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DEMOCRATIC-REPUBLICAN— WHIG-AMERICAN CONSTI.
E campaign of 1856 was opened with a quadrangu.
lar contest and the introduction of a new element into national politics.
The strength displayed by Buchanan in the conven. tion of 1852, as well as his eminent abilities and spotless character, made him the leading candidate this year. He entered the convention with 1353 votes to 1224 for Pierce (the half-vote for each was by reason of the admis. sion of both contesting delegates from one district, giving each f of a vote), 33 for Douglas, and 5 for Cass. The bulk of Buchanan's vote was from the Northern States, yet he had also a majority of those from the South. On the sixteenth ballot the contest was narrowed down to Buchanan and Douglas, the former receiving 168 votes, the latter 123, and Cass 8.
Bodies of men, the most able and cool-headed, are sometimes carried off their feet by a sudden and often unaccountable impulse. Former experiences may have suggested the possibility of the introduction of a “ dark horse" in the close and exciting contest; and the deter. mination that none but one of their tried and honored leaders should be chosen, may have swayed the conven. tion. Buchanan had a majority, but far from two thirds. On the next ballot, delegation after delegation changed its vote, until the entire number, 296, were cast for Buchanan. On the first ballot for the Vice-Presidency the votes were fairly divided between ten or more. Sev. eral of them were withdrawn, and on the second ballot John C. Breckinridge was nominated by acclamation.
Undismayed by the swelling ranks of those opposed to slavery, the Democrats stood bravely by their guns. They renewed their adherence to the principles promul. gated by former conventions; but they went further, and squarely met the new aspects of the question. There was to be no evasion or shirking. They announced that
“The American Democracy recognize and adopt the principles contained in the organic laws establishing the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska as embodying the only sound and safe solution of the 'slavery question,' upon which the great national idea of the people of this whole country can repose in its determined conservation of the Union-Non-interven. tion by Congress with slavery in State and Territory and in the District of Columbia."
They also declared that the Territories had a right to form a constitution preparatory to admission into the Union, either sanctioning or condemning slavery as a majority of votes should determine. They affirined their adherence to the Monroe Doctrine, declared in favor of a railroad to the Pacific, and a canal across the Isthmus, over which " we can, under no circumstances, surrender our preponderance in the adjustment of all questions arising out of it." They proclaimed themselves " in favor of free seas, and progressive free trade throughout the world." They pledged the coming administration to make every proper effort to secure our ascendancy in the Gulf of Mexico. (This was a faint echo of the Ostend Manifesto.) They were emphatic in condemning "the attempt to enforce civil and religious disabilities, and the rights of acquiring and enjoying citizenship in our land."
In this campaign the Whig party made its last gasp of life. It was already in articulo mortis. It felt that it had not strength enough to stand alone, and leaned sadly and heavily upon a inysterious stranger who had come out of darkness into the open arena.
Its convention ratified the nomination of Millard Fillmore and Andrew Jackson Donelson, who had, a few months previously, been announced as the candidates of the American, or Know-Nothing party.
The deliverances of the last Whig convention were full of patriotic ardor and of grave apprehension for the future of the country. They declared "their reverence for the Constitution, their unalterable attachment to the National Union, and a fixed determination to do all in their power to preserve them for themselves and their posterity.” But they regarded “with the deepest inter. est and anxiety the present disorderly condition of our national affairs," and looked with serious forebodings upon the sectional strife in which “ large sections of our
་ ་ ། population are embittered by mutual recriminations." "Civil war is raging, and the Union is in peril." Under these alarming conditions they declared "that, without adopting or referring to the peculiar doctrines of the party which has already selected Mr. Fillmore as a can. didate, we look to him as a well-tried and faithful friend of the Constitution and the Union," etc.,
The party to whose " peculiar doctrines " the Whigs referred was one born in secret; its accouchement was a mystery; its existence and its purposes were concealed for a time; and when suspicious circumstances directed attention and aroused curiosity to certain stealthy move. ments, and inquiry was made of anyone thought to be connected therewith, he invariably answered, " I know nothing about it." Thus the organization becaine des. ignated as Know.Nothings. In time it was developed that the members met in secret lodges, had forms of initiation, oaths, passwords, and signs of recognition. By perfect discipline and hidden methods, they were able to invade the councils of the other parties, and secure the nomination of some of their own members to whom no suspicion of such membership was openly attached. This done, when election day came they cast " plumpers " for their secret ally; and by electing him, although he professed allegiance to the party in a hope. less minority in the locality, they spread amazement and consternation amongst the uninitiated.
In 1854 the candidates supported by this party were elected in Delaware and Massachusetts. In Pennsylvania Pollock, Whig and Know-Nothing, was elected Governor; and at the same time Mott, Democrat and Know Noth. ing, was elected Canal Commissioner; and a Whig and Know.Nothing majority was elected to the legislature. Henry A. Wise, Democratic candidate for Governor of Virginia, made a terrific and sustained assault upon Know.Nothingism. Although far from well, he travelled over three thousand iniles, made fifty speeches, and thoroughly routed the enemy, having a majority of ten thousand to his credit. In 1855 the Know-Nothings elected governors and members of the State legislatures in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Isiand, Con. necticut, New York, and California, and a portion of the ticket in Maryland. In Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas the majorities for the Democratic candidates were greatly reduced by the same agency. As soon as this party felt strong and bold enough to come out of its hiding-places, its doom was sealed.
As has been stated, this party put in nomination Fill. more and Donelson. Their first and only national con. vention was held in Philadelphia, February 22, 1856. The platform, after a devout acknowledgment of God's pro. tecting care of our nation, and a declaration of allegiance to the Constitution and the Union, proceeded to proclaim its “ peculiar doctrines." "Americans must rule Amer. ica, and to this end native-born citizens should be selected for all State, Federal, and municipal govern. ment employment, in preference to all others." "No person should be selected for political station (whether of native or foreign birth) who recognizes any allegiance or obligation of any description to any foreign prince, potentate, or power." They also declared in favor of a change in the naturalization law which should make "a continued residence of twenty-one years an indispensable requisite for citizenship." Upon the pending political issues, they avowed themselves in favor of maintaining the reserved rights of the States, and non-interference by Congress with domestic affairs in the States. They pro. nounced in favor of Squatter Sovereignty, with the limitation that none but actual citizens should have the right to vote upon the adoption of a Constitution for Territories sceking adinission as States.
From the formation of our government, immigration had been invited, encouraged, and welcomed.
Vast numbers had left their native land and had founded homes and interests here. They had aided very largely in the development of our country's resources, and in constructing great public works, and in many various useful industries. They had renounced allegiance to any foreign power, and had become naturalized citizens. Now a brand was to be put upon them. No matter how honest, able, and loyal, not one of them should be enti. tled to hold office. They should not even be permitted to earn support for their families by making or mending the highways, or by sweeping the streets, or by any other “ State, Federal, or municipal government ein. ployment."