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U.S. presidential election, 1860

Presidential CandidateElectoral Vote Popular Vote Pct Party Running Mate
(Electoral Votes)
Abraham Lincoln of Illinois (W) 180 1,866,452 Republican Hannibal Hamlin of Maine (180)
John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky 72 847,953 Democrat (southern states) Joseph Lane of Oregon (72)
John Bell of Tennessee 39 Constitutional Union (Whig) Edward Everett of Massachusetts (39)
Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois 12 Democrat (northern states) Herschel V. Johnson of Georgia (12)
Total 100.0%
Other elections: 1848, 1852, 1856, 1860, 1864, 1868, 1872
Source: U.S. Office of the Federal Register

Republican Nomination

At the 1860 Republican convention in Chicago, William H. Seward of New York, Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, and Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania were the leading contenders for the party's presidential nomination. However, Lincoln, through the political astuteness of his managers and his own shrewd politicking, received the nomination on May 16, 1860. Hannibal Hamlin of Maine was selected as his running mate.

Party leaders declared that slavery could spread no farther. The party also promised a tariff for the protection of industry and pledged the enactment of a law granting free homesteads to settlers who would help in the opening of the West.

Democratic Nomination

The Democrats were not united. Southerners split from the party and nominated Vice President John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky for president. Stephen A. Douglas was the nominee of northern Democrats. Diehard Whigs from the border states, formed into the Constitutional Union Party, nominated John C. Bell of Tennessee.

General Election

Lincoln and Douglas competed in the North, and Breckenridge and Bell in the South. Lincoln won only 39 percent of the popular vote, but had a clear majority of 180 electoral votes, carrying all 18 free states. Bell won Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia; Breckenridge took the other slave states except for Missouri, which was won by Douglas. Despite his poor electoral showing, Douglas trailed only Lincoln in the popular vote.

Lincoln's election made South Carolina's secession from the Union a foregone conclusion. The state had long been waiting for an event that would unite the South against the antislavery forces. Once the election returns were certain, a special South Carolina convention declared "that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states under the name of the "United States of America' is hereby dissolved." By February 1, 1861, six more Southern states had seceded. On February 7, the seven states adopted a provisional constitution for the Confederate States of America. The remaining southern states as yet remained in the Union.

Less than a month later, on March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as president of the United States. In his inaugural address, he refused to recognize the secession, considering it "legally void." His speech closed with a plea for restoration of the bonds of union. But the South turned deaf ears, and on April 12, guns opened fire on the federal troops stationed at Fort Sumter in the Charleston, South Carolina harbor. The United States Civil War had begun. More Americans would die in this conflict than in any other conflict before or since.

Portions copied from the following sources: U.S. Department of State infoUSA site, U.S. National Parks Service site

See also: President of the United States, U.S. presidential election, 1860, History of the United States (1776-1865)

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