United States History: Elections--19th Century

Figure 1.--The elections of 1860 and 1864 were probably the most important in American history. They settled the question of slavery and the issue of the nature of the Federal Union. The split of the Democratic Party in 1860n resulted in the election of the Republican candidate--Abraham Linconn. The South seceeded resulting in the Civil War. Many Americans by 1864 had become disenchanted with the War and the terrible battle field losses. The Mclellan and the Democrats offered to end the War by compromising with the southern Confederacy. The Republicans stood by President Lincoln and his program of defeating the Confederacy to preseve the Union and an end to slavery. Liincoln was convinced that he would lose the election. At the time, Europeans saw the War as a basically domestic struggle. Only later would historians understand how powerfully the outcome would affect the history of the 20th century. The pannel here is from a 2-page spread in "Harpers Illustrated Weekly" drawn by famed illustrator Thomnas Nast to contrast the Democratic and Republican platforms in 1864.

The first election of the 19th century was a show-down between the Federalist and Republican Parties. After their defeat in 1800 the Federalist declined as a national pary. This was followed by a period in which the Republicans were the only national political party. The first war of the 19th century was the war of 1812. It and the other wars fought in the 19th century proved politically cotentious. Madison and Monroe had no real political opposition. The Era of Good Feeling was followed by one of the most contentious periods of American politics--the Jacksonian Era. The modern Democratic Party rose out of the Republicans. The mid-19th century was characterized by electoral struggles between Jacksonian Democrats seeking to expand democracy and committed to states rights and the new Whig Party advocating a national program of internal improvements and fiscal reforms. This party system was undone by the escalating issue of slavery. The Republican Prty emerged oit of the wreckage of the Whig Party in the north and the Free Soil Democrats. Slavery also split the Democrats, making possible the elecgtion of the Republican Abraham Lincoln. The Northern victory in the Civil War (1861-65) left the Republicans the dominant party in the rest of the 19th century. The Republicans pictured the Democrats as the Party of "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion". The Republicans promoted important programs like the Homestead Act. After the Civil War they increasingly supported pro-business policies like subsidies and high tariffs that promoted the rapid industrialization of the United States. While the Republicans were willing to intervene in the economy to support business, they were against any intervention to ameliorate working conditions and the consequences of economic downturns. Democrats like Cleveland shared this general attitude. The Progressive movement in the lte 19th century began to address the need for government to address social issues.

1800 Presidential Election

The election of 1800 is arguably the most critical in American history. The country knew they could trust Washington. The abilities nd judhement of those who followed him were an open question. While political parties played no role in the 1792 election, they certainly did in the 1800 election. The election was notable because of the extemely partisan nature of the election and the vitriolic attacks on former Revolution War friends and colleagues. It was particularly important as it resulted in the first transfer of power from one party to the other and despite the contentious nature of the election, it occured peacefully with President Adams quietly leaving Washington quietly by stage coah before President Jefferson's innaguration. This was a momentous event, the peaceful transfer of power to an oposition power. One reason that monarchy had endured so long in human history is thatit provided for a peaceful sucession from one monarch to another. The transfer of power in a republican government is much less asured. Setting this precent in the Ameican Republic was a critical step. The election also involved a major realignment in Americamn politics. The Democratic-Republican victories in the Congressional elections essentially destroyed the Federalists as a national party. President Adams packed the Federal Courts with Federalists which essentially meant that they could continue to exert influence through the Federal courts led by the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall.

1804 Presidential Election

The hotly contested election of 1800 which Jefferson won established the critical precedent of a peaceful transfer of power. The 1804 election proved to be a formality. Poltical passions had cooled considerably. The Federalist Party was no longer string enough to seriously contest the presidency with the Republicans. The election process contiue to evolve. The campaign saw the first nominating caucus when 100 Republican Congressmen met to nominate President Jefferson by acclamation. The President's reelection was not in doubt. The Federalists were increasigly seen as too aristocratic and were not helped by radical elements. The Federalists weree only able to challenge the Republicans in a few states (Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland). President Jefferson swept the election with 162 electoral votes. Charles Pinckney garnered only 14 votes.

1808 Presidential Election

There was not limit in the Constitution as to how many terms aresident could serve. President Washingtom was elected twice. President Adams failed in his reelection bid. President Jefferson could have run for a third term, but he decided like Washington that two terms were sufficient. Their decesions essentially set a precedented that lasted until the World War II crisis. President Jefferson hand-picked his successor. Secretary of State James Madison was a fellow Virginian and long-term friend and close political associate. At the time the Secretary of State was the post prestigious post in the Federal Government other than the president. Early vice presidents other than Adams played very minor roles. Vice-Presdent George Clinton of New York had hoped to gain the nomination, but this was not possible without Jefferson's support. The Democratic-Republicans unanimously nominated Madison. They also nominated Clinton as his running mate. There was, however, considerable political discent. President Jefferson had a very successful first term, but his second term gave rise to considerable criticism. The Napoleonic Wars in Europe had many adverse consequences in America. Neither Britain or France honored American neutrality. Jefferson's answer was the Embargo Act (1807), but this had adverse consequences for American commerce. New England which relied heavily on maritime commerse in particular suffered economically. The Federalists again nominated Charles Pinckney of South Carolina. Pinckey served in the Revolutionary War and was given diplomatic assignments by President Washington. The campaign was highly partisan. Madison as the Republican candidate and close associate of Jefferson was held responsible for the Embargo Act. The Federalists sharply attacked Madison and the Embargo act. Despite the unpoularity of the Embago Act, Madison won the election of 1808. Pinckney did carry New England, but Maisaon carried most of the rest of the country. The New York vote was split with Clinton.

