Only a few days ago, the Breckinridge faction had refused to get together with the Bell and Douglas people. Now with less than a month to go before the presidential election, the New York anti-Republicans finally got together on a fusion ticket. The Breckinridge people came into the fold in an October 8, 1860 meeting at Cooper Union.
Few that favor Fusion failed to be present at the mass meeting at the Cooper Institute last evening; at least the hall was crowded to its utmost capacity, and around the building thousands of people were gathered. Many and lengthy speeches were delivered, urging a combination for any of the opposing candidates that could defeat the Republicans. Resolutions, declaring its propriety, and a report announcing that it had been effected, were adopted. Processions of Ward Clubs bearing banners with “Fusion” writ upon them paraded the streets; and none were to be met with in the immediate vicinity of Astor-place who would willingly then and there have called loudly for cheers for the party then and there reviled.
John A. Dix, staunch unionist and Breckinridge supporter, was the keynote speaker. He called for a union of all the opponents of the Republicans:
It is strange how soon the lessons of experience are forgotten! It is scarcely a twelvemonth since many of those who are here to-night, were assembled in this vicinity to express their detestation of an outrage on one of our sister States — an outrage, which we regarded as a legitimate consequence of the political teachings of the party against whom we are arrayed now as we were then. If any one had told us that before the end of a year, there would be danger of the triumph of that party in this State, through our own local divisions — if he had told us that through an unyielding tenacity of purpose, through the pride of organization, or through considerations of personal interest, we should be putting to hazard the harmony of the Union and the permanency of our institutions by giving the victory to the party whose policy is directly at war with both, — he would not have been credited. And yet, fellow-citizens, this is the very problem to be solved to-night — whether we, and those who in other parts of the State are likely to be influenced by our example, will give to the Union Electoral ticket, a cordial, an efficient and an unwavering support, or whether by standing aloof from each other, in the isolation of our respective opinions on questions of administration, we shall leave the victory to be carried off by the common enemy against our divided forces.
Dix defended the fusion ticket against charges that such combinations were unprincipled, pointing out that the Republican papers in New York (the Times and the Tribune) disagreed on all the issues but slavery:
I do not suppose that a more remarkable instance of the combination of heterogeneous political elements has ever been known than one under our own eyes. I allude to two leading Republican papers in this City, both conducted with signal ability and vigor. I need not name them. One is for free trade, the other for high protection. One is remarkably sound on financial questions, the other as signally unsound on all. A singular antagonism of principle runs through their whole course, with a single exception. They agree on the Slavery question, and on this alone; at war on every other, they coalesce for political action. They are equally ardent in their support of LINCOLN and HAMLIN.
As we can see, the issue of slavery was the crucial one for the anti-Lincoln forces as well, including Dix. Dix, however, sincerely believed that the union could be preserved only by defeating the Republicans. He was one Breckinridge man who was adamantly opposed to secession.
Above all, fellow-citizens, we are united on a question which, in the importance of its consequences towers above all others — the preservation of the Union, through a scrupulous observance of our Constitutional obligations, and by abstaining from all interference in the domestic concerns of our fellow-citizens in other States.
The “domestic concern” he had in mind is obvious. Dix, however, was genuinely a unionist above all else, as we will see from his record during the war.