1852

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS

OVERVIEWS & CHRONOLOGIES: 1852

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

OVERVIEW

Election Year: 1852

Election Day Date: November 2, 1852

Winning Ticket: Franklin Pierce (48, Episcopalian), William King (66, ), Democratic 1,605,943 50.83% 254 85.8%

Losing Ticket(s):

  • Winfield Scott (66), William Graham (48, Presbyterian) Whig 1,386,418 43.88% 42 14.2%
  • John Hale (46),  George Julian (35, Quaker) Free Soil 155,799 4.93% 0 0.0%
  • Other (+) – – 11,480 0.36% 0 0.0%

Voter Turnout: 69.6% lowest voter turnout since 1836

Incumbent President and Vice President on Election Day:

Millard Fillmore, None Whig, 1850-1853

Population: 1852: 24,999,000

Nominal GDP (billions of dollars): $3.04 Real GDP (billions of 2005 dollars): $59.76
GDP Deflator (index 2005=100%) 5.08 Nominal GDP per capita (current dollars): $121 Real GDP per capita (year 2005 dollars): $2,391

Average Daily Circulation: Party newspapers: Two million copies, one/voter; neutral newspapers 300,000, Philadelphia, New York and Boston

Method of Choosing Electors: Popular vote in all states except in South Carolina where the state legislature appointed electors

Method of Choosing Nominees: National conventions

Central Issues (Nomination/Primaries): (lack of clear issues)

Leading Candidates (Nomination/Primaries):

Democratic Party candidates:

  • Franklin Pierce, former U.S. senator (New Hampshire)
  • Lewis Cass, former Secretary of War, Senator from Michigan, and 1848 presidential nominee
  • James Buchanan, former Secretary of State and Senator (Pennsylvania)
  • William L. Marcy, former Secretary of War and Governor of New York
  • Stephen A. Douglas, U.S. senator (Illinois)

Whig Party candidates

  • Millard Fillmore, President of the United States (New York)
  • Winfield Scott, Commanding General of the U.S. Army (Virginia)
  • Daniel Webster, former U.S. senator and candidate for the 1848 nomination (Massachusetts)

Main Controversies (Nomination/Primaries):

Compromise of 1850; the Fugitive Slave Act;

Campaign Innovations (Nomination/Primaries):

  • 1849: The American “Know Nothing” Party forms: Nativist, Anti-foreign and anti Catholic party.  Begins as a secret society in New York.

Major Personalities (Nomination/Primaries):

The Southern Rights Party formed with a faction of the Democratic Party from the Southern States; The Union party formed in 1851, with a faction of the Whig Party from the Southern States including Georgia;

Turning Points (Nomination/Primaries):

  • Justice Levi Woodbury died in 1851, forcing his New England backers to seek a new candidate.
  • The Compromise of 1850 divided the Whig Party; Southern Whigs opposed it, while Northern Whigs supported it. Among Democrats, some Southern Democrats opposed the compromise but the majority supported it.

Conventions (Dates & Locations):

  • 1852 Democratic National Convention, June 1-5, 1852, Maryland Institute; Baltimore, John W. Davis (Indiana) 49th ballot, Franklin Pierce (New Hampshire)  William R. King (Alabama)
  • Free Soil National Convention, Masonic Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Liberty Party National Convention, Buffalo, New York; 2nd Convention, early September 1852, Syracuse, New York; 3rd Convention, late September 1852, Syracuse, New York
  • The Southern Rights National Convention, Montgomery, Alabama

Convention Turning Points:

Democratic National Convention:

  • Each of the front runner candidates represented a faction in the slavery debate, none however, were not able to reach the needed two-thirds delegate support.
  • Franklin Pierce the compromise candidate, dark horse candidate, name introduced on the ballot on the 35th ballot, he won the nomination on the 49th ballot.
  • Senator William R. King of Alabama nominated for Vice President.

