Chapter 1: the political Conventions in 1860.

  • Preliminary observations, page 17.
  • -- Democratic Convention at Charleston, 18. -- the “Cincinnati platform,” 21. -- conflicting reports on a platform of principles -- Secession of delegates, 22. -- balloting for a candidate, 28. -- seceders' Convention, 24. -- adjourned Democratic Convention in Baltimore, 25. -- another Secession, 26. -- nomination of Stephen A. Douglas for the Presidency, 27. -- nomination of John C. Breckinridge for the Presidency, 28. -- National constitutional Union Convention, 29. -- nomination of John Bell for the Presidency, 30. -- Republican Convention, 31. -- nomination of Abraham Lincoln for the Presidency, 32. -- the four parties, 33. -- the contest, and election of Lincoln, 34.

In the spring of the year 1861, a civil war was kindled in the United States of America, which has neither a pattern in character nor a precedent in causes recorded in the history of mankind. It appears in the annals of the race as a mighty phenomenon, but not an inexplicable one. Gazers upon it at this moment,
when its awfully grand and mysterious proportions rather fill the mind with wonder than excite the reason, look for the half-hidden springs of its existence in different directions among the obscurities of theory. There is a general agreement, however, that the terrible war was clearly the fruit of a conspiracy against the nationality of the Republic, and an attempt, in defiance of the laws of Divine Equity, to establish an Empire upon a basis of injustice and a denial of the dearest rights of man. That conspiracy budded when the Constitution of the Republic became the supreme law of the land,1 and, under the culture of disloyal and ambitious men, after gradual development and long ripening, assumed the form and substance of a rebellion of a few arrogant land and [18] slave holders against popular government. It was the rebellion of an Oligarchy against the people, with whom the sovereign power is rightfully lodged.

We will not here discuss the subject of the remote and half-hidden springs of the rebellion, which so suddenly took on the hideous dignity of a great civil war. We will deal simply with palpable facts, and leave the disquisition of theories until we shall have those facts arranged in proper order and relations. Then we may, far better than now, comprehend the soul of the great historic phenomenon that so startled the nations, and commanded the profound attention of the civilized world.

With the choice of Presidential Electors, in the autumn of 1860, the open career of the living conspirators against American Nationality commenced; and with the nominations,of the candidates for the office of Chief Magistrate of the Republic, in the spring and early summer of that year, we will begin our history of the civil War.

View of the City of Charleston, in 1860.

The two chief political parties into which the voters of the country were divided in 1860, were called, respectively, Democratic and Republican. These titles really had no intrinsic significance, as indices of principles, when applied to either organization, but were used by the leaders as ensigns are used in war, namely, as rallying-points for the contending hosts — familiar in form if not intelligible in character. That year Presidential electors were to be chosen; and, in accordance with a long-established custom, representatives were appointed by the people, to meet in conventions and choose the candidates.

The Democratic party moved first. Its representatives were summoned to assemble in Charleston, a pleasant city of forty thousand inhabitants, and a considerable commercial mart. It is spread over the point of a low sandy cape, at the confluence of the waters of the Ashley and Cooper [19] Rivers, on the seacoast of South Carolina, and far away from the centers of population and the great forces of the Republic.

The delegates, almost six hundred in number, and representing thirty-two States, assembled on the 23d of April

in the great hall of the South Carolina Institute,2 on Meeting Street, in which three thousand persons might be comfortably seated. The doors were opened at noon. The day was very warm. A refreshing shower had laid the dust at eleven o'clock, and purified the air.

The South Carolina Institute.

The delegates rapidly assembled. Favored spectators of both sexes soon filled the galleries. The buzz of conversation was silenced by the voice of Judge David A. Smalley, of Vermont, the Chairman of the National Democratic Committee, who called the Convention to order. Francis B. Flournoy, a citizen of the State of Arkansas, was chosen temporary chairman.--He took his seat without making a speech, when the Rev. Charles Hanckel, of Charleston, read a prayer, and the Convention proceeded to business.

The session of the first day was occupied in the work of organization. It was evident from the first hour that the spirit of the Slave system, which had become the very Nemesis of the nation, was there, full fraught with mischievous intent. It was a spirit potential as Arie in the creation of elemental strife. For several months, premonitions of a storm, that threatened danger to the integrity of the organization there represented, had been abundant. Violently discordant elements were now in close contact. The clouds rapidly thickened, and before the sun went down on that first day of the session, all felt that a fierce tempest was impending, which might topple from its foundations, laid by Jefferson, the venerable political fabric known as the Democratic Party, which he and his friends had reared sixty years before.

On the morning of the second day of the session, Caleb Cushing, of Massachusetts, was chosen permanent President of the Convention, and a vice-president and secretary for each State were appointed. The choice of President was very satisfactory. Mr. Cushing was a man of much experience in politics and legislation. He was possessed of wide intellectual culture, and was a sagacious observer of men. He was then sixty years of [20] age; his features expressed great mental and moral energy, and his voice was clear and musical.

On taking the chair, Mr. Cushing addressed the Convention with great vigor, He declared it to be the mission of the Democratic party to “reconcile popular freedom with constituted order,” and to maintain “the sacred

Caleb Oushing.

reserved rights of the Sovereign States.” He declared the Republicans to be those who were “laboring to overthrow the Constitution,” and “aiming to produce in this country a permanent sectional conspiracy — a traitorous sectional conspiracy of one half of the States of the Union against the other half; those who, impelled by the stupid and half insane spirit of faction and fanaticism, would hurry our land on to revolution and to civil war.” He declared it to be the “high and noble part of the Democratic party of the Union to withstand — to strike down and conquer” these “banded enemies of the Constitution.” 3 These utterances formed a key-note that harmonized with the feelings of a large body of the delegates, and was a symphony to their action.

