“A house divided against itself cannot stand”……Abraham Lincoln warned in 1858. Two years later, Lincoln was elected President of a nation divided by the bitter issue of slavery. And as he predicted, the house began to shake.
In June, 1860, the Democratic Party had split apart. Northern Democrats, opposed to slavery, named Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas as their presidential candidate. Southern Democrats nominated John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky. The Republicans were united in their antislavery stand and nominated Lincoln, the Illinois lawyers whose speeches opposing the spread of slavery had made him a hated figure in the South. No candidate won a majority of the popular vote, but Lincoln won the largest share and a majority of the electoral vote.
Infuriated by Lincoln’s victory, South Carolina’s leaders did not wait for his inauguration. They met in Charleston on December 20 and voted to secede from the United States. Bells rang out and crowds cheered. The Charleston Mercury published a special edition with a headline reading, “The Union Is Dissolved.” As the fateful year of 1860 drew to a close, the U.S. was rushing headlong into the tragic, agonizing Civil War.