The people of the United States now had four rival tickets presented to them by as many contending parties.
Continuing South Secedes from the United States,
with a selection from Davis’s Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government by Jefferson Davis published in 1881. This selection is presented in 4.5 installments for 5 minute reading.
Previously in South Secedes from the United States.
Place: Southern United States
The convention representing the conservative, or State rights, wing of the Democratic party (the President of which was the Honorable Caleb Cushing, of Massachusetts), on the first ballot, unanimously made choice of John C. Breckenridge, of Kentucky, then Vice — President of the United States, for the first office, and with like unanimity selected General Joseph Lane, then a Senator from Oregon, for the second. The resolutions of each of these two conventions denounced the action and policy of the Abolition party as subversive of the Constitution and revolutionary in their tendency.
Another convention was held in Baltimore about the same period by those who still adhered to the old Whig party, reinforced by the remains of the “American” organization, and perhaps some others. This convention also consisted of delegates from all of the States, and, repudiating all geographical and sectional issues, and declaring it to be “both the part of patriotism and of duty to recognize no political principle other than the Constitution of the country, the Union of the States, and the enforcement of the laws,” pledged itself and its supporters “to maintain, protect, and defend, separately and unitedly, those great principles of public liberty and national safety against all enemies at home and abroad.” Its nominees were John Bell, of Tennessee, and Edward Everett, of Massachusetts, both of whom had long been distinguished members of the Whig party.
The people of the United States now had four rival tickets presented to them by as many contending parties, whose respective positions and principles on the great and absorbing question at issue may be briefly recapitulated as follows:
I. The “Constitution — Union” party, as it was now termed, led by Bell and Everett, which ignored the Territorial controversy altogether, and contented itself, as above stated, with a simple declaration of adherence to “the Constitution, the Union, and the enforcement of the laws.”
2. The party of “Popular Sovereignty,” headed by Douglas and Johnson, who affirmed the right of the people of the Territories, in their Territorial condition, to determine their own organic institutions, independently of the control of Congress; denying the power or duty of Congress to protect the persons or property of individuals or minorities in such Territories against the action of majorities.
3. The “State Rights” party, supporting Breckenridge and Lane, who held that the Territories were open to citizens of all the States, with their property, without any inequality or discrimination, and that it was the duty of the General Government to protect both persons and property from aggression in the Territories subject to its control. At the same time they admitted and asserted the right of the people of a Territory, on emerging from their Territorial condition to that of a State, to determine what should then be their domestic institutions, as well as all other questions of personal or proprietary right, without interference by Congress, and subject only to the limitations and restrictions prescribed by the Constitution of the United States.
4. The so-called “Republicans,” presenting the names of Lincoln and Hamlin, who held, in the language of one of their leaders, that “slavery can exist only by virtue of municipal law”; that there was “no law for it in the Territories, and no power to enact one”; and that Congress was “bound to prohibit it or exclude it from any and every Federal Territory.” In other words, they asserted the right and duty of Congress to exclude the citizens of half the States of the Union from the territory belonging in common to all, unless on condition of the sacrifice or abandonment of their property recognized by the Constitution — indeed, of the only species of their property distinctly and specifically recognized as such by that instrument.
On the vital question underlying the whole controversy — that is, whether the Federal Government should be a government of the whole for the benefit of all its equal members, or (if it should continue to exist at all) a sectional government for the benefit of a part—the first three of the parties above described were in substantial accord as against the fourth. If they could or would have acted unitedly, they could certainly have carried the election, and averted the catastrophe which followed. Nor were efforts wanting to effect such a union.
John Bell, the Whig candidate, was a highly respectable and experienced statesman, who had filled many important offices, both State and Federal. He was not ambitious to the extent of coveting the Presidency, and he was profoundly impressed by the danger which threatened the country. Mr. Breckenridge had not anticipated, and it may safely be said did not eagerly desire, the nomination. He was young enough to wait, and patriotic enough to be willing to do so, if the weal of the country required it. Thus much I may confidently assert of both those gentlemen; for each of them authorized me to say that he was willing to with draw, if an arrangement could be effected by which the divided forces of the friends of the Constitution could be concentrated upon some one more generally acceptable than either of the three who had been presented to the country. When I made this announcement to Stephen A. Douglas—with whom my relations had always been such as to justify the assurance that he could not consider it as made in an unfriendly spirit—he replied that the scheme proposed was impracticable, because his friends, mainly Northern Democrats, if he were withdrawn, would join in the support of Lincoln, rather than of anyone who should supplant him (Douglas); that he was in the hands of his friends, and was sure they would not accept the proposition.
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