Interlude : The Election of 1858


Garrett Matthews (Kevin)
• +1 Wealth Level & one Eagle
• Hastings – Attitude downgrade

Gilbert Warfield (John)
• +1 Wealth Level & one Eagle
• Hastings – Attitude downgrade

Jess Connor (Dave)
• +1 Wealth Level
• Edward Beale – Owed one Favor (Take 10)
• John Weller – Owed one Favor (Take 10)
• Allegiance – Person (Edward Beale)
• Hastings – Attitude upgrade
• J. Neely Johnson – Attitude downgrade

Jane Wilson (Judi)
• Allegiance – Group (Republican Party)

John Jost Althaus (Greg)
• None

Samuel Davis (Daniel)
• +1 Wealth Level & one Eagle
• Hastings – Attitude downgrade


Beale is supporting the candidacy of his friends in the Society of California Pioneers – a fraternal organization open to those living in California prior to statehood (October 18, 1850). Historically they are mostly Democrats, though that affiliation is fraying as the old political parties rip apart.

These are the Californio landowners who kept their land, the former Army who settled farms, and the first generation of pioneers. The closest thing California has to “old money”. They ran the state in the 40s and early half of the 50s – and still control the institutions of government especially the federal departments.

Beale pays each county representative a salary in advance and a written note to his Sacramento attorney (Lansford Hastings) authorizing the withdrawal of additional funds to pay for your electioneering activity in the agreed county.

He expects you make good use of those funds – but leaves you to decide how to go about it.


Statewide results:
- Charles Scott easily wins reelection to the U.S. House. He remains one of the few figures popular across the state – with strong showing in the gold country, the central valley, southern farmlands and the major cities of San Francisco, Sacramento and Stockton.
- Joseph McKibbin unexpectedly wins reelection. Burch’s supporters believe that poor turnout in Nevada and San Francisco counties made the difference.
- Baker’s supporters believe that his loss was entirely due to late-minute funding of smear campaigns across the state.
- The American Party has lost its statewide power base, and the re-election of Gov J. Neely Johnson and his fellow travelers next year seems impossible.

Local county politics:
- Nevada becomes the stronghold of Republicanism. The last Dems are voted out of office, with only a few straggling American Party incumbents in local office.
- San Francisco fails to consolidate its Democratic or Republican leadership. Local government is owned by the People’s Party with state representatives favoring the American Party agenda.
- Sacramento and Stockton return narrow Democratic victories. Jess Connor is credited with the win – with a strategy that successfully triangulates the Republican, American and People’s Party platforms.
- Democrats and Anti-Lecomptons consolidate control of Southern California. No one from any other party was elected to legislative office, and very few to any local position.


- No one sent me a Diplomacy roll, so I assumed only Gilbert is trained (18CHA + 8 ranks = ‘+12) and that everyone has 14 CHA and untrained (’+2). As it happens, results shouldn’t change too much if I’m wrong – so these rolls stand.

Election Results by County

CountyOpposition DCPC Roll & ResultLocal ResultsState ResultsFederal Multiplier
Alameda (Oakland)182 (Aid Other)DemDemx1/3
San Francisco5d6+10=2712PeoplesAmericanx1

Federal Election

CandidatePartyBase VotesCounty DC bonusPC BonusTotal VotesResults
Edward BakerRepublican6d20+100=153+24+11784
Samuel BookerAnti-Lecompton Democrat2d20+20=29296
John BurchDemocrat3d20+180=196+262223
Joseph McKibbinAnti-Lecompton Democrat2d20+160=190+332232 – Re-elected
P.H. SibleyRepublican2d20=27+3305
Charles ScottDemocrat5d20+200=252+122641 – Re-elected
Interlude : The Election of 1858


CharacterCountyEffort LevelFocusDiplomacy Roll
Garrett Matthews (Kevin)PlacerC (Default)
Gilbert Warfield (John)NevadaC – Bad EffortIgnore Federal
Jess Connor (Dave)SacramentoB – Good Effort
Jane Wilson (Judi)Alameda (Oakland)Aid Other (Republican)Ignore Federal
John Jost Althaus (Greg)NONE
Samuel Davis (Daniel)San FranciscoC (Default)

Explanation of Choices

Players need to decide how hard are you going to work for Beale’s candidates. The answer is limited to your imagination, but I’m building out your rewards (and election results) based on A/B/C/D/F “letter grades”. By default you will make a lazy, half-hearted effort (“C”).

