The History of New York State
Chapter XII, Chapter 8, Part 2

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam


Among the 466 delegates were the representatives of only one southern State, this emphasizing a well recognized fact; that Republicanism was of the North, and did not represent the country as a whole. What former Whigs there were in the South were now aligned with the Democrats; and neither the Douglas Democrats nor the Breckinridge Democrats were any more representative of the Nation then the Republicans.

However, this reflection did not perplex those who were gathered at Chicago. Governor Morgan, of New York, called the Republican convention to order, and the delegates settled down to business. Among the strong New York delegation were Thurlow Weed, G. W. Curtis, William M. Evarts, Henry J. Raymond, D. D. S. Brown, and other well-known leaders. As usual, Seward was far away. He never seemed to be keen to further his own interested,, though generally he had previously made sure that others would see that they did not suffer by his absence. Thurlow Weed was usually his champion, and on this occasion seemed to have taken his usual place, with Governor Morgan and Editor Raymond as his lieutenants. Greeley seemed to have been shouldered off, because of his antipathy to Seward. He was in the convention, but as a delegate from Oregon, not New York. Greeley was one of the first of Seward's enemies to become convinced that Seward would be the nominee. On the second day, the "Tribune" editor telegraphed to his paper predicting the nomination of the great New Yorker.

Greeley, the New York outcast--as to all intents he was in this convention, hung up his hat in Lincoln's hotel, much to the consternation of the Seward party. William Cullen Bryant also found that there was a constant seepage of Seward strength among those who objected to the bartering of railway franchises for Republican campaign funds. Again, the ma of "irrepressible conflict" fame had doomed himself to failure by coining this phrase. Greeley did not think it wise to elect as President "one who looks the slave oligarchy square in the eye and says. 'Know me as your enemy!'" Bryant did not like Seward's "pliant politics," apparently he disagreed with Greeley's interpretation of Seward as a candidate, but at least they thought alike as to one essential--both were ready to accept any reason why the New Yorker could not or should not be nominated. Greeley worked in and out among the State delegations, spreading the doctrine against Seward with telling effect. Seward, on the first ballot, was by far the leading candidate, having 173-1/2 votes against 102 for "Honest Ole Abe," but the New York delegates were much disappointed. They had been inclined to believe that their candidate would have had almost the unanimous vote at the opening ballot. Seward went up a little in the next ballot, but Lincoln advanced considerably. Cameron of Pennsylvania then withdrew, and the Pennsylvania vote was given to Lincoln. Lincoln led Seward by more than fifty votes in the next ballot, whereupon William M. Evarts of New York moved to make the nomination unanimous. This was done and Seward was undone. New York had lost the best chance she had ever had of electing a President, but, as Evarts jokingly remarked as he left the convention hall: ". . . .at least, we have saved the Declaration of Independence." Weed shed tears, whether of rage or grief is not know, and Greeley--who was the great triumph--hoped that such "a fearful week" would never be repeated. One Indiana politician was of the opinion that "Greeley slaughtered Seward and saved the party." Greeley's stirring of delegations against the New Yorker seems to have influenced more than a hundred delegates to vote for Lincoln, "reluctantly against the candidate of their choice." #8 Weed might well shed tears. The man he had nursed for a generation, the man who was especially worthy of the Presidency, and why, by his standing in the party and Nation, should have been given the party endorsement that his actual leadership had merited, had been defeated. The New York delegation was stunned; more than that--they were indignant; they would not have anything at all to do with the naming of a Vice-President. They carried their grief, their chagrin, away with them, and, if one might judge only by words, they grieved more than Seward. "I wish I were sure that your sense of disappointment is as light as my own," writes Seward to Weed. Seward could find reason to congratulate himself. For twenty years he had been "breasting a daily storm of censure." Now, he found the whole world "disposed to speak kindly" of him. Such friendship counts for little--about as little as Seward's words. He might profess to have felt only light disappointment that he had been rejected, but in fact, despondency had almost prostrated him. To Weed he said: "Private life, as soon as I can reach it without grieving or embarrassing my friends, will be welcome to me." Fortunately, such a melancholic trend was soon to be checked. The loyal, appreciative and genuine Lincoln would not forsake him, or speak words of condolence and then rush away glad to think that that was the end of the association. Lincoln knew the real value of Seward; and if God had ordained that the direction of the Nation, in this grave crisis, should rest upon himself, he would himself strive to bring to his aid the man universally recognized as the intellectual leader of the party. Seward must not go into retirement. The Nation needed him. So it happened that for the next four year of incessant war Seward and Lincoln labored for the Union, side by side, one as President and the other in the highest cabinet office Lincoln could give him. As Secretary of State, William H. Seward showed that no national office was beyond his capability.

