Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

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Speech at the New York Ratification Meeting

September 17, 2014

A Few Letters and Speeches of the Late Civil War by August Belmont (DNC Chairman)

SEPTEMBER 17, 1864.

Fellow Citizens,—I thank you for the honor which you confer upon me. This enthusiastic uprising of the Democracy of the Empire City, for the purpose of ratifying the nomination of General McClellan and George H. Pendleton for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency of the United States, is a sure indication of what New York intends to do on the 8th of November next. While at Chicago as a delegate from our State, I pledged New York City to roll up a majority of 50,000 for our candidates. I am now sure that I did not promise too much, and that you will redeem my pledge. We are engaged in a great and noble contest. It is not only the election of a favored candidate, but it is the salvation of the Republic, the restoration of the Union. and the vindication of the Constitution and the laws, which will be the fruits of our victory.

Four years ago, when I had the honor to preside at the last Democratic meeting held before the presidential election, I predicted that Mr. Lincoln’s election would be the forerunner of a dissolution of the Union amidst war and bloodshed. How terribly have events verified my fears. The issue before the American people is just as grave and momentous now as it was then. The electors throughout the loyal States will have to choose between war and disunion, which must be the inevitable results of Mr. Lincoln’s re-election, or an early, honorable, and lasting peace, based upon the Union and the Constitution, which can only be secured under the conservative, Democratic, and national administration of General McClellan.

Our candidate pledges himself and his administration to such a result in his admirable letter of acceptance, and he has proved to the American people that he knows how to keep his promises. Two years ago to-day he redeemed his pledge to save Washington and the Northern States from the victorious army of Lee, on the bloody battle-field of Antietam. Hardly a week before, the hero of the Peninsula, the man who had created the Army of the Potomac, the general under whose wise and far-seeing combinations Roanoke, Fort Donelson, and New Orleans fell into our hands, had been left without the command of a single man, and had offered to his enemies in power to share the fate of his comrades as a common soldier in the defence of our Union. It was only when Lee’s forces thundered at the gates of Washington, that Lincoln, Stanton, and Halleck, that glorious trio of military science and genius, called upon the man whom they had so disgracefully treated to save them. The capital they were willing to give up; but McClellan knew the cost of the loss of Washington; once in the hands of the rebels, an immediate recognition of the Richmond usurper by the foreign governments, and the inevitable independence of the South.

He took command of a beaten, discouraged, and shattered army; his heroic followers knew their leader, and within three weeks from the day that he assumed command, the remnant of Lee’s beaten army had to seek safety in flight. And how was McClellan rewarded for this brilliant campaign? By being again deprived of his command, in the most unjustifiable and arbitrary manner, and by a system of persecution from that day forward, of which history shows hardly a more disgraceful example. It was my good fortune to see General McClellan shortly after his last campaign, and when I expressed to him my astonishment that he consented again to take command with Halleck and Stanton in the War Department, after the shameful manner with which they had ruined his plans in the Peninsula, he replied to me : “I knew to what I was exposing myself, but the country was in danger, and I had no right to make conditions.” And this is the man who, for two years past, has been traduced and vilified by every Republican paper throughout the land, and who has been represented to the American people as disloyal to the Union and the Constitution, and sympathizing with the rebels of the South!

We are told that the Democratic party is the party of disunion, and that we are the friends of Jefferson Davis and his rebel government. Hundreds of thousands of brave Democrats who have bled on the field of battle for the sacred cause of the Union and the Constitution have not been sufficient to silence this foul calumny!

But what do the Southern Secessionists say of the Northern friends whom Seward and Greeley persist in attaching to their interest? Ever since the nomination of McClellan, the organs of Jeff. Davis throughout the South, are loud and earnest in their denunciations of his election. They see in it a sure forerunner of a division at the South, which must pave the way to a speedy return of the revolted States to their allegiance to the Union, and they dread the name of McClellan as our banner-bearer more than they do that of Grant and his army. The Richmond Enquirer of the 6th instant, after reviewing the candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties, concludes by saying: “Thus, whether we look at this nomination in the light of peace or of war, we prefer Lincoln to McClellan, for we can make better terms of peace with an anti-slavery fanatic than with an earnest Unionist. Our best hope is from the honest fanatics of the North; such men, when they see their people are tired of the war, will end it by peace that sacrifices territory to freedom, and will let the South go, provided she carries slavery with her.”

Yes, gentlemen, the election of General McClellan will be a more severe blow to Jefferson Davis than the fall of Richmond. Let every one, therefore, aid in the great and good work before us. We have fearful odds to overcome. The Secessionists of the South and the fanatical disorganizes of the North are both arrayed against us; but with the Union, the Constitution, and the laws inscribed on our banner, and McClellan as our leader, the victory must be ours.

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