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Mr. Lincoln had been elected President in 1860, distinctively as a Republican. In 1864, however, the conditions had changed. The war had been in progress some three years, during which the insurgents had illustrated a measure of courage, endurance, and a command of the engineries of successful warfare that had not been anticipated by the people of the North. It was seen that to insure the success of the Union cause it was imperative that there should be thorough unity and cooperation of the loyal people of all parties--that it was no time for partisan division among those who hoped ever to see a restored Republic--that it was necessary to lay aside, as far as possible, mere partisan issues, and to unite, in the then approaching campaign, upon a non-partisan, distinctively Union ticket and platform.
Mr. Lincoln had given so satisfactory an administration so wisely, efficiently, and patriotically had he conducted his great office, that he was on all sides conceded to be the proper person for nomination and election. The Convention of 1861 was not called as a Republican Convention, but distinctively as a Union Convention.
"The undersigned," so ran the call, "who by original appointment, or subsequent delegation to fill vacancies, constitute the Executive Committee created by the National Convention held at Chicago on the 10th day of May, 1860, do hereby call upon all QUALIFIED VOTERS WHO DESIRE THE UNCONDITIONAL MAINTENANCE OF THE UNION, THE SUPREMACY OF THE CONSTITUTION, AND THE COMPLETE SUPPRESSION OF THE EXISTING REBELLION, WITH THE CAUSE THEREOF, by vigorous war, and all apt and effective means; to send delegates to a convention to assemble at Baltimore, on Tuesday, the 7th day of June, 1864, at 12 o'clock noon, for the purpose of presenting candidates for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States."
The delegates met pursuant to this call. Hon. Edwin D. Morgan, of New York, Chairman of the Union National Committee, called the Convention to order, and Robert J. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, was chosen temporary Chairman. In the course of his introductory address, Mr. Breckinridge said:
Passing over many things which it would be right for me to say, did the time serve, and were this the occasion--let me add,--you are a Union party. Your origin has been referred to as having occurred eight years ago. In one sense it is true. But you are far older than that. I see before me not only primitive Republicans and primitive Abolitionists, but I see also primitive Democrats and primitive Whigs. * * * As a Union party I will follow you to the ends of the earth, and to the gates of death. But as an Abolition party--as a Republican party--as a Whig party--as a Democratic party--as an American party, I will not follow you one foot.
Mr. William Dennison, of Ohio, was chosen President of the Convention. On taking the chair he said:
'In no sense do we meet as members or representatives of either of the old political parties which bound the people, or as the champions of any principle or doctrine peculiar to either. The extraordinary condition of the country since the outbreak of the rebellion has, from necessity, taken from the issues of these parties their practical significance, and compelled the formation of substantially new political organizations; hence the organization of the Union Party--if party it can be called--of which this Convention is for the purpose of its assembling, the accredited representative, and the only test of membership in which is an unreserved, unconditional loyalty to the Government and the Union.'
After perfecting its organization the Convention proceeded to ballot for a nominee for the Presidency, and Mr. Lincoln was unanimously nominated--the Missouri delegation at first casting its 22 votes for Gen. Grant, but afterwards changing them to Mr. Lincoln, giving him the total vote of the Convention--506--on the first and only ballot.
Nominations for the Vice Presidency being next in order, Mr. Lyman Tremaine, of New York, an old time Democrat, nominated Daniel S. Dickinson, another old time Democrat and a very distinguished citizen of that State. In his nominating speech Mr. Tremaine again emphasized that this Convention was a Union, and not a partisan body, in these words:
'It was well said by the temporary and by the permanent Chairman, that we meet not here as Republicans. If we do, I have no place in this Convention; but, like Daniel S. Dickinson, when the first gun was fired on Sumter, I felt that I should prove false to my revolutionary ancestry if I could have hesitated to cast partisan ties to the breeze, and rally around the flag of the Union for the preservation of the Government.'
The Indiana delegation nominated Andrew Johnson, also a Democrat, and the nomination was seconded by Mr. Stone, speaking for the Iowa delegation.
