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1860 Democratic National Convention
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Politics
By the time the 1860 Democratic National Convention began in Charleston, South Carolina, the party was already showing deep divides. The leading candidate, Stephen Douglas, had alienated the South with his so-called Freeport Doctrine and his break with Buchanan over the Lecompton Constitution, while many Southern delegates were demanding a plank supporting Jeff Davis's "federal slave code" and a Northern candidate like Buchanan or Pierce who respected Southern principles. Unfortunately, with the increasingly hostile attitude throughout the North, neither Pierce or Buchanan could have pulled enough Northern votes to get elected.
When the Davis platform passed as a majority, Douglas's side prepared a minority platform that resurrected the Cincinnati platform of 1856 (decisions about slavery would be left to the courts). Northern Democrats forced it through the convention as a whole by a slim margin by having delegates vote individually rather than by state. Immediately upon passage delegates from Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Arkansas and many from Georgia stormed off. The selection of candidates continued, but the chairman ruled that 202 votes (2/3rds of all elected delegates) would be required to select a nominee. Douglas could only come up with 152. Other votes went mostly to Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter of Virginia and James Guthrie of Kentucky. Wisely opting to let everybody cool after 57 ballots, they voted to reconvened the convention in Baltimore six weeks later.
In the interim, Southern delegates held a convention in Richmond. On the advice of Davis, Robert Toombs and others, they decided to wait for the outcome of the Baltimore convention. Some states selected a second slate of delegates, so when the convention reconvened and both slates of delegates appeared, pandemonium reigned. Douglas actually sent a message withdrawing his nomination, but friends diverted it before it could be read. When five more states withdrew, Douglas got all but 13 votes on the first ballot. Still, he did not have the required 2/3 majority of elected delegates so a resolution was passed naming him the candidate because he had received 2/3 of the votes of delegates present.
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1860 Democratic National Convention was last changed on - August 19, 2006
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