Title: Letter from Benjamin S. Hedrick to H. R. Helper, October 27, 1856: Electronic Edition.
Author: Hedrick, Benjamin Sherwood, 1827-1886
Editor: Erika Lindemann
Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by Erika Lindemann, Phoebe Jensen, and Chad Kearsley
Images scanned by Mara E. Dabrishus
Text encoded by Brian Dietz
First Edition, 2005
Size of electronic edition: ca. 29K
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The electronic edition is a part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2005-04-25, Brian Dietz finished TEI/XML encoding.
Part of a series:
This transcribed document is part of a digital collection, titled True and Candid Compositions: The Lives and Writings of Antebellum Students in North Carolina
written by Lindemann, Erika
Title of collection: Benjamin Sherwood Hedrick Papers (#325), Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: Letter from Benjamin S. Hedrick to H. R. Helper, October 27, 1856
Author: Benjamin S. Hedrick
Description: 4 pages, 4 page images
Note: Call number 325 (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Topics covered:
Education/UNC Faculty, Staff, and Servants
Politics and Government/Political Parties and Party Spirit
Politics and Government/Political Issues
Writings by Non-Students
Social and Moral Issues/Slavery
War/Civil War
Editorial practices
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 5 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Transcript of the personal correspondence. Originals are in the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Original grammar, punctuation, and spelling have been preserved.
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Letters, words and passages marked as deleted or added in originals have been encoded accordingly.
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For more information about transcription and other editorial decisions, see Dr. Erika Lindemann's explanation under the section Editorial Practices.

Document Summary

Hedrick recounts the events leading to his dismissal from the faculty for his political views.
Letter from Benjamin S. Hedrick to H. R. Helper , October 27, 18561
Hedrick, Benjamin Sherwood, 1827-1886

Page 1
Chapel Hill. Oct. 27, 1856

H. R. Helper, Esq
Dear Sir }

I received about a week ago yours of the 15th,2 the first intimations that my letter to the Standard 3 had been read and approved by a Northcarolinian. Others had told me that my views were good and sound but that I would do no good to make them public at this time. That I would get myself into trouble &c. &c. The fact is that I was already in trouble for that matter. I had said some time in August that if there was a Fremont 4 ticket in the state I should vote for it. This got voiced abroad some how or other and soon came to the ears of the editor of the Standard,5 and soon the mandate went forth from that representative of sham Democracy "if there are Black Republicans amongst us let them be driven out," "Let our schools and seminaries be scrutinized &" It was understood that these fulminations were directed at me. This editorial was followed after an interval of two [or] three weeks by the communication signed "An Alumnus" written by a sort of second fiddler to the Standard.6 It was rumored that a Board of Trustees were to be called to turn me out. One of them, Judge Saunders being particularly active. The chances were very strong against me, as some false rumors were afloat which would be much

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than being simply a "black republican." Thinking the matter would come to an issue sooner or later, I set to work and wrote my defense against the charge of being an unsafe person in the communication community I came out boldly in defense of Fremont . This was rather more than the Standard expected, but he saw at once that it would be perfectly useless to argue the matter + as he would come out second best. All the Standards which were to go North were suppressed hoping thereby to keep my article from appearing at the North. But some how or other it got through,
All the means of the worst politicians were at once brought to bear against me. Efforts were made to excite the students to mob me, and they were even taunted with cowardice because they would not do it. A few rowdies however got together one night and burnt me in effigy, but not one of classes could be induced to rebel, and not a single student refused to recite.7 But with the political press the Standard found the proper material to work upon and in that way by not copying my defense, but speaking of it and giving it the character which each one chose, quite a storm was raised against me. It was declared that the University would certainly be ruined if I were not forthwith dismissed. The executive Committee8 of the Board of

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being nearly all politicians, to whom vox populi is more than vox dei,9 they were very willing to sacrifice me to the popular clamor. And as my letter was very little circulated, it true character was very little known, and has not now been read by one in ten of those who cry out most against me. But wherever it it has been read in the state I have found friends and although they now few, still the number is increasing. And I believe now if my letter could be read by every citizen of the state, it would produce a favorable impression. But not a single paper in the state has republished my letter. A few would do so but they are affraid that injury might result to themselves. But my position in the University is gone, and must soon look out for an other,—
Last week I went to Salisbury to attend a state teachers convention. Quite a formidable attempt was made to mob me, but I was sustained by my friends so that they could not get hold of me.10 I have just received a letter stating that the ringleaders are in the hands of the law. That I think is pretty good for a hot bed of nullifaction like Salisbury. Elect Fremont and mobism, terrorism, disunionists, will all receive their quietus. All the elements of disunion are now centered on Buchanan his defeat will be their ruin. There never was so good an opportunity as the present

