Tag Archives: election of 1860

The Day of Battle Has Arrived – The Daily Richmond Enquirer, November 6, 1860

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 8.44.02 AMAnd good morning to you all. It’s newspaper time at the Harristorian archives!

This article from the November 6, 1860 Daily Richmond Enquirer should delight all of you…first year college undergrads taking a US survey, Civil War buffs, and the countless thousands who are thirsting for a greater understanding of the election of 1860 (wishful thinking on my part…?). Well, it probably won’t be good news for those who insist that sectional strife did NOT hinge on the prospect of a probable attack on the institution of slavery – but too bad.

Yes…election day 1860 stirred the hearts of people all over the Union – North and South. The perception: the fate of the country was hanging in the balance. Turns out…people were right.

I find this particular article illuminated for two reasons. One: the ideal of Union is paramount – suggesting that Virginians had clear nationalistic leanings. The important thing…they were Unionists on decidedly sectional terms…as the author indicates that the “whole South” should ban together to shape the vision of Union. This idea goes against the notion that Virginians (or at the very least, the author of this piece) saw themselves as Virginians alone – not nationalists. They were southern Americans to be sure and wanted to run the show, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they did not embrace a national identity as well. Two: highlighting the threat of losing slavery is clearly the author’s intention. Indicating that Lincoln was a “Black Republican” lumps the man and the party in with the radical abolitionists, which was neither Lincoln’s bent nor his party’s.

Below is the transcript in its entirety. Have a look and come to your own conclusions. As always at Cosmic America – I encourage you to argue away. I know one newspaper article comes no where close to proving an argument – but it is a good jumping off point!

The Day of Battle has Arrived.

Before another issue of the Richmond “Enquirer” can reach any of our readers, the most important and exciting election in which American citizens have ever participated will have taken place. Never were our principles more imperilled than in the present warfare waged upon our constitutional rights by Black Republican enemies, headed by their standard-bearer, Abe Lincoln. Nothing can defeat the aggressor but a concentration of the entire Southern vote on those well-tried and faithful patriots—BRECKINRIDGE and LANE. The destiny of this great American Union is now in the hands of the people. The importance of the contest now upon us cannot be over estimated. It involves all that patriots and friends of the Union hold dear, and upon the result hangs the hopes of the nation for all time to come.

The time for argument and discussion has passed. It only remains now for us, friends of the Constitution and the Union, to act—to act as freemen worthy of the noble heritage of liberty—to act as it becomes men to act who properly estimate the glorious privileges they enjoy, and who wish to transmit them to a free and happy posterity.

Democrats of Virginia! friends of Breckinridge and Lane! at this time shall there by any recreancy in our ranks? Will not every man, who desires the success of our gallant candidates, who desires the defeat of Lincoln and Hamlin, be at his post? Will there be one found to desert his colors in this trying emergency? Rather, let there be a grand rally of all our forces—let each man battle with might and main for the truth and right!

To work, then, friends of our glorious cause! To work with all your power, with your whole soul, and mind, and strength for liberty, and honor, and peace, and safety! We appeal to you to stand by your flag, by your candidates, by your principles, by your country—to devote THE WHOLE OF THIS DAY to the great cause you have espoused—to give your undivided, unselfish devotion to the Constitution, the Union, and the Equality of the States!

With compliments,


So Much Can Change in a Year

mcconnellMy last post promised to look a tad more closely at the shifting allegiances of the Democratic Party in Los Angeles. If you recall, in the presidential contest of 1860, John Breckinridge edged out his opponents for a victory in Los Angeles County. His 686 votes easily took care of Lincoln’s 352 and poor Bell’s 201. But his margin over the Northern Democrat, Stephen Douglass, was more on the narrow side. Douglas added 494 votes to his column – not enough to take the prize, but roughly even with his Democratic opposition.

Fast forward to the California gubernatorial election on September 4, 1861. Leland Stanford – Republican – took the state handily. But in the Democratic southern part of the state, The Southern Democrat, John McConnell (pictured), absolutely wiped the floor with his Union Democratic opponent, John Conness. In Los Angeles County, for example, McConnell tallied 1187 votes to Conness’s meager 216. How can we account for such a dramatic shift in the Democratic Party?

Perhaps Conness was simply unfit for the job, and everyone knew it. But there may have been more at work that could reveal shifting allegiances typical in a wartime democratic republic. Two things had happened between the elections that may have had a fragile party in Southern California – at least temporarily – look to the southern wing of their organization. First, the Confederacy had bested the United States at Manassas that July. Second, and perhaps more important in a western context, reports that Confederate armies had invaded New Mexico (also in July) with “thousands” of soldiers who were poised to annex New Mexico and Arizona any time (they did so in December without much fanfare or bite…then things really fell apart in 1862) stirred up secessionist feeling in the Southland. Rumors bolstered by the local anti-Lincoln press implied that Rebel troops disguised as miners were also gathering at the Colorado River in preparation to “liberate” Southern California. Nothing, of course, ever came of these highly exaggerated threats (or promises…depending on how you look at it). But such news, however fraudulent, might have been enough to sway the gubernatorial vote.

At any rate, the idea is worth looking into further. Thoughts?

With compliments,


Southern California and the Confederacy

HD_TheUnionisDissolvedYou hear tell from time to time from academic circles and elsewhere that the southern counties of the state of California leaned toward the southern states during the secession crisis and sympathized with the Confederacy during the Civil War. The logic is simple, really. 1) The 1860 voting returns clearly show that while the Republicans could claim California as a whole, the southern counties voted decidedly against Abraham Lincoln – and instead, returned a respectable vote for John C. Breckinridge – the state rights/Southern Democrat candidate. 2) Land holders, profiting from a labor system held over from the mission years that in many ways resembled southern chattel slavery, could relate to the southern master class and their efforts to keep their institutions intact in an independent nation.

While both of the points are unquestionably accurate, did they make Southern Californians rebels? I am not convinced.

I am beginning to sense a pattern forming as I read through much of the literature on Southern California during the 1850s. There is another possible reason why Southern Californians would have looked favorably on a state rights effort that had more to do with internal issues rather than national ones. Southern Californians had independence on the mind, as it were. Influential individuals recognized that Southern California was indeed a distinctive region and had been, for at least a few years since California gained admittance to the Union, been pushing for a separation from the northern part of the state (along the Tehachapi Range north of Santa Barbara). In fact, the issue was set for a vote and a petition to Congress –  and it looked as though Southern California was heading for statehood…until the Civil War broke out and put the issue off for a while.

Could Southern Californians (few that they were in 1860) have been localizing a national crisis to fuel a secession movement of their own? Perhaps. But I do not think that the region ever solidly backed the Confederacy or the Confederate War effort beyond a few isolated examples of rebel revelry. We’ll see. I am sure I will have much more to report on this subject as my research continues. N.B. The push for statehood never really regained the momentum it had lost in 1861 – but more on that later. Your thoughts are, as always, more than welcome.

With compliments,