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The Baltimore Convention–Letter from New York.


May/June 1860

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. The proceedings at Baltimore presented no exciting or even interesting features on the last day. The Douglas Convention was forced to lay aside the two-thirds rule, because there were not votes enough left to make two-thirds; and had the Louisiana and Alabama bogus delegations been kept out, there would have been scarcely a majority. The total of 191—all recorded on the roll as voting unanimous for the resolution declaring Douglas the nominees—was in fact fictitious. In New York alone the sixteen electoral votes were swallowed up in the unit rule, and excluding Louisiana and Alabama, Douglas in reality has only 138 electoral votes out of 303. This calculation is based on the preference of the delegates. It will be seen at a glance, how preposterous is the assumption that his nomination expressed the choice of a majority of the party. The Southern Convention with its full and partial representatives from twenty-two States, polled only 105 electoral votes. But if each [illegible] States including California, Oregon and [illegible] represented, the prevailing Democratic choice is claimed to have expressed.

The scene when Cushing entered the hall of the Maryland Institute was one of interest. The whole Convention rose to its feet and welcomed the Chairman whom they had loaded with the honors of President of the regular National Convention. This was quite a bold stroke, as Cushing was elected without dissent at Charleston, and hence can certify the proceedings to the several State organizations throughout the Union, which in the South are in the hands of the seceders, and in the North, these proceedings, backed up by federal officeholders and supported by Administration papers, will create internal feuds in the State and county committees. Another bold stroke was the adoption of the majority platform reported from 17 States at Charleston without alteration. This movement is said to have been dictated by Caleb Cushing and Benj. F. Butler, of Mass., who were in consultation during most of Friday night with Yancey and Judge Meek, of Ala.; Gov. McMillan, of Florida; and Judge Hunter, of La. At first Yancey proposed a different course, so as to combine the South more firmly, but Cushing and Butler insisted that the South ought to be satisfied with the Charleston proposition and adopt it without murmur. The platform was accordingly adopted without a dissenting vote. It strengthens the claim to regularity which will be used to defeat Douglas North as well as South. The most perfect harmony existed, of course; there was only one opinion, and that was a united South against Douglas. Some thought Dickinson, of New York, would be nominated; but the idea got abroad on Saturday morning that Dickinson would not accept, and if he should withhold his refusal till after the Convention adjourned, it might embarrass the harmony of the South. Before the disruption, the fire-eaters invariably expressed a willingness to nominate a candidate from the North. Their object was to break down Douglas where he was strongest, but it must be confessed that their subsequent course nullifies the slightest suspicion that they ever were in earnest. When Breckinridge was nominated, the Southerners shouted lustily. They knew that they had assailed the strongest Southern supporters of Douglas, viz: the Kentuckians, for it is an indisputable fact that however loud the cry for Guthrie of Kentucky, that several of the delegates from that State were at heart desirous of nominating Douglas. The seceders in striving to secure a unity of action among the Southern States, found Kentucky the most impracticable of the lot. They hesitated, and finally when the moment arrived that compelled them to act, the delegation about evenly divided, and of those who remained in the Douglas Convention seven refused to vote, or take part in the proceedings. One of them gave the paltry excuse that he didn’t want to lose his ticket of admission to the Convention, so that he could be a witness to the trickery of his colleagues! Kentucky was therefore assailed in a very tender point when that fortunate politician, Breckinridge, was nominated. On the whole, there was considerable strategy and finesse displayed by the seceders and their friends from the moment they had the power.

Everything went along smoothly enough when the Douglasites were rid of their foes. There was only one contest left, and that was in the New York delegation. It seemed as if a fresh ray of light burst in upon that delegation every ten minutes. They did nothing but consult from Thursday morning till the Convention adjourned. They were anxious to keep the Convention together, and nominate some of their favorites, but were under pledges to vote for Douglas for five times more. Peter Cagger and Dean Richmond managed the cards on one side, and John Cochrane and Augustus Schell on the other. When one of these worthies did not call for a caucus the other did, and so it was kept going all the time. One of the delegates stated in the cars on his way to this city yesterday, that from the time of their appointments at Syracuse, several months ago, till the last scene at Baltimore, the N. Y. delegation had balloted upon every variety of proposition upwards of two hundred and twenty-five times! The Douglas men originally gained an advantage by ordering that all ballots should be viva voce, and thus delegates were compelled to avow themselves and dared not to change though from the first, when Douglas had 39 out of 70-to the last, when he had only 36, the most desperate shifts were made to change the ballot. New York undoubtedly ruled the roost. If Pennsylvania had been united, this might have been avoided, but the telling 55 votes cast either aye or nay, were decisive. The Douglas Convention adjourned with much less enthusiasm than might have been expected. The outside pressure ceased the moment it was no longer wanted, and delegates who had shouted themselves hoarse for a week, both in the street and in the Convention, had barely enough vitality to raise three successful cheers for their candidate. A break was made by most of them for the Baltimore and Ohio depot to go to Washington, and attended by the Chicago band, a Sunday morning serenade was given to Douglas, particulars of which you will have by telegraph to-day probably.

