Lesson Plan

Lesson 4: Abraham Lincoln, the 1860 Election, and the Future of the American Union and Slavery

Abraham Lincoln painting by G.H. Story, 1917.
Photo caption

Abraham Lincoln painting by G.H. Story, 1917.

This lesson plan will explore Abraham Lincoln's rise to political prominence during the debate over the future of American slavery. Lincoln's anti-slavery politics will be contrasted with the abolitionism of William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass and the "popular sovereignty" concept of U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas. The views of southern Democrats like Jefferson Davis and William Lowndes Yancey will also be examined to show how sectional thinking leading up to the 1860 presidential election eventually produced a southern "secession" and the American Civil War. In addition, the Republican Party platform of 1860 will be compared with the platforms of the two Democratic factions and the Constitutional Union Party to determine how the priorities of Lincoln and his party differed from the other parties in 1860, and how these differences eventually led to the dissolution of the Union.

Guiding Questions

What were the political alternatives regarding the spread of slavery and the preservation of the American union facing the American people in the decade leading up to the 1860 presidential election?

How did Abraham Lincoln's political views distinguish him from defenders of immediate abolition, popular sovereignty, and national slavery?

Learning Objectives

Explain how Abraham Lincoln's understanding of the federal union and the Constitution led him to the conviction that Congress had the authority to prohibit slavery in the territories

Show how Lincoln's moral beliefs led him to the conclusion that Congress should use its authority to restrict slavery from the territories

Articulate the different solutions to the controversy over slavery in the territories proposed by Abraham Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Stephen Douglas, Jefferson Davis, and William Lowndes Yancey

Distinguish the priorities of the Republican Party from those of the two factions of the Democratic Party and the Constitutional Union Party during the 1860 election

Explain how the differing views regarding slavery in the territories eventually produced a southern secession and a civil war