Lincoln and The Pre-Election Outlook

August 1864

Henry Raymond, editor of the New York Times and chairman of the Republican National Party added to Lincoln’s woes. I am in active correspondence with your staunch friends in every state and from them all I hear but one report,” wrote Raymond in late August. “The tide is setting strongly against us.” Raymond went on to predict that if the election were held immediately, Lincoln would be beaten in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. Raymond ascribed two causes for “this great reaction in public sentiment,–the want of military successes, and the impression in some minds, the fear and suspicion in others” that the Confederates were ready for reunion and peace, but for the absolute demand that slavery be abandoned. He recognized the inaccuracy of this perception but argued that it could “only be expelled by some authoritative act, at once bold enough to fix attention.” He recommended sending a commissioner to meet with Jefferson Davis “to make distinct proffers of peace…on the sole Condition of acknowledging the supremacy of the Constitution,” leaving all remaining issues to be settled later.

Lincoln’s response to these extraordinary pressures reveals much about his character. “I confess that I desire to be re-elected,” he told Thaddeus Stevens and Simon Cameron that August. “I have the common pride of humanity to wish my past four years administration endorsed; and besides I honestly believe that I can better serve the nation in its need and peril than any new man could possibly do. I want to finish this job of putting down the rebellion, and restoring peace and prosperity to the country.”

Ref.: Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals, pg 647-648

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