Archibald Campbell

Wheeling Intelligencer
February 14, 1899


Of Hon. A. W. Campbell at the Home of his Sister, at


Stricken with Paralysis Sunday he Expires Yesterday Morning.


Prominent State and National Character - His Fearless Attitude in Wheeling at the Outbreak of the Rebellion - A Prominent Factor in the Formation of the State of West Virginia - Long Identified with the Intelligencer, and a Life Long Advocate of Republican Principles. Sketch of his Life.

Intelligence has been received in this city of the death of the Hon. A. W. Campbell, at the residence of his sister, Mrs. Jane C. Dawson, Webster Groves, Missouri, at 10:30 o'clock yesterday morning. Mr. Campbell died from the effects of a stroke of paralysis, which occurred on last Sunday, at noon. The remains will be brought to this city for interment. Notice of the time and the place of the funeral services will be made hereafter.

In passing from the activities of this life, with a suddenness that was a shock to his friends and acquaintances, Hon. A. W. Campbell leaves a memory with those who are just without the gray shadows that veils the greatest of all mysteries that will be honored and respected until they shall be called upon to follow him. With the present generation and West Virginians, especially those who advocate the same political principles he did so much to maintain and perpetuate, his name will ever be associated with the party of Lincoln, and when in the years to come the traditions of that organization are transmitted to unborn generations it will be found that he will have erected a monument more enduring than brass, and that a world too prone to "dumb forgetfulness a prey" will have frequent occasion to recall his name in the history of the early struggles of the war for the Union. This will be especially true of West Virginia -

"Child of the storm.
Born amidst the throes of war."

in the formation of which he played to conspicuous a part and who was among the chief protagonists that afterwards preserved its integrity. At this hour and time it may not be unseemly to speak for those lips now silenced by the impelling hand of death, and which in life never uttered complaint of the "prophet who is not without honor save in his own country." It is no exaggeration to say that no state owed a man so much and paid so little of the obligation that no man worked so unselfishly for the consummation of an object and received so few of the rewards for honorable effort and conspicuous success. These lines are not written in the sense of a reproach, but in justice to truth and as a faithful narrative of the most notable years of his distinguished career. This lack of tangible gratitude on the part of the state has many explanation which perhaps would be in bad taste in these columns.

The one predominate characteristic of Mr. Campbell's connection with party politics was a timidity of publicity, an innate modesty of his own abilities and an absolute aversion to the notoriety which is generally the greater part of the professional politicians' capital. These attributes in a great measure handicapped his personality with the masses. In the earliest years of the history of West Virginia he could have been chosen to represent the state in the United States senate had he resorted to the practices of the successful politician of to-day - or even of that day. But such matters were extremely repugnant to him and wholly foreign to his character.

There is one incident in his life that is known to the writer that may not be of general knowledge, and it is intimately connected with the memorable scene in the Chicago convention which nominated Garfield, referred to elsewhere. Mr. Campbell and General Garfield were warm personal friends long before the convening of that convention. When Garfield was established in the white house many of Mr. Campbell's friends anticipated that he would receive some handsome recognition from the administration. This expectation was not without foundation, and if it had not been for the assassin's bullet President Garfield would have made him minister to China. Shortly after the death of the President Mr. Campbell exhibited to the writer a personal letter from James G. Blaine, the secretary of state, stating that it might please him to know that Garfield was preparing the papers for his nomination as minister to China when he was shot. Mr. Blaine adding, "whether the incoming administration will carry out these wishes of the dead President I am not advised." It was no apparent disappointment to Mr. Campbell, and he dismissed the matter without further thought for he knew well enough that President Arthur's attitude was not friendly to him, as he had opposed the faction in the Chicago convention that was given the consolation prize of the Vice Presidency.

