In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The Making of a Myth: Lincoln and the Vice-Presidential Nomination in 1864 Don E. Fehrenbacher The Republican party, renamed the Union party, held its national convention at Baltimore in early June 1 864. Delegates arrived fuUy expecting to renominate Abraham Lincoln without any trouble, but the vice presidency was a different matter. By March ofthat year, so the story goes, Lincoln had made up his mind that he wanted a new running mate. The incumbent vice president, Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, was not personally objectionable, but he would lend little strength to the party ticket in what seemed likely to be a close contest. In the search for a replacement, Lincoln's first choice fell upon Benjamin F. Butler, the squint-eyed Massachusetts Democrat who had become a spectacularly controversial major general. He accordingly sent his former secretary of war, Simon Cameron, to Butler's headquarters at Fortress Monroe with an offer of the vice-presidential nomination. The general emphatically declined, remarking impishly that he would accept only if Lincoln gave bond in the amount of his entire presidential salary that he would either die or resign within three months after his inauguration. When he received that rebuff, Lincoln was already considering another possibility. He sent Gen. Daniel E. Sickles to Nashville to investigate Andrew Johnson's vice-presidential potential. Johnson would be especially appealing to the border states and to War Democrats like himself, but more than that, he was a popular figure throughout the North because of the aggressive Unionism he had displayed as military governor of Tennessee. Sickles's report confirmed Lincoln in the belief that he had found the right man. Maintaining a pretense of neutrality and concealing his purpose even from his own private secretaries, John G. Nicolay and John Hay, he took steps to assure Johnson's nomination. The principal agents chosen for the task of bending the national convention to his wishes were Simon Cameron, chairman of the Pennsylvania delegation; Alexander K. McClure, another leading Pennsylvania Republican; Leonard Civil War History, Vol. xli. No. 4 © 1995 by The Kent State University Press 274CIVIL WAR HISTORY Swett, an old friend serving as one of the delegates from Illinois; and Ward H. Lamon, presidential companion and United States marshal for the District of Columbia. With perhaps one exception, these lieutenants did not receive their instructions from Lincoln until the very eve of the convention, but they did their work well at Baltimore. When the first vice-presidential ballot ended with Johnson well ahead of Hamlin and the other candidates, state after state switched to the Tennessean and made him the party's nominee. So expeditiously was the result achieved that Lamon did not have to show anyone the presidential letter endorsing Johnson that he carried in his pocket. In the words of a modem Civil War historian, "Lincoln had his way in the end without seeming to impose his will."1 This remarkable tale of presidential conspiracy is based wholly on recollective testimony, most of it recorded more than a quarter of a century after the fact. Contemporary evidence tends to contradict rather than validate the story. For example, as the nominating process began at Baltimore, Cameron tried in vain to have Lincoln and Hamlin renominated by acclamation. It was he who subsequently placed Hamlin's name in nomination, and the Pennsylvania delegation , including McClure, voted unanimously for HamUn on the first vicepresidential ballot, changing to Johnson only when the trend in his favor had become clear. One week afterward, Cameron wrote to Sen. William P. Fessenden of Maine: "I strove hard to renominate Hamlin . . . but failed only because New England, especially Massachusetts, did not adhere to him."2 Lamon, preparing to attend the Baltimore convention as an observer, chatted about it on June 5 with John Hay, who wrote in his diary, "Says he feels inclined to go for Cameron for Vice Prest on personal grounds. Says he thinks Lincoln rather prefers Johnson or some War Democrat as calculated to give more strength to the ticket." So contemporary testimony indicates that Lamon at that late date had nothing more than an impression of Lincoln's thoughts on the subject. Later the same day...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 273-290
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.