VNY: Draft Riots Aftermath
Previous Previous 10 Back to top. View All Archives. Log in No account? Create an account. Remember me. Facebook Twitter Google. Presidents in Retirement: Andrew Johnson Jul. Inevitably they would become a burden on society. On the other hand, the common complaint of white laborers was the fear that their economic well-being would be harmed due to the presence of cheaper black labor.
Congressman Samuel C. Cox, a leading Ohio Democrat, lambasted the spurious miscegenation pamphlet in a major speech in Congress on February 17, His speech in turn received wide distribution, further fueling anti-black and therefore anti-Republican sentiment. Representative Cox of Ohio gave a lengthy address on February in the House. Democratic prospects waxed and waned during as did the relative dominance of War Democrats and Peace Democrats, often known as Copperheads.
The two hostile camps occasionally fired a shot at each other even in the infrequent sittings of congress. Cox was one of the more talkative and vivacious representatives who led the War Democrats pledged to the cause of McClellan, and New York Congressman Fernando Wood was the acknowledged leader in Congress of the Peace faction, whose affections were fixed on New York Governor Horatio Seymour.
Election of 1868: Famous War Hero Becomes President
Most Democratic hopes rested on General George B. McClellan, who had been dismissed as commander of the Army of the Potomac in November and since then had awaited a new command that never came. In the fall of , General McClellan ventured into politics. He was uncomfortable as a politician, a discomfort that increased as his nomination neared as the Democratic candidate for President in In July a splinter group of Philadelphia hard-liners tried to nominate Millard Fillmore or Franklin Pierce, both former presidents, as the party candidate.
The effort went nowhere, but peace men across the North nodded in approval. Until within a few days of the meeting of the convention circumstances had favored them. Scarcely a cheering ray had dawned upon the administration after the renomination of Mr. Lincoln until about the time the democratic delegates convened at Chicago. Except the success of the navy in the destruction of the rebel cruiser Alabama by the Kearsarge in June, and the passage of the forts of Mobile Bay by David Farragut in August, there had seemed a pall over the Union cause, and all efforts, civil and military, of the administration.
Information of the surrender of Fort Morgan was received on the day the democratic convention assembled. That convention pronounced the war a failure. Not only did rambling party declaimers harangue crowds against the despotic and arbitrary measures of the government, which, they said, was alienating the South, but men of eminence, some of whom had enjoyed public confidence and held high official position, participated in the assaults upon the president, who, while thus attacked, was struggling against reverses and armed resistance to the Union.
Barlow, refused to go to Chicago to manage the party platform. He told them that when the New York delegation met again Monday morning for its final ballot that McClellan would most likely to be chosen. The ultras, however, were still adamant, and many of them insisted that they would nominate Seymour regardless of what action the New York delegation took.
The Peace Democrats then concentrated on the party platform. They decided against contesting the platform at the level of either the full committee or full convention. It was a critical mistake. New York Republican Chauncey M. The campaign at once took on a new phase. On August 31, McClellan was nominated with a clear majority on the first ballot with a strong peace Democrat, George H.
Pendleton, as his running mate.
War Democrats supporting McClellan wanted him to say that no armistice would go into effect until the Confederate states agreed to reenter the Union. Peace Democrats wanted him to recommend an armistice as a prelude to diplomatic negotiations. McClellan wanted to go along with the Peace faction. He had been warned by Vallandigham and others that failure to do so would result in their mass desertion. Moreover, he believed that if negotiations failed, the armistice could end and the war could recommence without difficulty. McClellan attempted to fudge the differences, but ended up rejecting the position of the Peace Democrats.
McClellan used his pen to some advantage for the rest of the campaign but avoided personal involvement. He proved as difficult a candidate as he had been a general. By comparison with the activist incumbent, McClellan was a very passive candidate. Biographer Stephen W. Alsop, in Connecticut. Union soldiers held the potential balance of power in the election.
McClellan sought to reignite his old popularity with the troops. President Lincoln, meanwhile, encouraged the voting by soldiers, whether in the field or on furloughs, especially in the pre-presidential elections in October. Soldiers held the potential swing votes in the election. Despite their previous allegiance to General McClellan, most were believed to be Lincoln supporters. The massive soldier defection from McClellan was, as suspected, not so much a vote against him as against the company he had been forced to keep.
