The three 1860 Democratic National Conventions were crucial events in the lead-up to the American Civil War. The first Democratic national convention adjourned in deadlock without choosing candidates for President and Vice President. A second official convention nominated Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois for President and former Senator Herschel V. Johnson of Georgia for Vice President. A third, “rump,” convention, primarily Southerners, nominated Vice President John C. Breckinridge for President and Senator Joseph Lane of Oregon for Vice President.
|1860 Democratic National Convention|
|1860 presidential election|
|Date(s)||April 23–May 3, 1860 &|
June 18–23, 1860
|City||Charleston, South Carolina &|
|Venue||South Carolina Institute Hall,|
Front Street Theater &
Maryland Institute (Southern)
|Presidential nominee||Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois (Official)|
John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky (Southern)
|Vice Presidential nominee||Herschel V. Johnson of Georgia (Official)|
Joseph Lane of Oregon (Southern)
The 1860 Democratic National Convention convened at South Carolina Institute Hall (destroyed in the Great Fire of 1861) in Charleston, South Carolina on 23 April 1860. Charleston was probably the most pro-slavery city in the U.S. at the time, and the galleries at the convention were packed with pro-slavery spectators.
The front-runner for the nomination was Douglas. Douglas was considered a moderate on the slavery issue. With the 1854 Kansas–Nebraska Act, he advanced the doctrine of popular sovereignty: allowing settlers in each Territory to decide for themselves whether slavery would be allowed – a change from the flat prohibition of slavery in most Territories under the Missouri Compromise, which the South had welcomed. However, the Supreme Court’s ensuing 1857 Dred Scott decision declared that the Constitution protected slavery in all Territories.
Douglas was challenged for his Senate seat by Abraham Lincoln in 1858, and narrowly won re-election by professing the Freeport Doctrine, a de facto rejection of Dred Scott. Now militant Southern "Fire-Eaters", such as William Yancey of Alabama, opposed him as a traitor. Many of them openly predicted a split in the party, and the election of Republican front-runner William H. Seward.
Urged by Yancey, the delegations from seven Deep South states (Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, and Florida) met in a separate caucus before the convention. They reached a tentative consensus to "stop Douglas" by imposing a pro-slavery party platform which he could not run on if nominated.
The "Fire-eater" majority on the convention's platform committee, chaired by William Waightstill Avery of North Carolina, produced an explicitly pro-slavery document, endorsing Dred Scott and Congressional legislation protecting slavery in the territories. Northern Democrats refused to acquiesce. Dred Scott was extremely unpopular in the North, and the Northerners said they could not carry a single state with that platform. On 30 April, the convention by a vote of 165 to 138 adopted the minority (Northern) platform, which omitted these planks. 50 Southern delegates then left the convention in protest, including the Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas delegations, three of the four delegates from Arkansas, and one of the three delegates from Delaware.
The departed delegates gathered at St. Andrews Hall on Broad Street, declared themselves the real convention, and awaited conciliatory action by the Institute Hall convention. That didn't happen. Instead, the Institute Hall convention proceeded to nominations. The dominant Douglas forces believed their path was now clear.
Six major candidates were nominated at the convention: Douglas, former Treasury Secretary James Guthrie of Kentucky, Senator Robert M. T. Hunter of Virginia, Senator Joseph Lane of Oregon, former Senator Daniel S. Dickinson of New York, and Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee.
Douglas led on the first ballot, with 145½ of 253 votes cast. However, the convention rules required a two-thirds vote to approve a nomination. Furthermore, convention chairman Caleb Cushing ruled that two-thirds of the convention's whole membership was required, not just two-thirds of those actually present and voting.
Douglas thus needed 56½ more votes, or a total of 202, from the 253 delegates still present. The convention held 57 ballots, and though Douglas led on all of them, he never got more than 152 votes. On the 57th ballot, Douglas got 151½ votes, still 50½ votes short of the nomination, though far ahead of Guthrie, who was second with 65½. In desperation, on 3 May the delegates voted to adjourn the convention, and reconvene in Baltimore six weeks later.
