18 June 2007
Jessie and The Pathfinder
Virtually everyone can recognize Abraham Lincoln as the first Republican president, but you almost never hear about the first Republican candidate for the presidency. On this day in 1856, the first Republican national convention ended with the nomination of John Charles Fremont of California (January 21, 1813 – July 13, 1890), the famous explorer of the West for president, and William Dewis Dayton of New Jersey was chosen as the candidate for the vice presidency.
If you like historical novels, you might want to get a copy of "Imortal Wife" by Irving Stone.
Fremont (nicknamed The Pathfinder) had gained his fame as an explorer of the American west in the 1840s and the man who just happened to be in California when the "Bear Flag Rebellion" took place. He put an end to the rebellion in order to bring California in on the American side of the war with Mexico and then eventually to statehood following the discovery of gold.
His wife, was Jessie Benton Fremont (1824-1902), daughter of Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri who disapproved of his daughter's marriage to Fremont when she was only 17. She had been raised with a man's education to be Benton's right hand in the political salons of Washington DC. It was the language, writing, and political skills that she learned from her father that made it possible for her rather rambunctions and rough husband to rise to the top of the political ladder.
While the Fremont candidacy failed, Abraham Lincoln appointed Frémont as the commander of the Department of the West in 1861, Jessie served as his unofficial aide and closest adviser. After the Civil War, the Frémonts’ financial situation took a downturn. Jessie supported the family by writing A Year of American Travel and Souvenirs of My Time.
The relationship of the Fremonts, the picture of the times with the Republican party's liberal opposition to slavery and rise as a political party, coupled with the development of the United States is an interesting period filled with courage, humor, and political intrigue.