Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

was assiduously used by the opposition and by the rebels themselves.

The time for holding the National Democratic Convention came at last. Still the fortunes of the military campaign were undecided ; and the country was groaning under efforts to furnish men for the reinforcement of the armies. But the President found aid in unexpected quarters. By the direction of that Providence in which he so implicitly believed, every treasonable and personally inimical element in the nation became his ally. Mr. Vallandigham had returned to the country before his time; and the President permitted him to remain, unmolested. He became one of the pets of his party; and, attending the Chicago Convention as a delegate, was chosen chairman of the committee on resolutions. Governor Seymour of New York, his sympathizing friend, was the president of the convention. Congressman Long of Ohio was also there, with a full representation of all those who had, from the first, opposed the war, and sympathized with the rebellion. The platform adopted was composed largely of negations, touching the policy of the administration; but one thing it distinctly demanded, viz: “a cessation of hostilities." The candidates nominated were General George B. McClellan for President, and George H. Pendleton of Ohio for Vice-President. General McClellan was nominally a war democrat, and Mr. Pendleton really a peace democrat. Both wings of the party were thus accommodated, while the platform was all that the most extreme of peace men could ask. But the convention did not dissolve; it adjourned, “subject to be called at any time and place that the executive national committee shall designate." The act was a threat, and betrayed the entertainment of possibilities and incidental purposes not entirely creditable to the patriotism of the convention. Mr. Vallandigham's tongue was busy, in and out of the convention. He was treated as a man who had suffered persecution for the sake of democratic truth. He moved that the nomination of McClellan be made unanimous. He was active in all the affairs of the occasion, and he did


more than any other man to destroy the prospects of the democratic party.

The spirit manifested by the demagogues who managed this convention, was not the spirit of the people, and not the spirit of the democratic masses. The majority of the democratic party had supported the war. Many of the best officers in the army were democrats, thoroughly devoted to the destruction of the rebellion by military means. The voice of the convention was, that all that had been expended in the war, of life and treasure, should be declared a waste. The best illostration of the spirit of the convention was found in the fact that, when it was announced that Fort Morgan had surttidered, the news fell upon it like a pall. It awoke no cheers: and was so evidently unwelcome intelligence, although a great national success, that the masses of the party were disgusted.

Whatever may have been the acts, intentions and spirit of the convention, this one thing was certain: that, from the time of its adjournment, no sensible politician had any doubt of the overwhelming triumph of the administration in the election. The cloud was lifted from the republican party at once; and the democratic leaders themselves, though they relaxed no effort, confessed that they were beaten, almost from the start.

On the twenty-third of September, Mr. Blair retired from the cabinet, in consequence of an intimation from the President that his retirement would be a relief to him. It will be remembered that the Baltimore platform contained a resolution which was intended to indicate a desire on the part of the convention that Mr. Blair should leave the cabinet; but Mr. Lincoln did not, probably, have any reference to this resolution in his action. Mr. Blair had made an excellent Postmastergeneral—one of the very best who had administered the affairs of his department; and it was Mr. Lincoln's policy to adhere to his friends, and especially to those who did their duty. But there was a difficulty between Mr. Blair and Henry Winter Davis of Marylandi

, which, in Mr. Lincoln's judgment, endangered the adoption of the free state constitution in that commonwealth. He could solve the dificulty,


[ocr errors]

and help the cause, by permitting Mr. Blair, whose resignation had been in his hands for months, to retire. The President and the Secretary parted excellent friends; and Mr. Lincoln showed his good will toward the retiring officer, by appointing to his place ex-Governor William Dennison of Ohio, one of Mr. Blair's most intimate personal and family friends.

A few days before this change in the cabinet, Mr. Lincoln wrote a letter to a convention of the friends of the new constitution in Maryland, held in Baltimore on the eighteenth of September, in which he expressed his carnest solicitude for its adoption. “It needs not be a secret,” said he, “and I presume it is no secret, that I wish success to this provision.” (The provision extinguishing slavery). “I desire it on every consideration. I wish to see all men free. I wish the national prosperity of the already free, which I feel sure the extinction of slavery would bring.” The event he so much desired was consummated by a popular vote, on the eighth and ninth of October; and the President was serenaded by the loyal Marylanders in Washington, as an expression of their satisfaction and their congratulations. Mr. Lincoln responded with a speech. An extract will show something of the subjects of public discussion at the time, as well as reveal the President's relation to them:

