Saturday, November 6, 2010

150th Anniversary of Lincoln's Election

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Presidential election of 1860, when a former one-term Congressman defeated three other candidates, each of whom had previously served in the US Senate, and one who was the current vice-president. Abraham Lincoln, a dark horse candidate who gained the nomination of the nascent Republican Party as much for who and what he was not as for who and what he was.

By election day, though, his election was almost a foregone conclusion. The Republican coalition was united around him, while the larger Democratic Party of Andrew Jackson had split geographically between Stephen Douglas and John Breckinridge. Of course, given Lincoln's recent experiences in attempting to gain election to the US Senate, he seemed reluctant to view his election as inevitable. Instead he patiently and deliberately worked behind the scenes to do all he could to achieve election. On election day, he was calm but refused to accept any congratulations until the returns proved his election.

The Gray Lady has two excellent web postings about the 1860 election, including a reprint of the 1932 reminiscences of a reporter who spent much of that election day with Lincoln, including the hours in the telegraph office where Lincoln waited for all of the election returns to be transmitted. They are an excellent account of that fateful day, which continued events in motion toward secession and civil war.

The first relates Lincoln's careful strategic silence during the election and the period leading up to his inauguration. The second records Lincoln's activities on November 6, 1860.

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