Mr. Yancey,2 of Alabama, rose and received a perfect ovation. The hall for several minutes rang with applause. It appeared at once that the outside pressure was as with the fire-eaters.
He filled up his time (an hour and a half) with great effect. There was no question after he had been upon the platform a few minutes, that he was a man of remarkable gifts of intellect and captivating powers as a speaker. He reviewed the differences on the slavery question of the Democracy. He charged that the defeats of the Democracy in the North were to be traced to the pandering by the party in the free States to anti-slavery sentiments; they had not come up to the high ground which must be taken on the subject, in order to defend the Southnamely, that slavery was right. He traced the history of Northern aggression and Southern concession as he understood it. He spoke of the deep distrust the South had begun to entertain of the Northern Democracy, and urged the propriety of the demand of the South, that the Democratic party should now take clear and high ground upon a constitutional basis. He pronounced false all charges that the State of Alabama, himself or his colleagues, were in favor of a dissolution of the Union per se. But he told the Democracy of the North that they must, in taking high constitutional ground, go before the people of the North and tell them of the inevitable dissolution of the Union if constitutional principles did not prevail at the ballot-boxes. He spoke directly to the Southern men and appealed to them to present a united front in favor of a platform that recognized their rights and guaranteed their honor. He said defeat upon principle was better than a mere victory gained by presenting ambiguous issues and cheating the people.
The Southerners were thoroughly warmed up by his speech, and applauded with rapturous enthusiasm. Several of his points were received with outbursts of applause that rung around the hall as if his hearers had been made to shout and stamp by the simultaneous action of electricity. One of his most effective points was in relation to the Dred Scott decision, and the plea made by Douglas and others that almost all of it, was mere obiter dicta. This plea was disrespectful to the venerable man, who, clothed in the supreme ermine, had made an exposition of constitutional law, which had rolled in silvery cadence from the dark forests of the North to the glittering waters of the Gulf. He distinctly admitted that the South did ask of the Northern Democracy an advanced step in vindication of Southern rights; and Mr. Yancey's hour and a half closed while he was in the midst of a series of lofty periods, and Mr. Pugh, of Ohio, sprung to his feet. . .
Mr. Pugh took the platform in a condition of considerable warmth. There was an effort made, to adjourn, but the crowd was eager for the fray, and insisted that Pugh should go on. He did so, thanking God that a bold and honest man from the South had at last spoken, and told the whole truth of the demands of the South. It was now before the convention and the country, that the South did demand an advanced step from the Democratic party. He then traced the downfall of the Northern Democracy, and the causes of that fall, charging the South with it. And now the Northern Democracy were taunted by the South with weakness. And here, it seemed, the Northern Democracy, because they were in the minority, were thrust back and told in effect they must put their hands on their mouths, and their mouths in the dust. "Gentlemen of the South," said Mr. Pugh, "you mistake usyou mistake uswe will not do it." . . .
Yesterday there was a report current that the South, discovering the total impossibility of the nomination of Douglas while the convention remained consolidated, his full strength having been shown, and amounting to a bare majority, would find some excuse for staying in the convention even after the adoption of the minority report, and would slaughter Douglas under the two-thirds rule. This morning, however, it became apparent that the Douglas majority was firm, and the South desperate. It was not long before every observer saw that the long-looked-for explosion was at hand. The South would not stay in the convention, even to defeat Douglas, if the double-shuffle platform were adopted. . . .
The minority resolutions were carried as a substitute for the majority resolutions, by a vote of 165 to 138this 138 is the solid anti-Douglas strength. Now the question came on the adoption of the substituted reportthe definite, irrevocable vote of the convention upon the Douglas platform was divided into its substantive propositions. The resolution reaffirming the Cincinnati platform, believing Democratic principles to be unchangeable in their nature, was first voted upon, and it was carried by 237½ to 65. Now the question arose upon the adoption of the squatter sovereignty part of the platformthat part wherein it is stated that, "inasmuch as differences of opinion exist in the Democratic party," it will abide by the Supreme Court. . . .
