Ida M. (Ida Minerva) Tarbell.

The life of Abraham Lincoln, drawn from original sources and containing many speeches, letters, and telegrams hitherto unpublished online

. (page 28 of 34)
Online LibraryIda M. (Ida Minerva) TarbellThe life of Abraham Lincoln, drawn from original sources and containing many speeches, letters, and telegrams hitherto unpublished → online text (page 28 of 34)
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Indiana, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey all declared that
they could not elect Seward if he was nominated. Andrew
G. Curtin of Pennsylvania, and Henry S. Lane of Indiana,
candidates for governor in their respective States, were both
his active opponents, not from dislike of him, but because
they were convinced that they would themselves be defeated
if he headed the Republican ticket. It was clear to the en-


tire party that Pennsylvania and Indiana were essential to
Republican success ; and since many States with which Sew-
ard was the first choice held success in November as more
important than Seward, they were willing to give their sup-
port to an " available " man. But the difficulty was to unite
this opposition. Nearly every State which considered Sew-
ard an unsafe candidate had a " favorite son " whom it was
pushing as "available." Pennsylvania wanted Cameron;
New Jersey, Dayton ; Ohio, Chase, McLean, or Wade ; Mas-
sachusetts, Banks ; Vermont, Collamer. Greeley, who alone
was as influential as a State delegation, urged Bates of Mis-

lUinois's task was to unite this opposition on Lincoln.
She began her work with a next-door neighbor. " The first
State approached," says Mr. Swett, " was Indiana. She
was about equally divided between Bates and McLean.*
Saturday, Sunday, and Monday were spent upon her, when
finally she came to us, unitedly, with twenty-six votes, and
from that time acted efficiently with us."

With Indiana to aid her, Illinois now succeeded in draw-
ing a few scattering votes, in making an impression on New
Hampshire and Virginia, and in persuading Vermont to
think of Lincoln as a second choice. Matters began to look
decidedly cheerful. May 14 (Monday) the New York
" Herald's " last despatch declared that the contest had nar-
rowed down to Seward, Lincoln, and Wade. The Boston
" Herald's " despatch of the same day reported; " Abe Lin-
coln is booming up to-night as a compromise candidate, and
his friends are in high spirits." And this was the situation
when the convention finally opened on Wednesday, May 16.

The assembly-room in which the convention met was situ-

* Mr. Joseph Medill once told the writer that half the Indiana dele-
gation had been won for Lincoln on the ground of availability before
the convention met.



ated conveniently at the corner of Market and Lake Streets.
It had been built especially for the occasion by the Chicago
Republican Club, and in the fashion of the West in that day
was called by the indigenous name of Wigwam. It was a
low, characterless structure, fully one hundred and eighty
feet long by one hundred feet wide. The roof rose in the
segment of a circle, so that one side was higher ' than
the other; and across this side and the two ends were
deep galleries. Facing the ungalleried side was a plat-
form reserved for the delegates — a great floor one hundred
and forty feet long and thirty-five feet deep, raised some four
feet from the ground level, with committee-rooms at each
end. This vast structure of pine boards had been rescued
from ugliness through the energetic efforts of the commit-
tee, assisted by the Republican women of the city, who,
scarcely less interested than their husbands and brothers,
strove in every way to contribute to the success of the con-
vention. They wreathed the pillars and the galleries with

masses of green; hung
banners and flags ;
brought in busts of Amer-
ican notables ; ordered
great allegorical paintings
of Justice, Liberty, and
the like, to suspend on the
walls ; borrowed the
whole series of Healy por-
traits of American states-
men — in short, made the
cHAiB OCCUPIED BT THE CHAIRMAN OK Wigwam at Icast gay and


HON or 1860. festive in aspect. Foreign

It was the flrst chair made in tlie State of interest added Something

MicMgan.-Reprodnced from "Harper's tothc fumishingS ; the

Weekly" of May 19, 1860, by permlesion . =■ '

of Messrs. Harper and Brothers. chair plaCCd On the plat-


form for the use of the chairman of the convention was do-
nated by Michigan, as the first chair made in that State.
It was an arm-chair of the most primitive description, the
seat dug out of an immense log and mounted on large rock-
ers. Another chair, one made for the occasion, attracted a
great deal of attention. It was constructed of thirty-four
kinds of wood, each piece from a different State or Terri-
tory, Kansas being appropriately represented by the "weep-
ing willow" a symbol of her grief at being still excluded
from the sisterhood of States. The gavel used by the chair-
man was more interesting even than his chair, having been
made from a fragment of Commodore Perry's brave Law-

