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Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was the 16th President of the United States. He successfully led the country through its greatest internal crisis, the American Civil War, preserving the Union and ending slavery. Before his election in 1860 as the first Republican president, Lincoln had been a country lawyer, an Illinois state legislator, a member of the United States House of Representatives, and twice an unsuccessful candidate for election to the U.S. Senate. As an outspoken opponent of the expansion of slavery in the United States, Lincoln won the Republican Party nomination in 1860 and was elected president later that year. His tenure in office was occupied primarily with the defeat of the secessionist Confederate States of America in the American Civil War. He introduced measures that resulted in the abolition of slavery, issuing his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and promoting the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. As the civil war was drawing to a close, Lincoln became the first American president to be assassinated.
Lincoln closely supervised the victorious war effort, especially the selection of top generals, including Ulysses S. Grant. Historians have concluded that he handled the factions of the Republican Party well, bringing leaders of each faction into his cabinet and forcing them to cooperate. Lincoln successfully defused the Trent affair, a war scare with Britain, in 1861. Under his leadership, the Union took control of the border slave states at the start of the war. Additionally, he managed his own reelection in the 1864 presidential election.
Copperheads and other opponents of the war criticized Lincoln for refusing to compromise on the slavery issue. Conversely, the Radical Republicans, an abolitionist faction of the Republican Party, criticized him for moving too slowly in abolishing slavery. Even with these road blocks, Lincoln successfully rallied public opinion through his rhetoric and speeches; his Gettysburg Address is but one example of this. At the close of the war, Lincoln held a moderate view of Reconstruction, seeking to speedily reunite the nation through a policy of generous reconciliation. His successor in the White House, Andrew Johnson, also wanted reconciliation among white Americans, but failed to protect the rights of newly freed slaves. Abraham Lincoln has consistently been ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.
1860 United States Presidential Election The United States presidential election of 1860 set the stage for the American Civil War. The nation had been divided throughout most of the 1850s on questions of states' rights and slavery in the territories. In 1860 this issue finally came to a head, fracturing the formerly dominant Democratic Party into Southern and Northern factions and bringing Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party to power without the support of a single Southern state. Hardly more than a month following Lincoln's victory came declarations of secession by South Carolina and other states, which were rejected as illegal by the then-current President, James Buchanan and President-elect Abraham Lincoln. The origins of the American Civil War lay in the complex issues of slavery, competing understandings of federalism, party politics, expansionism, sectionalism, tariffs, and economics. After the Mexican-American War, the issue of slavery in the new territories led to the Compromise of 1850. While the compromise averted an immediate political crisis, it did not permanently resolve the issue of The Slave Power (the power of slaveholders to control the national government). Amid the emergence of increasingly virulent and hostile sectional ideologies in national politics, the collapse of the old Second Party System in the 1850s hampered efforts of the politicians to reach yet another compromise. The result was the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which alienated Northerners and Southerners alike. With the rise of the Republican Party, the first truly sectional major party, the industrializing North and agrarian Midwest became committed to the economic ethos of free-labor industrial capitalism.
Republican Party nomination
Abraham Lincoln, former U.S. representative from Illinois William H. Seward, U.S. senator from New York Simon Cameron, U.S. senator from Pennsylvania Salmon P. Chase, former U.S. senator and governor from Ohio Edward Bates, former U.S. representative from Missouri
The Republican National Convention met in mid-May, after the Democrats had been forced to adjourn their convention in Charleston. With the Democrats in disarray and with a sweep of the Northern states possible, the Republicans were confident going into their convention in Chicago. William H. Seward of New York was considered the front runner, followed by Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, and Missouri's Edward Bates. As the convention developed, however, it was revealed that Seward, Chase, and Bates had each alienated factions of the Republican Party. Delegates were concerned that Seward was too closely identified with the radical wing of the party, and his moves toward the center had alienated the radicals. Chase, a former Democrat, had alienated many of the former Whigs by his coalition with the Democrats in the late 1840s, had opposed tariffs demanded by Pennsylvania, and critically, had opposition from his own delegation from Ohio. Bates outlined his positions on extension of slavery into the territories and equal constitutional rights for all citizens, positions that alienated his supporters in the border states and southern conservatives. German Americans in the party opposed Bates because of his past association with the Know Nothings. Since it was essential to carry the West, and because Lincoln had a national reputation from his debates and speeches as the most articulate moderate, he won the party's nomination on the third ballot on May 18, 1860. Senator Hannibal Hamlin of Maine was nominated for vice president, defeating Cassius Clay of Kentucky. The party platform clearly stated that slavery would not be allowed to spread any further, and it also promised that tariffs protecting industry would be imposed, a Homestead Act granting free farmland in the West to settlers, and the funding of a transcontinental railroad. All of these provisions were highly unpopular in the South.
