J. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) Currey.

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ing willow,' a symbol of her grief at being still excluded from the sisterhood of
states. The gavel used by the chairman was more interesting even than the chair,
having been made from a fragment of Commodore Perry's brave Lawrence." 4

Robert R. Hitt, who as we have seen was one of the pioneers in short hand re-
porting, had accompanied Mr. Horace White in attendance upon the great de-
bates between Lincoln and Douglas, reported the proceedings of the convention
for the Press and Tribune; while George P. Upton performed the same service
for the Chicago Journal. Mr. Upton soon afterward became a member of the edi-
torial staff of the Tribune at about the time that the latter newspaper resumed its
former name. 5

3 Tarbell, II, 142.

4 Tarbell's "Life of Lincoln," Vol. II, p. 143.

5 The Tribune and the Democratic Press were merged July ist, 1858, and continued under
the name of the Press and Tribune. On the 25th of October, 1860, the paper resumed its
former name of Tribune, and has so remained to the present time.

Prom Tarbell's "Life of Lincoln"


From Tarbell's "Life of Lincoln"




An account of the proceedings at the assembling of the Convention was written
within a week after its occurrence, by a citizen of Litchfield, Illinois, by the name
of Dr. Humphrey H. Hood, who attended as a spectator. The account was pub-
lished in the Free Press, a Republican newspaper at Hillsboro, Illinois ; and has
been printed in "Publication Number Nine" of the Illinois State Historical Society.
On entering the Convention hall lie found a large audience assembled, listening to
the Hon. Anson Burlingame. "When I entered," he writes, "he was speaking of
the certainty of a Republican triumph next fall, no matter who the standard-bearer
might be. Of all possible candidates he spoke in terms of appropriate eulogy, pay-
ing just tribute to the talents and virtues of each. Of Lincoln he spoke as 'the
gallant son of Illinois, who fought that wonderful battle of 1858, the like of which
had not been known since the time when Michael encountered and subdued the
Arch Fiend.' "

Dr. Hood was much impressed with the size and admirable interior arrange-
ments of the Wigwam, and of the immense audience which crowded it. "It was
worth a visit to the Garden City," he said, "to view the Wigwam and the assembled
throngs." "It was announced in the morning papers of the 16th," he writes, "that
the doors would be open at eleven o'clock. Two hours before that time the crowd
was sufficient to fill the vast building, assembled on Lake and Market streets ; and
when the doors were opened, the rush and pressure were terrific. I was in the
center of the crowd and thought myself fortunate in escaping with whole bones.
Nevertheless, I tried the experiment again in the afternoon, but that sufficed me.
And indeed, my subsequent experience proved that the better way to obtain an
eligible position was to wait till the rush was over, and then quietly insinuate one's
self through the crowd. In this way I never failed to obtain a position where the
whole proceedings of the convention were open to me."

The convention would have consisted of six hundred and six delegates if all
the states had been represented. It was decided that a majority of the delegates
present would be required to nominate. "A full, eager, and enthusiastic representa-
tion was present from all the free states, with representatives from Delaware,
Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri and Virginia, and some scattering representatives
from some of the other slave states ; but the Gulf states were not represented,"
says Arnold. "Indeed, few of the slave states were fully and perfectly represented.
On motion of Governor Morgan, Chairman of the national executive committee,
David Wilmot, author of the 'Wilmot proviso,' was made temporary chairman, and
George Ashman,' of Massachusetts, permanent president." 6


There was a vast crowd of strangers in the city. Holland, in his "Life of Lin-
coln," says there were twenty-five thousand people who had assembled in the city
as delegates and interested observers. There were as many as ten thousand in
the Convention Hall at one time. Of these some five hundred were delegates, but
the newspaper representatives outnumbered them nearly two to one. On the plat-

" Arnold: Life of Lincoln, p. 163.


form and floor were many of the notable men of the country, William M. Evarts,
Thomas Corwin, Carl Schurz, David Wilmot, Thaddeus Stevens, Joshua R. Gid-
dings, George William Curtis, Francis P. Blair, Andrew H. Reeder, George Ash-
mun, Gideon Welles, Preston King, Cassius M. Clay, B. Gratz Brown, and George
S. Boutwell." Some of the Illinois men present were: David Davis, Elihu B.
Washburne, John M. Palmer, Richard J. Oglesby, Orville H. Browning. Clark E.
Carr, Burton C. Cook, Norman B. Judd and Leonard Swett. 8 Among the news-
paper men and reporters, "a body of men scarcely less interesting than the conven-
tion itself," were Thurlow Weed, Horace Greeley, Samuel Bowles, Murat Halstead,
Isaac H. Bromley, Joseph Hawley, Henry Villard, Alexander K. McClure, Joseph
Medill, Horace White, and a throng of others. These men among the spectators
expressed their approval or disapproval of the proceedings frequently and emphat-
ically, swaying and, to some extent, controlling the delegates. 9

