Online Work

Online Etymology Dictionary
The Sciolist
Slavery in the North
Civil War Writing

Civil War Causes

It's often said that the American Civil War was entirely and only about slavery. Is there another view?

Yankee Canards
Was the ante-bellum South a primitive, backwards, illiterate, violent culture?

Numbers and significance of the Southern mulatto population

Northern Racism
De Tocqueville observed that "race prejudice seems stronger in those states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists, and nowhere is it more intolerant than in those states where slavery was never known"

Slavery as History
How can you make an honest inquiry into American slavery without understanding the mindset of slave-owners? How can you do that without being yourself a racist?

Rebel View
Early 19th century American politics and political culture as it was seen by many Southerners

Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the greatest writer in American political history. Writers are great, in part, because of their ability to disguise what they really intend.

Lincoln and Race
"You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races."

Thaddeus Stevens
The life and times of Pennsylvania's fiery anti-Southern Congressman

Sidelights on Christiana
The Christiana Riot of 1851 is sometimes described at the first skirmish of the Civil War

1860 Election
Even if all the Democrats had united behind one candidate, the Northern regional ticket would have won

The wire-pulling over the Morrill tariff bill in 1860 showed the party of the abolitionists cynically using a legitimate government mechanism to gain power in a presidential election.

Legal Issues
Secession was legal under the Constitution, based on its ratification by the states in 1787 and 1788

Cornerstone Speech
Alexander Stephens "Cornerstone Speech" in context.

Upper South
"States rights" is dismissed as a red herring argument, yet the Upper South states seem to have left the Union for this reason.

What Cost Union?
Lincoln saved the union, but at a terrible cost to America's democracy and culture of freedom.


Up from History
The evolving historical view of the American Civil War.

Soldiers and War
Responding to the slander against Southern military effort.

Why the South Lost
Was Northern victory inevitable?

War Effort
The South put forth a tremendous effort for independence.

The Southern Press
Journalism and Southern civil liberties.

An examination of the myth of massive Southern desertion.

A Closer Look
Desertion by the numbers; case studies North and South.

Ella Lonn
The original study of desertion in the Civil War.

Southern conscription was the first attempt to create a modern military system.

Draft of 1862
An overlooked draft in the North that was underway almost simultaneously with the first rebel conscription.

Albert B. Moore
An important source for the "South against the South" thesis.

The Lincoln Administration's crackdown on Maryland.

Occupied Maryland
A sampling of federal documents dealing with martial law in Maryland.

Maryland Peace Party
A pamphlet from the anti-government forces in Maryland.

Habeas Corpus
The suspension of Habeas Corpus in the North by the Lincoln administration during the war.

A Northern newspaper editor fights the administration after it closes down his press in response to anti-government articles.

"Keystone Confederates"
Some Pennsylvanians fought for the South during the Civil War.


Southern Populists
"You are deceived and blinded that you may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary system which beggars you both."

Coatesville Lynching
Zach Walker was burned alive by a white mob in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

York Riots
A little-known but violent 1960s race riot in York, Pennsylvania.

New South
Slavery, racism, and segregation were national experiences.

New Lost Cause
A native-born Southern white woman worked with native-born Southerners, black and white, with a shared sense of decency, to accomplishing the work of desegregation in Mississippi.

Flag dispute
From 1879 to 1956, the Georgia state flag was essentially the "Stars and Bars." If you were going to link any state flag with slavery, that would be the one.

Jonathan Kozol
"So two-tenths of 1 percent marks the difference between legally enforced apartheid in the South 50 years ago, and socially and economically enforced apartheid in New York today"


sources consulted


Some writers blame the Democrats, and especially the Southern Democrats, for Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860. The split in the Democratic Party that summer is said to have opened the door for the new Republican Party. Because the divided Democrats could not agree on a candidate, this theory goes, the split in the party allowed Lincoln to capture the White House with a mere 39 percent of the popular vote.

This is provably false. Lincoln would have won even if all the non-Lincoln votes had gone to a single candidate. Yet the "divided Democrats" myth persists. So here's the math.

Lincoln got 180 electoral votes and 1,865,593 popular votes.

Breckenridge got 72 electoral votes and 848,356 popular votes.

Douglas got 12 electoral votes and 1,382,713 popular votes.

Bell got 39 electoral votes and 592,906 popular votes.

Even if you take all the Democratic electors into one pool, they only have 123 electoral votes. Lincoln still wins. But what about the popular vote? As Americans learned again in 2000, elections can hinge on the distribution of votes among the states, and a candidate can win without a majority of the popular vote, so long as he has majorities in key places. So the thing to do is look at the vote by states in 1860. Surely 39 percent of the popular vote couldn't have carried Lincoln into the White House.

