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the pursuit of notoriety, but he managed to attract a great deal of at-
tention to himself. His catspaw was
(ireeley. Jewett wrote letters of
advice to Jefferson Davis and Abra-
ham Lincoln, that were never no-
ticed by their recipients, but ap-
peared in the New York Herald,
with comments replete with the
grim humor of James Gordon Ben-
nett, the elder. Greeley took the
adviser of the two American Presi-
dents more seriously. In July,
1864, Jewett wrote to Greeley from
Niagara Falls, that he had just seen
George N. Sanders, of Kentucky, on
the Canada side, and that he was GEORGE tf. SANDERS.

authorized to say that two ambas-
sadors from " Davis & Co." were there " with full and complete
pow r ers to treat for peace." " Mr. Sanders requests," Jewett wrote,.
" that you come on immediately to me at Cataract House to have a
private interview; or if you will send the President's protection for
him and two friends they will come and meet you." Greeley was
greatly impressed by this communication. He sent the letter, with a
telegram from Jewett that followed it, to the President, inclosed in a
letter of his own, in which he spoke of his queer correspondent as " our
irrepressible friend, Colorado Jewett," and urged that the application
be responded to. This letter from Greeley to Lincoln was an extraor-
dinary recital from a sane man to the President of the United States.
" I venture to remind you that our bleeding, bankrupt, almost dying
country also longs for peace," he said, after insisting upon the Con-
federate wish for a settlement; " shudders at the prospect of fresh con-


scriptions, of further wholesale devastations, and of new rivers of
human blood." He declared that there was " a widespread conviction
that the Government and its prominent supporters are not anxious
for peace, and do not improve proffered opportunities to achieve it ";
rebuked the President for not receiving the Stephens embassy, and
disapproved the warlike tone of the Baltimore platform. He wanted
an adjustment in time to affect the North Carolina election, but failed
to understand that the proposed negotiation was a Confederate
scheme to affect the Presidential elections. Mr. Greeley himself made
suggestions of the basis of a settlement (1) the Union restored and
declared perpetual; (2) slavery utterly and forever abolished; (3) com-
plete amnesty; (4) the payment of f 400,000,000 to the Slave
States as compensation for their slaves; (5) the Slave States
to be represented in Congress in proportion to their total
population; and (<>) a national convention. To Mr. Greeley's
surprise Mr. Lincoln made no objection to his terms, and asked
him to meet the commissioners at Niagara and conduct them to
Washington. Greeley was thus doubly entrapped; he accepted his
mission with reluctance, and conducted it without skill. There was,
in fact, no basis for negotiations on the part of the alleged commis-
sioners that could be at all acceptable, and Mr. Greeley and the
rebels both complained afterward because the President made Gree-
ley's conditions the conditions of the proposed negotiations. " There
was a very widespread impression," he says in the " American Con-
flict," written after the war, " that the overture of the Confederates
had not been met in the manner best calculated to strengthen the
national cause and invigorate the arm of its supporters. In other
words, it was felt since the overture originated with them they
should have been allowed to make their own proposition, and not
required in effect to make one dictated from our side, however in-
herently reasonable." Mr. Greeley joined in attributing the failure
of these insincere negotiations to the President's refusal to receive
the Rebel Commissioners " unconditionally," and the outcome of the
affair was what was originally intended a not ineffective campaign
document for the Peace Democracy.

After the failure of Greeley's peace mission there was a discussion
between the President and Greeley in regard to the correspondence.
The President invited Mr. Greeley to Washington, but Greeley declined
to go on the ground that Mr. Lincoln was surrounded by his " bitter-
est personal enemies." " I will gladly go," he said, " whenever I feel
a hope that their influence has waned." This could only have meant
that Greeley wanted a promise from the President that Secretary
Seward should be dismissed from the Cabinet. The acceptance of Mr.


Chase's resignation as Secretary of the Treasury, on the last day of
June, because Mr. Chase insisted on nominating a candidate of his
own as Assistant Treasurer at New York, was one of Greeley's griev-
ances. The President sustained the party view in the matter, which
was the view of Seward's friends. Greeley regarded Chase's resigna-
tion as a shock to public confidence in the administration, but it
proved nothing of the kind, for even Mr. Chase, true to his conserva-
tive instincts, supported Mr. Lincoln in the ensuing campaign as
heartily as it was his nature to support anybody.

