How did the South react to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the US in 1860?  

The South reacted to the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 by eventually seceding from the Union. This, of course, prefigured the Civil War.

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The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 was the final straw in a decades-old buildup of ever-widening tension between the Southern states and the North over the institution of slavery. Though Lincoln was hardly the most radical candidate that the abolition-leaning Republican party could have nominated, not one Southern state voted for him. Those with power in the South loathed him as the man they feared would end slavery.

The United States, still a new nation and a great experiment, had tried desperately to stay united despite the growing and severe polarization over slavery. The more harshly the North condemned slavery as immoral and called for its immediate end, the more firmly the Southerners dug in. By the time 1860 rolled around, the South had moved from understanding slavery as a "necessary evil" to promoting it as a positive good that was better for the Black slaves than freedom.

The two ideological poles, made impossible to reconcile largely due to the extremism and delusion thinking of the South, had grown so large by 1860 that there simply was no way to bridge the gap. The country could no longer keep up the pretense that it could both simultaneously support and condemn slavery and somehow make this situation work.

Lincoln's election signaled the end to attempts at compromise. His win was more or less a foregone conclusion, as the Democratic Party had split and run more than one candidate, almost guaranteeing Lincoln the presidency. His election acted as a symbolic rallying point around which the Southern plantation owners could justify the split they already had decided was coming.

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In many respects, the election of Abraham Lincoln was the culmination of a much longer preceding history of growing tension and division within the United States, centered on the issue of slavery. At the same time that abolitionism was growing within the North, the South was becoming increasingly entrenched in slavery's defense. With the impact of westward territorial expansion, there was an open question to be answered regarding the status of slavery within the territories, and this became a major source of tension and turmoil within the country across the 1850s.

For Southern defenders of slavery, the election of the Republican Lincoln was an unacceptable outcome, as well as a sign that their defense of slavery was swiftly becoming untenable. Keep in mind that the Republican Party was founded as an opposition party to slavery. For the anti-slavery Lincoln to win a national election for an anti-slavery party thus had the appearance of being, for Southerners, a worst-case scenario in the making.

Their answer was secession. Beginning with South Carolina (which seceded on December 20, 1860), the Southern states started to secede from the Union, forming the Confederacy, which had its own constitution and government separate from that of the United States. This began the road that led to the US Civil War.

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The South was very displeased with the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States in 1860. They were convinced Lincoln was going to end slavery. The South came to this conclusion for a few reasons. In the Lincoln-Douglas debates for the United States Senate in 1858 in Illinois, Lincoln made it clear he thought slavery was wrong. He also believed that slavery shouldn’t spread. When he got the nomination from the anti-slavery Republican Party in 1860, the South was very concerned.

The South had made up its mind. They believed Lincoln would end slavery. However, if they would have listened closely to Lincoln, he had said if he could keep the country together by keeping slavery, he would do so. While Lincoln would clearly try to slavery from spreading, he knew keeping the country together was his number one objective. If that meant keeping slavery where it already existed, Lincoln was prepared to do this. However, the South wouldn’t accept this option. At first, seven southern states seceded from the Union. Eventually, four more states joined them in what was known as the Confederate states of America.

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States across the American South responded to the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency by discussing among themselves the possibility of actually seceding from the Union, a step first officially taken by South Carolina on December 24, 1860.  The rest of the South soon followed South Carolina's lead and, on February 4, 1861, the Confederate States of America was formally established.  The South had effectively seceded, politically if not yet militarily. The attack on Fort Sumter, a Union bastion surrounded by the newly-established Confederacy, marked the opening shots of the Civil War, which would rage until the South's surrender on April 9, 1865, when General Robert E. Lee formally signed the articles of surrender across the table from General Ulysses Grant at Appomattox in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  

The issue of states' rights, with slavery constituting the single most important "right" demanded by the southern states, was the central focus of the Confederacy. The South's defeat in the Civil War, of course, reunited the United States of America, although the bitterness felt by the South, its territory and economy destroyed and its source of cheap labor largely eliminated (although Reconstruction saw many "freed" blacks still forced to work on plantations and farms under disadvantageous conditions due to their dire financial situation), would continue to manifest itself in violent resistance to desegregation for decades to come.

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In general, southerners didn't like Lincoln long before the 1860 election.  As a member of the Free Soil Party (before it later became the Republican Party) Lincoln argued against expanding slavery into any of the new territories. To them, he was a threat, and represented the worst of northern politicians.  That is why in 1860, Lincoln's name did not appear on the ballot in ten southern states.  You couldn't vote for him there if you wanted to.

When Lincoln won the election anyway, and with 41% of the vote, the South had had enough.  South Carolina was the first to secede in December of 1860, and ten more states would break away between then and March of 1861, leaving Lincoln to take the Presidency of a country that was disintegrating.

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