The Civil War
T he decade of the 1860s opened with one of the most fateful elections in American history. The Democratic party split at its national convention at Charleston in April 1860 over the issue of slavery expansion. The regular Democrats nominated Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois for the presidency on a platform that called for popular sovereignty in the territories, while the bolters chose Vice-President John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky and urged acceptance of the Dred Scott decision, which clearly upheld slavery. The Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln of Illinois on a platform that insisted the territories be free. The American party renamed itself the Constitutional Union party and nominated Senator John Bell of Tennessee on a vague platform that called for maintenance of the Constitution, the Union, and the laws.
Missourians found themselves similarly divided. Claiborne Fox Jackson had been nominated for governor by the Democrats before the Charleston convention. He had authored the Jackson Resolutions of the late 1840s which had first prompted the Missouri divisions over the question of slavery in the territories. In the new party crisis he wisely decided to stay with the regular Democrats. Although he faced a rival nominee from the bolters, he held enough strength to gain a narrow victory over Sample Orr of Greene County, the candidate of the Constitutional Unionists. The parties of Jackson and Orr seemed to represent a middle-of-the-road position on the great national issue of slavery. This appealed to most Missourians who had no desire to follow what were generally considered the more extreme positions of the Republicans and the Breckinridge Democrats.