1812 Presidential Election

The 1812 presidential election was tied up with the War of 1812. Leading Democratic-Reoublicahs in Congress were demanding war with Britain. They became jnown as the War Hawks. They made it clear to Presidebt Madison that his reenomination would require submitting a wa message to Congress. It was America's first war time presidential election. The election began the tradition of reelecting presidents in time of war, although some oresidents have been forced not to run for reelection (Truman and Johnson). The weakened Federalist Party decided to support a disident Democratic-Republican--Mayor Dewitt Clinton of New York City. Clinton criticiaed Madison for both declaring war and for not fighting the war hard enough. He also raised the regional issue of another term for a Virginian president. The Federalists achieved their best showing since the "1800 Revolution", but President Madison easily won reelection. The Federalists did better in the election than any since the "Revolution of 1800". Ans while Clinton carried some major states (New York and New Jersey), President Madison easily won reelection. Madison carried all of the West and South as well the developing mid-West, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Clinton carried the Northeast. He ammased 128 eklectoral votes as opposed to Clinton's 89. The Federalists picked up some Congressional seats, most from the northeat which had been adversely affected by the war.

1814 Congressional Mid-term Elections

The 1814 campaign was the first American election held during a major war--the War of 1812. The main issue in the election of 1814 was the War with Britain. The United States had been led into the War by the War Hawks, a faction of the Democratic-Republicans. President Madison had acceeded to their calls for war in large measure to secure his renomination. The same Democratic-Republicas refused to approve the appropriations needed to prepare for War or build a professional military. They blithely felt that war coiuld be waged by militias without mjor expendutures to train or arm them. The American invasion of Canada failed, but the frigates of the small American Navy performed brilliantly. This was the same Navy that the Federalists had built and the Democratic Republicans had strongly opposed. The War by 1814 had caused severe economic dislocations in the United States. America was still a largely agricultural country, but trade and maritime commerce as imprtant, especilly in the Northeast. The Royal Navy had closed off all major ports, except in New England hoping to create division. After the 1814 voting was over, the British as part of their Cheaspeake campaign burned Washington (August 1814). Despite the very real failures in the War, the Democratic-Republicans were not punished by the voters. They actually gained 5 House seats.

1816 Presidential Election

James Monroe was a close associate of both President Jefferson and President Madison. Monroe had played an key role in the negotiations that led to the Louisian Purchase, the greatest single accomplishment of President Jefferson. Madison and Monroe were both Virginians and Jeffersinians. Madison apponted him as Secretary of State. This was the most prestigious post in Government at the time after the presidency. Monroe was well known and his destinguished service in the Revolution and success as a diplomat made him a popular candidate. His service in the Continental Army had helped him make acquintences with men from all over America. President Madison supported him for the presidency which helped him obtain the Republican nomination. The election of 1816 was essentially a referendum on the War of 1812 The War had virtually wrecked the American economy, the British blockaded American ports making it impossible to import or export, the Federal Government was insovent, the important merchant marine largely destroyed, the capital burned, and areas of the country in British hands. Yet the Democratic Republicans managed to convince the voters that the War had been a great victory, This meant the ultimate demise of tge Federalists. As a result of Federalist opposition to the war and the Hartford Convention, the Democratic Republicans suceeded in pinning the title of disloyalty, even traitor, on the Federlists. This was despite it was largely thanks to the Federalists that a Navy existed to fight the British. As a result, Monroe easily won the 1816 election. The Federalists were in weak position nefore the War. After the War and the 1816 election, the Federalists were no longer a creditable national party.

1820 Presidential Election

There was no real opposition to President Monroe's reelection. Even former Federalist President John Adams came out of retirement to support him and cast a Massachusetts electoral vote for him. Monroe won 231 elrectoral votes. His secretary of state John Quincy Adams who supported the president's reelection received 1 electoral vote, suposedly so that only President Washington would have the destinction of being elected unanimously. Actually elector William Plummer (New Hampshire) just believed that Monroe had not been effective in his first term. President Monroe's sweeping victory masked serious issues that were besetting the young Republic. The country had still not seriously addressed issues like curreny, finance, and economic policy which was reflected in the Panic of 1819. The Missouri Compromise put the slavery issue on hold, but did not solve it. More Western states (Mississippi, Illinois and Alabama) participated in the presidential election. The country locus of power was shifting west. This created a demand for greater democracy and internal improvements. It also delayed action on fiscal issues because of the western distrust of Eastern finance.

