Boil & bubble! Toil and trouble! The election of 1860

Dividing the Country-1860

The Campaign and Election of 1860–

First in a series on the roots of the Civil War


For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 1


In American history we see any number of complicated and problematic election years, elections which changed our history, dramatically changed us as a nation. Such elections as 1800, 1824, 1828, 1876, 1912, 1932, 1940, 1968 and 2000. But it seems to me that none was as complicated, as divisive, as problematic, as surprising and leading to such dramatic change–change which led to a new definition of the United States–as the election of 1860.

The political heat in the country was rising to a hard boil with divisions over slavery, economic development, the banking system, tariffs and taxes. In the decade between 1850 and 1860, the Compromise of 1850 was enacted with the strengthened Fugitive Slave Law, so punitive that many Northerners who had been indifferent to slavery became anti-slavery. A novel entitled Uncle Tom’s Cabin, written by a preacher’s wife, stirred debate, anger and resentment (1852). Debate grew about expansion of slavery in western territories as Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and turned “bleeding Kansas” into a rehearsal for larger conflict. More Northerners accepted Henry Ward Beecher’s declaration that “a Sharp’s rifle is a better argument against slavery than the Bible” while Southerners insisted they could take slavery anywhere and sought to re-open the African slave trade by illegal and legal means. Canada openly welcomed black fugitives while the Royal Navy did its best to stop international slave trade. All the while Britain bought as much cotton as the South had to sell. On the Senate floor, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was assaulted and seriously injured by a Southerner (1856). The election of 1856 sent James Buchanan from Pennsylvania to the White House. Abolitionists, black and white, saw the administration as incompetent and Buchanan as a “dough-face”–a white Northerner who acted like a Southern slave-owner. In the case of Dred Scott, a majority of the Supreme Court held that black people were not and never could be citizens (1857). A successful railroad lawyer in Illinois named Abraham Lincoln tried to unseat Senator Stephen A Douglas (1858); their debates focused attention on the issue of the expansion of slavery and the nature of the federal union. Claiming to be inspired by God, John Brown attempted to start a slave uprising by seizing the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry (1859). More fugitives took passage on the underground railroad while more Northern states did less about it. If the country needed more heat to come to a boil, this election provided it.

Senator Sumner of Massachusetts

 The Republican Party emerged in 1854, growing out of a coalition of anti-slavery Whigs [the American “Whig” Party was founded in 1832-3 and dissolved in 1854] and Free Soil Democrats who mobilized in opposition to Senator Douglas’ introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill which repealed the 1820 Missouri Compromise prohibition on slavery in territory north of the 36degree 30minute latitude line. The new party quickly composed a platform of developing the United States by encouraging cheap or free homesteads on western lands, encouraging immigration from western Europe, expanding railroads, and protecting growing industries. They argued that free-market labor was superior to slavery and indeed was the foundation of civic virtue.

Both the well-established Democratic Party (formed in the 1830s from factions of the Democratic-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson, which had largely collapsed by 1824 and is the Democratic Party we know by that name today) and the newly emerging Republican Party had particular ethnic and cultural foundations, particularly in the churches which provided social networks throughout most of the nineteenth century. The pietistic churches, growing during the Second Great Awakening, which came in waves between 1820 and the end of the Civil War, placed heavy emphasis on the duty of the Christian to reform society. (Methodism was the fastest growing church in the antebellum period and the slavery issue split the church in the mid-1830’s). Sin in society took many forms such as alcohol abuse, polygamy and slavery. The more liberal elements of the Second Great Awakening also encouraged the participation of women in the church which helps explain the faith of many of the antebellum feminists. The “Yankees” who dominated New England, upstate New York, and much of the upper Midwest became the strongest supporters of the new Republican Party. Many members came from Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Methodist, and the Scandinavian Lutheran churches. The Quakers were a small tight-knit group that became heavily Republican as anti-slavery activists pinned their hopes to the Republicans..The liturgical “high-churches” such as Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and German Lutheran largely retained their adherence to the Democratic Party. Irish immigrants, even in northern cities, were mainly Democrats. Immigrants from England and Scotland tended toward the Republicans.

 In the mid-term election of 1858, the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives for the first time, benefitting from the breakdown of the anti-immigration and anti-Catholic American Party [“the Know Nothing movement”] and from increasing strife within the Democratic Party. While actually several seats short of a numerical majority, the Republicans exercised authority by support from members of other parties.

At the beginning of the campaign year, the Democrats continued to splinter. Yet the Republican field of potential nominees for the presidency seemed quite full. William H. Seward of New York was considered the front runner, followed by Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania and Edward Bates of Missouri.

 Seward was a distinguished lawyer, had been governor of New York and served in the U S Senate since 1849. He held abolitionist sympathies and he and his wife had sheltered fugitive slaves in their home. Southerners either despised or feared him.

 Chase, also a distinguished lawyer, had been born in New Hampshire. Blinded in one eye as a youth, he was raised by an uncle, an Episcopal bishop. For his defense of escaped slaves seized in Ohio, he was called “the Attorney General for Fugitive Slaves.” His argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Jones v.Van Zandt on the constitutionality of fugitive slave laws attracted much attention. He had served as U S Senator for Ohio and as the state’s governor from January 14, 1856 to January 9, 1860.

 Cameron, a Pennsylvania native son, made a considerable fortune in railroads and banking. He twice served as a U S Senator from Pennsylvania.

 Bates, Virginia-born, was a veteran of the War of 1812 and a lawyer. He moved to Missouri after the war and became active in Missouri politics at both the state and national levels.

Campaign flag--1860

 Lincoln, like the others, was a lawyer. Unlike Seward, Chase and Cameron, he had not attended college and had minimal formal schooling. Like most antebellum lawyers, he “read law” while clerking for a lawyer and then sought admission to the bar. He had natural wit, read everything he got his hands on and was an excellent story-teller. He had served one term in Congress as a representative from Illinois where he opposed the War with Mexico in 1846. He married a southern woman. He made a considerable fortune doing legal work for the growing railroads. His 1858 challenge to Stephen A Douglas for the seat in the U S Senate gave him some notoriety beyond Illinois.

 As the convention in Chicago developed, it became clear that Seward, Chase, Bates and Cameron had each alienated some faction of the Republican Party. Seward appeared too closely identified with the radical wing of the party. [Remember, gentle reader, in this period and during Reconstruction after the Civil War, the terms “radical” and “Republican” were not mutually exclusive]. Chase, a former Democrat, alienated many of the former Whigs by his coalition with the Democrats in the late 1840s, opposed tariffs demanded by Pennsylvania industry, and faced some opposition among his own delegation from Ohio. Bates alienated people in the border states and southern conservatives as well as German-Americans in the party. Cameron was slick and opportunistic, having no real support outside of Pennsylvania. After his famous Cooper Union address in February, 1860, Lincoln developed a national reputation as the most articulate moderate in the party. He won the nomination on the third ballot on May 18, 1860. Hannibal Hamlin, a lawyer and politician from Maine and known for his anti-slavery views, was selected as vice-presidential candidate to balance the ticket.

