Democratic Party Platform


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A Slave Auction

1864 Presidential Campaign

By 1864, the Country had grown weary of the long and bloody Civil War. Hundreds of thousands of the countries' best and bravest young men had fallen on the fields of Bull Run, Antietam, Shiloh, and countless more. Many began to think that the war was not worth it, and the price of freedom too great. The Republican Presidential Candidate Abraham Lincoln thought no price was too great for the abolition of slavery and the creation of a society in which a man was not judged by the color of his skin. Unfortunately, after four long years of war, Lincoln's support was dropping fast, and people were looking for a way out of the war.

With this backdrop, the Democratic Party chose General George McClellan to be their Presidential Candidate at the Chicago National Convention in 1864. The Democratic Party Platform presented a plan of "Compromise with the South", which became known as "The Chicago Platform". While on its surface the Chicago Platform was seductive in that it promised an immediate cessation of hostilities, and a restoration of the union. What was unsaid in the platform, but clearly implied, was that the "compromise" would be to agree to make permanent the institution of slavery in exchange for an end to the Civil War and restoration of the Union.  In other words, the Democratic party was ready to "Sell Out" the enslaved, in order to stop further loss of white lives. This is reflected in McClellan's acceptance speech, where he stated:

The reestablishment of the Union, in all its integrity, is and must continue to be the indispensable condition in any settlement.

If reestablishment of the union was the only "condition" that was "indispensable", then clearly the issue of abolition of slavery was dispensable, and the possibility of Slavery being permanently institutionalized in our country was on the negotiation table. Thomas Nast exposed the hypocrisy of the Democratic Platform with his stunning illustration entitled "The Chicago Platform", which is shown above. In this illustration, Nast wrote out the "words" of the democratic platform, and wrapped the words around dramatic illustrations indicating what the words really meant.  In effect, Nast "decoded" the words of the platform in his illustration, to clearly communicate what the Democrats stood for . . . continuation of the institution of slavery in exchange for an end to the war.

This is an incredible illustration, so I will present detailed views of the various inset illustrations for your research and perusal. Below, I show Close Ups of the various parts of this incredible illustration.

Hunting Slaves

Illustration of a Slave Hunt

The Democratic Platform:

The 1864 Democratic Platform began with the words:

Resolved, that in the future, as in the past, we will adhere with unswerving fidelity to the Union under the Constitution, as the only solid foundation of our strength, security, and happiness as a people, and as a framework of government equally conducive to the welfare and prosperity of all the States, both Northern and Southern.

Nast wrapped these words around an image of their true meaning, showing men and dogs hunting down runaway slaves. The image to your left presents this portion of the illustration above.

Nast points out in this drawing that the "people" referred to were clearly the white people. That returning to the Constitution of that day meant a return to a country where Blacks were property, and had no rights. The "Prosperity of the Southern States" clearly was a Democratic Promise to make slavery a permanent institution in the country, in exchange for an end to the Civil War.

The next section of the Democratic Platform reads:

Resolved, that the direct interference of the military authorities of the United States in the recent elections held in Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Delaware, was a shameful violation of the Constitution, and a repetition of such acts in the approaching election will be held as revolutionary, and resisted with all the means and power under our control.

In mid-term elections, the Government required that Citizens be loyal to the Union in order to vote, and the military was present to ensure free and fair elections, without intimidation from Treasonous Northerners, Confederate Sympathizers, and those enriched by the Slave Trade.  The democratic party opposed this, and believed that those slave-sympathizers engaged in treason against the country should be allowed to vote, and be allowed to intimidate others.  In the inset image below, Nast illustrates the free and safe elections, which were so offensive to the Democrats of the day.


The Chicago Platform went on to state:

"the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down"

The issue referred to here is that Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which freed the slaves.  The Chicago Platform viewed this as disregarding the constitutional rights of Southerners.  Specifically, the right to own slaves, to beat slaves, and to kill slaves. The Nast illustration captured this irony by wrapping these words around two illustrations . . . one shows Lincoln Freeing the Slaves, and the other shows the "old way", in which blacks were owned, beaten, and tortured at the whim of whites.