Northern Democratic Party nomination
Northern Democratic candidates:
Stephen A. Douglas, U.S. senator from Illinois James Guthrie, former U.S. Treasury Secretary from Kentucky Robert M. T. Hunter, U.S. senator from Virginia Joseph Lane, U.S. senator from Oregon Daniel S. Dickinson, former U.S. senator from New York Andrew Johnson, U.S. senator from Tennessee
The Democratic Party was divided over the issue of slavery. At the convention in Charleston in April 1860, 51 Southern Democrats walked out over a platform dispute, led by William Lowndes Yancey. Yancey and the Alabama delegation left the hall and they were followed by the delegates of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, three of the four delegates from Arkansas, and one of the three delegates from Delaware.
Six candidates were nominated: Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, James Guthrie of Kentucky, Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter of Virginia, Joseph Lane of Oregon, Daniel S. Dickinson of New York, and Andrew Johnson of Tennessee. Douglas, a moderate on the slavery issue who favored "popular sovereignty", was ahead on the first ballot, needing 56.5 more votes. On the 57th ballot, Douglas was still ahead, but still 50.5 votes short of nomination. In desperation, on May 3 the delegates agreed to stop voting and adjourn the convention.
The Democrats convened again at the Front Street Theater in Baltimore, Maryland on June 18. This time 110 southern delegates (led by “Fire-Eaters”) walked out when the convention would not adopt a resolution supporting extending slavery into territories whose voters did not want it. After two ballots, the remaining Democrats nominated the ticket of Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois for President. Benjamin Fitzpatrick was nominated for vice president, but he refused the nomination. The nomination ultimately went to Herschel Vespasian Johnson of Georgia.
Southern Democratic Party nomination Southern Democratic candidates:
John C. Breckinridge, U.S. Vice President from Kentucky Daniel S. Dickinson, former U.S. senator from New York
The Southern Democrats, led by Yancey, reconvened in Richmond, Virginia, and on June 28 nominated the pro-slavery incumbent Vice President, John Cabell Breckinridge of Kentucky, for President, and Joseph Lane of Oregon for Vice President at the Maryland Institute, in Baltimore.
Constitutional Union Party nomination Constitutional Union candidates:
John Bell, former U.S. senator from Tennessee Sam Houston, governor of Texas John J. Crittenden, U.S. senator from Kentucky Edward Everett, former U.S. senator from Massachusetts William A. Graham, former U.S. senator from North Carolina John McLean, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice from Ohio
Die-hard former Whigs and Know Nothings who felt they could support neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party formed the Constitutional Union Party, nominating John Bell of Tennessee for president over Governor Sam Houston of Texas on the second ballot. Edward Everett was nominated for vice president at the convention in Baltimore on May 9, 1860 (one week before Lincoln was nominated).
John Bell was a former Whig who had opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Lecompton Constitution. Edward Everett had been president of Harvard University and Secretary of State in the Fillmore administration. The party platform advocated compromise to save the Union, with the slogan "the Union as it is, and the Constitution as it is."
