George Oberkirsh Seilhamer.

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ernment can constitutionally take no strong measures in time of


rebellion, because it can be shown that the same could not be law-
fully taken in time of peace, than I can be persuaded that a particular
drug is not good medicine for a sick man, because it can be shown not
to be a good food for a well one. Nor am I able to appreciate the
danger apprehended by the meeting, that the American people will,
by means of military arrests during the Rebellion, lose the right of
public discussion, the liberty of speech and the press, the law of evi-
dence, trial by jury, and habeas corpus,, throughout the definite peace-
ful future, which I trust lies before them, any more than I am able to
believe that a man could contract so strong an appetite for emetics
during a temporary illness as to persist in feeding upon them during
the remainder of his healthful life.

" One of the resolutions expresses the opinion of the meeting that
arbitrary arrests will have the effect to divide and distract those who
should be united in suppressing the Rebellion; and I am specifically
called on to discharge Mr. Vallandigham. I regard this as, at least,
a fair appeal to me on the expediency of exercising a constitutional
power which I think exists. In response to such appeal, I have to say,
it gave me pain when I learned that Mr. Vallandigham had been ar-
rested that is, I was pained that there should have seemed to be a
necessity for arresting him and that it will afford me great pleasure
to discharge him so soon as I can, by any means, believe the public
safety will not suffer by it."

The Ohio Democracy nominated the exiled Vallandigham for Gov-
ernor, but repelled the accusation that they would violently resist the
draft. New York City, obedient to the Ohio teachings, resisted it. As
the time for the first draft in the metropolis approached the Demo-
cratic newspapers were busy inflaming the passions of the populace.
According to the World, the men who administered the Federal Gov-
ernment were " weak and reckless," and the Congress that passed the
Conscription Act " an oligarchic conspiracy plotting a vast scheme
of military servitude." The Daily News talked of " the miscreants at
the head of the Government," and counseled opposition in the courts.
An inflammatory handbill calling upon the people to rise and assert
their liberties was circulated on the eve of the 4th of July. Meade's
victory at Gettysburg called forth the loyal sentiment of the com-
munity, and the appeal came to nothing. After the draft had actually
begun it was easy to excite an ignorant population to arson and
murder. The riots began at the house where the draft was in progress
at Forty-sixth street and Third avenue. The officers and clerks were
dispersed, the enrollment papers destroyed, and the building was set
on fire. In a few hours the rioters had increased from hundreds to
thousands. The riots extended over four days. From Monday until


Thursday a carnival of crime ruled the city. The colored population
was assailed and some negroes were killed. A colored orphan asylum
was destroyed. Enrolling offices were wrecked and the buildings in
which they had found quarters were burned. The outbreak was, in
fact, a " fire in the rear," a diversion in favor of the Rebellion. The
July riots of 1863 were the natural outcome of Democratic teachings
throughout the war, but they bore good fruit in one respect they
helped to bring about the revulsion of feeling without which the war
would have been a failure in spite of the victories of Meade at Gettys-
burg and Grant at Vicksburg.

In the elections of 1863 the popular verdict of the previous year
was reversed in every State that had given Democratic majorities in
1862. Yallandigham w r as beaten in Ohio by over 60,000 votes with-
out the soldier vote, and with it by more than one hundred thousand.
In Pennsylvania Judge George W. Woodward, the Democratic can-
didate for Governor, who had joined in the decision of the Supreme
Court pronouncing the Conscription Act unconstitutional, was beaten
by Andrew G. Curtin, the War Governor, by more than 15,000, and
Chief Justice Lowrie, who had pronounced that judgment, was de-
feated by nearly 13,000. New York, which had given Governor Sey-
mour a majority of more than 10,000 in 1862, now gave the Republi-
can State ticket over 30,000. In Indiana and Illinois the shame of
1862 was expunged, and in all the other Western States the Repub-
lican vote was largely increased. The Peace party had met with re-
buke everywhere, and the Republican party was in admirable shape
for a vigorous prosecution of the war, and a successful result in the
Presidential elections of 1864.



