Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Vote for President in New Jersey, 1860

In the presidential election of 1860, New Jersey awarded 4 electoral votes to Abraham Lincoln and three electoral votes to Stephen A. Douglas. How did this happen? This New York Times article from December 26, 1892 tells the story.

After the breakup of the Democratic nominating convention in Charleston, SC, a second convention met in Baltimore and nominated Stephen Douglas.

Back in New Jersey, however, that did not settle matters. The State Committee of the party was in the hands of friends of the Buchanan administration. For this reason, and because it wanted to present a slate of electors with the broadest possible appeal in the hopes of defeating Abraham Lincoln, the state Committee was unwilling to endorse a slate of seven pro-Douglas electors.

The Douglas men rejected this idea. They gathered in a convention in Trenton, NJ on July 25, 1860 and nominated a slate of seven pro-Douglas electors:

William Cook of Hudson County
Joel Parker of Monmouth County
Theodore Runyon of Essex County
Abraham W. Nash of Camden County
Moses Wills of Burlington County
Joseph Vliet of Warren County
Daniel S. Anderson of Sussex County

The State Committee refused to back down, however. It nominated a fusion slate of seven electors divided among the anti-Republican factions as follows:

The three pro-Douglas electors William Cook, Joel Parker and Theodore Runyon;
Two pro-Breckinridge electors, Alexander Wurts and Peter D. Vroom; and
Two pro-Bell electors, Silas Condict and Edmund Brewer.

Notwithstanding protests of Douglas men, the State Committee had sheets printed listing these seven names as the official Democratic ticket and distributed them to local party leaders throughout the state. The local party leaders would make these printed tickets available to voters, who could cast them as their ballots. Under conventions of the time, voters submitted the preprinted tickets as their ballots, either as is or after making changes (by, for example, crossing out one or more names and writing others in by hand).

One local pro-Douglas party leader, however, rebelled. He refused to distribute the fusion tickets he had received from the State Committee. Instead, he distributed tickets containing the names of the seven pro-Douglas electors.

The election was sufficiently close in New Jersey that the loss of some 5,000 to 6,000 fusion tickets affected the outcome. The three Douglas electors who appeared on both the fusion ballots and the straight Douglas ballots (William Cook, Joel Parker and Theodore Runyon) were the top three vote-getters in the state, receiving about 63,000 votes each. Next came four of the Republican electors (Joseph C. Hornblower, Edward W. Ivins, George H. Brown and Charles E. Elmer), who received vote totals ranging from 58,346 to 58,316.

After that came the electors who had appeared on the fusion ballots but not on the straight Douglas ballots. They received some 5,000 to 6,000 fewer votes than Cook, Parker and Runyon, and from 294 to just over 2,000 fewer votes than the successful Republicans:

Peter D. Vroom (Breckinridge) 58,022
Edmund Brewer (Bell) 57,770
Silas Condict (Bell) 57,552
Alexander Wurts (Breckinridge) 56,237

The pro-Douglas electors who did not appear on the fusion ballots received only about 5,000 votes each:

Abraham W. Nash (Douglas) 6,105
Moses Wills (Douglas) 4,856
Joseph Vliet (Douglas) 4,891
Daniel S. Anderson (Douglas) 1,392

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