At the close of the second day the Convention was in fair working order. Some contests for seats were undecided, there being two sets of delegates from New York and Illinois; but the vitally important Committee on Resolutions, composed of one delegate from each State, had been appointed without much delay. It was the business of that committee to perform the difficult and delicate task of making a platform of principles for the action of the Convention, and the stand-point of the party during the approaching canvass and election. For this purpose it had been sent to Masonic Hall, at five o'clock in the afternoon; and then and there the electric spark, which kindled the prepared combustibles of civil war into a quick and devouring flame, was elicited by the attrition of radically opposing ideas.

The subject of Slavery, as we have observed, was the troubling spirit of the Convention. It appeared in the open Hall, and it was specially apparent in the room of the Committee on Resolutions. A large number of the delegates from the Slave-labor States had come instructed, and were resolved, to demand from the Convention a candidate and a platform which should promise a guaranty for the speedy and practical recognition, by the General Government and the people, of the system of Slavery as a national and permanent institution. Impelled by this resolution, they had determined to prevent the nomination of Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois (an able statesman, and effective popular orator, then in the full vigor of middle age), who was the most prominent candidate for the suffrages of the Convention. They opposed him because he was so committed to the doctrine of “Popular Sovereignty,” as it was called,--that is to say, the doctrine of the right of the people of any Territory of the Republic to decide whether Slavery should [21] or should not exist within its borders,--that he could not, with honor or consistency, make any further concessions to the Slave interest. This, and the positive committal of the Democratic party to a pro-slavery policy in the administration of the National Government, were the chief business of several delegates in the Convention who were led by such men as John Slidell, of Louisiana, and William L. Yancey, of Alabama, then, and long before, arch-conspirators against the life of the Republic.

In June, 1856, a National Democratic Convention was held at Cincinnati, when James Buchanan was nominated for President of the United States. A platform was then framed, composed of many resolutions and involved declarations of principles, drawn by the hand of Benjamin F. Hallet, of Boston. These embodied the substance of resolutions on the subject of Slavery, drawn up by Benjamin F. Butler, of Massachusetts (afterwards a major-general in the armies of the Republic), and adopted by the Democratic Convention of that State. On the topic of Slavery and State supremacy, the resolutions were clear and explicit. They recognized the doctrine of Popular Sovereignty as “embodying the only sound and safe solution of the Slavery question, upon which the great national idea of the people of this whole country can repose in its determined conservation of the Union, and non-interference of Congress with Slavery in the Territories or in the District of Columbia.” This doctrine harmonized with the spirit of popular government; and the platform, of which it was an essential part, was accepted by the Democratic party throughout the Union, as a true exposition of their principles and policy. With this understanding, Mr. Butler, now a member of the Committee on Resolutions sitting in Masonic Hall, on that warm April evening in 1860, proposed as a platform for the Convention and the party the one constructed at Cincinnati four years before, without addition or alteration. He offered a resolution to that effect, when, to the surprise of the representatives of the Free-labor States, the proposition was rejected by a vote of seventeen States (only two of them free) against fifteen States. Recently created Oregon gave the casting vote against it, and, with California, was arrayed on the side of the Slave-labor States.

The majority now proposed an affirmance of the Cincinnati platform, but with additional resolutions, the most vital of which declared that Congress had no power to abolish Slavery in the Territories, and that Territorial Legislatures had no power to abolish Slavery in any Territory, nor to prohibit the introduction of Slavery therein, nor to exclude Slavery therefrom, or to impair or destroy the right of property in slaves by any legislation whatever. This resolution was a positive rejection of the doctrine of Popular Sovereignty. The minority of the committee, composed wholly of delegates from the Free-labor States, and representing a majority of the Presidential electors (one hundred and seventy-two against one hundred and twenty-seven), were amazed because of the bad faith and arrogant assumptions of their Southern brethren. It was clearly seen that the latter were united, evidently by preconcert, in a determination to demand from the people of the Free-labor States further and most offensive concessions to their greed for political domination.

The manhood of the minority was evoked, and they resolved that the limit of concession was reached, and that they would yield to no further [22] demands. They at once proposed an affirmance of the Cincinnati platform in letter and spirit, at the same time expressing, by resolution, a willingness to abide by any decision of the Supreme Court of the United States on questions of constitutional law. They offered a word for conciliation by denouncing, in another resolution, the acts of certain State Legislatures known as Personal Liberty Laws, as “hostile in character, subversive of the Constitution, and revolutionary in their effects.” Mr. Butler was opposed to making even this concession, and adhered to his proposition for a simple affirmance of the Cincinnati platform.

The labors of the Committee resulted, on the evening of the fourth day of the session, in the production of three reports, and on the following morning these were submitted to the Convention: the majority report by William W. Avery, of North Carolina; the minority report, drawn by H. B. Payne, of Ohio, and a resolution for the affirmance of the Cincinnati platform without alteration, by B. F. Butler.

Mr. Avery opened debate on the subject, by frankly assuring the Convention that if the doctrine of Popular Sovereignty should be adopted as the doctrine of the Democratic party, the members of the Convention from the Slave-labor States, and their constituents, would consider it as dangerous and subversive of their rights, as the adoption of the principle of Congressional interference or prohibition. From that time until Monday, the 30th of April,

the debate was continued, in the midst of much confusion and disorder in the Convention. The streets of Charleston in the pleasant evenings resounded with music, the speeches of politicians, and the huzzas of the multitude. Society there was in a bubble of excitement, and the final vote of the Convention on the resolutions was awaited with the most lively interest. The hour for that decision at length arrived. It was on the morning of the 30th.
April, 1860.
The Hall was densely crowded. A vote was first taken on Butler's resolution. It was rejected by a decisive majority. The minority report — the Douglas platform — which had been slightly modified, was now offered by B. M. Samuels, of Iowa. It was adopted by a handsome majority. In the Convention now, as in the Committee, the voices of Oregon and California, Free-labor States, were with those of the Slave-labor States.

