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Campaign of 1864. An Anomaly. Fremont’s Withdrawal.
Presidential Campaign of 1864–Fremont's Withdrawal—Wade and Davis —Peace and War Democrats–Rebel Sympathizers—October Election—Result of Presidential ElectionSpeech to Pennsylvanians—Speech at a Serenade—Letter to a Soldier's Mother— Opening of Congress—Last Annual Message.
THE Presidential campaign of 1864, was, in several of its aspects, an anomaly. The amount of low blackguard and slang dealt out against the Administration, was perhaps to have been expected in a land where personal abuse seems to have become regarded as so vital an accompaniment of a National Election, that its absence in any exciting canvass would give rise to grave fears that positive Constitutional requirements had been disregarded.
Though freedom, in such instances, far too often is wrested into the vilest abuse, it was in truth passing strange that an Administration should be so violently assailed by its opponents as despotic and tyrannical, when the very fact that such strictures and comments were passed upon it, without let or hindrance, by word of mouth and on the printed page, afforded a proof that the despotism, if such there were, was either too mild or too weak to enforce even a decent treatment of itself and its acts. It is safe to say, that, within the limits of that section with which we were under any circumstances to establish harmonious and peaceful relations, according to the requirements of the opposition, not one speech in a hundred, not one editorial in a thousand, would have been permitted under precisely similar circumstances.
General Fremont withdrew his name shortly after the Chicago nominations, that he might not distract and divide
Fremont's Withdrawal. wade and Davis. The Opposition.
the friends of the Union. In his letter of withdrawal he said: “The policy of the Democratic party signifies either separation, or reestablishment, with slavery. The Chicago platform is simply separation. General McClellan's letter of acceptance, is reestablishment with slavery. . . . . . . The Republican candidate, on the contrary, is pledged to the reëstablishment of Union without slavery.” Senator Wade and Henry Winter Davis, who had joined in a manifesto to the people, bitterly denunciatory of the President's course in issuing his reconstruction proclamation, entered manfully into the canvass in behalf of the Baltimore nominees. The ranks of the supporters of the Government closed steadily up, and pressed on to a success, of which they could not, with their faith in manhood and republican principles, suffer themselves to doubt. The Opposition were not entirely in accord. It was a delicate position in which the full-blooded Peace Democrat found himself, obliged as he was to endorse a man whose only claim for the nomination was the reputation which he had made as a prominent General engaged in prosecuting an “unnatural, unholy war.” Nor did it afford much alleviation to his distress to remember that this candidate had been loudly assailed in the Convention as the first mover in the matter of arbitrary arrests, against which a sturdy outcry had long been raised by himself and friends. It was unpleasant, moreover, not to be able to forget that the same candidate had been the first to suggest a draft—or “conscription,” as your true peace man would call it: that measure so full of horrors, against which unconstitutional act such an amount of indignation had been expended. Nor was the situation of the War Democrat, if he were indeed honestly and sincerely such, much better. He could not shut his eyes to the fact, that his candidate's military record, whatever else it might have established, did not evince
Campaign of 1864. The Opposition. The State Elections.
very remarkable vigor and celerity in his movements, as compared with other Generals then and since prominently before the public. Even had he blundered energetically, in that there would have been some consolation. The thought, not unpleasant to the Pendletonian, of the possibility of the General's death during his term of office, stirred up certain other thoughts which he would rather have avoided. However, it must be said, that, taken as a whole, the Opposition came up to the work more vigorously than might have been supposed, and carried on their campaign in as blustering and defiant a style as if victory were sure to perch upon their banners. There was the usual amount of cheap enthusiasm, valiant betting, and an unusual amount, many thought, of cheating—at least, the results of investigations at Baltimore and Washington, conducted by a military tribunal, to a casual observer appeared to squint in that direction. Richmond papers were, for a marvel, quite unanimous in the desire that Mr. Lincoln should not be reëlected. The rebel Vice-President declared that the Chicago movement was “the only ray of light which had come from the North during the war.” European sympathizers with the rebellion, likewise, were opposed to Mr. Lincoln's reëlection, and their organs on the Continent and in the provinces did their best to abuse him shockingly. The State elections in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, occurring in October, created much consternation in the opposition ranks—that in the latter State particularly, which had been set down positively as upon their side, but insisted, upon that occasion, in common with the first two in pronouncing unequivocally in favor of the Administration candidates. The result could no longer be doubtful. Yet the most of the supporters of McClellan kept up their talk, whatever their thoughts may have been. No opportunity for talk, even, was afforded when the results of the election of November 8th became known.
Presidential Election. The Result. Speech of Mr. Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson—whom an opposition journal, with rarest refinement and graceful courtesy, concentrating all its malignity into the intensest sentence possible, had characterized as “a rail-splitting buffoon and a boorish tailor, both from the backwoods, both growing up in uncouth ignorance”—these men of the people carried every loyal State, except Kentucky, New Jersey, and Delaware, the vote of soldiers in service having been almost universally given to them. Of the four million, thirty-four thousand, seven hundred and eighty-nine votes cast, Mr. Lincoln received, according to official returns, two million, two hundred and twentythree thousand, and thirty-five ; a majority on the aggregate popular vote, of four hundred and eleven thousand, two hundred and eighty-one. The President elect by a plurality in 1860, he was reëlected in 1864 by a majority decisive and unmistakable. Having been serenaded early in the morning following his reelection, by Pennsylvanians then in Washington, he thus gave utterance to his feelings :
“FRIENDS AND FELLow-CITIZENs:—Even before I had been informed by you that this compliment was paid me by loyal citizens of Pennsylvania friendly to me, I had inferred that you were of that portion of my countrymen who think that the best interests of the nation are to be subserved by the support of the present administration. I do not pretend to say that you, who think so, embrace all the patriotism and loyalty of the country; but I do believe, and I trust without personal interest, that the welfare of the country does require that such support and indorsement be given. I earnestly believe that the consequences of this day's work, if it be as you assume, and as now seems probable, will be to the lasting advantage if not to the very salvation of the country I cannot, at this hour, say what has been the
Presidential Election. Speech to Pennsylvanians. Speech at a Serenade.
result of the election, but whatever it may be, I have no desire to modify this opinion : that all who have labored today in behalf of the Union organization, have wrought for the best interest of their country and the world, not only for the present, but for all future ages. I am thankful to God for this approval of the people; but while deeply grateful for this mark of their confidence in me, if I know my heart, my gratitude is free from any taint of personal triumph. I do not impugn the motives of any one opposed to me. It is no pleasure to me to triumph over any one, but I give thanks to the Almighty for this evidence of the people's resolution to stand by free government and the rights of humanity.”
When the result was definitely known, at a serenade given in his honor on the night of November 10th, by the various Lincoln and Johnson Clubs of the District, he said:
“It has long been a grave question whether any Government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its existence in great emergencies. On this point the present rebellion brought our Government to a severe test, and a Presidential election occurring in a regular course during the rebellion, added not a little to the strain.
“If the loyal people united were put to the utmost of their strength by the rebellion, must they not fail when divided and partially paralyzed by a political war among themselves 7 But the election was a necessity—we can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego or postpone a national election, it must fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us. The strife of the election is but human nature practically applied to the facts of the case. What has occurred in this case must ever recur in similar cases. Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and