The Negro and the Nation: A History of American Slavery and Enfranchisement

By George S. Merriam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX
THE ELECTION OF 1860

Now came on the battle in the Presidential convention. The Democratic convention was dramatic and momentous. It met at Charleston, S. C., in the last days of April, 1860. The struggle was between Douglas and the extreme South. The contest was not over the nomination, but on the resolutions. The Douglas party proposed the reaffirmation of the Cincinnati platform of 1856, of which the kernel lay in the words: "Non-intervention by Congress with slavery in State or Territory"; and to this they would now add only a clause referring doubtful constitutional points to the Supreme Court. But the Southern party would accept nothing short of an affirmation that in the Territories until organized as States, the right of slave-holding was absolute and indefeasible, and Congress was bound to protect it. On this issue the dispute in the convention was obstinate and irreconcilable.

The South had long held unbroken sway in the Democracy and in the nation. It had absolutely controlled the last two administrations, though headed by Northern men. Its hold on the Senate had been unbroken, and temporary successes of the Republicans in the House had borne no fruit. The Supreme Court had gone even beyond the demands of the South. Only in Kansas had its cause been lost, because the attempt to coerce a whole territorial population had at last provoked revolt in the Northern Democracy. The breach had been in some sort healed, but the leader of the

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