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Baltimore a fortnight, and the nomination of Bell and Everett had
been made a week before the meeting of the Chicago Convention.
This second Republican National Convention was essentially different
from that which had nominated Fremont at Philadelphia four years
before. In 1856 the delegates were self-appointed and the party with-
out organization or cohesion. In 1860 its organization was perfected
in every Northern State, and the delegates w r ere chosen as fit embodi-
ments of the principles and purposes of the party. While the Demo-
crats w r ere divided and discordant, the Republicans were united and
confident. They had carried every Northern State in 1859, except
California, Oregon, New York, and Rhode Island. In Oregon the ad-
verse majority was only 59. In New York the Republican vote was
less than two thousand short of an absolute majority over the Demo-
crats and the third party men. Rhode Island had only been carried
by a fusion of the entire opposition. Since these elections the party
had gained in confidence and strength, and was hopeful of carrying
every Free State in the ensuing Presidential election. Like the Phila-
delphia Convention of four years before, the Chicago Convention was
made up in great part of young men, a large proportion of whom were
afterward prominent in public life. Mr. Blaine says that not fewer
than sixty of them, till then unknown beyond their districts, were
afterward sent to Congress; many became Governors of their States,
and many others were distinguished as soldiers in the civil war that
was to follow the Republican triumph. All the Free States were fully
represented in the Convention, with delegates from six Slave States
Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Texas. The



whole number of votes represented in the Convention was 465, the
number necessary to a choice being 233.

The one man who had done more than any other to organize, con-
solidate, and inspire the Republican party was William H. Seward,
of New York. For fully two years before the meeting of the Conven-
tion the impression prevailed among the people that his nomination
for President was a foregone conclusion. Fully two-thirds of the dele-
gates chosen to the Convention preferred him as the Republican can-
didate, and a clear majority went to Chicago expecting to vote for him.
His high character, his eminent ability, and the importance and mag-
nitude of his work were everywhere conceded. When the Convention

met there was no powerful candi-
date to oppose him, and it was not
until the delegates came face to
face that his availability began to
be a question. It was soon found,
however, that he was confronted
with obstacles that would prove
formidable, if not insuperable.
Timid men feared that his radi-
calism would make Mr. Seward
weak where a candidate of fewer
antagonisms might be strong. In
the Convention was a delegate
from Oregon, who lived in New
York, and had sought and obtain-
ed the right to represent that far
distant Statewith a viewto oppos-
ing Seward's nomination. This man
was Horace Greeley. It was not
known at the time that the old firm

of Seward, Weed, and Greeley had been dissolved. If this had been
known it is doubtful if Greeley's hostility to Seward would have been
so effective as it proved, but apart from Greeley's opposition still more
powerful influences were exerted against Seward from the two States
of Indiana and Pennsylvania. In Indiana Henry S. Lane had just been
nominated for Governor, with Oliver P. Morton, then not known be-
yond his State, for Lieutenant-Governor. It was understood that if
the Republicans carried the State, Lane would be sent to the United
States Senate, and Morton would become Governor. Both Lane and
Morton believed that Seward's nomination meant their own defeat
in their States. In Pennsylvania Andrew G. Curtin had been nomi-
nated for Governor by a People's State Convention, the party not



being bold enough to assume the name of Republican. In this Peo-
ple's party the " American " element continued to be powerful. The
" American " organization was still maintained in Philadelphia, and
in a number of the counties of the State. Without its aid Curtin's
success was impossible. In Indiana the " American " element was
strong also, and its support was equally necessary to the election of
Lane and Morton. As a result of these conditions, the defeat of
Seward and the nomination of Lincoln were brought about by two
men who believed, not without reason, that Seward's nomination
meant a Democratic victory in their States Henry S. Lane, of Indi-
ana, and Andrew G. Curt in, of Pennsylvania.

