August 29, 1864: Democrat Party Platform


The convention of the Democrats in 1864 to nominate a standard bearer for President opened on August 29, 1864 in Chicago.  The convention was badly split between War Democrats and Peace Democrats.  The Peace Democrats were strong enough to have a platform approved which dealt with one issue, the War, and which was highly critical of a continuation of the War and called for immediate peace negotiations:


Resolved, That in the future, as in the past, we will adhere with unswerving fidelity to the Union under the Constitution as the only solid foundation of our strength, security, and happiness as a people, and as a framework of government equally conducive to the welfare and prosperity of all the States, both Northern and Southern.

Resolved, That this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretense of a military necessity of war-power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view of an ultimate convention of the States, or other peaceable means, to the end that, at the earliest practicable moment, peace may be restored on the basis of the Federal Union of the States.

Resolved, That the direct interference of the military authorities of the United States in the recent elections held in Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Delaware was a shameful violation of the Constitution, and a repetition of such acts in the approaching election will be held as revolutionary, and resisted with all the means and power under our control.

Resolved, That the aim and object of the Democratic party is to preserve the Federal Union and the rights of the States unimpaired, and they hereby declare that they consider that the administrative usurpation of extraordinary and dangerous powers not granted by the Constitution; the subversion of the civil by military law in States not in insurrection; the arbitrary military arrest, imprisonment, trial, and sentence of American citizens in States where civil law exists in full force; the suppression of freedom of speech and of the press; the denial of the right of asylum; the open and avowed disregard of State rights; the employment of unusual test-oaths; and the interference with and denial of the right of the people to bear arms in their defense is calculated to prevent a restoration of the Union and the perpetuation of a Government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.

Resolved, That the shameful disregard of the Administration to its duty in respect to our fellow-citizens who now are and long have been prisoners of war and in a suffering condition, deserves the severest reprobation on the score alike of public policy and common humanity.

Resolved, That the sympathy of the Democratic party is heartily and earnestly extended to the soldiery of our army and sailors of our navy, who are and have been in the field and on the sea under the flag of our country, and, in the events of its attaining power, they will receive all the care, protection, and regard that the brave soldiers and sailors of the republic have so nobly earned.

Ultimately the Democrats would nominate a War Democrat, George B. McClellan, to face Lincoln.  McClellan ultimately repudiated the platform, but if he had won, the most powerful members of his party would have been opposed to a continuation of the War.


Published in: on August 29, 2022 at 4:30 am  Comments (4)  
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  1. The lack of shame or of sense of proportion in this document is unbelievable. Written at a time when most of Europe – Including Napoleon III’s France – was under governments that really and truly did deny freedom and suppress dissent, its very existence thoroughly contradicts its foaming denunciations; any man who had dared to speak of the government like that in France would have done well to take up residence in Brussels (where, for a time, the best of French culture lived in exile). In Austria, they would have ended up rotting in the Spielberg castle jail. This is the same miserable party hackery and fanaticism that invormed disgusted refugees in the thirties that FD Roosevelt was “worse than Hitler” or “every bit as bad as Stalin”. What a bunch of buffoons. The flagrant hypocrisy of the closing homage to soldiers and sailors is, in a sense stylistically perfect. The whole thing reads as if it had been written by a satirist.

    • The Democrats Fabio were trying to square a circle. About half their adherents were so against the War that they were willing to see the Union dissolved. About half their adherents, although they had criticisms of the Lincoln administration, wanted to see the Union victorious in the War. Thus we see attacks on the administration taking pride of place, something most Democrats could agree on, followed by a lamentation over the futility of the War, followed by a promise to restore the Union through some magical process left unspoken. Most Northern voters realized that the only way the Union was going to be restored was by winning the War. Lincoln, master politician that he was, ran for re-election, not as a Republican but on a National Union fusion ticket with the War Democrat Andrew Johnson. The Democrat convention played into Lincoln’s strategy perfectly, by matching an anti-War platform with a candidate, McClellan, who repudiated it and said that he would fight the War to a successful conclusion. The Democrats could not have fought the election more badly if they tried. That they still got 45% of the vote was an indication of just how strong sentiment was in the North against the War.

  2. […] week we looked at the Democrat party platform of 1864.  Go here to read it.  It was one long attack on the conduct of the War by the Lincoln administration.  […]

  3. […] week we looked at the Democrat party platform of 1864.  Go here to read it.  It was one long attack on the conduct of the War by the Lincoln administration.  […]

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