The Election of 1860 and Secession MAIN IDEA: The Election of 1860 was the final event leading to the Secession of Southern States. Vocabulary • Secession- withdrawal from the Union • States’ Rights- the belief that states’ rights supersede federal rights and law. The Election of 1860 • Tensions between the North and South had risen to dangerous levels. • In the North antislavery sentiment took on new strength. • In the South the Alabama legislature declared that the state would secede if a Republican became President. The Candidates • The Democrats met in Charleston, South Carolina, in April 1860 to choose their presidential candidate. • Many Democrats supported Stephen Douglas, but Southern delegates insisted that the party promise to protect slavery in the territories. • When Douglas and most Northern delegates refused, many Southern delegates walked out. • The convention was over. • The Democrats met again in Baltimore in June. Northern and Southern factions still could not agree on the slavery issue. • When anti-Douglas Southerners walked out again, the party loyalists who remained chose Douglas and endorsed popular sovereignty. • Southern Democrats met in Richmond, Virginia, and Baltimore, Maryland. • They nominated John Breckinridge, the current vice president, as their candidate. • They adopted the position that neither Congress nor territorial legislatures could prevent citizens from taking “their property”-enslaved people- into a territory. • The Republicans met in Chicago in May to choose their candidate. • The leading contenders for the nomination were Senator William Seward and Abraham Lincoln. • Although Seward had been a long time leader, Lincoln was chosen as the candidate. • A fourth candidate entered the campaign. • John Bell of Tennessee was nominated by moderates from both the North and South who had formed the Constitutional Union Party. • This party took no position on slavery. • The campaign stirred political forces in both the South and North. • Many Southerners feared that a Republican victory would encourage radical abolitionists , inspired by John Brown, to start slave revolts. The Election Outcome • With the Democrats divided, Lincoln won a clear majority of the electoral votes, 180 out of 303. • He received only 40 percent of the popular vote, but this was more than any other candidate. • Douglas was second with 30 percent of the vote. • The vote was along purely sectional lines. • Lincoln’s name did not even appear on the ballot on most Southern states, but he won every Northern state. • Breckinridge swept the South and Bell took most border states. • Douglas won only the state of Missouri. • In effect the more populous North had outvoted the South. • The victory for Lincoln was a short lived one, however, for the nation Lincoln was to lead was soon disintegrate. The South Secedes • Lincoln and the Republicans had promised not to disturb slavery where it already existed. • Many people in the South mistrusted the party, fearing that the Republicans would not protect Southern rights and liberties. • On December 20, 1860, the South’s long standing threat to leave the Union became a reality when South Carolina voted to secede. Attempt to Compromise • Even after South Carolina’s action, many people still wished to preserve the Union. • The question was How • As other Southern states debated secession, leaders in Washington D.C., worked frantically to fashion a last minute compromise. • Republicans considered this unacceptable • Leaders in the South also rejected compromise. They claimed that “No human can save the Union.” The Confederacy • By the first of February 1861, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia had joined South Carolina and also seceded. • Delegates from these states met in Alabama, on February 4 to form a new government. • Calling themselves the Confederate States of America, they chose Jefferson Davis as their president. • Southerners justified with the theory of States’ rights. • The states, they argued, had voluntarily chosen to enter the Union. • They defined the Constitution as a contract among the independent states. • Now because the national government violated that contract, by refusing to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act and denying the Southern states equal rights in the territories, the states were justified in leaving the Union. Reaction to Secession • Many Southerners welcomed secession. • They celebrated and said they would never submit and defend its liberties no matter what the cost. • Other Southerners were alarmed and fearful of the future. • In the North some abolitionists preferred allowing the Southern states to leave. • Abolitionists said that if the Union were to be kept together only by compromising on slavery, then let the Union be destroyed. • Most Northerners believed that the Union must be preserved. Presidential Responses • Lincoln had won the election, but he was not yet president. • James Buchanan’s term ran until March 4, 1861. • In December 1860, Buchanan sent a message to Congress saying that the Southern states had no right to secede. • Then he added that he had no power to stop them from doing so. • Lincoln disagreed. He believed it was the president’s duty to enforce the laws of the United States. • This meant preserving the Union. • As Lincoln prepared for his inauguration on March 4, 1861, people in the North and South wondered what he would say and do. • What would happen to Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas. These slave states had chosen to remain in the Union. • The decision of the slave states was not final. • If the US used force against the Confederate States of America, the remaining slave states might also secede. • In his Inaugural Address, Lincoln mixed toughness and words of peace. • He said that secession would not be permitted, vowing to hold federal property in the South and to enforce the laws of the US.
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