The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the Nineteenth Century

By Jon Grinspan | Go to book overview

4 » The Way for a Young Man to Rise

If you believe James Logan’s defenders, the twenty-one-year-old did not begin Election Day by quietly loading a large revolver. He did not, they swore, hide that weapon beneath a bulky black coat. In fact, Logan’s fatherin-law later testified, the Baltimore gang member wore no such coat but donned a flashy plum jacket that morning. And the scrawny, sharp-faced, goateed Logan certainly did not slip a weighty cast-iron knuckle-duster into his pocket as he headed to Ward Fifteen’s polling place.1

Others admitted that they came prepared on the morning of November 2, 1859. In a home far tonier than Logan’s cramped quarters, twentynine-year-old George Kyle loaded a double-barreled pocket pistol and sheathed a long dirk. His brother Adam Kyle Jr. painstakingly prepped a revolver with powder, ball, and cap and then hefted a weighted cane with a metal head. Each grabbed a large bundle of ballots. With heavy pistols jammed against their hips and “Reform” tickets folded underarm, the scions of one of Baltimore’s wealthiest families set out for the same polling place as Logan.2

The Kyle brothers had good reason to arm themselves. They represented Baltimore’s Democratic establishment, with ties to proslavery, pro-southern, pro-immigration state and national organizations. They hoped to retake Baltimore by masquerading as a reform movement. But anti-immigrant gangs—with names like “the Tigers,” “the Plug Uglies,” and “the Blood Tubs”—had been targeting Reform candidates and electioneers. So, in addition to their own weapons, George Kyle had distributed eighteen revolvers to workers who would police other wards that day.3

As they marched into south Baltimore, the Kyle brothers knew they were entering “a hard neighborhood.” The nativist Tiger club controlled much of the district. In addition to bullying immigrant and free black shipbuilders, the Tigers spent their time intimidating Baltimore businesses for easy jobs, though they did notoriously shoddy work. They also hustled for

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The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the Nineteenth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction - Democracy out of Doors 1
  • 1- Violent Little Partisans 15
  • 2- The Generous Ambitions of Youth 37
  • 3- My Virgin Vote 60
  • 4- The Way for a Young Man to Rise 84
  • 5- Every One Is Fifty 107
  • Conclusion - Things Ain’t What They Used to Be 129
  • Afterword 152
  • Appendix 161
  • Notes 165
  • Bibilography 227
  • Acknowledgments 249
  • Index 251
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