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Examining Lincoln's Mindset in the Election of 1864

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craig merrill

on 4 August 2014

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Transcript of Examining Lincoln's Mindset in the Election of 1864

Examining Lincoln's Mindset in the Election of 1864
Blind Memorandum (August 23, 1864)
#8 on the list of 150 Most Teachable Lincoln Documents

Executive Mansion
Washington, Aug. 23, 1864.
This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.

Letter to Albert Hodges (April 4, 1864)
#7 on the list of 150 Most Teachable Lincoln Documents
My dear Sir: ....

``I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel. And yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling. It was in the oath I took that I would, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. I could not take the office without taking the oath. Nor was it my view that I might take an oath to get power, and break the oath in using the power. I understood, too, that in ordinary civil administration this oath even forbade me to practically indulge my primary abstract judgment on the moral question of slavery. I had publicly declared this many times, and in many ways. And I aver that, to this day, I have done no official act in mere deference to my abstract judgment and feeling on slavery. I did understand however, that my oath to preserve the constitution to the best of my ability, imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every indispensable means, that government---that nation---of which that constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the nation, and yet preserve the constitution? By general law life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the constitution, through the preservation of the nation. Right or wrong, I assumed this ground, and now avow it. I could not feel that, to the best of my ability, I had even tried to preserve the constitution, if, to save slavery, or any minor matter, I should permit the wreck of government, country, and Constitution all together.
Embattled Democrats nominated former Union General George McClellan nominated to run on the Democratic ticket in 1864
McClellan would state "the vast majority of our people, whether in the Army& Navy or at home would with me hail the unbounded joy the permanent restoration of peace...without the effusion of another drop of blood."

Allen C. Guelzo, Lincoln:A Short Introduction, 2009 p.119
J. W. Alden to George Thompson, July 14, 1864 (Alden opposes Lincoln's reelection) click on slides below to magnify

Answer the Essential Question using the following excerpts to complete this DBQ analysis in a 5 paragraph essay following instructors rubric.

Essential Question: During the summer of 1864, to what extent would northern voters doubt Lincoln's chances to be reelected to the Presidency of the United States?

A quick tutorial to write a DBQ-

By August 1864, the outlook was so grim for the Republicans that Thurlow Weed wrote William H. Seward,
"Ten or eleven days since, I told Mr Lincoln that his re-election was an impossibility.... The People are wild for Peace. They are told that the President will only listen to terms of Peace on condition Slavery be 'abandoned.'"


Letter to Lincoln
from NY Times Editor
In a letter written to Lincoln on August 22, 1864, the New York Times editor, Henry J. Raymond advocated making a proffer of peace to President Davis "on the sole condition of acknowledging the supremacy of the Constitution, — all other questions to be settled in convention of the people of all the States:"

"If the proffer were accepted (which I presume it would not be,) the country would never consent to place the practical execution of its details in any but loyal hands, and in those we should be safe.

If it should be rejected, (as it would be,) it would plant seeds of disaffection in the South, dispel all the delusions about peace that previal in the North, silence the clamorous & damaging falsehoods of the opposition, take the wind completely out of the sails of the Chicago craft, reconcile public sentiment to the War, the draft, & the tax as inevitable necessities, and unite the North as nothing since firing on Fort Sumter has hitherto done."

From "Henry J. Raymond to Abraham Lincoln, August 22, 1864 (Political affairs)," Page 4.

Are there any Lincoln' Followers?
A single term had become traditional, no President since Jackson had served a second term. In a letter to Elihu Washburne, in October 1863, Lincoln confided-
"A second term would be a great honor and a great labor, which together, perhaps I would not decline if tendered."

Abraham Lincoln: A Biography, Benjamin P. Thomas. 1952, p.409
Lincoln Response to Re-Election Victory Serenade (Nov. 10, 1864)

It has long been a grave question whether any government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its own existence, in great emergencies.
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