1824 Presidential Election

The 1824 election resulted in the first major contested election. John Quincey Adams had been President Monroe's Secretary of State. This was the most prestigious Government post, even more than the vice-presidency. Thus Adams was seen as the political heir to President Monroe. These traditions, however, were being questioned. General Andrew Jackson was the most popular figure in America because of his military campaigns against Native Americans and the British during the War of 1812. Jackson was, however, a devisive figure with his opponents seeing him as a threat to the American Republic, both because of his volitility and aggressive militarism. There was, as a result of the Era of Good Feeling, still only one political party--the Republican Party. There were however sectional and factional divisions within the Party. The differentvsections put up their favorite sons. Adams was the candidate of the North. He garnered fewer popular and electoral votes than Jackson who was emensly popular in the West. William H. Crawford and Henry Clay also received votes. Jackson was the leading candidate, but did not gain a majority in the Electoral College. The election was decided among the top three by the House of Representatives. Clay in essence decided the election. He favored policies similar to Adams and thus threw his support to him. Jackson's supporters charged that a corupt bargain gave the presidency to Adams.

1828 Presidential Election

The 1828 election involved perhaps the longest presidential campaign in American history, Jackson loyalist, Martin Van Buren, began building the first mass political machine in Anerican politics--earning him the title of "the Little Magician". The new Democratic Party and Jackson swept the election. Van Buren worked to obtain the support for influential politicans in every state. Jackson was already enormously popular in the West. Van Buren worked to build his popularity in the East. A major effort was made to establish pro-Jackson newspapers in every state. This was arguably one of the dirtiest ca,psaigns in American history. Jackson and his wife were viciously attacked. And this time Jacksonian newspapers answered back with outrageouos charges of his own. Jackson's victory ushered in the Age of Jackson--the only president to have an an entire era of American history named after him. And it marked a fundamental shift in American politics. America until this time had drawn its presidents and other leaders largely from the elite. Jackson with a Scotts-Irish backwoods had a very humble childhood. His rise in American politics thus reprresented a major shift in American politics. Not only were the peope to elect their leaders, but leaders would also become leaders themselves. The vicious campaign charges against Jackson echoed in the Eaton Affair and destroyed the relationship between Jakson and his Vice President John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. This was probably a factor in the in the Nulification Crisis.

1832 Presidential Election

There was no provision for political parties in the Consitution, let alone party nominating mechanisms. Early presidents were nominated by Congressional caucuses. A new method of nominating presidents appeared in the 1832--the party nominating convention. Candidates for the firrst time were chosen by national conventions. The first national convention was convened by the small Anti-Masonic Party in Baltimore, Maryland (September 1831). The National Republican Party and the Democratic Party decided to adopt this practice and strangely also held nominating conventions in Baltimore. Incumbent President Andrew Jackson was renominated by the Democratic Party. Jackson replaced Calhoun as vice president with Martin van Buren of New York, who had played a major role in his election. Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky was nominated by the National Republican Party which would subsequently become the Whigs. Clay was a major figure in the Congress. He made Jackson's opposition to the the Bank of the United States a major campaign issue. Jackson's popularity was decisive and many Americans were suspious of banks so the Bank issue probably added to Jackson's luster. Jackson was reelected in a landslide, receiving 219 of the 286 electoral votes. He did not, however, carry South Carolina, presumably because of the break with Calhoun and the Nulification crisis. While the Bank issue helped reelect Jackson, the destruction of the Bank probably was the principal cause for the Depression which occurred after Jackson left office.

1836 Presidential Election

Another War of 1812 hero hoped to ride his military fame following Jackson's example into the White House--Willian Henry Harrison. He began touring the country a year before the election to gain the nomination of the new Whig Party. Jackson's campaign against the Bank of the United States proved popular in the West where Harrison hoped to gain support. The destruction of Bank would cause one of the most serious economic depresions in American history, but not until after the election. Vice-President Van Buren was able to easily secure the Democratic presidential nomination. Van Buren had essentially built the Democratic Party as a vehicle tio elect Jackson. This and President Jackson's support guaranteed him the nomination. The Whigs were still a new party and proved unable to agree on a single national candidate. They instead nominated several regional candifdates, hoping to deny Van Buren a majority in the Electiral College which would throw the election to the House of Representatives. Slavery was steadily growing as a serious issue and intruded in the presidential election for the first time in 1836. Van Buren attempted to straddle the issue to win in both the North and South. He claimed that Congress had the power to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, but he opposed such an action. Van Buren's most important challenger proved to be Harrison. Harrison endorsed Senator Clay's support for federaly financed internal improvements. This strengthened his already strong support in the West. Harrison suggested reopening the Bank of the Unitted States. Van Buren continued Jackson's adament opposition to the Bank. The well-organized Democratic Party and Jackson's support was probably decisive for Van Buren. Harrison and the Whigs, however, learned a great deal about running a national campaihgn. And Harrison would spend the next 4 years in an unpredented running for the high office. He was determined not to lose again. Soon after the election, the Panic of 1837 rocked the fledgling American economy.

