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Civil War Trust

Letter of Geo B. McClellan, In Acceptance of the Nomination of the Chicago Convention

Orange, N.J., Sept. 8, 1864

George McClellan accepts the nomination of the Democratic party for President in the election of 1864.

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, informing me of my nomination by the Democratic National Convention, recently held at Chicago, as their candidate at the next election for President of the United States.

It is unnecessary for me to say to you that this nomination comes to me unsought.

I am happy to know that when the nomination was made, the record of my public life was kept in view.

The effect of long and varied service in the Army, during war and peace, has been to strengthen and make indelible in my mind and heart, the love and reverence for the Union, Constitution, Laws, and Flag of our country, impressed upon me in early youth.

These feelings have thus far guided the course of my life, and must continue to do so to its end.

The existence of more than one Government over the region which once owned our flag is incompatible with the peace, the power, and the happiness of the people.

The preservation of our Union was the sole avowed object for which the war was commenced.  It should have been conducted for that object only and in accordance with those principles which I took occasion to declare in active service.

Thus conducted, the work of reconciliation would have been easy, and we might have reaped the benefits of our many victories on land and sea.

The Union was originally formed by the exercise of a spirit of conciliation and compromise.  To restore and preserve it, the same spirit must prevail in our councils and in the hearts of the people.

The re-establishment of the Union in all its integrity, is, and must continue to be, the indispensable condition in any settlement.  So soon as it is clear and even probable, that our present adversaries are ready for peace, upon the basis of the Union, we should exhaust all the resources of statesmanship practiced by civilized nations, and taught to the traditions of the American people, consistent with the honor and interests of the country, to secure such peace, re-establish the Union, and guarantee for the future the constitutional rights of every State.  The Union is the one condition of peace – we ask no more.

Let me add what I doubt not was, although unexpressed, the sentiment of the Convention, as it is of the people they represent, that when any one State is willing to return to the Union, it should be received at once, with a  full guarantee of all its constitutional rights.

If a frank, earnest and persistent effort to obtain those objects should fail, the responsibility for superior consequences will fall upon those who remain in arms against the Union.  But the Union must be preserved at all hazards.

I could not look in the face of my gallant comrades of the army and 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; that we had abandoned that Union for which we had so often periled our lives.

A vast majority of our people, whether in the army and navy or at home, would, as I would, hail with unbounded joy the permanent restoration of peace, on the basis of the Union under the Constitution without the effusion of another drop of blood.  But no peace can be permanent without union.

As to the other subjects presented in the resolutions of the Convention, I need only say that I should seek, in the Constitution of the United States, and the laws framed in accordance therewith, the rule of my duty, and the limitations of Executive power; endeavor to restore economy in public expenditure, re-establish the supremacy of law, and by the operation of a more rigorous nationality, resume our commanding position among the nations of the earth.

The conditions of our finances, the depreciation of the paper money, and the burdens thereby imposed on labor and capital, upon the necessity of a return to a sound financial system; while the rights of citizens and the rights of States, and the binding authority of law over President, Army and People, are subjects of not less vital importance in war than in peace.

Believing that the views here expressed are those of the Convention and the people you represent, I accept the nomination.  I realize the weight of the responsibility to be borne, should the people ratify your choice.

Conscious of my own weakness, I can only seek fervently the guidance of the Ruler of the Universe, and, relying on His all-powerful aid, do my best to restore union and peace to a suffering people, and to establish and guard their liberties and rights.

I am, Gentlemen, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
       
        Geo. B. McClellan

Hon. Horatio Seymour, and others, Com’ee.

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