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Chapter 34:

  • The Presidential canvass of 1864 in the North.
  • -- its relations to the military campaign. -- review of parties in the North. -- a general distinction founded on two questions. -- composition of the party opposing Mr. Lincoln's administration. -- the doctrines of the Black Republican party impossible to be defined. -- how the party changed and shifted through the war. -- opinions of Mr. Webster and Mr. Clay. -- modern verification of Mr. Clay's charge of “amalgamation.” -- policy of the Black Republican party at the beginning of the war. -- Mr. Lincoln's instincts of unworthiness. -- how the peace party in the North made the first false step. -- growth of the power of Lincoln's administration. -- its measures of terrour. -- moderation of the Confederacy towards “Union men” and dissentients. -- some account of arrests in the North. -- Lincoln's detective system. -- comparative impossibility of maintaining an opposition party in the North. -- infamous conduct of “war Democrats.” -- the conservative phalanx in the Congress at Washington. -- a record of its votes. -- reassurance of the conservative party in 1864. -- the party issues of 1864, with reference to “reconstruction.” -- Convention of the Government party at Baltimore. -- its “platform.” -- pretermission of the condition of State abolition of slavery. -- how this condition was afterwards inserted. -- Mr. Lincoln's rescript, “to whom it may concern.” -- history of the Niagara falls commission. -- how Mr. Lincoln's passport was made a political card. -- Democratic Convention at Chicago. -- its declaration of principles. -- McClellan's letter of acceptance. -- slavery no longer an issue in the war. -- the constitutional point at issue between McClellan and Lincoln. -- the Radical wing of the Republican party. -- the Cleveland Convention. -- the issues of the canvass as between the Democratic party, the Government party, and the Radical party. -- how the two last instead of the two first coalesced. -- “reconstruction” ante-dated. -- a faint hint of negro suffrage. -- the written issues of the canvass but little considered. -- the contest mainly on the fourth resolution of the Chicago “platform.” -- eloquence of the McClellan campaign papers. -- the election of McClellan impossible in view of the Federal victories of 1864. -- triumph of Mr. Lincoln and his party. -- analysis of the popular vote in his election. -- a large element of encouragement in it. -- the victory of the Constitution postponed

We have already referred to the great consideration which attached to the Presidential contest in the North which was now to take place; we have stated that it gave a new hope for the South in 1864; and we have [557] indicated that the political campaign of this year was, in the minds of the Confederate leaders, scarcely less important than the military. Indeed, the two were indissolubly connected; and the calculation in Richmond was that if military matters could even be held in a negative condition, the Democratic party in the North would have the opportunity of appealing to the popular impatience of the war, and bringing it to a close on terms acceptable to the great mass of the Southern people.

For a thorough discussion of this political campaign it will be well to make a rapid review and analysis of parties in the North, even at the risk of some repetition to the reader.

Parties in the North were divided by very distinct lines. There were two questions upon which the division took place. One of these referred to the supremacy of the Constitution as opposed to military necessity-real or pretended. The other had reference to the relative powers of the Union and the States. On both these questions the party in power held loose and careless opinions, employing force wherever it would avail for military or partisan advantage. The opposition contended for a strict observance of the provisions of the Constitution and of the rights of the States. This was the general distinction.

But widely as the theories of these two parties separated them on questions touching the sanctity and scope of the Constitution, there was still a margin of difference left between the views of the Northern Democratic party and the Southern doctrines upon which the right of Secession was founded. The difference, however, concerned only the last alternative of Secession. According to the Northern view, the Union was inviolable and perpetual, and all grievances must be redressed within the Union by remedies which respected its integrity. According to the Southern view, Secession was a rightful remedy for evils otherwise incurable, sanctioned by the precedent and precepts of the men of 1776.

This latter doctrine had so limited a support at the North, however, that it was totally unknown in the controversies of parties. There, all, or nearly all, assumed that the Union was permanent and inviolable-differences of opinion turning upon the powers of the Union; the powers of the Federal Government; the rightfulness of extra-constitutional measures in time of war; and the expediency, and most judicious means of coercion.

The party in opposition to Mr. Lincoln's Administration-most properly designated as the Constitutional party — was composed chiefly of Democrats, but largely interspersed with Whigs of the stamp of Wm. B. Reed of Philadelphia, Robert C. Winthrop of Massachusetts, Reverdy Johnson of Maryland, Wm. B. Crittenden, and the like. In partisan parlance they were called “Copperheads,” and they were reinforced in the debates, though generally opposed in the votes, by a class of men who had split away from the Democratic party, called “War Democrats.” [558]

It would be difficult to state in precise terms the political doctrines confessedly held by the Black Republican party. After a patient effort we have desisted from the attempt. The more responsible avowals and professions of its leaders cannot be reconciled with the fanatical utterances of its less conspicuous and more active representatives. Its policy as well as its professions were shaped to suit the hour; and changed with every varying phase of the war. The party was conservative and apologetic in moments of distrust and apprehension; but always ready to overstep the limitations of the Constitution, and to burst through the restraints of law, in seasons of confidence and success. It was as unfaithful to its own promulgated schedules of faith, and programmes of policy, as to the laws of the land. It alike disregarded its oaths of fidelity to the Constitution and pledges of adherence to specific lines of policy. It would, therefore, be quite useless to quote from its several creeds and platforms, to ascertain its principles as a party; for it would be folly to judge of its character by its professions.

