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Abraham Lincoln: A Bicentennial Celebration University of Delaware Library Special Collections Abraham Lincoln: A Bicentennial CelebrationAbraham Lincoln: A Bicentennial Celebration

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Political Life

The Election of 1860

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln, a well-regarded lawyer and former one-term Republican congressman (1847-1849), challenged Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas for his Senate seat. Douglas agreed to an unprecedented series of debates held in towns across Illinois focusing on the issue of slavery. Although Douglas was re-elected, Lincoln gained national attention for his opposition to slavery, which led to his nomination as Republican presidential candidate in 1860.

Innauguration of Lincoln
"The Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as
President of the United States, at the Capitol,
Washington, March 4, 1861 [From a Drawing
Made on the Spot.]" Harper's Weekly,
March 16, 1861.

At the 1860 Republican convention, Lincoln was seen as more moderate than his major opponent, Senator William Henry Seward of New York, a staunch abolitionist. In addition, Lincoln addressed other issues such as developing railroads and immigration that made him attractive to states such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey with concerns in addition to slavery.

After much political maneuvering, Lincoln won on the third ballot. The Republican platform was a compromise between abolitionists and more laissez-faire delegates. It opposed the expansion of slavery into the Western territories without condemning it in the South, criticized the judicial activism of the Dred Scott decision, denounced John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry, endorsed a federal homestead law and a transcontinental railroad, and opposed stricter naturalization laws.

Douglas ran on the Democratic ticket but without the support of the Southern wing of the party which split off, believing that Douglas was weak on preserving slavery. Lincoln won the election with virtually no support in the South.

The time for compromise was past. As soon as the election results were known, Southern states, led by South Carolina, began seceding from the Union. By the time of Lincoln’s inauguration in March 1861, seven states had left the Union. A month later, the Civil War began.

William Henry Burleigh, 1812-1871.

The Republican Pocket Pistol: A Collection of Facts, Opinions and Arguments for Freedom. New-York: H. Dayton, 1860.

Burleigh had been a lecturer for the American Anti-slavery Society in the 1830s. He edited this series of monthly pamphlets supporting the Republican cause.

Portraits and Sketches of the Lives of All the Candidates for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency, for 1860: Comprising Eight Portraits Engraved on Steel, Facts in the Life of Each, the Four Platforms, the Cincinnati Platform, and the Constitution of the United States. New-York: J.C. Buttre, 1860.

This brief description of Lincoln’s career is considered to be the earliest of his biographies.

Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865.

Political Debates between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stephen A. Douglas in the Celebrated Campaign of 1858, in Illinois… Columbus: Follett, Foster and Co., 1860.

These seven debates on slavery were a preview of the issues that Lincoln would face in the 1860 Presidential campaign and are remembered for the eloquence of both men.

Miles Taylor, 1805-1873.

To the Democracy of the United States. Washington City, D.C.: Democratic National Executive Committee, 1860.

This speech supports the candidacy of Stephen Douglas and rails against the breakaway Southern Democratic Party delegates.

The Corruption and Extravagance of the Black Republican party: Some of their Leaders Convicted of Bribery!… Read the Evidences of their Guilt. Washington City: Issued by the National Democratic Executive Committee, 1860.

This campaign pamphlet does not refer to the Black Republication Party in a racial sense, but as a financially corrupt organization.

Lincoln badge worn by Walter M. Lenhart in the campaign of 1860.

Lenhart was a 13 year old boy when he wore this rosette during a torch light procession at a Lincoln rally. The miniature photograph was taken in Peoria in 1858 during Lincoln’s Senate campaign.

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The Election of 1864

Abraham Lincoln’s prospects for a second term seemed dim as the Civil War stalled. He believed that his defeat would translate into defeat for the Northern cause. The Democratic platform and that party’s candidate, General George B. McClellan, advocated a negotiated settlement and protection of slavery in the South.

However, on September 2, 1864, Union General William Sherman captured Atlanta, reinvigorating the Northern advance and giving new life to Lincoln’s campaign. Lincoln won the election and in his acceptance speech described the significance not only of his victory but of the election itself, stating:

We cannot have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forgo, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us… The election… has demonstrated that a people’s government can sustain a national election, in the midst of a great civil war. Until now it has not been known to the world that this was a possibility.

