Political parties: 1820s to 1850s

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POLITICAL PARTIES: 1820s to 1850s

Look at some highly effective political posters. Create a poster of your own for one of the (historical) political parties below. The poster should convey your party’s platform and persuade as many Americans as possible to vote for your party and/or candidate.

I suggest you consider both your textbook and at least the following resource(s) for your research:

1) Whigs


2) Democrats (Jacksonian)


3) Republicans


In Ripon, Wisconsin, former members of the Whig Party meet to establish a new party to oppose the spread of slavery into the western territories. The Whig Party, which was formed in 1834 to oppose the “tyranny” of President Andrew Jackson, had shown itself incapable of coping with the national crisis over slavery.

With the successful introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854, an act that dissolved the terms of the Missouri Compromise and allowed slave or free status to be decided in the territories by popular sovereignty, the Whigs disintegrated. By February 1854, anti-slavery Whigs had begun meeting in the upper midwestern states to discuss the formation of a new party. One such meeting, in Wisconsin on March 20, 1854, is generally remembered as the founding meeting of the Republican Party.

4) American Party/ Know Nothings


The Know-Nothing movement began in the 1840s, when an increasing rate of immigration led to the formation of a number of so-called nativist societies to combat “foreign” influences in American society. Roman Catholic immigrants from Ireland and Italy, who were embraced by the Democratic Party in eastern cities, were especially targeted. In the early 1850s, several secret nativist societies were formed, of which the “Order of the Star-Spangled Banner” and the “Order of United Americans” were the most significant. When members of these organizations were questioned by the press about their political platform, they would often reply they knew nothing, hence the popular name for the Know-Nothing movement.

5) Liberty Party


The Liberty Party was an anti-slavery political party active in the 1840s. The Liberty Party was formed in opposition to Garrison’s radical abolitionist principles, rather making its aims to confine slavery to the states where it already existed and to prevent it from expanding into the territories. In the 1844 election, Liberty Party candidate James G. Birney earned 62,000 popular votes, though the party would dissolve around 1848 when many members left to join the Free-Soil Party.

6) Free Soil Party


While the Free Soilers made the divisive issue of slavery and its extension into the territories the central issue of the 1848 election, the two major parties (Democrats and Whigs) tried their best to address it without alienating voters. In the end, Martin Van Buren failed to win a single state and received only 10 percent of the vote, though he carried enough Democratic votes in New York to hand the state to the eventual victor, Zachary Taylor.

The Free-Soil Party was formed in 1848 by supporters of the failed 1846 Wilmot proviso, including members of the Whig Party, the Liberty Party, and anti-slavery “Barnburner” Democrats. Founded on the ideals of “free soil, free speech, free labor, and free men,” the party campaigned against the expansion of slavery into the territory acquired from Mexico. Though the Free-Soil nominee for president, former President Martin Van Buren, did not win the election, several Free-Soilers were elected to the House of Representatives, and in 1854 the party helped to form the Republican Party.

Disappointed by the ambivalent position of the Whig Party toward slavery, “Conscience” Whigs held a convention in August 1848 at Buffalo, N.Y. There they were joined by delegates from 17 states drawn from the Liberty Party and the antislavery faction of the New York Democrats, known as “Barnburners.”. The Free-Soilers’ historic slogan calling for “free soil, free speech, free labor, and free men” attracted small farmers, debtors, village merchants, and household and mill workers, who resented the prospect of black-labour competition—whether slave or free—in the territories.

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