Friday, May 18, 2007


It seems like Barack Obama, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Rudy Giuliani have already been running for president for a long time. Today, the campaign for president lasts for about two years. What a marathon!

There was a time when presidential campaigns were much shorter. On this day, 147 years ago, Abraham Lincoln won the Republican Party’s nomination to run for president.

Leonard Swett, Lincoln’s personal and political friend, worked as hard as anyone to secure the party’s nomination for Lincoln. “I was with [Lincoln] the week before the Convention,” Swett wrote. “In speaking of the propriety of his going to it, he said he was most too much of a candidate to go, and not quite enough to stay at home.”

On the day of the nomination, each candidate was announced to the capacity crowd in Chicago’s Wigwam. When the favorite, William H. Seward, was announced, the crowd went wild. Swett confessed he was impressed. He continued to describe the scene:

Afterward, Bates, McLean, Cameron and Chase came with moderate applause. Then came Lincoln, and our people tested this by seconding the nomination of Seward, which gave them another chance. It was an improvement upon the first, and placed us in the background. Caleb B. Smith, of Indiana, then seconded the nomination of Lincoln, and the West came to the rescue. No mortal eye before saw such a scene. The idea of our Hoosiers and Suckers being outscreamed would have been as bad to them as the loss of their man. Five thousand people at once leaped to their seats, women not wanting in the number, and the wild yell made soft whisper breathing of all that had preceded. No language can describe it. A thousand steam whistles, ten acres of hotel gongs, a tribe of Comanches, headed by a choice vanguard from pandemonium, might have mingled in the scene unnoticed.

Lincoln won the nomination on the third vote. His friends were beside themselves with happiness. Swett wrote to a friend from his home state of Maine:

We will sweep the whole Northwest. The nomination is from the people, and not the politicians. No pledges have been made, no mortgages executed, but Lincoln enters the field a free man. He will continue so until the day of the election. He is a pure-minded, honest man, whose ability is second to no one in the nation. In twenty years he has risen himself from the captaincy of a flatboat on the Mississippi to the captaincy of a great party in this nation, and when he shall be elected, he will restore the government to its pristine purity.

By noon the news reached Springfield. 100 guns were fired in celebration. Friends called on Lincoln, who spoke briefly, and then invited the group to step inside.

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