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Presidential Electioneering in New York

The Illustrated London News, vol. 45, no. 1282, p. 389.

October 15, 1864

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONEERING IN
NEW YORK.

We have engraved two sketches by Mr. C. D. Shanly, of New York, who explains their subjects in the following passage of his letter, dated the 18th ult.--

"On the night before last there was another tremendous demonstration here in favour of M'Clellan and Pendleton for the presidency and vice-presidency of the United States, respectively. The railings which surround the Park of Union-square (the park is a circle within the square) were hung everywhere with coloured lanterns, and the ten stands erected for the speakers of the night were similarly illuminated. The cannon seemed to be louder, and the fireworks more brilliant and complicated, than I remember to have heard and seen at any similar celebration here. There was an endless torchlight procession of the M'Clellanites belonging to the several wards of the city; and the torches, every now and then, discharged globes of fire and showers of sparks into the air. All was a blaze of many-coloured light, contrasting finely with the cold splendour of the moon, which rose up very bright and clear while the scene was at its height. Conspicuous in the procession were a number of large waggons, draped with the national flag and hung around with Chinese lanterns and other luminous objects. So crowded were these vehicles that they resembled moving pyramids of acrobats. They all displayed an immense variety of transparencies, stranger in their suggestions than Longfellow's 'banner with a strange device;' and I noticed one of them with a large stuffed eagle mounted over it upon rods, in a position intended to represent the sweeping soar of that noble bird. The jokes of Mr. Lincoln were a favourite subject for the legends upon the transparencies--the rather grim one of 'Coal, 14 dols. per ton' being greeted by the populace with groans as it swayed past. One of the waggons bore the ship 'Constitution'--a good-sized vessel, barque-rigged, and manned with a crew of young fellows in red shirts. Passing through a dark by-street, a man on horseback galloped past me, pulling up his horse with a jerk every few yards, and discharging a shower of fireworks from some contrivance carried in his hand. As he disappeared into the dark, through which he loomed up here and there in a glory of his wildfire, he suggested the idea of a mounted ignis fatuus, come up from his native swamps to contribute to the harmony of the occasion. The sentiment throughout this demonstration was one of disgust with the war; the feeling, that with the election of M'Clellan peace will be restored--somehow."

Mr. G. A. Sala, in one of his recent letters, comments upon the scene as follows:--"Not so many years have passed away since, in England, a knight of the shire could not be chosen to sit in Parliament without brass bands, flags, streamers, open carriages with white horses, and abusive placards--without the punching of heads, the blackening of eyes, and the phlebotomising of noses. And our cousins at New York preserve these undoubted relics of the manners of their fathers; but they have added to them strange accompaniments and supplements, for many of which the Germans are responsible. Thus, a nocturnal, outdoor mass meeting presents in its external aspect a curious combination of Hogarth's 'Four Scenes of an Election' and a German Lustgarten on a holiday. And throughout the whole giant city you will find the same odd mixture of English and Teutonic elements of civilisation--the grog-shop grafted on to the Gessellschaftshaus; the rowdy getting drunk on whisky and sobering himself on lager beer; the impulsiveness of the Yankee neutralised by the stolidity of the Dutchman. I happened to pass through Union-square in the afternoon, and watched with great interest the preparations for the meeting. You might have fancied that a Cremorne fête was about to come off. Platforms and firework galleries had sprung up as if by magic, horizontal beams were hung with festoons of parti-coloured Chinese lanterns, and banners, and transparencies, and flowery devices, as yet unlit, abounded. I came back after dinner, when it was quite dark. The square was broken into patches of 'brilliant coruscations of light,' and presented a really beautiful and picturesque spectacle. Every platform was garlanded by the Chinese lanterns I have spoken of, and the gas-lamps had, besides, been unscrewed from their posts and hung to the sides of the scaffolds, to give light to the reporters. There was the grand stand, whence the great guns of the Democracy were to orate, and a number of smaller platforms for the less shining lights, and a German stand whence the young ravens of Fatherland could be fed with interminable jobations ending in 'ig' and 'ert.' There was no particular Irish stand. Ireland in the United States is everywhere. At eight o'clock artillery began to roar from the inclosures of the square. Many brass bands then began to bray. The 'Star-spangled Banner' blended with the waltz from 'Faust.' A big eagle in gas suddenly spread his dazzling wings over the portal of the Maison Dorée. Delmonico's, which is not fifty yards from the square, was illumined from roof to basement. The waiters rushed about nervously. They had a heavy night before them. The orators 'change their breath' before they speak, and sup afterwards, The neighbouring bars were full to overflowing; the hackney-coach horses champed in the first floors of the livery-stables; for in this city horses go up stairs to bed, like Christians. Small boys filled the branches of the trees; no policemen ordered them to come down. The Broadway squad were clustered round the different stands, while from the corner of Fourteenth-street, which is at right angles with the square, a blinding ray from a calcium-light apparatus shot across for many hundred feet--a bridge of radiance. There was a splendid display of fireworks before the procession of the 'Wards' entered the square. Rockets went whizzing about in every direction, making one feel rather anxious as to the particular direction in which the sticks might fall. Behind me, watching the dark and dense groups on which from moment to moment the lurid glow of the fireworks fell, and which were cleft in twain by that blinding cord of calcium light, stood a knot of European diplomatists. Sure enough, before the termination of the proceedings on Thursday night, a pistol went off in the outskirts of the crowd, and a young man was shot in the leg by an unknown assailant. With this exception, the meeting passed off with the most perfect peace and harmony. There may have been at one period 35,000 persons present, but I did not see a blow struck nor hear an angry word spoken. There is no mistake into which foreigners are more likely to fall than that which assumes that the normal condition of American popular assemblages is one of riot and confusion."

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