Election of 1860

Slavery was a prominent issue in the 1850’s, dividing the United States, with the northern abolitionists against slavery and the Southerners for it. They fought for each state being entered into the union to allow slavery in the territory. Lincoln, from Illinois, ran in the Republican Party, whose platform stated that slavery would not spread any farther than it already had. They also promised that tariffs that protected industry would be imposed and they supported a law granting free homesteads in the west to settlers. Since he stated that the Federal government did not have the power to abolish slave labor, he would enforce Fugitive Slave Laws.

His opponents were John Cabell Breckinridge, a southern democrat from Kentucky, John C. Bell, from Tennessee and part of the Constitutional Union, and Stephen Arnold Douglas from Illinois and a northern Democrat.

The division between the North and South is evident during the election. Abraham Lincoln received no votes in nine states in the South and was not even added to the ballot in some states. In 996 counties in the entire South, Lincoln won 2 of them. His opponents, Breckinridge and Bell, had a similar outcome in the north, not receiving votes in three states. Douglas was the only candidate who won votes in every state, except for South Carolina, which did not hold a popular vote. Lincoln captured less that 40% of the popular vote but the sectional divisions in the U.S. allowed him to win 17 states and 4 electoral votes in New Jersey. Even though Lincoln did not win the popular vote, he won the election with a total of 180 electoral votes.

Lincoln’s victory prompted South Carolina to secede from the United States. They had been on the verge to secede and the outcome of the election was their last sting. When hearing the results, 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." This became the beginning of the Civil War.


John Cabell Breckinridge
Electoral votes 72
Popular vote 18.1%

John C. Bell
Electoral votes 39
Popular vote 12.6%

Stephen Arnold Douglas
Electoral votes 12
Popular vote 29.5%

Abraham Lincoln
Electoral votes 180
Popular vote 39.8%