United States presidential election, 1860
1856 ← November 6, 1860 →1864

File:160px-Abraham Lincoln by Alexander Helser, 1860-crop.jpg
150px-John C Breckinridge-04775-restored
Nominee Abraham Lincoln John C. Breckinridge
Party Republican Southern Democratic
Home state Illinois Kentucky
Running mate Hannibal Hamlin Joseph Lane
Electoral vote 134 152
States carried 15 17
Popular vote 1,357,255 1,361,936
Percentage 29% 29.1%

Nominee John Bell Stephen A. Douglas
Party Constitutional Union Democratic
Home state Tennessee Illinois
Running mate Edward Everett Herschel V. Johnson
Electoral vote 15 0
States carried 1 0
Popular vote 856,475 978,160
Percentage 18.3% 20.8%

Electoral Map 1860

Presidential Election 1860. Red shows states won by Lincoln, green by Breckinridge, orange by Bell.Numbers are Electoral College votes in each state by the 1850 Census.

President before election

James Buchanan


Elected President

John C. Breckinbridge

Southern Democratic

The 1860 United States presidential was the 16th quadrennial election that was held on November 6th 1860. The slavery debate of the 1850's finally came to fruition in this election. The 1850's led to separate factions, coming to power, the Republicans and the Constitutional Union. It also led to the divide of the Democratic party, the the basic Democrats in the north and the Southern Democrats, both having their own views on the slavery debate. The results of the election led the Southern Democratic party coming to power, being headed by John C. Breckinridge alongside his running mate Josef Lane.


The main debate of the election was slavery, which was losing support in the north, but due to social difference and not wanting to risk rebellion in the south, the democrats held onto slavery. It was not until the Southern Democrats split from the the North did they begin smoothing their stance on slavery.

The Republican party gained a large sway over the Northern states as the party, along with the northern states were anti-slavery. This gave Lincoln a large swing of voters in his direction along with a large amount of the electoral vote.

Then there was the Constitutional party, which had not actively gone against slavery, rather the debate of slavery. They were for the status quo and everything to be the same as it was. Due to their position, it led them to receive less votes coming last, but they still received 15 of the electoral votes, by controlling Virgina.


The winner of the election, John C. Breckinridge, used major papers in state capitals to spread his ideas. To gain a foothold in the north Breckinridge appealed to their anti-slavery views saying that the northern states can stay free states, and the southern states can maintain slavery for the time. On the 30th of October he spoke of slavery being around for "just a few more years". He claimed that slavery shall be in southern law for the time being, but as the years pass there shall be more and more free states until all states in the US are free. This was seen more fairly by the population of the south, as in their minds if the republicans took office they would issued immediate emancipation.

His hold on to the Northern states however were not kept as well as he hoped, and he had to hold them through winning major debates, especially against the Republican leader Abraham Lincoln. By the time of the election (6th November) many polls and newspapers said Lincoln was ahead 34% to all other candidates. When to votes were counted it seemed that it was opposite, Breckinridge won the election with a slight margin of the popular vote and 156 of the electoral votes.


During Breckinridge's presidency, major fears about a war over slavery subsided for the time, and the country went through a period of non-stop economic growth due to his policies. Even though he was widley popular in the US, on a world stage he was constantly harassed for maintaining slavery and attempting to make it legal in more northern states, despite his claims otherwise. He also began sponsoring rebellions in Cuba in an attempt to capture or buy it from the Spanish, and eventually create another southern slave state. Despite all this, the slavery debate would carry on until the 1872 presidential election.