Saturday, June 12, 2021

Reactions to the 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago, where Lincoln was nominated as the presidential candidate.

The intelligence of the convention which nominated Abraham Lincoln has often been challenged. Many held that the candidacy of Lincoln was successful because his friends bought votes, bartered offices, and packed the convention with a howling mob, "filling every available space and much that they had no business to fill." The immediate reaction of the two radical elements in America was the best evidence that the convention had made a sagacious choice. 
Drawing of the Wigwam interior during the 1860 nominating convention. Note the second-story gallery and curved ceiling structure to allow for better acoustics.


The Abolitionists of the North, whose one obsession is indicated by their name, began at once a vicious attack on the Republican nominee. Wendell Phillips, the editor of the "Liberator," published an article under the title, "Abraham Lincoln, the Slave-Hound of Illinois." He took occasion to remark that "notwithstanding the emptiness or Mr. Lincoln's mind, I think we shall yet succeed in making this a decent land to live in."

The Slavery group of the South was more pronounced in their dissatisfaction with the Republican nominee than the Abolitionists. Slavery meant more to them than the preservation of the Union. They immediately attacked Lincoln as a recognized foe of the institution they had nourished and which now sustained them.

That "politics make strange bedfellows" was never more clearly exhibited than in the united attack upon Lincoln by both the Slavery and Anti-Slavery groups. Those who sponsored the candidacy or Lincoln anticipated just such a reaction and saw the wisdom of choosing a man whose course would not be influenced by either of these radical elements.

Such literary men as Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Greenleaf Whittier, William Cullen Bryant, George William Curtis, and James Russell Lowell sanctioned Lincoln's nomination and gave him their support. They recognized in him one whose chief passion would be to save the Union. Lowell set forth his convictions as follows: 
"We are persuaded that the election of Mr. Lincoln will do more than anything else to appease the excitement of the country. He has proved both his ability and integrity; he has had experience enough in public affairs to make him a statesman and not enough to make him a politician."
One of the reporters who made the Chicago convention was Charles Carleton Coffin. After the convention adjourned Coffin was with the group that traveled from Chicago to Springfield to advise Abraham Lincoln that he had won the party's nomination for the presidency.
Engraved portrait of Charles Carleton Coffin.
The ten men who were chosen to advise Lincoln of the convention's decision were:
  • George Ashmum of Massachusetts
  • Francis P. Blair of Missouri
  • George S. Boutwell of Massachusetts
  • Samuel G. Bowles of Massachusetts
  • David K. Carter of Ohio
  • William M. Evarts of New York
  • William D. Kelley of Pennsylvania
  • Carl Schurz of Wisconsin
  • Amos Tuck of New Hampshire
  • Gideon Wells of Connecticut
Coffin remained for some days gathering items about the newly nominated Republican candidate for President. The second morning after his arrival, he made this interesting observation: 
"I crossed the public square and entered the office of Mr. Lincoln. A pine table occupied the center of the room, a desk in one corner. The May sun shone through uncurtained windows upon ranges of shelves filled with law books, pamphlets, and documents—a helter-skelter arrangement. Newspapers littered the floor. Mr. Lincoln was seated at the desk, clad in a linen duster, with a pile of letters and a wooden inkstand before him. He had a hearty welcome for all who came. There was no sign of elation. To friends, neighbors, old acquaintances, and strangers alike, he was simply Abraham Lincoln."
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

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