Picture of Lincoln taken by Matthew Brady at the time of the Cooper Union speech

 The Democrats helped the Republicans win by fracturing internally, not once but twice. Technically, there were four candidates running for the presidency.

 Stephen Douglas became the first presidential candidate in American history to undertake a nationwide campaign tour. He traveled to the South where he did not expect to win many votes, however, he pled for the maintenance of the Union, rejecting both radical abolitionists and secessionists. Beginning in August, following Douglas’ example, William L. Yancey, a pro-slavery orator, made a speaking tour of the North. He had been instrumental in denying the Charleston nomination to Douglas, and he supported the Richmond Convention nominating Breckinridge.

 Throughout the general election, Lincoln did not campaign or give speeches, following standard practice of most presidential candidates in the first part of the nineteenth century. State and county Republican organizations, using techniques such as rallies, torch-light parades, support in local newspapers, and passing out flyers, sought to generate party enthusiasm and obtain high turnout. Throughout the North, all during the campaign, there were thousands of Republican speakers, millions of campaign posters and leaflets, and tens of thousands of newspaper editorials. These focused on the party platform and on Lincoln’s boot-strap rise from his boyhood poverty.

 Not all Northerners felt happy about the Republicans. Outside of northern Democrats, black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, while fearful of Stephen Douglas or a Southerner winning, distrusted the Republicans, especially the moderates like Lincoln. Others, like the white radical abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, either longed for a kind of Christian anarchy or the creation of two separate nations. Remember, on a Fourth of July celebration near Boston, Garrison had put a match to a copy of the U S Constitution, denouncing that document as a covenant with death and a pact with hell for the protection it gave slavery.

 The selected representative chronology which follows hopefully provides you, gentle readers, with a kaleidoscopic view of this tumultuous election year and provides some enlightenment about the terrible war which soon followed. Also, it is important to remember that the general election system which we know today only evolved in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

 The selection for the Senate in 1860 is performed as mandated by Article 1, Section 3, Sub-section 1 which says “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.” This will change only in 1913 with the adoption of the 17th Amendment which says “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislatures.”


Lincoln campaign button-1860

Election for the House of Representatives is even a bit more complicated. Before 1872, different states could hold elections at various times. The first elections for the 37th Congress are held on August 6, 1860 in Arkansas and Missouri, while the last election will take place in California on September 4, 1861. Arkansas, Florida, and South Carolina select Representatives before the presidential election, electing 7 Democrats and 2 independents. These will be the only House elections from the seceding states to the 37th Congress. After South Carolina decides to secede and the Confederate States of America are formed, other Southern states secede as well and elect Representatives to the new Congress of the Confederate States instead of the United States Congress. When Congress comes into session on July 4, 1861, the size of the Democratic House caucus is drastically reduced, resulting in a huge Republican majority. Of the 183 seats, 102 will be held by Republicans, 44 by Democrats, 28 by other parties with 9 seats declared vacant.

 Likewise, state elections such as governorships and state legislatures also took place at different times in different states. Their significance in this election serves as indicia of the November results for president.

 Also, allow me, gentle reader, a final explanatory comment on the significance of the popular vote. Lincoln and his running-mate received only 39.8% of the total popular vote, not uncommon in that period. In five presidential elections between 1844 and 1860, only Franklin Pierce in 1852 won a majority of the popular vote, and Pierce’s majority was a skin-of-the-teeth 50.8%. However, in 1861, when he would take office, Lincoln will not have a minority presidency. Even before the secessionist movement, a reversal of party fortunes swamps the Democratic boat. Republican and third party candidates win a two-thirds majority in both the House of Representatives and Senate. The withdrawal of congressional delegations by the seceding Southern states, beginning even before the start of the new year, will further expand the Republican majorities and the governing power of the new president. The voter turnout rate in 1860 was the second-highest on record (81.2%, second only to 1876, with 81.8%). However, remember registered voters in 1860 are only free white males and in some states, free black males who own property. No women can vote. No Native Americans can vote. The majority of free black men can not vote. No enslaved men can vote. In the six decades after the bitter war which is about to envelop the United States, that suffrage picture will change between 1865 and 1925. Slowly. But change will come. And it will be followed by additional change between 1955 and 1975.



January 2–Monday–Sacramento, California–The state legislature convenes with a narrow Democratic majority. The pro-southern wing of the California Democratic Party has done well in the election. However, even as the new session begins the Democrats are showing signs of a developing split among themselves over the question of slavery.

 January 4–Wednesday–Springfield, Illinois–The state Democratic Party Convention meets to select delegates for the upcoming national convention in Charleston, South Carolina. They charge those selected to make sure the Party’s platform resists all federal regulations concerning slavery in the western territories and to support Senator Stephen A Douglas of Illinois as the official Democratic Party nominee.

 January 9–Monday–Frankfort, Kentucky–The state Democratic Party convention opens today with generally moderate discussion. Participants voice support for slavery and remaining loyal to the Union. The delegates elected to the national convention are committed to native son James Guthrie, who supports the Dred Scott decision, states’ rights, and adherence to the Union.

 January 11–Wednesday–Montgomery, Alabama–The state Democratic Convention opens its four day meeting controlled by advocates of states’ rights. William L Yancey, one of the Southern fire-eaters, gives an important speech. The meeting will end by endorsing a series of resolutions that defend slavery in the western territories, affirm the Dred Scott decision, and threaten a withdrawal from the national convention should these demands not be met.

 January 14–Saturday–Sacramento, California–Democrat Milton Latham resigns as governor after only taking office five days ago. He leaves the governorship to take the unexpired U S Senate seat of David Broderick. Broderick died September 16, 1859, from a gunshot in a duel with the former chief justice of the California supreme court.

 January 18–Wednesday–Meriden, Connecticut–About 300 businessmen attending the state Convention of Manufacturers divide into Republican and Democratic factions in heated debate about the upcoming elections. Eventually the Democrats walk out and hold their meeting in another location.

 January 19–Thursday–Washington–Today’s issue of the abolitionist National Era reports on developments in Nebraska Territory. “We are gratified to announce that the . . . Senate of Nebraska Territory has retraced its steps, and has passed an act for the exclusion of slavery from that Territory. . . . This act of abolishing slavery by a Territorial Government is perhaps the first assertion of ‘popular sovereignty’ against the wishes of the President and the decision of the Dred Scott case. The moral effect of the victory will enure to the Republicans, to whom it belongs, since they introduced the subject, and pressed it upon the attention of the Legislature.”

