|1860 Presidential Election|
|Date(s)||April 23-May 3, 1860|
|City||Charleston, South Carolina|
|Venue||South Carolina Institute Hall|
Stephen A. Douglas of |
John C. Breckinridge of
|Vice Presidential Nominee||
Herschel V. Johnson of |
New York (Official)
Daniel S. Dickinson of
New York (Southern)
|‹ 1856 · 1864 ›|
The 1860 Democratic National Convention was one of the crucial events in the lead-up to the American Civil War. Following a fragmented official Democratic National Convention that was adjourned in deadlock, two more presidential nominating conventions took place: a resumed official convention, which nominated Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, and a "rump" convention of disgruntled Democrats, primarily Southerners, which nominated Vice President John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky.
The 1860 Democratic National Convention convened at South Carolina Institute Hall in Charleston, South Carolina on April 23, 1860.
The front-runner for the nomination was Douglas. Douglas was opposed by militant Southern "Fire-eaters", such as William Yancey of Alabama, because he was considered a moderate on the slavery issue. He supported the doctrine of popular sovereignty: allowing settlers in each territory to decide for themselves whether slavery would be allowed. But the Supreme Court's 1857 Dred Scott decision declared that the Constitution protected slavery in all Federal territories.
At the Charleston convention, the "fire-eaters" demanded the adoption of a pro-slavery platform. They wanted endorsement of Dred Scott, and Congressional legislation explicitly protecting slavery in the territories. Northern Democrats refused to acquiesce. Dred Scott was extremely unpopular in the North; it was only by repudiating Dred Scott that Douglas had (barely) beaten back his challenger in the 1858 race in Illinois for his Senate seat (then an unknown named Abraham Lincoln) and narrowly won re-election. The minority (Northern) report on the platform was adopted on April 30 by a vote of 165 to 138. 50 Southern delegates then marched out of the convention hall in protest.
The departed delegates then gathered at Charleston's Military Hall, 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 Democratic convention had a rule that a nomination required a two-thirds majority. Furthermore, convention president Caleb Cushing ruled that two-thirds of the entire convention's vote was required, not just two-thirds of those actually present and voting.
Douglas thus needed 56½ more votes. 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 May 3 the delegates voted to adjourn the convention.
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 50 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 in Baltimore, Maryland on June 18. 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 of the committee 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. At this point, many additional delegates walked out, including most of the remaining Southern delegates, and also a scattering of delegates from northern and far western states.
The convention resumed voting on a nominee. On the first ballot, Douglas received 173½ of 190½ votes cast. On the second ballot he received 190½ votes of 203½ cast.[contradiction] At this point, 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. Senator Benjamin Fitzpatrick of Alabama was nominated for Vice President, receiving 198½ votes. However, Fitzpatrick later refused the nomination. He was replaced by former Senator Herschel V. Johnson of Georgia.
|Baltimore Presidential Ballot|
|Thomas S. Bocock||1||0|
|Henry A. Wise||0.5||0|
"Breckinridge Democrats" convention
The bolted Southern delegates and their allies reconvened at the Maryland Institute in Baltimore. The rump convention 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. The actual division in Democrat votes did not affect any state outcomes except California, Oregon, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, and even if those states had been carried by the Democrat nominee, the Republican nominee would still have had a 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 Democrat popular vote.
James McPherson suggests in his Pulitzer Prize work, "The 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. No explicit statements of this have been found, even in the private correspondence of prominent "Fire-eaters". But the open talk at Charleston about Republican victory, and the known repulsion of Northerners towards the pro-slavery doctrines of the Breckenridge ticket, suggests that the "Fire-eaters" had no serious expectation of electing Breckenridge. If so, then it is difficult to find any motive for their program other than provoking secession.[original research?]
- Democratic National Convention
- Catton, Bruce (1961). The Coming Fury. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc.. pp. 37–40.
- Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc.. 1985. pp. 45–46, 169. ISBN 0-87187-339-7. Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "CQ" defined multiple times with different content
- Official proceedings of the Democratic national convention, held in 1860, at Charleston and Baltimore
- Proceedings of the conventions at Charleston and Baltimore. Published by order of the National Democratic Convention assembled in Maryland Institute, Baltimore, and under the supervision of the National Democratic Executive Committee. (Breckinridge Faction)
|Democratic National Conventions||Succeeded by|