Republican Party Platform 1864

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Last week we looked at the Democrat party platform of 1864.  Go here to read it.  It was one long attack on the conduct of the War by the Lincoln administration.  Today we look at the Republican platform.

Well, technically it was the platform of the National Union Party, a temporary name given to the Republican party in 1864, the better to attract war Democrat votes.  Hannibal Hamlin of Maine was dumped as Veep and Andrew Johnson, the military governor of Tennessee and life long Democrat, was nominated as Veep as part of this strategy.  The party convention was held in Baltimore, not the friendliest of venues for Republicans, on June 7 and June 8, when the War news was unremittingly grim.  It is striking therefore how uncompromising the platform approved on June 7 was in regard to the War and Emancipation.  Here is the text of the platform:

1. Resolved, That it is the highest duty of every American citizen to maintain against all their enemies the integrity of the Union and the paramount authority of the Constitution and laws of the United States; and that, laying aside all differences of political opinion, we pledge ourselves, as Union men, animated by a common sentiment and aiming at a common object, to do everything in our power to aid the Government in quelling by force of arms the Rebellion now raging against its authority, and in bringing to the punishment due to their crimes the Rebels and traitors arrayed against it.

2. Resolved, That we approve the determination of the Government of the United States not to compromise with Rebels, or to offer them any terms of peace, except such as may be based upon an unconditional surrender of their hostility and a return to their just allegiance to the Constitution and laws of the United States, and that we call upon the Government to maintain this position and to prosecute the war with the utmost possible vigor to the complete suppression of the Rebellion, in full reliance upon the self-sacrificing patriotism, the heroic valor and the undying devotion of the American people to the country and its free institutions.

3. Resolved, That as slavery was the cause, and now constitutes the strength of this Rebellion, and as it must be, always and everywhere, hostile to the principles of Republican Government, justice and the National safety demand its utter and complete extirpation from the soil of the Republic; and that, while we uphold and maintain the acts and proclamations by which the Government, in its own defense, has aimed a deathblow at this gigantic evil, we are in favor, furthermore, of such an amendment to the Constitution, to be made by the people in conformity with its provisions, as shall terminate and forever prohibit the existence of Slavery within the limits of the jurisdiction of the United States.

4. Resolved, That the thanks of the American people are due to the soldiers and sailors of the Army and Navy, who have periled their lives in defense of the country and in vindication of the honor of its flag; that the nation owes to them some permanent recognition of their patriotism and their valor, and ample and permanent provision for those of their survivors who have received disabling and honorable wounds in the service of the country; and that the memories of those who have fallen in its defense shall be held in grateful and everlasting remembrance.

5. Resolved, That we approve and applaud the practical wisdom, the unselfish patriotism and the unswerving fidelity to the Constitution and the principles of American liberty, with which ABRAHAM LINCOLN has discharged, under circumstances of unparalleled difficulty, the great duties and responsibilities of the Presidential office; that we approve and indorse, as demanded by the emergency and essential to the preservation of the nation and as within the provisions of the Constitution, the measures and acts which he has adopted to defend the nation against its open and secret foes; that we approve, especially, the Proclamation of Emancipation, and the employment as Union soldiers of men heretofore held in slavery; and that we have full confidence in his determination to carry these and all other Constitutional measures essential to the salvation of the country into full and complete effect.

6. Resolved, That we deem it essential to the general welfare that harmony should prevail in the National Councils, and we regard as worthy of public confidence and official trust those only who cordially indorse the principles proclaimed in these resolutions, and which should characterize the administration of the government.

7. Resolved, That the Government owes to all men employed in its armies, without regard to distinction of color, the full protection of the laws of war—and that any violation of these laws, or of the usages of civilized nations in time of war, by the Rebels now in arms, should be made the subject of prompt and full redress.

8. Resolved, That foreign immigration, which in the past has added so much to the wealth, development of resources and increase of power to the nation, the asylum of the oppressed of all nations, should be fostered and encouraged by a liberal and just policy.

