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RcpmiNo. 36 ' fTm-l-lQ- 

Alabama and the Charleston 
Convention of 1860 


[From the TRANSACTIONS, 19M, Vol. V] 




OF i860. 

By James Leonidas Murphy, Evergreen, Ala. 

No convention in the history of the Democratic party has had 
more important results than the one that met in Charleston, South 
Carolina, in i860. It witnessed the disruption of the Democratic 
party, which practically ensured the election of Lincoln, and 
thereby precipitated secession and the Civil War. It is espe- 
cially interesting to the student of Alabama history because of the 
part that Alabama took in it. Its main incidents are familiar to 
every one, for many good accounts of it have been written.' Yet 
no one has carefully traced out the history of the movement which 
resulted in its disruption. This was the final culmination of a 
political policy that had been inaugurated in Alabama in 1848, 
and had been enunciated in the famous "Alabama Platform" of 
that year. It is the purpose of this paper to show the relation 
between this Alabama movement and the Charleston convention, 
and to trace the effect of Alabama politics on that convention — 
in other words to explain how the Alabama delegates came to 
piay so important a part in it. Free use will be made of contem- 
porary material, much of which has not been previously utilized. 

To understand the action of the Alabama delegates in the 
Charleston convention we must first examine the circumstances 
under which they were sent there, and the instructions that were 
given them as to the course they were to pursue. The conven- 
tion which sent them met in Montgomery, January 11, i860. 

' Rhodes gives a clear, but brief, account in the second volume of his 
History of the U. S. from the compromise of 1850, vol. ii, pp. 454. et seq. 
Greeley, in his American ConHiet, vol. i, pp. 309, et seq., gives more de- 
tails and some extracts from documents. Lossing writes with bitterness, 
but gives many interesting^ facts in his Civil War in America, vol. i, p. 
18. Von Hoist discusses it vigorously from an unfriendly standpoint in 
his Constitutional Historv of the U. S., vol. i, p 5g-6i, chap. III. Wilson's 
Rise and Fall of the Slave Power describes in fun the point of view of a 
leader of the Republican party of that day, vol. ii, chap. liv. The best pre- 
sentation of Douglas's side is in Stephens's Constitutional View of the 
Late War Between the States, vol. ii, pp. 271, et seq. The most elaborate 
account from the Southern State rights standpoint is to be found in Do 
Bose's Life of W, L. Yancey, chap. 22. 

240 Alabama Historical Society. 

There were two contesting wings in this convention. One was 
led by William L. Yancey, who believed in demanding absolute 
protection for slavery in the Territories; the other was led by 
Messrs. John J. Seibels and John Fors)rth, who did not believe 
that it would be of any material advantage to the South to de- 
mand this protection, and was inclined towards Stephen A. 
Douglas's popular sovereignty theory. When the convention 
met, Mr. Bulger, of Tallapoosa, was proposed as temporary chair- 
man by the Seibels and Forsyth wing, and Mr. Smith, of Lauder- 
dale, by the Yancey wing. As a compromise, Mr. Walker moved 
that Mr. Francis S. Lyon be made temporary chairman of the 
convention. This motion was carried, and Mr. Lyon took the 

The next struggle in the convention was in regard to the rival 
delegations from Montgomery and Mobile counties. There had 
been two primaries in Montgomery county to select delegates to 
the state convention. The first, on November 12, 1859, claimed to 

'For some vivid reminiscences of this convention see the artide by Col. 
S. S. Scott in the Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society, vol iy. 

Johnson J. Hooper, the well known humorist, at that time was editor of 
the Montgomery Daily Mail, and in the issue of j'an. 12, i86o» gives the 
following racy description of the selection of a chairman: 

"The Dudpital Democracy! 
Two Chairmen in the Stand I 
The Lambs Compromise on a Lyon! 
A Yancey Committee ! 

"The Democratic State convention, or rather two or three hundred gen- 
tlemen daiming to be such, met in the Hall of the House, yesterday after- 

"At three-quarters past three, some gentleman moved that Gen. M. J. 
Bulger of Tallapoosa act as temporory chairman. 

"Mr. Yancey rose; and stated that the motion was out of order, the hour 
appointed being four o'clock, by the State House dodc 

"General Bulger, however, took the chair, and Mr. Yancey continued, 
showing that no motion could be made till four. He spoke till that hour, 
and then moved that Hon. H. D. Smith, of Lauderdale, take the diair, 
and put the question, which was carried. 

"Mr. Smith now took the stand, also, so that there were two temporal^ 
chairmen on the stand* each hammering and putting propositions, as to his 
own election; and each deciding in his own favor. 

"The noise, hubbub, and human roar, became awful. Tophet, with old 
Nick on a bust, couldn't be worse. 

"Hon. L. P. Walker now moved that Hon. F. S. Lyon (old Union man, 
but now of Yancey's wing,) be the compromise Chairman — which was 
carried; and Messrs. Smith and Bulger walked down, and Mr. Lyon 
walked up." 

Alabama and the Charleston Convention.— Murphy. 241 

be the regular meeting of the Democracy of Montgomery county. 
It unanimously adopted the following resolutions : 

■'i. The constitution of the United States is a compact between 
sovereign and co-equal States, united upon the basis of perfect 
equality of rights and privileges. 

"2, The territories of the United States are the common prop- 
erty of the States, to which the citizens of each and every State 
may rightfully and constitutionally emigrate with any property 
recognized as such in any State of the Union, and while there 
it is the constitutional duty of the Federal government, acting 
through its appropriate agents and departments to provide such 
adequate and complete protection to their property of every de- 
scription as may be essential to its full enjoyment. 

"3. The doctrine of non-intervention or 'non-interference with 
the institution of slavery in States, Territories, or District of 
Columbia,' as laid down in the Cincinnati platform, does not, nor 
was it intended to recognize the doctrine of Squatter Sovereignty, 
or to conflict with the assertion and maintenance of the consti- 
tutional duty of the Federal government to protect the property 
of the citizens of the several States which may go or be taken into 
the Territories of the United States. 

"4. In the language of the supreme court of the United 
States, 'the right of property in slaves is distinctly and expressly 
affirmed in the constitution,' and 'the only power over it con- 
ferred upon Congress, is the power coupled with the duty of 
guarding and protecting the owners in their rights.' And we 
hold that neither the compromise measures of '50 and '51, nor 
the Kansas-Nebraska bill nor the Cincinnati platform was in- 
tended to release or could release Congress or any other depart- 
ment of the government from 'the duty of guarding and protect- 
ing the owners in their rights' of property in the Territories or 
from the performance of any other constitutional obligation, 

"5. As the Congress of the United States has no power to pro- 
hibit or abolish slavery in the Territories, so neither can it confer 
such authority upon its creature, a Territorial legislature. It per- 
tains alone to the people of the "rerritory to decide for themselves 
whether slavery shall exist therein or not, when in the exercise of 
rightful authority they form their State constitution with the 
view to admission into the Union, and that such decision becomes 
of force and effect upon the admission of the Territory as a 

"6. We insist upon the constitution, and will stand by the con- 
stitution as our fathers made it, venerating the maxim, that 
'Eternal vigilance is the price of Liberty.' And when we fail to 
assert and maintain our constitutional rights or acquiesce in their 
violation for the sake of party harmony and success, or upon the 

242 Alabama Historical Society. 

idea that such rights are abstract or unimportant, we will prove 
derelict to our duty and unworthy of the blessings of constitu- 
tional freedom. 