The New York State conventions of 1860 echoed the sensationalism of the National conventions. There was just as hopeless a schism in New York Democratic ranks as that which had split the Democrats of the Nation, in the Charleston and Baltimore conventions. The old Hunkers of New York would not bow down to the Barnburners (Hards and Softs respectively). Dickinson, in particular, vowed vengeance against Dean Richmond and the Softs. The Hards followed Dickinson into a State convention of their own. Breckinridge was chosen as the standard-bearer of the 300 delegates; and as it was a State convent, they would like the world to know that New York Democrats were Pro-Slavery. They adopted the Pro-Slavery platform of the seceders. It is not surprising to note that at this convention were very many capable men of conservative inclination. The conservative Northern Democrats dreaded the thought of civil war. Charles O'Conor, John A. Dix, Greene C. Bronson, Henry S. Randall were among the delegates and at the head of the State ticket they adopted was James T. Brady, a most eminent lawyer. They condemned Douglas Democracy, and demanded that this disturber of party peace withdraw, leaving the issue clear between Democrats of Pro-Slavery platform, and Republicans of Anti-Slavery stripe. Of course, they never for a moment thought that the Barnburners (Softs) would permit them to have unchallenged sway among Democrats in New York. The Softs met on August 15, 1860, under the leadership of Horatio Seymour and Dean Richmond. They endorsed Douglas, and by clever tactics fused the Constitutional Union party with their own, thus, securing the Know-Nothing vote without in any way committing themselves to support the Constitutional Union candidate against their own. The Softs chose William Kelly as a candidate for Governor.

The average Republican probably expected that New York leaders would, in their State convention, give evidence of the disappointment they had shown in the National convention, but even Seward had rallied and was working with more than usual zest to make Lincoln's election sure. Very few doubted that Republicanism would triumph, but it was pleasing to Lincoln and the country to know that powerful New York loyally accepted the results of the Chicago convention without any hard feelings, and that harmony prevailed in Republican ranks. Governor Morgan was re-nominated.

The campaign went on with the swinging stride of hopeful youth. The Republican party was made up largely of young men, and if the South had been looking for bellicose signs in the North, they might have rested their eyes suspiciously on the bands of marchers, whose military movements on parade, day and night--ostensibly for political effect--might have been suspected to be in preparation for sternest possibilities. In September, the New York "Herald" estimated that more then 400,000 young men were already uniformed and drilled for these parading manoeuvres. With rifles instead of torches, these uniformed organization might become soldiers of the Union at short notice.

Seward as probably the most active campaigner and most south for speaker of all the republican leaders. He gave his time to the Middle West, and spoke to vast audiences where the train or steamboat stopped for fifteen minutes. On the day he was to speak in Chicago, it was estimated that 200,000 people came to the city. And in these addresses, Seward was able to, or at least did his best to kill "the irrepressible conflict" theory that had killed him, politically. He said: "Let this battle be decided in favor of freedom in the territories, and not one slave will ever be carried into the territories of the United States, and that will end the irrepressible conflict." He probably knew that it would not, but may have thought that a decade hence, when the irrepressible conflict might again seem imminent, the South might have reached a better state of mind, and then not threatened to reach for their arms at the suggestion of restricting slavery.

The election was by no means a foregone conclusion in New York State. The fusion ticket of the Softs developed surprising strength, due to some extent to the money that was spent in its aid. Southern newspaper reported that William B. Astor had contributed $1,000,000 to carry the fusion ticket to success. Greeley looked upon the campaign in New York as "a struggle as intense, as vehement, and as energetic as had ever been known." Thurlow Weed, three days before election, informed Lincoln that the fusion leaders were "now using money lavishly." Still, he never doubted the outcome, and his confidence was not misplaced. Morgan was re-elected Governor of New York by a plurality #9 of 63,460, and Lincoln's majority in the State was 50,136. The Pro-Slavery candidate for Governor polled almost 20,000, but in all probability there were not 20,000 voters in the Empire State who sincerely advocated the extension of slavery. They were merely Hunkers, opposed to Barnburners.

We are now almost at the end of the last year of comparative peace. The Nation had not known peace for many years, but fortunately the acts of war had only been verbal. Soon, lashing was to give way to slashing' the sword was to silence the tongue, and blood was to cover the Nation. All efforts of the North during the four years of war--practically all endeavors, military, governmental, political, industrial--was of war purpose. New York State bore her share of the burden of the North; assumed more than her share indeed; and it was fortunate for the Union that Edwin D. Morgan w as New York's war Governor during the opening year and the next.