In spite of the hostility of Greeley and the antagonistic attitude of
Indiana and Pennsylvania, Seward's strength was not easily broken.
As late as the night of the IGth Mr. Greeley telegraphed to the N>w
York Tribune that the opposition to Governor Seward was unable to
concentrate on a candidate, and that he would be nominated. Gree-
k's choice was Edward Bates, of Missouri an old Whig, who
had been a member of the convention that framed the constitution
of that State in 1820, and joined the Republicans because of the re-
peal of the Missouri Compromise. He was backed by a Missouri dele-
gation, and had the support of the venerable Francis P. Blair and his
son, Montgomery Blair. His strength was confined to the border
States, none of which the Republicans could hope to carry. A part of
the Ohio delegation affected to want the nomination of Salmon P.
Chase; Pennsylvania had an ostensible candidate in Simon Cameron;
New Jersey supported William L. Dayton, and Vermont presented
the name of Jacob Collamer. Another candidate, besides Chase, who
was without the support of a united delegation, was John
McLean, of Ohio. Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, was the only candi-
date whose strength was unforeseen. Lincoln had been named as the
choice of the Illinois Republicans by the State Convention only a
few days before the meeting of the National Convention. This nomi-
nation was a surprise even to the Convention that made it. The
proposition came from Richard J. Oglesby, in an eloquent speech, and
it was received with an enthusiasm that was as boisterous as it was
spontaneous. A delegation was chosen that was remarkable for its
ability, and admirably fitted for the difficult task assigned to it. But
it was not necessarily a Lincoln delegation to a finish. Eight of the
twenty-two delegates would gladly have supported Seward would,
perhaps, have preferred him to Lincoln. Even in Chicago, where the
enthusiasm for Lincoln was very great, Seward's popularity seemed
a match for it. No candidate for the Presidency ever had a delegation
from his own State more devoted to his interests than was the New


York delegation in support of Mr. Seward in 1860. It had come to
Chicago to work with a united will, and to vote as a unit. Behind it
was an enthusiastic following that was so demonstrative that it
seemed to be celebrating a victory already achieved. At the Seward
headquarters at the Richmond House was a palpitating mass of Se-
ward enthusiasts, intolerant of any name but that of their favorite.
These carried their demonstrations to excess. They invaded the quar-
ters of the delegations from other States, and proclaimed the name
of their candidate everywhere. Seward badges were seen in every
crowd. The New York delegation was scarcely behind the mobs of
tumultuous Seward admirers in ostentatious display. Some of the
delegates talked without prudence of the money New York would
contribute to the campaign. The delegates marched in procession
to the Convention each day, with music and banners. More potential

than this outward show were the quiet ap-
peals of Mr. Seward's two most eloquent
champions Thurlow Weed and William M.
Evarts. In every delegation their pleadings
for their candidate were heard and felt.
Weed was Seward's life-long friend. In pri-
vate conversation he was the most persua-
sive of men. He spoke for Seward with an
earnestness that was weighted with his af-
fection for the man, and a force that was irre-
sistible in the presentation of the character,
the gifts, and the services of the statesman.
Evarts was as eloquent as Weed was persua-
sive. W T herever Evarts went men followed

him, drawn by the charm of his oratory even men who were deter-
mined not to accept his candidate. Never before had a great statesman
so impassioned a champion. Evarts spoke as a friend, as a patriot for
the Republic, for the party that could save it, and for the man who
had founded the party and was best fitted to lead it. But no appeal,
however persuasive, no argument however eloquent, was of avail in a
crisis in which eminent services counted for less than the ability to
carry four doubtful States, in which the Republican party was scarce-
ly Republican at heart States in which the Republican leaders, who
were not " Know-Nothings," were still Whigs in sympathy, without
the courage to call themselves Republicans. These men had their
missionaries, as Seward had Weed and Evarts, but with demands that
could not be easily disregarded. With Lane was John D. Defrees, the
chairman of his State Committee, and with Curtin was Alexander K.
McClure, who was to manage the campaign in Pennsylvania. Lin-



coin's biographers, Nicolay and Hay, deny that the credit of Lincoln's
nomination belongs to these men, and assert that " Lincoln was not
chosen by intrigue, but through political necessity." It has never
been claimed that it was " intrigue " that nominated Lincoln, but the
" political necessity " that defeated Seward w r as only another name
for the political interests that were opposed to his nomination. Mr.
McClure, in his " Lincoln and Men of War Times," has stated the mat-
ter with more precision. "There could be no question as to the sincerity
of the Republican candidates for Governor in the two pivotal States


when they declared that a particular nomination would doom them
to defeat," he says, " and it was Andrew G. Curtin and Henry S. Lane
whose earnest admonitions to the delegates at Chicago compelled
a Seward Convention to halt in its purpose and set him aside, with all
his pre-eminent qualifications and with all the enthusiastic devotion
of his party to him."