"7. That since the adoption of the Cincinnati platform, the 
supreme court of the United States has, in the Dred Scott case, 
clearly defined the constitutional rights of the South, and that 
we approve that decision and the principles set forth in the opin- 
ion of the courts, and that we think it to be the imperative duty 
of the Charleston convention to express its approval of said de- 
cision and principles, and to declare for protection of slavery in 
the Territories by Congress. 

"8. Entertaining these views, it is our sacred duty to support 
neither Stephen A. Douglas nor any other man for the Presi- 
dency of the United States, whose sentiments are opposed to the 
principles contained in the foregoing resolutions."* 

Although this meeting was formally regular, its action declar- 
ing against Stephen A. Douglas proved unsatisfactory to the Sei- 
bels-Forsyth wing, therefore they issued a call for another pri- 
mary. This primary met on January 2, i860, and it was attended 
by both wings.* The convention was organized by the Seibels 
wing, and one of its first duties was to appoint a committee on 
resolutions. This committee*^ reported identically the same reso- 
lutions that had been adopted by the November convention with 
the exception of the eighth, in which they omitted all 
specific objections to Douglas. They were doubtless intended as 
a compromise, which would satisfy both wings and yet leave the 
field open to Douglas. The Yancey element did not object to the 
organization; but when these resolutions were reported, Mr. 
Thomas M. Arrington and Mr. Yancey argued that there was no 
necessity for the present meeting as its action had been antici- 
pated by the previous one. At the conclusion of Mr. Yancey's 
argument, he moved that the meeting adjourn. The motion was 
carried in spite of vigorous protests, the vote being two to one. 
After the withdrawal of their opponents, the Seibels followers 
immediately reorganized with Gabriel B. Duval as chairman, and 
appointed delegates to the state convention.* They adopted the 

• Montgomery Advertiser and State Gazette, Nov. 16, 1859. 

* Montgomery Daily Mail, Jan. 3, i860. 

•This committee on resolutions consisted of Messrs. H. C. Semple, 
William Marks, J. J. Seibels, Albert Elmore, and J. R. Powell.— /Wtf. 


Alabama and the Charleston Convention. — Murphy. 243 

following resolutions, which more perfectly represented their own 
position : 

"i. Resolved, That the Democracy of Montgomery county 
in convention assembled, reindorses the platform of principles 
laid down by the Democratic party in the National convention 
of 1856 ; and hence declares that the Democratic party is the party 
of the constitution, and recognizes the equality of the several 
States and the right of the people of all the States to occupy and 
enjoy their common territory; that it denies the power of the 
Federal government, or any authority derivative from it, to dis- 
criminate between property in slaves and other property existing 
under the constitution of the United States and the laws of the 
several States, and asserts the obligation of the general govern- 
ment to provide adequate protection for slave and all other prop- 
erty in the Territories and wherever it has rightful jurisdiction. 

"2. Resolved, That we understand the Dred Scott decision 
to cover the principles above declared, and we will support no 
man for the Presidency, who does not approve and endorse that 
decision as thus understood. 

"3. Resolved, That, with this declaration of principles as 
their guide, we leave our delegates in the convention to adopt 
such a course as shall in their judgment be best calculated to 
secure our rights and our honor."' 

Under similar circumstances two sets of delegations had been 
selected in Mobile county, but the contest between them was 
not so bitter as in the case of the two sets from Montgomery. 

On the committee to pass upon the contesting delegations from 
Mobile and Montgomery counties were placed John T. Morgan, 
as chairman, and six others. Mr. Morgan reported that they 
considered the delegates appointed by the Democratic meeting 
held in the city of Montgomery on November 12, 1859, the proper 
delegates to represent Montgomery county in the state conven- 
tion. There was much and exceedingly spirited debate on both 
sides. Morgan vigorously defended his report before the con- 
vention. He said he held those persons to be disorganizers who 
refused to abide by the usages of the Democratic party, and that 
the refusal to enter as members into a Democratic meeting, which 

'These resolutions were drawn up by a committee consisting of the same 
five men who had drawn up the first resolutions, with the addition of 
Messrs. T. B. Bethea, John D. Phelan, Peter B. Mastin, P. T, Sayre, W. 
J. Beasley, George Goldthwaite, Henry W. HiHiard, Abram Martin, John 
Whiting, and Thomas "Qvovm.— Montgomery Daily Mail, Jan. 3, i860. 


244- Alabama Historical Society. 

had been regularly called, was a departure from these usages. 
By a vote of 211 to 110 the convention concurred with the report 
of the committee, and the delegates appointed by the January 
meeting withdrew." The convention was then in admirable tem- 
per, and on motion of Mr. Alex. Clitherall both sets of delegates 
from Mobile were admitted to seats in the convention by a vote 
of 295 to 155. 

Mr. Erwin was made chairman of the committee on platform. 
After two days' consultation, he reported the resolutions which 
were adopted by the convention, the opposition led by Mr. For- 
syth, of Mobile, never countings more than six votes. 

These resolutions* begin with the statement that the question 
of slavery is more important than all other issues upon which 
Alabama has previously affiliated with the National Democratic 
party. They then, in general, reaffirm the Cincinnati platform of 
1856, but in order to insist upon the Southern interpretation of 
this ambiguous platform they specifically state that Congress has 
no right to prohibit slavery in the Territories, nor have the people 
of the Territories that right until they form a State constitution. 
They also endorse the statement of the Alabama platform of 184S, 
that it is the duty of the general government to protect slaves in 
the Territories. The Dred Scott decision is interpreted as con- 
firming this claim to protection. The Alabama delegates to the 
Charleston convention are instructed to withdraw in case it 
should refuse to adopt a platform embodying these resolutions ■ 

'Montgomery Daily Mail, Jan. 12-14, i860. 
' The resolutions in full are as follows : 

1. Resolved by the Democracy of the State of Alabama, in Convention 
aasemfalcd, that holding all issues and principles upon which they have 
heretofore affiliated and acted with the National Democratic party to be 
inferior in dignity and importance to the great question of slavery, they 
content themselves with a general re-affirmance of the Cincinnati Plat- 
form as to such issues, and also endorse said platform as to slavery, to- 
gether with the following resolutions : 

2. Resolved further. That we re-affirm so much of the first resolution 
of the Platform adopted in Convention by the Democracy of this State, 
on the 8th of January, 1856, as relates to the subject of slavery, to wit: 
"The unqualified right of the people of the slaveholding States to the 
protection of their property in the States, in the Territories, and in the 
wilderness in which Territorial Governments are as yet unorganized." 

3. Resolved further, That in order to meet and clear away all obstacles 
to a full enjoyment of this right iti the Territories, we re-affirm the prin- 
ciple of the 9th resolution of the Platform adopted in Convention by the 
Democracy of this State on the r4th of February, 1848, to wit: "That 
it is the duty of the General Government, by all proper legislation, to se- 

Alabama and the Charleston Convention. — Murphy. 245 

The question naturally arises whether these resolutions repre- 
sented the real feeling of a majority of the people of Alabama, 
or were brought about by the manipulation of shrewd politicians. 
That they did represent the real feeling of a large niiinber of the 
Democrats in the State — probably the great majority — is shown 
first, by the fact that the convention was a genuinely representa- 
tive body, containing delegates from every county in the State 

care an entry into those Territories to all the citizens of the United States, 
together with their property of every description, and that the same should 
remain protected by the United States while the Territories are under 
its authority." 

4. Resolved furlher, That the Constitution of the United States is 3 
compact between sovereign and co-equal States, united upon the basis 
of perfect equality of rights and privileges. 

