The Bolters in Convention

Mark Twain

Virginia City Territorial Enterprise/December 30, 1863

AT 7 o’clock last night a large number of citizens met at the Court House for the purpose of selecting sixteen new delegates, which they hoped might prove more acceptable to the State Convention than those elected by the regular County Convention day before yesterday. There appeared to be some discord in this Convention as well as in that which preceded it, but of course the manner in which it was constituted prevented the possibility of anyone’s bolting from it in the regular and recognized way. It was a gorgeous sight to behold those two hundred fearless spirits of Storey—those noble human soda-bottles, so to speak, effervescing with the holy gas of pure unselfish patriotism, rising in their might to bust out, as it were, the infamous action of 3,000 voters of Storey County, as done in the County Convention by their chosen representatives. But we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and we glorious Americans will occasionally astonish the God that created us when we get a fair start.

The proceedings opened with three cheers and a tiger for the stars and stripes.

Mr. Corson moved that Dr. Minneer be elected chairman of the meetings. Carried.

Mr. Barclay nominated Wm. H. Davenport and James Phelan as Secretaries. They were elected without opposition.

The following Vice Presidents were then elected: James Brannon, Dighton Corson, Judge Leconey, J. W. Noyes, Thos. Lynch, Judge Ferris, John A. Collins, A. B. Elliott, E. Bond, W. H. Young, J. S. Black, Thos. G. Taylor, S. A. Kellogg, Judge Frizell, J. H. Heilshorn, P. Quigley, J. T. Sage, John Church, W. R. Warnock and R. H. Rider. [Several of these gentlemen were said to be present.]

The Chairman reviewed the action of the County Convention, and said it was not satisfactory to the majority of the community; therefore the people had met now to improve upon that action in their sovereign capacity as fountain-head of power in the land. He said the present Convention would nominate sixteen delegates, and hoped they would be accepted by the State Convention in preference to the delegates elected by the late packed Convention. [A voice—”Three cheers!” No response.]

A committee previously and mysteriously appointed immediately brought in a report containing the following names. There was no suspicion of packing about it, however. The report reads as follows:

Report of the committee appointed by a meeting of citizens held at the Court House on Monday evening, December 29th, to select the names of sixteen citizens to be presented to the mass meeting this evening as suitable persons to represent Storey county in the Union State Convention, to be held at Carson on the 31st inst., beg leave to submit the following names:

Dr. Geiger, John Dohle, Thomas Lynch, Captain White, Joseph Loryea, J. L. Black, George E. Brickett, Thomas Hannah, J. D. Meagher, Augustus Ash. Mr. Corson moved that the report be accepted, and the committee discharged. Carried.

Mr. Fitch was called for and addressed the Convention at great length, re-hashing, adding to and improving his most recent editorials in the Virginia Union. He was heard with interest and was frequently applauded.

As is always his custom, Mr. Brosnan spoke eloquently and feelingly, and was repeatedly and loudly cheered.

Public speakers are not given to adhering strictly to the truth as a general thing, but we know Judge Brosnan is. However, he stood up there last night and misrepresented old Nestor—a poor devil who has been dead hundreds and hundreds of years. And Judge Brosnan knew perfectly well that he was departing from the record when he unblushingly abused old Nestor’s wardrobe and said he wore a poisoned shirt. Now why couldn’t he confine himself to living convention-packers and let dead foreigners alone?

That’s it—we are down on that kind of thing, you know. [Cries, “Hannah! Hannah!” “Gentlemen, wait a moment!” “I call for the adoption of the report before we have any speaking!”]

However, Mr. Hannah came forward and said that “As had been remarked by both gentlemen who have preceded me,” and then went on and made both gentlemen’s speeches over again, in such a pleasant way, and with such vehemence of manner that “the people”—that mighty lever being present, and filling very nearly three-fourths of the house—”the people” applauded each familiar argument as it fell upon their ears, and felt really comfortable over it.

He touched us very agreeably by speaking of us as “those intelligent reporters who officiated at the late Constitutional Convention.” [The word “intelligent” is our own. We had an idea it would make the sentence read better.]

Toward the last, Mr. Hannah soared into originality, and touched upon a multitude of subjects on his own hook. Notwithstanding its apparent originality, however, we shall always be haunted by the dreadful suspicion that the fag-end of Tom Hannah’s speech was gobbled out of the Babes in the Wood.

Mr. Brosnan moved that a committee of five be appointed to draft resolutions.

Mr. Pepper suggested that there was already a question before the house. [A voice “Sit down.”]

The Chairman remarked that there was a question before the house, and proceeded to state it as being on the adoption of the report of the Committee on Nominations.

