Election of 1860 (Nash, 2007)

Gary B. Nash et al., eds., The American People: Creating a Nation and a Society, 4th ed. (New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 1998), 497-498.
The conflict between Buchanan and Douglas took its toll on the Democratic party. When the nominating convention met in Charleston, South Carolina, a hotbed of secessionist sentiments, it met for a record ten days without being able to name a presidential candidate. The convention went through 59 ballots, was disrupted twice by the withdrawal of southern delegates, and then adjourned for six weeks. Meeting again, this time in Baltimore, the Democrats acknowledged their irreparable division by naming two candidates in two separate conventions. Douglas represented northern Democrats, and John C. Breckenridge, Buchanan’s vice-president, carried the banner of the proslavery South. The Constitutional Union party, made up of former southern Whigs and border-state nativists, claimed the middle ground of compromise and nominated John Bell, a slave-holder from Tennessee with mild views.

With Democrats split in two and a new party in contention, the Republican strategy aimed at keeping the states carried by Fremont in 1856 and adding Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana. Seward, the leading candidate for the nomination, had been tempering his antislavery views to appear more electable. So had Abraham Lincoln, who seemed more likely than Seward to carry those key states. With some shrewd political maneuvering emphasizing Lincoln’s “availability” as a moderate with widespread appeal, he was nominated by his party.
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