The 1860 election takes place at the door step of separation. The major issues are States’ Rights and whether or not slavery should be contained or spread. The Republican Party has moderated its platform since 1856 and is now a viable opposition party to defeat the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party has weakened and split due to fundamental differences between Northern and Southern members of their party. Former Whigs and Know Nothing/American Party members have formed a new party–the Constitutional Union Party–which hopes to hold the Union together by taking a moderate course based on compromise. Can any party prevent a Civil War?
For Republicans, the front runner is the leader of the party, William Seward. However, many in his own party do not want him to be president. As such, he faces tough competition from moderate and radical Republicans. Former representative Abraham Lincoln, a moderate Republican, has achieved recent fame for his debate on slavery against Stephen A. Douglas and for a recent recent speech at the Cooper Union building in New York City. Simon Cameron, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates and other Republicans are also in the race.
Northern Democrats are mostly rallying around front runner Stephen A. Douglas, who is an advocate for Popular Sovereignty on the slave question, which places him as a moderate. He faces a few challengers, but none that show a real threat to the nomination.
The Southern Democrats, have nominated their own candidates with sitting president James Buchanan’s VP, John C. Breckinridge, and Bourbon Democrat, Daniel S. Dickinson.
The Constitutional Union Party has an All-Star cast of rapidly aging candidates, including John Bell, Sam Houston, John J. Crittenden and others.
The Liberty Party fielded Gerrit Smith, a staunch abolitionist.
The election allows for many what-if scenarios:
- What if John C. Fremont and Charles Sumner ran for the Republican ticket?
- What if Horatio Seymour, Former President Franklin Pierce, Jefferson Davis, Lewis Cass and Incumbent President James Buchanan ran on the Northern Democrat ticket?
- What if Former President Millard Fillmore ran for the Constitutional Union ticket?
- What if incumbent President James Buchanan was supported for reelection with a unified Democratic Party to take on the Republican Party?
Each candidate’s bio lists the result if they are election. For example, if the Civil War occurs or not. Some candidate may make the border states secede; whereas, some candidates may make New England secede.
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