1860 United States presidential election

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1860 United States presidential election

← 1856 November 6, 1860 1864 →

All 303 electoral votes of the Electoral College
152 electoral votes needed to win
Turnout 81.2%[1] Increase 2.3 pp
  x200px John C Breckinridge-04775-restored.jpg
Nominee Abraham Lincoln John C. Breckinridge
Party Republican Southern Democratic
Home state Illinois Kentucky
Running mate Hannibal Hamlin Joseph Lane
Electoral vote 180 72
States carried 18 11
Popular vote 1,865,908 848,019
Percentage 39.8% 18.1%

  x200px x200px
Nominee John Bell Stephen A. Douglas
Party Constitutional Union Northern Democratic
Home state Tennessee Illinois
Running mate Edward Everett Herschel V. Johnson
Electoral vote 39 12
States carried 3 1
Popular vote 590,901 1,380,202
Percentage 12.6% 29.5%

Template:United States presidential election, 1860 imagemap
Presidential Election 1860. Red shows states won by Lincoln/Hamlin, green by Breckinridge/Lane, orange by Bell/Everett, and blue by Douglas/Johnson
Numbers are Electoral College votes in each state by the 1850 Census.

President before election

James Buchanan

Elected President

Abraham Lincoln

In the 1860 United States presidential election was the 19th quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 6, 1860. In a four-way contest, the Republican Party ticket of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin emerged triumphant. The election of Lincoln served as the primary catalyst of the American Civil War.

The United States had become increasingly divided during the 1850s over sectional disagreements, especially regarding the extension of slavery into the territories. Incumbent President James Buchanan, like his predecessor Franklin Pierce, was a northern Democrat with sympathies for the South. During the mid-to-late 1850s, the anti-slavery Republican Party became a major political force in the wake of the Kansas–Nebraska Act and the Supreme Court's decision in the 1857 case of Dred Scott v. Sandford. By 1860, the Republican Party had replaced the defunct Whig Party as the major opposition to the Democrats. A group of former Whigs and Know Nothings formed the Constitutional Union Party, which sought to avoid secession by pushing aside the issue of slavery.

The 1860 Republican National Convention nominated Lincoln, a moderate former Congressman from Illinois, as its standard-bearer. The Republican Party platform promised not to interfere with slavery in the states, but opposed the further extension of slavery into the territories. The first 1860 Democratic National Convention adjourned without agreeing on a nominee, but a second convention nominated Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois for president. Douglas's support for the concept of popular sovereignty, which called for each individual territory to decide on the status of slavery, alienated many Southern Democrats. The Southern Democrats, with the support of President Buchanan, held their own convention and nominated Vice President John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky for president. The 1860 Constitutional Union Convention nominated a ticket led by former Senator John Bell of Tennessee.

Despite minimal support in the South, Lincoln won a plurality of the popular vote and a majority of the electoral vote. The divisions among the Republicans' opponents were not in themselves decisive in ensuring the Republican capture of the White House, as Lincoln received absolute majorities in states that combined for a majority of the electoral votes. Lincoln's main opponent in the North was Douglas, who finished second in several states but only won the slave state of Missouri and three electors from the free state of New Jersey. Bell won three Southern states, while Breckinridge swept the remainder of the South. The election of Lincoln led to the secession of several states in the South, and the Civil War soon began, with the Battle of Fort Sumter. The election was the first of six consecutive victories for the Republican Party.


The 1860 presidential election conventions were unusually tumultuous, due in particular to a split in the Democratic Party that led to rival conventions.

Democratic (Northern Democratic) Party nomination

Democratic Party Ticket, 1860
Stephen A. Douglas Herschel V. Johnson
for President for Vice President
U.S. Senator from Illinois
Governor of Georgia

Northern Democratic candidates:

  • Stephen Douglas, senator from Illinois
  • James Guthrie, former treasury secretary from Kentucky
  • Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter, senator from Virginia
  • Joseph Lane, senator from Oregon
  • Daniel S. Dickinson, former senator from New York
  • Andrew Johnson, senator from Tennessee

Democratic Party candidates gallery

File:St Andrew's Hall, Charleston.jpg
The South Carolina Institute located in Charleston. The Institute hosted the Democratic National Convention and December Secession Convention in 1860.[2]

At the Democratic National Convention held in Institute Hall in Charleston, South Carolina, in April 1860, 51 Southern Democrats walked out over a platform dispute. The extreme pro-slavery "Fire-Eater" William Lowndes Yancey and the Alabama delegation first left the hall, followed by the delegates of 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 from Illinois, James Guthrie from Kentucky, Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter from Virginia, Joseph Lane from Oregon, Daniel S. Dickinson from New York, and Andrew Johnson from Tennessee. Three other candidates, Isaac Toucey from Connecticut, James Pearce from Maryland, and Jefferson Davis from Mississippi (the future president of the Confederate States) also received votes.

Douglas/Johnson campaign poster

Douglas, a moderate on the slavery issue who favored "popular sovereignty", was ahead on the first ballot, but needed 56.5 more votes to secure the nomination. On the 57th ballot, Douglas was still ahead, but 51.5 votes short of the nomination. In desperation, the delegates agreed on May 3 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. Some considered Horatio Seymour a compromise candidate for the National Democratic nomination at the reconvening convention in Baltimore. Seymour wrote a letter to the editor of his local newspaper declaring unreservedly that he was not a candidate for either spot on the ticket. After two ballots, the remaining Democrats nominated Stephen A. Douglas from Illinois for president.

