Theo Lippman Jr.

September 17, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr.

This is the 52nd presidential election.

The 19th was held in 1860. The Republicans had replaced the Whigs as the principal opponents of the Democrats and two new parties arose, as the emotional debate of slavery could no longer be contained in a two-party system.

The Democrats nominated Sen. Stephen Douglas of Illinois, who thought his ambiguous stand on slavery would hold the South. But Southerners walked out of the party and nominated the incumbent Democratic vice president, John Breckenridge of Kentucky.

Whigs not ready to join the Republicans formed the Constitutional Union Party and nominated Sen. John Bell of Tennessee, who favored slavery in the South but not the territories. This was the position the Republicans' candidate, Abraham Lincoln took, but his eloquent assaults on slave owners made him their worst enemy.

He won, carrying the entire Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Coast but no Southern or Border states. Douglas came in second in the popular vote but fourth in the electoral vote. Secession and civil war were inevitable.

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