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PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 1860 — ELECTION OF LINCOLN, AND
CULMINATION OF THE CONSPIRACY TO DISSOLVE THE UNION.
THE CHARLESTON CONVENTION - DOUGLAS --SECENSIONISTS BREAK
UP THE CONVENTION - ADJOURN TO BALTIMORE—AND KICHMOND- DOUGLAS – AND BRECKINRIDGE NOMINATED- "AMERICANS” NOMINATE BELL AND EVERETT — THE CHICAGO CONVENTION — TAE WIG-WAM-SEWARD-LINCOLN—THE NOMINATION -THE CANVASS—TAE “WIDE-AWAKES"-POSITION OF PARTIES ON THE SLAVERY QUESTION - LINCOLN ELECTED-CONSPIRACY TO DISSOLVE THE UNION - PREPARATIONS OF THE CONSPIRATORS -THE NORTH DIBARMED.
PRIOR to the meeting of the Democratic National Con
vention, which met at Charleston, South Carolina, in April, 1860, it was obvious that a storm was gathering which threatened the rupture of that old and powerful organization. Douglas was the popular candidate for President in the free States, and had many strong personal friends in the slave States. But the ultra slaveholders as a class, were bitterly hostile to him on account of his course on the Lecompton question. They determined to break up the convention rather than permit his nomination. Hitherto in conventions, the North had yielded to the more positive and determined leaders among the slaveholders, and many supposed the friends of Douglas would yield, and that a nomination of some negative man would be forced upon the convention upon whom the party would harmonize. But two powerful elements prevented this.
The friends of Douglas who had been inspired by him with a will as determined as that of his enen'ies, having a majority, resolved that their leader should not be sacrificed as Van
Baren, Benton, and other leaders had been, who had offended the slaveholders.
The other element was composed of the secessionists and traitors, who did not desire Union, but were determined to push matters to extremes, to divide the democratic party, thereby secure the success of the republican party, and then to make that success the pretext for secession. A convention composed of these elements with such purposes, could not harmonize.
The committee upon resolutions to which the subject of the platform was referred, made three reports. The majority reported resolutions declaring, among other things, that “ Congress had no power to abolish or prohibit slavery in the territories; nor had the territorial Legislature any power to abolish or prohibit slavery in the territories; * * * nor to impair or destroy the right of property in slaves by any legislation whatever."
This was intended as a direct repudiation of Mr. Douglas' doctrine of popular sovereignty, and his friends knew that they might as well give up the canvass at the start, as to go before the people on this platform. A minority of the committee, but representing a decided majority of the electoral votes, reported resolutions re-affirming the old platform adopted at Cincinnati, in 1856; with some additional resolutions designed to conciliate the slave States, and declaring that “inasmuch as there were differences of opinion in the democratic party as to the powerp:of a territorial Legislature, and as to the powers and duties of Congress under the Constitution, over the institution of slavery in the territories, the democratic party would abide by the decrees of the Supreme Court, on questions of Constitutional law.”
When it is remembered that the Dred Scott decision had been pronounced, giving to the slaveholders all that they claimed, one would suppose that this resolution would have þeen deemed satisfactory. And it would have been, if the slave. holders had really desired harmony, but a majority of them meant disunion. Benjamin F. Butler, of Massachusetts, one of the committee, reported the Cincinnati platform without addition. After voting down Mr. Butler's proposition, the
convention adopted the minority report, which contained the Cincinnati platform with the additions.
Thereupon, L. P. Walker, subsequently the rebel Secretary of War, presented the protest of the delegates from Alabama, and those delegates withdrew from the convention.
Among these delegates was William L. Yancey, long before a notorious secessionist. The delegates from Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, South Carolina, Florida, and Arkansas, Georgia, and Delaware, thereupon also withdrew. The convention thereupon resolved that it should require two-thirds of a full convention to nominate, and then, after balloting several times, on each of which ballots Mr. Douglas had a large, but not, under the rule, a two-thirds majority, the convention adjourned to meet at Baltimore, on the 18th of June. The seceding delegates adjourned to meet at Richmond, on the second Monday in June.
The Baltimore convention met and nominated Stephen A. Douglas for President, and Benjamin Fitzpatrick, of Alabama, for Vice President, but on his declining, Herschel V. Johnson, of Georgia, was substituted.
