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Going into the presidential election ofthe issue of slavery had heated the nation to the boiling point. How were the political parties going to maintain unity in the midst of such intense sectional conflict? After Abraham Lincoln's defeat in the race for the U. Senate, he spent the next sixteen months speaking and traveling all over the North making campaign speeches for numerous Republican candidates. Lincoln style avoided the wordy moral rhetoric of the abolitionists in favor of clear and simple logic.
Lincoln was successful in laying the groundwork for his line, since by the spring ofmany politicians were indebted to Lincoln for his support. Furthermore, because he was out of office and new to national prominence, he had offended no one in particular within the party.
Most importantly, Lincoln had established a solid group of campaign managers and supporters who came to the Republican convention prepared to deal, maneuver, and line up votes for Lincoln. His chief opponent, and the man who was sure that he had the nomination in his free, was William H.
Seward of New York. However, his front-runner status proved to be his greatest obstacle in that it opened him to party criticism even before the convention delegates had met.
Seward had voiced his opposition to the Compromise of and his hatred of slavery by saying, "there is a higher law than the Constitution" which should guide American actions regarding slavery. Eight years later, he coined the term "irrepressible conflict" in describing the state of relations between the North and the South as long as slavery remained alive in the nation.
His close friendship with New York political boss Thurlow Weed alienated many midwestern Republicans, who feared political corruption.
Additionally, Seward's long-established support for Irish immigrants, the basis of his New York City constituency, turned away former members of the anti-immigrant American Party, whose votes were needed to carry Pennsylvania and other states in the lower North. When the Republican delegates gathered in Chicago at the Wigwam a huge boxlike building on May 16, they knew that the election of was theirs to lose.
Almost immediately, a stop Seward movement emerged, based upon the argument that he would never carry Indiana or Pennsylvania. They won over Indiana and Pennsylvania by offering cabinet posts to those states. Lincoln then gained seventy-nine votes on the second ballot. With the momentum swinging his way, Lincoln won the third ballot. The delegates then nominated the former Democrat from Maine, Senator Hannibal Hamlin, as Lincoln's vice presidential running mate. Holding true to its antislavery but moderate core, the party platform opposed the extension of slavery westward and denounced John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry.
The platform also considered other key constituents by endorsing a protective tariff, a transcontinental railroad, and a Homestead Act that promised to give free land to settlers.
This new Republican Party offered to bind the nation together as a free-labor society modeled on Northern capitalism, free wage-labor, and the ultimate extinction of slavery. After the historic debates with Lincoln, Stephen Douglas found himself vilified by Southern Democrats. He tried unsuccessfully to argue that his middle way would enable the nation to pass over the momentary issue of slavery in the territories and thus preserve the Union.
But Southern radicals would have none of it. When the Democratic convention met in Charleston, South Carolina, on April 23, both Northern and Southern delegates were ready for a showdown. The traditional rule that a two-thirds majority was required for a candidate to win nomination enabled Southern Democrats to veto the nomination if they voted as a bloc.
Lincoln first test came when the Southern delegates insisted on a plank favoring a federal slave code for the territories. Douglas, knowing that he would lose every Northern state if he agreed, refused to endorse the plank. When the delegates defeated the plank by a small majority, fifty Southern delegates, led by Alabama "fire-eater" William L. Yancey, walked out of the convention. Even with these radicals gone, Douglas could not win a two-thirds majority.
Neither could anyone else, and after fifty-seven ballots, the convention adjourned to meet in Baltimore in six weeks to try again. When the badly shattered Democratic Party reconvened in June, there was no hope for unity. A raucous floor fight broke out over which delegates from the Charleston convention should party recognized. When the Douglas forces finally established dominance in this matter, the Southern delegates pushed the slave code plank once again. For a second time, the Douglas forces beat it back and managed to nominate Douglas on a second ballot over Line C.
Breckinridge, the incumbent vice president. Herschel V. Johnson, a former governor of Georgia who supported both states' rights and unionism, was named to the second spot on the ticket. He would later become a Confederate senator. The party platform excluded reference to a slave code in the territories and supported the power of federal authority over the territories. It also affirmed its support for a transcontinental railroad to the Pacific and the acquisition of Cuba. Furious Southern delegates, including many who had boycotted the convention, then reconvened at Maryland Institute Hall to nominate John C.
Breckinridge as the candidate of the Southern Democratic Party for the presidency. To run with him, free convention selected Senator Joseph Lane of Oregon.
