Chairman David Dobbs, a Never Van Buren-er

As I continue to scrounge through the newspaper archives I am finding all sorts interesting little tidbits about my 19th century ancestors. Specifically, my Southern ancestors on the side of my maternal grandfather, Jimmy Dobbs. One of my most recent finds regards my great, great, great-grandfather David Dobbs, a colonel in the Georgia militia and plantation owner in Cobb County Georgia. It appears that he was also chairman of the Cobb County Democratic Party in 1840. The fascinating part about this is that in 1840 there was a movement in the party of Andrew Jackson, where members of the Democratic Party of Georgia held an anti-Van Buren convention in the state capital for the purpose of nominating the Whig candidate William Henry Harrison for president of the United States. This would be the same as if members of the Republican party were to oppose Donald Trump; something along the lines of the Never Trumpers of the Lincoln Project.

In the July 28, 1840 edition of the Milledgeville (GA) Southern Recorder there is an item titled “Cobb County Meeting”. The article describes a “large meeting of the friends of Harrison and Reform” held in Marietta on 17 July. Purpose of the meeting was to appoint delegates to stand for Cobb County at a convention to be held in Macon Georgia in August. The article tells of an “anti-Van Buren convention” held the previous month in Milledgeville where the delegates “with unparalleled unanimity” nominated William Henry Harrison for the presidency of the United States and John Tyler for VP.

One complaint of the Cobb meeting is about certain congressional representatives from the state of Georgia who are “determined to pursue a course inimical to the best interests of the country”. Charging that these representatives have “arrayed themselves in the ranks of our opponents”. It does not say who the “opponents” are but is a safe bet to say that is in reference to abolitionists and those who oppose slavery in general.

In the 28th U.S. Congress, the Georgia delegation totaled nine members and they were all from the Whig party. The Panic of 1837, a major 19th-century financial crisis, caused a upset in the political landscape, replacing what had been a total Democratic majority in the Georgia congressional delegation.

The financial crisis caused a deep depression the effects of which lasted well into the 1840s. Although its impact was felt throughout the young nation, the South and more specifically the Cotton Belt was dealt the worst blow.

In 1840 the incumbent president of the United States was Martin Van Buren, a Democrat from New York. He had been vice president under Andrew Jackson of whom David Dobbs had been a devotee from the time when he began his career as a lowly 3rd Lieutenant in Blackshear’s Brigade supervising slaves and friendly Indians building canoes on the Tallapoosa River during the Creek war of 1814. When Jackson retired, it was only natural that the Democrats that controlled Georgia would support Van Buren who became the Democratic candidate in 1836. He defeated several Whig opponents in the 1836 presidential election. However, his presidency soon eroded with his response to the Panic of 1837. His presidency was further marred by the costly Second Seminole War; and his refusal to admit Texas to the Union as a slave state. Thus, he was nicknamed “Martin Van Ruin”.

Another reason for David Dobbs, to support Harrison was they were both veterans of the War of 1812 and the Indian Wars. Although some disgruntled vets tried to “swift boat” Harrison, but that’s another story.

The purpose of the August Convention was to nominate a congressional ticket “friendly” to the election of Harrison and Tyler. One of the resolutions stated that the Marietta group disapproved of the administration of Martin Van Buren. They stated, “for various reasons, satisfactory to ourselves, believe that he is not entitled to the support of the South, and subsequently we cannot give him our suffrage.

They further resolved to send 50 delegates to the Macon convention. The resolutions were signed by David Dobbs, Chairman.

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