Bullets, Ballots, and Rhetoric: Confederate Policy for the United States Presidential Contest of 1864

By Larry E. Nelson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Emergence of a Dual Challenge:

"It is the crisis with our oppressors."

Interest among Confederates in the Northern presidential contest dated at least from the year previous to the election. The New York Herald endorsed Abraham Lincoln for a second term in June 1863, and an editor at Richmond, bristling with defiance, seconded the nomination with the comment that reelection of the incumbent would be the finishing blow to the United States because his administration was ruining the finance and commerce of the nation while bungling the conduct of the war. 1 Whether the journalist really hoped Lincoln would be reelected seems doubtful, but he was expressing an early Southern interest in the course of Northern presidential politics.

As the year of the election opened, Northern politicians scrambled for position, and Confederates from Virginia to Texas watched and commented on developments. Evidence of apparent intensification of tension in the enemy section encouraged expectations among Southerners that peace through a favorable outcome of the election was a genuine possibility. Northern distress also invited Confederate intrigue in Federal politics, and Southerners privately and publicly speculated on means to influence the canvass. The external and internal challenges of the Northern presidential election for the government of Jefferson Davis emerged during the first months of 1864: Meaningful manipulation of Northern politics seemed possible, and Southern expectations of peace through the election were aroused.

The Northern troubles that Confederates found most promising involved finances, conscription, and unrest in

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