Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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1860 Presidential Election

Union or Secession
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  • J. L. S. Kirby to Governor John Letcher, November 3, 1860, Executive Papers of Governor John Letcher, Acc. 36787, State Government Records Collection, Record Group 3, Library of Virginia.,
    "The best policy for the cadets?"
  • "The Last Race of the Rail-Splitter," Broadside, ca. 1861, Broadside, 186- .L34 BOX, Special Collections, Library of Virginia.,
    The Last Race of the Rail-Splitter
  • Extract from public announcement of Leonidas Baugh, a candidate for a vacant seat in the Virginia House of Delegates from Washington County. <em>Abingdon Democrat</em>, October 12, 1860.,
    "How the Union shall be preserved"
  • "Union Electoral Ticket. State of Virginia. The Union, the Constitution, and the Enforcement of the Laws. For president, John Bell, of Tennessee, for vice-president, Edward Everett of Massachusetts," 1860, Broadside, 1860 .U63a BOX, Special Collections, Library of Virginia.,
    Constitutional Union Party ballot 1860
  • "Democratic ticket: Our Principles, the Constitution.... For President John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky. For Vice President Joseph Lane of Oregon," 1860, Broadside, 1860 .D38 BOX, Special Collections, Library of Virginia.,
    Breckinridge ballot 1860
  • "National Democratic Ticket, for Virginia. For President, Stephen A. Douglas, of Illinois. For Vice-president, Herschel V. Johnson, of Georgia ... : Election, the 6th Day of November, 1860,"  Broadside, Small Special Collections, University of Virginia.,
    Douglas ballot 1860
  • "Virginia Republican ticket. For president Abraham Lincoln of Illinois. For vice president Hannibal Hamlin of Maine," 1860, Broadside, Flavia Reed Owen Special Collections and Archives, Randolph-Macon College.,
    Republican ballot 1860
  • Wheeling <em>Daily Intelligencer</em>, October 24, 1860,
    printing Republican ballots
  • Excerpt from editorial in Winchester <em>Republican</em>, October 26, 1860,
    "To the Polls! To the Polls!"
  • John M. Smith to Governor John Letcher, September 23, 1860, Executive Papers of John Letcher, Acc. 36787, State Government Records Collection, Record Group 3, Library of Virginia.,
    wanting to vote for Lincoln
  • Editorial in the <em>Daily Richmond Enquirer</em>, November 6, 1860,
    "The Day of Battle Has Arrived"
  • Editorial in the Richmond <em>Daily Dispatch</em>, November 8, 1860.,
    Deplorable election
  • <em>Alexandria Gazette</em>, November 9, 1860.,
    Voted for Lincoln
  • Petition of Wood County clergymen, November 16, 1860, Executive Papers of Governor John Letcher, Acc. 36787, State Government Records Collection, Record Group 3, Library of Virginia.,
    Petition for prayer
  • Jacob Bechtel to George Bechtel, November 7, 1860, Jacob H. Bechtel Papers, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan., University of Michigan
    "Troublous times are upon us"
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1860 Presidential Election

The presidential election took place on November 6, 1860, when sectional tensions were unusually high. Everyone understood that the result of the election could change the course of American history, but most men who voted did not select which candidate or party to support based exclusively on one issue, and they did not necessarily believe that the result of the election would definitely determine whether the Union survived. Two Democratic Party candidates for president, John C. Breckinridge and Stephen A. Douglas, the Republican Party candidate, Abraham Lincoln, and the candidate of the new Constitutional Union Party, John Bell, all received votes in the Electoral College, but Lincoln won the largest number of popular votes and a majority of the electoral votes. In Virginia, the presidential election of 1860 was the closest in history. The election intensified sectional tensions and added to uncertainty about the nation's future. Moreover, its outcome also precipitated the greatest crisis in the history of the United States and led to a sequence of events that nobody at the time could have accurately predicted.

Presidential Candidates

Four candidates vied for the office of president of the United States during the 1860 election.

Presidential Election in Virginia

When the voting concluded on November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln had received more popular votes in the United States than any of the other candidates and had won a majority of the electoral votes. In Virginia, it was the closest presidential election in history.