Page images
PDF
EPUB

The indispensable conditions mentioned in this paper were such as to put an end to all further trifling on the part of selfconstituted, irresponsible or insincere negotiators, Many would have preferred that no occasion had been presented requiring Mr. Lincoln to connect himself in the remotest manner with an affair of this sort. Yet if he were to speak, good faith and plain dealing admitted of no less than was actually said. The fact was definitely recognized, that the vital force of the rebellion was in “the armies now at war against the United States," and peace agitators on both sides were given to understand, once for all, that only when those armies were vanquished, or disbanded, and the Emancipation policy, to which the Government had plighted its faith, was accepted as a finality, could peace be expected. As the event proved, it may be well that these issues, “ the abandonment of slavery" included, were thus directly presented to the people in the Presidential canvass.

While this pacific exterior was maintained by the Rebel emissaries in Canada, a monster conspiracy was becoming revealed in the North-west, the object of which was a counterrevolution in the loyal States, in concert with the Rebellion. In the latter part of June, important facts in regard to the secret combinations to this end were made public by Gen. Carrington, and several of the leaders were arrested in Indiana. The enormity and extent of the schemes disclosed on the subsequent trials surpassed the worst suspicions at first entertained, involving crimes of the darkest shade, and evincing a depth of disloyal hate not unworthy of the arch-fiends in Milton's Pandemonium. Premature outbreaks occurred in Coles County, Illinois, and elsewhere in the North-west; soldiers were murdered; enrolling officers waylaid and shot; and arms were secretly distributed for the equipment of men who had other purposes than the service of their country. The discovery of this plot was timely, and the prevention of its fuller consummation most fortunate. The full connection of these men with leaders of the Rebellion admits of no doubt, and it is known that a day had been fixed-and nearly reached at the date of the arrests—for a concerted and general outbreak.

Two months passed after the Baltimore nominations, and the third month was well on toward completion, before the socalled Democratic Opposition began to contemplate in earnest the work of preparation for the canvass. Faction and discontent were doubtless boped to be doing more for the defeat of Lincoln and Johnson, than could be accomplished by direct and energetic opposition. Fremont was still a candidate. The German Republican voters were reported to be every-where hostile to Mr. Lincoln. Grant was still before Petersburg, after fruitless mining and disappointing losses. Farragut had captured Fort Gaines, but Mobile still held out against both Navy and Army. Sherman was still at bay before Atlanta. What remained now but for an exultant Democracy-with its Vallandigham returned from across the border, and his place in Canada supplied by a bevy of Confederates giving aid and comfort—to name its candidates, make up its issues, and stride directly to the high places of power ? Emboldened by the seeming divisions of the Republicans, cheered by the lack of decisive and final Union victories, to reconcile the country to heavy losses of life and treasure, the Peace Democrats were growing more and more determined in asserting the prerogative of leaders and dictators. Their compact organization and tho favoritism of the multitude for the victims' who had suffered for defiant attempts to arrest the war, gave them an advantage over the probably more numerous leaders who not only believed the war should be sustained, but also thought the nominations and platform should, from policy, have a decided leaning toward “coercion.”

The Democratic Convention met on the day last fixedAugust 29. It presented the name of George B. McClellan for President, and of George H. Pendleton for Vice-President. The former nomination was esteemed so decided a concession to the War Democracy—baving encountered some opposition from such Democrats " as B. G. Harris, the “unworthy" Congressman from Maryland, a delegate to the Conventionthat the nomination for Vice-President was conferred

upon an unequivocal Peace Democrat, and the resolutions, or platform, were made very explicit on the “failure." of the war, and in

demanding “ that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities." The entire “ Chicago Platform," (Democratic, 1864,) is as follows:

Resolved, That in the future, as in the past, we will adhere with unswerving fidelity to the Union under the Constitution, as the only solid foundation of our strength, security, and happiness as a people, and as a framework of government equally conducive to the welfare and prosperity of all the States, both Northern and Southern.

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 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.

Resolved, That the direct interference of the military authority of the United States in the recent elections held in Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri and Delaware, was a shameful violation of the Constitution, and the repetition of such acts in the approaching election will be held as revolutionary, and resisted with all the means and power under our control.