Whig National Convention:

  • Scott was nominated on the 53rd ballot; the ballot faced sectional differences/
  • Scott won the North by a 142-11 vote, 21 votes for Webster; Fillmore won the South by a margin of 101-17.

Number of Ballots to Choose Nominees:

Democratic Party Nomination

Presidential 49th ballot

  • Franklin Pierce 282
  • Lewis Cass 2
  • James Buchanan
  • William L. Marcy
  • Stephen A. Douglas 2
  • Others 10

Vice Presidential Ballot

  • William R. King 125 277
  • Solomon W. Downs 30 0
  • John B. Weller 28 0
  • David R. Atchison 25 0
  • Gideon J. Pillow 25 0
  • Robert Strange 23 0
  • William O. Butler 13 0
  • Thomas J. Rusk 13 0
  • Jefferson Davis 2 11
  • Howell Cobb 2 0
  • Abstaining 2 0

Whig Party Nomination

President

1st & 53 ballot

  • Millard Fillmore 133, 159
  • Winfield Scott 131 112
  • Daniel Webster 29 21

Vice President

  • William Alexander Graham

Third Party Candidates:

Free Soil Party

President

  • John P. Hale 192 (New Hampshire Senator)
  • Scattered 16

Vice-President

  • George W. Julian of Indiana
  • Samuel Lewis of Ohio
  • Joshua R. Giddings of Ohio

Liberty Party nomination

  • 1st Convention: President Gerrit Smith of New York; Vice President Charles Durkee of Wisconsin
  • 2nd Convention: Not enough delegates to nominate any candidates  Early September 1852, Syracuse, New York
  • 3rd Convention, Late September 1852, Syracuse, New York President William Goodell of New York; Vice President Samuel M. Piper of Virginia

Union Party Nomination

  • Georgia state convention August 7, 1852
  • President Daniel Webster
  • Vice President Charles J. Jenkins of Georgia

Southern Rights Party

  • President George M. Troup, Georgia Senator 62 (unanimous)
  • Vice president John A. Quitman, former Mississippi Governor

The American Party (precursor of the Know-Nothing Party): President Jacob Broom, Vice president Reynall Coates

Convention Chairmen:

  • Democratic Party: Temporary Chairman: Romulus M. Saunders NC; Permanent Chairman: John W. Davis IN; Benjamin F. Hallett of Massachusetts, first national chairman
  • Whig Party: Temporary Chairman: George Evans ME; Permanent Chairman: John G. Chapman MD

Party Platforms/Issues:

  • The Whig Party and The Democratic Party had similar party platforms
  • Democratic Party: Limits on the federal government; state’s rights; oppose the national bank. On slavery they concluded; “That the democratic party will resist all attempts at renewing, in congress or out of it, the agitation of the slavery question, under whatever shape or color the attempt may be made.”
  • Southern Rights Party: States’ rights and slavery
  • The American Party: anti-immigrant platform

General Election Controversies /Issues: Compromise of 1850; the Fugitive Slave Act;

The campaign centered on the personalities of the two major candidates, both Mexican-American war heroes.

Campaign Tactics: Mud-slinging

Democratic Party:

  • Referred to Winfield Scott as “Fuss ‘n Feathers,” called him a prima donna with a penchant for fancy uniforms resulting in a “Reign of Epaulets”; called him “weak, conceited, foolish, blustering disciple of gunpowder.” They claimed he “grew up with epaulettes on his shoulders, a canteen on his back, and a breastplate on HIS REAR.”
  • Democrats mocked Winfield Scott’s verbal slips during the Mexican War: “firing on the rear” and a “hasty plate of soup.” Pranksters distributed soup bowls at rallies.
  • Democrats had “Granite Clubs” raising “Hickory Poles to the honor of Young Hickory of the Granite Hills”

Whig Party:

  • Mocked Franklin Pierce referring to him as the “The Fainting General”; The Military Services of General Pierce a miniature book; called him “a hero of many a well-fought bottle”
  • September 1852: Winfield Scott’s five week “nonpolitical” tour of the West to garner votes and not appear to be stumping. Scott claimed he was en route to a hospital, told military anecdotes.

