Sunday, July 15, 2012

Presbyterian Church

Presbyterian Church marker on Main Street in Danville, KYBoyle County, KY
Marker Number 754

Marker Text: One of three founded, 1784, by Reverend David Rice; earliest of this denomination west of Alleghenies. Here worshipped: James G. Birney, whose presidential candidacy in 1844 caused defeat of Henry Clay; John C. Breckinridge, whose 1860 candidacy resulted in election of Lincoln; Samuel D. Burchard, whose "Rum, Romanism and Rebellion" defeated James G. Blaine in 1884.

Location: At 500 W. Main Street, Danville, KY in front of the church also on U.S. Routes 127 and 150. Erected by the Kentucky Historical Society, Kentucky Department of Highways in 1964.

Danville Presbyterian Church with marker on the left

Marker along Main Street with the church on the right.  Click any photo to enlarge.

  I have not posted a marker for Sunday related to a church for a while. I thought this marker I photographed in Danville, Kentucky about the Presbyterian Church was a good one for today. Though not for the reason you might think. Of course, this Presbyterian Church is an historic church, but mostly because of its unusual text related to presidential elections. Three individuals who had worshipped in this church were significantly involved in the presidential elections of 1844, 1860 and 1884. With this being a presidential election year, I thought this marker made for an interesting addition.

Monument over the grave of Rev. David Rice on the grounds of the church.

Monument over Rev. Rice’s grave site next to the church, part of church seen in background.

  The Danville Presbyterian Church was organized around 1784 along with others in around Danville, KY by the Rev. David Rice who is buried near the church in the same grave yard as Dr. Ephraim McDowell.

  The Danville Presbyterian congregation moved to this location at the corner of Main and Fifth Streets in 1831. A more complete history of this church can be read at their web site, Danville Presbyterian Church. My attention today will be on the three other men mentioned on the marker related to presidential elections.

Danville Presbyterian Church side view with marker and monument to Rev. Rice in photo

  James Gillespie Birney (Feb. 4, 1792–Nov. 25, 1857) was an abolitionist, politician and jurist born in Danville, Kentucky. From 1816 to 1818, he served in the Kentucky House of Representatives. In 1836, he started his abolitionist weekly publication in Cincinnati, Ohio titled The Philanthropist.

  In the 1844 presidential election, the anti-slavery Liberty Party may well have played the role of spoiler in a very close election. Birney was chosen as the Liberty Party candidate in 1840 and again in 1844, when he received 15,800 votes in New York, significantly more than Polk's slim margin of victory of 5,100 votes. A victory in New York would have given Clay a decisive 141-134 edge in the electoral college. Clay's ambiguous stance on Texas cost him critical anti-slavery votes in New York, which went to Birney and tipped the overall election to the Democrats.

Presbyterian Church marker along Main Street, marker John Todd Stuart across the street

Marker along Main Street.  Part of Centre College in background and across street is marker “John Todd Stuart.”

  John Cabell Breckinridge (Jan. 16, 1821–May 17, 1875) was an American lawyer and politician. He served as a U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator from Kentucky and was the fourteenth Vice President of the United States (1857-1861), to date the youngest vice president in U.S. history at the age of 36.

  In the 1860 presidential election, Breckinridge ran as one of two candidates within the fractured Democratic Party, representing Southern Democrats. Breckinridge came in third place in the popular vote, behind winner Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, and Stephen Douglas, a Northern Democrat, who finished second in the Electoral College vote.

Close-up of the inscription on grave monument for Rev. Rice on the church grounds.

Close-up of the inscription on the monument to Rev. Rice from above photo.

  Following the outbreak of the American Civil War, Breckinridge served in the Confederate States Army as a general and commander of Confederate forces. He also served as the fifth and final Confederate Secretary of War. In early 1864, Breckinridge was put in charge of Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley. He defeated a superior Union force at the Battle of New Market, which included the famous charge of cadets from the Virginia Military Institute. Shortly thereafter, Breckinridge reinforced Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and played an important role in the Battle of Cold Harbor, where his troops repulsed a powerful Union attack.

  In the summer of 1864, Breckinridge participated in Lt. Gen. Jubal Early's Raid on Washington, D.C., when the Confederate forces probed the defenses of Washington, D.C. Abraham Lincoln was watching the fight from the ramparts of Fort Stevens, this was only time in American history when two former opponents in a presidential election faced one another across battle lines.

  Rev. Samuel Dickerson Burchard (Sept. 6, 1812–Sept. 25, 1891) was a nineteenth century clergyman from New York. Born in Steuben, New York, Burchard moved to Kentucky with his parents in 1830, attended Centre College which is probably when he worshipped at the Presbyterian Church. He graduated from Centre College in 1837. He was licensed to preach in 1838 and served as pastor of several Presbyterian churches in New York City.

Front view of the Danville Presbyterian Church on Main Street  Dr. Burchard originated the phrase, "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion," and applied it to the Democratic party near the end of the 1884 Blaine-Cleveland presidential election.  The phrase was said to have cost Republican presidential candidate James G. Blaine the presidency, Dr. Burchard supported Blaine as president.

  The Democrats had nominated New York Governor Grover Cleveland. Democrats hoped that Cleveland's reputation as a reformer and an opponent of corruption would attract Republicans dissatisfied with Blaine and his reputation for scandal. They were correct, as reform-minded Republicans called "Mugwumps" denounced Blaine as corrupt and flocked to Cleveland.

Replica of the Old Danville Presbyterian Church in Constitution Park

Replica built in 1942 of the old church on its original site in Constitution Park in Danville, KY.

  In the final week of the campaign, James G. Blaine attended a Republican meeting of a group of New York preachers who were there to reprimand the “Mugwumps” Republicans. Their spokesman, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Burchard, made this fatal statement: “We are Republicans, and don't propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been rum, Romanism, and rebellion.”

  Blaine did not notice Burchard's anti-Catholic slur, nor did the assembled newspaper reporters, though others believed that Burchard had said Mormonism instead of Romanism, since Burchard was not known as being anti-catholic. The remark though was noticed by a Democratic operative and Cleveland's campaign managers made sure the phrase was widely publicized. The statement energized the Catholic vote in New York City heavily against Blaine, costing him New York state and ultimately the election by the narrowest of margins.

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