Resolved, That the aim and object of the Democratic party is to preserve the Federal Union and the rights of the States unimpaired; and they hereby declare that they consider the administrative usurpation of extraordinary and dangerous powers not granted by the Constitution, the subversion of the civil by military law in States not in insurrection, the arbitrary military arrest, imprisonment trial and sentence of American citizens in States where civil law exists in full force, the suppression of freedom of speech and of the press, the denial of the right of asylum, the open and avowed disregard of State rights, the employment of unusual test-oaths, and the interference with and denial of the right of the people to bear arms, as calculated to prevent a restoration of the Union and the perpetuation of a government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.

Resolved, That the shameful disregard of the Administra

tion to its duty in respect to our fellow-citizens who now and long have been prisoners of war in a suffering condition, deserves the severest reprobation, on the score alike of public interest and common humanity,

Resolved, That the sympathy of the Democratic party is heartily and earnestly extended to the soldiery of our army, who are and have been in the field under the flag of our country; and in the event of our attaining power, they will receive all the care and protection, regard and kindness, that the brave soldiers of the Republic bave so nobly earned.

The nomination of Gen. McClellan had been a foregone conclusion from the first. There were dreams, for a time, that Gen. Fremont, or an active War Democrat, like Gen. Dix, might be taken as the candidate, for the sake of uniting all elements of opposition in a grand effort to defeat Mr. Lincoln. But the visionary notion was not entertained for a moment by Belmont and his associates. Their hopes were firmly fixed on McClellan. Democrats like the New York Woods, denouncing the war altogether, manifested delicate scruples in regard to “ epauletted gentlemen;" and Maryland Secessionists indignantly remembered the “arbitrary arrests” made in their State by the Peninsular hero; but it was not doubted that these objections would promptly enough disappear before the magic, power of a regular nomination. And so it was. Mutterings of discontent were momentarily heard, only in quarters where such responses were preferable to warm support. Candidates and platform were accepted by the united Democracy, and the canvass at length actually opened.

On the Administration side, the issue was joined, with prospects immediately brightened. There was now an organized opponent to meet, and he had presented himself in an attitude that promised an advantage to the supporters of Mr. Lincoln. Dissension, and factious opposition speedily disappeared. More cheering news began to come from our armies, and the affectionate confidence of the great majority of the loyal people in Abraham Lincoln manifested itself more and more clearly as the day of election approached.

The action of the Border States in adapting themselves to the new order of things, never failed to interest the President;

who, at an earlier day, had earnestly endeavored to impress upon the Representatives of those States, the expediency of prompt measures in preparation for the inevitable event of emancipation. It was not many days after the adjournment of the Baltimore Convention, that the delegates of the people of Maryland decided upon abolishing slavery in that State; subject only to the test of a popular vote, to be taken a few months later. The State Convention of Maryland consummated this action, bringing the issue directly before the people for their full deliberation and ultimate action, on the 24th day of June.

In the State of Louisiana, a new Constitution prohibiting slavery was adopted by a State Convention, duly chosen by the loyal people, on the 22d day of July.

All the great champions of freedom were near to the affections of Mr. Lincoln, but no one of them was, perlaps, more personally endeared to him than the late Owen Lovejoy, his intimate friend for many years. No one, on the other hand, had a more earnest, loving confidence in the President during all his trials, and not the least when he was assailed by men who questioned his “radicalism." In one of the last speeches ever made by Mr. Lovejoy to any public assembly, not many months before his death, he defended the President from such attacks, and warmed into a heartfelt eulogy of his friend, such as brought tears to many eyes, and will long be remembered by those who listened. All complaint, for the time, was henceforth silenced. "On a recent occasion," said Mr. Lovejoy, illustrating the high and unselfish motives which controlled all the President's actions, “I ventured, in the freedom of our private intercourse, to speak of the temptations besetting a man in his exalted position, with such patronage and power in his hands, and to counsel him to rise above all regard to or thought of perpetuating his power by a reelection, adhering firmly to the higher plane of simple duty. With characteristic earnestness of tone and expression, the President replied: • If I know my own heart, Mr. Lovejoy, I can assure you that it does not cost me an effort so to do.' That answer, gentle. men, I firmly believe to have been given in honest truth. That

« PreviousContinue »