The Run for President
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was the least known of all of the contenders for the Republican Party’s nomination for president. Heading the list was former New York Governor William H. Seward, with the politically awkward Governor Salmon P. Chase of Ohio a distant second. Conservative Edward Bates of Missouri was considered too old, and many Republicans seemed uncomfortable with the popular but unpredictable Horace Greeley, founder and editor of the New York Tribune.
To overcome his disadvantage, Lincoln adopted an unobtrusive publicity campaign. The timely release of his published debates with Stephen A. Douglas and brief autobiographies and a carefully orchestrated speaking campaign in New York and parts of New England all worked to Lincoln’s advantage. The nomination and the subsequent campaign were left largely to trusted handlers, but even after his election was secure, Lincoln maintained a dogged silence on national issues prior to his inauguration.
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Road to the Nomination
Lincoln’s remarkable performance in a series of seven debates with Senator Douglas drew the attention of Republican Party leaders in New York and New England. Invited East to speak, Lincoln delivered one of the best speeches of his career at Manhattan’s famous Cooper Union. Horace Greeley immediately reproduced the speech in his widely read New York Tribune, and Lincoln began to be thought of as a potential presidential candidate. With the help of able advisors, Lincoln orchestrated a successful campaign for the 1860 Republican nomination for president. Read more about Road to the Nomination »
Front Porch Campaign
In the early- and mid-nineteenth century, tradition dictated that presidential candidates maintain a dignified silence in national elections because they supposedly were above the rough and tumble world of politics. Republican Party supporters delivered Lincoln’s message to the voters, and that message was to stop the spread of slavery in the Western territories. Great emphasis was also placed on Lincoln’s frontier experience, which showed that even the poorest citizen could work his way to the top. Republican Party offices throughout the North distributed thousands of campaign posters, leaflets, and newspaper editorials. They did virtually no campaigning in the South, where Lincoln’s name did not even appear on a majority of the ballots. Read more about Front Porch Campaign »
Election: Celebration and Trepidation
Lincoln’s 1860 election victory was marred by the quick secession of seven Southern states—South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas—which, in February 1861, declared themselves to be a new nation, the Confederate States of America. Although urged to address the growing crisis of Union, Lincoln declined, explaining that he had written and spoken often on the subject, and that further explanation of his position on slavery would only be misconstrued. He hoped that Southern Unionists would prevail as they had done in past crises and restore their states to the Union. However, with a few notable exceptions, Southerners united behind secession. Read more about Election: Celebration and Trepidation »