LINCOLN, Abraham (1809-1865). Autograph manuscript of his 1864 ELECTION VICTORY SPEECH as President, delivered in Washington D.C. from the window of the White House on the evening of 10 November 1864.
4 pages, large folio (13¾ x 8¼in.), boldly penned in dark ink on the rectos only of 4 sheets of fine-quality blue-lined paper, 22 lines to the page (THE SAME PAPER USED FOR THE FIRST AND SECOND DRAFTS OF THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS AND THE LAST ADDRESS). Paginated by Lincoln "1,2,3,4" in upper margins. Revisions: a final draft, but in six places Lincoln has emended his text. On page 2, line 1 "practically" is lined out, then restored; in line 11 "not" is lined out and "none of them" substituted; in line 15 he has inserted the word "too"; in line 20 he inserted "to the world" and in line 21 he deletes "possible" and substitutes "possibly." On page 3, line 9, he deletes the word "Now" and adds "But the rebellion continues; and now...." Condition: a few light fingerprints to margins of page 1, one pale fingerprint at top left-hand corner of page 2, otherwise IN SUPERB, FRESH CONDITION
[With:] LINCOLN, Robert Todd. Typed letter signed to Rep. John Dwight, 18 April 1916. 2pp., 4to.
PRESIDENT LINCOLN'S 1864 VICTORY ADDRESS, DELIVERED AT THE WHITE HOUSE TWO DAYS AFTER HE IS ELECTED TO A SECOND TERM
"NOW THAT THE ELECTION IS OVER, MAY NOT ALL...REUNITE IN A COMMON EFFORT, TO SAVE OUR COMMON COUNTRY?"
The 1864 Victory Speech constitutes one of Abraham Lincoln's most important presidential addresses. John Hay, Lincoln's secretary and biographer, characterized it as "one of the weightiest and wisest of all his discourses." Delivered to a festive crowd on the White House lawn, just two days after his unexpected reelection to a second term, it is linked in interesting ways to Lincoln's best-known speech, the Gettysburg Address, arguably the high-point of his first term. In addition, the gently persuasive appeal for national reconciliation in the Victory Speech prefigures in tone the eloquent last passages of the Second Inaugural ("With malice towards none.") Like other public addresses from Lincoln's pen, the Victory Speech is "timely, consistently lucid, compelling in argument and...invested with memorable and even inspiring language" (Wilson, 3). Lincoln's contemporary Charles Eliot Norton, the influential critic, aptly characterizes Lincoln's speeches and public letters of presidential date as "the rarest class of political documents, arguments seriously addressed by one in power to the conscience and reason of the citizens...."
A Unique Election Victory Address
With Lincoln's election victory a certainty, on the night of 10 November a crowd of some 1,500 elated serenaders, organized by the local Lincoln and Johnson Clubs, marched en masse to the White House lawn. Lincoln decided that his re-election warranted a significant speech, not just the usual brief thanks and congratulatory remarks. Here was a chance to shine a light for the country to see the path to the end of the war and the beginning of national reconciliation and racial justice.
The setting was appropriately dramatic, as described by an eyewitness, journalist Noah Brooks. The festive crowd carried torches, lanterns and banners, with a musical band in tow pounding out a martial beat. A celebratory cannonade echoed from nearby batteries. Swept up in the moment, Lincoln's young son Tad "was flying around from window to window arranging a small illumination on his own private account...delighted and excited by the occasional shivering of the large panes of glass by the concussion of the air produced when the cannon in the driveway went off with a tremendous noise."
When Lincoln appeared in the window over the north portico "the maddest cheers" erupted from the crowd. He began reading the speech, a secretary standing behind him holding a candle aloft to illuminate the pages. "Not very graceful," Lincoln joked about the circumstances of this address, "but I am growing old enough not to care much for the manner of doing things."
Lincoln here restates--in strikingly similar formulation--the challenge first posed at Gettysburg: "It has long been a grave question whether any government not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its own existence in great emergencies." (At Gettysburg, a year earlier, he said "Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.") The terrible pressures of the war posed an inherent threat to government "of the people, by the people and for the people." The government might fail completely: strained and distorted by the exigencies of wartime, it might overpower "the liberties of its people," and be perverted into a dictatorship.
Lincoln gives an emphatic, ringing response to the great question of Gettysburg, affirming that: "a people's government can sustain a national election, in the midst of a great civil war...The election," he adds, "was a necessity," for "we cannot have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us." Even in the Spring of 1864, when his election defeat seemed certain, there is no evidence that Lincoln contemplated postponing or canceling the 1864 election, whatever its likely outcome. The Civil War, he continues, has "brought our republic to a severe test," and the presidential election has greatly heightened those risks. "If the people, united, were put to the utmost of their strength by the rebellion," Lincoln asks, "must they not fail when divided, and partially paralyzed, by a political war among themselves?" (This, of course, harks back to Lincoln's famous scriptural formulation--"a house divided against itself cannot stand"--the central metaphor of his "House Divided" Address of 16 June 1858, the climax of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.) But the hard-fought 1864 election campaign, in spite of its "incidental and undesirable strife," has "done good," Lincoln maintains, by sustaining a free election, even though "until now it has not been known to the world that this was a possibility."
