One Hundred and Forty Three Years Ago
1864 Presidential Campaign
By 1864, the Country had grown weary of the long and bloody Civil War. Hundreds of thousands of the countries’ best and bravest young men had fallen on the fields of Bull Run, Antietam, Shiloh, and countless more. Many began to think that the war was not worth it, and the price of freedom too great. The Republican Presidential Candidate Abraham Lincoln thought no price was too great for the abolition of slavery and the creation of a society in which a man was not judged by the color of his skin. Unfortunately, after four long years of war, Lincoln’s support was dropping fast, and people were looking for a way out of the war.
With this backdrop, the Democratic Party chose General George McClellan to be their Presidential Candidate at the Chicago National Convention in 1864. The Democratic Party Platform presented a plan of “Compromise with the South”, which became known as “The Chicago Platform”. While on its surface the Chicago Platform was seductive in that it promised an immediate cessation of hostilities, and a restoration of the union. What was unsaid in the platform, but clearly implied, was that the “compromise” would be to agree to make permanent the institution of slavery in exchange for an end to the Civil War and restoration of the Union. In other words, the Democratic party was ready to “Sell Out” the enslaved, in order to stop further loss of white lives. This is reflected in McClellan’s acceptance speech, where he stated:
The reestablishment of the Union, in all its integrity, is and must continue to be the indispensable condition in any settlement.
If reestablishment of the union was the only “condition” that was “indispensable”, then clearly the issue of abolition of slavery was dispensable, and the possibility of Slavery being permanently institutionalized in our country was on the negotiation table. Thomas Nast exposed the hypocrisy of the Democratic Platform with his stunning illustration entitled “The Chicago Platform”, which is shown above. In this illustration, Nast wrote out the “words” of the democratic platform, and wrapped the words around dramatic illustrations indicating what the words really meant. In effect, Nast “decoded” the words of the platform in his illustration, to clearly communicate what the Democrats stood for . . . continuation of the institution of slavery in exchange for an end to the war.
Nast’s Illustration then points out that the “Rights of the States Unimpaired” was a nice way of saying, “States may Continue to practice Slavery, with all its associated brutality, unencumbered by the Federal Government”. The illustration shows a slave auction. At the slave auction, a black family is being sold. The Mother is being sold separately from the child and Husband. Clearly, the family was being split apart and sold separately. In the second image, a black man is shown tied to a tree and being brutally beaten by two men with whips. Other slaves are forced to watch the brutality, I suppose as a warning to them. All this was accepted practice in the United States of the 1850’s and 1860’s. The Democratic Platform of 1864 was strongly supporting continuing this practice as “Business as Usual”.
To read the rest and see Nast’s illustration, go Son of The South. Notice any similarities to today?
Ah yes, the Party of Compassion, indeed.
(h/t to Win The War)
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