5. Resolved further, That the Territories of the United States are com- 
mon property, in which the States have equal rights, and to which the 
citizens of every State may rightfully emigrate with their slaves or other 
property, recognized as such in any of the States of the Union, or by the 
Constitution of the United States. 

6. Resolved further, That the Congress of the United States has do 
power to abolish slavery in the Territories, or to prohibit its introduction 
into any of them. 

7. Resolved further. That the Territorial Legislatures, created by the 
legislation of Congress, have no power to abolish slavery, or to prohibit 
the introduction of the same, or to impair, by unfriendly legislation, the 
security and full enjoyment of the same within the Territories; and such 
constitutional power certainly does not belong to the people of the Terri- 
tories in any capacity, before, in the exercise of a lawful authority, they 
form a Constitution preparatory to admission as a State into the Union; 
and their action in the exercise of such lawful authority certainly cannot 
operate or take effect before their actual admission aa 3 State into the 
the Union. 

8. Resolved furlher. That the principles enunciated by Chief Justice 
Taney, in his opinion in the Dred Scott case, deny to the Territorial Leg- 
islature the power to destroy or impair, by any legislation whatever, the 
right of property in slaves and maintain it to be the duty of the Federal 
Government, in all of its departments, to protect the rights of the owner 
of such property in the Territories ; and the principles so declared are 
hereby asserted to be the rights of the South, and the South should main- 
tain them. 

9. Resolved furlher. That we hold all of the forgoing propositions to 
contain cardinal principles— true in themselves, and just and proper, and 
necessary for the safety of e11 that is dear to us, and we do hereby instruct 
our Delegates to the Charleston Convention to present them for the calm 
consideration and approval of that body — from whose justice and patriot- 
ism we anticipate their adoption. 

10. Resolved further. That our Delegates to the Charleston Convention 
are hereby expressly instructed to insist that said Convention shall adopt 
a platform of principles, recognizing distinctly the rights of the South 
as asserted in the foregoing resolutions; and if the said National Conven- 
tion shall refuse to adopt, in substance, the propositions embraced in the 
preceding resolutions, prior to nominating candidates, our Delegates to 
said Convention are hereby positively instructed to withdraw therefrom. 

11. Resolved furlher. That our Delegates to the Charleston Convention 

246 Alabama Historical Society. 

except Covington ; and, secondly, by the action of the Democratic 
county conventions, which met for the purpose of selecting dele- 
gates to the convention. It is manifestly impossible to quote 
many of these. Two examples must suffice. A comparison of 
the resolutions adopted by the Montgomery county meeting in 
November with these State resolutions will show that, while the 
language is different, the ideas are practically the same. The 
most conspicuous and most often quoted of the county resolu- 
tions are those^® adopted by the Perry county convention held in 
Marion on October 17, 1859. They were introduced by Wm. M. 
Brooks, and are identically the same as those afterwards adopted 
by the Montgomery county meeting of November. They de- 
manded protection for slavery in the territories and insisted that 
Alabama should not support Douglas or any other man for the 
presidency who was opposed to protection. 

In fact the doctrine of protection for slavery in the Territories 
was not a new one in i860. It dated back to the Democratic State 
convention of 1848, which took an advanced Southern position, 
and, largely through the efforts of Mr. Yancey, adopted the fa- 
mous Alabama platform. This declared that citizens of the 
United States together with their property of every description 
should not be prohibited, either by Congress or by the Territorial 
legislatures from entering territory belonging to the general gov- 
ernment, and should be protected by Congress.^^ The Alabama 
delegates were instructed by this convention not to vote for any 
one who would not accept this view of the slavery question. The 
compromises of 1850, which after an exciting contest were ac- 
cepted in Alabama, hushed for a time the demand for protection. 

The opening up of the Kansas-Nebraska territory in 1854 re- 
shall cast the vote of Alabama as a unit, and a majority of our Delegates 
shall determine how the vote of this State shall be given. 

12. Resolved further, That an executive Committee, to consist of one 
from each Congressional district, be appointed, whose duty it shall be, in 
the event that our Delegates withdraw from the Charleston Convention, 
in obedience to the loth resolution, to call a Convention of the Democracy 
of Alabama, to meet at an early day to consider what is best to be done. — 
Montgomery Daily Mail, Jan. 16, i860. 

They are also included in the proceedings of the Charleston Convention. 

^ Montgomery Advertiser and Gazette, Nov. 2, 1859. 

"The Conservative Party in Alabama, by J. E. D. Yonge, Transactions 
of the Alabama Historical Society, vol. iv; also John W. Ehi Bose's Life 
of Yancey, 

Alabama and the Charleston Convention. — Murphy. 247 

vived the idea, and Alabama renewed its demand. The National 
Democratic convention which met in Cincinnati in 1856 adopted 
a platform which declared for "non-interference of Congress with 
slavery in the Territories." The Alabama delegates to this con- 
vention supported this platform, but interpreted the clause to 
mean that the people of a territory could decide for themselves 
for or against slavery only when forming a State constitution. 
The Northern Democrats interpreted it to mean that the people 
of the Territory previous to the formation of a State constitution 
could decide for themselves whether or not they would have 

It has already been stated that the Alabama delegates were in- 
structed to withdraw from the Charleston convention if a plat- 
form embodying the principles of protection was not adopted by 
it. With these instructions, they met the delegates from the 
thirty-two other States of the Union in convention at Charleston 
on April 23, i860. The proceedings of that convention are too 
familiar to need repetition. Suffice it to say that as soon as it 
was organized, a committee on platform was appointed, consist- 
ing of one delegate from each of the thirty-three States of the 
Union. The committee presented three reports to the convention 
— a majority and two minority reports.^f In a speech delivered in 
Montgomery after his return from the Charleston convention, 
Mr. Yancey said: 

"The majority report contained substantially all that Alabama 
insisted upon and was signed by the delegates on the committee 
from all the Southern States and those from California and Ore- 
gon, making in all seventeen States. This was a majority of all 
file States in the Confederacy, all of the Democratic States, and 
those only which can be relied on to cast their electoral votes for 
a Democratic candidate for the presidency at the ensuing elec- 
tion; and furthermore, they constitute seventeen of the nine- 
teen States that voted for Mr. Buchanan in the electoral college 
as well as fourteen of the sixteen States in which he received 
a majority of the popular vote. Thus the principle of protection 
to slavery, which Alabama had solemnly declared to be vital, 
was endorsed by a majority of the whole United States and all 
the reliable Democratic States. Not only endorsed and recom- 
mended to the convention by these States upon the platform com- 

^ Proceedings of the National Democratic Convention convened at 
Charleston, S. C, April 23, i860, pp. 19-21. 

248 Alabama Historical Society. 

mittee but it met with the sympathy of a portion of the (klegates 
from several of the other free States besides California and Ore- 

The majority platform was voted down by the friends of Mr. 
Douglas by a vote of 138 to 165. The reason Douglas's friends 
were able to do this was that the convention had adopted a rule, 
"that in any State which has not provided or directed by its State 
convention how its vote may be given, the convention will recog- 
nize the right of each delegate to cast his individual vote.^* This 
was the first time in the history of the National Democratic con- 
ventions that a platform reported by a majority of the platform 
committee was voted down in the convention. Mr. Yancey said : 
"It was a rule concocted by a remarkably smart man, and was so 
cunningly devised that its effect was not suspected until the con- 
vention had passed it." 

