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1860 Democratic National Convention
1860 Presidential Election
Conventions
Date(s) April 23-May 3, 1860
City Charleston, South Carolina
Venue South Carolina Institute Hall
Candidates
Presidential Nominee Stephen A. Douglas of
Illinois (Official)
John C. Breckinridge of
Kentucky (Southern)
Vice Presidential Nominee Herschel V. Johnson of
New York (Official)
Daniel S. Dickinson of
New York (Southern)
1856  ·  1864

The 1860 Democratic National Convention was one of the crucial events in the lead-up to the American Civil War. Following a fragmented official Democratic National Convention that was adjourned in deadlock, two more presidential nominating conventions took place: a resumed official convention, which nominated Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, and a "rump" convention of disgruntled Democrats, primarily Southerners, which nominated Vice President John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky.

Contents

Charleston convention

The 1860 Democratic National Convention convened at South Carolina Institute Hall in Charleston, South Carolina on April 23, 1860.

The front-runner for the nomination was Douglas. Douglas was opposed by militant Southern "Fire-eaters", such as William Yancey of Alabama, because he was considered a moderate on the slavery issue. He supported the doctrine of popular sovereignty: allowing settlers in each territory to decide for themselves whether slavery would be allowed. But the Supreme Court's 1857 Dred Scott decision 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. 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 for his Senate seat (then an unknown named Abraham Lincoln) 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 Charleston's Military Hall, 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.[1]

Six major candidates were nominated at the convention: Douglas, former Treasury Secretary James Guthrie of Kentucky, Senator Robert M. T. Hunter of Virginia, Senator Joseph Lane of Oregon, former Senator Daniel S. Dickinson of New York, and Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee.

Douglas led on the first ballot, with 145 1/2 of 253 votes cast. However, the Democratic convention had a rule that a nomination required a two-thirds majority. Furthermore, convention president Caleb Cushing 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 56 1/2 more votes. 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 151 1/2 votes, still 50 1/2 votes short of the nomination, though far ahead of Guthrie, who was second with 65 1/2. 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 of Connecticut, Senator James Pearce of Maryland, and Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi (the future Confederate President), who received one vote on over 50 ballots from Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts. 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, Maryland 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 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 150-100 1/2, 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.[2]

The convention resumed voting on a nominee. On the first ballot, Douglas received 173 1/2 of 190 1/2 votes cast. On the second ballot he received 190 1/2 votes of 203 1/2 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 of Alabama was nominated for Vice President, receiving 198 1/2 votes. However, Fitzpatrick later refused the nomination. He was replaced by former Senator Herschel V. Johnson of Georgia.[2]

Baltimore Presidential Ballot
Ballot 1st 2nd
Douglas 173.5 181.5
Guthrie 9 5.5
Breckinridge 5 7.5
Horatio Seymour 1 0
Thomas S. Bocock 1 0
Dickinson 0.5 0
Henry A. Wise 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.[1] The actual division in Democrat votes did not affect any state outcomes except California, Oregon, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, and even if those states had been carried by the Democrat nominee, the Republican nominee would still have had a majority of electoral votes.[2] However, the split in the Democratic Party organization was a serious handicap in many states, especially Pennsylvania, and almost certainly reduced the Democrat 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. 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 Breckenridge. If so, then it is difficult to find any motive for their program other than provoking secession.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Catton, Bruce (1961). The Coming Fury. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc.. pp. 37–40.  
  2. ^ a b c Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc.. 1985. pp. 45–46, 169. ISBN 0-87187-339-7.  

External links

Preceded by
1856
Democratic National Conventions Succeeded by
1864
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