In addition, you may want to focus on local (city & county positions), state (assembly & senate) or federal (U.S. House) races. It’s not required – and by default you will work on all three.

Level of EffortDiplomacy Check?Notes
A – Best EffortYES“Advantage” – roll d20 twice and take best result
B – Good EffortYESNone, regular roll.
C – Bad effortYES “Disadvantage” – roll d20 twice and take worst result
D – EmbezzlementNot eligible
F – Change horsesYESRegular roll, but what party/faction will you support?

Diplomacy Check – Influencing the Election

If you are allowed a Diplomacy check, then make the roll and let me know your result. That roll represents the net impact of your influence on each of the three elections (local, state, federal).

Each county has different conditions “on the ground” so may be more or less competitive. And each has different populations, so will have more of less impact in statewide & federal results.

Characters who are not assigned counties (hi Judi, hi Greg!) can take an Aid Other action to help someone else’s campaign. DC10 Diplomacy roll for +2 bonus.

The following bonus/penalty apply

  • If you ignore any race (local/state/federal) take 0 in that race and ’+4 bonus in the others. NOTE: stacks if you ignore two races.
  • ’+2 synergy bonus if you have 5+ ranks in Knowledge (civics)
  • ’+2 synergy bonus if you have 5+ ranks in Knowledge (current events)
  • ’+1 for each Eagle you spend, ’+2 for each Double Eagle
  • ’+1 for each WL you spend ( ’+2 if your WL is 11+, ’+3 if your WL is 16+)

Description of the Levels

A – Best Effort. Winning is what matters! No idea is too crazy, no plot too underhanded, and no expense should be spared.

B – Good Effort. You want Beale to be impressed, and do a competent job. Work hard and spend the money, but try to run a 1850s-style “clean” campaign.

C – Bad effort. Pretend to work hard, but don’t. After all Beale would be paying more if he really cared.

D – Embezzlement. This is free money! Run the con and cash the checks.

F – Change horses. OMG, I made a terrible mistake! Back out of your commitment and support someone else.

In case you need help deciding how hard to work, here is what bad/good/best effort looks like in 1858.

Example – vote buying
C – Passing out a few ribbons and buttons.
B – Renting out the biggest tavern in the area and giving out free drinks to anyone who votes for your candidate
A – Printing up 1000 extra ballots and distributing them to your drunks – and literally telling them to “stuff the boxes”.

Example – voter turnout
C – Speeches to your base reminding them about election day.
B – Hiring a mine foreman to make sure all his crew marches over to the polls and votes “the right way”
A – Hiring some thugs to break kneecaps of your opponent’s turnout machine

Example – media
C – Make sure the local newspaper knows about your rally – but forgetting to check whether the reporter attending is on your side.
B – Planting a story that your opponent had sex out of wedlock
A – … with a horse


The monetary rewards are simple. You’ve already been paid, and you can get more either by embezzling funds (i.e. taking money from Hastings but not spending it) or as a bonus if your party wins the election.

But the most important result is really how it will affect your Reputation, Attitude and Allegiances (pg 49) with NPCs.

A – Best Effort
• No monetary reward
• Beale – Attitude upgrade
• Allegiance – Organization (Society of California Pioneers)
• Attitude changes based on your county (generally one up, one down)
• Eligible for bonus if your slate wins

B – Good Effort
• +1 Wealth Level
• Beale – Owed one Favor (Take 10)
• Allegiance – Person (Edward Beale)
• Attitude changes based on your county (generally one up, one down)
• Eligible for bonus if your slate wins

C – Bad effort
• +1 Wealth Level & one Eagle
• Hastings – Attitude downgrade
• Eligible for bonus if your slate wins

D – Embezzlement.
• +2 Wealth Level & one Double-Eagle
• Beale – Attitude downgrade
• Hastings – Attitude downgrade (UNFRIENDLY minimum)

F – Change horses.
• Beale – Attitude downgrade (UNFRIENDLY minimum)
• Hastings – Attitude downgrade
• Attitude changes based on your county (generally one up, one down)

Aid Other – You help someone else
• Attitude changes based on your county (generally one up, one down)
• Eligible for bonus if your slate wins

Assuming Beale and his friends win, then you will get another reward as well – which is secret, and will scale with how well folks do.

Interlude : The Election of 1858

Political Situation in the Counties

Each county has its own peculiar situation, and cast of characters who are paying attention to your actions.

