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accepting the nomination to the Presidency. It was a very short and straightforward document. He accepted the platform of principles laid down by the convention and concluded in the following words:
“Imploring the assistance of Divine Providence, and with due regard to the views and feelings of all who were represented in the convention, to the rights of all the States and Territories and people of the nation, to the inviolability of the Constitution, and the perpetual union, harmony, and prosperity of all, I am most happy to cooperate for the practical success of the principles declared by the convention."
The Presidential canvass of that year was unique in the history of the American Republic. The enthusiasm of the people of the free States broke over all bounds. To use a common Western expression, it swept the country like a prairie fire. The friends of freedom organized semi-military companies, the like of which have appeared in political campaigns since that day. These were called “Wide-awakes,” and, uniformed and carrying torches at night, or bannerets in the daytime, they turned out in vast numbers whenever there was a demonstration by the Republicans; and this was very often. Campaign songs were composed, set to music, and sung all over the North, the rousing choruses being taken up and made as familiar to everybody as household words. The log cabin of the Harrison campaign was brought out to do duty again as a token of the humble origin of the candidate. Rails and railsplitting were popular symbols, and innumerable de
vices were invented to rouse to a still higher pitch the fervor of the Republicans, and to sweep into the onrushing wave the halting and the vacillating.
It must not be understood that there was no opposition to Lincoln. On the contrary, as the election returns showed, there was a very strong opposition; and the leaders of this party manifested their hatred of the Republicans and their candidate by the most violent and abusive language. The terms “Black Republicans,” “Negro Lovers,” and the like were among the least offensive of the epithets showered upon the members and candidates of the new, aggressive party. Douglas, to the surprise of many of his best friends and followers, took the stump in his own behalf. It had never been the usage for a Presidential candidate to speak in advocacy of his own election, although men had often done this, especially in the West, when they were candidates for less important offices. Many felt that this was a doubtful experiment for Douglas to make; and many said that it showed how desperate was his
His speeches were designed to prove that he was the only safe candidate before the people, Breckinridge representing the sectionalism of slavery, and Lincoln the sectionalism of anti-slavery; but it appeared that both sections of the country had resolved to have no more experiments. This time the question of slavery extension or slavery limitation was to be settled forever.
Lincoln stayed quietly at home, although he was sometimes well-nigh overwhelmed with visitors from every part of the Union. Some of these came from
idle curiosity; some to put in a good word for themselves, in case the candidate should be chosen and have offices to fill. Others came honestly encouraging the candidate, now widely celebrated and so greatly loved as a man of the people. A handsome room in the State capitol was assigned to Lincoln, and here he received his visitors during the exciting months that intervened between the nomination in June and the election in November. But he made no speeches, and refrained, with his usual wisdom, from making any public demonstration whatever.
When the votes were in, at the end of that famous canvass, it was found that Lincoln had one hundred and eighty of the electoral votes of the States, and 1,866,452 men had voted for him. Breckinridge had seventy-two electoral votes, and he had been the express choice of 847,953 voters. Douglas had twelve electoral votes; his popular vote was 1,375,157. Bell had thirty-nine electoral votes, and a popular vote of 590,631. Lincoln had received a majority of the electoral votes, but it will be noticed that he had not a majority of all the votes of the people, the four candidates in the field having divided the popular votes unusually; but, notwithstanding this, he had the largest popular vote that had been polled, at that time, for any Presidential candidate.
Lincoln took his election with a composure not untinged with sadness. A tremendous responsibility was now certain to be placed upon him. The South had openly and repeatedly declared an intention to break up the Union, by leaving it, in case of the election of the Republican candidate.
candidate. He was op