A Dejected Republican National Committee Meets in New York City

August 22, 1864

President Lincoln tells the 166th Ohio Regiment on its way home: “I suppose you are going home to see your families and friends. For the service you have done in this great struggle in which we are engaged I present you sincere thanks for myself and the country. I almost always feel inclined, when I happen to say anything to soldiers, to impress upon them in a few brief remarks the importance of success in this contest. It is not merely for to-day, but for all time to come that we should perpetuate for our children’s children this great and free government, which we have enjoyed all our lives. I beg you to remember this, not merely for my sake, but for yours. I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am a living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father’s child has. It is in order that each of you may have through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life, with all its desirable human aspirations. It is for this the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthright–not only for one, but for two or three years. The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.”

President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton meet to discuss release from Fort Lafayette of Joseph Howard, Jr., the mastermind behind the fake presidential proclamation in May. Howard is ordered released the next, apparently under pressure from Brooklyn minister Henry Ward Beecher: “Let Howard, imprisoned in regard to the bogus proclamation, be discharged.”

In a letter from New York, Lincoln political ally summarizes the political problems in a letter to his wife back in Illinois: “The malicious foes of Lincoln are calling or getting up a Buffalo convention to supplant him. They are Sumner, Wade, Henry Winter Davis, Chase, Fremont, Wilson, etc.

The Democrats are conspiring to resist the draft. We seized this morning three thousand pistols going to Indiana for distribution. The war Democrats are trying to make the Chicago nominee a loyal man. The peace Democrats are trying to get control of the Government, and through alliance with Jefferson Davis, to get control of both armies and make universal revolution necessary.

The most fearful things are probable.

I am acting with Thurlow Weed, Raymond, etc., to try to avert. There is not much hope.

Unless material changes can be wrought, Lincoln’s election is beyond any possible hope. It is probably clean gone now.

In New York City, the Republican National Committee meets at the Astor House. Historian Francis Brown writes in Raymond of the Times that Chairman Henry J. “Raymond could report only gloom and despair in every quarter. He canvassed the situation with the other members, then sat down to tell Lincoln that ‘the tide is setting strongly against us. Hon. E. B. Washburne writes that ‘were an election to be held now in Illinois we should be beaten.’ Mr. Cameron writes that Pennsylvania is against us. Gov. Morton writes that nothing but the most strenuous efforts can carry Indian. This State, according to the best information I can get, would go 50,000 against us tomorrow. And so of the rest.”

Raymond writes President Lincoln: “`I feel compelled to drop you a line concerning the political condition of the country as it strikes me. I am in active correspondence with your staunchest friends in every state and from them all I hear but one report. The tide is setting strongly against us. Hon. E. B. Washburne writes that `were an election to be held now in Illinois we should be beaten.’ Mr. Cameron writes that Pennsylvania is against us. Gov. Morton writes that nothing but the most strenuous efforts can carry Indiana. This state, according to the best information I can get, would go 50,000 against us to-morrow. And so of the rest. Nothing but the most resolute and decided action on the part of the government and its friends, can save the country from falling into hostile hands.

Two special causes are assigned to this great reaction in public sentiment,—the want of military successes, and the impression in some minds, the fear and suspicion in others, that we are not to have peace in any event under this administration until Slavery is abandoned. In some way or other the suspicion is widely diffused that we can have peace with Union if we would. It is idle to reason with this belief—still more idle to denounce it. It can only be expelled by some authoritative act, at once bold enough to fix attention and distinct enough to defy incredulity & challenge respect.

Why would it not be wise, under these circumstances, to appoint a Commissioner, in due form, to make distinct proffers of peace to Davis, as the head of the rebel armies, on the sole condition of acknowledging the supremacy of the constitution,—all other questions to be settled in a convention of the people of all the States? The making of such an offer would require no armistice, no suspension of active war, no abandonment of positions, no sacrifice of consistency.

If the proffer were accepted (which I presume it would not be,) the country would never consent to place the practical execution of its details in any but loyal hands, and in those we should be safe.

If it should be rejected, (as it would be,) it would plant seeds of disaffection in the south, dispel all the delusions about peace that prevail in the North, silence the clamors & damaging falsehoods of the opposition, take the wind completely out of the sails of the Chicago craft, reconcile public sentiment to the War, the draft, & the tax as inevitable necessities, and unite the North as nothing since firing on Fort Sumter has hitherto done.

I cannot conceive of any answer which Davis could give to such a proposition which would not strengthen you & the Union cause everywhere. Even your radical friends could not fail to applaud it when they should see the practical strength it would bring to the common cause.

I beg you to excuse the earnestness with which I have pressed this matter upon your attention. It seems to me calculated to do good—& incapable of doing harm. It will turn the tide of public sentiment & avert pending evils of the gravest character. It will rouse & concentrate the loyalty of the country &, unless I am greatly mistaken, give us an early & a fruitful victory.

Permit me to add that if done at all I think this should be done at once,—as your own spontaneous act. In advance of the Chicago Convention it might render the action of that body, of very little consequence.

I have canvassed this subject very fully with Mr. Swett of Illinois who first suggested it to me & who will seek an opportunity to converse with you upon it.

Meanwhile, New York Republican bigwig Thurlow Weed writes Secretary of State William H. Seward: “When, ten or eleven days since, I told Mr Lincoln that his re-election was an impossibility, I also told him that the information would soon come to him through other channels.1 It has doubtless, ere this, reached him. At any rate, nobody here doubts it; nor do I see any body from other States who authorises the slightest hope of success.

Mr Raymond, who has, just left me, says that unless some prompt and bold step be now taken, all is lost.

The People are wild for Peace. They are told that the President will only listen to terms of Peace on condition Slavery be “abandoned.”

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Published in: on August 22, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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