Free elections, he adds, also demonstrate "how sound, and how strong we are," even after three years of bloody conflict. They also prove that even with a divided party, as was Lincoln's, "he who is most devoted to the Union, and most opposed to treason," can win "most of the people's votes." The political strife engendered by elections is, after all, merely an expression of human nature. In a prophetic vein, Lincoln observes that "in any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak; and as strong, as silly and as wise; as bad as good." In light of that, he urges, let us set aside our differences and look back upon the campaign "as philosophy to learn wisdom from," rather than nursing resentment and seeking vengeance upon those who have been our adversaries.
And let us not forget, he reminds the serenaders, that "the rebellion continues." In light of that ongoing struggle, now that the election is over, he makes a powerful appeal for reconciliation: "may not all, having a common interest, re-unite in a common effort, to save our common country?" He in turn pledges not to place obstacles in the way of that reconciliation, and vows that "So long as I have been here I have not willingly planted a thorn in any man's bosom." While he is "deeply sensible to the high compliment of a re-election," and "duly grateful...to Almighty God" for that success, he feels no sense of satisfaction to think that "any other man may be disappointed or pained by the result." At the end, striking a celebratory tone, Lincoln calls for "three hearty cheers for our brave soldiers and seamen and their gallant and skilful commanders."
"The Second Birth of Our Nation": The Election of 1864
The road to that celebratory night in November 1864 had been long and difficult. By the winter of 1863 the general population of the Union states was suffused in pessimism, frustration and a profound war-weariness. The glories of war--fancy Zoave uniforms, martial music, impressive cavalry reviews, enthusiastic parades--had been replaced by a grim awareness of the terrific human cost of the Civil War: hundreds of thousands of young men dead or wounded in battle, tens of thousands more felled by disease. The drain on the nation's treasury had grown prodigiously, requiring Congress to enact a series of unprecedented internal revenue bills, introducing the first progressive national income tax and the first inheritance tax, to fund the staggering cost of the war.
The victories at Forts Henry and Donelson, Vicksburg and Gettysburg had momentarily buoyed Union morale, but since then, battlefield successes had been scarce and often inconclusive. In the Battle of Chickamauga, fought in September 1863, the Union Army suffered almost 20 casualties, while losses on both sides approached 35,000 killed, wounded or missing. Two months later, Grant took command and pushed the rebel armies out of Chattanooga, setting the stage for Sherman's planned move to split the Confederacy and fight his way to Atlanta, the heart of the Confederacy.
The nation's mounting difficulties encouraged many Democrats to agitate for a cease-fire and a negotiated peace that would acknowledge the independence of the seceded states and leave slavery intact, basically conceding victory to the Confederates. Greeley's New York Tribune, in the summer of 1863, had used the derisive epithet "Copperheads" for these "Peace Democrats." One contemporary observer, in The New York Times, opined that "a copperhead is one who has all the instincts of a traitor without the pluck of a rebel" (quoted by Waugh, Reelecting Lincoln, 89). The label stuck, and the Copperheads had become a powerful minority in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Throughout the 1864 campaign, Copperhead newspapers loudly trumpeted Lincoln's deficiencies, endorsed falsehoods and generally slung mud at the President.
Anti-war sentiment spiked every time the government issued draft calls to replace the tens of thousands killed or maimed in the fighting. Enlistments were simply not keeping pace with attrition. The first draft calls in the summer of 1863 provoked riots and resistance in a number of Northern cities. Many objected to the act's provision for money payments in lieu of service, which they characterized as "rich man's money, poor man's blood." The most violent convulsions took place in New York City, where from July 13 to 16, 1863, mobs of mostly foreign-born workmen burned conscription offices, assaulted police, looted stores, and lynched or beat many innocent black citizens.
In May 1864, Grant, who had taken command of the Army of the Potomac, launched a massive spring campaign, deploying over 100,000 Union troops into Virginia's Wilderness to confront Lee's depleted Army of Northern Virginia. Confederate resistance was fierce. Lee adroitly parried the Union thrust with a series of well-timed withdrawals, inflicting severe casualties on Grant's men in battles at Spotsylvania, the North Anna River and Cold Harbor, obscure locales whose names were soon on the lips of all northern civilians. Losses mounted ominously. By midsummer, Union casualties of up to 2,000 men a day had dramatically eroded public support for Lincoln's administration. Grant, unable to seize Richmond as hoped, had by June lost some 60,000 men and the exhausted armies settled into heavily fortified siege lines outside Richmond, entrenched and stalemated.