Francis Lieber, 1800-1872.

Lincoln of McClellan? Oproep aan die Hollanders in Amerika. New York: Loyal Publication Society, 1864.

This anti-slavery tract is aimed at voters of Dutch background.

Voter's Catechism: Plain Questions and Answers for the Campaign. New York: Sold by the American News Company, 1864.

This pro-Lincoln pamphlet accuses McClellan of desiring the destruction of the Union.

The Will of the People. Philadelphia: Union League of Philadelphia, 1864.

This article supports the positions taken by Lincoln in the course of the war. It argues that he was farsighted in following the evolving will of the citizens in the North and not making major policy decisions until he believed that popular opinion would support the actions.

To the Soldiers of the Union. Philadelphia: H.B. Ashmead, 1864.

This pro-Lincoln pamphlet urges Union soldiers to vote, saying:

You have been fighting the enemies of our country with bullets; you can now inflict a still more deadly blow upon them with ballots; or you can verve them to fresh courage and desperation, by undoing at the polls the work for which you have braved death and pestilence with such unflinching firmness.

The Two Platforms: Which Will You Support? : Read and Decide. Published by the County Central Committee of Stephensen County from Official Text, 1864.

The Positions of Abraham Lincoln & Geo. B. McClellan on the Union: To Unconditional Union Voters. [S.l.: s.n., 1864].

This is a pro-McClellan publication stating that Lincoln is a "conditional Union man -- who is only for Union on condition of abolishing Slavery" but that McClellan is an "unconditional Union man who, ‘without any ifs or buts’ is for the Union and the Constitution…"

Chicago Platform, by Thomas Nast
"The Chicago Platform. Union Failures." Illustration by
Thomas Nast in Harpers Weekly, October 15, 1864.

"The Chicago Platform. Union Failures." Illustration by Thomas Nast in Harpers Weekly, October 15, 1864.

This pro-McClellan illustration accuses Lincoln of disregarding the Constitution through arbitrary military arrests, seizure of property and other decrees.

The Lincoln Catechism : Wherein the Eccentricities & Beauties of Despotism are Fully Set Forth: A Guide to the Presidential Election of 1864. New York: J.F. Feeks, c1864.

In this racist piece of campaign literature, Lincoln is depicted with a black face and referred to as "Abraham Africanus the First."

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Lincoln’s Greatest Speeches

Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: the First Complete, Unexpurgated Text; edited and with an introduction by Harold Holzer. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, c1993.

Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865.

Political Debates between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stephen A. Douglas in the Celebrated Campaign of 1858, in Illinois… Columbus: Follett, Foster and Co., 1860.

The Lincoln-Douglas debates on slavery helped propel Lincoln to the presidency.

Edward Everett, 1794-1865.

Address of Hon. Edward Everett, at the Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, 19th November, 1863: With the Dedicatory Speech of President Lincoln, and the Other Exercises of the Occasion… Boston: Little, Brown, 1864.

Everett, former senator and secretary of state was the main speaker at Gettysburg, speaking for over two hours. Lincoln spoke for less than seven minutes. The two copies of the books displayed here show the program for the day and the text of Lincoln’s speech.

Lincoln taking the oath
"Lincoln taking the oath at his second inauguration,
March 4, 1865."
Harpers’ Weekly, March 18, 1865.

Garry Wills, 1934-

Lincoln at Gettysburg: the Words that Remade America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.

John McClintock, 1814-1870.

Discourse delivered on the day of the funeral of President Lincoln, Wednesday, April 19, 1865: in St. Paul's Church, New York. New York: Press of J.M. Bradstreet & Son, 1865.

This also contains an early printing of the president’s second inaugural address.

"Lincoln taking the oath at his second inauguration, March 4, 1865." Harpers’ Weekly, March 18, 1865.

Harpers’ Weekly was the most important magazine for documenting the events of the Civil War era. Images were drawn on the spot by well-known artists and quickly reproduced by engraving for publication.

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