1852 Presidential Elections - History

1852 Presidential Elections - History

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1852 Election Results Pierce VS scott

The Whigs nominated Winfield Scott, a military hero from the Mexican American War. The Whigs were hopelessly divided in the campaign. While the Southern Whigs enthusiastically supported their candidate, the Northern Whigs were reluctant supporters. The Democrats, in contrast, were united; with many of those who had deserted the party in 1848 having returned. The returnees included former President Van Buren, who supported Pierce.

This campaign was very personal, with both candidates accusing the other of being a drunk. Scott was accused of being pompous and too in love with his rank. Pierce was accused of collapsing and being a coward during the Mexican American War, where he served as a General; a citizen soldier. Pierce, who had been both a Congressman and Senator from New Hampshire, was also a recovering alcoholic.

In the end, the voters chose the dark horse, Pierce, over the well-known general, whom they did not seem to like. This effectively brought an end to the Whig party. Pierce, who was 48 years old at the time, became the youngest man to be elected President of the United States.

1852 United States presidential election

The 1852 United States presidential election was the 17th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 2, 1852. Democrat Franklin Pierce, a former Senator from New Hampshire, defeated Whig nominee General Winfield Scott.

Incumbent Whig President Millard Fillmore had succeeded to the Presidency in 1850 upon the death of President Zachary Taylor. Endorsement of the Compromise of 1850 and enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law earned Fillmore Southern voter support and Northern voter opposition. On the 53rd ballot of the sectionally divided 1852 Whig National Convention, Scott defeated Fillmore for the nomination. Democrats divided among four major candidates at the 1852 Democratic National Convention. On the 49th ballot, dark horse candidate Franklin Pierce won nomination by consensus compromise. The Free Soil Party, a third party opposed to the extension of slavery in the United States and into the territories, as in their name free-soil meaning land should be free instead of slave, nominated New Hampshire Senator John P. Hale.

With few policy differences between the two major candidates, the election became a personality contest. Though Scott had commanded in the Mexican–American War, Pierce also served. Scott strained Whig Party unity as his anti-slavery reputation gravely damaged his campaign in the South. A group of Southern Whigs and a separate group of Southern Democrats each nominated insurgent tickets, but both efforts failed to attract support.

Pierce and running mate William R. King won a comfortable popular majority, carrying 27 of the 31 states. Pierce won the highest share of the electoral vote since James Monroe's uncontested 1820 re-election. Overwhelming defeat and disagreement about slavery soon drove the Whig Party to disintegrate.

Not until 1876 would Democrats again win a popular majority vote for president and not until 1932 would they win both a popular majority vote and the Presidency with Democratic nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The 1852 presidential election conventions of the parties are considered below in order of the party's popular vote.

Democratic Party nomination

Former Secretary of State
James Buchanan

Former Secretary of War
William L. Marcy

As Democrats convened in Baltimore in June 1852, four major candidates vied for the nomination: Lewis Cass of Michigan, the nominee in 1848, who had the backing of northerners in support of the Compromise of 1850 James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, popular in the South as well as in his home state Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, candidate of the expansionists and the railroad interests and William L. Marcy of New York, whose strength was centered in his home state. Throughout the balloting, numerous favorite son candidates received a few votes.

Cass led on the first nineteen ballots, with Buchanan second, and Douglas and Marcy exchanging third and fourth places. Buchanan took the lead on the 20th ballot and retained it on each of the next nine tallies. Douglas managed a narrow lead on the 30th and 31st ballots. Cass then recaptured first place through the 44th ballot. Marcy carried the next four ballots. Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire, a former Congressman and Senator, did not get on the board until the 34th ballot, when the Virginia delegation brought him forward as a compromise choice. He consolidated his support in subsequent voting and was nominated nearly unanimously on the 49th ballot. [2]

In a peace gesture to the Buchanan wing of the party, Pierce's supporters allowed Buchanan's allies to fill the second position, knowing that they would select Alabama Senator William R. King. On the second ballot, with only minor opposition, King finally obtained the Democratic vice-presidential nomination. During the ensuing campaign, King's tuberculosis, which he believed he had contracted while in Paris, France, denied him the active behind-the-scenes role that he might otherwise have played, although he worked hard to assure his region's voters that New Hampshire's Pierce was a "northern man with southern principles." King died shortly after his inauguration on April 4, 1853.