Opposition to Lincoln's Nomination Chase a Candidate The Pom-
eroy Circular Chase Withdraws The Cleveland Convention
Hamliu and Lincoln General Butler Lincoln's Preference for
Andrew Johnson Fremont's Letter of Acceptance Lieutenaut-
General Grant The Baltimore Convention Dr. Breckinridge
Credentials The Platform Lincoln and Johnson Nominated
Dickinson Johnson General McClellau's Nomination.

HE political interest of 1864 centered in the re-election of
President Lincoln. If the brilliant victories of midsummer
in 1863, with the added glories of Chickamauga later in the
year, had been repeated at the beginning of the military
campaign of 18(51, or if the significance of General Grant's strategy
in Virginia had been foreseen and understood, there would have been
no general or dangerous opposition to Lincoln in the Republican
party. As it was, there were many elements of discontent to be
reckoned with, and there was a determined opposition to be encoun-
tered and overcome. There can be no doubt that Lincoln was nerv-
ously anxious for a second nomination, especially at the time when
his chances of success were the most doubtful. What may be called
the latent attachment of the people was with him always, but the
politicians who regarded him with distrust at the beginning of his
administration, and who were never in touch with his methods, were
hostile. Greeley was laboring diligently for his overthrow. Chase
was anxious to obtain the nomination, and for nearly a year before the
Republican National Convention of 1864 both he and his friends were
making every possible exertion to secure it. These exertions were a
source of much discomfort and embarrassment to the President, and
the cause of clashings and heartburnings in the disposition of the
patronage of a Department that through it could exert a powerful
political influence.

Mr. Chase's candidature became an acknowledged factor in the
political campaign with the publication of what is called the " Pom-
eroy circular," in February. This circular was written by J. M.
Winchell. It was, however, as much the work of Samuel C. Pomeroy,
who signed it as chairman of a secretly organized committee of Chase's
friends, as if he had written it. Pomerov was one of the earlv Free



State men of Kansas, where he went as one of the managers of
Thayer's crusade. When Kansas became a State he had his reward
in being chosen a Senator in Congress. He was not a man eminent
for ability, nor one whose name would carry much weight in the
contest between Chase and Lincoln for the Presidential nomination.
Chase, however, had conferred with Pomeroy and others, and had as-
sented to Pomeroy becoming chairman of a committee of his political
friends. When the circular, which was intended to be confidential,
was printed, Chase was shocked at the bald phraseology of its attack
upon the President, and hastened to disavow all knowledge of it. It
called for " counteraction on the part of those unconditional friends
of the Union who differ from the policy of the administration "; the
friends of Lincoln were accused
of using " party and the machin-
ery of official influence " to se-
cure " the perpetuation of the
present administration" 1 ; and it
was calmly asserted that " those
who conscientiously believe that
the interests of the country and
of freedom demand a change in
favor of vigor and purity and
nationality have no choice but to
appeal at once to the people be-
fore it is too late to secure a fair
discussion of principles." The
appeal was followed by the fol-
lowing conclusions :

" 1. That even were the re-elec
tion of Mr. Lincoln desirable, it

is practically impossible against the union of influences which will
oppose him.

" 2. That should he be re-elected, his manifest tendency toward
compromises and temporary expedients of policy will become stronger
during a second term than it has been in the first, and the cause of


human liberty, and the dignity of the nation suffer proportionately,
while the war may continue to languish during his whole administra-
tion, till the public debt shall become a burden too great to be borne.
" 3. That the patronage of the Government through the necessities
of the war has been so rapidly increased, and to such an enormous ex-
tent, and so loosely placed, as to render the application of the one-
term principle absolutely essential to the certain safety of our re-
publican institutions.



" 4. That we find united in Hon. Salmon P. Chase more of the quali-
ties needed in a President, during the next four years, than are com-
bined in any other available candidate. His record is clear and un-
impeachable, showing him to be a statesman of rare ability and an
administrator of the highest order, while his private character fur-
nishes the surest available guaranty of economy and purity in the
management of public affairs.

