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a meeting at Hartford. After his speech such of the cape-wearers as
had secured their uniforms escorted Mr. Lincoln to his hotel. In notic-
ing the proposed organization of the torch-bearers, a day or two be-
fore, William P. Fuller, city editor of the Hartford Courant, alluded to
them as the " Wide-Awakes." The name was applied to the Repub-
lican Young Men's Union as well as the torch-bearers, but at their
meeting on the Gth of March the latter determined to appropriate
the title as the distinctive name of their special organization. Their
example was followed by the Republican torch-bearers all over the
country, and before the Presidential campaign was well under
way, the " Wide-Awakes " had swallowed up the names and the mem-
bership of other Republican clubs everywhere. It was just one year
after the Hartford " Wide-Awakes " escorted Mr. Lincoln in their
first parade that he was inaugurated President of the United States.
On a number of occasions as many as twenty and perhaps thirty
thousand " Wide-Awakes " marched in the torchlight processions in
the larger cities.

The rail symbols and the rail-splitter phrases originated at the
Illinois Republican Convention at Decatur, May 10, I860. While the
Convention was at work the proceedings were interrupted by a mys-
terious announcement that an old citizen of Macon County had some-
thing to present. Curiosity having been sufficiently aroused for the
episode, John Hanks and one of Hauks's neighbors entered the hall,
each bearing an old fence rail purporting to be two identical rails



from a lot of 3,000 which the boy Lincoln had helped to cut and split
in 1830 for the inclosure of his father's farm. These emblems of his
handiwork were intended as a prelude to a resolution recommending
him for President of the United States, and they were received by
the Convention with deafening shouts. Lincoln was present on this
occasion, but it is said he was not greatly pleased with the rail-splitter
incident. Years afterward he was asked if he believed they were the
veritable rails he and Hanks had made. " I wouldn't make my affi-
davit that they were," he said, " but Hanks and I did make rails on
that piece of ground, although I think I could make better rails now,
and I did say that if there are any of the rails that had been split, I
wouldn't wonder that they are the rails." A few days later these

rails were sent to Chicago, where,
trimmed with flowers and lighted up
with tapers, they were exhibited in the
hotel parlor at the headquarters of the
Illinois delegation. Their history and
the campaign incidents of which they
were the features were duly exploited
in the newspapers throughout the West
and North. Although the Republican
candidate was in consequence hailed as
the "Rail-Splitter of Illinois," it was
spitefully asked " Will he split the
Union as he used to split rails? " It
does not appear that it became custom-
ary for rail-bearers to march side by
side with the torch-bearers in their
Wide-Awake caps and capes in the Re-
publican processions of the campaign.

The spring elections of I860 in the New England States afforded no
certainty of a Republican triumph in November. New Hampshire
was carried by a satisfactory majority in February, but in Connecti-
cut Governor Buckingham was re-elected by only 541 votes in a total
of 80,000, and in Rhode Island the Republicans w r ere beaten by Will-
iam Sprague for Governor by a majority of 1,460. The elections in
Maine and Vermont in September showed that the tide had turned.
In the former State a Republican Governor was elected by a majority
of 18,091, and the latter followed with a Republican majority of 22,-
370. If Penns}^lvania and Indiana showed results equally decisive in
October Lincoln's election could be regarded as a certainty. The
whole interest of the campaign was centered in these States, in which
the Democrats were united and hopeful. In Pennsylvania Curtin



was opposed by Henry D. Foster, who had the hearty support of the
three factions into which a disrupted Democracy divided the elements
opposed to Republican success. In Indiana Thomas A. Hendricks
was Lane's only competitor. Curtin swept Pennsylvania, obtaining
a majority of 32,164, and Lane had 9,757 majority in Indiana. It was
clear that nothing short of a miracle would prevent the election of
Lincoln and Hamlin in November.

All of the eighteen Free States chose all the Lincoln electors except
New Jersey, where Douglas had 3 votes in the Electoral College to 4
for Lincoln. The popular vote in New Jersey is usually quoted as
62,801 for Douglas and 58,324 for Lincoln, but this is scarcely a fair
test of the relative strength of the candidates. The " Fusion " ticket
was made up of three Douglas, two Breckinridge, and two Bell repre-
sentatives. This required " scratching " in every case in which a
Douglas Democrat voted for Republican electors. If the Breckin-
ridge and Bell votes had been eliminated from the so-called " Fusion "
vote, Lincoln would have had a plurality. In all the other States in
which Republican electors were chosen, except California and Oregon,
Lincoln had a majority. It w r as the Breckinridge faction that de-
prived Douglas of the vote of both these States. The only Slave State
that Douglas carried was Missouri. Bell carried Virginia, Kentucky,
and Tennessee. If Bell's strength had been given to Douglas in the
South it would have given him the States of Maryland, Virginia,
Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Thus it will be seen
that the Constitutional Union party operated in behalf of the party of
secession in the Slave States, and prevented Douglas's success in the
two Pacific States. But not even a United Democracy combined with
the full Bell and Everett strength would have defeated the Republi-
can ticket. The Republican majorities in 15 States gave Lincoln 169
electors, to a possible 134 for a united opposition. In the Electoral
College Lincoln had 180 votes, Breckinridge 72, Bell 39, and Douglas
12. Lincoln fell 947,289 short of an absolute majority in a popular
vote of 4,680,193.