In sketching the career of one of the parties of the North, we necessarily present a history of that which constantly opposed it. The immediate subject of our review will, therefore, be the Black Republican party; which had absolute control of the war throughout, and which, in claiming the credit of its results, assumes the responsibility of its transactions.

As composed at the time of the election of Mr. Lincoln, this party was not precisely the same as it had been during the first years of its career. It was a party built up, as we have seen, through many years of effort, upon the agitation against slavery. In the beginning it was despised alike for its weakness in numbers and for its fanaticism. It received its ideas from the Anti-Slavery Society of England, and there is no doubt it was fostered during its early career by pecuniary subsidies from that same organization. After a few years, it began to acquire importance in the political contests of the country, as holding a balance of votes capable of turning the scales in several of the Northern States, where the great parties were nearly equipoised. Although it finally absorbed the great mass of the Northern Whig party, it was characterized in terms of severe reprobation by both Mr. Clay and Mr. Webster. The latter said, with prophetic truth: “If these fanatics and Abolitionists get power into their hands, they will override the Constitution, set the Supreme Court at defiance, change and make laws to suit themselves. Finally, they will bankrupt the country, and deluge it with blood.”

Mr. Clay, in describing its purposes, said of it, in words well nigh verified already: “The ultras go for abolition and amalgamation, and their object is to unite in marriage the laboring white man and the black woman, and to reduce the white laboring man to the despised and degraded condition of the black man.” [559]

The proclaimed purpose of the war of the Black Republican party upon the Constitution, and of the organization which they proposed of the Union, was the abolition of slavery, and the securing of equal rights before the law to the African race. It is difficult to conceive how a party should meditate and plan a revolution of the Government and a radical revisal of the Constitution for such a purpose, without desiring to elevate the negro to a platform of social as well as political equality with the white man. Nor is proof wanting of the truth of Mr. Clay's grave imputation in this regard. The organs of the party have not been very reticent or secretive on this subject. From a vast multitude of similar utterances we quote a few. The New York Tribune often iterates the assertion that “if a white man pleases to marry a black woman, the mere fact that she is black gives no one a right to prevent or set aside such a marriage.” The New York Independent is fond of a theory, that the German, Irish, negro, and other races have come to America, not for the purpose, each, of propagating its distinct species, “but each to join itself to each, till all together shall be built up into the monumental nation of the earth;” “the negro of the South growing paler with every generation, till at last he completely hides his face under the snow.” Enamoured with the character of Toussaint L'Ouverture, it says to those who cherish the prejudice of colour and caste, that “they must cease to call unclean those whom God has cleansed, that they must acknowledge genius whatever be the colour of the skin that enwraps it; and that they must prepare themselves to welcome to the leadership of our armies and our senate, as Southern substitutes for Jeff Davis and his drunken Comus-like crew, that have so long bewitched and despoiled us, black Toussaints, who, by their superiour talents and principles, shall receive the grateful homage of an appreciative and admiring nation.” Gen. Banks said, when in the House of Representatives, that “in regard to whether the white or black race was superiour, he proposed to wait till time should develop whether the white race should absorb the black, or the black the white.” Wendell Phillips, the ablest and the boldest of them all, said, in 1863: “Remember this, the youngest of you, that on the 4th day of July, 1863, you heard a man say, that in the light of all history, in virtue of every page he ever read, lie was an amalgamationist to the utmost extent. I have no hope for the future, as this country has no past, but in that sublime mingling of races, which is God's own method of civilizing and elevating the world. God, by the events of His providence, is crushing out the hatred of race that has crippled this country until to-day.” Theodore Tilton also said, that, “the history of the world's civilization is written in one word — which many are afraid to speak, and many more afraid to hear-and that is, amalgamation.”

These citations are abundant to show the animus and purposes of the [560] men in the front rank of the Republican party, who have always brought their colleagues, when necessary, up to their own standard and position. It is not pretended, however, to deny that there were milder phases of opinion in the Republican party. There were those who aimed only at the abolition of slavery; on the idea expressed years before by Mr. Seward, and reiterated by Mr. Lincoln, that an irrepressible conflict existed in the Union between slave society and free society, which could only be allayed by making the Union all slave or all free. There were very few, if any, who were not determined to use the war as an instrument of abolition, and to prosecute it, not merely for restoring the authority of the Union, but also for securing the extinction of slavery in the South. No such purpose was responsibly avowed in the beginning; but it was fully developed by the summer of 1864, when it became, as we shall see, very soon a leading issue between the Lincoln and McClellan parties.

Such were the antecedents, character, and composition of the party which had succeeded in the Presidential election of 1860. The shock which the announcement of the result gave to the country was very great; but it was not greater than that which was felt by the successful party itself. Composed of extreme fanatical elements, and brought for the first time face to face with the serious and grave responsibilities of office, under that Union to which so many of them had avowed a bitter hostility, and under that Constitution to which they were obliged to swear support, and which they designed to subvert, they at once began to realize the serious difficulty of their position. That which most added to their embarrassment, however, was the fact that they had carried the election by only a plurality vote. They had received no support in one half of the Union; and in the other half, they had triumphed by only a majority of suffrages. They could not command a majority in either House of Congress; and they felt that if the election could be held over again, the classes which were esteemed to embrace the intelligence, worth, and patriotism of the country, would rally together, make common cause against them, and defeat their accession to power.

Thus circumstanced, it was the interest of the Republican party, as a party, that the secession movement should go on, and that the threatened dissolution of the Union should be consummated. We have already seen signs of their policy secretly to exasperate the feelings and confirm the purposes of the South; and, with professions of conservatism and devotion to the Union, to secure to themselves in administering the Government the support of the classes who had opposed them at the North.

