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1864 September 17: McClellan’s Nomination, the Chicago Platform, and a Copperhead Conspiracy

September 19, 2014

The following reprinted article from the New York Herald appeared in the September 17, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.

The New York Herald on McClellan’s Nomination. 


The Copperhead Conspiracy to Inaugurate a Revolt in the North. 

The New York Herald, the most widely circulated, and the most influential Democratic newspaper in the United States, thus speaks of the Chicago peace platform, the nomination of Gen. McClellan [George B. McClellan], and the Copperhead conspiracy to inaugurate an insurrection in the North.  The force of the article is not diminished by the fact that the Herald is a violent opponent of the Administration and for some time past has been advocating an armistice.  But the proposition for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” is a step beyond where it is willing to go :


We have not the slightest doubt that there is a mutual understanding between the Seymours [Thomas H. Seymour], the Woods [Fernando Wood], Vallandigham [Clement L. Vallandigham] and the rebels. This understanding is shown in the secession platform adopted by the Chicago Convention, and in the nomination of Mr. Pendleton [George H. Pendleton], of Ohio—who is a practical secessionist—for Vice President. We have now driven the rebels completely to the wall. Gen. Grant [Ulysses S. Grant] has the best of them at Richmond, and General Sherman [William T. Sherman] has succeeded in capturing Atlanta. This is not the time, then, that any reasonable man would be talking about ” an immediate cessation of hostilities.” We are in favor of an armistice, like that between Prussia and Denmark, where both sides hold their ground and are ready to begin the conflict at any moment, but there is a vast deal of difference between such an armistice and the “immediate cessation of hostilities” which the Chicago platform requires. Nothing can explain such a platform except the hypothesis that it was dictated by Jeff. Davis [Jefferson Davis] to the peace Democrats, and that these peace men foisted it upon the Chicago Convention as the price of their endorsement of General McClellan’s nomination.

For three years past the Herald has sustained and defended the hero of Antietam.  We have done full justice to his generalship, his statesmanship, his honesty and his patriotism.  But when McClellan takes his stand upon a cowardly peace platform, we are at a loss how to follow him and defend him.  This the General has not yet done, and we hope that he will never be foolish enough to do it.  We advise and urge him to come out boldly and declare that his only platform is his past record as a Union General, and that his sentiments are those expressed in his letter from Harrison’s Landing and his  at West Point.  If he hesitates to do this he is lost.  There must be no prevarication nor equivocation.  The rotten Chicago platform must be kicked to pieces, and McClellan’s own platform substituted.  He had better a thousand fold decline the nomination than to accept it upon such conditions as those imposed by the Convention.  The Chicago Platform invites defeat, it must be broken up, either by McClellan himself or by the voice of the people at the polls.

We candidly and sincerely believe that the peace copperheads at the North do not desire election of McClellan any more than the Southern secessionists declared the election of Douglas [Stephen A. Douglas] or Breckenridge [sic: John C. Breckinridge] in 1860.—They bitterly opposed McClellan at Chicago, and openly denounced him as a tyrant and a usurper.  Finally they accepted him upon condition that they should have the platform and the Vice President.  But even now the copperheads are not earnest in his support.  There is no saying but that Mr. Lincoln may be elected by a small majority and in that event the Copperheads intend to raise a revolution at the North.  This they can very readily do if the people do not beware of the trap.  Suppose the election to be decided by only a few thousand votes, then the Democratic minority will be nearly as strong as the Republican majority.  In fact, the minority will be stronger ;  for the Democrats will fight, while the Abolitionists will not.  What then is to hinder a revolution ?  Is it the army ?  The moment the army is withdrawn to put down an insurrection here the rebels will come out of their intrenchments and capture Washington.  This, as we understand it, is part of the Copperhead plan, and if successful it will put an end to the Government of the country.

That this idea of a vast northern conspiracy between the copperheads and the rebels is no more bugbear, is evident from the fact that the Chicago Convention, instead of adjourning sine die,¹ as conventions usually do, adjourned to meet again at the call of the Executive Committee.  This is equivalent to the organization of a revolutionary body.  Our merchants and capitalists so consider it ;  for they are closing up business, shipping their goods back to Europe, turning their property into gold, sending their property across the water, and in every way preparing to leave the country as soon as the revolution begins.  These movements are not to be lightly considered.  They mean mischief and show that trouble is brewing.  Gen. McClellan can avert that trouble and restore public confidence if he have the pluck and sagacity to ignore the Chicago platform and come out boldly as a Jackson Democrat on the platform of  his past record.  Then he will have a fair chance of election, because he will not be bound to a cowardly policy if he be elected.  But what could Washington himself do if he were to pledge to negotiate for “an immediate cessation of hostilities ?”  The Chicago platform will encourage the rebels to hold out until election, and, as things stand at present, the Peace Copperheads have promised them one of two things :  either the election of Mr. Lincoln and a Northern insurrection—in which case the rebels will have the upper hand of us ;  or, in the event of McClellan’s election, “an immediate cessation of hostilities,” in which case the rebels will have everything their own way.  General McClellan can destroy these schemes by framing his own platform out of it.  Then a northern insurrection will be impossible ;  and, if the people do their duty in the meantime, there will be no rebellion left to make terms with, and no Jeff. Davis in existence to receive an offer for “an immediate cessation of hostilities.”  This is as great a crisis as that as Harrison’s Landing or at Antietam.  Let Little Mac² reflect deeply and act wisely.

1.  A Latin phrase meaning to adjourn with no future date of meeting assigned.
2.  “Little Mac” was a nickname for McClellan.

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