The 1858 Grand Council elections took place in February 1858, for the purpose of choosing the Fourth Grand Council of the Confederation of North America. The elections returned a narrow majority for the opposition Liberal Party, resulting in the elevation of Councilman Kenneth Parkes of the Northern Confederation as Governor-General.
The incumbent Governor-General, Whitney Hawkins of Indiana, was elevated by the Conservative Party caucus in August 1856 after the resignation of his predecessor, William Johnson. Hawkins, a financier who served as Minister of the Exchequer in Johnson's Cabinet, was Johnson's personal choice as successor. However, Hawkins found himself having to deal with a number of hostile rivals from within his own party who planned to challenge him for the party leadership, which he dealt with by replacing several of his former colleagues from the Johnson government. Since Hawkins' new Cabinet picks were chosen more for their loyalty than their ability, they proved to be unfit for their positions. The worst was the incorrigibly corrupt Minister of Resources Bruce King. During his tenure at Resources, King embezzled over N.A. £500,000 from his ministry, and accepted bribes for over twice that amount from mining and logging interests.
When the Conservative caucus met in January 1858 to choose a nominee for Governor-General, Hawkins was able to secure the nomination in spite of his maladministration by promising to "carry on the programs and policies of William Johnson." Since Hawkins had never held elective office before his elevation to the governor-generalship, he had no campaigning experience and proved to be unprepared for the task of running an election campaign.
The Liberal Party caucus nominated Councilman Kenneth Parkes of the Northern Confederation, a veteran of the Rocky Mountain War who was first elected to the Grand Council in 1853, while serving as military governor of the occupied areas of Mexico del Norte. Parkes was a skilled politician and a fine orator with connections to the large corporations of the N.C., and his campaign was both well-financed and well-organized. The Liberals were also able to arrange for new details of King's corruption to become public shortly before election day.
On the other hand, Parkes had a well-known reputation as a womanizer, and the Conservatives, in spite of Hawkins' disorganized campaign, had access to considerable patronage. As a result, the Councilmanic races were close, and Parkes was only able to secure a Liberal majority through wholesale vote-buying in the N.C., the bribing of two Councilmen in Vandalia, and the blackmailing of five in Indiana. On election day, the Liberals won 78 Grand Council seats to the Conservatives' 72, and Parkes was selected as Governor-General.
|Confederation||Conservative Party||Liberal Party|
The 1858 Grand Council elections were the most corrupt that the C.N.A. had seen up to that time. However, with the franchise limited to property owners who could reasonably hope for a share of the spoils, there was little prospect that popular revulsion would lead to reform in the near future.
Sobel's source for the 1858 Grand Council elections is Sidney Bostwick's Every Man Has His Price: The Elections of 1858 (Burgoyne, 1958). Election results are from the New York Herald, 16 February 1858.
|C.N.A. Grand Council Elections|
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