Wilmington Journal, June 28, 1860
In April last, the Democratic National Convention met in the City of Charleston. Its ranks were full. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Saint Lawrence to the Rio Grande, no State was unrepresented, hardly a seat was vacant. Of the six hundred and six delegates present, a compact body representing between one hundred and twenty and one hundred and thirty electoral votes went for "Douglas or nobody," and for Douglas with his interpretation of the Cincinnati platform, or not at all. By adroit management this minority of the Convention obtained control of its organization and were able to appear with a clear majority of voting strength, although largely outnumbered on the floor of the house. This was done by the operation of the rule that each delegate should vote separately, unless where the Convention of his State had otherwise directed or provided; but that where such Convention had so directed or provided, the vote of each State should be cast as a unit.—The effect of this adroit manoeuvre was that in every State where there was an anti-Douglas minority, the voice of such minority was suppressed; while, in every State where there was a Douglas minority, such minority was allowed to poll its full strength. In New York the voice of fourteen electoral votes was suppressed. In North Carolina and Virginia, even the one or two votes that the Douglas men could rally had its full bearing. The ten Douglas votes of Pennsylvania were counted, although a minority. The five anti-Douglas votes of Indiana were suppressed, although bearing as large a proportion to the Indiana delegation as the ten Douglas votes did to the Pennsylvania delegation.
This was the position of things at Charleston. It shows the adroitness and unscrupulousness of the Douglas managers—it does not prove, as asserted by Mr. Douglas and his supporters, that he or his platform ever received a bona fide endorsement at the hands of the members of the Charleston Convention. Tricks of this kind neither make nor indicate public opinion.
As the first week of the Charleston Convention wore on, it began to be apparent that the fictitious power thus obtained was to be used with the utmost rigor, and when on Monday of the second week the crisis did arrive, it was not until the Southern delegates had exhausted every effort to obtain such concession on the question of platform as was essential to their own honor, and due to the rights and interests of their section—such concession too as the managers for Judge Douglas might easily and fairly have granted—such concession as they ought to have granted, and would have granted had their object been harmony, or had they not considered the rights and interests of the Democratic party altogether secondary to the promotion of that gentleman. And we take occasion here to say that although the delegates from North Carolina were not originally Douglas men, yet they went to Charleston without any pledge, and generally without any serious committal against him. On any reasonable and fair platform we were prepared to go for judge Douglas at any moment when our vote might have sufficed to nominate him. But his wire-workers at Charleston would concede nothing, and when we use the word "concede," we wish it distinctly understood that no one asked for or wished for anything in addition to or in advance of the Cincinnati platform.—With that the whole South was and is perfectly satisfied. The object of the Southern and other constitutional delegates was simply to obtain such a recognition of the true intent and meaning of that platform as would prevent future difficulties and misconstructions. And many of us were willing for harmony sake to be satisfied with a lower standard of construction than we had originally insisted upon. But no proposal would be listened to by the Douglas managers.
Let us here remark, that all along we had the highest respect for the character, abilities and past services of Judge Douglas, but that we could not accept him with the Cincinnati platform unexplained, because, to do so, would be to accept and endorse his interpretation of it, to which we could not consent. There may have been those who made war upon Judge Douglas. To that war, one way or another, North Carolina was no party. We may have regretted the unfriendly relations existing between the President and Judge Douglas, or between the friends of the President and those of the Senator from Illinois. We are not the apologists of the President, nor are we the defamers of Judge Douglas. We think the Democratic party and its principles matters of far greater moment than either of these gentlemen, or than one hundred of them; yes, five hundred, or any other number. We think that the rights of the masses of a great party—the dominant party in a Union of thirty-three States, containing thirty millions of people, are become cheap enough when one man can say—such and such are my notions, and unless the Convention agrees to these notions, I will not consent to be nominated, and then his friends come into the Convention to work all tricks, determined to swerve the principles and sacrifice the rights of the party to this one man. When this became apparent, there did arise for the first time strong anti-Douglas feeling at the South, as resenting this dictation on the part of Judge Douglas' friends, with whose movements it was impossible not to connect that gentleman himself.
Not even when eight of her Southern sisters left her at Charleston —left the Convention there,—did North Carolina cease her efforts at reconciliation—cease to labor for harmony. She conferred with the remaining Southern States—with the seceding States, and with what were supposed to be the more conservative Northern States, with the view of arriving at and agreeing upon some basis on which all could stand, and upon which the seceding delegations could return to their places in the Convention, and the unity of the body be restored. Then first was it found that the Douglas leaders were opposed to the restoration of that unity—were opposed to the return of those withdrawing States; for the first time, indeed, was it found that any body could be opposed to the restoration of the unity and nationality of the Convention. Why this opposition on the part of the Douglas managers might easily have been surmised at Charleston—it was made perfectly apparent at Baltimore. Indeed, rather over-zealous Douglas men let the secret out on the cars, that the object was to "fix up" Douglas delegations from all those States and oust the regular ones.
