The Election of 1860

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Republican Convention



Abraham Lincoln




Salmon P. Chase

Going into the Republican Convention everyone assumed that the nomination would go to William H. Seward, the governor of New York. He was the most well known politician of the party and was believed to have the necessary leadership qualities that many seek in a president. (Proctor 4). Seward had some strikes against him however that would hurt him. Seward could not carry the lower north states such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Iowa. (Proctor 8). Losing those states was the reason the Republican Party lost the presidential election in 1856.  Additionally William Seward was linked to having knowledge about John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. He would deny this and made claims he wasn’t against ending slavery which hurt him with the abolitionists of the Republican Party.“Pragmatists from all regions and politicians from the doubtful states combined in a stop-Seward movement.” (McPherson216-217). Probably the second most likely candidate was Salmon P. Chase, a senator from Ohio. Chase’s problem was he was too much of an abolitionist. The party wanted somebody that was more moderate towards the issue of slavery. (McPherson 217). There were many other politicians thought of as a possible candidate for the party’s nomination such as William Dayton who was a judge and senator from New Jersey, Simon Cameron a senator from Pennsylvania and Edward Bates a Judge from Missouri. (Proctor 5). The Dark Horse who would emerged as the winner of the nomination that surprised everyone and worried some especially in the New England are was Abraham Lincoln, just a plain citizen who was a lawyer from Illinois with little political experience. According to the Washington Post, “The Republican Party has picked its weakest candidate and made certain the overwhelming election of Stephen Douglas, the Democrat who beat Mr. Lincoln once and will simply do it again.” (Meyer).  The Detroit Free Press had an article suggestion that New York may be lost if Seward wasn’t the candidate. (Detroit Free Press August 20,1859). Just how did Lincoln become a candidate for the nomination? The northern border states met with each other and chose Cassius M. Clay of Kentucky as their spokesman prior to the Convention. He met with members of the Party discussing how that the nation is on the brink of a civil war and that the nation needs a leader of great courage and confidence. These men saw Abraham Lincoln as a man who possessed those traits and recommended him. They also promised if they nominated Lincoln Kentucky would stay in the Union. (Proctor 12). Lincoln had gained popularity just two years prior in his debates with Douglas about popular sovereignty when he ran against him for senator in Illinois. Lincoln had stated during those debates “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Party members must’ve agreed with Mr. Clay because Lincoln would go on to win the nomination. The Chicago  Daily Tribune reported the results were 235.5 for Lincoln to 180 votes for Seward after Ohio changed four of its votes from Chase to Lincoln. (Chicago Daily Tribune May 11, 1932).


William H. Seward




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