That same Spring, to the West, General William Tecumseh Sherman led his seasoned troops deep into Georgia, pushing back rebel defenders at Resaca, the Chattahoochee River and Kenesaw Mountain before laying siege to Atlanta, defended by miles of trenches, and artillery emplacements. By July, that front too, appeared locked in stalemate. To make matters worse, on 18 July, with the looming prospect of three-year enlistments expiring for some 300,000 men, Lincoln issued yet another draft call, this time for 500,000 men. Grant and other officers were alarmed at a marked decline in battle effectiveness as many "short-timers" were reluctant to risk life and limb so close to their release date.
The Troubles Over Reconstruction
The deadlock on the far-flung battlefronts contrasted with the intensifying political conflict in Washington. Lincoln's 8 December 1863 Message to Congress on reconstruction policy was the Fort Sumter of the 1864 election campaign. That Message's call for a constitutional amendment forever banning slavery, while simultaneously offering lenient terms for the readmission of the former Confederate states, was the opening blast that hurried friend and foe to battle positions. Lincoln found himself facing more enemies than allies. The Democrats objected to his affirmation of emancipation and its elevation to a central war aim. To them, Lincoln's moderate position of 1860--saving the Union and leaving slavery alone--had been effectively hijacked by the radical abolitionists, turning the war into a revolution--a crusade--for black equality. Yet, ironically, most of the radical Republicans considered the Message too lenient. Lincoln, in their eyes, was too slow, too cautious, too much the politician, incapable of grasping the momentous changes being wrought by the war.
The Republican House Divided: Challenges from Chase, Frémont and Greeley
Before Lincoln squared off with McClellan he had to put down challenges from ambitious fellow Republicans like Salmon P. Chase and John C. Frémont, as well as biting newspaper attacks from "friends" such as Horace Greeley. The day after the reconstruction Message, Lincoln's chief Cabinet rival, Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, met with his political advisors and decided to put his long-simmering plans for winning the presidency into motion. Chase had been angling to replace Lincoln ever since he joined the Cabinet, and he had packed regional Treasury posts with political allies, building an impressive machine that he hoped would ensure his nomination in 1864. As always, however, Chase overplayed his hand. A manifesto urging his candidacy--written by his campaign manager Senator S. C. Pomeroy--leaked to the press. It completely backfired. Rather than making a compelling case for his man, the Pomeroy Circular only revealed Chase's naked and presumptuous ambition. The furor forced Chase on 5 March to renounce any presidential ambition--at least for now. He secretly hoped that further twists and turns in the war might revive his candidacy.
Even with Chase neutralized there was no shortage of potential candidates who doubted whether Lincoln could be re-elected and sought to prevent his re-nomination. Horace Greeley, editor of the influential New York Tribune and a life-long abolitionist, sparred publicly with Lincoln, as he had since the beginning of his presidency, attacking Lincoln for not moving quicker to abolish slavery. Having convinced himself that Lincoln could be forced from the Republican ticket, Greeley worked behind the scenes to derail the president's re-nomination. He and his disgruntled Republican cronies tried to arrange for Congress to force a postponement of the nominating convention, already scheduled for June, to give them more time to organize Lincoln's opponents on the Convention floor. In a letter to California Senator John Conness, a Republican, Greeley vowed that "I am ready to do my part," and urged Conness that "if our friends in Congress...want to have another President for the next term, they must act, and act boldly...(Greeley to Conness, 4 April 1864, Forbes Collection).
Another dangerous challenge came from the divided ranks of the leading abolitionists. Wendell Phillips urged the candidacy of John C. Frémont, "the Pathfinder," while (somewhat surprisingly) William Lloyd Garrison, a former harsh critic of the administration, now warmly endorsed Lincoln's re-election. At abolitionist association meetings, the Phillips and Garrison factions did battle. Even at the convention of the American Anti-Slavery Society, held in May 1864 at New York's Cooper Union--the place where Lincoln launched his presidential campaign in 1860--the Republican house remained very much divided. A majority of the members wanted to go well beyond Lincoln's pledge for an amendment barring slavery. They insisted on guarantees of full black equality in voting and civil rights; the redistribution of Southern plantations and the treatment of Southern states as conquered territories.