The result of these plans became apparent at Baltimore. With the numerical, and, still more, the voting power of the Convention largely in their hands, owing to the operation of the unit rule and the withdrawal of fifty-two Southern delegates, the Douglas managers determined to carry things with a high hand, and they did so. Their tone had become reckless, defiant, domineering. They were evidently determined to exclude the regularly appointed delegates from the Southern States, and fill their places with creatures of their own, as per programme, and they did so, in the cases of Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas. They failed to get up any showing from Mississippi, Texas, South Carolina or Florida—indeed, no application was made from either of these two last named States.
Among other incidents, all pointing in the same direction, we may allude to the cases of Mr. Hallett, from Massachusetts, and Mr. Clardy, from Missouri. These were regular delegates from their respective districts—were unable to attend at Charleston, but did attend at Baltimore—they notified their substitutes of their inability to attend in the first instance, and of their ability to attend in the second. The principals did attend at Baltimore, and are ousted to make way for their substitutes—need we add that the principals are not Douglas men, but that the substitutes are? But this instance of injustice, however gross, is only individual in its character, and would not of itself justify decided action. The cases of the States of Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas are more grave in character, as they involve the rights and principles of party organization in sovereign States.
The regular delegates from Alabama had been originally sent to Charleston by the Democratic State Convention. Of the regularity of that appointment no question had been raised. When the adjournment took place at Charleston, the Democratic State Executive Committee called together a new State Convention which was largely attended, which re-accredited the former delegates to the National Convention. These delegates appeared at Baltimore with the credentials of the regular Democratic organization of the State of Alabama, while the contestants who were admitted were wholly outside of the Democratic organization of Alabama, and might as well have been picked up in the streets of Baltimore for any authority they had or were entitled to, so far as the Democracy of Alabama is concerned. If Mr. Yancey indeed be a disunionist, as asserted, we do not sympathise with his views. He denies it, and however it may be, it is for the people who send him to judge about his fitness as their representative.—The regularly organized Democracy of Alabama have twice accredited the delegation of which Mr. Yancey is a member. The Convention assumed to disregard the decision of the sovereign State of Alabama, and to receive and set up bogus and unauthorized delegates to represent her.
The same was the case with Louisiana. The case of Arkansas is fully as bad, though differing in kind, as it presumes to do what a State only can do—instruct how its vote shall be cast. We would refer for a fuller account of these matters to the very able report of Gov. Stevens in today's paper.
If these things were done to Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas—to the members from Massachusetts and Missouri, what security could delegations from North Carolina, Virginia, or elsewhere, feel that their turn might not come next? That if it suited the wishes of the dominant majority their seats might not be given to some parties whose views might be more acceptable. No wonder the bogus delegates from Alabama and Louisiana were a "unit for Douglas"—they were sent for on purpose. The rights of individuals and of States were alike violated—made subservient to the ambition of one man. State Sovereignty was set at naught in what ought to be its chosen sanctuary—all avowals of principle were made to bend in accordance with the expressed views of that one man. Was it any wonder that a division should occur in a body so irregularly constituted, or that the truly National Democracy of a majority of the States, preferring to have their action free from such extraneous influences, should have resumed their sessions at the Hall of the Maryland Institute, where the distinguished presiding officer, Hon. Caleb Cushing) continued to preside over a truly National Convention. A national platform was soon adopted and national nominations promptly made. We have placed these nominations at our head. We will do our best for their success.
The sense of obligation during these trying days at Baltimore was actually painful. The great majority of our delegation felt that but one course was honorably open for them, and that they pursued. They do not attack any who differ from them—they simply ask a fair and candid examination of their own course.
In speaking apparently on behalf of the majority of the delegation, we do so with no more authority than a knowledge of the facts and a community of feeling seem to permit; but for what we say we distinctly state that we alone are responsible. To those of our brother delegates who differed from us at Baltimore we have none but friendly feelings—we seek no controversy with any of the few Democrats who may prefer judge Douglas after the events that have occurred. We have stated our own case. We now counsel harmony.
It will be seen that the attempt to bribe Alabama by placing Senator Fitzpatrick on the Douglas ticket has failed. Mr. Fitzpatrick declines. Whether Herschel V. Johnson accepts or not, Georgia will maintain her rights.