1860 Democratic National Convention

1860 Democratic National Convention

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The 1860 Democratic National Convention was one of the crucial events in the lead-up to the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. Following a fragmented official Democratic National Convention
Democratic National Convention
The Democratic National Convention is a series of presidential nominating conventions held every four years since 1832 by the United States Democratic Party. They have been administered by the Democratic National Committee since the 1852 national convention...

 that was adjourned in deadlock, two more presidential nominating conventions
United States presidential nominating convention
A United States presidential nominating convention is a political convention held every four years in the United States by most of the political parties who will be fielding nominees in the upcoming U.S. presidential election...

 took place: a resumed official convention, which nominated Senator
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 Stephen A. Douglas
Stephen A. Douglas
Stephen Arnold Douglas was an American politician from the western state of Illinois, and was the Northern Democratic Party nominee for President in 1860. He lost to the Republican Party's candidate, Abraham Lincoln, whom he had defeated two years earlier in a Senate contest following a famed...

 of Illinois
Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

, and a "rump" convention of disgruntled Democrats, primarily Southerners, which nominated Vice President
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

 John C. Breckinridge
John C. Breckinridge
John Cabell Breckinridge was an American lawyer and politician. He served as a U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator from Kentucky and was the 14th Vice President of the United States , to date the youngest vice president in U.S...

 of Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

.

Charleston convention


The 1860 Democratic National Convention convened at South Carolina Institute Hall in Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the second largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. It was made the county seat of Charleston County in 1901 when Charleston County was founded. The city's original name was Charles Towne in 1670, and it moved to its present location from a location on the west bank of the...

 on April 23, 1860.

The front-runner for the nomination was Douglas. Douglas was opposed by militant Southern "fire-eaters
Fire-Eaters
In United States history, the term Fire-Eaters refers to a group of extremist pro-slavery politicians from the South who urged the separation of southern states into a new nation, which became known as the Confederate States of America.-Impact:...

", such as William Yancey of Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

, because he was considered a moderate on the slavery issue. He supported the doctrine of popular sovereignty
Popular sovereignty
Popular sovereignty or the sovereignty of the people is the political principle that the legitimacy of the state is created and sustained by the will or consent of its people, who are the source of all political power. It is closely associated with Republicanism and the social contract...

: allowing settlers in each territory to decide for themselves whether slavery would be allowed. But the Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

's 1857 Dred Scott decision
Dred Scott v. Sandford
Dred Scott v. Sandford, , also known as the Dred Scott Decision, was a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that people of African descent brought into the United States and held as slaves were not protected by the Constitution and could never be U.S...

 declared that the Constitution protected slavery in all Federal territories.

At the Charleston convention, the "fire-eaters" demanded the adoption of a pro-slavery platform
Party platform
A party platform, or platform sometimes also referred to as a manifesto, is a list of the actions which a political party, individual candidate, or other organization supports in order to appeal to the general public for the purpose of having said peoples' candidates voted into political office or...

. They wanted endorsement of Dred Scott,
and Congressional legislation explicitly protecting slavery in the territories. Northern Democrats refused to acquiesce. Dred Scott was extremely unpopular in the North; it was only by repudiating Dred Scott that Douglas had (barely) beaten back his challenger in the 1858 race in Illinois
Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

 for his Senate seat (then an unknown named Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

) and narrowly won re-election. The minority (Northern)
report on the platform was adopted on April 30 by a vote of 165 to 138. 50 Southern delegates then marched out of the convention hall in protest.

The departed delegates then gathered at St. Andrews Hall on Broad Street, declared themselves the real convention, and awaited conciliatory action by the Institute Hall convention. That didn't happen. Instead, the Institute Hall convention proceeded to nominations. The dominant Douglas forces believed their path was now clear.

Six major candidates were nominated at the convention: Douglas, former Treasury Secretary
United States Secretary of the Treasury
The Secretary of the Treasury of the United States is the head of the United States Department of the Treasury, which is concerned with financial and monetary matters, and, until 2003, also with some issues of national security and defense. This position in the Federal Government of the United...

 James Guthrie of Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

, Senator Robert M. T. Hunter
Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter
-References:* Patrick, Rembert W. . Jefferson Davis and His Cabinet. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. pp. 90–101.-External links:* – A speech by R. M. T. Hunter before the U.S. House of Representatives, May 8th, 1846...

 of Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

, Senator Joseph Lane
Joseph Lane
Joseph Lane was an American general during the Mexican-American War and a United States Senator from Oregon.-Early life:...

 of Oregon
Oregon
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern...