The social side of Mr. Campbell's character was greatly misjudged by the masses, who unjustly imagined him to be of a cold, imperious temperament. Nothing was wider of the truth. A more companionable man never lived. It is true that he was not demonstrative, and was not what was denominated in a political sense "a good fellow," but he was always approachable to the humblest as well as the most powerful and influential. He sympathized sincerely with the honest struggles of every man. He admired honestly and earnest endeavor whether it wore a patched garment or a suit of broadcloth. Those to whom he opened his heart know well the delicate sense with which he weighed the problems of life. He was a man of most punctillious probity, and in his whole career as a journalist, even in the most heated political controversies, he never wilfully misrepresented a foe. His caution in his statements of public affairs and men often led him to be accused of lukewarmness in the cause, such was his aim to do no man intentional injustice. He was a brilliant conversationalist, and what was rarer still a good listener. His wealth of information on all public questions and general topics of interest was something marvelous. It was mainly obtained by his inquisitive turn of mind, not impertinently so, but in conversation he would invariably draw some information from his companion by insisting that he had an opinion of as much weight as any other man, albeit he was not one given to flattery. His great faculty was in finding out just what a man knew and in getting it out of him. Besides he was a man of fine sentiment, and of many tender touches and sympathy that the world knew little about. To those who gained his confidence and were warmed by his friendship he will be remembered for the sterling virtues of his heart and his charm of intellect, his disgust for sham and his earnest championship of all that was ennobling in mankind.

In 1884 Mr. Campbell ceased his active connection with the Intelligencer, closing an editorial career, the continuity of which was only slightly broken by a few years of absence from his duties owing to a temporary retirement from the firm. Since 1884, however, the "newspaper habit" so strongly grafted in him, induced him to write entertainingly of his travels, notably his extended trip to Europe. The peculiar charm of Mr. Campbell's style was its simplicity. In all his correspondence there was no involving glitter of words, or a masquerade of high sounding phrases. In his editorial capacity he was conservative in his treatment of all subjects, and never wrote a line unless he had thoroughly digested and critically weighed the matter under consideration in all its bearings, immediate or ultimate. He was the very Nestor of that journalism which has few conspicuous disciples in this day of haste and hurry.

The pen of the writer of these lines which has been facile enough in exploiting the virtues of the dead for whom there were no closer ties than mere acquaintance, is dumb to adequate tribute to him who is now pulseless in his shroud; and who in all things was to him a considerate friend and a wise mentor. Judged by his life and acts it is not too much to presume that he will at the appointed time emerge from the shadow land he has entered and face God's morning unafraid.

A little work, a little play
To keep us going - and so good day!

A little warmth, a little light
Of love's bestowing - and so good night!


His Connection with the Formation of West Virginia - The Times that Tried Men's Souls - His Later Activities.

Hon. A. W. Campbell, the subject of this sketch, was the son of the late Dr. A. W. Campbell, of Bethany, Brooke county, West Virginia, and was born in Jefferson county, Ohio, April 4, 1833. He removed to Bethany in his boyhood days and was educated at the well known college there, graduating in 1852, when nineteen years of age. He afterwards studied law, attended lectures at Hamilton College Law School, New York, and graduated from that institution in 1855. He removed to Wheeling in the spring of 1856 as an attache of the Daily Intelligencer, then owned by the Beatty Company, and in the fall of that year bought out the paper in partnership with John F. McDermot and became its editor. At once the paper took ground in favor of liberal political principles and soon allied itself with the then young but rapidly growing Republican party. These were not the days of free speech on the slavery question on the soil of Virginia. The influence of the eastern part of the state was predominant here in the west, albeit so many of the western counties had so few slaves, and to be a Republican was but little better than being an out and out Abolitionist, and to be an Abolitionist was but little better socially and politically than to be tainted with crime. All classes of society felt the despotic influence of slavery over their status. It made preachers timid in the pulpit, merchants and tradesmen timid in their business, and politicians timid and time-serving in their utterances. To be in accord with Richmond, with the pro- slavery press there, with the growing demands of the south in general for more slave territory, was the correct thing in politics and social life, and ambitious lawyers, editors and public men bowed their heads and knees at this shrine.

