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News of 150 Years Ago–May/June 1860


May/June 1860

The spring of 1860 witnessed the total fracturing of the U.S. political landscape, as five national conventions were held to nominate candidates for President. The first, the National Democratic convention, held in Charleston, S.C. in April, collapsed in disarray without a nomination after 57 ballots. The second, the Republican convention in Chicago in May, surprised the nation with thei nomination of Abraham Lincoln of Illinois. At the third, the new Constitutional Union party, comprised of former Whigs and Know-Nothings, nominated John Bell of Tennessee at Baltimore. The National Democrats reconvened at Baltimore in June, resulting in the withdrawal of most of the Southern delegations over the rejection of a platform resolution on slavery in the territories. The remaining delegates then nominated Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. The Southern Democrats met later in the month in Richmond and nominated John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky. The very partisan press, including the MISSOURI DEMOCRAT, zealously covered all these events.

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, May 1, 1860.





A Salute in Honor of the Seceders.

CHARLESTON, Monday morning, April 30.—The Tribune’s correspondent says the friends of Mr. Douglas will begin the contest to-day, in great confidence of his nomination on the third ballot.

The friends of Dickinson are equally confident, as it is believed that the South will rally on him.

An effort will be made to-day to take the Cincinnati Platform without addition….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, May 2, 1860.



The Seceders in Council.

CHARLESTON, May 1.—St. Andrews’ Hall last night was thronged with members of the bolters from the convention; John C. Preston, of South Carolina, presiding.

On taking the chair, Mr. Preston delivered a short address. He considered this a great occasion. He said, we only know that the institutions of our country are imperiled, and we are here to preserve our rights and redress our wrongs. If we had submitted we would have done that which would have driven us from the land of our forefathers and deprived us of the liberty they fought for, and ultimately would have driven us from the spot on which their sacred ashes repose….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, May 4, 1860.


The plot by which the Democratic nominee was to be Douglas or nobody, thickens. After several days of ineffectual labor, marked perceptibly by the withdrawal of several Southern States, the Convention at Charleston, yesterday adjourned to meet in Baltimore, on the 18th of June next. All the particulars we have, only tell us that the vote stood 166 to 88, and as the proposition came from a friend of Mr. Hunter, we conclude that Douglas is already as good as counted out when the Convention met, and for weeks before hand the Douglas organs in this city and elsewhere, boastfully vaunted that their favorite would certainly have a majority of the whole vote on the first ballot, and by the third receive two-thirds. One by one all their predictions have been scattered to the winds, and with the adjournment, the last hope may be said to have faded away….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, May 5, 1860.


Between this and the eighteenth of June we shall probably be treated with a repetition of the political clap trap and ridiculous nonsense that has been used for months past to convince the world in general, and the Democratic convention lately adjourned at Charleston in particular, that there is only one man in the country fit for President of the United States, and that man, the Senator from Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas. Already the thunder of fifty-seven guns have belched forth the opening of the scene at Indianapolis, where the admirers of Douglas fired that number of rounds in honor of the Indiana delegation, who stuck to their candidate through every ballot. We shall hear of guns, of county and State conventions, public speeches, letters from retired politicians, North and South, urging his nomination by the dozen. The legitimate legislation demanded of Congress will have to stop and wait while the frantic friends of the Little Giant proclaim his mental, moral and political superiority over everybody else. These speeches will provoke replies, and the Democratic Convention for the nonce be transferred from Charleston to Washington….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, May 11, 1860.


BALTIMORE, May 9.—The proceedings of the Convention have thus far been harmonious. The Houston men desired a ballot to-night. They are more numerous than the supporters of any other candidate. Mr. Bell is second. The contest between them is animated. Mr. McLean will have some votes, but all idea of nominating him, or any one else with reference to the Chicago Convention, is dropped.

Two-thirds of the New York delegation are for Mr. Houston. They are for Mr. Everett for Vice President. The Pennsylvania delegation is divided between Bell and Houston. So is the South generally: Kentucky being unanimous for Houston. It is predicted that he will be nominated at an early stage of the balloting….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, May 15, 1860.


