State and local elections are usually nationalized, as this year’s is likely to be. If Obamacare shows signs of working and the economy continues to improve, Democrats stand to benefit in congressional and even gubernatorial elections.
The same thing was true during the Civil War, as the story of New Hampshire’s 1863 election in Our War illustrates. The Democrats that year tried to make hay on two national issues: The war was going poorly, and Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
The story in the book focuses on two elements of the New Hampshire campaign. After initial squeamishness about making abolition the centerpiece of their campaign, the Republicans did just that. They imported speakers to argue for the end of slavery. Then William E. Chandler, a young political operative, pulled out all the stops to win the gubernatorial election for his father-in-law, the Republican Joseph A. Gilmore, a candidate who turned out to be of questionable backbone.
In the closing days of the campaign, with things looking bleak, Chandler dunned Gilmore, a rich railroad man, into giving him $5,000 for a closing push. Chandler was determined to make sure New Hampshire’s new governor was loyal to President Lincoln and the cause.
I don’t know what Chandler did with the money, but the other day, in an online archive, I found a likely use for some of it: a Republican broadside printed just before the vote on March 10, 1863. Whether or not my speculation about its financing is correct, the broadside confirms how nationalized the governor’s race was that year. In it, Republicans also stay on message: antislavery and a commitment to save the Union. And they do it almost entirely by quoting Democrats!
The broadside bears a three-deck headline:
Copperheads in Council!
Declarations of the Leaders.
Read and Ponder What They Say!
Read and Ponder What They Say!
Its brief introduction reads: “These Declarations show the spirit of the Traitors who are now attempting to gain ascendancy in New-Hampshire for the encouragement of the Rebels in their attempt to subvert our noble and beneficent Government.”
And here are some of the quotations:
Franklin Pierce, the former president who lived in Concord, from an 1861 speech: “I do not believe aggression by arms is a suitable or possible remedy for existing evils.”
Pierce, after the capture of Fort Donelson: “What are to be the ultimate fruits of having first wronged and then conquered and humiliated a spirited and gallant people, whose fathers were the loved friends and co-
Ira Eastman, the Democratic candidate for governor, in his acceptance speech, January 1863: “Gentlemen, radical abolitionism must be put down. This great and glorious country will be shattered into fragments if it is not, or else we shall find ourselves at last brought from the iron rule of military despotism.”
|John H. George|
John H. George, the Concord lawyer running for Congress from New Hampshire’s 2nd District: “If the South needs any assistance, I will go out and assist them. . . . I won’t do a thing to assist the President, the Administration, the Congress or any of the piratical crew that have control of this government. I won’t do any thing that can be interpreted in any way as supporting this war. . . . I am personally acquainted with Jefferson Davis. . . . He is a man of wonderful executive power and firmness of will, and the only one who could have successfully conducted the South through her present struggle. . . . President Lincoln is a knave, an imbecile, a usurper and a tyrant, who curses the country with his administration.”
Josiah Minot, head of the state Democratic party, in a speech in Canterbury: “The war has been brought on by the clamor of abolitionists. The question now at issue was, whether the President’s proclamation should free the slaves, or abolitionists should be put down. The Democratic party was for putting down the abolitionists, and maintaining the institution of slavery undisturbed. . . . A convention should be called after proclaiming an armistice, for arranging a peace satisfactory to both parties by mutual compromise.”
Nathaniel Bachelder, a physician and Democratic activist, who had been arrested for saying at a recruiting rally that three-fourths of the volunteers would be killed and go to hell: “I am a rebel. I was locked up forty days in a jail, I never saw the inside of before, because I am in favor of a free government for white people and not for niggers. Slavery is right. It can not be proved that slavery is a sin. Any physician can disprove that proposition. The forearms of negroes are four inches longer than those of a white man’s. They never sprung from Adam. God never made an animal, except a skunk, that smells half so bad. I am death on ministers. . . . They are always preaching the negro, and in my town they haven’t converted any souls for a good many years. Niggers are their breakfast, dinner, supper, and lodging. Go home and vote the democratic ticket.”
Thomas P. Treadwell, a Democrat from Concord: “The draft must be resisted at all hazards. I should prefer to live under the administration of Jefferson Davis than that of Abraham Lincoln.”
Daniel Marcy, 1st district congressional candidate: “It is time for a separation of the country. I have a mind to sell my property and move to the South.”
William Burns, 3rd district congressional candidate: “Rather than that the Emancipation Proclamation should be enforced, and slavery be abolished, I would prefer that the government be destroyed.”
The broadside closed with two more headlines:
MEN OF NEW HAMPSHIRE!
WILL YOU VOTE THE TICKET MADE UP OF SUCH MEN?
Despite battlefield losses and northern antipathy toward abolitionists, among the candidates quoted in the broadside, only Marcy won election in March 1863. Whoever issued the broadside correctly guessed that Democrats were overplaying their hand. After all, many of the voters had fathers, sons and brothers risking their lives to preserve the Union, if not necessarily to free the slaves. By praising Jefferson Davis and the southern cause while belittling African-Americans, Copperheads conflated the two.