|By the Election of 1860 the nation was teetering on the brink of disunion. The south felt surrounded by a hostile north whose population was much bigger and was growing much faster. The south feared acts such as John Brown and Nat Turner's slave revolt. They worried that soon new free states would be able to amend the Constitution to abolish slavery.|
The Election of 1860
pitted four candidates against each other. The Democratic Party argued
over which candidate to nominate. Many Democrats wanted to nominate
Steven Douglas as their candidate; however many did not. Southerners
remembered Douglas' comments during the Lincoln Douglas debates two years
earlier and feared that he did not support slavery. This disagreement
caused the Democratic Party to split in half and run two candidates for
president one in the north and one in the south. The Northern
Democratic Party nominated Illinois Senator Steven Douglas who ran on the
platform of Popular Sovereignty. Southern Democrats nominated John C.
Breckinridge from Kentucky who promised to expand slavery and annex Cuba.
A new party called the Constitutional Union Party nominated John Bell from Tennessee. Bell ran on the idea of keeping the union together at all costs. Their slogan read "Union, Constitution, and Laws".
The final candidate was a rising star in the Republican Party from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln. "Honest Abe" was a self made man who was intelligent and soft spoken. Lincoln was not an abolitionist. He believed that slavery was morally wrong and evil; however he did not want to abolish it where it already existed. Lincoln merely wanted to prevent the expansion of slavery into the western territories. Southerners feared that Lincoln was an abolitionist and threatened to leave the union if he was elected.
When the votes were tallied, Lincoln swept the electoral votes across the north to give him a majority. Lincoln's name did not even appear on the ballot in ten southern states, but because the north had more population there were more electoral votes to be won in the northern states. Even if the other three candidates would have combined their popular votes, Lincoln would have still won the popular vote. Lincoln's election was the final straw for many southerners who thought that Lincoln would destroy slavery and their way of life.
Click below to hear a southerners view of the Election of 1860:
"The election of Mr. Lincoln is undoubtedly the greatest evil that has ever befallen this country. But the mischief is done and the only relief for the American people is to shorten sail, seem down the top mast and prepare for a hurricane."