The Great Wigwam Opening.


The St. Louis Delegation.


[Special correspondence of Missouri Democrat.]

CHICAGO, Sunday Evening, May 13.

A most agreeable ride over the Terre Haute, Alton and St. Louis Railroad and Illinois Central brought me last night at 9 o’clock to Chicago. Delegates and others from St. Louis will find this a very pleasant route. Dinner at Mattoon, and an afternoon’s spirited bowling over one of the finest expanses of country in the world-the prairie along the railroad from Mattoon to Chicago.

I found the Tremont House (the head-quarters of the Missouri Delegation, and, in fact, the great hive around and in which swarm all classes and shades of politicians) already filled to overflowing….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, May 19, 1860.


It was hardly a disappointment but rather an agreeable surprise, yesterday, when the telegraph brought us the news of the nomination of Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, at Chicago. We were quite prepared to hear of the defeat of Judge Bates as an individual, but are consoled by the knowledge that Judge Bates’ principles have triumphed, and that the patriotism and conservatism embodied in him has been recognized by the assembled Convention of the great party of the country….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, May 19, 1860.


Contest between Lincoln and Seward.




Nominated for Vice President.

[Special Dispatch to the Missouri Democrat.]

CHICAGO, May 18.—Convention called to order at 10 A. M.

A delegate moved to allow the Maryland delegation to full up their number.

Mr. Amour, objected, not knowing the object of the motion or the men proposed.

After some other preliminary business, the Convention proceeded at 11 o’clock to ballot for a candidate for President, with the following result:

Gen. Nye, nominated W. H. Seward, of New York. [Applause.]

Mr. Judd, nominated Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois. [Immense and prolonged applause.]…

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From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, May 23, 1860.



[Correspondence of the Missouri Democrat.]

CHICAGO, May 18.

The attempt to detail to you the entire proceedings of the Convention, with their many striking and exciting occurrences, would exhaust the patience of both writer and reader. Let me, therefore, ask your attention only to the description of the half day’s session in which occurred the grand central event of the Convention, the nomination of “Old Abe,” and the minor details of which resemble very nearly the proceedings at other times….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, May 26, 1860.


When the news of his nomination first reached Springfield, Mr. Lincoln’s friends rushed to his house, and asked him how many guns they should fire, whether one hundred or one for each State. “Well,” said he, “I must begin my administration on the principle of retrenchment and economy. You had better fire but one gun for each State.”…

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From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, June 1, 1860.

Lincoln in the South—Sudden Cessation of the Disunion Cry.

The effect of Lincoln’s nomination at the South, is little less than miraculous. It seems to have tranquilized all the angry elements in that quarter, the Democratic party alone excepted. The millennium contingent on the establishment of the Southern Confederacy, which was itself to be contingent on the election of a Republican to the Presidency, is evidently postponed. The note of preparation for the marshaling of armed hosts to dissolve the Union in the event of a Republican victory in November, is heard no more throughout the land. The most desperate secessionist threatens no revolt, and advises no treasonable action. Whether all this is to be ascribed to the admitted conservatism of Lincoln’s character and opinions, is perhaps doubtful. We are of the opinion that the thinking men of the South are, in reality, more favorable to his election than to that of Douglas….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, June 25, 1860.

The Breckinridge and Douglas Parties—Character of the Separation.