Whig Party nomination

  • Winfield Scott, Commanding General of the U.S. Army from New Jersey
  • Millard Fillmore, President of the United States from New York
  • Daniel Webster, U.S. Secretary of State from Massachusetts

U.S. Secretary of State
Daniel Webster

The 1852 Whig National Convention, held in Baltimore, Maryland, was bitterly divided. Supporters of President Fillmore pointed to the successful Compromise of 1850 and the failure of a nascent secession movement in the Southern states in 1850–1851. The northern Whigs believed that the Compromise of 1850 favored the slaveholding South over the North. Northern Whigs favored heroic Mexican–American War General Winfield Scott of New Jersey. Scott had earned the nickname of "Old Fuss and Feathers" in the military due to his insistence on appearance and discipline, and while respected, was also seen by the people as somewhat foppish. A deadlock occurred because most New England delegates supported Daniel Webster. On the first ballot, Fillmore received all delegate votes from the South save four, but only received eighteen northern delegate votes. The vote was 133 for Fillmore, 131 for Scott, and 29 for Webster. Scott was nominated on the 53rd ballot by a margin of 159–112 (with 21 for Webster), again with a highly sectional vote Scott won the North by a 142–11 vote (with 21 for Webster) while Fillmore won the South by a margin of 101–17.

William Alexander Graham was chosen as the vice-presidential nominee. 1852 would be the last time the Whig Party would nominate its own candidate for president, albeit it would endorse Fillmore's run as a Know Nothing candidate in 1856. Within the decade, the party fell apart and ceased to exist, principally due to regional divisions caused by the slavery issue.

Free Soil Party nomination

The Free Soil Party was still the strongest third party in 1852. However, following the Compromise of 1850, most of the "Barnburners" who supported it in 1848 had returned to the Democratic Party while most of the Conscience Whigs rejoined the Whig Party. The second Free Soil National Convention assembled in the Masonic Hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. New Hampshire Senator John P. Hale was nominated for president with 192 delegate votes (sixteen votes were cast for a smattering of candidates). George Washington Julian of Indiana was nominated for vice-president over Samuel Lewis of Ohio and Joshua R. Giddings of Ohio.

Union Party nomination

The Union party was formed in 1850, an offshoot of the Whig party in several Southern states, including Georgia. As the 1852 presidential election approached, Union party leaders decided to wait and see who was nominated by the two major parties. The movement to nominate Daniel Webster as a third-party candidate began in earnest following the Whig Convention, largely driven by those who had been strenuously opposed to Winfield Scott's nomination, among them Alexander Stephens, Robert Toombs, and George Curtis. While Webster was against what he perceived as a "revolt" from the Whig Party and preferred not to be nominated, he let Americans vote for him should the party choose to nominate him.

The Union Party held its Georgia state convention on August 9, 1852, and nominated Webster for president and Charles J. Jenkins of Georgia for vice-president. A formal convention was held at Faneuil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 15, affirming the nominations made at the state convention in Georgia and rejecting Winfield Scott as nothing more than a military figure. The Webster/Jenkins ticket received nationwide support, particularly among Southern Whigs, but also in Massachusetts and New York, but it was largely perceived by many as nothing more than getting voters who would, in different circumstances, support Scott.

Webster had no real chance of winning the election, but even the new Know-Nothing party endorsed Webster, nominating him without even his own permission. However, Webster died nine days before the election of a cerebral hemorrhage on October 24, 1852.

Native American (Know-Nothing) Party nomination

Around the mid-1830s, nativists were present in New York politics, under the aegis of the American Republican Party. The American Republican party was formed in 1843 in major opposition to immigration and Catholicism. In 1845, the party changed its name to the Native American Party. Their opponents nicknamed them the "Know Nothings" and the party liked the name and it became the nickname of the party after that until it collapsed in 1860. In 1852, the original candidate planned by the Native American Party was Daniel Webster, the nominee of the Union party as well as Secretary of State. They nominated Webster without his permission, with George Corbin Washington (grandnephew of George Washington) as his running mate. Webster died of natural causes nine days before the election, and the Know-Nothings quickly replaced Webster by nominating Jacob Broom as president and replaced Washington with Reynell Coates. With Webster collecting a few thousand votes, Broom received too few and lost the election. In the future, former president Millard Fillmore would be their candidate in 1856.

