Military and Political News Shifts the Presidential Landscape

September 2, 1864

Historian Robert S. Harper wrote in Lincoln and the Press that New York Tribune Editor Horace “Greeley still was unconvinced and continued to press the movement for a substitute Republican candidate for President. He headed a committee of three that wrote letters to the ‘loyal governors’ to learn whether they believed Lincoln could be reelected. These letters were dated September 2, 1864, and were marked ‘private and confidential.’” In addition to Greeley, the letters were signed by Theodore Tilton, editor of the New York Independent, and Parke Godwin, editor of the New York Evening Post.:

California journalist Noah Brooks sends a report on the Democratic National Convention to John G. Nicolay: “While I am spending a few days of rest in my old Illinois home I cannot do better, perhaps, than write up a brief account of what I heard and saw at the Chicago Convention after my last letter, written at Chicago, though the accounts in the newspapers have given you all of the main facts of the concluding days of the convention.

The nomination of McClellan was a foregone conclusion, the only possible obstacle thereto being the deep determination of the ultra “peace” men to carry all the points which they could. And, failing in defeating his nomination, they secured all possible concessions in the platform, which was the work of Vallandigham4 and Weller5 of California. There was a prolonged and bitter struggle, however, over the platform while it was in the hands of the committee and the subcommittee, but the “peace” men finally triumphed, yielding their adhesion to McClellan for availability’s sake. Though, as you are aware, a few malcontents, like Long6 and Harris,7 refused to the last to vote for the nomination. Maryland, Kentucky and a great part of Ohio and Indiana refused to support McClellan in convention in any way, and they kept their promise, not voting for him, and yet not voting at all when his nomination was made unanimous, as the phrase goes, for it is only a phrase so far as that goes. I enclose, as a curiosity, the tally-list which I kept during the role-call for nomination for President, by which you will see in the first three columns on the left the exact vote for each state as first given, and the subsequent changes to McClellan are noted in the next column, the order of their change being placed in small fig figures in ink. This is more correct than any of the reports which were printed in the newspapers here. You will see that Kentucky did not change to McClellan until nearly next to Ohio, who was the last, and that Ohio still, even then, refused all her vote, throwing six for Seymour; also that Missouri, who changed first, still held back four votes for Seymour; Kansas went for McClellan unwillingly, and so did Iowa, Maryland, Delaware and three and-a-half votes of Indiana would not, and did not go for McClellan at all. But Kentucky and Indiana are most dissatisfied with the nomination, the former especially considering that it has been sorely abused. It had been early conceded that a border state would have the vice presidency certainly, in the event of McClellan’s nomination, but, to secure the “peace” men, it was necessary to give it to Pendleton, who traded for it by bringing over his forces for McClellan. New York City made the trade throughout and [August] Belmont and Dean Richmond,11 who managed for McC–, gave the vote of their State to Pendleton on condition that he brought his strength over to McClellan. They had previously promised the same to Guthrie, and gave him the vote on the first ballot, as you will see by the enclosed, but when the second ballot was had they waited until Kentucky voted five and a half for Powell and the same for Guthrie, then threw in their whole vote for Pendleton, with the explanation that having voted for Guthrie on the first ballot, as promised, &c &c. This turned the scale and Pendleton was at once nominated. Kentucky complains of bad faith on the part of New York, who retorts that the irrepressible conflict in her own delegation was the occasion of her own non-success. You know there were two delegations in the convention from Kentucky, both voting, but one-half vote being allowed to each.

Gov [Horatio] Seymour refused to have the seven votes cast for him be announced as his, and they were read by the secretary as having been given to T. R. Seymour, much to the disgust of those who threw them. He was chagrined and disappointed at not being at least a prominent candidate, but his prospects were very good on the night of the second day, when Long and Harris made their attacks on McClellan; he artfully allowed them all possible advantage, and by permitting them to speak, though not in order, succeeded in staving off the nomination for that night at least, and the Seymour men were in excellent spirits when the convention adjourned for that day, without making any nomination. During that night the McClellan men, alarmed, made several trades one of which was the vote of New York for Pendleton. It is also said that a written agreement was given to Seymour (by whom signed I know not) covenanting that he would have the portfolio of Secretary of State, in the event of McC–s election. Several other promises were made in that direction, I believe, only one being for the West and that was the Chief Justice-ship for Judge Caton of Illinois, in case Justice Taney should not die or resign by before March 1864! This, it is said, secured the whole vote of Illinois on the first ballot; some such valuable consideration did, for the vote was reluctantly give, and Hickok,16 the chairman of the delegation did not hesitate to say that the nominee was the weakest man, for a Democrat, that God ever made. He and others like him admit that McClellan’s nomination was made for the soldiers’ vote, which, they think, will be the bl decisive power in the next election. This was all that enabled Vallandigham to swallow the bitter pill, which he did with a very ill grace. Our people hereabouts are confident and hopeful. The nomination has already served to unite them, and I feel more encouraged than when I left Washington. Shall remain here for a few weeks and shall be glad to hear from you.

