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The Chicago Platform
The Chicago Platform

Is it Peace or War? The Chicago Platform 1864 Election Broadside

a Dramatic Artifact from
One of the Most Important Elections in
American History


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(1864 Election Broadside)   IS IT PEACE OR WAR?  Philadelphia:  King & Baird, [1864].  Single sheet printed in black, 19” x 23 ¾”.  

Just prior to the 1864 Democratic convention in Chicago, Abraham Lincoln predicted “They must nominate a Peace Democrat on a war platform, or a War Democrat on a peace platform” (Brooks, Washington in Lincoln’s Time, p164).  The Democrats did the latter.

In his acceptance letter, quoted in part in this broadside, the former Commander of the Army of the Potomac, George B. McClellan, stated “I could not look in the face of my gallant comrades of the Army and the Navy, who have survived so many bloody battles, and tell them that their labors, and the sacrifice of so many of our slain and wounded brethren had been in vain.”

Then, as Lincoln predicted, there was a corresponding heavy peace plank in their platform, also quoted in part on the broadside:  “Resolved, That this Convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view to an ultimate Convention of all the States, or other peaceable means, to the end that at the earliest practicable moment peace may be restored on the basis of the Federal Union.”

It is this dichotomy between the Peace and War wings of the Democrats, dramatically depicted as “The Chicago Platform” versus “The Chicago Candidates”, that is the raison d’être of this broadside. After boldly asking the title question at its head, the broadside asks again in conclusion, “Democrats can you tell whether you are asked to vote for PEACE OR WAR, UNION OR DISUNION?”

It was possibly produced by Peace Democrats, who had been able to pass a resolution in Chicago to for the convention to not adjourn sine die, in order to be able to meet again in case McClellan refused to run on such a platform; or perhaps by Republicans, in order to take advantage of the division among their opponents.

On thin rag paper; horizontal & vertical folds dividing into four even quadrants, w/ small hole at intersection of the folds; lt. ch. along edges, not effecting text; lt. toning; else v.g

See one of the Republican responses to the Peace Democrats here.