Abraham Lincoln, A History, Volume 2
John George Nicolay and John Hay
Part 5 out of 8
the Democratic and Republican parties alike. This was a third party,
made up mainly of former Whigs whose long-cherished party antagonisms
kept them aloof from the Democrats in the South and the Republicans in
the North. In the South, they had been men whose moderate anti-slavery
feelings were outraged by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and
the Lecompton trick. In the North, they were those whose traditions and
affiliations revolted at the extreme utterances of avowed abolitionists.
In both regions many of them had embraced Know-Nothingism, more as an
alternative than from original choice. The Whig party was dissolved;
Know-Nothingism had utterly failed--their only resource was to form a
In the various States they had, since the defeat of Fillmore in 1856,
held together a minority organization under names differing in
separate localities. All these various factions and fragments sent
delegations to Baltimore, where they united themselves under the
designation of the Constitutional Union Party. They proposed to take a
middle course between Democrats and Republicans, and to allay
sectional strife by ignoring the slavery question.
Delegates of this party, regular and irregular, from some twenty-two
States, convened at Baltimore on the 9th of May. John J. Crittenden,
of Kentucky, called the meeting to order, and Washington Hunt, of New
York, was made temporary and permanent chairman. On Thursday, May 10,
they adopted as their platform a resolution declaring in substance
that they would "recognize no other political principle than the
Constitution of the country, the Union of the States, and the
enforcement of the laws." They had no reasonable hope of direct
success at the polls in November; but they had a clear possibility of
defeating a popular choice, and throwing the election into the House
of Representatives; and in that case their nominee might stand on high
vantage-ground as a compromise candidate. This possibility gave some
zest to the rivalry among their several aspirants. On their second
ballot, a slight preponderance of votes indicated John Bell, of
Tennessee, as the favorite, and the convention made his nomination
unanimous. Mr. Bell had many qualities desirable in a candidate for
President. He was a statesman of ripe experience, and of fair, if not
brilliant, fame. Though from the South, his course on the slavery
question had been so moderate as to make him reasonably acceptable to
the North on his mere personal record. He had opposed the repeal of
the Missouri Compromise and the Lecompton outrage. But upon this
platform of ignoring the political strife of six consecutive years, in
which he had himself taken such vigorous part, he and his followers
were of course but as grain between the upper and nether millstones.
Edward Everett, one of the most eminent statesmen and scholars of New
England, was nominated for Vice-President.
This party becomes historic, not through what it accomplished, but by
reason of what a portion of it failed to perform. Within one year from
these pledges to the Constitution, the Union, and the enforcement of
the laws, Mr. Bell and most of his Southern adherents in the seceding
States were banded with others in open rebellion. On the other hand,
Mr. Everett and most of the Northern members, together with many noble
exceptions in the border slave-States, like Mr. Crittenden, of
Kentucky, kept the faith announced in their platform, and with
patriotic devotion supported the Government in the war to maintain the
 The first ballot stood: Stephen A. Douglas, of Illinois, 145-1/2;
James Guthrie, of Kentucky, 35-1/2; Daniel S. Dickinson, of New York,
7; R.M.T. Hunter, of Virginia, 42; Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, 12;
Joseph Lane, of Oregon, 6; Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, 1-1/2;
Isaac Toncey, of Connecticut; 2-1/2; Franklin Pierce, of New Hampshire,
THE CHICAGO CONVENTION
In recognition of the growing power and importance of the great West,
the Republican National Convention was called to meet in Chicago on
the 16th of May. The former Presidential canvass, though resulting in
the defeat of Fremont, had nevertheless shown the remarkable popular
strength of the Republican party in the country at large; since then,
its double victory in Congress against Lecompton, and at the
Congressional elections over the Representatives who supported
Lecompton, gave it confidence and aggressive activity. But now it
received a new inspiration and impetus from the Charleston disruption.
Former possibility was suddenly changed to strong probability of
success in the coming Presidential election. Delegates were not only
quickened with a new zeal for their principles; the growing chances
spurred them to fresh efforts in behalf of their favorite candidates.
Those who had been prominently named were diverse in antecedents and
varied in locality, each however presenting some strong point of
popular interest. Seward, of New York, a Whig of preeminent fame;
Chase, of Ohio, a talented and zealous anti-slavery Democrat, an
original founder of the new party; Dayton, of New Jersey, an old Whig
high in personal worth and political service; Cameron, of Pennsylvania,
a former Democrat, now the undisputed leader of an influential tariff
State; Bates, of Missouri, an able and popular anti-slavery Whig from
a slave-State; and last, but by no means least in popular estimation,
Lincoln, of Illinois.
[Sidenote] Pickett to Lincoln, April 13, 1859. MS.
The idea of making Lincoln a Presidential candidate had occurred to
the minds of many during his growing fame. The principle of natural
selection plays no unimportant part in the politics of the United
States. There are always hundreds of newspapers ready to "nail to
the mast-head" the name of any individual which begins to appear
frequently in dispatches and editorials. A few months after the close
of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and long before the Ohio speeches and
the Cooper Institute address, a warm personal friend, the editor of
an Illinois newspaper, wrote him an invitation to lecture, and added
in his letter: "I would like to have a talk with you on political
matters, as to the policy of announcing your name for the Presidency,
while you are in our city. My partner and myself are about addressing
the Republican editors of the State on the subject of a simultaneous
announcement of your name for the Presidency."
[Sidenote] Lincoln to Pickett, April 16, 1859. MS.
To this Lincoln replied: "As to the other matter you kindly mention, I
must in candor say I do not think myself fit for the Presidency. I
certainly am flattered and gratified that some partial friends think
of me in that connection; but I really think it best for our cause
that no concerted effort, such as you suggest, should be made."
[Illustration: GENERAL JOHN C. BRECKINRIDGE.]
[Sidenote] Lincoln to Judd, Dec. 9, 1859. MS.
A much more hopeful ambition filled his mind. Notwithstanding his
recent defeat, he did not think that his personal contest with Douglas
was yet finished. He had the faith and the patience to wait six years
for a chance to repeat his political tournament with the "Little
Giant." From his letter quoted in a previous chapter we know he had
resolved to "fight in the ranks" in 1860. From another, we know how
generously he kept faith with other Republican aspirants. "If Trumbull
and I were candidates for the same office you would have a right to
prefer him, and I should not blame you for it; but all my acquaintance
with you induces me to believe you would not pretend to be for me
while really for him. But I do not understand Trumbull and myself to
be rivals. You know I am pledged not to enter a struggle with him for
the seat in the Senate now occupied by him; and yet I would rather
have a full term in the Senate than in the Presidency."
[Sidenote] Lincoln to Frazer, Nov. 1, 1859. MS.
This spirit of fairness in politics is also shown by the following
letter, written apparently in response to a suggestion that Cameron
and Lincoln might form a popular Presidential tickets "Yours of the
24th ult. was forwarded to me from Chicago. It certainly is important
to secure Pennsylvania for the Republicans in the next Presidential
contest; and not unimportant to also secure Illinois. As to the ticket
you name, I shall be heartily for it after it shall have been fairly
nominated by a Republican National Convention; and I cannot be
committed to it before. For my single self, I have enlisted for the
permanent success of the Republican cause; and for this object I shall
labor faithfully in the ranks, unless, as I think not probable, the
judgment of the party shall assign me a different position. If the
Republicans of the great State of Pennsylvania shall present Mr.
Cameron as their candidate for the Presidency, such an indorsement of
his fitness for the place could scarcely be deemed insufficient.
Still, as I would not like the public to know, so I would not like
myself to know, I had entered a combination with any man to the
prejudice of all others whose friends respectively may consider them
[Sidenote] Lincoln to Judd, Feb. 9, 1860. MS. Also printed in a
Not long after these letters, at some date near the middle of the
winter 1859-60, the leaders of the Republican party of Illinois met at
Springfield, the capital of the State, and in a more pressing and
formal manner requested him to permit them to use his name as a
Presidential candidate, more with the idea of securing his nomination
for Vice-President than with any further expectation. To this he now
consented. His own characteristic language, however, plainly reveals
that he believed this would be useful to him in his future Senatorial
aspirations solely, and that he built no hopes whatever on national
preferment. A quarrel was going on among rival aspirants to the
Illinois governorship, and Lincoln had written a letter to relieve a
friend from the imputation of treachery to him in the recent
Senatorial contest. This act of justice was now used to his
disadvantage in the scramble for the Illinois Presidential delegates,
and he wrote as follows: "I am not in a position where it would hurt
much for me not to be nominated on the national ticket; but I am where
it would hurt some for me not to get the Illinois delegates. What I
expected when I wrote the letter to Messrs. Dole and others is now
happening. Your discomfited assailants are most bitter against me; and
they will for revenge upon me, lay to the Bates egg in the South, and
to the Seward egg in the North, and go far towards squeezing me out in
the middle with nothing. Can you not help me a little in this matter
in your end of the vineyard?"
The extra vigilance of his friends thus invoked, it turned out that
the Illinois Republicans sent a delegation to the Chicago Convention
full of personal devotion to Lincoln and composed of men of the
highest standing, and of consummate political ability, and their
enthusiastic efforts in his behalf among the delegations from other
States contributed largely to the final result.
The political campaign had now so far taken shape that its elements
and chances could be calculated with more than usual accuracy. The
Charleston Convention had been disrupted on the 30th of April, and
adjourned on May 3; the nomination of John Bell by the Constitutional
Union party occurred on May 10. The Chicago Convention met on May 16;
and while there was at that date great uncertainty as to whom the
dissevered fragments of the Democratic party would finally nominate,
little doubt existed that both the Douglas and Buchanan wings would
have candidates in the field. With their opponents thus divided, the
plain policy of the Republicans was to find a candidate on whom a
thorough and hearty union of all the elements of the opposition could
be secured. The party was constituted of somewhat heterogeneous
material; a lingering antagonism remained between former Whigs and
Democrats, protectionists and free-traders, foreign-born citizens and
Know-Nothings. Only on a single point were all thus far
agreed--opposition to the extension of slavery.
But little calculation was needed to show that at the November polls
four doubtful States would decide the Presidential contest. Buchanan
had been elected in 1856 by the vote of all the slave States (save
Maryland), with the help of the free States of New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, and California, Change the first four
or even the first three of these free-States to the Republican side,
and they, with the Fremont States of 1856, would elect the President
against all the others combined. The Congressional elections of 1858
demonstrated that such a change was possible. But besides this,
Pennsylvania and Indiana were, like Ohio, known as "October States,"
because they held elections for State officers in that month; and they
would at that early date give such an indication of sentiment as would
forecast their November vote for President, and exert a powerful,
perhaps a decisive, influence on the whole canvass. What candidate
could most easily carry New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and
Illinois, became therefore the vital question among the Chicago
delegates, and especially among the delegates from the four pivotal
William H. Seward, of New York, was naturally the leading candidate.
He had been longest in public life, and was highest in official rank.
He had been Governor of the greatest State of the Union, and had
nearly completed a second term of service in the United States Senate.