Had Seward been nominated there is no reason to suppose that he
would have been beaten in any of the States in which Lincoln had

This triumph ended the creative period of the Republican party.



" PROVIDED, That, as an express and fundamental condition to the
acquisition of any territory from the Republic of Mexico by the
United States, by virtue of any treaty that may be negotiated be-
tween them, and to the use by the Executive of the moneys herein
appropriated, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever
exist in any part of said territory, except for crime, whereof the party
shall first be duly convicted."


" Resolved, That Congress had no power, under the Constitution, to
interfere with or control the domestic institutions of the several
States, and that such States are the sole and proper judges of every-
thing appertaining to their own affairs not prohibited by the Consti-
tution; that all efforts of the Abolitionists or others, made to induce
Congress to interfere with the questions of slavery, or to take in-
cipient steps in relation thereto, are calculated to lead to the most
alarming and dangerous consequences, and that all such efforts have
an inevitable tendency to diminish the happiness of the people, and
endanger the stability and permanency of the Union, and ought not to
be countenanced by any friend to our political institutions.

" Resolved, That the foregoing proposition covers, and is intended
to embrace, the whole subject of slavery agitated in Congress; and
therefore the Democratic party of the Union, standing on this na-
tional platform, will abide by, and adhere to, a faithful execution of
the acts known as the l compromise ' measures settled by the last
Congress the act for reclaiming fugitives from service or labor in-
cluded; which act, being designed to carry out an express provision of
the Constitution, can not with fidelity thereto be repealed, nor so
changed as to destroy or impair its efficiency.

" Resolved, That the Democratic party will resist all attempts at
renewing in Congress, or out of it, the agitation of the slavery ques-
tion, under whatever shape or color the attempt may be made."

The Whig Convention declared that the Compromise measures of
1850 had been " received and acquiesced in by the Whig party in the
United States, as a settlement in principle and substance of the dan-
gerous and exciting questions which they embrace," and further, that
this system was " essential to the nationality of the Whig party, and
the integrity of the Union."



" That the series of acts of the Thirty-second Congress, the act
known as the Fugitive Slave law included, are received and acqui-
esced in by the Whig party of the United States as a settlement in
principle and substance of the dangerous and exciting questions
which they embrace; and, so far as they are concerned, we will main-
tain them, and insist upon their strict enforcement, until time and
experience shall demonstrate the necessity of further legislation to
guard against the evasion of the laws on the one hand and the abuse
of their powers on the other, not impairing their present efficiency;
and we deprecate all further agitation of the question thus settled,
as dangerous to our peace, and will discountenance all efforts to con-
tinue or renew such agitation, whenever, wherever, or however the
attempt may be made; and we will maintain this system as essential
to the nationality of the Whig party and the integrity of the Union."


This convention of delegates, assembled in pursuance of a call ad-
dressed to the people of the United States, without regard to past
political differences or divisions, who are opposed to the repeal of the
Missouri Compromise, to the policy of the present administration, to
the extension of slavery into free territory; in favor of admitting Kan-
sas as a Free State, of restoring the action of the Federal Government
to the principles of Washington and Jefferson; and who purpose to
unite in presenting candidates for the offices of President and Vice-
President, do resolve as follows:

Resolved, That the maintenance of the principles promulgated in
the Declaration of Independence and embodied in the Federal Con-
stitution is essential to the preservation of our Republican institu-
tions, and that the Federal Constitution, the rights of the States, and
the union of the States, shall be preserved.

Resolved, That with our Republican fathers we hold it to be a
self-evident truth, that all men are endowed with the inalienable
rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that the
primary object and ulterior designs of our Federal Government were
to secure these rights to all persons within its exclusive jurisdiction;
that, as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished slavery in
all our national territory, ordained that no person should be deprived
of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, it becomes our
duty to maintain this provision of the constitution against all at-
tempts to violate it for the purpose of establishing slavery in any


territory of the United States, by positive legislation, prohibiting its
existence or extension therein. That we deny the authority of Con-
gress, of a Territorial Legislature, of any individual or association
of individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any Territory of
the United States, while the present constitution shall be main-

Resolved, That the Constitution confers upon Congress sovereign
power over the Territories of the United States, for their government,
and that in the exercise of this power it is both the right and the
duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of
barbarism, polygamy and slavery.

