Just for Curiosity: Pre-War Newspaper Comparison

alan polk

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The New York Herald, March 1, 1860

Seward Speech Continued -

John Brown’s Raid.

Seward views Brown’s raiders as “a band of exceptional men, contemptuous equally of that great question [attempts to introduce slavery in Kansas] and of the parties to the controversy, and impatient of the constitutional system which confines the citizens of every State to political action by suffrage in organized parties within their own borders . . . attempted to subvert slavery in Virginia by conspiracy, ambush, invasion and force.”

“While generous and charitable natures will probably concede that John Brown and his associates acted on earnest, though fatally erroneous convictions, yet all good citizens will nevertheless agree that this attempt to execute an unlawful purpose in Virginia by invasion, involving servile war, was an act of sedition and treason, and criminal to just the extent that it affected the public peace, and was destructive of human happiness and human life.”

Continued -

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alan polk

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The New York Herald, March 1, 1860

Seward Speech Continued -

Republican vs. Democratic Party in Relation to Present Threats of Disunion.

As talk of disunion spreads throughout the Capitol, Seward declares that the Republican Party will move forward with the motto: “Union and Liberty, come what may, in victory as in defeat, in power as out of power, now and forever.”

Although Seward states that he does not believe the Democratic Party will stand on the side of disunion, he notes that it covers and sustains those “who threaten disunion.”

He warns Democrats that “every party in this country must stand on Union ground; that the American people will sustain no party that is not capable of making a sacrifice of its ambition on the alter of the country.”

Seward attempts to quell concerns about a Republican ascendency: “Those who seek to awaken the terrors of disunion seem to me to have too hastily considered the conditions under which they are to make their attempt.”

“Who believes that a Republican administration and Congress could practice tyranny under a Constitution which interposed so many checks as ours? Yet that tyranny must not only be practiced, but must be intolerable, and there must be no remaining hope for Constitutional relief before forcible resistance can find ground to stand on anywhere.”

“The people of the United States, acting in conformity with the Constitution, are the supreme tribunal to try and determine all political issues. They are as competent to decide the issues of to-day as they have been heretofore to decide issues of other days. They can reconsider hereafter and reverse, if need be, the judgement they shall pronounce to-day, as they have more than once reconsidered and reversed their judgements in former times.”

“It needs no revolution to correct any error, or prevent any danger, under any circumstances.”

“Nor is any new or special cause for revolution likely to occur under a Republican administration. We are engaged in no new transaction, not even in a new dispute.”

“We are of one race, language, liberty, faith; engaged, indeed, in varied industry; but even that industry, so diversified, brings us into more intimate relations with each other than any other people . . . ever maintained.”

Continued -

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alan polk

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The New York Herald, March 1, 1860

Seward Speech Continued -

Views of Constitution as a Compact:

“You may refine as you please about the structure of the government, and say that it is a compact, and that a breach, by one of the States or by Congress, of any one article, absolves all the members from allegiance, and that the States may separate when they have, or when they fancy they have, cause for war.”

“But once try to subvert it, and you will find that it is a government of the whole people - as individuals, as well as a compact of States; that every individual member of the body politic is conscious of his interest and power in it, and knows that he will be helpless, powerless, hopeless, when it shall have gone down.”

Continued -

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alan polk

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The New York Herald, March 1, 1860

Seward Speech Continued -

Union More than Mere Compact:

Seward disagrees with a narrow view of the Constitution as nothing but a compact:

“Mankind,” he insists, “have a natural right, a natural instinct, and a natural capacity for self government; and when, as here, they are sufficiently ripened by culture, they will and must have self government, and no other.

Moreover, Seward contends that the “framers of the Constitution, with a wisdom that surpassed all previous understanding among men, adapted it to these inherent elements of human nature.”

It is a misunderstanding, Seward contends, “to think that its only bonds, or even its strongest ligaments, are the written compact or even the multiplied and thoroughly ramified roads and thoroughfares of trade, commerce and societal intercourse.”

Although these are important, it is not the chief “instruments of cohesion,” according to Seward.