Once a prominent Whig, his antecedents coincided with those of the
bulk of the Republican party. His experience ran through two great
agitations of the slavery question. He had taken important part in the
Senate discussions which ended in the compromise measures of 1850, and
in the new contest growing out of the Nebraska bill his voice had been
heard in every debate. He was not only firm in his anti-slavery
convictions, but decided in his utterances. Discussing the admission
of California, he proclaimed the "higher law" doctrine in 1850;
reviewing Dred Scott and Lecompton, he announced the "irrepressible
conflict" in 1858. He had tact as well as talent; he was a
consummate politician, as well as a profound statesman. Such a leader
could not fail of a strong following, and his supporters came to
Chicago in such numbers, and of such prominence and character, as
seemed to make his nomination a foregone conclusion. The delegation
from New York, headed by William M. Evarts, worked and voted
throughout as a unit for him, not merely to carry out their
constituents' wishes, but with, a personal zeal that omitted no
exertion or sacrifice. They showed a want of tact, however, in
carrying their street demonstrations for their favorite to excess;
they crowded together at the Richmond House, making that hotel the
Seward headquarters; with too much ostentation they marched every day
to the convention with music and banners; and when mention was made of
doubtful States, their more headlong members talked altogether too
much of the campaign funds they intended to raise. All this occasioned
a reaction--a certain mental protest among both Eastern and Western
delegates against what have come to be characterized as "machine"
The positive elements in Seward's character and career had developed,
as always happens, strong antagonisms. One of the earliest symptoms
among the delegates at Chicago was the existence of a strong
undercurrent of opposition to his nomination. This opposition was as
yet latent, and scattered here and there among many State delegations,
but very intense, silently watching its opportunity, and ready to
combine upon any of the other candidates. The opposition soon made a
discovery: that of all the names mentioned, Lincoln's was the only one
offering any chance for such a combination. It needed only the
slightest comparison of notes to show that Dayton had no strength save
the New Jersey vote; Chase little outside of the Ohio delegation;
Cameron none but that of Pennsylvania, and that Bates had only his
Missouri friends and a few in border slave-States, which could cast no
electoral vote for the Republicans. The policy of the anti-Seward
delegates was therefore quickly developed--to use Lincoln's popularity
as a means to defeat Seward.
The credit of the nomination is claimed by many men, and by several
delegations, but every such claim is wholly fictitious. Lincoln was
chosen not by personal intrigue, but through political necessity. The
Republican party was a purely defensive organization; the South had
created the crisis which the new party was compelled to overcome. The
ascendency of the free-States, not the personal fortunes of Seward,
hung in the balance. Political victory at the ballot-box or a
transformation of the institutions of government was the immediate
alternative before the free-States.
Victory could be secured only by help of the electoral votes of New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Illinois. It was therefore a simple
problem: What candidate could carry these States? None could answer
this question so well as their own delegates, and these, when
interrogated, still further reduced the problem by the reply that
Seward certainly could not. These four States lay on the border land
next to the South and to slavery. Institutions inevitably mold public
sentiment; and a certain tenderness towards the "property" of
neighbors and friends infected their people. They shrunk from the
reproach of being "abolitionized." They would vote for a conservative
Republican; but Seward and radicalism and "higher law" would bring
them inevitable defeat.
[Sidenote] N.Y. "Tribune," May 18, 1860.
Who, then, could carry these doubtful and pivotal States? This second
branch of the question also found its ready answer. The contest in
these States would be not against a Territorial slave code, but against
"popular sovereignty "; not with Buchanan's candidate, but with
Douglas; and for Douglas there was only a single antagonist, tried and
true--Abraham Lincoln. Such, we may reasonably infer, was the substance
of the discussion and argument which ran through the caucus-rooms of
the delegates, day and night, during the 16th and 17th of May.
Meanwhile the Seward men were not idle; having the large New York
delegation to begin with, and counting the many positive committals
from other States, their strength and organization seemed impregnable.
The opposing delegations, each still nursing the chances of its own
candidate, hesitated to give any positive promises to each other. At
midnight of May 17, Horace Greeley, one of Seward's strongest
opponents, and perhaps better informed than any other single delegate,
telegraphed his conclusion "that the opposition to Governor Seward
cannot concentrate on any candidate, and that he will be nominated."
Chicago was already a city of a hundred thousand souls. Thirty to forty
thousand visitors, full of life, hope, ambition, most of them from the
progressive group of encircling North-western States, and strung to the
highest tension of political excitement had come to attend the
convention. Charleston had shown a great party in the ebbtide of
disintegration, tainted by the spirit of disunion. Chicago exhibited a
great party springing to life and power, every motive and force
compelling cooeperation and growth. The rush and spirit of the great
city, and the enthusiasm and hope of its visitors, blended and reacted
upon each other as if by laws of chemical affinity. Something of the
freshness and sweep of the prairie winds exhilarated the delegates and
animated the convention.
No building in the city of Chicago at that time contained a hall with
sufficient room for the sittings of the great assemblage. A temporary
frame structure, which the committee of arrangements christened "The
Wigwam," was therefore designed and erected for this special use. It
was said to be large enough to hold ten thousand persons, and whether
or not that estimate was entirely accurate, a prodigious concourse
certainly gathered each day within its walls.
The first day's session (May 16) demonstrated the successful adaptation
of the structure to its uses. Participants and spectators alike were
delighted with the ease of ingress and egress, the comfortable division
of space, the perfection of its acoustic qualities. Every celebrity
could be seen, every speech could be heard. The routine of
organization, the choice of officers and committees, and the
presentation of credentials were full of variety and zest. Governor
Edwin D. Morgan, of New York, as Chairman of the National Republican
Committee, called the convention to order; and when he presented the
historic name of David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, for temporary chairman,
the faith of the audience in the judgment of the managers was already
won. The report of the committee on organization in the afternoon made
George Ashmun, of Massachusetts, a most skillful parliamentarian ready
in decision and felicitous in his phrases, the permanent presiding
officer. One thing was immediately and specially manifest: an
overflowing heartiness and deep feeling pervaded the whole house. No
need of a _claque_, no room for sham demonstration here! The galleries
were as watchful and earnest as the platform. There was something
genuine, elemental, uncontrollable in the moods and manifestations of
the vast audience. Seats and standing-room were always packed in
advance, and, as the delegates entered by their own separate doors, the
crowd easily distinguished the chief actors. Blair, Giddings, Greeley,
Evarts, Kelley, Wilmot, Schurz, and others were greeted with
spontaneous applause, which, rising at some one point, grew and rolled
from side to side and corner to corner of the immense building,
brightening the eyes and quickening the breath of every inmate.
With the second day's proceedings the interest of delegates and
spectators was visibly increased, first by some sharp-shooting speeches
about credentials, and secondly by the main event of the day--the
report from the platform committee. Much difficulty was expected on
this score, but a little time had smoothed the way with almost magical
effect. The great outpouring of delegates and people, the self-evident
success of the gathering, the harmonious, almost joyous, beginning of
the deliberations in the first day's session, were more convincing than
logic in solidifying the party. These were the premonitions of success;
before such signs of victory all spirit of faction was fused into a
generous glow of emulation.
The eager convention would have accepted a weak or defective platform;
the committee, on the contrary, reported one framed with remarkable
skill. It is only needful to recapitulate its chief points. It
denounced disunion, Lecomptonism, the property theory, the dogma that
the Constitution carries slavery to Territories, the reopening of the
slave-trade, the popular sovereignty and non-intervention fallacies,
and denied "the authority of Congress, of a Territorial Legislature, or
of any individuals to give legal existence to slavery in any Territory
of the United States." It opposed any change in the naturalization
laws. It recommended an adjustment of import duties to encourage the
industrial interests of the whole country. It advocated the immediate
admission of Kansas, free homesteads to actual settlers, river and
harbor improvements of a national character, and a railroad to the
Pacific Ocean. Bold on points of common agreement, it was unusually
successful in avoiding points of controversy among its followers, or
offering points for criticism to its enemies.
It is not surprising that Charleston and Chicago should furnish many
striking contrasts. At the Charleston Convention, the principal
personal incident was a long and frank speech from one Gaulden, a
Savannah slave-trader, in advocacy of the reopening of the African
slave-trade. In the Chicago Convention, the exact and extreme
opposite of such a theme created one of the most interesting of the
debates. The platform had been read and received with tremendous
cheers, when Mr. Giddings, of Ohio, who was everywhere eager to insist
upon what he designated as the "primal truths" of the Declaration of
Independence, moved to amend the first resolution by incorporating in
it the phrase which announces the right of all men to "life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness." The convention was impatient to adopt
the platform without change; several delegates urged objections, one of
them pertinently observing that there were also many other truths
enunciated in the Declaration of Independence. "Mr. President," said
he, "I believe in the ten commandments, but I do not want them in a
political platform." Mr. Giddings's amendment was voted down, and the
anti-slavery veteran, feeling himself wounded in his most cherished
philosophy, rose and walked out of the convention.
[Sidenote] Murat Halstead, "Conventions of 1860," p. 138.
Personal friends, grieved that he should feel offended, and doubly
sorry that the general harmony should be marred by even a single
dissent, followed Mr. Giddings, and sought to change his purpose. While
thus persuading him, the discussion had passed to the second
resolution, when George William Curtis, of New York, seized the chance
to renew substantially Mr. Giddings's amendment. There were new
objections, but Mr. Curtis swept them away with a captivating burst of
oratory. "I have to ask this convention," said he, "whether they are
prepared to go upon the record before the country as voting down the
words of the Declaration of Independence?... I rise simply to ask
gentlemen to think well before, upon the free prairies of the West, in
the summer of 1860, they dare to wince and quail before the assertions
of the men in Philadelphia, in 1776--before they dare to shrink from
repeating the words that these great men enunciated." "This was a
strong appeal, and took the convention by storm," wrote a recording
journalist. A new vote formally embodied this portion of the
Declaration of Independence in the Republican platform; and Mr.
Giddings, overjoyed at his triumph, had already returned to his seat
when the platform as a whole was adopted with repeated and renewed
shouts of applause that seemed to shake the wigwam.
The third day of the convention (Friday, May 18) found the doors
besieged by an excited multitude. The preliminary business was disposed
of,--the platform was made,--and every one knew the balloting would
begin. The New York delegation felt assured of Seward's triumph, and
made an effort to have its march to the convention, with banners and
music, unusually full and imposing. It proved a costly display; for
while the New York "irregulars" were parading the streets, the
Illinoisans were filling the wigwam: when the Seward procession
arrived, there was little room left except the reserved seats for the
delegates. New York deceived itself in another respect: it counted on
the full New England strength, whereas more than half of it had already
resolved to cast its vote elsewhere. This defection in advance
virtually insured Seward's defeat. New York and the extreme North-west
were not sufficiently strong to nominate him, and in the nature of
things he could not hope for much help from the conservative middle and
border States. But this calculation could not as yet be so accurately
made. Caucusing was active up to the very hour when the convention met,
and many delegations went to the wigwam with no definite programme
beyond the first ballot.
