Wednesday 9 July 2014

Steam Whistles, Hotel Gongs & A Tribe of Comanches

"A tribe of Comanches might have mingled in the scene unnoticed." 
(Gordon Leidner, The Washington Times)

Republican Convention at the Wigwam, Chicago circa 1860 courtesy emergingcivilwardotcom.files.wordpress.

Chicago, the convention city, hosted the second Republican convention back in 1860.  Ten thousand Americans from east and from west, would converge on a city of only 100,000 to nominate a new leader. The result would prove crucial; within a year, the state of the Union would be at stake.

Republicans constructed a new convention center called "The Wigwam" specifically for the 1860 convention. Delegates from several states arrived to represent the various candidates.  AT the time, it was considered inappropriate for the delegates themselves to attend.  William Seward, the favourite, waited at home in New York.  Cassius Clay stayed in Kentucky.  Hannibal Hamlin waited in Maine.  Dark horse Abraham Lincoln waited in Springfield, Illinois.

Major issues up for debate were "free soil" principles, the Homestead act, immigration, the Pacific Railroad, slavery and the preservation of the Union -- no small task for the incoming leader.  Supporters from Lincoln's camp located a fence that he had built 30 years before, took down two rails, painted pro-Lincoln slogans on them and marched them into the convention center.  Lincoln was dubbed "the rail candidate".

Abraham Lincoln's delegation arrived with a bloc of Illinois supporters.  He hoped to gain the "anti-Seward" vote.  Lincoln's men gathered as many stentorian voices as possible to cheer for him.  One reporter stated that one of his supporters was so loud you could hear him clear across Lake Michigan.  The Lincoln delegation made sure that Seward's supporters were seated as far away as possible from other key delegations.

The first nomination was easily won by Seward.  However, upon Lincoln's second nomination:

"Five thousand people leaped to their seats, women not wanting and the wild yell made vesper breathings of all that had preceded.  A thousand steam whistles, ten acres of hotel gongs, a tribe of Comanches might have mingled in the scene unnoticed."  

Lincoln gained a chunk of supporters.  He and Seward were neck and neck at the ballot box.

Upon Lincoln's third nomination, the noise in the Wigwam was so deafening that no one would have noticed the cannons going off outside save for the smoke they emitted.  A huge block of delegates switched their votes to Lincoln, securing him the nomination.

In an eerie foreshadowing of what was to come, a new play opened up at McVicker's Theatre a few blocks away form the convention center.  The playbill featured "My American Cousin", the same play that Lincoln was watching four years later when he was assassinated.

Back home in Springfield, there was less pomp and circumstance.  Lincoln received the news of his nomination by telegraph at the local newspaper office.  He walked home to share the good news with his wife, Mary.

Abraham Lincoln circa November 1960, before he grew the infamous beard, courtesy

No comments:

Post a Comment