Candidates receiving votes for president at the Charleston convention:
A few votes went to former Senator Isaac Toucey of Connecticut, Senator James Pearce of Maryland, and Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi (the future Confederate President), who received one vote on over fifty ballots from Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts. Ironically, during the Civil War, Butler became a Union general, and Davis ordered him hanged as a criminal if ever captured.
|Charleston presidential ballot|
|Charleston presidential ballot|
|Charleston presidential ballot|
The Democrats convened again at the Front Street Theater (destroyed in the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904) in Baltimore, Maryland on 18 June. The resumed convention's first business was to decide whether to re-admit the delegates who had bolted the Charleston session, or to seat replacement delegates who had been named by pro-Douglas Democrats in some states. The credentials committee's majority report recommended re-admitting all delegates except those from Louisiana and Alabama. The minority report recommended re-admitting some of the Louisiana and Alabama delegates as well. The committee's majority report was adopted 150-100½, and the new Louisiana and Alabama delegates were seated. Many additional delegates now withdrew, including most of the remaining Southern delegates, and also a scattering of delegates from northern and far western states.
The following received votes at this convention:
The convention resumed voting on a nominee. On the first ballot, Douglas received 173½ of 190½ votes cast. On the second ballot he received 181½ votes of 194½ cast. It suddenly dawned on the delegates that, with only 194½ delegates present, it was somewhat unlikely that anyone was going to get 203 votes. At this flash of insight, the delegates overrode Cushing’s earlier ruling. They declared by unanimous voice vote that Douglas, having received 2/3 of the votes cast, was nominated.
|Baltimore presidential ballot|
|Thomas S. Bocock||1||0|
|Henry A. Wise||0.5||0|
Senator Benjamin Fitzpatrick of Alabama was nominated for Vice President, receiving 198½ votes. However, Fitzpatrick later refused the nomination, something that would only happen again once (1924) in the history of the republic. William C. Alexander of New Jersey was authoritatively withdrawn when it was mentioned he would not allow his name to be presented as a candidate.
|Vice presidential ballot|
The Southern Democrats who bolted and their allies reconvened at the Maryland Institute in Baltimore. This rival convention adopted a radical pro-slavery platform, and nominated Breckinridge for President, and Lane for Vice President.
|"Breckinridge Democrats" presidential ballot|
After the break-up of the Charleston convention, many of those present stated that the Republicans were now certain to win the 1860 Presidential election.
In the general election, the actual division in Democratic popular votes did not directly affect any state outcomes except California, Oregon, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. Of these states, only California and Oregon were free states, and although both were carried by Republican nominee Abraham Lincoln they combined for only seven of Lincoln’s 180 electoral votes. The latter three states were slave states that were carried by neither Douglas, Breckinridge nor Lincoln but by John Bell, nominee of the Constitutional Union Party. Composed mainly of former Whigs and Know-Nothings, the Constitutional Union Party attempted to ignore the slavery issue in favor of preserving the Union.
Even if California, Oregon and every state carried by Douglas, Breckinridge or Bell had been carried by a single Presidential nominee, Lincoln would still have had a large majority of electoral votes. However, the split in the Democratic Party organization was a serious handicap in many states, especially Pennsylvania, and almost certainly reduced the aggregate Democratic popular vote. Pennsylvania’s 27 electoral votes were especially decisive in ensuring a Republican victory – had Lincoln failed to carry that state combined with any other free state, he could not have obtained a majority of electoral votes.
James M. McPherson suggested in Battle Cry of Freedom that the “Fire-eater” program of breaking up the convention and running a rival ticket was deliberately intended to bring about the election of a Republican as President, and thus trigger secession declarations by the slave-owning states. Whatever the “intent” of the fire-eaters may have been, doubtless many of them favored secession, and the logical, probable, and actual consequence of their actions was to fragment the Democratic party and thereby virtually ensure a Republican victory.
|Democratic National Conventions||Succeeded by|
Alexander Hamilton Coffroth (May 18, 1828 – September 2, 1906) was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania.Augustus C. Baldwin
Augustus Carpenter Baldwin (December 24, 1817 – January 21, 1903) was a politician from the U.S. state of Michigan.