What pen shall adequately describe this vast audience of ten thousand
souls? the low, wavelike roar of its ordinary conversation; the rolling
cheers that greeted the entrance of popular favorites; the solemn hush
which fell upon it during the opening prayer? There was just enough of
some unexpected preliminary wrangle and delay to arouse the full
impatience of both convention and spectators; but at length the names
of candidates were announced. This ceremony was still in its
simplicity. The more recent custom of short dramatic speeches from
conspicuous and popular orators to serve as electrifying preludes had
not yet been invented. "I take the liberty," said Mr. Evarts, of New
York, "to name as a candidate to be nominated by this convention for
the office of President of the United States, "William H. Seward." "I
desire," followed Mr. Judd, "on behalf of the delegation from Illinois,
to put in nomination as a candidate for President of the United States,
Abraham Lincoln of Illinois." Then came the usual succession of
possible and alternative aspirants who were to be complimented by the
first votes of their States--"William L. Dayton, Simon Cameron, Salmon
P. Chase, Edward Bates, Jacob Collamer, John McLean. The fifteen
minutes required by this formality had already indisputably marked out
and set apart the real contestants. The "complimentary" statesmen were
lustily cheered by their respective State delegations; but at the names
of Seward and Lincoln the whole wigwam seemed to respond together.
[Sidenote] Halstead, "Conventions of 1860," p. 145.
There is something irresistibly exciting in the united voice of a great
crowd. For a moment the struggle appeared to resolve itself into a
contest of throats and lungs. Indiana seconded the nomination of
Lincoln, and the applause was deafening. Michigan seconded the
nomination of Seward; the New York delegation rose _en masse_, waved
their hats, and joined the galleries in a shout which doubled the
volume of any yet given. Then a portion of the Ohio delegates once more
seconded Lincoln, and his adherents, feeling themselves put upon their
mettle, made an effort. "I thought the Seward yell could not be
surpassed," wrote a spectator; "but the Lincoln boys were clearly
ahead, and, feeling their victory, as there was a lull in the storm,
took deep breaths all round, and gave a concentrated shriek that was
positively awful, and accompanied it with stamping that made every
plank and pillar in the building quiver."
The tumult gradually died away, and balloting began. Here we may note
another contrast. The Charleston Convention was reactionary and
exclusive; it followed the two-thirds rule. The Chicago Convention was
progressive and liberal; it adopted majority rule. Liberal even beyond
this, it admitted the Territories and border slave-States, containing
only a minority or fraction of Republican sentiment, to seats and to
votes. It was throwing a drag-net for success. Under different
circumstances, these sentimental delegations might have become powerful
in intrigue; but dominated as they were by deeper political forces,
they afforded no distinct advantage to either candidate.
Though it was not expected to be decisive, the first ballot
foreshadowed accurately the final result. The "complimentary"
candidates received the tribute of admiration from their respective
States. Vermont voted for Collamer, and New Jersey for Dayton, each
solid. Pennsylvania's compliment to Cameron was shorn of six votes,
four of which went at once for Lincoln. Ohio divided her compliment, 34
for Chase, 4 for McLean, and at once gave Lincoln her 8 remaining
votes. Missouri voted solid for her candidate, Bates, who also received
a scattering tribute from other delegations. But all these compliments
were of little avail to their recipients, for far above each towered
the aggregates of the leading candidates: Seward, 173-1/2; Lincoln,
In the groundswell of suppressed excitement which pervaded the
convention there was no time to analyze this vote; nevertheless,
delegates and spectators felt the full force of its premonition; to all
who desired the defeat of Seward it pointed out the winning man with,
unerring certainty. Another little wrangle over some disputed and
protesting delegate made the audience almost furious at the delay, and
"Call the roll!" sounded from a thousand throats.
A second ballot was begun at last, and, obeying a force as sure as the
law of gravitation, the former complimentary votes came rushing to
Lincoln. The whole 10 votes of Collamer, 44 from Cameron, 6 from Chase
and McLean, were now cast for him, followed by a scatter of additions
along the roll-call. In this ballot Lincoln gained 79 votes, Seward
only 11. The faces of the New York delegation whitened as the balloting
progressed and the torrent of Lincoln's popularity became a river. The
result of the second ballot was: Seward, 184-1/2; Lincoln, 181;
scattering, 99-1/2. When the vote of Lincoln was announced, there
was a tremendous burst of applause, which the chairman prudently but
with difficulty controlled and silenced.
The third ballot was begun amid a breathless suspense; hundreds of
pencils kept pace with the roll-call, and nervously marked the changes
on their tally-sheets. The Lincoln figures steadily grew. Votes came to
him from all the other candidates--4-1/2 from Seward, 2 from Cameron,
13 from Bates, 18 from Chase, 9 from Dayton, 3 from McLean, 1 from
Clay. Lincoln had gained 50-1/2, Seward had lost 4-1/2. Long before the
official tellers footed up their columns, spectators and delegates
rapidly made the reckoning and knew the result: Lincoln, 231-1/2;
Seward, 180. Counting the scattering votes, 465 ballots had been
cast, and 233 were necessary to a choice; only 1-1/2 votes more were
needed to make a nomination.
A profound stillness suddenly fell upon the wigwam; the men ceased to
talk and the ladies to flutter their fans; one could distinctly hear
the scratching of pencils and the ticking of telegraph instruments on
the reporters' tables. No announcement had been made by the chair;
changes were in order, and it was only a question of seconds who should
speak first. While every one was leaning forward in intense expectancy,
David K. Cartter sprang upon his chair and reported a change of four
Ohio votes from Chase to Lincoln. There was a moment's pause,--a teller
waved his tally-sheet towards the skylight and shouted a name,--and
then the boom of a cannon on the roof of the wigwam announced the
nomination to the crowds in the streets, where shouts and salutes took
up and spread the news. In the convention the Lincoln river now became
an inundation. Amid the wildest hurrahs, delegation after delegation
changed its vote to the victor.
[Illustration: FAC-SIMILE OF LINCOLN'S LETTER OF ACCEPTANCE.]
A graceful custom prevails in orderly American conventions, that the
chairman of the vanquished delegation is first to greet the nominee
with a short address of party fealty and promise of party support. Mr.
Evarts, the spokesman for New York, essayed promptly to perform this
courteous office, but was delayed a while by the enthusiasm and
confusion. The din at length subsided, and the presiding officer
announced that on the third ballot Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois,
received 364 votes, and "is selected as your candidate for President of
the United States." Then Mr. Evarts, in a voice of unconcealed emotion,
but with admirable dignity and touching eloquence, speaking for Seward
and for New York, moved to make the nomination unanimous.
The interest in a National Convention usually ceases with the
announcement of the principal nomination. It was only afterwards that
the delegates realized how fortunate a selection they made by adding
Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine, to the ticket as candidate for
Vice-President. Mr. Hamlin was already distinguished in public service.
He was born in 1809, and became a lawyer by profession. He served many
years in the Maine Legislature and four years as a Representative in
Congress. In 1848 he was chosen to fill a vacancy in the United States
Senate, and in 1851 was reelected for a full term. When in 1856 the
Cincinnati Convention indorsed the repeal of the Missouri Compromise,
which he had opposed, Mr. Hamlin formally withdrew from the Democratic
party. In November of that year the Republicans elected him Governor of
Maine, and in January, 1857, reelected him United States Senator.
[Sidenote] Halstead, "Conventions of 1860," p. 154.
For the moment the chief self-congratulation of the convention was that
by the nomination of Lincoln it had secured the doubtful vote of the
conservative States. Or rather, perhaps, might it be said that it was
hardly the work of the delegates--it was the concurrent product of
popular wisdom. Political evolution had with scientific precision
wrought "the survival of the fittest." The delegates leaving Chicago on
the various homeward-bound railroad trains that night, saw that already
the enthusiasm of the convention was transferred from the wigwam to the
country. "At every station where there was a village, until after 2
o'clock, there were tar-barrels burning, drums beating, boys carrying
rails, and guns great and small banging away. The weary passengers were
allowed no rest, but plagued by the thundering of the cannon, the
clamor of drums, the glare of bonfires, and the whooping of boys, who
were delighted with the idea of a candidate for the Presidency who
thirty years before split rails on the Sangamon River--classic stream
now and for evermore--and whose neighbors named him 'honest.'"
 "It is true indeed that the national domain is ours. It is true
it was acquired by the valor and with the wealth of the whole nation.
But we hold, nevertheless, no arbitrary power over it. We hold no
arbitrary authority over anything, whether acquired lawfully or
seized by usurpation. The Constitution regulates our stewardship;
the Constitution devotes the domain to union, to justice, to defense,
to welfare, and to liberty. But there is a higher law than the
Constitution which regulates our authority over the domain, and
devotes it to the same noble purposes. The territory is a part, no
inconsiderable part, of the common heritage of mankind, bestowed upon
them by the Creator of the universe. We are his stewards, and must so
discharge our trust as to secure in the highest attainable degree
their happiness."--William H. Seward, Senate Speech, March 11, 1850.
App. "Globe," p. 265.
 "Shall I tell you what this collision means? They who think that
it is accidental, unnecessary, the work of interested or fanatical
agitators, and therefore ephemeral, mistake the case altogether. It is
an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces, and it
means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become
either entirely a slave-holding nation, or entirely a free-labor
nation."--Seward, Rochester Speech, October 25, 1858.
 Mr. Greeley sat in the convention as a delegate for Oregon.
 One of the authors of this history was a spectator at all the
sessions of the convention, and witnessed the scenes in the Wigwam
which he has endeavored to describe.
 "I tell you, fellow-Democrats, that the African slave-trader is the
true Union man [cheers and laughter], I tell you that the slave-trading
of Virginia is more immoral, more unchristian in every possible point
of view, than that African slave-trade which goes to Africa and brings
a heathen and worthless man here, christianizes him, and sends him and
his posterity down the stream of time to enjoy the blessings of
civilization.... It has been my fortune to go into that noble old State
to buy a few darkies, and I have had to pay from $1000 to $2000 a head,
when I could go to Africa and buy better negroes for $50 apiece.... I
advocate the repeal of the laws prohibiting the African slave-trade,
because I believe it to be the true Union movement. I do not believe
that sections whose interests are so different as the Southern and
Northern States can ever stand the shocks of fanaticism unless they be
equally balanced. I believe that by reopening this trade, and giving
us negroes to populate the Territories, the equilibrium of the two
sections will be maintained."--Speech of W.B. Gaulden, of Georgia, in
the Charleston Democratic National Convention, May 1, 1860.
 These sentimental delegations were: Maryland, 11; Delaware, 6;
Virginia, 23; Kentucky, 23; Texas, 6; Kansas, 6; Nebraska, 6; District
of Columbia, 2. Total, 83 votes. Of these the leading candidates
received as follows:
1st ballot Seward, 30 Lincoln, 21
2d ballot Seward, 35 Lincoln, 30
3d ballot Seward, 33 Lincoln, 43.
Missouri might be counted in the same category; but, as she voted
steadily for Bates through all the ballots, she did not in any wise
influence the result.
 Each State was entitled to cast a vote equal to double the number
of its Electoral College.
 FIRST BALLOT IN DETAIL.
_For Seward_.--Maine 10, New Hampshire 1, Massachusetts 21, New York
70, Pennsylvania 1-1/2, Maryland 3, Virginia 8, Kentucky 5, Michigan
12, Texas 4, Wisconsin 10, Iowa 2, California 8, Minnesota 8, Kansas
6, Nebraska 2, District of Columbia 2.--Total for Seward, 173-1/2.
_For Lincoln_.--Maine 6, New Hampshire 7, Massachusetts 4, Connecticut
2, Pennsylvania 4, Virginia 14, Kentucky 6, Ohio 8, Indiana 26,
Illinois 22, Iowa 2, Nebraska 1.--Total for Lincoln, 102.
