Abraham Lincoln

Adam Smith compares Trump's win to past Presidents who divided America even as they promised radical change. To his enemies, Abraham Lincoln's win in 1860 was utterly intolerable.

Historian Adam Smith compares Trump's win to past Presidents who divided America even as they promised radical change.

In the 1850s, Abraham Lincoln's new Republican Party promised a new kind of politics, with candidates "fresh from the loins of the people" who would sweep away the old establishment, the cronyism and corruption of the Democratic Party and its collusion with the slave states of the South.

To his enemies, Lincoln's election in 1860 was utterly intolerable. He called slavery wrong, he wanted to stop its extension, he pledged to return to the revolutionary values of the founding fathers (as he saw them) and set the institution of slavery on the path to extinction. Parts of the country, and demographic groups, who had been the outsiders of American politics, suddenly had a winner.

Lincoln was a hugely successful revolutionary president at a massive cost. He was so polarising that eleven states seceded and civil war resulted. But Lincoln won re-election and by the time he was assassinated he had reunified the country on his own terms. His Republican Party dominated national politics for the next 50 years.

Series features contributions from: HW Brands, Eric Foner, Eric Rauchway, Heather Richardson

Producer: Phil Tinline.

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