Author: National Union Free Convention
As their presidential nominee, the Democrats chose General George B. McClellan, who opposed the Emancipation Proclamation and who ran on a platform which condemned Lincoln for “four years of failure” and called for a negotiated end to the war.
Some Radical Republicans also opposed Lincoln’s reelection. Lincoln had asked Congress to seat representatives from three recently conquered Confederate states–Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee–and also announced that when 10 percent of the voters in the rebel states (excluding high Confederate officials) pledged loyalty to the Union (including government actions concerning slavery) they would be readmitted to the Union. Radicals denounced the “10 Percent Plan” as too lenient. Congress in July 1864 adopted a much more radical measure, the Wade-Davis Bill, which required rebel states to abolish slavery, repudiate the Confederate war debt, disfranchise Confederate leaders, and require fifty percent of the citizens to pledge loyalty to the Union. The radicals nominated General John C. Frémont for President, but he withdrew a month before the election.
Lincoln feared that northern battlefield victories might be lost at the polls. During the summer of 1864, he confessed, “it seems exceedingly probable that this administration will not be reelected.” There seems little doubt that a McClellan victory would have resulted in an agreement to maintain slavery in the United States.
The capture of Atlanta, a major southern railroad and manufacturing center, in September, electrified northern voters, who gave Lincoln a resounding victory. He received 55 percent of the popular vote to just 21 percent for McClellan.
How shall we End the Rebellion–Shall we Coax it, or Crush it?
Every American citizen wants the Rebellion ended and Peace restored. Two plans have been proposed for doing it: one, by a Convention which met in Baltimore June 7; the other by a Convention which met in Chicago, August 30. Read and compare the two. Here they are:–
The Chicago [Democratic] Platform.
Resolved, That in the future, as in the past, we will adhere with unswerving fidelity to the Union, under the Constitution, as the only solid foundation of our strength, security, and happiness as a people, and as a framework of government equally conducive to the welfare and prosperity of all the States, both Northern and Southern.
Resolved, That this Convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretense of military necessity or war power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare, demand that IMMEDIATE EFFORTS BE MADE FOR A CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES, with a view to the ultimate Convention of all the States, or other peaceable means, to the end that at the earliest practicable moment peace may be restored on the basis of the Federal Union of the States.
Resolved, That the direct interference of the military authority of the United States in the recent elections in Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Delaware, was a shameful violation of the Constitution, and the repetition of such acts in the approaching election will be held as revolutionary, and resisted with all the means and power under our control.
Resolved, That the aim and object of the Democratic party is to preserve the Federal Union and the rights of the States unimpaired; and they hereby declare that they consider the Administrative usurpation of extraordinary and dangerous powers not granted by the Constitution, the subversion of the civil by military law in States not in insurrection, the arbitrary military arrest, imprisonment, trial and sentence of American citizens in States where civil law exists in full force, the suppression of freedom of speech and of the press, the denial of the right of asylum, the open and avowed disregard of State rights, the employment of unusual test-oaths, and the interference with and denial of the right of the people to bear arms, as calculated to prevent a restoration of the Union, and the perpetuation of a government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.
Resolved, That the shameful disregard of the Administration to its duty in respect to our fellow-citizens who now and long have been prisoners of war in a suffering condition, deserves the severest reprobation, on the score alike of public interest and common humanity.
Resolved, That the sympathy of the Democratic party is heartily and earnestly extended to the soldiery of our army, who are and have been in the field under the flag of our country; and in the event of our attaining power, they will receive all the care and protections, regard and kindness that the brave soldiers of the Republic have so nobly earned.
The Baltimore [Republican] Platform.
Resolved, That it is the highest duty of every American citizen to maintain against all their enemies, the integrity of the Union, and the paramount authority of the Constitution and laws of the United States; and that, laying aside all differences of political opinions, we pledge ourselves as Union men, animated by a common sentiment, and aiming at a common object, to do everything in our power to aid the Government in quelling, BY FORCE OF ARMS, the rebellion now raging against its authority, and in bringing to the punishment due to their crimes the rebels and traitors arrayed against it.
Resolved, That we approve the determination of the Government of the United States, not to compromise with rebels, nor to offer any terms of peace except such as may be based upon an unconditional surrender of their hostility, and a return to their just allegiance to the Constitution and laws of the United States, and that we call upon the Government to maintain this position and to prosecute the war with the utmost possible vigor to the complete suppression of the rebellion, in full reliance upon the self-sacrifice, the patriotism, the heroic valor, and the undying devotion of the American people to their country and its free institutions.
Resolved, That as slavery was the cause, and now constitutes the strength of this rebellion, and as it must be always and everywhere hostile to the principles of republican government, justice and the national safety demand its utter and complete extirpation from the soil of the Republic, and that while we uphold and maintain the acts and proclamations by which the Government, in its own defense, has aimed a death blow at this gigantic evil, we are in favor, furthermore, of such an amendment to the Constitution, to be made by the people in conformity with its provisions, as shall terminate and forever prohibit the existence of Slavery within the limits or the jurisdiction of the United States.
