That said, as I was in the KY Building with my classes this week, I picked up a copy of Lowell Harrison's The Civil War in Kentucky (Lexington, KY: The University of Kentucky Press, 1975) to skim over between classes. In the opening pages, I learned something quite interesting about Lincoln and Kentucky: he got trounced in his bid for the presidency in his home state. You can't swing a dead cat in this state without hitting a poster for an event connecting Abe to the land and place of his birth (near Hodgenville, KY, just an hour or so up I-65 from Bowling Green). Kentuckians love to lay claim to Lincoln.
But, the 1860 election is a real thorn in the Kentucky/Lincoln love fest. Harrison notes, "when the Democratic party split along sectional lines, one of the last political bonds holding the nation together disappeared." The Southern Dem's went with John C. Breckinridge (the US Vice President under James Buchanan) as their candidate, while Northern Dem's backed Stephen A. Douglas. Harrison then lays out the good stuff:
Kentuckians found little solace in the nomination of Lincoln by the Republicans. He was a native of Kentucky, but his "house divided" speech had alarmed many slaveholders who would not accept the curtailment of slavery expansion that he and his party demanded. As the campaign progressed, many Kentuckians turned toward John Bell, the Constitutional Union candidate from neighboring Tennessee, who simple platform was the preservation of the Union.Of course, Lincoln won the election powered by his sweep of most of the northern states. But, make no mistake, the native Kentuckian was not only stomped in his state of birth, but came in a distant fourth, garnering less than 1% of the vote! Lincoln was viewed as the anti-slavery candidate and that just did not play in a state looking to preserve the Union. Keep this in mind as we celebrate Lincoln over the coming year. This is just another interesting tidbit in Kentucky's rich and bizarre history.
Bell captured a majority in 35 of Kentucky's 110 counties in 1860 and won a plurality in 25 more...Breckinridge had a majority in 36 counties but pluralities in only 7...Douglas had a majority in only 7 counties, and Lincoln did not carry a single one. The popular vote was 66,501 for Bell, 53,143 for Breckinridge, 25,638 for Douglas, and 1,364 for Lincoln. Although Fayette County contained a number of Lincoln's in-laws, he received just five votes there.(1) [bold mine]
Read more about the 1860 Election here.
1. Harrison, 4-5.