Question of the Week: 11/4-11/10/19

It’s election season, so…in your opinion, which presidential election—1860 or 1864—proves to be the greater turning point in U.S. History? Why?

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7 Responses to Question of the Week: 11/4-11/10/19

  1. Rhea Cole says:

    Buchanan was president during the 1860 election. South Carolinians had already decided to secede. In real terms, the die was already cast. The election of 1864 was a referendum on the war. The choice was stark. McClellan’s president would have been a disaster. Lincoln’s reelection gave him the mandate to finish the war & push the 13th Amendment.

  2. Charles Stanley Martin says:

    Sine the inauguration would not take place until March, of 1865, there were four moths remaining in the Lincoln administration even if he lost the election. By December, Sherman would reach Savannah, In January, Fort Fisher would have fallen closing the last port for the Confederacy to import war materiel, and the Republicans in Congress would have stymied McClellan’s peace initiative. I doubt if Lincoln would have not used his last months as President to try to continue to save the Union. The abolitionist movement was gaining steam, and even the Confederate leaders were questioning whether the continuation of slavery was worth it. Therefore, the election of 1860 let the “toothpaste out of the tube,” and McClellan’s victory would not necessarily put it back.

  3. Douglas Pauly says:

    Gotta go with 1864. There was a the distinct possibility that had Lincoln lost, all the sacrifice by the Union’s soldiers would have been in vain, and the possibilities of another such war would have existed going forward from then. The South was going to secede upon Lincoln’s election just like impeachment proceedings have been started against Trump the minute he won in 2016. 1864’s win for Lincoln sealed the fate of the Confederacy. It has been pointed put that had he lost he still would have had several months to complete military campaigns against the South. Well, several of those months would include the winter months that always resulted in both sides riding that our in their winter camps and quarters. Even with Lincoln’s win it still took several months beyond his 1865 inauguration for RE Lee’s destruction to be complete. 1864 was indeed THE more consequential election, and election result.

  4. Mike Maxwell says:

    Wow… Great question! The election of 1860 with its four-way race seems to have been designed to “split the result sufficiently” and produce NO clear winner of Electoral votes in order to throw the decision of President into the House of Representatives, where “horse trading” very well could have resulted in John C. Breckinridge selected. Instead, Abraham Lincoln won the required Electoral votes, gained the Presidency (and his election pulled the trigger for Southern secession.) The obvious questions: “In what direction would President Breckinridge have led the Nation?” and “Would Disunion merely have been delayed four years?”

    The Campaign of 1864 was one of the last opportunities for “interested parties” to legally remove President Lincoln, and replace him with a more malleable Head of State (and permit Peace Commissioners to stop the seemingly endless war and negotiate a permanent separation and recognition of the Confederate States of America.) The obvious questions: “Where is the boundary line drawn between the United States and the Confederate States?” and “Who gets Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma?” and “What happens to Mexico?” and “How long before a proud, victorious South (with slavery intact and Cotton in demand) and a bitter, resentful North (with crippling war debt, and Southern ports undercutting Northern ports for European trade) are at each other’s throats again?”

    The election of Lincoln in 1860 led to the war; the election of 1864 determined how that war would end.

  5. Chris Kolakowski says:

    I too vote 1864 for the reasons mentioned above. I’d add one more: 1864 was the severest test of the Constitution, as the US was the first nation to hold an election for its highest office while at war with itself.

  6. Meg Groeling says:

    No elelction in which Abraham Lincoln was a candidate was unimportant. I would go with 1860, but only because politically it is such an interesting topic filled with interesting people. Less politics, more war for 1984.

  7. scott s. says:

    I would like to see more analysis of 1864 and possible outcomes. If Lincoln loses, it isn’t clear to me what McClellan’s policy would be. At the same time, it isn’t clear what it would do to the Radical Republicans. I suspect not much, and without a nominal Republican as president the Radicals could well become more radical and considering their impeachment of Johnson it indeed could look like 2018 with the Radicals demanding immediate impeachment (though I imagine a VP Pendleton advanced to president would have been worse for the Radicals).

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