Baldwin was born in Salina (now Syracuse, New York) and attended the public schools. He moved to Oakland County, Michigan, in 1837 and taught school. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1842 and commenced practice in Milford, Michigan. He was a member of the Michigan State House of Representatives 1844-1846, serving as Speaker in 1846.
He moved to Pontiac, Michigan, in March 1849 and was prosecuting attorney for Oakland County in 1853 and 1854. He was a delegate to the 1860 Democratic National Conventions at Charleston and Baltimore.
Baldwin was elected as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives for the 38th Congress, serving from March 4, 1863 to March 3, 1865, becoming the first person to represent Michigan's 5th congressional district. He unsuccessfully contested the election of Rowland E. Trowbridge to the 39th Congress. He was a delegate to 1864 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and to the 1866 National Union Convention at Philadelphia.
He was a member of the Pontiac School Board, 1868–1886, mayor of Pontiac in 1874, judge of the sixth judicial circuit court of Michigan from 1875 until April 15, 1880, when he resigned and resumed the practice of law. He was a member of the board of trustees of the Eastern Michigan Asylum.
Baldwin died in Pontiac, aged 85, and was interred in Oak Hill Cemetery there.David Spraker
David Spraker (February 23, 1801 Stone Arabia, Montgomery County, New York — October 14, 1873) was an American lawyer and politician from New York.Glencairn (Greensboro, Alabama)
Glencairn, also known as the John Erwin House, is a historic house in Greensboro, Alabama, United States, and because of the Southern palladian-inspired architecture, it is sometimes referred to by local architectural historians as the "Monticello" of antebellum Hale/Greene Counties. The house and grounds were recorded by the Historic American Buildings Survey in 1935, and was soon thereafter photographed by Frances Benjamin Johnston, and much later in 2010 by Carol M. Highsmith. The house was added as an individual listing to the National Register of Historic Places on January 18, 1978, due to its architectural and historical significance.Construction on Glencairn began in the mid 1830s and was completed in 1837 by John Erwin, often referred to by Colonel or Senator Erwin. Erwin was an influential attorney, plantation owner, and a Democratic politician. He was born to Jane Peebles Erwin and John Erwin on September 10, 1799 in Pendleton County, Virginia and had relocated to Alabama by 1821. He married Eliza Margaret Chadwick of Sterling, Kentucky, on October 5, 1822. He was elected as Greene County's representative in the Alabama Senate in 1831 and was chosen as president pro tempore the next year. He went on to also serve in the lower house in 1836, 1837, and 1842. He was a Congressional candidate in 1845 and 1851, but was defeated in both instances. There were 169 slaves living on the Erwin plantations in 1860 and Sen. Erwin was a leader in the secession movement that lead to the formation of the Confederate States of America. He was heavily involved in the 1852 and 1860 Democratic National Conventions. He died at Glencairn on December 10, 1860 and was interred in the Greensboro Cemetery, the property of which he had donated earlier to the City of Greensboro. (He also donated the land for the Episcopal Church, and Southern University.) His son, George Erwin, inherited Glencairn in 1871 upon the death of his mother Eliza Margaret, and owned it until his death in 1910. Upon the death of George's wife in 1926, Frances (Fannie) Iredell Jones Erwin, the house passed to their son Cadwallader Erwin, until his death in 1953. (Cadwallader Erwin's older brother John Erwin born 1858 built a Victorian house on the Glencairn property which the family called "Indian Hill," later owned by the Wynne Coleman family.) GLENCAIRN remained in the hands of Sen. John Erwin's descendants throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, being occupied after Mr. and Mrs. Cadwallader Erwin (Ida Vernon Seawell) by their daughter Ida Vernon Erwin Mahood and her husband Danner Lee Mahood until the former's passing in 1987. The house then passed to daughter Katherine Lee Mahood Rugg and husband Samuel Hathaway Rugg before going to their daughter Audrey Hathaway Rugg McCulloh in 2015. After her death in August of that year, the house passed to Audrey's widower Mark R. McCulloh, who initiated restorations. In September 2018, "Glencairn" was purchased by Glencairn, L.L.C., whose principal is an eighth generation Hale Countian, and related to the Erwin family by the marriages of two of Senator and Mrs. John Erwin's great-granddaughters: Sarah Bland Randolph Otts to James Washington Otts of "Magnolia Hall," Greensboro, Alabama; and Frances Iredell Jones Locke to Thomas Bayne Locke, grandson of Governor John Gayle of Greensboro, Tuscaloosa, and Mobile, Alabama.James Lindsay Seward
James Lindsay Seward (October 30, 1813 – November 21, 1886) was an American politician and lawyer.