Southern Rights Party nomination

The Southern Rights Party was an offshoot of the Democratic party in several Southern states which advocated secession from the Union, electing a number of Congressmen and holding referendums on secession in a number of southern states, none of which were successful.

It was unclear in early 1852 if the Party would contest the presidential election. When the Alabama state convention was held in early March, only nine counties were represented. The party decided to see who was nominated by the two major national parties and support one of them if possible. When Georgia held its state convention, it acted as the state Democratic Party and sent delegates to the national convention.

After the Democratic National Convention, the Party was not sure that it wanted to support Franklin Pierce, the Democratic nominee. Alabama held a state convention from July 13–15 and discussed at length the options of running a separate ticket or supporting Pierce. The convention was unable to arrive at a decision, deciding to appoint a committee to review the positions of Scott and Pierce with the option of calling a "national" convention if the two major-party candidates appeared deficient. The committee took its time reviewing the positions of Pierce and Scott, finally deciding on August 25 to call a convention for a Southern Rights Party ticket.

The convention assembled in Montgomery, Alabama, with 62 delegates present, a committee to recommend a ticket being appointed while the delegates listened to speeches in the interim. The committee eventually recommended former Senator George Troup of Georgia for President, and former Governor John Quitman of Mississippi for Vice-President they were unanimously nominated.

The two nominees accepted their nominations soon after the convention, which was held rather late in the season. Troup stated in a letter, dated September 27 and printed in the New York Times on October 16, that he had planned to vote for Pierce and had always wholeheartedly supported William R.D. King. He indicated in the letter that he preferred to decline the honor, as he was rather ill at the time and feared that he would die before the election. The Party's executive committee edited the letter to excise those portions which indicated that Troup preferred to decline, a fact which was revealed after the election.

Liberty Party nomination

The Liberty Party had ceased to become a significant political force after most of its members joined the Free Soil Party in 1848. Nonetheless, some of those who rejected the fusion strategy held a Liberty Party National Convention in Buffalo, New York. There were few delegates present, so a ticket was recommended and a later convention called. The Convention recommended Gerrit Smith of New York for president and Charles Durkee of Wisconsin for vice-president. A second convention was held in Syracuse, New York, in early September 1852, but it too failed to draw enough delegates to select a nominee. Yet a third convention gathered in Syracuse later that month and nominated William Goodell of New York for president and S.M. Bell of Virginia for vice-president.

Fall campaign

The Whigs' platform was almost indistinguishable from that of the Democrats, reducing the campaign to a contest between the personalities of the two candidates. The lack of clearcut issues between the two parties helped drive voter turnout down to its lowest level since 1836. The decline was further exacerbated by Scott's antislavery reputation, which decimated the Southern Whig vote at the same time as the pro-slavery Whig platform undermined the Northern Whig vote. After the Compromise of 1850 was passed, many of the southern Whig Party members broke with the party's key figure, Henry Clay. [3]

Finally, Scott's status as a war hero was somewhat offset by the fact that Pierce was himself a Mexican–American War brigadier general.

The Democrats adopted the slogan: The Whigs we Polked in forty-four, We'll Pierce in fifty-two, playing on the names of Pierce and former President James K. Polk. [4]

Just nine days before the election, Webster died, causing many Union state parties to remove their slates of electors. The Union ticket appeared on the ballot in Georgia and Massachusetts, however.


When American voters went to the polls, Pierce won the electoral college in a landslide Scott won only the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Vermont, while the Free Soil vote collapsed to less than half of what Martin Van Buren had earned in the previous election, with the party taking no states. The fact that Daniel Webster received a substantial share of the vote in Georgia and Massachusetts, even though he was dead, shows how disenchanted voters were with the two main candidates.

In the popular vote, while Pierce outpolled Scott by 220,000 votes, 17 states were decided by less than 10%, and eight by less than 5%. A shift of 69,000 votes to Scott in Delaware, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania would have left the electoral college in a 148–148 tie, forcing a contingent election in the House of Representatives.

As a result of the devastating defeat and the growing tensions within the party between pro-slavery Southerners and anti-slavery Northerners, the Whig Party quickly fell apart after the 1852 election and ceased to exist. Some Southern Whigs would join the Democratic Party, and many Northern Whigs would help to form the new Republican Party in 1854.