The Chicago of 1860 had no building sufficiently commodious for a
great National Convention. A temporary frame structure, for which
it was claimed that it was capable of seating ten thousand persons,
was accordingly designed and erected for the occasion. This building


was given the name of the " Republican Wigwam." It turned out to
be admirably fitted for the purpose for which it was intended. Its
acoustic qualities were perfect. Every part of the great auditorium
was visible from every part. Every celebrity could be seen, every
speech could be heard. There were separate doors for the ingress
and egress of spectators and delegates. Among the delegates was a
large number of men of national reputation, most of them unknown
by sight to the vast multitude that crowded the building. It was soon
found that the crowd was easily able to distinguish the chief actors
on the floor of the Convention, and the eminent men seated on the
platform. In many of the delegations there w r as a noteworthy blend-
ing of men of diverse political antecedents anti-Slavery Democrats,
'Webster Whigs, and now and then a pronounced Abolitionist. Mas-
sachusetts sent John A. Andrew and George S. Boutwell; New York,
William M. Evarts and Preston King; Pennsylvania, Thaddeus Ste-
vens and Andrew H. Reeder; Ohio, Thomas Corwin and Joshua R.
Giddings; Illinois, David Davis and N. B. Judd; and Missouri, Francis
P. Blair, Jr., and Carl Schurz. David W T ilmot, of Pennsylvania, the
Democratic author of the famous Proviso, was made temporary chair-
man of the Convention, and George Aslmiun, of Massachusetts, a life-
long adherent of Daniel Webster, its permanent president. Both
selections were received with satisfaction by the Convention and
hearty applause from the galleries.

The first day of the Convention was devoted to the work of organ-
ization, and the usual Committees on Credentials and Resolutions
were appointed. There were no contested seats, but a delegation
claiming to represent Texas was afterward found to be ineligible.
The Committee on Platform, which consisted of one delegate from
each State and Territory, reported on the evening of the second day.
When the platform was read it was received with tremendous cheers,
and the disposition was evinced to adopt it immediately and unani-
mously. Mr. Giddings, of Ohio, always insisting upon the embodiment
of " primal truths,'' moved to amend the first resolution by incor-
porating in it the phrases from the Declaration of Independence, de-
claring "That all men are created equal; and they are endowed by
their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are
life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights,
governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers
from the consent of the governed," but the Convention was eager to
adopt the platform without change, and the amendment was voted
down. This so grieved the anti-slavery veteran that he rose and
walked out of the Convention Hall. When the second resolution was
reached George William Curtis, of New York, renewed Mr. Giddings's



amendment, and supported his motion with a burst of oratory that
carried everything before it. " I have to ask this Convention/' he
said, " whether they are prepared to go upon the record before the
country as voting down the words of the Declaration of Independ-
ence? ... I rise simply to ask the gentlemen to think well be-
fore, upon the free prairies of the West, in the summer of 1860, they
dare to wince and quail before the assertions of the men in Phila-
delphia in 1776; before they dare to shrink from repeating the words
that these great men enunciated." The amendment was adopted,
and Mr. Giddings, overjoyed at Curtis's triumph, returned to his seat.

The platform was skillfully framed. It denounced disunion, the
reopening of the slave trade, the " popular sovereignty " and non-
intervention theories; denied the authority of Congress, of a Terri-
torial Legislature, or of individuals
to give existence to slavery in any
Territories 'of the United States;
opposed any change in the natural-
ization laws; recommended an ad-
justment of import duties to encour-
age the industrial interests of the
country, and advocated the im-
mediate admission of Kansas as a
Free State, free homesteads, and a
railroad to the Pacific Ocean. The
platform as a whole was received
with shouts of applause, such as
had never before been accorded to
the declaration of principles adopted
by a National Convention.

