Abraham Lincoln.jpg stephen douglas.jpgexternal image bell.jpgexternal image Breckinridge250w.jpg

The candidates from left and right: Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, John Bell, and John Breckenridge

The 1860 election took place on November 6. Abraham Lincoln of the Republican Party, Stephen Douglas of the Democratic Party, John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party, and John Breckenridge of the Southern Democratic Party were the 4 major candidates. The current president at the time was James Buchanan.

Background Information on the Candidates
Abraham Lincoln- (1809-1865). Born in Hodgenville, Kentucky. His family was not the wealthiest of sorts, which led him to be self educated. He and his family moved to Illinois in1830. He later became a lawyer. In the 1830’s he was a Whig Party leader as well as an Illinois state legislature. In the 1840’s, he found a place in the House of Representatives for one term. On June 16th, 1858, he gave his “House Divided” speech at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, when Illinois had elected him to be their states senator. This speech started his campaign to conquer Stephen Douglas’ seat in the Senate, and later started many Lincoln-Douglass debates, in which the main issue of these debates was slavery.

Stephen Douglas- (1813-1861). Born in Brandon, Vermont but later moved to Illinois to study law. He competed against Lincoln for a spot in the Senate and came out victorious. However, when it came to presidency, Lincoln was the obvious winner. He was well known as a great party leader, and debater. He was a leader in democracy and supported the principle of popular sovereignty, which allowed the majority of the people to choose on subjects such as slavery and expansion of territory. He was the chairman of the Committee on Territories, and had a lot of control over the Senate. In the Senate, he passed the Kansas-Nebraska act which lead to the formation of the Republican Party because of their strong opposition to the act.

John Breckinridge- (1821-1875). Born in Lexington, Kentucky into a political family; his father was the speaker in the Kentucky House of Representatives, as well as the Secretary of State for Kentucky. His grandfather was Attorney General under Thomas Jefferson when he was president. He was very well educated, seeing that he attended a variety of colleges, from the College of New Jersey (today called Princeton) to Centre College in Danville and Transylvania University in Lexington. His main focus was the study of law. He was a US Representative and Senator from Kentucky, as well as the 14th vice president of the US (1857-1861).

John Bell- (1796-1869). Born in Nashville, Tennessee and graduated from Cumberland College in 1814. He had studied law in college and later ran (and won) for Tennessee Senate in 1817. He stayed in the Senate for a term but later moved back to Nashville. He also was in the House of Representatives from 1827 to 1841. He was the Speaker of the House from 1834-1835, and was President William Henry Harrison’s Secretary of War in 1841. He was not a supporter of Jackson and fought over the BUS as well as the Spoils System. In 1840, he was the leader of the Tennessee Whigs.

Issues Facing the Country at the time of the Election
The issues during the election were the same issues that led up to the Civil War.
  • Slavery
    • rights of slave owners
    • expansion of slavery
      • Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854- in the 1850’s the US was splitting up over the issue of slavery and this Act was a compromise to calm down the hostilities. However, the act did nothing of this sort. In Kansas, slavery turned even more concrete. The Southerners did not want to bring a huge free state into the US, so the state was split up into Kansas and Nebraska. These two states would be able to choose if they would be free or not (popular sovereignty). This Act contradicted the Missouri Compromise, which stated that there was to be no slave states above 36, 30. The creator of the K-N act, Senator Stephen Douglas, then repealed the Missouri compromise, which caused even more of an uprising.

      • Lincoln resented this Act and began verbally attacking the legislation, Douglas in particular. There were seven Lincoln-Douglas debates held across Illinois. In 1859, Lincoln gave a speech in New York about slavery and its evils, which raised his political status.
States Rights
Fugitive Slave Act.jpg
One of the signs you might have seen posted around town during The Fugitive Slave Act

During the 1820’s and 1830’s, the issue of which rights belonged to the states and which belonged to the Federal Government became prominent. Mainly because of the dispute over where slavery would be allowed in the expanding nation. One of these solutions was the Missouri Compromise, which asked that any territories above the line 36, 30, would be free states. It was later contradicted by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which stated that Kansas and Nebraska could choose whether they would be free or not. By the 1840’s and 1850’s the North and South contained intense positions on slavery. As long as the North and South each had equal numbers of states, neither could dominate the other in the Senate. New territories were always threatening the balance of power. The South supported states rights, a weak federal government, and in 1850, they started pondering succession. The Kansas-Nebraska Act and Lincoln-Douglas debates were meant to try to lessen the tension over this issue. As well as the Compromise of 1850, which was originally made by Henry Clay when California wanted to apply as a free state. The compromise was not passed in the Senate but later Stephen Douglas made new bills to fix up the compromise; the bills passed in both houses. The compromise has five points to it:
      1. California would join as a free state
      2. There would be a territorial government in Utah and New Mexico
      3. Boundary between Texas and the United States
      4. Elimination of slave trade in Washington DC
      5. Adjusted the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850: Northerners must return slaves who escaped back to their masters in the South
  • Dred Scott, a slave who was denied his freedom and the right to sue in federal courts.
    Dred Scott, a slave who was denied his freedom and the right to sue in federal courts.
    • Dred Scott v. Sanford Case of 1856- After the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the adoption of the Kansas Nebraska Act, the Supreme Court took a closer look at whether or not restricting slavery in the territories was Constitutional. Led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of states' rights and declared that it was unconstitutional for federal legislation to restrict slavery in the territories. In addition, the Supreme Court ruled that all blacks, slave or free, could never become citizens of the United States. Democrats, being supporters of both slavery and states' rights, approved of the decision. Republicans on the other hand, fiercely disagreed. On June 26, 1857, Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech expressing his desire for the Supreme Court to overrule their decision.