The seceders'convention at Richmond, adopting the resolutions of the majority of the committee, nominated John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, for President, and Colonel Joseph Lane, of Oregon, for Vice President.
The disruption of the democratic party was hailed with delight by the infatuated people of Charleston, and other parts of the rebel States, as the prelude to the breaking up of the Union.
The Constitutional Union (American) party nominated John Bell, for President, and Edward Everett, for Vice President.
On the 16th of May, 1860, the Republican Convention met at Chicago, to nominate candidates for President and Vice President. An immense building called the “ Wigwam," capable of holding many thousands of people, had been specially erected for the meeting. Full, and eager, and enthusiastic delegations were there from all the free States, and representatives were present from Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and Virginia, and some scattering
representatives from some of the other slave States; but the Gulf States were not represented. Indeed, few of the slave States were fully and perfectly represented. On motion of Governor Morgan, Chairman of the National Executive Committee, David Wilmot, author of the Wimot Proviso, was made temporary Chairman, and George Ashmun, of Massachusetts, permanent President.
Their platform of principles was adopted without difficulty. They resolved to maintain the principles of the Declaration of Independence, declared their fidelity to the Union; their abhorrence of all schemes of disunion; denounced all who threatened disunion as an avowal of contemplated treason, which it was the duty of the people sternly to rebuke and forever silence.
The convention also resolved: “that the new dogma that the Constitution carried slavery into all the territories, was a dangerous political heresy, revolutionary in tendency, and subversive of the peace and harmony of the country; that the normal condition of all the territories is that of freedom; that neither Congress, the territorial Legislature, nor any individual could give legal existence to slavery; that Kansas ought to be immediately admitted as a free State; that the opening of the slave trade would be a crime against humanity.” They declared also in favor of a homestead law, Harbor and River improvements, and the Pacific Railroad.
The leading candidates for the pomipation for President, were William H. Seward, of New York Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio, Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania, and Edward Bates, of Missouri; but it early became apparent that the contest was between Seward, and Lincoln. Mr. Seward had been for many years, a leading statesman; Governor of New York, and long its most die tinguished Senator; he had brought to the discussions of the great issue between liberty and slavery, a philosophic mind, broad and catholic views, great şagacity, and an elevated love of liberty and humanity. Few, if any, had done more to
, enlighten, create, and consolidate public opinion in the free States. His position had been far more conspicuous than that of Mr. Lincoln. Hence he had been supposed to be
more in the way of rivals, and had become the object of more bitter personal and political hostility than Mr. Lincoln. The Illinois candidate was principally known outside of the Northwest, as the competitor of Douglas. Yet the sobriqut of “ honest old Abe," " the rail-splitter of Illinois," had extended throughout the free States; he had no enemics, and was the second choice of nearly all the delegates of which he was not the first choice. He was supposed by the shrewd politicians, to have, and he did possess, those qualities which make an available candidate. Although a resident of the State, he did not attend the convention, but was quietly at his home in Springfield.
Few men of that convention realized, or had the faintest foreshadowings of the terrible ordeal of civil war, which was before the candidate which they should nominate and the people elect. Yet there seems to have been a peculiar propriety in Mr. Lincoln's nomination; and there was here illustrated, that instinctive sagacity, or more truly, providenvidential guidance, which directs a people in a critical emergency, to act wisely.
Looking back, we now see how wise the selection. The Union was to be assailed; Lincoln was from the National Northwest, which would never surrender its great communications with the ocean, by the Mississippi, or the East.
The great principles of the Declaration of Independence were to be assailed by vast armies; his political platform had ever been that Declaration.
Aristocratic power, with the sympathy of the Kings and nobility of Europe, was to make a gigantic effort to crush liberty and democracy; it was fit that the great chainpion of liberty, of a government "of the people, for the people, by the people,” should be a man born on the wild prairie, nurtured in the rude log cabin, and reared amidst the hardship and struggles of humble life.
On the first ballot, Mr. Seward received 1731 votes to 102 for Lincoln, the others being divided on Messrs. Cameron, Chase, Bates, and others. On the second, Mr. Seward received 184 votes to 181 for Mr. Lincoln. On the third, Mr.