While officers of the convention were formally elected and a platform adopted,
"the real interest," says Miss Tarbell, "centered in the caucuses, which were held
almost uninterruptedly." "No man ever worked as our boys did," wrote Mr. Swett;
"I did not the whole week, sleep two hours a night." From one delegation to an-
other they passed arguing, pleading, promising. "Our great struggle," said John
M. Palmer, "was to prevent Lincoln's nomination for the vice-presidency." 10 This
was what the Seward men were willing to favor, and in fact they seemed deter-
mined this should be done. "The Seward men recognized in Lincoln their most
formidable rival, and that was why they wished to get him out of the way by giv-
ing him second place on the ticket."


The platform was adopted by the convention, as usual on such occasions, before
the balloting for candidates began. The convention resolved "that the new dogma
that the Constitution carried slavery into all the territories, was a dangerous polit-
ical heresy, revolutionary in tendency, and subversive of the peace and harmony
of the country; that the normal condition of all the territories is that of freedom;
that neither Congress, the territorial legislature, nor any individual, could give
legal existence to slavery ; that Kansas ought to be immediately admitted as a free
state ; that the opening of the slave trade would be a crime against humanity."
The platform also declared in favor of a homestead law, harbor and river improve-
ments, and the Pacific railroad. 1 '

The reading of the platform brought forth thunders of applause, particularly
the sections in which freedom was affirmed to be the normal condition of the ter-
ritories. "The people could not be satisfied with one reading," writes Dr. Hood,
"but after shouting till one might suppose their lungs, if not their enthusiasm, were
exhausted, they would demand the reading of them [the sections of the platform]

- Tarbell, II, 143.

8 Carr: "The Illini," p. 270.

'Tarbell, II, 144.

10 Ibid., II, 144.

11 Arnold: "Life of Lincoln," p. 164.


again, when they would again applaud with all the vehemence of the first demon-
stration." 12

The importance of this declaration of principles justifies a more complete syn-
opsis of the platform than that given above. The following abridgement made by
Professor George W. Smith, and printed in his recent work entitled "A Student's
History of Illinois," will aid the reader in obtaining a better grasp of the subject
matter of that document.

"The past four years have justified the organization of the Republican party.
The causes which called it into existence are permanent.

"The principle of equality, stated in the Declaration of Independence, is es-
sential to the preservation of our Republican institutions.

"The wonderful development of the nation is the result of the union of the states.

"The lawless invasion of any state or territory by armed force is among the
gravest of crimes.

"The dogma that the constitution carries Slavery into the Territories is a dan-
gerous political heresy.

"We deny the right of Congress, or of any territorial legislature, or of any
individuals, to legalize slavery in any territory of the United States.

"The recent reopening of the African slave trade is a crime against humanity.

"Kansas should of right be admitted as a state under the constitution recently

"The party favors a protective tariff.

"The party favors liberal homestead laws.

"The party pledges efficient protection to all classes of citizens.

"All citizens who can unite on this platform of principles are invited to give
it their support."


On the morning of the third day of the convention the names of candidates
were presented, Hon. William M. Evarts proposing William H. Seward of New
York as the nominee for President. The delegation from that state had prepared
a tremendous claque, which now broke forth in deafening shouts and for a moment
appalled the hearts of Lincoln's friends. 13 But the Illinois Committee had fore-
seen this contingency and were prepared with a "spontaneous demonstration" that
included voices of stentorian proportions. Whenever Lincoln's name was men-
tioned these voices would fill the air with shouting which quite overwhelmed any-
thing of the kind at the convention. "There was then living in Chicago," says
Arnold, "a man whose voice could drown the roar of Lake Michigan in its wildest
fury ; nay, it was said that his shout could be heard on a calm day, across that lake ;
Burton C. Cook, of Ottawa, knew another man, living on the Illinois River, a Dr.
Ames, who had never found his equal in his ability to shout and huzza. He was,
however, a democrat. Cook telegraphed to him to come to Chicago by the first
train. These two men with stentorian voices met some of the Illinois delegation
at the Tremont House, and were instructed to organize each a body of men to
cheer and shout, which they speedily did out of the crowds which were in attendance

