The fall elections of 1862 witnessed severe setbacks for Lincoln’s party due to several factors. Resistance to arbitrary arrests, illegal suspension of habeas corpus and homeless slaves moving northward all accounted for Democratic victories at the polls. But the emancipation issue and its ramifications were paramount, with Senator John Sherman of Ohio contending that the “ill-timed [emancipation] proclamation contributed to the general result.” The Republican party was never “anti-slavery,” and knew victory at the Northern polls depended upon confining black people to the South.
No Diversity in Illinois
“Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton . . . committed a blunder that partly undermined Republican candidates in the Midwest. Throughout the summer [of 1862] Union troops operating in the Mississippi Valley channeled hundreds of Negro refugees and freedmen to the federal commander at Cairo, the southernmost town in Illinois. On September 18, 1862, to alleviate this pressure, Stanton authorized the commanding general at Cairo to turn Negro women and children over to committees which would provide them with employment and support at the North.
This order, which violated the Illinois Negro exclusion law, was greeted with dismay. [Midwestern] Democrats took full advantage of their political windfall. Abusing the black “locusts” from the South and describing them as “the first fruits of emancipation,” they portrayed the emancipation proclamation and the colonization of Illinois as parts of a Republican plot to Africanize the entire Middle West.
Frightened citizens held mass meetings denouncing Stanton’s action and the black inundation. Retreating pell-mell, the Republicans explained that the freedmen would only be in Illinois temporarily and that emancipation offered the best hope for getting the Negroes out of the State. After the war was over, they would “skedaddle back to the sunny clime of Dixie.”
Leonard Switt, a personal friend of Lincoln and a Unionist candidate for Congress, hastened to say that he was and always had been opposed to the introduction of free Negroes into Illinois. A supporter of the Union party wrote Governor Richard Yates that the “scattering of those black throngs should not be allowed if [it] can be avoided . . . and with confirmed prejudices and opinions of our people against the mingling of the blacks among us we shall always have trouble.”
On October 13, 1862, Yates wired the President, telling him of the damage being done to their cause in Illinois. The next day David Davis, a close friend of Lincoln, advised the President that it was essential that no more Negroes be brought into the State while the elections were pending.” There is danger in the Election here,” he added, “growing out of the large number of Republican voters, who have gone to the war . . . and of the Negroes, coming into the State.”
But Stanton, presumably with Lincoln’s approval, had already acted on October 13 by forbidding further shipments of blacks out of Cairo. Republican journals now happily announced that the Democrats had been deprived of their sole issue.”
(Free, But Not Equal: The Midwest and the Negro During the Civil War, V. Jacque Voegeli, University of Chicago Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 60-61)