“Prominent Candidates for the Republican Presidential Nomination at Chicago,” in Harper’s Weekly, May 12, 1860.



“Prominent Candidates for the Democratic Nomination At Charleston, South Carolina,” in Harper’s Weekly, April 1, 1860.


“Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, President Elect of the United States of America, With Scenes and Incidents in his Life, Phot. By P. Butler, Springfield, Ill.” in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, March 9, 1861.  [Alexander Hesler’s photograph, misattributed to Preston Butler.]

The new president is portrayed here as a free soil exemplar, surrounded by vignettes showing his rise from laborer to middle- class professional to President of the United States.


Abraham Lincoln, Platinum Print, 1895, by George B. Ayres, from 1860 negative by Alexander Hesler.


Progressive Democracy—Prospects of a Smash Up.  Lithograph (New York: Currier & Ives, 1860).

The divided Democrats face a united Republican opposition on its way to certain victory.


“The Nigger” in the Woodpile.  Lithograph  (New York:  Currier & Ives, 1860).

Abolition of slavery and equal rights for blacks is the Republican’s hidden agenda, charges this pro-Democratic cartoon.


The Great Issue to be Decided in November Next!  Shall the Constitution and the Union Stand or Fall, Shall Sectionalism Triumph?  Lincoln and His Supporters (Washington: National Democratic Executive Committee, 1860).


Abraham Lincoln’s Record on the Slavery Question.  His Doctrines Condemned by Henry Clay.  The Mass of Lincoln’s Supporters Hostile to the Constitution.  Lincoln’s Course in Congress on the Mexican War.  The Homestead Bill—“Land for the Landless,” Lincoln, Douglas, and Hamlin (Baltimore: Murphy & Co., 1860).

The “Black Republicans” were disunionists and abolitionists who in their repudiation of the Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scott decision defied the law of the land and sneered at the Supreme Court, charged the Democrats.  Republicans’ constant condemnation of southern slave society could only lead to the dissolution of the Union.


Illinois Republican State Central Committee, Political Record of Stephen A. Douglas on the Slavery Question (Chicago, 1860).


Carl Schurz, Speech of Carl Schurz, at Cooper Institute, New York, September 13, 1860.  Douglasism Exposed and Republicanism Vindicated (Albany: Albany Evening Journal, 1860).


Lyman Trumbull, The Campaign in Illinois.  Speech of Senator Trumbull, at Chicago.  His Private Opinion of Douglas Publicly Expressed (Chicago, 1860).

Of the three opposing candidates, Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas, candidate of the northern and western Democrats, directly threatened Republican prospects.  The Republican campaign emphasized Douglas’s record in support of the South and his willingness to allow the extension of slavery into the territories.  A victorious Douglas would realign with the southern Democrats and the slave power would continue to rule through the Democratic Party.  


“Grand Procession of Wide-Awakes at New York on the Evening of October 3, 1860,” in Harper’s Weekly, October 13, 1860.



The Wide-Awakes.  (New York: H. De Marsan, 1860).

The Wide-Awakes were local political clubs organized by the Know-Nothing movement in the mid-1850s.  Turned Republican in 1860, their function was to raise campaign hoopla and enthusiasm through torch light parades and mass meetings.  Wide-Awakes were well organized in New York, several New England cities, and Philadelphia.

The adjacent song sheet denounces the Wide-Awakes and Republicans as abolitionists who favor black equality and “amalgamation”—i.e. racial intermarriage.  It echoed the constant race baiting by Democrats that was an integral part of the political discourse of these times.


David W. Bartlett, The Life and Public Services of Hon. Abraham Lincoln . . . To Which is Added a Biographical Sketch of Hon. Hannibal Hamlin (New York: Derby & Jackson, 1860).


Elbridge Gerry Spaulding, The Republican Platform.  Revised Speech of Hon. E. G. Spaulding, of New York, Delivered at Buffalo and Washington, At Meetings Held to Ratify the Nomination of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin . . . (Washington: Republican Executive Congressional Committee, 1860).

