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A Biographical Sketch of Henry A. Wise

With a History of the Political Campaign of 1855

Note: [This is an abstract of pages 116-117 of the referenced book. This section pertains to the 1855 gubernatorial campaign in Southwest Virginia. Henry A. Wise of Accomac County was the Democratic Party’s candidate for governor. Fayette McMullin, from Scott County was the Democratic Party’s candidate for congress from the 13th Congressional District..]

Distinguished Democratic Orators of the Canvass

In the western portion of the State, very great and arduous services were rendered. Conspicuous among the Democratic speakers, was Mr. Elisha W. McComas, who made an active and most successful tour through almost the entire west. Ex-Governor John B. Floyd of Washington county, did herculean service, and, by his judicious arrangements for the canvass in his district, produced a majority there unprecedented in the political annals of “Little Tennessee.” In the northwest, conspicuous among the speakers were Hon., Sherrard Clemens, of Wheeling, and Mr. Benj. W. Jackson of Plesants county. In the Valley, Col. Wm. H. Harman, of Augusta, and James W. Massie of Rockbridge were very able and efficient.

The Richmond Examiner had the following notice of the canvass in that important district of the State—”Little Tennessee.”

Glorious Little Tennessee—We hear daily more and more encouraging tidings from the Democracy of this Heart of Midlothian. In spite of the fallacious asseverations of the Know Nothings to the contrary, Little Tennessee will give the Democratic ticket a majority of two thousand at the very lowest figure. McMullin will beat both his Know Nothing competitors— Trigg and Martin—by a large majority.

The services of Mr. Wm. H. Cook, of Carroll county, have been efficient and invaluable in the canvass. He has met Trigg twice on the stump in a manner that neither his poor victi nor the people who witnessed the onslaught will ever forget. He has had Carroll and Grayson in his especial keeping, and the result in those two counties will attest to the effectiveness of his labors in the Democratic cause.

Nor has Col. Ben. Rush Floyd of Wytheville, allowed his imperative calls of his profession to interfere with his duty as a Democrat. His speeches at Wytheville are pronounced the most powerful ever delivered in that county, and has told with crushing effect upon the Know-Nothing cause. The election of Graham, in Wythe is set down as a fixed fact.

Thos. L. Preston, Esq., has surprised his warmest admirers by the ability and eloquence of his speeches in denunciation of Know Nothingism. He has gone from precinct to precinct, and man to man, crying aloud and sparing not. The Order boasted that they had secured the county and fettered its voters before the canvass commenced; but Mr. Preston has knocked the scales from the eyes of the people, broken up the plans of the enemy, and completely destroyed the work of this Order. His election, in Smyth, we are assured, is a certain event.

But what shall we say of that brave man—that fearless champion of Democracy through evil and through good report—who can neither be driven by treachery nor seduced by flattery form the cause in which he was born and reared, for which he has lived and fought, and which has never yet failed or faltered in his district when he was in the field—the Achilles of the Southwest—John B. Floyd?

The secret Order has already stolen a march upon the Democracy in Washington County. They already boasted to have captured and bound and fettered, by oaths and pledges, a majority of the freemen of the county. The Democrats were taken by surprise, and had already been surrounded before they knew that the prowling enemy was near them. They turned to Floyd, and appealed to him, with odds already counted against them, to take the field and attack the enemy in his fortifications. With a noble unselfish he consented to be a candidate for an office he did not want. He took the stump, spoke in every nook and corner, saw every man, and addressed every dozen men in the county. He burst up lodges and scattered dismay and consternation among the followers of the dark lantern. He has redeemed the county by a series of speeches surpassing even himself in ability and power, and, as a Whig adversary, distinguished for intelligence, and no friend of Mr. Floyd, says, never surpassed before in any political contest in this country. He has crushed the puny adversaries that have been pitted against him—as the president of a Know Nothing council and adversary tells it, taking them by couples and knocking their block heads together, and jarring them out every grain of sense they ever contained.

Having secured his own county, he has gone into the unvisited counties of Lee and Scott, crushing out the Order by his ponderous blows, and speaking everywhere with a power never before known there. In Scott, last Monday week, he spoke with peculiar ability, and with such effect that an old Methodist minister exclaimed, as he closed, “God never made the man who ever delivered such a speech as that.”