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News of 150 Years Ago—November/December 1860


November/December 1860

As the day of the 1860 Presidential election approached, the MISSOURI DEMOCRAT urged its readers to vote for Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln.

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, November 5, 1860.

Review of the Controversy—Extension or Non-Extension of Slavery the Question to be Decided.

On the eve of the greatest contest since the formation of the Union, it is the duty of every citizen to bring before the tribunal of his judgment a true conception, if possible, of the issues involved. The Republican party rose from the grave of the Missouri Compromise. It had neither name nor existence until that compact was abrogated. The fountain of sectional feeling had been sealed anew by the comprises of 1850. This epoch was one of profound repose. There was a stillness, as of midnight, when the murder was committed. Suddenly, within their conclaves in Washington City, a cabal of politicians conspired to undo the work which patriots had accomplished more than thirty years before. The result was necessarily the reproduction of the same sectional antagonism which the compromise, now so recklessly swept away, had reconciled. The sealed fountain was broken up and the bitter waters deluged the land. But subsequent events showed that the wanton and desperate act was but the initial measure of a vast, deep-laid scheme to force slavery on free territory. The Border Ruffian invasion of Kansas, with its black laws and murderous atrocities, followed. In the meantime the authorities of the Federal Government played a part not unlike that which the Turkish authorities played in Syria during the recent massacres in that country. The Dred Scott decision was the next link in the chain. It was succeeded by the Lecompton Convention, and the crown and climax of all was the Lecompton Constitution. What began in violence and terror, ended in fraud and deceit, and the despicable contrivances of vulpine cunning.

Wrestling with these successive iniquities, the Republican party gained strength from every fresh encounter. It became not only the representative of a great idea, but the agent of the moral sense of the people. This, its other office, was literally forced upon it by the crimes of the pro-slavery party, which party was now covered with the leprosy of corruption. But while the infamy of the latter thus deepened, and its strength rotted away, its pretensions grew to more ponderous dimensions. Like Spain in the nadir of her decadence, its arrogance was in proportion to its feebleness. The transformation of slavery from a local into a national institution, with the privilege to plant itself wherever it wills, or the secession of the cotton States, is the ultimatum now presented; and it is this ultimatum which will be rejected or accepted to-morrow by the American people….

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In the election of Tuesday, November 6, 1860, Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States by carrying all but one of the free States, thus securing 180 of the 303 electoral votes. Missouri, carried by Douglas, was the only state in which at least one county was carried by each of the four major candidates. Lincoln carried St. Louis and Gasconade Counties, both of which had large concentrations of Germans voting Republican. The MISSOURI DEMOCRAT was ecstatic with the result.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, November 7, 1860.

Victory! Peace!!

The seven year’s war is at last ended, by the election of Abraham Lincoln as Chief Magistrate of the Republic. Let the nation rejoice at this glorious event. Let a choral shout of exultation rise from the soul of the people, at this, their great victory, over the enemies of freedom and the upholders and champions of wrong. The joy is too great for verbal expansions; the vista opened is too radiant and boundless for description….

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In response to the election of Lincoln, the South Carolina legislature called a convention to consider secession. Convened at first on December 17 in Columbia, it moved to Charleston, where, on December 20, it unanimously passed an ordinance of secession. After the weeks of speculation on South Carolina’s intentions, the MISSOURI DEMOCRAT’s reports of the actual act were almost anticlimactic.

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, December 21, 1860.

The South Carolina Convention.

CHARLESTON, S. C., Dec. 19.—The Convention re-assembled this A. M. Dr. Curtis prayed. Several new members appeared and took their seats; 160 delegates on the calling of the roll were found to be present. The President submitted a letter from A. Huger, Postmaster at Charleston, offering a messenger to facilitate the delivery of mail matter to the members of the Convention.

The President read a letter from Hon. Jno. A. Elmore, Commissioner from Alabama, enclosing a telegraphic dispatch from Gov. Moore, dated Montgomery, Ala., 17th inst. It was as follows:

To the Hon. John A. Elmore: Tell the Convention to listen to no proposition to compromise or delay. Signed, Gov. Moore.

The dispatch was greeted with loud applause, and, subsequently, was referred to the Committee to prepare an address to the people of the Southern States….

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The newspapers devoted a great deal of space to extensive discussions of the the legal arguments for and against the right of secession. The following is a substantial excerpt of a letter to the MISSOURI DEMOCRAT making a detailed case against the legality of secession.

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, December 25, 1860.


Editors Missouri Democrat:

The right to secede is not given by the Constitution to the several States. It would be strange if such a right had ever been granted in an instrument which was framed “by the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity.” If it had permitted secession, it would be the first instrument, intended as a fundamental law, which would in itself provide for its own dissolution. Our Constitution was made in the light of historic day. We know the workshop in which it was made, we know the workmen, we know every shape and form which it received while under the hands of these workmen, until its final development. Its progressive history is written down and deposited in our public archives. The views, intentions and purposes of its framers are likewise preserved in the histories and memorials of the times. The right of peaceable secession does not appear to have been even suggested by any one in the Convention which framed the Constitution. Contemporary commentaries on the Constitution, when it was before the people for adoption, are wholly silent upon the subject. It may be said, then, that the very idea of secession after the Constitution should have been adopted by the several States, never suggested itself to any one at the time of its being made or being ratified. There seems to be no room for cavil left, and it may be positively asserted, that this right cannot be derived from the Constitution….

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