A Lieutenant in Cameron's Army
IN 1854, only days after Matt Quay reached his twenty-first birthday, the Republican party of Pennsylvania presented its first slate of candidates to the voters. Identifying with the pious hopes and lofty ambitions espoused by the new party, he became a charter Republican and retained an active party membership for half a century.1 Since the Republican party was a nebulous entity in its first years, adherents saw no necessity for enunciating a specific political credo. Aside from administration Democrats and slavery partisans, the broad umbrella of the new party provided refuge for individuals of almost every political faith. Only gradually were party goals refined, organization perfected, and top leadership identified.
During his years as prothonotary ( 1856-1861), Quay found no need to advocate or defend any particular faction or set of principles. As the party became more highly structured, however, individuals had to clarify their positions on various issues and leaders. Quay managed to delay his first such organizational confrontation until after the Civil War, but even then it was almost disastrous. Amid extremely controversial circumstances, he was forced to take a position that threatened his whole political future. Near failure in this first test dramatically illustrated to Quay how easily the political thread holding the public to a leader can become frayed.
Civil War problems and issues were dominant factors in determining alignments within the Republican party of Pennsylvania. Although numerous