 January 19–Springfield, Illinois–Abraham Lincoln answers a letter from recently retired Congressman Alexander Stephens of Georgia. Lincoln details his own position on slavery and his understanding of states rights and the federal constitution. There is, Lincoln asserts, “no loop hole left for nullification, and none for secession–because the right of peaceable assembly and of petition and by article Fifth of the Constitution, the right of amendment, is the Constitutional substitute for revolution. Here is our Magna Carta not wrested by Barons from King John, but the free gift of states to the nation they create and in the very amendments harped upon by states rights men are proposed by the Federal congress and approved by Presidents, to make the liberties of the Republic of the West forever sure. All of the States’ Rights which they wished to retain are now and forever retained in the Union, including slavery; and so I have sworn loyalty to this constitutional union, and for it let me live or let me die. But you say that slavery is the corner stone of the south and if separated, would be that of a new Republic; God forbid. When a boy I went to New Orleans on a flat boat and there I saw slavery and slave markets as I have never seen them in Kentucky . . . . I hoped and prayed that the gradual emancipation plan . . .might lead to its extinction in the United States.”

 January 27–Friday–Washington–Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts writes to his friend, the Quaker poet and abolitionist, John Greenleaf Whittier, that tensions are so high in the city that foreign “diplomats cannot give a dinner without studying their lists as a protocol.” They are obliged to invite American guests by the section of the country from which they come.

Like a biblical king, President Buchanan sees the hand-writing on the wall

 February 1–Wednesday–Congress–Members of the House of Representatives have been in session since December 5, 1859. Today, after forty-four ballots in the last two months, they finally elect Republican William Pennington of New Jersey as Speaker of the House. His selection comes on a strictly sectional vote with a count of 117 for him and a total of 116 votes spread among his challengers, who include John Sherman of Ohio, a brother of William Tecumseh Sherman, an army officer. Pennington receives only one vote from a Southern representative. (In this his only term in Congress, Pennington will absent himself for 398 of 433 roll call votes).

 February 23–Thursday–Harrisburg, Pennsylvania–Republicans finish their two-day convention selecting delegates for the Chicago convention. Those chosen include David Wilmot and Thaddeus Stevens. All delegates are pledged to vote for Simon Cameron for president at the convention. After three ballots, they select Andrew Gregg Curtin as the party’s candidate for governor of Pennsylvania.

 February 27–Monday–New York City–Abraham Lincoln delivers a major speech at Cooper Union. The excellent and well-prepared speech examines the views of the framers of the Constitution. In a careful, understandable analysis, Lincoln argues that a majority of the framers believed Congress should control slavery in the territories and not allow it to expand. The Republican position restricting the expansion of slavery is like that of the framers, many of whom were Southerners. He points out the inconsistent positions of Senator Stephan Douglas and the errors of Chief Justice Roger Taney in the Dred Scott case. He concludes by exhorting his audience. “Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” His 1500 listeners clap and cheer as he finishes.

 February 28–Tuesday–Providence, Rhode Island–Mr Lincoln delivers a speech to a large and supportive crowd.


Senator Seward of New York

February 29–Wednesday–Madison, Wisconsin–The state Republican Convention, meets to select delegates for the national convention in Chicago. These delegates are pledged to Senator William Seward of New York as the Republican nominee for president.

 March 7–Wednesday–Worcester, Massachusetts–An extremely large state Republican Convention meets to select delegates for the national convention in Chicago. The majority of those chosen support William Seward for president while most of the rest express their support for Representative Nathaniel Banks as a favorite son of Massachusetts.

 March 9–Friday–Norwich, Connecticut–Mr Lincoln speaks to an enthusiastic crowd at the town hall, calling slavery “the all absorbing topic of the day.” He concludes by saying, as he did at Cooper Union, “Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty, as God gives us power, and as we understand it.”

 March 17–Saturday–New York City–In this issue the Weekly Anglo-African declares that the Republican Party is not far removed from the attitudes of southern Democrats with regard to black people.

 March 17–New York City–A local politico named James Briggs writes to Salmon P Chase. He is working on the Chase campaign. “The contest for the Presidency is between yourself and Seward. His late speech has improved his chances some. Jersey men say he cannot carry that State, & so say many from Pa.”

Salmon P Chase of Ohio


March 26–Monday–Glasgow, Scotland–Speaking to a large audience, Frederick Douglass addresses needed change in American politics. “If 350,000 slaveholders have, by devoting their energies to that single end, been able to make slavery the vital and animating spirit of the American Confederacy for the last 72 years, now let the freemen of the North, who have the power in their own hands, and who can make the American government just what they think fit, resolve to blot out for ever the foul and haggard crime, which is the blight and mildew, the curse and the disgrace of the whole United States.”

 March 30–Friday–Philadelphia, Pennsylvania–Mr Thomas L Kane, a Democrat, corresponds with Senator Robert M Hunter, Democrat of Virginia, about the upcoming national convention. Senator Hunter is the favorite son candidate of Virginia and has support in other states. Kane reports on his informal survey of Pennsylvania Democrats and what support he finds for Senator Douglas. “As far as I am able to ascertain, Mr D’s adherents incline to consider it their chief’s interest to support you, and, what is more, I suspect one individual of having taken his cue to this effect directly from the Illinois Senator himself. They have no difficulty in understanding that, if their candidate must look to another Convention, it is his interest to have the Presidential chair filled till ‘64 by a Southerner, to have a platform adopted which it will not humble him or his men to stand upon, to have an opportunity of conciliating the South by contributing to nominate its accepted favorite.”

 April 2–Monday–Connecticut–Republicans sweep the state elections, winning victories in all of the state wide races. Republican William Buckingham wins re-election as governor and the party gains healthy majorities in both houses of the state legislature.

 April 17–Tuesday–New York City–In his diary George Templeton Strong notes that he expects the Democrats “will nominate [Stephan A] Douglas, I think. Then comes the sanhedrin of the undeveloped Third Party.”

 April 18–Wednesday–Syracuse, New York–The state Republican Convention meets and selects delegates for the upcoming national convention in Chicago. They vote unanimously and enthusiastically for William H. Seward as the choice of New York for the nomination for president.

 April 23–Monday–Charleston, South Carolina–The Democratic National Convention convenes at the South Carolina Institute Hall.

 April 29–Sunday–Springfield, Illinois–In a letter to his friend and fellow Republican, Lyman Trumbull, Lincoln writes regarding the up-coming convention in Chicago. “Charleston [the Democratic convention] hangs fire, and I wait no longer. As you request, I will be entirely frank. The taste is in my mouth a little; and this, no doubt, disqualifies me, to some extent, to form correct opinions. You may confidently rely, however, that by no advice or consent of mine, shall my pretensions be pressed to the point of endangering our common cause.”

