The Election of 1860

The Election of 1860 was the most significant and troublesome presidential election in the history of the USA. The chaos, which took place during this campaign, predicted the war, which was coming. This historical episode would separate the South and the North over the issue of slavery and the growth of slave lands. This research paper is meant to discuss the Election of 1860 and to explain why it was so significant.

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Election of 1860

Like the majority of elections nowadays, the Election of 1860 divided the American populace into numerous differing political groups. However, unlike the current elections, in the year 1860 all political parties were more separated than nowadays. There were two Democratic candidates, one Republican candidate and one Constitutional Union candidate. Stephen Douglas reflected a wing of the Democratic Party, supporting popular sovereignty. The other wing of the Democratic Party selected John C. Breckinridge, who supported the idea that enslaving human beings was a right. The Republicans preferred Abraham Lincoln, who rejected slavery’s growth into the nation. Finally, the Constitutional Union party selected John Bell, fighting against the creation of sectional parties and disunion concerning slavery matter.

A representative of the Republicans – Abraham Lincoln – won the Election of 1860. The reason why the Republican Party succeeded was its stance on the issue of slavery. It rejected the growth of slavery and asked Congress to take some measures to avert its development. The party treated slavery as morally wrong institution and barbarism, and the majority of Republicans believed that by confining slavery within existing borders, this institution would be put on the way to the ultimate extinction . Thus, the Republican Party was a real anti-slavery party, but most Republicans opposed a more radical stand, which would connect them to abolitionism. Republicans also admitted the legality of the escapee slave clause of the Constitution and acknowledged its enforcement by appropriate regulations. Hence, Republicans set themselves apart from the abolitionists, who encouraged a faster end to slavery and the acceptance of actions, for instance, the liberation of slaves in the country’s capital that would cause slavery insecure in the existing borders.

Lincoln, more conservative than the majority of his party, rejected equal rights in office holding and voting, and he supported colonization of black people to lands outside the USA, the concept, which was abhorrence to “abolitionists” . Nevertheless, southerners hardly distinguished among dissimilar antislavery and racial opinions of abolitionists and the Republicans.


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The Republican Party’s resistance to the growth of slavery, thus, included the distinctive ethical protest against slavery itself, but also embraced, at least for some Republicans, racial concern that the lands be reserved, first and foremost, for free white individuals. Additionally, the Republican mainstream linked to the free labor society with economic opportunity, upward mobility, hard work, liberty, morality, and other crucial elements of a real republic. Conversely, slavery was linked to the economic backwardness, nobility, violence, illiteracy, greed, and dishonesty. Moreover, the Republicans treated slavery as the aggressive institution, whose leaders, in coalition with sympathetic northerners, were conspiring to spread this atmosphere throughout the country. This concept of “Slave Power Conspiracy” that Lincoln bravely introduced in his “House Divided” speech to the Illinois Republican convention in 1858 linked the party with democratic concepts and offered the shorthand expression of northern hatred against the South’s political power . Though a minority section, the South had uneven power in national politics, and often scuttled measures desired by northerners, for instance, higher tariffs to defend manufacturing, or homestead legislation to offer free land for western colonists.

Under the circumstances, Abraham Lincoln managed to become the representation of the frontier. For his achievements, Abraham Lincoln won the election with no votes from the South, yet “victorious in the North” . Lincoln’s presidential win created panic to the South, for they thought that only Northern representatives were running the administration, and slavery would certainly disappear. Before, slavery had been defended. Even the Founding Fathers did not allow themselves to issue any constrictions on it. Hence, once Lincoln was elected, a man who opposed slavery expanding into the nation, many were irritated. Beginning with South Carolina, one by one all Southern states started to break away from the Union. Seven states separated in the aftermath of Lincoln’s election. This secession set the stage for civil war and the development of a new state. Many thought that war was predictable as they realized that Lincoln would strike back. If any southerner was selected as a President, they could make regulations to help the southern part of the nation, but with Lincoln the head of state, they felt that their voice would no longer be important.

The election of 1860 placed the USA on the brink of basic change. The southerners had become the presidents of the nation for two-thirds of the time after 1789, and none of the northerners had ever won the reelection. However, a republican win blocked the South’s political supremacy of the Union. Therefore, the 1860 election demonstrated the significance of the densely populated northern states in accomplishing victory in the election.

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Issues of the Election of 1860

The United States presidential election of 1860 was a pivotal event in American history, as it ultimately played a significant role in escalating tensions between the Northern and Southern states, leading to the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. The election was marked by several key issues and developments:

