17-042 HD: The Election of 1860 III
Vol. 17 No. 042 01/08/2014
Lead: One hundred and fifty years ago the Republic was facing its greatest crisis. This continuing series examines the American Civil War. It is "A House Divided."

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In an earlier era, little-known U.S. presidential candidates who emerged with little obvious support or chances for success were often called “dark horse” candidates. It is an old horse-racing term coined to describe a horse unknown to gamblers who have trouble laying odds on the horse’s potential performance. Abraham Lincoln was one such dark horse. Of those contending for the Republican nomination in 1860, Lincoln was relatively unknown, but had fewer weaknesses.

He was considered a decent human being, reputedly honest, though quite shrewd in his dealings with friends but especially political enemies. He really had been of modest roots and grew up in a log cabin. His journey had taken him through the anti-slave branch of the Whig Party though he had done few things to offend ex-Democrats who were now a part of the Party coalition. He was a champion of national improvements, of free labor and had spoken strongly in favor of that kind of social mobility that Republicans held close to their hearts. Lincoln’s debate stand-off with Stephen Douglas in the 1858 Senate race gave him national cachet which he confirmed with speaking engagements in New York and New England. The convention was packed with howling home-state supporters and he was from the Illinois, a state the Party had to win if it were to have any chance of taking the White House.

With the first ballot on May 17th, Lincoln was astonishingly strong and by the next day the flood gates opened and he achieved nomination overwhelmingly. The highly-partisan crowd of Lincoln supporters in the “wigwam” thundered its approval and the party united behind its candidate who theretofore had only served a single term as a congressman.

Next time: Tariffs, a Pacific railroad and the “N” word.

In Richmond Virginia, this is Dan Roberts.


Baringer, William E. Lincoln’s Rise to Power. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1937.

Catton, Bruce. The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War. New York: American Heritage Publishing Company, 1960, 1988.

Crenshaw, Ollinger. Slave States in the Presidential Election of 1860. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1945.

Fite, Emerson D. The Presidential Campaign of 1860. New York: The Macmillan Company ,1911.

Fehrenbacher, Don F. Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850s. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1962.

Hesseltine, William B., ed. Three Against Lincoln: Murat Halstead Reports the Caucuses of 1860. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1960.

Johannsen, Robert W. Stephen A. Douglas. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973.

McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.


Copyright 2014 by Dan Roberts Enterprises, Inc.