1860 Democratic National Conventions
|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 Conventions were a series of presidential nominating conventions held to nominate the Democratic Party's candidates for president and vice president in the 1860 election. The first convention, held from April 23 to May 3 in Charleston, South Carolina, failed to nominate a ticket. Two subsequent conventions, both held in Baltimore, Maryland in June, nominated two separate presidential tickets.
Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois entered the Charleston convention as the front-runner for the presidential nomination, and he won a majority on the first presidential ballot of the convention. However, convention rules required a two-thirds majority for nomination, and Douglas's adherence to the Freeport Doctrine regarding slavery in the territories engendered strong opposition from many Southern delegates. Opponents of Douglas's nomination spread their support among five major candidates, including former Treasury Secretary James Guthrie of Kentucky and Senator Robert M. T. Hunter of Virginia. After 57 ballots in which Douglas consistently won majority support but failed to cross the two-thirds threshold, the Charleston convention adjourned.
The Democratic convention reconvened in Baltimore on June 18, but many Southern delegates were either excluded from the convention or refused to participate. The convention adopted a platform in which it pledged to abide by the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States upon these questions of Constitutional Law regarding slavery. Douglas was nominated for president on the second ballot. Senator Benjamin Fitzpatrick of Alabama was nominated for vice president but later refused the nomination; he was ultimately replaced by former Governor Herschel Vespasian Johnson of Georgia. A group of Southern Democrats met in their own separate convention, adopted a pro-slavery platform, and nominated incumbent Vice President John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky for president and Senator Joseph Lane of Oregon for vice president. Douglas and Breckinridge both went on to win a significant share of the popular vote in the 1860 presidential election, but Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln won the election.
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. Since Charleston was the most pro-slavery city in the U.S. at the time, the galleries at the convention were packed with pro-slavery spectators.
The front-runner for the nomination was Douglas, who 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, with militant Southern "Fire-Eaters", such as William Yancey of Alabama, opposing 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, as Dred Scott was extremely unpopular in the North, and the Northerners said they could not carry a single state with that platform, which in turn would effectively end their hopes of retaining control of the White House, as no candidate until that point had won the presidency without winning at least one of New York or Pennsylvania, and only four presidents overall (John Adams in 1796, James Madison in 1812, John Quincy Adams in 1824, and James Buchanan in 1856) had been elected without winning both. On 30 April, the convention by a vote of 165 to 138 adopted the minority (Northern) platform, which omitted these planks, and 50 Southern delegates walked out of the convention in protest: the entire 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.
These delegates gathered at St. Andrews Hall on Broad Street and declared themselves the real convention as 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, convention rules at the time required a two-thirds vote to win the nomination, and convention chairman Caleb Cushing had also ruled that two-thirds of the whole membership was required, not just two-thirds of those present and voting. This left Douglas needing 56½ more votes (for a total of 202) from the 253 delegates still present (or 80% of these delegates).
The convention held 57 ballots, and though Douglas led on all of them, he never got more than 152½ 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. 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:
Senator Robert M. T. Hunter of Virginia
Senator Joseph Lane of Oregon
Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee
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 walked out of 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, while the minority report recommended re-admitting some of the Louisiana and Alabama delegates as well. While the committee's majority report was adopted 150-100½, and new Louisiana and Alabama delegates were seated, many additional delegates withdrew in protest: most of the remaining Southern delegates, and 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, and on the second ballot he received 181½ votes of 194½ cast. Since there were only 194½ delegates present, it would be impossible for anyone to get 202 votes as per Cushing's earlier ruling. The delegates unanimously voted to override this, and declared by unanimous voice vote that since Douglas had received 2/3 of the votes cast, he was nominated.
|Baltimore presidential ballot|
|Thomas S. Bocock||1||0|
|Henry A. Wise||0.5||0|
Vice Presidential balloting
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 in 1924. William C. Alexander of New Jersey was also withdrawn after it was mentioned he would not allow his name to be presented as a candidate.
Senator Benjamin Fitzpatrick of Alabama
|Vice presidential ballot|
Vice presidential nomination
Former Governor Herschel V. Johnson of Georgia
“Breckinridge Democrats” convention
The Southern Democrats who walked out, 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.
- History of the United States Democratic Party
- U.S. presidential nomination convention
- List of Democratic National Conventions
- 1860 Republican National Convention
- 1860 United States presidential election
- "Democratic Party Platform; June 18, 1860". avalon.law.yale.edu. Retrieved June 13, 2020.
- Catton, Bruce (1961). The Coming Fury. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc. pp. 37–40.
- Heidler, David S. Pulling the Temple Down: The Fire-Eaters and the Destruction of the Union ISBN 0-8117-0634-6, p. 149. Jefferson Davis, a relative moderate, saw this coalition of the Deep South with Douglas's enemies in the Buchanan administration as potentially dangerous, and called for abandoning a platform as the Whigs had in 1840, just settling on an agreed-to candidate. The moderates, principally found in Alabama and Georgia, were outvoted in caucus.
- Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc. 1985. pp. 45–46, 169. ISBN 0-87187-339-7.
- Davis, Jefferson. The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government pp. 43-46
- 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 Party Platform of 1860 at The American Presidency Project
- Democratic Party Platform (Breckinridge Faction) of 1860
|Democratic National Conventions||Succeeded by|