Into the Wigwam, on the morning of the i6th of May,
there crowded fully ten thousand persons. To the spectator
in the gallery the scene was vividly picturesque and animated.
Around him were packed hundreds of women, gay in the
high-peaked, flower-filled bonnets and the bright shawls and
plaids of the day. Below, on the platform and floor, were
many of the notable men of the United States — William M.
Evarts, Thomas Corwin, Carl Schurz, David Wilmot, Thad-
deus Stevens, Joshua Giddings, George William Curtis,
Francis P. Blair and his two sons, Andrew H. Reeder,
George Ashmun, Gideon Welles, Preston King, Cassius M.
Clay, Gratz Brown, George S. Boutwell, Thurlow Weed.
In the multitude the newspaper representatives outnumbered
the delegates. Fully nine hundred editors and reporters
were present, a body scarcely less interesting than the con-
vention itself. Horace Greeley, Samuel Bowles, Murat Hal-
stead, Isaac H. Bromley, Joseph Medill, Horace White, Jo-
seph Hawley, Henry Villard, A. K. McClure, names so fa-
miliar to-day, all represented various journals at Chicago
in i860, and in some cases were active workers in the cau-
cuses. It was evident at once that the members of the con-


vention — somefive hundred out of the attendant ten thousand
— were not more interested in its proceedings than the spec-
tators, whose approval and disapproval, quickly and em-
phatically expressed, swayed, and to a degree controlled, the
delegates. Wednesday and Thursday mornings were passed
in the usual opening work of a convention. While officers
were formally elected and a platform adopted, the real in-
terest centred in the caucuses, which were held almost unin-
terruptedly. Illinois was in a frenzy of anxiety. " No men
ever worked as our bo3rs did," wrote Mr. Swett ; " I did not,
the whole week, sleep two hours a night." They ran from
delegation to delegation, haranguing, pleading, promising.
But do their best they could not concentrate the opposition.
" Our great struggle," says Senator Palmer, " was to pre-
vent Lincoln's nomination for the vice-presidency. The
Seward men were perfectly willing that he should go on the
tail of the ticket. In fact, they seemed determined that he
should be given the vice-presidential nomination. We were
not troubled so much by the antagonism of the Seward men
as by the overtures they were constantly making to us. They
literally overwhelmed us with kindness. Judge David Davis
came to me in the Tremont House, greatly agitated at the
way things were going. He said : ' Palmer, you must go
with me at once to see the New Jersey delegation.' I asked
what I could do. ' Well,' said he, ' there is a grave and
venerable judge over there who is insisting that Lincoln
shall be nominated for Vice-President and Seward for
President. We must convince the judge of his mistake.'
We went; I was introduced to the gentleman, and we
talked about the matter for some time. He praised Sew-
ard, but he was especially effusive in expressing his ad-
miration for Lincoln. He thought that Seward was clearly
entitled to first place and that Lincoln's eminent merits
entitled him to second place. I listened for some time,


and then said : ' Sir, you may nominate Mr. Lincoln
for Vice-President if you please. But I want you to
understand that there are 40,000 Democrats in Illinois who
will support this ticket if you give them an opportunity. We
are not Whigs, and we never expect to be Whigs. We will
never consent to support two old Whigs on this ticket. We
are willing to vote for Mr. Lincoln with a Democrat on the
ticket, but we will not consent to vote for two Whigs.' I
have seldom seen a more indignant man. Turning to Judge
Davis he said : ' Judge Davis, is it possible that party spirit
so prevails in Illinois that Judge Palmer properly represents
public opinion ? ' ' Oh,' said Davis, affecting some distress
at what I had said, ' oh. Judge, you can't account for the
conduct of these old Locofocos.' ' Will they do as Palmer
says ? ' ' Certainly. There are 40,000 of them, and, as
Palmer says, not one of them will vote for two Whigs.' We
left the New Jersey member in a towering rage. When
we were back at the Tremont House I said : ' Davis, you
are an infernal rascal to sit there and hear that man be-
rate me as he did. You really seemed to encourage him.'
Judge Davis said nothing, but chuckled as if he had greatly
enjoyed the joke. This incident is illustrative of the kind
of work we had to do. We were compelled to resort to this
argument — that the old Democrats then ready to affiliate
with the Republican party would not tolerate two Whigs on
the ticket — in order to break up the movement to nominate
Lincoln for Vice-President. The Seward men recognized
in Lincoln their most formidable rival, and that was why
they wished to get him out of the way by giving him second
place on the ticket."

