John Marszalek: What if Lincoln lost the election?
Giles Distinguished Professor Emeritus of history at Mississippi State University
Had Lincoln lost the election of 1860, there most certainly would have been a war, but perhaps it would have come later. The other candidates in that election, had one of them won, would have continued to temporize, while Lincoln, in his own seemingly tentative style, refused to budge on the Republican Party's raison d'etre of no expansion of slavery into the territories. Other candidates would have waffled and delayed secession, but, down the road, the issue of slavery in the territories, nay slavery itself, would have reared its ugly head again. Then the crisis would have come. Considering the movement in the world against slavery and the tie of slavery to religion and morality in American life, the matter would have had to be confronted and decided sooner rather than later. Fortunately for the nation, the issue came to the forefront during the term of the nation's greatest president, and he guided the United States to preservation of the Union and the end of slavery. The war came under Lincoln, and the slaves were freed. But, it took a war to accomplish this feat.
| November 2, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
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