Benjamin F. Butler, of Massachusetts presented one minority 
report. It was the Cincinnati platform of 1856, pure and simple. 
It was signed by him alone, and was rejected by a vote of 105 to 

The principal minority report was presented by Mr. Samuels, of 
Iowa, and embraced the Cincinnati platform as to slavery and an 
additional resolution binding the Democracy to abide by the de- 
cision of the supreme court as to slavery in the Territories. It 
was signed by the delegates upon the committee from fifteen 
non-slaveholding States. All of these States had free-soil legisla- 
tures, and were in the hands of the Republicans. 

When the committee on resolutions reported, Mr. Yancey 
spoke^' in behalf of the majority report, which embodied, he said, 
substantially all that the Alabama delegates demanded. This 
speech was gjeatly applauded by both Northern and Southern 
delegates, and was noted for its kindness and conciliation.^* Mr. 

" Advertiser and State Gazette^ May 16, i860. 

^* Proceedings, etc., p. 7. 

"This entire speech is to be found in the Mobile Weekly Register, May 
12, i860. 

" The editor of the Savannah Republican said of this speech : 
"The ^eat event, however, of the day, was the speech of the Hon. Wm. 
L. Yancey, of Alabama, to which the remainder of the afternoon was 
devoted. It was, indeed, a great speech, and he has won by it golden 
Ofnnions from all sides — foes as well as friends. It could not have well 
1>een otherwise, for besides its eloquence and manly argument, it was kind 

Alabama and the Charleston Convention.— A/i/r^/iy. 249 

Yancey reviewed the position Alabama had taken upon the 
slavery question, and expressed his hope that the North would 
participate in the adoption of a platform of principles favorable to 
the people of the Southern States, He thought the Northern De- 
mocracy should accede to the demands of the Southern States be- 
cause these were the only States that, in all probability, would not 
cast Republican electoral votes. He denied the charge that the 
people of Alabama were disunionists and desired to break up the 
Democratic party, and pronounced all these statements to be false. 
In this speech Mr. Yancey said : 

"We come here with two great purposes; first, to save the 
constitutional rights of the South, if it lies in our power to do 
so. We desire toi save the South by the best means that present 
themselves to us, and the State of Alabama believes that the best 
means now in existence is the organization of the Democratic 
party, if we shall be able to persuade it to adopt the constitutional 
basis upon which we think the South alone can be saved. Demo- 
crats ourselves from youth upward, belonging to a State that has 
never been anything but Democratic, always voting for a Demo- 
cratic president, and nearly always sending a united vote to the 
house of representatives, and Democratic senators to the Senate of 
the United States, we prefer that the honor of saving the country 
shall crown the brow of the Democratic party. Deceived as we 
have been by much shown in the historj- of that part>', we yet have 
some hope that it will come to the rescue of the country ; we have 
some confidence that it has a desire to come to the rescue. We 
have come here, then, with the twofold purpose of saving the 
country and of saving the Democracy; and if the Democracy 
will not lend itself to that high, holy, and elevated purpose; if it 
cannot elevate itself above the mere question of how perfect shall 
be its mere personal organization and how wide-spread shall be 
its mere voting success, then we say to you, gentlemen, mourn- 
fully and regretfully, that, in the opinion of the State of Ala- 
bama, and, I believe of the whole South, you have failed in your 
mission, and it will be our duty to go forth and make an appeal 
to the loyalty of the country to stand by that constitution which 
party organizations have deliberately rejected." 

and persuasive, and unmirred, from the beginning lo the close, by the first 
offensive expression. T would not trust myself to attempt a description, 
but I may say that it was an able, eloquent and complete vindication or 
the views of the South in all this matter. Could our members of Congress 
be induced to make such speeches — or I should rather say, to adopt at 
least his tones and manner — we should soon have an end to the anti- 
slavery agitation of the North. It was a noble and truthful appeal for 
justice at the hands of our Northern brethren, and the truths stated were 
Its only denunciation." — Advertiser and State Gasefte, May 9, i860. 

250 Alabama Historical Society. 

Continuing, he said that he recognized the fact that the South 
was in the minority, and that the constitution had been made for 
the protection of minorities. He conceded that the South might 
be wrong upon this constitutional question, and that the North 
might be right. But he had no doubts about it. He said the 
North had nothing to lose while the South had everything. It 
was the property of the South that was attacked, and her insti- 
tutions that were at stake. The honor of the wives and children 
of the Southern men rested upon the course the North might 
take to consummate its designs. These being facts, the people 
of the South would yield no position tmtil they were convinced 
that they were wrong. 

Mr. Yancey reviewed the slavery question from the Missouri 
compromise of 1820 to the Kansas-Nebraska bill of 1854. He 
said that at one time the Democracy of the North was in the 
ascendency, and could elect a Democrat president; but the rea- 
son it was not so then was that the anti-slavery sentiment was 
dominant at the North, and the slavery sentiment was dominant 
at the South — ^that the Northern Democracy, yielding to the anti- 
slavery sentiment, had grown weaker and weaker, and had un- 
consciously turned traitors to their convictions of duty. He went 
on to show how the North had lost its ascendency. He said the 
reason was, that they acknowledged that slavery was wrong and 
could exist only by virtue of statutory enactments. 

Mr. Yancey said he had not come there as a disunionist, for if 
he had, he would have come with the Alabama platform in his 
hand, and would have presented it for adoption or rejection, 
without the dotting of an "i" or the crossing of a "t." He said 
that the Alabama platform did not contain all that the people of 
that State desired, but for the sake of harmony and union they 
were willing to accede to any platform, presented by the North, 
that would afford protection to the people of the South. He 
thought the North ought to grant this to the South, as it would 
bring to the support of a Northern platform a united South. 

He said that the supreme court in the Dred Scott decision had 
declared that Congress has no power to prohibit slavery in the 
Territories, and that the constitution protects slaveholders in the 
Territories. Therefore the Territorial governments, which de- 

Alabama and the Charleston Convention. — Murphy, 251 

rive their powers from the general government, cannot prohibit 
slaveholders from entering their borders. He said : 

"We are determined, in no language of threat or compulsion, 
that we must bring up the Democratic party to the great issue of 
loyalty to the government ; we must appeal to the noble sentiment 
of its members, ask that their feelings of loyalty to the govern- 
ment shall over-ride their principle of mere loyalty to party. If 
need be, we must accept defeat upon great truths \vith cheerful- 
ness, rather than rejoice in a victory upon error or double deal- 

"To my countrymen of the South I have a few words to say. 
Be true to your constitutional duties and rights. Be true to your 
own sense of right. Accept of defeat here, if defeat is to attend 
the assertion of the right, in order that you may secure a per- 
manent victory in whatever contest you carry a constitutional ban- 

"Yield nothing of principle for mere party success— else you 
will die by the hands of your associates as surely as by the hand 
of your avowed enemy. Permit no party, in lieu of fealty to the 
written compact of the constitution, to put the fiat of its own al- 
legiance and fealty upon you, which will forever after be used 
to prevent your rising when you think the proper time comes, to 
assert your reserved rights. Do not demoralize yourselves; do 
not demoralize your own people by admitting that you are ready 
to affiliate in a war of factions, merely for the sake of keeping a 
party in power. A party, in its noblest sense is an organized 
body that pledges itself to the people to administer the govern- 
ment on a constitutional basis. The people have no interest in 
parties, except to have them pledged to administer the government 
for the protection of their rights. The leaders of the masses, bril- 
liant men, great statesmen, may by ever ignoring the people's 
rights, still have a brilliant destiny in the rewards of office and 
the distribution of the eighty millions annually; but when those 
leaders, those statesmen become untrue to the people, and ask the 
people to vote for a party that ignores their rights and dares not 
acknowledge them in order to put and keep them in office, they 
ought to be strung upon a political gallows higher than that 
erected for Haman." 