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to arrest the process of disintegration which has of late seized the South. The election of Fremont will empell the disunionists to show their hands, and be counted. There weakness in nearly every state will then be apparent to all. But let Filmore and or Buchanan be elected, and this faction being victorious will continue to increase until it will control the entire government, or dissolve the Union. The Know Nothing leaders in the South are for the Union come what will. The masses of the people, except in a few fronts, are all for the Union. When Fremont is elected, as he ought to be, a pretty loud howl will go up from the Buchaneers, but the response which it will receive from the people will soon quit. But until this disunion faction does meet with a regional defeat, it will go on increasing until there is very great reason to fear that it will destroy the Union. The true friends of the Republic have but a few days to work. Let no efforts be spared and I believe the right may yet conquor. As a native North Carolinian I hope you will be able to give the timorous of the North a correct understanding of the case as regards the South.

very truly yours,

B. S. Hedrick


1. Benjamin S. Hedrick Papers, SHC. Benjamin Sherwood Hedrick (1827-86) , professor of agricultural chemistry from 1854 to 1856, was asked by students at the polls in August 1856 if he would vote for the Republican presidential candidate, John C. Fremont . Hedrick replied that he would if a Republican ticket were formed in North Carolina. Hedrick's views opposing the extension of slavery became the subject of articles and letters appearing in North Carolina Standard , the state's leading Democratic newspaper, published in Raleigh. On October 18, 1856, the executive committee of the board of trustees, acting outside its authority, dismissed Hedrick by declaring his chair vacant. The committee agreed to pay him his full salary to the close of the session (Hamilton, Hedrick 32).

2. Helper had sent Hedrick the following letter:

New York, Oct. 15. 1856,

Prof. Hedrick ,

Bravo! You are right. Stand firm, and friends will gather around you. I have not the pleasure of your acquaintance, but it would do me good to take you by the hand and tell you how glad I was to find that my dear old native state has at least one fearless patriot within her borders. There are tens of thousands of men in the state, who enterain views similar to those expressed in your letter, but they dare not open their mouths. A remarkably free country! Fremont will probably get 50,000 majority in this state. "The work goes bravely on". If the election could be postponed six or eight months I have no doubt several of the Southern States would bring out an electoral ticket in favor of something free—say, free speech, free soil, free labor, free presses, free schools, or Fremont .

In the faith, Very Truly, yours &c.

H. R. Helper (Benjamin S. Hedrick Papers, SHC)

3. Hedrick defended his choice of Fremont for President in the North Carolina Standard on October 4, 1856. He supported Fremont , he wrote, "Because I like the man" and because "Fremont is on the right side of the great question which now disturbs the public peace" (2), the extension of slavery.

4. Hedrick wrote F on top of f.

5. The North Carolina Standard had published on September 13, 1856, an editorial, "Fremont in the South," which asserted "Let our schools and seminaries of learning be scrutinized; and if black Republicans be found in them, let them be driven out. That man is neither a fit nor a safe instructor of our young men, who even inclines to Fremont and black Republicanism" (3). The Standard's editor was William W. Holden .

6. On September 27, 1856, the North Carolina Standard published over the signature "An Alumnus" a letter "written by John A. Englehard, a law student at the University who had been an honor graduate in 1854" ( Hamilton, Hedrick 9). Englehard reported, "we have been reliably informed that a professor at our State University is an open and avowed supporter of Fremont , and declares his willingness—nay, his desire—to support the black Republican ticket" (North Carolina Standard, September 27, 1856, p. 2).

7. Gov. Swain , writing to secretary of the board of trustees Charles Manly on October 6, 1856, informed him that "there was a noisy demonstration on Saturday night. It did not amount to much, however. I addressed the whole body of students on the subject Sunday morning and have reason to suppose that things will go on quietly. I perceive no symptoms of excitement at present" (Hamilton, Hedrick 18).

8. Hedrick wrote Committee on top of Boa. The executive committee of the board of trustees included Gov. Thomas Bragg , John H. Bryan , Daniel W. Courts, Charles L. Hinton, Bartholomew F. Moore , and Romulus M. Saunders . Biographical sketches of these men appear in Hamilton, Hedrick 22-23.

9. "vox populi is more than vox dei": The voice of the people is more than the voice of God.

10. On October 21, 1856, Hedrick was burned in effigy in Salisbury, his home town, while attending the state educational convention. A mob of "some two or three hundred in number" went to Hedrick's lodgings and ordered him to leave town or be subjected to the "juice of the pine and the hair of the goose" ( Hamilton, Hedrick 37). Hedrick escaped by freight train to Lexington, NC, and wrote to his wife the following day: "They made a good deal of disturbance on my account in Salisbury last night, tho' they did no damage except to frighten pretty bad the women folks at Mr Rankins," (Benjamin S. Hedrick Papers, SHC).