_Scattering_.--New Hampshire, Chase 1, Fremont 1; Vermont, Collamer
10; Rhode Island, Bates 1, McLean 5, Reed 1, Chase 1; Connecticut,
Wade 1, Bates 7, Chase 2; New Jersey, Dayton 14; Pennsylvania, Cameron
47-1/2, McLean 1; Maryland, Bates 8; Delaware, Bates 6; Virginia,
Cameron 1; Kentucky, Wade 2, McLean 1, Chase 8, Sumner 1; Ohio, McLean
4, Chase 34; Missouri, Bates 18; Texas, Bates 2; Iowa, Cameron 1,
Bates 1, McLean 1, Chase 1; Oregon, Bates 5; Nebraska, Cameron 1,
Chase 2.--Totals, for Bates, 48; for Cameron, 50-1/2; for McLean, 12;
for Chase, 49; for Wade, 3; for Dayton, 14; for Reed, 1; for Collamer,
10; for Sumner, 1; for Fremont, 1.
 SECOND BALLOT IN DETAIL.
_For Seward_.--Maine 10, New Hampshire 1, Massachusetts 22, New York
70, New Jersey 4, Pennsylvania 2-1/2, Maryland 3, Virginia 8, Kentucky
7, Michigan 12, Texas 6, Wisconsin 10, Iowa 2, California 8, Minnesota
8, Kansas 6, Nebraska 3, District of Columbia 2.--Total for Seward,
_For Lincoln_.--Maine 6, New Hampshire 9, Vermont 10, Massachusetts 4,
Rhode Island 3, Connecticut 4, Pennsylvania 48, Delaware 6, Virginia
14, Kentucky 9, Ohio 14, Indiana 26, Illinois 22, Iowa 5, Nebraska
1.--Total for Lincoln, 181.
_Scattering_.--Rhode Island, McLean 2, Chase 3; Connecticut, Bates 4,
Chase 2, Clay 2; New Jersey, Dayton 10; Pennsylvania, Cameron 1,
McLean 2-1/2; Maryland, Bates 8; Virginia, Cameron 1; Kentucky, Chase
6; Ohio, McLean 3, Chase 29; Missouri, Bates 18; Iowa, McLean 1/2,
Chase 1/2; Oregon, Bates 5; Nebraska, Chase 2.--Totals, for Bates, 35;
for Cameron, 2; for McLean, 8; for Chase, 42-1/2; for Dayton, 10; for
 THIRD BALLOT IN DETAIL.
_For Seward_.--Maine 10, New Hampshire 1, Massachusetts 18, Rhode
Island 1, Connecticut 1, New York 70, New Jersey 5, Maryland 2,
Virginia 8, Kentucky 6, Michigan 12, Texas 6, Wisconsin 10, Iowa 2,
California 8, Minnesota 8, Oregon 1, Kansas 6, Nebraska 3, District of
Columbia 2.--Total for Seward, 180.
_For Lincoln_.--Maine 6, New Hampshire 9, Vermont 10, Massachusetts 8,
Rhode Island 5, Connecticut 4, New Jersey 8, Pennsylvania 52, Maryland
9, Delaware 6, Virginia 14, Kentucky 13, Ohio 29, Indiana 26, Illinois
22, Iowa 5-1/2, Oregon 4, Nebraska 1.--Total for Lincoln, 231-1/2.
_Scattering_.--Rhode Island, Chase 1, McLean 1; Connecticut, Bates 4,
Chase 2, Clay 1; New Jersey, Dayton 1; Pennsylvania, McLean 2;
Kentucky, Chase 4; Ohio, Chase 15, McLean 2; Missouri, Bates 18; Iowa,
Chase 1/2; Nebraska, Chase 2.--Total, for Bates, 22; for Chase,
24-1/2; for McLean, 5; for Dayton, 1; for Clay, 1.
Thus the Presidential canvass in the United States for the year 1860
began with the very unusual condition of four considerable parties,
and four different tickets for President and Vice-President. In the
order of popular strength, as afterwards shown, they were:
_First_. The Republican party, which at the Chicago Convention had
nominated as its candidate for President, Abraham Lincoln, of
Illinois, and for Vice-President, Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine. Its
animating spirit was a belief and declaration that the institution of
slavery was wrong in morals and detrimental to society; its avowed
policy was to restrict slavery to its present limits in the States
where it existed by virtue of local constitutions and laws.
_Second_. The Douglas wing of the Democratic party, which at Baltimore
nominated Stephen A. Douglas, of Illinois, for President, and whose
candidate for Vice-President was Herschel V. Johnson, of Georgia.
It declared indifference as to the moral right or wrong of slavery,
and indifference to its restriction or extension. Its avowed policy
was to permit the people of a Territory to decide whether they would
prevent or establish slavery, and it further proposed to abide by the
decisions of the Supreme Court on all questions of constitutional law
growing out of it.
_Third_. The Buchanan wing of the Democratic party, which at Baltimore
nominated John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, for President, and Joseph
Lane, of Oregon, for Vice-President. Its animating spirit was a belief
and declaration that slavery was morally right and politically
beneficial; its avowed policy was the extension of slavery into the
Territories, and the creation of new slave States, whereby it might
protect and perpetuate itself by a preponderance, or at least a
constant equality, of political power, especially in the Senate of the
United States. As one means to this end, it proposed the immediate
acquisition of the island of Cuba.
_Fourth_. The Constitutional Union party, which in its convention at
Baltimore nominated John Bell, of Tennessee, for President, and Edward
Everett, of Massachusetts, for Vice-President. It professed to ignore
the question of slavery, and declared that it would recognize no
political principle other than "the Constitution of the Country, the
Union of the States, and the enforcement of the Laws."
[Sidenote] Curtis, "Life of Buchanan," Vol. II., p. 294.
The first, most striking feature of the four-sided Presidential
canvass which now began, was the personal pledge by every one of the
candidates of devotion to the Union. Each of the factions was in some
form charging disunion motives or tendencies upon part or all of the
others; but each indignantly denied the allegation as to itself. To
leave no possible doubt, the written letters of acceptance of each of
the candidates emphasized the point. Lincoln invoked "the
inviolability of the Constitution, and the perpetual union, harmony,
and prosperity of all." Douglas made his pledge broad and full. "The
Federal Union," wrote he, "must be preserved. The Constitution must be
maintained inviolate in all its parts. Every right guaranteed by the
Constitution must be protected by law in all cases where legislation
is necessary to its enjoyment. The judicial authority, as provided in
the Constitution, must be sustained, and its decisions implicitly
obeyed and faithfully executed. The laws must be administered, and the
constituted authorities upheld, and all unlawful resistance to these
things must be put down with firmness, impartiality, and fidelity."
"The Constitution and the equality of the States," wrote Breckinridge,
"these are symbols of everlasting union. Let these be the rallying
cries of the people." Bell declared that, if elected, all his ability,
strength of will, and official influence should be employed "for the
maintenance of the Constitution and the Union against all opposing
influences and tendencies." Even President Buchanan, in a little
campaign speech from the portico of the Executive mansion, hastened to
purge himself of the imputation of suspicion or fear on this point. He
declared that neither of the Democratic conventions was "regular," and
that therefore every Democrat was at liberty to vote as he thought
proper. For himself, he preferred Breckinridge. The Democratic party,
when divided for the moment, "has always closed up its ranks, and
become more powerful even from defeat. It will never die whilst the
Constitution and the Union survive. It will live to protect and defend
No progress was made, however, towards a reunion of the Democratic
party. The Buchanan faction everywhere waged unrelenting war on
Douglas, both in public discussion and in the use of official
patronage. The contest was made with equal obstinacy and bitterness in
the Northern and the Southern States. Douglas, on his part, was not
slow to retaliate. He immediately entered on an extensive campaign
tour, and made speeches at many of the principal cities of the
Northern States, and a few in the slave-States. Everywhere he
stigmatized the Breckinridge wing of the Democracy as an extremist and
disunion faction, charging that it was as obnoxious and dangerous
as the Republicans. Whatever be his errors, it must be recorded to his
lasting renown that he boldly declared for maintaining the Union by
force. At Norfolk, Virginia, the question was put to him in writing.
"I answer emphatically," replied Douglas, "that it is the duty of the
President of the United States, and all others in authority under him,
to enforce the laws of the United States passed by Congress, and as
the courts expound them, and I, as in duty bound by my oath of
fidelity to the Constitution, would do all in my power to aid the
Government of the United States in maintaining the supremacy of the
laws against all resistance to them, come from what quarter it might.
In other words, I think the President, whoever he may be, should treat
all attempts Douglas, to break up the Union by resistance to the laws,
as Old Hickory treated the nullifiers in 1832."
[Sidenote] Douglas, Norfolk Speech, August 25, 1860.
All parties entered upon the political canvass with considerable
spirit; but the chances of the Republicans were so manifestly superior
that their enthusiasm easily outran that of all their competitors. The
character and antecedents of Mr. Lincoln appealed directly to the
sympathy and favor of the popular masses of the Northern States. As
pioneer, farm-laborer, flat-boatman, and frontier politician, they saw
in him a true representative of their early if not their present
condition. As the successful lawyer, legislator, and public debater in
questions of high statesmanship, he was the admired ideal of their own
While the Illinois State Republican Convention was in session at
Decatur (May 10), about a week before the Chicago Convention, the
balloting for State officers was interrupted by the announcement, made
with much mystery, that "an old citizen of Macon County" had something
to present to the convention. When curiosity had been sufficiently
aroused, John Hanks, Lincoln's fellow-pioneer, and a neighbor of
Hanks, were suddenly marched into the convention, each bearing upright
an old fence-rail, and displaying a banner with an inscription to the
effect that these were two rails from the identical lot of three
thousand which, when a pioneer boy, Lincoln had helped to cut and
split to inclose his father's first farm in Illinois, in 1830. These
emblems of his handiwork were received by the convention with
deafening shouts, as a prelude to a unanimous resolution recommending
him for President. Later, these rails were sent to Chicago; there,
during the sittings of the National Republican Convention, they stood
in the hotel parlor at the Illinois headquarters, lighted up by
tapers, and trimmed with flowers by enthusiastic ladies. Their history
and campaign incidents were duly paraded in the newspapers; and
throughout the Union Lincoln's ancient and local _sobriquet_ of
"Honest Old Abe" was supplemented by the national epithet of "The
Illinois Bail-splitter." Of the many peculiarities of the campaign,
one feature deserves special mention. Political clubs, for parades and
personal campaign work, were no novelty; now, however, the expedients
of a cheap yet striking uniform and a half-military organization were
tried with marked success. When Lincoln made his New England trip,
immediately after the Cooper Institute speech, a score or two of
active Republicans in the city of Hartford appeared in close and
orderly ranks, wearing each a cap and large cape of oil-cloth, and
bearing over their shoulders a long staff, on the end of which blazed
a brilliant torch-light. This first "Wide Awake"  Club, as it
called itself, marching with soldierly step, and military music,
escorted Mr. Lincoln, on the evening of March 5, from the hall where he
addressed the people, to his hotel. The device was so simple and yet
so strikingly effective that it immediately became the pattern for
other cities. After the campaign opened, there was scarcely a county
or village in the North without its organized and drilled association
of "Wide Awakes," immensely captivating to the popular eye, and
forming everywhere a vigilant corps to spread the fame of, and solicit
votes for, the Republican Presidential candidate. On several occasions
twenty to thirty thousand "Wide Awakes" met in the larger cities and
marched in monster torch-light processions through the principal
His nomination also made necessary some slight changes in Mr. Lincoln's
daily life. His law practice was transferred entirely to his partner,
and instead of the small dingy office so long occupied by him, he was
now given the use of the Governor's room in the State-house, which was
not needed for official business during the absence of the Legislature.
