In 1861, Northern Democrat Stephen Douglas was inaugurated as the 16th President of the United States of America.
President DouglasDouglas had won in a turbulent four-way election, defeating Republican Abraham Lincoln, Kentucky Sen. John C. Breckinridge of he breakaway Southern Democratic Party, and John Bell of the newly-organized Constitutional Union Party.
His victory was due in large part to his success in calming Southern fears regarding the abolition of slavery, which had led several states to draft resolutions of secession from the Union and others to consider doing so if the Republicans, the party most strongly associated with the anti-slavery cause, won.
Douglas had supported the 1857 Dred Scott decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the constitutionality of fugitive slave laws and stated that the Framers had never intended that blacks should become U.S. citizens. However, he had argued that it could not be effective in a state or territory whose citizens refused to pass laws enforcing it. This attempt at a compromise had angered some Southerners, prompting the schism of the Democratic Party, while failing to satisfy opponents of the decision. As president, Douglas would try to bridge the ideological divide, appointing to key positions members of all four of the parties which had contended in 1860; the result, however, would be not harmony but gridlock. The slavery issue would continue to fester throughout the 1860s, with Southerners continuing to threaten secession if the federal government acts to interfere with their "right of property upon Negro slaves".