12 Illinois State Historical Library Publication, No. 9, p. 370.
l, II, 147.


from the Northwest. They were placed on opposite sides of the 'Wigwam/ and
instructed that when Cook took out his white handkerchief, they were to cheer,
and not to cease until he returned it to his pocket. Cook was conspicuous on the
platform, and, at the first utterance of the name of Lincoln, simultaneously with
the wave of Cook's handkerchief, there went up such a cheer, such a shout as had
never before been heard, and which startled the friends of Seward, as the cry of
'Marmion' on Flodden Field 'startled the Scottish foe.' The New Yorkers tried
to follow when the name of Seward was spoken, but, beaten at their own game,
their voices were instantly and absolutely drowned by cheers for Lincoln. This
was kept up until Lincoln was nominated, amidst a storm of applause never before

"Ames was so carried away with his own enthusiasm for Lincoln, that he joined
the republican party, and continued to shout for Lincoln during the whole cam-
paign; he was afterwards rewarded with a country postoffice." 14

After the Seward demonstration had subsided so as to permit further progress,
Norman B. Judd, taking his stand on a chair, proposed as a candidate for the
nomination, "The Rail Splitter and Giant Killer of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln." 15
The applause, reinforced by the shouters within and without the building, was pro-
longed for half an hour. Thousands of people leaped to their feet, "and the wild
yell made soft vesper breathings of all that had preceded," said Leonard Swett.
"No language can describe it;" said another, "a thousand steam whistles, ten acres
of hotel gongs, a tribe of Comanches, headed by a choice vanguard from pande-
monium, might have mingled in the scene unnoticed." 16

In Clark E. Carr's book of reminiscences, entitled "The Illini," he describes
the scene in these graphic sentences: "I remember," he says, "how happily Mr.
Evarts placed Mr. Seward's name before the convention, and the applause it re-
ceived. But this applause was as nothing compared with the deafening cheers and
shouts, prolonged for nearly half an hour by the vast assemblage, when Norman
B. Judd, standing upon a high chair, proposed as a candidate for the nomination
'The Rail Splitter and Giant Killer of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln.' As the cheers
would die away they would again break out in some remote part of the great build-
ing, and swell to a grand chorus. It seemed as if all the people of Illinois were
assembled outside, and I remember how their acclamations resounded through the
apertures between the single rough board walls of the great building."

The Lincoln men outside, to whom everything that was going on inside was
instantly communicated, were a hundred in favor of Lincoln. to one in favor of
any other candidate. "There was force in the declaration of the Seward men,"
says Carr, "that if the convention had been held anywhere else but at Chicago the
result would have been different."


On the first ballot Seward received 1731/2 votes, and Lincoln 102. On the
second, Seward's vote was increased to 184%, while Lincoln's jumped up to 181.

14 Arnold: "Life of Lincoln," p. 167.

15 Carr: "The Illini," p. 284.
"'Tarbell, II, 148.


On the third ballot, Lincoln's vote had run up to 23 1-^2, far outstripping his com-
petitors, but still not quite enough to secure the nomination. 17 It lacked only one
and one-half votes to win the victory. "An instant of silence followed," says Miss
Tarbell, "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. President,' 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.

"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 demonstration, accompanied with leaping
up and down, tossing hats, handkerchiefs, and canes recklessly into the air, with
the waving of flags, and with every 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 stupendous 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 ex-
haustion had not prevented, we don't know but the applause would have continued
to this hour.'

"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, 'Halle-
lujah; 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 be-
fore morning they were afire with pride and excitement."

A full length portrait of Lincoln, which his friends had in readiness, was dis-
played on the platform. Mr. Greeley telegraphed to the Tribune: "There was
never another such scene in America."

"Holland: "Life of Lincoln," p. 224, and Carr 284.

vol. n T



Clark E. Carr's account of this memorable scene is equally graphic. Carr was
there and in his book of reminiscences he describes what took place during the
progress of the third ballot when 23iy 2 votes had been cast for Lincoln, lacking
but one and a half votes to secure the nomination which required 233. "I remem-
ber," he says, "the bursts of applause when the convention realized that Mr. Lin-
coln was so near the goal, and the hush and stillness and solemnity when Mr. Car-
ter of Ohio arose and changed four votes of that state from Chase to Lincoln;
and how uproariously and wildly men cheered, and yelled, and screamed, and
danced, and sang, and hugged each other. Hats and umbrellas and coats and vests
were thrown as high as strength would permit, in a perfect orgie of rapturous en-

"And I remember," he continues, "how the motion to make the nomination unani-
mous brought those men, delirious with joy, back to their senses, and with what
depths of emotion they listened to the solemn cadences of the voice of Mr. Evarts,
representing his crushed associates of the New York delegation, to whom the blow
had been no less cruel than it was to their great leader. I shall never forget the
pathos and tenderness with which Mr. Evarts uttered the sentiment, 'The name
of William Henry Seward will be remembered when Presidents are forgotten;' and
how, in the name of their great leader and of the entire delegation of the great
State of New York, he seconded the motion to make the nomination of Abraham
Lincoln of Illinois unanimous, which was instantly adopted, and the vast crowd
moved slowly out, leaving the delegates to continue their work by placing that saga-
cious statesman and wise counsellor, Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, in the second
place on the ticket."