From his perspective, what is paramount to the anatomy of the Union “are the millions of fibers of millions of [contented], happy human hearts, binding by their affections, their ambitions and their best hopes equally the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the wise and the unwise, the learned and the untutored, even the good and the bad. . .”

This collection of hopes and ambition are given over, Seward says, “to a government the first, the last and only such one that has ever existed, which takes equal heed always of their wants, their wishes and their opinions, and appeals to them all,
individually. . .”

It is, he states, manifested every two or four years during elections, for the peoples’ “expressed consent and renewal, without which it must cease.”

Seward challenges people who are contemplating disunion to take that issue into every section of the country, to all the varying classes of people, and appeal to them to rise up for that particular cause.

“They will,” Seward declares, “ask you, ‘Is this all?’ ‘Are you more just than Washington, wiser than Hamilton, more humane than Jefferson?’ ‘What new form of government or of Union have you the power to establish, or even the cunning to devise, that will be more just, more safe, more free, more gentle, more beneficent or more glorious than this?’”

If those seeking disunion were to do so, he states, they “would be silenced and confounded.”

Turning his attention to the President pro tempore (Senator Benjamin Fitzgerald):

“Mr. President, we are perpetually forgetting this subtle and complex, yet obvious and natural mechanism of our Constitution, and because we do forget it, we are constantly wondering how it is that a confederacy of thirty and more States, covering regions so vast, and regulating interests so various of so many millions of men, constituted and conditioned so diversely, works right on.”

“We are constantly looking to see it stop and stand still,” Seward continues, “or to fall suddenly into pieces. But in truth, it will not stop; it cannot stop; it was made not to stop, but to keep in motion - in motion always and without force.”

“The earth seems to be heaving under our feet, and the pillars of the noble fabric that protects us to be trembling before our eyes. But the appointed end of all this agitation comes at last, and always seasonably; the tumults of the people subside; the country becomes calm once more; and then we find that only our senses have been disturbed, and that they have betrayed us.”

“The earth is as firm as always before,” Seward says in conclusion, “and the wonderful structure, for whose safety we have feared so anxiously, now more firmly fixed than ever, still stands unmoved, enduring and unmovable.”

End.


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alan polk

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The New York Herald, March 1, 1860

Below: Senator Douglas responds to Seward’s speech:

Douglas objects to Senator Seward’s claim that Kansas caused all the present difficulties, and further objects to Seward’d attempt to discredit the Democratic Party through the Kansas issue.

A portion of Seward’s speech deals with Kansas and the repeal of the Missouri Compromise.

According to Douglas, the necessity for repealing the Missouri Compromise arose because the majority in Northern States refused to carry it out in good faith.

“I, sir, stood willing to extend it to the Pacific Ocean, to abide by it for forever,” Douglas declares to the Senate, “and the entire South, without one exception [in this Senate] was willing thus to abide by it.”

Douglas maintains that it was the Free Soil Party of the North (evidently in the House of Representatives) who defeated the measure “and thus opened the slavery question anew.”

The Free Soil Party was, for all practical purposes, the precursor of the Republican Party, made up, in great part, of the same membership.

Douglas’ charge here is that Republicans are being hypocritical, or disingenuous. According to him, they once denounced the Missouri Compromise; but then, as asserted in Seward’s speech, they complained when Missouri Compromise, which they denounced, was eventually repealed:

“Those men [Republicans] who now complain of the abrogation of that act were the same men [Free Soil] that denounced it.”

It was, Douglas contends, “the defeat of the bill to extend the Missouri Compromise to the Pacific in the House of Representatives, after it passed the Senate, that opened the controversy of 1850.”

It seems that Douglas is asserting that this unwillingness to extend the line, and the subsequent resistance arising out of that issue, becomes the lynchpin to understanding the present difficulties.

That issue in particular, Douglas reminds the Senate, along with the other controversies, was eventually resolved by the Compromise of 1850. (As part of that Compromise, the line previously established in 1820 was not extended to the Pacific.)

Douglas also reminds Seward that it was Seward’s own party, in 1852, that eventually “agreed to abide by the measure of 1850” that, in part, prevented the extension of the line established in the 1820 compromise.

As a result of all this, Senator Douglas insists that “the Kansas-Nebraska act was passed to carry out the principles of these measures.”

