Presidential Election of 1860 – Know Your Candidates

National Convention held in Chicago, Illinois, May 16-18, 1860

Presidential: Abraham Lincoln, former Representative from Illinois
Vice-Presidential: Hannibal Hamlin, Former governor and current Senator from Maine.

Biography: Lincoln was a former Whig, a member of the House of Representatives from 1847 – 1849 where he opposed the Mexican War. He held a law practice in Springfield, Illinois after leaving office. He ran for United States Senate on the Republican ticket in 1858, against incumbent Stephen Douglas, taking part in the now famous “Lincoln-Douglas Debates.” He lost the election, but gained national recognition.

Slavery: Opposed the spread of slavery in any form to the new territories.


Democrat (Northern)
National Convention held in Charleston, South Carolina on April 23, 1860, then again in Baltimore, Maryland on June 18, 1860

Presidential: Stephen Douglas, Senator from Illinois
Vice-Presidential: Herschel Vespasian Johnson, (after Benjamin Fitzpatrick, Senator from Alabama, declined) Former Governor of Georgia

Biography: Douglas held United States Senate seat since 1847, supporting both the expansion of the United States to include the entire continent and the Mexican War. In 1858, he was opposed by Lincoln. The two held seven nationally-covered debates across the state of Illinois. Douglas retained the seat.

Slavery: Wanted the people of the territories to be able to decide for themselves whether or not they wanted slavery.


Constitutional Union
National Convention held in Baltimore on May 9, 1860

Presidential: John Bell, former Senator from Tennessee
Vice-Presidential: Edward Everett, former Senator and Gov of Massachesettes, former Secretary of State.

Biography: Bell began his career first a democrat and then a Whig, was a member of the House of Representatives, Secretary of State, and Senator from Tennessee. Voted against the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Slavery: As per party line, would not state whether for or against the spread of slavery – only wanted to keep the Union in tact.


Democrat (Southern)
Convention held in Baltimore on June 18, 1860 after split with main Democrat Party

Presidential: John Breckinridge, Vice President of the US, from Kentucky
Vice-Presidential: Joseph Lane, Senator from Oregon

Biography: Democratic member of the House of Representatives, became President Buchanan’s Vice-President, the youngest to hold the office, at age 35. He was nominated for president by the Southern Democrats, having split from the main Democrat Party. Endorsed by President Buchanan.

Slavery: Wished to ensure that slaveholders could own slaves in new territories.

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Presidential Election of 1860 – Know Your Candidates by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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9 thoughts on “Presidential Election of 1860 – Know Your Candidates

  1. Yay! It begins! Let slip the dogs of war!
    Wow Breckinridge looks insane in that photo. Maybe if Adobe had released photoshop 1861 he would have done better.

    1. Diagnosing insanity from physical appearance must require special skills, which most of us lack. His eyes tell me that Breckinridge was more likely to be suffering from Graves Disease.

      1. Probably closer to the truth, yes. However, many “crazy eyes” abound in early photography due to how the subjects had to pose for long periods of time, not smiling, moving or blinking (much) for fear of blurring the image.

  2. Odd how the Republican party was the party of liberalism & change and the Democrats were the conservatives back in those days…interesting history, American politics.

    1. What I find a fun/interesting thing to do is apply today’s politicians and their constituents to the politics of the 1860s. Who would be today’s fire-eaters? Is Bill O’Reilly today’s Robert Barnwell Rhett? Would Amy Goodman be a Susan B. Anthony if she were alive 150 years ago?

      Of course, it’s probably a bad idea to delve too much into this, but it’s a neat little thing to pass the time.

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