To-morrow probably will relieve Baltimore of its surplus population. It is estimated that Barnum’s Hotel alone received $35,000 for the rent and food last week. Many parlors were let out to delegates at $10 per day, and even in the fourth story a center room cost $5 per day. At least 1,500 people were fed daily, and the daily receipts could not have been less than $5,000. The Eutaw House, Gilmore’s and others did business in the same proportion. The hotel keepers were very smart. Excepting in individual instances where the responsibility was known or vouched for to the proprietors, nearly everything had to be paid for in advance. Meal tickets were supplied and nobody allowed to retire from the dining room without one. No baggage was moved an inch till all the bills were paid, and soon through all the departments of the system which was required to keep this immense business in order.

The personal collisions have been numerous enough. Austin E. Smith, the ex-Virginia and at present California, office-holding fire-eater, has challenged Mr. Nesbitt, of the Illinois delegation, for the remarks on the floor prior to the secession of California. Smith, as you were informed before, is a professed duelist, and to hear him talk and see him act you would suppose that he would just as lief walk out before breakfast, wing his man and return to his chop as not. Years ago he was a rampant Know-Nothing, and in 1855, came near having a difficulty at the pools with David C. Broderick. The friends of the latter thought that he was showing his mettle upon poor game, and though pistols were drawn, mutual friends, and the police together, prevented any further trouble. Like all that sort of chivalry stock, Smith is impetuous, and only one year after embracing Know-Nothingism, he was the most devoted Democrat imaginable. This is the man who has challenged Nesbitt. Smith had been a hard talker against Douglas, even since the original meeting at Charleston, and was one of those who attended the “South side” meetings in Monument Square, when the Douglas and anti-Douglas meetings were in progress. As yet we are not informed of the up-shot of the matter, though a line shot is not at all anticipated. Like the difficulty between Hindman and Hooper and Montgomery and Randall and the Virginia editors, the Smith-Nesbitt affair, will probably fizzle out. As to a personal encounter, a moderate sized man with a stout stick could whip Smith in a very brief period.

It is something wonderful that no blood has been shed, for pistols and knives have worn through the Convention with the loosest kind of impunity. One of the Vice-Presidents of the Convention on Friday had difficulty in crowding through the chairs and tables where the reporters were congregated in order to get to the platform, and getting jammed between two posts, very coolly unshipped a pistol from his pantaloons and then proceeded to his seat. Many times at Barnum’s, the discussions have been so violent that the lie has passed, and the city police have had to interfere. A class of young men from the Northwest taking the cue from the rabid Southerners became quite as violent as the other side, and went around cursing Virginia and the South very improperly; their sentiment was, that they had been lickspittles long enough, and meant to be men now. A disgraceful assumption any way you can view it. John Clancy and W. H. Ludlow, two of the New York delegation, got into a row in the delegation and passed the lie, but there was no fight in either, so it went off unnoticed almost. The Montgomery-Randall affair undoubtedly came off favorably for the latter-Montgomery had his nose badly bruised and the claret flowed freely. The fighting element was well represented. Even in the selection of officers the short-haired gentry had to be called upon. Ned Price, the Boston pugilist, who mauled Australian Kelly and wanted to fight John Morrissey, was one of the deputies of the sergeant-at-arms, and if all Baltimore had been raked for Rip Raps or Plug Uglies, a worse set of police officers for the Convention could not have been selected. The prize ring was admirably illustrated by thick projecting under lips, short cropped hair, extended cheek bones, and a swagging devil-may-care sir. If the candidates had been Heenan and Morrissey, probably our pugilistic acquaintances would have pitched in very heartily.

[Illegible] to say anything about the Convention that your readers will not have previously read. The incidents have been intensified by the papers, without doubt. The breaking of the floor, on Thursday, was terribly exaggerated. The alarm was over in one minute, and excepting perhaps one hundred delegates, there was no moving; and yet it is described as one of the most horrible scenes of fright that ever happened. The hotel scenes, and the sharp things said in the Convention, have been “done up” by the reporters in the most graphic style.

The last argument-the fool’s-has been plentifully and generally resorted to, since Saturday. Betting has taken the place of bolting now, but when the Douglasites are pinned down to it, they weaken in the most abject manner. The Republicans are particularly anxious to bet on Illinois, and it any of you hear of any eligible bets against Lincoln in Illinois, send them to New York or Washington, and they will be taken by the Republicans, eagerly. On Saturday night it is reported that a bet of $5,000 was made in Washington, on Lincoln against the field, and the party who bet on Douglas was offered odds to make another bet, but declined.

The “governing classes,” as the Herald calls the roughs of New York, seem to receive the nominations with little feeling. To use a common expression, these fellows “are on the make.” They desire the spoils, and it is two to one that half the butcher boys and rowdies, who control the primary elections in this city, will, inside of three months, offer their services to the Republicans. They will probably be declined. At least, for the sake of the party elsewhere, it is hoped so. With the immense Custom House influence in New York, and the Mozart Hall and Tammany Democracy hopelessly divided, it is confidently expected that Lincoln will go out of the city of New York with 10,000 majority. The estimate is as follows: Lincoln 35,000; Douglas 25,000; Breckinridge 10,000; Bell 10,000. Total 80,000. The Seward disaffection has little influence in the city of New York, where Seward never was strong with the party, on account of his moral prejudices. The Greeley, Raymond, Webb war is over, and fortunately everything has been harmonized thus early in the campaign. The party is active and earnest.

Edward Bates’ letter is freely spoken of and highly commended. It will have a good influence. A Fillmore club was formally called together in one of the wards of this city on Thursday evening, and resolutions passed sustaining Lincoln and changing the name of the club. This is only one of many encouraging signs.