  • Sectionalism between the North and South
    An 1859 illustration of U.S. marines attacking John Brown and his men
    An 1859 illustration of U.S. marines attacking John Brown and his men
    • economics and tariffs
    • party politics
    • John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia-On October 6, 1859, John Brown led a raid on Harper's Ferry in an effort to incite a slave rebellion. Brown planned to seize weapons from the federal arsenal and gather slaves as he moved south towards Virginia. John Brown's plan was unlikely to be successful due to the fact that he had no rations and no escape plan. Sure enough, local citizens and militia surround Brown and killed eight members of Brown's small army. Slaves did not rush to support Brown. Brown was arrested and sentenced to death. People in
      the North admired Brown's act, but the Republican Party specifically condemned the raid. However, Southerners falsely blamed Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party of secretly supporting Brown. In this way, John Brown's raid further divided the North and the South.

"The Wigwam", site of the 1860 Republican Convention
"The Wigwam", site of the 1860 Republican Convention

Conventions and Platforms

Republican Party

The Republican Convention took place in Chicago on May16-18. The fact that the convention was held in Chicago was beneficial towards Lincoln who was from Illinois. U.S. senator William H. Seward from New York was the likely choice for the Republican nomination, so Lincoln's supporters were given admission tickets that were printed at the last minute. Lincoln's supporters were instructed to show up early at the Wigwam, a rickety hall that held 10,000 people. New York's delegates were strategically placed away from key swing states. Two ballots were held where no candidate had a majority. Lincoln was close to winning in the third ballot. Joseph Medill of the Chicago Daily Press and Tribune convinced the Ohio chairman to switch his states’ votes, and Lincoln won. The vice presidential candidate was Democrat Hannibal Hamlin from Maine. Hamlin was chosen to balance the presidential ticket.

The Republican platform opposed the expansion of slavery, but accepted it as a local institution in slaveholding states. It supported congressional improvement of transportation and condemned disunion of the states. The platform encouraged financial accountability in the government and homestead measures for those setting in the West.

Democratic Party
The Democratic convention was held in Charleston, South Carolina on April 23- May 3. Northern and Southern delegates disagreed on the the platform’s statement on slavery. Several Southern delegates in favor of slavery angrily walked out of the convention. The remaining delegates, led by Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, supported the Supreme Court decision in the 1857 Dred Scott case, which nullified the Missouri Compromise. Congress did not have the authority to prohibit slavery in the territories. By May 3, no nominations were made. On June 18-23 the convention reconvened in Baltimore with less than 2/3 of the original convention present. The delegates nominated Douglas for president and Herschel V. Johnson, former governor of Georgia, for vice. The platform acknowledged the difference of opinion on slavery among the Democratic Party and stated that the party would abide by the decision of the Supreme Court regarding congressional authority over the slavery issue within the territories.

Southern Democratic Party
The Southern Democrats who walked out of the convention in Charleston met later that June in Richmond, Virginia. Vice President John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky won the presidential nomination, and Senator Joseph Lane of Oregon was vice. Their platform supported slavery in the territories.

Consititutional Union Party
The Constitutional Union Party was founded by former Whigs and Know Nothings. Delegates from 20 states representing the Constitutional Union Party met at Baltimore on May 9th and nominated John Bell of Tennessee for President and Edward Everett of Massachusetts for vice. Everett was unanimously chosen; after the 2nd ballot the nomination of Bell was also unanimous. The party did not make a statement about slavery, or any other specific issue. They did not want to offend anyone.

Candidates Views
Abraham Lincoln- did not believe at all in Stephen Douglas’ proposal of popular sovereignty. He believed that the Dread Scott decision had ended popular sovereignty. There were only two possible solutions for the nation; all slave or all free. He was seemed more of a moderate in the election but he was not a supporter of slavery.

Stephen Douglas- believed popular sovereignty to be the perfect solution to the issue of slavery. If the states were allowed to choose if they would be slave or not, there would be no reason for conflict. He did not support the Dread Scott decision because he believed that if would interfere with his principle of popular sovereignty. Was a strong believer in democracy; the people should be able to decide.

John Breckinridge- the only candidate who was supporting slavery every step of the way, which was why the Southern Democrats elected him. The majority of the South wanted him to win to keep slavery alive.

John Bell- opposed the expansion of slavery (even though he was a slave owner). However, his main focus was trying to keep the union united. During the 1850’s, he tried very hard to keep the nation together. He believed that succession was unneeded because the Constitution protected slavery, which led him to be popular in Border States.

The Result

external image ElectoralCollege1860-Large.png

Abraham Lincoln won the election, winning both the electoral (59%) and the popular vote (40%). Second in the electoral votes was John Breckenridge with 24%, however, he came in third in the popular vote (18%). John Bell came in third in electoral (13%), but he was dead last in the popular vote (again 13%). Finally, managing only 4% in the electoral votes was Stephan Douglas, making him last in electoral votes. However, he came in second (behind Lincoln) in the popular vote with 29%.

Significance of the Election

The election of 1860 accentuated the extreme sectionalism that was overcoming the country. An example of this was when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Before Lincoln's inauguration, seven southern states seceded from the Union, creating the Confederacy. The hateful feelings that radiated from both the North and the South created an atmosphere that was just right for the start of a civil war. The issues of the election of 1860 were the same issues that sent the nation into the Civil War; a lot of these issues grew throughout the election to their height at the start of the war. Lincoln was a figure that was either loved or hated, and his election was viewed as both a blessing and a curse. However, all can agree that Lincoln's election was a piece in the chain of events that lead to the most deadly war in American history.

Abraham Lincoln Fakebook Page:



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