Frémont appealed not just to the abolitionist wing, but to German immigrants (a demographic Lincoln had once controlled) and frustrated War Democrats. This coalition represented a potent challenge to the president. They met in convention on 31 May 1864 in Cleveland and nominated Frémont on a "Radical Democratic party" ticket, with John Cochrane--a states' rights Democrat from New York--as his running mate. Frémont's backers hoped Cochrane would help forge a coalition of disaffected Republicans and Democrats. But to many Republicans it symbolized outright capitulation to the Copperheads. By pandering so much to the antiwar interests, the Radical Democrats represented the worst of all possible fusion tickets--just moderate enough to drain votes away from Lincoln and just abolitionist enough to alienate War Democrats. Skeptics doubted the ticket could succeed.
By mid-1864 the uneasy alliances that had brought Lincoln to the White House were seriously frayed. In an attempt to knit together its many factions, the Republican party re-christened itself the National Union Party, as a gesture to appeal to War Democrats. The President even added a prominent War Democrat to his ticket, as Tennessee Democrat Andrew Johnson replaced Hannibal Hamlin as his vice-presidential choice. Elected to the Senate in 1856, Johnson, a former tailor, had been the only Southern Senator to oppose secession and retain his seat. No friend of abolition, he had supported the fugitive slave law and backed John C. Breckenridge in the 1860 campaign. "Though I fought against Lincoln," he said in December 1860, "I love my country. I love the Constitution and swear that it and the Union shall be saved"
Back-channel diplomacy and Lincoln's "poison pill"
Horace Greeley provided another source of trouble in July when he let himself become the dupe of Confederate agents. In July, Greeley was informed that three southerners, then in Canada, claimed to represent the Confederate government, and were seeking permits to travel to Washington on a secret mission, ostensibly to negotiate peace. Greeley naively pounced on the bait. He wrote to Lincoln, galvanized at the prospect of a treaty (and gratified to think of his own role in it), urging Lincoln to make a "frank offer" of peace terms. The American public, he earnestly reminded the President, "intently...desire any peace consistent with the national integrity and honor."
Lincoln shrewdly perceived that this back-channel diplomatic contact might be an effort by the Confederate government to exploit Union divisions to secure peace, or else to skew the Federal election in favor of the Democrats. He deputized Greeley to go to Niagara Falls with his trusted Presidential Secretary, John Hay, to ascertain whether the "diplomats" were genuine; if so, Lincoln promised safe passage. But, aware that the situation might be made public, he penned for the "diplomats" a careful memorandum addressed "to whom it may concern," firmly defining his position: "Any proposition," he wrote, "which embraces the restoration of peace, the integrity of the whole Union, and the abandonment of slavery...will be received and considered by the executive government...and will be met with liberal terms..." (CW, 7:451). This "immensely important document," writes McPherson, "framed all discussions of peace for the rest of the war" (James M. McPherson, This Mighty Scourge, 173).
The Confederate government could never accept these pre-conditions, so these three flimsily credentialed rebel agents in Canada issued a manifesto claiming that Lincoln, by insisting on emancipation, had rebuffed a genuine offer of a peace settlement. In this they were not wholly wrong: Lincoln's insistence on emancipation did go much farther than the Emancipation Proclamation had gone, and an attempt to pass the 13th Amendment had recently failed in Congress. Very cleverly, Lincoln had added the stipulation of emancipation as a "poison pill," to ensure no expedient, hastily concocted armistice would be possible.
But when his "to whom it may concern" letter was published--just prior to the Democratic Convention--Lincoln still paid a stiff price. Democrats condemned him again for exceeding his Constitutional authority. More surprising was the resentment the incident engendered among members of Lincoln's own party. Radical Republicans, who "should have been pleased by the President's firm insistence on abolition," instead "felt they had Lincoln on the run, and they began to express all their pent-up grievances and frustrations at the President's slowness, his timidity, his indecisiveness, his fence-straddling, his incompetence, his leniency towards the rebels" (Donald, 523).
Still more trouble emerged in the form of Copperhead Congressman Clement Vallandigham, who returned from his Canadian exile to stir up trouble among Ohio Democratic groups. His intemperate speeches against the war in 1863 provoked Ohio's military governor, General Ambrose Burnside, to arrest him. A military tribunal convicted him of sedition and sentenced him to imprisonment for the duration of the war. Lincoln commuted his sentence to banishment to the Confederacy, where Vallandigham gladly went before taking up exile in Canada, scheming with the shadowy rebel ex-pats and Confederate spies who skulked there. Now he was back and looking for trouble. Vallandigham hoped to be re-arrested, making himself once again a martyr to the "tyrant" Lincoln. But the president studiously--and wisely--ignored him. Still, the Ohio Copperhead would play a key role in the Democrats' Chicago convention and its platform.