Mr. William A. Richardson, of Illinois, wished to speak. There were cries of "Hear Richardson." A thrill of excitement passed around the hall, and everybody leaned forward or stood up to see and hear the right-hand man of the Little Giant.3
He had desired to say that Illinois, and the Northwest in general, had not been anxious to have anything but the Cincinnati platform, and would be content with that, if the others would. This was to have been his peace-offeringhis olive branch. It took some minutes for the new tactics of Richardson to get circulation, and in the meantime, as one delegation after another understood the point, the votes of States were counted, and finally, with a general rush, the only resolution having the slightest significance in the minority report was stricken out. By a flank movement they had placed themselves upon the Cincinnati platform, pure and simple.
And now commenced the regular stampede. Alabama led the Southern column. Mississippi went next, with less formality but more vim. Mr. Glenn, of Mississippi, mounted a chair, and facing the Ohio delegation, which sat directly behind Mississippi, made one of the most impassioned and thrilling twenty-minute speeches to which I have ever listened. It was evident that every word was from his deepest convictions. He was pale as ashes, and his eyes rolled and glared as he told the gentlemen from Ohio how far they were from doing their duty now, and how kindly he felt toward them, and how they would have to take position yet upon the high ground, of the South, or it would be all in vain that they would attempt to arrest the march of Black Republicanism. For the present they must go their ways, and the South must go her ways. He declared, too, with piercing emphasis, that in less than sixty days there would be an United South; and at this declaration there was the most enthusiastic shouting yet heard in the convention. . .
As the spokesman of Mississippi concluded what he had to say, Alexander Mouton, of Louisiana, and Colonel Simmons, of South Carolina, were claiming the floor, each to give warning that his State was going. Florida was the next to go, and then Arkansas.
1 From letters by Mr. Halstead to the Cincinnati Commercial, dated April 29th and 30th, 1860. Of this paper Mr. Halstead for many years was editor. His letters were republished in 1860 as "A History of the National Political Convention of the Current Presidential Campaign."
2 At the National Democratic Convention of 1860, which met in Charleston, Mr. Yancey led the delegation from his State in making a protest against the platform of the convention. He finally became the head of the party of Southern seceders who met afterward in Baltimore and nominated Breckenridge as their candidate for President, Douglas being nominated by the depleted convention in Charleston. Woodrow Wilson has said of Yancey: "It was he more than any other, who taught the South what Douglas really meant; he more than any other, who split the ranks of the Democratic party at Charleston, made the election of Douglas impossible, and brought Lincoln in."
3 The term by which Douglas was familiarly known.
After adjournment on Thursday (the second day), there were few men in Chicago who believed it possible to prevent the nomination of Seward.2 When the convention was called to order, breathless attention was given the proceedings. There was not a space a foot square in the wigwam unoccupied. There were tens of thousands still outside, and torrents of men had rushed in at the three broad doors until not another one could squeeze in. . . .
The applause when Mr. Evarts3 named Seward was enthusiastic. When Mr. Judd named Lincoln the response was prodigious, rising and raging far beyond the Seward shriek. Presently, upon Caleb B. Smith seconding the nomination of Lincoln, the response was absolutely terrific. It now became the Seward men to make another effort, and when Blair, of Michigan, seconded his nomination, "At once there rose so wild a yell,
The effect was startling. Hundreds of persons stopt their ears in pain. The shouting was absolutely frantic, shrill and wild. No Comanches, no panthers, ever struck a higher note, or gave screams with more infernal intensity. Looking from the stage over the vast amphitheater, nothing was to be seen below but thousands of hatsa black, mighty swarm of hatsflying with the velocity of hornets over a mass of human heads, most of the mouths of which were open. Above, all around the galleries, hats and handkerchiefs were flying in the tempest together. The wonder of the thing was that the Seward outside pressure should, so far from New York, be so powerful.