No one believes that Horace Greeley was knowingly disloyal in
becoming the instrument of the conspiracy, but he was in line with
many of the conspirators, who were disloyal, in some of his utterances
and demands. In one of his letters to Lincoln he went to the extent
of asking for an armistice for a year and a convention even after his
abortive negotiations. The conspirators who w r ere doing the work
of the Southern Confederacy in the North scarcely went further in
principle, although they were willing to go to far greater lengths in
practice. It was a time when conspirators and conspiracies were rife
in all the border slave and free States. They were known by various
names, but the " Knights of the Golden Circle " was the one most
commonly applied to them. When one name was discovered they
adopted another, calling themselves at different times the " Order of
American Knights," the " Order of the Star," and the " Sons of Lib-
erty." These knights were in the main the lower class of Democrats,
for whom furtive treason in secret lodges had a great attraction
these " Sons of Liberty " were ignorant champions of slavery, led by
rebel brigadiers and major-generals in disguise. The organization of
the lodges was military. The State lodges were commanded by major-
generals, the Congress districts by brigadiers, the counties by col-
onels, and the townships by captains. They drilled in secret, pur-
chased arms, and prepared for war. Judge Advocate General Holt,
in March, 1804, placed their number at 340,000. This was probably
exaggerated at the time, but it had reached fullv 500,000 when Gen-


eral McClellan was nominated at Chicago. If the dark cloud had not
lifted almost immediately after the work of the Peace Convention was
ended, it is not unlikely that these knights of slavery would have
marched as openly in the campaign processions of 1864 as the " Wide-
A wakes " marched in the torchlight parades in the campaign of 1860.
The nomination of General McClellan was not made without a
stormy protest in a convention of peacemakers. McClellan had ar-
rested the Maryland Legislature when it was on the point of passing
an ordinance of secession. A Maryland delegate stood up in the Con-
vention and boldly proclaimed him " a tyrant." " All the charges of



usurpation and tyranny that can be brought against Lincoln and
Butler/' exclaimed the speaker, " can be made and substantiated
against McClellau. He is the assassin of State rights, the usurper of
liberty, and if nominated will be beaten everywhere as he was at An-
tietam." General Morgan, of Ohio, defended McClellan, but Alexan-
der Long, an extremist of the Vallandigham type, joined in the de-
nunciation of the candidate. These men wanted a candidate whose
tfcts would square with their principles, but the majority of the Con-
vention felt that McClellan was a good enough peace candidate for
them. On a platform less vehement in declaring the war, in which he
had been the idol of the Democratic soldiers in the Army of the

Potomac, a failure, he would
have been an ideal candidate.
His military failures had al-
ways been condoned by the
Democrats and by niam T of
the Republicans. The admin-
istration at Washington \vas
charged w r ith the responsi-
bility of his defeat before
Richmond. The drawn bat-
tle at Antietam was magni-
fied into a great victory by
his friends and admirers.
The country knew little of his
real character his vanity
that made him disobedient
and even disrespectful, his
ambition that prompted him
to look forward to a dictator-
ship, his inertia that saved
the lives of his men by inaction and sacrificed them through disease
or defeat. After the battle at Antietam President Lincoln visited
him in the cam]) on the Potomac, and vainly urged him to cross
the river and give the enemy battle. Leaving his tent early in the
morning with a friend, Lincoln went to an eminence that over-
looked the vast encampment. It was a splendid vision of all the
pomp and circumstance of glorious war. " Do you know what that
is? " he asked, pointing to the vast host that was encamped below
them. " It is the Army of the Potomac," was the answer. " That is
a mistake," Lincoln said; " it is only McClellan's body-guard.'' While
McClellan lay there, Stuart with his cavalry swept completely round
the proud army, fresh from the vaunted victory at Antietam, sacking



