(CIVIL WAR in the UNITED STATES – continued)

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CIVIL WAR in the UNITED STATES (6 of 12)

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Lincoln becomes President

At the Republican convention in 1856, Lincoln received 110 votes for the vice-presidential nomination, bringing him national attention. In June 1858, he was nominated to be the Republican senator from Illinois, opposing Democrat Stephen Douglas. He gave his "House Divided" speech at the state convention in Springfield and he engaged Douglas in a series of debates. Lincoln was in some respects a man of his time, and as people running for political office are inclined to do, he didn't want to separate himself from the views of the vast majority of voters – all of whom were white. He said, "I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races ..." Of blacks he said that he was not for "qualifying them to hold office nor to intermarry with white people." And he said that "there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality." These were views common among whites opposed to slavery. Among whites in the US, enlightened knowledge about racial differences was more than a century away, but Lincoln was advanced for his time. He had been opposed to slavery because he thought it morally wrong and an assault on everyone's dignity, especially that of the slave. He and other whites had been concerned too about white workers being unable to compete with slaves for jobs. And Lincoln had been arguing that slavery threatened democracy. 

For the Senate seat in 1858, the Illinois legislature chose the more conservative candidate, Douglas, over Lincoln – by a vote of 54 to 46. Lincoln continued his speech-making, and he won more attention in March 1860 with the publication of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. And at the Republican convention in May he won the party's nomination for President of the United States.

He ran against two Democrats, the Democratic Party having split between his old rival, Douglas and John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky. Another candidate for the presidency was John Bell of Tennessee, nominated by the Constitutional Union Party – a party of former Whigs who were interested in compromise between the North and South and keeping the Union together.

Lincoln had the active support of Horace Greeley, publisher of the New York Tribune. With Lincoln, Greeley opposed slavery but held that if slavery were to be overthrown it should not be forced upon the South by Northerners, that it should be done by the Southerners themselves. But the views of Lincoln and Greeley seldom made it into the South. Southern postmasters refused to distribute Greeley's newspaper. And Lincoln did not bother campaigning in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee or Texas.

The election results included 26,000 votes for Lincoln in the slave states and 1,800,000 votes in the free states. He won in all of the Northern states but New Jersey and, overall, only 40 percent of the popular vote. But in the electoral college he won 180 votes and the other candidates combined won only 123, leaving Lincoln as president-elect and scheduled to take office in early March.


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