Benjamin Fitzpatrick from Alabama was nominated for vice president, but he refused the nomination. That nomination ultimately went instead to Herschel Vespasian Johnson from Georgia.

Southern Democratic Party nomination

Southern Democratic Party Ticket, 1860
John C. Breckinridge Joseph Lane
for President for Vice President
John C Breckinridge-04775-restored.jpg
Vice President of the United States
U.S. Senator from Oregon

Southern Democratic candidates:

  • John C. Breckinridge, Vice President of the United States
  • Daniel S. Dickinson, former senator from New York
  • Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter, senator from Virginia
  • Joseph Lane, senator from Oregon
  • Jefferson Davis, senator from Mississippi

Southern Democratic Party candidates gallery

Maryland Institute Hall, Baltimore. Here bolting delegates nominated Breckinridge before Richmond vote[3]

The Charleston bolters reconvened in Richmond, Virginia on June 11. When the Democrats reconvened in Baltimore, they rejoined (except South Carolina and Florida, who stayed in Richmond).

When the convention seated two replacement delegations on June 18, they bolted again, now accompanied by nearly all other Southern delegates, as well as erstwhile Convention chair Caleb Cushing, a New Englander and former member of Franklin Pierce's cabinet. This larger group met immediately in Baltimore's Institute Hall, with Cushing again presiding. They adopted the pro-slavery platform rejected at Charleston, and nominated Vice President John C. Breckinridge for president, and Senator Joseph Lane from Oregon for vice president.[4]

Yancey and some (less than half) of the bolters, almost entirely from the Lower South, met on June 28 in Richmond, along with the South Carolina and Florida delegations. This convention affirmed the nominations of Breckinridge and Lane.[3]

Besides the Democratic Parties in the southern states, the Breckinridge/Lane ticket was also supported by the Buchanan administration. Buchanan's own continued prestige in his home state of Pennsylvania ensured that Breckinridge would be the principal Democratic candidate in that populous state. Breckinridge was the last sitting vice president nominated for president until Richard Nixon in 1960.

Republican Party nomination

Republican Party Ticket, 1860
Abraham Lincoln Hannibal Hamlin
for President for Vice President
Hannibal Hamlin, photo portrait seated, c1860-65-retouched-crop.jpg
Former U.S. Representative
for Illinois's 7th
U.S. Senator from Maine
(1848–1857 & 1857–1861)

Republican candidates:

  • Abraham Lincoln, former representative from Illinois
  • William Seward, senator from New York
  • Simon Cameron, senator from Pennsylvania
  • Salmon P. Chase, governor of Ohio
  • Edward Bates, former representative from Missouri
  • John McLean, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
  • Benjamin Wade, senator from Ohio
  • William L. Dayton, former senator from New Jersey

Republican Party candidates gallery

File:Chicago Wigwam.png
Chicago Wigwam, Republican Convention

The Republican National Convention met in mid-May 1860, after the Democrats had been forced to adjourn their convention in Charleston. With the Democrats in disarray and a sweep of the Northern states possible, the Republicans felt confident going into their convention in Chicago. William H. Seward from New York was considered the front-runner, followed by Abraham Lincoln from Illinois, Salmon P. Chase from 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. He had also opposed tariffs demanded by Pennsylvania, and—critically—had opposition from his own delegation from Ohio. Bates outlined his positions on the 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 for president on the third ballot on May 18, 1860. Senator Hannibal Hamlin from Maine was nominated for vice-president, defeating Cassius Clay from Kentucky.

The party platform[5] promised not to interfere with slavery in the states, but opposed slavery in the territories. The platform promised tariffs protecting industry and workers, a Homestead Act granting free farmland in the West to settlers, and the funding of a transcontinental railroad. There was no mention of Mormonism (which had been condemned in the Party's 1856 platform), the Fugitive Slave Act, personal liberty laws, or the Dred Scott decision.[6] While the Seward forces were disappointed at the nomination of a little-known western upstart, they rallied behind Lincoln. Abolitionists, however, were angry at the selection of a moderate and had little faith in Lincoln.[7][8]

Constitutional Union Party nomination

Constitutional Union Party Ticket, 1860
John Bell Edward Everett
for President for Vice President
Edward Everett.jpg
Former U.S. Senator from Tennessee
Former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
John Bell and Edward Everett, Constitutional Union Party.jpg

Constitutional Union candidates:

  • John Bell, former senator from Tennessee
  • Sam Houston, governor of Texas
  • John J. Crittenden, senator from Kentucky
  • Edward Everett, former senator from Massachusetts
  • William A. Graham, former senator from North Carolina
  • William C. Rives, former senator from Virginia
File:Bell Everett Campaign Poster 1860.jpg
A Constitutional Union campaign poster, 1860, portraying John Bell and Edward Everett, respectively the candidates for President and Vice-President. Once Lincoln was inaugurated and called up the militia, Bell supported the secession of Tennessee. In 1863, Everett dedicated the new cemetery at Gettysburg.