In the earlier proceedings of the Convention there had seemed a disposition to exclude the Tennessee delegation, and Parson Brownlow, an old line Whig, being called on for a speech, evidenced in the course of his remarks the small part which partisan considerations were permitted to play in the purposes and proceedings of the Convention. He said:
'There need be no detaining this Convention for two days in discussions of various kinds, and the idea I suggest to you as an inducement not to exclude our delegation is, that we may take it into our heads, before the thing is over, to present a candidate from that State in rebellion, for the second office in the gift of the people. We have a man down there whom it has been my good luck and bad fortune to fight untiringly and perseveringly for the past twenty-five years--Andrew Johnson. For the first time, in the Providence of God, three years ago we got together on the same platform, and we are fighting the devil, Tom Walker, and Jeff. Davis, side by side.'
Mr. Horace Maynard, a conspicuous Republican of Tennessee, said:
'Mr. President, we but represent the sentiment of those who sent here the delegation from Tennessee, when we announce that if no one else had made the nomination of Andrew Johnson, which is now before the Convention, it would have been our duty to make it by one of our own delegation. That citizen, known, honored, distinguished, has been presented to this Convention for the second place in the gift of the American people. It needs not that I should add words of commendation of him here. From the time he rose in the Senate of the United States, where he then was, on the 17th day of December, 1860, and met the leaders of treason face to face, and denounced them there, and declared that the laws of the country must and should be enforced, for which he was hanged in a effigy in the City of Memphis, in his own State, by the hands of a negro slave, and burned in effigy, I know not in how many places throughout that portion of the country--from that time, on during the residue of that session of the Senate until he returned to Tennessee after the firing upon Fort Sumter, when he was mobbed in the City of Lynchburg, Virginia--on through the memorable canvass that followed in Tennessee, till he passed through Cumberland Gap on his way North to invoke the aid of the Government for his people--his position of determined and undying hostility to this rebellion that now ravages the land, has been so well known that it is a part of the household knowledge of many loyal families in the country. * * * When he sees your resolutions that you have adopted here by acclamation, he will respond to them as his sentiments, and I pledge myself by all that I have to pledge before such an assemblage as this, that whether he be elected to this high place, or whether he retire to private life, he will adhere to those sentiments, and to the doctrine of those resolutions, as long as his reason remains unimpaired, and as long as breath is given him by his God.
Two ballots were taken on the nomination for Vice President. Mr. Johnson, whose nomination was known to be desired by Mr. Lincoln and his friends because of his prominence as a Southern Democrat and an influential supporter of the Union cause in his State, received 200 votes on the first ballot, and 404 on the second--the delegations of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, West Virginia, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, and Nevada, voting solidly for him--Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Minnesota, only, being divided.
Thus a Republican and a Democrat were made the nominees of the Convention, and its non-partisan character found further expression in the first three Resolutions of the Platform adopted, which were as follows:
Resolved, 1st. That it is the highest duty of every American citizen to maintain against all their enemies the integrity of the Union and the paramount authority of the Constitution and laws of the United States; and that laying aside ALL DIFFERENCES OF POLITICAL OPINION, we pledge ourselves as Union men, animated by a common sentiment and aiming at a common object, to do everything in our power to aid the Government in quelling by force of arms the rebellion now raging against its authority, and in bringing to the punishment due to their crimes the rebels and traitors arrayed against it.
2nd. That we approve the determination of the Government of the United States not to compromise with Rebels, or to offer them any terms of peace, except such as may be based upon an unconditional surrender of their hostility and a return to their just allegiance to the Constitution and laws of the United States, and that we call upon the Government to maintain their position, and to prosecute the war with the utmost possible vigor to the complete suppression of the Rebellion, in full reliance upon the self-sacrificing patriotism, the heroic valor and the undying devotion of the American people to their country and its free institutions.
3rd. That as slavery was the cause, and now constitutes the strength, of this Rebellion, and as it must be, always and everywhere, hostile to the principles of Republican Government, justice and the National safety demand its utter and complete extirpation from the soil of the Republic; and that, while we uphold and maintain the acts and proclamation by which the Government in its own defense, has aimed a death blow at this gigantic evil, we are in favor, furthermore, of such an amendment to the Constitution, to be made by the people in conformity with its provisions, as shall terminate and forever prohibit the existence of slavery within the limits or jurisdiction of the United States.
So there seems to be good ground for saying that this was in no sense a partisan Convention, but, on the contrary, that it was a Convention of the loyal people of the Northern and Border States, of all parties, who were ready to lay aside party creeds and partisan considerations, the better to make common cause for the preservation of the Union.