The house refused to entertain the report in its entirety, and demanded, in great confusion, that the candidates should be voted for separately, which was done, and the following gentlemen elected:

Messrs. Geiger, Dohle, Lynch, White, Black, Hannah, Warnock, Ash, Phillips, G. H. [sic], J. Y. Paul, Doak (?), Frizell, Burke, Knox, Brickett. Messrs. Loryea and Meagher were voted for and rejected, and confusion grew worse confounded in the meantime.

Mr. Warnock moved the appointment of a Nominating Committee of ten, to present names to the next mass meeting, as candidates for Legislators, Judges, etc. Carried.

The Committee on Resolutions was appointed as follows: Messrs. Brosnan, Frizell, Hannah, Corson, Bond. The committee created by Mr. Warnock’s resolution was then nominated and elected, as follows:

Messrs. Warnock, Jas. Campbell, Hannah, Jacob Young, Manning, Lackey, Dimock, Carey, Van Vliet and Flood. Mr. Corson moved to add five to the committee, and take them from Gold Hill and Flowery. Carried.

The following gentlemen were nominated and elected: Messrs. Phillips, La Flower and Bishop. [Here great trouble arose about a suggestion that the Convention might possibly be electing people who were opposed to them. It was a wise and bully idea.

Mr. James Campbell called at our office after the Convention adjourned, and requested us to remove his name from the nominating committee.] After which, with remarkable unanimity, the Convention struck off the names of the Gold Hill members from the nominating committee, and left it to the President to fill up with other Gold Hill men.

Mr. Frizell submitted the following names, which he said had been selected by a mass meeting in Gold Hill: Wm. C. Derall, E. R. Burke, Ed. C. Morse, Sam Doak, and J. W. Phillips. They were unanimously elected.

Chas. H. Knox of Flowery was added to the committee.

The Committee on Resolutions then reported as follows:

Resolved, That as subjects of a Government, yet free, we rejoice at the inestimable right and privilege to publicly assemble and approve or condemn, when the general good requires it, the manner in which our representatives may have discharged the duties as signed them by the suffrages of the people.

As the sense of this large assemblage of citizens which may justly be denominated a spontaneous uprising of an outraged and insulted constituency, that the action of the County Nominating Convention, held in Virginia on the 28th day of December, instant, has been unjust, unfair, arbitrary, and without precedent in the history of conventional legislation.

That the resolutions adopted, and the other proceedings had by the said Convention, fail to express the true sentiments of the people of this county, and only proclaim the sentiments of a few interested individuals. Regarding them as such, we unanimously repudiate them, and declare that those resolutions and proceedings ought not to have, and have not, any binding force upon the political action of the free, independent and Union-loving electors of Storey County.

That copies of the proceedings of this meeting be transmitted to the members of the ensuing State Nominating Convention, from other counties, accompanied with a respectful request that they will do justice to the great majority of the people of Storey county, and rebuke the odious and unjust system of “packing” conventions by admitting the nominees of this meeting to seats in the Convention, as the true delegates and representatives of the people of Storey. The resolutions were unanimously adopted.

A County Central Committee was elected, as follows: J. L. Black, Chas. Knox, Jas. Phelan, E. R. Burke, Samuel Doak, T. R. P. Dimock, Thos. Barclay, Dighton Corson, W. D. [sic] Warnock, Jacob Young. Motion that the delegates elected be instructed to go to Carson tomorrow (Wednesday ) and that no proxies be allowed except in extreme cases, and that such extreme cases be attended to by the delegates, themselves. Carried.

A motion that the Central Committee meet in the District Court room to-morrow (Wednesday) evening, prevailed. Also, a motion that the Convention adjourn until next Monday evening—to meet then at the District Court room.

The meeting broke up with cheers for the Convention, the Union, the old flag, and groans for Stewart and Baldwin. It was a dusty, a very dusty, Convention, and as has been previously remarked in America, we are a great people.

CARD EDS. ENTERPRISE.—The gentleman who reported the proceedings of the Union mass meeting last evening for the ENTERPRISE, unintentionally misquotes. He says Mr. Brosnan slandered the defunct “Nestor.” Not so—Mr. B____ made no allusion to that hair brained, crazy old fool, “Nestor,” nor to his “wardrobe.” But Mr. B____ did mention that other jealous and wicked “cuss,” Nessus, and his historical, villainous “shirt.” Now, if that facetious sinner, blunderer and sage-brush painter, “Mark Twain,” had thus libelled me, I could forgive him; but to be thus misrepresented (though undesignedly) by the “intelligent” reporter of the ENTERPRISE is, as Mrs. Partington would say, assolutely inseparable. Virginia, Dec. 30th C. M. BROSNAN