This necessity caused concern in the North, and Douglas implies that Seward and his associates did not want their constituents to know they were responsible for that outcome (the Kansas-Nebraska Act).

“[Seward] was not willing to sit still,” Douglas explains, “and hear himself charged with responsibility for the agitation which belonged to the Senator and his associates.”

Continued -

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alan polk

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The New York Herald, March 1, 1860

Douglas Rebuttal Continued -

It is alleged that the present agitation is also a result of resistance of the Republican Party to measures approved by the people in two presidential elections.

Douglas also points out that Seward’s speech announces for the first time that the Republican “tendency was in favor of the equality of the white man.”

Douglas asserts this has not been Seward’s position in the past. He claims that Seward has previously agitated issues by proclaiming “that the Declaration of Independence asserted the equality of the negro race, and therefore all laws in violation that idea were not to be observed.”

Douglas, who was also on the campaign trail, states “that he thought the Declaration of Independence only referred to the white race. . . [and] that this government was made by white men and for the benefit of white men.”

At this point, Douglas is interrupted by Republican Senator Doolittle of Wisconsin. (Doolittle would go on, in March of 1861, to introduce a constitutional amendment to ban secession.)

After hearing Douglas give his beliefs about the white race and the government, Doolittle asks:

“Why not, then, give the Territories to white men?”

Douglass responds that he “would throw them open to white men and negroes too; but he wanted white men to organize them. If they wanted slavery let them have it. It was their business not his.”

Continued -

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alan polk

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The New York Herald, March 1, 1860

Douglas Rebuttal Continued -

“In the event of the Senator from New York being elected President,” Douglas says, “let us see what he proposes. In a speech made in Ohio he said, ‘slavery could be limited to its present boundaries - it can be ameliorated - it can and must be abolished - and you and I must do it.’”

Douglas declares that without such statements as this “the abolition wing of the [Republican Party] could not be retained.”

Nevertheless, he observes that the Republicans “says they propose to do it all under the Constitution - that they will carry out the Constitution, except that part that is not conformable to the law of God, and they decide the question ‘what is the law of God.’”

The Constitution, according to Douglas, is only glorious “when the Constitution is preserved
inviolate. . . . [Therefore,] what is the Union worth unless the Constitution is preserved and maintained inviolate in all of its provisions?”

“The Constitution binds you to every line, word and syllable of it, and you have no right to say that if it is in violation of Divine Law you will not observe it.”

“If you believe that instrument to be in violation of the laws of God,” he asks, “how can your conscience allow you to take the oath of office? If [Seward] still holds to the declaration, that the clause of the Constitution relative to fugitive slaves is in violation of Divine Law, how can he, as an honest man, take an oath to support that instrument?”

“Thus we see the radical difference between the Republican Party and the Democracy,” Douglas declares. “We stand by the Constitution as our fathers made it, and by the decisions of the constituted authorities, as pronounced in obedience to the Constitution.”

Conversely, Douglas insists, the Republicans “repudiate the instrument, substitute their own will for that of the constituted authorities, and then say [they] will protect all the rights under the Constitution, as expounded by themselves and not as expounded by the tribunals created for that purpose.”

End

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alan polk

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The Yazoo Democrat, April 7, 1860

Below: Mississippi State Senator Peter B. Starke and the Proposed Atlanta Convention.

One theme that has remained relatively common in the The Yazoo Democrat is the notion that if the South just showed a politically united front to the North, then perceived threats to the South would end.

This is very often seen in the various editorials, or even resolutions passed on the local and State levels throughout the South and reprinted in the Yazoo Democrat. Most of them carry the sentiment that if the country sees the South actually gathering together in common cause, the North will cleanse their house of radical elements and thus remove threats to the South and the Union.

It also appears that there was to be some sort of convention in Atlanta with similar goals in mind. I’m not sure if it ever occurred or not, but it has been mentioned in a few articles in The Yazoo Democrat. Nevertheless, this article represents such.

Peter Starke was a Mississippi legislator who was born in Virginia. Apparently under the direction of Mississippi Governor John Pettus, Starke travelled to Virginia in order to encourage her to attend the proposed Atlanta Convention.

