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The Presidential Contest in America

The Illustrated London News, vol. 45, no. 1290, p. 566.

December 3, 1864

(From a Correspondent.)
New York, Nov. 10.

The presidential election--notwithstanding all the efforts made by Mr. Seward and others to frighten the people about attempted raids from Canada, and silly plots to burn down New York and other cities--has passed over with the utmost quiet and decorum. The weather on Tuesday was anything but pleasant; but the people were in the best of tempers, and were not even provoked into impatience by the presence of General Butler and a large military force, but went to the work of voting as peaceably as though it were a common election for a parochial or a municipal office. The result in New York was largely in favour of General M'Clellan, as most people anticipated; but everywhere else--from Maine to Maryland, and from New Jersey to Minnesota--the contest was exceedingly close, and the votes polled much larger than usual. The returns for the more distant States have not yet been received, nor have the estimates been accurately made even in this city; but enough is known of the aggregate results to prove that Mr. Lincoln has been elected by a considerable majority of the people--some say 200,000 and others 400,000--and by an electoral vote in the colleges of more than two to one. It is impossible for any critic or observer, native or foreign, who considers how violently the passions of the people have been inflamed; what antagonisms of principle, as well as conflicts of material interest, have been excited by the war; and what tremendous issues were involved in the result of the election, to avoid the expression of cordial admiration for the manly self-control which the people exhibited on this memorable occasion. The spectacle is declared by the Americans themselves to have been one of the highest moral grandeur, if not of sublimity; and, though our cousins on this side of the water are somewhat too much in the habit of using fine words and indulging in hyperbole, no one who witnessed the long lines of busy men, neglecting their business for awhile to attend to the more important business of the State, and waiting patiently in the street amid the fog and rain until it came to their turn to deposit their balloting-paper in the appointed box--using no jostling in pressing, indulging in no altercation with each other on the exciting subject which drew them together, and in every way behaving with as much subdued dignity as if they were attending a place of worship--can deny that the encomium is abundantly merited. Rich and poor--the millionaire and the Irish coachman who drove him to the poll--the owner of ships, and railway shares, and lands, and houses, and the keeper of the chandler's shop or corner grocery--the employer of labour and the labourer himself--all stood quietly together, the great man neither attempting to persuade nor to coerce the little one, but each leaving the other to his own right of private judgment and the duty of acting as he thought best for the interests of the country. No breach of the peace occurred during the day, either in New York or any other part of the country; and nothing like popular excitement of any kind occurred until the close of the polls, at sunset. Shortly after that time, the anxiety to learn the result drew the people out in great numbers to the newspaper and telegraphic offices, the great hotels, and other places of public resort, where vast crowds remained until two or three o'clock in the morning, greeting each announcement of a victory for their favourite candidate in the city wards or in remoter towns with vociferous cheers; and of a victory for their opponents with hisses and groans. But even here the utmost good humour prevailed. By order of the police authorities, all the "grogshops," "rum-holes," taverns, and groceries where liquor is sold had been closed during the day. This order is always promulgated on the day of a presidential election, but is never very generally obeyed. On Tuesday, however, it was rigidly enforced, and the spirit-dealers--perhaps with a wholesome terror of the redoubtable General Butler before their eyes, lent themselves to the arrangement with unwonted alacrity, and closed even the back doors, by which their favourite customers and friends might have been furtively admitted. On the morrow the city resumed its usual appearance. The full tide of life and business flowed as freely and rapidly as before. The result of the voting, however, did not appear to be favourably received in Wall-street; for the premium on gold advanced from ten to twelve percent as soon as it became authoritatively known that Mr. Lincoln's re-election was beyond a doubt. The Democratic party as yet has borne its defeat with exemplary equanimity; and the abuse of Mr. Lincoln, and the hard words and unsavoury epithets in which his opponents were wont to indulge towards him while he stood in the position of a candidate ceased, as if by common consent, as soon as his election became an admitted fact. It would almost appear as if the party were demoralised by their defeat. Up to the last moment, and perhaps led away by the enthusiasm which existed for General M'Clellan in the city of New York, they did not think it possible that their candidate could be defeated; and hence did not duly reflect upon their proper line of policy, if that event should occur. It will take time to recover from the rout. Federal victories in the field, should these occur, will keep them for a while in the background; but at the first serious reverse to Northern arms and the first real pressure of the inevitable conscription, accompanied, as these would assuredly be, by perturbations in the sensitive money market, they will take heart of grace, rally their broken and scattered legions, and come before the public with something like a principle on which to stand. Mr. Lincoln, on his part, bears his new honours meekly as well as gracefully, and in a speech just delivered at the White House to a large crowd who came with music and banners to congratulate him on his re-election, spoke with the greatest good feeling and good taste of the necessity of oblivion for all the animosities engendered by the strife, and of his earnest desire to conciliate men of all parties. General M'Clellan, it appears, resigned his commission in the Federal army on the morning of the election, and before the result could possibly be anticipated on better ground than the hope of either party. Should Mr. Lincoln refuse to accept the resignation and appoint his unsuccessful rival to such high command in the army as his genius, his character, and (in spite of his defeat) his undoubted popularity, warrant the President in giving and the General in accepting, he will effect a masterstroke of policy. It remains to be seen whether he will be magnanimous enough to do so.

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