, former Senator Daniel S. Dickinson
Daniel S. Dickinson
Daniel Stevens Dickinson was a New York politician, most notable as a United States Senator from 1844 to 1851.-Biography:...

 of New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, and Senator Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the United States . As Vice-President of the United States in 1865, he succeeded Abraham Lincoln following the latter's assassination. Johnson then presided over the initial and contentious Reconstruction era of the United States following the American...

 of Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

.

Douglas led on the first ballot, with 145½ of 253 votes cast. However, the Democratic convention had a rule that a nomination required a two-thirds vote to nominate. Furthermore, convention president Caleb Cushing
Caleb Cushing
Caleb Cushing was an American diplomat who served as a U.S. Congressman from Massachusetts and Attorney General under President Franklin Pierce.-Early life:...

 ruled that two-thirds of the entire convention's vote was required, not just two-thirds of those actually present and voting.

Douglas thus needed 56½ more votes, or a total of 202, from the 253 delegates who still present. The convention held 57 ballots, and though Douglas led on all of them, he never got more than 152 votes. On the 57th ballot, Douglas got 151½ votes, still 50½ votes short of the nomination, though far ahead of Guthrie, who was second with 65½. In desperation, on May 3 the delegates voted to adjourn the convention.

Candidates receiving votes for president at the Charleston convention:
A few votes went to former Senator Isaac Toucey
Isaac Toucey
Isaac Toucey was an American statesman who served as a U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Navy, Attorney General of the United States and the 18th Governor of Connecticut....

 of Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

, Senator James Pearce
James Pearce
James Alfred Pearce was an American politician. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the second district of Maryland from 1835–1839 and 1841-1843. He later served as a U.S. Senator from Maryland from 1843 until his death in 1862.Pearce was the son of Gideon Pearce...

 of Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

, and Senator Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Finis Davis , also known as Jeff Davis, was an American statesman and leader of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, serving as President for its entire history. He was born in Kentucky to Samuel and Jane Davis...

 of Mississippi
Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

 (the future Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 President), who received one vote on over 50 ballots from Benjamin Butler
Benjamin Franklin Butler (politician)
Benjamin Franklin Butler was an American lawyer and politician who represented Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives and later served as the 33rd Governor of Massachusetts....

 of Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

. Ironically, during the Civil War, Butler became a Union general, and Davis ordered him hanged as a criminal if ever captured.
Charleston Presidential Ballot
Ballot 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th 13th 14th 15th 16th 17th 18th 19th 20th 21st 22nd 23rd 24th 25th
Douglas 145.5 147 148.5 149 149.5 149.5 150.5 150.5 150.5 150.5 150.5 150.5 149.5 150 150 150 150 150 150 150 150.5 150.5 152.5 151.5 151.5
Guthrie 35.5 36.5 42 37.5 37.5 39.5 38.5 38.5 41 39.5 39.5 39.5 39.5 41 41.5 42 42 41.5 41.5 42 41.5 41.5 41.5 41.5 41.5
Hunter 42 41.5 36 41.5 41 41 41 40.5 39.5 39 38 38 28.5 27 26.5 26 26 26 26 26 26 26 25 25 35
Lane 6 6 6 6 6 7 6 6 6 5.5 6.5 6.5 20 20.5 20.5 20.5 20.5 20.5 20.5 20.5 20.5 20.5 19.5 19.5 9.5
Dickinson 7 6.5 6.5 5 5 3 4 4.5 1 4 4 4 1 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 1 1 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 1.5 1.5
Johnson 12 12 12 12 12 12 11 11 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12
Toucey 2.5 2.5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Davis 1.5 1 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.5 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Pearce 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Charleston Presidential Ballot
Ballot 26th 27th 28th 29th 30th 31st 32nd 33rd 34th 35th 36th 37th 38th 39th 40th 41st 42nd 43rd 44th 45th 46th 47th 48th 49th 50th
Douglas 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 152.5 152.5 152.5 152 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5
Guthrie 41.5 42.5 42 42 45 47.5 47.5 47.5 47.5 47.5 48 64.5 66 66.5 66.5 66.5 66.5 65.5 65.5 65.5 65.5 65.5 65.5 65.5 65.5
Hunter 25 25 25 25 25 32.5 22.5 22.5 22.5 22 22 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16
Lane 9 8 8 7.5 5.5 5.5 14.5 14.5 12.5 13 13 12.5 13 12.5 12.5 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 14 14
Dickinson 12 12 12.5 13 13 3 3 3 5 4.5 4.5 5.5 5.5 5.5 5.5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 4
Johnson 12 12 12 12 11 11 11 11 11 12 12 0.5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Toucey 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Davis 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1.5 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Pearce 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Charleston Presidential Ballot
Ballot 51st 52nd 53rd 54th 55th 56th 57th
Douglas 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5
Guthrie 65.5 65.5 65.5 61 65.5 65.5 65.5
Hunter 16 16 16 20.5 16 16 16
Lane 14 14 14 16 14 14 14
Dickinson 4 4 4 2 4 4 4
Johnson 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Toucey 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Davis 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Pearce 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Baltimore convention


The Democrats convened again at the Front Street Theater in Baltimore
Baltimore
Baltimore is the largest independent city in the United States and the largest city and cultural center of the US state of Maryland. The city is located in central Maryland along the tidal portion of the Patapsco River, an arm of the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore is sometimes referred to as Baltimore...

, Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

 on June 18. The resumed convention's first business was to decide whether to re-admit the delegates who had bolted the Charleston session, or to seat replacement delegates who had been named by pro-Douglas Democrats in some states. The credentials committee's majority report recommended re-admitting all delegates except those from Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

 and Alabama. The minority of the committee recommended re-admitting some of the Louisiana and Alabama delegates as well. The committee's majority report was adopted 150-100½, and the new Louisiana and Alabama delegates were seated. At this point, many additional delegates walked out, including most of the remaining Southern delegates, and also a scattering of delegates from northern and far western states.

The convention resumed voting on a nominee. On the first ballot, Douglas received 173½ of 190½ votes cast. On the second ballot he received 190½ votes of 203½ cast. At this point, the delegates overrode Cushing's earlier ruling. They declared by unanimous voice vote that Douglas, having received 2/3 of the votes cast, was nominated. Senator Benjamin Fitzpatrick
Benjamin Fitzpatrick
Benjamin Fitzpatrick was an American politician, who served as the 11th Governor of the U.S. state of Alabama and as United States Senator from Alabama as a Democrat....

 of Alabama was nominated for Vice President, receiving 198½ votes. However, Fitzpatrick later refused the nomination. He was replaced by former Senator Herschel V. Johnson
Herschel Vespasian Johnson
Herschel Vespasian Johnson was an American politician. He was the 41st Governor of Georgia from 1853 to 1857 and the vice-presidential nominee of the Douglas wing of the Democratic Party in the 1860 US presidential election....

 of Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

.
Baltimore Presidential Ballot
Ballot 1st 2nd
Douglas 173.5 181.5
Guthrie 9 5.5
Breckinridge 5 7.5
Horatio Seymour
Horatio Seymour
Horatio Seymour was an American politician. He was the 18th Governor of New York from 1853 to 1854 and from 1863 to 1864. He was the Democratic Party nominee for president of the United States in the presidential election of 1868, but lost the election to Republican and former Union General of...

 
1 0
Thomas S. Bocock  1 0
Dickinson 0.5 0
Henry A. Wise
Henry A. Wise
Henry Alexander Wise was an American politician and governor of Virginia, as well as a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.-Early life:...

 
0.5 0

"Breckinridge Democrats" convention


The bolted Southern delegates and their allies reconvened at the Maryland Institute in Baltimore. The rump convention nominated Breckinridge for President, and Lane for Vice President.
"Breckinridge Democrats" Presidential Ballot
Ballot 1st
Breckinridge 81
Dickinson 24

Consequences


After the break-up of the Charleston convention, many of those present stated that the Republicans were now certain to win the 1860 Presidential election. The actual division in Democratic votes did not affect any state outcomes except California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, Oregon, Kentucky, Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

, and Virginia, and even if those states had been carried by the Democratic nominee, the Republican nominee would still have had a majority of electoral votes. However, the split in the Democratic Party organization was a serious handicap in many states, especially Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

, and almost certainly reduced the Democratic popular vote.

James McPherson suggests in his Pulitzer Prize work, "The Battle Cry of Freedom" that the "Fire-eater" program of breaking up the convention and running a rival ticket was deliberately intended to bring about the election of a Republican as President, and thus trigger secession declarations by the slave-owning states. Whatever the "intent" of the fire-eaters may have been, doubtless many of them favored secession, and the logical, probable, and actual consequence of their action was to fragment the Democratic party so as to prevent it from becoming an effective force in the election and thereby virtually ensure a Republican victory. No explicit statements of this have been found, even in the private correspondence of prominent "Fire-eaters." But the open talk at Charleston about Republican victory, and the known repulsion of Northerners towards the pro-slavery doctrines of the Breckenridge ticket, suggests that the "Fire-eaters" had no serious expectation of electing Breckinridge. If so, then it is difficult to find any motive for their program other than provoking secession, but they might have been righteously standing by the law, as set forth in Dred Scott v. Sandford
Dred Scott v. Sandford
Dred Scott v. Sandford, , also known as the Dred Scott Decision, was a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that people of African descent brought into the United States and held as slaves were not protected by the Constitution and could never be U.S...

.

External links