The Democrats Choose a Candidate
Meanwhile the Democratic convention opened on 29 August. In spite of public discontent over the war and Lincoln's declining popularity, their task was not easy. How to exploit war-weariness without seeming to undermine the troops in the field, or without abandoning the Union? Many Democrats were still unwilling to go that far to unseat Lincoln. The candidate they picked would have to be enough of a Union man to hold together the Northern base, while conciliating the South enough to be a plausible antiwar challenger. The party chiefs initially vetted New York's outspoken governor, Horatio Seymour, but he turned them down. General George Brinton McClellan seemed the best alternative, given his military fame and public squabbles with Lincoln over military strategy and administration policy.
McClellan and Lincoln, of course, had a long, tortured relationship that dated back to the first year of the war. Hailed as the "Young Napoleon," he was tapped by Lincoln after the first battle of Bull Run as commander-in-chief of Union armies. McClellan did a highly effective job training and disciplining the Army of the Potomac, but he showed a fatal reluctance to commit his forces to battle. He suffered from a delusion that Lee's inferior force outnumbered him by as much as a 2 to 1. An increasingly impatient Lincoln tried to get him moving during the Peninsular campaign. McClellan had "the slows," Lincoln grumbled, and he replaced him with John Pope in the summer of 1862, only to put him back in command after Pope's disastrous performance at Second Bull Run. But when McClellan again failed to pursue Lee after Antietam, Lincoln gave up on him completely. Ever since he'd been pushed aside in favor of Meade and Grant, McClellan nursed his grudge against the President, and in early 1864 his friends let the Democratic Party chiefs know that "the General is for peace, not war.... If he is nominated, he would prefer to restore the Union by peaceful means, rather than by war" (McPherson, Battle Cry, 771). McClellan himself leaked a statement to a St. Louis businessman, promising that if elected he would recommend an immediate armistice and convene a convention to resolve the war.
The South was elated by McClellan's nomination, and even more so by the selection of George Pendleton, a close friend of Vallandigham, for Vice-president. The Democratic platform was unequivocal; it promised to preserve "the rights of States unimpaired": a clear euphemism for the continuation of slavery. It also declared (in a plank penned by Vallandigham himself), that "after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which...the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part; and public liberty and private right alike trodden down,...the public welfare demands that immediate efforts be made for the cessation of hostilities...[so that] at the earliest practicable moment peace may be restored on the basis of Federal Union of the States." Clearly McClellan would be no champion for abolitionism. The convention's talk of unionism and an armistice was the flimsiest cloak for a policy of utter capitulation. Lincoln certainly knew it, even if Democrats and some Republicans were prepared to delude themselves to the contrary.
A Hostile Press Weighs In
Editorial opinion reflected the public's frustration. "Tens of thousands of white men must yet bite the dust to allay the negro mania of the President," grumbled a Columbus, Ohio newspaper in early August. One savvy Republican leader, Thurlow Weed, asserted in early August that "Lincoln's reelection [is] an impossibility... The people are wild for peace." (McPherson, Battle Cry, 761). New York Times editor Henry J. Raymond told Lincoln on 22 August that the administration's unpopularity could be ascribed to "the want of military success, and the impression...that we can have peace with Union if we would," so the administration was "fighting not for Union but for the abolition of slavery" (Basler, 7:517-18).
Cartoonists and caricaturists had a field day with the approaching presidential contest. Lincoln--always depicted unflatteringly--was portrayed as an inept leader, a failed commander and an incompetent buffoon. The lithographic presses at Currier & Ives churned out pointed political cartoons. One, entitled "Abraham's Dream! 'Coming events cast their shadows before'" depicts Lincoln slumbering under a star-spangled quilt. Behind him, under a gateway labeled "White House," his nightmare unfolds: an angry Lady Liberty holds aloft a severed head of a black man and angrily chases a fleeing Lincoln. In the center, a dignified McClellan, in full military uniform, strides up the steps of the White House, suitcase in hand.
Another cartoonist offered a satirical treatment with a Shakespearean twist, re-interpreting Hamlet's famous graveyard soliloquy: "I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest...where be your gibes now?--" McClellan, resplendent with medals and a plumed kepi, stands near a freshly-dug grave, holding aloft the head of Lincoln. The White House is faintly visible in the background. The cartoon alludes to a false report that Lincoln had bantered callously when he visited the Antietam battlefield. Other election propaganda was more egregious. The Democrats circulated many pamphlets and handbills, some of them unabashedly racist. One scurrilous flyer depicted Lincoln as "Abraham Africanus I," and featured a crude woodcut of a swarthy president clad in ermine and sporting a jeweled crown.
"This Administration will not be re-elected"
On 23 August--at a time in the campaign, Lincoln noted, "when as yet we had no adversary, and seemed to have no friends"--Lincoln penned the following disconsolate memorandum: "This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards." He folded it tightly and sealed it. At the next Cabinet meeting he asked each member to sign it--unaware of its content. When the seven men signed, Lincoln added the date underneath, then placed it in his desk drawer. He did not bring it out again until after the election. The President was even blunter about his prospects when he told a visiting Army officer: "I am going to be beaten, and unless some great change takes place badly beaten."