the towns and villages on his inarch without losing a inaii. At this
time the President was chafing at McClellan's delay and McClellan
was chafing at the course of the President. u The President's late
proclamation," he wrote " the continuation of Stanton and Halleck
in office, render it almost impossible for me to retain my commission
and self-respect at the same time." But he neither resigned nor at-
tacked the enemy, and the President removed him. He afterward
took credit to himself for not heading a mutiny of his troops because
of his removal. u Many were in favor of my refusing to obe} 7 the or-
der," he wrote, " and of marching upon Washington to take possession
of the Government.'" Without the desperate courage to heed these
counsels, he seems to have heard them without rebuke. His removal
caused a storm of indignation in the peace party, which a day or tw T o
before had elected Horatio Seymour Governor of New York. His dis-
missal, Lord Lyons wrote to his Government, caused u an irritation
not unmixed with consternation and despondency. The General has
been regarded as the representative of conservative principles in the
army. Support of him has been made one of the articles of the Con-
servative electoral platform."

This General, removed in 18(52, and living in enforced retirement in
New Jersey in 1864, was the logical candidate of the Peace Democracy
for President, as Mr. Lincoln's successor. The time seemed opportune
for the party and the candidate. General Grant had done, in the
summer of 1864, what McClellan was removed for not doing in the
autumn of 1862. The result, as it appeared to the Peace Convention
at Chicago, was " four years of failure to restore the Union by the
experiment of war." If these conditions had lasted long enough to
allow' McClellan time to have written his letter of acceptance without
a sign of the coming victories, it is probable he would have placed
himself squarely on the platform of his party in defiance of the
aroused sentiment of the country. That would not have been incom-
patible with his career, for a soldier who never saw his own army
fight a battle was well fitted to lead a party that declared that there
should be no more battles for the Union.

" With reverses in the field the cause is doubtful at the polls," said
Abraham Lincoln; u with victory in the field, the election will take
care of itself." While the Peace Convention was declaring the war a
failure the news of the capture of Fort Morgan came as a protest to
the betrayal of the Union, Scarcely had it named its candidate when
the inspiriting intelligence was received that Sherman was in At-
lanta. " Sherman and Farragut." Seward said in a speech at Auburn,
" have knocked the planks out of the Chicago platform." The dele-
gates to the Convention had scarcely got back to their homes, to ex-




plain to disgusted Democrats why they had accepted a policy from

the wild and reckless Vallandigham, when Sheridan sent the forces

of the fierce and arrogant Early

scurrying from Winchester and

Fisher's Hill. Cedar Creek was

quickly to follow. With Farra-

gut sweeping Mobile Bay, with

Sherman in Atlanta preparing to

march through Georgia, with

Sheridan avenging the swoop of

Early and the torch of McCaus-

land in the Shenandoah Valley,

and with Grant holding Lee fast

as in a vise at Petersburg and

pounding the main hope of the

Confederacy day after day, the

peace party and its candidate

could not withstand the ridicule

and obloquy hurled at them by a

people aflame with enthusiasm.

It was in the first flush of these

victories that General McClellan set himself to the task of writing his

letter of acceptance. His situation was an awkward one. He at-
tempted a cautious and guarded dis-
sent from the offensive and obnox-
ious declarations of the nominating
body, but it was too late for mod-
eration to avail him with the coun-
try. The bulletins from the battle-
field were echoed back from the
polls in the September and October
elections. Vermont and Maine
answered back to Atlanta and Mo-
bile; Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indi-
ana were the responses to Winches-
ter, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek.
The campaign that had begun in
darkness and gloom closed with a