Lincoln serves up the split Democrats "on the half shell"


April 30–Monday–Charleston, South Carolina–When the Democrats by a vote of 165 to 138 adopt a platform endorsed by Northerners, 50 Southern Democrats, led by William L Yancey, one of the “fire-eaters” who strongly support slavery. walk out. Yancey and the Alabama delegation leave the hall and are followed by the delegates of Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, three of the four delegates from Arkansas, and one of the three delegates from Delaware. The Southern delegates gather at St. Andrews Hall on Broad Street, declaring themselves the real convention, and awaiting conciliatory action by the Institute Hall convention. However, the others simply proceed to nominations.

 May 3–Thursday–Charleston, South Carolina–After failing in 57 rounds of balloting to give Senator Douglas the nomination, the Northern Democratic delegates vote to adjourn the convention and to reconvene in Baltimore in June.

 May 9–Wednesday–Baltimore, Maryland–In a one day convention, the Constitutional Union Party nominates John Bell of Tennessee for president and Edward Everett of Massachusetts for vice-president. They reject traditional specific platform statements and call for citizens to do “both the part of patriotism and of duty to recognize no political principle other than the Constitution of the Country, the Union of the States, and the Enforcement of the Laws, and that, as representatives of the Constitutional Union men of the country, in National Convention assembled, we hereby pledge ourselves to maintain, protect, and defend, separately and unitedly, these great principles of public liberty and national safety, against all enemies, at home and abroad; believing that thereby peace may once more be restored to the country.”

 May 12–Saturday–Chicago, Illinois–The Republican national convention opens. Mary Ashton Rice Livermore covers the proceedings for New Covenant, a magazine which employs her as associate editor. By her presence she becomes the first woman working as a reporter to cover a political convention in the United States.


The Chicago Wigwam--site of the Republican convention

May 18–Friday–Chicago, Illinois–The Republican national convention closes, having nominated Abraham Lincoln of Illinois for president and Hannibal Hamlin of Maine for vice-president. The adopted party platform calls for preservation of the federal union; reform to correct the corruption of the Buchanan Administration; a return to “rigid economy” in the federal budget; banning slavery in new territories as mandated by the Constitution; Congressional action to stop the recent reopening of the African slave trade, trade which is “a crime against humanity and a burning shame to our country and age;” the admission of Kansas as a free state; better wages for laborers and improved income for farmers; prompt passage of a homestead act to encourage settlement in the west; construction of a transcontinental railroad; protection of naturalized citizens; federal financing of improvements to rivers and harbors. The guiding philosophy is “that the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence and embodied in the Federal Constitution, . . . is essential to the preservation of our Republican institutions; and that the Federal Constitution, the Rights of the States, and the Union of the States must and shall be preserved.”

Hamlin of Maine--Lincoln's running mate


May 19–Saturday–New York City–Lawyer George Templeton Strong commits his opinions about the Republican Party to the pages of his diary. “The Chicago Convention nominates Lincoln and Hamlin. They will be beat, unless the South perpetrate some special act of idiocy, arrogance, or brutality before next fall. . . . The Tribune and other papers commend him [Lincoln] to popular favor as having but six months’ schooling in his whole life . . . . ‘Honest Abe’ sounds less efficient than ‘Fremont and Jessie,’ and that failed four years ago.”

 May 21–Monday–Springfield, Illinois–Lincoln writes to his friend Joshua R Giddings, radical abolitionist, now age 64, retired from Congress and home in Jefferson, Ohio. “It is indeed, most grateful to my feelings, that the responsible position assigned me, comes without conditions, save only such honorable ones as are fairly implied. . . . Your letter comes to my aid in this point, most opportunely. May the Almighty grant that the cause of truth, justice, and humanity, shall in no wise suffer at my hands.”

 May 23–Wednesday–Springfield, Illinois–Abraham Lincoln writes to George Ashmun, 56 years old and former Congressman from Massachusetts who is one of the founders of the Republican Party. “I accept the nomination tendered me by the Convention over which you presided, and of which I am formally apprized in the letter of yourself and others, acting as a committee of the convention, for the purpose. The declaration of principles and sentiments, which accompanies your letter, meets my approval; and it shall be my care not to violate, or disregard it, in any part. Imploring the assistance of Divine Providence, and with due regard to the views and feelings of all who were represented in the convention; to the rights of all the states, and territories, and people of the nation; to the inviolability of the constitution, and the perpetual union, harmony, and prosperity of all, I am most happy to co-operate for the practical success of the principles declared by the convention.”

 May 25–Friday–Boston, Massachusetts–Today’s issue of Garrison’s Liberator contains a notice of a meeting soon to be held at Mercantile Hall to consider the formation of a political anti-slavery party and “to take such other political action as may be deemed advisable.”


Frederick Douglass

May 26–Saturday–Rochester, New York–Frederick Douglass writes to British friends to explain why he has returned to the United States. “Even in the event of the election of a Republican President, which I still hopefully anticipate, the real work of abolitionizing the public mind will still remain, and every pen, press and voice now employed will then, as now, be needed to carry forward that great work. The Republican party is . . . only negatively anti-slavery. It is opposed to the political power of slavery, rather than to the slave power itself . . . . The triumph of the Republican party will only open the way for this great work.”

 May 30–Wednesday–Washington–Congressman Schuyler Colfax of Indiana writes to candidate Lincoln to inform him about discussion with another representative from Indiana. “The Chicago platform contained some things with which he did not agree: but knowing you, & having confidence in you, both from personal knowledge & from having read your discussions with Douglas, he had the highest possible confidence in you, and the most assured conviction that you could do right. That Indiana must not be carried by the Democracy; and that he expected to oppose the formation of any Bell Electoral ticket in the State, so that it might be carried for you, as, in the event, it would certainly be.”

 June 4–Monday–Congress–In the Senate, Charles Sumner of Massachusetts delivers a long, blistering speech called “The Barbarism of Slavery” in which he severely criticizes the slave system and the whole of Southern culture. In it he declares “It is in the Character of Slavery itself that we are to find the Character of Slave-masters; but I need not go back to the golden lips of Chrysostom, to learn that ‘Slavery is the fruit of covetousness, of extravagance, of insatiable greediness;’ for we have already seen that this five-fold enormity is inspired by the single idea of compelling men to work without wages. This spirit must naturally appear in the Slave-master. But the eloquent Christian Saint did not disclose the whole truth. Slavery is founded on violence, as we have already too clearly seen; of course it can be sustained only by kindred violence, sometimes against the defenseless slave, sometimes against the freeman whose indignation is aroused at the outrage. It is founded on brutal and vulgar pretensions, as we have already too dearly seen; of course it can be sustained only by kindred brutality and vulgarity. The denial of all rights in the slave can be sustained only by a disregard of other rights, common to the whole community, whether of the person, of the press, or of speech.”