Preconcerted rebellion now lifted its head defiantly. The spirit manifested in the resolutions, speeches, and deportment of the representatives of the Slave interest, now assumed tangible form, in action. L. P. Walker, who was afterward one of the most active insurgents against the National Government, as the so-called Secretary of War of Jefferson Davis, led the way. He spoke for the delegates from Alabama, who had been instructed by the convention that appointed them not to acquiesce in or submit to any Popular Sovereignty platform, and, in the event of such being adopted, to withdraw from the Convention. That contingency had now occurred, and the Alabama delegates formally withdrew, in accordance with a previous arrangement. They were followed by all the delegates from Mississippi, all but two from Louisiana, all from Florida and Texas, three from Arkansas, and all from South Carolina. On the following morning, twenty-six of the thirty-four Georgia delegates withdrew; and Senator Bayard and Representative Whiteley, delegates from Delaware, also left thy Convention [23] and joined the seceders, who had repaired to St. Andrew's Hall the previous evening for consultation.

The disruption of the Democratic party represented in Convention was now complete. The wedge of Slavery had split it beyond restoration. The event had been amply provided for in secret; and when D. C. Glenn, of Mississippi, in announcing the withdrawal of the delegates from that State, said, “I tell Southern men here, and, for them, I tell the North, that in less than sixty days you will find a united South standing side by side with us,” there was long and vehement cheering, especially from the South Carolinians, who were joyous over the result. Charleston, that night, was the scene of unbounded pleasurable excitement.

So the arrogant representatives of the Slave interest, in contempt of the democratic principle of acquiescence in the fairly expressed will of the majority, which lies at the foundation of all order in popular government, and with an eye single to the accomplishment of an intensely selfish end, began a rebellion, first against the dominant party then in possession of the National Government, and secondly against that Government itself, which resulted in a bloody civil war, and the utter destruction of the vast and cherished interest, for the conservation of which they cast down the gauntlet defiantly and invited the arbitrament of the sword.

At twilight, on the eighth day of the session of the Convention,

May, 1860.
when the excitement occasioned by the withdrawal of many delegates had somewhat subsided, that body proceeded to ballot for a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic. At least two hundred votes were necessary to a choice. Stephen A. Douglas led off with at least fifty less than the requisite number. There was very little variation as the voting went on. Finally, on the tenth day, when fifty-seven ballotings had been taken with no prospect of a change, it was agreed to adjourn the Convention, to meet in the city of Baltimore, in Maryland, on the eighteenth day of June following. It was also resolved to invite the Democracy of the several States to make provision for supplying all vacancies in their respective delegations to the Convention when it should reassemble.

St. Andrew's Hall.4

The seceding delegates partially organized a convention at St. Andrew's Hall, on the evening after their withdrawal from the regular body. On the following day, at noon, they assembled at Military Hall, when they chose James A. Bayard, of Delaware, to be their president. They declared themselves, by resolution offered by Mr. Yancey, to be entitled to the style of the [24] “Constitutional Convention,” and sneeringly called those whom they had abandoned, the “Rump Convention.” On the second day of their session they met in the Theater.5 The dress circle was crowded with the women of Charleston. They had hitherto filled the galleries of the Institute Hall. Their sympathies were with the seceders, and they now followed them.

President Bayard, a dignified, courtly gentleman, sat near the foot-lights of the stage. The painted scene behind him was that of the Borgia Palace,6 around which clustered associations of great crimes. The actors on this occasion, contrary to precedent, occupied the pit, or parquette; and there they performed only the first act of a drama to which the whole civilized world became amazed spectators. They adopted the report of the majority, offered by Mr. Avery in the regular Convention, as their platform of principles, but went no further then. They refrained from nominating a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, and refused to listen to a proposition to send forth an address to the people. Their appointed work for the present was finished. They had accomplished the positive disruption of the Democratic party, which, as a Southern historian of the war says, had become “demoralized” on “the Slavery question,” and were “unreliable and rotten,” 7 because they held independent views on that great topic of national discussion. The paralysis or destruction of that party would give the Presidency to a Republican candidate, and then the conspirators would have a wished — for pretext for rebellion.8 The seceders were confident that their work had been effectually performed, and their desired object attained. They well knew that their class held such absolute political control in the Slave-labor States, that the great mass of their constituency would applaud their action and follow their lead. Reposing upon this knowledge, they could afford to wait for further developments; so, on the evening of the 3d of May,

they adjourned to meet in the city of Richmond, in Virginia, on the second Monday of June following, for further action. To that Convention they invited the Democracy of the country who might sympathize with their movement and their platform to send representatives.

The seceders reassembled in Metropolitan Hall (on Franklin Street, near Governor), in Richmond, at the appointed time, namely, on Monday, the 11th day of June. In the mean time some of the leading Southern Congressmen, among whom were Robert Toombs, of Georgia, and other conspirators, had issued an address from Washington City, urging that the Richmond Convention should refrain from all important action, and adjourn to Baltimore, and there, re-entering the regular Convention, if possible defeat the nomination of Mr. Douglas, and thus, as they said, with well-feigned honesty of expression, “make a final effort to preserve the harmony and unity of the Democratic party” The consequence was, that the Convention at Richmond [25] was respectable in talent, but small in numbers, and wicked in conception and design.

