1855: James Douglas Eads to Gilman Folsum

This interesting letter was written by James Douglas Eads (1813-1871), a physician from Fort Madison, Iowa, who later served as Captain of the Missouri State (Union) militia for the entire four years of the Civil War. By 1860, Eads had relocated to Warrensburg, Johnson county, Missouri, where he was the editor of the Warrensburg Missourian. After the war he operated a hotel in Warrensburg until his death in 1871. A very comprehensive biography of Eads can be found on the Warrensburg, Missouri, homepage. Eads was a long-standing Democrat and a follower of Stephen A. Douglas. Consequently he supported Douglas’ “Nebraska Bill” that became law in 1854 under the title, “The Kansas-Nebraska Act.”  Under the provisions of this bill, those settling in the newly opened territories of Kansas and Nebraska could decide for themselves, at the ballot box, whether they would be slave-free states or allow slavery under their respective state constitutions. Simplistic in its design, its execution proved problematic, however, as both sides schemed to rig the ballot box with illegitimate voters. In this letter, Eads hints at settlers from his region of Iowa stooping to such measures to swing the vote in favor of the free-state sympathizers.

Eads wrote the letter to Hon. Gilman Folsom (1818-1872). “Born at Dorchester, New Hampshire, Folsom read law in the office of the Hon, Josiah Quincy, a noted jurist of New Hampshire, and was admitted to practice law at Haverhill, 1841, at the early age of twenty three years. He settled in the practice of law in Iowa City in 1841, and was recognized as a young man of great promise. He was married in 1843 to Miss Emily Arthur. Mr. Folsom was for two successive terms a member of the House of Representatives of Iowa. On the election of Frank Pierce to the Presidency in 1852, Mr. Folsom was appointed receiver of the land office in Iowa City; this service terminated his public career, and thenceforth he devoted himself to looking after and caring for his large estate. As a legislator he rose to the full height of statesmanship.” [Source: History of Johnson County Iowa 1836-1882, Iowa City, Iowa, 1883.]


Addressed to Hon. G. Folsum, Iowa City, Iowa

Fort Madison, Iowa
April 24, 1855

Hon. G. Folsum
Dear Sir,

Yours of 19th inst. is before me. Please fond inclosed a receipt executed as you requested.

The democracy of this part of the state are all gone into Kansas-Nebraska. I will tell you all about their treasonable designs when I see you. Many of our “big men” would like to favor the Kansas-Nebraskan’s and some men heretofore prominent democrats have gone into their wicked, treasonable and hellish organizations.

We have had two deaths from cholera in this city the past week.

I am very respectfully your obedient servant, — James D. Eads


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