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Xxi. The Presidential canvass of 1860.

the vote polled for Fremont and Dayton in 1856 considerably exceeded the solid strength, at that time, of the Republican party. It was swelled in part by the personal popularity of Col. Fremont, whose previous career of adventure and of daring — his explorations, discoveries, privations, and perils — appealed, in view of his comparative youth for a Presidential candidate, with resistless fascination, to the noble young men of our country; while his silence and patience throughout the canvass, under a perfect tempest of preposterous yet annoying calumnies, had contributed to widen the circle of his admirers and friends. A most wanton and brutal personal assault1 on Senator Sumner, of Massachusetts, by Representative Brooks of South Carolina, abetted by Representatives Keitt, of South Carolina, and Edmundson, of Virginia, doubt-less contributed also to swell the Republican vote of the following Autumn. Mr. Sumner had made an elaborate speech in the Senate on the Kansas question — a speech not without grave faults of conception and of style, but nowise obnoxious to the charge of violating the decencies of debate by unjustifiable personalities. Yet, on the assumption that its author had therein unwarrantably assailed and ridiculed Judge Butler--one of South Carolina's Senators, and a relative of Mr. Brooks--he was assaulted by surprise while sitting in his place (though a few minutes after the Senate had adjourned for the day), knocked to the floor senseless, and beaten, while helpless [300] and unconscious, till the rage of his immediate assailant was thoroughly satiated. Mr. Sumner was so much injured as to be compelled to abandon his seat and take a voyage to Europe, where, under the best medical treatment, his health was slowly restored. The infliction on Brooks, by a Washington court, of a paltry fine2 for this outrage, tended to deepen and diffuse popular indignation at the North, which the unopposed reelection of Brooks — he having resigned, because of a vote of censure from a majority of the House — did not tend to allay. Of Fremont's aggregate vote--1,341,812--it is probable that all above 1,200,000 was given him on grounds personal to himself, or from impulses growing out of the Sumner outrage.

Accordingly, the elections of 1857 exhibited a diminution of Republican strength — the eleven States which had voted for Fremont, giving him an aggregate popular majority of over 250,000, now giving but little over 50,000 for the Republican tickets. All the New England States were still carried by the Republicans, but by majorities diminished, in the average, more than half, while that of Connecticut was reduced from 7,715 to 546. So, in Ohio, Gov. Chase was this year reflected by 1,481, though Fremont had 16,623; while Gov. Lowe, in Iowa, had but 2,151, where Fremont had received 7,784; and Gov. Randall was chosen in Wisconsin by barely 118, where Fremont had received 13,247. No Republican State was actually revolutionized, however, but New York; where — owing, in part, to local questions and influences — Fremont's magnificent plurality of 80,000 was changed to a Democratic plurality of 18,000. It appeared in this, as in most other Free States, that the decline or dissolution of the “American” or Fillmore party inured mainly to the benefit of the triumphant Democracy; though Pennsylvania, and possibly Rhode Island, were exceptions. To swell the resistless tide, Minnesota and Oregon--both in the extreme North--each framed a State Constitution this year, and took position in line with the dominant party--Minnesota by a small, Oregon by an overwhelming, majority — the two swelling by four Senators and four3 Representatives the already invincible strength of the Democracy.

The Opposition was utterly power-less against this surge; but what they dare hardly undertake, Mr. Buchanan was able to effect. By his utterly indefensible attempt to enforce the Lecompton Constitution upon Kansas, in glaring contradiction to his smooth and voluble professions regarding “Popular Sovereignty,” “the will of the majority,” etc., etc., he enabled the Republicans, in 1858, to hold, by majorities almost uniformly increased, all the States they had carried the preceding year, and reverse the last year's majority against them in New York; carry Pennsylvania for the first time by over 26,000 majority; triumph even in New Jersey under an equivocal [301] organization; bring over Minnesota by a close vote; and swell their majority in Ohio to fully 20,000. They were beaten in Indiana on the State ticket by a very slender majority, but carried seven of the eleven Representatives in Congress, beside helping elect an anti-Lecompton Democrat in another district; while Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin, chose Republican tickets — as of late had been usual with them — by respectable majorities, and the last named by one increased to nearly 6,000. California and Oregon still adhered to Democracy of the most pro-Slavery type, by decisive majorities.

Illinois was this year the arena of a peculiar contest. Senator Douglas had taken so prominent and so efficient a part in the defeat of the Lecompton abomination, that a number of the leading Republicans of other States were desirous that their Illinois brethren should unite in choosing a Legislature pledged to return him, by a vote substantially unanimous, to the seat he had so ably filled. But it was hardly in human nature that those thus appealed to should, because of one good act, recognize and treat as a friend one whom they had known for nearly twenty years as the ablest, most indefatigable, and by no means the most scrupulous, of their adversaries. They held a sort of State Convention, therefore, and presented

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