We might make here a large accumulation of proofs of the fact that the Black Republican party, on its accession to power, wanted dissolution and wanted war; but we are not aware that it is now denied. It is a historical truth. It is a historical conviction, confirmed alike by the action [561] the interests, and the avowals of the party. It is indeed a fact which they have taken no pains to conceal.

Although this party, after securing unrestrained command of the power and patronage of Government, shaped its policy at will throughout the war, and prosecuted their measures with haughty and arrogant indifference to the protests and resistance of the opposition, yet they had come into possession of office with alarm and humility. Not only were they in a minority of numbers, but they felt that; they were hostile to the Constitution to which they were about to swear fidelity, and to the principles on which it had been administered from its foundation. They felt conscious that their success in the election had given a shock to the institutions of the country, and that both their capacity for administering the Government in the spirit of its institutions, and their fidelity to the Union and to the organic law were greatly, and with reason, distrusted. Mr. Lincoln's personal conduct in the emergency betrayed these instincts of unworthiness. His speeches during the progress from Springfield to Washington were a continual apology for his party and for his election; and his well-remembered inaugural address was an appeal to the country against being judged by the avowals and proclaimed tenets of the party which had elected him. It may be said that by the moderate declarations of the Republican party at the outset of the war, the suspicions of the conservative classes of the North were allayed, and the opposition party completely disarmed. Care had been taken to withhold these pacific utterances until too late for them to reclaim the South. The North placed entire faith in them; the South placed none at all. They failed to save Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee; and it required the most energetic employment of force, threat, and cajolery, even to retain Maryland and Kentucky. To reclaim the South, however, was not the object. The aim was to yoke the whole North into support of the measures which were meditated, and which it was intended gradually to develop. The scheme completely succeeded. The Constitutional peace party were silenced everywhere. The war feeling grew with astonishing rapidity. It carried away many of the more prominent men of the opposition. But it is to be admitted that from the reduction of Sumter down to the close of the war there was a Constitutional party in the North, which, although unable to do more than to make continual protest against the conduct of the ruling party, yet did make this protest with ability, manliness, consistency, and dignity. The difficulty was, it had not power during the war to put any check upon its career.

Those who have studied the characteristics and idiosyncracies of the Northern people, and have observed their fondness for an affected enthusiasm, and their proneness to give way to gregarious impulses, however absurd and reprehensible, were not surprised at the alacrity with which [562] the masses of even moderate men rushed into the war movement, at the piping of the war party, and at the appeal of the drum and fife. So soon as individuals found the throng tending that way, they rushed enthusiastically into what seemed the popular current; and the very men who but yesterday were loud in condemnation of the aggressive and incendiary purposes of the Republicans, to-day made amends for their tardy Unionism, by a precipitate enlistment in the ranks of the Administration.

It is the first step which costs. The peace party was a peace party no longer. A few consistent men remained, but the party disappeared for a period. Conservatism underwent almost a total eclipse. Opposed to war; averse to the principle of coercion; believing in the superiour efficacy of pacific over belligerent measures for restoring the Union; regretting every blow that was struck and every drop of blood that was shed in the contest, the party of the Constitution, of fraternal Union, of law, of order, and of peace, found itself compelled, first in one step, then in another, then in all, to support the war, to vote men and means for its vigorous prosecution, for sixty days, for ninety days, for the first campaign, and then, on and on, to a successful conclusion. They thought to bide their time, and to employ every opportunity that should offer in the interests of peace; but the opportunity never came; the fury of the war-storm, increasing as it progressed, and engulfing and carrying away everything in its course, swept down all who talked of peace. The vast patronage brought to the Administration made it omnipotent, and enabled it to appeal with effect to the passions alike of the avaricious, the ambitious, the adventurous of all sorts and conditions of men. As the costliness of the war increased, and the number of offices and the profitableness of contracts augmented, so its power in the country grew and waxed more and more irresistible.

We are not inclined to judge the peace party of the North too harshly. The arguments which led them to sanction and sustain the first measures of the Administration were such as could not well be resisted by a party believing in the inviolability of the Union, and the duty of suppressing all attempt at disruption. They were beguiled into the first belligerent measures by the conservative tone and pledges of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward: and they were, moreover, deceived into the belief that prompt and vigorous steps were the surest means of preventing a protracted, expensive, and bloody war. It was these first steps, taken under a sense of duty to the Union, taken, as they thought, really in the interests of peace, that involved them inextricably in the war. They ought to have remembered that all negotiation ends with the first blow and the flow of blood-; that, then, it is a question of force, and no longer one of right and reason; that war is like that cave of bones and carcases in mythology into which led many tracks, but out of it, none.

Much of the apparent unanimity which prevailed in favour of the war [563] was the result of terrour. The people of the North seem to have a peculiar dread of public opinion. The great majority will not only surrender their own convictions to what happens to be the popular caprice, but they will join the populace in persecuting those who entertain their own previous convictions. It was so in the crisis under consideration. But very effective measures were taken by the Government in aid of this spontaneous instinct of terrour. They revived the system of espionage and arrests which had been employed in France by Robespierre and Fouche. At first, it was pretended that the arrested persons held secret correspondence with the Southern authorities; but soon all disguise and hypocrisy were thrown off, and arrests were made on charges, even suspicion, of mere disloyalty. It was held that the safeguards which the Constitution threw around citizens, protecting them “in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures;” guarantying them a speedy trial in open court of law, and giving them by the writ of habeas corpus the right to know at once the charge against them, and to have the validity of that charge examined by a judge having power to discharge ;it was held that these provisions were put in abeyance by the state of war, and that the liberty of the citizen was not to be considered when the nation's life was at stake.