San Francisco (Sam Davis)
• San Francisco is the home of the People’s Party and a large criminal underground.
• Beale supports the candidacy of former mayor Van Ness and many of his friends.
• Baker himself will call Sam into his office to personally tell him that he is disappointed especially after their mutual assistance last summer over “that matter with the Warfield family”. He says there are many ways to get city approval for a charity serving the indigent poor – and getting in bed with Van Ness is the wrong way to go about it.

Sacramento (Jess Connor)
• The politics in Sacramento are especially complicated – with five groups campaigning actively, and many candidates trying to align with two or more of them.
• Hastings is keeping an extra-special eye on you to make sure you are doing a fine job. He suggests that you reach out to Thomas Cazneau (clerk of the senate) as a possible inside source.
• Charles Hackett (free black & local business owner) will reach out to you – saying that “he thought you were trying to help his people” based on your help with the Archy Lee situation.

Placer (Garrett Matthews)
• Placer County is historically Democratic – but many are upset with the party and have become Anti-Lecompton.
• Hastings will tell you that the local elections are particularly important here – as the CCRR need the support of Auburn and county politicians.
• Your biggest ally is popular local figure Jonathan Davis, who is committed to making sure that “the right people show up and vote”.
• Charboneau, who you know is a major investor in the CCRR, will come to you and say that you’re backing the wrong folks and you really need to campaigning for the Anti-Lecomptonites.

Nevada (Gilbert Warfield)
• Nevada is controlled by former Whigs. Most of them voted American Party in 56 and 57, but the county is becoming a Republican stronghold.
• Hastings tells you that the state elections are particularly important.
• The Downie boys are back in Nevada – and definitely willing to help, for the right price.
• Ellen Clark Sargent invites you to her salon. She expresses her surprise at your current activism and urges you to reconsider your positions.

Interlude : The Election of 1858

Unnecessary but hopefully interesting background on the situation.

National Politics in 1858 – Bloody Kansas and the Destruction of the two-party system

1854 saw the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and established that slavery in the Kansas and Nebraska territories would be decided by popular sovereignty. This grand bargain was an attempt by President Franklin Pierce to open up the northern Louisiana Purchase for settlement and remove the question of slavery from Congress. Ideally this would make slavery a purely local matter at the territory and (eventually) state level. The act passed, but the vision failed – invoking immediate outrage across the country with dramatic consequences for all involved.

The Whig Party immediately fractures over the vote, and is dead by 1856. Ex-Whigs align into one of three nascent political parties:
• Abolitionists move to the fledgling Republican Party,
• Northerners ride a wave of anti-immigration sentiment and found a populist, nationalist movement called the American Party (the “Know Nothings”), and
• Southerners who believe the national solidarity is more important than expanding slavery create the Constitutional Union Party (the “Unionists”).

Settlers pour into the Kansas Territory from both sides of the question – pro-slavery “Blue Lodgers” from Missouri and anti-slavery “Jayhawkers” from Ohio and the Northeast. Clashes are inevitable, and murder and arson become common place.

Kansas government is a disaster. Elections are boycotted by the opposing sides – leading to two separate legislatures who each attempt to administer the territory and each write a state constitution.

President Buchanan endorses the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution and submits it to Congress. Most Kansans believe the first referendum was illegitimate due to widespread vote fraud, and a subsequent re-vote rejects the proposal by 10,226 to 138.

Fellow Democrat Stephen Douglas becomes the leading voice against passage. The constitution is rejected by Congress along geographic lines. The Democratic Party sputters and stutters in the wake of this monumental legislative failure, and Buchanan’s credibility is destroyed. The party fractures into “Lecompton” and “Anti-Lecompton” wings.

California politics in the 1850s

After the Mexican War, the Democrats were the only functioning national party and they immediately took control of the political “machine” during the military occupation. In 1850 every statewide position was held by a Democrat, and local elected officials were either Democratic or “undecided”.

Two forces change the balance.

Externally – slavery. California was admitted as a free state and attracted northern investment. But by 1853, the pro-slavery factions from southern California were arguing to rewrite the state constitution. The Dred Scott decision in 1857 accelerates that interest.

Internally – local corruption and incompetence. San Francisco was unable to control criminal activity especially along the waterfront (the “Barbary Coast”). Threats to public safety lead to the formation of the Committee of Vigilance in 1851 – which sought out corrupt and complicit politicians. By 1856, the group reorganized and its political wing (The People’s Party) gained control of the police department and mayor’s office.

