U.S. presidential election, 1860

Missing image
Presidential electoral votes by state.

The U.S. presidential election of 1860 is widely considered to be a realigning election.

The United States had been divided through most of the 1850's on the issue of slavery, with Northern abolitionists arguing that slavery should end, and Northerners and Southerners fighting for each new state admitted to the Union (see:Bleeding Kansas), and disputes over whether to allow slavery in the territories.

The election of Abraham Lincoln made South Carolina's secession from the United States a foregone conclusion. The state was long waiting for an excuse to secede and unite the southern states against the anti-slavery forces. Upon confirming that the results were final, South Carolina declared "that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states under the name of the 'United States of America' is hereby dissolved." The march to the American Civil War was on.



Republican Party nomination

Going into the 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago, William H. Seward of New York, Salmon P. Chase of Ohio and Pennsylvania's Simon Cameron were considered the leading contenders for the presidential nomination. However, each of these candidates had offended numerous delegates in one way or another - such as by joining or forming other parties to run against Whigs, who now composed a significant portion of the party. Having few opponents in the party, Abraham Lincoln received the party's nomination on the third ballot, May 16, 1860. Maine's Hannibal Hamlin was chosen as the Vice Presidential nominee.

The party platform clearly stated that slavery would not be allowed to spread any farther, and also promised that tariffs protecting industry would be imposed. A law granting free homesteads in the west to settlers was also part of the platform.

Constitutional Union Party nomination

Diehard former Whigs and Know-Nothings who felt they could not support the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party formed the Constitutional Union Party, nominating John C. Bell of Tennessee for president and Edward Everett for vice president in Baltimore on May 9, 1865 (one week before Lincoln was nominated).

John Bell was a former Whig and large slaveholder who had opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Lecompton constitution. Edward Everett had been president of Harvard University and a former secretary of state and Cotton Whig in the Fillmore administration. The party platform advocated compromise to save the Union, with a slogan of "the Union as it is, and the Constitution as it is."

Democratic Party nominations

The Democratic Party was similarly divided. At the convention in Charleston in April 1860, 50 southern Democrats walked out over a platform dispute.

Six candidates were nominated: Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, Daniel S. Dickinson of New York, Joseph Lane of Oregon, James Guthrie of Kentucky, and Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter of Virginia. Douglas was ahead on the first ballot, needing 57 more votes. On the 57th ballot, Douglas was still ahead, but was still 50 votes short of the nomination. In desperation, on May 3 the delegates agreed to stop voting and adjourn the convention.

They convened again in Baltimore on June 18. This time 110 southern Democrats (led by "fire-eaters") walked out when the convention would not adopt a resolution supporting slavery in the territories. After many ballots, the remaining Democrats nominated the ticket of Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and Herschel Vespasian Johnson of Georgia.

The Southern Democrats reconvened in Richmond, Virginia and on June 28 nominated incumbent Vice President John Cabell Breckinridge of Kentucky for President, and Joseph Lane of Oregon for Vice President.

This divide was, of course, caused by the issue of slavery. Those in the South nominated a solidly pro-slavery candidate, while those in the North nominated a candidate who maintained a middle field when discussing slavery.

General election


Two Illinois politicians, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas competed extensively in the north, while incumbent Vice President John Breckinridge and John Bell were rivals throughout the southern states. Fusion tickets of non-Republicans developed in New York and Rhode Island, and partially in New Jersey and Pennsylvania (the northern state in which Breckinridge made the best showing).

Stephen Douglas became the first presidential candidate in history to undertake a nationwide speaking tour. He traveled to the South where he did not expect to win many electoral votes, but he spoke for the maintenance of the Union.


The election was noteworthy for the exaggerated sectionalism of the vote, with Lincoln not even on the ballot in nine Southern states - and winning only 2 of 996 counties in the entire South[1] (http://elections.harpweek.com/1860/Overview-1860-2.htm#results).

This election is a textbook example of how to get an electoral majority without a popular majority. While Lincoln captured less than 40% of the popular vote, the sectional divisions of the nation allowed him to capture 17 states plus 4 electoral votes in New Jersey for a total of 180 electoral votes. Although the three-way split of the non-Republican vote confuses the issue, the vote split was irrelevant to Lincoln's victory, because he would have won an outright majority in the electoral vote, 169-134, even had the 60% of voters who supported other candidates united behind a single candidate. Except for California, Oregon, and New Jersey, Lincoln won a popular majority in every state that cast its electoral votes for him.[2] (http://www.etymonline.com/cw/1860.htm) Only in California, Oregon, and Illinois had Lincoln's victory margin been less than 7%.

