Trying to save his party and opposed to any compromise with the South, Lincoln wrote Pennsylvania Congressman James Hale that accepting the Crittenden Compromise would mean the end of their Republican party and control of the national government. Lincoln had sent similar letters to other important Republicans well before the Committee of Thirteen met to consider Crittenden’s solution to the sectional divide.
Party Above Country
“The Republican decision to frustrate compromise efforts was one of the most significant political decisions in American history. Although it would be unreasonable to assert that had the Republicans supported compromise they would definitely have ended the secession movement and prevented the Civil War, such a result was quite possible given the wide support that Crittenden’s plan attracted.
The Republican motivation for opposing Crittenden’s plan is, therefore, of prime importance.
Why didn’t Republicans promote conciliation and save Abraham Lincoln from the terrible burden of having to decide whether to allow secession or fight a civil war to restore the union?
Although Republicans explained at the Washington Peace Conference that they did not want to tie Lincoln’s hands, the answer lies much deeper. All the pro-southern aspects of the compromise disturbed Republicans; but their ire was raised in particular by the territorial provisions.
The Republican party’s strength was contained in its anti-slavery wing, which was held together by opposition to any [Southern labor taken into the territories or new States]. Had Republicans abandoned opposition to [this] in 1860, they would have committed political suicide.
Such a concession to the South would have constituted a repudiation of their own platform, “an admission that Southern complaints were valid,” and a confession that Lincoln’s election as president warranted secession. The result could only have been Republican disintegration.”
(The Glittering Illusion: English Sympathy for the Southern Confederacy, Sheldon Vanauken, Regnery Gateway, 1989, excerpt pg. 216-217)