At the South, where great armies were penetrating and beleaguering the country, where public and domestic danger were everywhere and at all hours present, and where disaffection could at any moment bring fearful calamity upon the community, these arrests by order of Government were rare. It was a constant complaint of Generals in the field, and of civil officers in the municipal service, that when dangerous persons guilty of overt acts of treason to the Confederacy, were arrested and sent to Richmond, they were, as a general rule, released on the most unsatisfactory explanations, and let loose again upon the country. Much has been said of the sufferings, humiliations, and spoliations inflicted upon “Union” men in the South; and infinite, ingenious, and unblushing falsehoods have been published on the subject; but when the period arrives for a dispassionate examination of real facts, the reader of the history will be amazed at the moderation which was observed by the Southern people, more especially by the Confederate Government, towards a class of persons capable of so much mischief in a society threatened by imminent and fearful peril from within and without.

But at the North, there was no necessity for arbitrary arrests. The country was not invaded. The war was at a distance; and was offensive, not defensive. Except in portions of the Border States, the public sentiment was unanimous as against the South; opinions only differing as to the best means of reducing the distant “rebellion.” Yet a system of terrour was established, which could only have been warrantable at the South, [564] and was held to be unnecessary even there. No shadow of excuse existed for considering the North or any State of the North as disloyal; on the contrary, Democrats and Republicans poured out their money by millions, and sent their young men by hundreds of thousands to the support of the flag. Yet in the first weeks of the war, a system of arbitrary and despotic seizure and imprisonment was inaugurated, which continued even after the surrenders of Lee and Johnston. The number of arbitrary arrests that were made in the whole period of the war is variously estimated at from ten to thirty thousand. The great mass of arrested persons never had a trial, and knew nothing of the charges, if any at all, on which they were imprisoned. In the great majority of cases, not only was the writ of habeas corpus refused, but applications to be examined by officers selected by the Government itself were refused. Prisoners, suddenly arrested and dragged to prison, without an opportunity of seeing their families or arranging for the continuance of their business, after long incarcerations, were not only denied an examination of their cases, but they were officially informed that the employment of counsel was distasteful to the Government, and would prejudice their applications for trial and release. Though arrests were made at the suggestion of anonymous letters, yet letters from the persons imprisoned applying for release or for trial were left unopened, and often returned in that condition to their authors. Finally, it was determined, that not only should the ground of arrest be withheld from the imprisoned, but the fact of arrest be withheld from the public; detective officers being prohibited from reporting the cases of arrest to the press, or permitting an inspection of their books. Of course under this system, the number of denunciations against suspected persons became burdensome to the Central Government; and such paragraphs as the following began to appear in the official newspapers:

Eight hundred names are now entered on the books of the secret police in New York city, of persons suspected of treason, and many arrests will be made.

N. Y. Tribune, Sept. 6, 1861.

A large number of arrests are daily made at the North, the number averaging ten or twelve a day. These are made generally on complaints lodged with the departments at Washington. The Government is somewhat annoyed and astonished that petty cases of treason should be sent there for consideration. Any military commander can commit for treasonable acts, and the local officers should promptly act themselves. Hartford Courant, Sept. 6, 1864.

The arrests soon became very flagrant in their manner and character. Clergymen were seized while at prayer at the altar on the sabbath-day. Judges were seized for judicial opinions rendered on the bench. Ladies were seized and imprisoned, subjected to nameless insults, forbidden the visits of friends. hurried from prison to prison, and indecently treated by [565] officers. Mourners were seized at funerals, while burying their dead. Young children were arrested and imprisoned for months, in some cases for years. The victims of these proceedings were in many instances driven to lunacy and to suicide, some of them dying under their severe usage. The detective system took the feature of eaves-dropping, and domestic servants were enlisted in the pay of Government. Arrests were often made on the most frivolous and contemptible pretences. A father, hearing that his son was shot instantly dead in battle, exclaimed, “That is good,” meaning to express his relief at the thought that he had escaped the agonies of a lingering, painful death; he was arrested for the “disloyal” expression, hurried precipitately to Camp Chase, and imprisoned for two months before the privilege of explanation was accorded him. Two ladies of undoubted loyalty were arrested in a carriage in the streets, for raising their handkerchiefs, and passing them several times over their mouths. They were suspected of making signs to prisoners; whereas they had been eating an orange. The system of terrour was employed not only in the Border States, but was put in practice everywhere. In far interiour towns, where the idea of danger from the rebels was supremely ridiculous, it was as active as in Washington city or New Orleans. A single clergyman in Central New York, wrote thirty letters in two months, sending lists of his neighbours whose arrest he demanded. An order was issued by the President to all policemen in the country, commanding their services in these seizures. State machinery was thus brought to the help of this nefarious business. The system was vigorously employed for partisan purposes. “Democrat” was held to be synonymous with “traitor,” and being a “Democrat” was often the only ground for arrest.

