Friday, November 05, 2010

Thoughts on the election of Lincoln

As many of you are aware, tomorrow is the 150th anniversary of the election of Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln as president of the United States, which did not stay united. Some of you also know that Lincoln did not appear on the ballot in North Carolina. Even with Lincoln not on the ballot, it was still a three- way race in the Tar Heel state. We will talk more about that soon. Today, I wanted to look at some of the opinions of the “leading men” in regard to the upcoming election.

B. F. Moore, writing from Raleigh on October 13, 1860, thought that the dissolution of the Union on the “event of Lincoln’s election” as “supreme folly as well as the supreme wickedness…” “Why should we manifest such inbecoming fears of Lincoln? He can turn neither the Army nor Navy upon is, while we sit under the shield of the Constitution. He can command no legislative powers to harass us by oppressive laws. He can claim no power above the Constitution, and we can defend ourselves under it. If he should be elected, I, for one, do not fear him…” The Daily Register, November 3, 1860.

Former governor William A. Graham wrote on October 15: “But if it shall please Providence to afflict the country with the election of Lincoln, while we shall regard it as a calamity deeply to be deplored, and shall increase our vigilance over the rights of our section, and he at any moment prepared to defend them, it will be our duty to prevent a dissolution of the Union and the destruction of the Government bequeathed to us by our Fathers, for that cause alone. The President of the United States is not a sovereign – we are not his subjects. Our government is not an elective monarchy, but a representative republic. High as this office may be supposed to exalt the man, he is at last but the servant of the people, and clothed with powers only to do good. If these powers are perverted to our injury and oppression, resistance will be made with united hearts, and with the hope of success; but who can prepare a declaration of independence, appealing to a candid world for its approbation and sympathy, upon the grounds that we have been out-voted in an election, in which we took the chances of success, and a candidate has been elected, who, however obnoxious, we did not deem unworthy to compete with us for votes?” The Daily Register, November 3, 1860.

W. W. Holden, writing on November 7, believed that “If the result has been favorable to Lincoln – if the people have chosen him President, the excitement, already great, will be increased tenfold; but if no election had been made by the people, the fact that the contest must be decided by the House of Representatives will not tend to diminish existing apprehensions. In either event we may as well prepare at once for exciting and stormy times between this and the 4th of March.” Weekly Standard, November 7, 1860.

An anonymous writer, under the name of “try again,” believed that “if Lincoln and Hamlin be elected, the people of the United States will have passed through a perfect revolution, a bloodless revolution, however, at the ballot box, for there are three of sacred guaranties granted us in the constitution of our common country, disregarded by a great sectional party of the North and West.” Weekly Standard, November 7, 1860.

1 comment:

26NCT said...


If you have not read this already, James McPhersons' 'Trial by Fire '
is a very good read.
Some interesting perspective on Lincoln's concerns regarding the War in East Tennessee.

Kevin Ellis