  • Slavery: The primary issue that dominated the election was the question of slavery. The nation was deeply divided over the expansion of slavery into newly acquired territories, with the Northern states generally opposing its expansion and the Southern states advocating for its protection and expansion. The newly formed Republican Party, led by Abraham Lincoln, had an anti-slavery platform, which alarmed the Southern states.
  • Republican Party: The emergence of the Republican Party as a major political force was a significant development in the election. The party was founded in the 1850s as a coalition of anti-slavery activists, former Whigs, Free Soilers, and abolitionists. Its candidate, Abraham Lincoln, aimed to prevent the spread of slavery into new territories rather than directly confront the institution where it already existed.
  • Secession Threats: Southern states, particularly those that relied heavily on slavery for their economy, viewed Lincoln’s election as a threat to their way of life. When Lincoln won the presidency without carrying a single Southern state, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union in December 1860. This triggered a chain reaction, with six more Southern states following suit and forming the Confederate States of America.
  • Candidates and Party Divisions: The Democratic Party was deeply divided over the issue of slavery. Northern Democrats supported popular sovereignty (allowing territories to decide whether to allow slavery), while Southern Democrats insisted on protecting slavery’s expansion. This division within the party led to the split and the nomination of two Democratic candidates: Stephen A. Douglas (Northern Democrat) and John C. Breckinridge (Southern Democrat).
  • Constitutional Union Party: A fourth party, the Constitutional Union Party, also participated in the election. Comprised of former Whigs and Know-Nothings, this party aimed to avoid discussing slavery and focused on preserving the Union by promoting unity and adherence to the Constitution. Their candidate was John Bell.
  • Election Outcome: Abraham Lincoln, the Republican candidate, won the election with a majority in the Electoral College but without carrying any Southern states. His victory signaled to the Southern states that they were losing political influence in the federal government, further fueling their secessionist sentiments.
  • Impact: The election of 1860 marked a turning point in American history. The secession of Southern states and the subsequent formation of the Confederate States of America set the stage for the American Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865. The issues of slavery, states’ rights, and the nature of the federal government’s authority were central to the conflict.

Overall, the election of 1860 was characterized by intense sectional divisions and debates over the future of slavery, leading to the eventual dissolution of the Union and the outbreak of the Civil War.

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Election of 1860 Summary

Thus, the Election of 1860 was the most important election in the country’s history. When the northern antislavery president was elected, Southern power in the government was eliminated. Seven states of America seceded from the nation, and four more followed suit soon after that. Lincoln’s name was never listed on southern ballots as the South was already performing as the independent nation. Lincoln felt that the Union should be maintained at all costs, and was not frightened of a war to make certain that it stayed that way – union. By Lincoln being selected, the US supreme fears were confirmed – Civil War had become unavoidable.


What best describes the election of 1860?

The election of 1860 can best be described as a pivotal and highly contentious event in American history that exacerbated existing tensions between the Northern and Southern states. It revolved primarily around the issue of slavery and its expansion into new territories. The emergence of the Republican Party as a significant political force, with Abraham Lincoln as its candidate, and the subsequent secession of Southern states following Lincoln’s victory underscored the deep divisions within the nation. The election ultimately marked a critical juncture that escalated the conflict between states with differing ideologies, leading to the outbreak of the American Civil War.

Who won the election of 1860?

The winner of the United States presidential election of 1860 was Abraham Lincoln. He was the candidate of the Republican Party and secured a majority of electoral votes, making him the 16th President of the United States. However, it’s important to note that Lincoln did not carry any Southern states in the election, as his anti-slavery stance was highly unpopular in those regions and contributed to their subsequent secession from the Union.

What was the main topic of discussion during the election of 1860?

The main topic of discussion during the election of 1860 was the issue of slavery and its expansion into new territories. The nation was deeply divided over whether slavery should be allowed to expand into the western territories that were being acquired as the United States expanded. The Republican Party, led by Abraham Lincoln, had an anti-slavery platform, advocating for limiting the expansion of slavery into these new territories. This stance deeply concerned the Southern states, which relied heavily on slave labor for their agricultural economy.

The debate over slavery’s expansion highlighted the broader divisions between the Northern and Southern states over the economic, social, and political implications of slavery. This issue dominated the election campaign, revealing the deep-seated sectional tensions that would ultimately lead to the secession of Southern states and the outbreak of the Civil War.

How did the election of 1860 lead to the Civil War?

Here’s how the election contributed to the path leading to the Civil War:

  • Slavery and Sectionalism: The primary issue of contention in the election was the expansion of slavery into new territories. The Northern states generally opposed the spread of slavery, while the Southern states were determined to protect and expand it. The stark divide over this issue highlighted the broader sectionalism between the North and the South.
  • Republican Party and Abraham Lincoln: The emergence of the Republican Party as a major political force alarmed the Southern states. The party’s platform opposed the expansion of slavery into the western territories. When Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln won the presidency without carrying any Southern states, it was seen as an indication that the Southern states were losing influence in the federal government.
  • Southern Fear of Abolition and Loss of Power: Many Southern states believed that a Republican president, like Lincoln, would undermine their way of life by attempting to limit the expansion of slavery and potentially working toward its eventual abolition. The election of Lincoln confirmed their fears and led them to perceive secession as a way to protect their interests and maintain their social and economic structure.
  • Secession and Formation of the Confederacy: In response to Lincoln’s election, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union in December 1860. This move was followed by six other Southern states. These states formed the Confederate States of America, asserting their independence and sovereignty separate from the Union.
  • Failure of Compromises: In the years leading up to the election, there had been various attempts at compromise to address the issue of slavery and sectional tensions. However, these compromises were unsuccessful in calming the growing divide. The election of a president with anti-slavery views, in the eyes of many Southerners, demonstrated that their concerns could not be resolved within the existing political framework.
  • Conflicting Visions of the Nation: The election crystallized the differing visions of the nation held by the North and the South. The North increasingly saw slavery as incompatible with the nation’s founding principles, while the South defended its right to maintain its economic system and way of life.
  • Secession and Conflict: The secession of Southern states and the formation of the Confederacy led to a direct challenge to the authority of the federal government and the unity of the United States. The conflict that ensued, known as the Civil War, began in April 1861 when Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina, marking the official start of hostilities.

In summary, the election of 1860 heightened existing tensions over the issue of slavery, the role of the federal government, and the balance of power between the North and the South. The election of Abraham Lincoln and the subsequent secession of Southern states directly contributed to the outbreak of the American Civil War, as the nation’s divisions could no longer be contained within the political framework of the time.


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