The Constitutional Union Party was formed by remnants of both the defunct Know Nothing and Whig Parties who were unwilling to join either the Republicans or the Democrats. The new party's members hoped to stave off Southern secession by avoiding the slavery issue.[9] They met in the Eastside District Courthouse of Baltimore and nominated John Bell from Tennessee for president over Governor Sam Houston of Texas on the second ballot. Edward Everett was nominated for vice-president at the convention on May 9, 1860, one week before Lincoln.[10][11]

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 Millard 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."[12]

Liberty (Union) Party nomination

Liberty (Union) candidates:

  • Gerrit Smith, former representative from New York

Liberty Party (Radical Abolitionists, Union) candidates gallery

By 1860, very little remained of the Liberty Party, after most of its membership left to join the Free Soil Party in 1848 and nearly all of what remained of it joined the Republicans in 1854. The remaining party was also called the Radical Abolitionists.[13][14] A convention of one hundred delegates was held in Convention Hall, Syracuse, New York, on August 29, 1860. Delegates were in attendance from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, and Massachusetts. Several of the delegates were women.

Gerrit Smith, a prominent abolitionist and the 1848 presidential nominee of the original Liberty Party, had sent a letter in which he stated that his health had been so poor that he had not been able to be away from home since 1858. Nonetheless, he remained popular in the party because he had helped inspire some of John Brown's supporters at the Raid on Harpers Ferry. In his letter, Smith donated $50 to pay for the printing of ballots in the various states.

There was quite a spirited contest between the friends of Gerrit Smith and William Goodell in regard to the nomination for the presidency. In spite of his professed ill health, Gerrit Smith was nominated for president and Samuel McFarland from Pennsylvania was nominated for vice president.[14]

In Ohio, a slate of presidential electors pledged to Smith ran with the name of the Union Party.[15]

People's Party nomination

The People's Party was a loose association of the supporters of Governor Samuel Houston. On April 20, 1860, the party held what it termed a national convention to nominate Houston for president on the San Jacinto Battlefield in Texas. Houston's supporters at the gathering did not nominate a vice-presidential candidate, since they expected later gatherings to carry out that function. Later mass meetings were held in northern cities, such as New York City on May 30, 1860, but they too failed to nominate a vice-presidential candidate. Houston, never enthusiastic about running for the Presidency, soon became convinced that he had no chance of winning and that his candidacy would only make it easier for the Republican candidate to win. He withdrew from the race on August 16, and urged the formation of a Unified "Union" ticket in opposition to Lincoln.[16][17]

Election for disunion

In their campaigning, Bell and Douglas both claimed that disunion would not necessarily follow a Lincoln election. Nonetheless, loyal army officers in Virginia, Kansas and South Carolina warned Lincoln of military preparations to the contrary. Secessionists threw their support behind Breckinridge in an attempt either to force the anti-Republican candidates to coordinate their electoral votes or throw the election into the House of Representatives, where the selection of the president would be made by the representatives elected in 1858, before the Republican majorities in both House and Senate achieved in 1860 were seated in the new 37th Congress. Mexican War hero Winfield Scott suggested to Lincoln that he assume the powers of a commander-in-chief before inauguration. However, historian Bruce Chadwick observes that Lincoln and his advisors ignored the widespread alarms and threats of secession as mere election trickery.[citation needed]

Indeed, voting in the South was not as monolithic as the Electoral College map would make it seem. Economically, culturally, and politically, the South was made up of three regions. In the states of the "Upper" South, later known as the "Border States" (Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri along with the Kansas territories), unionist popular votes were scattered among Lincoln, Douglas, and Bell, to form a majority in all four. In the "Middle" South states, there was a unionist majority divided between Douglas and Bell in Virginia and Tennessee; in North Carolina and Arkansas, the unionist (Bell and Douglas) vote approached a majority. Texas was the only Middle South state that Breckinridge carried convincingly. In three of the six "Deep" South states, unionists (Bell and Douglas) won divided majorities in Georgia and Louisiana or neared it in Alabama. Breckinridge convincingly carried only three of the six states of the Deep South (South Carolina, Florida, and Mississippi).[18] These three Deep South states were all among the four Southern states with the lowest white populations; together, they held only nine percent of Southern whites.[19]

Among the slave states, the three states with the highest voter turnouts voted the most one-sided. Texas, with five percent of the total wartime South's population, voted 75 percent Breckinridge. Kentucky and Missouri, with one-fourth the total population, voted 73 percent pro-union Bell, Douglas and Lincoln. In comparison, the six states of the Deep South making up one-fourth the Confederate voting population, split 57 percent Breckinridge versus 43 percent for the two pro-union candidates.[nb 1] The four states that were admitted to the Confederacy after Fort Sumter held almost half its population, and voted a narrow combined majority of 53 percent for the pro-union candidates.