This also was a room of modest proportions, with scanty and plain
furniture. Here Mr. Lincoln, attended only by his private secretary,
Mr. Nicolay, passed the long summer days of the campaign, receiving the
constant stream of visitors anxious to look upon a real Presidential
candidate. There was free access to him; not even an usher stood at the
door; any one might knock and enter. His immediate personal friends
from Sangamon County and central Illinois availed themselves largely
of this opportunity. With men who had known him in field and forest
he talked over the incidents of their common pioneer experience with
unaffected sympathy and interest, as though he were yet the flat-boatman,
surveyor, or village lawyer of the early days. The letters which came
to him by hundreds, the newspapers, and the conversation of friends,
kept him sufficiently informed of the progress of the campaign, in
which personally he took a very slight part. He made no addresses,
wrote no public letters, held no conferences. Political leaders several
times came to make campaign speeches at the Republican wigwam in
Springfield. But beyond a few casual interviews on such occasions, the
great Presidential canvass went on with scarcely a private suggestion
or touch of actual direction from the Republican candidate.
It is perhaps worth while to record Lincoln's expression on one point,
which adds testimony to his general consistency in political action.
The rise of the Know-Nothing or the American party, in 1854-5 (which
was only a renewal of the Native-American party of 1844), has been
elsewhere mentioned. As a national organization, the new faction
ceased with the defeat of Fillmore and Donelson in 1856; its fragments
nevertheless held together in many places in the form of local
minorities, which sometimes made themselves felt in contests for
members of the Legislature and county officers; and citizens of
foreign birth continued to be justly apprehensive of its avowed
jealousy and secret machinery. It was easy to allege that any
prominent candidate belonged to the Know-Nothing party, and attended
the secret Know-Nothing lodges; and Lincoln, in the late Senatorial,
and now again in the Presidential, campaign, suffered his full share
of these newspaper accusations.
[Sidenote] Lincoln to Edward Lusk, October 30, 1858. MS.
We have already mentioned that in the campaign of 1844 he put on
record, by public resolutions in Springfield, his disapprobation of,
and opposition to, Native-Americanism. In the later campaigns, while
he did not allow his attention to be diverted from the slavery
discussion, his disapproval of Know-Nothingism was quite as decided
and as public. Thus he wrote in a private letter, dated October 30,
1858: "I understand the story is still being told and insisted upon
that I have been a Know-Nothing. I repeat what I stated in a public
speech at Meredosia, that I am not, nor ever have been, connected with
the party called the Know-Nothing party, or party calling themselves
the American party. Certainly no man of truth, and I believe no man of
good character for truth, can be found to say on his own knowledge
that I ever was connected with that party."
[Sidenote] Lincoln to Hon. A. Jonas, July 21, 1860. MS.
So also in the summer of 1860, when his candidacy for President did
not permit his writing public letters, he wrote in a confidential note
to a friend: "Yours of the 20th is received. I suppose as good or even
better men than I may have been in American or Know-Nothing lodges;
but, in point of fact, I never was in one, at Quincy or elsewhere....
And now a word of caution. Our adversaries think they can gain a point
if they could force me to openly deny the charge, by which some degree
of offense would be given to the Americans. For this reason it must
not publicly appear that I am paying any attention to the charge."
[Sidenote] Lincoln to Dr. Theodore Canisius, May 17, 1859.
His position on the main question involved was already sufficiently
understood; for in his elsewhere quoted letter of May 17, 1859, he had
declared himself against the adoption by Illinois, or any other place
where he had a right to oppose it, of the recent Massachusetts
constitutional provision restricting foreign-born citizens in the
right of suffrage. It is well to repeat the broad philosophical
principle which guided him to this conclusion: "Understanding the
spirit of our institutions to aim at the elevation of men, I am
opposed to whatever tends to degrade them."
[Illustration: JOHN BELL.]
As the campaign progressed the chances of the result underwent an
important fluctuation, involving some degree of uncertainty. The
Democratic disruption, and the presence of four tickets in the field,
rendered it possible that some very narrow plurality in one or more of
the States might turn the scale of victory. Calculating politicians,
especially those belonging to the party hitherto in power, and who had
enjoyed the benefits of its extensive Federal patronage, seized
eagerly upon this possibility as a means of prolonging their official
tenure, and showed themselves not unwilling to sacrifice the
principles of the general contest to the mere material and local
advantage which success would bring them.
[Sidenote] Greeley, "American Conflict," Vol. I., p. 324.
Accordingly, in several States, and more notably in the great State of
New York, there was begun a quiet but unremitting effort to bring
about a coalition or "fusion," as it was termed, of the warring
Democratic factions, on the basis of a division of the spoils which
such a combination might hope to secure. Nor did the efforts stop
there. If the union of the two factions created the probability, the
union of three seemed to insure certainty, and the negotiations for a
coalition, therefore, extended to the adherents of Bell and Everett.
Amid the sharp contest of ideas and principles which divided the
country, such an arrangement was by no means easy; yet in a large
voting population there is always a percentage of party followers on
whom the obligations of party creeds sit lightly. Gradually, from talk
of individuals and speculations of newspapers, the intrigue proceeded
to a coquetting between rival conventions. Here the formal proceedings
encountered too much protest and indignation, and the scheme was
handed over to standing committees, who could deliberate and bargain
in secret. It must be stated to the credit of Douglas, that he
publicly rejected any alliance not based on his principle of
"non-intervention"; but the committees and managers cared little
for the disavowal. In due time they perfected their agreement that the
New York electoral ticket (numbering thirty-five) should be made up of
adherents of the three different factions in the following proportion:
Douglas, eighteen; Bell, ten; Breckinridge, seven. This agreement was
carried out, and the fusion ticket thus constituted was voted for at
the Presidential election by the combined opponents of Lincoln.
In Pennsylvania, notwithstanding that Douglas disapproved the scheme,
an agreement or movement of fusion also took place; but in this case
it did not become complete, and was not altogether carried out by the
parties to it, as in New York. The electoral ticket had been nominated
by the usual Democratic State Convention (March 1) prior to the
Charleston disruption, and, as it turned out, about one-third of these
nominees were favorable to Douglas. After the disruption, the Douglas
men also formed a straight, or Douglas, electoral ticket. In order to
unite the two wings at the October State election, the Executive
Committee of the original convention recommended (July 2) that the
electors first nominated should vote for Douglas if his election were
possible; if not, should vote for Breckinridge. A subsequent
resolution (August 9) recommended that the electors should vote for
either Douglas or Breckinridge, as the preponderance of Douglas or
Breckinridge votes in the State might indicate. On some implied
agreement of this character, not clearly defined or made public, the
Douglas, Breckinridge, and Bell factions voted together for governor
in October. Being beaten by a considerable majority at that election,
the impulse to fusion was greatly weakened. Finally, the original
Democratic State Committee rescinded (October 12) all its resolutions
of fusion, and the Douglas State Committee withdrew (October 18) its
straight Douglas ticket. This action left in the field the original
electoral ticket nominated by the Democratic State Convention at
Reading, prior to the Charleston Convention, untrammeled by any
instructions or agreements. It was nevertheless a fusion ticket in
part, because nine of the candidates (one-third of the whole number)
were pledged to Douglas. What share or promise the Bell faction had in
it was not made public. At the Presidential election it was voted for
by a large number of fusionists; but a portion of the Douglas men
voted straight for Douglas, and a portion of the Bell men straight for
[Sidenote] Greeley, "American Conflict," Vol. I., p. 328.
[Sidenote] Ibid., p. 328.
In New Jersey also a definite fusion agreement was reached between the
Bell, Breckinridge, and Douglas factions. An electoral ticket was
formed, composed of two adherents of Bell, two of Breckinridge, and
three of Douglas. This was the only State in which the fusion movement
produced any result in the election. It turned out that a considerable
fraction of the Douglas voters refused to be transferred by the
agreement which their local managers had entered into. They would not
vote for the two Bell men and the two Breckinridge men on the fusion
ticket, but ran a straight Douglas ticket, adopting the three electors
on the fusion ticket. By this turn of the canvass the three Douglas
electors whose names were on both tickets were chosen, but the
remainder of the fusion ticket was defeated, giving Lincoln four
electoral votes out of the seven in New Jersey. Some slight efforts
towards fusion were made in two or three other States, but
accomplished nothing worthy of note, and would have had no influence
on the result, even had it been consummated.
All these efforts to avert or postpone the grave political change
which was impending were of no avail. In the long six years' agitation
popular intelligence had ripened to conviction and determination.
Every voter substantially understood the several phases of the great
slavery issue, its abstract morality, its economic influence on
society, the intrigue of the Administration and the Senate to make
Kansas a slave-State, the judicial status of slavery as expounded in
the Dred Scott decision, the validity and the effect of the
fugitive-slave law, the question of the balance of political power as
involved in the choice between slavery extension and slavery
restriction--and, reaching beyond even this, the issue so clearly
presented by Lincoln whether the States ultimately should become all
slave or all free. In the whole history of American polities the
voters of the United States never pronounced a more deliberate
judgment than that which they recorded upon these grave questions at
the Presidential election in November, 1860.
From much doubt and uncertainty at its beginning, the campaign swept
onward through the summer months, first to a probability, then to an
assurance of Republican success. In September the State of Maine
elected a Republican governor by 18,000 majority. In October the
pivotal States gave decisive Republican majorities: Pennsylvania
32,000 for governor, Indiana nearly 10,000 for governor, and Ohio
12,000 for State ticket and 27,000 on Congressmen. Politicians
generally conceded that the vote in these States clearly foreshadowed
Lincoln's election. The prophecy not only proved correct, but the tide
of popular conviction and enthusiasm, rising still higher, carried to
his support other States which were yet considered uncertain.
The Presidential election occurred on November 6,1860. In seventeen of
the free-States--namely, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode
Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana,
Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, California, and
Oregon--all the Lincoln electors were chosen. In one of the
free-States (New Jersey) the choice resulted in 4 electors for Lincoln
and 3 for Douglas, as already explained. This assured Lincoln of the
votes of 180 Presidential electors, or a majority of 57 in the whole
electoral college. The 15 slave-States were divided between the other
three candidates. Eleven of them--Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware,
Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina,
South Carolina, and Texas--chose Breckinridge electors, 72 in all.
Three of them--Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia--chose Bell electors,
39 in all; and one of them--Missouri--Douglas electors, 9 in number,
which, together with the 3 he received in the free-State of New
Jersey, gave him 12 in all: the aggregate of all the electors opposed
to Lincoln being 123.