" 5. That the discussion of the Presidential question already com-
menced by the friends of Mr. Lincoln has developed a popularity and
strength in Mr. Chase unexpected even to his warmest admirers, and
while we are aware that its strength is at present unorganized, and
in no condition to manifest its real magnitude, we are satisfied that
it only needs a systematic and faithful effort to develop it to an extent
sufficient to overcome all opposing obstacles. For these reasons the
friends of Mr. Chase have determined on measures which shall present
his claims fairly at once to the country. A central organization has
been effected, which already has its connections in all the States, and
the object of which is to enable his friends everywhere most effectu-
ally to promote his elevation to the Presidency. We wish the hearty
co-operation of all those who are in favor of the speedy restoration of
the Union on the basis of universal freedom, and w T ho desire an ad-
ministration of the Government during the first period of its new life,
which shall to the fullest extent develop the capacity of free institu-
tions, enlarge the resources of the country, diminish the burdens of
taxation, elevate the standard of public and private morality, vindi-
cate the honor of the Republic before the world, and in all things
make our American nationality the fairest example for imitation
which human progress has ever achieved. If these objects meet your
approval, you can render efficient aid by exerting yourself at once to
organize your section of the country, and by corresponding with the
Chairman of the National Executive Committee, for the purpose
either of receiving or imparting information. . . ."

This remarkable assault on the administration on- the behalf of one
of its members was so brutal in its terms and so unjustifiable both
in form and substance, that it could not fail to defeat the object of its
authors. Mr. Chase read it in the newspapers with a feeling of keen
disappointment and shame. He had been a candidate for the Presi-
dency in 1864 ever since Lincoln's election in 1860. The sentiments
of the " circular " were in reality his own, expressed in many private
conversations and letters. Fie was active in promoting a reorganiza-
tion of the War Democrats in conjunction with the Radical Republi-
cans, and wrote to Daniel S. Dickinson, of New York, in November,
1863, urging him to attend a convention at Chicago to assist in " the


regeneration of the Democracy." He wrote to Governor Sprague, of
Rhode Island, a few days later, doubting the expediency of re-electing
anybody, and expressing the belief that a man of different qualities
from those the President has will be needed for the next four years.
u I am not anxious to be regarded as that man/' he said, " and I am
quite willing to leave that question to the decision of those who agree
in thinking that some such man should be chosen." While expressing
a wish not to press his claims upon friends or the public, he took care
that they should know that he would not object to the use of his name.
He held frequent conferences with the committee of which Senator
Pomeroy was the chairman, and with only the necessary coyness he
assented to their views. He was especially anxious to secure the sup-
port of the Ohio delegation in the Republican National Convention,
and wrote to many of his Ohio friends for their assistance in securing
it for him, but in none of these letters was Lincoln criticised harshly
or the administration assailed. In his letter to Sprague he declared
that he would not permit himself to be driven into any hostile or un-
friendly position as to Mr. Lincoln. The Pomeroy " circular " placed
him in the attitude he had sought to avoid, and upon its publication
he at once wrote to the President disavowing all personal responsi-
bility for it. " For yourself I cherish sincere respect and esteem," he
said; " and, permit me to add, affection. Differences of opinion as to
administrative action have not changed these sentiments; nor have
they been changed by assaults upon me by persons who profess them-
selves the special representatives of your views and policy. You are
not responsible for acts not your own; nor will you hold me respon-
sible except for what I do or say myself." The President's answer
was frank and manly, but for Mr. Chase the " fat was in the fire." A
few days after the appearance of the Pomeroy circular the Republi-
can members of the Ohio Legislature passed a resolution in favor of
Mr. Lincoln's renomination. This expression of the Republican sen-
timent of his State induced Mr. Chase to withdraw as a candidate.