Campaign The contest in the North was between Lincoln and Douglas, but only the latter took to the stump and gave speeches and interviews. In the South, John C. Breckinridge and John Bell were the main rivals, but Douglas had an important presence in southern cities, especially among Irish Americans. Fusion tickets of the non-Republicans developed in New York and Rhode Island, and partially in New Jersey and Pennsylvania (the northern state in which Breckenridge made the best showing). Stephen A. Douglas was the first presidential candidate in American history to undertake a nationwide speaking tour; prior to his campaign, "people saw candidates in the flesh less often than they saw a perfect rainbow". 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 dispute over the Dred Scott case had helped the Republicans easily dominate the Northern states' congressional delegations, allowing that party, although a newcomer on the political scene, easily to spread its popular influence. Throughout the general election, Lincoln did not campaign or give speeches., This was handled by the state and county Republican organizations, who used the latest techniques to sustain party enthusiasm and thus obtain high turnout. There was little effort to convert non-Republicans, and there was virtually no campaigning in the South except for a few border cities such as St. Louis, Missouri, and Wheeling, Virginia; indeed, the party did not even run a slate in most of the South. In the North, there were thousands of Republican speakers, tons of campaign posters and leaflets, and thousands of newspaper editorials. These focused first on the party platform, and second on Lincoln's life story, making the most of his boyhood poverty, his pioneer background, his native genius, and his rise from obscurity. His nicknames, "Honest Abe" and "the Rail-Splitter," were exploited to the full. The goal was to emphasize the superior power of "free labor," whereby a common farm boy could work his way to the top by his own efforts. The 1860 campaign was less frenzied than 1856, when the Republicans had crusaded zealously, and their opponents counter-crusaded with warnings of civil war. In 1860 every observer calculated the Republicans had an almost unbeatable advantage in the Electoral College, since they dominated almost every northern state. Republicans felt victory at hand, and used para-military campaign organizations like the Wide Awakes to rally their supporters (see American election campaigns in the 19th century for campaign techniques).
Results The election was held on November 6. It was noteworthy for the exaggerated sectionalism of the vote in a country that was soon to dissolve into civil war. Of the eleven states that would later declare their secession from the Union, Lincoln was on the ballot only in Virginia, getting just 1.1 percent of the popular vote there. In the four slave states which did not secede after the election (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware), he came in fourth in every state except Delaware (where he finished third), winning only two counties of 996, both in the border state of Missouri. (In the 1856 election, the Republican candidate for president had received no votes in 13 of the 15 slave states). Contrary to popular myth, the split in the Democratic Party was not a decisive factor in Lincoln's victory. Lincoln captured less than 40% of the popular vote, but almost all of his votes were concentrated in the free states, and he won every free state except for New Jersey. He won outright majorities in enough of the free states to have won the Presidency by an Electoral College vote of 169-134 even if the 60% of voters who opposed him nationally had united behind a single candidate. The fractured Democratic vote did tip California, Oregon, and four New Jersey electoral votes to Lincoln, giving him 180 Electoral College votes. Only in California, Oregon, and Illinois was Lincoln's victory margin less than seven percent. Breckinridge, who was the sitting Vice-President of the United States and the only candidate to later support secession, won 11 of 15 slave states. He carried the border slave states of Delaware and Maryland, and nine of the eleven states that later formed the Confederacy, missing Virginia and Tennessee. However, Breckinridge received very little support in the free states, showing strength only in California, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Bell carried three slave states (Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia), finished second in the other slave states, and got tiny shares of the vote in the free states. Douglas had the most geographically widespread support, with 5-15% of the vote in most of the slave states and higher percentages in most of the free states where he was the main opposition to Lincoln. With his votes thus scattered around the country, Douglas finished second in the popular vote with 29.5% but last in the Electoral College, winning only Missouri and New Jersey. 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. Had 25,069 New Yorkers voted for Douglas instead of Lincoln, Lincoln would have failed to achieve a majority in the Electoral College; without New York's 35 electoral votes, he would have received only 145 votes, seven short of the required 152. The vote would have then gone to the United States House of Representatives, and some historians have speculated that the Southern-controlled House of Representatives would have cast their vote for the Southern Democratic nomination, John C. Breckinridge, under the urging of William Yancey.
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Postcard Abraham Lincoln For President From 1860 Presidential Campaign Banner: $4