In the eleven states that would later declare their secession from the Union and be controlled by Confederate armies, ballots for Lincoln were cast only in Virginia,[nb 2] where he received 1,929 votes (1.15 percent of the total).[18][22] Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of the votes Lincoln received were cast in border counties of what would soon become West Virginia – the future state accounted for 1,832 of Lincoln's 1,929 votes.[23]

Lincoln received no votes at all in 121 of the state's then-145 counties (including 31 of the 50 that would form West Virginia), received a single vote in three counties and received ten or fewer votes in nine of the 24 counties where he polled votes. Lincoln's best results, by far, were in the four counties that comprised the state's northern panhandle, a region which had long felt alienated from Richmond and which was economically and culturally linked to its neighbors Ohio and Pennsylvania and which would become the key driver in the successful effort to form a separate state. Hancock County (Virginia's northernmost at the time) returned Lincoln's best result – he polled over 40% of the vote there and finished in second place (Lincoln polled only eight votes fewer than Breckinridge). Of the 97 votes cast for Lincoln in the state's post-1863 boundaries, 93 were polled in four counties (all along the Potomac River) and four were tallied in the coastal city of Portsmouth.[18]

Some key differences between modern elections and the those of the mid-nineteenth century are that at the time, there was no secret ballot anywhere in the United States, that candidates were responsible for printing and distributing their own ballots (a service that was typically done by supportive newspaper publishers) and that in order to distribute valid ballots for a presidential election in a state, candidates needed citizens eligible to vote in that state who would pledge to vote for the candidate in the Electoral College. This meant that even if a voter had access to a ballot for Lincoln, casting one in favor of him in a strongly pro-slavery county would incur (at minimum) social ostracization (of course, casting a vote for Breckinridge in a strongly abolitionist county ran a voter the same risk). In ten southern slave states, no citizen would publicly pledge to vote for Abraham Lincoln. In most of Virginia, no publisher would print ballots for Lincoln's pledged electors.[18]

In the four slave states that did not secede (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware), Lincoln came in fourth in every state except Delaware (where he finished third). Within the fifteen slave states, Lincoln won only two counties out of 996, Missouri's St. Louis and Gasconade Counties.[18] In the 1856 election, the Republican candidate for president had received no votes at all in twelve of the fourteen slave states with a popular vote (these being the same states as in the 1860 election, plus Missouri and Virginia).


the unfinished Capitol dome, 1860
Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln
the Capitol, March 4, 1861
1860 Electoral College map with 35 states
state Election results
by Electoral College vote

The election was held on Tuesday, November 6, 1860, and was noteworthy for exaggerated sectionalism and voter enthusiasm in a country that was soon to dissolve into civil war. Voter turnout was 81.2%, the highest in American history up to that time, and the second-highest overall (exceeded only in the election of 1876).[24][25] Since Andrew Jackson had won re-election in 1832, all six subsequent presidents had only won one-term, while the last four of those had won with a popular vote under 51 percent.[26]

Results by county, with darker shades indicating larger percentages for the winning candidate. Red is for Lincoln (Republican), blue is for Douglas (Northern Democratic), green is for Breckinridge (Southern Democratic), yellow is for Bell (Constitutional Union), and purple is for "Fusion" (Non-Republican/Democratic Fusion). South Carolina had no popular vote.

Lincoln won the Electoral College with less than 40 percent of the popular vote nationwide by carrying states above the Mason–Dixon line and north of the Ohio River, plus the states of California and Oregon in the Far West. Unlike every preceding president-elect, Lincoln did not carry even one slave state.

Ballots were not distributed for Lincoln in ten of the southern states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Lincoln was the first President-elect to poll no votes in any state which had a popular vote. It should be further noted that, prior to introduction of the secret ballot in the 1880s, the concept of ballot access did not exist in the sense it does today in that there was no standardized state-issued ballot for a candidate to "appear" on. Instead, presidential ballots were printed and distributed by agents of the candidates and their parties, who organized slates of would-be electors publicly pledged to vote for a particular candidate. The 1860 presidential election was the only such occasion prior to the introduction of the secret ballot where a winning candidate was so unpopular in a particular region that it was impossible to organize and print ballots for a slate of eligible voters pledged to vote for that candidate in every state.

Since 1860, Republican presidential candidates have managed to poll votes in every state (other than unreconstructed Southern states prior to 1872) whereas national Democratic candidates have occasionally failed to appear on all state ballots since the introduction of the secret ballot, including three elections[nb 3] where the Democratic candidate won the presidency, but never to the same extent as in 1860.

Lincoln won the second-lowest share of the popular vote among all winning presidential candidates in U.S. history.[nb 4] Moreover, Lincoln's share of the popular vote would have been even less if there had been a popular vote in South Carolina. The Republican victory resulted from the concentration of votes in the free states, which together controlled a majority of the presidential electors.[27] Lincoln's strategy was deliberately focused, in collaboration with Republican Party Chairman Thurlow Weed, on expanding on the states Frémont won four years earlier. New York was critical with 35 Electoral College votes, 11.5 percent of the total; with Pennsylvania (27) and Ohio (23), a candidate could collect more than half (85) of the votes needed. The Wide Awakes young Republican men's organization massively expanded registered voter lists, and although Lincoln was not even on the ballot in most southern states, population increases in the free states had far exceeded those seen in the slave states for many years before the election of 1860, hence free states dominated in the Electoral College.[28]

The split in the Democratic party is sometimes held responsible for Lincoln's victory,[29] however, despite the fact that Lincoln won the election with less than forty percent of the popular vote, much of the anti-Republican vote was "wasted" in Southern states where no ballots for Lincoln were circulated. At most, a single opponent nationwide would only have deprived Lincoln of California, Oregon, and four New Jersey electors,[30] whose combined total of eleven electoral votes would have made no difference to the result; every other state won by the Republicans was won by a clear majority of the vote. In the four states of New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and New Jersey where anti-Lincoln votes did combine into fusion tickets, Lincoln still won three and split New Jersey.[31] If the opposition had formed fusion tickets in every state, Lincoln still would have received 169 electoral votes, 17 more than the 152 required to win the Electoral College.[32][33]