The will of the people as expressed in this popular vote was in due
time carried into execution. As the law prescribes, the Presidential
electors met in their several States on the 5th of December, and cast
their official votes according to the above enumeration. And on the
13th of February, 1861, the Congress of the United States in joint
session made the official count, and declared that Abraham Lincoln,
having received a majority of the votes of Presidential electors, was
duly elected President of the United States for four years, beginning
March 4, 1861.
One feature of the result must not be omitted. Many careless observers
felt at the time that the success of Lincoln was due entirely to the
fact of there having been three opposing candidates in the field; or,
in other words, to the dissensions in the Democratic party, which
divided its vote between Breckinridge and Douglas. What merely moral
strength the Democratic party would have gained had it remained
united, it is impossible to estimate. Such a supposition can only be
based on the absence of the extreme Southern doctrines concerning
slavery. Given the presence of those doctrines in the canvass, no
hypothesis can furnish a result different from that which occurred. In
the contest upon the questions as they existed, the victory of Lincoln
was certain. If all the votes given to all the opposing candidates had
been concentrated and cast for a "fusion ticket," as was wholly or
partly done in five States, the result would have been changed nowhere
except in New Jersey, California, and Oregon; Lincoln would still have
received but 11 fewer, or 169 electoral votes--majority of 35 in the
entire electoral college. It was a contest of ideas, not of persons or
parties. The choice was not only free, but distinct and definite. The
voter was not, as sometimes happens, compelled to an imperfect or
partial expression of his will. The four platforms and candidates
offered him an unusual variety of modes of political action. Among
them the voters by undisputed constitutional majorities, in orderly,
legal, and unquestioned proceedings, chose the candidate whose
platform pronounced the final popular verdict that slavery should not
be extended, and whose election unchangeably transferred the balance
of power to the free-States.
 Benjamin Fitzpatrick, of Alabama, had been nominated at Baltimore,
but he declined the nomination, and the National Committee substituted
the name of Herschel V. Johnson.
 "In my opinion there is a mature plan throughout the Southern
States to break up the Union. I believe the election of a Republican
is to be the signal for that attempt, and that the leaders of the
scheme desire the election of Lincoln so as to have an excuse for
disunion. I do not believe that every Breckinridge man is a
disunionist, but I do believe that every disunionist in America is a
Breckinridge man."--Douglas, Baltimore Speech, Sept. 6, 1860.
 We condense the following account of the origin of the "Wide
Awakes" from memoranda kindly furnished us by William P. Fuller, one
of the editors of the Hartford "Courant" in 1860, Major J.C. Kinney,
at present connected with the paper, and General Joseph R. Hawley, the
principal editor, now United States Senator from Connecticut, and who
in 1860 marched in the ranks in the first "Wide Awake" parades.
The "Wide Awake" organization grew out of the first campaign meeting
in Hartford on February 25, 1860--State election campaign. Hon. Cassius
M. Clay was the speaker, and after the meeting was escorted to the
Allyn House by a torch-light parade. Two of the young men who were to
carry torches, D.G. Francis and H.P. Blair, being dry goods clerks, in
order to protect their clothing from dust and the oil liable to fall
from the torches, had prepared capes of black cambric, which they wore
in connection, with the glazed caps commonly worn at the time. Colonel
George P. Bissell, who was marshal, noticing the uniform, put the
wearers in front, where the novelty of the rig and its double
advantage of utility and show attracted much attention. It was at once
proposed to form a campaign club of fifty torch-bearers with glazed
caps and oil-cloth capes instead of cambric; the torch-bearing club to
be "auxiliary to the Young Men's Republican Union." A meeting to
organize formally was appointed for March 6; but before the new
uniforms were all ready, Abraham Lincoln addressed a meeting in
Hartford on the evening of March 5. After his speech, the cape-wearers
of the previous meeting with a number of others who had secured their
uniforms escorted Mr. Lincoln to the hotel.
The club was definitely organized on the following night. William
P. Fuller, city editor, had, in noticing this meeting for organization,
written in the "Courant" of March 3: "THE WIDE AWAKES.--The Republican
club-room last evening was filled as usual with those who are going to
partake in the great Republican triumph, in this State in April next,"
etc., etc. The name "Wide Awakes" was here applied to the Republican
Young Men's Union, torch-bearers included; but at the meeting of March
6, the torch-bearers appropriated it by making it the distinctive
title to their own special organization, which almost immediately,
there as elsewhere, swallowed up the names and the memberships of
other Republican clubs. Just one year after they escorted Mr. Lincoln
in their first parade, he was inaugurated President of the United
 "I will give you my opinion as to fusion. I think that every man
[_sic_] who believes that slavery ought to be banished from the halls
of Congress, and remanded to the people of the Territories subject to
the Constitution, ought to fuse and act together; but that no Democrat
can, without dishonor, and forfeiture of self-respect and principle,
fuse with anybody who is in favor of intervention, either for slavery
or against slavery. Lincoln and Breckinridge might fuse, for they
agree in principle. I can never fuse with either of them, because I
differ from both. I am in favor of all men acting together who are
opposed to this slavery agitation, and in favor of banishing it from
Congress forever; but as Democrats we can never fuse, either with
Northern abolitionists, or Southern bolters and secessionists."--Douglas,
Speech at Erie, Penn., New York "Tribune," October 3, 1860, p. 4.
 The vote in Pennsylvania stood: Lincoln, 268,030; Breckinridge
(nominally), 178,871; Douglas, 16,765; Bell, 12,776.
BEGINNINGS OF REBELLION
Disunion was not a fungus of recent growth in American politics. Talk
of disunion, threats of disunion, accusations of intentions of
disunion, lie scattered rather plentifully through the political
literature of the country from the very formation of the Government.
In fact, the present Constitution of the United States was strenuously
opposed by large political factions, and, it may almost be said,
succeeded by only a hair's-breadth. That original opposition
perpetuated itself in some degree in the form of doubts of its
duration and prophecies of its failure. The same dissatisfaction and
restlessness resulted in early and important amendments, but these did
not satisfy all dissenters and doubters. Immediate and profound
conflict of opinion sprang up over the administration and policy of
the new Government; active political parties and hot discussion arose,
the one side proclaiming that it was too strong, the other asserting
that it was too weak, to endure.
Before public opinion was well consolidated, the war of 1812 produced
new complaints and new opposition, out of which grew the famous
Hartford Convention. It has been charged and denied that this was a
movement of disunion and rebellion. The exact fact is not important in
our day; it is enough that it was a sign of deep political unrest and
of shallow public faith. Passing by lesser manifestations of the same
character, we come to the eventful nullification proceeding in South
Carolina in the year 1832. Here was a formal legislative repudiation
of Federal authority with a reserved threat of forcible resistance. At
this point disunion was in full flower, and the terms nullification,
secession, treason, rebellion, revolution, coercion, constitute the
current political vocabulary. Take up a political speech of that
period, change the names and dates, and the reader can easily imagine
himself among the angry controversies of the winter of 1860.
Nullification was half-throttled by Jackson's proclamation,
half-quieted by Clay's compromise. But from that time forward the
phraseology and the spirit of disunion became constant factors in
Congressional debate and legislation. In 1850, it broke out to an
extent and with an intensity never before reached. This time it
enveloped the whole country, and many of the wisest and best statesmen
believed civil war at hand. The compromise measures of 1850 finally
subdued the storm; but not till the serious beginning of a secession
movement had been developed and put down, both by the general
condemnation of the whole country, and the direct vote of a union
majority in the localities where it took its rise.
Among these compromise acts of 1850 was the admission of California as
a free-State. The gold discoveries had suddenly filled it with
population, making the usual probation as a Territory altogether
needless. A considerable part of the State lay south of the line of
36, 30', and the pro-slavery extremists had demanded that it should
be divided into two States--one to be a free and the other to be a
slave-State--in order to preserve the political balance between the
sections, in the United States Senate. This being refused, they not
only violently opposed the compromise measures, but organized a
movement for resistance in South Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi,
demanding redress, and threatening secession if it were not accorded.
A popular contest on this issue followed in 1851 in these States, in
which the ultra-secession party was signally overthrown. It submitted
sullenly to its defeat; leaving, as always before, a considerable
faction unsatisfied and implacable, only awaiting a new opportunity to
start a new disturbance. This new opportunity arose in the slavery
agitation, beginning with the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in
1854, and ending with the election of Lincoln. Daring this six years'
controversy, disunion was kept in the background because the
pro-slavery party had continual and sanguine hope of ultimate triumph.
It did not despair of success until the actual election of Lincoln, on
the 6th of November, 1860; consequently, even in the Southern States,
as a rule, disunion was frowned upon till near the end of the
Presidential campaign, and only paraded as an evil to be feared, not
as a thing to be desired.
This aspect, however, was superficial. Under the surface, a small but
determined disunion conspiracy was actively at work. It has left few
historical traces; but in 1856 distinct evidence begins to crop out.
There was a possibility, though not a probability, that Fremont might
be elected President; and this contingency the conspirators proposed
to utilize by beginning a rebellion. A letter from the Governor of
Virginia to the Governors of Maryland and other States is sufficient
proof of such an intent, even without the evidence of later history.
RICHMOND, VA., Sept. 15, 1856.
DEAR SIR: Events are approaching which address themselves to your
responsibilities and to mine as chief Executives of slave-holding
States. Contingencies may soon happen which would require
preparation for the worst of evils to the people. Ought we not to
admonish ourselves by joint council of the extraordinary duties
which may devolve upon us from the dangers which so palpably
threaten our common peace and safety? When, how, or to what extent
may we act, separately or unitedly, to ward off dangers if we can,
to meet them most effectually if we must?
I propose that, as early as convenient, the Governors of Maryland,
Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida,
Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee
shall assemble at Raleigh, N.C., for the purpose generally of
consultation upon the state of the country, upon the best means of
preserving its peace, and especially of protecting the honor and
interests of the slave-holding States. I have addressed the States
only having Democratic Executives, for obvious reasons.
This should be done as early as possible before the Presidential
election, and I would suggest Monday, the 13th of October next.
Will you please give me an early answer, and oblige,
Yours most truly and respectfully,
HENRY A. WISE.
His Excellency Thomas W. Ligon,
Governor of Maryland.
If any explanation were needed of the evident purpose of this letter,
or of the proposed meeting, it may be found in the following from
Senator Mason, of Virginia, to Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, who
was at the time Secretary of War under President Pierce:
[Sidenote] O.J. Victor, "American Conspiracies," p. 520.
SELMA, NEAR WINCHESTER, Va., Sept. 30, 1856.
MY DEAR SIR: I have a letter from Wise, of the 27th, full of
spirit. He says the Governors of North Carolina, South Carolina,
and Louisiana have already agreed to rendezvous at Raleigh, and
others will--this in your most private ear. He says, further, that
he had officially requested you to exchange with Virginia, on fair
terms of difference, percussion for flint muskets. I don't know
the usage or power of the department In such cases, but if it can
be done, even by liberal construction, I hope you will accede. Was
there not an appropriation at the last session for converting
flint into percussion arms? If so, would it not furnish good
reason for extending such facilities to the States? Virginia
probably has more arms than the other Southern States, and would
divide, in case of need. In a letter yesterday to a committee in
South Carolina, I give it as my judgment, in the event of
Fremont's election, the South should not pause, but proceed at
once to "immediate, absolute, and eternal separation." So I am a
candidate for the first halter.
