In 1858 Stephen Douglas defeated Abraham Lincoln and became the senator from Illinois. But the tall country lawyer was now well-known; the Lincoln-Douglas debates have been read across the nation. Now, two years later, when both men run for the presidency, people are ready for Lincoln's words. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln is elected president of the United States . Before he even has a chance to take office, seven southern states secede from the Union. Alexander Stephens is a leading Southern figure . He says : "All efforts to save the Union will be unavailing. The truth is our leaders and public men do not desire to continue it on any terms."
South Carolina leads the way. Mississippi, one of the richest states in the nation, follows eagerly. So do Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. The other slave states in the South hesitate until President Lincoln calls for volunteers to fight the Southerners. That decides it for Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee. In all, eleven states leave the Union and form the Confederate States of America .
In February 1861, the Confederate States elect their own presidentJefferson Davis of Mississippi. ''All we ask is to be left alone,'' he says at his inauguration.