The division of the late Democratic party into two organizations, each bitterly hostile to the other, is a remarkable event in our political history, but yet one that can occasion but little surprise. Whoever has watched the movement for the extension of slavery into the Territories, has not failed to notice the abhorrence with which the principle of non-intervention began to be regarded at the South, as soon as it was demonstrated that Kansas would enter the Union a free State. Two years ago, the project of a slave code for the Territories was broached in the columns of the Richmond Enquirer, and but a short time elapsed before the new doctrine was accepted by the leading pro-slavery journals throughout the country. It was discovered, however, that the dose was too strong for the Democracy in the free States; their gorge rose at it, and hence it was re-labelled Protection for Property, and under this name pronounced the sovereign remedy for the disease of the body politic. Members of Congress, Senators, newspapers, and the President and Vice-President, declared that protection for “slave property” was just-nay, absolutely needful; but in the meantime the author of the Kansas-Nebraska bill had learned the true state of public feeling in the Northern States, and being much more solicitous about his own safety than the logical development of National Democracy, protested against the new dogma, and stood fast by squatter sovereignty. The result is before our eyes in disruption of the Baltimore Convention, and the destruction of the National Democratic party….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, June 27, 1860.



[Special Correspondence of the Missouri Democrat.]

BALTIMORE, June 22, 1860.

The deed is done-the evitable secession has no longer been delayed, but this evening after the last act of the Convention in refusing virtually to reconsider the vote on the admission of Louisiana and Alabama contestants-most of the Southern States seceded. The particulars have doubtless by this time reached you, in common with all of the Western cities, and speculation is rife upon the probably result. This extraordinary secession is, as predicted, a much more extensive affair than the bolt and Charleston. Virginia led the van and the Democratic party was soon rent in twain beyond hope of recovery….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, June 30, 1860.




[Special Correspondence of the Missouri Democrat.]

NEW YORK, June 26, 1860.

The two wings of the National Democracy very soon completed their work after the secession Friday evening, and last evening and this morning most of the delegates were on their way home. A large delegation from the North arrived here last night, and probably many hundreds who have been attending the sessions of the Convention came in also this morning. The two tickets—Douglas and Fitzpatrick on one and Breckinridge and Lane on the other—are now before the party, and even among the delegates themselves there is no reasonable hope of postponing a Republican triumph. The Douglasites give up Illinois. They admit that the Danite vote will be given for Breckinridge, and that Bell and Everett will draw off the entire American support given to Douglas in 1858, leaving the Republicans a united host in the State. Even the New York Herald admits that the Republican party is the only organized party, and likely to succeed….

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Once the nominations were decided, the campaigns began in earnest. The DEMOCRAT devoted much space to Republican rallies and speeches in Missouri and nearby Illinois.

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, June 22, 1860.

Grand Republican Rally!

The Young Men Fully Aroused.

Torch-Light Procession of the Sixth Ward Lincoln Club.
Mercantile Library Hall Jammed Full.
Eloquent Speeches by Col. Nelson of Ind., and Gen. Gardenhire, of Jefferson City.

If any man heretofore doubted that St. Louis is the Gibraltar of freedom in the slave State of Missouri, or that the Republican party of this city is a most strong and powerful one, he would doubt it no longer after witnessing the turn out last night of the hosts of the best young men of St. Louis, to form a gala procession, and to give character by their presence at Mercantile Library Hall to the complete organization of the Young Men’s Republican Clubs of St. Louis.

At an early hour in the evening, the large Hall began to fill; rockets were filling the air, and enlivening music from Kost’s Silver Band was heard in the streets as it escorted the long torchlight procession from the Sixth Ward. Borne in advance of that procession was the large banner of the “Young Men’s Lincoln and Hamlin Club,” bearing the glorious motto “THE CONSTITUION AND THE UNION.”…

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Frank Blair, Jr., was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from St. Louis in 1856 as a Free Soiler. In 1858, running as a “Free Democrat”, he was defeated for reelection by Richard Barrett, a National Democrat, in a three-way race. The DEMOCRAT reported numerous instances of election fraud committed by Barrett supporters. In early 1860, Blair went to Washington to contest the election result before the House Committee on Elections. On June 8, 1860, the House voted 93 to 91 to seat Blair over Barrett. On June 25 the end of the congressional session, Blair resigned, determined to let the voters confirm his victory. He lost the special election to fill the vacancy caused by his resignation but was reelected in the regular election in November.

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, June 9, 1860.


