Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

The Election of 1864: Constitutional Issues Raised by Lincoln’s Conduct of the War

The 1864 election pitted the incumbent, Republican President Abraham Lincoln, against George McClellan of the Democratic Party.  It was the first election since 1840 in which an incumbent was renominated by his own party.  A major focus of the election was the Civil War and the divided Union.  Lincoln’s actions as President would also be considered by the electorate, which reelected him in a landslide.

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Guest Essayist: David J. Shestokas


“… if constitutionally we elect a President, and therefore you undertake to destroy the Union, it will be our duty to deal with you as old John Brown has been dealt with.”
– Abraham Lincoln, December 3, 1859

John Brown had been hanged for treason on December 2, 1859.  Brown had lead a raid on the federal arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia on October 16.  Brown and his group had intended to secure weapons to arm slaves for a revolt against their masters. The United States Marines, commanded by Colonel Robert E. Lee captured the raiders, foiling the plan. On November 2, Brown received his death sentence.

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Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath


Election of 1860

John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky entered the year 1860 as Vice President, having been elected to that office in 1856 as a Democrat from the Stephen Douglas wing of the party. Taking the oath of office when barely 36 years old, one year above the constitutional minimum, he remains the youngest man elected to that office. When the Whig party collapsed because its intrinsic identity as a national party was ground up between the sectional millstones over slavery, the Republican Party emerged as, initially, a staunch anti-slavery movement. Buoyed by its success in the 1858 congressional elections, the party expanded its political agenda. It strongly supported the Union, and moderated, but did not abandon, its official opposition on slavery. By 1860, it was the party of the North, which former Northern Whigs joined enthusiastically.

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