Major Personalities (General Election): Daniel Webster;

Turning Points (General Election):

  • Despite the death of Union Party candidate Daniel Webster, the Union ticket was featured on the ballots in Massachusetts and Georgia, winning many votes there, signaling the end of the Whig Party

Popular Campaign Slogans:

Whigs:

  • “GUNPOWDER GLORY.”
  • “Who is Franklin Pierce?”
  • “Protection to American Labor”
  • “Union for the Sake of the Union”
  • Democrats were “the do-nothing school of politicians, who adjure all the essential powers of the Constitution.” But “negatives are not principles.”
  • [for Scott]: “The Hero of Many Battles”
  • [against Pierce]: “a fourth-rate solider” and “a small [rather] than a great soldier.”

Democrats:

  • “We Polked ’em in ’44 we’ll Pierce ’em in ’52”
  • [One Democratic editor]: “Keep it before the people, that the leading, the most prominent Whigs of the Union are in feeling and sentiment the ‘lineal descendants’ of the old FEDERAL PARTY, of Hartford Convention memory, which was opposed to the War of 1812.”
  • [Democratic Pamphlet]: “Dangers of Electing an Incompetent Man President”

Campaign Song: “Pierce and King”

Defining Quotation (Winning Candidate):

  • “You are looking at the most surprised man that ever lived!” Franklin Pierce, upon hearing of his nomination
  • “I hear that rich Irish brogue,” praises the “sweet German accent” Winfield Scott condescending toward immigrants, awkwardly trying to prove he was not anti-immigrant.

Defining Quotation (Losing Candidate):

Significant books about the campaign: 

  • Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Life of Franklin Pierce (1852).

Further Reading:

  • Larry Gara, The Presidency of Franklin Pierce (1991).

Lasting Legacy of Campaign:

  • Franklin Pierce won the largest landslide ever, to that point.
  • The Whig Party’s last election ; the Party’s demise was caused by the tensions between pro-slavery Southerners and anti-slavery Northerners, in this election it only won Kentucky, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Vermont.
  • Southern Whigs joined the Democratic Party
  • Northern Whigs would form the Republican Party
  • Some Northern and Southern Whigs supported the “Know-Nothing” Party in the 1856 presidential election.