1840 Presidential Election

The Panic of 1837 and ensuing Depression affected the popularity of President Van Buren and the Democrats, providung a real opportunity for the Whigs to win the White House for the first time. Harrison had began his campaign soon after losing the 1836 election. He was 64 years old and the rigors of travel at the time may have affected his health. Harrison's party rivals (Henry Clay and Daniel Webster) also had their eyes set on the White House and campaigned extensively. The Whigs desperate to gain the White House, nominated the ageing, but legedary war hero. They also nominated Democrat John Tyler for vice-president, hopeing to gain support in southern states where the Whigs were weak. The Whigs calculated that they could gain the support of southern states-righters who were appauled with Jacksonian Democracy. The slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" is perhaps the most famous in Ameican political history and was a full-blown appeal to flag-waving nationalism. Clay believed he could retain party leadership and sought to down play his nationalism to keep from alienating the South. Webster began describing himself as a "a Jeffersonian Democrat," again to avoid alienating the South. After the election, both men attempted to control the new president. And when he died after only a few weeks, attempted to control his vice-president.

1844 Presidential Election

The Democratic Party in the 1844 election championed expansion. The Party supported the annexation of Texas to appeal to the southern wing of the Party and asserted a claim to all of the Oregon Territory up to 49º40' which appealed to the northern wing of the Party. Nominee James K. Polk was adament about Texas which would mean war with Mexico. Southern Democrats were increasingly interested in expanding slavery even at the cost of undoing the Missouri Compromise. Gaining Texas a a new slave state was first step in this enterprise. Whig nominee Henry Clay opposed expansion. This probably cost him the election. The possibility of a third war with Britain loomed. And by a 1840 American-British relations were approaching a crisis. Polk was, however, willing to compromise over Oregin as the United States could no go to war with both Mexico and Britain. Polk's bold statements were designed to obtain an acceptable compromise with the British.

1848 Presidential Election

Zachary Taylor was the next in a series of military heros (Washington, Jackson, and Harrison) that were able to run for president. Taylor reached national prominance during the just concluded Mexican War (1846-48) that has made the United States a truly continental power. The Whigs were desperate for a presidential victory. They had sharply criticused the War and faced a decisive defeat in the 1848 electiin beause the War had been so successful and proved to be popular. Their answer was one of the most remarkable shifts in American party politics. They simply nominated the most popular military figure in the War--Old Rough and Ready Zacary Taylor. The Whigs nominated Taylor at their Philadelphia convention on the fourth vote (June 1848). Taylor had never been in politics before and showed no great enthuism for Whig issues. The Democrats nominated Lewis Cass, the former govenor of Michigan and a Jackson stalwar. Slavery emerged as the major campaign issue. The acquisition of the Southwest represented a challenge to the Missouri Compromise which set a line for slave states in the Louisiana Territory. Taylor essentially avoided the issue, but was aslave owner. Cass advanced the approach that each territory should decide for itself whether to allow slavery, essentially what Stephen Douglaswould later call Popular Soverignity. As a result, anti-Slavery Democrats deserted the Party. Former President Van Buren entered the race as the third party Free Soil candidate. The Free Soil Partywas essentially the growing anti-slavery wing of the northern Democratic Party. He opposed the expansion of slavery. Van Buren did not carry any states, but he ganered 10 percent of the popular vote, mostly in the north and largely from Democratic voters. This permitted Taylor to narrowly Cass. Taylor managed to carry most of the Northeastern states as well many southern states. Cass also carried southern stsates and much of the West. The popular vote was close, but Taylor won decisively in the electoral college, 163 to Cass' 127 votes.

1852 Presidential Election

Many Democrats were doubtful they could win the 1852 election. Lewis Cass again persued the nomination. Other leading candidates were William Marcy, and Stephen Douglas. The Convention was deadlocked, but eventully settled on a dark-horse candidate, Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire. Pierce had a substantial Congressional background, but was largely unknown as a national figure. His appeal stemmed largely from the fact that he was not invlved with the Compromise of 1850. President Fillmore wanted another term. He could point to the Compromise of 1850 as defusing the slavery and secession issue. Southern Whigs were ready to renominate him. Despite the fact that he was a northerner, Northern Whigs opposed his remomination. The Compromise was widely seen as a sell-out to slave interests. The Whigs eventully returned to a military figure, Mexican war hero Winfield Scott. The Free Soil Democrats nominated John Parker Hale of New Hampshire. This time slavery undid the Whig Party. Scott's had an anti-slavery reputation which made him unacceptable to South. The pro-slavery Whig platform did little good in the North where the anti-slavery vote went to the Free Soilers. Scott's reputation as a war hero was impaired by his image as fuss-budget. His men called him "Old Fuss and Feathers" in sharp contrast to the more earthy Taylor. And Pierce himself was a Mexican War veteran. Pierce outpolled Scott and even Hale's Free Soil candidacy did not prevent a sweeping Democratic victory. Pierce gained 254 elctoral votes. Scott carried only four states with 42 votes.

