The result of the contest between the four Presidential candidates was rendered almost a foregone conclusion by the decision of the Democrats. Lincoln in deference to the usual and seemly procedure took no part in the campaign, nor do his doings in the next months concern us. Seward, to his great honour, after privately expressing his bitter chagrin at the bestowal of what was his due upon “a little Illinois attorney,” threw himself whole-heartedly into the contest, and went about making admirable speeches. On the night of November 6, Lincoln sat alone with the operator in the telegraph box at Springfield, receiving as they came in the results of the elections of Presidential electors in the various States. Long before the returns were complete his knowledge of such matters made him sure of his return, and before he left that box he had solved in principle, as he afterwards declared, the first and by no means least important problem of his Presidency, the choice of a Cabinet.
The victory was in one aspect far from complete. If we look not at the votes in the Electoral College with which the formal choice of President lay, but at the popular votes by which the electors were returned, we shall see that the new President was elected by a minority of the American people. He had a large majority over Douglas, but if Douglas had received the votes which were given for the Southern Democrat, Breckinridge, he would have had a considerable majority over Lincoln, though the odd machinery of the Electoral College would still have kept him out of the Presidency. In another aspect it was a fatally significant victory. Lincoln’s votes were drawn only from the Northern States; he carried almost all the free States and he carried no others. For the first time in American history, the united North had used its superior numbers to outvote the South. This would in any case have caused great vexation, and the personality of the man chosen by the North aggravated it. The election of Lincoln was greeted throughout the South with a howl of derision.