The Election of 1860

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Constitutional Union Party


John Bell

With the Democratic Party splitting and having two candidates democrat voters were left to chose between the fire-eaters, proslavery, and pro-secessionists democrats and John C. Breckinridge. The other choice was to vote for Stephen A. Douglas and popular sovereignty. Northern Democrats mostly voted for Douglas and Southern Democrats went with Breckinridge, but what about the democrats who weren’t necessarily pro-secessionist, supported slavery and couldn’t stand Douglas and the idea of popular sovereignty? These democrats were predominately in the border states such as Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky. They formed their own political party known as the Constitutional Union Party. They nominated John Bell of Tennessee. The Constitutional Union Party purpose was preservation of the Union. (Constitutional Union Party National Committee 1). They wanted to compromise and avoid secession at all costs. They claimed that compromises were made peacefully in 1820 with Missouri coming into the union and in 1850 with California coming into the union. (Constitutional Union Party National Committee 2). Additionally they claimed slavery would exist where it is profitable and won’t exist where it is not profitable. (Constitutional Union Party National Committee 5)One of the reasons they wanted to avoid secession was to avoid a civil war which would most likely be fought within their state boundaries they assumed.   They didn’t believe the Republican Party represented the nation well because it was a sectional party in the North, mostly New England. They also questioned the qualifications of Abraham Lincoln to be president. (Constitutional Union Party National Committee 4). They campaigned that their candidate had the best political experience of all the candidates with Mr. Bell being the former speaker of the house and secretary of war. (Constitutional Union Party National Committee 7). The Constitutional Union Party did not expect to win the election because they knew how difficult it is to be successful as a third party. Their intentions were to take northern states from Lincoln and the Republican Party. This strategy back fired and ended up taking no northern states and instead took three southern slave states.(Constitutional Union Party National Committee 8). This would play a big role in determining the outcome of the presidential election of 1860.

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