The restless spirits in the Republican party continued their op-
position notwithstanding Mr. Chase's withdrawal, and a convention
was called to meet at Cleveland on the 31st of May. This call was ad-
dressed to the " Radical Men of the Nation," and was signed by a few
of the irreconcilables, including the Rev. Dr. George B. Cheever and
Lucius Robinson, of New York, and B. Gratz Brown, of Missouri.
Wendell Phillips and Frederick Douglass wrote letters approving
the movement. The meeting comprised about 300 persons, none of
them regularly chosen as delegates. William F. Johnston, the last
of the Whig Governors of Pennsylvania, was the temporary chairman,
and General John Cochrane, of New York, a War Democrat, the Presi-



dent of the Convention. General John C. Fremont was unanimously
nominated for President, and General John Coclirane, with a few dis-
senting votes, for Vice-President. The platform was bold in terms,
but meaningless as a practical policy. Its most sweeping declaration
in favor of the confiscation of the lauds of rebels and their distribu-
tion among Union soldiers and sailors was repudiated by General
Fremont in his letter of acceptance, and remitted to Congress by
General Coclirane. The ticket commanded no appreciable support,
and the candidates subsequently withdrew.

The Republican National Convention assembled at Baltimore on
the Tth of June. All opposition to the renominatiou of President Lin-
coln had disappeared, and the
interest centered in the candi-
date for Vice-President. There
was a strong feeling in the
party for the " old ticket," but
Lincoln was unquestionably
unfavorable to Hamlin as his
running mate. The two men
w r ere not sympathetic; Hamlin
neither obtained nor desired
the President's confidence. He
had none of the personal at-
tachment for Lincoln that was
felt and avowed by Chase in
spite of their political differ-
ences. His claims to a renomi-
nation were purely sentimental
claims, and these were of a na-
ture with which Lincoln could
not sympathize to any great ex-
tent. Hamlin was one of the doubters of Lincoln's fitness for the Pres-
idency, and would have been willing that the President should have no
real share in Lincoln's administration. He was indifferent, if not hos-
tile, when Lincoln was most sorely tried. Their positions were now re-
versed. Lincoln was not only openly indifferent to Hamlin's candida-
ture, but he was secretly casting about him for a candidate to take
Hamlin's place. His idea of the candidate for Vice-President was that
he should be a War Democrat. Hamlin had been a Democrat, but he
ceased to be one long before the war. Lincoln wanted a Democrat who
came into the Republican party with the war. His first choice was
General Benjamin F. Butler. Butler had been an extreme pro-Slavery
Democrat, but after the firing on Sumter and the call to arms he was



the first Union General to treat slaves as " contraband '' of war; as a
soldier in the field he had not proved very successful, but after the oc-
cupation of New Orleans he held the captured city with so much firm-
ness that he was an object of universal obloquy in the South and with
the Peace Democracy of the North. Butler declined to become a can-
didate, and finally the President's influence was quietly exerted for the
nomination of Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee. There has been much
dispute in regard to President Lincoln's share in the nomination of
Johnson, but that he favored and promoted it may be accepted as

Three years' contact with politicians as astute as Seward and Chase,
and with the little army of political organizers that encamped in the
White House, had made Abraham Lincoln a shrewd manager in poli-
tics. When he determined that Johnson should be his associate on the
ticket he brought the necessary influences to bear upon his purpose
with remarkable skill. It w^as part of Lincoln's characteristics that
he gave a share of his confidence to many men, but his full confidence
to no man. If he had not wished for Johnson's nomination it would
not have been made. Johnson was not the personal choice of any of
Lincoln's friends. Lincoln brought them into his views one by one,
but few or none of them knew that he had conferred with the others.
He imparted his views to Cameron, but did not tell Cameron that he
meant to impart them to McClure. He gave his confidence to Mc-
Clure, but McClure was not aware that he had given it to Cameron.
From Burton C. Cook, the chairman of the Illinois delegation, he
withheld all knowledge of his purpose, thinking it time enough for
Cook to learn what was expected from him w r hen the time came to act.
How far he consulted with Henry J. Raymond, the editor of the New
York Times, in regard to Johnson's nomination is not known, but
Raymond was Lincoln's manager at Baltimore, and he diverted the
New York delegation from Dickinson to Johnson while it was still
possible to nominate their own candidate. Seward and Weed w r ere
both consulted, and both assented and assisted. Leonard Swett, of
Illinois, who, perhaps, more than any man, had Lincoln's complete
confidence, and Ward H. Lamon, w r hom Lincoln brought from Spring-
field to make him Marshal of the District of Columbia, were both fully
informed in regard to the President's wishes. Lamon, indeed, was fur-
nished with a letter declaring Lincoln's views in favor of Johnson's
nomination, that he was to use if its use became necessary. Hamlin
and his friends were kept in complete ignorance of the fact that Lin-
coln was asking his friends to nominate Johnson. " Lincoln," Swett
said to him, " if it were known in New England that you are in favor
of leaving Hamlin off the ticket it would raise the devil among the


