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Election of 1848
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Politics
May 22, 1848
May 25, 1848
In a convention in Baltimore, Maryland, Democrats nominate Lewis Cass for President and William Butler for Vice President Maryland
  Democratic Party
June 7, 1848
June 9, 1848
Whigs meet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Nominees included Zachary Taylor, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and Winfield Scott. Taylor wins the nomination on the fourth ballot Pennsylvania
  Daniel Webster
  Henry Clay
  Winfield Scott
  Zachary Taylor
June 21, 1848 The Ohio Mass Free Territory Convention dissolves the Liberty Party and agrees to join a Freesoil Convention in Buffalo. Ohio
June 22, 1848 The "Independent Democratic Convention" is held in Utica, New York, and consists mostly of Barnburners. They nominate Martin Van Buren as candidate for President New York
  Democratic Party
August 9, 1848
August 10, 1848
The Free-Soil party is formed by dissatisfied Democrats and former Liberty Party members at a convention in Buffalo, N. Y. with delegates from all free states and Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. They nominate Martin Van Buren for President and Charles Francis Adams for Vice-President.
  Free-Soil Party
  Charles Sumner
  Martin Van Buren
  Salmon P. Chase
November 7, 1848 Zachary Taylor (Whig) defeats Lewis Cass (Democrat) and Martin Van Buren (Freesoil) in the Presidential Election of 1848
  Zachary Taylor
  Martin Van Buren
  Democratic Party


Election of 1848

Lewis Cass, Secretary of War, Democratic candidate for President in 1848, and Secretary of State
Lewis Cass
James Polk, claiming he had accomplished all he set out to do in 1844, refused to run in 1848, leaving the field wide open for Democratic candidates. In fact, things were not looking good for the Democrats going into the election season. Whigs had won the House in the off-year elections and continued to gain based on the growing abolitionist sentiment.

The Liberty Party, which has some success over the last two presidential elections, lost its major candidate, abolitionist James Birney to an accident in 1845. Organizer Salmon P. Chase continued to further the cause, asking men including anti-slavery Supreme Court Justice John McLane, New York Governor William Seward, New Hampshire's John P. Hale and Gerrit Smith if they wanted to lead the Liberty Party in the 1848 elections. In October, 1847, the party chose Hale.

In the Election of 1844 Martin Van Buren had been the favorite until Lewis Cass began to gain votes after the first ballot. On the 8th ballot, "dark horse" James Polk gained 44 votes and swept the convention when Martin Van Buren told his supporters to vote for Polk. When it came time for New York's political patronage jobs to be filled, Van Buren's supporters were almost completely ignored. Furthermore, Polk's legislative agenda and his attacks on the Wilmot Proviso further alienated Van Buren's wing, now being called the Barnburners, as oppose to mainstream New York Democrats known as Hunkers.

Going into the Democratic Convention of 1848 there were four contenders, although James Buchanan had little support. John C. Calhoun led the pro-slavery southerners, Martin Van Buren led the Barnburners and Lewis Cass led a middle-of-the-road coalition who supported "squatter sovereignty." It appeared there was little that could be done to keep the Barnburners in the party, mostly because their strong anti-slavery views could not be pigeon-holed into Lewis Cass's beliefs. When the Barnburners bolted the convention, Liberty Party organizers including Salmon P. Chase asked Van Buren if he would be interested in leading a new party, combining the national draw of the anti-slavery Liberty Party with the regional popularity of the Barnburners. Van Buren said yes.

In June, 1848, the Liberty Party reconvened on the state level and essentially dissolved the party, then reconvened with the Barnburners in August to create the Freesoil Party. Van Buren was nominated on the first ballot and former Liberty Party candidate John Hale completely supported the move. (It was a good idea because Hale would become the Freesoil nominee in 1852).

Whigs were beginning to feel the divisions of slavery in their own party as well. Although the Wilmot Proviso was a Democratic move, the anti-slavery Proviso had the northern and southern Whigs distrusting each other. Luckily, General Zachary Taylor, a Tennessee Whig with slaves, would be able to unite the party and put slavery issue aside.

Much of the early campaigning revolved around the disposition of the land acquired by Polk from Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, the Tariff of 1846 and opposition to taking veto power from the President. It was felt that Van Buren might be able to win New York or Massachusetts, states where anti-slavery feelings were strongest, but they managed only second place in those two states. Whig candidate Zachary Taylor won, but once again with less that 50% of the vote (47.3%).

Election of 1852

Links appearing on this page:

Election of 1844
Election of 1852
James Birney
James Polk
John C. Calhoun
Martin Van Buren
Salmon P. Chase
Wilmot Proviso
Zachary Taylor

Civil War Encyclopedia >> Politics

Election of 1848 was last changed on - November 29, 2007
Election of 1848 was added in 2005





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