Meanwhile, Douglas finished second in the popular vote, but due to the north-south split garnered only Missouri's 9 electoral votes and three of seven electoral votes in New Jersey, good for fourth place. Bell won Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia's electors, while Breckinridge won every other slave state except Missouri.

The voter turnout rate in 1860 was the second-highest on record (81.2 %, second only to 1876, with 81.8 %). The Fusion ticket of non-Republicans drew 595,846 votes[3] (http://valley.vcdh.virginia.edu/outlines/election.html).

Template:Start U.S. presidential ticket box Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:End U.S. presidential ticket box (a) The popular vote figures exclude South Carolina where the Electors were chosen by the state legislature rather than by popular vote.
(b) Template:U.S. popular vote total disclaimer

Results by state

Abraham Lincoln

Stephen Douglas

(Northern) Democrat
John Breckinridge

Southern Democrat
John Bell

Constitutional Union
State Total
State electoral
# % electoral
# % electoral
# % electoral
# % electoral
Alabama9 not on ballot13,61815.1-48,66954.0927,83530.9-90,122 AL
Arkansas4 not on ballot5,3579.9-28,73253.1420,06337.0-54,152 AR
California4 38,73332.3437,99931.7-33,96928.4-9,1117.6-119,812 CA
Connecticut6 43,48858.1615,43120.6-14,37219.2-1,5282.0-74,819 CT
Delaware3 3,82223.7-1,0666.6-7,33945.533,88824.1-16,115 DE
Florida3 not on ballot2231.7-8,27762.234,80136.1-13,301 FL
Georgia10 not on ballot11,58110.9-52,17648.91042,96040.3-106,717 GA
Illinois11 172,17150.711160,21547.2-2,3310.7-4,9141.4-339,631 IL
Indiana13 139,03351.113115,50942.4-12,2954.5-5,3061.9-272,143 IN
Iowa4 70,30254.6455,63943.2-1,0350.8-1,7631.4-128,739 IA
Kentucky12 1,3640.9-25,65117.5-53,14336.3-66,05845.212146,216 KY
Louisiana6 not on ballot7,62515.1-22,68144.9620,20440.0-50,510 LA
Maine8 62,81162.2829,69329.4-6,3686.3-2,0462.0-100,918 ME
Maryland8 2,2942.5-5,9666.4-42,48245.9841,76045.1-92,502 MD
Massachusetts13 106,68462.91334,37020.3-6,1633.6-22,33113.2-169,548 MA
Michigan6 88,48157.2665,05742.0-8050.5-4150.3-154,758 MI
Minnesota4 22,06963.4411,92034.3-7482.2-500.1-34,787 MN
Mississippi7 not on ballot3,2824.7-40,76859.0725,04536.2-69,095 MS
Missouri9 17,02810.3-58,80135.5931,36218.9-58,37235.3-165,563 MO
New Hampshire5 37,51956.9525,88739.3-2,1253.2-4120.6-65,943 NH
New Jersey7 58,34648.1462,86951.93 partial fusion ticket with Douglas121,215 NJ
New York35 362,64653.735312,51046.3- fusion ticket with Douglas675,156 NY
North Carolina10 not on ballot2,7372.8-48,84650.51045,12946.7-96,712 NC
Ohio23 231,70952.323187,42142.3-11,4062.6-12,1942.8-442,730 OH
Oregon3 5,32936.134,13628.0-5,07534.4-2181.5-14,758 OR
Pennsylvania27 268,03056.32716,7653.5-178,87137.5-12,7762.7-476,442 PA
Rhode Island4 12,24461.447,70738.6- fusion ticket with Douglas19,951 RI
South Carolina8 - - 8 -- SC
Tennessee12 not on ballot11,2817.7-65,09744.6-69,72847.712146,106 TN
Texas4 not on ballot180.0-47,45475.5415,38324.5-62,855 TX
Vermont5 33,80875.758,64919.4-2180.5-1,9694.4-44,644 VT
Virginia15 1,8871.1-16,1989.7-74,32544.5-74,48144.615166,891 VA
Wisconsin5 86,11056.6565,02142.7-8870.6-1610.1-152,179 WI
TOTALS:303 1,865,90839.8180 1,380,20229.512 848,01918.172 590,90112.639 4,685,030

TO WIN:152

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