In response, Senator James Chesnut of South Carolina attacks the adulation given to Sumner in the North and in Britain as modern idolatry. “In Egypt, also, we know they deified beasts and reptiles; but even that bestial people worshiped their idols on account of some supposed virtue. It has been left for this day, for this country, for the Abolitionists of Massachusetts, to deify the incarnation of malice, mendacity, and cowardice. Sir, we not intend to be guilty of aiding in the apotheosis of pusillanimity and meanness.”

Political cartoon saying Lincoln is two-faced

June 4–Buffalo, New York–Having been in session since Tuesday, May 1st, the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church concludes when the conference can no longer produce a quorum.Hundreds of delegates from all over the country have been in attendance; however, bitter debate about slavery and some other issues caused some to leave in anger, others to return home out of exhaustion.

 June 5–Tuesday–Boston, Massachusetts–Josiah Quincy, former president of Harvard and now 88 years old, sends a letter of praise to Senator Sumner. “I have read enough to approve, and rejoice that you have been permitted, thus truly, fully, and faithfully to expose the ‘Barbarism’ of Slavery on that very floor on which you were so cruelly and brutally stricken down by the spirit of that Barbarism.”

 June 9–Saturday–Washington–Senator Stephen A. Douglas writes to Follett Foster & Company with complaints about their reprint of his 1858 debates with Mr Lincoln. “I find that Mr Lincoln’s speeches have been revised, corrected and improved since their publication in the newspapers of Illinois, while mine have been mutilated, and in some instances, the meaning changed by the omission of interrogatories and expressions of approbation and disapprobation by persons in the crowd to which my remarks were made responsive, but by the omission of which my replies seemed ambiguous, incoherent or unintelligible. . . . In short, I regard your publication as partial and unfair and designed to do me injustice by placing me in a false position.”


Senator Stephen A Douglas

June 11–Monday–Milwaukee, Wisconsin–The Milwaukee Sentinel evaluates Democratic response to the Republican convention. “The Chicago Convention accomplished one thing very effectually. It opened the eyes of the Democratic journals to the shining qualities and eminent public services of Senator SEWARD. Heretofore the Democratic papers have been accustomed to speak in disparaging and denunciatory terms of Mr. SEWARD, his doctrines and public career. Now all that is changed, and they have no language but praises, for the great statesman of New York.”

 June 18–Monday–Baltimore, Maryland–The Democrats convene again at the Front Street Theater. A dispute over credentials and the delegates who walked out at Charleston splits the party yet again.

 June 18–Springfield, Illinois–Lincoln writes to Carl Schurz, German immigrant “Forty-eighter” and actively involved in Republican politics. “I beg you to be assured that your having supported Gov Seward, in preference to myself in the convention, is not even remembered by me for any practicalpurpose, or the slightest unpleasant feeling. I go not back of the convention, to make distinctions among its members; and, to the extent of our limited acquaintance, no man stands nearer my heart than yourself.”

 June 23–Saturday–Baltimore, Maryland–The national convention of the Democratic Party adjourns, having nominated Stephan A Douglas of Illinois for president and Herschel Johnson of Georgia for vice-president. Their adopted platform calls for a decision by the Supreme Court on slavery in the territories, building a transcontinental railroad, acquiring Cuba, and an end to Northern resistance to enforcement of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law.

 June 28–Thursday–Richmond, Virginia–The break-away Southern Democrats finish a three day convention in Richmond where they select John C. Breckinridge as their nominee for president. They adopt a platform which affirms the right to expand slavery into the western territories as settlers may decide, favors “the acquisition of the Island of Cuba, on such terms as shall be honorable to ourselves and just to Spain, at the earliest practicable moment,” stringent enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, supports “the duty of this Government to protect the naturalized citizen in all his rights, whether at home or in foreign lands, to the same extent as its native-born citizens,” and to secure the passage of some bill, to the extent of the constitutional authority of Congress, for the construction of a Pacific Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, at the earliest practicable moment.”


John C Breckinridge

July 2–Monday–New York City–Democrats gather in a mass gathering at Tammany Hall to overwhelmingly endorse Stephen Douglas as the single Democratic presidential candidate. A considerable number of speakers emphasize the importance of rejecting Breckinridge and the South in favor of Union. The crowd moves to Senator Douglas’ hotel on Fifth Avenue to shout their support. In response Douglas comes out on the hotel balcony and gives brief remarks.

 July 2–Philadelphia, Pennsylvania–The state Democratic Executive Committee meets at the Merchants’ Hotel in an attempt to work out a compromise over the split in the Democratic ticket. A motion to name Stephen Douglas as the sole nominee loses heavily.

 July 4–Wednesday–Columbus, Ohio–The Democratic State Convention meets in Columbus and when a slim majority vote to endorse the Douglas-Johnson ticket, a significant number of Breckinridge supporters immediately withdraw. They gather in another location and issue a call for another state-wide nominating convention to be held in August.

 July 6–Friday–New York City–Recognizing the problems of his party, Fernando Wood, the Democratic mayor proposes in a public letter that the splintered Democrats vote strategically in the upcoming presidential election in order to defeat Lincoln and the Republicans. In states where Douglas is most popular, Democrats should vote for Douglas, and where Breckinridge is favored, Democrats should vote for Breckinridge. The result will send the election from the Electoral College into the House of Representatives as in 1824 and a Democratic candidate will be selected.

 July 9–Monday–Washington–A massive Democratic crowd this evening gathers outside city hall in support of the Breckinridge and Lane ticket. They listen to a number of senators, including Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, urge their support. Then they move to the White House where President Buchanan appears and speaks. While acknowledging the split in the Democratic Party, he gives the reasons why he prefers Breckinridge over Douglas.


Anti-Buchanan cartoon--his high wire failure

July 10—Tuesday–Alexandria, Louisiana–Serving as the first superintendent of Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy, Colonel William Tecumseh Sherman writes to his wife Ellen in Ohio about the upcoming election. He opines that whoever is elected in November “the same old game will be played, and he will go out of office like Pierce and Buchanan with their former honors sunk and lost.”

 July 11–Wednesday–New York City–At a mass meeting of Republican young men at the Cooper Institute Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts gives a fiery speech attacking slavery. Vehemently he declares that if the institution could be driven back into the slave states and kept out of the western territories then the slave system will die “as a poisoned rat dies of rage in its hole.” He calls for a Republican victory in the November election to make this happen.

 July 13–Friday–New York–Mr James Putnam, a prominent American Party [the name used by “the Know-Nothing” anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant party in the last six years] politician in the state, issues a letter state wide, endorsing Lincoln for president. Putnam asserts that Republicans are not abolitionists and Lincoln is “no fanatic” on matters of racial equality.