New York City, in 1861, had a mayor who seriously suggested that it might be well for the great city to take a leaf out of a Southern book. Why should New York continue to bear two-thirds of the cost of administering the Federal government? Why should she not declare herself to be an independent city and live tax-free, with cheap goods almost duty-free? Of course that sentiment was smothered as soon as guns began to boom at Fort Sumter. Pro-Slavery sentiments, or secession inclination, had to be kept well hidden during the first blush of the period of heroism and patriotism that came upon New York, in common with all other communities, North and South, after the attack upon Fort Sumter. As the war settled down to grim reality, and heartrending uncertainty, for both North and South--with disaster and defeats more frequent than successes--the opposition element of the Northern populace again began to show a desire to criticize the government. Patriotism, which united all classes in 1861, waned in 1862, and Democrats then realized that Republicans were in power; also that if the Republican could be defeated, politically, Democrats might deal with he South in a more successful way.

One of the most effective workers against the government was a Republican--a disappointed office-seeker. It seems incredible to find the brilliant Horace Greeley in this category, but his constant criticism of the Lincoln government during the years of war may with good reason be attributed chiefly to the fact that, inn February, 1861, Thurlow Weed ha destroyed Greeley's only chance of becoming a United States Senator. Greeley had crossed swords with Weed, determined that the latter should not continue to dispense New York patronage as he pleased. It was the bitterest battle that Weed ever faced and fought and won. "Down with the Dictator," was the battle-cry of the Greeley forces. Greeley looked upon it as "a conflict which was to determine whether a dynasty was to stand and give law to its subjects, or be overthrown and annihilated.

Fully appreciating this, not Richmond at Bosworth Field, Charles at Naseby, nor Napoleon at Waterloo, made a more desperate fight for empire than did the one-man power at Albany to retain the sceptre it has wielded for so many years over the politics and placement of this State." #10 What Greeley would do with the sceptre after it had been snatched from Dictator Weed may be imagined; he himself was to be United States Senator. However, after seven exciting ballots in caucus, at the point where it seemed that the next ballot would carry Greeley sweepingly into the Senate, Weed came into action. He gave a command, there was a change in the voting groups, and Greeley's chance was forever gone.

Greeley suffered from a chronic yearning for public office. At different times in his brilliant journalistic career his inordinate desire for office had been palpable and poignant; warping his views. As an editor, he had swayed the Nation; as a journalist, n o man stood higher in public esteem; yet, his craze for political office was insatiable. It was never satisfied, for with the exception of ninety days as a Congressman, no other political "plum" fell to him. "Like George Barrow, he seemed never to realize that his simple, clear, vigorous English was to be the crown of an undying fame." #11

Greeley had never taken very enthusiastically to Lincoln. He had preferred Bates at Chicago, though of course Lincoln was preferable to Seward. Any man who could defeat Seward necessarily came temporarily into the good graces of the journalist. Greeley had returned East happy after the Chicago convention, but when, within a month of his loss of the Senatorship, Greeley heard that Lincoln had made Seward chief of his cabinet, he perhaps imagined that he had been bewitched. Seward as Secretary of State would always have the President's ear. Greeley could never get near enough to Lincoln; Seward, his inveterate enemy, would ever block the way, whereas the path of Thurlow Weed to the confidence of the President would be smoothly paved by Seward. Bitterness warped the views of Horace Greeley thereafter. Hatred of Weed and Seward, envy of those who basked in the bright sunshine of public office--for to the man who had been denied office it mist seem that perpetual sunshine bathes the favored ones, even in a time of peril and gloom like that of war--could be discerned by thoughtful students reading "between the liens" of his editorials. His criticisms of governmental acts did not a little to chill the patriotic ardor with which the men of New York--Republicans and Democrats alike--rallied defend the Union in 1861.

