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William C. Beyer, “Active But Critical Non-Partisanship: A Swedish-American Newspaper Editor and the Political Realignment of the 1850s,” Swedish Pioneer Historical Quarterly, 30, no. 4 (1979) 242-56. https://collections.carli.illinois.edu/digital/collection/npu_sahq/id/4135/rec/1.

“It is true: the middle way is a small thread, quite difficult to find,” but with God’s help one must try; so counseled immigrant, clergyman, and newspaper editor, Tufve Nilsson Hasselquist, in 1855. [Headnote on p. 242 cited to Hemlandet, 4 May 1855, p. 1. The author of this essay translated this and the other Swedish language materials quoted.]


A close reading of the political commentary in Hemlandet during Hasselquist’s editorship leads one to two major conclusions. First, even this conventional historical source supports recent criticisms of those who would find ethno-cultural factors central to the political realignment of the 1850s.6 Slavery rather than ethnicity or religion is definitely the salient issue both for Hasselquist and those readers of Hemlandet who write to him. When broaching party preference, Hasselquist invokes ethnicity much more to encourage politically active but critical non-partisanship than to disparage Democrats or exalt Republicans. Second, Hemlandet is not the unquestioningly Republican party sheet that O. Fritiof Ander, Hasselquist’s biographer and one of the major figures in Swedish-American historiography, has made it out to be. [243]


When in 1852 the Swedish Lutheran congregation in Galesburg, Illinois, called Hasselquist to be its pastor, he accepted with little hesitation. The rough and tumble competition for souls Hasselquist found in the U.S. was to temper his free-church enthusiasm;12 however, many of his commitments on the North American prairie are consistent with his career before leaving Sweden: puritan ethics, temperance advocacy, popular ministry, and no reluctance for public activity. Hasselquist spent his first years in the U.S. establishing himself in Galesburg and the surrounding territory. His conduct during the cholera epidemic in 1854, his low-church accessibility, and his strong leadership in the chaotic frontier settlements account for his pivotal role in the “religious awakening” in Galesburg and neighboring Knoxville in 1855. By 1856 Hasselquist’s congregations had grown sizeably.13

[12 Ander, Hasselquist, p. 31. 13 Ibid., pp. 24-25. 254]


This double focus on the sacred and the secular paid off, both for the burgeoning church and the fledgling paper. Certain circumstances helped. Sweden’s Compulsory Education Act of 1842 had helped promote wide-spread literacy,19 and whatever Hasselquist’s aversion to the state church, all Swedish emigrants were at least nominally Lutheran. Between 1855 and 1859, when Hemlandet was turned over to the Swedish Lutheran Publishing Society and moved to Chicago, the church grew from a handful of congregations and two pastors to twenty-nine congregations with 3,000 members served by thirteen ministers.20 During the same time, Hemlandet went from 400 to 1,000 subscribers.21

[19 Oscar Backlund, A Century of the Swedish American Press (Chicago, 1952), p. 8. 20 Ander, Hasselquist, p. 39.]


[246] The early issues of Hemlandet try to make sense of the strange U.S. political and social situation in the midst of the turbulent 1850s. Over and over again Hasselquist calls attention to contradictions.25 Well aware of the current political upheaval, he repeatedly tries to discern emerging political alignments.26 Under the rubric, “The General Condition of America,” he takes stock.27 The strong prohibition movement and American religious piety bode well, but inconsistencies abound. “The most grandiose freedom and yet the most degrading slavery exist side by side in the republic”: the critical stance is quintessential Hasselquist. In these initial issues, Hasselquist finds the central political questions to be temperance, slavery, and the pernicious forces causing the Know-Nothing reaction. He praises Maine-Law legislation and more informal sanctions against strong drink.28 Slavery, it is noted, has already threatened to dissolve the Union once, and even though that threat has been ameliorated, slavery will remain a most dangerous institution as long as it survives. Catholics, together with Mormons and free-thinking German liberals, themselves are to blame for the Know-Nothings’ excessive hostility toward foreigners and Catholics, their secrecy, and their affinity for the wrong side of the slavery question. By spring of 1855, Hasselquist has moved through these ruminations and decided that immoderate pro-slavery, nativist, and anti-temperance forces are closely allied if not one and the same.29