On motion of a son of John C. Calhoun, who was chairman of the Committee on Organization, John Irwin, of Alabama, was chosen president of the Convention. It the proceeded to action, under a little embarrassment at first. There were delegates from the city of New York begging for admission to seats.9 They were finally treated with courteous contempt, by being simply admitted to the floor of the Convention as tolerated t commissioners, “and were regarded by some as spies. In this matter, as in others, the proceedings were cautiously

Metropolitan Hall.10

managed. The leaders allowed no definite action. An expression of opinion concerning the platforms offered at Charleston was suppressed; and on the second day of the session, while a” Colonel Baldwin, “of the New York” commissioners, “smarting under the lash of W. L. Barry, of Mississippi, who charged him with abusing the courtesy of the Convention” by talking of the “horrors of disunion,” was asking forgiveness in an abject manners,11 the Convention adjourned, to meet at the same place on the 21st of the month.
June, 1860.
Most of the delegates then hastened to Baltimore, pursuant to the plan of the Congressional conspirators, while the South Carolina delegation, who assumed to be special managers of the treasonable drama, remained in Richmond, awaiting further developments of the plot.

The adjourned Democratic National Convention reassembled in the Front Street Theater, on Front Streets. “, opposite Low Street, in Baltimore, on Monday, the 18th day of June. The parquette and stage were occupied by the” delegates, and the dress circle w as filled by spectators — a large portion of whom were women. The delicate and difficult question concerning the admission to seats in the Convention of representatives of States whose delegates had withdrawn from that body, was the first to present itself. [26] Mr. Cushing, again in the chair, refused to make any decision, and referred the whole matter to the Convention. It was claimed, that the seceoding delegates had a right to re-enter the Convention if they chose to do so. This right was denied, and the language of the resolution respecting the adjournment at Charleston, by which the States represented by the seceders were called upon to “fill vacancies,” was referred to as an expression of the Convention, if fairly interpreted, against the right of the seceders to return. It was proposed, also, that no delegate should be admitted to a seat, unless he would pledge himself to abide by the action of a majority of the Convention, and support its nominations. Debate speedily ensued. It was hot and acrimonious during, at least, six hours on that first day of the session; and in the evening there were two mass meetings of the Democracy in the streets of Baltimore, at which vehement speeches were heard for three hours, by tens of thousands of people, citizens and strangers.

Front Street theater, in Baltimore, in 1860.

On the following morning, the subject of contesting delegations was referred to the committee on credentials. They could not agree; and on the fourth day of the session

June 21, 1860.
two reports were submitted, the majority report recommending the admission of Douglas delegates (in place of seceders) from Louisiana and Alabama, and parts of the delegations from other States. The minority report was against the admission of the new delegates. These reports were discussed with great warmth, which sometimes reached the point of fierce personal quarrels. The proslavery men gave free scope to the expression of their opinions and feelings; and one of them, a mercantile dealer in slaves, from Georgia, named Gaulden, advocated the reopening of the Slave-trade, and thought he should live to see the day when the doctrines which he advocated would be “the doctrines of Massachusetts and of the North.” He spoke in language shocking to every right-minded man; yet, while he disgusted a great majority of his hearers, he elicited the applause of many.

Finally, on Friday, the 22d, the majority report was adopted, and the places of most of the seceders were filled by Douglas men. Again there was rebellion against the fairly expressed will of the majority. The whole or a part of the delegations from Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, California, Delaware, and Missouri, withdrew. That night was a gloomy one for those who earnestly desired the unity of the Democratic party. On the following morning, their hopes were utterly blasted when Mr. Cushing, the President of the Convention, and a majority of the Massachusetts delegation, also withdrew. “We put our withdrawal before you,” said Mr. Butler, of that delegation, “upon the simple ground, among others, that there has been a withdrawal, in part, of a majority of the States, and, further (and that, perhaps, more personal to myself), upon the ground that [27] I will not sit in a Convention where the African Slave-trade — which is piracy by the laws of my country — is approvingly advocated.”

On the retirement of Mr. Cushing, Governor David Tod, of Ohio, one of the vice-presidents, took the chair, and the Convention proceeded to ballot for a Presidential candidate. A considerable number of Southern delegates, who were satisfied with the Cincinnati platform, remained in the Convention, and, as their respective States were called, some of them made brief speeches. One of these was Mr. Flournoy, of Arkansas, the temporary Chairman of the Convention at Charleston. “I am a Southern man,” he said, “born and reared amid the institution of Slavery. I first learned to whirl the top and bounce the ball with the young African. Everything I own on earth is the result of slave-labor. The bread that feeds my wife and little ones is produced by the labor of slaves. They live on my plantation with every feeling of kindness, as between master and slave. Sir, if I could see that there is anything intended in our platform unfriendly to the institution of Slavery--if I could see that we did not get every constitutional right we are entitled to, I would be the last on earth to submit in this Union; I would myself apply the torch to the magazine, and blow it into atoms, before I would submit to wrong. But I feel that in the doctrines of nonintervention and popular sovereignty is enough to protect the interests of the South.”

This speech had a powerful effect upon delegates from the Free-labor States, in favor of Mr. Douglas; and of one hundred and ninety-four and a half votes cast, on the second ballot, he received one hundred and eighty-one and a half, when he was declared duly nominated for the Presidency. James Fitzpatrick, of Alabama, was nominated for Vice-president. Two days afterward, Fitzpatrick declined the nomination, when the National Committee substituted Herschel V. Johnson, of Georgia.12 On the evening of the 23d, the Convention made a final adjournment.

The Maryland Institute in 1860.

