The Confederate states could have messed up the 1864 election. Possible?

Forgive me here; I haven’t had any classes on this in ten years.

The official Union stance was that, since secession is illegal, the Southern states never actually left the US. (Again, this might be wrong or oversimplified. Let me know.)

So, if some clever individual had started a movement to get the southern states to send electors to Washington, the Union would have had no right to keep those electors from casting their votes for president. McClellan was running against Lincoln on an anti-war platform. Would the Confederate electors’ votes have counted? Would it have been unconstitutional not to count them? Would it have made any difference?


The fact they were in a “state of rebellion” I think suspended their rights.

But isn’t denying a state its electors unconstitutional? So they’d have to pass an amendment saying that when a state is in “rebellion,” it no longer gets electors. But how would they amend the constitution without the votes of the rebelling confederate states? Argh!

Does anyone know what contemporaries had to say about this?

Well I’d think the Southern states would never have submitted electoral votes because that would be an admission on their parts that the North was correct, that they could not and had not seceded.

Contemporaries had nothing at all to say about the prospect of the Confedate state governments sending electors to Washington, because there was zero chance of it happening. The Confederacy wanted European recognition and wanted to be taken seriously as a nation, not to play games. If their only goal was to make life difficult in Washington, they could have sent representatives to Congress . . . which would have been tantamount to not seceding.

Contemporaries had a great deal to say about reconstructed pro-Union Southern governments sending representatives and senators and electoral votes to Washinton, because it happened. Andrew Johnson’s military government conducted a rump election in 1864 in Tennessee, and sent electoral votes (for Lincoln and Johnson, surprise, surprise) to Congress. The Louisiana legislature elected electors on their own and sent their votes. Congress refused to count the votes of either state.

If Congress could reject the votes of pro-Union governments of doubtful legitimacy, I assure you they would have had no trouble at all in rejecting votes sent by active Confederates.

If it had been tried, the federal government almost certainly (and legitimately) have declared the electors invalid because of voting “irregularities”.

Jefferson Davis would have badly undercut his own claim to be the legitimate president of the Confederate States if he had permitted electors to be sent north from his “country” for the 1864 election of a president of the United States. The OP has a clever idea, but practically speaking, it never woulda happened.

I used to wonder about this until I actually came across the numbers for 1864. In short, the Confederacy simply didn’t have the Electoral votes to beat Lincoln. They would have needed 191 votes to put McClellen ahead of Lincoln; in 1860 the states that would make up the Confederacy cast 82 electoral votes (or something like that - it’s hard to read the state numbers in the Wiki articles; in any case, they just didn’t have the clout - one of the reasons they left).

This was the best and most astute answer. It recognizes that Lincoln won his first election without the Southern vote. Granted, anti-Lincoln voters in the North were split between the Free Soil Democrats and the Secessionists, but the Confederates saw that they could never influence the national election and so had little chance of changing things within the Union.

The Confederates might have been able to do something if they had decided suddenly to jump back in and the Democrats had chosen someone who could win against Lincoln. The Confederates at that time had really committed themselves to nationhood, though, and the Democrats made the wonderful choice of McClellan. In mid-1864 Lincoln’s prospects looked bleak, but then Sherman took Atlanta in September and Lee was stuck in Petersburg, and McClellan was fully capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. He ended up winning his home state of New Jersey, always a haven for the Democrats. Is it any wonder that Will Rogers said: “I don’t belong to any organized party; I’m a Democrat” :smack:

But the Democrats figured McClellan was a distinguished veteran running against a Republican who got us into a prolonged and controversial war - how could he lose?

Nitpick of some consequence: it wasn’t that southern states would not longer be able to influence the goverment. It was, rather, that they could not longer dominate it. Southern elites had come to see their power in Washington as a sort of birthright (often literally, as they tended to hand down influence to their own children and grandchildren). In fact, had they been less greedy about it, they probably would have avoided the entire mess and been more influential in the long run. But they repeated took actions which provoked the anger of the entire North and Midwest, eventually maiming the Democrat and destroying Whig parties there, and causing the birth of the new Republicans. But they had to have absolute power (which, by the by, they were willing to lie, cheat, and steal to get, Southern “honor” or no) over everyone and everything in the national government, even down to blatantly immoral acts (pressuring the Supreme Court, etc.)

Oh, please. Polemics belong in GD. :rolleyes:

See, what the Union should have done was joined the southern states in succeeding. Then the Confederacy would’ve contained all the states of the old Union, they could’ve used their larger number of electors to elect Lincoln as prez of the new country and the war could’ve been avoided.