The proslavery Democrats are the sectional party, Spaulding charged in this speech presenting the Republican platform.  As in 1856,            the platform affirmed freedom in the territories, support for internal improvements, tariffs, and the trans-continental railroad.  Added was a repudiation of the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision; denunciation of recent southern efforts to reopen the slave trade; and specific support for homestead legislation giving land to actual settlers as a matter of right.


Abraham Lincoln, The Address of the Hon. Abraham Lincoln in Indication of the Policy of the Framers of the Constitution and the Principles of the Republican Party, Delivered at Cooper Institute, February 27th, 1860, Issued by the Young Men’s Republican Union (New York: George F. Nesbitt, Co., 1860).

In his most famous campaign speech, Lincoln sought to portray the Republican Party as a responsible national political party dedicated to Union and the protection of liberty as well as the containment of slavery.  He assured his listeners that Republicans would not threaten slavery in the South.  “For anything we say or do, the slaves would scarcely know there is a Republican Party.”


Homestead.  The Republicans and Settlers Against Democracy and Monopoly.  The Record (Washington: Republican Congressional Committee, 1860).

The new Republican Congressman from western Pennsylvania, Galusha Grow, was a prime mover behind Republican legislation in the House of Representatives granting land in the territories to actual settlers.  Democrats, at the behest of southerners, killed the measure, which disallowed grants to land speculators and large tracts to planters seeking to establish new slave plantations.  “The so-called Democratic party is false to its name, and favors land monopoly and speculation, and is hostile to the settler,” Republicans charged.


The Lincoln and Hamlin Songster, Or, the Continental Melodist (Philadelphia: Fisher & Brother, 1860.)


The Little Giant; His Life, Travels and Death (Chicago: 1860.)

This scurrilous little pamphlet celebrates Stephen Douglas’s defeat with repeated doggerel verse references to “his ass.”  Was Douglas’s ass the prototype of the Democratic Party donkey?


To The Citizens of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: 1860).

In conservative and generally pro-southern Philadelphia, the Republicans became the People’s Party.  Their election day ballot leaflet emphasizes Republican support of tariffs, a homestead act, and fiscal responsibility.  The silk campaign ribbon shows the party reaching for the issue dearest to Pennsylvania — “Protection to American Industry.”



Campaign envelopes, above, by S. Raynor, New York; below, by Carpenter & Allen, Boston.



“The Rising of the Afrite,” in Vanity Fair, January 19, 1861.

A monster in the form of a black genie emerges from the uncorked bottle of “Secession.”  With South Carolina out of the Union and other southern states soon to follow, the period after the election saw intense efforts to reach a compromise to check secession, a period dubbed by historians as Secession Winter.


South Carolina Convention, Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union; And the Ordinance of Secession (Charleston: Evans & Cogswell, Printers, 1860).


Confederate States of America, Constitution of the Confederate States of America.  Adopted Unanimously by the Congress of the Confederate States of America, March 11, 1861 (Montgomery, Shorter & Reid, Printers, 1861).

South Carolina fulfilled its threat to secede if the Republicans won the Presidency.  It issued its Declaration to proclaim its separation from the Union and induce other southern states to follow.

Within a few months, six other southern states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas – joined with South Carolina to form the Confederate States of America.  Its Constitution was nearly identical to the United States Constitution same for limiting the President to one six-year term, and guaranteeing the security of slavery.


Copy of the Proposed Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (Annapolis: 1861).

How much was Lincoln prepared to compromise to check the secession movement?  This is a copy of the proposed 13th Amendment guaranteeing constitutional protection to slavery in the South, drafted under Buchanan and transmitted by new President Lincoln to the several states. This copy was issued by the Maryland House of Delegates.


Republican Propositions in the Peace Congress, Offered by Mr. Tuck, of New Hampshire, In behalf of the Commissioners from that State, and after consultation with others (Washington, 1861).