The seceders, new and old assembled at noon on Saturday, the 23d, in the Maryland Institute Hall, situate on Baltimore Street and Marsh Market Space, a room more than three hundred feet in length and seventy in breadth, with a gallery extending entirely around. It was capable of seating five thousand people; and it was almost full when the Convention was permanently organized by the appointment of Mr. Cushing to preside. That gentleman was greeted, when he ascended the platform, [28] with the most vociferous applause, and other demonstrations of satisfaction. On taking the chair, he declared that the body then assembled formed the true National Democratic Convention, composed, as it was, of delegates duly accredited thereto from more than twenty States. The Convention then proceeded to business with the greatest harmony. They resolved, that the delegates to the Richmond Convention should be requested to unite with their brethren of the National Democratic Convention, then assembled, on the same platform of principles with themselves, if they felt authorized to do so. They took seats accordingly. Mr. Avery, of North Carolina, offered the majority report, which he had submitted in Convention at Charleston, and it was adopted without dissent, as the platform of principles of the sitting Convention, and of the party it represented.

After some further business, the Convention proceeded to the nomination of candidates for the Presidency and Vice-presidency, when George B. Loring, of Massachusetts, arose and said: “We have seen the statesmen of Mississippi coming into our own borders and fearlessly defending their principles, ay, and bringing the sectionalism of the North at their feet by their gallantry.13 We have admiration for this courage, and I trust to live by it and be governed by it. Among all these men to whom we have been led to listen, and whom we admire and respect, there is one standing pre-eminently before this country — a young and gallant son of the South.” He then named John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, as a nominee for the Presidency.14 Vehement applause followed. A vote by States was taken, and Breckinridge received eighty-one ballots against twenty-four for Daniel S. Dickinson, of New York. The latter candidate was withdrawn, and the nomination of Breckinridge was declared. Joseph Lane, of Oregon, was nominated for the Vice-presidency; and after a session of only a few hours, the business was ended and the Convention adjourned.

June 23, 1860.

The South Carolina delegation, who remained in Richmond, formally assembled at Metropolitan Hall on the 21st, according to appointment, and adjourned from day to day until the evening of the 26th, when Mr. Yancey and many others arrived from Baltimore. The Convention then organized for business, which was soon dispatched. The platform and candidates offered to the party by the seceders' Convention at Baltimore were adopted by unanimous vote, with great cheering by the delegates and the crowd who filled the galleries. Then the Convention adjourned.

So ended the Conventions of the divided Democratic party, in the early [29] summer-time of 1860. The respective friends of the opposing candidates of that party (Stephen A. Douglas and John C. Breckinridge) went into the canvass with great bitterness of feeling, such as family quarrels usually exhibit.

Six days after the adjournment of the Democratic Conventions at Charleston, representatives of a new political organization, not more than six months old, met in Convention at Baltimore.

May 9, 1860.
They styled themselves the National Constitutional Union Party, composed almost wholly of members of the old Whig party and a waning organization known as the American, or Know-nothing party. They assembled in the First Presbyterian Meeting-house (known as the Two-steeple Church), on Fayette Street, between Calvert and North Streets, which has since been demolished, and its place occupied by the United States Courthouse. Its interior was well decorated with National emblems. Back of the president's chair was a full-length portrait of Washington, with large American flags, over which hovered an eagle; and the galleries, which were crowded with spectators, were festooned with numerous Union banners.

The first Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, in 1860.

The venerable John J. Crittenden, of Kentucky, Chairman of the National Constitutional Union Committee called the Convention to order, and on his nomination, Washington Hunt, once Governor of the State of New York, and distinguished for talent, culture, and great urbanity of manner, was chosen temporary president of the Convention. Credentials of delegates were called for, when it was found that almost one-third of all the States were unrepresented.15

Toward evening, after a recess, Governor Hunt was elected permanent President. When the subject of a platform was proposed, Leslie Coombs, of Kentucky, an ardent follower and admirer of Henry Clay, took the floor, and put the Convention in the best of humor by a characteristic little speech. He declared that he had constructed three platforms: one for the “harmonious Democracy, who had agreed so beautifully, at Charleston;” another for the Republicans, about to assemble at Chicago; and a third for the party then around him. For the first, he proposed the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, which seemed to give license for the secession [30] of States, and disunion; for the second, the Blue-Laws of Connecticut; and for the third, the Constitution of the United States--“the Constitution as it is, and the Union under it, now and forever.” The last sentence touched a

Washington Hunt.

sympathetic chord in the Convention, of marvelous sensitiveness. The suggestion was received with the most enthusiastic demonstrations of delight; and on the second day of the session, Joseph R. Ingersoll, Chairman of the Committee on Platform, reported resolutions, which repudiated all creeds formed for a temporary purpose, as “calculated to mislead and deceive the people,” and recommended, as a foundation for the party to plant itself upon in the coming contest, that which was defined by the words:--the Constitution of the country, the Union of the States, and the enforcement of the laws. This platform was adopted unanimously.

The Convention now proceeded to vote for candidates for the offices of President and Vice-president, when two hundred and fifty-four votes were cast; and on the second ballot, John Bell, of Tennessee, an eminent politician, then past sixty-three years of age, was nominated for the Presidency.16 The renowned scholar, statesman, and diplomat, the late Edward Everett, of Massachusetts, was selected for the office of Vice-president. In the canvass that followed, the adherents of these gentlemen were popularly known as the Bell-Everett party.