Like Lincoln, Breckinridge and Bell won no electoral votes outside of their respective sections. While Bell retired to his family business, quietly supporting his state's secession, Breckinridge served as a Confederate general. He finished second in the Electoral College with 72 votes, carrying eleven of fifteen slave states (including South Carolina, whose electors were chosen by the state legislature, not popular vote). Breckinridge stood a distant third in national popular vote at eighteen percent, but accrued 50 to 75 percent in the first seven states that would form the Confederate States of America. He took nine of the eleven states that eventually joined, plus the border slave states of Delaware and Maryland, losing only Virginia and Tennessee. Breckinridge received very little support in the free states, showing some strength only in California, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Bell carried three slave states (Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia) and lost Maryland by only 722 votes. Nevertheless, he finished a remarkable second in all slave states won by Breckinridge or Douglas. He won 45 to 47 percent in Maryland, Tennessee and North Carolina and canvassed respectably with 36 to 40 percent in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida. Bell himself had hoped that he would take over the former support of the extinct Whig Party in free states, but the majority of this support went to Lincoln.[34] Thus, except for running mate Everett's home state of Massachusetts, and California, Bell received even less support in the free states than did Breckinridge, and consequently came in last in the national popular vote at 12 percent.

Douglas was the only candidate who won electoral votes in both slave and free states (free New Jersey and slave Missouri). His support was the most widespread geographically; he finished second behind Lincoln in the popular vote with 29.5 percent, but last in the Electoral College. Douglas attained a 28 to 47 percent share in the states of the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and Trans-Mississippi West, but slipped to 19 to 39 percent in New England. Outside his regional section, Douglas took 15 to 17 percent of the popular vote total in the slave states of Kentucky, Alabama, and Louisiana, then 10 percent or less in the nine remaining slave states. Douglas, in his "Norfolk Doctrine", reiterated in North Carolina, promised to keep the Union together by coercion if states proceeded to secede. The popular vote for Lincoln and Douglas combined was seventy percent of the turnout.

The 1860 Republican ticket was the first successful national ticket that did not feature a Southerner, and the election marked the end of Southern political dominance in the United States. Between 1789 and 1860, Southerners had been president for two-thirds of the era, and had held the offices of Speaker of the House and President pro tem of the Senate during much of that time. Moreover, since 1791, Southerners had comprised a majority of the Supreme Court.[35]

Presidential candidate Party Home state Popular vote(a) Electoral
Running mate
Count Pct Vice-presidential candidate Home state Elect. vote
Abraham Lincoln Republican Illinois 1,865,908 39.82% 180 Hannibal Hamlin Maine 180
John C. Breckinridge Southern Democratic Kentucky 848,019 18.10% 72 Joseph Lane Oregon 72
John Bell Constitutional Union/Whig Tennessee 590,901 12.61% 39 Edward Everett Massachusetts 39
Stephen A. Douglas Northern Democratic Illinois 1,380,202 29.46% 12 Herschel Vespasian Johnson Georgia 12
Other 531 0.01% Other
Total 4,685,561 100% 303 303
Needed to win 152 152

Source (Popular Vote): Leip, David. "1860 Presidential Election Results". Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Retrieved July 27, 2005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Source (Electoral Vote): "Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved July 31, 2005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

(a) The popular vote figures exclude South Carolina where the Electors were chosen by the state legislature rather than by popular vote.

Popular vote
Electoral vote

Geography of results

Cartographic gallery

Results by state

Source: Data from Walter Dean Burnham, Presidential ballots, 1836–1892 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1955) pp 247–57.