The minority report was adopted with the exception of the 
clause agreeing to abide by the decision of the supreme court.^^ 
It was simplv a reaffirmation of the Cincinnati platform of 1856. 

"Proceedings, dd. 30-32, and also the Advertiser and State Gazette, May 
16, i860. 

252 Alabama Historical Society. 

The final adoption of this report was the signal for the with- 
drawal of the Alabama delegates. 

Mr. LeRoy Pope Walker, the chairman of the Alabama dele- 
gation, then presented a written protest, signed by all its mem- 
bers, announcing their reason for withdrawing from the conven- 
tion.^® In presenting this protest, Mr. Walker said : 

"Mr. President, I am instructed by the Alabama delegation to 
submit to this convention a communication, and with your per- 
mission I will read it. 

"To the honorable Caleb Gushing, President of the Democratic 
National convention, now in session in the city of Qiarleston, 
South Carolina: the undersigned delegates, representing the 
State of Alabama in this convention, respectfully beg leave to lay 
before your honorable body the following statement of facts ; on 
the eleventh day of January, i860, the Democratic party of the 
State of Alabama met in convention, in the city of Montgomery, 
and adopted with singular unanimity, a series of resolutions." 

Mr. Walker then read the resolutions. Continuing he said : 

"Under these resolutions, the undersigned received their ap- 
pointment, and participated in the action of this convention. By 
the resolution of instruction, the tenth in the series, we were 
directed to insist that the platform adopted by this convention 
should embody in substance the proposition embraced in the pre- 
ceding resolution, prior to nominating candidates. Anxious, if 
possible, to continue our relation with this convention, and thus 
to maintain the nationality of the Democratic iJarty, we agreed 
to accept, as the substitute for the Alabama platform, either of 
the two reports submitted to this convention by a majority of the 
committee on resolutions — ^this majority representing not only 
a majority of the States of the Union, but also the only States 
at all likely to be carried by the Democratic party in tte presi- 
dential election. We beg to make these reports a part of this 

He then read the following first majority report which con- 
tained the following resolutions in regard to slavery : 

"Resolved, That the platform adopted at Cincinnati be affirmed 
with the following resolutions : 

"i. That the National Democracy of the United States hold 
these cardinal principles on the subject of slavery in the Terri- 
tories: First, That Congress has no power to abolish slavery in 

*■ Proceedings, pp. 32-3S 

Alabama and the Charleston Convention. — Murfliy. 253 

the Territories. Second, That the Territorial legislature has no 
power to abolish slavery in any Territory, nor to prohibit the 
introduction of slaves therein ; nor any power to exclude slavery 
therefrom nor any power to destroy or impair the right of prop- 
erty in slaves by any legislation whatever, 

"3. Resolved, That the enactments of State legislatures to de- 
feat the faithful execution of the Fugitive Slave Law are hostile 
in character, subversive of the constitution, and revolutionary in 
their effect. 

"3. Resolved, That it is the duty of the Federal government to 
protect, when necessary, the rights of persons and property on 
the high seas, in the Territories or wherever else its constitutional 
authority extends." 

Then he read the second" majority report which contained 
these resolutions in regard to slavery : 

"Resolved, That the platform adopted by the Democratic party 
at Cincinnati be affirmed, with the following explanatory resolu- 
tions : 

"i. That the government of a Territory organized by an act 
of Congress is provisional and temporary, and during its exist- 
ence all citizens of the United States have an equal right to settle 
with their property in the Territory without their rights, either of 
person or property, being destroyed or impaired by Congres- 
sional or Territorial legislation. 

"2. That it is the duty of the Federal government, in all its 
departments, to protect, when necessary, the rights of persons 
and property in the Territories and wherever else its constitu- 
tional authority extends. 

"3. That when the settlers in a Territory having an adequate 
population, form a State constitution, the right of sovereignty 
commences, and being consummated by admission into the 
Union, they stand on an equal footing with the people of other 
States, and the State thus organized ought to be admitted into 
the Federal Union, whether its constitution prohibits or recog- 
nizes the institution of slavery." 

He said: 

"These reports received the endorsement, in the committee on 
resolutions of every Southern State, and had either of them 

* The origin of the second majority report is this. The original report 
of the committee on resolutions was after some discussion referred back 
to the committee in the heme that sorae form might be given it that would 
he generally acceptable. The committee reported the majority report with 
some changes. This was called the second majority report. It was not 
adopted,— 5^^ Proceedings, passim. 

254 Alabama Historical Society. 

been adopted as the platform of principles of the Democratic 
party, although, possibly, in some respects, subject to criticism, 
we should not have felt ourselves in duty bound to withhold our 
acquiescence. But it has been the pleasure of this convention, 
by an almost exclusive sectional vote, not representing a ma- 
jority of the States, nor a majority of the Democratic electoral 
votes, to adopt a platform which does not, in our opinion, nor 
in the opinion of those who urged it embody in substance the prin- 
ciples of the Alabama resolutions." 

Mr. Walker here read the minority report, presented by Mr. 
Samuels and adopted by the convention. 
The following is the report: 

^'Resolved, That we, the Democracy of the Union in conven- 
tion assembled, hereby declare our affirmance of the resolutions 
unanimously adopted and declared as a platform of principles by 
the Democratic convention at Cincinnati, in the year 1856, be- 
lieving that Democratic principles are unchangeable in their na- 
ture, when applied to the same subject matters. 

'^Resolved, That it is the duty of the United States to afford 
ample and complete protection to all its citizens, whether at home 
or abroad, and whether native or foreign bom. 

^'Resolved, That one of the necessities of the age, in a military, 
commercial, and postal point of view, is speedy communication 
between the Atlantic and Pacific States; and the Democratic 
party pledge such constitutional government aid as will insure 
the construction of a railroad to the Pacific coast at the earliest 
practicable period. 

''Resolved, That the Democratic party are in favor of the ac- 
quisition of the Island of Cuba, on such terms as shall be honor- 
able to ourselves and just to Spain. 

''Resolved, That the enactments of State Legislatures to de- 
feat the faithful execution of the Fugitive Slave Law are hostile 
in character, subversive of the constitution, and revolutionary in 
their effect." 

Continuing Mr. Walker said: 

"Instructed, as we are, not to waive this issue, the contingency 
therefore, has arisen when, in our opinion, it becomes our duty 
to withdraw from this convention. 

"We beg, sir, to communicate this fact through you, and to 
assure the convention that we do so in no spirit of anger, but 
under a sense of imperative obligation — properly appreciating 
its responsibilities, and cheerfully submitting to its conse- 

Alabama and the Charleston Convention. — Murphy. 255 

While Mr. Walker was presenting the protest, "it was evident 
that an unprecedented crisis had arrived. The late tumultuous 
convention was hushed to silence and the stillness of death, while 
solemnity was depicted upon every countenance."*® 

Mississippi, Florida and Texas followed with their entire dele- 
gations; and all but two of those from Louisiana, all but three 
from South Carolina, three from Arkansas, two from Delaware, 
and one from North Carolina joined the seceders. 

The delegates who did not secede took fifty-seven votes, during 
which Mr. Douglas's strength rose to one hundred and fifty-two 
and a half. The strength of no other candidate reached twenty- 
one votes on any one of the fifty-seven contests. The convention, 
having failed to nominate a presidential candidate, adopted reso- 
lutions to adjourn to meet in Baltimore on June 18, and recom- 
mended to the Democratic party of the several States to supply all 
vacancies made by the withdrawal of the Southern delegates. 