[26 Ibid., 4 May 1855, 28 July 1855, 3 July 1856, 16 February 1858, 3 March 1858,30 March 1858. 27 Ibid., 24 February 1855, pp. 1-2; 10 March 1855, pp. 1-2; 31 March 1855, p. 1. 28 Ibid., 10 March 1855, p. 3. An article reports that Galesburg citizens—Swedes for the most part—had kept strong liquor out of their town until an American built a tavern outside the city limits; whereupon a committee of ten, sent by a public meeting, asked the proprietor to shut down and assured him that if he did not comply, the meeting was prepared to take stronger measures. 29 Ibid., 4 May 1855, p. 3; 2 June 1855, p. 1]


[247] Hasselquist evaluates the new political alignments as they grow weaker and stronger; the touchstone is slavery. The Whigs are not mentioned at all. By May of 1855, after Hasselquist’s initial ambivalence, he is predicting the collapse of the Know-Nothings because of the stupidity of their basic principle that “one is incisive, capable, and worthy of public office, etc., only if one is born in this country.”35 What is worse: the Know-Nothings’ “driving force” is identified as the “slavery interest exclusively.”36

[248] After the Know-Nothings split on slavery in June, 1855, Hemlandet notes briefly that the party, now calling itself the “Republican” party, is reorganizing in each northern state. Hemlandet’s restricted format disallows reprinting the Illinois party’s anti-slavery and slightly pro-immigrant platform, but Hasselquist promises more on the party later.37 Subsequent issues mention the Republicans and Hasselquist’s own election as vice-president of the Galesburg Anti-Nebraska meeting which endorses the Illinois Republicans’ Bloomington resolutions of May 1856; however, nothing more specific about the party is forthcoming until Hasselquist comes out in support of the Republicans with a carefully worded endorsement in July 1856:

Since Hemlandet has always stood and will continue to stand on the side of those who work against the terrible institution of slavery in this country and since we for that reason wish every success to the Republican party and even want to do what we can to show our fellow Swedish-Americans the necessity of giving their votes this fall to the Republican party’s presidential candidate, Col. Fremont, it is certainly no more than right that we report the above mentioned party’s principles.

The point here is that Hasselquist supports the Republican party in the 1856 election because it promises to be able to get rid of slavery.38

[35 Ibid., 4 May 1855, p. 2. 36 Ibid., 16 June 1855, p. 2. 37 Ibid.,28July 1855, p. 3. 38 Ibid., 14 June 1856, p. 3 and 18 July 1856, p. 1.]


[249] The Democrats receive little attention during the paper’s first year. Illinois Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas, though, is charged again and again with having been duped by the pro-slavery conspiracy and being responsible for the disastrous effects of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.42 Beginning in January 1856, Hasselquist sees the Democrats identifying as a party with the pro-slavery interests.43 The party comes under increasing scrutiny—and censure. Calling Douglas “the Democratic party’s leader,” Hasselquist uses the senator’s “We mean to subdue you” speech in July 1856 to ask:

And what now is the Democratic party’s major goal? Yes, that mighty and until recently liberal party has now completely joined with the slave-party and works hand in hand exclusively with the latter . . . for the retention and extension of slavery.44

[42 Ibid., 24 February 1855, p. 2; 10 March 1855, p. 2.; 16 June 1855, p. 2. 43 Ibid., 15 January 1856, p. 3. 44 Ibid., 3 ]uly 1856, p. 1.]


[250] By election time in 1858, Hasselquist sees the battle lines clearly:

The campaign is being waged between the Democratic and the Republican parties, which is the same as saying between those who are working for the retention and extension of slavery and those who want to see it contained in its present area and even there eventually starved out, 46 so that the United States can be made into that which it can only claim to be, a free land. The slavery question drags into its great whirlpool all other questions. The Republican party is the only one that can and will curtail the slave-party’s power.46

[46 Ibid., 31 August 1858, p. 1.]