Abraham Lincoln
Stephen Douglas
(Northern) Democratic
John Breckinridge
(Southern) Democratic
John Bell
Constitutional Union
(Democratic Fusion)
Margin State Total
State electoral
#  % electoral
#  % electoral
#  % electoral
#  % electoral
#  % electoral
# % #
Alabama 9 no ballots 0001361813,618 15.1 - 0004866948,669 54.0 9 27,835 30.9 - no ballots -20,834 -23.1 90,122 AL
Arkansas 4 no ballots 5,357 9.9 - 28,732 53.1 4 20,063 37.0 - no ballots -28,732 -16.1 54,152 AR
California 4 38,733 32.3 4 37,999 31.7 - 33,969 28.4 - 9,111 7.6 - no ballots 734 0.6 119,827 CA
Connecticut 6 43,486 53.86 6 17,364 21.50 - 16,558 20.51 - 3,337 4.13 - no ballots 28,057 37.5 80,745 CT
Delaware 3 3,822 23.7 - 1,066 6.6 - 7,339 45.5 3 3,888 24.1 - no ballots -3,451 -21.4 16,115 DE
Florida 3 no ballots 223 1.7 - 8,277 62.2 3 4,801 36.1 - no ballots -3,476 -26.1 13,301 FL
Georgia 10 no ballots 11,581 10.9 - 52,176 48.9 10 42,960 40.3 - no ballots -9,216 -8.6 106,717 GA
Illinois 11 172,171 50.7 11 160,215 47.2 - 2,331 0.7 - 4,914 1.4 - no ballots 11,956 3.5 339,666 IL
Indiana 13 139,033 51.1 13 115,509 42.4 - 12,295 4.5 - 5,306 1.9 - no ballots 23,524 8.7 272,143 IN
Iowa 4 70,302 54.6 4 55,639 43.2 - 1,035 0.8 - 1,763 1.4 - no ballots 14,663 13.4 128,739 IA
Kentucky 12 1,364 0.9 - 25,651 17.5 - 53,143 36.3 - 66,058 45.2 12 no ballots 12,915 -8.9 146,216 KY
Louisiana 6 no ballots 7,625 15.1 - 22,681 44.9 6 20,204 40.0 - no ballots -2,477 -4.9 50,510 LA
Maine 8 62,811 62.2 8 29,693 29.4 - 6,368 6.3 - 2,046 2.0 - no ballots 33,118 32.8 100,918 ME
Maryland 8 2,294 2.5 - 5,966 6.4 - 42,482 45.9 8 41,760 45.1 - no ballots -722 -0.8 92,502 MD
Massachusetts 13 106,684 62.9 13 34,370 20.3 - 6,163 3.6 - 22,331 13.2 - no ballots 72,314 42.6 169,876 MA
Michigan 6 88,450 57.23 6 64,889 41.99 - 805 0.52 - 405 0.26 - no ballots 23,561 15.25 154,549 MI
Minnesota 4 22,069 63.4 4 11,920 34.3 - 748 2.2 - 50 0.1 - no ballots 10,149 29.1 34,787 MN
Mississippi 7 no ballots 3,282 4.7 - 40,768 59.0 7 25,045 36.2 - no ballots -15,723 -22.8 69,095 MS
Missouri 9 17,028 10.3 - 58,801 35.5 9 31,362 18.9 - 58,372 35.3 - no ballots -429 -0.2 165,563 MO
New Hampshire 5 37,519 56.9 5 25,887 39.3 - 2,125 3.2 - 412 0.6 - no ballots -11,632 20.6 65,943 NH
New Jersey 7 58,346 48.1 4[nb 5] no ballots 3[nb 6] no ballots - no ballots - 62,869[nb 7] 51.9 -[nb 8] -4,523 -3.8 121,215 NJ
New York 35 362,646 53.7 35 no ballots - no ballots - no ballots - 312,510 46.3 -[nb 9] 50,136 7.4 675,156 NY
North Carolina 10 no ballots 2,737 2.8 - 48,846 50.5 10 45,129 46.7 - no ballots -3,717 -3.8 96,712 NC
Ohio 23 221,809 51.24 23 187,421 42.30 - 11,303 2.61 - 12,193 2.82 - no ballots 34,388 7.94 432,862 OH
Oregon 3 5,344 36.20 3 4,131 27.99 - 5,074 34.37 - 212 1.44 - no ballots 270 1.83 14,761 OR
Pennsylvania 27 268,030 56.3 27 16,765 3.5 -[nb 10] no ballots 12,776 2.7 - 178,871[nb 11] 37.5 -[nb 12] 89,159 18.8 476,442 PA
Rhode Island 4 12,244 61.4 4 7,707[nb 13] 38.6 - no ballots no ballots no ballots 4,537 22.8 19,951 RI
South Carolina 8 no popular vote no popular vote no popular vote 8 no popular vote no popular vote - - - SC
Tennessee 12 no ballots 11,281 7.7 - 65,097 44.6 - 69,728 47.7 12 no ballots -4,631 -3.1 146,106 TN
Texas 4 no ballots 18 0.03 - 47,454 75.47 4 15,383 24.50 - no ballots -32,110 -50.97 63,004 TX
Vermont 5 33,808 75.86 5 8,649 19.41 - 1,866 4.19 - 217 0.49 - no ballots 25,159 56.45 44,566 VT
Virginia 15 1,887 1.1 - 16,198 9.7 - 74,325 44.5 - 74,481 44.6 15 no ballots -156 -0.1 166,891 VA
Wisconsin 5 86,113 56.59 5 65,021 42.73 - 887 0.58 - 161 0.11 - no ballots 21,092 13.86 152,179 WI
TOTALS: 303 1,855,993 39.65 180 1,006,583 21.50 12 673,701 14.39 72 590,268 12.61 39 554,250 11.84 0 4,681,335 US
TO WIN: 152

Trigger for the Civil War

Lincoln's victory and imminent inauguration as President was the immediate cause for declarations of secession by seven Southern states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas), from 20 December 1860 to 1 February 1861. These states then formed the "Confederate States of America".

Several other states also considered declaring secession at this time:

  • Missouri convened a secession convention, which voted against secession and adjourned permanently.
  • Arkansas convened a secession convention, which voted against secession and adjourned temporarily.


