Political Parties in 1850s uss10

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Political Parties in 1850s



Main Idea: In the mid-1850s, the issue of slavery and other factors split political parties and led to the birth of new ones.

Old Political Parties

Whigs - Gen. Winfield Scott

DemocratsFranklin Pierce


  • Belief favoring native-born Americans over immigrants

Know-Nothing Party

  • Anti-immigration politicians formed the American Party

  • Used secret handshakes and passwords; members were told to answer questions by saying “I know nothing”

  • Eventually became known as the “Know-Nothing Party”

Anti-Slavery Parties Form

Free Soil Party (formed 1848)

  • Opposed the extension of slavery into the territories

  • Not anti-slavery, most Free-Soilers were simply against the spread of slavery, but still opposed blacks’ right to vote and other equal opportunities.

Republican Party

  • Free-Soilers + Anti-slavery Whigs and Democrats = Republican Party

    • Founded 1854 in schoolhouse in Ripon, WI

  • Opposed spread of slavery, against the Kansas-Nebraska Act

  • Events and issues of the mid-1850s made the Republican Party a strong force

1856 Election

Whigs had dissolved – they split into other parties


John C. Fremont


James Buchanan


Millard Fillmore

(Former Whig President)

Buchanan: 45% popular vote (won the entire south except Maryland)

Fremont: 33% (carried 11 of 16 free states)

Fillmore: 22%

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