John Cabell Breckenridge was born near Lexington, Kentucky. He studied law at Transylvania University and after graduating he set up as a lawyer. Breckenridge was elected to the House of Representatives in 1851 and served as vice-president of the United States (1857-61).
The Democratic Party that met in Charleston in April, 1860, were deeply divided. Most delegates from the Deep South argued that the Congress had no power to legislate over slavery in their territory. The Northerners disagreed and won the vote. As a result the Southerners walked out of the convention and another meeting was held in Baltimore. Again the Southerners walked out over the issue of slavery. With only the Northern delegates left, Stephen A. Douglas won the nomination.
Southern delegates now held another meeting in Richmond and Breckenridge was selected as their candidate. The situation was further complicated by the formation of the Constitutional Union Party and the nomination of John Bell of Tennessee.
Abraham Lincoln won the presidential election with with 1,866,462 votes (18 free states) and beat Stephen A. Douglas (1,375,157 - 1 slave state), Breckenridge (847,953 - 13 slave states) and John Bell (589,581 - 3 slave states). Between election day in November, 1860 and inauguration the following March, seven states seceded from the Union: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.
Representatives from these seven states quickly established a new political organization, the Confederate States of America. On 8th February they adopted a constitution and within ten days had elected Jefferson Davis as its president with Breckenridge as Secretary of War. After the American Civil War he escaped to Europe. John Cabell Breckenridge died in 1875.