In 1796, on this day the "Great Apostate" John Bell was born in Nashville, Tennessee. Due to the acute sectional tensions and complex political processes of the bitterly contested 1860 election, he would be voted the sixteenth President of the United States by the Electoral College.
Rise of the "Great Apostate" by David TennerBy that transformative year he was fully established as a highly experienced and balanced national politician, serving in the United States Congress in both the House of Representatives and Senate as well as receiving appointments as House Speaker and Secretary of State for War.
Bell had actually run as a member of the Constitutional Unionist Party, but was originally a Democrat that had become a Whig after falling out with Andrew Jackson. And even though he was a wealthy slaveholder, he was by no means a zealot for slavery expansionism. In fact he was the only Southerner to have opposed the Kansas-Nebraska bill as well as the Lecompton Constitution. As late as 1856, he would refer to slavery as an "accidental and enforced blemish".
Clearly a potential compromise candidate, his road to the White House opened when the Republicans realised that they just could not get a majority of delegations in the House. They actually controlled fifteen delegations, their chances of getting the remaining two necessary were probelmatic, probably involving winning over one Illinois Douglasite and unseating a narrowly elected Breckinridge-Lane man from Oregon - they could theoretically, if united, elect Bell in combination with Bell's own supporters ("Americans", "Oppositionists" etc.) and perhaps a few Douglas Democrats.
And the other factor of course was the mutual hatred in the Democrat Party. The Buchanan and Douglas wings of the Democratic party was so great that probably either candidate would prefer Bell to a rival "Democrat".