Born in Dublin, Georgia in 1813, Seward moved with his family to Thomas County, Georgia, in 1826. He studied law, gained admission to the state bar in 1835, and began practicing law in Thomasville, Georgia.
Seward was elected to the Georgia State House of Representatives in 1835 and served in that position through 1839. He was elected to that body again in 1847 and served through 1852. He was elected in 1852 as a Democrat to represent Georgia's 1st congressional district in the United States House of Representatives for the 33rd Congress. He was elected to two more terms in that seat before not seeking reelection in 1858.
Returning to his practice of law, Seward also served as a delegate to the Democratic State conventions in 1858, 1859, and 1860. He was elected to the Georgia Senate from 1859 through 1865 and was a delegate to the 1860 Democratic National Conventions in Baltimore, Maryland and Charleston, South Carolina.
Seward served on the board of trustees of Young’s Female College from 1860 through 1886 and of the University of Georgia in Athens from 1865 through 1886. He continued to be involved in politics, serving as a delegate to the Georgia constitutional convention in 1865, the Democratic Conservative Convention in 1870 and the Georgia constitutional convention in 1877. He died in Thomasville on November 21, 1886, and was buried in that city's Laurel Hill Cemetery.Samuel Snowden Hayes
Samuel Snowden Hayes (December 25, 1820 – January 28, 1880) was an American politician from Tennessee. Hayes moved to Illinois after a family tragedy and eventually established a successful law practice in Carmi. He became a prominent politician in White County, serving two terms in the Illinois House of Representatives and attending the 1848 state constitutional convention. He was a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party and often campaigned on their behalf. He moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1850 and became one of the city's leading Democratic voices preceding the Civil War. From 1858, he supported Stephen A. Douglas and championed him at the 1860 Democratic National Convention. He was one of the three delegates on the United States Revenue Commission in 1865.Walter Leak Steele
Walter Leak Steele (April 18, 1823 – October 16, 1891) was a U.S. Congressman from North Carolina between 1877 and 1881.
Born near Rockingham in Richmond County, North Carolina, Steele attended common schools near his home and then Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, Wake Forest College, and finally the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating in 1844.
Steele was elected to two-years terms in the North Carolina House of Commons in 1846, 1848, 1850, and 1854; he rose to the North Carolina Senate, serving there between 1852 and 1858, and in 1852, he was named as a trustee of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a post he held until his death.
A delegate to the 1860 Democratic National Conventions in Charleston and Baltimore, Steele chaired the 1861 state convention which passed the ordinance of secession at the beginning of the American Civil War. Steele studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1865 and practiced law in his hometown of Rockingham.
Steele was elected to the 45th and 46th U.S. Congress, serving from March 4, 1877 to March 4, 1881. He declined to run again in 1880 and returned to cotton manufacturing and banking.
Walter L. Steele died in Baltimore, Maryland in 1891 and is buried in Leak Cemetery near Rockingham, North Carolina.