Some Whigs in both sections would support the so-called "Know-Nothing" party in the 1856 presidential election. Similarly, the Free Soil Party rapidly fell away into obscurity after the election, and the remaining members mostly opted to join the former Northern Whigs in forming the Republican Party.

The Southern Rights Party effectively collapsed following the election, attaining only five percent of the vote in Alabama, and a few hundred in its nominee's home state of Georgia. It would elect a number of Congressmen in 1853, but they would rejoin the Democratic Party upon taking their seats in Congress.

This was the last election in which the Democrats won Michigan until 1932, [a] the last in which the Democrats won Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio [b] or Rhode Island until 1912, the last in which the Democrats won Wisconsin until 1892, the last in which the Democrats won Connecticut until 1876 and the last in which the Democrats won New York until 1868. It was, however, the last election in which the Democrats' chief opponent won Kentucky until 1896, [c] [5] and indeed the last until 1928 in which the Democrats' opponent obtained an absolute majority in the Bluegrass State.

Election of 1852

Little suspense existed in the Election of 1852, regarding either the outcome or the issues. The Whigs were barely clinging to life, so a Democratic victory was assured from the start. Slavery, the only real issue of the day, was assiduously avoided by both sides. Democratic frontrunners for the nomination included such luminaries as Lewis Cass, James Buchanan, and Stephen A. Douglas. None was able to secure the necessary two-thirds vote at the convention and the nomination eventually (on the 49th ballot) went to Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire. His support of the Compromise of 1850, and of the Fugitive Slave Act in particular, widened his appeal in the South, but not in his native New England. The nearly moribund Whigs pinned their hopes on a military hero, General Winfield Scott, hoping that his Mexican War fame would appeal to voters. The Free-Soil Party appeared again, drawing off votes from the Whigs. The campaign itself was lackluster. Neither candidate stood for much, so the predictable result was mudslinging. Pierce was the target of especially sharp barbs that pinned him with charges of military cowardice and drunkenness. Scott's military record brought him a healthy popular vote total, but the results in the electoral college were a landslide for Pierce. The election of 1852 was the swan song for the Whigs, whose membership drifted away to the Know-Nothing Movement and the new Republican Party.

1852 Presidential Election

The United States presidential election of 1852 was in many ways a replay of the election of 1844. Once again, the incumbent President was a Whig who had succeeded to the presidency upon the death of his war hero predecessor in this case, it was Millard Fillmore who followed General Zachary Taylor. The Whig party passed over the incumbent for nomination — casting aside Fillmore in favor of General Winfield Scott. The Democrats nominated a "dark horse" candidate, this time Franklin Pierce. The Whigs again campaigned on the obscurity of the Democratic candidate, and once again this strategy failed.

Pierce and running mate William King went on to win what was at the time one of the nation's largest electoral victories, trouncing Scott and his vice presidential nominee, William Graham of North Carolina, 254 electoral votes to 42. After the 1852 election the Whig Party quickly collapsed, and the members of the declining party failed to nominate a candidate for the next presidential race it was soon replaced as the Democratic Party's primary opposition by the new Republican Party.

Franklin Pierce: Campaigns and Elections

In preparing for the 1852 presidential election, the Democratic Party confronted a dilemma. Every leading Democratic presidential candidate—James Buchanan, Lewis Cass, William Marcy, and Stephen A. Douglas—faced strong opposition from one faction of the party or another. At their convention, held in Baltimore in early June, none of these men could secure the two-thirds majority of delegates needed for the nomination. Ballot after ballot produced only more hostility within the divided party, and a deadlock ensued.

After thirty-four ballots, it became obvious that a new candidate was needed. Clearly, a political figure who was not so well-known was needed—a dark-horse, as James K. Polk had been in 1844. The nominee would have to be pleasant and accommodating to all the party's factions. Above all, his beliefs would have to run against the grain of his home region. A proslavery Southerner or an antislavery Northerner would never get two-thirds of the delegates to vote for him. A proslavery Northerner, however, might appease both sides. Pierce's political machine in New Hampshire had sensed this, and had begun quietly working the convention floor, among Southerners in particular. On the thirty-fifth ballot, Franklin Pierce's name was placed in nomination. Virginia gave him his first support, with all fifteen of its votes.

