The Republican Party was established as the anti-slavery party in about 1856. The party was fairly new and consisted of members of the former Whig Party, free-soilers and anti-Catholic populists from the Know-Nothing movement.
In 1860 the Southern states did not participate in the Republican Convention. Sitting it out were: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Participants included: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. A total of 466 delegates were in play.
The Republican National Convention was held in Chicago in 1860. Going into the convention, everyone was sure Seward would win, because he had the majority of the delegates. When the first ballot was taken, Bates had 14 delegates, Chase had 49, Cameron had 50.5, Lincoln had 102, Seward had 173.5, with 28 delegates scattered among seven other candidates. Cameron realized he could not win and suggested the Pennsylvania delegates be given to Lincoln. The second ballot had Bates with 35 delegates, Chase with 42.5, Cameron with 2, Lincoln with 181, Seward with 184.5 and 20 scattered votes for others. Still no winner was declared. Lincoln’s campaign manager, David Davis went to work to scrounge up more votes for Lincoln. The third ballot was held and Bates got 22, Chase got 24.5, Cameron 0, Lincoln 231.5 and Seward 180 with 2.5 votes to other candidates. Davis is credited for Lincoln winning the nomination.
Lincoln was given the nomination and Senator Hannibal Hamlin of Maine was nominated for the Vice-President position. Lincoln went on to defeat Democrat Stephen A. Douglas to win the Presidency.
Lincoln’s opponents for the nomination became his support group after the election. Bates became the U.S. Attorney General, Chase became the Secretary of the Treasury and was later appointed to be the 6th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Simon Cameron became Lincoln’s Secretary of War and Seward served as Secretary of State.
We hear a lot of talk about open conventions, contested conventions and brokered conventions. The contested Republican National Convention of 1860 had a great outcome for our country. Open, contested or brokered conventions are not inherently bad. As long as the intent is to give the nomination to the person with the most votes within the rules, I am a supporter. The 2016 Republican National Convention may hold the same suspense as the one in 1860. We will all be fortunate if the end result is another great leader for our country.