The greatest harmony prevailed in this Convention. Not a word was said about “Americanism,” or other old party issues, nor was there a whisper on the subject of Slavery, excepting an ejaculation of Neil S. Brown, of Tennessee, who thanked God that he had at last found a Convention in which the “nigger” was not the sole subject of consideration. The great topic for speech was the Constitution, which they thought would be imperiled by the election of either Douglas, Breckinridge, or the nominee of the Republican party, whoever he might be. The Convention adjourned on the second day of the session, and that night a ratification meeting was held in Monument Square, in Baltimore, whereat speakers and musicians were abundant. The spacious platform, erected in the Square, was spanned by an immense arch, on which were inscribed the words--“the Union, the Constitution, and the enforcement of the laws.”

Six days after the adjournment of the National Constitutional Union Convention, the representatives of the Republican party assembled in large numbers at Chicago, Illinois--a city of more than one hundred thousand souls, on the verge of a prairie on the western shore of Lake Michigan, where, in 1830, there were only a small fort, and a few scattered houses of traders — a city [31] illustrious as one of the wonders of the growth of our Republic. All of the Free-labor States were fully represented, and there were delegates from several of the Slave-labor States. An immense building of boards, called a

Wigwam at Chicago, in 1860.

Wigwam, had been erected by the Republicans of Chicago, at an expense of seven thousand dollars, for the special use of the Convention. It was tastefully decorated within, and was spacious enough to hold ten thousand persons. A rustic seat, made of a huge knot of a tree, was prepared for the use of the President of the Convention; and everything about the affair was rough and

President's chair.

rural in appearance. The Convention met in the Wigwam, on the 16th day of May. Not more than one-third of the vast gathering of people could enter the building. E. D. Morgan, of New York, Chairman of the National Republican Executive Committee, called the Convention to order, and David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, was chosen temporary chairman. In due time, George Ashmun, of Massachusetts, was chosen permanent President. It was a wise choice. His voice could be heard above any clamor that might be raised in the assembly, and he was remarkable for coolness, clearness of judgment, and executive ability. He was presented with a gavel made of a piece of the oak timber of Perry's flag-ship, Lawrence; and with this emblem of authority, inscribed with the words, “Don't give up the ship!” he called the Convention to order, and invited the delegates to business. A committee on resolutions, composed of one delegate from each State represented, was appointed, and on the following morning
May 17, 1860.
it submitted to the Convention a platform of principles, in the form of seventeen resolutions.

After affirming that the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence, and embodied in the National Constitution, is essential to the preservation of our republican institutions; congratulating the country that no Republican member of Congress had uttered or countenanced any threats of disunion, “so often made by Democratic members without rebuke, and with applause from their political associates,” and denouncing such threats as “an avowal of contemplated treason,” the [32] resolutions made explicit declarations upon the topic of Slavery, so largely occupying public attention. In a few paragraphs, they declared that each State had the absolute right of control in the management of its own domestic concerns; that the new dogma that the Constitution, of its own force, carries Slavery into any or all of the Territories of the United States, was a dangerous political heresy, revolutionary in its tendency, and subversive of the peace and harmony of the country; that the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom, and that neither Congress, nor a Territorial legislature, nor any individuals, have authority to give legal existence to Slavery in any Territory of the United States; and that the reopening of the African Slave-trade, then recently commenced in the Southern States, under the cover of our national flag, aided by perversions of judicial power, was a crime against humanity, and a burning shame to our country and age.

George Ashmun.

This platform was adopted at six o'clock in the evening, by unanimous vote; when the Convention adjourned until next morning, without taking a ballot for candidates for the Presidency and Vice-presidency. When the vote on the platform was announced, the scene that ensued, says an eyewitness, was of the “most astounding character. All the thousands of men in that enormous Wigwam commenced swinging their hats, and cheering with immense enthusiasm, and the other thousands of ladies waved their handkerchiefs and clapped their hands. Such a spectacle as was witnessed for some minutes has never before been witnessed at a convention. As the great assemblage poured through the streets after adjournment, it seemed to electrify the city. The agitation of the masses that packed the hotels and thronged the streets, certainly forty thousand strong, was such as made the little excitement at Charleston seem insignificant.” 17

On the morning of the third day of the session,

May 19, 1860.
the Convention was opened with prayer, by the Rev. Mr. Green, of Chicago, who expressed a desire that the evils which then invested the body politic should be wholly eradicated from the system, and that the pen of the historian might trace an intimate connection between that “glorious consummation and the transactions of the Convention.” Then that body proceeded to the choice of a Presidential candidate, and on the third ballot Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, was nominated. The announcement of the result caused the most uproarious applause; and, from the common center at Chicago, the electric messengers flew with the intelligence, almost as quick as thought, to every part of the vast Republic, eastward of the Rocky Mountains, before sunset. The Convention took a recess, and in the evening nominated Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine, for Vice-president. Their labors [33] were now done, and, after a brief speech by their presiding officer, the Convention adjourned, with nine cheers for the ticket.

Mr. Lincoln, the nominee, was at his home in Springfield, Illinois, at this time. He had been in the telegraph-office during the first and second ballotings, when he left, went to the office of the State Journal, and was conversing with friends when the third balloting occurred. The result was known at Springfield a few minutes after the voting was finished. The superintendent of the telegraph there wrote on a scrap of paper, “Mr. Lincoln, you are nominated,” and sent a boy with it to the nominee. Mr. Lincoln read it to his friends, and, while they huzzaed lustily, he looked at it in silence. Then, putting it quietly in his pocket, he bade them “good evening,” and went home.18

On the following day, a committee, appointed by the Convention, with President Ashmun at their head, waited upon Mr. Lincoln, and formally communicated to him, orally, and by an official letter, the fact of his nomination. He received the message with great modesty and gravity, and promised to respond to it in writing. This he did three days afterward,

May 23, 1860.
in which, after accepting the nomination, he said:--“The declaration of principles and sentiments which accompanies your letter, meets my approval, and it shall be my care not to violate it, or disregard it in any part. Imploring the assistance of Divine Providence, and with due regard to the views and feelings of all who were represented in the Convention, to the rights of all the States and Territories and people of the nation, to the inviolability of the Constitution, and the perpetual union, harmony, and prosperity of all, I am most happy to co-operate for the practical success of the principles declared by the Convention.”