The fact that many of the delegates had never even heard of Pierce helped. Having few enemies, nor indeed any reputation, Pierce could be molded by his supporters into whatever the delegates were looking for in a candidate. Handsome, sociable, a fine speaker, a Mexican-American War veteran—above all a man not forceful enough to ruffle anyone's feathers—Franklin Pierce was the ideal candidate. Weary of fighting, the Democrats handed Pierce the nomination on the forty-eighth ballot. A senator from Alabama, William Rufus King, was suggested for vice president.

Two weeks later, the Whigs met in Baltimore as well. The incumbent President Millard Fillmore ruined his chances for another term with his support of the controversial Compromise of 1850. Finally, on the fifty-third ballot, the Whigs nominated General Winfield Scott, Pierce's commander during the Mexican-American War.

Scott did not run an effective campaign. Ignoring orders from his Whig handlers to remain silent on the slavery issue, his acceptance of the nomination voiced agreement with the party's pro-Compromise platform. Support for him, always lukewarm at best in the South, cooled even further as Southerners defected to the Democratic party and voted for Pierce.

Personal Political Contest

With neither side eager to discuss issues relating to either their party's platforms or slavery, the contest turned personal. Reviving the old "Fainting Frank" stories, Whigs accused Pierce of cowardice during the Mexican-American War, and of drunkenness as well. Democrats fired back, dredging up a decades-old story of Scott refusing a dueling challenge from war hero and former President Andrew Jackson. They also tried to paint Scott as a would-be military dictator.

Unlike his rival, Pierce did no campaigning whatsoever, which probably helped his cause. It is probable that his wife's feelings about his return to politics had something to do with his low profile, although few candidates for the presidency in this period in American history did any campaigning. Jane Pierce had been disgusted by her husband's candidacy and did not welcome the prospect of returning to Washington. Before the convention, Pierce had assured her that he was not seeking the nomination when she received the news that he had accepted it, she fainted. Afterwards, she accused her husband of lying to her about his political aspirations.

Pierce left electioneering to others, including his old college classmate Nathaniel Hawthorne. The author of The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables agreed to write the traditional flattering biography of Pierce.

Modern historians consider 1852 less a campaign that Pierce won than one that Scott lost. One newspaper of the day called it the most "ludicrous, ridiculous, and uninteresting presidential campaign" ever. Whatever the truth of these speculations, Pierce won the election easily in a contest in which nearly 70 percent of the eligible voters cast ballots. Scott carried only four states in the electoral college, losing even in his native Virginia. Pierce had majorities in both houses of Congress, and hopes grew for a cooling of the sectional disagreements dividing Americans. Pierce was the youngest President to date.

A Sad Presidency

Two months before he was inaugurated, Pierce lost his only surviving child (two others had already died) in a train accident witnessed by both parents. Jane Pierce never recovered. She lived in the White House as a recluse, while the President remained distracted from his duties. Jane Pierce was the most tragic and unhappy First Lady in American history. To White House visitors she seemed like a sad ghost. Social functions were almost unheard of during the first half of the Pierce administration, and one official noted in his diary that "everything in that mansion seems cold and cheerless." There were other reasons for sadness in the White House when two of Pierce's closest political allies died.

“Non Politicians”–Presidential Winners And A Few Presidential Nominees

With three Republican Presidential candidates for 2016 being “non politicians”, people who have never served in a government position on the city, state or national level, the issue arises: have there been any other such candidates in the past?

It turns out that we have had several military generals who never served in a civilian position, that could qualify as “non politicians”.

This includes the following:

Zachary Taylor 1848 (Mexican War)

Winfield Scott 1852 (Mexican War)

George McClellan 1864 (Civil War)

Ulysses S. Grant 1868, 1872 (Civil War)

Winfield Scott Hancock 1880 (Civil War)

Taylor and Grant were elected, while Scott, McClellan, and Hancock were defeated in their attempts to become President.

McClellan did serve as Governor of New Jersey from 1878-1881, AFTER running for President against Abraham Lincoln. But Taylor, Scott, Grant and Hancock never ran for public office.

