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Birth of the Republican Party–Nomination of Frémont—The Party

Lines Drawn-A Virulent Campaign-Election of James Buchanan-Kansas Reluctant to consent to Slavery.


CONVENTION of men opposed to the Kansas

Nebraska measure was called to meet in Bloomington, Illinois, May 29, 1856. It was a meeting, in fact, of such persons residing in Illinois as were opposed to the further extension of slavery. Naturally the assemblage was made up of men who were divided on many of the minor questions relating to the conflict of slavery and freedom, and, im fact, it soon became evident that they could not unite on any declaration of principles beyond that of hostility to slavery and all measures for its extension, without much difficulty. Lincoln was sent for, and, finding the managers of this mass-meeting in trouble, he proposed the following. He said: “Let us, in building our new party, make our cornerstone the Declaration of Independence. Let us build on this rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against us.” This simple and sufficient "platform” met the approval of all who heard it. The convention, if it may be dignified by that name, adopted the following resolution, which was only an expansion of Lincoln's idea:

Resolved, That we hold, in accordance with the opinions and practices of all the great statesmen of all parties for the first sixty years of the administration of the government, that, under the Constitution, Congress possesses full power to prohibit slavery in the Territories; and that, while we will maintain all constitutional rights of the South, we also hold that justice, humanity, the principles of freedom, as expressed in our Declaration of Independence and our national Constitution, and the purity and perpetuity of our government require that that power should be exerted to prevent the extension of slavery into Territories heretofore free."

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The Republican party was born.

Rising in the midst of that convention, which was an assembly vast in proportions, of the most ardent friends of freedom and some of the ablest leaders of public opinion, Lincoln made a masterly speech, kindling, thrilling, and stimulating. Like so many of his earlier addresses in the cause of Republican institutions, no report of the speech has been left

One who was present at the meeting says of the address:

“Never was an audience more completely electrified by human eloquence. Again and again, during the progress of its delivery, they sprang to their feet and upon the benches, and testified, by long-continued shouts and the waving of hats, how deeply the speaker had wrought upon their minds and hearts. It fused the mass of hitherto incongruous elements into perfect homogeneity, and from that day to the present they have worked together in harmonious and fraternal union.”

Similar proceedings had taken place in other

States, each State organizing its party for freedom in its own way. The first national convention of the Republican party met in Philadelphia, June 17, 1856. John Charles Frémont, of California, was nominated for President, and William L. Dayton, of New Jersey, for Vice-President. Lincoln's Illinois friends, ever on the lookout for a chance to promote what they thought were his interests, made an effort to have him made the candidate for VicePresident. Mr. Dayton received 259 votes and Lincoln 110 votes, there being many votes scattered among leading members of the new party. When Lincoln, who remained in Springfield, heard of the votes cast for “Lincoln” for Vice-President, he said, unconscious of his growing fame, “That is probably the distinguished Mr. Lincoln of Massachusetts."

The Democratic convention, in the meantime, had met in Cincinnati, June 2, 1856, and had nominated James Buchanan, of Pennsylvania, for President, and John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, for VicePresident. Douglas, Lincoln's frequent adversary, had reason to expect that he might be named for the Presidency as a reward for his advocacy of measures designed to carry slavery into the new Territories. This honor was denied him. On the sixteenth and next to the last ballot, Buchanan received 168 votes, of which 121 were from the free States, and 47 were from the slave States. Douglas received 122 votes, of which 49 were from free States, and 73 from slave States. The Republican party, in their platform of principles, denied the authority of Congress, or of any Territorial Legislature, of any

individual or association of individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any. Territory of the United States. They furthermore declared that "the Constitution confers upon Congress sovereign power over the Territories of the United States for their government,” and that in the exercise of that power it is both the right and the duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories “those twin relics of barbarism -polygamy and slavery.” On the other hand, the Democratic convention adopted a skilfully worded platform of principles, the verbiage of which was designed to conceal ideas. The time for outspoken utterances on the all-absorbing subject of slavery evidently had not come. But the platform was an unmistakable indorsement of the doctrine that the people of Kansas and Nebraska could, as Douglas had said, vote slavery up or down, as they chose. The lines between the two parties were, after all, pretty sharply drawn.

There was a third party in the field that year, its members calling themselves the American party, their principal article of faith being the restriction of the right to vote to native-born citizens, to a great degree, foreigners being allowed to use that right very sparingly. The American party nominated Fillmore and Donelson, Mr. Fillmore being the Vice-President who had succeeded to the Presidential office on the death of General Taylor. There were, of course, many Whigs who did not see that their party was dead; and these were relied on to vote for Fillmore, who was elected with Taylor on the Whig ticket in 1848.

Lincoln, as usual, was an elector from his State, being at the head of the Republican electoral ticket in Illinois. He took an active part in the canvass, speaking from one end of the State to the other, almost continually, through the summer of 1856. His speeches were remarkable for their clearness, closeness of logic, and merciless dissection of the arguments and measures of the proslavery Democracy under the local leadership of Douglas. There was much material for the exercise of his peculiar powers. The South and their Democratic allies in the North were forcing slavery into the Territories, and the work of their creatures in Kansas had deluged that region with blood. At that

At that very time the fair young Territory was torn and wounded with civil war.

There was a determination to compel the people of the Territory to adopt slavery as the rule, although, under Douglas's specious plea of popular sovereignty, the question was to be left to the whole people to choose between free institutions and slavery. During this campaign, while Lincoln was speaking in one of the southern counties of the State, where the proslavery sentiment was yet strong, a man in the audience called out to him: “Mr. Lincoln, is it true that you entered this State barefoot, driving a yoke of oxen?” Lincoln paused for an instant, as if at a loss whether to take notice of a question so impertinent and so evidently malicious, and then said that he presumed that there were at least a dozen men in the crowd before him by whom he could prove that he did, if this were needful to the case in hand. But, as usual when he

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