Zachary Baum


On November 7, 1848 William H. Robertson rose early and rushed to the post office in Bedford, a town in Westchester County, New York. The young lawyer was brimming with excitement because two weeks earlier, the Whigs in the county?s northern section had nominated him as their candidate for the New York State Assembly. Only twenty-four years old and a rising legal star, Robertson hoped that holding political office would launch his nascent career. After casting his ballot at the Bedford Post Office, Robertson paid a visit to Sheriff James M. Bates, his political manager, to await the election results. Robertson?s intelligence, collected a week before Election Day, that “news from every part of the district is favorable,” proved accurate. The Whig attorney heard later that evening that he had defeated his Democratic opponent, with 57% of the vote. To celebrate, Robertson and Bates feasted on “chickens, turkeys, oysters, and Champaign” before retiring around midnight at Philer Betts? Hotel. The following afternoon, they boarded the 3:00 PM train from Bedford to the county seat of White Plains, seventeen miles south. There, the two triumphant Whigs gossiped and caught up with their counterparts from Westchester?s usually Democratic southern section. Hearing of their friends? overwhelming victories surprised Robertson, leading him to exclaim, “The Whigs have carried almost everything!” Indeed, the Whigs had swept every elective office in Westchester County. [excerpt]