03 September 2009

ch.7: Countdown to the Nomination

summary: Lincoln was indeed a “dark horse” candidate in 1860, but actually winning the nomination was not an impossibility. He had an outside chance from the beginning if he and his lieutenants did everything well (which they did). Lincoln also had to hope that his rivals made mistakes—which they all did. So Lincoln was lucky to a certain extent. But more importantly, he made the necessary political sacrifices to place himself in a position to succeed if and when Seward and Chase failed:
-He gave speeches whenever and wherever he was asked: Cooper Union in New York City was his best political move.
-He organized well with a stellar political staff.
-He positioned himself as everyone’s second choice so if Seward did falter, he would be there as a viable alternative.
-Chicago was chosen as the convention site. Some luck was involved, but it was stroke of genius by the Lincoln operates to push for the Windy City.

Discussion Questions
1. Think about what Seward, Chase, and Bates did wrong leading up to the 1860 nomination. All three candidates made both large and small mistakes while Lincoln kept forging ahead with a clear plan of action.

2. How does what you know about Lincoln’s character help explain his steady rise to the nomination?

3. Think about Lincoln as a shrewd and crafty politician. Some books refuse to acknowledge his political brilliance thinking it will overshadow his compassion and leadership traits. Was he a shrewd and crafty politician and should we acknowledge that trait? Why or why not?

Cooper Union Links
"The Speech That Made Lincoln President"

Text of the Cooper Union Speech


  1. Because of the modern primary system that basically determines the party nominee prior to the National Convention, the site selection today is almost meaningless. However, back in 1860 the Chicago site was significant. Delegates at that time were free to "bargin" in choosing the candidate and, therefore, could be influenced by many of Lincoln's local supporters who filled the gallery with rousing cheers.

    Tim Utter

  2. Seward went on a 8-month trip to Europe during a critical period when he could have gathered support from the borderline states.

    Chase denied opportunities to speak at important public events which could have helped him expand his influence.

    Bates, although was doing very well, one falter caused him heavily.