Three against Lincoln: Murat Halstead Reports the Caucuses of 1860

Three against Lincoln: Murat Halstead Reports the Caucuses of 1860

Three against Lincoln: Murat Halstead Reports the Caucuses of 1860

Three against Lincoln: Murat Halstead Reports the Caucuses of 1860

Excerpt

Murat Halstead, young Cincinnati journalist in 1860, had no decent word to say for the convention system by which frenzied and deluded delegates selected presidential nominees for political parties. It was, in his words, the "caucus system," and borrowing a term from an older period of American history, he denounced "King Caucus" for his system of "infinite rottenness and corruption." The "treasures," he announced, of "King Caucus are bribes." Neither did he have respect for politicians and their manipulations nor for the platforms which political conventions concocted. From the beginning, he announced, political platforms had been "mean and cowardly"-- and in 1860 he pronounced the Democratic platform as the "most uncouth, disjointed, illogical, confused, cowardly and contemptible thing in the history of platforms." He had equal contempt for parties. "What was the Democratic Party for," asked an irate delegate from Alabama, "if it was not for the vindication of the great constitutional principles?" The Cincinnati reporter replied, with a twinkle, that "for some time" he had "strongly suspected that the Democratic party was an organization for the purpose of obtaining federal offices-- or in other words, a political corporation, like a great lottery company, for the distribution of the spoils."

At the age of thirty Murat Halstead was already a leading figure in Cincinnati's vigorous newspaper world. In 1853, with a college education and several years of free-lance writing behind him, he joined the staff of the Cincinnati Commercial, and in the following year he bought a one-sixteenth interest in the paper. He was variously a reporter, editorial writer, and substitute managing editor. As a political reporter he had "covered" stories of Ohio politics, local elections, and the national conventions that had nominated John C. Frémont and James Buchanan in 1856. By 1860 he was well prepared to make . . .

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