"Atlanta is Ours!"
The "great change" Lincoln needed came on the first of September, in the form of an electrifying, six-word telegram from General Sherman: "Atlanta is ours, and fairly won." The North erupted in jubilation. Lincoln ordered 100-gun salutes at Federal arsenals, and proclaimed a day of national thanksgiving, offering "devout acknowledgement to the Supreme Being...for His mercy in preserving our national existence against the insurgent rebels...." (Basler, 7:533). The psychological relief was far greater than even the substantial military impact of Sherman's victory. Coming after the worse summer of the war, Sherman's triumph made an ultimate Union victory seem a real possibility. Likewise talk of armistice or defeat now seemed disgraceful and unpatriotic. Atlanta changed the political dynamic instantly, forcing McClellan to make yet another tactical retreat. This time he tried to distance himself from the peace planks he had so enthusiastically embraced at the Chicago convention, grandly proclaiming that he "could not look in the faces of gallant comrades of the army and navy...and tell them that their labor and the sacrifice of our slain and wounded brethren had been in vain.... The Union is the one condition of peace--we ask no more."
Vallandigham and the Peace Democrats were furious and wanted to chuck McClellan overboard for a new candidate. They might have managed it, too, if only someone else had wanted the job. The Republicans were able now to convince Frémont to abandon his divisive third-party run. In exchange, Lincoln agreed to drop Montgomery Blair from his Cabinet (Blair had long been the bete noir of the radicals). Five days after Frémont's withdrawal, Lincoln accepted Blair's resignation. The Republicans were now, miraculously, united--even if some of them still couldn't drop their patronizing attitude towards the President: The Republican platform, Theodore Tilton enthused, "is the best in American history--we can pardon something to a second-rate candidate." And even Greeley's Tribune came around. "Henceforth we fly the banner of ABRAHAM LINCOLN for the next Presidency...WE MUST re-elect him, and, God helping us, we WILL."
The Battle Joined: Lincoln vs. McClellan
Even with the Republican house more or less in order and the Democratic candidate waffling, Lincoln still faced an uphill path to victory. The war, Lincoln's aggressive use of executive powers, and the prospect of emancipation all energized the Democratic base. His opponents boiled their platform down to the racist slogan of "the Union as it was, the Constitution as it is, and the nigger where he was." It became a dirty, mud-slinging campaign--at least among their surrogates. The principals honored the long tradition of American presidential politics of pretending that they didn't want the office and only awaited the summons of the electorate. No such inhibitions applied to the rank-and-file. To Lincoln supporters the Democrats were traitors. For McClellan men the Republicans were "miscegenationists." That was a new word coined by two New York newspaperman in a scurrilous pamphlet entitled Miscgenation: The Theory of Blending of the Races, Applied to the White man and the Negro. Even the powerful James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald spoke of the Republicans as the "miscegenation party."
While Lincoln and McClellan remained on the sidelines, campaigning was left to party operatives, and here the patronage appointments paid off--quite literally. The whole idea of giving someone a political job in the government was to receive the bounty of their salary kick-back come reelection time. These funds helped pay for banners, posters, rental halls, speakers--or, indeed, for more direct inducements. Lincoln made sure that all of these weapons were brought to bear, and made it known that any office-holder who voted for McClellan would be banished forever from the President's favor. Chase's man, Samuel Pomeroy, found this out when he tried to make amends with Lincoln late in the '64 campaign. Lincoln wanted no part of him. Biographer David Herbert Donald writes that the image of Lincoln as being above politics "is the political equivalent of the doctrine of the immaculate conception. Lincoln himself would have been astonished at it. Politics was his life, and he was a regular party man" (Donald, Lincoln Reconsidered, 177).
Victory at the Polls
Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana were the principal battleground states. New England was safely pro-Lincoln, while New Jersey (McClellan's home state), New York and Delaware would likely go for the Democrats. Lincoln had to have Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania--particularly Pennsylvania--in order to win. The October gubernatorial and Congressional elections in those states would be a telling indicator for November. So on 11 October Lincoln went to the telegraph office in the War Department--the place where he spent many anxious days and nights waiting for news from the battlefronts--and nervously awaited the returns.
Indiana and Ohio reported first, and the news was encouraging. In Ohio 50,000 more people voted for the National Union candidates than for the Democrats. In Indiana, Oliver P. Morton won the statehouse by a healthy 20,000 votes. The results in Pennsylvania, however, were ambiguous. Not until many weeks later did tallies show that the soldier vote gave the Republicans a 13,000 vote majority in the state. Would that hold up in November? Even the healthy majorities in Ohio and Indiana were down from Lincoln's 1860 totals in those states. But at least they were majorities.
