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: 

1. Resolved, That we, the Democracy of the Union in Convention 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, believing that Democratic principles are unchangeable in their nature, when applied to the same subject matters; and we recommend, as the only further resolutions, the following:

2. Inasmuch as difference of opinion exists in the Democratic party as to the nature and extent of the powers of a Territorial Legislature, and as to the powers and duties of Congress, under the Constitution of the United States, over the institution of slavery within the Territories,

Resolved, That the Democratic party will abide by the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States upon these questions of Constitutional Law.

3. 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 born.

4. Resolved, That one of the necessities of the age, in a military, commercial, and postal point of view, is speedy communications 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.

5. Resolved, that the Democratic party are in favor of the acquisition of the Island of Cuba on such terms as shall be honorable to ourselves and just to Spain.

6. Resolved, That the enactments of the State Legislatures to defeat the faithful execution of the Fugitive Slave Law, are hostile in character, subversive of the Constitution, and revolutionary in their effect.

7. Resolved, That it is in accordance with the interpretation of the Cincinnati platform, that during the existence of the Territorial Governments the measure of restriction, whatever it may be, imposed by the Federal Constitution on the power of the Territorial Legislature 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 general government.

Published in: on October 4, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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  1. A couple of interesting things about this platform. First of all, I don’t see anything here about tariffs. This is very surprising considering that, according to our neoconfederate friends, tariffs were the real driving force behind the Civil War. Curious that a national party platform would have been absolutely silent on an issue that was absolutely rending the nation.

    Second, it’s often been asserted that the Democratic and Republican parties have essentially switched places ideologically over the years. But what I see here indicates that the Democratic party has consistently been wrong on the great issues. The platform: gives implicit support to an evil institution (slavery then, abortion now), abdicates all responsibility of constitutional interpretation to the Courts (plank 2), and shows hostility to the concept of federalism (plank 6). I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem like the Dems have moved all that much in 150 years.

  2. Tariffs had been a non-issue in the South since the passage of the tariff reductions in 1857. Additionally, there were plenty of old Whig voters in the South who believed in a protective tariff.

    The use of the Supreme Court to attempt to “win” on a very divisive political issue does strike very modern echoes.

  3. clear it up a bit.
    where did you get this information. I seem to have seen this before, did you just copy and paste these.?
    Not trying to offend in anyway.

  4. The only thing copy and pasted in the post is the text of the Democrat platform which is in red.

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