Amazingly, it could at that moment in American history. Here is the breakdown of the vote in the 33 states that then comprised the Union. Slightly different numbers are given in different sources, but they do not vary by more than a dozen or so in most cases, and never by enough to change the outcomes:

ALABAMA 9 0 13,618 48,669 27,875
ARKANSAS 4 0 5,357 28,732 20,063
CALIFORNIA 4 38,733 37,999 33,969 9,111
CONNECTICUT 6 43,488 15,431 14,372 1,528
DELAWARE 3 3,822 1,066 7,339 3,888
FLORIDA 3 0 223 8,277 4,801
GEORGIA 10 0 11,581 52,176 42,960
ILLINOIS 11 172,171 160,215 2,331 4,914
INDIANA 13 139,033 115,509 12,295 5,306
IOWA 4 70,302 55,639 1,035 1,763
KENTUCKY 12 1,364 25,651 53,143 66,058
LOUISIANA 6 0 7,625 22,681 20,204
MAINE 8 62,811 29,693 6,368 2,046
MARYLAND 8 2,294 5,966 42,482 41,760
MASSACHUSETTS 13 106,684 34,370 6,163 22,331
MICHIGAN 6 88,481 65,057 805 415
MINNESOTA 4 22,069 11,920 748 50
MISSISSIPPI 7 0 3,282 40,768 25,045
MISSOURI 9 17,028 58,801 31,362 58,372
NEW HAMPSHIRE 5 37,519 25,887 2,125 412
NEW JERSEY 7* 58,346 62,869 0 0
NEW YORK 35 362,646 312,510 0 0
N. CAROLINA 10 0 2,737 48,846 45,129
OHIO 23 231,709 187,421 11,406 12,194
OREGON 3 5,329 4,136 5,075 218
PENNSYLVANIA 27 268,030 16,765 178,871 12,776
RHODE ISLAND 4 12,244 7,707 0 0
S. CAROLINA 8** -- -- -- --
TENNESSEE 12 0 11,281 65,097 69,728
TEXAS 4 0 18 47,454 15,383
VERMONT 5 33,808 8,649 218 1,969
VIRGINIA 15 1,887 16,198 74,325 74,481
WISCONSIN 5 86,110 65,021 887 161

*New Jersey's electoral votes were split, four for Lincoln, three for Douglas.

**South Carolina still did not hold popular votes for presidential electors. The state's electors backed Breckenridge.

It's interesting to compare the electoral votes from today and see the relative importance of certain states, especially the enormous importance of New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The seven deep south states had 47 electoral votes, but were outnumbered by Pennsylvania and Ohio alone. Vermont had more electors than Texas.

To make Lincoln lose this election, obviously, the states that have to shift columns are the ones where he got electoral votes. Assume all the non-Lincoln voters would vote for one candidate. In fact there was such a fusion ticket in New York, Rhode Island, and a few other Northern places. It wasn't enough.

In other states, a fusion was unlikely. In places like Baltimore, the Constitutional Union Party vote for Bell represented local interests, or die-hard Know-Nothingism which likely would have gone for Lincoln if it had no other option. But allow that every non-Lincoln vote in 1860 could have gone to a single candidate, to give the "divided Democrats" argument every advantage. Here's what you get:

CALIFORNIA 4 38,733 81,079
CONNECTICUT 6 43,488 31,331
ILLINOIS 11 172,171 167,460
INDIANA 13 139,033 133,110
IOWA 4 70,302 58,437
MAINE 8 62,811 38,107
MASSACHUSETTS 13 106,684 62,864
MICHIGAN 6 88,481 66,277
MINNESOTA 4 22,069 12,718
NEW HAMPSHIRE 5 37,519 28,424
NEW JERSEY 7 58,346 62,869
NEW YORK 35 362,646 312,510
OHIO 23 231,709 211,021
OREGON 3 5,329 9,429
PENNSYLVANIA 27 268,030 208,412
RHODE ISLAND 4 12,244 7,707
VERMONT 5 33,808 10,836
WISCONSIN 5 86,110 66,069

Only California's 4 electoral votes and Oregon's 3 switch into the Democrat category. Lincoln's margin of victory narrows, especially in states like Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. But he still wins in those places. The "fusion" vote in New Jersey is unchanged. The electors there still split 4-3.

Lincoln has 173 electoral votes; his imaginary opponent has 130.

The Republican party had pored over election returns for six years, and it knew what it had to do to win. It had a regional strategy to win the election by playing the electoral college numbers game. It did so splendidly. The South was cut out of the political equation. The divided Democratic Party was a non-issue.

It's not as though the split Democratic ticket discouraged voters. The voter turnout rate in 1860 was the second-highest on record (81.2 percent, after only 1876, with 81.8 percent).

Choosing Lincoln as the candidate was all part of the strategy -- as was keeping him quiet until after the election so that the carefully constructed Republican platform of 1860, with a plank for each interest group, stood as the real candidate. Seward was the most famous Republican, but Seward, no matter how he tempered his rhetoric, was seen as a radical. And the Republicans -- not just the party bosses, but the rank and file -- had been studying this one hard since 1856, and they knew how many votes they needed to swing in three crucial Northern border states that cared little for abolitionists.

Lincoln's great virtue in 1860 was that he had not been nationally prominent long enough to have powerful enemies or a real reputation. He could be the anti-slavery candidate in Massachusetts, and the tariff protection candidate in Pennsylvania, and the genial rail-splitter in places where neither issue aroused much heat.

He could appeal to the important Know-Nothing element in the patchwork Republican Party, which rejected Seward. Former Know-Nothings supported him. "We cannot elect extreme men," said one of them, Richard M. Corwine. "Moderation in their past life & present views, must mark them or we cannot elect them." Corwine was one of the lower North delegates who blocked Seward early in the convention and opened the door for Lincoln.

Politics are strange. Lincoln and Seward both opposed Nativism, but as historian Tyler Anbinder has shown (in "Nativism and Slavery"), the Republicans needed those Fillmore votes. The old Know-Nothings had a conservative tendency that rejected Seward out of hand. And Lincoln did reward them with patronage, Simon Cameron being a notorious example, though that was a double-dip patronage: it rewarded Pennsylvania as well.

2002Douglas Harper "When misunderstanding serves others as an advantage, one is helpless to make oneself understood." -Lionel Trilling