Certainly, Lincoln's election in 1860 precipitated secession, which resulted in war, and the sesquicentennial of that event, on November 6, truly marks the beginning of the forthcoming cycle of commemoration. Douglas R. Egerton's Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election That Brought on the Civil War (Bloomsbury Press, out this month) offers a thorough analysis. The contest featured four candidates: John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, nominee of the Southern Democrats; Stephen A. Douglas, of Illinois, candidate of the Northern Democrats; John Bell, of Tennessee, representing the Constitutional Union Party; and, of course, Abraham Lincoln, of the Republican Party, whose very nomination entices us into playing the counterfactual game: What if the Republican convention had not been held in Lincoln's home state, in Chicago, a site chosen over St. Louis by one vote? Egerton does not speculate about what might have occurred had the convention been held in Missouri, but it certainly would have boosted the chances of Edward Bates, who had lived there since before the territory became a state.From The Civil War at 150
Louis P. Masur is chair of American studies at Trinity College in Connecticut and author of The Civil War: A Concise History, forthcoming from Oxford University Press.