The editors of the Yazoo sum up their beliefs about the proposed convention and its potential outcome:

“[T]he best way to preserve the Union, is to hold a conference of the Southern States, in order to have a concert of action, and determine at what point they are willing to resist aggression. Let the Southern States unite upon some common ground of defense. . . and in this way, if an unbroken front can be presented to our Northern enemies, they will cease to trample upon our rights, and the Union will be preserved.”

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alan polk

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The Yazoo Democrat, April 7, 1860

Below: Appeal to Horace Greeley to reform his supposed bias against Southern Slavery.

Greeley was editor of the New York Tribune, a strong Republican and Abolitionist newspaper.

Here, The Yazoo Democrat reprints an Alabama news article representing Southern slavery in a positive light, suggesting through it that Greeley intentionally ignores this aspect of the institution.

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alan polk

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The New York Herald, April 2, 1860

Below: The Pony Express

The Pony Express would begin operations the day after this particular issue of the Herald was published. It would operate for only 18 months.

I’m sure most people at the time were unaware that the Pony Express would grow legendary in the decades to come, despite its short lived status.

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alan polk

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The New York Herald, April 2, 1860

Below: Memorial to the Committee on Federal Relations of the Ohio General Assembly asking it to ignore Fugitive Slave Act.

The Ohio State Assembly denied said memorial, citing as its reason Article 6 of the US Constitution superseding State Law and thus binding State Courts by oath to uphold the Federal Constitution and thus the Act.

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alan polk

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The New York Herald, April 2, 1860

Below: American Slave Ship Captured in Congo River.

The brig Virginian was built in St. John N.B., and owned in New York, from whence she was fitted out by a firm on Beaver Street in New York and then sailed to Monrovia, Liberia. It was captured before taking on slaves.

It had 180 tons burden and was considered a fast sailer. The ship had underneath it about 100 casks of water and quantities of rice and bread. Hidden in one of the berths was found a “Buenos Ayrean” flag which is supposed was the colors under which the Virginian was to sail when she got clear of the coast with its slaves.

The Captain was to receive $1500 for taking the Virginian out and $2000 when the slaves were landed. The mate’s agreement was that he was to receive $1500 for the round trip. The rest of the crew was to receive $300 when the slaves were landed.

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alan polk

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The New York Herald, April 2, 1860

Below: Howell Cobb’s View of the Impending Crisis.

Apparently due to a complicated fight within the Georgia Democratic Party, Cobb withdrew his name for consideration for the Presidency at the Charleston Convention. He did so in a letter that was thereafter published.

However, he ends his long letter of withdrawal with views on the crisis at hand:

The South, he declares, is approaching “a contest involving life and death. Fanatical and unscrupulous enemies, leagued together in a political organization formidable in number, desperate in its fortunes, malignant in its purposes, under a leader worthy in every respect of his associates and followers, threaten to take possession of the Federal government - that government which our fathers formed for the protection of all.”

“This party,” he continues, “seeks to control it for the avowed object of bringing dishonor first and ruin afterwards on that portion of the country where our lot has been cast.”

In Cobb’s view, in order to defeat the Republicans, two things must be followed:

The South must work with friends at the North first; and, if that fails, work to save the government ourselves. To do both these things, however, the Democrats must “begin with Union and harmony among ourselves.”

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alan polk

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The Yazoo Democrat, May 5, 1860

Below: Guano Fertilizer and the Beginnings of US Acquisition of Territories Overseas.

Guano is the accumulated excrement of seabirds or bats and was highly effective as a fertilizer. As America expanded, it became a highly sought after source, especially before the development of synthetic fertilizers.

The main source of this fertilizer came from the coast of Peru, but America quickly saw the advantages of having access to its own source.

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Source: Wikipedia.

In 1855, Congress enacted the Guano Island Act which “allowed U.S. citizens to claim islands containing guano deposits for the United States.”

All Islands thus claimed by American citizens under the Act (most of them in the Pacific), became “insular, unincorporated territories,”meaning they were not a part of any State or Federal district.

Within a few years, nearly 200 islands were claimed. As a result, “the US navy had to mobilize in the remote Pacific to protect American interests.” Today, 9 of those islands remain Territories.

