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The year 1864 was distinguished by two grand campaigns: one, political; the other, military: and, as the latter did not terminate with the year, it is well, perhaps, to give the former the precedence in the record. After four years, marked by mighty changes in the nation, the year of the presidential election had come again. It came in with doubt and darkness. The country was feeling the distresses of the war, and was wincing under the drafts made upon its vital and financial re
Call after call for men had been made. Draft after draft had been enforced. Taxation brought home the burden to every man's door; and still no end appeared. Still the rebel confederacy seemed full of vitality; still it commanded immense resources of men and material; still its spirit and its words were uncompromising and defiant. During four years of administration, Mr. Lincoln had made many enemies, among those who had originally supported him; and the democratic party were not scrupulous in the use of means to bring him into disrepute with the people. Many republicans suffered under private grievances. Their counsels had not been sufficiently followed; their friends had not been properly served. Some thought Mr. Lincoln had been too fast and too severe in his measures; others thought that he had been too slow. All this was to have been expected; and it may well be imagined that no decision as to the true policy of the republican party, in its nominations, could have been made, without an exhibition of all the elements of discord.
That this period had been anticipated by friends and enemies abroad as one of the most terrible tests to which the republican institutions of the country had been or could be subjected, was evident. We were called upon in the very heat of civil war—that war involving questions upon which even the loyal portion of the country was almost evenly dividedto elect a president for four years. With immense armies in the field and immense navies afloat with fresh drafts for troops threatened or in progress,—with discord among the friends of the government and the foes of the rebellion, --and with a watchful opposition, skilled in party warfare, taking advantage of every mistake of the government and every success of its enemies, to push its own fortunes in the strife for power,-it is not strange that cool observers looked doubtfully upon the result, as it related to the power of a republican government to take care of itself, and maintain its hold upon the nation and its place among the governments of the world. How well the people behaved in this startling emergency, the calm discussions of the presidential campaign, the solemn and conscientious manner of the people at the polls, the triumph of the national arms, and the present peace and stability of the country, bear witness.
Mr. Chase, the distinguished Secretary of the Treasury, had his friends, and they were many and powerful. General Fremont had also his friends, who felt that he had not been well treated by the administration, and who were anxious for a diversion in his favor. Although both of these gentlemen had strong adherents among the politicians, and although either of them would have been cordially supported by the people under favorable circumstances, it was abundantly evident that the great masses of the people were in favor of Mr. Lincoln. He had had experience, and had grown wise under its influence. His unobtrusive character and his unbending honesty had won their confidence; and, although the future looked dark, they were conscious that progress had been made toward the destruction of the rebellion, and that, if the policy of war should be pursued, it would inevitably ultimate in the national success. They were convinced, also, that the way to a permanent peace was through war. Under these circumstances, they were reluctant to change leaders and rulers. The result was, that, at an early day, Mr. Chase withdrew his name from the list of candidates, and left much of the disaffected element afloat.
Outside of the republican and democratic parties, there was no organization; and, to institute one, an irresponsible call was issued, for a convention to be held at Cleveland, Ohio, on the thirty-first of May. The call represented that the public liberties were in danger, and declared for the “one-term principle,” by which Mr. Lincoln should be set aside, however efficiently. he might have served the government. The regular convention of the republican party, which was to be held at Baltimore on the eighth of June, was denounced in the call, as failing to answer the conditions of a truly national convention, in consequence of its proximity to “administrative influence."
The people recognized this call to be simply what it, in reality, was—an anti-Lincoln demonstration; and paid no attention to it, except in one or two instances. The Germans of Missouri did something by way of indorsement; as did also a few radicals elsewhere, who had really never been members of the republican party proper.
The convention was held at the appointed time; and it brought together an insignificant number of politicians, selfappointed to their seats in the convention. It was, in no sense, the offspring of the popular feeling or conviction; and its action found no response in the popular heart. Fremont's name formed the rallying point of the convention. Wendell Phillips and Frederick Douglass sent letters to it. Mrs. E. Cady Stanton approved of the convention in a letter. John Cochrane presided, and was honored with the nomination for Vicepresident, on the ticket with General Fremont. The platform adopted dealt briefly with generalities, condemning no person save by implication, and containing no vital element which had not already been appropriated by the mass of republicans throughout the nation. Although the convention was organized and engineered to bring an influence to bear upon the Baltimore Convention, it failed to have influence anywhere.
The saddest feature of the whole movement was General Fremont's connivance with it, when he could not but see that its only influence would be to divide the friends of the government; and the eagerness with which he accepted his nomination. He opened his letter of acceptance by speaking of the convention as an assemblage of the “representatives of the people,” when he ought to have known that they were nothing of the kind. General Fremont, it is to be remembered here, was the republican candidate for the presidency eight years before, receiving the honor of every republican vote. The party had once been beaten with him for its standard-bearer; and, if he had been thoroughly magnanimous, he would have remembered it. At the opening of the war, Mr. Lincoln had given him the highest military commission he had it in his power to bestow; and, after his Missouri failure, he had created a department for him. In this, he had not won distinguished honor; and when, at last, he was subordinated to another General, to meet the conditions of a great emergency, he threw up his position on a point of etiquette, and retired from his command. Mr. Lincoln had found it very difficult to please the General, or to satisfy his friends. The President was supposed to be jealous of him; and, if the readers of the life of Mr. Lincoln are not already convinced that such jealousy could have no place in him, no present attempt to vindicate his motives will avail. The truth was that Mr. Lincoln entertained none but the kindliest feelings toward him, though it is doubtful whether he had great confidence in his administrative and military ability. General Fremont knew, of course, that the little band of men gathered at Cleveland did not represent the republican party; and he knew that the republican party loved Mr. Lincoln. The party had been true to General Fremont, even if they had been disappointed in him. When he undertook to stab the official reputation of the President, he was engaged in the attempt to ruin the chosen man of the republican party. “Had Mr. Lincoln remained
faithful to the principles he was elected to defend, no schism could have been created, and no contest could have been possible,” said the General in his letter. Had the people decided that Mr. Lincoln was faithless to the principles he was chosen to defend? Had the republican party so decided? “The ordinary rights secured under the Constitution and laws of the country have been violated," continued the General. He charged the administration with managing the war for personal ends, with “incapacity and selfishness,” with “disregard of constitutional rights," with “ violation of personal liberty and the liberty of the press," and with “ feebleness and want of principle.” Among the objects of the convention itself, , he recognized the effort “ to arouse the attention of the people” to certain alleged facts, which he had enumerated; "and to bring them to realize that, while we are saturating southern soil with the best blood of the country, in the name of liberty, we have really parted with it at home.” His own preference, he declared: would be to aid in the election of some one, other than Mr. Lincoln, who might be nominated at Baltimore, “But if Mr. Lincoln should be nominated," said he," as I believe it would be fatal to the country to indorse a policy and renew a power which has cost us the lives of thousands of men, and needlessly put the country on the road to bankruptcy, there will be no other alternative but to organize against him every element of conscientious opposition, with the view to prevent the misfortune of his re-election."
General Fremont, virtuous above his party, virtuous above Mr. Lincoln, quick to see encroachments upon the rights of the people in advance of the people themselves, ready to find personal motives in the management of the war by the administration, and himself, of course, acting solely upon principle, failed to be appreciated by those whose good he so tenderly sought. The republican party gave him no response, other than at once and forever to count him out of its confidence and affections. Convention, platform, and candidates were early counted among political lumber; and whether the General at last withdrew from the field as a matter of principle,