Any Real Republicans These Days? A Contrast with the Election of 1860

Real Republicans~Are There Any Remaining These Days?

The Election of 1860

This is the second in my occasional series looking at the history of the Republican Party. I confess that I was tempted to entitle this ‘Real Republicans~Are There Any Left?’ but realized that would be an unnecessary implied comment.

 Allow me, gentle reader, to restate a warning which I have stated previously. When I started this blog a bit over a year ago, I wrote in my first essay: “My interests are varied, my age senior, my politics and theology unapologetically liberal. If you enjoy my rambling, I am pleased. If you don’t, well the web is a wide, wide world. To each her own.” In this election year I have a thing or six to say about American politics. Much of that is harsh and unflattering to the Republican Party nationally and to the current Republican administration in my state, Pennsylvania. And if you, gentle reader, are conservative in your views, you will most likely be offended by what I say. So read on at your own risk or switch right now to another blog.

 My political views come from FDR’s New Deal, Jack Kennedy’s New Frontier, Eugene V Debs’ “Bending Cross” speech, chapters 5, 6 and 7 of the Gospel of Matthew [when the Italian social activist Father John Bosco was asked about politics, he replied, “My political views are those of the Lord’s Prayer”], Quaker peace principles and the IWW’s concept of “one big union.” I have voted for Democrats, independents and various third party candidates but, never, to my knowledge, for a Republican. And since my dominant hand has not withered, I believe that I never have pulled the lever for a Republican. In my mind, the criticism of President Obama as a “socialist” simply reveals the ignorance of his critics who apparently do not know enough history or current events to recognize a real socialist if one stood in front of them. All that said, if you are still reading, let me move on apiece to my second historical study in this series–the election of !860.

 

Lincoln in 1860

 

I posted a detailed account of the election of 1860 here on my blog on August 30th of last year. Those who are interested can read or reread it. To begin this analysis I will repeat a few of the introductory paragraphs and then turn my attention to the Chicago convention of that year and the Republican platform adopted at the convention.

 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.

 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, 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.

 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.

 

Site of the 1860 Republican convention

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. [Query: Would a moderate stand a chance of winning the Republican nomination today? Not at all likely, is it?] 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. Consider the platform which came out of that Chicago convention. 

“6. That the people justly view with alarm the reckless extravagance which pervades every department of the Federal Government; that a return to rigid economy and accountability is indispensable to arrest the systematic plunder of the public treasury by favored partisans; while the recent startling developments of frauds and corruptions at the Federal metropolis, show that an entire change of administration is imperatively demanded.”

Yes, that sounds familiar. The American public has already heard such words. I will not be surprised to see similar language in the Republican platform whicvh will come out of this year’s convention. However, look further with me ,gentle reader, at what else was in that Republican platform.

 “9. That we brand the recent reopening of the African slave trade, under the cover of our national flag, aided by perversions of judicial power, as a crime against humanity and a burning shame to our country and age; and we call upon Congress to take prompt and efficient measures for the total and final suppression of that execrable traffic.”

 Despite legislation from the Administration of President Jefferson in 1807 which banned American participation in international slave trade, the South had boldly resumed illegal trade, capturing and buying slaves directly in Africa, and the Southern bloc in Congress stymied efforts to stop it. Southerners also regularly bought slaves in Havana, Cuba and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil which were seen, in light of the Monroe Doctrine, as part of sphere of influence of the United States and buying slaves there as much a part of the domestic slave trade as buying slaves in Richmond, Virginia or New Orleans, Louisiana. Will the current Republican candidate take such a brave stand on behalf of people of color? I have my doubts.

 

Anti-Lincoln political cartoon showing him supported by free black people and the liberal editor Horace Greeley

“12. That, while providing revenue for the support of the general government by duties upon imports, sound policy requires such an adjustment of these imports as to encourage the development of the industrial interests of the whole country; and we commend that policy of national exchanges, which secures to the workingmen liberal wages, to agriculture remunerative prices, to mechanics and manufacturers an adequate reward for their skill, labor, and enterprise, and to the nation commercial prosperity and independence.”

 Given the current anti-union positions of the Republican Party today, I do not expect them to advocate “liberal wages” for workers. Today’s Republicans place the interests of business owners far above those of blue collar and pink collar workers.

 “13. That we protest against any sale or alienation to others of the public lands held by actual settlers, and against any view of the free-homestead policy which regards the settlers as paupers or suppliants for public bounty; and we demand the passage by Congress of the complete and satisfactory homestead measure which has already passed the House.”

 Today’s Republicans place the interests of agribusiness and oil companies well above those of small family farmers. I would be greatly suprised to see this kind of language in the 2012 Republican platform.

 “14. That the Republican party is opposed to any change in our naturalization laws or any state legislation by which the rights of citizens hitherto accorded to immigrants from foreign lands shall be abridged or impaired; and in favor of giving a full and efficient protection to the rights of all classes of citizens, whether native or naturalized, both at home and abroad.”

 This was added to the platform to counter anti-immigrant policies advocated by Southerners and those with anti-Catholic, anti-Irish and anti-Jewish sentiments, sentiments which had some popularity every so often in the 1840s and 1850s. The current attitude of the Republican Party is to restrict immigration as much as possible, quickly deport illegal immigrants and pull away the welcome mat from in front of the Statue of Liberty.

 “15. That appropriations by Congress for river and harbor improvements of a national character, required for the accommodation and security of an existing commerce, are authorized by the Constitution, and justified by the obligation of Government to protect the lives and property of its citizens.

“16. That a railroad to the Pacific Ocean is imperatively demanded by the interests of the whole country; that the federal government ought to render immediate and efficient aid in its construction; and that, as preliminary thereto, a daily overland mail should be promptly established.”

 I can not imagine the current Republican Party making any such similar statements. If it were up to the apparent nominee the American automobile would have become extinct. Most likely with his mentality a transcontinental railroad would never have been built. I look forward to contrasting the 2012 Republican platform with that of 1860. And certainly no one of the stature of Lincoln or Seward is in the forefront of that party today.

 

Pro-Lincoln cartoon depicting him as the true defender of liberty

On Tuesday, November 6, 1860, 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.

 I expect that the Republican ticket in 2012 will win all the states which were once part of the Confederacy– unless large numbers of minority persons turn out to vote and vote Democratic. This election will be decided by which party carries New England, the mid-Atlantic, the mid-West and the Pacific coast. But are there Republicans like those of 1860? If they yet remain in that party they are strangely silent.

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