A selection of campaign pieces from the 1860 presidential election

Discussion in 'Chatter' started by JohnHamilton, Oct 3, 2019.

  1. JohnHamilton

    JohnHamilton Well-Known Member

    In response to a post in the “Politics” section here are some campaign items from the 1860 presidential election. These pieces are from my private collection of political items that date from George Washington to the present.

    In 1860, the political system broke down over the same issues that lead to the Civil War. The Democratic Party divided over the issue of slavery, and the Republican Party emerged as a major force. There was also another group that ran a moderate candidate by anti-bellum standard.

    The Republicans
    The Republicans held their convention in Chicago. There Lincoln’s supporters used their “home field advantage,” packed the gallery with their supporters and took the presidential nomination away from former frontrunner, William Seward. Lincoln won the nomination on the third ballot. The delegates picked Maine senator, Hannibal Hamlin, as his running mate.

    LincolnFerroO60.JPG LincolnFerroR60.JPG

    The Democrats
    For the Democrats, 1860 would become a nightmare. Their first mistake was to hold their convention in Charlestown, South Carolina, which was in the heart of slave country. By now the radical Democrats were demanding a candidate who supported the spread of slavery unconditionally. Stephen Douglas was running on his Popular Sovereignty plan, which allowed the residents of a new state or territory to vote if they wanted slavery in their area. Despite the fact that this plan had blow up in his face in Kansas, Douglas still pushed for it.

    Douglas had a majority of the delegates, but he didn’t have the two-thirds majority that the he needed to win the nomination. The two-thirds rule gave the South a veto power over the nominee. Interesting the two-thirds rule would remain in effect until 1936 when the convention controlled by Franklin Roosevelt did away with it. Douglas led the voting for 57 ballots, but could not win the nomination. Democrats adjourned and agreed to meet again in Baltimore.

    At the Baltimore Convention, the radical delegates stayed away met elsewhere in the city. The remaining delegates nominated Douglas. Senator Benjamin Fitzpatrick of Alabama received the vice presidential nomination, but he declined to run with Douglas. The delegates then selected Herschel V. Johnson for the second slot. Douglas finally had the nomination he had wanted since 1852, but with his party divided, his chances of winning were slight.

    DouglasFerroO.JPG DouglasFerroR.JPG

    The Southern Democrats
    The Radical Southern Democrats also met in Baltimore. The nominated John Breckinridge for president and Senator Joseph Lane of Oregon for vice president. Breckinridge was the sitting vice president in the James Buchanan administration. At age 35 in 1856, he was the youngest man ever elected to that office.

    BreckFerroOS.JPG BreckFerroRS.JPG

    The Constitutional Union Party
    The Constitutional Union Party also held its convention in Baltimore. Their membership included old line Whigs who had refused to join the new Republican Party (Lincoln was a former Whig) and ruminants of the American or “Know-Nothing” Party which had opposed immigration in the 1850s.

    They nominated John Bell over Texas Governor Sam Houston. Bell was a former senator, congressman and secretary of war in the Zachary Taylor administration. The second slot went to Edward Everett of Massachusetts. Bell supported slavery, but he did not support its extension into the territories and supported maintaining the Union.

    The Constitutional Unionists were called “the old gentlemen’s party” by their detractors. Their brief party platform stated that the constitution and the laws provided a proper base from which to deal with the problems the nation faced.

    JBELL 1860-22 O.jpg JBELL 1860-22 R.jpg

    The Election Results

    With the Democratic Party divided, Lincoln was the odds-on favorite to win. Lincoln won with 40% of the popular vote and 180 votes in the Electoral College. He did not get a single vote from below the Mason-Dixon Line, but he carried most of the delegate rich states in the North and Midwest.

    Breckenridge finished second in the Electoral College with 72 votes and 18% of the popular vote. All of his votes came from the deep South.

    Bell finished third with 39 Electoral votes and 13% of the popular vote. He won Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

    Douglas finished last with 12 Electoral votes, but he finished second in the popular vote with 29%. Douglas was the only national candidate. At a time when it was considered unseemly for a presidential candidate to ask for votes directly, Douglas went on the stump and even campaigned in the South, taking his life in his hands.

    In my next post I will post pictures of some campaign tokens that presented the major issues for each candidate.
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  2. Mopar Dude

    Mopar Dude Well-Known Member

    I absolutely am crazy about historical things like this. What a superb collection! Can't wait to see more of them.
  3. JohnHamilton

    JohnHamilton Well-Known Member

    Prior to the wide-spread distribution of the celluloid political button in 1896, candidates presented their views on coin-like pieces that are called tokens, medalets or medals depending upon their size. These pieces could present only an image of the candidate, his name and something non-controversial, like his date of birth. The far more interesting pieces presented one or more issues. Here are four pieces that were issued during the 1860 presidential election.

