Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana, testified after the war that the whole power of the war department was used to secure Lincoln’s reelection in 1864. It was essential to obtain the soldier vote and politically-connected Northern officers helped distribute Republican ballots to their commands while Democrat ballots were lost. In cities Republican newspapers spread fear among voters should Democrat George B. McClellan be elected.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Vote for Abraham Lincoln!
[Diary entry] Chicago, November 5, 1864:
“It was one of those amazing [newspaper] appeals to the voters that is half circus poster and half sermon . . . the sort of thing that shows how the Americans excel in catering to the lowest levels of public taste.
It carried this portentous title in large black type: “THE TRUTH!” There followed a long list of the dire consequences that will be sure to follow the election of [George B.] McClellan.
“Twenty million people under the heel of 300,000 slave-owners!” – “A Confederacy of the Northwest!” – “A Democratic insurrection (see the threats in the World and the Chicago Times)!” – “McClellan leading the revolt (see the speeches at the Chicago Convention)!” –“The theatre of war shifted from Atlanta and Richmond to New York, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Chicago (see the Richmond papers supporting the Copperheads)!” – “Barricades; civil war” — “Our streets drenched with blood – our countryside laid waste – Our country’s credit ruined – Gold at 2,000 and the price of necessities in proportion (see the history of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror in Paris)!”
Do you doubt any of this? Here is a table comparing “Republican Prices,” Democratic Prices,” McClellan Prices (those that would result from his compromise with Jefferson Davis – that is, guaranteeing the Rebel debt and paying the Southern States for their war costs,” – and finally, “Rebel Prices” such as will be seen “if [August] Belmont succeeds in raising a Democratic insurrection.”
But if, on the contrary, you want the Union’s flag to “float gloriously from the Great Lakes to the Gulf, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, over a hundred free States without a single despot, over fifty million — soon to be a hundred million — people without a single slave, then sweep the country clean, once and for all, of the party that is so greedy . . . this gang of slave-merchants and perpetrators of rebellion, debts and taxes that calls itself the Democratic party! . . . Vote for Abraham Lincoln!”
One must distrust all such accounts of triumphal demonstrations, of “gigantic mass-meetings,” that fill the newspapers of the two parties at this time. People lie as shamelessly in America as in Europe, with the sole difference that since here everyone has the right to lie, no one has the privilege of being believed.”
(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, Ernest Duvergier de Huaranne, Donnelly & Sons, 1975, pp. 3-7)