The Election of 1860

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Democratic Convention


Stephen A. Douglas


John C. Breckinridge

The Democrats met in Charleston, SC for their convention. (Official Proceedings of Democratic National Convention 1). Charleston was one of the most proslavery city in the south which would make it more difficult for Stephen Douglas, who was the frontrunner, to receive a nomination. The Charleston Mercury stated, “If Douglas is nominated the Democratic Party is forever gone.” (Charleston Mercury May 20,1859). McPherson adds that, “Most Southern Democrats went to Charleston with one overriding goal; to destroy Douglas.”(McPherson 213).  This was the feeling most Southern Democrats had. What was it about Douglas that irritated them so much? Stephen Douglas was a big supporter of popular sovereignty, which was the idea that the settlers of a territory would vote on whether it would come into the Union as a slave or free state. (Peck).Douglas had a moderate stance when it came to slavery and a slave code, which was obviously the main focus during this time. He was the one that proposed that settlers in Kansas and Nebraska should decide if they would become a free state or slave state (McPherson 123). Southerners feared that with the North having a greater population than them and many more railroads they would be able to flood the territories and have them all come into the Union as free states. (Peck). The South would then lose power in congress and the North would be able to impose on southern institutions (slavery). (Proceedings of National Democratic Convention 187). Douglas was unable to get the amount of votes needed in Charleston to receive the nomination. Slave states delegates voted 11 to 108 against Douglas. (McPherson 215). There was enough votes from northern Democrats for Douglas to prevent anyone else from receiving the nomination.  The party would reconvene later in Baltimore in June of 1860. In Baltimore Douglas almost received enough votes for him to get the nomination for the party. Before that had a chance to happen the lower south states left the convention because they could not support Douglas and nominated their own candidate, John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky. (McPherson 215-216). The Democratic Party had split, this would play a huge role in determining who wins the election in November of 1860.

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