Some Personal Recollections of War and Politics during the Lincoln Administration, Curtin would have declined the Republican nomination and supported Democrat Franklin, as would have other leading Pennsylvania Democrats, had Franklin been nominated. McClure explains why in an excerpt below from the book:
So profoundly was Curtin impressed with the necessity of uniting all parties in the support of the war for the suppression of the rebellion that he was the first man to suggest his own retirement from the office of Governor if the Democrats would present the name of General William B. Franklin, a gallant Pennsylvania Democratic soldier. I was present when Curtin first made this suggestion to a number of his friends, and he made it with a degree of earnestness that impressed every one. He said that it was vastly more important to thus unite the whole Democratic party with the Republicans on an honest war platform than that any part or any individual should win political success. So earnestly did he press the matter that communication was opened with a number of leading Democrats of the State, many of whom regarded the suggestion with favor and sought to accomplish it.
Unfortunately for the Democracy, the more Bourbon element controlled its councils and a [Pennsylvania] Supreme [Court] Judge who had declared the national conscription act unconstitutional, thereby depriving the government of the power to fill its wasted armies, was nominated for Governor when the thunders of Lee’s guns were heard in the Cumberland valley and almost in the hearing of where the convention sat. Had Franklin been nominated by the Democrats, Curtin would have publicly declared for him, and the Republican Convention would have welcomed him as their candidate, regardless of his political faith. Failing in that movement, there seemed to be but one hopeful loyal candidate for Governor–Curtin himself. He was broken in health and entirely unequal to the strain of a desperate battle… Curtin’s greatest desire, next to the faithful fulfillment of the high responsibilities cast upon him, was to retire from public office and recover his physical vigor.
We know that Curtin survived his second term and nearly two more years of the Civil War, as leader of our state. Franklin went back to the army and later served many years as vice president of the Colt Fire Arms Company in Connecticut. He is buried in York’s Prospect Hill cemetery.
Look for: The Fiery Trial: York County’s Civil War Experience opening June 29 at York County Heritage Trust.