Sources: Paul F. Johnston, “The Smithsonian and the 19th Century Guano Trade: This Poop is ****;” and Alvita Akiboh, “The Guano Islands: Bird Turds and the Beginnings of U.S. Overseas Territories.”

Several American companies formed and then sold guano from these insular Territories to American farmers. The below article discusses the advantages of guano and one of the companies involved.

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Source: Wikipedia

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alan polk

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The New York Herald, May 1, 1860

Below: Shocking News from The Charleston Convention:

The Democratic Party National Convention to nominate a candidate for the 1860 Presidential election was held in Charleston, South Carolina on April 23, 1860.

Senator Stephen Douglas from Illinois was considered the front runner for the nomination.

His nomination was not guaranteed, however. In fact, President Buchanan had endorsed his Vice President, John C. Breckinridge, for the nomination.

Needless to say, some difficulty was expected in nominating a candidate acceptable to a majority of the delegates.

It did not disappoint in that regard. The Convention, it seems, never got beyond its own platform.

In short, Douglas’s 1858 Freeport Doctrine came home to roost almost as soon as the Democratic National Convention got underway.

The New York Herald got the news of the disruption just before its May 1st issue went to press:

“A private dispatch has just been received here from Charleston, announcing that eight Southern States protest against the platform as adopted, and have left the Convention, via - South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas; and that Delaware has promised to go out, and Virginia and Tennessee will probably follow.”

“That it will startle the most sanguine friends of Douglas there is no doubt,” the dispatch stated. “When they read the papers in the morning they will be amazed.”

Freeport Doctrine.

Senator Douglas had announced his position on slavery in the Territories in his debates against Lincoln in 1858. It was popularized at the Freeport, Illinois debate wherein he articulated the doctrine this way:

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Source: Wikipedia.

This was not readily forgotten by Southern Democrats. So when the Charleston Convention got underway, the Southern delegation, still indignant over Douglas’s de facto rejection of Dred Scott in his Freeport articulation, tried to insert a pro slavery platform endorsing enforcement of Dred Scott by Congressional action.

It was not accepted.

It appears in essence the South wanted a platform endorsing a Federal Government that actively protected slave property in the Territories, e.g., slave codes; whereas, instead, the Convention adopted a platform that reaffirmed the Freeport Doctrine, i.e, Congress had no power to either allow or prohibit slavery in Territories (popular sovereignty).

The platform issue basically came down to how Dred Scott was to be interpreted. At Charleston, Douglas’s platform eventually won out, causing Southern delegates to leave the Convention.

By the Deep South states bolting from the Convention, there were no longer enough votes remaining to secure, by rule, a nomination for Douglas or anyone else.

The Convention, therefore, was closed.

The secession of Southern delegates from the Convention had its obvious consequence. The slavery issue was now dividing the Democratic Party at a critical juncture where unity was the essential ingredient to defeating a perceived sectional threat poised to take over the Federal Government.

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alan polk

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The Yazoo Democrat, May 5, 1860

Below: The Yazoo’s Reaction to Southern States Bolting the Charleston Convention.

The position of the Yazoo City newspaper can be summed up by a single sentence located in this article:

“All this suits us exactly,” the editors of the paper state, “and we hope the time is not far distant when the matter will be settled at the - cartridge box.”

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alan polk

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The New York Herald, May 1, 1860

Below: Plantation Tours

Visitors to Charleston during the Democratic National Convention visited the many rice and cotton plantations in the area. Comment is made regarding conditions of the slaves.

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alan polk

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The Yazoo Democrat, May 5, 1860

Below: Emigration from Sweden and Norway predicted to be 20,000 during the coming summer months. Such immigrants considered as adding value to America.

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The New York Herald, May 1, 1860

Below: Number of emigrants from Liverpool during March 1860 put at 6,701, an increase from previous year.

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alan polk

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The New York Herald, May 1, 1860

Below: New York Herald Editorial Re: Charleston Convention and the Death of the Democratic Party.

“The Democratic Party has fulfilled its allotted time. Like its great predecessor, it has run its cycle, and buried the entire generation of men who founded and led it.”

