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ment of all claims, was to meet a like fate. The final blow to the hopes of southern extremists was, however, not to come until the very eve of the time when all effort was to be turned against the North, for September 30, 1860, William Walker was captured on the Honduras coast, and twelve days later was shot.
THE Democratic convention was thus brought to
gether at Charleston, April 23, 1860, under circumstances which foreboded trouble. Caleb Cushing, of Massachusetts, was chosen chairman. Davis's resolutions in the Senate, supported as they were throughout the South, were evidently to be the motif of action for the more extreme southern members; and the committee on resolutions, one from each state, came together with irreconcilable views. The western members, besides a strong personal enthusiasm for Douglas, were well aware of the danger to their party in the North if an extremist platform were adopted, and insisted firmly on a platform which Douglas, as the only Democratic candidate who could carry the North, could accept. But southern members "thought Douglas as bad as Seward and popular sovereignty as hateful as Sewardism." It had been determined long before that under no circumstances should Douglas be ac
1 Rhodes, United States, 11., 443.
cepted on his own platform. The result, after four days' discussion in the committee, was the presentation, April 27, of a majority report, representing seventeen states (including California and Oregon), with 127 electors, and a minority report representing 172 electoral votes. The majority reaffirmed the Cincinnati platform of 1856 of "non-interference by Congress with slavery in state or territory, or in the District of Columbia"; but added the fateful principle that during the existence of the government of a territory all citizens of the United States have an equal right to settle with their property in the territory, without their rights, either of person or property, being destroyed or impaired by congressional or territorial legislation; and that it was the duty of the Federal government, in all its departments, to protect, when necessary, such rights.
The minority report also readopted the Cincinnati platform, but, to cover the "differences of opinion as to the nature and extent of the powers of a territorial legislature, and as to the powers and duties of Congress under the Constitution of the United States over the institution of slavery within the territories," added a resolution "That the Democratic party will abide by the decisions of the Supreme Court . . . on the questions of constitutional law." Benjamin F. Butler, of
1 Stanwood, Hist. of the Presidency, 282, 284; McKee, National Conventions and Platforms, 108.
Massachusetts, later general, made a separate report of his own, proposing simply to reaffirm the Cincinnati platform as it stood.
Henry B. Payne, of Ohio, in offering the minority report, said: “It is not a personal victory which we seek to achieve, God knows, but every gentleman on that committee has felt in his conscience and in his heart that upon the result of our deliberations and the action of this Convention, in all human probability, is dependent the fate of this party and the destiny of this Union." He dwelt upon the earnest and patriotic desire to adjust the party differences, but claimed that the trouble came from the South. "I can prove," he said, "here, by the recorded testimony of almost every distinguished Senator or Representative from the Southern States, that from 1850 to 1856 there was not a dissenting opinion [to the principle of the Cincinnati platform] expressed on the records of Congressional discussion-not one. . I say to you, in the solemnity of my heart, that if the resolutions presented here by the majority of the committee be adopted, . . . you cannot expect any assistance from the Democracy of the Northern States in electoral votes or in members of Congress. . . . I do not believe we can elect a single member of Congress in the whole Northwest, unless it be in Lower Egypt.
Yancey, of Alabama, whose oratory, to a southern audience, was irresistible, and who, though in early 1 National Intelligencer, May 1, 1860.
life an ardent Unionist, had long stirred the fires of separation until he now had them ablaze, held up a lurid picture of the superlative evils which the adoption of the minority report must bring. "Ours," he said, "is the property invaded; ours are the institutions which are at stake; ours is the peace that is to be destroyed; ours is the property that is to be destroyed; ours is the honor at stake-the honor of our children, the honor of families, the lives perhaps of all-all of which rests upon what your course may ultimately make a great heaving volcano of passion and crime, if you are enabled to consummate your designs.
Yancey scored the Democrats of the North because they “acknowledged that slavery was wrong. You acknowledged that it could not exist anywhere by the law of Nature or by the law of God; that it could exist nowhere except by virtue of statutory enactment. In that you yielded the whole question. .. If you had taken the position that has been taken by one gallant son of the North, who proclaimed, under the hisses of thousands, that slavery was right, that anti-slavery demon, if not dead, would long since have been in chains at your feet." The southern leaders had come to that point of dementia where no difference of opinion upon slavery was to be tolerated.
When, on the sixth day of the convention, the 1 National Intelligencer, May 8, 1860.