The Democratic convention had met at Charleston, S. C., in the preceding month (23 April 1860) hopelessly divided. Douglas held a decided preponderance over all opponents but not a two-thirds majority as required by the party usage. He had offended the South beyond forgiveness by his course in the debates with Lincoln hardly less than by his contumacy on the Kansas issue. The North refused to yield and the convention split into two angry factions without nomination by either. Eventu ally two Democratic candidates were presented, Douglas being named by the Northern wing and John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky by the Southern minority. A fourth ticket, headed by John Bell of Tennessee, appealed to the neutral element and proved stronger than was expected; it prevailed in three of the slave holding States whose electoral votes aggre gated 39. While division in the dominant party lent encouragement and vigor to the Republican campaign it can hardly be doubted that the pro-slavery element would have failed in any event. Lincoln received 180 electoral votes, all from the North, and Breckenridge 72, all from the South. Douglas carried Missouri only, but through a fusion agreement obtained three elec toral votes from New Jersey, a total of 15. The popular vote, however, varied remark ably, that of Breckenridge being but a trifle more than that accorded to Bell. Douglas out stripped the former by more than half a mil lion and fell behind Lincoln by a slightly lower number. The combined opposition polled nearly a million more votes than were cast for the candidate whose majority in the electoral col lege was 57 over all. Lincoln never forgot that he was a minority President, nor that his nomination had come from a convention was two-thirds for the other fellow' To his analytical mind these circumstances evinced a confused state of public feeling and opinion calling for caution no less than firmness in the exec n of is official t he in erva w t e e ection and inau guration day (4 March 1861) was utilized by the southernmost States in perfecting measures of secession. Though it was well known that the incoming administration intended no inter ference with slavery where it already existed, its protagonists were stung to the quick by the decision of the country to confine the sys tem to a limited area, and that upon tilt avowed ground that it was both politically and morally a wrong. Such a decision they regarded as insulting, but more than that, they perceived that it placed their cherished institution, as Lincoln had phrased it, °in the course of ulti mate extinction.* Their resentment and their fears led to speedy action. Pretexts for dis solving the Union were not wanting; the thought was not new. Buchanan, confused and terrified by the situation, interposed no obstac les.. In his message to the new Congress (3 Dec. 1860) he easily demonstrated the utter illegality of all attempts to secede, but with astonishing want of logic maintained that the Federal government possessed no lawful right to resist secession. In a word, that a nation ordained to be perpetual could not defend its perpetuity without breaking the law of its being. The result was that when the President elect arose to repeat the inaugural oath, with its specific obligations to protect and defend the national Constitution and to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, the forms of secession were already accomplished and a new nation, call slave," was asserting its separate existence.
The inaugural address, as tactfully as the case would admit, but without the slightest hint of uncertainty, declared that in view of the Constitution and the laws the Union was un broken; that all resolves and ordinances of attempted secession were legally void; and that so far as the means were provided the Presi dent would execute the laws in all the States alike. The rest was a calm review of the grounds of dissension and a moving appeal to the minds and hearts of all lovers of the Union for a peaceable settlement and a resumption of healing friendships. The address made no im pression in the South except as its moderation was construed as a sign of weakness. The North indeed failed to grasp its real signifi cance. As a declaration of policy it never stood in need of revision or enlargement. Doc trine, duty, purpose and method are all clearly defined; only the wisdom, perseverance, re sourcefulness and will of the speaker were as yet unknown. With sagacity which seemed to border on rashness he summoned to his Cabinet the four principal leaders who had contested his nomination, Seward, Chase, Bates and. Cameron. At least two of these deemed them selves vastly superior to their chief in all the qualities of statesmanship. Their great abil ities served the country well, but the President's mastery was not long in doubt. Carefully avoiding acts of aggression, and with equal care declining to recognize by word or deed the claims of the so-called Confederate government, he waited for the crystallization of Union senti ment. It came with the assault upon Fort
Sumter and its enforced surrender, 14 April. 1861. The following day he proclaimed a state of insurrection, called forth the militia to the number of 75,000 and summoned Congress to• assemble on the ensuing 4th of July. Four days later a blockade of some of the Southern ports was announced. Other measures of de • fense were taken, including calls for volunteers to re-enforce the regular army and navy, sus- pension of the writ of habeas corpus in dis affected quarters, extension of the blockade, and the like, all in harmony with the declared purpose to protect the Union and execute its laws.
Pending the meeting of Congress loyal sentiment gradually strengthened. In a mes sage of great power the case for the govern ment was explained and enforced. All sug gested legislation was promptly enacted. The South, more firmly united and not less deter mined, plunged into a military struggle and four years of bloody warfare ensued. The story of battles and campaigns must here be omitted; neither can the civil history of that troubled period he narrated except in barest outline. There were many in the loyal whose resentment of Southern domination led them to favor separation as a fortunate rid dance. Others accepted the extreme view of State rights, including the right of secession. Many shrank from civil war and would con sent to disunion rather than fight. The aboli tionists would make the war a means of de stroying slavery forthwith, while the President and a vast majority of his party were com mitted to the doctrine that abolition could not lawfully be enforced. These must unite, if at all, upon the single purpose of saving the Union. The avowal of any other aim within the first year inevitably would have the national cause. Lincoln almost alone per ceived that the one unifying appeal must be, kept in the foreground, and with undying patience, disregarding ridicule, distrust and ob loquy, he restrained rashness, encouraged the timid, reassured the doubtful, persuaded the hostile. At bottom his title to enduring fame. rests upon his unerring comprehension of the great task before him and his matchless in putting into timely and convincing the fundamental truths to which the minds of honest men at last must yield. Slavery which had invoked the sword perished by the sword. Emancipation came (1 Jan. 1863) not of set purpose but as a by-product of national self preservation. Neither side expected it. °Each," as stated in the second inaugural, . . . a result less fundamental and as tounding." But Lincoln's credit for the event is no less because he waited for an occasion to strike lawfully and with assured effect. It must have given him intense satisfaction. °I am naturally anti-slavery," he wrote to A. C. Hodges, 4 April 1864. aIf slavery is not wrong nothing is wrong. I cannot remember I did not so think and feel. Yet I have never understood that the presidency conferred upon: me an right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling." Emancipation; when it came, was purely a military expedient, a blow at the economic resources of • a public enemy. °I felt," he stated in the same letter, *that measures otherwise unconstitutional might become lawful by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the Constitution the preservation of the nation. Right or wrong I assumed that ground and now avow it. I could not feel that, to the best of my ability, I had even tried to preserve the' if, to save slavery or any minor matter, I should: permit the wreck of the government, country and Constitution all together." He had pre-, pared well for the finishing stroke by proposing and urging a settlement on the basis of pensated emancipation. Logically, enemy prop erty, especially that which the owner refused to sell, might be seized for military purposes.. But only such as could be captured fell within that rule, hence a doubt as to the legal effect of a mere announcement of freedom to slaves not within military reach. This doubt was practically solved by the President's emphatic: declaration that he would never retract or modify the edict of emancipation nor return to slavery any person freed by its terms. This was repeated in his last annual message (6 Dec. 1864), this final assurance being added: °If the people should, by whatever mode or means, make it an executive duty to re-enslave such persons another and not I must be their instrument to perform it." Negro regiments helped to extend the military lines which ulti mately carried the reality no less than the promise of freedom to every slave. The 13th amendment to the Constitution was but the mal recognition of a fact already accomplished.