The election of 1860

When the presidential election of 1860 arrived, the candidates took positions on the great controversy of the day: where — and why — slavery should exist in the United States. John Bell, the little-known candidate of the Constitution Party, said slavery and the U.S. Constitution should be left as they were. The Democratic Party split into two factions at its convention. Pro-slavery Southerners nominated U.S. Vice President John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky as their candidate. Democrats who favored a compromise over the slavery issue named Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas as their candidate. The six-year-old Republican Party opposed slavery. Its candidate was Illinois attorney Abraham Lincoln, a man with little experience in government. Lincoln won the election, but with little popular support, because the majority had split its votes among the other three men. Opponents of the Republicans were outraged; some even demanded that the election be declared invalid, and repeated. Pro-slavery Americans were expected to accept quietly a leader they did not want. They took radical action instead.

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