Wise says his accounts from Philadelphia are cheering for old Buck
in Pennsylvania. I hope they be not delusive. _Vale et Salute_
In these letters we have an exact counterpart of the later and
successful efforts of these identical conspirators, conjointly with
others, to initiate rebellion. When the Senatorial campaign of 1858
between Lincoln and Douglas was at its height, there was printed in
the public journals of the Southern States the following extraordinary
letter, which at once challenged the attention of the whole reading
public of the country, and became known by the universal stigma of
"The Scarlet Letter." In the light of after events it was both a
revelation and a prophecy:
[Sidenote] Quoted in Appendix to "Globe" for 1859-60, p. 313.
MONTGOMERY, June 15, 1858.
DEAR SIR: Your kind favor of the 15th is received. I heartily
agree with you that [no] general movement can be made that will
clean out the Augean stable. If the Democracy were overthrown, it
would result in giving place to a greater and hungrier swarm of
The remedy of the South is not in such a process. It is in a
diligent organization of her true men for prompt resistance to the
next aggression. It must come in the nature of things. No national
party can save us; no sectional party can ever do it. But if we
could do as our fathers did--organize "committees of safety" all
over the Cotton States (it is only in them that we can hope for
any effective movement)--we shall fire the Southern heart,
instruct the Southern mind, give courage to each other, and at
the proper moment, by one organized concerted action, we can
precipitate the Cotton States into a revolution.
The idea has been shadowed forth in the South by Mr. Ruffin; has
been taken up and recommended in the "Advertiser" (published at
Montgomery, Alabama), under the name of "League of United
Southerners," who, keeping up their old party relations on all
other questions, will hold the Southern issue paramount, and will
influence parties, legislatures, and statesmen. I have no time to
enlarge, but to suggest merely.
In haste, yours, etc.,
WM. L. YANCEY
To James Slaughter, Esq.
The writer of this "Scarlet Letter" had long been known to the country
as a prominent politician of Alabama, affiliated with the Democratic
party, having once represented a district of that State in Congress,
and of late years the most active, pronounced, and conspicuous
disunionist in the South. In so far as this publication concerned
himself, it was no surprise to the public; but the project of an
organized conspiracy had never before been broached with such
An almost universal condemnation by the public press reassured the
startled country that the author of this revolutionary epistle was one
of the confirmed "fire-eaters" who were known and admitted to exist
in the South, but whose numbers, it was alleged, were too insignificant
to excite the most distant apprehension.
The letter was everywhere copied, its author denounced, and his
proposal to "precipitate the Cotton States into a revolution" held up
to public execration. Mr. Yancey immediately printed a statement
deploring the betrayal of personal confidence in its publication, and
to modifiy the obnoxious declaration by a long and labored
argument. But in the course of this explanation he furnished
additional proof of the deep conspiracy disclosed by the "Scarlet
Letter." He made mention of "A well-considered Southern policy, a
policy which has been digested, and understood, and approved by the
ablest men in Virginia, as you yourselves must be aware," to the
effect that while the Cotton States should begin rebellion, "Virginia
and the other border States should remain in the Union," where, by
their position and their counsels, they would form a protecting
barrier to the proposed separation. "In the event of the movement
being successful," he continued, "in time Virginia and the other
border States that desired it could join the Southern Confederacy."
Less than ordinary uncertainty hung over the final issue of the
Presidential campaign of 1860. To popular apprehension the election of
Lincoln became more and more probable. The active competition for
votes by four Presidential tickets greatly increased his chances of
success; and the verdict of the October elections appeared to all
sagacious politicians to render his choice a practical certainty.
Sanguine partisans, however, clung tenaciously to their favorites, and
continued to hope against hope, and work against fate. This
circumstance produced a deplorable result in the South. Under the
shadow of impending defeat the Democrats of the Cotton States made the
final months of the canvass quite as much a threat against Lincoln as
a plea for Breckinridge. This preaching of secession seemed to shallow
minds harmless election buncombe; but when the contingency finally
arrived, and the choice of Lincoln became a real event, they found
themselves already in a measure pledged to resistance. They had vowed
they would never submit; and now, with many, the mere pride of
consistency moved them to adhere to an ill-considered declaration. The
sting of defeat intensified their resentment, and in this irritated
frame of mind the secession demagogues among them lured them on
skillfully into the rising tide of revolution.
In proportion to her numbers, the State of South Carolina furnished
the largest contingent to the faction of active conspirators; and to
her, by a common consent, were accorded the dangers and honors of
leadership. Since conspiracies work in secret, only fragmentary proofs
of their efforts ever come to light. Though probably only one of the
many early agencies in organizing the rebellion, the following
circular reveals in a startling light what labor and system were
employed to "fire the Southern heart" after the November election:
[Illustration: GENERAL HENRY A. WISE.]
[Sidenote] O.J. Victor, "History of the Southern Rebellion." Vol. I.,
CHARLESTON, Nov. 19, 1860.
EXECUTIVE CHAMBER, "The 1860 Association."
In September last, several gentlemen of Charleston met to confer
in reference to the position of the South in the event of the
accession of Mr. Lincoln and the Republican party to power. This
informal meeting was the origin of the organization known in this
community as "The 1860 Association."
The objects of the Association are:
_First_. To conduct a correspondence with leading men in the South
and by an interchange of information and views prepare the
slave-States to meet the impending crisis.
_Second_. To prepare, print, and distribute in the slave States,
tracts, pamphlets, etc., designed to awaken them to a conviction
of their danger, and to urge the necessity of resisting Northern
and Federal aggression.
_Third_. To inquire into the defenses of the State, and to collect
and arrange information which may aid the Legislature to establish
promptly an effective military organization.
To effect these objects a brief and simple Constitution was
adopted, creating a President, a Secretary and Treasurer, and an
Executive Committee specially charged with conducting the business
of the Association. One hundred and sixty-six thousand pamphlets
have been published, and demands for further supplies are received
from every quarter. The Association is now passing several of them
through a second and third edition.
The conventions in several of the Southern States will soon be
elected. The North is preparing to soothe and conciliate the South
by disclaimers and overtures. The success of this policy would be
disastrous to the cause of Southern Union and Independence, and it
is necessary to resist and defeat it. The Association is preparing
pamphlets with this special object. Funds are necessary to enable
it to act promptly. "The 1860 Association" is laboring for the
South, and asks your aid.
I am, very respectfully your obedient servant,
ROBERT N. GOURDIN,
Chairman of the Executive Committee.
The half-public endeavors of "The 1860 Association" to create public
sentiment were vigorously seconded by the efforts of high official
personages to set on foot concerted official action in aid of
disunion. In this also, with becoming expressions of modesty, South
Carolina took the initiative. On the 5th of October, Governor Gist
wrote the following confidential letter, which he dispatched by a
secret agent to his colleagues, the several Governors of the Cotton
States, whom the bearer, General S.R. Gist, visited in turn during
that month of October.
The responses to this inquiry given by the Executives of the other
Cotton States were not all that so ardent a disunionist could have
wished, but were yet sufficient to prompt him to a further advance.
[Sidenote] MS. Confederate Archives, U.S. War Department.
UNIONVILLE, S.C., Oct. 5, 1860.
His EXCELLENCY GOVERNOR MOORE.
DEAR SIR: The great probability, nay almost certainty, of Abraham
Lincoln's election to the Presidency renders it important that
there should be a full and free interchange of opinion between the
Executives of the Southern, and more especially the Cotton,
States, and while I unreservedly give you my views and the
probable action of my State, I shall be much pleased to hear from
you; that there may be concert of action, which is so essential to
success. Although I will consider your communication confidential,
and wish you so to consider mine so far as publishing in the
newspapers is concerned, yet the information, of course, will be
of no service to me unless I can submit it to reliable and leading
men in consultation for the safety of our State and the South; and
will only use it in this way. It is the desire of South Carolina
that some other State should take the lead, or at least move
simultaneously with her. She will unquestionably call a convention
as soon as it is ascertained that a majority of the electors will
support Lincoln. If a single State secedes, she will follow her.
If no other State takes the lead, South Carolina will secede (in
my opinion) alone, if she has any assurance that she will be soon
followed by another or other States; otherwise it is doubtful. If
you decide to call a convention upon the election of a majority of
electors favorable to Lincoln, I desire to know the day you
propose for the meeting, that we may call our convention to meet
the same day, if possible. If your State will propose any other
remedy, please inform me what it will probably be, and any other
information you will be pleased to give me.
With great respect and consideration,
I am yours, etc.,
Wm. H. Gist.
Governor Thos. O. Moore.
[Sidenote] MS. Confederate Archives.
RALEIGH, N.C., Oct. 18, 1860.
DEAR SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your
favor of the 5th, which reached me on the 12th inst.
In compliance with your request, I will give as accurately as it
is in my power to do the views and feelings of the people of North
Carolina upon the important subject of your communication.
Political differences and party strife have run so high in this
State for some years past, and particularly during the past nine
months, that anything like unanimity upon any question of a public
nature could scarcely be expected; and such is the case with the
one under consideration. Our people are very far from being agreed
as to what action the State should take in the event of Lincoln's
election to the Presidency. Some favor submission, some resistance,
and others still would await the course of events that might
follow. Many argue that he would be powerless for evil with a
minority party in the Senate, and perhaps in the House of
Representatives also; while others say, and doubtless with entire
sincerity, that the placing of the power of the Federal Government
in his hands would prove a fatal blow to the institution of negro
slavery in this country.
None of our public speakers, I believe, have taken the ground
before the people that the election of Lincoln would, of itself,
be a cause of secession. Many have said it would not, while others
have spoken equivocally.
Upon the whole I am decidedly of opinion that a majority of our
people would not consider the occurrence of the event referred to
as sufficient ground for dissolving the union of the States. For
which reason I do not suppose that our Legislature, which will
meet on the 19th prox., will take any steps in that direction--such,
for instance, as the calling of a convention.
Thus, sir, I have given you what I conceive to be the sentiment of
our people upon the subject of your letter, and I give it as an
existing fact, without comment as to whether the majority be in
error or not.
My own opinions, as an individual, are of little moment. It will be
sufficient to say, that as a States-Rights man, believing in the
sovereignty and reserved powers of the States, I will conform my
actions to the action of North Carolina, whatever that may be. To
this general observation I will make but a single qualification--it
is this: I could not in any event assent to, or give my aid to, a
political enforcement of the monstrous doctrine of coercion. I do
not for a moment think that North Carolina would become a party
to the enforcement of this doctrine, and will not therefore do
her the injustice of placing her in that position, even though
With much respect, I have the honor to be,
Your ob't. serv't,
JOHN W. ELLIS.
His Excellency William H. Gist,
Governor of South Carolina
[Sidenote] MS. Confederate Archives.
ALEXANDRIA, LA., 26th October, 1860.
His EXCELLENCY GOVERNOR GIST.
DEAR SIR: Your favor of the 5th inst. was received a few days ago
at this place. I regret my inability to consult with as many of
our leading citizens as I wished, but I will not delay in replying
any longer. You will (of course) consider my letter as private,
except for use in consultation with friends.