We make this recital to show how impossible it was, for a while, to maintain an opposition party at the North. The power of a Government, wielding a patronage of many hundred millions of dollars per annum, and supported by an army of more than a million of soldiers, half of them kept habitually in the North, and allowed to resolve themselves into a mob on the slightest pretence, was too great to be opposed by reason and argument, when brought to bear without scruple and with despotic ferocity upon a helpless and paralyzed opposition. Passive submission to despotic rule, being a necessity, became a temporary duty. We have no heart nor right to censure those who remained consistent though often silent opponents of the Administration, during such a period of force and terrourism. But there was a class of original conservatives, who did not remain passive; who went over heart and hand and soul to the Republican party; and who vied with the minions of power in intemperance of speech and violence of action. The principal authors of the enormities that were perpetrated will receive the due sentence of history; but what will be the ignominy that will attach to the names of men, who, in the character of [566] “War Democrats,” deserted their political associations, apostatized from the principles which they had all their lives upheld; espoused the arbitrary doctrines, seconded the despotic practices, imbibed the truculent animosities of the ascendant party; and prosecuted the war in the vindictive spirit and for the revolutionary purposes avowed by the worst enemies of the Union and the Constitution!

In spite, however, of the ferocity of the Government and its minions, there was never a day during the war in which the conservative party failed to present a small phalanx in Congress to make opposition to the policy of the Government, and to raise a continual protest against its unconstitutional proceedings. Did space suffice, it would be interesting to recapitulate here the several votes which this small party gave upon successive measures considered by Congress. A very few instances must serve to illustrate their courage and fidelity to the Constitution.

Against the Confiscation Bill, the vote in the House of Representatives was 42; in the Senate, 13. Against the emancipation of the slaves of persons engaging in the rebellion, the vote in the House was 66; in the Senate, 11. Against striking out from the Confiscation Act the clause limiting the forfeiture to the offender's natural life, the vote in the House was 76; in the Senate, 13. The vote in the House against the resolution declaring that the United States ought to co-operate with any States in gradually abolishing slavery, was 36; in the Senate it was 10. Against the scheme of compensated emancipation in the District of Columbia, the vote in the Senate was 19, in the House 39. Against the proposition of enquiry into the practicability of inaugurating a scheme of compensated emancipation in the Border States, the vote in the House was 52. Against the bill repealing the Fugitive Slave Act, the vote in the House was 62; in the Senate, 12. Against the bill authorizing a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus the vote (March 3, 1863) was 45, in the House; in the Senate it would have been 13, but failed by accident to be taken by roll-call. This bill also indemnified the President and other officers of Government for arrests and seizures, not only in respect to subsequent but previous acts. An eloquent protest against the bill was signed by thirty-six members, who moved ineffectually to have it placed on the journal. The Government frequently suppressed newspapers; and the Postmaster-General forbade the transmission of journals characterized as disloyal through the mails. An effort to bring this subject before Congress was resisted by a majority of the House; the vote in favour of considering some action in favour of the liberty of the press, was 54. Against the resolution in favour of submitting the Amendments for the abolition of slavery in the United States, the final vote in the House (January 3, 1865), was 56; in the Senate, 6. Against the bill by which it was proposed to limit the action of the President in the readmission of insurgent States, [567] overrun and subdued by the Federal power, and to subject these States to extra Constitutional conditions before readmission into the Union, the vote in the House was 66; in the Senate, 14.

These examples are sufficient to show how a small Constitutional party in the North held to their principles throughout the dark period of usurpation and despotism. As the conservative party became less awed by terrourism, they became less restrained in speech and action. In the progress of time, divisions began to arise in the Black Republican party, and protests to proceed from Black Republican politicians. Democrats, who, absorbed in military operations in the distant fields of campaign, had for some time given no attention to internal and domestic concerns, having the indisputable right of soldiers to speak their sentiments, began to give expression to the disgust and alarm which the arbitrary proceedings of the Administration had naturally excited. Thus the opposition grew formidable as the term of Mr. Lincoln drew towards a close; and parties for and against the Administration began to be organized, and issues of principle to be evolved and defined, for the approaching Presidential canvass.

The party issues for 1864 turned in a measure upon the conditions of reconstruction; and three sets of opinion on this subject were developed in the course of the canvass. The Constitutional party held to the ground that the sole rightful object of the war had been the suppression of the rebellion; and that, so soon as the power of the rebel authorities in any State was crushed, the State was by that fact already restored to the Union, from which it had never been legally separated; and nothing remained to be done but the restoration of the lawful State Government. This position was afterwards compendiously expressed by their candidate, Gen. McClellan, in the declaration: “The Union is the sole condition of peace-we ask no more.”

As will be seen in the sequel, the Administration or Government party went into the canvass on the issue of simple coercion; proposing indeed to bring the insurgent States into the Union divested of slavery; but divested by the expedient of an amendment of the Constitution. But the pressure of the contest forced them into the necessity of adding to their platform a requirement, upon States returning to the Union, that they should themselves abolish slavery as a condition precedent to readmission. They were, in other words, forced to abandon a Constitutional measure, and to substitute an extra-constitutional one in its stead.

The programme of the radical branch of the Black Republican party had been developed, some short time before, in the bill which passed Congress on the 3d of July, 1864, but which the President failed to sign, prescribing these three conditions as necessary preliminaries to the restoration of a seceded State to the Union: to wit, the disfranchisement by the

States of the guilty leaders of the rebellion as to State officers; the abolition [568] of slavery by the act of the returning States themselves; and the repudiation of the rebel debt, also by the act of these States.