Additionally, Horace Greeley, the New York Tribune publisher, ran for President in 1872, as the candidate of the Democratic Party and the breakaway group in the Republican Party opposed to Grant’s reelection, known as the “Liberal Republicans”. He served very briefly as an appointed member of the House of Representatives, but not by vote of the people, but rather a choice of Whig Party leaders to fill a short term replacement before the election for the next term in Congress. He served a total of only three months from December 1848 to March 1849, and did not run for the New York City seat. Technically, one could say he had that political experience, but so little in time, that he could be seen as basically a “non politician” when he ran for President 24 years later, although being the editor of the New York Tribune was certainly “political” in nature.

Then we have Wall Street industrialist and businessman Wendell Willkie, who ran against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940, after stirring the Republican National Convention and overcoming much better known Presidential candidates, but while running a good race, he lost, and then supported the World War II effort and cooperated with FDR until Willkie died in late 1944.

And finally, we have billionaire Ross Perot, who ran for President as an independent in 1992 and as the Reform Party candidate in 1996.

So only Zachary Taylor and Ulysses S. Grant were “non politicians” who were elected President.

The odds of Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, or Dr. Benjamin Carson being elected President in 2016, therefore, are astronomical!

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Clark House Historian

Well, the big day is just a week away. Here at Clark House Historian I try and remain officially non-partisan. But as a researcher and writer, and as an American with long, deep, roots in this country, I have a passionate interest in our nation and its history, and a life-long desire to see us live up to our highest ideals and aspirations. (Of course, human nature being what it is, we have not always lived up to those ideals.)

So with the election approaching, today’s post takes a look at the political leanings of early Washington County and—after its establishment in 1853—Ozaukee County, with an emphasis on presidential elections from 1848 to 1880. Our main source today is the invaluable History of Washington and Ozaukee counties, Wisconsin […], published in Chicago in 1881. Let’s begin with some of the earliest results, following statehood in early 1848:

“Political Complexion” of the county, 1848 and 1849

This first page presents Washington County election results—broken down by towns—for two important elections, the presidential contest of 1848, and the November, 1849, vote for state governor with a referendum on “Negro suffrage,” that is, whether Black [male] residents of the state should be allowed to vote.

As you’ll recall, until the creation of Ozaukee county in 1853, old Washington county comprised all the towns of the current Ozaukee and Washington counties. As the data shows, the “population was, from the first vote, strongly Democratic.” For modern readers, I can’t stress strongly enough that the platforms of the Democratic and Whig Parties—and the Whig’s successor party, the Republican party—have in many ways reversed themselves over the last 150 years, especially on matters of race. In pre-Civil War America, the Democratic Party was the party of Andrew Jackson and his successors and argued emphatically for slavery and the interests of the South.

The Whigs, Republicans and Democrats differed on many other hot-button issues of the day, 1 including tariffs, federalism, the national bank, and land distribution policies. But given that Wisconsin entered the Union in 1848 as a free state, it is interesting to observe the high level of support for the Democratic party in Washington and Ozaukee counties in the early decades of statehood.

1848 and 1849 election results

In the 1848 presidential election, Washington county voters—by an overwhelming margin—chose Democrat Lewis Cass over Free Soil candidate Martin Van Buren and Whig candidate Zachary Taylor. Taylor won the national election, but his victory was short-lived. After a bit more than one year in office, he died of an intestinal ailment believed to be due to the over-consumption of fruit and milk at a Washington, DC, ceremony.

As the book excerpt notes, in that 1848 election “in the towns of Erin, Richfield and Wayne, every vote cast was Democratic while in the town of North Bend [i.e., Kewaskum], not a Democrat appears.” And the town of Hartford was notable for its heavy Free Soil vote.

The 1849 state referendum on “Negro suffrage” was part of an ongoing series of attempts to extend the vote to Black males in the new state:

The 1846 constitution would have allowed African Americans to vote in Wisconsin, but it was rejected when put before voters the next year. The 1848 constitution remained silent on this and other controversial issues, so following its ratification a special referendum was held in 1849. […] [D]espite a majority of voters approving Black suffrage in 1849, the right to vote was consistently denied until 1866, when Ezekiel Gillespie carried the issue to the state Supreme Court. Not until the Wisconsin legislature ratified the 15th amendment to the U.S. constitution in 1869 were the voting rights of African American men finally assured. Black women, like all women, were denied the right to vote until 1920.