The seceding delegates assembled on April 30 in St. Andrew's 
hall, to consult upon what they should do in that extreme crisis.*^ 
The hall was filled with an "eager and expectant assemblage," so 
that it was a difficult matter for the delegates to enter. Mr. Yan- 
cey made an appeal in behalf of order and regular proceedings. 
John S. Preston, from South Carolina, was appointed temporary 
chairman. Mr. Yancey then in a few concise remarks explained 
the object and purpose of the meeting, and urged deliberate and 
well considered measures. He advocated moderation and concili- 
ation. On motion of Mr. Walker, of Alabama, a committee was 
appointed to report a list of officers and rules for the permanent 
organization of the convention. Mr. J. A. Bayard, of Delaware, 
was selected as permanent president. 

The second majority platform, which had been rejected in th** 
other convention, was, with one or two verbal changes, adopted 
by acclamation. The only serious opposition to it was made by 
John Anthony Winston, of Alabama, who thought it did not come 
up to the Alabama instructions, because it was not sufficiently ex- 
plicit on the subject of protection of slavery in the Territories. 

" Advertiser and State Gazette, May 16, i860. 

"The convention subsequently met at Military hall, and later in the 
thesLttr,— Montgomery Daily Mail, May 3-9, i86a 

256 Alabama Historical Society. 

The Montgomery Daily Mail gives the following summary of his 
speech :** 

"Governor Winston could not agree to this report. He had 
belonged to the secession and protection Democracy. The doc- 
trine of Alabama was not embraced in this report. He would 
not lower her flag an inch, though it may not have been his ad- 
vice to have raised it. This excitement and talk here is intended 
to kill oS men ; and not establish principle. — Neither the Senate 
resolutions nor the majority report here came up to the standard 
of Alabama. This was, like the Cincinnati platform, a cheat and 
a delusion. 

"Over-ardent men in the South have determined to renew this 
question. Though at this late day, when all the territories were 
occupied, it was not practical, yet he would go for the strict ex- 
actions of his State. Had his advice in 1850 been taken, we 
might now have had California, Kansas, and other Territories. 
All this fuss about squatter sovereignty was to kill off prominent 
men at the North and ring in other men in their places. He 
would wash his hands of this humbug, and the people of Ala- 
bama would do it when they saw how this question was bilked in 
this report. Under it the slaveholder would lose his negro if 
he went into the territories. 

"He would not allow his people to be gulled with this de- 
lusion. Platforms were a humbug. He would prefer a sound 
man on no platform. There was no difference between Stephen 
A. Douglas and any other man on this platform. He did not 
justify the breaking up of a party on a mere abstraction. Ala- 
bama, however, had demanded the most perfect protection, and 
he did not regard this report as accomplishing that, declaring, as 
it did, that Congress should afford protection 'when necessary.* 
'When nesessary' might be discussed for twenty years." 

A motion was made in the convention to nominate candidates 
for the presidency and vice-presidency. Judge A. B. Meek, of 
Alabama, even suggested the names of Davis and Bayard. But 
it was finally decided to await the action of the del^ates who had 
not withdrawn from the Charleston convention. Mr. Bayard 
had suggested this policy on taking the chair as president of the 
convention. He said that the best policy for the seceding dele- 
gates to pursue was to wait and see whether the other convention 

" Daily Mail, May 5, i860. 

Alabama and the Charleston Convention. — Murphy. 


would not nominate a man whom they could support on their own 

Mr. Yancey proposed the name "Constitutional Democratic 
convention" for this convention to distinguish it, he said, from 
the other, which by its action in adopting the squatter sovereignty 
platform and rejecting the platform of the constitution, had con- 
stituted itself the '"Squatter Sovereignty convention." This would 
show to the country that they were not seeking to form an- 
other party, and would anticipate their enemies who would like 
to charge them with disunion and disruption, and call them seces- 
sionists. This proposition was opposed by some who did not 
want to modify in any way the old party name. To insure har- 
mony in the convention, Mr. Yancey withdrew his motion. The 
seceders then adjourned to meet in Richmond on June 11. 

After the adjournment of the two conventions, the all import- 
ant question for the Democrats of Alabama to decide was 
whether they should be represented at Baltimore, or at Rich- 

Ex-Governor Winston, who had been a delegate to the Charles- 
ton convention and was the only delegate who opposed the reso- 
lutions adopted by the Alabama State convention of January, 
i860, favored sending delegates to Baltimore. In a letter writ- 
ten May 16, i860, and also in one written June 11, i860, he states 

"Judge Meek is thus quoted in the report published in the Montgomery 
Daily Mail. 

"Now what the present convention had really desired was to have put 
forward a great historic name that would have commanded confidence and 
respect all over the Union — he alluded to Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi. 
They had also, he might say, contemplated putting in connection with that 
name, the name pf the honored gentleman who now presided over their 
deliberations, and thus have secured a ticket, sans peur, sans reproche. 
But any definite action now was deemed inexpedient, and his position wag 
to appeal to the country to justify their principles and actions. 

"Mr. Bayard analyzed with great deamess the ambiguity with which the 
other convention insisted upon covering up principle. If they nominated 
a candidate upon their platform, who was the expounder of squatter 
sovereignty they affirm that construction of it. If they do that he 
(Bayard) can go with this convention in recommending candidates. If, 
on the other hand, they should give us candidates maintaining our con- 
struction it would be left to them to excuse the inconsistency of their 
position. In that view this convention might take their nomination of a 
man whose record was sound in our view of the proper construction of 
that ambiguous platform. It was therefore our place to await its action."— 
Montgomery Daily Mail, May 4, r86o. 


Alabama Historical Society, 

his views in regard to sending them to Baltimore.** His ac- 
tion in the Charleston convention had been severely criticised by 
the press, and he wrote these letters in defense of the course pur- 
sued by him there, and to make public his reasons for sending 
delegates to Baltimore. 

In the letter written May i6, i860, he said: 

"The great Democratic party — the only party of national im- 
portance left to do battle for the constitution— is disorganized 
and demoralized. * * * * It is the work of patriotism to 
save and restore that party to power, to enable it to maintain 
the great contest now going on for the control of this govern- 
ment. * * + * We have now before us two propositions — 
the first is to send delegates to meet the National Democracy in 
council at Baltimore, for the purpose of nominating a national 
ticket for the presidency and vice-presidency. 

"Believing, as I do, that this is the only mode now to save the 
country from the mad rule of black Republicanism, I favor and 
advocate the proposition to send delegates to that convention. 
It is the right of every citizen of the State of Alabama, concur- 
ring with and in this opinion, to participate in the movement. 
No man in this emergency has a right to be neutral. 

"It is equally the privilege of those who favor the sectional 
movement of a convention [at Richmond] to send delegates to 
that convention — it is their duty to be represented in that con- 

"Believing, as I do, that this convention [at Richmond] is cal- 
culated to precipitate the South into a secession from the Demo- 
cratic party, and from the Union itself — for which there is now 
no good cause and for which the South is wholly unprepared, I 
deprecate and oppose that movement," 

The Weekly Advertiser, May 16, i860, sums up Governor 
Winston's position thus : 

"The Alabama platform, which I entirely endorse, demands 
the protection of slave property in the territories even when it is 
unnecessary; the majority platform requires it, only when it is 
necessary; therefore, I will sustain the minority platform which 
refuses it whether necessary or not. The logic of our ex-gover- 
nor's conclusions may be very striking, but it is more for its 
impotency than its correctness. 

