The Campaign of the Century, 1859-1861
By R.D. Monroe, Ph.D.
Still smarting from his defeat in 1858, Lincoln returned again to the practice of law. Yet the Republican Party soon came calling again. Lincoln had become a major national spokesman, and he accepted an invitation to embark on a speaking tour of Ohio in support of Republican candidates in the election of 1859.
Lincoln's star continued to rise, and he slowly accepted the notion that he might be a viable presidential candidate. After a successful eastern lecture tour, Lincoln's national following swelled, and he secured the Republican nomination at the Chicago convention in May of 1860.
The campaign of 1860 saw four candidates essentially contest two elections. In the North Lincoln ran against his old nemesis Stephen Douglas, who had secured a Democratic nomination. In the South, a rival Democratic nominee, John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, locked horns with the Constitutional Union candiate John Bell, who hoped to solve the sectional crisis by ignoring it.
Lincoln won the election by sweeping the populous northern states, and southerners widely interpreted his election as the last straw in the defense of their rights. In the months between Lincoln's election and his inauguration in March of 1860 a procession of southern states seceded from the Union, leaving the new president with the cloud of an impending civil war looming over his administration.
©Copyright 2000 Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project