1858 Federal Election

Date: From 1858-08-02 to 1859-12-01

The last congressional election for some states before the secession crisis, the 1858 federal election saw the Republican Party take control of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Democratic Party retained its majority in the U.S. Senate, but lost seats to the Republicans. The American Party continued its decline–largely ceding seats to the Republicans–and the short-lived Opposition Party won nineteen seats in the House. The election showed the further sectional divide in the nation, as the Republicans dominated the North and the Democrats the South. One of the more intriguing campaigns involved the contest for the U.S. Senate in Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln challenged Stephen A. Douglas, the incumbent, for Douglas's seat. Douglas won the election, but the campaign catapulted Lincoln into national prominence.

Michael F. Holt, The Political Crisis of the 1850s (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1978), 213; George Fort Milton, "Lincoln-Douglas Debates," Dictionary of American History, rev. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976), 4:155-56; Kenneth C. Martis, The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress, 1789-1989 (New York: MacMillan, 1989), 111, 113.