At a conference called by Virginia to attempt to find a compromise to avoid secession, some Republicans were prepared to accept a Constitutional Amendment to secure slavery in the Southern states; and agree to revise state laws that the South found offensive, such as the personal liberty laws passed in several northern states to counter the Fugitive Slave Act.


Henry Wilson, The Crittenden Compromise — A Surrender.  Speech of Henry Wilson, of Mass., Delivered in the Senate, February 21st, 1861, On the Resolutions of Mr. Crittenden Proposing Amendments to the Constitution of the United States (Washington, 1861).

Compromise proposals by Kentucky Senator John J. Crittenden included ceding to slavery all the country south of the old Missouri Compromise line – which could have entailed the north-south division of California into a free and a slave state.  Congress was also to abandon any efforts to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, and surrender its power to regulate the interstate slave trade.  Speaking for a majority of Republicans, Wilson denounced the measures as a surrender of the Republican electoral victory



Bombardment of Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor.  12th & 13th of April, 1861.  Colored lithograph  (New York: Currier & Ives, 1861).

Lincoln hoped to avoid war, but was prepared to fight one if it came.  Some historians regard his decision to resupply Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor – the heartland of the secession movement – as a deliberate provocation.  Whatever the case, the firing on Fort Sumter meant compromise efforts were over and war had begun.


“The Cabinet at Washington,” in Harper’s Weekly, July 13, 1861.

Lincoln’s Cabinet was a balancing act of the political variety and geographical range of the Republican Party.  Lincoln conceded economic and domestic policy issues to the Cabinet while guarding for himself the war-making policy.



Victorious Bombardment of Port Royal, S. C. Nov. 7th 1861.  Colored lithograph (New York: Currier & Ives, 1861).

The conquest of the Sea Island region of South Carolina planted the Union flag in the deep South and set the stage for the Port Royal experiment that mobilized slaves to work toward their own freedom and the Union cause.


The Battle of Antietam, MD. Sept. 7th 1862.  Colored lithograph (New York: Currier & Ives, 1862).

This much-needed Union victory bolstered northern confidence and encouraged Lincoln to issue his preliminary emancipation proclamation on September 22, to take effect on January 1, 1863.


The Battle of Gettysburg, PA. July 3d, 1863.  Colored lithograph (New York: Currier & Ives, 1863).

The Union victory at Gettysburg, along with the fall of Vicksburg on the Mississippi River, were the turning points of the war.


Emancipation.  Lithograph (Philadelphia: John L. Magee, 1865).

Both the black slave and the southern poor white are elevated by emancipation in this Republican vision of a free labor America.


“A Typical Negro,” in Harper’s Weekly, July 4, 1863.

Much of the northern press was transfixed by a new American drama, the transformation of the southern slave into freedman, soldier, and citizen, as in the case of the Mississippi slave Gordon, shown in his ragged clothes, displaying his whip-scarred back, and finally dressed in the Union uniform. 


New York Draft Riot Scenes, in The New York Illustrated News, July 25, 1863.

The Draft Law permitted draftees to avoid service by purchasing a substitute, helping make the conflict “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.”  There were protests across the North, but none as violent as the working-class uprising in New York in July, 1863.  Initially attacking targets of privilege, wealth, and authority, the rioters quickly turned their attention to murderous assaults on New York blacks.



Freedom to the Slave.  Colored Lithograph (n. p., 1863?)

The reverse of this depiction of black soldiers fighting for freedom is a recruiting poster for black troops.  “All Slaves were made Freemen.  By Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, January 1st, 1863.  Come, then, able-bodied Colored Men, to the nearest United States Camp, and fight for the Stars and Stripes.”


Twelve Chromolithographed Cards by James Queen after Henry Louis Stephens (Philadelphia: William A. Stephens, 1863).

As thousands of white New Yorkers rioted to stay out of the Army, thousands of African American struggled to get in.  Over 186,000 blacks would serve in the Union army.  This card series shows a slave’s life from bondage to his death fighting for freedom in the Union Army.