Monday, March 4, 2013

Election of 1860, John Bell, Constitutional Union Party

Probably the least historically remembered of the four candidates for president of the United States in the 1860 election is John Bell. The Tennessean ran on the Constitutional Union ticket, largely made up of old line Whigs. His running mate was Edward Everett of Massachusetts, who was a premier orator of the day, and is best remembered as the speaker that preceded Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

Bell brought a significant amount of political experience to the ticket. He had served in the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and had also been a Secretary of War briefly under John Tyler.

Bell and Everett did not fare very well in the 1860 race. Not surprisingly, the Constitutional Union ticket proved most popular in the upper-South, where Whigs had largely dominated in past elections.  The pair won Kentucky, Virginia, and Bell's home state of Tennessee. But, of the four candidates, Bell brought in the least amount of votes, both in percentage and in popular votes.  

Bell remained loyal to the Union during the secession crisis, but when Tennessee left the Union, he switched his support the Confederacy. When Nashville was captured by Union forces in the spring of 1862 he left the state. Bell returned to Tennessee home after the war and died at his Stewart County home in 1869. 

All images courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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