“The men which had fought its battles gradually passed away, with the leaders that had given life to the contest, and their old slogans have no meaning for the present generation.”

It has “breathed its last, and we enter upon a new era in national politics.”

The editorial goes on to say that, “Mr. Buchanan is the last of the Presidents of the race of expounders, as Mr. Monroe was the last of that of the founders of the Constitution.”

According to the op-ed, the split at the Democratic Convention is evidence of this: “The late proceedings at Charleston prove that the Democratic organization has worn itself out, and that party divisions in the country have to be ranged hereafter on other issues other than those on which the political battles of the past have been fought.”

“A new issue has come up with a new generation - an issue which involves higher principles than internal improvements, bank or tariff, for it involves the very existence of the Union itself.”

It is, the article states, “An aggressive and destructive mania, which insists upon measuring all things by it’s one standard, set up by fanaticism, alms to impose a unity of social organization upon the confederacy, irrespective of differences of climate, races and the existing circumstances of social development.”

“Its theories are revolutionary in every sense of the word,” the article continues, “and it is excited, organized and led on by corrupt politicians and broken down leaders from debris of old party organizations.”

“Its cries already are ‘Land for the landless,’ which germinates in the Homestead bill now before Congress; ‘Down with the aristocrats,’ which breaths in every utterance against the social organization of the Southern States; and equality of all the races which underlie the black republican agitation.”

These are all impracticalities, the op-ed states, “which have failed, and always will fail, whenever an attempt is made to administer the State upon them.”

These theories, the article continues, “are ranging the conservative and destructive parties against each other, and our republican institutions are to be subjected to the test of the same social conflict which agitates the communities of Europe.”

According to the op-ed, the delegates to the Charleston Convention failed to see this, and, instead, attempted “to patch up political platforms not consonant with the active ideas of the time.”

If the delegates “at Charleston had just adopted a few simple resolutions, recognizing the existing conditions of affairs, and nominated a conservative candidate, he could have been elected by the popular vote.” Instead, the author believes, the country will now face the same conditions which obtained during the elections of 1824.

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alan polk

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The New York Herald, May 1, 1860

Below: The Structure of the Republican Party and Its Strategy before the Upcoming National Convention at Chicago.

Of continued interest is that Abraham Lincoln has yet to enter the national discussion at all. Such is reflected in this article, as Lincoln is not mentioned anywhere in it.

Nevertheless, this article gives an example of who were considered to be major contenders for nomination at the time - at least by the Herald.

Candidates -

According to the article, there are four primary candidates for consideration at the Chicago Convention:

Seward (NY), Banks (MA), Chase (OH) and Cameron (Penn).

Structure -

The article asserts that the Republican Party is made up of two factions: the old Whig Party and a strong contention of dissatisfied Democrats.

According to the author, the Whig faction controls the party and is evidently the more radical component of the Republicans, stating that the Whigs support Senator Seward for the Republican nomination.

The article suggests that the Democratic portion is more conservative and oppose Seward. Likewise, the article states, Seward (and therefore supposedly the Whigs) despises the Democratic elements within the party.

“It is very true,” the article declares, “that Mr. Seward gains some strength from the enthusiastic support given to him by the radical abolitionists; but their influence is in a great measure neutralized by the fact that the election is in the hands of the conservative voters of the Central States.”

And these sections of the country, the article insists, prefer a moderate candidate.

Strategy -

The Democratic portion of the Republican Party has put forth the other candidates aforementioned: Cameron, Chase and Banks. It appears that of those, Cameron is the favorite.

“Cameron has control of the people’s party in Pennsylvania and New Jersey,” the article suggests, “and that party hold the balance of power in those States, which cannot now be depended upon for either of the two great parties.”

According to the author of the article, “Mr. Seward would not be acceptable to very many conservatives in the North - who would vote for Cameron.”

As a consequence, “the chances for a Republican victory with Mr. Seward are very doubtful; while, on the other hand, Mr. Cameron, with New Jersey and Pennsylvania at his back, and his skill as a political manager to help him, would be rather a tough customer for the democracy. . . .”

The article predicts that the real fight at the Chicago Republican Convention will be between Seward and the Whigs against the Democratic section of the party and their candidate.

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