  • Virginia convened a secession convention, which voted against secession, but remained in session.
  • Tennessee held a referendum on having a secession convention, which failed.
  • North Carolina held a referendum on having a secession convention, which failed.[39]

All of this secessionist activity was motivated by fear for the institution of slavery in the South. If the President (and by extension appointed Federal officials in the South, such as US District Attorneys, US Marshals, postmasters, and Federal judges) opposed slavery, slavery might collapse. There were fears that abolitionist agents would infiltrate the South and foment slave insurrections. (Noted secessionist William Lowndes Yancey, speaking at New York's Cooper Institute in October 1860, asserted that with abolitionists in power, "Emissaries will percolate between master [and] slave as water between the crevices of rocks underground. They will be found everywhere, with strychnine to put in our wells."[40]) Less radical Southerners thought that with Northern anti-slave dominance of the Federal government, slavery would eventually be abolished, regardless of present constitutional limits.[41]

Bertram Wyatt-Brown argues that secessionists desired independence as necessary for their honor. They could no longer tolerate Northern state attitudes that regarded slave ownership as a great sin and Northern politicians who insisted on stopping the spread of slavery.[42][43][44]

Another bloc of Southerners resented Northern criticism of slavery and restrictions on slavery, but opposed secession as dangerous and unnecessary. However, these "conditional Unionists" also hoped that when faced with secession, Northerners would stifle anti-slavery rhetoric and accept pro-slavery rules for the Territories. It was this group which prevented immediate secession in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

Lincoln took office on 4 March 1861. He took no action against the secessionists in the seven "Confederate" states, but also declared that secession had no legal validity and refused to surrender Federal property in those states. (He also reiterated his opposition to slavery anywhere in the Territories.) This stand-off continued until mid-April, when Confederate President Jefferson Davis ordered Confederate troops to bombard and capture Fort Sumter.

Lincoln then called for troops to put down rebellion. This wiped out the possibility that the crisis could be resolved by compromise. Nearly all "conditional Unionists" joined with the secessionists. The Virginia convention and the reconvened Arkansas convention both declared secession, as did the legislatures of Tennessee and North Carolina; all four states joined the Confederacy.

See also


  1. "Deep South" here in presidential popular votes refers to Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. It excludes South Carolina from the calculation, because in 1860 it chose presidential electors in the state legislature, without a popular vote.
  2. Ballots were printed sheets, usually printed by the party, with the name of the candidate(s) and the names of presidential electors who were pledged to that presidential candidate. Voters brought the ballot to the polling station and dropped it publicly into the election box. In order to receive any votes, a candidate (or his party) had to have ballots printed and organize a group of electors pledged to that candidate. Except in some border areas, the Republican party did not attempt any organization in the South and did not print ballots there because almost no one was willing to acknowledge publicly they were voting for Lincoln for fear of violent retribution.[20][21]
  3. In 1892, Grover Cleveland was not on the ballot in Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, North Dakota, or Wyoming, while neither Harry Truman in 1948 nor Lyndon Johnson in 1964 were on the ballot in Alabama.
  4. John Quincy Adams, who won the 1824 presidential election in a vote of the House of Representatives, won 30.9% of the popular vote, less than the share received by Andrew Jackson. Lincoln's share of the popular vote in 1860 represents the lowest share received by any popular vote winner.
  5. 4 of the electors pledged to Lincoln were elected since the Breckinridge and Bell electors finished behind all other candidates.[36]
  6. The 3 Douglas electors were elected.[36]
  7. The Fusion vote used here is the vote for the high elector on the slate, who was pledged to Douglas.[36]
  8. The Fusion slate consisted of 3 electors pledged to Douglas, and 2 each to Breckinridge and Bell. Nonetheless, different electors appeared in some counties for Breckinridge and Bell, resulting in lower totals for them and a split electoral outcome. The 3 Douglas electors were elected and 4 of those pledged to Lincoln. The Breckinridge and Bell electors finished behind all other candidates.[36]
  9. The slate of electors were pledged to 3 different candidates: 18 to Douglas, 10 to Bell, and 7 to Breckinridge.[36]
  10. Not all of the Douglas supporters agreed to the Reading slate deal and established a separate Douglas only ticket. This slate comprised the 12 Douglas electoral candidates on the Reading ticket, and 15 additional Douglas supporters. This ticket was usually referred to as the Straight Douglas ticket. Thus 12 electoral candidates appeared on 2 tickets, Reading and Straight Douglas.[37]
  11. This vote is listed under the Fusion column, not the Breckinridge column as many other sources do, because this ticket was pledged to either of two candidates based on the national result. Additionally, the slate was almost equally divided between the supporters of Breckinridge and Douglas.[37]
  12. The Democratic Party chose its slate of electors before the National Convention in Charleston, SC. Since this was decided before the party split, both Douglas supporters and Breckinridge supporters claimed the right for their man to be considered the party candidate and the support of the electoral slate. Eventually, the state party worked out an agreement: if either candidate could win the national election with Pennsylvania's electoral vote, then all her electoral votes would go to that candidate. Of the 27 electoral candidates, 15 were Breckinridge supporters; the remaining 12 were for Douglas. This was often referred to as the Reading electoral slate, because it was in that city that the state party chose it.[37]
  13. The Douglas ticket in Rhode Island was supported by Breckinridge and Bell supporters.[37]