" Montgomery Confederation, June 8, i860, and Tune 22, i860. 

Alabama and the Charleston Convention. — Murphy. 259 

At a meeting- of the people of Montgomery in Estelle hall on 
May 12, i860, Mr, Yancey spoke^^ of the action of the Alabama 
delegates in the Charleston convention, and expressed his opinion 
as to the policy to be pursued by Alabama in the subsequent na- 
tional Democratic convention. In this speech, Mr. Yancey said 
he did not think Alabama, "consistently with her honor and safety 
or the solemn position she had assumed," could send delegates to 
Baltimore. The principle of protection to slavery had been re- 
jected by the Douglasites of the Charleston convention, and the 
Southern delegates compelled to retire from the convention. The 
squatter sovereignty platform was the platform of the Baltimore 
convention and by all parliamentary rules could not be altered. 
The ballots at Charleston showed that Douglas had a clear ma- 
jority of a full convention, and his friends were perfectly united ; 
and it was not reasonable to expect that they would withdraw 
their favorite and allow the nomination of such a man as Hunter, 
Lane, or Davis, who was the first of his peers to lay his hand 
upon Douglas. 

In view of these facts, it was clear that the ballotings at 
Charleston would be repeated, and Douglas's supporters would 
stand by him to the bitter end. 

"He himself couid not see how Alabama and the other seced- 
ing States could be represented in the convention at Baltimore, 
and at the same time preserve their honor untarnished and not 
have their present high moral position demoralized and de- 

"Now as to the Richmond convention, he believed that if the 
Southern States or even the cotton States, responded to the call 
and had their delegates on hand, it would be in the power of 
that convention to exert a vast influence over the Baltimore con- 
vention and the whole country. If that convention would agree 
upon a ticket of national and truly constitutional men, and plant 
them upon the late majority platform, it would be accepted and 
endorsed by a large number of the delegates who are to assemble 
at Baltimore, and go forth to receive the support of the Democ- 
racy and the constitutional men o£ the land generally. Even the 
warm supporters of Douglas would pause in their insane political 
course, and would be controlled by the prospective loss of the 
'loaves and fishes,' the offices, to shift their sails to the popular 
breeze put in motion at Richmond." 

'Advertiser and Stale Gwelte, May 16, i860. 

a6o Alabama Historical Society. 

But all of the influential men of the South were not of Mr. 
Yancey's opinion. In May, immediately after Mr. Yanc^ had 
made thi> speech, nineteen representatives of the Southern States 
at Washington issued an address to the people of the South, urg- 
ing them to send del^ates to Baltimore.** In this address they 

"In the subsequent proceedings of the convention, however, we 
think that distinct intimations may be discerned of a disposition 
on the part of the convention to recede from its determination 
and afford, either by an amendment of the platform or in some 
other manner equally satisfactory, such recc^:nition of principles 
as would effectually obviate misconstruction and secure the har- 
monious action of the party, and that it was only because of these 
intimations that the delegations of the remaining Democratic 
States consented to join in the ballots which took place ^th no 
other effect than to induce an adjournment to Baltimore to the 
eighteenth of June, whilst the seceding delegates adjourned to 
meet at Richmond on the second Monday of the same month." 

They thought it their right and duty, as there was no insupera- 
Me obstacle to prevent the restoration of the party, to unite their 
efforts, with those of their Democratic bretfn-en, to secure the 
triumph of their principles. 

Continuing they said : 

"It is plain that if the convention shall at Baltimore adopt a 
satisfactory platform of principles before proceeding to selea 
its candidates, the reason which dictated the withdrawal of the 
delegations of the eight States will have ceased, and no motive 
will remain for refusing to unite with their sister nor for holding 
an adjourned meeting at Richmond. On the other hand, if the 
convention, on reassembling at Baltimore, shall disappoint the 
just expectatiwis of the remaining Democratic States, their dele- 
gations cannot fail to withdraw and unite with the eight States 
which have adjourned to Richmond. In either event there vrtyM^ 
be unanimous action in support of our principles by all th " 
which can be relied on for casting Democratic electoral v 

They believed that the wise and prudent course to pi 
was to defer the assembling in Rkhn ond until the 
such meeting should become imper: /e. They 
Virginia and the other Southern S , which 

" Advertiser and Statt GoMttU, y 

Alabama and the Charleston Convention. — Murphy. 261 

from the Charleston convention, could not hold State conventions 
and express their views authoritatively upon this question in time 
to send delegates to Baltimore ; and it would be impossible to 
unite the Southern States and secure that harmonious action so 
necessary for the preservation of the Democratic party upon con- 
stitutional principles. 

In view of the position taken by these representatives and the 
policy adopted by Mississippi and Louisiana, Mr. Yancey changed 
his views about sending delegates to Baltimore. In the conven- 
tion held June 4, i860, to nominate delegates either to Richmond 
or to Baltimore, he said,-' that ; 

"His views on the policy to be pursued had undergone a 
change, and he should fee! it a duty he owed to the Democracy 
of the State and of the cotton States, and of the Union, to sup- 
port the majority report. He felt constrained to do so by the 
position taken by Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia — a posi- 
tion which had been clearly foreseen since the address of certain 
Southern senators and representatives, which had been pub- 

He thought the best policy to pursue was for the Richmond 
convention to adopt the majority platform reported to the Charles- 
ton convention, and nominate some such man as Davia, Lane, Hun- 
ter, or Guthrie, and adjourn sine die. But, he said, Alabama is 
precluded from adopting this policy by the fact that Mississippi 
and Louisiana have adopted a policy to accredit their delegates 
both at Richmond and Baltimore. He thought it true wisdom on 
the part of the cotton States to pursue such a policy, and preserve 
their unity of action in the support of the rejected majority plat- 
form, for a division of those States in convention at Richmond 
upon a mere policy, involving no constitutional principle, would 
be disastrous to the success of their principles within the Union, 
He thought the highest attainable policy was to preserve the 
unity of the cotton States and to preserve the unity of the na- 
tional Democratic party upon constitutional principles. 

He thought Alabama could consistently adopt this policy, that 
the State would not be backing down from her lofty position, 
because of a wise provision, made by the State Democracy in the 

"Advertiser and State Gaaette, June 13, i860. 

262 Alabama Historical Society. 

January convention leaving this question to the executive com- 
mittee to decide what was best to be done in case the Alabama 
delegates should withdraw from the Charleston convention. 
"Thus, no previous action of the party commits it to a policy 
which would make its secession at Charleston a final parting with 
that party." 

He said that this policy would not in the least commit the peo- 
ple of Alabama to the abandonment of the principles of the Jan- 
uary State convention because the present resolutions gave to the 
Alabama delegates at Baltimore the same instructions that had 
been given the delegates to the Charleston convention. 

To understand the final results of the political policy put in mo- 
tion by the Alabama delegates at Charleston, we must trace the 
action of the subsequent Alabama State conventions, which sent 
delegates to Baltimore, and the action of these delegates there. 

Pursuant to the call of the executive committee,*® which the 
Democratic State convention of January said should be appointed 
"to decide what is best to be done," the Yancey wing of the 
Democratic party met in convention in Montgomery, June 4, 
i860, and unanimously adopted the following platform of resolu- 
tions :*® 

"i. That we do hereby reafiirm the platform of principles 
adopted by the Democratic State convention in January last. 

