A Political-Historical Mental Exercise
I’ve been thinking through the 1860 presidential election a lot recently.
The background: In 1857 the Supreme Court ruled in the terrible Dred Scott case that the U.S. Constitution did not protect the rights of black people, free or enslaved. It also invalidated the Missouri Compromise as an illegitimate extension of congressional power. The Missouri Compromise had prohibited slavery in the northern U.S., except for Missouri, and was intended to balance the power of slave and free states. Along with the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), this meant each new territory became slave-holding or free based on the votes of that state’s population, which inevitably lead to armed conflicts (notably Bleeding Kansas) between abolitionists and pro-slavery settlers, with abolitionists often winning out. In 1850 the Fugitive Slave Act passed Congress, requiring northern states to return runaway slaves to the south, something abolitionists obviously refused to do. The country was at a breaking point.
So, I’ve been wondering what I would do if I was teleported back to 1860 and able to vote…