Yankees." The secret was so well kept that Hamlin learned for the
first time that Lincoln was active in promoting the nomination of
Johnson only a year or two before his death. At Baltimore it was in
the air that Johnson was Lincoln's candidate for the Vice-Presidency,
but not even Swett was openly for him. This familiar of Lincoln
bewildered the Illinois delegation; and made Cook suspicious of
treachery, by telegraphing a request that the delegation should sup-
port Holt. At Cook's request a letter was sent to the White House to
ascertain if Lincoln was behind Swett. " Cook wants to know con-
fidentially whether Swett is all right," John G. Nicolay, the Presi-
dent's private secretary, wrote from Baltimore to John Hay, the
assistant private secretary; " whether in urging Holt for Viee-Presi-
dent he reflects the President's wishes; whether the President has
any preferences either personally or on the score of policy; or whether

he wishes not even to interfere by a con-
fidential communication." The answer-
was probably sufficient for Cook, but it
was not understood by Nicolay. " Swett
is unquestionably all right," Lincoln
wrote on the back of the letter from
Nicolay to Hay; " Mr. Holt is a good
man, but I had not heard or thought of
him for V.-P. Wish not to interfere
about V.-P. Can not interfere about
platform convention must judge for it-
self." This meant that Swett knew what
he was about, but that the President was

ANDREW JOHNSON. not making confidential communications

through his private secretaries. The nom-
ination of Johnson at Baltimore was Lincoln's nomination, made at
Lincoln's request, for reasons that he was very earnest in urging. He
sent for McClm e to urge him to support Johnson. " At that interview,"
Mr. McClure says, " Mr. Lincoln earnestly explained why the nomina-
tion of a well-known Southern man like Andrew Johnson who had
been Congressman, Governor, and Senator by the favor of his State
would not only nationalize the Republican party and the Government,
but would greatly lessen the grave peril of the recognition of the Con-
federacy by England and France. He believed that the election to the
Vice-Presidency of a representative statesman from an insurgent State
that had been restored to the Union would disarm the enemies of the
Republic abroad and remove the load of sectionalism from the Gov-
ernment that seemed to greatly hinder peace. No intimation, no trace,
of prejudice against Mr. Hamlin was exhibited, and I well knew that


no such consideration could have influenced Mr. Lincoln in such an
emergency. Had he believed Mr. Hamlin to be the man who could
best promote the great work whose direction fell solely upon himself
he would have favored Hamlin's nomination regardless of his per-
sonal wishes; but he believed that a great public achievement would
be attained by the election of Johnson ; and I returned to Baltimore to
work and vote for Johnson, although against all my personal pre-
dilections in the matter." Similar declarations were made to Swett
and Lamon, and Lincoln's wishes were respected by the convention
without the delegates understanding fully why they were acting
against their personal predilections in the matter.

While Lincoln was planning for the displacement of Hamlin on
the eve of the Baltimore Convention it is unnecessary to say plot-
ting, because as a candidate for re-election his wishes in regard to his
associate on the ticket were and ought to have been paramount with
the nominating body the hope of preventing his candidature had not
entirely expired in the breasts of his most bitter opponents. General
Fremont's letter accepting the Cleveland nomination was dated only
three days before the date set for the meeting of the Convention at
Baltimore. It was a violent assault on the administration, which was
charged with incapacity by a soldier candidate whose military career
had failed because of his own want of capacity, and arraigned for
infidelity to the principles it was pledged to maintain, although Lin-
coln had always been in advance of the great body of the Republican
party on the question of emancipation. Fremont's premature policy
of 1861 would have been even more completely repudiated by the

Online LibraryGeorge Oberkirsh SeilhamerHistory of the Republican party (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 61)