In mid-October Lincoln made his own calculation of the Electoral College tallies, conceding to McClellan every state outside of New England, the Great Lakes and the Pacific coast. This hypothetical tally gave Lincoln a slim electoral majority of 120, just three over the required 117. Nevada--one of the states Lincoln placed in his column--had been admitted on 31 October 1864, and Lincoln also hoped Union forces could wrest control of Florida in time to allow an administration-friendly government there. But continued Confederate resistance made that impossible.
Three weeks later, of course, the actual electoral tally was overwhelmingly in Lincoln's favor. A key element in that success was the soldier's vote. Many Republicans worried about the wisdom of giving soldiers--in effect--a veto power on the question of whether they should continue fighting. But Lincoln never thought of denying them the franchise. Republican state legislatures in thirteen states put through laws allowing soldiers on active duty to vote in the field. Four other states permitted soldiers to send in absentee ballots. In five states, Indiana, Illinois, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon, soldiers could only vote in their home districts, so Lincoln pressured Army commanders to liberally grant furloughs for voting.
Since McClellan had been so popular with the troops when he commanded the Army of the Potomac, some felt he would garner as much as two-thirds of the soldier's votes. But Lincoln accurately sensed that the troops had a greater commitment to the cause for which they were fighting--and for which so many of their comrades had already died--than for their former commanding general. "Whatever loyalty fighting men might feel for their old commander could not outweigh their trust in Lincoln's steadfastness," writes Richard Carwardine (Carwardine, Lincoln, 304). In fact, much of the goodwill towards McClellan began to dissipate among the troops once he became the standard bearer for Vallandigham and the Copperheads. Lincoln reportedly told journalist Henry Wing, "I would rather be defeated with the soldier vote behind me than elected without it."
He won it by a four-to-one margin. Overall, Lincoln won a healthy 55 majority of the popular vote to McClellan's 45 (2.2 million to 1.8 million). The margin was even greater in the Electoral College where Lincoln won in a landslide: 212 to 21. Little Mac won only his home state of New Jersey and the two border states of Delaware and Kentucky. In the telegraphic office on the night of the 8th of November Lincoln received not just a highly gratifying personal ratification, but an emphatic endorsement of his commitment to fight the war to a finish, to rebuild the Union and to leave slavery in ashes. "I give thanks to the Almighty," he told a crowd of well-wishers later that night, "for this evidence of the people's resolution to stand by free government and the rights of humanity."
A Note on Lincoln as Speechmaker
In spite of Lincoln's very considerable experience as an impromptu speaker--in his legal practice and during many political campaigns--he much preferred to speak from a carefully prepared text. The multiple surviving drafts of the Gettysburg Address are an obvious example of this practice (see Wilson, Lincoln's Sword, 211-219). From an early date, Lincoln was a deliberative, conscientious writer and a thoughtful reviser of his work.
While very few of Lincoln's final, fair copy speech manuscripts have survived, even fewer of Lincoln's draft or working manuscripts are extant. We can only speculate that these drafts were not deemed by Lincoln himself to be worth retaining, once he had the text in final form. No previous draft of Lincoln's 1864 Victory Address survives.
Lincoln's Special Paper
When preparing an address to deliver in person, Lincoln took the extra trouble to carefully write out his final version on unusually large sheets of good-quality lined paper, as in this instance. The backs were left entirely blank. Lincoln wrote out the text in a clear, unusually large version of his characteristic handwriting. The special paper and the large handwriting were to facilitate his reading the text while holding the sheets at arm's length. The delivery manuscript of Lincoln's Last Address exactly matches that of his 1864 Victory Speech (part of the Forbes Collection, sold at Christie's 27 March 2002), and also matches the paper used for the first and second drafts of the Gettysburg Address (see Long Remembered: The Gettysburg Address in Facsimile).
Serenading the President
By the mid nineteenth-century, public serenading of the president had become a feature of Washington D.C. political life. To celebrate events of significance--battle victories or election successes--loosely organized bands of supporters, carrying torches, candles or fireworks, often with a marching band, would parade down Pennsylvania Avenue and gather on the White House lawn, exultantly cheering and singing patriotic songs. It was customary on these occasions for the president to acknowledge the crowd's tributes from the window over the portico of the White House, and to deliver an inspirational response to the crowd. (Naturally, the crowd, if ignored, could turn resentful and rowdy.)