Resolved, That the thanks of the American people are due to the soldiers and sailors of the army and navy, who have periled their lives in defense of their country, and in vindication of the honor of its flag; that the nation owes to them some permanent recognition of their patriotism and valor, and ample and permanent provision for those of their survivors who have received disabling and honorable wounds in the service of the county; and that the memories of those who have fallen in its defense shall be held in grateful and everlasting remembrance.
Resolved, That we approve and applaud the practical wisdom, the unselfish patriotism, and unswerving fidelity to the Constitution and the principles of American liberty, with which Abraham Lincoln has discharged, under circumstances of unparalleled difficulty, the great duties and responsibilities of the presidential office; that we approve and endorse, as demanded by the emergency and essential to the preservation of the nation, and as within the Constitution, the measures and acts which he has adopted to defend the nation against its open and secret foes; that we approve especially the Proclamation of Emancipation, and the employment as Union soldiers of men heretofore held in slavery and that we have full confidence in his determination to carry these and all other constitutional measures essential to the salvation of the country into full and complete effect….
Resolved, That the Government owes to all men employed in its armies, without regard to distinctions of color, the full protection of the laws of war, and that any violation of these laws or the usages of civilized nations in the time of war by the rebels now in arms, should be made the subject of full and prompt redress.
Resolved, That the foreign immigration, which in the past has added so much to the wealth and the development of resources and increase of power to this nation–the asylum of the oppressed of all nations–should be fostered and encouraged by a liberal and just policy.
Resolved, That we are in favor of the speedy construction of the Railroad to the Pacific….
Resolved, That we approve the position taken by the Government that the people of the United States can never regard with indifference the attempt of any European power to overthrow by force, or to supplant by fraud, the institutions of any republican government on the Western continent; and that they will view with extreme jealousy, as menacing to the peace and independence of their own country, the efforts of any such power to obtain new footholds for monarchical governments, sustained by a foreign military force, in near proximity to the United States [referring to French efforts to take over Mexico].
AMERICANS! Here you have two plans for ending the Rebellion, restoring peace, and preserving the Union. They differ in every essential feature. They agree in scarcely anything. Here are some of their points of contrast:
1. The Chicago platform says not one word in condemnation of the Rebellion or of those who have wrapped the nation in the flames of civil war. The Baltimore platform brands the Rebellion as a gigantic crime, and demands the punishment of the rebels and traitors who have brought it on. With which do you agree?
2. The Chicago Platform proposes that the Rebellion be stopped by IMMEDIATE EFFORTS FOR A CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES on the part of the Government. The Baltimore Platform proposes to “quell it by FORCE of ARMS.” The first is Surrender–the last VICTORY! Which do you prefer?
3. The Chicago Platform brands the war in which thousands and tens of thousands of our sons have shed their blood, and millions of treasure have been expended,–in which our Soldiers have won imperishable renown by their gallant devotion to the flag of their country–in which more victories have been achieved than were ever achieved before by any nation–in which the rebels have been stripped of three-fourths of the territory they held at the start–in which one after another of their strong places have been captured, and one after another of their armies have been destroyed, and which is just about to end in a final and glorious triumph of the old Flag and Constitution,–this war the Chicago platform brands as a FAILURE, and demands that it be abandoned and stopped! The Baltimore platform demands that it be “prosecuted with the utmost vigor to the complete suppression of the Rebellion.” With which do you agree?
4. The Chicago Platform says not a syllable against the rebellion, but denounces, with intense bitterness and venom, everything the Government has done to put it down. The Baltimore platform applauds and upholds the Government in its efforts to subdue the rebels, and promises continued support in this endeavor. Which is the most patriotic?
5. The Chicago Platform has no thanks or honors, nothing but “sympathy,” for the gallant soldiers and sailors who have suffered and died in upholding the honor of the Stars and Stripes, and promises them only “care and protection” in the event of their attaining power. The Baltimore Platform demands for them at the hands of the American people the highest thanks and honors which a grateful nation can bestow. Which is the best and the truest praise?
6. The Chicago Platform denounced our own Government on account of the sufferings of our prisoners in rebel hands; but it has not a word of censure for the rebels themselves, who inflict these sufferings and who persist in continuing the war which has brought them on.
7. The Chicago Platform has not a word to say against slavery, which has caused the war, and which is to be the cornerstone of the new Confederacy the rebellion seeks to establish. The Baltimore Platform brands it as a curse to the country, and calls for its complete extirpation from the soil of the Republic, at the hands of the people, through an amendment of the Constitution. Which is the wisest and best for the country?
Fellow Citizens! These are plain and practical issues: Study them well. These are plain and practical questions: Answer them wisely! This is not a party contest. Political distinctions have nothing to do with it. It is a contest for the life of the Nation! If we surrender to the rebellion, the Union is gone forever. If we fight the rebels a little longer it is safe forever. If we give them to understand in November next, the only Road to Peace lies through the Victory of the National arms, the contest is over! THE ELECTION OF LINCOLN AND JOHNSON IS THE DEATH-KNELL OF THE REBELLION!!
Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute
Additional information: Reprints the Chicago Democratic and Baltimore Republican Party platforms for the 1864 election.