« PreviousContinue »
ment as the one you suggest seems to me expedient, so far as I am concerned. Whether it would be expedient or patriotic in reference to some other name, I am not able to judge.'
A number of persons met at the residence of Mayor Opdyke, in New York, on the 19th, to confer in regard to the proposed new convention. Horace Greeley, who had been invited to this consultation, wrote on the day before (August 18th) excusing himself from attending, but saying with his customary directness: “Mr. Lincoln is already beaten. He cannot be elected. And we must have another ticket to save us from utter overthrow. If we had such a ticket as could be made by naming Grant, Butler, or Sherman for President, and Farragut as Vice, we could make a fight yet. And such a ticket we ought to have anyhow, with or without a convention.” Mr. Chase, who was invited to be present, declined on account of a previous engagement, but sent written words of encouragement, saying the country was never more in need of wise counsel and fearless action by and among patriotic men,” and referring more particularly for his views to a friend who expected to be present at the meeting. The “call” for a new convention was formulated at this conference.
On the next day a letter was addressed to General Fremont, sounding him as to withdrawing from the canvass, on condition that President Lincoln should do the like. But the General resolutely refused. Among members of Congress to whom the call was sent inviting
* Warden's “Life of S. P. Chase," p. 629.
signatures, Senator Collamer responded with great force and pertinency against the convention project, and Senator Sumner less explicitly inclined the same way; while Representatives Roscoe Conkling, of New York, and Thomas Williams, of Pennsylvania — the latter one of the most radical as well as one of the ablest members of the House — were strenuously negative in their replies; General Butler was wary; and D. S. Dickinson wrote a long letter of sympathy. Outside the circle in which it originated, the undertaking was evidently making little advance. Governor Brough, of Ohio, a personal friend of Mr. Chase, was in vain appealed to by a private message from one of the latter's friends in New York; and while Senator Wade was a power in the State, and the proposed convention was to be held in Cincinnati, influential Western recruits were wanting. In fact, Judge Wade himself, with all his discontent over the loss of the Reconstruction bill, cannot be charged with any active support of the “movement.” The month wore away; another meeting of the complotters was held, this time at the house of David Dudley Field, on the 30th of August; and still the call did not publicly appear. Mr. Winter Davis, as late as the 4th of September, was very anxious at the delay in publishing the call,” which he had “fully expected to see in Saturday's Tribune.” He was loath and late to give in; but the call and all its signatures, so far as possible, were carefully enveloped in secrecy henceforward. The Democratic convention at Chicago fatally blundered; Sherman took Atlanta; and the plot died. Winter Davis and the rest — working for “the cause " now identified
with “the man”— were presently sustaining the action of the Baltimore convention. *
The postponed Democratic national convention met on the 29th of August. Its mixed components, mistaking momentary languor and superficial discordance for grave symptoms of popular reaction against the administration, were rashly confident as to their one united purpose of defeating Lincoln. The most violent of the Northern sympathizers with the Confederate cause — the kind of people commonly called Copperheads — domineered within and without the convention, and were most applauded when most bold and defiant in their abuse of the President. General McClellan, in spite of some objections to “one of Lincoln's hirelings,” was nominated for the Presidency, and George H. Pendleton, of Ohio, for the Vice-Presidency — the latter without dissent. The two nominations, on the whole, were thought to be well joined; only, if McClellan was to be classed as a War Democrat, it seemed more fitting that the last should be first. It was not a War-Democratic convention. It 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 pretense of a military necessity of a 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
Unhappily, Mr. Davis failed to secure a renomination, and his Congressional service ended with the coming session. He died the next year, on the 30th of December.
the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view to an ultimate convention of all 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.
Passages from the speeches, as reported in the local Democratic organ (the Chicago Times), will serve to show the animus of the convention towards President Lincoln; and the course, in general, of the Opposition during the remaining two months of the canvass accorded well with this beginning. One delegate, whom the reporter designated as “ Senator Cox,” said:
He did not want to use any harsh language toward Old Abe. [Cries of “Give it to him!”] He had attempted in his own city, a few weeks since, to show in a very quiet way that Abraham Lincoln had deluged the country in blood, created a debt of four thousand millions of dollars, sacrificed two millions of lives, and filled the land with grief and mourning. For less offenses than Mr. Lincoln had been guilty of, the English people had chopped off the head of the first Charles.
Another delegate named Dean, then a conspicuous Democratic orator of Iowa, was thus reported in the same journal:
He said in the presence of the force of Camp Douglas and all the satraps of Lincoln that the American people were ruled by felons. Lincoln had never turned a dishonest man out of office or kept an honest one in. ... Perjury and larceny were written over him as often as was
one dollar on the one-dollar bills of the Bank of the State of Indiana. [Cries of “The old villain !”] Ever since the usurper, traitor, and tyrant had occupied the Presidential chair, the party had shouted war to the knife, and the knife to the hilt. Blood had flowed in torrents, and yet the thirst of the old monster was not quenched. His cry was for more blood.
Benjamin Allen, of New York,” said, according to the friendly report:
The people will soon rise, and if they cannot put Lincoln out of power by the ballot, they will by the bullet. [Loud cheers. ]
The convention, notoriously, was very much under the control of the secret organization whose purposes we have seen as summed up by Judge Holt. Its conclaves had many representatives there; and the twentythree thousand dollars in greenbacks drawn by the ClayHolcombe party on the Confederate deposits in Canada just before the meeting of this convention were presumably for use in the States. A plot appears to have been entered into for an outbreak at this time in Chicago for the release of the thousands of Confederate prisoners at Camp Douglas an attempt prevented by a timely discovery and by the vigilance of the officer in command, General Sweet.
The work of the convention, as time proved, was quite maladroitly overdone. Horace Greeley had been under a great delusion if he really believed (as he had lately said) that the stronger party in this canvass would be that which showed the greater eagerness to negotiate for peace. No words in the platform were so fatal as those which pronounced the war a failure and demanded an immediate armistice for negotiation. McClellan, in his acceptance letter — first of the long letters of Presidential nominees — labored in vain to neutralize their effect. The spirit aroused throughout the North recalled the days immediately following the fall of Fort Sumter. Republican dissensions seemed to have van