The uncertainty on Thursday was harrowing, and if the
ballot had been taken on the afternoon of that day, as was at
first intended, Seward probably would have been nominated.
Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania all felt this, and shrewdly


managed to secure from the convention a reluctant adjourn-
ment until Friday morning. In spite of the time this ma-
noeuvre gave, however, Seward's nomination seemed sure;
so Greeley telegraphed the "Tribune" at midnight on Thurs-
day. At the same hour the correspondent of the " Herald "
(New York) telegraphed: "The friends of Seward are
firm, and claim ninety votes for him on the first ballot. Op-
position to Seward not fixed on any man. Lincoln is the
strongest, and may have altogether forty votes. The various
delegations are still caucusing."

It was after these messages were sent that Illinois and In-
diana summoned all their energies for a final desperate effort
to unite the uncertain delegates on Lincoln, and that Penn-
sylvania went through the last violent throes of coming to a
decision. The night was one of dramatic episodes of
which none, perhaps, was more nearly tragic than the spec-
tacle of Seward's followers, confident of success, celebrating
in advance the nomination of their favorite, while scores of
determined men laid the plans ultimately effective, for his
overthrow. All night the work was kept up. " Hundreds
of Pennsylvanians, Indianians, and Illinoisans," says Murat
Halstead, " never closed their eyes. I saw Henry S. Lane
at one o'clock, pale and haggard, with cane under his arm,
walking as if for a wager from one caucus-room to another
at the Tremont House. In connection with them he had been
operating to bring the Vermonters and Virginians to the
point of deserting Seward."

In the Pennsylvania delegation, which on Wednesday had
agreedonMcLeanas its second choiceand Lincoln as its third,
a hot struggle was waged to secure the vote of the delegation
as a unit for Cameron until a majority of the delegates di-
rected otherwise. Judge S. Newton Pettis, who proposed
this resolution, worked all night to secure votes for it at the
caucus to be held early in the morning. The Illinois men


ran 'from delegate to caucus, from editor to outsider. No
man who knew Lincoln and believed in him, indeed, was al-
lowed to rest, but was dragged away to this or that delegate
to persuade him that the " rail candidate," as Lincoln had
already begun to be called, was fit for the place. Colonel
Hoyt, then a resident of Chicago, spent half the night telling
Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania what he knew of Lin-
coln. While all this was going on, a committee of twelve men
from Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and
Iowa were consulting in the upper story of the Tremont
House. Before their session was over they had agreed that
in case Lincoln's votes reached a specified number on the
following day, the votes of the States represented in that
meeting, so far as these twelve men could effect the result,
should be given to him.

The night was over at last, and at ten o'clock the conven-
tion reassembled. The great Wigwam was packed with a
throng hardly less excited than the members of the actual
convention, while without, for blocks away, a crowd double
that within pushed and strained, every nerve alert to catch
the movements of the convention.

The nominations began at once, the Hon. William M.
Evarts presenting the name of William H. Seward. The
New Yorkers had prepared a tremendous claque, which now
broke forth — " a deafening shout which," says Leonard
Swett, " I confess, appalled us a little." But New York in
preparing her claque had only given an idea to Illinois. The
Illinois committee, to offset it, had made secret but complete
preparations for what was called a " spontaneous demonstra-
tion." From lake front to prairie the committee had col-
lected every stentorian voice known, and early Thursday
morning, while Seward's men were marching exultantly
about the streets, the owners of these voices had been packed
into the Wigwam, where their special endowment would be


most effective. The women present had been requested to
wave their handkerchiefs at every mention of Lincoln's
name, and hundreds of flags had been distributed to be used
in the same way. A series of signals had been arranged to
communicate to the thousands without the moment when a
roar from them might influence the convention within.
When N. B. Judd nominated Lincoln this machinery began
to work. It did well; but a moment later, in greeting the
seconding of Seward's nomination. New York out-bellowed
Illinois. " Caleb B. Smith of Indiana then seconded the
nomination of Lincoln," says Mr. Swett, " and the West
came to his rescue. No mortal ever before saw such a scene.
The idea of us Hoosiers and Suckers being outscreamed
would have been as bad to them as the loss of their man.
Five thousand people at once leaped to their seats, women
not wanting in the number, and the wild yell made soft
vesper breathings of all that had preceded. No language
can describe it. A thousand steam whistles, ten acres of
hotel gongs, a tribe of Comanches, headed by a choice van-
guard from pandemonium, might have mingled in the scene