Resolved, That while the Constitution of the United States was
ordained and established by the people in order to form a more per-
fect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide
for the common defense, and secure the blessings of liberty, and con-
tains ample provision for the protection of the life, liberty, and prop-
erty of every citizen, the dearest constitutional rights of the people
of Kansas have been fraudulently and violently taken from them;
their territory has been invaded by an armed force; spurious and
pretended legislative, judicial, and executive officers have been set
over them, by whose usurped authorit} 7 , sustained by the military
power of the Government, tyrannical and unconstitutional law's have
been enacted and enforced; the rights of the people to keep and bear
arms have been infringed; test oaths of an extraordinary and en-
tangling nature have been imposed as a condition of exercising the
right of suffrage and holding office; the right of an accused person to
a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury has been denied; the
right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects against unreasonable searches and seizures has been violated:
they have been deprived of life, liberty, and property without due
process of law; that the freedom of speech and of the press has been
abridged; the right to choose their representatives has been made of
no effect; murders, robberies, and arsons have been instigated and
encouraged, and the offenders have been allowed to go unpunished;
that all these things have been done with the knowledge, sanction,
and procurement of the present administration; and that for this
high crime against the Constitution, the Union, and humanity, we
arraign the administration, the President, his advisers, agents, sup-
porters, apologists, and accessories, either before or after the fact,
before the country and before the world, and that it is our fixed pur-
pose to bring the actual perpetrators of these atrocious outrages, and
their accomplices, to a sure and condign punishment hereafter.

Resolved, That Kansas should be immediately admitted as a State
of the Union, with her present free constitution, as at once the most


effectual way of securing to her citizens the enjoyment of the rights
and privileges to which they are entitled, and of ending the civil
strife now raging in her territory.

" Resolved, That the highwayman's plea, that " might makes
right," embodied in the Ostend circular, was in every respect un-
worthy of American diplomacy, and would bring shame and dishonor
upon any government or people that gave it their sanction.

Resolved, That a railroad to the Pacific Ocean, by the most cen-
tral and practicable route, is imperatively demanded by the interests
of the whole country, and that the Federal Government ought to ren-
der immediate and efficient aid in its construction; and, as an auxil-
iary thereto, the immediate construction of an emigrant route on the
line of the railroad.

Resolved, That appropriations by Congress for the improvement
of rivers and harbors, of a national character, required for the accom-
modation and security of our existing commerce, are authorized by
the Constitution, and justified by the obligation of government to
protect the lives and property of its citizens.


Philadelphia, June 19, 1856.

SIR: A convention of delegates, assembled at Philadelphia on
17th, 18th, and 19th days of June, 185G, under a call addressed to the
people of the United States, without regard to past political differ-
ences or divisions, who are opposed to the repeal of the Missouri Com-
promise, to the policy of the present administration, to the extension
of slavery into free territory, in favor of the admission of Kansas as
a Free State, and of restoring the action of the Federal Government
to the principles of Washington and Jefferson, adopted a declaration
of principles and purposes for which they are united in political ac-
tion a copy of which we have the honor to inclose and unanimously
nominated you as their candidate for the office of President of the
United States at the approaching election, as the chosen representa-
tive of those principles in this important political contest, and with
the assured conviction that you would give them full practical op-
eration, should the suffrages of the people of the Union place you at
the head of the National Government.

The undersigned were directed by the convention to communicate
to you the fact of your nomination, and to request you in their name
and, as they believe, in the name of a large majority of the people of
the country, to accept it.


Offering you the assurance of our high personal respect, we are
your fellow citizens,


Pres. of the Convention.


To John C. Fremont, of California.


New York, July 8, 1856.

GENTLEMEN: You call me to a high responsibility by placing me
in the van of a great movement of the people of the United States,
who, without regard to past differences, are united in a common effort
to bring back the action of the Federal Government to the principles
of Washington and Jefferson. Comprehending the magnitude of the
trust which they have declared themselves willing to place in my
hands, and deeply sensible to the honor which their unreserved con-
fidence in this threatening position of public affairs implies, I feel that
I can not better respond than by a sincere declaration that, in the
event of my election to the Presidency, I should enter upon the exe-
cution of its duties with a single-hearted determination to promote
the good of the whole country, and to direct solely to this end all the
power of the Government, irrespective of party issues, and regardless
of sectional strifes. The declaration of principles embodied in the
resolves of your convention, expresses the sentiments in which I have
been educated, and which have been ripened into convictions by per-
sonal observation and experience. With this declaration and avowal,
I think it necessary to revert to only two of the subjects embraced in
the resolutions, and to those only because events have surrounded
them with grave and critical circumstances, and given to them espe-
cial importance.

