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

By Larry E. Nelson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Dealing with Aroused Public Expectations:

"Every avenue of negotiation is closed . . ."

Although alert to the external challenge of Northern politics, Davis was slow to respond to the challenge presented on the home front. Events within and without the Confederacy during the spring of 1864 reinforced Southern expectations for the election. The Confederate Congress released statements implying confidence that the course of Federal politics was favorable to the Confederacy. Some of the president's bitterest enemies in Georgia stirred controversy by launching their own scheme for influencing the election. Public interest was further whetted when the legislature of North Carolina showed interest in the election. In the North, the Republican party opened the campaign in a seriously divided condition, and Southerners warmly applauded. As Confederate chief executive, Davis had a responsibility to assert leadership in the formation of public opinion and in the development of foreign policy, yet his responses to public expectations for the election and to direct challenges to his control of foreign affairs were erratic.

Statements and actions of the Confederate government promoted public interest and speculation regarding the Northern election. At first, Davis himself encouraged belief that Northern politics would somehow benefit the Southern cause. In a widely circulated address to the soldiers of the Confederacy, he cited conditions in the North as reason to be hopeful. He told the battle-weary veterans that "dissensions occasioned by the strife for power, by the pursuit of the spoils of office, [and] by the

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