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The Election of 1860 Next
Digital History ID 3053


In April 1860, the Democratic Party assembled in Charleston, South Carolina to select a presidential nominee. Southern delegates insisted that the party endorse a federal code to guarantee the rights of slaveholders in the territories. When the convention rejected the proposal, delegates from the deep South walked out. The remaining delegates reassembled six weeks later in Baltimore and selected Stephen Douglas as their candidate. Southern Democrats proceeded to choose John C. Breckinridge as their presidential nominee.

In May, the Constitutional Union Party, which consisted of conservative former Whigs, Know Nothings, and pro-Union Democrats nominated John Bell of Tennessee for President. This short-lived party denounced sectionalism and tried to rally support around a platform that supported the Constitution and the Union. Meanwhile, the Republican Party nominated Abraham Lincoln on the third ballot.

The 1860 election revealed how divided the country had become. There were actually two separate sectional campaigns: one in the North, pitting Lincoln against Douglas, and one in the South between Breckinridge and Bell. Only Stephen Douglas mounted a truly national campaign. The Republicans did not campaign in the South and Lincoln's name did not appear on the ballot in 10 states.

In the final balloting, Lincoln won only 39.9 percent of the popular vote, but received 180 Electoral College votes, 57 more than the combined total of his opponents.



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