Free Soil Party
Free Soil Party was a short-lived political party in the United
States active in the 1848 and 1852 presidential elections as well as
in some state elections. A single-issue party, its main purpose was to
oppose the expansion of slavery into the Western territories, arguing
that free men on free soil constituted a morally and economically
superior system to slavery. It also sometimes worked to remove
existing laws that discriminated against freed African Americans in
states such as Ohio.
The party originated in New York after the state Democratic convention
refused to endorse the Wilmot Proviso, a proposed law that would have
banned slavery in any territory acquired from
Mexico in the
Mexican–American War. A faction of New York Democrats known as the
Barnburners objected to slavery in the territories and opposed the
1848 Democratic nominee Lewis Cass. The Barnburners and other
anti-slavery Democrats joined with some anti-slavery Whigs and the
Liberty Party to form the Free Soil Party. Salmon P. Chase, John P.
Hale and other party leaders organized the 1848 Free Soil Convention,
which nominated a ticket consisting of former President Martin Van
Charles Francis Adams Sr.
Charles Francis Adams Sr. In the 1848 presidential election,
Van Buren won 10.1% of the popular vote and Whig nominee Zachary
Taylor defeated Cass.
Compromise of 1850
Compromise of 1850 reduced tensions regarding slavery, but some
remained in the party. In the 1852 presidential election, Hale won
4.9% of the popular vote as the party's nominee. Passage of the
Kansas–Nebraska Act in 1854 revitalized the anti-slavery movement
and the party membership (including leaders such as Hale and Chase)
was largely absorbed by the Republican Party between 1854 and 1856 by
way of the Anti-Nebraska movement.
4 Noted Free Soilers
5 Electoral history
5.1 Presidential elections
5.2 Congressional election
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
1848 cartoon for Van Buren
In 1848, the New York State Democratic convention did not endorse the
Wilmot Proviso, an act that would have banned slavery in any territory
conquered by the
United States in the Mexican War. Almost half the
members, known as "Barnburners", walked out after denouncing the
national platform. Lewis Cass, the Democratic Party's 1848
presidential nominee, supported popular sovereignty (local control)
for determining the status of slavery in the United States
territories. This stance repulsed the New York State Democrats and
encouraged them to join with anti-slavery
Conscience Whigs and the
majority of the Liberty Party to form the Free Soil Party, which
was formalized in the summer of 1848 at conventions in Utica and
Buffalo. The Free Soilers nominated former Democratic President Martin
Van Buren for President, along with Charles Francis Adams for Vice
President, at Lafayette Square in Buffalo, then known as Court House
Park. The main party leaders were
Salmon P. Chase
Salmon P. Chase of
Ohio and John
P. Hale of New Hampshire. The Free Soil candidates won 10% of the
popular vote in 1848, but no electoral votes, in part because the
nomination of Van Buren discouraged many anti-slavery Whigs from
The party distanced itself from abolitionism and avoided the moral
problems implicit in slavery. Members emphasized instead the threat
slavery would pose to free white labor and Northern businessmen in the
new Western territories. Although abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison
derided the party philosophy as "white manism", the approach
appealed to many moderate opponents of slavery. The 1848 platform
pledged to promote limited internal improvements, work for a homestead
law, work towards paying off the public debt and introduce a moderate
tariff for revenue only.
Compromise of 1850
Compromise of 1850 temporarily neutralized the issue of slavery
and undercut the party's no-compromise position. Most Barnburners
returned to the Democratic Party while most of the Conscience Whigs
returned to the Whig Party. This resulted in the Free Soil Party
becoming dominated by ardent anti-slavery leaders.
The party ran
John P. Hale
John P. Hale in the 1852 presidential election, but its
share of the popular vote shrank to less than 5%. However, two years
later—after enormous outrage over the
Kansas–Nebraska Act of
1854—the remains of the
Free Soil Party
Free Soil Party helped form the Republican
Free Soil Party
Free Soil Party sent two Senators and fourteen Representatives to
the thirty-first Congress, which convened from March 4, 1849 to March
3, 1851. Since there were party members on the floor of Congress, they
could carry far more weight in the government and in the debates that
took place. The
Free Soil Party
Free Soil Party presidential nominee in 1848, Martin
Van Buren, received 291,616 votes against
Zachary Taylor of the Whigs
Lewis Cass of the Democrats, but Van Buren received no electoral
votes. The party's "spoiler effect" in 1848 may have helped Taylor
into office in a narrowly contested election.
However, the strength of the party was its representation in Congress
as the sixteen elected officials had influence far beyond their
numerical strength. The party's most important legacy
was as a route for anti-slavery Democrats to join the new Republican
In August 1854, an alliance was brokered at
Ottawa, Illinois between
Free Soil Party
Free Soil Party and the Whigs (in part based on the efforts of
local newspaper publisher Jonathan F. Linton) that gave rise to the
new Republican Party which had been founded in March of that year.
Free Soil Township, Michigan
Free Soil Township, Michigan was named after the Free Soil party in
In this 1850 political cartoon, the artist attacks abolitionist, Free
Soil and other sectionalist interests of 1850 as dangers to the Union
Free Soil candidates ran on a platform that declared: "[W]e inscribe
on our banner, 'Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor, and Free Men,' and
under it we will fight on, and fight forever, until a triumphant
victory shall reward our exertions". The party also called for a
tariff for revenue only (i.e. import taxes sufficient to meet federal
government expenses without creating protectionist trade barriers) and
for a homestead act. The Free Soil Party's main support came from
areas of Ohio, upstate New York and western Massachusetts, although
other northern states also had representatives. The party contended
that slavery undermined the dignity of labor and inhibited social
mobility and was therefore fundamentally undemocratic. Viewing slavery
as an economically inefficient, obsolete institution, Free Soilers
believed that slavery should be contained and that if contained it
would ultimately disappear.