Lincoln took these serenades very seriously. Frank Carpenter noticed Lincoln's aversion to making off-the-cuff addresses, though he was "unwilling altogether to disappoint the crowds." On one occasion, Carpenter recalled, Lincoln was deep in conversation when approaching music was faintly heard. "A serenade was presently announced by an usher and Mr. Lincoln, as he arose to go forward to the front window, lingered a moment, and said: --'These "serenade" speeches bother me a great deal, they are so hard to make.'" (Frank B. Carpenter, The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln: Six Months at the White House, 248).
A Census of Lincoln Presidential Speech Manuscripts
1. March 4, 1861: First Inaugural Address (Ms, Library of Congress)
2. March 7, 1861: Reply to Diplomatic Corps (Ms, Library of Congress)
3. November 19, 1863: Gettysburg Address (Ms drafts in Library of Congress)
4. March 9, 1864: Speech honoring U. S. Grant (Ms, Grant Family)
5. April 18, 1864: Address at Sanitary Fair, Baltimore, Md. (Ms, Rosenbach Co.)
6. October 19, 1864: Response to a Serenade (Ms, Harvard University)
7. November 10, 1864: The present manuscript (Ms, Southworth
8. March 1, 1865: Reply to Notification Committee (Ms, Iowa State University)
9. March 4, 1865: Second Inaugural Address (Ms, Library of Congress)
10. March 17, 1865: Speech to 140th Indiana Regt. (Ms, Library of Congress)
11. April 11, 1865: Last Public Address (Ms, private collector)
Robert Todd Lincoln - Congressman John W. Dwight - The Southworth Library, Dryden, New York, gift of Dwight's widow in 1923.
After his death, the papers of Abraham Lincoln--containing some 20,000 pieces--legal documents, bills and receipts, incoming letters, memoranda and speech drafts--fell under the care and zealous guardianship of Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926), the only child of Abraham and Mary Lincoln to survive to maturity. Robert Lincoln, a successful lawyer, served as Secretary of War in the cabinets of President James Garfield and Chester A. Arthur (from 1881-1885) and in 1889-1893 was U.S. minister to Great Britain. He granted access to his father's papers to John Hay and John Nicolay, the president's war-time secretaries, in their authorized biography of the 16th president (1894-1905).
Robert carefully protected this precious hoard of his father's papers, but on a very few documented occasions is known to have presented to a few favored friends or supporters original handwritten manuscripts of President Lincoln as unique mementos. For example, Robert presented to an English acquaintance a brief manuscript of his father, comprising a formal speech of welcome to a diplomat (sold at Christie's 10 December 1999, lot 116).
Congress had established a Lincoln Monument Association as early as 1867--two years after the president's death--but the project was very slow to materialize. In 1901 a site on the Federal Mall--formerly a swamp--was chosen, and in February 1911 Congress authorized construction and appropriated funds for its completion. Congressman John W. Dwight (1859-1928) of New York, Republican majority whip, played a key role in marshalling the necessary support for the final appropriation. Designs were drawn up by architect Henry Bacon and the monument's cornerstone was laid on Lincoln's birthday, 12 February 1914.
As a gesture of his gratitude for Dwight's support, Robert Todd Lincoln wrote to the Congressman in April 1916: "My dear Mr. Dwight: You know my gratitude to you for your effective work in the House in the legislation providing for the erection of the Lincoln Memorial here which is now approaching completion, but I wish you to have something tangible as a testimonial of my feeling and which may be associated by you in your memory of that part of your public work." He refers to Noah Brook's "account of a public demonstration at the White House immediately after the presidential election of 1864, at which my father made a speech which he had written out beforehand. I am sending you the original manuscript used by him on that occasion and I beg your acceptance of it...."
The Doric-columned Lincoln Memorial, housing Daniel Chester French's oversize statue of the seated Lincoln, was formally dedicated on 30 May 1922, in a ceremony attended by president Warren G. Harding, former President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft and Robert Todd Lincoln. Aware of his advancing age, Robert Todd Lincoln made provision for the long-term preservation of the archive. "In the spring of 1919, probably as an expression of gratitude to the government for the construction of the Lincoln Memorial,...Robert Lincoln placed the papers in the Library of Congress on condition that their presence in the institution should not be made known. On January 23rd, 1923, he conveyed them to the Library by deed of gift, with the stipulation that they should be withheld from 'official or public inspection or private view' until after the expiration of twenty-one years from the date of his death" (David C. Mearns, The Lincoln Papers (Garden City, N.Y., 1948). Robert Todd Lincoln died on 26 July 1926, and the Lincoln Papers, as he had stipulated, remained sealed until 1947. Since that date, virtually all Lincoln's significant speech manuscripts not already part of the archive have migrated--by gift and by purchase--to many permanent institutions. At present, there are only a few that remain in private hands.
The present occasion, therefore, is one of the last opportunities in our time to acquire a complete handwritten speech manuscript of President Abraham Lincoln.