Wisconsin Historical Society 2

You read that correctly. Suffrage for Black men in Wisconsin did receive a majority of votes cast statewide in 1849, but opponents of the proposal prevented its implementation. In Washington county, the Black suffrage proposal was opposed by a substantial majority of voters, although the results differed greatly from town to town, and many voters did not vote on the issue at all. The towns of Hartford, Grafton, Port Washington and Fredonia were strongly for Black suffrage Germantown, Mequon, Cedarburg and Belgium strongly opposed.

1852 Presidential Results

If you’re not up to speed on the issues of the contentious national election of 1852, here’s a link to get oriented. The 1852 election was the last national election in which the Whigs served as the principal opponents of the Democrats. Once again, Washington county voted strongly Democratic, for Franklin Pierce.

As in Washington county, in the national voting Pierce defeated Whig candidate Gen. Winfield Scott, the hero of the 1848 War with Mexico and commanding general of the U.S. Army from 1841-1861. Curiously, two Washington county towns, Germantown and Belgium, went for Scott. All the other towns supported Pierce, some much more avidly than others.

Ozaukee County votes, 1856 – 1880

Page 489 of the History of Washington and Ozaukee counties summarizes the presidential election results for Ozaukee county from the pivotal election of James Buchanan in 1856 through the victory of James. A. Garfield in 1880, seven elections in all:

In each of those seven contests, Ozaukee county voted overwhelmingly Democratic, including massive local victories for Abraham Lincoln’s opponents Stephen A. Douglas (1860) and Gen. George B. McClellan (1864). Even Ulysses S. Grant, the general that won the Civil War and preserved the Union, lost the Ozaukee county vote to Democratic rivals Horatio Seymour (1868) and Horace Greeley (1872).

They voted. Now it’s your turn.

Whether you agree with their politics or not, our predecessors were vigorous participants in the political process and they voted—if they could. Originally denied the franchise, African Americans and women fought, suffered, and worked ceaselessly until they had legal access to the ballot.

Though we are in the midst of a once in a century pandemic, generations of Americans have struggled—and thousands have died—so that we can all make our voices heard on election day. So no excuses: Vote.

If you believe that “government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from this earth,” then you must support free, fair, equal, safe and healthy access to the vote to all our fellow citizens—whatever their political persuasion.

And to those who promote—or simply tolerate—voter suppression, gerrymandering, or limiting access to convenient and healthy voting in this, or any, election: that is the path to one-party rule, autocracy, and the end of our representative democracy. Shame on you. 3

    Anyone that has not been asleep for the last few decades will have noticed that various politicians have been quick to claim the mantle of various great predecessors—notably Abraham Lincoln—and have been equally quick to denigrate opposition candidates and parties by using historically incorrect comparisons to the previous, but no longer current, positions of those parties.

It bears repeating: the political parties of today do not reflect many of the significant policies and positions of their 19th-century namesakes. Nineteenth-century American politics were complicated, passionate, mercurial and yet on some major issues so intransigent, that we ended up fighting a Civil War as a result. If you need clarification regarding which party stood for which policies in which decade, you could start with these Wikipedia links:

And don’t miss some of the shorter-lived but sometimes influential 19th-century parties, including the Free Soil, Anti-Masonic, Know-Nothing, and Locofoco parties.

UPDATE: I should have also noted that the national Democratic party was divided on the issue of slavery and began to split into Northern and Southern factions in the 1850s, and officially split in 1860. Peter Turck—and, presumably, many of Wisconsin’s Democrats—appears to have been an anti-slavery Democrat from the late-1840s onwards. Once the Civil War began, I believe Peter Turck would have been considered a War Democrat, although the evidence is slim. It’s complicated. For an overview, start with these links:
• Northern Democrats, also Copperheads (aka Peace Democrats) and War Democrats
• Southern Democrats

UPDATED, October 28, 2020, to correct a few typos and other minor infelicities.

UPDATED, October 28, 2020 to clarify the division between Southern Democrats and Northern Democrats (see footnote #1)

1852 Presidential Elections - History

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'What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?': The History of Frederick Douglass' Searing Independence Day Oration

After the Independence Day military parade in the nation&rsquos capital on Thursday, President Donald Trump will give a speech at the Lincoln Memorial, the most recognizable memorial to his predecessor&rsquos leadership during the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. And yet, alternative Fourth of July commemorations across the United States often draw attention to a different side of that story, with readings of the Frederick Douglass speech best known today as &ldquoWhat to the Slave is the Fourth of July?&rdquo

The speech was originally delivered at a moment when the country was fiercely locked in debate over the question of slavery, but there&rsquos a reason why it has remained famous more than 150 years after emancipation, says David Blight, author of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize winning biography Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.

