The Election of 1864

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Abraham Lincoln in 1864.

The summer of 1864 was one of dismay for President Abraham Lincoln and his administration: throughout the Union, the appetite for war had rapidly shrunk; particularly as compared to the heady days of 1860 that ushered Lincoln into the White House. While some voters in the North saw the continued prosecution of the war as nothing more than an attempt to manifest Lincoln’s wish to abolish slavery—and therefore a war not worth fighting—others had naturally, in view of the mounting casualties, developed a fatigue for war and, if they had a choice in the matter, would have opted for a negotiated peace. If Lincoln were to lose the election—so the argument ran—then families could be reunited and the violence could come to an end. For Confederates, northern voter despair was precisely the ingredient that was needed in the giant pot that was political discourse in the Union, but it was not all that was needed: the rebels had dreamt of forcing a negotiated peace, and now, with the election in sight, they had hope that Lincoln would be voted out and the war could be brought to a favorable end. Read more

The Awakened Giant

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A Crowd Gathering in New York City’s Union Square in 1861. Harper’s Weekly (May 4, 1861), at 277.

The news from Fort Sumter spread throughout the country, and its coming awakened a restless energy in the North. That energy ignited patriotism and a new sense of collectivism throughout northern cities and states that would lead to a then-unparalleled war effort directed against the Confederacy. Read more

The Election of 1852

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President Franklin Pierce. By: George P.A. Healy.

With the first term of Millard Fillmore’s presidency winding down in 1852, the Democrats felt a sense of momentum that they could reclaim the White House. In the midterm elections of 1850, the Democrats secured 140 of the 233 seats in the House of Representatives, eclipsing the Whig Party. See David Potter, The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861, 141.

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Manifest Destiny

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The Democratic Review Magazine.

While many Americans would come to embrace manifest destiny, the idea that America would achieve its imperial destiny and dominate the continent, it was not a politician or president who coined the term. Rather, it was coined in 1845 in New York’s Democratic Review magazine. See Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 702-03.

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The Emergence of Bankruptcy

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The Bankruptcy Act of 1841.

In the wake of the Panics of 1837 and 1839, Congress sent the White House a new bill to be signed into law: The Bankruptcy Act of 1841. See Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 593. From then on, bankruptcy would be part of American life, providing an option for when debts become overwhelming.

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