CHRONOLOGY

  • 1849: The American “Know Nothing” Party forms, it is a nativist, anti-foreigner and anti-Catholic party; the party begins as a secret society in New York.
  • May-September 1850: Congress debates slavery in the territories. Henry Clay proposes the Compromise of 1850, Daniel Webster with Stephen Douglas support the measure, and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina opposes it. The Compromise of 1850 divides the Whig Party; Southern Whigs opposed it, while Northern Whigs supported it. Among Democrats, some Southern Democrats opposed the compromise but the majority supported it.
  • 1850: President Taylor threatens to veto Compromise of 1850 even if it means Civil War.
  • July 9, 1850: “Zachary Taylor dies of “cholera morbus.””
  • July 10, 1850: Vice President Millard Fillmore secedes as President.
  • August 6, 1850: Fillmore announces he supports the Compromise of 1850, in a letter to Congress he wants Texas to give up claims to areas of New Mexico and that the Wilmot Proviso be overturned.
  • September 9, 1850: As part of the Compromise, California, enters as a free state, a border would be established between Texas and New Mexico, New Mexico would established as a free or slaveholding state when they will be admitted to the Union, and Utah establishes it’s borders according to the rules governing New Mexico, “popular sovereignty.”
  • September 18, 1850: Congress passes The Fugitive Slave Law or the Fugitive Slave Act it is concession to the slaveholding south.
  • September 20, 1850: “Congress passes the Compromise of 1850, written by Kentucky senator Henry Clay.” The Compromises solves the issue of slavery within the territories with slave holding states divided at the thirty-seventh parallel, and abolished in Washington, DC. The Compromise causes increase sectional sentiments.
  • 1851: The Southern Rights Party forms with a faction of the Democratic Party from the Southern States.
  • 1851: The Union party forms with a faction of the Whig Party from the Southern States including Georgia.
  • September 17, 1851: Liberty Party Convention holds its first convention for the upcoming election. The convention convenes in Buffalo, New York and nominates Gerrit Smith for President.
  • June 1851: New Hampshire’s “Concord Cabal”, friends of Franklin Pierce hold a convention and nominate Levi Woodbury for President and Luke Woodbury for Governor.
  • June 5, 1851: Uncle Tom’s Cabin (or Life Among the Lowly), by Harriet Beecher Stowe is first published in the National Era.
  • September 4, 1851: Justice Levi Woodbury dies, forcing his New England backers to seek a new candidate.
  • March 20, 1852: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Life among the Lowly, is published as a two volume book. A bestseller with 1.2 million copies sold in the first 16 months of publication. The book increases antislavery sympathies in the north, and “hostility in the South” due to its portrayal of slavery’s cruelty.   The story originally published as a serial in a Washington newspaper and is later a theatrical production adapted by George L. Aiken.
  • June 1-5, 1852: Democratic National Convention convenes at Maryland Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. John W. Davis (Indiana) serves as chairman. The convention nominates on the 49th ballot Franklin Pierce (New Hampshire) for President and William R. King (Alabama) for Vice President. Each of the front runner candidates represent a faction in the slavery debate, none however are able to reach the needed two-thirds delegate support. Franklin Pierce is the compromise candidate, a dark horse candidate, his name is introduced on the 35th ballot, he wins the nomination on the 49th ballot. Senator William R. King of Alabama nominated for Vice President. Party platform supports the Compromise of 1850, but also the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798.
  • June 20, 1852: Whig Party National Convention nominates Winfield Scott for President. Scott is nominated on the 53rd ballot; the ballot faces sectional differences. Party platform supports the Compromise of 1850.
  • June 29, 1852: Henry Clay dies of Tuberculosis in Washington.
  • August 7, 1852: Union Party National Convention nominates Secretary of State Daniel Webster for President.
  • August 12, 1852: Free Soil National Convention, Masonic Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania nominates John Parker Hale. Their platform opposes the Compromise of 1850 and slavery.
  • September 1852: Winfield Scott’s five-week “nonpolitical” tour of the West to garner votes and not appear to be stumping. Scott claims he is en route to a hospital, he tells military anecdotes to audiences along the tour.
  • September 3, 1852: Liberty Party National 2nd Convention convenes in Syracuse, New York where no candidate is nominated.
  • September 14, 1852: The Southern Rights National Convention convenes in  Montgomery, Alabama and nominates George Michael Troup for President.
  • September 22, 1852: Free Democratic Party Convention nominates Gerrit Smith for President.
  • September 30, 1852: Liberty Party 3rd National Convention convenes on Syracuse, New York and nominates William Goodell for President.
  • October 24, 1852: Union Party candidate former Senator and Secretary of State Daniel Webster dies at his home in Massachusetts.
  • Despite the death of Union Party candidate Daniel Webster, the Union ticket is featured on the ballots in Massachusetts and Georgia, winning many votes there, signaling the end of the Whig Party.
  • Oct 27, 1852: Native American Party Convention nominates Jacob Broom for President.
  • November 2, 1852: Election day, Franklin Pierce is elected President, and William King is elected Vice President. Whig candidate Scott wins the North by a 142-11 vote, 21 votes for Webster; Fillmore wins the South by a margin of 101-17.
  • November, 1852: “Democrats gain three Senate seats for a 38-22 majority over the Whigs. The Democrats gain 19 seats in the House for a 159-71 majority.”
  • December 1, 1852: Presidential Electors meet in their state capitals and cast the electoral votes.
  • February 9, 1853: Joint session of Congress assembles to count the electoral votes.
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