9. Resolved, That we are in favor of the speedy construction of the railroad to the Pacific coast.

10. Resolved, That the National faith, pledged for the redemption of the public debt, must be kept inviolate, and that for this purpose we recommend economy and rigid responsibility in the public expenditures, and a vigorous and just system of taxation; and that it is the duty of every loyal state to sustain the credit and promote the use of the National currency.

11. Resolved, That we approve the position taken by the Government that the people of the United States can never regard with indifference the attempt of any European Power to overthrow by force or to supplant by fraud the institutions of any Republican Government on the Western Continent and that they will view with extreme jealousy, as menacing to the peace and independence of their own country, the efforts of any such power to obtain new footholds for Monarchical Government, sustained by foreign military force, in near proximity to the United States.

The Republican party staked its future existence in 1864 on the successful outcome of the War.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Well at least they acknowledge that abolition of slavery by force of arms is unconstitutional (while amazingly invoking the constitution as a grounds to wage war against states), and would require a constitutional amendment. So the notion is at least implicitly recognized that the federal government’s claim to wage a war “against slavery” as Lincoln enunciated (when “maintaining the union” failed to win support of a large part of the northern populace), is clearly an unconstitutional one. One section of the country can’t simply decide it dislikes the proper, constitutional laws of another section and proceed to invade.

    The cynical and extra-constitutional way the federal government got its desired slavery amendments (and the formation of West Virginia) is a story for another time, but again calls into question the sincerity of the pious invocation of the constitution in the platform.

    The other interesting plank is the call for “liberal” immigration. The more things change…

  2. Oh, and by June of 1864 there was little serious doubt about the outcome of the war, if pursued. Whether to pursue it to conclusion was a subject of debate in the north, as the opposing platforms indicate, but after Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and the very effective blockade of Southern ports, few knowledgeable observers would conclude that the South had a hope of anything better than a stalemate.

    My own view is that the South should have strongly pursued peace, even at the cost of national survival, given the clear realities by the end of 1863. To continue was only to invite further useless bloodshed. Peace in 1864 might have averted the worst effects of Reconstruction and saved some modicum of federalism.

  3. “Well at least they acknowledge that abolition of slavery by force of arms is unconstitutional”

    Not a hint of that in the platform.

    “amazingly invoking the constitution as a grounds to wage war against states”

    The Constitution itself makes plain that the Federal government may fight against rebellions and insurrections.

    “One section of the country can’t simply decide it dislikes the proper, constitutional laws of another section and proceed to invade.”

    Left out that secession business didn’t you Tom? The Southerners, as Lincoln tirelessly said, had nothing to fear from him in regard to slavery within their states. They ignored him, started a war against the Federal government, and set in motion the forces that destroyed slavery. I enjoy the rich irony of that sequence of events.

    “The cynical and extra-constitutional way the federal government got its desired slavery amendments (and the formation of West Virginia) is a story for another time, but again calls into question the sincerity of the pious invocation of the constitution in the platform.”

    It is rich when Confederates who were at war with the Constitution invoke it. West Virginia’s statehood was agreed by the Union government of Virginia and admitted to the Union by Congress. Nothing further had to be done to satisfy the strictures of the Constitution. The people of West Virginia were of course overwhelmingly against secession as their votes indicated at the time of Virginia’s vote on secession. Amendment XIII was duly ratified in proper constitutional form. Since most Confederates contended after the War that they had always been against slavery and that they had not been fighting for slavery, I see nothing for them to gripe about. So far as I know no Southern member of Congress after the War ever proposed repealing the XIIIth.

    “The other interesting plank is the call for “liberal” immigration. The more things change”

    Well, actually things do change, considering that in 1864 the country had 30 millions and today has 350 millions. I also do not think that Republicans have proposed ending legal immigration which, at one million a year, certainly is a liberal immigration law by the standard of immigration laws around the globe.

  4. “Oh, and by June of 1864 there was little serious doubt about the outcome of the war, if pursued.”

    Most contemporary observers would have disagreed with you Tom. Grant’s Overland Offensive had rung up 50,000 casualties, Sherman was making little progress, the Red River offensive had ended in defeat, and Breckinridge held the Shenandoah Valley for the South. War weariness in the North was growing. The South came close to winning the War in 1864 by simply outlasting Northern willingness to continue the fight.

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