Dr. Hood, in his account of the proceedings, describes the closing scene. "Be-
fore the vote was counted State after State rose and changed its vote to Lincoln.
Mr. Evarts, of New York, demanded: 'Can New York have the silence of the
convention?' Instantly every voice was hushed. He stated that he desired to
make a motion and would inquire if the result of the ballot was announced. If it
was not, he would await that announcement. When the result was declared he took
the floor, or rather a table, and in a speech which won the admiration of all that
heard it; which was characterized alike by dignity, earnestness and deep devotion
to the great statesman of New York, he pronounced a most glowing eulogy upon
William H. Seward. It might be deemed honor enough to be accounted worthy of
such devoted friendship. At the close he moved that the nomination of Abraham
Lincoln be declared unanimous ; at the same time elevating high above him a life
sized portrait of 'Honest Old Abe.'

"The motion was first seconded by Blair, of Michigan. He said: 'We give
up William Henry Seward with some beating of the heart, with some quivering of
the nerves, but the choice of the convention is the choice of Michigan.' He was
followed by Anderson of Massachusetts and Carl Schurz of Wisconsin. This closed
the morning session.

"The convention re-assembled at 5 o'clock and at once proceeded to vote for


vice-president. Hannibal Hamlin was chosen on the second ballot. It may seem
somewhat remarkable that Texas should vote steadily in the morning for Seward
and in the afternoon cast six votes for Sam Houston. After appointing the com-
mittee the convention adjourned sine die." ls


In the evening a grand ratification meeting was held in the Wigwam, and ad-
dresses made by Pomeroy, Giddings, Yates, and others. Bonfires, processions,
torch-lights, fireworks, illuminations of every description, and salutes, "filled the
air with noise and the eye with beauty." The Illinois delegation, before it sep-
arated, says a writer, "resolved that the Millenium had come." Decorated and il-
luminated rails surrounded the newspaper offices, and became a leading feature of
the ensuing campaign. "Rail Splitter Battalions" were formed everywhere. "Wide-
Awake Clubs," bands of torch-bearers in a simple uniform of glazed cap and cape,
carrying lanterns or torches, paraded the streets of nearly every town of the North
throughout the summer and fall, arousing everywhere the wildest enthusiasm. Down
in Washington Douglas said when he heard the news. "There won't be a tar bar-
rel left in Illinois tonight."

The origin of the "Wide-Awakes," says Miss Tarbell, "was purely accidental.
In February, Cassius M. Clay spoke in Hartford, Connecticut. A few ardent
young Republicans accompanied him as a kind of body guard, and to save their
garments from the dripping of the torches a few of them wore improvised capes
of black glazed cambric. The uniform attracted so much attention that a campaign
club formed soon afterward in Hartford adopted it. This club called itself the
Wide-Awakes and their example was followed by many other clubs having a sim-
ilar purpose throughout the country.

"A great many fantastic movements were invented by them, a favorite one
being a peculiar zig-zag march an imitation of the party emblem the rail-fence.
Numbers of the clubs adopted the rules and drills of the Chicago Zouaves one
of the most popular military organizations of the day. In the summer of 1860,
Colonel Ellsworth, the commanding officer of the Zouaves, brought them East. The
Wide-Awake movement was greatly stimulated by this tour of the Zouaves." 19


While the Convention was in progress Mr. Lincoln remained in Springfield,
where he was kept informed constantly by his friends at Chicago. "He was ap-
prised of the result of every ballot," says Holland, "and, with his home friends,
sat in the Journal office receiving and commenting upon the dispatches. It was
one of the decisive moments of his life a moment on which hung his fate as a
public man, his place in history. He fully appreciated the momentous results of
the convention to himself and the nation, and foresaw the nature of the great strug-
gle which his nomination and election would inaugurate. A moment, and he knew

18 Publication No. 9, Illinois State Historical Library, p. 372.
"Tarbell, II, 164.


that he would either become the central man of a nation, or a cast-off politician
whose ambition for the nation's highest honors would be forever blasted." 20

At length, he was handed a telegram by a messenger boy from the telegraph
office, who shouted at the same time, "Mr. Lincoln, you are nominated." The
crowd soon gathered he was in the street when the messenger found him and
he was overwhelmed with congratulations. "For a few minutes," says Miss Tar-
bell in her description of the scene, "carried away by the excitement, Lincoln
seemed simply one of the proud and exultant crowd. Then remembering 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.' " When he arrived he found that other
friends had outstripped him, and the "little woman" was already in possession

Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.2) → online text (page 14 of 55)