The election of 1860 might have been the most pivotal in American history. Abraham Lincoln, the candidate of the 6-year-old Republican Party, ran on a platform of keeping slavery completely out of the new territories that had been annexed from Mexico 11 years earlier. The dominant Democratic Party split into two factions over the slavery extension issue. Northern Democrats who felt the residents of the territories themselves should decide nominated Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas, Lincoln’s longtime rival, as their standard bearer. Southern Democrats who wanted slavery extended regardless of the residents’ desires nominated Vice President John Breckinridge of Kentucky. A fourth candidate, John Bell, ran as a compromise candidate under the “Keep the Union together at all costs” banner of the Constitutional Union Party. The campaign was heated. Lincoln and the Republicans were not even on the ballot in the states of the Deep South. Although Lincoln only won 40% of the popular vote, the split in the Democratic Party enabled him to secure a comfortable majority in the Electoral College.
The map above shows the electoral breakdown. California was one of the states that would have opted for the Democrat had they run only one candidate. The map below demonstrates county-by-county results, indicating the percentage of the popular vote earned by the winning candidate in each county. Shades of red are for Lincoln, shades of blue are for Northern Democrat Douglas, shades of green are for Southern Democrat John Breckinridge, shades of yellow are for Constitutional Unionist Bell and shades of purple for the non-Republican/Democratic “Fusion” candidates. Grey are counties with no results. (South Carolina voted overwhelmingly for Breckinridge but county results were unavailable). Note that San Bernardino County voted narrowly for Lincoln.