Two Against Lincoln
Reverdy Johnson and Horatio Seymour, Champions of the Loyal Opposition
Published by: University Press of Kansas
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
Table of Contents
During my many years of research and writing on Abraham Lincoln and other Civil War–era subjects, many people have aided me. Some have simply shown an interest in my study and asked important questions that prompted my careful consideration. Others have given material assistance and read drafts of the manuscripts. During the last two decades, my dining partners and senior colleagues Alex De Grand, John Riddle, Jim Banker, Joe Mobley, and the late Joe Hobbs learned to tolerate my near obsession with Lincoln. They have provided encouragement...
In writing about the Northern opposition to Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans during the Civil War, historians have usually focused on the Copperheads or antiwar wing of the Democratic Party. They have debated the question of the loyalty of the Copperheads and their importance. Reflecting the need to defend democracy and political dissent during the Cold War, several historians at that time refuted the traditional view that the Copperheads were conspirators against the Lincoln government...
Part I. Reverdy Johnson: Conservative Unionist
1. Defender of the Republic and the Constitution
In December 1860, Maryland attorney Reverdy Johnson at the conclusion of his arguments in a case before the US Supreme Court asked and received permission from the justices to make a statement on “passing events and in just tribute to the historical place which, in any event, must be filled by the high tribunal before [him].” The events he had in mind were the impending secession of the lower South and the disruption of the Union after Lincoln’s election. Johnson, one of America’s most prominent...
2. Johnson and Lincoln: A Fragile Collaboration
The firing on Fort Sumter and Lincoln’s call for troops on April 15 shocked Reverdy Johnson and conservative Unionists, as well as Northern Democrats like Horatio Seymour, who had fervently hoped that war could be avoided by a policy of patience and non-confrontation with the seceded states. The smoke of gunfire had barely cleared around Charleston Harbor when Baltimore became the scene of a violent encounter on April 19 between a pro-secessionist mob and a Massachusetts militia regiment...
3. Civil War Senator and Lincoln Nemesis
In December 1863, after an absence of fourteen years, Reverdy Johnson, now age sixty-seven and partly blind, returned to the US Senate at a critical time in the history of the republic. Ironically, his two terms in the Senate dovetailed with two wars and their aftermaths—the Mexican-American conflict and the Civil War. In the beginning of the new Congress, a newspaper questioned whether the recently required ironclad oath for unswerving loyalty...
4. After the War: Republican Adversary
Four weeks after Lincoln’s assassination, seven men and Mary E. Surratt went on trial before a military commission in Washington, charged with conspiracy in the murder of the president on that tragic day in April. Eight of the nine officers on the military commission were generals; all had combat experience during the war, but none was a lawyer. Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt, Reverdy Johnson’s old foe in the court martial of General John Fitz Porter, served as chief prosecutor. General David Hunter...
Part II. Horatio Seymour: Democratic Party Leader
5. Seymour and Lincoln: The Early Sparring
Horatio Seymour was born in Pompey Hill, New York, in 1810. The son of a prominent local merchant and politician, he was educated at Geneva Academy (now Hobart College) and at a military school in Connecticut. Seymour studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1832. He settled on a farm two or three miles from Utica, where, in addition to occasionally practicing law, he farmed and lived for the rest of his life. (The site of his home today is a shopping center.) A talent more for politics than for litigation, Seymour...
6. A Thorn in Lincoln’s Side, 1863
On the day that Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Horatio Seymour took the oath of office as governor of New York, the most populous and richest state in the Union. Seymour joined Joel Parker of New Jersey as the only Democratic governors in the free states. The border state governors of Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and Delaware, though supportive of many Democratic policies, politically referred to themselves as Unionists; three of them in 1863 were former Whigs. The other Union...
7. Democratic Champion, 1864
On January 5, 1864, Governor Seymour sent his annual message to the new state legislature, now controlled by the Republicans. Like the one at the beginning of his term, the message was designed for a national audience. Using military statistics, he devoted much of the message to defending the state’s role in the war. He boasted that New York’s contribution of volunteers to the army, even in proportion to its population, was greater than that of other Northeastern states. As expected, Seymour continued to criticize federal...
8. Reconstruction Dissident and Presidential Candidate
The assassination of Abraham Lincoln on Good Friday, April 14, 1865 (he died the next morning), as the war ended created a deep pall over the Union states. Seymour apparently remained quiet in the wake of the murder, which was probably wise in view of the invective—and even violence—directed toward Democratic opponents of the martyred president. However, he must have been shocked by the tragic event and wondered if “fraternal relations” could be returned to America during his lifetime.1 The murder of...
The suppression of the Southern rebellion depended not only on defeating the Confederate armies, it also required Northern and border states’ support for the fundamental purpose in the war—the preservation of the Union. In addition, Union success necessitated backing for policies to win the war and for insuring the preservation of the fruits of victory after the guns were silent. While committed to the paramount Union purpose in the war, Lincoln recognized that slavery was the cause of the Civil War, and he understood...
Essay on Sources
The internet and digital revolution has been a boon to research and writing on Abraham Lincoln, political affairs in the Union states, and on almost every aspect of the Civil War era. Manuscripts, printed documents, newspapers, literary and professional journals, books, and obscure publications have been made available and usually easily searchable on the internet. Digital editions of materials in the Library of Congress, Cornell University, Harvard University, and other institutions have been printed and made accessible to scholars and students of the Civil War period. Google and other search instruments have provided useful information on...
Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 2 photographs
OCLC Number: 980241974
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Two Against Lincoln