When the Convention met on the third day everybody knew that
the balloting w T ould soon determine the fate of the candidates. The
New York delegation felt assured of Mr. Seward's triumph, and the
New Yorkers made their march to the Wigwam even more full and
imposing than on the two previous days. The display proved a costly
one to those who took part in it. While they were parading the
streets, with banners and music, the partisans of Lincoln were quietly
filling the building, and when Seward's friends arrived there was no
space left, except the seats reserved for the delegates. The disap-
pointment was a keen one, but it had to be endured. Within the
Wigwam the scene was one that has never been adequately described.
Every seat was filled. Every inch of standing room was occupied.
The vast throng of ten thousand living, breathing men was palpitat-
ing with suppressed excitement and strained expectation. The en-



trance of the popular favorites was watched with the keenest interest,
and each in turn was greeted with rousing cheers that rose and fell
in blending waves of sound. During the opening prayer a solemn
hush pervaded the great audience. Then there was an unexpected
preliminary wrangle, that tested the patience of delegates and spec-
tators to the utmost. But at last everything was ready for the pres-
entation of the names of the candidates. The ceremony w r as exceed-
ingly simple. There were no swelling speeches, like those that formed
dramatic features of later conventions as Robert. G. Ingersoll's
speech nominating Blaine at Cincinnati in 1870, and Roscoe Conk-
ling's nominating Grant at Chicago in 1880. A simple announce-
ment, without an electrifying prelude, was all there was of the cere-
mony in 1860. " I take the liberty," said Mr. Evarts, of New York,
" to name as a candidate to be nominated by this Convention for the
office of President of the United States, William H. Seward." The
announcement was received with a roll of applause that completely
filled the great building. " I desire," Mr. Judd then said, " on behalf
of the delegation from Illinois, to put in nomination as a candidate
for President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln." Another wave
of applause swept over the Wigwam. Then came the other nomina-
tions. Bates, Chase, Cameron, Dayton, Collamer, and McLean were
named, each name being received with cheers. Although caucusing
had been kept up until the hour for the meeting of the Convention,
and many of the delegations went into the Wigwam with no definite
program beyond the first ballot, it soon became clear that the real
contest would be between Seward and Lincoln. This was demon-
strated in a series of episodes that revealed the spontaneous waves
of feeling that were swaying the vast multitude spectators and dele-
gates alike. Indiana seconded the nomination of Lincoln. The ap-
plause that followed was like the roar of a tempest. Michigan sec-
onded the nomination of Seward. Then the New York delegation led
in a shout in which every throat in the building seemed to join. This
put Lincoln's friends on their mettle, and when a part of the Ohio
delegation gave them an opportunity to shout again for their favorite
by seconding the nomination of Lincoln the tumultuous applause that
followed was deafening, almost appalling. " I thought the Seward
yell could not be surpassed," wrote Murat Halstead, the distinguished
Cincinnati journalist, " but the Lincoln boys were clearly ahead, and
feeling their victory, as there was a lull in the storm, took deep
breaths all round, and gave a concentrated shriek that was positively
awful, and accompanied it with stamping that made every plank and
pillar in the building quiver." Gradually the tumult died away, and


the balloting began. There were only three ballots, with the following

1st. 2d. 3d.