I shall not call a convention in this State if Lincoln is elected,
because I have no power or authority to do so. I infer from your
letter that an authority has been vested in you by your
Legislature to call a convention in a specified contingency. Our
Legislature has taken no action of that or any similar kind. That
body will meet in regular annual session about the middle of
January; but it is not improbable that I may consider it necessary
to convene it at an earlier day, if the complexion of the
electoral colleges shall indicate the election of Lincoln.
Even if that deplorable event shall be the result of the coming
election, I shall not advise the secession of my State, and I will
add that I do not think the people of Louisiana will ultimately
decide in favor of that course. I shall recommend that Louisiana
meet her sister slaveholding States in council to consult as to
the proper course to be pursued, and to endeavor to effect a
complete harmony of action. I fear that this harmony of action, so
desirable in so grave an emergency, cannot be effected. Some of
the Cotton States will pursue a more radical policy than will be
palatable to the border States, but this only increases the
necessity of convening the consultative body of which I have
spoken. I believe in the right of secession for just cause, of
which the sovereignty must itself be the judge. If therefore the
general Government shall attempt to coerce a State, and forcibly
attempt the exercise of this right, I should certainly sustain the
State in such a contest.
There has never been any indication made by Louisiana, or by any
public body within her limits, of her probable course in the event
of an election of a Black Republican President, and she is totally
unprepared for any warlike measures. Her arsenals are empty. While
some of her sister States have been preparing for an emergency,
which I fear is now imminent, she has been negligent in this
If coming events should render necessary the convocation of the
Southern Convention, I shall endeavor to compose the
representation of Louisiana of her ablest and most prudent men, if
the power shall be vested in me to appoint them. However, I
presume the Legislature will adopt some other course in the
appointments. The recommendations of such a body assembled in such
a crisis must necessarily carry great weight, and if subsequently
ratified and adopted by each State by proper authority, will
present the South in united and harmonious action.
I have the honor to be your Excellency's ob't serv't
THOS. O. MOORE.
[Sidenote] MS. Ibid.
MACON, Oct. 26, 1860.
His EXCELLENCY Gov. GIST.
DEAR SIR: Your letter of Oct. 5 was handed me by General Gist.
Having but few moments to reply, I write this more to acknowledge
its receipt than to reply to its contents. Our friends in this
State are willing to do anything they may have the power to do to
prevent the State from passing under the Black Republican yoke.
Our people know this, and seem to approve such sentiments, yet I
do not believe Mississippi can move alone.
I will call our Legislature in extra session as soon as it is
known that the Black Republicans have carried the election. I
expect Mississippi will ask a council of the Southern States, and
if that council advise secession, Mississippi will go with them.
If any State moves, I think Mississippi will go with her. I will
write at length from Jackson.
JOHN J. PETTUS.
[Sidenote] MS. Confederate Archives.
EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, MILLEDGEVILLE, GA., Oct. 31, 1860.
His EXCELLENCY W.H. GIST.
DEAR SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your
favor by the hand of General Grist, with whom I have had a free
interchange of opinions. In the event of the election of
Mr. Lincoln to the Presidency I have no doubt that Georgia will
determine her action by a convention of the people, which will
probably be held before the 4th day of March next. Her
Legislature, which convenes here next Wednesday, will have to
determine on the time when the convention shall be held. My
opinion is that the people of Georgia will, in case of the
election of Lincoln, decide to meet all the Southern States in
convention and take common action for the protection of the rights
of all. Events not yet foreseen may change their course and might
lead to action on the part of Georgia without waiting for all the
Southern States, if it should be found necessary to her safety. I
have handed General Gist a copy of my message on our Federal
relations, which will be sent to our Legislature on the first day
of the session. I send only the forms from the press as it is just
being put in type. I may make some immaterial alterations before
it is completed. If your State remains in the Union, I should be
pleased that she would adopt such retaliatory measures as I
recommend in the message, or others which you may determine to be
more appropriate. I think Georgia will pass retaliatory laws
similar to those I recommend, should Lincoln be defeated. Should
the question be submitted to the people of Georgia, whether they
would go out of the Union on Lincoln's election without regard to
the action of other States, my opinion is they would determine to
wait for an overt act. The action of other States may greatly
influence the action of the people of this State. This letter is
not intended for publication in the newspapers, and has been very
I have the honor to be your Excellency's
JOSEPH E. BROWN.
[Sidenote] MS. Confederate Archives.
MONTGOMERY, ALA., October 25, 1860.
His EXCELLENCY W.H. GIST.
DEAR SIR: Your letter of the 5th inst. was handed me a few days
since by General Gist. I fully concur with you in the opinion that
Lincoln will be elected President, and that a full and free
interchange of opinion between the Executives of the Southern
States, and especially of the Cotton States, should be had as to
what ought to be done and what will be done by them to protect the
interest and honor of the slave-holding States in the event he
should be elected.
My opinion is, that the election of Lincoln alone is not
sufficient cause for a dissolution of the Union; but that fact,
when taken in connection with the avowed objects and intentions of
the party whose candidate he is, and the overt acts already
committed by that party in nullifying the fugitive-slave law, and
the enactment of personal liberty bills in many of the
non-slave-holding States, with other acts of like kind, is
sufficient cause for dissolving every tie which binds the Southern
States to the Union.
It is my opinion that Alabama will not secede alone, but if two or
more States will cooeperate with her, she will secede with them; or
if South Carolina or any other Southern State should go out alone
and the Federal Government should attempt to use force against
her, Alabama will immediately rally to her rescue.
The opinions above expressed are predicated upon observation and
consultation with a number of our most distinguished statesmen.
The opinion thus expressed is not intended as a positive
assurance, but is my best impression as to what will be the course
of Alabama. Should Lincoln be elected, I shall certainly call a
convention under the provisions of the resolutions of the last
General Assembly of the State. The convention cannot be convened
earlier than the first Monday in February next, and I have fixed
upon that day (in my own mind). The vote of the electors will be
cast for President on the 5th day of December, after which it will
require a few days to ascertain the result. Thirty days' notice
will have to be given after the day upon which, the delegates to
the convention will be elected, and the convention is required to
convene in two weeks after the election. This is not a matter of
discretion with me, but is fixed by law. I regret that earlier
action cannot be had, as it may be a matter of much importance
that all the States that may determine to withdraw from the Union
should act before the expiration of Mr. Buchanan's term of service.
The facts and opinions herein communicated you are at liberty to
make known to those with whom you may choose to confer, but they
are not to be published in the newspapers.
I have had a full and free conversation with General Gist, the
substance of which is contained in this letter. He will, however,
give it to you more in detail. It is my opinion that all the
States that may determine to take action upon the election of
Lincoln should call a convention as soon as practicable after the
result is known.
With great respect, your ob't serv't,
[Sidenote] MS. Confederate Archives.
EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, Nov. 9, 1860.
His EXCELLENCY GOVERNOR GIST.
DEAR SIR: Your communication of the 5th ultimo reached me per last
mail under cover from General States Rights Gist, with an
explanatory note from that gentleman in relation to the
The mode employed by your Excellency to collect authoritatively
the views of several of the Executives of the Southern States as
to their plan of action in the event of the election of Lincoln,
commends itself warmly to my judgment. Concert of action can alone
be arrived at by a full and free interchange of opinion between
the Executives of the Cotton States, by whom it is confidently
expected that the ball will be put in motion.
We are in the midst of grave events, and I have industriously
sought to learn the public mind in this State in the event of the
election of Lincoln, and am proud to say Florida is ready to wheel
into line with the gallant Palmetto State, or any other Cotton
State or States, in any course which she or they may in their
judgment think proper to adopt, looking to the vindication and
maintenance of the rights, interest, honor, and safety of the
South. Florida may be unwilling to subject herself to the charge
of temerity or immodesty by leading off, but will most assuredly
cooperate with or follow the lead of any single Cotton State which
may secede. Whatever doubts I may have entertained upon this
subject have been entirely dissipated by the recent elections in
Florida will most unquestionably call a convention as soon as it
is ascertained that a majority of the electors favor the election
of Lincoln, to meet most likely upon a day to be suggested by some
I leave to-day for the capital, and will write you soon after my
arrival, but would be pleased in the mean time to hear from you at
your earliest convenience.
If there is sufficient manliness at the South to strike for our
rights, honor, and safety, in God's name let it be done before the
inauguration of Lincoln.
With high regard, I am yours, etc.,
Direct to Tallahassee.
P.S. I have written General Gist at Union C.H.
Two agencies have thus far been described as engaged in the work of
fomenting the rebellion: the first, secret societies of individuals,
like "The 1860 Association," designed to excite the masses and create
public sentiment; the second, a secret league of Southern governors
and other State functionaries, whose mission it became to employ the
governmental machinery of States in furtherance of the plot. These,
though formidable and dangerous, would probably have failed, either
singly or combined, had they not been assisted by a third of still
greater efficacy and certainty. This was nothing less than a conspiracy
in the very bosom of the National Administration at Washington,
embracing many United States Senators, Representatives in Congress,
three members of the President's Cabinet, and numerous subordinate
officials in the several Executive departments. The special work
which this powerful central cabal undertook by common consent, and
successfully accomplished, was to divert Federal arms and forts to the
use of the rebellion, and to protect and shield the revolt from any
adverse influence, or preventive or destructive action of the general
 As an evidence of the disunion combination which lay like smoldering
embers under the surface of Southern politics, it is instructive to read
an extract from a hitherto unpublished letter from Governor Henry A.
Wise, of Virginia, to a gentleman in Philadelphia, for a copy of which
we are indebted to General Duncan S. Walker. The other letter of
Wise--previously quoted--shows us his part and interest in the proposed
conspiracy against Fremont; but the erratic Governor had, after the
lapse of nearly two years, become an anti-Lecompton-Douglasite, and was
ready to give confidential warning of designs with which he was only
too familiar. As this was written nearly three weeks before Yancey's
"Scarlet Letter," its concurrent testimony is of special significance
as proof of the chronic conspiracy:
"RICHMOND, VA., "May 28, 1858.
"To WM. SERGEANT, ESQ.:
"... The truth is that there is in the South an organized,
active, and dangerous faction, embracing most of the Federal
politicians, who are bent upon bringing about causes of a
dissolution of the Union. They desire a united South, "but not a
united country. Their hope of embodying a sectional antagonism is
to secure a sectional defeat. At heart, they do not wish the
Democracy to be any longer national, united, or successful. In
the name of Democracy they propose to make a nomination for 1860,
at Charleston; but an ultra nomination of an extremist on the
slavery issue alone, to unite the South on that one idea, and on
that to have it defeated by a line of sectionalism which will
inevitably draw swords between fanatics on one side and
fire-eaters on the other. Bear it in mind, then, that they desire
to control a nomination for no other purpose than to have it
defeated by a line of sections. They desire defeat, for no other
end than to make a pretext for the clamor of dissolution....
"HENRY A. WISE." MS.
 "I am a secessionist and not a revolutionist, and would not
'precipitate,' but carefully prepare to meet an inevitable dissolution."
--Yancey to Pryor, "Richmond South," copied in "National Intelligencer,"
September 4, 1858.
THE CABINET CABAL
Very soon after the effort to unite the Cotton-State governors in the
revolutionary plot, we find the local conspiracy at Charleston in
communication with the central secession cabal at Washington. James
Buchanan, of Pennsylvania, was still President of the United States,
and his Cabinet consisted of the following members: Lewis Cass, of
Back to Full Books