Campaign Badges From History

It's campaign season!

If you're like me, you're probably getting tired of seeing and hearing campaign ads everywhere. They all seem to say the same things over and over, don't they?

Just for fun, I thought we could go back in history and look at something more interesting (and entertaining!) - campaign badges!

Political Police

If you think politics are rowdy now, you should have seen the 1860s! Riots, disruptions, brawls and beatings were often seen at political rallies. That's why the "Wide Awakes" were formed - to "protect" Republican party members at political meetings. Of course, they didn't mind doing a little rough stuff themselves to the other side, but their 1860 Mission Statement sounded quite virtuous:

To act as a political police. To do escort duty to all prominent Republican speakers who visit our place to address our citizens. To attend all public meetings in a body and see that order is kept and that the speaker and meeting is not disturbed. To attend the polls and see that justice is done to every legal voter. To conduct themselves in such a manner as to induce all Republicans to join them. To be a body joined together in large numbers to work for the good of the Republican Ticket.

A Mark For the Enemy

May 30th 1861

Dear Brother
I take my pen in hand this morning to write you a few lines....Hutchens are all unionists I believe even to the women Some of us got to arguing with Eliza yesterday but we might as well have tried to make her believe that the sun shines here in the night as to make a secessionist of her, and this is the way with all the unionists Tell John Beard he must try to make a secessionist of his father and Sam. ...Thomas have you received your secession badge yet Hannah was telling us that she had made one for you but Ma told her she ought not to have done it as it would be a mark for the enemy to shoot at. You must excuse all these mistakes scratches & blotches in this nor you must not criticise it so closely as you used to do

I remain your affectionate sister

Mary A Smiley

We Will Print No Badges

Debate raged hotly in 1863-64 between the War Democrats and the Peace Democrats, also called Copperheads. In Ohio, in particular, tempers were high between John Brough (War Democrat) and Clement Vallandigham (Peace Democrat) who were both running for govnernor. I guess the "Tiffin Weekly Tribune's" position was pretty clear from the following statement:

The War Democrats of Ohio have cut loose from the Copperheads. They met in State Convention at Columbus a week ago, and took strong grounds in favor of a vigorous prosecution of the war; sustained the National Administration and the soldiers in the field, and condemned the nomination and the course of Vallandigham. No Nominations were made. The Ohio war Democrats generally, will support Brough.

Don’t Laugh:—“We will print no Vallandigham badges on the day of the Brough meetings.”—Advertiser.

If you do, you must have a hard check, after such disgraceful proceedings on that 18th. The idea of printing badges for a traitor to his country - a man that was banished from his native State for treason! O, shame, where is thy blush!

Hogarth's 1754 "The Polling," shows both
buff and blue flags and cockades
British Cockades and Corruption

But angst over political badges wasn't confined just to the United States. There were rows over cockades for decades in England. Laws were passed periodically trying to suppress both cockades and corruption, as evidenced by this quote:

"Mr. Lockhart said (March 2d, 1818,) that he approved of the general principle of the (election laws amendment) bill, especially that part forbidding the distribution of cockades. He had known 30,000 cockades given away at an election, and this signal of party was thus made an engine of bribery, not to the multitude at large, but towards persons of particular trades."

Several decades later, Charles Dickens noted the quarrel over cockades and corruption was still raging. In his Household Words in August 1853, tongue firmly in cheek, he noted humorously:

FLAGS, pennons, banners, bribery, beer, cockades, rosettes, brass bands and bludgeons being manifestly contrary and inimical to virtue, are to be abolished by the strong arm of the law. They are not in themselves, as things, essentially immoral; but they are vicious, when taken in connection with the election of members to the Commons House of Parliament. That assembly, confessed to be composed of the collective wisdom of the nation, has perhaps been held to include also the collective national virtue; and with this view, a Bill has been introduced, and is now before the House relating to expenses at elections, in which war to the knife is waged against every species of flag, banner, rosette, cockade, colour, or procession, which might dare to flaunt its drapery during, or immediately before or after, an election. The game is up. The flags must be furled.

In case you're wondering, the law was passed in 1854 and states the following:

An Act to consolidate and amend the Laws relating to Bribery, Treating, and undue Influence at Elections of Members of Parliament. 10th August 1854.

Section VII: No Candidate before, during, or after any Election shall in regard to such Election, by himself or Agent, directly or indirectly, give or provide to or for any Person having a Vote at such Election, or to or for any Inhabitant of the County, City, Borough, or Place for which such Election is had, any Cockade, Ribbon or other Mark of Distinction; and every Person so giving or providing shall for every such offence forfeit the Sum of Two Pounds to such Person as shall sue for the same, together with full Costs of Suit; and all Payments within this Act.

Black Cockade Federalists - Horrors!

And for a final example of election furor over cockades, I'll go to my favorite: the 1840 US presidential election. William Henry Harrison, a retired Army general and war hero, was running for president. The black cockade he wore as part of his required US Army uniform had since become synonymous with Federalist party tyranny and was hated by a much of the public. Therefore a violent debate raged in the press as to whether - get ready for this - General Harrison ever wore the black cockade after he retired! Horrors! 

I don't have space for all the hysterical items in the press (you can read some of them in my blog here), but here's just one from the 1840 Columbia (Bloosmburg, PA) Democrat: 

The Boston Courier, a violent Harrison paper, refers to the charge of the democratic presses against Gen. Harrison, that he wore a BLACK COCKADE curing the reign of Terror in 1800 in the following independent manner:

“The Van Buren papers are charging Gen. Harrison with having worn a black cockade during the reign of the elder Adams and parade the testimony of a Mr. Fowler of Kentucky, in support of the Imputation. Well, suppose Gen. Harrison did.  HE COULD NOT HAVE WORN A MORE HONORABLE BADGE, OR SUPPORTED A PURER ADMINISTRATION!”

Support Your Candidate!

Whether you want to "support" a candidate from history or support a candidate today, I'm happy to make a cockade for you!

Search "campaign" to see some of my ready-made designs or contact me for a custom order. I'll be glad to make something for your candidate.

Whether we like rowdy politics or not, we are indeed blessed to be in a country where we can campaign and vote freely! So... go vote!

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