Page images

convenient disguise, and who could be attached to no party, except from motives of self-interest. As yet, they were not quite certain whether it were possible to raise more hatred in the Northern mind against foreigners and Catholics than against slaveholders; and they prudently determined to be in a situation to try either. Accordingly, they went into the lodges, took the oaths, swore to stand by the platform of the “ National Council" of 1855, and were perfectly ready to do that, or to betray the organization to the Republicans, as the prospect seemed good or bad. Believing the latter scheme to be the best, upon deliberation, they carried it out as far as in them lay, and then told the old, grim, honest, antislavery men, with whom they again sought association, that they had joined the Know-Nothings, and sworn irrevocable oaths to proscribe foreigners and Catholics, solely that they might rule the order “ for freedom ;” and, the Republicans standing in much need of aid just then, the excuse was considered very good. But it as too shameless a business for Lincoln and Herndon ; and they most righteously despised it.

In February, 1856, the Republicans held what Mr. Greeley styles their “first National Convention,” at Pittsburg ; but they made no nominations there. At the same time, a KnowNothing American “ National Council ” was sitting at Philadelphia (to be followed by a nominating convention); and the Republicans at Pittsburg had not adjourned before they got news by telegraph, that the patriots who had entered the lodges on false pretences were achieving a great success: the American party was disintegrating, and a great section of it falling away to the Republicans. A most wonderful political feat had been performed, and the way was now apparently clear for a union of the all-formidable anti-Democratic elements in the Presidential canvass.

On the 17th of June the National Republican Convention met at Philadelphia, and nominated John C. Fremont for President, and William L. Dayton for Vice-President. Mr. Williams, Chairman of the Illinois Delegation, presented to the convention the name of Abraham Lincoln for the latter office ; and it was received with great enthusiasm by some of the Western delegates. He received, however, but 110 votes, against 259 for Mr. Dayton, and 180 scattered ; and Mr. Dayton was immediately thereafter unanimously declared the nominee.

While this convention was sitting, Mr. Lincoln was attending court at Urbana, in Champaign County.

When the news reached that place that Mr. Dayton had been nominated, and “ Lincoln had received 110 votes," some of the lawyers

insisted that the latter must have been “our [their] Lincoln ;” but he said, “No, it could not be: it must have been the great Lincoln from Massachusetts." He utterly refused to believe in the reality of this unexpected distinction until he saw the proceedings in full. He was just then in one of his melancholy moods, his spirits depressed, and his heart suffering the miseries of a morbid mind.

With an indorsement of the "self-evident truths" and “ inalienable rights” of the Declaration of Independence, the Republican Convention adopted the following as the practical and essential features of its platform:

Resolved, ... That we deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial Legislature, of any individual, or association of individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any Territory of the United States while the present Constitution shall be maintained.

Resolved, That the Constitution confers upon Congress sovereign power over the Territories of the United States for their government; and that, in the exercise of this power,

it is both the right and the duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism, - polygamy and slavery."

The National Democratic Convention had already placed in nomination Buchanan and Breckenridge. Their platform denounced as sectional the principles and purposes of their opponents; re-affirmed the principles contained in the organic laws establishing the Territories of Kansas and Ne

braska, as embodying the only sound and safe solution of the slavery question," and declared further,

" That by the uniform application of Democratic principles to the organization of Territories and the admission of new States, with or without slavery as they may elect, the equal rights of all the States will be preserved intact, the original compacts of the Constitution maintained inviolate, and the perpetuity and expansion of the Union insured to its utmost capacity of embracing, in peace and harmony, every future American State that may be constituted or annexed with a republican form of government.”

Mr. Lincoln was again a candidate for the office of Presidential elector, and made a thorough and energetic canvass. Some of his speeches were very striking; and probably no man in the country discussed the main questions in that campaign - Kansas, and slavery in the Territories — in a manner more original and persuasive. From first to last, he scouted the intimation that the election of Fremont would justify a dissolution of the Union, or that it could possibly become even the occasion of a dissolution. In his eyes, the apprehensions of disunion were a “humbug;” the threat of it mere bluster, and the fear of it silly timidity.

In the heat of the canvass, Mr. Lincoln wrote the following perfectly characteristic letter, — marked “Confidential:”


Dear Sir, - I understand you are a Filmore man. Let me prove to you that every vote withheld from Fremont and given to Fillmore in this Stale actually lessens Fillmore's chance of being President.