Depew worked hard to maximize the number of soldier votes. Although Democratic strategy depended on McClellan attracting a large proportion of the votes of his former troops, the Democrat peace platform undermined that effort. Although Secretary of War Stanton was unenthusiastic about the politicization of the war effort, he acquiesced. Historian David E. However, his consorting with prominent Copperheads disappointed the troops he had nurtured and trained so devotedly. If he had any promise as a national political candidate, he had to retain the support of his army.
The Army of the Potomac represented not merely the votes of , men, but also the votes of relatives and friends who relied on these men for news from the front. The soldiers were heroes to those they left behind and any action that hindered their effort was looked upon as disloyalty. Had McClellan been as astute a politician as he was a military organizer and theorist, he would have realized that the military vote represented his best chances of being elected and could have been more circumspect in his associations. By better than , soldiers preferred the commander-in-chief to their former commander.
General Ulysses S. Grant took an active role in advocating measures that would make it easier for soldiers to vote in He sent Secretary of War Edwin M. On the contrary they are American citizens, having still their homes and social and political ties binding them to the States and districts from which they come and to which they expect to return. Democrats across the North were split in their attitudes toward the war. These splits had important political ramifications in states like Indiana and Ohio where Copperheads were particularly strong. Their involvement with the Knights of the Golden Circle and Sons of Liberty as well as representatives of the Confederacy undermined the credibility of Democrats more inclined to support the war effort.
Republicans in Indiana, led by Governor Oliver P. Morton, were particularly quick to exploit Copperhead actions to discredit them. Two Confederate agents, Clement C. Clay and Jacob Thompson had been sent to Canada to work with anti-war Democrats, especially in states like Indiana and Illinois. With the help of political reports on the Democratic conspiracies as well as well-timed arrests and trials, Republicans won a surprisingly easy victory in Indiana in early October. I am fully conscious of the delicate nature of such assertions, but it would be a magnificent stroke of policy, if I could without wasting a foot of ground or of principle arouse the latent enmity to Jeff Davis, of Georgia.
I almost despair of a popular Government, but if we must be so inflicted I suppose Lincoln is the best choice, but I am not a voter. Even if I am north I could not vote. Of course this is the invention of some Rumor. I never said such thing. I will vote for nobody because I am not entitled to vote. But at the time the howl was raised against McClellan I knew it was in a measure unjust, for he was charged with delinquencies that the American People are chargeable for.
Our Armies vanish before our eyes and it is useless to complain because the Election is more important than war. According to McClellan biographer Stephen W. He sought out officers friendly to him to distribute Democratic campaign literature to the troops, and encouraged the formation of such military clubs as the McClellan Legion to rally ex-soldiers and men home on furlough and sick leave to his cause. Despite these efforts, however, no other segment of the electorate rejected his candidacy so strongly. In spite of his acceptance letter, Northern soldiers perceived General McClellan as representing the party advocating peace at any price, and they turned against him by an overwhelming margin.
President Lincoln realized that the future of the war effort depended on the future of his campaign. And although he prepared for the worst, he fully intended to work for his reelection. On August 23, President Lincoln wrote a sealed memorandum which he had the members of his Cabinet sign. He had been convinced by the negative reports of Republican leaders that he would lose in November. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.
In September, President Lincoln yielded to political reality and asked for the resignation of Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, who had repeatedly infuriated more radical Republicans. Although there was no explicitquid pro quo, John C. Fremont simultaneously withdrew his presidential candidacy. The Republican Party, which seem hopelessly splintered in August, came quickly together.
Dissident Republicans and newspaper editors in New York dropped their efforts to field another candidate and fell in behind President Lincoln. Federal employees were actively solicited for campaign contributions. Only Navy Secretary Gideon Welles resisted such efforts. Deviators complained that they were punished, but their punishment was mitigated whenever President Lincoln learned of specific complaints. Lincoln was not passive in this process. Even President Lincoln faith in his own reelection was strengthened though he remained conservative in his estimation of the northern states he would carry.
