The political revolution of the 1850s polarized the American electorate by superimposing party divisions upon sectional issues. When the Whigs and the Democrats had both held Congressional seats throughout the country, their representatives in Congress had incentives to minimize sectional tensions. But the Congress elected in 1860 had no such incentives. A new reform party, the Republicans, controlled most Northern districts and pushed only Northern interests, while a transformed older party, the Democrats, controlled most Southern districts and pushed primarily Southern interests. This did not bode well for the Union.

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