  1. "Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections". The American Presidency Project. UC Santa Barbara.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Lossing, Benson John. Pictorial history of the civil war in the United States of America, Volume 1 (1866) Poughkeepsie, NY. Free ebook. viewed January 26, 2012. Bolters met at St. Andrew's Hall.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Freehling, William W., The Road to Disunion: Secessionists Triumphant, Vol.2. Oxford University, 2007, p. 321
  4. Heidler, p. 157. Baltimore's Institute Hall, not be confused with Charleston's Institute Hall also used by the walk-out delegations.
  5. "Republican National Platform, 1860". Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum. CPRR.org. April 13, 2003. Retrieved April 17, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Rhodes (1920) 2:420
  7. Rhodes (1920) 2:429
  8. Baum, Dale (1984). The Civil War Party System: The Case of Massachusetts, 1848–1876. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. p. 49. ISBN 0-8078-1588-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Schulten, Susan (2010-11-10). "How (And Where) Lincoln Won". New York Times, November 10, 2010. Retrieved from http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/10/how-and-where-lincoln-won/.
  10. Lossing, Benson John, Pictorial History of the Civil War in the United States of America, Volume 1 (1866) Poughkeepsie, NY. Free ebook. viewed January 26, 2012. p. 29 Bolters met at St. Andrew's Hall.
  11. The building had been the First Presbyterian Meeting House (Two Towers Church) on Fayette Street, between Calvert and North Street, demolished before 1866 and occupied by the United States Courthouse.
  12. Getting the Message Out! Stephen A. Douglas Archived January 20, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  13. Proceedings of the Convention of Radical Political Abolitionists, held at Syracuse, N. Y., June 26th, 27th, and 28th, 1855, New York: Central Abolition Board, 1855<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 "RADICAL ABOLITION NATIONAL CONVENTION". Douglass' Monthly. October 1860. p. 352.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "US President - Liberty (Union) National Convention". Our Campaigns. November 24, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "POLITICAL MOVEMENTS.; THE HOUSTON MASS MEETING. Large Gathering of the People in Union-Square--Washington statue Illuminated. The Hero of San Jacinto Nominated for the Presidency. Speeches, Address, Resolutions, Music, Fireworks, Guns, and Fun". The New York Times. May 30, 1860.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Letter from Sam Houston Withdrawing from the Canvass". The New York Times. September 3, 1860.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 "HarpWeek 1860 Election Overview". Retrieved March 20, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Freehling, William W., The Road to Disunion: Volume II. Secessionists Triumphant, 1854–1861, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 447.
  20. "Republican ballot 1860". Retrieved April 28, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Election of 1860 – 'Read Your Ballot'". Retrieved April 28, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "1860 Election Returns in Virginia, by County" (PDF). Retrieved April 28, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Results by county in Virginia
  24. The 1876 election had a turnout of 81.8%, slightly higher than 1860. Between 1828 and 1928: "Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections: 1828–2008". The American Presidency Project. UC Santa Barbara. Retrieved November 9, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Data between 1932 and 2008: "Table 397. Participation in Elections for President and U.S. Representatives: 1932 to 2010" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2012. U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 24, 2012. Retrieved February 7, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. http://www.uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/ Only Franklin Pierce had achieved a statistical majority in the popular vote (50.83 percent).
  27. Chadwick, Bruce. "Lincoln for President: an unlikely candidate, an audacious strategy, and the victory no one saw coming" (2009) Ch. 10 The Eleventh Hour. p. 289 ISBN 978-1-4022-2504-8
  28. Ziegler-McPherson, Christina A.; Selling America : Immigration Promotion and the Settlement of the American Continent, 1607-1914, pp. 34-36 ISBN 1440842094
  29. e.g., the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia, vol, 15, p. 171
  30. "New Jersey's Vote in 1860". NY Times. December 26, 1892.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Allan Nevins, The Emergence of Lincoln: Prologue to Civil War (1950), p. 312
  32. Potter, The impending crisis, 1848–1861 (1976) p. 437
  33. Luthin, The First Lincoln Campaign p. 227
  34. Davies, Gareth and Zelizer, Julian E.; America at the Ballot Box: Elections and Political History, pp. 65-66 ISBN 0812291360
  35. Murrin, John M.; Johnson, Paul E.; McPherson, James M.; Fahs, Alice; Gerstle, Gary; Rosenberg, Emily S.; Rosenberg, Norman L. Liberty Equality Power: A History of the American People, Volume I: To 1877 (6th ed.). Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. p. 403. ISBN 0-495-91587-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 36.3 36.4 Dubin, Michael J., United States Presidential Elections, 1788–1860: The Official Results by County and State, McFarland & Company, 2002, p. 187
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 37.3 Dubin, Michael J., United States Presidential Elections, 1788–1860: The Official Results by County and State, McFarland & Company, 2002, p. 188
  38. Secession Convention Encyclopedia of Arkansas
  39. Secession Vote and Realigned Allegiance North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
  40. Walther, Eric H. (2006). William Lowndes Yancey: The Coming of the Civil War. p. 262. ISBN 978-0-7394-8030-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  41. Avery Craven, The Growth of Southern Nationalism, 1848–1861, 1953. ISBN 978-0-8071-0006-6, p. 391, 394, 396.
  42. Decredico, p. 243
  43. Wyatt-Brown, Bertram. Yankee Saints and Southern Sinners (1990)
  44. Mary A. Decredico, "Sectionalism and the Secession Crisis," in John B. Boles, ed., A Companion to the American South (2004) pp. 240


External links