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Lincoln's 1860 Nomination: A Machiavellian Bargain

This country has witnessed numerous political schisms since the beginning of the republic. We are presently bombarded with diverse and often intense political views--some real and some superficial. A distinct difference in political philosophy existed in the mid-1800s, mainly in the form of Jeffersonian vs. Hamiltonian principles. Reflecting his identification with the old protectionist Whigs, Lincoln, who idolized Henry Clay, supported Alexander Hamilton’s program of central banking, internal improvements, protectionism, and consolidation of federal power.

John Fremont ran as the Republican Party’s first presidential candidate in the 1856 election. The party was a non-entity in the majority of the South, thus no Republicans appeared on the ballot in most Southern States in 1856 or 1860. The Republican convention was held May 16-18, 1860, in Chicago, an industrial and financial city. William Seward, a former lawyer, senator, and governor from New York, was the overwhelming favorite. Based on the practice of the day, Seward did not attend the convention, but instead sent Thurlow Weed, his political manager. Chicago bubbled with excitement in anticipation of the second Republican convention, held at the Wigwam, a new convention center built as part of the agreement to host the event.

Seward and Weed had good reason to be confident. “It required 233 votes to win, and New York alone represented almost a third of that total.” Other candidates included Ohio’s Salmon P. Chase, Missouri’s Edward Bates, and Pennsylvania’s Simon Cameron. Abraham Lincoln was considered a dark horse. His friend, Illinois Judge David Davis, was his campaign manager, and he was also allied with Norman Judd, the New York born representative from Illinois. “On May 8, just over a week before the convention, in Decatur, Lincoln was selected by his home State Republicans.” Although less well known than the other candidates, Lincoln’s February 27, 1860, Cooper Union Speech resonated with many Republicans, especially his opposition to slavery expansion and secession. Also, Lincoln’s career had shown him to be a master of sophistry and fiscal irresponsibility. As part of the “Long Nine,” Lincoln helped push Illinois to the brink of bankruptcy.

Accurately predicting Seward would not win on the first ballot, Lincoln and his team “printed hundreds of counterfeit tickets and distributed them to Lincoln supporters with instructions to show up early—in order to displace Seward’s supporters.” On May 16-17, while Weed entertained delegates and promised “oceans of money” for future projects, Davis and Judd “lobbied” States unfriendly to Seward, e.g., Indiana, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, etc.

On May 18th Seward’s supporters, accompanied by a brass band, marched toward the Wigwam. Upon arrival they discovered Lincoln supporters with counterfeit tickets occupying their rightful seats. Despite the shady tactics of Lincoln and his supporters, Seward’s backers remained confident. “Seward won the first ballot with 173 votes and Lincoln followed with 102 votes; Cameron, Chase, Bates, and the others received fifty votes or less, meaning the contest now boiled down to Seward and Lincoln. The wheeling and dealing of Lincoln’s team now came into play and on the second ballot Seward received 184 votes versus 181 votes for Lincoln. As the third vote commenced, it was clear the momentum had shifted strongly toward the underdog. The third and final ballot resulted in 231 votes for Lincoln, making his stunning victory complete.”

Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln’s friend and bodyguard, cast doubt on the means employed to secure Lincoln’s nomination: “He was also nominated by means of a corrupt bargain entered into by Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania and Caleb Smith, of Indiana, provided Lincoln would pledge them cabinet positions. These pledges Lincoln fulfilled and thus made them a party to corrupt bargains.” All involved were handsomely rewarded. For example, Chase was named Secretary of the Treasury and Bates was named Attorney General. Even runner-up Seward was named Secretary of State.

Entering the 1860 election, the Republican Party was backed by powerful factions, e.g., Northern railroad and industrialist interests. The railroads stood to benefit tremendously from federal subsidies (corporate welfare). One of Lincoln’s supporters at the Chicago Convention was Grenville Dodge, the railroad expert Lincoln had consulted during his Iowa trip in 1859. Dodge, John A. Dix, Thomas C. Durant, John I. Blair, Norman B. Judd, and others saw “Lincoln vital to their plans of building a Pacific railroad from the Mississippi River…”

April is Confederate History and Heritage Month. Since the Confederacy was based on State sovereignty and voluntary, consensual government, most media will ignore it. This is the antithesis of “globalist” thinking. The next article will delve into the election of 1860 and provide a snapshot of the contenders. It will also touch on the South’s concern about Republican efforts to allow, “preferred banking and corporate interests” to have undue influence within the federal government.

Sources: Union At All Costs: From Confederation to Consolidation, by John M. Taylor; “Abraham Lincoln and Iowa,” Abraham Lincoln’s Classroom, The Lehrman Institute at:; Trails, Rails and War: The Life of General G. M. Dodge, by J.R. Perkins [This book explains how crucial Lincoln’s nomination was for railroad interests.]; Those Dirty Rotten Taxes: The Tax Revolts That Built America, by Charles Adams (New York, New York: The Free Press, 1998); A True Estimate of Abraham Lincoln & Vindication of the South, by Mildred Lewis Rutherford (Wiggins, Mississippi: Crown Rights Book Company, 1997); (The original book appeared in March 1923 under the title, The South Must Have Her Rightful Place in History.); Life of Salmon P. Chase; Lincoln: The Man, by Edgar Lee Masters (Columbia, South Carolina: The Foundation for American Education, 1997); “Lincoln Outfoxed Seward for the Nomination,” from How Lincoln Won the 1860 Republican Nomination, Great American History, by Gordon Leidner, September 3, 2015, at:; The use of “Machiavellian” is based on the definition of sly, devious, and a user of deceptive methods--all fitting descriptions of Lincoln.


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