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McClellan, George Brinton 1826-1885

Military officer; born in Philadelphia, Dec. 3, 1826; graduated at West Point in 1846; was lieutenant of sappers, miners, and pontoniers in the war against Mexico, and was commended for gallantry at various points from Vera Cruz to the city of Mexico. After the war he was instructor of bayonet exercise at West Point, and his Manual, translated from the French, became the text-book of the service. In 1852 he was engaged with Capt. Randolph B. Marcy (afterwards his father-in-law) and Gen. C. F. Smith in explorations and surveys of Red River, the harbors of Texas, and the western part of a proposed route for a Pacific railway; also mountain ranges and the most direct route to Puget's Sound. He was next sent on a secret mission to Santo Domingo; and in 1855 he was sent with Majors Delafield and Mordecai to Europe to study the organization of European armies and observe the war in the Crimea. Captain McClellan left the army in 1857 and engaged in civil engineering and as superintendent of railroads. He was residing in Ohio when the Civil War broke out, and was commissioned major-general of Ohio volunteers by the governor. He took command of all the troops in the Department of the Ohio; and after a brief and successful campaign in western Virginia, was appointed to the command of the National troops on the Potomac (afterwards the Army of the Potomac) and commissioned a major-general of the regular army. On the retirement of General Scott in November, 1861, he was made generalin-chief. His campaign against Richmond in 1862 with the Army of the Potomac was not successful. He afterwards drove General Lee out of Maryland, but his delay in pursuing the Confederates caused him to be superseded in command by General Burnside. General McClellan was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for President of the United States against Mr. Lincoln in 1864 (see below). He resigned his commission in the army on the day of the election, Nov. 8, and took up his residence in New York. After a visit to Europe, he became (1868) a citizen of New Jersey, and engaged in the business of an engineer. The will of Edward A. Stevens, of Hoboken, made him superintendent of the Stevens floating battery; and he was appointed superintendent of docks and piers in the city of New York, which office he resigned in 1872. In 1877 he was elected governor of New Jersey. He died in Orange, N. J., Oct. 29, 1885.

Presidential candidate.

On Aug. 29, 1864, the Democratic National Convention assembled in Chicago, Ill., and nominated General McClellan for the Presidency on the following declaration of principles:

Resolved, that in the future, as in the past, we will adhere with unswerving fidelity to the Union under the Constitution, as the only solid foundation of our strength, security, and happiness as a [9] people, and as a framework of government equally conducive to the welfare and prosperity of all the States, both Northern and Southern.

Resolved, that this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretence of military necessity, or war power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view to an ultimate convention of the States or other peaceable means, to the end that at the earliest practicable moment peace may be restored on the basis of the federal Union of the States.

Resolved, that the direct interference of the military authorities of the United States in the recent elections held in Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Delaware, was a shameful violation of the Constitution, and a repetition of such acts in the approaching election will be held as revolutionary, and resisted with all the means and power under our control.

Resolved, that the aim and object of the Democratic party are to preserve the federal Union and the rights of the States unimpaired; and they hereby declare that they consider the administrative usurpation of extraordinary and dangerous powers not granted by the Constitution; the subversion of the civil by the military laws in States not in insurrection; the arbitrary military arrest, imprisonment, trial, and sentence of American citizens in States where civil law exists in full force; the suppression of freedom of speech and of the press; the denial of the right of asylum; the open and avowed disregard of State rights; the employment of unusual test oaths, and the interference with and denial of the right of the people to bear arms in their defence, as calculated to prevent a restoration of the Union and the perpetuation of a government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.

Resolved, that the shameful disregard by the administration of its duty in respect to our fellow-citizens who are now and have long been prisoners of war in a suffering condition, deserves the severest reprobation on the score alike of public policy and common humanity.

Resolved, that the sympathy of the Democratic party is heartily and earnestly extended to the soldiers of our army and the seamen of our navy, who are and have been in the field under the flag of their country; and, in the event of its attaining power, they will receive all the care, protection, and regard that the brave soldiers and sailors of the republic have so nobly earned.