To some, celebrations of American independence on July 4 are a reminder of the country&rsquos hypocrisy on the matter of freedom, as slavery played a key role in the nation&rsquos history even today, America&rsquos history of racism is still being written, while other forms of modern-day slavery persist in the U.S. and around the world. For those who feel that way, July 5 may be an easier day to celebrate: on that day in 1827, 4,000 African Americans paraded down Broadway in New York City to celebrate the end of slavery in their state.

One person who felt that way was Douglass, the famous abolitionist, who was himself born into slavery. When the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester, N.Y., invited Douglass to give a July 4 speech in 1852, Douglass opted to speak on July 5 instead.

Addressing an audience of about 600 at the newly constructed Corinthian Hall, he started out by acknowledging that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were &ldquobrave&rdquo and &ldquogreat&rdquo men, and that the way they wanted the Republic to look was in the right spirit. But, he said, speaking more than a decade before slavery was ended nationally, a lot of work still needed to be done so that all citizens can enjoy &ldquolife, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.&rdquo Above &ldquoyour national, tumultuous joy&rdquo &mdash the July 4th celebrations of white Americans &mdash were the &ldquomournful wails of millions&rdquo whose heavy chains &ldquoare, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them.&rdquo

In the oration&rsquos most famous passages, Douglass discussed what it felt like to see such festivities and to know independence was not a given for people like him:

What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?&hellip

I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn&hellip

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham your boasted liberty, an unholy license your national greatness, swelling vanity your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy &mdash a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Douglass&rsquo speech also foreshadowed the bloody reckoning to come: Civil War. &ldquoFor it is not light that is needed, but fire it is not the gentle shower, but thunder,&rdquo he said. &ldquoWe need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.&rdquo

At the time Douglass spoke, Blight says, the opportunity was ripe for a lecture on the moral crisis.

&ldquoUncle Tom&rsquos Cabin had just been published that spring and was taking the country by storm. The country was in the midst of crises over fugitive slave rescues in the wake of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The political party system was beginning to tear itself asunder over the expansion of slavery,&rdquo he says. &ldquoIt&rsquos also an election year the 1852 presidential election was heating up that summer. The Nativist party is rising. It&rsquos an extraordinary political moment.&rdquo

Presidential Election of 1852: A Resource Guide

Grand, national, democratic banner - press onward / lith. & pub.
by N. Currier.
1 print: lithograph, hand-colored
Prints & Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:

The digital collections of the Library of Congress contain a wide variety of material associated with the presidential election of 1852, including broadsides, prints, political cartoons, sheet music, newspaper articles, and government documents. This guide compiles links to digital materials related to the presidential election of 1852 that are available throughout the Library of Congress Web site. In addition, it provides links to external Web sites focusing on the 1852 election and a selected bibliography.

1852 Presidential Election Results [1]

  • On February 9, 1853, the Electoral College votes for the presidential election of 1852 were counted by a joint session of Congress and reported in the Congressional Globe , as well as in the Senate Journal and the House Journal .

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

  • "Democratic National Convention," Sunbury American. (Sunbury, Pennsylvania) June 12, 1852.
  • "Democratic Convention-The Result," Fayetteville Observer. (Fayetteville, Tennessee) June 10, 1852.
  • "Whig National Convention," Jeffersonian Republican. (Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania) June 24, 1852.
  • "National Whig Nominations," Vermont Watchman and State Journal. (Montpelier, Vermont) July 1, 1852.
  • "The Results of the Election," The Mountain Sentinel. (Ebensburg, Pennsylvania)
  • "Pierce Elected!" Fayetteville Observer. (Fayetteville, Tennessee) November, 11, 1852.

Prints & Photographs Division

The American Presidency Project: Election of 1852

The American Presidency Project Web site presents election results from the 1852 presidential election. This site also contains the Whig Party Platform and the Democratic Party Platform of 1852.

The Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project Web site provides histories of the presidential campaigns from 1840-1860, as well as primary source material, such as campaign biographies and campaign songbooks. Recordings of some of the songs are also available.

Watch the video: The American Presidential Election of 1852