Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kentuckian Richard T. Jacob at Cooper Union

Most students of the Civil War are aware of Lincoln's emergence as a viable Republican candidate for the presidential nomination after his appearance and speech at New York City's Cooper Union Institute in February 1860. But, I am sure fewer people are cognizant of the irony in that a fervid call was made for a change in administrations in the same building just four years later.

In March 1864 several men spoke at Cooper Union in effort to support former commander of the Army of the Potomac George B. McClellan as a Democratic presidential nominee. Septuagenarian and former Andrew Jackson "kitchen cabinet" member Amos Kendall spoke first and wished that his former boss was still around to correct matters between the North and South. "If the Old Chief was alive he would say to the men of the North, mind your own business [slavery agitation]; to the men of the South, submit to the Constitution and the laws [no secession]."

After Kendall spoke, resolutions were announced, which included one that called the Lincoln administration "imbecile" and ended with the following: "Resolved, That we recognize in Gen. George B. McClellan, qualifications which eminently fit him to be the the deliverer and savior of our country [McClellan's big head must have loved reading this], and we hold it to be the paramount duty of all patriotic citizens and organizations to abandon all disturbing questions [slavery], and rally around him as the destined preserver of our constitutional liberties."

Next up to speak was Kentucky Lt. Governor Richard Taylor Jacob. Jacob was from an influential Kentucky family that had strong political connections. He was a second cousin of former president Zachary Taylor and his sister had married a son of the famous Henry Clay. Jacob himself married a daughter of noted Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton, which also made him a brother-in-law to John C. Fremont, who was the first Republican presidential candidate back in 1856. Jacob had served as colonel of the 9th Kentucky Cavalry (U.S.) until he was elected to his public office in 1863.

The following is what was printed in the New York Times on March 18, 1864:
"Hon. R.T. Jacobs [sic], of Kentucky, was next introduced. He said [Andrew] Jackson once declared that the Union must and should be preserved. If he were present there, he would add the Constitution must and shall be preserved. The speaker alluded to the 'miserable Abolitionists,' which the audience construed to be a reflection on the North, and greeted Mr. Jacobs with groans and hisses, making it difficult for him to proceed with his remarks. After quiet was restored, the speaker commented at length on the affairs of the nation. He said Southern traitors had broken up the Democratic party to destroy the Union. He was willing to wait until Mr. Lincoln committed some overt act, and then he would appeal to the people to sustain the Constitution. He believed the Union was indestructible, and he would stand by it. He was willing to receive the rebels as citizens, with all their former rights, when they came under the banner of the country, but not before. Upon the head of the [Lincoln] Administration rested the misery of the Union men of the South. They had been deceived by false promises. He didn't care anything about the negro. If he [the Negro] went down incidentally with the rebellion, let him go. All he cared for was the preservation of the Constitution. He would not give an inch to the rebellion, neither would be allow a violation of the Constitution. He would appeal to the flag - to his country, to stand by the Constitution. If that was treason, make the most of it. The speaker concluded by saying that he looked forward to the next November election with great hope."

Anthony Banning Norton, an editor of a Texas Unionist newspaper and who had been exiled from the state earlier in the war spoke next. "He thanked God he was reared in the old Whig school, the school of Henry Clay (cheers), in which he was taught the value of the Union, and to stand by it in every difficulty and every emergency, and it was for this reason that while the mad waves of secession rolled about Texas he stood true to the old Union." Norton too praised "Little Mac."

Last to speak was Colonel Max Langenschwartz who claimed, "We had in four years, run up a national debt double what our citizens had in seventy-two years. George B. McClellan must be our next President; and if Lincoln were to ask him why, he would reply, 'Because it is a military necessity.'" Langenschwartz's rhetoric was well practiced, in a different speech at a different time he called on the Republican party to add to polygamy to their emancipation, confiscation and miscegenation so "a man could have a yellow wife from China, a brown wife from India, a black wife from Africa, and a white wife from his own county, and so have a variegated family..."

The meeting ended with cheers for Amos Kendall, McClellan and others.

Obviously Cooper Union did not hold the same good fortune for McClellan as it did for Lincoln four year earlier. But, that didn't mean there wasn't a significant and strong concerted effort in the North to induce a change in administrations prior to the 1864 elections.

No comments:

Post a Comment