Wheeling and Ohio county had then not more than 100 slaves. This is the number given by the census of 1860. And yet the governing tone in politics and in society was but an echo of Richmond and old Virginia. In the year of which the Intelligencer began its career as the advocate of the right of all men to express and vote their political sentiments, the circuit judge of the Wheeling district charged a grand jury (in effect) that Republicans were suspicious persons and obnoxious to the laws and institutions of Virginia. Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune, was deterred from delivering a conservative lecture in Wheeling on the issues of the day, because simply of the incidental references in his address to the slavery question. A Baptist minister of culture and high character left the city under the ban of this proscriptive opinion, because he taught colored children to read in his Sunday school. The circuit court of Harrison county issued a menacing edict against the reading of the New York Tribune, and the club agent of that paper fled the state to escape indictment and imprisonment. Partisan postmasters, subservient to the Richmond despotism, withheld such papers as the New York Christian Advocate from their subscribers and were not rebuked by their superiors at Washington. A valuable statistical book written by a native North Carolinian, which discussed the economic phase of slavery, had to be read by stealth in Wheeling, and news dealers were afraid to keep it on their shelves. Republican meetings were broken up by mobs and their processions stoned in the streets. They had no adequate police protection. Cassius M. Clay, of Kentucky, was threatened with personal violence for coming to deliver a lecture in Wheeling that he had delivered in the heart of his own state, and the directors of the hall in which he was to speak deliberated whether it would be safe to open their doors to this eminent citizen.

These were the days and these the auspices under which Mr. Campbell began his career as the editor of the only Republican daily paper in all the then vast area of Virginia. A stout heart might well have quailed over the prospect. Almost from the start the Intelligencer was the constant target of the pro- slavery press of the state. The Richmond press reproached Wheeling because such a publication was permitted to exist in her midst, and between these reproaches and the objurgations of influential persons and papers at home, it looked as if the fate of the enterprise was uncertain indeed. But the paper lived, although in a precarious way for a time, and pursued such a fair, firm and conservative course that it gradually gained in influence and circulation, and when the great and exciting presidential canvass of 1860 opened it was fairly able to stand alone.

Mr. Campbell went as a delegate from Virginia to the convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln for President, and returning home gave his candidacy an enthusiastic support. Wheeling was the scene of many excitements that year. There was no telling what a day would bring forth in the way of violence. Eight hundred Republican votes were polled in the county - mostly in the city, of course - and these among the workmen in the iron mills, particularly the LaBelle mill. About 3,000 votes were polled in the state. These were the nucleus of the Union organization that at a later day rallied to the defense of the Nation and the salvation of the state from secession.

The local Republican speakers of that day were Mr. Campbell, Alfred Caldwell and E. M. Norton. They discussed the discriminations in favor of slavery, in the matter of taxation and the basis of representation in the legislature, and these were strong points that arrested public attention and made a decided popular impression. Governor Pierpont, although a Bell and Everett elector, discussed these issues from the same standpoint, and virtually made Republican speeches. Public documents were issued and sent out among the people showing how West Virginia was subordinated and injured in all her interests by Eastern Virginia, and gradually the way was prepared for the new state movement and assumed practical shape at the very outset of the war - just as Daniel Webster predicted in 1851 would be the case in the event that Virginia ever allied herself with secession.

The history of the Intelligencer during the war is the history of the Union and the new state cause. They will all remain one and inseparable in the annals of West Virginia. In all those years no one threw himself more earnestly, ably and untiringly into the support of both than Mr. Campbell. President Lincoln told Governor Pierpont that it was a dispatch penned by Mr. Campbell that determined him to sign the bill (against the wishes of a part of his cabinet) that admitted West Virginia into the Union as a state. The Intelligencer was the right arm of the "Restored Government" of Virginia and Mr. Campbell was the trusted counsellor and supporter of the Union authorities both in civil and military matters.

When the new State Constitution was being framed he protested against the clause recognizing slavery, and predicted that Congress would never consent to the formation of a second slave state out of the territory of Virginia, a prediction that was verified to the letter. The Constitution had to come back for amendment, and West Virginia was finally admitted as a free state.

After the war the great problem of the political rehabilitation of the state had to be met. There was an intense feeling among the rank and file of the Union element in favor of restricting the suffrage. All who had aided or abetted the rebellion were regarded as public enemies, dangerous to the results of the war and the public peace of society, and therefore not to be trusted with the ballot. Mr. Campbell was forced to dissent from this view of many Union men. He believed that such a policy would make an Ireland out of the state, produce endless discord and work to the infinite injury of all the material interests of the commonwealth. He, therefore, prepared the celebrated "let up" address (as it was called) to the Union people of West Virginia, which was influentially signed in which these views were strongly discussed, and although there was widespread dissent on the part of many leading Union people and some bitter criticisms at the moment, yet the sober second thought of the people endorsed the position thus taken, and at the later day it became, in substance, an amendment to our state constitution and as such was adopted by the people.

