Most of published stuff is 2,000 to 2,500 words. That’s too long for a venue like this. I also won’t put something here for which I have been paid.
Here is writing sample for you. It was for my local coin club. You can dump on it if you like. There are plenty of others who enjoy my work.
“The Constitution and the Freedom of the Seas”
A little over ten years ago, I acquired a presidential campaign token which featured Lewis Cass, who was the 1848 Democratic Party presidential nominee. All Lewis Cass tokens are scarce to rare, and I was especially pleased to find this piece, which was a variety that is seldom seen.
Don’t feel badly if you have never heard of Lewis Cass. Despite the fact that he had a long record of public service in the 19th century, he lost the 1848 presidential election to Zachary Taylor. Therefore, his name has been relegated the list of presidential campaign also rans.
The obverse of the token features the usual bust of the candidate with his name, “Gen. Lewis Cass.” Although Cass had no real military record, presidential candidates frequently invented one for themselves in the 19th century, following in the footsteps of George Washington and Andrew Jackson, who had impressive military records.
The reverse features the slogan, “The constitution and the freedom of the seas,” which confused me. It seemed like these words would have been more appropriate for the War of 1812. That war started after the British initiated the practice of boarding American ships on the high seas to force American sailors to serve in their navy. Actually, the slogan referred a historically obscure issue that cropped up during the presidential campaign.
In 1807 Great Britain outlawed the slave trade on British ships from Africa. British sea captains who were caught transporting captives were fined of ₤100 per slave. To enforce that law, the British Navy formed the West African Squadron which patrolled the African coast in search of violators.
One ruse that rogue slave transporters used to justify their activities was to fly the U.S. flag because the United States still allowed slavery within its borders. Ironically, the U.S. had joined the British in ending the export of slaves from Africa to the United States in 1808. Therefore, ships flying the American flag could not bring slaves into the United States legally, but the trade continued.
In 1841, the British Government sent Lord Ashburton to The United States to negotiate a treaty. His assignment was to address political differences between the U.S. and Britain and to facilitate economic trade. Lord Ashburton asked secretary of state, Daniel Webster, to allow British officials to board vessels flying the American flag that were suspected of transporting slaves illegally. In 1842, the United States and Britain signed a treaty that included a provision for that police action. In what some historians have called pure demagoguery, presidential candidate Lewis Cass strongly opposed this measure during his 1848 campaign. He compared the policy to the root cause of the War of 1812.
Lewis Cass was from Michigan. Prior to his run for president, he had had a long record of public service. He had been a member of the House of Representatives, Governor of the Michigan Territory, before it became a state, for 18 years, secretary of war, ambassador to France and a United States Senator from Michigan. Following his defeat in the presidential election, he went back to the Senate. At the end of his career, he served as the secretary of state in the James Buchanan administration from 1857 until December 1860.
If one considers Thomas Jefferson to be founder of the Democratic Party, Cass was only the second Democrat to lose a presidential race between 1800 and 1856 and the only Democratic candidate who would not be elected president for at least one term. His campaign medalets are rare, and only one variety, LC 1848-5 is seen with any regularity.
There are two token varieties that mention the Cass “freedom of the seas” campaign slogan. Both of them are rare. LC 1848-4, the piece I purchased, is almost always struck on the “proofed flans.” Political items experts cite these pieces as restrikes (pieces made from the original dies at a later date) that were issued circa 1860. LC 1848-6 is so rare the Doyle DeWitt, who wrote the book on 19th century presidential campaign tokens, had never seen one. I saw one in an auction more than 20 years ago. At the time the high bid was over $1,000, and since I was running a business on shoestring, I could not afford to bid on it. The lettering on the piece was odd and crude. Heritage auctioned a second example a couple of years ago. It sold for $2,000.
Unlike coins, many tokens and medals have an interesting story surrounding them. I hope that you have enjoyed this one.
The most common 1848 Lewis Cass presidential campaign token, LC 1848-5
This is rare piece, LC 1848-6. The photos are courtesy of Heritage Auctions, HA.COM.