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The Chicago Convention - Lincoln Nominated for the
Before 1860 no national convention of any party had been held in Chicago. That place the Republican committee had now selected, not accidentally, though without contest over what was treated as of little concern. Citizens of Chicago erected a temporary building, called the Wigwam, to accommodate the Convention and many thousand spectators. Hospitable and judicious attention was given to the city's guests. The two Republican morning newspaper offices had among their decorations the banner, "For President, Abraham Lincoln”; and the flag of the one Republican evening paper, edited by a personal friend of the New York candidate, bore the legend: “For President, William H. Seward; for Vice-President, Abraham Lincoln." Illinois, less than a week before the Convention met, had chosen delegates united and active in support of Lincoln. New York asked and expected the nomination of Seward. On Wednesday morning (May 16th) Governor Morgan called the Convention to order, and David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, was made temporary chairman. The permanent presiding officer was George Ashmun, of Massachusetts. The platform, reported and adopted the next day, affirmed “the maintenance of the principles
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promulgated in the Declaration of Independence and embodied in the Federal Constitution” to be “essential to the preservation of our Republican institutions." * It declared that “the Federal Constitution, , the rights of the States and the Union of the States must and shall be preserved ” — with other less solid generalities. The chief distinctive principles of the party were set forth in these terms:
“That the new dogma, that the Constitution of its own force carries slavery into any or all of the Territories of the United States, is a dangerous political heresy.
“That the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom; deny the authority of Congress, of a Territorial Legislature, or of any individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any Territory of the United States."
There were also expressions in favor of (practically) incidental protection; of river and harbor improvements, and of “immediate and efficient aid from the Government for the construction of a railroad to the Pacific."
Bright skies, a warm sun, gentle breezes from the lake, saluted members of the Convention as they moved toward the Wigwam on Friday morning. There was music by the band which had come from New York; and from the same city there were throngs of men of
* The quoted words were in the resolution as it came from the committee. Some writers have given undue prominence to a little episode in which Mr. Giddings and Mr. G. W. Curtis took part. The only change they effected in the platform was the special indorsement of a passage of the Declaration, by insertion in a resolution which already indorsed the whole.
hardy visage and healthy lungs ready to swell the Seward chorus within the walls of the Wigwam. Nor was there lacking a multitude of stalwart men with foghorn voices who came from places less remote to do their part for Abraham Lincoln. When the names of candidates were formally presented, all were vocally honored — only two, however, beyond the usual courtesy. At the name of Seward, to which the fine oratorical periods of Mr. Evarts led up, there was a Niagara of cheering that seemed irrepressible. The noise was surpassed by the lake-storm evoked when Mr. Judd pronounced the name of Lincoln. Both demonstrations had been well prepared — Illinois having the advantage in opportunity; and had both come together, it might well have been doubted how long the house could stand.
Other candidates proposed were Judge Edward Bates, of Missouri; ex-Governor Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio,- which State, out of its abundance, also had Justice John McLean and Senator B. F. Wade, for both of whom votes were cast, and Senator Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania. New Jersey at first voted for William L. Dayton, and Vermont for Senator Jacob Collamer.
The first ballot resulted in 173 votes for Mr. Seward, 102 for Mr. Lincoln, 50 for Mr. Cameron, 49 for Mr. Chase, 48 for Mr. Bates, 14 for Mr. Dayton, 12 for Mr. McLean, 10 for Mr. Collamer, 3 for Mr. Wade, and I each for John C. Fremont, Charles Sumner, and John M. Reed. The second ballot, which immediately followed, gave Seward 184, Lincoln 181, Chase 42, Bates 35, Dayton 10, McLean 8, Cassius M. Clay 2. When the roll-call was through for the third time it was quickly
discovered that a change of two votes in favor of Lincoln would secure him the nomination, and the change was promptly made. The result was at once known not only in the great hall, but by the waiting multitude outside; and the telegraph told the tale through the land before the formal announcement could be made to the tumultuous Convention.
The news reached Mr. Seward at his home in Auburn, whither he had retired temporarily from his seat in the Senate. To his kind neighbors, who had made preparations for a joyful celebration of his nomination, it was a sudden and chilling reverse. it to the New York delegation in their places at the Convention; yet, at the earliest practicable moment, Mr. Evarts, pale with emotion yet unfaltering in voice, spoke harmonious words of consent to the choice of the majority.
In the afternoon Senator Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine, was nominated for Vice President, and the great hall was vacated by final adjournment. Before putting the last motion, however, Mr. Ashmun, in the course of some parting remarks, spoke of his service in Congress with Abraham Lincoln, and of his own high estimate of the man; and in his mention of Mr. Hamlin said: “He was a firm Democrat of the old school, while Mr. Lincoln was as firmly, and perhaps too much so, a Whig of the Webster school.”
The unexpected is not always inexplicable. There has been no lack of attempted solutions of the mystery of this nomination. Was it, after all, very mysterious?
Mr. Seward's supporters, in spite of the opposition
manifested in many quarters, during the preceding year especially, were confident of winning without a severe contest. After the delegates to the Convention had been chosen there might naturally have been misgivings, as one would suppose at this distance, but the friends of the New York statesman were still sanguine. They miscalculated his strength in a manner that occasioned them several surprises. From neither Vermont nor Ohio did he receive a single vote on any balloting; yet the delegates from the former State were counted as unanimous in his favor; and half of the Ohio delegation, after a compliment for Governor Chase, were relied upon to wheel in the same direction. Connecticut and Rhode Island were refractory, if not as disappointing; only one vote was cast on that side from New Hampshire; barely two from Iowa; not one from Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, or Illinois. At the first, Mr. Seward had no vote from New Jersey or Oregon, and but a minority afterward; while from Pennsylvania he received but two or three votes out of fifty-four. The only States that solidly supported him were New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California. Little more than one-third of the Convention declared for him as a first choice - including the ten votes from the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska and from the District of Columbia, which represented no electoral strength.
The components of the Republican party were not quite free from conflict; at least they were not homogeneous. It had been made up of the old Free-Soil party, of Anti-Slavery Whigs, of conservative Whigs. of Wilmot Proviso Democrats, Anti-Nebraska Democrats, Anti-Lecompton Democrats (results of three dis