Another feature of this radical programme, but which had failed to be incorporated into the bill just mentioned, was, that no seceded State should vote in the Electoral College, nor be admitted to representation in Congress, until after proclamation by the President of its obedience to the laws of the United States, especially authorized by act of Congress passed expressly for the purpose. The project of requiring the admission of negroes to full citizenship and suffrage, had not then taken the form of a distinct, express additional exaction.

The National Convention of the Government party was held at Baltimore on the 7th of June, 1864. The votes were all given for Mr. Lincoln, except that of Missouri, which was cast for Gen. Grant. The ballot on the Vice-Presidency was nearly unanimous in favour of Mr. Andrew Johnson. A platform was unanimously adopted declaring in favour of maintaining the Union in its integrity and supreme authority against all enemies; of quelling the rebellion by force of arms and duly punishing traitors for their crimes; approving the determination of the Government not to compromise with rebels, and to refuse all terms except an unconditional submission to the Federal authority; promising bounties to maimed soldiers; upholding the acts and proclamations of the Executive in regard to slavery; calling for an amendment of the Constitution abolishing slavery; thanking the army and navy for gallant services; approving and applauding the acts of the President, especially his measures taken against open and secret foes; declaring none worthy of confidence but such as endorsed this platform; demanding the full protection of the laws of war for all men employed in the armies of the Union, without distinction of colour; welcoming foreign immigration; approving the National Pacific Railroad; pledging the national faith for the public debt; and denouncing all attempts of foreign powers to supplant republican institutions in the Republics of this continent.

The project of making the abolition of slavery by each revolted State a condition precedent to the readmission of the State into the Union was not incorporated into this platform. On the contrary, the language of the second resolution implied an intentional pretermission of that condition, in prohibiting, as it did, the offer of any terms to the rebels “except such as may be based upon an unconditional surrender of their hostility, and return to the Constitution and laws of the United States;” the Convention seeming to rely upon the proposed amendment of the Constitution for effecting that object. Mr. Lincoln, also, in the language which he employed in accepting the nomination of the Convention, took pains to exclude the idea of intending to require the abolition of slavery, as a condition of peace, by any other process than by means of an amendment to [569] the Constitution. He said: “I approve the declaration in favour of st amending the Constitution as to prohibit slavery throughout the nation. When the people in revolt, with a hundred days of explicit notice that they could, within those days, resume their allegiance, without the overthrow of their institutions, and that they could not resume it afterwards, elected to stand out, such amendment to the Constitution as is now proposed, became a fitting and necessary conclusion to the final success of the Union cause. Such alone can meet and cover all cavils. Now, the unconditional Union men, North and South, perceive its importance, and embrace it. In the joint names of Liberty and Union, let us labour to give it legal form and practical effect.” He thus clearly declared that abolition by an amendment of the Constitution was the “legal form” of procedure, which “alone can meet and cover all cavils.” But the pressure of the canvass soon drove him away from this position; and forced him to propound a project for the abolition of slavery by unconstitutional proceeding. This project was interpolated by Mr. Lincoln into the platform of his party in his notable rescript of the 18th of July, dated from the Executive chamber, and addressed “To whom it may concern.” That extraordinary and unique partisan document was promulgated under the following circumstances:

Early in the summer of 1864, the Confederate Government had sent, as we have seen, a commission of intelligent persons to Canada, as a convenient and important theatre for the presence of a judicious agency. The commission held no specific authority themselves to participate directly in any conference with the Government at Washington looking to peace. In the action which they took, they went no further than to propose to confer on the expediency and preliminary conditions of such a meeting. The commissioners were Messrs. Clement C. Clay, James P. Holcombe, and Jacob Thompson. It is proper to observe that these persons were agents of the Confederate Executive; that their nominations to any mission were never communicated to the Congress at Richmond; and that they were paid out of the secret service fund. Using George N. Sanders and W. C. Jewett as intermediaries, they exchanged notes with Mr. Horace Greeley, with a view to obtain from President Lincoln, through the influence of that well-known politician, a safe-conduct to the city of Washington. This correspondence with Mr. Greeley commenced on the 12th July, 1864. By the 17th of the month, the President seemed to have consented to grant the safe-conduct; and Mr. Greeley had repaired to Niagara, apparently to deliver it to the commissioners. But it was soon developed in correspondence that the commissioners had no particular authority from their Government themselves to enter upon the subject of peace; and that Mr. Lincoln's passport, in terms, implied that its bearers should be expressly accredited to his Government on that subject. The commissioners could not therefore accept or make use of the paper. After various explanations, [570] another paper finally came from Washington, addressed “To whom it might concern,” and declaring, that any person or persons, having authority to control the armies then at war with the United States, bearing a proposition to treat, which should “embrace the restoration of peace, the integrity of the whole Union, and the abandonment of slavery;” should have safe-conduct both ways; and their proposition would be received and considered by the Executive Government of the United States. This paper, alike with the others, was useless to the Confederate commissioners, who neither had authority to control the armies of the Confederate States, nor commission to treat directly on terms of peace, nor disposition to enter into conference with a power indecently and arrogantly assuming to dictate in advance the conditions of negotiation. This, Mr. Lincoln of course knew; and it could not be pretended that his “passport” was offered in good faith. It was proposed in no expectation that it would be accepted. It bore the ear-marks of a mere partisan document. Those who concocted it felt that so rude a rejection as it gave to the overtures for a conference, would prejudice Mr. Lincoln with the country, which was earnestly desirous of peace; and that it was necessary to interpose the popularity of abolition as an offset to the disfavour which the rejection of a peace conference must excite. In fact, it was not pretended that the paper was designed for any other than a campaign purpose; and the frivolity of the President's proceeding was excused on the plea that the object of the commissioners in Canada, in opening the correspondence, was to make capital for the opposition party of the North. The personal surroundings of the commissioners in Canada were referred to by the Government press in confirmation of the truth of this imputation. Such is the history of this after-thought, of making abolition by the States in revolt a condition of their readmission into the Union; such was the manner and occasion of interpolating this additional plank in the platform of the Government party. The party itself had pretermitted it at Baltimore in June. The radical spirits had supplied the omission in the bill for reconstructing the revolted States, which they had succeeded in carrying through Congress on the 3d of July. The President had virtually vetoed this bill, on the ground, taken in his speech accepting the nomination, that the only “legal form” of abolishing slavery was by means of the Constitutional amendment, called for by the Baltimore resolutions. What, therefore, the radical spirits of the party had failed to accomplish, the action of the Confederate commissioners and the reputation of George Sanders for political intrigue, had succeeded in achieving.