Now the Lincoln men had to try it again, and as Mr. Delano, of Ohio, on behalf "of a portion of the delegation of that State," seconded the nomination of Lincoln, the uproar was beyond description. I thought the Seward yell could not be surpassed; but the Lincoln boys were clearly ahead, and feeling their victory, as there was a lull in the storm, took deep breaths all round, and gave a concentrated shriek that was positively awful, and accompanied it with stamping that made every plank and pillar in the building quiver. The division of the first vote caused a fall in Seward stock. It was seen that Lincoln, Cameron, and Bates had the strength to defeat Seward, and it was known that the greater part of the Chase vote would go for Lincoln.
While this (the third) ballot was taken amid excitement that tested the nerves, the fatal defection from Seward in New England still further appearedfour votes going over from Seward to Lincoln in Massachusetts. The latter received four additional votes from Pennsylvania, and fifteen additional votes from Ohio. . . . The number of votes necessary to a choice were 233, and I saw under my pencil, as the Lincoln column was completed, the figures 231½one vote and a half to give him the nomination. In a moment the fact was whispered about. A hundred pencils had told the same story. The news went over the house wonderfully, and there was a pause. There are always men anxious to distinguish themselves on such occasions. There is nothing that politicians like better than a crisis. I looked up to see who would be the man to give the decisive vote. . . . In about ten ticks of a watch, Cartter, of Ohio, was up. I had imagined Ohio would be slippery enough for the crisis. And sure enough! Every eye was on Cartter, and everybody who understood the matter at all, knew what he was about to do. He said, "I rise (eh), Mr. Chairman (eh), to announce the change of four votes of Ohio from Mr. Chase to Mr. Lincoln." The deed was done. There was a moment's silence. The nerves of the thousands, which through the hours of suspense had been subjected to terrible tension, relaxed, and deep breaths of relief were taken, there was a noise in the wigwam like the rush of a great wind in the van of a stormand in another breath the storm was there. There were thousands cheering with the energy of insanity.
A man who had been on the roof, and was engaged in communicating the results of the ballotings to the mighty mass of outsiders, now demanded by gestures at the skylight over the stage, to know what had happened. One of the secretaries, with a tally-sheet in his hands, shouted, "Fire the salute! Abe Lincoln is nominated!" As the cheering inside the wigwam subsided, we could hear that outside, where the news of the nomination had just been announced. And the roar, like the breaking up of the fountains of the great deep, that was heard, gave a new impulse to the enthusiasm inside. Then the thunder of the salute rose above the din, and the shouting was repeated with such tremendous fury that some discharges of the cannon were absolutely not heard by those on the stage. Puffs of smoke, drifting by open doors, and the smell of gunpowder, told what was going on. . . .
The town was full of the news of Lincoln's nomination, and could hardly contain itself; hundreds of men who had been in the wigwam were so prostrated by the excitement they had endured, and their exertions in shrieking for Seward or Lincoln, that they were hardly able to walk to their hotels. There were men who had not tasted liquor who staggered about like drunkards, unable to manage themselves. The Seward men were terribly stricken down. They were mortified beyond all expression, and walked thoughtfully and silently away from the slaughter-house, more ashamed than embittered. They, acquiesced in the nomination, but did not pretend to be pleased with it; and the tone of their conversations, as to the prospect of electing the candidate, was not hopeful. It was their funeral, and they would not make merry. -. . . I left the city on the night train on the Fort Wayne and Chicago road. The train consisted of eleven cars, every seat full, and people standing in the aisles and corners. At every station where there was a village, until after 2 o'clock there were tar barrels burning, drums beating, boys carrying rails; and guns, great and small, banging away. The Weary passengers were allowed no rest, but plagued by the thundering jar of cannon, the clamor of drums, the glare of bonfires, and the whooping of the boys, who were delighted with the idea of a candidate for the Presidency, who thirty years ago split rails on the Sangamon Riverclassic stream now and forevermoreand whose neighbors named him "honest. "
1 From a letter to the Cincinnati Commercial, dated May 18th, 1860.
2 William Henry Seward, then United States Senator from New York.
3 William K. Evarts, the eminent lawyer who defended Andrew Johnson in the inpeachment trial, and served as Secretary of State in Hayes's Cabinet.
These thirteen colonies originally had no bond of union whatever; no more than Jamaica and Australia have to-day. They were wholly separate communities, independent of each other, and dependent on the Crown of Great Britain. All the union between them that was ever made is in writing. They made two written compacts. . .