From Ohio, former Governor William Dennison writes a more optimistic report: “I write merely to say, that our opening meeting of the Campaign here last night was a magnificent success. Its effect throughout the State cannot but be good. Our friends this morning are in the very best of spirits. Encouraging reports of various meetings in different parts of the State during the past few days have reached us. No uneasiness need be felt for Ohio. The Chicago nominations1 are welcomed with no enthusiasm here, nor, so far as I learn, any where in the State. True, the Ohio delegates have not yet returned, and demonstrations may be waiting their presence. Still we know McClellan had little strength in Ohio. The peace element is the prevailing one in our democracy.

You have been advised of the movement to hold a Convention in Cincinnati on the 28′ to give the Union party another Candidate for the presidency. I have but little information in regard to it– The prominent men connected with it in Cini so far as I have heard, are chiefly friends of Gov Chase– Sen Campbell of Butler County, who seems the most active in this movement, never was understood to be particularly friendly to the Gov. Rumor points to Butler as the nominee– It also says, one of his staff has been in Cinc trying to manipulate the Gazette & Commercial– The movement is supposed to be a part of one in the east under the direction of David Dudley Field, Jno A Stevens & others, having the sympathy of Gov Andrew,4 & other official gentlemen– I give all this as rumor, & refer to it chiefly to add, that it will only damage its authors. Long before the 28′ the Country will be aroused from whatever lethargy or despondency may have fallen upon it, and the test of loyalty will be the support of yourself & Johnson–

Indiana minister James Mitchell urges changes in the Lincoln cabinet: “Having returned from The West after a visit of two months spent mostly in the states of Illinois, Indiana Kentucky and Missouri, I trust I will be permitted to say a word in regard to public interests in that section.

As the decisive political struggle must take place in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana; in my opinion it becomes necessary that one of the most influential men in those states be tendered a place in your Cabinet. In these four important states together with Kentucky and Western Virginia; by which they are bounded on the south and to which they are more or less attached by family connection and sympathy there is no Cabinet minister of sufficient influence to act as a breakwater against the strong tide of revolution that has set in– Mr Stanton being credited by most men to this section of the Country making “the outs” in the great valley largely overbalance “the ins” which in it self is a point of much danger.

Again it is not safe to ignore the fact that in a republic representative men always lead the masses, men who have power to give opinion and direction to them, indeed representative men are essential to their proper control at those times when passion endangers the slender bonds of Constitutional government.

As the gentlemen who occupy the Interior are the men who represent the section named — duty to you, to my own personal and political friends and the public interest require me to say that they have no power with the masses of that section, and you stand unaided and alone the representative man of that wide and now much endangered section. I mean so far as the Administration in this city is concerned.

I presume no one will claim that Mr Usher is a representative man of that section — he is not, never has been such in his own state — doubtful whether he could carry his own Congressional district as he has not heretofore — his opinions have had no weight or place in the structure of the past history of Indiana His foolish war on me commenced at the instigation of the Arch-traytor Elwood Fiske years ago, and continued by the direction of an equally pure cliant A W Thompson — disregarding obligation show him destitute of that magnanimity, and breadth of view essential to the statesman. I would not trouble you with these remarks about him I would endure my own injuries in silence but it is expected of me by numerous influential friends that I lodge this objection to his present position. I can make objections of more weight but I trust the political necessities of the situation will save me that painful duty.

I respectfully and earnestly urge a change in the Department of the Interior, and that the choice falls if possible within the States named and on one of the writers friends

I make this request with profound respect for your own judgement and choice in the case and a resolve to abide its conclusions; but whilst doing so I must be permitted to refer to the equities of the case and to ask whether the writer and his friends have not rights unrecognized; we are honestly pledged to your support but we have found it hard “to make brick without straw” yet as the people of Israel did render “the tale of the bricks” I trust we will be able to do so to the end.

I would further suggest that if possible the friends of Mr Chase should be conciliated, not by crushing me as seems to have been the policy but by tendering Senator Sherman a place in the Cabinet, provided a representative man can not be found such as I have indicated above. I regretted the necessity that obliged me to take ground against Mr Chase, he had been the most considerate of all the Secretaries when the claims of our people were presented and the sympathy of thousands of them go with him.

From Illinois, Governor Richard Yates writes President Lincoln: “I understand that Hon Wm Kellogg of this State, who I believe has been appointed by you Minister to Gaut Central America, has written to the Dept of State, that he desires to remain in this State until after the election in order to Canvass the State in support of our Ticket We need all the aid we can get and if it can be done I trust he will be permitted to remain here until after November. The Democracy are rampant but we are going to work with a will and believe we can carry the State &c1

From New York, Henry Bowen writes President Lincoln: “I am perfectly satisfied after a full conference with mutual friends since I saw Mr Nicolay last evening that Mr Simon Draper should have the appointment of collector of New York the other parties named to me I am sure would not give satisfaction either politically or to the merchants of New York”  Lincoln had embarked on phase two of his political pacification program in New York when he arranged the dismissal of the radical Collector of the Port of New York, Hiram Birney, and his replacement with the more moderate Simeon Draper, an ally of Thurlow Weed and his political friends.

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