I concur in the views of the convention deprecating the foreign
policy to which it adverts. The assumption that we have the right to
take from another nation its domains because we want them, is an
abandonment of the honest character which our country has acquired.


To provoke hostilities by unjust assumptions would be to sacrifice the
peace and character of the country, when all its interests might be
more certainly secured, and its objects attained by just and healing
counsels, involving no loss of reputation.

International embarrassments are mainly the results of a secret
diplomacy, which aims to keep from the knowledge of the people the
operations of the Government. This system is inconsistent with the
character of our institutions, and is itself yielding gradually to a
more enlightened public opinion, and to the power of a free press,
which, by its broad dissemination of political intelligence, secures in
advance to the side of justice the judgment of the civilized world.
An honest, firm, and open policy in our foreign relations would com-
mand the united support of the nation, whose deliberate opinions it
would necessarily reflect.

Nothing is clearer in the history of our institutions than the de-
sign of the nation, in asserting its own independence and freedom, to
avoid giving countenance to the extension of slavery. The influence
of the small but compact and powerful class of men interested in
slavery, who command one section of the country, and wield a vast
political control as a consequence in the other, is now directed to turn
back this impulse of the Revolution, and reverse its principles. The
extension of slavery across the continent is the object of the power
which now rules the Government; and from this spirit have sprung
those kindred wrongs in Kansas so truly portrayed in one of your
resolutions, which prove that the elements of the most arbitrary
governments have not been vanquished by the just theory of our own.

It would be out of place here to pledge myself to any particular
policy that has been suggested to terminate the sectional contro-
versy engendered by political animosities, operating on a powerful
class banded together by a common interest. A practical remedy is
the admission of Kansas into the Union as a Free State. The South
should, in my judgment, earnestly desire such consummation. It
would vindicate its good faith it would correct the mistake of the
repeal; and the North, having practically the benefit of the agree-
ment between the two sections, would be satisfied, and good feeling
be restored. The measure is perfectly consistent with the honor of
the South, and vital to its interests. That fatal act which gave birth
to this purely sectional strife, originating in the scheme to take from
free labor the country secured to it by a solemn covenant, can not be
too soon disarmed of its pernicious force.

The only genial region of the middle latitudes left to the emi-
grants of the Northern States for homes can not be conquered from
the free laborers, who have long considered it as set apart for them


in our inheritance, without provoking a desperate struggle. What-
ever may be the persistence of the particular class which seems ready
to hazard everything for the success of the unjust scheme it has par-
tially effected, I firmly believe that the great heart of the nation,
which throbs with the patriotism of the free men of both sections,
will have power to overcome it. They will look to the rights secured
to them by the Constitution of the Union, as their best safeguard from
the oppression of the class which by a monopoly of the soil, and of
slave labor to till it might, in time, reduce them to the extremity of
laboring upon the same terms with the slaves. The great body of
non-slaveholding freemen, including those of the South, upon whose
welfare slavery is an oppression, will discover that the power of the
general Government over the public lands may be beneficially exerted
to advance their interests and secure their independence. Knowing
this, their suffrages will not be wanting to maintain that authority
in the Union which is absolutely essential to the maintenance of their
own liberties, and which has more than once indicated the purpose
of disposing of the public lands in such a way as would make every
settler upon them a freeholder.

If the people intrust to me the administration of the Government,
the laws of Congress in relation to the Territories shall be faithfully
executed. All its authority shall be exerted in aid of the national
will to re-establish the peace of the country on the just principles
which have heretofore received the sanction of the Federal Govern-
ment, of the States, and of the people of both sections. Such a policy
would leave no aliment to that sectional party which seeks its ag-
grandizement by appropriating the new Territories to capital in the
form of slavery, but would inevitably result in the triumph of free
labor the natural capital which constitutes the real wealth of this
great country, and creates that intelligent power in the masses alone
to be relied on as the bulwark of free institutions.

Trusting that I have a heart capable of comprehending our whole
country, with its varied interests, and confident that patriotism ex-
ists in all parts of the Union, I accept the nomination of your conven-
tion, in the hope that I may be enabled to serve usefully its cause,
which I consider the cause of constitutional freedom.
Very respectfully your obedient servant,



Kesolved, That we, the delegated representatives of the Republi-
can electors of the United States, in convention assembled, in dis-


Online LibraryGeorge Oberkirsh SeilhamerHistory of the Republican party (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 61)