As the roar died out a voice cried, "Abe Lincoln has it by
the sound now ; let us ballot ! " and Judge Logan, beside
himself with screeching and excitement, called out: "Mr.
President, in order or out of order, I propose this convention
and audience give three cheers for the man who is evidently
their nominee."

The balloting followed without delay. The Illinois men
believed they had one hundred votes to start with; on
counting they found they had io2. More hopeful still, no
other opposition candidate approached them. Pennsyl-
vania's man, according to the printed reports of that day,
had but fifty and one-half votes ; Greeley's man, forty-eight ;
Chase, forty-nine; while McLean, Pennsylvania's second


choice, had but twelve. If Seward was to be beaten, it must
be now; and it was for Pennsylvania to say. The delega-
tion hurried to a committee-room, where Judge Pettis, dis-
regarding the action of the caucus by which McLean had
been adopted as the delegation's second choice, moved that,
on the second ballot, Pennsylvania's vote be cast solidly for
Lincoln. The motion was carried. Returning to the hall
the delegation found the second ballot under way. In a
moment the name of Pennsylvania was called. The whole
.Wigwam heard the answer : " Pennsylvania casts her fifty-
two votes for Abraham Lincoln." The meaning was clear.
The break to Lincoln had begun. New York sat as if
stupefied, while all over the hall cheer followed cheer.

It seemed but a moment before the second ballot was
ended, and it was known that Lincoln's vote had risen from
102 to 181. The tension as the third ballot was taken was
almost unbearable. A hundred pencils kept score while the
delegations were called, and it soon became apparent that
Lincoln was outstripping Seward. The last vote was hardly
given before the whisper went around, " Two hundred and
thirty-one and one-half for Lincoln ; two and one-half more
will give him the nomination." An instant of silence fol-
lowed, in which the convention grappled with the idea, and
tried to pull itself together to act. The chairman of the
Ohio delegation was the first to get his breath. " Mr. Presi-
dent," he cried, springing on his chair and stretching out
his arm to secure recognition, " I rise to change four votes
from Mr. Chase to Mr. Lincoln."

It took a moment to realize the truth. New York saw it,
and the white faces of her noble delegation were bowed in
despair. Greeley saw it, and a guileless smile spread over
his features as he watched Thurlow Weed press his hand
hard against his wet eyelids. Illinois saw it, and tears
poured from the eyes of more than one of the overwrought,


devoted men as they grasped one another's hands and vainly
struggled against the sobs which kept back their shouts.
The crowd saw it, and broke out in a mad hurrah. " The
scene which followed," wrote one spectator, " baffles all
human description. After an instant's silence, as deep as
death, which seemed to be required to enable the assembly to
take in the full force of the announcement, the wildest and
mightiest yell (for it can be called by no other name) burst
forth from ten thousand voices which we ever heard from
mortal throats. This strange and tremendous demonstra-
tion, accompanied with leaping up and down, tossing hats,
handkerchiefs, and canes recklessly into the air, with the
waving of flags, and with every other conceivable mode of
exultant and unbridled joy, continued steadily and without
pause for perhaps ten minutes. ■>

" It then began to rise and fall in slow and billowing
bursts, and for perhaps the next five minutes these stupen-
dous waves of uncontrollable excitement, now rising into the
deepest and fiercest shouts, and then sinking like the ground
swell of the ocean into hoarse and lessening murmurs, rolled
through the multitude. Every now and then it would seem
as though the physical power of the assembly was exhausted
and that quiet would be restored, when all at once a new
hurricane would break out, more prolonged and terrific than
anything before. If sheer exhaustion had not prevented, we
don't know but the applause would have continued to this

Without, the scene was repeated. At the first instant of
realization in the Wigwam a man on the platform had
shouted to a man stationed on the roof, " Hallelujah; Abe
Lincoln is nominated ! " A cannon boomed the news to
the multitude below, and twenty thousand throats took
up the cry. The city heard it, and one hundred guns on
the Tremont House, innumerable whistles on the river and


lake front, on locomotives and factories, and the bells in
all the steeples, broke forth. For twenty-four hours the
clamor never ceased. It spread to the prairies, and
before morning they were afire with pride and excite-