"2. That the action of our delegates to the Charleston conven- 
tion in withdrawing from that body, was in accordance with their 
instructions, was right in itself, and meets our unqualified appro- 

*In accordance with the provision made by the Democratic State con- 
vention of January, that the executive committee, in case the Alabama 
delegates should withdraw from Charleston, should call a convention of the 
Democracy of Alabama "to consider what is best to be done," the com- 
mittee appointed issued the following call : 

"The delegates from the State of Alabama having withdrawn from the 
Charleston convention, the undersigned, in obedience to the late Democratic 
convention of this State, and by its authority and in its name, do hereby 
call a convention of the Democracy of Alabama to meet in the dty of 
Montgomery on the first Monday in June next, being the fourth day of 
June, i860, then and there *to consider what is best to be done.* 

"And we exhort the Democracy in each county of the State to hold 
primary meetings and select delegates to represent them in said convention. 

"The Democratic papers throughout the State are requested to insert this 
call. Signed by Executive Committee. — Advertiser and State Gazette, May 
30, i860. 

" Montgomery Daily Mail, June 5, i860. 

Alabama and the Charleslxm Convention. — Murphy. 263 

"3. That our delegates, in consenting to accept the platform of 
principles contained in the report of the majority of llie commit- 
tee on resolutions, in that convention sacrificed no principle, and 
acted in conformity with their instructions, and we are willing to 
meet the Democracy of the United States on that platform. 

''4. That we approve the recommendation of our del^;ates and 
those of other States concurring with them at Charleston, to hold 
a convention at Richmond on the nth of June. And reposing 
full confidence in the States which shall be represented in that 
body, we do hereby instruct our del^^ates to repair to Richmond 
and co-operate with the del^;ates of that convention in whatever 
line of policy may be agreed upon, best calculated to preserve our 
principles and constitutional rights. To this end, anxious, if pos- 
sible, to preserve the integrity of the Democratic party upon prin- 
ciple, accredit them to the convention to be held at Baltimore on 
the i8th of June, under the instructions contained in the resolu- 
tions adopted in the Democratic State convention held in the city 
of Montgomery on the nth day of January las\" 

Nearly all the original del^^ates to Charleston were selected 
as del^^ates to the Richmond convention, the only exception be- 
ing in cases where the delegate had gone over to the other wing 
of the party, as for instance Winston, who had gone over to the 
Seibels-Forsyth wing. 

Through the Montgomery Confederation, the Huntsville Ad- 
vocate, and the Mobile Register, the Seibels-Forsyth wing of the 
Democratic party of Alabama issued the following call for a con- 
vention to nominate delegates to Baltimore : 

"Fellow citizens : The aspect of political affairs is ominous of 
trouble and injury to the good of the people of the StJ::es. The 
only National party faithful to the Union is threatened with dis- 

"We consider it incumbent on all those who are in favor of the 
perpetuity of the institutions of the government, the integrity, 
power and authority of the Democratic party, to meet in conven- 
tion in their respective counties, to appoint delegates to a State 
convention to assemble on Monday, the 4th day of June next, for 
the purpose of appointing delegates to meet the National Demo- 
cratic party in convention at Baltimore, to assemble on the i8th 
of June, to nominate a candidate for president and vice-president 
of the United States, who may be able to save the government 
from the hands of those who will not regard our constitutional 

264 Alabama Historical Society. 

rights, and be the means of securing the perpetuity of the consti- 
tution and the imion/'*® 

This call was signed by Winston, Forsyth and others. In 
accordance with it a convention met in Montgomtry on June 4, 
for the purpose of selecting del^;ates to represent Alabama in 
the convention to be held in Baltimore on June 18. It unani- 
mously adopted a platform which endorsed the Qndnnati |^t- 
form and the Dred Scott decision in r^;ard to slavery.'^ 

The delegates nominated by it, when they got to Baltimore, pre- 
sented an address to the national Democratic party there assem- 
bled, in which they set forth the following claims for their ad- 
mission :•* 

First, the remnant of the Charleston convention had requested 
the States to elect delegates to fill the vacancies made by the with- 
drawal of the Southern delegates. There was a vacancy in Ala- 
bama, and they therefore had full authority to elect delegates to 
this convention. They said the convention, which appointed 
them, assembled to send delegates to Baltimore and to no other 
place; and that their delegates had met the national Democratic 
party to protect the rights of the people and had agreed to abide by 
its action. 

Second, that the Yancey wing could not fairly claim to do this 
because they had uniformly endorsed the Richmcmd convention; 
and had denounced the Baltimore convention, and until the very 
last moment, had refused to send delegates at all to it. 

Third, they claimed that their appointment was as regular as 
that of the Yancey delegation, who had been appointed by the con- 
vention of June 4, which had met upon the call of the executive 
committee. They said that the resolution adopted by the State 
Democratic convention of January, i860, providing for the ap- 
pointment of an executive committee "to decide what was best to 
be done," did not prescribe how this committee should be ap- 
pointed, and, in fact, the official record of the proceedings of that 
convention did not show either that the mode of appointing was 
decided upon, or that the committee was appointed at all. They 

" Montgomery Confederation, June 29, i860. 
*^ Montgomery Daily Mail, June 7, i860. 
"Montgomery Confederation, June 29, i860. 

Alabama and the Charleston Convention. — Murphy. 263 

said the record showed that the convention adjourned sine die 
without appointing that committee. It was several weeks after 
the adjournment of the convention before any attempt was made 
to repair the omission, and then the defunct president of a de- 
funct convention nominated that committee through the newspa- 
pers. "We hold," they concluded, "that the functions of the presi- 
dent of that body ceased with its dissolution ; and that he had no 
power to correct any of the mistakes of its record." 

The Douglas delegates from Alabama were admitted to seats 
in the Baltimore convention, and the Yancey delegates were ex- 
cluded." The same thing was done in regard to the Douglas 
delegates from Louisiana. On being refused admittance, the 
Yancey delegates from Alabama and those of the other Southern 
States who belonged to the protection wing of the Democratic 
party, assembled and formed a separate and distinct convention. 
This convention unanimously adopted the platform reported to 
the Charleston convention by a majority of the committee on reso- 
lutions, and nominated John C, Breckenridge, of Kentucky, for 
president, and Joseph Lane, of Oregon, for vice-president. 

The other convention nominated Stephen A. Douglas, of Illi- 
nois, for president, and Benjamin Fitzpatrick, of Alabama, for 
vice-president, upon the platform adopted by the Charleston con- 
vention with the following additional resolution : 

"That it is in accordance with the interpretation of the Cin- 
cinnati platform, that, during the existence of the Territorial gov- 
ernments, the measure of restriction, whatever it may be, imposed 
by the Federal constitution on the power of the Territorial legis- 
lature over the subject of the domestic relations as the same has 
been, or shall hereafter be, finally determined by the supreme court 
of the United States, should be respected by all good citizens, and 
enforced with promptness and fidelity by every branch of the gen- 
eral government." 

Fitzpatrick refused to accept the nomination, and Herschel V. 
Johnson, of Georgia, was nominated for the vice-presidency. 

All students of American history are aware of the fact that this 
was the final disruption of the National Democratic party, and no 
doubt gave the Republican party its ascendency in national poU- 

; 21, i860, and June 23. i860. See also 

266 Alabama Historical Society. 

tics. It was the severing of the last tie that bound Southern 
Democrats to Northern Democrats. It is possible that, if the dis- 
ruption of the Democratic party at this time could have been pre- 
vented, the Republicans might have been defeated and the great 
Civil War might have been deferred, if not averted.