At the time when Lincoln was
most despondent over the chances

of his re-election, the greatest pressure was brought to bear upon him

for the removal of Postmaster-General Blair, in compliance with the



demand of the Baltimore platform. The Cabinet was never a happy
family, and Montgomery Blair was one of its most discordant ele-
ments. His sharp tongue wagged incessantly, and sharp words, like
chickens, come home to roost. None of Mr. Lincoln's advisers made so
many enemies, both in and out of the Cabinet. His loyalty to Lincoln
\vas at least equal to that of any of his associates, and his support of
the Emancipation Proclamation was unequivocal when others were
less hearty, but he lost caste with the radical anti-slavery men at a
very early period. He was, as he wrote to Fremont, too obstreperous.
The quarrel of the Blairs with Fremont was the beginning of the
antagonisms that finally involved Mr. Lincoln, and compelled him to
ask for the Postmaster-General's resignation. These antagonisms had
a seriousness then that seems like silliness now. The Union League of
Philadelphia, in 1863, made the members of the Cabinet honorary
members of the club, but omitted Montgomery Blair's name from the
list. At that time he opposed Henry Winter Davis in Maryland,
which he had a right to do; but in doing it he spoke of his Republican
assailants with an acrimony that directed their anger tow r ard Lincoln,
who was blameless. The Blair feud in Missouri not only deprived
Lincoln of the vote of the Missouri delegation in the Baltimore Con-
vention, but it was the occasion of the harmony counsels in the Balti-
more platform. After the Convention, and especially after Chase's
resignation, Lincoln was harassed by the complaints of Blair's en-
emies. His relations with Seward and Stanton were as strained as
had been his relations with Chase. To the old enmities he added new-
ones. Smarting under the destruction of his property in the suburbs
of Washington, when Early was conducting a political campaign in
conjunction with the Democracy, he talked recklessly of the laxity or
poltroonery of the defenders of the capital. This angered General
Halleck, who wrote to the Secretary of War calling Blair a slanderer,
and asking " whether such wholesale denouncement and accusation
by a member of the Cabinet receives the sanction and approbation of
the President of the United States." Stanton sent the letter to the
President without comment. " Whether the remarks were really
made I do not know," Lincoln said in response, " nor do I suppose
such knowledge is necessary to a correct response. If they were made,
I do not approve them; and yet, under the circumstances, I
would not dismiss a member of the Cabinet therefor. I do not con-
sider what may have been hastily said in a moment of texation at so
severe a loss is sufficient ground for so grave a step. Besides this,
truth is generally the best vindication against slander. I propose
continuing to be myself the judge as to when a member of the Cabinet
shall be dismissed." With each day the pressure upon the President


increased until September, when missives aimed at Blair became an
avalanche. '' Blair every one hates," Henry Wilson wrote. " Tens
of thousands of men will be lost to you or will give a reluctant vote on
account of the Blairs." At last Lincoln yielded, but not until the
political skies had brightened and success was assured. Blair ac-
cepted his dismissal manfully, and Lincoln had no more earnest sup-
porter in the campaign.

The Democratic position rendered Fremont's candidature unten-
able, and he withdrew. Lincoln held aloof from the campaign, but
Seward made a speech to his to-wusmen at Auburn before the peace
delegates from Chicago got back to their homes to tell the people how
boldly they had proclaimed the war a failure. It was one of the con-
ditions of the war canvass, however, that the President was called
upon to intervene to compose disagreements among his supporters,
or to pass upon the protests of his opponents. One of the most im-
portant of the Democratic objections came from Tennessee. Governor
Johnson issued a proclamation defining the manner in which the
Presidential vote should be taken, and prescribing the oath. The
Democratic candidates for electors felt aggrieved at the requirements,
and appealed from Johnson to Lincoln. The President refused to
intervene, and the McClellan ticket was withdrawn. From the Con-
gress districts came complaints, even from Republican candidates,
of Republican officials, especially the postmasters. Isaac N. Arnold
complained of the hostility of the postmaster at Chicago. William I).
Kelley accused the postmaster at Philadelphia of interference. Fred-
erick A. Conkling incurred the opposition of the Custom House offi-
cials in New York city. Roscoe Conkling was opposed by some of Mr.
Seward's friends in the Utica district. When the distractions of
faction were quieted everywhere else, they were still active in Mis-
souri. In all these cases Mr. Lincoln did what he could to compose
the differences, generally with success, so that the party was reunited
in the Presidential contest, even in a State where some of the politi-
cians were inclined to oppose Lincoln because the Blairs continued to
support him.