Nevertheless, for some time, patriotism was red-hot. Fernando Wood, mayor who a few months before had suggested that New York be made an independent city, answered the challenge of the South in April, 1861, by pledging the men and money of the municipality to the Union. "We know no party now," he said. John Cochrane, one of the leading Democrats adopted the motto, "Our country our whole country--in any event, a united country." Daniel E. Sickles, a Hunker, was probably among the Hards that had voted Pro-Slavery in 1860; now he was in uniform, destined to become one of the great generals of the Union. A Charleston paper, on April 26, inquired: "Where are Fillmore, Van Buren, Cochrane, McKeon, Weed, Dix, Dickinson, and Barnard, of New York, in the bloody crusade proposed by President Lincoln against the South?" "Hounding on the fanatic warfare," was the answer the paper itself gave. Another paper, the Richmond "Examiner" declared that "the whole North is rallying as one man" for the war of subjugation. The same paper, on April 30, declared: "The proposition of subjugate comes from the metropolis of the North's boasted conservatism, even from the largest beneficiary of Southern wealth--New York City," #12 The populace of the North belonged to no party, or rather there was only one --the Union party. Democrats and Republicans of the North were now all Unionists. The Press, of course, still preserved its right to criticize. Most of the journals of daily and weekly news reflected in almost every line the spirit of the Union; the desire to help and not hinder the Government. The "Tribune," Greeley's paper, was one of the most eager for results favorable to the Union. Why should the government procrastinate? "Forward to Richmond!" was the clarion cry of the "Tribune." Its editorials thus early raised the party spirit--at a time when there was no party. The delay in military action, the "Tribune" feared, indicated Democratic intrigue with General Scott. When the latter began an offensive with green troops, and this brought a most disastrous defeat at Bull Run, with a loss to New York alone of 1,230 men, the newspapers began anew to whip the government on, but President Lincoln declared that henceforth the Union would fight no more "political battles" like that of Bull Run.

Horace Greeley had by this time become a firebrand. He would not tolerate half measures. All attempts by Lincoln to conciliate were opposed. Greeley, though stirred by the most ardent desire for Northern victory was, b y his criticisms--meant no doubt to be constructive, now destructive--stirring into life again the hampering spirit of partisan politics. Democrats, who for some months had hardly dared to even think thoughts but those of concord with the government, now began to stir themselves along party line, the Republicans of New York had hoped that while the Nation was in danger Democrats would in all things unite with them, having before them always their common aim--the preservation of the Union. In August, 1861, Republican leaders in New York suggested to Democrats that they merge their State conventions, and nominate a single ticket representative of all parties, and confining the platforms to a war policy that all could endorse, but Dean Richmond, chairman of the Democratic State Committee, conferred with Horatio Seymour, Sanford E. Church and others, and they decided against a joint convention, though the expressed their willingness to unite with any persons or parties eager to bring about peace by compromise.

Democrats, therefore, met in State convention on September 4. The keynote of the Democratic platform was sounded by Francis Kernan, when he declared that the Democrats must make war upon both the abolitionists of the North and the seceders of the South. David R. Floyd Jones headed the Democratic ticket, nominated for the Secretaryship of State. The Republicans held their convention a week later, and although the Democrats had appeared to have turned a cold should to the Republican offer to join hands on a single ticker, there were very many Democrats throughout the State who approved of the Republican suggestion. These Democrats formed a People's Union party for the emergency, and they gathered in convention contemporaneously with the Republicans. Many of those who had been prominent in the first Democratic convention now were conspicuous in the gathering of the People's Union. Lyman Tremaine, who had been nominated for the Attorney-Generalship of the Democratic Convention withdrew from that ticket, and accepted nomination on the People's ticket; Francis C. Brouck followed; and several other leading Democrats declared, in their support of the People's Union movement, that they placed the Union before the party. Daniel S. Dickinson, "the former crack champion of Southern right," was the first to accept nomination. "The nomination proved a popular hit. Instantly Syracuse and the State were ablaze, and Republicans as well as many Democratic papers prophesied that it settled the result in November." That the delegates were imbued with true impartiality, in harmony with the Union spirit, is shown in the fact that upon the People's ticket were two Hards, two Softs, one American, and four Republicans.

When the Democratic candidates went before the electorate, they saw that the people were in stern mood, and would not tolerate a platform that condemned the government. Indeed, they looked upon such an attitude as treason. Horatio Seymour spoke once, but most of the leading Democrats either remained silent or disapproved of the platform which had been adopted in convention. At last, even the candidates did so. "It is the first instance on record where the nominees of a convention openly and defiantly spit upon the platform, and repudiated party leaders and their secession heresies," #13 said the "Herald." Dickinson voiced the opinion of many of the People's party leaders. "It is not Lincoln and Republicans we are sustaining," he wrote. "They have nothing to do with it. It is the government of our fathers, worth just as much as if it was administered by Andrew Jackson. There is but one side of it." #14 This statement, coming as it did from a prominent New Yorker who, for twenty years, had been an ardent defender of the Southern cause, an out-and-out Pro-Slavery man, turned a halting Democrat into the People's party camp. Seymour, of course, looking only through Democratic glasses, saw flaws in all the acts or plans of the Lincoln government. He protested against the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and the unhindered way thus opened to the government for the arrest of men suspected of treason. "It is the boast of the Briton," said Seymour, "that his house is his castle. However, humble it may be, the King cannot enter. Let it not be said that the liberties of American citizens are less perfectly protected, or held less sacred than are those of the subjects of a Crown." #15 Of course, the government would reply that their act and intention were to protect the liberty and life of the majority by restricting the liberty of the traitorous few who plotted to destroy them. Seymour denied that slavery caused the war. He contended that the agitators had brought it about--"the ambitious men at the South, who desired a separate confederacy," and "the ambitious men of the North, who reaped a political profit from agitation." Horatio Seymour could not support a War for the abolition of slavery; he could not approve of measures which jeopardized the liberties of the citizen and imperiled State sovereignty; he undoubtedly, ex-Governor Seymour demonstrated that he was a Democrat. He was destined to become even more troublesome to the government as the war proceeded than during the campaign of 1861.