In the beautiful month of June, when Nature, in the temperate zone, is most wealthy in flowers and foliage and the songs of birds, and there is every thing in her aspect to inspire delight, and harmony, and good-will, one of the most important political campaigns noted in history was opened with intense vigor, and the most uncompromising and relentless hostility of parties. There were four of these parties in the field of contest, namely:--

1. The Republican, who declared freedom to be the normal condition of all territory, and that Slavery can exist only by authority of municipal law. Of this party, Abraham Lincoln was the standard-bearer.

2. The wing of the Democratic party led by John C. Breckinridge, who declared that no power existed that might lawfully control Slavery in the Territories; that it existed in any Territory, in full force, whenever a slave-holder and his slaves entered it; and that it was the duty of the National Government to protect it there.

3. The wing of the Democratic party led by Stephen A. Douglas, whose platform of principles assumed not to know positively whether slavery might or might not have lawful existence in the Territories, without the action of the inhabitants thereof, but expressed a willingness to abide by the decisions of the Supreme Court in all cases.

4. The National Constitutional Union party, led by John Bell, who [34] declined to express any opinion upon any subject, but pointed to the National Constitution, without note or comment, as their political guide.

The politicians of only the two parties first named seemed to have positive convictions, as units, on the great subject which had so long agitated the nation, and they took issue squarely, definitely, and defiantly. A large portion of the Douglas party were also inclined to disregard the resolution which bound them to absolute submission to the decisions of the Supreme Court, and to stand firmly upon a pure “Popular Sovereignty” Platform, which that resolution had eviscerated, for they regarded a late decision of the majority of that court, in the case of Dred Scott,19 as sufficiently indicative of its opposition to the great doctrine of that platform. All parties were agreed in earnest professions of love for the Union and the Constitution; and, with such avowals emblazoned on their standards, they went. into the fight, each doubtful of success, and all conscious that a national crisis was at hand. There was a vague presentiment before the minds of reflecting men everywhere, that the time when the practical answer to the great question — What shall be the policy of the Nation concerning Slavery?--could no longer be postponed.

The conflict was desperate from July to November, and grew more intense as it approached its culmination at the polls. The Republicans and Douglas Democrats were denounced by their opponents as Abolitionists-treasonably sectional, and practically hostile to the perpetuation of the Union. The Breckinridge party, identified as it unfortunately was with avowed disunionists — men who for long years had been in the habit of threatening to attempt the dissolution of the Union by the process of secession, whenever the revelations of the Census or other causes should convince them that the domination of the Slave interest. in the National Government had ceased forever — men who rejoiced when they saw, in the absolute disruption of the Democratic party at Charleston and Baltimore, a prospect for the election of the Republican candidate, which might serve them as a pretext for rebellion — men who afterward became leaders in the great insurrection against the National Government — was charged with complicity in disunion schemes. In speeches, newspapers, and in social gatherings, these charges were iterated and reiterated; and yet there were but few persons in the Free-labor States who really believed that there were men mad enough and wicked enough to raise the arm of resistance to the authority of the Supreme Government, founded on the National Constitution.

But the election of Mr. Lincoln, which was the result of the great political conflict in the summer and autumn of 1860, soon revealed the existence of a well-organized conspiracy against the life of the Republic, widespread, powerful, and intensely malignant. The leading conspirators were few, and nearly all of them were then, or had been, connected with the [35] National Government, some as legislators, and others as cabinet ministers. They were not so numerous at first, according to a loyal Tennessean (Horace Maynard), who knew them well, “as the figures on a chess-board,” but became wonderfully productive of their kind. “There are those,” he said, in a speech in Congress, “within reach of my voice, who also know them, and can testify to their utter perfidy; who have been the victims of their want of principle, and whose self-respect has suffered from their insolent and overbearing demeanor. No Northern man was ever admitted to their confidence, and no Southern man, unless it became necessary to keep up their numbers; and then, not till he was thoroughly known by them, and known to be thoroughly corrupt. They, like a certain school of ancient philosophers, had two sets of principles or doctrines--one for outsiders, the other for themselves; the one was ‘Democratic principles’ for the Democratic party, the other was their own and without a name. Some Northern men and many Southern men were, after a fashion, petted and patronized by them, as a gentleman throws from his table a bone, or a choice bit, to a favorite dog; and they imagined they were conferring a great favor thereby, which could be requited only by the abject servility of the dog. To hesitate, to doubt, to hold back, to stop, was to call down a storm of wrath that few men had the nerve to encounter, and still fewer the strength to withstand. Not only in political circles, but in social life, their rule was inexorable, their tyranny absolute. God be thanked for the brave men who had the courage to meet them and bid them defiance, first at Charleston, in April, 1860, and then at Baltimore, in June! To them is due the credit of declaring war against this intolerable despotism.” The truthfulness of this picture will be fully apparent in future pages.

Tail piece — group of banners.

