For a Vast Future Also: Essays from the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association

By Thomas F. Schwartz | Go to book overview

13
Lincoln, the Rule of Law, and
the American Revolution

Phillip S. Paludan

THE ELECTION OF 1864 was an important one, perhaps the most important this nation has ever had. It was important primarily because it was happening at all. In the midst of this country’s bloothest war—a war that would ultimately take more than 600,000 lives (one out of every eleven men of service age), a war that quite literally often pitted brother against brother—the people of the North were going to walk, not march, to the polls and cast their ballots; they might even decide to reputhate the war itself, to throw Lincoln out and put in his place the Democratic Party candidate, George B. McClellan. If they did so, they might be said to be declaring that the United States would be the disunited states of America—two nations where there had been one. Many believed that in voting against Lincoln they would be saying that the Constitution had failed. Almost certainly if Lincoln lost, the slave’s hope for liberty would end. The election was hotly contested, and as far as Lincoln knew he might just lose it. In fact he predicted that he would lose.1

On a small farm near Sturbridge, Massachusetts, John Phillips knew how he was going to vote. Phillips was a Democrat of the Thomas Jefferson school, and in 1864 he was 105 years old. The first presidential candidate he had voted for was George Washington.

Election day came in the fall of 1864, and John Phillips got on his horse and rode alongside his son, who was only seventy-nine at the time. Together they rode into Sturbridge to the polling place at the town hall. They got off their horses and walked into the hall through a door bordered by two flags—botfi of them the Stars and Stripes. When Phillips entered the hall, the people there stood up and took off their hats. He was the oldest man in town, and maybe the oldest

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