Indeed, his words carried no weight at that time when most men were willing to lay down their lives to preserve the Union. The people's party swept the State, Dickinson having a majority of more than 100,000. Fernando Wood, who had consorted with rogues to maintain himself in office, had to give way before an honest man, George Opdyke, nominee of Tammany, for mayor of New York; and in the State Legislature the People's party gained dominant place. So, for another year at least, partisan politics of the Empire State could not seriously embarrass the hard-pressed general government.

During 1862, troubles began to bear heavily upon the National cabinet. The financial problems were the most serious, but not the hardest to bear. Elbridge Gerry Spaulding, of Buffalo, came to the rescue of the National government, with his plan of National finance, but the "Father of the Greenback" was vigorously opposed by another forceful New Yorker, Roscoe Conkling, then a congressman, rising rapidly above the ruck of politicians. Still, Conkling could not do more than hamper the passage of the financial bills. The war must go on, and money must be provided.

Another question, however, was shaking the very foundation of the Union. Although Lincoln had made it clear that the struggle was to save the Union, not the slave, the average citizen who donned the Blue could see little difference between the two. Consciously or subconsciously, he was fighting to free the slave. When Fremont, in the military department of the Missouri, freed all the slaves held by persons who had aided secession in his department, a jarring reprimand came to him from Lincoln. The government was intent first upon preserving the Union. If the other could also be done, so much the better; but the military commanders for the present time must not make the supreme first purpose uncertain by dividing their action between first and second. Slaves must not be admitted within Union lines, was the command, but this attitude could not be maintained. Inevitably, the military commanders were drawn to recognize the slave. Much of their military information was gained from the black population, and there was always a possibility that the South, in the last extremity, would arm the Negroes and force them to fight for the South. This was a military possibility that could not be ignored for long. However, the government procrastinated, hoping against hope that the next day or week or month would either bring decisive military victory, or that the South would reach a more tractable state of mind. Meanwhile, Lincoln and his lieutenants had to bear prod after prod of bitter rabid Abolitionists. The bitterest, most forceful critic was Horace Greeley. For instance, when General Hunter was reprimanded for issuing an order freeing slaves in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, Greeley's editorial comment was: "He is no extemporized soldier, looking for a Presidential nomination, or seat in Congress. He is neither a politician or civil engineer, but simply a patriot whose profession is war, and who does not understand making war so as not to hurt your enemy."

Greeley's writings reflected the embittered mind of a disappointed office-seeker. He hit hard with logic and truth but always saw only the bitterest angle of a situation. Had he not taken up the right issue--Emancipation, which was inevitable--it is more than possible that the hosts who were impressed by his striking editorials would see in them more of personal spleen than of patriotic purpose. The government was forced, on July 11, 1862, to pass the Confiscation act, freeing slaves within territory controlled by the North, but Greeley was not satisfied. In the "Tribune" of August 20, appeared his "Prayer of Twenty Millions," an editorial addressed to Abraham Lincoln. "It charged the President with being disastrously remiss in the discharge of his official duty and unduly influenced by the menaces of border slave-State politicians. It declared that the Union was suffering from timid counsel and mistaken deference to rebel slavery; that all attempts to put down rebellion and save slavery are preposterous and futile; and that every hour of obeisance to slavery is an added hour of deepened peril to the Union." #16 Lincoln, in reply, said: "I would save the Union. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery." #17 Greeley and Abolitionists were urging Lincoln to do what he would be only too glad to do, if it were possible. They were merely adding to the perplexities of the government, already burdened almost to the point of collapse. Many years later, Greeley confessed that he was wrong, and Lincoln right, in 1862. The confession did the country no good, whereas the criticisms undermined the Republican party and the Nation at the time when they were most dangerously tottering. Reaction had come, continual fault-finding like that of the "Tribune's" editor was doing more than stir Democrats; it threatened to shake Republicans apart.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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