1 Immediately after the adoption of the National Constitution, and the beginning of the National career, in 1789, the family and State pride of Virginians could not feel contented in a sphere of equality in which that Constitution placed all the States. It still claimed for that Commonwealth a superiority, and a right to political and social domination in the Republic. Disunion was openly and widely talked of in Virginia, as a necessary conservator of State supremacy, during Washington's first term as President of the United States, and became more and more a concrete political dogma. It was because of the prevalence of this dangerous and unpatriotic sentiment in his native State, which was spreading in the Slave-labor States, that Washington gave to his countrymen that magnificent plea for Union--his Farewell Address. According to John Randolph of Roanoke, “the Grand Arsenal of Richmond, Virginia, was built with an eye to putting down the Administration of Mr. Adams (the immediate successor of Washington in the office of President) with the bayonet, if it could not be accomplished by other means.” --Speech of Randolph in the Iouse of Representatives, January, 1817.

2 This building, in which the famous South Carolina Ordinance of Secession was signee (it was adopted in St. Andrew's Hall), late in December, 1860, was destroyed by fire in December, 1861. St. Andrew's Hall, in which the conspirators against the Republic who seceded from the Democratic Convention now under consideration assembled, and in which the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession was adopted by the unanimous voice of a Convention, was destroyed at the same time. Everything about the site of these buildings, made in famous in history because of the wicked acts performed in them, yet (1865) exhibits a ghastly picture of desolation.

3 Official Proceedings of the Democratic National Convention, held in 1860, at Charleston and Baltimore, page 17.

4 in this building, as we have observed, the Secession Convention of South Carolina politicians was assemabled when it passed the Ordinance of Secession, on the 20th of December, 1860.

5 This was the fourth place in which the conspirators met in the course of forty-eight hours. All of these. public buildings are now (1865) in ruins.

6 History of the National Political Conventions in 1860: by M. Halstead, an Eye-witness, page 100.

7 First Year of the War: by Edward A. Pollard. Richmond, 1862, page 28.

8 When, in 1832 and 1833, Calhoun and his associates in South Carolina attempted to strike a deadly blow at our nationality, they made a protective tariff, which they called an oppression of the cotton-growing States, the pretext. In May, 1833, President Jackson, in a letter to the Rev. A. J. Crawford, of Georgia, after speaking of the trouble he had endured on account of the Nullifiers, said, “The Tariff was only the pretext, and Disunion. and a Southern Confederacy the real object. The next pretext will be the Negro or Slavery, question.”

9 These delegates appear to have been representatives of an association of some kind in the city of New York, who sympathized with the Secessionists. They exhibited, as credentials, a certificate of the “Trustees of the National Democratic Hall” in New York, signed by “Samuel B. Williams, Chairman, M. Dudley Bean, Secretary of the Trustees.” It was also signed by William Beach Lawrence, Chairman, and James B. Bensel, Secretary, of an Executive Committee; and Thaddeus P. Mott, Chairman, and J. Lawrence, Secretary of the Association, whatever it was. These certified that Gideon J. Tucker and Dr. Charles Edward Lewis Stuart had been appointed “delegates at large from the Association ;” and that Colonel Baldwin, Isaac Lawrence, James B. Bensel, and James Villiers, had been appointed Delegates, and N. Drake Parsons, James S. Selby: M. Dudley Bean, and A. W. Gilbert, Alternatives, “to represent the Association at the Richmond Convention for the nomination of President and Vice-president,” &c.

10 this building was formerly occupied as a Presbyterian Church, and known as that of Dr. Plummer's.

11 Halstead's History of the National Political Conventions in 1860, page 158.

12 The National Committee assembled at the National Hotel, in Washington City, on the 25th of June. In it all the States were represented, excepting Delaware, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Oregon.

13 One of these was Jefferson Davis. In a speech in Faneuil Hall, on the 11th of October, 1858, while denouncing the Abolitionists as disunionists, he said, pointing to the portraits of the elder Adams and others, on the walls:--“If those voices, which breathed the first instincts into the Colony of Massachusetts, and into the other colonies of the United States, to proclaim community — independence — and to assert it against the powerful mother country; if those voices live here still, how must they feel who come here to preach treason to the Constitution, and assail the Union it ordained and established? It would seem that their criminal hearts would fear that those voices, so long slumbering, would break their silence; that those forms which look down from these walls, behind and around, would come forth, to drive from this sacred temple these fanatical men — who deserve it more than did the changers of money and those who sold doves in the temple of the living God.” At that very time, that bold, bad man was doubtless plotting “treason to the Constitution,” and preparing to “assail the Union it ordained and established”--a proper subject for his own denunciations.

14 Mr. Breckinridge was then Vice-president of the United States under President Buchanan, and subsequent events show that he was a co-worker with Davis and others against the Government. He joined the insurgents, and, during a portion of the civil war that ensued, he was the socalled “Secretary of War” of Jefferson Davis.

15 The States not represented were California, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Oregon, South Carolina, and Wisconsin--ten in all.

16 When the Rebellion broke out, in the spring of 1861, Mr. Bell was one of the earliest, if not the very first. of the professed Unionists of distinction who joined the enemies of his country in their attempt to overthrow the Constitution and destroy the nationality of the Republic.

17 Halstead's History of the National Political Conventions in 1860, page 189.

18 “There is a little woman down at our house,” said Mr. Lincoln, in allusion to his wife, as he left the room, “who would like to hear this — I'll go down and tell her.”

19 Dred Scott had been a slave in Missouri, but claimed to be a freeman on account of involuntary residence in a free State. The case did not require a decision concerning the right of a negro to citizenship; but the Chief-Justice took the occasion to give what is called an extra-judicial opinion. He decided that a freed negro slave, or a descendant of a slave, could not become a citizen of the Republic. He asserted, in that connection, that the language of the Declaration of Independence showed that the negroes were not included in the beneficent meaning of that instrument, when it said, “all men are created equal,” and that they were regarded “as so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

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