Before the war, Mr. Johnson had been a Democratic Senator from Tennessee, and during the war, a gentleman of great influence in support of the Union cause. So pronounced and effective had been his loyalty that Mr. Lincoln appointed him a Brigadier General and Military Governor of Tennessee, to accept which he resigned his seat in the Senate, and so judicious and successful had been his administration of that office in behalf of the Union cause and of Union men, that Tennessee was the first of the revolted States to be readmitted to representation in Congress after the close of the war.
So it may be said of Mr. Johnson that he was a persistent and consistent Union Democrat of the old school--for war so long as war might be necessary to the preservation of the Union--for peace when the war was ended by the abandonment of the struggle by the insurgents--and for the restoration of the Union on terms consistent with then existing conditions--without slavery, which was dead--and the return of the people of the South to their loyalty to and support of the Government without debasing exactions--after they had laid down their arms. Aggressively radical so long as the people of the South continued in rebellion, he was considerate and merciful so soon as they yielded themselves to the authority of law and of the Union.
Like Mr. Lincoln, he opposed the idea strenuously advanced by Sumner, and Stevens, and that wing of the Republican party which they led, that the States in rebellion had committed suicide and were therefore dead and without rights, or entitled to consideration, even, in any proposition that might be adopted for their rehabilitation.
This record very effectually disposes of the criticisms of Mr. Johnson's course, so common after he came to the Presidency and growing out of his disagreements with the extremists of Congress, that he had deserted and betrayed the Republican party after it had elected him to the Vice Presidency and thus made him Mr. Lincoln's immediate successor--the facts of history showing that neither Mr. Lincoln nor Mr. Johnson were elected by the Republican party as Republicans, nor by the Democratic party as Democrats, but by a union of all parties of the North distinctively as a Union party and on a Union ticket and platform for the preservation of the Union and the destruction of slavery--and when those purposes were accomplished, the war ended and the Union party disbanded and was never heard of again. Mr. Lincoln, had he lived, would doubtless have still been a Republican, as Mr. Johnson was still a Democrat, as before the war--the purpose of that war and of the Convention that nominated him having been accomplished--and under no obligations, especially of a partisan character, to adopt or promote the partisan purposes relative to reconstruction or otherwise, that came to actuate the Republican party.
As stated. Mr. .Johnson had, during the later years of the war, been acting as Military Governor of Tennessee, of which State he had been a citizen nearly all his life. His administration had been so efficient that Tennessee was practically restored to the Union at the close of the War, and so satisfactory to the loyal people of the country, that though an old line Democrat and a Southern man, Mr. Johnson's nomination by the National Convention for Vice President on the ticket with Mr. Lincoln for President, was, as has been shown, logical and consistent. Though a pronounced State Rights Democrat and a citizen of a Southern State in rebellion, he regarded himself as a citizen of the United States, to which he owed his first allegiance. State Rights meant to him, the rights of the States IN the Union, and not OUT of the Union.
In evidence of the confidence and esteem in which Mr. Johnson was generally held by those who knew him and knew of the valuable services he had rendered the cause of the Union, the following letter from Mr. Stanton, then secretary of War under Mr. Lincoln, is here reproduced. It was written to Mr. Johnson on his tender to the War Office of his resignation of the Military Governorship of Tennessee to accept the office of Vice President of the United States:
War Department, Washington, March 3, 1865.
Sir:--This Department has accepted your resignation as Brigadier General and Military Governor of Tennessee. Permit me on this occasion to tender to you the sincere thanks of this Department for your patriotic and able services during the eventful period through which you have exercised the highest trust committed to your charge. In one of the darkest hours of the great struggle for National existence, against rebellious foes, the Government called you from the comparatively safe and easy duties of civil life to place you in front of the enemy and in a position of personal toil and danger, perhaps more hazardous than was encountered by any citizen or military officer of the United States. With patriotic promptness you assumed the post, and maintained it under circumstances of unparalleled trial, until recent events have brought safety and deliverance to your State and to the integrity of the Constitutional Union, for which you so long and so gallantly periled all that is dear to man on earth. That you may be spared to enjoy the new honors and perform the high duties to which you have been called by the people of the United States, is the sincere wish of one who in every official and personal relation has found you worthy of the confidence of the Government and the honor and esteem of your fellow citizens.