1854 Congressional Election

Elections continued to be complicated in the United States. There was no one single national electionn date. The major issue in the midterm election as it had been in 1850 and 1852 was slavery. The sopecufic manifestation was the passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act and the resulting Bleeding Kansas violence. The Act infuriated Northern voters already upset over the Compromose of 1850 because it repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and this opened the Federal territories to slavery. The Pierce Administration and Democrats in Congress suppprted the Act. Thus the Democrats lost heavily in the midterms. This meant that the one institution hilding the Union together was badly damaged. The Democrats lost 75 House seats and the majority. The Whigs, however, did not benefit, presumably because they were so equivocanle on slavery. The Whigs lost 17 searts, but as they were a minority to begin with, these seased to be a creditable opposition. The party that nefefitted was Know Nothings/American Party which went from no House seats to 51 seats. The Republicans also benefitted gaining 33 seats. They only had 4 seats before the election. The new People's Party won 9 seats. The Free Soilers lost their 2 House seats. Free Soilers like the Whigs were grvitating toward the new Reoublican Party. The different opposition parties combined to chose Nathiel P. Banks, a Know Nothing as speaker. The Know Nothings did well ell in North and Sout by avoiding slvery and advovating restructions on immigration, especially from Catholic areas (Ireland and Germany). Immigration from Catholic southern Europe was not yet important. The election was a tuning point in Americam political history. The Whigs were clearly failing. This would be the last election in which thhy would be aforce of any importance in large measure because they wee no longer even a minor force in the South. The Democrats continued to be the majority party, but The Republican were beginning to win seats from the Whigs and Free Soilers. Whigs in the South opposed to secession called themsleves the 'Opposition Party' as the Party while attempting to avoid the issue of slavery had the taint of northern abolition. The legislators chosing the Senate candidates were also in a volitile mood. They only returned five of the twenty-one Senators up for election to the Sente. The Denmocrats lost 3 seats, but still returned a large minority. The Whigs lost 4 searts, but as they were already a small minority, ceased to be a creditable opposition. The new Republicans won their first 3 Senate seats. The Free Soilers lost 2 of their 4 seats. The Know Nothings one Senate seat was not up for relection.

1856 Presidential Election

The Compromise of 1850 was clearly beginning to fall apart by the campign of 1856. The popularity of Taylor (1848) and the unpopularity of Scott (1852) had desguised the increasingly sectional divide in American politics. The escalating violence in Kansas underscored the danger to the nation inherent in the slavery issue. The two established parties were proving incapable of addressing the issue. The Whigs had unraveled leading to the formation of a new party completely opposed to the expansion of slavery. The Democrats remained together only by pandering to Southern slave interests. President Pierce failed to ganer enthusiam for his renomination. James Buchanan had been a leading contender for the nomination in 1852 and emerged as the front runner at the Cincinnati Democratic convention (June 1856). Like Pierce, his lack of involvement in the heated issues, especially slavery, was a major asset. It took 17 ballots, but Buchanan was nominated unanimously. The Democratic platform supported the Compromise of 1850, opposed any Federal limitations interference in slavery, and came out for the transcontinental railroad. The new Republican Party emerged as a union of anti-slavery Whigs and Free Soil Democrats. It was a sectional party with no support in the South and very little in the Border States. The Republicans nominated John Fremont who made a name for himself in California during the Mexican War. The Republicans were initially a single-issue party. They were opposed to the expansion of slavery. They sharply criticised President Pierce for not acting forcefully to stop the violence in Kansas. The Know-Nothing Party emerged as another single issue party. They were opposed to immigration and Catholocism. (Irish immigrants in the 1840s had substantially expanded the Cathoic population in America.) The Republicans campaigned on the slogan party in the candidate was "Free Speech, Free Press, Free soil, Free Men, Fremont and Victory!" The Democrats warned that the South would not accept a Republican victory and would secede. They also incorrectly charged that Fremont was Catholic. The South voted in a bloc for Buchanan who also carried most of the border states as well as northern states like Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. It is unclear to what extent the vote wasarefeendum on slavery in the north or northern concern over Souther scecession. Buchanan won with 174 electoral votes. Fremont ammased 174 votes, a respectanle showing for a new party. Former President Filmore only carried Maryland with 8 electoral votes, but over 20 percent of the popular vote.

1858 Congressional Mid-term Elections

The Congressional by-elections of 1858 had an enormous impact on Americam history. The most memorable race was the contest between a virtually unknown lawyer Abrahan Lincon and the well-known Senstor Steven A, Douglas for the Illinois Senate. The Linclon-Douglas Debates were followed throughout the country. Linclon forced Douglas to take positions in the debates that destroyed him as a potential Democratic candidate in the South. Lincoln lost in the Illinois legidslsture, but the Republicans gained ground in the overall Congressional elections, obtaining a plurality in the House of Representatives. Southern influence in the Senate and Presidential vetos brought gridlock to the Federal Government. The sectional discord, however, broke the Democratic Party in two. Douglas was no longer a viable presidential candidate in the South. When he pursued the Democratic nomination in 1860, it split the Democratic Party along sectional lines. This would allow the new Republican Party to win the 1860 presidential election. Lincoln's success against Douglas in the debates was an important factor in his winning the Republican nomimation in 1860.

