Democratic Platform 1860

Last week we looked at the Republican Party platform for 1860 here.  The Democratic Party went into the election of 1860 hopelessly divided.  Although Douglas had been as pro-slavery as a Northern Democrat could possibly be and stand a chance of attaining the White House, he had alienated most Southern Democrats by his insistence during the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 that the people of a territory could vote to ban slavery.  This was anathema to pro-slavery extremists who increasingly dominated the Democratic party in the South.  After the anti-Douglas delegates bolted the Baltimore convention, ultimately to nominate Vice President John C. Breckinridge for President, the rump Democratic Party remaining adopted a very brief platform.

The platform adopted the 1856 platform, perhaps reasoning that Democrats had succeeded on that platform once, and might again.

Since Democrats were divided on whether a Territorial legislature could ban slavery, the Democrats punted the issue and said they would support whatever the Supreme Court decided.

The Democrats condemned Northern attempts to frustrate the Fugitive Slave Act.

The platform calls for “constitutional” assistance for a transcontinental railroad.  The Democrats were in a bind here.  A transcontinental railroad was vastly popular, but the Democrats since Jackson had opposed federal expenditures for internal improvements as unconstitutional.

Finally the Democrats called for acquiring Cuba from Spain, long the dream of pro-slavers who viewed Cuba as a future slave state.

It is striking to me that even after the most vociferous pro-slavery forces had bolted the party, just how wedded the Democrats were to pro-slavery policies.  Small wonder that vast numbers of anti-slavery Democrats had already become Republicans, and that more Democrats would leave the party during the Civil War, enough to ensure that the Democrats would be the minority party in the North for generations to come.  The Democratic Platform of 1860:  (more…)

Published in: on October 4, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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