Contested elections can spark civil wars
James Tackach, professor of English at Roger Williams University, writes frequently on Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, and American slavery. He lives in Narragansett.
Many Republicans still do not accept the results of the 2020 presidential election. Donald Trump still believes the election results will be reversed in some states and return to the Oval Office later this summer.
Opposition to the presidential election result led to an attack on the United States Capitol on January 6. The invaders attempted to disrupt Congressional certification of the Electoral College vote and threatened to hang Vice President Michael Pence if he declared Joe Biden the winner. The attack caused extensive damage to one of the country’s most important buildings and left people dead and injured.
The refusal of Trump and his most eager supporters to accept defeat in a close election, as Al Gore honorably did in 2000, signals danger to our republic. We have all learned that slavery was the main cause of our civil war. Slavery was certainly the underlying problem that tore the nation apart in 1861, but the United States had survived as a nation with slavery in place in some states from 1789, when George Washington took office. until the presidential election of 1860. What caused secession and the Civil War was the Southern opposition to the legitimate election of President Abraham Lincoln.
Southern states that voted for secession after the 1860 election believed Lincoln was an abolitionist who would dedicate his presidency to ending American slavery. When Lincoln ran for the Illinois Senate seat held by Democrat Stephen Douglas in 1858, Lincoln identified himself as a Republican, a new national party whose more radical members called for immediate abolition. . Lincoln presented himself as a moderate Republican who did not advocate immediate abolition, but limiting the spread of slavery to new states and territories.
During the presidential campaign of 1860, however, Southerners pointed to a speech Lincoln made during that campaign to the Senate of 1858. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Lincoln asserted in a speech in June 1858. “I believe that this government cannot last, permanently half slave and half free. I don’t expect the Union to be dissolved – I don’t expect the house to fall – but I expect it to stop being divided. It’ll become all one thing, or the other. This man, if elected president, would he allow slavery to continue to flourish in the southern states?
Unlike Trump supporters who believe he actually won states he lost, members of the Southern state legislatures could not challenge the results of the 1860 election. Lincoln won 180 of the 303 electoral votes, and he beat Douglas in the popular vote by over 10%, 39.8 to 29.5, with two other candidates sharing the remaining votes. In 1860, the validity of the results of the vote was not contested, as in 2020. Nonetheless, in the two months following the election of 1860, before Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, 1861, seven southern states voted in favor of secession from the Union.
In his first inaugural speech, Lincoln repeated a statement he had made in an earlier speech: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists.” . I don’t think I have the legal right to do this, and I don’t want to. Nonetheless, secession did take place and Civil War began a month after Lincoln took office.
Slavery, which took root in the American colonies in 1619 and remained in place when the colonies became an independent nation, was certainly the underlying cause of the Civil War, but the armed conflict between the northern states and The South began when the Southerners refused to recognize the legitimacy of the presidential election of 1860. This war resulted in the deaths of more than 400,000 Americans. Patriotic Americans hope those who question the 2020 election results don’t lead us down a path that led the nation to civil war in 1861.