1860 Presidential Election

The election of 1860 is arguably the most monentous in the history of the American Republic. The Kansas-Nebraska Act had huge political consequences. It shattered the Democratic Party which had doinated American political life in the first half of the 19th century. Technological developments were beginning to affect politics, especially improvements in comminications--trains and the telegram. The Democratic Party was one of the few remaining institutions holding north and south together by the 1850s. While the South supported Douglas's Kansas Nebraska Act, when he later temporized with the Freeport Doctrine they turned against him. The Republican Party was formed (1854) out if the whigs and anti-slavery Democrats alientated by the Kansas-Mebraska Act. The Northern Democrats nominated Douglas for presiddent in 1860. The Southern Democrats refused to accept this and nominated a sectional candidate, John C. Brekenridge. This split in the Democratic Party guaranteed the election of Abraham Lincoln, the candidate of the new Republicn Party. The election resulted in a major realignent in American politics. The brand new Republican Party would become the dominany force in American politics for the next 70 years.

1862 Congressinal Mid-term Eletions

Lincoln's insistance on announcing the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862 was an act of great political courage. He could have easily delayed it until after the November election. Lincoln was under no illusion about the consequences. Some of the most rabid rascist verbage in American poltics ocuured during the campaign. While slavery had many opponents in the North, even among Abolitionists the doctrine of white supremecy was widely heald. Many in the North were apauled by the prospect that Blacks would sit in juries, go to schools with white children, and even vote. Others especially immigrants were concerned about competition over jobs. The Republicans were punished and punished badly in the November election. The Republicans managed to retain control of Congress, but not only lost seats in Congress, but in many state legislatures as well as races for govenors. The new Democratic legislature in Illinois, President Lincoln's home state, demanded peace negotiations. The new Democratic Governor of New York pledged to oppose emancipation.

1864 Presidential Election

The 1864 presidential election settled the fate of the Union. Battlefield losses and the success of the Federal naval blockade had by 1864 reached a level that the Confederacy was no longer sustain. There was no longer any hope of a Confederate battlefield victory. Their only hope was to draw out the War hoping that the northern public would not have the stmoache to sustain the War. The Democratic candidate, General George McClellan was clearly willing to come to terms with the Confederacy. It looked like Lincoln would lose the election. Sherman's victory at Atlanta weeks before the election seems to have turned the tide of public opinion and Lincoln was elected with a mandate to achieve victory on the battlefield.

1866 Congressional Mid-term Elections

The principal issue in the 1866 Congressional by-election was how the defeated South should be treated. The Republicans advocating punishing the South while President Johnson wanted to treat the South leniently. This probably was received with sympathy by Northeners who lost loved ones in the War. the Republicans benefitted from their role in preserving the Union and continuing sympsthy for President Lincoln who had come to be seen as a martyr. President Johnson was a Democrat who had run with Republican President Lincoln on a Union ticket. He now stumped the country appealong for the lenient treatment of the South. He was accompaied by General Ulysses S. Grant, generally regarded as the great military hero of the War. Johnson mostly spoke for Democratic candidates. His speeches at the time were not particularly well received. The Republicans won in a landslide. The Republicans gained 37 seats, giving them 173 out of 224 seats (over 77 percent). Only three border states states voted Democratic (Delaware, Maryland and Kentucky). Tennessee sent a Republican delegation to Congress. There was no vote held in the other 10 ex-Confederate states did not vote. They substantially increased their majority in both houses to the point that they could now overide the President's vetoes. The results estanlished the basis for Radical Reconstruction and the President was not powerless to block Congressional action. The former Confederate states (except President Johnson's Tennessee) were not allowed to send Congressmen to Washington.

1868 Presidential Election

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was the most admired man in America, widely credited with saving the Union. He had no burning ambition to be president. Late in the administration of Andrew Johnson, however, Grant quarreled with the President and aligned himself politically with the Radical Republicans. He was, as the symbol of Union victory during the Civil War, their logical candidate for President in 1868. The Republicans nonminated him unanimously. The Democrats nominated Horatio Seymour of New York. Grant following tradition did not campaign and ofered no election promises. Seymour campaigned extenively in the North. The Republicans Party campaigned on continued radical reconstruction in the South. Seymour advocated an end to radical reconstruction (meaning black civil rights) and the more rapid reintegration of the South into the Union. The Democrats accused Grant as being a drunk and charged that his generalship resulted in excessive casualties. The issues in the campaign were of only minor importance. Ultimately it was Grant's emense personal popularity and reputation in saving the Union that won him the election. Grant won 53 percent of the popular vote and gained an Electoral College landslide. The American people after the assasination of Lincoln and Johnson's failed presidency, understanndably turned to the conquering hero of the War. The American people hoped for an end to turmoil in the South. It was not lost on political observers that the election woubd have been very different without a war hero candidate and the South back in the Union. The President's relection was aided by the 15th Amendment enfrabnchisments of blacks who primrily lived in the southern states.