Our dispatches this morning contain the highly gratifying announcement that Mr. Blair has been sworn in a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Barrett having been declared not entitled to the seat which he occupied up to yesterday afternoon. The rights of the electoral body of St. Louis are thus vindicated at last. Fraud, terrorism, and all the illicit appliances and contrivances of corrupt electioneering, stand rebuked and humiliated before the nation. It was not a mere personal triumph that Mr. Blair sought in prosecuting his rightful claims before Congress. It was the integrity of the outraged ballot-box, and the supremacy of legal suffrage that he labored to restore; and now that success has crowned his efforts, he and the tribunal whose justice he invoked against foul wrong and gross corruption, deserve the gratitude of all good citizens, whatever their personal or political predilections may be….

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As the national political turmoil continued, St. Louisans watched construction progress on the expansion of the Courthouse downtown. The original courthouse building was started in 1826, and a major expansion of the building was begun in 1839. By 1860, the expansion was nearing completion. The building was completed in 1862. Now known as the “Old Courthouse”, it is preserved as part of the Gateway Arch National Park.

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, May 5, 1860.

The Court House Dome.

The dome of the Court House ought now to be hurried to completion. The contractors, Messrs. J. S. McPheeters & Co., bound themselves to complete it by the 1st of May, under a penalty of five dollars for every day delayed thereafter, to be deducted from the payment by the county, on its final acceptance. Provision is made in the contract, however, for unavoidable accidents and delays, but as none have been reported, we are of the opinion the five dollar penalty is in full force. The ribs for the arch are enormous affairs, and had to be wrought in Philadelphia, as that city and New York are the only places where such work can be done. The eye piece of the dome is now in readiness for the ribs of the arch, and when all are received, the erection of the dome can be quickly accomplished, and those who have been anxiously awaiting its completion be relieved.


The activities of the Mormons, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were always good newspaper copy in the 19th century. The recent “Mormon War” or “Utah War” of 1857-1859, although not much of a fighting war, had been big news the year before. Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the faith, had died in 1844, to be succeeded as church leader by Brigham Young in 1847. Young led his followers to Utah, where they settled. Some Mormons remained in the Midwest, among them Joseph Smith’s wife and their sons, including Joseph Smith III. On April 6, 1860, at a church conference in Amboy, Illinois, Joseph Smith III accepted the presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at least the Midwestern branch of it. This branch ultimately became the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, now known as the Community of Christ.

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, May 1, 1860.


Young Joe Smith Going to Set up for Himself at Council Bluffs—Brigham Young to be Deposed.

The following is an extract from a private letter written a few days since to a physician of this city, from Nauvoo, Illinois:

Young Joseph Smith and his mother, son and wife of prophet Joseph of Mormon notoriety, lately attended a Conference of Mormons, held in the State of Illinois, at which time Joseph and his mother were both baptised in the faith, and young Joe was ordained head high priest and prophet by them. Joe pretends he was led by the spirit of God to do so, but I am of the opinion that the spirit of speculation had more to do with it than God had, as the family are very much in debt, their property being all mortgaged, and Joe is to receive the sum of $20,000 per year for his use….

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The opening of Japan by Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy in 1853 led ultimately to formal diplomatic relations between the two countries. Press accounts of the travels of the first Japanese delegation to Washington in 1860 fed a popular curiosity with the visitors and their alien culture, which was reciprocated, once they arrived in the United States.

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, May 14, 1860.


Arrival at New York and Departure for Washington without going Ashore—The Voyage from San Francisco.

The Japanese embassy by this time is in Washington. We have published full details of their arrival in San Francisco, and the personnel of the company. The voyage from San Francisco to Panama occupied eighteen days. The arrival at New York, on the 10th, has already been reported. The Roanoke reached Sandy Hook about 6 P. M. It has been known for some time that the Government at Washington had changed its programme for the reception of the Japanese, and that the Navy Department had issued orders to have the ship intercepted before she entered this port, and ordered to Hampton Roads, where a steamer, specially chartered for the purpose, is to receive and convey them to Washington….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, May 16, 1860.