Suppose Buchanan gets all the Slave States and Pennsylvania, and any other one State besides; then he is elected, no matter who gets all the rest.

But suppose Fillmore gets the two Slave States of Maryland and Kentucky; then Buchanan is not elected: Fillmore goes into the House of Representatives, and may be made President by a compromise.

But suppose, again, Fillmore's friends throw away a few thousand votes on him in Indiana and Illinois: it will inevitably give these States to Buchanan, which will more than compensate him for the loss of Maryland and Kentucky; will elect him, and leave Fillmore no chance in the H. R., or out of it. This is as plain as adding up the weights of three small hogs. As Mr. Fillmore has no possible chance to carry Illinois for himself, it is plainly to his interest to let Fremont take it, and thus keep it out of the hands of Buchanan. Be not deceived. Buchanan is the hard horse to beat in this race. Let him have Illinois, and nothing can beat him; and he will get Illinois if men persist in throwing away votes upon Mr. Fillmore. Does some one persuade you that Mr. Fillmore can carry Illinois ? Nonsense! There are over seventy newspapers in Illinois opposing Buchanan, only three or four of which support Mr. Fillmore, all the rest going for Fremont. Are not these newspapers a fair index of the proportion of the votes? If not, tell me why.

Again, of these three or four Fillmore newspapers, two, at least, are supported in part by the Buchanan men, as I understand. Do not they know where the shoe pinches? They know the Fillmore movement helps them, and therefore they help it. Do think these things over, and then act according to your judgment.

Yours very truly,

A. LINCOLN. (Confidential.)

This letter was discovered by the Buchanan men, printed in their newspapers, and pronounced, as its author anticipated,

a mean trick.” It was a dangerous document to them, and was calculated to undermine the very citadel of their strength.

Mr. Lincoln was still in imperfect fellowship — if, indeed, in any fellowship at all — with the extreme Abolitionists. He had met with Lovejoy and his followers at Bloomington, and was apparently co-operating with them for the same party purposes ; but the intensity of his opposition to their radical views is intimated very strongly in this letter to Mr. Whitney:

SPRINGFIELD, July 9, 1856. Dear WAITNEY,- I now expect to go to Chicago on the 15th, and I probably shall remain there or thereabout for about two weeks.

It turned me blind when I first heard Swett was beaten and Lovejoy nominated; but, after much anxious reflection, I really believe it is best to let it stand. This, of course, I wish to be confidential.

Lamon did get your deeds. I went with him to the office, got them, and put them in his hands myself.

Yours very truly,


In June, 1857, Judge Douglas made a speech at Springfield, in which he attempted to vindicate the wisdom and fairness of the law under which the people of Kansas were about to choose delegates to a convention to be held at Lecompton to frame a State constitution. He declared with emphasis, that, if the Free-State party refused to vote at this election, they alone would be blamable for the proslavery constitution which might be formed. The Free-State men professed to have a vast majority, — " three-fourths,” “ four-fifths," " ninetenths," of the voters of Kansas. If these wilfully staid away from the polls, and allowed the minority to choose the delegates and make the constitution, Mr. Douglas thought they ought to abide the result, and not oppose the constitution adopted. Mr. Douglas's speech indicated clearly that he himself would countenance no opposition to the forthcoming Lecompton Convention, and that he would hold the Republican politicians responsible if the result failed to be satisfactory to them.

Judge Douglas seldom spoke in that region without provoking a reply from his constant and vigilant antagonist. Mr. Lincoln heard this speech with a critical ear, and then, waiting only for a printed report of it, prepared a reply to be delivered a few weeks later. The speeches were neither of them of much consequence, except for the fact that Judge Douglas seemed to have plainly committed himself in advance to the support of the Lecompton Constitution. Mr. Lincoln took that much for granted ; and, arguing from sundry indications that the election would be fraudulently conducted, he insisted that Mr. Douglas himself, as the author of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, and the inventor of “popular sovereignty,” had made this “outrage” possible. He did not believe there were any “Free-State Democrats” in Kansas to make it a Free State without the aid of the Republicans, whom he held to be a vast majority of the population. The latter, he contended, were not all registered; and, because all were not registered, he thought none ought to vote. But Mr. Lincoln advised no bloodshed, no civil war, no roadside assas

« PreviousContinue »