Whole number of votes 465 465 465

Necessary to a choice 233 233 233

William H. Seward, of New York 173^ 184i 180

Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois 102 181 23U

Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania 50^ 2

Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio 49 42^ 24^

Edward Bates, of Missouri 48 35 22

William L. Dayton, of New Jersey 14 8 5

Jacob Collamer, of Vermont 10

Scattering 6 2 1

An analysis of this table is necessary to show how Seward was
beaten and Lincoln nominated. On the first ballot 70 of Seward's
votes came from New York, and 30 from the border States, including
Kansas, Nebraska, and the District of Columbia. The rest was from
New England and the Northwest. The action of the six New England
States was a surprise and disappointment to Mr. Seward's friends.
Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Vermont w r ere unanimous against
him. New Hampshire gave him only one vote, and Maine and Mas-
sachusetts were divided. His only solid delegation from the North-
west was that of Michigan. Lincoln had his own State, Illinois, and
the vote of Indiana intact from the beginning, making 48, besides 21
from the border States, 8 from Ohio, and 4 from Pennsylvania. The
remaining 21 were mostly from the Western States. The Ohio vote
was divided between Chase and McLean, excepting the 8 votes that
went to Lincoln. Together the two Ohio candidates drew only 15
votes from other States. Cameron lost 4^ votes from the Pennsyl-
vania delegation, which was as near to a full complimentary ballot as
the factional feeling in that State ever accorded a Pennsylvania can-
didate. Missouri voted solidly for Bates, and continued voting for
him throughout the balloting. His strength outside of Missouri was
only 30 votes, and it diminished to 17 on the second, and 4 on the last
ballot. The result showed that the contest was between Seward and
Lincoln, but it failed to disclose how the six candidates, who held
the balance of power, would distribute their strength. On the second
ballot Seward gained only 11 votes, while Lincoln secured 79. Of
these 44 came from Cameron, 10 from Collamer, and 6 from Chase and
McLean. It was Pennsylvania that gave Lincoln the impetus on this
ballot that was to bring him within U votes of a majority on the next
ballot. Before the balloting was ended on the third ballot, it became


known that the crisis had been reached ; and while, as is customary in
such crises, the announcement of the result was held back by the
chair, it was only a question of seconds who should lead in changing
from other candidates to Lincoln. The break was made by David K.
Carrter, of Ohio, who announced a change of 4 votes from Chase to
Lincoln. Then, amidst the wildest hurrahs, delegation after delega-
tion transferred its vote to the victor, until Lincoln had received 354
out of 465. After the result was announced and the tempest had sub-
sided, the nomination, on motion of William M. Evarts, of New York,
seconded by John A. Andrew, of Massachusetts, \vas made unani-

In the evening the Convention proceeded to finish its work by nomi-
nating a candidate for Vice-President. On the first ballot, Hannibal
Hamlin, of Maine, had 194 votes; Cassius M. Clay, of Kentucky, 101^;
John Hicknian, of Pennsylvania, 58; Andrew H. Reeder, of Pennsyl-
vania, 51; and Nathaniel P. Banks, of Massachusetts, 38^. On the
second and final ballot Hamlin had 367, Clay 86, and Hickman 13.
This selection was the best that could have been made, and the ticket
was one to evoke the enthusiasm of the party.

While the balloting was in progress in Chicago Mr. Lincoln was
sitting in the office of the State Journal at Springfield, which was con-
nected by Avire with the Wigwam. Within a few minutes of the an-
nouncement of the result on the last ballot he was handed a message,
that he read in silence. Then, rising, he said simply, " There is a
little woman down at our house who would like to hear this; I'll go
down and tell her."

No political convention ever held in this country has been so much
written about as the Chicago Convention of 1860. Few of those who
have made it their theme have agreed in their accounts of the motives
that controlled it. Mr. Lincoln's biographers, Nicolay and Hay, claim
for the nomination that " it was hardly the work of the delegates it
was the concurrent product of popular wisdom." " It is one of the
contradictions not infrequently exhibited in the movement of parti-
san bodies," said Mr. Elaine, " that Mr. Seward was defeated because
of his radical expressions on the slavery questions, while Mr. Lincoln
was chosen in spite of expressions far more radical than those of Mr.
Seward." It is unnecessary to accept either of these conclusions.
The determination to defeat Seward, at first latent, then active, and
finally triumphant, was due rather to his prominence than his prin-
ciples. As an anti-slavery man Lincoln had been fully as pronounced
in his declarations as Seward. Even before Seward's announcement of
the " irrepressible conflict," in his Rochester speech, in 1858, Mr. Lin-
coln had declared that this Government could not endure half slave


and half free. The only difference between the two candidates on the
slavery question was that one w r as widely known and the other al-
most unknown. In spite of the prominence which his joint debate
with Mr. Douglas in Illinois in 1858, and his great speech at the
Cooper Union in New York in 1859, had given him, Mr. Lincoln was
not seriously thought of as a Presidential candidate previous to the

Online LibraryGeorge Oberkirsh SeilhamerHistory of the Republican party (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 61)