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The Election of 1860

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 4, 2012

The Election of 1860

In 1860, the Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln for president. The Democrats, for the first time in many years, were not agreed on a favorite candidate. The Democratic convention nominated Stephen Douglas, but the southerners found him too moderate. They nominated John Breckinridge to run against Douglas and Lincoln.

People cast their ballots along strictly geographical lines. The Deep South voted for Breckinridge, while the Pacific coastal states, the Midwest, and the Northeast voted for Lincoln. Constitutional Party candidate John Bell of Tennessee won in Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, but this accounted for less than six thousand votes. Stephen Douglas carried only the state of Missouri, although his total popular vote was only five hundred thousand fewer than Lincoln received. See the electoral map.

US History Election of 1860 Electoral Map

Lincoln became president because the proslavery faction had divided its votes between two candidates. Although Lincoln had stated publicly and repeatedly that he had neither the constitutional authority nor the desire to abolish slavery in the states where it already existed, southerners hated him. Days after his election, South Carolina seceded from the Union. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas followed in rapid succession. These states banded together as the Confederate States of America, drawing up a constitution and electing Jefferson Davis of Mississippi as their president. (Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia would join the Confederacy in the spring of 1861.) James Buchanan, who would remain president until Lincoln’s inauguration, took no action regarding the Confederacy; it would be up to President Lincoln to resolve the situation.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

A House Divided Practice Test

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