Speed detested the xenophobic American (Know Nothing) party that replaced the Whigs in Kentucky in the mid-1850s. Although long a friend of Abraham Lincoln, whom he had met through his brother Joshua Fry, Speed understood that a Republican could not carry a slave state like Kentucky. In the presidential contest of 1860, therefore, he served on a committee that united supporters of northern Democrat Stephen A. Douglas and Constitutional Unionist John Bell to defeat southern Democrat John Breckinridge in Kentucky. After the election, however, confident of Speed's loyalty to the Union, however, Lincoln made him mustering officer for Kentucky under his call for 75,000 volunteers at the outbreak of the Civil War.
Phyllis F. Field, "Speed, James," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-00933.html.