*A possible exception was South Carolina. As the presidential electors were appointed by the legislature, there is no certain record of minority sentiment.
Widely different in temper were those stern and resolute men whose organization, in perfect fighting trim, faced eagerly the divided Democrats. The Republicans had no division among themselves upon doctrine. Such division as existed was due to the ordinary rivalry of political leaders. In the opinion of all his enemies and of most Americans, Seward was the Republican man of the hour. During much of 1859 he had discreetly withdrawn from the country and had left to his partisans the conduct of his campaign, which seems to have been going well when he returned in the midst of the turmoil following the death of John Brown. Nevertheless he was disturbed over his prospects, for he found that in many minds, both North and South, he was looked upon as the ultimate cause of all the turmoil. His famous speech on the "irrepressible conflict" was everywhere quoted as an exultant prophecy of these terrible latter days.
It was long the custom to deny to Seward any good motive in a speech which he now delivered, just as it was to deny Webster any good motive for his famous 7th of March speech. But such criticism is now less frequent than it used to be. Both men were seeking the Presidency; both, we may fairly believe, were shocked by the turmoil of political currents; each tried oiling the waters, and in the attempt each ruined his candidacy. Seward's speech in condemnation of John Brown in February, 1860, was an appeal to the conservative North against the radical North, and to many of his followers it seemed a change of front. It certainly gained him no new friends and it lost him some old ones, so that his star as a presidential candidate began its decline.
The first ballot in the Republican convention surprised the country. Of the votes, 233 were necessary for a choice. Seward had only 173 1/2. Next to him, with 102 votes, stood none of the leading candidates, but the comparatively obscure Lincoln. A gap of more than 50 votes separated Lincoln from Cameron, Chase, and Bates. On the second ballot Seward gained 11 votes, while Lincoln gained 79. The enemies of Seward, finding it impossible to combine on any of the conspicuous candidates, were moving toward Lincoln, the man with fewest enemies. The third ballot gave Lincoln the nomination.
We have seen that one of the basal questions of the time was which new political group should absorb the Whig remainder. The Constitutional Union party aimed to accomplish this. The Republicans sought to out-maneuver them. They made their platform as temperate as they could and yet consistent with the maintenance of their opposition to Douglas and popular sovereignty; and they went no further in their anti-slavery demands than that the territories should be preserved for free labor.
Another basal question had been considered in the Republican platform. Where would Northern capital stand in the reorganization of parties? Was capital, like men, to become frankly sectional or would it remain impersonal, careless how nations rose or fell, so long as dividends continued? To some extent capital had given an answer. When, in the excitement following the John Brown incident, a Southern newspaper published a white list of New York merchants whose political views should commend them to Southerners, and a black list of those who were objectionable, many New Yorkers sought a place in the white list. Northern capital had done its part in financing the revived slave trade. August Belmont, the New York representative of the Rothschilds, was one of the close allies of Davis, Yancey, and Benjamin in their war upon Douglas. In a word, a great portion of Northern capital had its heart where its investments were--in the South. But there was other capital which obeyed the same law, and which had investments in the North; and with this capital the Republicans had been trafficking. They had succeeded in winning over the powerful manufacturing interests of Pennsylvania, the pivotal State that had elected Buchanan in 1856.
The steps by which the new party of enthusiasm made its deal with the body of capital which was not at one with Belmont and the Democrats are not essential to the present narrative. Two facts suffice. In 1857 a great collapse in American business--"the panic of fifty-seven"--led the commercial world to turn to the party in power for some scheme of redress. But their very principles, among which was non-intervention in business, made the Democrats feeble doctors for such a need, and they evaded the situation. The Republicans, with their insistence on positivism in government, had therefore an opportunity to make a new application of the doctrine of governmental aid to business. In the spring of 1860, the Republican House of Representatives passed the Morrill tariff bill, consideration of which was postponed by the Democratic Senate. But it served its purpose: it was a Republican manifesto. The Republicans felt that this bill, together with their party platform, gave the necessary guarantee to the Pennsylvania manufacturers, and they therefore entered the campaign confident they would carry Pennsylvania nor was their confidence misplaced.
The campaign was characterized by three things: by an ominous quiet coupled with great intensity of feeling; by the organization of huge party societies in military form--"Wide-awakes" for Lincoln, numbering 400,000, and "Minute Men" for Breckenridge, with a membership chiefly Southern; and by the perfect frankness, in all parts of the South, of threats of secession in case the Republicans won.