It was, of course, impossible to conduct McClellan's campaign in
the key in which it was set. The men who had given its tone and
character to the Convention that nominated him were angered at his
attempt to weaken the force of its declarations. " The Chicago Con
vention," Mr. Vallandigham said, after the letter of acceptance was
made public, " enunciated its platform and principles by authority
and was binding on every Democrat, and by them the Democratic
administration must and should be governed. It was the only au-
thorized exposition of the Democratic creed, and he repudiated all


others." That this would have been the policy of the administration
in case of success the country did not doubt. McClellan was practi-
cally held to the platform throughout the campaign, and the discus-
sions of his military genius and his wrongs proved ineffective. The
mad schemes of Jacob Thompson and other rebel emissaries in Can-
ada only added to the hopelessness of the efforts in his behalf. The
October elections dissipated the last lingering hope of Democratic
success. Pennsylvania changed her representation in Congress from
12 to 12, to 15 Republicans and 9 Democrats. Indiana elected Gov-
ernor Morton by a majority of 30,000. Ohio, which had sent 14 Demo-
crats to 5 Republicans to Congress in 1862, now chose IT Republicans
to 2 Democrats, and the Union ticket had a majority of 54,754. Mary-
laud placed herself in line with the Free States by adopting the new
Constitution abolishing slavery. Lincoln's election being thus as-
sured, the interest centered in the determination to defeat Governor
Seymour in New York. It was a campaign for the vindication of the
President against the aspersions of Mr. Seymour in the Chicago Con-
vention. Seymour was beaten. McClellan carried only three States-
New Jersey, Delaware, and Kentucky. Lincoln carried all the others,
receiving 212 electoral votes to 21 for McClellan. Lincoln's popular
majority was 411,428; of the arm}- vote he received 119,754 to 34,291
for McClellan over 3 to 1. The Republican representation in Con-
gress was increased from 10G to 143, and the Democrats were reduced
from 77 to 41 on the face of the returns.

The Union was saved. The doom of slavery was sealed. It only
remained for the Republican party to end a war, fast nearing its close,
and to begin the work of Reconstruction.



1. Resolved, That it is the highest duty of every American citizen
to maintain against all their enemies the integrit}^ of the Union, and
the permanent authority of the Constitution and laws of the United
States; and that, laying aside all differences of political opinion, we
pledge ourselves as Union men, animated by a common sentiment,
and aiming at a common object, to do everything in our power to aid
the Government in quelling by force of arms the rebellion now raging
against its authority, and in bringing to the punishment due to their
crimes the rebels and traitors arrayed against it.

2. Resolved, That we approve the determination of the Government
of the United States not to compromise with rebels, or to offer them
any terms of peace, except such as may be based upon an uncondi-
tional surrender of their hostility and a return to their just allegiance
to the Constitution and laws of the United States; and that we call
upon the Government to maintain this position, and to prosecute the
war with the utmost possible vigor to the complete suppression of the
rebellion, in full reliance upon the self-sacrificing patriotism, the
heroic valor, and the undying devotion of the American people to
their country and its free institutions.

3. Resolved, That as slavery was the cause, and now constitutes the
strength of this rebellion, and as it must be, always and everywhere,
hostile to the principles of republican government, justice and the
national safety demand its utter and complete extirpation from the
soil of the Republic; and that, while we uphold and maintain the acts
and proclamations by which the Government, in its own defense, has
aimed a deathblow at this gigantic evil, we are in favor, furthermore,
of such amendment to the Constitution, to be made by the people in
conformity with its provisions, as shall terminate and forever pro-
hibit the existence of slavery within the limits or the jurisdiction of
the United States.

4. Rewired, That the thanks of the American people are due to the
soldiers and sailors of the army and navy who have periled their
lives in defense of their country and in vindication of the honor of its
flag; that the nation owes to them some permanent recognition of
their patriotism and their valor, and ample and permanent provision
for those of their survivors who have received disabling and honor-
able wounds in the service of the country; and that the memories of


those who have fallen in its defense shall be held in grateful and ever-
lasting remembrance.

5. Resolved, That we approve and applaud the practical wisdom,
the unselfish patriotism, and the unswerving fidelity with which
Abraham Lincoln has discharged, under circumstances of unpar-
alleled difficulty, the great duties and responsibilities of the Presiden-

Online LibraryGeorge Oberkirsh SeilhamerHistory of the Republican party (Volume 1) → online text (page 17 of 61)