In 1858 there are six political groups active in California. Given the chaos, membership in these groups can be fluid.
• Democratic Party
• Anti-Lecompton Democrats
• Constitutional Union (Southern California only)
• People’s Party (San Francisco, Sacramento and Stockton only)
• American Party
• Republican Party (Northern California only)

The California Election of 1858

Elections were not held on standardized days, but for simplicity and drama we are ignoring that and assuming the 21st century standard of a single election for major offices in November.

Local offices and state legislators are elected annually. Executive and judicial elections are in odd-years, so are not running in this election.

California’s Federal Representation

California elects two U.S. representatives at-large. All voters choose a single candidate, with the largest two going to the House. Due to population growth, California will get one or two new representatives after the census of 1860.

The incumbents in the US House are Charles Scott and Joseph McKibben. At least six candidates are running for election in 1858, but only four have any chance of winning.
• John Burch – Democrat (Beale’s candidate)
• Charles Scott – Democrat
• Joseph McKibbin – Anti-Lecompton Democrat
• Edward Baker – Republican

California’s two senators split on the question of slavery, and this is not an accident. California’s statehood only passed the U.S. Senate because of a handshake agreement that they would send one pro and one anti-slavery senator.

The first senators were John Fremont (anti) and William Gwin (pro). Fremont resigned to run as the presidential candidate for the Republican Party in 1856, and was replaced by John Weller and then David Broderick. Gwin is up for renewal in 1860, and Broderick is up for renewal in 1862.

The party has met many of these important politicians.
• Charles Scott – riding the SVRR during the train robbery, but silent
• William Gwin – riding the SVRR during the train robbery, gave Gilbert a flask in thanks
• Edward Baker – the senior lawyer representing the “Kentucky Warfields”

Interlude : The Election of 1858

Dave writes:

A few issues before I answer the target questions:

1. Do we know where Beale’s candidates (e.g. John Burch for US Senate) stand on slavery?
2. It sounds like Jess should meet with both Thomas Cazneau (if his input is only operational in terms of how to use resources most effectively, this can be postponed) and Charles Hackett (Jess would like to know who on Beale’s Sacramento ticket Hackett has a problem with, why, and who he thinks are better candidates “for his people”) before deciding on her actions.

If you want me to decide without that input, I’ll go B and do balanced effort across all 3 election levels.

Ed/John write:

Democrats are pro-slavery, copperhead (northerner with pro-southern sympathy) or “don’t care”. That’s because everyone who is a free-soiler or abolitionist has left the Democratic party. Those folks are now Anti-Lecomptons (Free Soilers), American Party (anti-immigration), People’s Party (law & order, and anti-corruption) or the Republican (abolitionist and prohibitionists) – or just staying apolitical.

Short version on the two figures mentioned for Sacramento:

  • Cazneau knows where the bodies are buried – if you go with “A” then he is your inside man to get the dirt.
  • Hackett thinks you should be supporting the abolitionist Republicans – or at least the Free Soilers (Anti-Lecompton) who are actually going to do something about slavery.

Dave writes:

Well ick. Jess isn’t stoked about being on the wrong side of the slavery question.

So two more questions:
1. What is a Free Soiler?
2. Can you identify at which level(s) (i.e., local, state, national) “our” candidates in Sacramento County are overtly pro-slavery?

Q1 : What is a “Free Soiler”?

There are three political positions that are considered “moderate”. Both turn on the question of how the western territories should be treated.

“Free Soil” opposes the expansion of chattel slavery into the western territories – while avoiding/ignoring the question of slavery in the states where it is legal. Its adherents argue that “free men on free soil” are a morally and economically superior system.

“Popular Sovereignty” argues that the status of chattel slavery in the lands should be decided at the ballot box, and that each state and territory has the right to determine how it should be governed.

There is also a “Constitutional Union” philosophy which argues that the national government should get completely out of the business of regulating slavery – as it has caused nothing but strife – and leave the matter entirely up to each constituent states.

Q2 : To what level are the local candidates pro-slavery?

Northern California has few pro-slavery adherents – and none of them highly public. Your candidates are focused on local issues (roads, mining rights, clean water) that matter to the pocketbooks of Californians.

Typical statement would go something like – “Chattel slavery is outlawed by the California Constitution. So as your mayor/sheriff/commissioner/assemblyman, I will enforce and support the law. Those with opinions on the issue be able to exercise their rights as private citizens to Free Speech in an orderly manner and with proper decorum”.