[251] What Hasselquist does affirm again and again is that the best defense against nativism is political education and sophistication that allow one to act according to decisions on issues rather than on the allurements of personalities or parties.54 Irish immigrants who are allegedly carted around as “voting cattle” for Douglas’ purposes at election time are scorned.55 Irish-American abuses, however, seem to be mentioned not to dissuade Swedes from voting Democratic or from participating politically in general, but rather from participating blindly. Non-partisan independence leaves the voter uncompromised by political horse-trading and free to vote or act according to conscience. Being able to vote according to principle is especially important when the choice is conceived of as one between good and evil. That slavery is evil, Hasselquist was certain:

It is ungodly in its basis and cannot be reconciled with Christianity in the long run or defended by a conscience which has been washed in the blood that was shed for all men regardless of and expressly separate from the differences between races and classes. 56

[54 Hemlandet, 10 March 1855, p. 1; 31 March 1855, p. 2; 2 June 1855, p. 1; 4 October 1855, p. 1; 29 August 1856, p. 1; 17 August 1858, p. 2; 14 September 1858, p. 2. 55 Ibid., 26 October 1858, p. 2. 56 Ibid., 2 June 1855, p. 1. Cf. also 10 October 1856, p. 1 and 24 October 1856, p. 1.]


[252] If anti-slavery identifies proper political parties, active but moderate and above all critical non-partisanship characterizes the proper political activist. Hemlandet again and again urges its readers to participate politically.60 Hasselquist does not hide his own engagement—whether collecting petitions in favor of the Illinois version of the Maine Law or helping to preside over the previously mentioned meeting of Galesburg Anti-Nebraska forces.61 Like their free church brethren in Sweden, the Swedish-American Lutheran clergy with their free church sympathies were generally politically active, much more so than the Norwegian-American clergy with their state church affinities.62 Regardless of the particular political activity, however, one is to act moderately. When according to a nineteenth century “domino theory” conspiratorial pro-slavery forces threaten to engulf the South after Kansas falls, Hasselquist warns of the danger but counsels caution and collectedness.63 While the Catholic church’s inordinate power over its members’ lay and commercial affairs threatens American democracy, hostility toward individual Catholics is condemned and readers are 252 admonished to consider the issues moderately.64 Political rallies invariably make Hasselquist uncomfortable. He finds the cheers and wild shouts before the burning effigy of Pierce at a Republican rally frightening and distasteful.65 Ander gives one the impression that Hemlandefs first editor was swept up in the political enthusiasm of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.66 Hemlandet, however, reports that “the screaming, the large flags and processions” introduce false considerations into the political arena: “For in this case so much depends on money, the prospect of favors, elegant shows, and such that [public rallies] cannot always be a sure yardstick.”67 Moderation is desireable because it promotes the critical consideration of issues and lessens the risk of dwelling on mere personality. Reporting the brawling political fervor observed during a trip to Indiana in fall 1856, Hasselquist urges concentration on issues rather than persons, because “if that was more generally practiced, both in political and in religious controversy, the truth ought thereby triumph and the senses be left more freedom, without ‘excitement’ [sic, in English], to test what is right and true.”68 Although Hasselquist does not say so, Sumner’s personal attack on Brooks’ kinsman, Senator Butler, may be the reason Hasselquist considered Sumner’s speech extreme.69 Hasselquist reports “not a little” dissatisfaction because the principals of the Galesburg Lincoln-Douglas debate “spent too much time with each other’s person and discussed far too little the large and important questions which are connected with their election.”70

[60 Cf. Hemlandet, 31 March 1855, pp. 1, 2-3; 4 May 1855, p. 3; 18 July 1856, p. 1; 10 October 1856, p. 1; 28 September 1858, p. 2; 26 October 1858, p. 2. 61 Ibid., 4 May 1855, p. 3 and 14 June 1856, p. 3. 62 Anderson, pp. 72-74; Stephenson, pp. 392-393; Hokanson, p. 56; Sten Carlsson, “Skandinaviska politiker i Minnesota” in Utvandring: Den svenska emigrationen till Amerika i historiskt perspektiv, ed. Ann-Sofie Kälvemark (Malmö, 1973), pp. 212-243. Herman G. Nelson, “Swedish Settlers in Rockford,” Swedish Pioneer Historical Quarterly, III (October 1952), p. 99: In the election of 1860, “Forty-eight of the Swedish newcomers to Rockford, who had become naturalized citizens, assembled in a body in the east-side square of the city. With the Rev. Mr. Andreen [the Swedish Lutheran pastor] at their head, they marched in a body across Rock River to the courthouse on the west side to cast their votes.” 63 Hemlandet, 2 June 1855, p. 2. 64 Ibid., 10 March 1855, p. 2. 65 Ibid., 25 September 1856, p. 1. 66 Ander, “Swedish-American Newspapers and the Republican Party,” p. 67. 67 Hemlandet, 13 October 1858, p. 2. 68 Ibid., 25 September 1856, p. 1. 69 Ibid., 31 May 1856, p. 2. Cf. Mayer, p. 37. 70 Ibid., 13 October 1858, p. 2. 71 Ibid., 14 September 1858, p. 2.]