The party platform supported a federal slave code in the territories, the acquisition of Cuba, and the construction of a railroad to the Pacific Ocean. As the Republicans prepared to meet in Chicago, and after the debacle of the Democratic Party meeting in April, a third group of political leaders met in Baltimore on May 9 to form the Constitutional Union Party.
Lincoln shuts down, censors the press during the civil war
Twenty-one states were represented by men who had been members of the old Whig Party and felt uncomfortable about the new Republican Party's radical leanings. They were also Southern Whigs who feared sectional division over slavery as a threat to property and domestic tranquility; some of these Whigs were former members of the American Party who were dissatisfied with either of the existing political groups. He was a Southerner who supported slavery but opposed its extension into the territories. Bell's running mate, former U. Unlike the Republicans and Democrats, this new party refused to issue a platform statement other than to recognize "no political principle other than the Constitution" and the preservation of the Union.
The campaign that followed witnessed none of the candidates except Douglas on the public stump. Breckinridge gave only one speech, Bell said nothing, and Lincoln, in keeping with campaign traditions, stayed at home in Springfield receiving delegations who came to pay their respect.
Douglas, on the other hand, broke with tradition Lincoln campaigned all over the nation. He traveled from New England to the Deep South, shaking hands and giving speeches. Most of his appearances, to his dismay, were peppered with questions about what would happen should Lincoln be elected. In answering, he always affirmed the President's duty to enforce the laws. By October, concluding that the election line lost to Lincoln, Douglas began urging people to reject secession and work within the system. Although the other three candidates did little or no active campaigning, each party sent hundreds of activists out on the trail.
Southern firebrand William Yancey aroused Northern crowds by his incendiary warnings of secession should Lincoln be elected. Bell supporters handed out bells and rang them loudly at their rallies. None outdid the Republicans, however, as thousands of young men turned out in "Wide Awake" torchlight parades in support of Lincoln. Barbecues, picnics, rallies, rail-splitter battalions, and marches composed of six-foot-four Lincoln supporters listened to party celebrities extolling the honesty of Old Abe, the "Woodchopper of the West. His opponents countered by making free of Lincoln's limited experience as a statesman and his "slang-whanging stump speaker" style, which they said reflected a limited intellect that would be an embarrassment to the nation should he be elected President.
How republicans went from the party of lincoln to the party of trump, in 13 maps
The Charleston Mercury ridiculed his looks, depicting him as a "horrid looking wretch. Cartoons showed Lincoln dancing with black women and championing "amalgamation" and "miscegenation" mixing of the races. One widely distributed picture showed Lincoln steering a ship with a thick-lipped black man embracing a young white girl sitting at his feet on deck.
Other pictures were much cruder and even more blatantly racist, of a type never before so prevalent in a national election. One secessionist in Georgia warned that Lincoln planned to force the inter-marriage of black and white children, and that within "ten years or less our children will be the slaves of Negroes. The election of positioned the nation on the brink of fundamental change. A Republican win would end the South's political dominance of the Union. Southerners had been President of the U.
Up to that point in American history, Southerners had also controlled the speakership of the House, the presidents pro tem of the Senate, and the majority of Supreme Court justices for most of the time.
When the votes were tallied, Lincoln, who was not on the ballot in any Southern state, carried all of the North but one state in the popular vote. With respect to popular support, Douglas came in second, followed by Breckinridge and Bell. The Electoral Collegehowever, placed the candidates in a different ranking. Most Southerners voted for Breckinridge, who carried eleven slave states of fifteen. Bell won in the more conservative upper South states of Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Despite his popular support, Douglas carried only Missouri.
In the final Electoral College count, Lincoln beat Breckinridge votes to Bell polled 39 and Douglas came in last with 12 votes. Clearly, the extreme positions identified with Lincoln and Breckinridge appealed to the majority of voters. On the other hand, the combined vote for Bell and Douglas was nearly one hundred thousand more than that for Lincoln. Taken together, those two candidates beat Breckinridge in large parts of Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky as well as in substantial portions of Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Had the Democratic Party stayed united, it would have carried the popular vote but still lost in the Electoral College due to Lincoln's win in the North.
Thus, the election revealed the importance of the heavily populated Northern states in achieving victory in the Electoral College. The amazing fact about the election of is that it occurred in the first place.
In the middle of a devastating civil war, the United States held its presidential election almost without discussion about any alternatives. No other democratic nation had ever conducted a national election during times of war. And while there was some talk of postponing the election, it was never given serious consideration, even when Lincoln thought that he would lose.
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This article documents the political career of Abraham Lincoln from the end of his term in the United States House of Representatives in March to the beginning of his first term as President of the United States in March