The Fragmentation of the Political Party System in 1860s

The Fragmentation of the Political Party System in 1860s

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The Fragmentation of the Political Party System in 1860s
A majority of Americans thought that the election of 1860 would determine the future of the Union. A compromise could not be reached on the slavery issue between the North and the South. Northerners wanted to abolish slavery altogether and Southerners wanted the expansion of slavery into the territories. There were four presidential candidates for the election, and only one of them was pro-slavery. John Breckinridge was the Southern Democratic candidate who supported slavery. All the other candidates, Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, and John Bell, did not support slavery. Abraham Lincoln won the election of 1860 by a clear majority in the Electoral College; however, he had only received about 40% of the popular vote. The election of 1860 was viewed by many Southerners as the tipping point and resulted in the secession of 11 states.
The election started off with the split of the Democratic Party between the North and the South. When Stephen Douglas' platform for the vision of the Democratic Party was chosen, the Southern delegates rejected Douglas and decided to elect their own candidate with views more similar to that of the South. The South nominated John Breckinridge who had pro-slavery views.
Breckinridge had several points in his National Democratic Platform that were pro-slavery. His very first point was "that the Government of a Territory organized by an act of Congress, is provisional and temporary; and during its existence, all citizens of the United States have an equal right to settle with their property in the Territory, without their rights…being destroyed or impaired by Congressional or Territorial legislation" (Breckinridge 31-32). Breckinridge's other pro-slavery points in his Platform included the following: "that it is the duty of the Federal Government, in all its departments, to protect…the rights of persons and property in the Territories" (Breckinridge 31-32), "that when the settlers in a Territory having an adequate population, form a State Constitution…the State…ought to be admitted into the Federal Union, whether its Constitution prohibits or recognizes the institution of Slavery" (Breckinridge 31-32), and "that the enactments of State Legislatures to defeat the faithful execution of the Fugitive Slave Law are hostile in character…and revolutionary in their effect" (Breckinridge 31-32). Douglas only agreed with Breckinridge's Fugitive Slave Law point.
Lincoln was the Republican nominee and was supported by the North. Lincoln was anti-slavery and had several points against it in his Republican National Platform.

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His Platform included the following points: " that the Constitution…carries Slavery into any or all of the Territories of the United States, is a dangerous political heresy…is revolutionary in its tendency, and subversive of the peace and harmony of the country" (Lincoln 30-31), "that the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom… and we deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any individuals, to give legal existence to Slavery in any Territory of the United States" (Lincoln 30-31), and "that we brand the recent re-opening of the African slave-trade, under the cover of our national flag…as a crime against humanity and a burning shame to our country and age; and we call upon Congress to take prompt and efficient measures for the total and final suppression of that execrable traffic" (Lincoln 30-31). Although Lincoln was anti-slavery, he did not necessarily see the need to abolish it during his presidency if elected. Lincoln was more concerned with the preservation of the Union. One of Lincoln's key points in his Platform was "that the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence and embodied in the Federal Constitution, ‘That all men are created equal…' is essential to the preservation of our Republican institutions; and that the Federal Constitution, the Rights of the States, and the Union of the States, must and shall be preserved" (Lincoln 30-31).
The election resulted in a victory for Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln received 180 electoral votes followed by Breckinridge with 72, Bell with 39, and Douglas with 12. Lincoln won the electoral votes in just about every Northern state but was not even on the ballot in many of the Southern states. Douglas received the least electoral votes even though he had the second highest popular vote. Douglas only won electoral votes in New Jersey and Missouri. Most of the Southern states voted for Breckinridge but there were a few whose electoral votes went to Bell.
With Lincoln's victory in the election, a few of the Southern states saw the only answer was to secede from the Union. On December 20, 1860, about six weeks after the election, South Carolina seceded from the Union. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia soon joined South Carolina and seceded. Lincoln stuck to his Platform he had issued during the election and fought for the preservation of the Union and not for the abolishment of slavery.


Works Cited
Breckinridge, John. The Tribune Almanac for the Years 1838 to 1868. New York:
Published by the New York Tribune, 1868.
Douglas, Stephen. The Tribune Almanac for the Years 1838 to 1868. New York:
Published by the New York Tribune, 1868.
Lincoln, Abraham. The Tribune Almanac for the Years 1838 to 1868. New York:
Published by the New York Tribune, 1868.
Norton, Katzman, et al. A People & a Nation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.
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