Beating Slaves

The Chicago Platform further reads:

that the aim and object of the Democratic party are to preserve the federal Union and the rights of the States unimpaired

Slave Auction

Nast's Illustration then points out that the "Rights of the States Unimpaired" was a nice way of saying, "States may Continue to practice Slavery, with all its associated brutality, unencumbered by the Federal Government".  The illustration shows a slave auction.  At the slave auction, a black family is being sold.  The Mother is being sold separately from the child and Husband.  Clearly, the family was being split apart and sold separately.  In the second image, a black man is shown tied to a tree and being brutally beaten by two men with whips. Other slaves are forced to watch the brutality, I suppose as a warning to them.  All this was accepted practice in the United States of the 1850's and 1860's.  The Democratic Platform of 1864 was strongly supporting continuing this practice as "Business as Usual".

Democratic Platform

This part of the illustration, which is the lower left of the original leaf, shows other implications of compromising with the south, as the Democrats wanted.  Slave hunters are shown moving North, and attacking Northern families that are harboring runaway slaves.  Union Generals are shown bowing to Jefferson Davis, paying homage to the Rebel Leader.  Southern Rebels are shown drinking and celebrating over the graves of Union Soldiers, who had died in a useless war.  Perhaps most inflammatory, is the illustration suggesting that if the Democrats were successful, Jefferson Davis could potentially be a strong candidate for President of the United States in 1868.

Buffalo Soldiers Returned to Slavery

Buffalo Soldiers Returned to Slavery

While totally undermining the Union Army, and what it was trying to do, the Chicago Platform went on to allege its support of the individual soldiers and their families.

Resolved, that the sympathy of the Democratic party is heartily and earnestly extended to the soldiers of our army and the seamen of our navy, who are and have been in the field under the flag of their country; and, in the event of its attaining power, they will receive all the care, protection, and regard that the brave soldiers and sailors of the republic have so nobly earned.

Nast's Illustration pointed out the Hypocrisy of alleging to support the Soldier, while undermining what they are fighting for. The words above are wrapped around a picture of Black Buffalo Soldiers in the Union Army being captured and returned to their Slave Owners.  Since this would be the

outcome of the Democratic Platform, the Nast illustration points out that the Democrats "sympathy" must have only extended to the White Soldiers, as the Blacks would have been returned to Slavery.

This Nast Illustration entitled "The Chicago Platform" was published on October 15, 1864, shortly before the 1864 Presidential Election. It was printed in Harper's Weekly, the most popular illustrated newspaper of the day. Harper's Weekly was read by approximately 1,250,000 people each week.  This was a reasonable fraction of the voting public of the day. At the point this illustration was published, few thought that Abraham Lincoln had much of a chance of winning a second term as President of the United States. The country had grown weary of the cost of the war; both the monetary and human cost, and was being won over by the promise of the Democratic Party to end the War, to end the pain, and to end the suffering. This seductive message had began to gain traction, and our country was on the verge of accepting Slavery as a Permanent, and Protected National Institution.

The Thomas Nast Illustration of "The Chicago Platform" helped to raise the righteous indignation of the Nation.  It helped to remind us what we were fighting for, and why so many had suffered and died.  It helped remind us that as a Nation we could only be Truly Free if we were All Free. It showed that if we gave up before we won, all had died in vain, and their sacrifice was for nothing. It helped us to realize that there was a purpose, and that the victory had yet to be won.  It helped give us the strength to fight on.

With the help of Thomas Nast, and his Powerful Illustration, Abraham Lincoln did win the 1864 election.  The Union was restored, and Slavery was abolished, once and for all.  The Nation was put on a new path of freedom and justice for all. This illustration helps to show the "power of the pen", and that Thomas Nast was a Master Illustrator whose Pen helped shape our Nation, and the freedoms we still enjoy.

We created this Thomas Nast Gallery to digitally preserve Nast's Slavery work for posterity.  We are now making the original, 140 year old leafs available for a  $250 contribution to this site.  The proceeds from the sale of the material will enable us to continue to expand the free educational material featured on our site.  Please contact if you are interested in acquiring one of these original leafs.





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