The Election of 1860
The Election of 1860 was the final event
leading to the Secession of Southern
• Secession- withdrawal from
• 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
• In the North antislavery sentiment
took on new strength.
• In the South the Alabama
legislature declared that the state
would secede if a Republican
• 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
• When anti-Douglas Southerners walked
out again, the party loyalists who
remained chose Douglas and endorsed
• Southern Democrats met in Richmond,
Virginia, and Baltimore, Maryland.
• They nominated John Breckinridge, the
current vice president, as their
• They adopted the position that neither
Congress nor territorial legislatures
could prevent citizens from taking
“their property”-enslaved people- into a
• 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
• A fourth candidate entered the
• 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 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
• 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
• Republicans considered this unacceptable
• Leaders in the South also rejected
compromise. They claimed that “No human
can save the Union.”
• 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
• Calling themselves the Confederate
States of America, they chose
Jefferson Davis as their president.
• Southerners justified with the theory of
• 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
• They celebrated and said they
would never submit and defend
its liberties no matter what the
• Other Southerners were
alarmed and fearful of the
• 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
• Most Northerners believed that
the Union must be preserved.
• Lincoln had won the election, but he
was not yet president.
• James Buchanan’s term ran until March
• 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
• The decision of the slave states was
• If the US used force against the
Confederate States of America, the
remaining slave states might also
• 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.