 July 16–Monday–New York City–Two thousand people gather in Union Park for an evening pro-Lincoln rally. Horace Greeley speaks at length, seeking the support of Whig Party and American Party voters for the Republican ticket.

 July 16–Hartford, Connecticut–Senator Douglas arrives to an enthusiastic reception from a large crowd. In his speech, he asserts that he is the voice of reason in the campaign, standing in the center between two extremes, and that the regular” Democratic Party is the only party that can save the country.

 July 17–Tuesday–Boston, Massachusetts–Senator Douglas arrives to the welcome of a large crowd who parade him through the streets to his hotel where he gives a speech in the evening.

 July 29–Sunday–Missouri–Carl Schurz, German “Forty-eighter” immigrant, is campaigning across the state on behalf of Lincoln. He is reaching out to fellow German-born voters by giving his speeches in their native language. He writes to his wife, “I have been in all respects highly successful. The Germans are coming to our side by hundreds and thousands.”

 August 1–Wednesday–New York City–Today’s edition of the New York Herald quotes the mayor of Chicago as saying that Southerners are busy playing “the old game of scaring and bullying the North into submission to Southern demands and Southern tyranny.”

 August 1–Rochester, New York–In a speech in honor of the twenty-sixth anniversary of the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire, Frederick Douglass praises Senator Sumner of Massachusetts, calling Sumner “the Wilberforce of America.” Douglass goes on to say that he hopes that the Republican party will avoid “acts of discrimination against the free colored people of the United States. I certainly look to that party for a nobler policy than that avowed by some connected with the Republican organization.”

 August 7–Tuesday–New York City–Today’s Times quotes a Southern writer who favors Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington “paved ten fathoms deep with mangled bodies” rather than see Lincoln become president.

 August 8–Wednesday–Springfield, Illinois–Lincoln appears at a campaign rally to a tumultuous response. He declines to give a long speech but limits himself to a few impromptu remarks. “I am gratified, because it is a tribute such as can be paid to no man as a man. It is the evidence that four years from this time you will give a like manifestation to the next man who is the representative of the truth on the questions that now agitate the public. And it is because you will then fight for this cause as you do now, or with even greater ardor than now, though I be dead and gone. I most profoundly and sincerely thank you.”

 August 11–Saturday–Washington–President Buchanan sends a private letter to a journalist in which he denies that he is firing supporters of Senator Douglas from their government jobs.

 August 14–Tuesday–Tennessee–The Memphis Daily Appeal quotes Stephen A Douglas as favoring the acquisition of Cuba and other territories in the Caribbean and in Central America.

 August 17–Friday–Omaha, Nebraska Territory–The Democratic Territorial Convention opens with the nationwide split much in evidence. The Breckinridge forces manage to overwhelm the Douglas supporters on most issues. The gathering does manage to unanimously nominate a candidate for territorial delegate to Congress after only four ballots.

 August 17–Chicago, Illinois–The Press and Tribune reports that “The opposition to Old Abe is played out. Without an union among the different parties who compose it, he will gallop over the course, not pushed to wet a hair or draw a long breath. . . . the Republicans will, at one haul, take one hundred thousand voters out of the Douglas ranks and enroll them under the free soil banner.”

 August 27–Monday–New York City–The Herald quotes Stephan A Douglas as saying, “I am for putting down the Northen abolitionists, but am also for putting down the Southern secessionists, and that too by the exercise of the same constitutional power. I believe that the peace, harmony, and safety of the country depend upon destroying both factions.”

 August 31–Friday–Newark,Ohio–This day’s number of the Newark Advocate in an article entitled “Is Lincoln an Abolitionist?” argues that since Lincoln declared that the nation cannot exist indefinitely half-slave and half-free and opposes the expansion of slavery into the western territories, he therefore must be an abolitionist.


Lincoln outruns Douglas

September 4–Tuesday–Detroit, Michigan–Speaking to a large gathering at a railroad yard, Senator William Seward gives an energetic speech supporting Lincoln and other Republicans.

 September 6–Thursday–Baltimore, Maryland–Senator Douglas speaks for two hours to a large crowd of his supporters. He attacks Breckinridge, saying that without Breckinridge’s interference, he could readily beat Lincoln in every state with the exception of Vermont and Massachusetts.

 September 6–Sacramento, California–With the state Democratic Party irrevocably split, the Douglas loyalists, claiming to be the true Democratic Party, close their two day convention, endorsing the Douglas ticket and the national platform passed in Baltimore. They also strongly condemn the withdrawals at the national conventions which resulted in the alternative nomination of Breckinridge.

 September 7–Friday–Boston, Massachusetts–Garrison pokes fun at the Democrats and President Buchanan in the current issue of The Liberator. Under the headline “Lost: One Cent Reward,” he describes the Democratic Party as lost on the road between Charleston and Baltimore and last seen running after a fugitive slave. “The stock in trade being hopelessly lost, the above reward will be paid by James Buchanan, Caleb Cushing, Benjamin D. Butler, Assignees.”


Garrison, editor of The Liberator

September 8–Saturday–New York City–Today’s Herald quotes William H Seward’s recent speech in Lansing, Michigan in which he said, “I favor . . . the decrease and diminution of African slavery in all the states.”

 September 14–Friday–Upstate New York–Traveling with his wife, Senator Douglas speaks in five towns in the region.

 September 14–New York City–George Templeton Strong confides to his diary his evaluation of the candidates. “I don’t know clearly on which side to count myself in. I’ve a leaning toward the Republicans. But I shall be sorry to see Seward and Thurlow Weed with their profligate lobby men promoted from Albany to Washington. I do not like the tone of the Republican papers and party in regard to the John Brown business of last fall, and I do not think rail-splitting in early life a guarantee of fitness for the presidency. . . . But I can’t support . . . Douglas, the little giant, for I hold the little giant to be a mere demagogue. As to Breckenridge, the ultra Southern candidate, I renounce and abhor him and his party. He represents the most cruel, blind, unreasoning, cowardly absolute despotism that now disgraces the earth.”

 September 18–Tuesday–Rochester, New York–After his well-attended speech, Senator Douglas is honored at night by torch-light parade through the downtown.

 September 23–Sunday–St Joseph, Missouri–Senator William Seward encourages 2000 people to support Lincoln.

 September 26–Wednesday–Lawrence, Kansas–Senator Seward receives a hero’s welcome in this center of free soil Kansas. Several thousand people listen attentively to his rousing speech recounting the efforts Kansas is making to reject slavery and enter the Union as a free state. When he asks them to vote for the Republican ticket he receives claps and cheers.

 October 1–Monday–New York City–Greeley’s Tribune quotes William H Seward on the coming end of slavery. “It is bound to go through all of the thirty-three states of the Union, for the simple reason that it is going through all the world.”