The National Convention of the Democratic party did not meet until after the appearance of this paper. It convened at Chicago on the 29th of August. Outside of the Convention there was a warm contest between the friends of Gen. McClellan and those who desired the nomination of a [571] candidate less committed to the coercive policy, and less implicated in the war. This struggle did not turn upon a sufficiently tangible issue to give it importance. As a Union party, the great body of tile opposition party was committed to the war as the only practicable means of preserving and restoring the Union. Gen. McClellan was known to be earnestly desirous of peace, and of peace on the single and simple basis of a restoration of the Union under the Constitution as it stood. This was the only ground on which the conservative party could go before the people in the canvass, and hope to succeed in the election. It would have been vain to expect success upon the principles of the very few Democrats and conservatives who believed, and believed correctly, that the war had been unrighteous and iniquitous in its leading object, no less than in the manner in which it had been conducted. The great body of the opposition concurred with Gen. McClellan in the opinion that secession was unwarrantable and iniquitous, and that it ought to be resisted by all the power of the Union. They considered, therefore, that the war was righteous in its object, and only iniquitous in the manner in which it had been prosecuted. Reflecting these views held by the mass of his party, and having no competitor for the nomination favoured by them, he was nominated with little if any opposition when the vote came on in the body of the Convention. Mr. George H. Pendleton was selected as the second candidate on the ticket, in a manner altogether flattering and creditable to that staunch and consistent defender of the Constitution.

The Convention unanimously adopted a platform declaring their unswerving fidelity to the Union; calling for a convention of all the States looking to the restoration of peace on the basis of a Federal Union of all the States; denouncing the military interference which had been practised in recent elections in the Border States; declaring that the aim and object of the Democratic party were to preserve the Federal Union and rights of the States unimpaired; reprobating the system of usurpation, tyranny, and despotism which the Administration had wantonly and systematically pursued throughout the war; reprehending the Government's cruel neglect of the Union prisoners of war; and tendering their sympathy and pledging their future protection to the soldiers and sailors of the army and navy of the United States.

Gen. McClellan's letter of acceptance soon after appeared, and by its pacific tone and conciliatory terms, removed much of the objection which the extreme peace men of his party had felt to his nomination. Affirming the necessity of preserving the Union entire in the most cogent terms; he declared, that its preservation “was the sole avowed object for which the war was commenced;” that “it should have been conducted for that object only ;” that it should have been conducted on the principles of conciliation and compromise; that the re-establishment of the Union must be [572] the indispensable condition in any settlement; and that “they should exhaust all the resources of statesmanship to secure such a peace, to reestablish the Union, and to secure for the future the constitutional rights of every State.”

Except in the important particular that the Government party proposed, in its amended platform, to abolish slavery by an extraconstitutional means, there was no great difference between the positions of these two parties in regard to slavery itself. The war had, by the summer of 1864, rendered the continuance of the institution impracticable; though Gen. Grant's declaration, made as early as August, 1862, that it was then dead and could not be resurrected, was certainly premature. By the summer of 1864, however, the fate of slavery had, in fact, been sealed. It probably could not have existed if the Confederacy had been established. It could not have survived a return to the Union, even if no objection had been made to its new incorporation there. Mr. Davis had acknowledged that it was no longer an issue between the North and South, several months before the rescript of Mr. Lincoln had transpired at Niagara. All thoughtful minds at the South were convinced that the institution had been too completely demoralized by the protracted duration of the war, and the long presence of liberating armies and negro brigades in the South, to be any longer a stable, a profitable, or a safe feature in the Southern economy.

There was, however, a grave constitutional point at issue on this subject between the conservative and the Government party, notwithstanding that practically the continuance of slavery was no longer in controversy. The conservatives denied the right to impose extra-constitutional conditions on the returning States; the Government party asserted this right, and asserted it wantonly. In that point of view the issue was vital. Why abolish what was already doomed to dissolution? Slavery had received its death-blow; why overleap the Constitution to cut its throat?

The Radical party did not insist upon thrusting its extreme demands as issues into the canvass. They held a convention at Cleveland, as early as May 31, and proposed a platform by way of preserving for its leading spirits a consistent record. They nominated John C. Fremont for the Presidency, and a very weak and rather obscure apostate from the Democratic party, John Cochrane, for the Vice-Presidency. All this, however, was for little more than mere form's sake. No effort was made to draw off voters from the body of the party, which supported the Government candidates; and none were drawn off. In his letter of acceptance, Gen. Fremont expressed his preference for supporting the candidate who should be nominated at Baltimore, if it could be done without violence to his sense of duty and consistency. The platform differed in no material particulars [573] from that of Baltimore, excepting in the addition of a passage in the fifth resolution, hereafter to be noticed, and of the two following clauses, viz.:

12. That the question of the reconstruction of the rebellious States belongs to the people through their representatives in Congress, and not to the Executive.

