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Election of 1856
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Politics
Election of 1856
Between the election of 1852 and 1856 the American political landscape had undergone a dramatic change. The Whigs, deeply divided over slavery, had disintegrated. Splinter parties had come and gone and the nativist American Party ran former Whig Millard Fillmore for President. The party did surprisingly well in the South, but not because it was really in tune with the Southern voters - it simply offered the Southern Whigs a candidate for President that was not Democrat or Republican. Fillmore did his best trying to get not only Whigs but southern Democrats by campaigning on restoring the Missouri Compromise (Compromise of 1820)
The big news in the election of 1856 was the emergence of the Republican Party. Although it tried to represent itself as a national party it was not. A Republican slate of candidates did not appear on the ballots of the Southern states, but in the North and West the Republicans ran John C. Fremont for President on an abolitionist platform. Fremont did remarkably well. Northern Whigs had bolted to the Republicans when the party was formed and enough had already occurred in Kansas to give him fodder to blast the Democrats "Popular Sovereignty" concept.
Unfortunately, Democratic presidential candidate James Buchanon had not been in the United States through the Kansas-Nebraska debacle. He was safely tucked away in London as Ambassador to Great Britain, and he swore to uphold the Cincinnati Platform, essentially, let the courts decide the fate of slavery and upholding their decision. "Old Buck" fended off the Kansas-Nebraska attacks ("...a double-headed monster..."), won all the Southern and border states with the exception of Maryland, and added his home state of Pennsylvania and a smattering of other Northern states to win the election.
The returns did bring devastating news for the South, however. With Fillmore as a candidate, Buchanan got less than 50% of the vote. Without a third party candidate it would be possible by shear force of numbers for the North to elect an abolitionist President.
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Election of 1856 was added in 2005
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