Shortly after Lincoln's election, Congress assembled, and the following three months leading up to Lincoln's inauguration were marked by events of profound significance for the country. Seven states left the Union, formed a new government, and took over federal property; eight slaveholding states precariously walked a tightrope between Union and secession; the Buchanan administration, after conceding the loss of most federal posts, held firm at Forts Pickens and Sumter; and moderates formulated compromise proposals to resolve the crisis and provide a means for the peaceable reconstruction of the country.
December 3, 1860 - March 3, 1861
Officially, Lincoln had no more authority in this situation than any other American. Due to a constitutional requirement, he would not take office until March 4, 1861. In the meantime, power remained in the hands of a lame-duck President and Congress . Yet unofficially, Lincoln possessed considerable influence, and what he decided to do about the various compromise proposals during this period would be as fateful as any decision he made after he became President.
In making up his mind, Lincoln had to consider, among other things, his own principles and ideals, the demands of his party and constituents, the situation in the upper South, the strength of the secessionist movement in the deep South, and the likely consequences of any decision on the future course of events.
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Bibliography: Baringer, House Dividing.