 October 4–Thursday–Cleveland, Ohio–Despite a chilly rain, a large crowd turns out to hear Senator William Seward speak on behalf of Republican candidates.

 October 5–Friday–South Carolina–Governor William Henry Gist notifies other southern states that South Carolina is considering secession.

 October 8–Monday–New York City–In a large meeting at the Cooper Institute, Democrats determined to defeat Abraham Lincoln in November put together a “fusion” movement in an attempt to heal the rift between supporters of Breckinridge and those of Stephen Douglas. Politicians including John Dix, Samuel Tilden, and John Cochrane give fire-and-brimstone anti-Lincoln speeches. Those present ratify an agreement to unite Democrats state-wide to defeat the Republican ticket next month.


New Arrangements in U S politics

October 9–Tuesday–Elections for state-wide offices are held today in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota. All result in Republican victories with their candidates winning the governor’s race in each state. The size of their majorities bodes well for the Lincoln-Hamlin ticket, indicating a possible Republican sweep in these states in the upcoming general election and the news further excites talk of secession in the South.

 October 10–Wednesday–New York City–William L Yancey, the Georgia fire-brand politician, advocate of slavery and secession, tells an audience that slavery “is necessary to the civilization of the world, is necessary to your prosperity as well as ours.”


William L Yancey

October 10–New York City–In his diary, George Templeton Strong notes, “republicanism triumphant in Pennsylvania . . . . So the question is settled and Honest Abe will be our next President. Amen. We may as well ask the question at once whether the existence of the Union depends on the submission to the South.”

 October 19–Friday–St. Louis, Missouri–With a major speech here, Democratic candidate Stephen A Douglas, accompanied by his wife, begins an eleven day final campaign swing, concentrating in the Deep South.

,October 19––Boston, Massachusetts–This issue of The Liberator contains a letter from retired Congressman (and radical abolitionist) Joshua R Giddings in which he asserts that black men have a right to vote.

 October20–Saturday–Towanda,Pennsylvania–FormerPennsylvania Congressman David Wilmot, 46 years old, writes to candidate Lincoln about the state elections and his forecast for November. “The victory is complete at all points, and we can hold the country until our principles and policy are irreversibly established in the Government . . . . I have watched the progress of this great revolution for many years, with anxious, often painful interest; and I now feel very much like a Sentinel, who is at length relieved after a weary & protracted watch. If not before, I shall hope to see you at your Inauguration.”

 October 22–Monday–New York City–George Templeton Strong confides to his diary his intent “to deposit a lukewarm Republican vote next month. It is a choice of evils . . . . It is impossible for me to vote . . . [to] strengthen the show of the mischief-making demagogue Douglas.”

 October 24–Wednesday–New Haven, Connecticut–The Daily Palladium quotes Horace Greeley on the slavery question. “Believing slavery to be a flagrant violation of the inalienable rights of man, a burning reproach to the country, an enemy to prosperity and progress in art, intelligence and civilization, I mean to labor for its eradication from my own and all other countries, so long as I live.”

 October 25–Thursday–Augusta, South Carolina–With less than two weeks before the national election, Senator James Hammond hosts a high level meeting of political leaders at his home. Those present include the current governor William Gist, the former governor Robert Allston, and all of South Carolina’s congressional delegation except for one man who is excused for illness. They decide that South Carolina must secede from the Union in the event of Republican victory.

 October 26–Friday–Springfield, Illinois–Candidate Lincoln writes to Major David Hunter, currently stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Major Hunter, a Northerner with strong anti-slavery convictions has been corresponding with Lincoln. Lincoln requests a favor. “I have another letter from a writer unknown to me, saying the officers of the Army at Fort Kearney, have determined, in case of Republican success, at the approaching Presidential election, to take themselves, and the arms at that point, South, for the purpose of resistence to the government. While I think there are many chances to one that this is a hum-bug, it occurs to me that any real movement of this sort in the army would leak out and become known to you. In such case, if it would not be unprofessional, or dishonorable (of which you are to be judge) I shall be much obliged if you will apprize me of it.”

 October 30–Tuesday–New York City–Today’s New York Times declares that an independent Southern Confederation would refuse to pay debts to Northern banks and will steal industrial patents.

 November 1–Thursday–Baltimore, Maryland–A large group of white men attack a parade of 300 Republicans as they approach the Front Street Theater, where their meeting is to be held. A considerable number of hecklers manage to enter the hall and disrupt the speeches despite the efforts of the police.

 November 2–Friday–New York City–Today The New York Times reports that last night the city’s Veterans of the War of 1812 met to hear political speeches. At the conclusion of the assembly the veterans gave a unanimous vote in support of Mr Lincoln and the Republican ticket.

 November 6–Tuesday–In the popular vote for president, Lincoln receives 1,866,452 votes; Douglas receives 1,375,157 votes; John Breckinridge receives 847,953 votes; John Bell receives 590,631 votes. Lincoln carries California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. Douglas receives a majority (51.9%) only in New Jersey and in Missouri where he edges Bell by only 429 votes. Breckinridge carries most of the slave-holding states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas and edges out Bell by 722 votes in Maryland. Bell carries only Kentucky and Missouri. South Carolina opts not to participate.

On this day, the Republicans win 29 seats in the U S Senate, the Democrats win 23 seats and other parties win 1. [As Southern states secede following the election, and members leave the Senate to join the Confederacy, or are expelled for supporting the rebellion, seats will be declared vacant. The Republicans will gain 1 more seat, other parties will gain 6 more seats and when the Senate finally convenes in 1861, only 13 Democrats will answer the roll call.]

 November 10–Saturday–Senator James Chesnut of South Carolina, husband of Mary Chesnut, becomes the first Southerner to resign from the U S Senate. He is quickly followed by James H. Hammond

November 10–Alexandria, Louisiana–Serving as the first superintendent of Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy, Colonel William Tecumseh Sherman writes to his wife Ellen about the election. “I thought I ought not to vote in this election, and did not. I would have preferred Bell, but I think he has no chance, and I do not wish to be subject to any political conditions. If I am to hold my place by a political tenure I prefer again to turn vagabond. I would not be surprised to learn that my not voting was construed into a friendly regard for Lincoln, and that it might result in my being declared a public enemy. I shall however rest under a belief that now as the election is over all this hard feeling will subside and peace once more settle on the country.”

 November 13–Tuesday–New York City–Writing in his private diary, George Templeton Strong evaluates the possible secession of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. “We shall be well rid of them.”

 November 16–Friday–Boston–The ever eloquent abolitionist Wendell Phillips declares that the election of Lincoln is a moral victory for abolitionists.

