The President couldn’t be trusted

February 2, 2019

For The Madera Tribune
Vice President Hannibal Hamlin.

The name of Hannibal Hamlin is not exactly a household word, but perhaps it should be. For four tumultuous years he stood loyally beside President’s Lincoln’s side as his Vice President. Then came the Republican convention of 1864. Hamlin was sure he would be Lincoln’s running mate again, but he had no way of knowing that one of his most trusted friends was about to send him into obscurity.


In that campaign of 1864, Gen. George McClellan carried the Democratic banner, and President Lincoln easily won nomination for a second term, but when it came time for the Republicans to choose a running mate, Hamlin was thrown to the wolves. The convention chose a Democrat, Andrew Johnson, to replace him as Lincoln’s Vice President.


If Hamlin was surprised when he was denied a second term, he was dumbfounded when he found out precisely how he had been dumped. It had all been a tightly woven intrigue perpetrated by someone he trusted. His friend, who took no public part in the debates or campaigning, had nevertheless conducted a ferocious whispering war.


The political adversary pointed out that since Hamlin was from Maine, his political capital was near zero, since the Republicans already had that section of the country locked up without him. The naysayer also impugned Hamlin’s usefulness by secretly reminding delegates that the Vice President’s radical record on civil rights had made him a political liability. The Machiavellian detractor claimed the party needed a former slave owning, Southern Democrat who had a soft spot in his heart for Rebels, and that is exacting what it got with Johnson.


Now just who was this purveyor of calumny in 1864? Who was it that slyly and secretly poisoned the well for Hannibal Hamlin? It was none other than Abraham Lincoln!


Thus it was, you see, that Andrew Johnson from Tennessee replaced Hannibal Hamlin as Abraham Lincoln’s vice president. In a stunning twist in time, Old Honest Abe forgot about loyalty and friendship for a moment and opted for political expediency instead. Sometimes war and politics do strange things to people.

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