Mr. Campbell, although an original and unswerving Republican, did not hesitate when the occasion arose to thus differ from his party. He differed from them on the policy of the greenback alliance and held that sound ideas on the currency of the government was a matter of such vital moment to the public welfare that the party could not afford to temporize for the sake of any campaign advantages. He differed from a large and influential element of the party on the issue of the third term in the Grant movement of 1880, a difference that resulted in the memorable denouement in the Chicago convention of that year that is supposed to have paved the way to Garfield's nomination for President. In that convention Senator Roscoe Conkling, who was the leader of the third term movement, sought by the introduction of a resolution before the balloting begun, to commit the delegates in advance to a support of the nominee, whoever he might be. Mr. Campbell, in an able and vigorous speech, opposed such unprecedented action. Senator Conkling promptly offered a resolution proposing to expel Mr. Campbell from his position as a delegate in the convention. Mr. Campbell obtained the floor, and most ably defended the position he had conscientiously taken, and among other things gave utterance to the remark, which gave him a national reputation as a man of unusual courage and ability, viz: "Whether in or out of this convention, I carry my sovereignty under my own hat." Mr. Conkling's resolution did not prevail. Upon Mr. Campbell's return to Wheeling a public mass meeting was held in the Opera House, elaborate addresses indorsing his conduct in the convention were made, and he was publicly presented with a large oil painting representing the scene alluded to in the Chicago convention.

Mr. Campbell with all his prominence in the public affairs of West Virginia for a generation has never been a politician. He has left the manipulation of conventions and nominations to others. He had no taste whatever in that direction, preferring to discuss public measures in his paper and on the hustings. He has been largely voted for time and again for the United States senate, and there is no doubt had he so chosen he could have effected his own election. But this he always declined to do, and because he did not no one ever heard him repine over the result, or saw him falter in his usual political course. His name was urged by his friends for a position in President Garfield's cabinet. His endorsements were extensive, and came from the leading Republicans from nearly every portion of the republic.

Of late years he had given more attention to business interests than to politics. He had been connected for many years with iron and steel manufacture, as president and director of one of the large works, but had always been ready to take up his pen or go before the people in advocacy of Republican principles.

He was one of the three commissioners on the part of West Virginia to address the debt question with Virginia, and was charged with the duty of preparing a large part of the able report upon that question.

He has from time to time delivered addresses on various subjects of public interest, and in 1887 prepared an interesting historical resume of the events, civil and political, that led to the formation of the state, at the request of the Society of the Army of West Virginia.

His familiarity with all matters relative to the tariff caused him to be sent to Washington as the representative of the Ohio Valley Steel Association before the ways and means committee of Congress.

But few Americans have studied the various phases of political economy as deeply and with the same amount of care and research that Mr. Campbell had given to them. He seemed to know the history of the great tariff question from A to Z. The writer has heard him make a large number of public speeches upon that subject, and it was a rare thing for him to repeat himself. Each address seemed to be a presentation of some new feature of the matter that he had not formerly considered. He appeared to have stored away in his memory a fund of information that was illimitable, and like a great spool, unraveled at his will. It was said of his uncle, the great bishop Alexander Campbell, that his mind was like a sponge - it absorbed everything with which it came in contact. This is true to a very great extent of the subject of this sketch. He was an industrious student, and possessed the power to retain what he read.

Mr. Campbell's individuality is impressed upon almost every page of West Virginia's first twenty years of history. With voice and pen he was heard and felt, and largely followed during the early years of our statehood. Scholarly, and at the same time, possessed of a deliberate judgment rarely found in men, he was heard and heeded by his less endowed fellow citizens. No man in our borders was better known; and I say it with due respect to other prominent West Virginians, no man was abler, and none more highly respected.

Mr. Campbell was for a number of years chairman of the state Republican committee. In 1868 and 1880 he was the West Virginia member of the Republican national committee and Republican nominee for elector-at-large.