    Abraham Lincoln
    Abraham Lincoln was a brilliant and complex individual despite the fact that he had little formal education and was not raised in a cultured environment. It would take three or four medalets to cover all of the images and issues that his campaign presented. I will cover the big issue here.

    Lincoln did not run as an abolitionist candidate in 1860. Instead he ran on the principle that there would be no new slave states or territories. Slavery could continue to exist where it was practiced, but it could not spread to any new areas.

    Lincoln thought that slavery would die out on its own. As a lawyer he looked for ways to speed the process by compensating slave owners. The idea never took root, but he proposed it. This token uses the phrase, “No more slave territory.”

    AL 1860-38 O.jpg AL 1860-38 R.jpg

    Stephen Douglas
    The Stephen Douglas campaign ran on the principle of Popular Sovereignty. Popular Sovereignty called the people to decide if they wanted slavery to be practiced in their state or territory. Left out, of course, were the rights of African-Americans, whom the Supreme Court had declared as non-citizens in the Dred Scott Decision.

    The idea was not new. A prior Democratic candidate, Lewis Cass, had run on the same idea, except that he labeled it with the less elegant term, “Squatters’ Rights.” Cass was one of the few Democrats to lose a presidential election prior to the Civil War. He lost to Zachary Taylor in 1848.

    Here is a Douglas medalet that declared him to be “The champion of popular sovereignty.”

    SD 1860-9 O.jpg SD 1860-9 R.jpg

    John Breckenridge

    The Breckenridge campaign did not issue very many political items. That was probably because his supporters knew his position, which was support for the Dred Scott Case Decision. That Supreme Court ruling said that African-Americans were not citizens, had no right to file cases in the courts and that slaves could be moved to any place their masters took them, even to states where slavery was forbidden.

    Here is the only piece that expressed his policies in an indirect way. It reads, “Our country and our rights (to own slaves).

    JCB 1860-3 O.JPG JCB 1860-3 R.JPG

    John Bell

    John Bell’s position was that the constitution and laws that were in place were enough to solve the issues of the day. All people needed to do was adhere to them. The message on this, the most common of all the John Bell medalets, is, “The constitution and the Union, now and forever.”

    JB 1860-7 O.jpg JB 1860-7 R.jpg


    Abraham Lincoln was elected to be 16th president of the United States. During his term he restored the Union, ended slavery, got the Homestead Act passed and established the National Bank System which began the reform of our nation’s monetary system. He did with opposition both from the Democrats and within his own party. Most historians rate him as the greatest American president.

    Stephen Douglas gave speeches in support of Lincoln’s efforts to restore the Union. A heavy drinker, Douglas died in June 1861. The immediate cause was typhoid fever, but some believe that he may have died from cirrhosis of the liver. In my opinion he died as a statesman.

    John Breckenridge was elected to the Senate by Kentucky. As a border state, Kentucky waivered between the Union and the Confederacy. Breckenridge supported a re-uniting of the Union “through constitutional means,” but failing that thought that the North should let the southern states leave in peace if that was their desire. He was ultimately declared a traitor in December 1861.

    He fled south and joined the Confederate Government. He was a very competent general in the Confederate Army and served as the secretary of war during the final months of the Confederacy. He fled south after the fall of Richmond.

    Various people, including President Ulysses Grant, asked him to return to public service. He refused noting that he “felt like an extinct volcano” and no longer had the desire to get involved in public service. As a private citizen, he spoke out against the Ku Klux Klan. Breckenridge died in 1875.

    John Bell give a fiery speech in favor of the Confederacy after secession and retired from public life. He died in 1868. His speech earned him this place on a Civil War era patriotic envelope.

    John Bell Traitor Env.jpg

    John Bell’s running mate, Edward Everett, was loyal to the Union. He was one of the most noted orators of his time.

    On November 19, 1863, government officials and private citizens gathered to dedicate a cemetery on the Gettysburg Battlefield. Everett, as the key note speaker, spoke for two hours. Abraham Lincoln, who had been asked to speak a few words, gave the Gettysburg Address which lasted for two minutes.

    The reactions to the speech have been disputed. Some say that there was only scattered applause. Others claim that it was well received. Lincoln was believed to have committed as he sat down after delivering it, “That speech didn’t scour,” a farming term for a bad plow.

    In a note to Lincoln, Everett expressed the opinion of history: "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes." Lincoln’s typically modest response was he was glad it had not been a “total failure.”

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  4. Mopar Dude

    Mopar Dude Well-Known Member

    I do love your collection and your grasp of the history that it portrays. Thank you very much. I thoroughly enjoyed your collection.
    JohnHamilton likes this.

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