13. That the confiscation of the lands of the rebels, and their distribution among the soldiers and actual settlers, is a measure of justice.

It is to be remarked, that even this radical platform omits the imposition of extra-constitutional conditions precedent upon the revolted States as requisite to their readmission into the Union even in respect to the institution of slavery; and that its fifth clause relies upon an amendment to the Constitution alone, as a means of accomplishing the object; that clause being in these words:

5. That the rebellion has destroyed slavery, and the Constitution should be amended to prohibit its re-establishment, and to secure to all men absolute equality before the law.

The reader will not fail to note how subordinate and obscure a position in this platform was assigned to the demand for negro suffrage and citizen ship, which afterwards was made so prominent a feature in the policy of the Radicals.

Thus, if we look to the written terms in which the issues of parties were made up, they were as follows: The Conservatives demanded reconstruction on the sole, simple basis of the Constitution as it was. The Government party demanded a formal abolition of slavery by the revolted States as a condition precedent to restoration. The Radicals demanded — if we look to their legislation in Congress — the three conditions of the abolition of slavery by the States, the disfranchisement of the leading rebels, and the repudiation of the rebel debt; and if we look to their Cleveland platform, they demanded that the whole question of reconstruction should be left to the people of the North, through their representatives in the sectional Congress, that the lands of the rebels should be confiscated, and that “equality before the law” should be secured to all men.

On paper, the more ready and natural affiliation of parties would seem to have been between the Conservative and the Government parties; and the real antagonism to have been between the Radical party on one side, and the Government party and Conservatives, combined, on the other; and this might possibly have been the division, if the war had been already terminated. For it was apparent, even as early as the summer of 1864, that such would really become the dividing line of parties, when the questions of reconstruction should come immediately up for practical decision. But the election ante-dated reconstruction by more than a year; and the [574] contest of parties turned, of course, upon the transactions of the war, rather than upon the conditions and results of a peace still unconquered.

The written issues of the canvass were therefore little considered. The debates hung and dwelt upon the usurpations of the Executive, and the revolutionary spirit, policy, and purposes of the party in power. These being the subject of respective assault and defence, the array of parties remained as during the war; the Conservatives and Democrats on one side; the Radical and Administration Republicans, on the other. The prosecution and defence proceeded upon the indictment embodied in the fourth resolution of the Democratic platform, “that the administrative usurpation of extraordinary and dangerous powers not granted by the Constitution; the subversion of the civil by military law in States not ill insurrection; the arbitrary military arrests, 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, are calculated to prevent a restoration of the Union, and the perpetuation of a government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The eloquence of the orators who made appeal against these high crimes, was worthy of the cause for which they stood. Some of the orations delivered on the inspiring theme equal, if they do not surpass, in power and pathos, any that were ever before delivered in vindication of human rights and in defence of constitutional liberty. No papers, in the political history of this country, exceed, in dignity of style, in power and cogency of argument, in thrilling interest of narration, in sternness of arraignment, in intensity of patriotic appeal and indignation, some of the papers that were put forth by the supporters of Gen. McClellan. But the weight of power and patronage proved sufficient to overbalance that of patriotism and reason.

It is not necessary to go further into the details of the canvass; and the reader will already anticipate its conclusion. The election of McClellan, of which there had been some probability in the midsummer of 1864, became impossible, in view of the rapid military successes of the North, which never failed to draw new adherents to Mr. Lincoln's Administration; illustrating how little there was of steadfast principle in party organizations in the North, and how much of political opposition gave way to the views of expediency and the persuasions of time-service. The “electoral necessity” at Washington for victories in the field was amply fulfilled. The canvass of 1864 concluded in the election of Abraham Lin coin by the vote of every Northern State, except Delaware, Kentucky, and New Jersey. [575]

But in the analysis of the popular vote there was yet some encouragement. It stood twenty-two hundred thousand for Mr. Lincoln, eighteen hundred thousand for Gen. McClellan. Although too small for victory, the conservative vote was much larger than had been expected by reflecting men, after the fall of Atlanta, the reverses of Hood, and the success of Sherman. Under all the adverse circumstances under which the vote was given, it was creditable to the party which made the contest, and encouraging for the cause of constitutional liberty. It was given just after decisive reverses had befallen the Confederate cause, in the moments of victory and exultation, at a time the most propitious that could have been chosen by the war party, and the most unpropitious conceivable for the peace party. Tile election had occurred just at the time when the idea prevailed that a popular vote in favour of the war party would fall as a finishing blow upon the already exhausted and prostrate Confederacy; and that a vote in favour of the peace party would cheer the South to put forth renewed effort in the hope of securing the most favorable terms of peace. The adverse vote was not, therefore, a deliberate judgment of a majority of the Northern people against the principles of constitutional liberty. A large number of the men who helped to cast that majority vote were actuated by motives of expediency, thinking to save the Union first, and leaving it for a more eligible occasion to vindicate their attachment to constitutional principles. Thus, the victory of the Constitution was postponed; and its triumph reserved for another and uncertain time.

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