Learning Lincoln On-line


War Brews Before Lincoln's Inauguration-- PART TWO-- An Article that DescribesThe Election of 1860: Lincoln Became President at Time of Crisis


       Shortly before the November election, the general-in-chief of the army, Winfield Scott (left), had prepared a memorandum for

President Buchanan (right) titled "Views suggested by imminent danger". Lincoln was provided a copy of the document. While believing that Lincoln's election would not lead to "any unconstitutional violence, or breach of law", Scott warned that there was a danger of "the seizure of a number of federal forts on the Mississippi River and on the Eastern coast -- including the vulnerable installations at Charleston harbor". Scott recommended that "all those works should be immediately so garrisoned as to make any attempt to take any one of them by surprise or coup de main ridiculous". Buchanan dismissed Scott's suggestions as provocative to the South. Lincoln however responded by thanking Scott for the information and his patriotism.

A Beardless President-elect Abraham Lincoln (left)

As the secession crisis deepened, Lincoln, along with much of the North, became concerned as southern states seized federal property. Reacting to a report that President Buchanan was about to surrender Fort Moultrie in Charleston, Lincoln said, "If that is true, they ought to hang him". On December 21, through Congressman Elihu B. Washburne, he asked Scott "to be as well prepared as he can to either hold, or retake, the forts, as the case may require, at, and after the inauguration".  This was the beginning of what would be a great Civil War, with hundreds of thousands of Americans to die. 




PosterAbraham Lincoln Elected President!

An Article-- The Election of 1860: Lincoln Became President at Time of Crisis through Shrewd Strategy; Lincoln Overcame Obscurity to Win Presidency   From:  https://www.thoughtco.com/election-of-1860-abraham-lincoln-1773934 by Updated December 01, 2018




1.  Lincoln Wins Election, 1860

The election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 was perhaps the most significant election in American history. It brought Lincoln to power at a time of great national crisis, as the country was coming apart over the issue of slavery.  The electoral win by Lincoln, the candidate of the anti-slavery Republican Party, prompted the slave states of the American South to begin serious discussions about secession. In the months between Lincoln's election and his inauguration in March 1861 the slave states began seceding. Lincoln thus took power in a country which had already fractured.

2.  Key Takeaways: The Election of 1860
A The United States was in crisis, and it was inevitable that the election of 1860 would be focused on the issue of slavery.
B Abraham Lincoln began the year in relative obscurity, but a speech in New York City in February helped make him a credible candidate.
C Lincoln's greatest rival for the Republican Party's nomination, William Seward, was out-maneuvered at the party's nominating convention.
D Lincoln won the election by running against three opponents, and his victory in November prompted slave states to begin leaving the Union.
E Only a year earlier Lincoln had been an obscure figure outside his own state. But he was a very capable politician, and shrewd strategy and deft moves at critical times moved him into being a leading candidate for the Republican nomination. And the remarkable circumstance of a four-way general election helped make his November victory possible.

3.  Background to the Election of 1860

A The central issue of the presidential election of 1860 was destined to be slavery. Battles over the spread of slavery to new territories and states had gripped the United States since the late 1840s, when the United States obtained vast tracts of land following the Mexican War.
B In the 1850s the slavery issue became extremely heated. The passage of the Fugitive Slave act as part of the Compromise of 1850 inflamed northerners. And the 1852 publication of an extraordinarily popular novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, brought the political debates over slavery into American living rooms.
C And the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 became a turning point in Lincoln's life.
D Following the passage of the controversial legislation, Abraham Lincoln, who had essentially given up on politics after one unhappy term in Congress in the late 1840s, felt compelled to return to the political arena. In his home state of Illinois, Lincoln began speaking out against the Kansas-Nebraska Act and particularly its author, Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois.
E When Douglas ran for reelection in 1858, Lincoln opposed him in Illinois. Douglas won that election. But the seven Lincoln-Douglas Debates they held across Illinois were mentioned in newspapers around the country, raising Lincolnís political profile.

In late 1859, Lincoln was invited to give a speech in New York City. He crafted an address denouncing slavery and its spread, which he delivered at the Cooper Union in Manhattan. The speech was a triumph and made Lincoln an overnight political star in New York City.

4.  Lincoln Sought the Republican Nomination in 1860

Lincolnís ambition to become undisputed leader of the Republicans in Illinois began to evolve into a desire to run for the Republican nomination for president. The first step was to gain the support of the Illinois delegation at the state Republican convention in Decatur in early May 1860.

Lincoln supporters, after talking to some of his relatives, located a fence Lincoln had helped build 30 years earlier. Two rails from the fence were painted with pro-Lincoln slogans and were dramatically carried into the Republican state convention. Lincoln, who was already known by the nickname ďHonest Abe,Ē was now called the ďrail candidate."

Lincoln grudgingly accepted the new nickname of "The Rail Splitter." He actually did not like being reminded of the manual labor he had performed in his youth, but at the state convention he managed to joke about splitting fence rails. And Lincoln did get the support of the Illinois delegation to the Republican National Convention.


5.  Lincoln's Strategy Succeeded at the 1860 Republican Convention in Chicago

The Republican Party held its 1860 convention later that May in Chicago, in Lincolnís home state. Lincoln himself did not attend. At that time it was thought unseemly for candidates to chase after political office, and so he stayed at home in Springfield, Illinois.

At the convention, the favorite for the nomination was William Seward, a senator from New York. Seward was ardently anti-slavery, and his speeches against slavery on the floor of the U.S. Senate were widely known. At the beginning of 1860, Seward had a much higher national profile than Lincoln.

The political supporters Lincoln dispatched to the Chicago convention in May had a strategy: they assumed that if Seward could not win the nomination on the first ballot, Lincoln might gain votes on later ballots. The strategy was based on the notion that Lincoln had not offended any particular faction of the party, as some other candidates had, therefore people could come together around his candidacy.

The Lincoln plan worked. On the first ballot Seward did not have enough votes for a majority and on the second ballot Lincoln gained a number of votes but there was still no winner. On the third ballot of the convention, Lincoln won the nomination.

Back home in Springfield, Lincoln visited the office of a local newspaper on May 18, 1860, and received the news by telegraph. He walked home to tell his wife Mary that he would be the Republican nominee for president.


6.  The 1860 Presidential Campaign

Between the time Lincoln was nominated and the election in November, he had little to do. Members of political parties held rallies and torchlight parades, but such public displays were considered beneath the dignity of the candidates. Lincoln did appear at one rally in Springfield, Illinois in August. He was mobbed by an enthusiastic crowd and was lucky not to have been injured.

A number of other prominent Republicans traveled the country campaigning for the ticket of Lincoln and his running mate, Hannibal Hamlin, a Republican senator from Maine. William Seward, who had lost the nomination to Lincoln, embarked on a western swing of campaigning and paid a brief visit to Lincoln in Springfield.

In the 1860 election, the Democratic Party split into two factions. The northern Democrats nominated Lincolnís perennial rival, Senator Stephen A. Douglas. The southern Democrats nominated John C. Breckenridge, the incumbent vice president, a pro-slavery man from Kentucky.

Those who felt they could support neither party, mainly disaffected former Whigs and members of the Know-Nothing Party, formed the Constitutional Union Party and nominated John Bell of Tennessee.


7.  The Election of 1860

The presidential election was held on November 6, 1860. Lincoln did very well in the northern states, and though he garnered less than 40 percent of the popular vote nationwide, he won a landslide victory in the Electoral College. Even if the Democratic Party had not fractured, it is likely Lincoln still would have won due to his strength in states heavy with electoral votes.

Ominously, Lincoln did not carry any southern states.


8.  Importance of the Election of 1860

The 1860 election proved to be one of the most momentous in American history as it came at a time of national crisis, and brought Abraham Lincoln, with his known anti-slavery views, to the White House. Indeed, Lincolnís trip to Washington was literally fraught with trouble, as rumors of assassination plots swirled and he had to be heavily guarded during his train trip from Illinois to Washington.

The issue of secession was being talked about even before the 1860 election, and Lincoln's election intensified the move in the South to split with the Union. And when Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4, 1861, it seemed obvious that the nation was on an inescapable path toward war. Indeed, the Civil War began the next month with the attack on Fort Sumter.




How Lincoln Thought

Lincoln's Cabinet Lincoln's "Higher Moral Ground" Holding the Union Together The Slavery Issue
Lincoln, the War and Congressional Oversight Mr. Lincoln's Generals (Finding a Fighting General) Lincoln Learning and Becoming Commander & Chief Lincoln's Political Leadership (the Issues) Post-War Reconstruction Planning Library of Congress Timeline
16th President Topics Index

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