Elections Have Consequences

Useful insight from our U.S. expert Dr Adam Smith

Adam I. P. Smith: Historian

33122vThe 1860 Presidential Election was one of the most consequential elections in world history, since it directly triggered the American Civil War. (Others on the shortlist include the series of three Reichstag elections in 1932-3). It was in response to the election of Abraham Lincoln that the first tranche of slave states seceded, and Lincoln – with the overwhelming support of public opinion in the North – responded to secession with war. Lincoln didn’t need to do anything to prompt secession; it was enough that a Republican, elected entirely on the basis of the votes of the free states, had come to power. Although you’ll read otherwise on neo-Confederate blogs, Southerners at the time were not shy about telling the world that their motives were to protect slavery. One prominent Southerner, William Lowndes Yancey boldly (bravely? provocatively?) campaigned in the North during the 1860 election campaign, warning an audience…

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