I would be remiss if I did not at least briefly mention that the Democratic National Convention began here in New York City 150 years ago today. This was the first presidential election since the end of the war, the assassination of Lincoln, and impeachment of Andrew Johnson. The Republicans had nominated Ulysses S. Grant in Chicago almost two months earlier. Grant would face the winner in the general election that fall. The Democratic field was wide open. President Johnson even sent a representative to take the pulse of the situation and see about maybe running. Few thought that Johnson would get the bid. Instead, George H. Pendleton of Ohio was the favorite coming in. Other leading prospects included Horatio Seymour of New York, Thomas A.Hendricks of Indiana, and Winfield Scott Hancock, one of the heroes of Gettysburg. The Democrats were meeting at Tammany Hall’s new wigwam on 14th Street that had been rushed into completion in time for the convention.
Very little actually happened at the wigwam on July 4, 1868. They did have a reading of the Declaration of Independence, which was a Tammany Fourth of July tradition. There was some talk about holding meetings that evening but that was quickly scuttled because of the holiday. This was all taking place five years after the victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. If you know your Gettysburg, you know that the Tammany regiment played a big role in that battle and has a prominent marker at the High Water Mark.
Most of the action that day took place a little farther south at the Cooper Institute. In a sort of shadow assembly, the Soldiers’ and sailors’ Convention was taking place there. Many former general were present including William B. Franklin and Henry Slocum. The preferred candidate here seemed to be Winfield S. Hancock. The South and West were widely represented at Cooper Union, just as they would be at the wigwam starting on July 5. In a precursor to the events that would transpire at the wigwam over the course of that hot week, Major General Ewing’s speech was a refutation of reconstruction.
In the next week I intend to go at least a little deeper into the convention held here in New York City 150 summer ago. Suffice it to say that the 1868 Democratic Convention was one of the most tragic and painful in American history. The only political gathering that may–may–have been worse in its ugliness was the convention in Chicago 100 years after it.
(top image/Library of Congress; bottom, title page of Ewing convention speech)