1872 Presidential Election

The Republicans renominated Grant without opposition in 1872. The Republicans continued to champion black civil rights as well as greater rights for women. Grant was attacked by Liberal Republican reformers. He called them "narrow-headed men," their eyes so close together that "they can look out of the same gimlet hole without winking." The General's friends in the Republican Party came to be known proudly as "the Old Guard." The Democrats nominated Horace Greeley of New York. Greely is one of those fascinating individuals that populate history. Actually he was first nominated by a group of "Liberal Republicans" who objected the scandals of the Grant administration. The Democrats were deadlocked at their convention and in the end decided in desperation on Greely. Greeley was best known for as an editor of the New York Tribune and the slogan, "Go west young man, go west.". He wasan ecentric figure, not advisable for a presidential candidate. His interests included spiritualism, prohibition, vegetaranism and socialism provided fodder for the Republicans. , he was thus an easy target of Republican attacks. Greeley ran on "more honest government" and the end of Radical Reconstruction. Grant's popularity in the North again proved to be the deciding factor. Grant carried 55 percent of the popular vote. The Electoral College vote was complicated by the fact that Greely died after the election before the vote was taken.

1874 Congressiona Mid-term Elections

One of the most stunning by-elections occurred in 1874. Unlike many by-elections, it was not the president's policies that were at issie, although the reputation of President Grant was tarnished. The Republicans had controlled Congress since the 1860 election and the Civil War. Congress had voted a substantial subsidy to the Union Pacific Railroad (UPR) to build part of the trans-continental railway. The UPR formed a construction company and hired it to do the actual construction--ghe Crédit Mobilier (CM). A fancy French name was chosen to add European luster to the company. The CM wildly overcharged the UPR which led to huge profits. It was the UPR management that proceeded to line their pockers, operating under the fiction that the CM was a separate, indepedent company. The CM wanted to make sure that there would be no Congressional oversite and investigations. Congressman Oakes Ames who was also a CM manager began passing out stock to 20 members of Congress. This strategy backfired. Insiders not getting what they considered a fair share of the tax payer bounty eventually blew the whistle to the New York Sun. This led to a severe financial panic. The Republicans held 68 percent if the seats in 1872. After the 1874 mid-term elections, this was slashed to a mere 35 percent.

1876 Presidential Election

The Republicans nominated Ohio Govenor Rutherford B, Hayes in 1876. Hayes' liberalism, party loyalty, and a good war record made him an appealing candidate. The Democrats nominated Samuel Tilden. The Democrats surged and the election prived to be the first contest since the Civil War that the Democrats had a real chance of winning. Northerners were tiring of Reconstruction and the economy cost the Republicans votes. The results proved extremely close and led to a disputed outcome. The election proved to be the most disputed in American history. It was finally decided by a special bipartisan commission (March 1877). While the subject of bitter partisan attacks, Hayes brought to the Executive Mansion dignity, honesty, and moderate reform. Hayes insisted that his appointments must be made on merit, not political considerations. Hayes pledged protection of the rights of Negroes in the South, but at the same time advocated the restoration of 'wise, honest, and peaceful local self-government'. This meant the withdrawal of Federal troops. President Hayes was a moderate reformer. He promoted both civil service and prison reform. The withdrawl of Federal troops, howver, meant the beginning of Jim Crow and the loss of civil rights by the newly emancipated slaves throughout the South.

1880 Presidential Election

At the 1880 Republican Convention, Garfield failed to win the Presidential nomination for his friend John Sherman. Finally, on the 36th ballot, Garfield himself became the "dark horse" nominee. He told GAR veterans, "Vote the way you shot." By a margin of only 10,000 popular votes, Garfield defeated the Democratic nominee, Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock. President Hayes in 1878 , attempting to reform the Customs House, ousted Arthur. Conkling and his followers tried to win redress by fighting for the renomination of Grant at the 1880 Republican Convention. Failing, they reluctantly accepted the nomination of Arthur for the Vice Presidency. During his brief tenure as Vice President, Arthur stood firmly beside Conkling in his patronage struggle against President Garfield. But when Arthur succeeded to the Presidency, he was eager to prove himself above machine politics.