Therefore, Republican speakers did not mince words in criticism of the Democratic Presidential candidate, Gen. George B. Abraham Lincoln is the commander of the Union forces. I will now prove that George B. McClellan is the leader of the Confederate forces. The actual election seemed almost an anticlimax. The President and his aides went to the telegraph room of the nearby War Department to await the results. General Thomas Eckert, who then had charge of the telegraph department of the War Office, was coming in constantly with telegrams containing election returns.
Stanton would read them, and the President would look at them and comment upon them. Presently there came a lull in the returns, and Mr. Lincoln called me to a place by his side. Stanton viewed these proceedings with great impatience, as I could see, but Mr. Lincoln paid no attention to that. He would read a page or a story, pause to consider a new election telegram, and then open the book again and go ahead with a new passage.
Finally, Mr. Chase came in, and presently somebody else, and then the reading was interrupted. Secretary Stanton was not amused. Was there ever such inability to appreciate what is going on in an awful crisis? Here is the fate of this whole republic at stake, and here is the man around whom it all centers, on whom it all depends, turning aside from this monumental issue to read the God damned trash of a silly mountebank! Hardly had he begun to read it, however, when a new occasion of irritation arose. Reid, who was then the correspondent of the Cincinnati Gazette and a great friend of Secretary Chase in Washington, was not liked by the Secretary of War.
This dislike had gone so far that the doorkeepers at the War Department had received directions that Mr. Reid was not to be admitted. But when he sent his card in to the President, they could not refuse it.
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Reid came in and was greeted by Mr. Lincoln, but not by the Secretary. His purpose was merely to obtain from headquarters and from the highest authority the assurance that the election had certainly gone in favor of Lincoln; and after expressions of thanks and congratulations he withdraw. In handing it to me he remarked that he would not then inform me of the contents of the paper enclosed, had no explanation to make, but that he had a purpose, and at some future day I should be informed of it, and be present when the seal was broken.
Lincoln was as good as his word. This is it. Now, Mr Hay, see if you can get this open without tearing it! He then read as follows…. It has been suggested that Lincoln feared the document might be leaked; but in that case, why should he have written it at all? Nor does any of this explain why in the second place he wanted the cabinet to endorse it, as though they were witnessing his last will and testament.
If witnesses were all he wanted, Nicolay and Hay would surely have done as well as anyone. In the case of the election of General McClellan, being certain that he would be the Candidate, that I would see him and talk matters over with him. Now let us together, you with your influence and I with all the executive power of the Government, try to save the country. You raise as many troops as you possibly can for this final trial, and I will devote all my energies to assisting and finishing the war. Given the rocky road the Lincoln and McClellan had travelled in , the idea of co-operation between them seems almost risible.
What exactly was offered is unknown: perhaps appointment as a glorified chief-of-staff under Grant as general-in-chief, perhaps even displacing George Meade at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Why should Lincoln not simply have said that as president of the United States he remained president until March 4, , and would prosecute the war with renewed zeal, entirely on his own, without involving McClellan from whom he expected no co-operation anyway?
For that matter, why did he even need to say that much, since no one would have been in the least surprised if Lincoln had kept the machinery of war in full force until his last hour in the White House? And why should he need the witness of seven cabinet members to show that he had thought that way in August? McClellan, in other words, was needed as a magnet for recruitment and, especially in the summer of , re-enlistment of the three-year Volunteers whose terms of service were ending; and indeed, if Lincoln had gone down to defeat at the polls on November 8 th , the task of both recruitment and conscription would probably have been rendered difficult, if not impossible, and with it any hope of a successful conclusion to the war.
But wooing McClellan into some form of temporary interregnum between November and March might succeed in achieving a second goal, as well, and that would be splitting McClellan from the larger web of his Democratic Party backers.
A CITY DIVIDED
Co-opting McClellan would not depart very far from that strategy. It has been almost routine, reflecting on the conflict between Lincoln and McClellan in , to imagine that these two were forever irreconcilable, and that they represented two polar ends of the political spectrum. McClellan was also, in the end, a War Democrat. The Chicago convention turned into a bacchanalia of anti-war fervor.
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I never will! The Peace Democrats were noisy, but not as numerous as their noise suggested.