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

“Something said by the Secretary of State, in his recent speech at Auburn, has been construcd by some into a threat that, if I shall be beaten at the election, I will, between then and the constitutional end of my term, do what I may be able, to ruin the government. Others regard the fact that the Chicago Convention adjourned not sine die, but to meet again, if called to do so by a particular individual, as the intimation of a purpose that, if their nominee shall be elected, he will at once seize control of the government. I hope the good people will permit themselves to suffer no uneasiness on either point. I am struggling to maintain the government, not to overthrow it. I am struggling specially to prevent others from overthrowing it. I, therefore, say that, if I live, I shall remain President until the fourth of next March, and that whoever shall be constitutionally elected in November shall be duly installed as President on the fourth of March; and, in the interval, I shall do my utmost that whoever is to hold the helm for the next voyage, shall start with the best possible chance of saving the ship.”

[ocr errors]

The October elections indicated the inevitable result of the presidential canvass; and the successful movements of the armies confirmed the prospects of Mr. Lincoln's signal triumph. The efforts of the rebels south of the Union lines, and over the Canada boundary, to assist the peace party, and furnish capital for its operations, aided by organizations of disloyal elements within the loyal states, not only failed of their object, but helped to rally the popular feeling to the side of the administration.

An unpleasant incident of the canvass was the result of an interview between Mr. Lincoln and a committee of the opposition party in Tennessee. Andrew Johnson, the present President of the United States, was then military governor of that state; and under his sanction a convention was called, to reorganize the state, that it might take a part in the pres idential election. This convention prescribed the form of an oath, that the body deemed proper for those to take who de sired to vote. Governor Johnson ordered the election to be held, in accordance with the plan of the convention; and adopted its oath. The oath was one which no heartily loyal man would refuse to take, unless he should object to the fol lowing clause: "I will cordially oppose all armistices and negotiations for peace with rebels in arms, until the Constitution of the United States, and all laws and proclamations made in pursuance thereof, shall be established over all the people of every state and territory, embraced within the national Union." No man, of course, who heartily believed in the peace doctrine of the Chicago platform could take the oath; and there were evidently many men in Tennessee who would not subscribe to another clause--men who could not heartily say: "I sincerely rejoice in the triumph of the armies and navies of the C'nited States."

Against this oath, a committee of General McClellan's friends protested; and they bore their protest to the President. Mr. Lincoln did not receive the paper good-naturedly. Ile undoubtedly regarded it as an attempt to get him into diffculty, and to make political capital agızinst him. lle hul no


faith in the genuine loyalty of the men who would not take the oath. He furthermore felt that it was a matter with which he had no right to interfere, and believed it to be one which Mr. John Lellyett, the bearer of the protest, knew he would not undertake to control. Under these circumstances, and in the condition of nervous and mental irritability, to which all the latter part of his life was subject, he gave a reply which was not at all in his usual manner, and which pained his friends quite as much as it rejoiced his foes. The answer, as reported by Mr. Lellyett, was: “I expect to let the friends of George B. McClellan manage their side of this contest in their own way, and I will manage my side of it in my way.” The committee asked for an answer in writing. “Not now,” replied Mr. Lincoln. “Lay those papers down here. I will give no other answer now. I may or may not write something about this hereafter. I know you intend to make a point of this. But go ahead; you have my answer.”

Now this was unquestionably an undignified and injudicious reply-one which the people would not receive with any consideration of the irritable mood in which it was uttered, or the provocation, real or supposed, which inspired it. Under date of October twenty-second, he made a reply in writing. His conclusion was that he could have nothing to do with the matter. The action of the convention and of Governor Johnson was nothing which had been inspired by the national Executive. The Governor, he believed, had the right to favor any plan he might choose to favor, which had been adopted by the loyal citizens of Tennessee; and the President could not see, in the plan adopted, “any menace, or violence, or coercion towards any one.” If the people should vote for president, under this plan, it would neither belong to the President, nor yet to the military Governor of Tennessee, to say whether the vote should be received and counted, but to a department of the government to which, under the Constitution, it was given, to decide. So, “except to give protection against violence," he declined to have anything to do with any presidential election. The result was the withdrawal

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »