All 303 electoral votes of the Electoral College
152 electoral votes needed to win
|Turnout||81.2% 2.3 pp|
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.
The United States Presidential Election of 1860 was the nineteenth quadrennial presidential election to select the President and Vice President of the United States. The election 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 would begin 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.
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|Stephen A. Douglas||Herschel V. Johnson|
|for President||for Vice President|
|U.S. Senator from Illinois
Governor of Georgia
Northern Democratic candidates:
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, 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 the ticket of Stephen A. Douglas from Illinois for president.
|Southern Democratic Party Ticket, 1860|
|John C. Breckinridge||Joseph Lane|
|for President||for Vice President|
Vice President of the United States
|U.S. Senator from Oregon
Southern Democratic candidates:
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.
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.
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.
|Abraham Lincoln||Hannibal Hamlin|
|for President||for Vice President|
|Former U.S. Representative
for Illinois's 7th
|U.S. Senator from Maine
(1848–1857 & 1857–1861)
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 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. 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.
|Constitutional Union Party Ticket, 1860|
|John Bell||Edward Everett|
|for President||for Vice President|
|Former U.S. Senator from Tennessee
|Former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
Constitutional Union candidates:
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. 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.
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.”
Liberty (Union) candidates:
The Liberty Party as formed in 1860 was a splinter (or remnant) of the former Liberty Party of the 1840s, 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. 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.
In Ohio, a slate of presidential electors pledged to Smith ran with the name of the Union Party.
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 withdrew from the race on August 16, convinced that his candidacy would only make it easier for the Republican candidate to win, and urged the formation of a Unified “Union” ticket in opposition to it.
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.
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, 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). 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.
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). 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. 
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.
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.
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. 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 election was held on Tuesday, November 6, 1860, and was noteworthy for exaggerated sectionalism 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). All six Presidents elected since Andrew Jackson won re-election in 1832 had been one-term presidents, the last four with a popular vote under 51 percent.
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, and indeed he was not on the ballot in the southern states of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. He was the first President-elect to not be on the ballot in all states, a feat which has since been equalled thrice[nb 3] but never to the same extent. Lincoln won the second lowest share of the popular vote among all winning presidential candidates in U.S. history.[nb 4]
The Republican victory resulted from the concentration of votes in the free states, which together controlled a majority of the presidential electors. 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.
The split in the Democratic party is sometimes held responsible for Lincoln’s victory,, 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 Lincoln was not even on the ballot. At most, a single opponent nationwide would only have deprived Lincoln of California, Oregon, and four New Jersey electors,  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 three states of New York, Rhode Island, and New Jersey where anti-Lincoln votes did combine into fusion tickets, Lincoln still won two and split New Jersey. 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.
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 50–75 percent in the first seven states that would become 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 and 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. It was hoped by Bell himself 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. 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 28–47 percent share in the states of the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and Trans-Mississippi West, but slipped to 19–39 percent in New England. Outside his regional section, Douglas took 15–17 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.
|Presidential candidate||Party||Home state||Popular vote(a)||Electoral
|Count||Percentage||Vice-presidential candidate||Home state||Electoral vote|
|Abraham Lincoln||Republican||Illinois||1,865,908||39.8%||180||Hannibal Hamlin||Maine||180|
|John C. Breckinridge||Southern Democratic||Kentucky||848,019||18.1%||72||Joseph Lane||Oregon||72|
|John Bell||Constitutional Union/Whig||Tennessee||590,901||12.6%||39||Edward Everett||Massachusetts||39|
|Stephen A. Douglas||Northern Democratic||Illinois||1,380,202||29.5%||12||Herschel Vespasian Johnson||Georgia||12|
|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. Source (Electoral Vote): "Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved July 31, 2005.
(a) The popular vote figures exclude South Carolina where the Electors were chosen by the state legislature rather than by popular vote.
Cartogram of presidential election results by county
Source: Data from Walter Dean Burnham, Presidential ballots, 1836–1892 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1955) pp 247–57.
|Alabama||9||no ballots||13,618||15.1||-||48,669||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||-53.1||54,152||AR|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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||0.0||-||47,454||75.5||4||15,383||24.5||-||no ballots||-32,071||-51.0||62,855||TX|
The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 was an immediate cause of secession of the first 7 Southern states (SC, MS, FL, AL, GA, LA, TX), which formed the Confederacy in February 1861. The statehood of Kansas as a free state and Lincoln's military resistance to the Confederacy led to secession of 4 more states (VA, NC, TN, AR) after May 1861. Lincoln had been the nominee of the Republican party with an anti-slavery expansion platform, he refused to acknowledge the right to secession, and he would not yield federal property within Southern states. Numerous historians have explored the reasons so many white Southerners adopted secessionism in 1860, after 30 years of disputes between North and South states over protection tariffs, Federal spending, and civil rights of refusing to allow slaves to travel with slaveholder families in some North States. Tariffs had been levied on South imports to protect North industries, taxes were charged on South cotton but not North wool, or 3-to-1 Federal expenditures on North navigation lighthouses versus the South's longer coastline, and a faked slave uprising in Virginia angered many Southerners. 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. Avery Craven argues that secessionists believed Lincoln's election meant long-term doom for their vast social system, of thousands of Southerners working with over two million slaves living in private households as nearly half the population of many Southern states in 1860. This situation could not be solved by the democratic process, and it placed "the great masses of men, North and South, helpless before the drift into war".
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