1860 Presidential ElectionAlex Denton


In 1860 Abraham Lincoln, an attorney from Illinois, ran in a Presidential Election that would be remembered as one of the most influential events to happen in our county's history. The election of 1860 would determine which side the American government would be on, in the rising conflict between the North's abolitionist views and the South's
Abraham Lincoln (1863)
traditional lifestyle. Along with Hannibal Hamlin, as his Vice President, Lincoln took on already established politicians in one of the most high risk elections of all time. On the table was the direction of the country, mainly concerning the ever prevalent issue of slavery, and states' rights. Lincoln walked a fine line between keeping his Republican followers, and still appealing to the large Democratic fan base he had acquired over the course of his campaign. In the end, Abraham Lincoln would win the election and go on to be one of the most respected and remembered presidents America has ever had.

Candidates & Parties

Lincoln took on three well-known, experienced politicians in his run for President. These three men were John C. Breckinridge (representing the Southern Democrats), John Bell (nominee from the Constitutional Union), and Stephen A. Douglas (representing the Northern Democrats). In the beginning of the election, there was only one Democratic Party, but because of differing views, the party split and elected their own nominees. The main issues in this election were slavery, and if each state should make their own laws or if they should be one central government.

Party Stances On Major Issues:
Republican : Minimize slavery, Central Government
Southern Democrat : Pro slavery, increase States' Rights
Northern Democrat : Abolish slavery, Central Government
Constitutional Union : Maintain slavery, Central Government

After a few weeks of rigorous campaigning, and in light of the polarizing effect of slavery, the race would come down to Lincoln and Breckinridge. John C. Breckinridge was an attorney turned politition from Kentucky. He was a very conservative thinker, supporting slavery and the idea of states' rights. Lincoln was from Illinios where he was raised on a farm by barely littterate parents. Lincoln did not believe in completely abolishing slavery at first, but just cutting back America's dependency on the trade. After reaalizing that there was no middle ground with the issue of slavery, he decided that he was better off trying to end it completely. Lincoln was a long shot because of his lack of experience and limited public presence. People never expected Lincoln to take the Republican party, but his fan base grew as northerners learned more about his standpoints on issues. Soon enough, Lincoln was the favorite to win.

John Cambell Breckinridge


Throughout the course of Lincoln's campaign, Lincoln only traveled a record low of five times. Most of Lincoln's campaigning was done from his office in the North where he wrote newspaper articles and letters to supporters. Lincoln's minimalistic tactics were looked down upon by many Southerners, who criticized him for being too indirect and scared to show himself to the public. Breckinridge on the other hand went from state to state holding public lectures and sharing his beliefs with the world. Unfortunately for Breckinridge, John Bell's similar views drew votes away from Breckinridge and to Bell. Without this split in voters, it is extremely likely that Breckinridge could have won the election. As the election progressed, the country further divided, with the North taking Lincoln's side and the South Breckinridge's.

The election was thought of as "the straw the broke the camel's back" and finally snowballed the tension in America to war. Lincoln once stated "The sooner this election is over the better." Both sides believed that in order to insert their views throughout the country, they would need the government to be on their side, and so the poeple took over the campainging work. Americans everywhere made posters and held rallies all in support of their candidate. Many people traveled across their state making lectures to crowds of up to 5,000 people explaining why they would vote for their candidate


By November of 1860, the campaiging was over and it was time for people to put in their vote. A total of 4,625,561 people voted in the election; this was one million more than the previous election. Many more people went out to vote because this election was looked upon as the deciding factor of which direction the country would move in: abolish slavery and create a just America, or keep slavery and reinforce a divided nation. Abraham Lincoln received a total of 1,865,908 votes (40%), while Breckinridge only got 848,019.
Shortly after the results were announced, half the country had a celebration while the other half decided to rebel. The South believed that by losing this election, they had lost all hope in keeping their traditional ways without the White House support. Breckinridge went home with a hung head and decided to lay low for a while. Breckinridge would appear again in politics eight years later when he would decide to run for Vice President.

First Poster Annouching Lincoln Winning the Election

Effect on War

Directly after the election, tension in America rose greatly. The elections were in November of 1860 and before April of the following year, North Carolina had already seceded. Many Southern states were to follow, and as more and more states left the Union, the greater and greater the tension grew in the country. Finally in April of 1861, a war began between the North and South. This war, known as the Civil War, would be the bloodiest war in American history and finally put an end to the disagreement between America and the newly seceded states.
In the end, the North would win, but not without the South causing some major damage. More than 900,000 Northern soldiers were killed, along with assassination of President Lincoln. But as a result, a peaceful nation was created with no slaves and one central government, making laws for every state.

Brief Overview

  • Abraham Lincoln, John C. Breckinridge, John Bell, and Stephen Douglas all ran for President in 1860
  • Two major candidates were Lincoln and Breckinridge
  • North supported Lincoln; South supported Breckinridge
  • Lincoln only traveled five times throughout campaign
  • At election time Lincon won by a significant amount
  • Breckinridge would have had a greater chance of winning had he not lost many votes to John Bell
  • Tension in country led to Civil War
  • War lasted from 1861-1865
  • Bloodiest war in American History
  • Lincoln was assassinated towards end of war by a Southerner
  • North still won

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