The Capitol Dome

The Capitol Dome 55.2

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THE CAPITOL DOME 45 Fig. 1. President-elect Abraham Lincoln, photographed in January 1861 by Christopher S. German (1841–1896) B y Wednesday morning, the 7th of November 1860, sufficient election returns had been reported so as to leave little doubt: Abraham Lincoln (fig. 1) had been elected president of the United States. Despite only winning about 40 per- cent of the popular vote, his margin of victory in the Electoral College had been substantial, comfort- ably giving him virtually all of the electoral votes for states north of the Mason-Dixon Line (fig. 2). It took well over a week for returns from the far-flung, still-new states of California and Ore- gon to come in, and there, it was a different story. In California, Lincoln's plurality over nearest rival Stephen Douglas was a bit over 700 votes, and in Oregon, his lead over opponent John Breckinridge was around 300 votes. No other states gave Lin- coln such a narrow margin of victory. It was, as the president-elect later declared, "the closest political bookkeeping that I know of." 1 Immediately, the southern slave-holding states began to agitate for secession. Lincoln tried to placate them, but to no avail; his many speeches, over many years, against slavery convinced the South that they had no choice but to make prepa- rations to declare their independence from the United States and create their own Confederate States of America. Geographically, the split-up in the East was— with the exception of a handful of border states— fairly clear. But in the West, the situation was not nearly as obvious. Beyond a line of states stretching Steam dIplomaCy: SendIng a Subtle meSSage In leutZe'S weStward ho! by John Laurence Busch

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