Noted Free Soilers
Jonathan Blanchard, President of Knox College
Walter Booth, Congressman from Connecticut
David C. Broderick, Senator from California
William Cullen Bryant
Salmon P. Chase, Senator from Ohio
Oren B. Cheney, legislator from Maine and founder of Bates College
Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
Sidney Edgerton, Congressman from Ohio,
Chief Justice of the Idaho
Territorial Supreme Court and Territorial Governor of Montana
John C. Frémont, Senator from California
Leander F. Frisby, Wisconsin Attorney General
Joshua Reed Giddings, Congressman from Ohio
Francis Gillette, Senator from Connecticut
James Harlan, Senator from Iowa
Thomas Hoyne, future Mayor of Chicago
Horace Mann, Congressman from
Massachusetts and educational reformer
J. Young Scammon, Chicago pioneer and state Whig leader who in 1848
ran on a "Free Soil plank" in the 4th Congressional District
William B. Ogden, former
Mayor of Chicago
Mayor of Chicago and President of the Galena
and Chicago Union Railroad
Charles Sumner, Senator from Massachusetts
Walt Whitman, member of the Free Soil Committee for Brooklyn and
editor of the Brooklyn Freeman, a Free Soil newspaper
John Greenleaf Whittier
Victor Willard, Wisconsin State Senator, 17th District, 1849–1850;
and Wisconsin Constitutional Convention Delegate, 1846 (Democrat)
Willard Woodard, educator, publisher, Free Soil club co-founder and
Outcome of election
Martin Van Buren
Charles F. Adams
0 / 290
John P. Hale
George W. Julian
0 / 296
House of Representatives
overall seats won
9 / 233
4 / 233
4 / 234
37 / 234
Nathaniel P. Banks
overall seats won
2 / 62
3 / 62
4 / 62
William R. King
2 / 62
^ a: Free Soilers ran under "Anti-Nebraska" label.
^ b: Office left vacant when Fillmore assumed the presidency
on July 9, 1850.
^ c: Office left vacant after King's death on April 18,
Appeal of the Independent Democrats
Origins of the American Civil War
Second Party System
^ The Editors of
Encyclopædia Britannica (July 20, 1998). "Free-Soil
Party". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
^ AMR Editors. "Anti-slavery "Free Soil Party" showed strength during
African American Registry. Retrieved August 3,
2017. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
^ Foner, Eric (April 20, 1995). Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The
Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War. Oxford
University Press. ISBN 9780195094978.
Ohio History Central. "Free Soil Party".
Ohio History Connection.
Retrieved August 3, 2017.
^ "Free-Soil Party The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American
History". www.gilderlehrman.org. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
^ "Old Court House". History of Buffalo. Chuck LaChiusa. Archived from
the original on August 8, 2007. Retrieved March 8, 2008.
^ Alcott, L.M.; Elbert, S. (1997). Louisa May Alcott on Race, Sex, and
Slavery. Northeastern University Press. ISBN 9781555533076.
^ Mayfield, John. Rehearsal for Republicanism: Free Soil and the
Politics of Anti-Slavery. Port Washington. NY. Kennikat. 1980.
^ Taylor, William Alexander (1909). "Centennial history of Columbus
and Franklin County, Ohio; Vol. 2". S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
pp. 161–162. Archived from the original on January 20,
^ Boughner, Eliane Durnin (June 25, 1981). "Free Soil Gets History
Write-up". Ludington Daily News. Ludington, MI. Retrieved September
^ The National Conventions and Platforms of All Political Parties
1789-1905 by Thomas Hudson McKee ISBN 0-403-00356-3 p. 52.
^ a b c The Past and Present of Kane County, Illinois. Chicago, IL:
William Le Baron, Jr. & Co. 1878. p. 258.
^ Harris, Norman Dwight (1904). The History of Negro Servitude in
Illinois. pp. 173–174. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
^ The Blue Book of the State of Wisconsin for 1879. Waukesha Democrat.
December 5, 1848. Watertown Chronicle. December 5, 1849.
JBlue, Frederick J. (1987). Salmon P. Chase: A Life in Politics.
Blue, Frederick J. (1973) The Free Soilers: Third Party Politics,
Brooks, Corey M. (2016). M. Liberty Power: Antislavery Third Parties
and the Transformation of American Politics. University of Chicago
Press. 302 pp.
Duberman, Martin (1968). Charles Francis Adams, 1807–1886.
Earle, Jonathan Halperin (2004). Jacksonian Antislavery and the
Politics of Free Soil, 1824–1854.
Foner, Eric (1995) . Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The
Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War. New York:
Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509497-2.
Smith, T. C. Smith (1987). Liberty and Free Soil Parties in the
Northwest. New York.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Free Soil Party.
Free Soil Banner – Indianapolis Marion County Public Library
American Abolitionists and Antislavery Activists – comprehensive
list of abolitionist and anti-slavery activists and organizations in
the United States, including the Free Soil Party
Texts on Wikisource:
"Free-Soil Party". Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.
"Free Soil Party".
Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.
"Free-Soil Party, The". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
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