His letter of acceptance was as follows:

Orange, N. J., Sept. 8.
To Hon. Horatio Seymour and others, committee, etc.:
Gentlemen,—I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter informing me of my nomination by the Democratic National Convention, recently held at Chicago, as their candidate at the next election for President of the United States.

It is unnecessary for me to say to you that this nomination comes to me unsought. I am happy to know that, when the nomination was made, the record of my public life was kept in view. The effect of long and varied service in the army, during war and peace, has been to strengthen and make indelible in my mind and heart the love and reverence for the Union, Constitution, laws, and flag of our country impressed upon me in early youth. These feelings have thus far guided the course of my life, and must continue to do so until its end. The existence of more than one government over the region which once owned our flag is incompatible with the peace, the power, and the happiness of the people. The preservation of our Union was the sole avowed object for which the war was commenced. It should have been conducted for that object only, and in accordance with those principles which I took occasion to declare when in active service. Thus conducted the work of reconciliation would have been easy, and we might have reaped the benefits of our many victories on land and sea.

The Union was originally formed by the exercise of a spirit of conciliation and compromise. To restore and preserve it, the same spirit must prevail in our councils and in the hearts of the people. The re-establishment of the Union, in all its integrity, is and must continue to be the indispensable condition in any settlement. So soon as it is clear, or even probable, that our present adversaries are ready for peace upon the basis of the Union, we should exhaust all the resources of statesmanship practised by [10] civilized nations, and taught by the traditions of the American people, consistent with the honor and interests of the country, to secure such peace, re-establish the Union, and guarantee for the future the constitutional rights of every State. The Union is the one condition of peace. We ask no more.

Let me add what I doubt not was, although unexpressed, the sentiment of the convention, as it is of the people they represent, that when any one State is willing to return to the Union it should be received at once with a full guarantee of all its constitutional rights. If a frank, earnest, and persistent effort to obtain these objects should fail, the responsibility for ulterior consequences will fall upon those who remain in arms against the Union, but the Union must be preserved at all hazards. I could not look in the face my gallant comrades of the army and navy who have survived so many bloody battles, and tell them that their labors, and the sacrifices of so many of our slain and wounded brethren, had been in vain, that we had abandoned that Union for which we have so often perilled our lives. A vast majority of our people, whether in the army and navy or at home, would, as I would, hail with unbounded joy the permanent restoration of peace on the basis of the Union under the Constitution, without the effusion of another drop of blood, but no peace can be permanent without Union.

As to the other subjects presented in the resolutions of the convention, I need only say that I should seek in the Constitution of the United States, and the laws framed in accordance therewith, the rule of my duty and the limitation of executive power; endeavor to restore economy in public expenditures, re-establish the supremacy of the law, and by the operation of a more vigorous nationality resume our commanding position among the nations of the earth. The condition of our finances, the depreciation of the paper money, and the burdens thereby imposed on labor and capital, show the necessity of a return to a sound financial system, while the rights of citizens and the rights of States, and the binding authority of law over the President, army, and people, are subjects of no less vital importance in war than in peace.

Believing that the views here expressed are those of the convention, and the people you represent, I accept the nomination. I realize the weight of the responsibility to be borne should the people ratify your choice. Conscious of my own weakness, I can only seek fervently the guidance of the Ruler of the Universe, and, relying on His all-powerful aid, do my best to restore Union and peace to a suffering people, and to establish and guard their liberties and rights.

Very respectfully, Geo. B. Mcclellan.

Lawyer; born in Dresden, Saxony, Nov. 23, 1865; son of Gen. George B. McClellan: graduated at Princeton University in 1886, became a journalist in New York City; appointed treasurer of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge in 1889; admitted to the bar in 1892; president of the New York board of aldermen in 1893-94: and elected to Congress as a Democrat in 1895, 1897, and 1899.

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