To adequately explain the culture and political climate of the 1860’s you must go back to October 6, 1859 when John Brown raided Harpers Ferry, Virginia in an effort to free the slaves. Southerners began to fear organized Northern efforts to undermine their social system. The North was primarily industrial, the South agricultural. Most Northerners opposed slavery and Southerners pushed for expansion into the new territories. Southerners believed strongly in doctrine of states’ rights. Both sides were embroiled in heated and charged political debate.
The presidential election of 1860 occurred, therefore, in an atmosphere of great tension. Southerners backed John Breckenridge and rejected the Stephen A. Douglas the other Democratic candidate. Abraham Lincoln, a Republican won the Presidency with 41% of the popular vote.
Southerners believed Lincoln to be an abolitionist even though he had determined not to interfere in slavery where it currently existed. In December 1860, in order to prevent the succession of the southern states, Senator John Crittenden, (D.Ky.) made a proposal extending the Missouri Compromise to the Pacific and limiting the federal government’s authority over slavery.
On December 20, 1860 South Carolina votes to succeed from the United States. Promptly the other southern states followed. President Buchanan was unable to prevent the federal forts in the southern states from falling to the secessionists. In January 1861, the Crittenden Compromise was defeated and Civil War began on April 12, 1861.