And while all this went on, where was Lincoln? Too
much of a candidate, as he had told Swett, to go to Chicago,
yet hardly enough of one to stay away, he had ended by re-
maining in Springfield, where he spent the week in restless
waiting and discussion. He drifted about the public square,
went often to the telegraph office, looked out for every
returning visitor from Chicago, played occasional games of
ball, made fruitless efforts to read, went home at unusual
hours. He felt in his bones that he had a fighting chance, so
he told a friend, but the chance was not so strong that he
could indulge in much exultation. By Friday morning he
was tired and depressed, but still eager for news. One of
his friends, the Hon. James C. Conkling, returned early in
the day from Chicago, and Lincoln soon went around to his
law office. " Upon entering," says Mr. Conkling, " Lincoln
threw himself upon the office lounge, and remarked rather
wearily, * .Well, I guess I'll go back to practising law.' As
he lay there on the lounge, I gave him such information as
I had been able to obtain. I told him the tendency was to
drop Seward ; that the outlook for him was very encourag-
ing. He listened attentively, and thanked me, saying I had
given him a clearer idea of the situation than he had been able
to get from any other source. He was not very sanguine of
the result. He did not express the opinion that he would be

But he could not be quiet, and soon left Mr. Conkling, to
join the throng around the telegraph office, where the reports
from the convention were coming in. The nominations
were being reported, his own among the others. Then news


came that the balloting had begun. He could not endure to
wait for the result. He remembered a commission his wife
had given him that morning, and started across the square to
execute it. His errand was done, and he was standing in the
door of the shop, talking, when a shout went up from the
group at the telegraph office. The next instant an excited
boy came rushing pell-mell down the stairs of the office, and,
plunging through the crowd, ran across the square, shouting,
" Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Lincoln, you are nominated ! " The cry
was repeated on all sides. The people came flocking about
him, half laughing, half crying, shaking his hand when they
could get it, and one another's when they could not. For a
few minutes, carried away by excitement, Lincoln seemed
simply one of the proud and exultant crowd. Then remem-
bering what it all meant, he said, " My friends, I am glad to
receive your congratulations, and as there is a little woman
down on Eighth street who will be glad to hear the news, you
must excuse me until I inform her." He slipped away,
telegram in hand, his coat-tails flying out behind, and strode
towards home, only to find when he reached there that his
friends were before him, and that the " little woman " al-
ready knew that the honor which for twenty years and more
she had believed and stoutly declared her husband deserved,
and which a great multitude of men had sworn to do their
best to obtain for him, at last had come.



Thirty-six hours after Lincoln received the news of
his nomination, an evening train from Chicago brought
to Springfield a company of distinguished-looking strangers.
As they stepped from their coach cannon were fired, rockets
set off, bands played, and enthusiastic cheering went up from
a crowd of waiting people. A long and noisy procession ac-
companied them to their hotel and later to a modest two-
storied house in an unfashionable part of the town. The
gentlemen whom the citizens of Springfield received with
such demonstration formed the committee, sent by the Re-
publican National Convention to notify Abraham Lincoln
that he had been nominated as its candidate for the presi-
dency of the United States.

The delegation had in its number some of the most distin-
guished workers of the Republican party of that day : — Mr.
George Ashmun, Samuel Bowles, and Governor Boutwell
of Massachusetts, William M. Evarts of New York, Judge
Kelley of Pennsylvania, David K. Cartter of Ohio, Francis P.
Blair of Missouri, the Hon. Gideon Welles of Connecticut,
Amos Tuck of New Hampshire, Carl Schurz of Wisconsin.
Only a few of these gentlemen had ever seen Mr. Lincoln
and to many of them his nomination had been a bitter dis-

As the committee filed into Mr. Lincoln's simple home
there was a sore misgiving in more than one heart, and as
Mr. Ashmun, their chairman, presented to him the letter no-
tifying him of his nomination they eyed their candidate with



Online LibraryIda M. (Ida Minerva) TarbellThe life of Abraham Lincoln, drawn from original sources and containing many speeches, letters, and telegrams hitherto unpublished → online text (page 28 of 34)