“Your Plan and Mine”: Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, 1864
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“Your unconditional submission to the Government and laws is all that I demand: and the great & magnanimous Nation that I represent have no desire for revenge upon you, but they will never allow you to again enslave those, who have been made free by your rebellion.” [ABRAHAM LINCOLN].
Print. “Your Plan and Mine” New York, N.Y., Currier and Ives, 1864. 16¼ x 11½ in.
Also for sale as part of the Ultimate Lincoln Collection.
The 1864 Presidential election pitted Abraham Lincoln against his former Commanding General, George McClellan. “We cannot have free government without elections,” Lincoln insisted during his November 10, 1864 victory speech, “and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.” McClellan ran as the peace candidate, and this Currier and Ives lithograph points out the stark differences between the two parties. Currier and Ives portrayed McClellan as an effete candidate extending the olive branch of peace to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who was still armed. Further, the Democratic position would allow the South to return to the Union—along with their slaveholding ways.
By contrast, a robust, almost superhuman Lincoln “negotiates” with Davis at bayonet point. By demanding unconditional surrender, the slaves freed by the Emancipation Proclamation would remain free. The image of Davis beaten and forced to disarm suggests that under Lincoln’s continued leadership, the Confederacy will be defeated and have to accept Northern terms.
In actuality, the campaign was more complex. The Democrats split between pursuing the war and negotiating for peace. Moderate Peace Democrats wanted to broker an end to the war that guaranteed Union victory. Radical Peace Democrats, or Copperheads, insisted on an immediate end to fighting with or without a clear win for the North. McClellan was actually a War Democrat, believing that the Union should continue fighting to prevail over the Confederacy. The compromise ticket created to heal this Democratic schism put McClellan in the top spot and nominated George H. Pendleton, a Copperhead sympathizer who had opposed the war, as Vice President. The Democratic Convention in 1864 then adopted a peace platform, a position anathema to McClellan personally. But, good soldier that he was, McClellan campaigned on the party’s platform and was vilified in the press as a result.
Despite his own pessimism—and Union losses—Lincoln won the election by over 400,000 popular votes. Third-party candidate John C. Frémont decided that the Democratic position of peace at all costs, including slavery, was too high a price for the nation. He refused to split the Republican vote and threw his support behind Lincoln. Only votes in 25 states (those that had not attempted to secede) were counted. Though voters in the Reconstructed portions of Louisiana and Tennessee chose Presidential electors, their votes were not accepted by Congress. Three new states—Nevada, West Virginia, and Kansas—participated in the election. The first election since 1812 to be held in wartime, Lincoln was also the first President since Andrew Jackson in 1832 to win re-election.