Senators, the Constitution is a compact. It contains all our obligations and duties of the Federal Government. All the obligations, all the chains that fetter the limbs of my people, are nominated in the bond, and they wisely excluded any conclusion against them, by declaring that the powers not granted by the Constitution to the United States, or forbidden by it to the States, belonged to the States respectively or the people. Now I will try it by that standard; I will subject it to that test. The law of nature, the law of justice, would sayand it is so expounded by the publiciststhat equal rights in the common property shall be enjoyed. This right of equality being, then, according to justice and natural equity, a right belonging to all States, when did we give it up? You say Congress has a right to pass rules and regulations concerning the territory and other property of the United States. Very well. Does that exclude those whose blood and money paid for it? Does "dispose of" mean to rob the rightful owners? You must show a better title than that, or a better sword than we have. . . .
In a compact where there is no common arbiter, where the parties finally decide for themselves, the sword alone at last becomes the real, if not the constitutional, arbiter. Your party says that you will not take the decision of the Supreme Court. You said so at Chicago; you said so in committee; every man of you in both Houses says so. What are you going to do? You say we shall submit to your construction. We shall do it, if you can make us; but not otherwise, or in any other manner. That is settled. You may call it secession, or you may call it revolution; but there is a big fact standing before you, ready to oppose youthat fact is, freemen with arms in their hands. The cry of the Union will not disperse them; we have passed that point; they demand equal rights; you had better heed the demand. . . .
I have, then, established the propositionit is admittedthat you seek to outlaw $4,000,000,000 of property of our people in the territories of the United States. Is not that a cause of war? Is it a grievance that $4,000,000,000 of the property of the people should be outlawed in the territories of the United States by the common government? Then you have declared, Lincoln declares, your platform declares, your people declare, your legislatures declarethere is one voice running through your entire phalanxthat we shall be outlawed in the territories of the United States. I say we will not be; and we are willing to meet the issue; and rather than submit to such an outlawry, we will defend our territorial rights as we would our househeld gods.
You will not regard confederate obligations; you will not regard constitutional obligations; you will not regard your oaths. What, then, am I to do? Am I a freeman? Is my State a free State, to lie down and submit because political fossils raise the cry of the glorious Union? Too long already have we listened to this delusive song. We are freemen. We have rights; I have stated them. We have wrongs; I have recounted them. I have demonstrated that the party now coming into power has declared us outlaws, and is determined to exclude four thousand million of our property from the common territories; that it has declared us under the ban of the empire; and out of the protection of the laws of the United States everywhere. They have refused to protect us from invasion and insurrection by the Federal power, and the Constitution denies to us in the Union the right either to raise fleets or armies for our own defense. All these charges I have proven by the record; and I put them before the civilized world, and demand the judgment of to-day, of to-morrow, of distant ages, and of Heaven itself, upon the justice of these causes.
I am content, whatever it be, to peril all in so noble, so holy a cause. We have appealed, time and time again, for these constitutional rights. You have refused them. We appeal again. Restore us these rights as we had them, as your court adjudges them to be, just as all our people have said they are; redress these flagrant wrongs, seen of all men, and it will restore fraternity, and peace, and unity, to all of us. Refuse them, and what then? We shall then ask you, "let us depart in peace." Refuse that, and you present us war. We accept it; and inscribing upon our banners the glorious words, "liberty and equality," we will trust to the blood of the brave and the God of battles for security and tranquillity.
1 From Toombs's speech in the United States Senate, made shortly before the Southern States began to secede, and he resigned. Toombs had served from Georgia in the lower house of Congress from 1845 to 1853, and had entered the Senate in 1853. He belonged to the old-time Whig party, but refused to follow other Whigs into the Republican, or Union party, and became a Disunionist on issues raised by Lincoln's election. During the war he served in the Confederate Army as a brigadier-general, and at one time was Secretary of State of the Confederacy. He never took the oath required of Confederates of allegiance to the United states Government, altho he lived for twenty years after the war closed.