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Xxx. Political Mutations and results.—the Presidential canvass of 1864.<

  • State Electons reflect the varying phases of the War
  • -- Kentucky Unionism -- Lincoln to Hodges -- Lincoln at Gettysburg -- Fremont nominated for President -- Radical platform -- Union National Convention -- its platform -- Lincoln and Johnson nominated -- Johnson's letter -- a season of Gloom -- the National Finances during the War -- National Debt -- currency depreciation -- Peace overtures at Niagara and at Richmond -- Davis inflexible -- Chicago Democratic Convention--“Peace” utterances -- the platform -- McClellan and Pendleton nominated -- National victories stimulate popular dissent -- Gen. McClellan tries to hedge -- Seward's criticisms -- Fremont declines -- the Autumn Elections -- Maryland free -- death of Roger B. Taney -- Lincoln elected -- the soldiers' vote -- the Xxxviiith Congress -- Lincoln's last Message -- Slavery prohibited by constitutional amendment -- Peace overtures at Richmond, and negotiations in Hampton roads -- Lincoln's second Inaugural.

As, since McClellan's recoil from the defenses of Richmond, the judgment of the loyal States was divided concerning the probabilities of National success or defeat, so the fortunes of the contending parties reflected closely tile changing aspects of the military situation. The Fall elections of 1862 had resulted in a general Opposition triumph ; because the reflecting and unimpassioned had been led, by our recent reverses and our general disappointment, to doubt the ability of the Government to put down the Rebellion. Those of 1863, on the other hand, had strongly favored the Administration ; because the National successes at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Port Hudson, Helena, &c., the reopening of the Mississippi, and the recovery of East Tennessee, with a good part of Arkansas, had induced a very general belief, which our reverse at the Chickamauga did not shake, that the Union would surely triumph, and at no distant day. The victory of Mission ridge, followed by the appointment of (Gen. Grant to the chief command of all the National forces, strengthened this belief into conviction ; so that, though there were still those who did not desire the overthrow of the Rebellion, as there had been, even in the darkest hours, many whose faith in the National cause never faltered nor was shaded by a doubt — the strongly prevalent opinion of the loyal States, throughout the Spring of 1864, imported that Gen. Grant would make short work of what was left of the Confederacy. Hence, the Spring Elections were scarcely contested by the Opposition: New Hampshire opening them with an overwhelming Republican triumph;1 Connecticut following with one equally decided,2 though her Democratic candidate for Governor was far less obnoxious to War Democrats than his predecessor had been; and, though Rhode Island showed a falling off in the Republican [655] majority,3 it was simply because, in the absence of any election for Congress, and in view of the certainty that the Republican ascendency would be maintained, no serious effort was made to call out a full vote, and personal considerations exerted their natural influence in so small a State when no special or urgent reason is presented for a rigid respect to party lines.

The Presidential Election in immediate prospect soon fixed that share of public attention which could be diverted from the progress of hostilities wherein every one's hopes and fears were largely involved, and wherein almost every one was, either himself or in the persons of those dear to him, engaged. Among Republicans and those Democrats whom the War had constrained to act with them, there was a very considerable dissent from the policy of renominating Mr. Lincoln; but, as the canvass proceeded, the popular sentiment was found so unequivocally in his favor that no serious or concerted resistance to such renomination was made: its advocates choosing delegates to the National Convention, with barely a show of resistance, from nearly every loyal State--Missouri, because of the intense Radicalism of her firetried Unionists, being the solitary exception.

Kentucky, however, had a creed of her own. Professedly Union, as she had been proved by every test and at each succeeding election, she still remained pro-Slavery; unlike the other “ Border-States,” which had already been brought distinctly to comprehend that they must choose between Emancipation and Disunion. So when, pursuant to the act of (Congress4 providing for the enrollment, as subject to military duty, of all ablebodied male slaves between the ages of 20 and 45, Federal officers commenced such enrollment, a fresh, intense excitement pervaded her slaveholding districts, which impelled her Governor, Thomas E. Bramlette--(elected5 as a Unionist by an overwhelming majority6 over Charles A. Wickliffe, the Democratic candidate, but not without great and apparently well-grounded complaint of Military interference at the polls, to the prejudice of the Opposition)--to address7 to the people of his State a proclamation, counseling them not to let their “indignation,” provoked by this enrollment, impel them to “acts of violence, nor to unlawful resistance.” He continued:--

In the Union, under the Constitution, and in accordance with law, assert and urge your rights. It is our duty to obey tie law until it is declared, by judicial decision, to be unconstitutional. The citizen, whose property may be taken under it for public use, will be entitled, under the imperative mandate of the Constitution, to a just compensation for his private property so taken for public use. Although the present Congress may not do us justice, yet it is safe to rely upon the justice of the American people; and an appeal to them will not be unheeded or unanswered. Peace restored, and the unity of our Government preserved, will drive to ignominious disgrace those who, in the agony of our conflict, perverted their sacred trusts to the base uses of partisan ends and fanatical purposes.

One immediate result of this enrollment and the consequent “indignation” was a call by the Union State Committee of a State Convention, to meet at Louisville, May [656] 25th, and there choose delegates to the Democratic National Convention which was to assemble at Chicago for the nomination of a Presidential ticket — a call which insured the vote of this State in November to the candidates of the Opposition.

Gov. Bramlette, accompanied by ex-Senator Dixon and Col. A. G. Hodges, soon visited Washington, expressly to protest against, and (if possible) to obviate, this enrollment of negroes, or at least to render its execution less offensive and annoying to their masters — finding the President disposed to do whatever he could to reconcile the Kentuckians to the bitter prescription. Mr. Lincoln was induced to put the substance of lis observations at their interview into the following letter:

Executive Mansion, Washington, April 4, 1864.
A. G. Hodges, Esq., Frankfort, Ky.:
my dear Sir: You ask me to put in writing the substance of what I verbally said the other day, in your presence, to Gov. Bramlette and Senator Dixon. It was about as follows:

I am naturally anti-Slavery. If Slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think and feel; and yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling. It was in the oath I took that I would to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. I could not take the office without taking the oath. Nor was it my view that I might take an oath to get power, and break the oath in using the power. I understood, too, that, in ordinary and civil administration, this oath even forbade me to practically indulge my primary, abstract judgment on the moral question of Slavery. I had publicly declared this many times, and in many ways. And I aver that, to this day, I have done no official act in mere deference to my abstract judgment and feeling on Slavery. I did understand, however, that my oath to preserve the Constitution to the best of my ability imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every indispensable means, that Government — that nation, of which that Constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the nation and yet preserve the Constitution? By general law, life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the Constitution, through the preservation of the nation. Right or wrong, I assumed this ground, and now avow it. I could not feel that, to the best of my ability, I had even tried to preserve the Constitution, if, to save Slavery, or any minor matter, I should permit the wreck of Government, country, and Constitution, altogether. When, early in the war, Gen. Fremont attempted military emancipation, I forbade it, because I did not then think it an indispensable necessity. When, a little later, Gen. Cameron, then Secretary of War, suggested the arming of the Blacks, I objected, because I did not yet think it an indispensable necessity. When, still later, Gen. Hunter attempted military emancipation, I again forbade it, because I did not yet think the indispensable necessity had come. When, in March, and May, and July, 1862, I made earnest and successive appeals to the Border States to favor compensated emancipation, I believed the indispensable necessity for military emancipation and arming the Blacks would come, unless averted by that measure. They declined the proposition; and I was, in my best judgment, driven to the alternative of either surrendering the

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