Theo Lippman Jr.

September 18, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr.

This is the 52nd presidential election.

The 20th was held in the midst of the Civil War in 1864. Republicans issued an open call to their convention and some Democrats attended. The party styled itself ''the Union Party.'' Abraham Lincoln was easily renominated despite much grumbling about the hardships of the war and his leadership, and he was able to put the party on record as still in favor of ending the ''rebellion . . . by force of arms.''

The Democrats nominated war hero Gen. George McClellan. Then they gave him a peace plank to run on (''cessation of hostilities . . . convention of [all] the states). It seemed an irresistible combination to many in his party and in Lincoln's.

But in September, Gen. William Tecumseh captured Atlanta, in effect ending the Confederacy's life as a unified entity with a future. A military solution to secession seemed imminent. All the elements in the North that had been dissatisfied with Lincoln rallied behind him. He defeated McClellan by 55-45 percent of the popular vote and carried 23 of the 26 states voting.

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