Why Breckinridge voters oppose fusion

The Democrats are getting a bit desperate. With their votes divided between two candidates, and still others siphoned off by Bell’s American party, they have little chance to beat Lincoln. Yet they can’t stomach a fusion ticket that would unite their votes against the Republicans. From the September 28, 1860 New York Times:

Plain Talk from a Breckinridge Man about Union.

The New-Orleans Courier publishes the following letter “from one of the most intelligent and prominent leaders of the Democratic party in NewYork,”–concerning the recent fusion movement. The place at which it is dated leaves very little room for doubt as to its authorship. Its sentiments derive additional force from what has occurred since it was written:

CORTTLAND VILLAGE, N.Y., Sept. 8, 1860.

DEAR SIR: Our State Committee are negotiating with the friends of DOUGLAS for “a fusion.” They write me that they are “counselling with our friends at Washington.


I declare to you frankly, at the outset, that I would much prefer that no fusion take place. In the first place, it seems to me to let us down from the moral dignity of our position. It proclaims that our divorce from the “political gamblers” who buy and sell and swap and cheat and lie and overturn National Conventions, is not a vinculo matrimonii, but simply a temporary “separation;” that by and by we shall again cuddle under the same dirty bed-clothes. This is not the way to build up a sound, an honest, and above all, a permanent party. If we begin with a trade we shall soon end in a trade.

Secondly, I don’t believe the fusion would do any good. The Old-Line Whigs and the Americans gave a portion of our State candidates their entire support, in the Fall election of 1859, while we were acting all together in the honey-moon ardor of a recent “Union.” The candidates, supported by the Old-Line Whigs and Americans, were elected, with one exception, by mere nominal majorities. Now, every indication goes to show that these allies have lost, at least one-third, and probably, one-half of the strength they commanded in 1859. I do not know one prominent man of that stamp in my vicinity who supports the Bell-Douglas fusion, or who will support it, if we make ourselves the third party to it. It is a moderate computation to say that the Americans, etc., will lose 10,000 of the votes they cast in 1859, and every one of these votes will go for Lincoln.

As, when united ourselves, and aided by the Americans, we barely matched the Republicans, it follows that the defection of 10,000 Americans to LINCOLN would put us in a minority of 20,000. I grant that there is to be some defection in the Republican ranks — and so there will be in our own. It we should set down the Republican defection and adhesion to us at 10,000 more than our defection to them, then it would bring round the parties even again. The most sanguine calculator, or, rather estimator, or Seward sore-heads, cannot put their number higher, or, it seems to me, to figure out a more favorable result for us.

And now there is another weight inevitably to be thrown into the Republican scale in the event of the triple alliance, not included in the previous estimate, not, indeed, to be so thrown, except as the consequence of that alliance. There are multitudes of rule-or-ruin Douglas men in this State who will do nothing which tends to give BRECKINRIDGE a better chance of success than DOUGLAS. If Breckinridge succeeds, they are politically annihilated. If LINCOLN succeeds, they start even with us in the race of 1864. They, therefore, would infinitely prefer the success of LINCOLN. There are also multitudes of BRECKINRIDGE men in this State who would sooner be dragged asunder by wild horses than vote for DOUGLAS, whom they regard as unsound both personally and politically.

Then, there is a branch of the foreign vote likely to come to us since DOUGLAS has united with the Know-Nothings, but which would leave us if we also unite with the Know-Nothings. The tripled fusion would, I am inclined to think, cost the parties to the contract a number of thousand votes; at all events, enough to render our defeat as certain as the coming election day.

Not to run it into the ground, but the reason that Douglas was viewed as “unsound” was because of positions such as his vote against the slavery “Lecompton constitution” for Kansas. He was insufficiently supportive of slavery — the fire-eater William Lowndes Yancey took him to task specifically over this. Bell’s supporters, though his “American” or “Constitutional Union” platform avoided directly confronting the issue, were at pains to establish his pro-slavery credentials.

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