1884 Presidential Election

The Republicans met in Chicago. U.S Senator and former Speaker of the House James G. Blaine of Maine emerged as the leading candidate. Blaine known as the Man from Maine, won the nomination. President Chester A. Arthur attempted to win renomination, but failed. Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman was emensly popular in the North. He might have won the Republican nomination, but refused to run. He told reporters, "If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve." The Democratic nomination was closely contested at the Chicago convention. Finally they nominated New York Govenor Grover Cleveland. The 1884 presidential election, as were many elections of the day, a quite bitter election. The campaign in fact may have been the dirtiest election in American history. Cleveland was accused of fostering an illegitimate child. The Republican campaign slogan was. "Ma, ma, where is pa? Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha." In reality, Cleveland may not have been the father. He accepted responsibility because the other possible fathers were married men. The Republicans in their campaign parades would always push a prominent baby cairrage. Senator Blaine was presented as a devout family man in stark comparison to Cleveland who was a bachelor. Blaine had a staunchly conservative record and anti-immigrant record. A minor candidate was Belva Lookwood--the first woman's candidate. Mrs. Lockwood went on to become an important spokeswoman for both women's rights and the peace movement. Cleveland won the Presidency with the combined support of Democrats and reform Republicans, the "Mugwumps," who disliked the record of his opponent.

1888 Presidential Election

The Democrats renominated President Cleveland unanimously at their convention in New York. The Republicans had more difficulty deciding on a candidate at their convention, but finally settled on Benjamin Harrison of Indiana as a compromise candidate on the eighth ballot. The campaign was a muted one compared to some American elections. The principal issue became the tariffs which at the time was the principal mechanism for financing the Federal Government and important to America's developing industries. Harrison supported a high tariff to protect American industry and jobs. President Cleveland advocated reducing tariffs. This probably hurt him. High tariffs were popular in the North. Lowering tariffs was popular in the South, but the Demratic candidate was assured of taking the South. Thus his The election was a close one. President Cleveland narrowly carried the popular vote in part because of lopsidded vote tallies in the staunchly Democratic South. Harrison managed to prevail in the Electoral College. The crucial state proved to be New York. The Tammany machine helped carry the state and its 34 votes for Harrison. Mrs. Lockwood repeated her run for the presidency.

1892 Presidential Election

Former-President Cleveland again won the Democratic nomination. He was the first Democrat to be nominated three consecutive times. (Future Democratic candidates William Jennings Bryan and Franklin D. Roosevelt would subsequently dominate Democratic Party conventions, but Only Cleveland and Roosevelt would win elections.) President Harrison easily won renomination, but he had opposition from preenial cadidate Blaine and future nominee McKinnley. This was one of only two campaigns in which two presidents competed. (The other was the 1912 election involving Taft and Roosevelt.) Several other parties contested the ekection. The Prohibition Party nominated John Bidwell. The Populist Party nominated James Weaver. The Socialist Labor Party nominated Simon Wing. The tariff issue again dominated the campaign with the Republicans again taking a protectionist stance and the Democrats supportung a more free market approach. A new issue arose, primarily because of the Populists. They attacked the gold standard and demanded increased coinage of silver to increase inflation. This had great appeal among Southern and Western farmers who owed money. Cleveland support of "hard" money (the gold standard) gainedsupport from Eastern bankers and business. Labor politics began to influence elections. The use of Federal troops to aupress striking steel workers at Carnegie Steel damaged support for the Republicans among workers. The Populists won several Western stsates, but the South held for Cleveland and the Democrats. Cleeveland also won the industrial Northeast. Cleeveland easily won reelection and the Democrats gained control of both houses of Congress. Cleveland was the only president to be elected to non-consecutive presidential terms.

1896 Presidential Election

The United States in the late-19th century was a country evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Elections could go eitherway. The 1896 election was a cloese one, but it would prove to be one of the transformational ekection in American history and usher in a period of Republican accendency. At the 1896 Republican Convention, in time of depression, the wealthy Cleveland businessman Marcus Alonzo Hanna ensured the nomination of his friend William McKinley as "the advance agent of prosperity." The Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan. He would mesmerized the Democratic Partyfor two decades. He was of Scotts-Irish and English origins. Religion played a very important role in his life from an early age. He was one of the most influential American politicans of turn-of-the century America, but had an unimpressive political history and proved not very successful at winning elections. The economy was the central issue in the election. The Democrats, advocating the "free and unlimited coinage of both silver and gold"--which would have mildly inflated the currency--nominated William Jennings Bryan. This was a kind of coming attraction for the 20th century with the Democrats advocating inflationsry policies and the Republicans sound fiscal policies. While Hanna used large contributions from eastern Republicans frightened by Bryan's views on silver, McKinley met delegations on his front porch in Canton, Ohio. He won by the largest majority of popular votes since 1872, but the electoral College vote was closer. Bryan proved to be one of the most electrifying losers in American political history. He lost his first campaign to McKinley. Money was a major factor in the campaign. The business community stringly supported McKinnley and the Republicans. Jennings spent about $0.25 million on his campaign. Mark Hanna suceeded in raising 10 times that ammount for McKinley. It proved to be a high-turnout election and a close finish. It is sometimes lost on modern commentators that the voter's choice of McKinley and sound fiscal policues resulted in a period of economic growth, expansion, and prosperity. This would make the Republicans the dominant political part in America for three decades.


Norgren, Jill. Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would be President (NYU Press).


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Created: 5:23 AM 2/16/2007
Last updated: 4:36 PM 12/30/2016