Curious Facts about the Japanese.

[From the Alta California.]

A gentleman who had some communication with the Japanese, now in this port, states it is his belief that Masonry, or some institution nearly resembling it, exists in Japan. Captain Mangaroo, who acts as interpreter for the Admiral, hinted at some such an order, but did not seem to be very communicative about it, alleging that its propogation was restricted by law in his native country. Another still more curious fact is, that the Japanese think they can establish some distant relationship between the native California Indians and themselves….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, May 21, 1860.


At last, the Japanese Embassy has been presented to the President. They were received, we are told, with great pomp—so great, indeed, that we fear their previous information and notions of our Republican simplicity will be sadly disturbed by what they see. A delicate courtesy has been evinced towards these people by the selection of rooms fitted up with every peculiarity calculated for their pleasure, amusement and comfort, and even a quiet nook provided where they can if they choose, erect a shrine for religious worship. These attentions from our Government will, in a measure repay the Japanese for their reception of our Consul General in their own Empire, and can hardly fail to leave a favorable impression upon their minds.

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From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, May 28, 1860.

THE JAPANESE AND HOOPED SKIRTS.—The correspondent of the N. Y. Herald, of the 22d, says:

The crowd of “outside barbarians” about Willard’s Hotel yesterday, to see the Japanese, was greater then ever. The curiosity is as great on one side as on the other. The enormous hooped skirt they can’t understand, although Captain Porter has tried hard to explain it to them. Tommy, one of the interpreters, a boy seventeen years old, who had been skylarking with the crowd of ladies and children gathered on the sidewalks under his window ever since they arrived, concluded the other day to make a practical test, which he did by feeling one of the ladies’ skirts, and asking if it was solid. Since that time the ladies have been rather shy of Tommy.


From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, May 31, 1860.


The presence of the embassy from Japan in Washington has naturally directed public curiosity towards that country and its inhabitants. Perhaps the narrative of the United States expedition under Commodore Perry, is the fullest and most authentic account we yet have of the government and institutions of the ultimate Eastern nation with which we have been so fortunate as to establish a friendly alliance, and the population of which is not less than 40,000,000….

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The DEMOCRAT‘s editors scoured the news for the odd and wonderful. This is a representative sample.

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, May 28, 1860.

WONDER WHAT SMITH MEANS?—In looking over the proceedings of the Ohio Sunday School Convention, we find the following resolution, offered by Mr. Smith, a pious and promising young lawyer:

Resolved, That a committee of ladies and gentlemen be appointed to raise children for the Sabbath School.


Italy in 1860 had just seen the end of the War of 1859, known as the Second Italian War of Independence, moving it another step closer to full political unification. By spring, only four states remained in Italy: Venetia, occupied by the Austrians, and the Kingdom of Piedmont and Sardinia, in the north, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in the south, and the Papal States in the middle around Rome. The Pope had held temporal power over this region since the 6th century, but popular nationalist sentiment had fomented rebellion in much of the Papal States in 1860. The fear of violent overthrow of the Pope’s authority in Italy helps explain the otherwise preposterous speculation in the following article:

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, May 1, 1860.

Rumored Removal of the Holy See to St. Louis.

A New York letter to the Washington Constitution, says that Archbishop Hughes is to be made a Cardinal next October, and adds, “He will be the first American Cardinal. Had Bishop England, of South Carolina, lived, he would have been a Cardinal.”

The same writer then goes on to speak of Cardinal Hughes, as the future Pope—not of Rome—but of the Romish Church. He says: “In making Archbishop Hughes a Cardinal the Pope is actuated by motives that lie deep in his bosom. It is seriously whispered that if he is deprived of political power in Rome, he will wipe from his sandals the dust of that city, and remove the Holy See to some place in the West—say, St. Louis, Missouri—where his agents are said to have secured immense quantities of land….

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