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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

The South was almost solid for Breckinridge


While

the Republicans were thus choosing their champion, much fiercer quarrels were rending the opposite party, whose Convention met at Charleston. The great majority of the Northern delegates were for choosing Douglas as candidate, and fighting on a programme of "popular sovereignty." But the Southerners would not hear of either candidate or programme. His attitude on the Lecompton business was no longer the only count against Douglas. The excellent controversial strategy of Lincoln had forced from him during the Illinois debates an interpretation of "popular sovereignty" equally offensive to the South. Lincoln had asked him how a territory whose inhabitants desired to exclude Slavery could, if the Dred Scott decision were to be accepted, lawfully exclude it. Douglas had answered that it could for practical purposes exclude it by withholding legislation in its support and adopting "unfriendly legislation" towards it. Lincoln at once pointed out that Douglas was virtually advising a territorial government to nullify a judgment of the Supreme Court. The cry was caught up in the South and was fatal to Douglas's hopes of support from that section.

The Charleston Convention, split into two hostile sections, broke up without a decision. The Douglas men, who were the majority, met at Baltimore, acclaimed him as Democratic candidate and adopted his programme. The dissentients held another Convention at Charleston and adopted Breckinridge with a programme

based upon the widest interpretation of the Dred Scott judgment. To add to the multiplicity of voices the rump of the old Whig Party, calling themselves the party of "the Union, the Constitution and the Laws," nominated Everett and Bell.

The split in the Democratic Party helped the Republicans in another than the obvious fashion of giving them the chance of slipping in over the heads of divided opponents. It helped their moral position in the North. It deprived the Democrats of their most effective appeal to Union-loving men--the assertion that their party was national while the Republicans were sectional. For Douglas was now practically as sectional as Lincoln. As little as Lincoln could he command any considerable support south of the Potomac. Moreover, the repudiation of Douglas seemed to many Northerners to prove that the South was arrogant and unreasonable beyond possibility of parley or compromise. The wildest of her protagonists could not pretend that Douglas was a "Black Abolitionist," or that he meditated any assault upon the domestic institutions of the Southern States. If the Southerners could not work with him, with what Northerner, not utterly and unconditionally subservient to them, could they work? It seemed to many that the choice lay between a vigorous protest now and the acceptance of the numerically superior North of a permanently inferior position in the Confederation.

In his last electoral campaign the "Little Giant" put up a plucky fight against his enemies North and South. But he had met his Waterloo. In the whole Union he carried but one State and half of another. The South was almost solid for Breckinridge. The North and West, from New England to California, was as solid for Lincoln. A few border States gave their votes for Everett. But, owing to the now overwhelming numerical superiority of the Free States, the Republicans had in the Electoral College a decided majority over all other parties.


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