The Differences Slavery Made: A Close Analysis of Two American Communities
Return to Comparison Statements: Campaign of 1860

In the heat of the campaign of 1860 both Franklin Democrats and Republicans shifted their emphasis on slavery.

Democratic editors became more vitriolic and defensive of the institution while Republicans subtly stressed their moderate position on the issue, repeating that Republicans had no intention of tampering with slavery where it already existed. The Republicans tempered their ideological argument that slavery debased free labor wherever it existed and instead began to counter the Democratic accusations of politicizing the issue. They argued that Democrats, not Republicans, politicized slavery; Republican candidates, Republicans insisted, would not take radical measures but instead move only to stop the spread of slavery into the territories, shutting down the geographic and political threat to free labor institutions. In "How Slaves Drive Out Free Labor," the Repository editors in August 1860 point to Missouri, where 50,000 white men are unemployed, as a telling example of the threat slavery posed to free labor. A month later, the Repository was drawing a picture of moderation and careful moves when they are victorious at the polls. "The first work of the Republicans," they reassured readers, "will be to put an end to the disturbed state of public mind arising from the discussion of the Slavery question, by showing that they have no desire to interfere with the institution of slavery where it now exists." They also promised a future politics free of the kind of agitation Democrats practiced on slavery--"encouraging filibusterism, hatching schemes for stealing the possessions of our weak and peaceful neighbors, encouraging the revival of the African Slave Trade, and creating dissensions and ill-feeling between the sections."

Democratic editors responded with heightened rhetoric about the issue, labeling Republicans irresponsible abolitionists. The agitation of the slavery issue, they charged, was all Republican. "It is high time that there be a stop" to it, they argued. It put the country before the world as a "laughingstock amongst world powers," and it was particularly dangerous talk for it encouraged slaves to rebel against their masters. Abolitionists, Democrats cried, were "men professing to be friends of the whole nation" who threw "one fire brand after another into the slaveholding states, exciting their negroes to rebellion and to cause domestic strife, war and bloodshed."

Supporting Evidence

John B. McPherson, John B. McPherson to Edward McPherson, November 9, 1860

Chambersburg Valley Spirit, The Slavery Question in Congress, July 25, 1860

Chambersburg Valley Spirit, Slavery in the Territories--The Democratic Doctrine, October 3, 1860

Chambersburg Valley Spirit, The Course Lincoln Will Pursue, October 10, 1860

Chambersburg Valley Spirit, The True Doctrine, October 24, 1860

Chambersburg Valley Spirit, Black Republicanism is Nullification, October 31, 1860

Franklin Repository, The End of Slavery Agitation, August 15, 1860

Franklin Repository, Let Us Alone, August 22, 1860

Franklin Repository, Republicans Not Innovators, August 22, 1860

Franklin Repository, Morton McMichael's Speech, September 12, 1860

Franklin Repository, What Republicans Intend to Do, September 12, 1860

Franklin Repository, Playing 'Possum, October 10, 1860

Alexander K. McClure, Old Time Notes of Pennsylvania, 1905

Staunton Spectator, Hostile Legislation, January 10, 1860

Related Historiography

Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970).
William W. Freehling, The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854, Volume 1 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).

Citation: Key = TAF39
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