O. Fritioif Ander, “Lincoln and the Founders of Augustana College,” Swedish Pioneer Historical Quarterly, 11, no. 2 (1960), 45-72 https://collections.carli.illinois.edu/digital/collection/npu_sahq/id/3007/.

[45n1] This article appears as an essay in O. Fritiof Ander’s Lincoln Images: Augustana Centennial Essays, Rock Island, I960, but footnotes have been added as of possible interest to readers of this quarterly. [mostly about ISU, Spfld, some reading of Hemlandet toward the end]


The year of 1858 was an important one in focusing the nation’s attention upon Lincoln and in sharpening political issues. Hemlandet became more Republican, if possible, without becoming less anti-Democrat. Lincoln carried off victories in the debates at Ottawa and Quincy, August 24, and October 26,1858.68 Popular sovereignty was condemned.

Slavery was an evil, a question upon which people could not be permitted to express themselves. The day of greatest importance was, as might be expected, the Galesburg debate onOctober 7,1858. It occurred on a Thursday and had been anticipated for days by extensive preparations. The rising sun on Thursday was greeted by the firing of a cannon. It was a clear, windy, and cold day. The Swedes gathered outside Hasselquist’s church. They had prepared a banner reading LINCOLN: THE SCANDINAVIANS FOR FREE LABOR. They organized into two companies with bands and Swedish and American flags. Douglas arrived at 11:00 a.m. Half an hour later Lincoln was greeted by a cheering crowd and the firing of a cannon. Masses of parading humanity appeared from every direction. One group headed by a “Scandinavian band” for Douglas consisted actually of Germans. Lincoln seemed happy and was in a pleasant mood.69

[68 Hemlandet, August 24 and October 26, 1858. 69 Hemlandet, October 13, 1858.]


[64-65] The Republican platform received much attention in the pages of Hemlandet and the party’s position in regard to naturalization was featured. Hemlandet might have pre- ferred to see William Henry Seward nominated at the con- vention. It was felt that Seward had earned the nomination. Yet, Lincoln was a strong candidate. His principles had been clearly defined when he clashed with Douglas in 1858. Perhaps, it is worthy of observation that Hemlandet stressed Lincoln’s success as a lawyer and not his humble origin. Swedish social prejudices might have asserted themselves in this case. Thus, it was far more important that Lincoln was called “Honest Abe” than “the railsplitter.”79 But Hem- landet would have accepted any candidate of the Republi- can party in 1860.

Because German immigrants were more numerous than the Scandinavians, the Republican party—in angling for the foreign vote—favored German delegates to state Republi- can conventions in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Its function was to win the immigrant vote. He condemned measures hostile to these and advocated a liberal homestead act as well as firm opposition to the extension of slavery. He suggested the enrollment of prominent citizens—who were German, Scandinavian, and Dutch—to speak to the immigrants in their native tongues. One major task of these speakers was to stress that the Republican party had always been friendly to the immigrants. Schurz and his cohorts pointed out that the amendment sponsored by Re- publicans to the Constitution of Massachusetts was directed against the Irish and the Catholics.80

[‘”Hemlandet, May 23 and 30, 1860. TMHemlandet, July 11 and 18, 1860 80 Stephenson, op. cit, pp. 128-129; Wittke, op. cit, p. 247.]


[66] When the Fourth of July [1860 was celebrated Hemlandet took the opportunity to ex- pound the gospel of the Republican faith. And it became a holy gospel!83 It was built upon Protestant foundations. When a Democrat became a Republican he was “converted” and “saved.” Why should not the Swedes who loved liberty and freedom rejoice at the thought of salvation for all man- kind? The duties of the Swedes to the “enslaved” Negroes were self-evident. But to prevent a great shock upon so- ciety, the gradual but complete abolition of slavery was necessary. This could be accomplished calmly by practical measures after a Republican victory. The religious fervor among the Swedes is illustrated by their campaign hymn of 1860. It contained twelve stanzas, three of which have been translated as follows:

Ye noble sons of the North,
To the campaign now we go.
The banner that we carry,
Its legend reads thus:
“For freedom, right, and truth”
We will raise our voice.

