Voter turnout in 1860 presidential election was 81.2%, the largest to that date. Lincoln won the Electoral College with only 39% of the popular vote – all in Northern States and the emerging West. Due somewhat to the split in the Democratic Party, his victory, refusal to compromise and constitutional usurpations led to a devastating war and political upheaval from which the country has yet to recover.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
Lincoln’s Minority Government
“In view of the fact that three-fifths of the American people voted against Lincoln, and that probably more than four-fifths of the American people preferred compromise to civil war or to a dissolution of the Union, it is important to note that Lincoln based his attack upon secession and refusal to acknowledge it as one of the rights of a State upon the fact that secessionists were not a majority, but a minority of the American people.
“If the minority,” he said, “will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the government must cease. There is no other alternative; for continuing the government is acquiescence on one side or the other. If a minority in such case secede rather than acquiesce they make a precedent which in turn will divide and ruin them: for a minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such a minority.”
This is a very true statement.
A majority had voted against Lincoln and a majority had wanted compromise, while Lincoln, representing a minority, refused to accede to the wishes of the majority. It was perfectly true that the majority of the nation were opposed to secession or the breaking up of the nation, but they were in favor of preserving the national unity, not by war, but by the time-honored method of conciliation.
It is highly probable that a majority of Americans believed that Lincoln’s above statement applied to the secessionist per se minority – because a majority of American voters did not know then, and do not know now, that a man can be legally elected President when a vast majority have voted against him.”
(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861: A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Columbia University Press, 1921, excerpts pp. 85-86)