The Coercive Acts: The Election of 1860

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The election of 1860 is one of the most overt examples of extreme and irreconcilable ideological divisions within the United States. Often seen as a precipitant of the Civil War, it exposed the vast and deeply rooted conflict that existed over slavery in the South (“The Election of 1860”). This had a very profound effect on the overall political system that existed in America. As stated in “The Election of 1860”, conflict loosened the grip that the two-party system had had for the century prior to this election. Internal conflict dilapidated the Whig Party to a point where it could no longer function as a party. This left the Democrat and Republican parties as the assumed competing parties. The Democrats, however, was subject to a significant amount of internal conflict. The Democratic National Convention, taking place in Charleston, brought a lot of these conflicting ideas to the forefront of the election (“Election of 1860”). Stephen A. Douglas, a senator from Illinois, was a front-runner for his successful debates with Abraham Lincoln in 1858. He argued for popular sovereignty in deciding whether slavery would be allowed to exist in the recently acquired American territories in the West (“The Election of 1860”) While these ideas appealed to the northern Democrats of Illinois, the idea that slavery had the opportunity to be outlawed “alienated Southern Democrats that he needed to gain the presidential nomination” (“Election of 1860 and Civil War”). His opponent in the primary was Vice President John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky. Breckenridge appealed much more to the Southern voter, promising the “congressional protection of slave property” which had been strong desire of the largely Southern platform committee at the time (“Elec...

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...tor, as their provisional president” (“The Civil War and Emancipation”). This eventually led to the conflict at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, which in turn led to the Civil War. In the end, Lincoln forced the abolition of slavery throughout the United States, “resolving” the original conflict of the election. The Election also placed the newly formed Republican party in a position of significance. It lost it’s identity as the anti-slavery party, and began evolving into the massive party it is today. This also marked the start of the divided Democratic party that would stay factionalized until after the War. In general, the election of 1860 marked a period of change in the United States, in ideology and in governance. It tore the country apart, and established new power. It completely redefined what exactly the United States of America was.
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