“For freedom, right and truth
and Swedish yeoman faith”Did our brave Gustavus Adolph
Risk his life and blood.
We who are his sons
Will go the way he trod,
Though it should be our fate
To receive the same sad end.

And now that at our head
Lincoln leads the advance,
Should we then stand back?
Nay, forward in closed ranks,
And let us vote as one man
For noble Abraham Lincoln
To be our President.

[84 Ander, op. cit. Hemlandet, July 4, 1860. Ander, op. cit.]


[67-69] Rallies and parades were numerous. Hemlandet estimated that from 10,000 to 20,000 persons attended a Republican rally at Galesburg. Swedes arrived in Galesburg from Knoxville and Wautauga. They gathered outside the First Lutheran Church. The spire of the church was decorated with many flags. The major speaker to address the Swedes was Charles J. Sundell who described Douglas as a fox and Lincoln as honesty itself.87 Sundell and C . J . Stolbrand were perhaps the most popular of the Swedish-speaking [68] …

The Swedes also listened to many Americans including Cassius M . Clay, Owen Lovejoy, William Kellogg, Joseph Knox, Robert G . Ingersoll, and others.88 A t various rallies they tried to secure special attention through number, en- thusiasm, cleverly decorated wagons, young women dressed to appear as representatives of the various states, large bands, conspicuous banners on which such slogans as EQUALITY REGARDLESS OF ORIGIN OR BIRTH might be inscribed. 8 9 A t Galesburg they boasted that they were the largest group represented, and that many at the great rally who were Democrats became “converted.”90 …

At Bishop Hill there was another of the many rallies in which Swedes had an opportunity of displaying their strength as they came from Andover, Walnut Grove, Vic- toria, Galesburg, and Princeton. This rally attracted 8,000 persons. On October 5, 1860, Senator Seward spoke in Chi- cago and the Swedes were urged to attend. Excursions on railroads were organized.91 A special invitation was sent out to various Swedish Republican clubs to attend the Chi- cago rally by the Swedish Republican Club of Chicago. Hemlandet estimated that from 75,000 to 100,000 visitors were brought to Chicago by the great Republican mass meeting. Perhaps 10,000 Wide-Awakes added color to the city by their uniforms. It looked almost as if every one was a “Wide-Awake,” certainly, many Swedes were. B u t men, women, and children had taken advantage of the excursions to get to Chicago and to participate in or watch the parade. There were also 500 “Lincoln Rangers” on horseback in a parade with customary bands, banners, flags, and torches. The Swedish Republican Club of Chicago was represented by seventy-two members. They carried both Swedish a n d American flags and a banner with the inscription on one [69] side: LIBERTY A N D RIGHT FOREVER: EXPANSION OF SLAVERY NEVER. On the other side it read: SWED- ISH REPUBLICANS OF CHICAGO. 92 This group marched past the office of Hemlandet where three cheers were given. At Republican mass meetings a l l over northern Illinois where Swedes were to be found, they brought “honor” upon their people. In Princeton, Illinois, on October 4, 1860 the mass meeting, as elsewhere, was a huge success. Perhaps 8,000 or 10,000 people attended, but in the procession some 250 Swedes received special attention. They were directed by a man named A. A . Skenlund. On one wagon the Swedes had thirty-three young women dressed in white, wearing green and white wreaths on their heads and ribbon girdles with the names of the different states and one woman with the name Kansas not yet admitted as a state. Each woman carried a Lincoln-Hamlin flag. The Swedish procession was headed by the American flag followed by the Swedish one.93

87 Hemlandet, August 22, 1860. 88 Hemlandet, August 22 and 29, 1860. 89 Hemlandet, August 29, 1860. 90 Hemlandet, September 19, 1860. 9 1 Hemlandet, September 26, 1860. 92 Hemlandet, October 2, 1860. 93 Hemlandet, October 10, 1860. 94 Bureau County Republican, October 4, 1860: Hemlandet, October 10, 1860.

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