As far as Burch goes – you suspect he personally favors “popular sovereignty” esp since he does not repudiate the Lecompton constitution. You also know he is from Boone County – an area along the Missouri River which grows hemp and tobacco in on mid-size plantations and is strongly pro-slavery.

Dave holds his nose and writes:
Jess is probably about the same place Gilbert is philosophically, although more iffy on the “house slaves.”

In practical terms, she’ll stay with her original plan of B effort distribute evenly across all levels. If she learns that any candidate she is assisting is in the pro-slavery camp, she’ll withdraw her efforts from that level and redistribute to the other levels.

The situation with Hackett definitely makes Jess uncomfortable, but at the end of the day she’s more focused on the fact that California doesn’t allow chattel slavery and nobody she supports is attempting to undermine that situation rather than on any big-picture issues at the national level.

Interlude : The Election of 1858

John writes:
Here’s the way Gilbert will act/react

Gilbert is anti chattel slavery. He has no issue with “house slaves” as he grew up with those. He has no issues with slaves (african americans) trying to better themselves and make a better life for themselves. His family mostly treated their slaves with respect and gave them a better life than most slaves that worked crops. He has no issue with the share cropping (or there abouts) I suspect we’re seeing in California.

In regards to the the election, Gilbert will give a solid “B” effort in both state and federal elections.

Re: meeting with Ellen Sargent.

Gilbert will respond that this he sees this as purely a business deal between him and Burch. And Gilbert doesn’t think Burch is a “bad guy”. Gilbert will ask who she’d like Gilbert to support. He doesn’t really care for the why.

Since this is a business deal for Gilbert, he will tell her that Burch gave him $100 to campaign for him in Nevada County.

We discussed this on the phone – and decided that Mrs. Sargent wants passionate abolitionist supporters, not paid flunkies.

Gilbert thinks about suggesting that she could buy him out of his support for Burch – but decides against it. Mostly cause it would mean his word wasn’t worth a damn.

He leaves the meeting feeling a little guilty and wondering if he’s making a mistake.

NOTE: mechanically this means he will switch to “C” effort

Interlude : The Election of 1858

Judi writes

Jane Wilson is a well known abolitionist. She has never tried to cover these feelings up and she is attempting to creating a hospital in Oakland for all people.

If she is working with Beale it will be to support and get elected politicians who share her believes. She will put most of her energy in local and state level politics. She is also concerned about the lawlessness of San Francisco and would work to replace corrupt local politicians. SO she would be at lest a B and perhaps an A level worker to help her Abolitionist and lawful leanings. She would give a C level for federal work.

GM Notes

Your note does not match the structure described above.
Pending clarification, I’m interpreting it as “Aid Other” to support the Republicans in Alameda County (Oakland).

Ed writes

None of Beale’s candidates are strongly abolitionist, and none are running as Republican. Jane suspects that many of them are copperheads (northerns with southern sympathies), popular sovereignty or even pro-slavery.

That means Jane is not supporting any of Beale’s candidates – and will refuse to help any of the other PCs in their efforts in this election cycle.

I do need clarification on a few points to understand how to interpret your participation.

  1. You mention “creating a hospital in Oakland”. Did you mean Oakland, San Fran or Sacramento??

San Francisco – has a large Chinese immigrant population, small poor Californio population, but no blacks.
Sacramento – has a medium-size (300-500) pop of free blacks, some Chinese and few Mexicans
Oakland – poor and rural, the indigent population is “Mexican”/Californo peasants

Oakland is actually an interesting place for you all to set up shop – it is real close to San Fran, but with a different feel.
Also there are some really interesting things going on in 1858-1860 around the land grant holdings and some legal battles.

  1. Which county do you want to campaign in?

Other PCs are working in four counties (San Fran, Sacramento, Nevada, Placer) – you can work in one of them, in which you will be opposing the other PC’s actions. Or you can campaign in Oakland (Alameda County).

  1. Are you planning to join the Republican Party and campaign on their behalf?

If you choose San Francisco – then Ed Baker is the leading republican in the county. In Nevada – it is Ellen Sargent.

  1. How much are you going to spend?

Let me know if you want to spend any wealth levels on the campaign. If not, that’s fine – but expect the impact of your efforts to be minimal.

Interlude : The Election of 1858

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