 November 26–Monday–Mansfield, Ohio–From his home town, Congressman John Sherman writes to his brother, William Tecumseh Sherman, with an evaluation of the election and the threat of secession and war. “As a matter of course, I rejoice in the result, for in my judgment the administration of Lincoln will do much to dissipate the feeling in the South against the North by showing what are the real purposes of the Republican party. In the meantime, it is evident we have to meet in a serious form the movements of South Carolinian Disunionists. These men have for years desired this disunion; they have plotted for it. They drove Buchanan into his Kansas policy; they got up this new dogma about slave protection; they broke up the Charleston Convention merely to advance secession; they are now hurrying forward excited men into acts of treason without giving time for passion to cool or reason to resume its sway. God knows what will be the result. . . . Secession is revolution. They seem bent upon attempting it. If so, shall the government resist? If so, then comes civil war, a fearful subject for Americans to think of. Since the election I have been looking over the field for the purpose of marking out a course to follow this winter, and I have, as well as I could, tested my political course in the past. There has been nothing done by the Republican party but merits the cordial approval of my judgment.”

 December–In the issue of Douglass’ Monthly for this month, Frederick Douglass evaluates the election and the in-coming administration. “With the single exception of the question of slavery extension, Mr Lincoln proposes no measure which can bring him into antagonistic collision with the traffickers in human flesh . . . . Slavery will be as safe, and safer, in the Union under such a President than it can be under any President of a Southern Confederacy. This is our impression, and we deeply regret the facts from which it is derived.”

 December 1–Saturday–New York City–George Templeton Strong asks of himself in his diary how things came to such a pass. “The clamor of the South about the admission of California ten years ago introduced the question of slavery to the North as one in which it had an interest adverse to the South. . . . The question was unfortunate for our peace. But we might have forgotten it had not S A Douglas undertaken to get Southern votes by repealing the Missouri Compromise [of 1820]. That was the fatal blow.”

December 3–Monday–Washington–President James Buchanan delivers his State of the Union message to Congress. While finding the nation at peace, except with Mexico, and with increasing prosperity, he blames the current discord solely on the North. “Why is it, then, that discontent now so extensively prevails, and the Union of the States, which is the source of all these blessings, is threatened with destruction? The long-continued and intemperate interference of the Northern people with the question of slavery in the Southern States has at length produced its natural effects. The different sections of the Union are now arrayed against each other, and the time has arrived, so much dreaded by the Father of his Country, when hostile geographical parties have been formed. I have long foreseen and often forewarned my countrymen of the now impending danger. . . . The immediate peril arises . . . from the fact that the incessant and violent agitation of the slavery question throughout the North for the last quarter of a century has at length produced its malign influence on the slaves and inspired them with vague notions of freedom. Hence a sense of security no longer exists around the family altar. This feeling of peace at home has given place to apprehensions of servile insurrections. . . . Sooner or later the bonds of such a union must be severed. It is my conviction that this fatal period has not yet arrived, and my prayer to God is that He would preserve the Constitution and the Union throughout all generations. But let us take warning in time and remove the cause of danger. It can not be denied that for five and twenty years the agitation at the North against slavery has been incessant.”

 December 6–Thursday–Washington–Howell Cobb, Secretary of the Treasury in the Buchanan Cabinet, writes an open letter to the people of his home state of Georgia from his office here. He concludes that after the Lincoln Administration takes power “in my honest judgement, each hour that Georgia remains thereafter a member of the Union will be an hour of degradation, to be followed by certain and speedy ruin.”

 December 8–Saturday–Springfield, Illinois–President-elect Lincoln writes to William H Seward asking him to accept nomination as Secretary of State in the new cabinet. He notes that he has intended to do so since his nomination in Chicago.

December 8–Washington–Treasury Secretary Howell Cobb resigns from the government. President Buchanan replaces Cobb with Philip Thomas, a Maryland man. Also, President Buchanan meets with the five members of the South Carolina congressional delegation. The South Carolina men leave wit the understanding that the President has promised that the status quo will continue and that the federal forts around Charleston will not be reinforced. In turn, they promise that state authorities will not seize or attack federal facilities.

 December 12–Wednesday–Annapolis, Maryland–Midshipman William Cushing writes to a cousin about the current state of the Naval Academy. He reports that cadets are resigning everyday and that “each southerner has orders to resign as soon as his state secedes.” Outside the gates, men are “arming in every portion of the State.”

 December 14–Friday–Georgia calls for a convention of Southern states to form an independent nation.

 December 14–Washington–Lewis Cass resigns as Secretary of State.

December 15–Saturday–New York City–George Templeton Strong evaluates for his diary the shake-up in the Buchanan Cabinet. “Cass has resigned, following the example of Mr Secretary Cobb, whom no one regrets in the least. General Scott has been in council with the Cabinet, giving advice that old Buchanan declines to accept . . . . Is old Buchanan imbecile or a traitor?”

 December 18–Tuesday–Congress–Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky introduces a series of measures aiming to resolve the secession crisis by addressing the grievances that is lead the slave states of the United States to contemplate secession from the United States. Basically the substance of the “Crittenden Compromise” protects the existence and expansion of slavery.

 December 20–Thursday–South Carolina officially approves the proposed Ordinance of Secession.

 December 26–Wednesday–Charleston, South Carolina–As darkness falls, Major Robert Anderson, in command of federal forces here, quietly evacuates Fort Moultrie in the harbor and occupies nearby Fort Sumter. By doing so, he gives the appearance of concentrating almost all federal forces in the area in one strong position and seemingly preparing for a siege.

 December 27–Thursday–Charleston, South Carolina–As South Carolina authorities perceive what Major Anderson has done, they are furious, believing that President Buchanan has violated his pledge of December 8th.

 December 27–Charleston, South Carolina–As tensions rise, Mary Chesnut notes in her diary the state of affairs. “The row is fast and furious now. State after State is taking its forts and fortresses. They say if we [South Carolina] had been left out in the cold alone, we might have sulked a while, but back we would have had to go, and would merely have fretted and fumed and quarreled among ourselves. We needed a little wholesome neglect. . . . [N]ow our sister States have joined us, and we are strong. . . . Those who want a row are in high glee. Those who dread it are glum and thoughtful enough.”

 December 28–Friday–Auburn, New York–William H Seward accepts Lincoln’s offer to serve as Secretary of State in the upcoming administration.

 December 29–Saturday–Washington–The Buchanan Administration continues in crisis and unraveling in its ability to function. Since the November election, many Northerners suspect Secretary of War John B Floyd, from Virginia, of disloyalty, particularly concerning arms shipments to Southern states, questionable involvements with defense contractors, and embezzlement of federal money. Today Floyd submits his resignation which President Buchanan quickly accepts, cancelling Floyd’s last scheduled shipment of heavy guns south, and appointing Postmaster-General Joseph Holt in Floyd’s place.

 December 31–Monday–Congress–The Senate tables the Crittenden Compromise.

 In another four and a half months, Southerners and Northerners will be shooting each other.

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