Constitutional Union Party (United States)

Constitutional Union Party (United States)

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Constitutional Union Party (United States)'
Start a new discussion about 'Constitutional Union Party (United States)'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
The Constitutional Union Party (also known as the Bell-Everett Party in California) was a political party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 created in 1860. It was made up of conservative former Whigs
Whig Party (United States)
The Whig Party was a political party of the United States during the era of Jacksonian democracy. Considered integral to the Second Party System and operating from the early 1830s to the mid-1850s, the party was formed in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson and his Democratic...

 who wanted to avoid disunion over the slavery
History of slavery in the United States
Slavery in the United States was a form of slave labor which existed as a legal institution in North America for more than a century before the founding of the United States in 1776, and continued mostly in the South until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in...

 issue. These former Whigs (some of whom had been under the banner of the Opposition Party
Opposition Party (United States)
The Opposition Party in the United States is a label with two different applications in Congressional history, as a majority party in Congress 1854-58, and as a Third Party in the South 1858-1860....

 in 1854-58) teamed up with former Know-Nothings
Know Nothing
The Know Nothing was a movement by the nativist American political faction of the 1840s and 1850s. It was empowered by popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by German and Irish Catholic immigrants, who were often regarded as hostile to Anglo-Saxon Protestant values and controlled by...

 and a few Southern Democrats who were against disunion to form the Constitutional Union Party. Its name comes from its extremely simple platform, a simple resolution "to recognize no political principle other than the Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

...the Union...and the Enforcement of the Laws." They hoped that by failing to take a firm stand either for or against slavery or its expansion, the issue could be pushed aside.

Beginnings


The Constitutional Union Party united Whigs and Know-Nothings who were unwilling to join Democrats or the Republicans. Senator John J. Crittenden
John J. Crittenden
John Jordan Crittenden was a politician from the U.S. state of Kentucky. He represented the state in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and twice served as United States Attorney General in the administrations of William Henry Harrison and Millard Fillmore...

 of Kentucky, Henry Clay
Henry Clay
Henry Clay, Sr. , was a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky separately in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives...

's successor in border-state Whiggery, set up a meeting among fifty conservative, pro-compromise congressmen in December 1859, which led to a convention in Baltimore the week of May 9, 1860, one week before the Republican Party convention.

1860 presidential election


The convention nominated John Bell
John Bell (Tennessee politician)
John Bell was a U.S. politician, attorney, and plantation owner. A wealthy slaveholder from Tennessee, Bell served in the United States Congress in both the House of Representatives and Senate. He began his career as a Democrat, he eventually fell out with Andrew Jackson and became a Whig...

 of Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

 for President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 and Edward Everett
Edward Everett
Edward Everett was an American politician and educator from Massachusetts. Everett, a Whig, served as U.S. Representative, and U.S. Senator, the 15th Governor of Massachusetts, Minister to Great Britain, and United States Secretary of State...

 of Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 for Vice President
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

.

In the 1860 election, the Constitutional Unionists received the great majority of their votes from former southern Whigs or Know-Nothings. A few of their votes were cast by former Democrats who were against secession. Although the party did not get 50% of the popular vote in any state, they won the electoral votes of three states, Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

, Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

, and Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

, largely due to the split in Democratic votes between Stephen A. Douglas
Stephen A. Douglas
Stephen Arnold Douglas was an American politician from the western state of Illinois, and was the Northern Democratic Party nominee for President in 1860. He lost to the Republican Party's candidate, Abraham Lincoln, whom he had defeated two years earlier in a Senate contest following a famed...

 in the North and John C. Breckinridge
John C. Breckinridge
John Cabell Breckinridge was an American lawyer and politician. He served as a U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator from Kentucky and was the 14th Vice President of the United States , to date the youngest vice president in U.S...

 in the South. California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 and Everett's home state of Massachusetts were the only non-slave states in which the party received more than 5% of the popular vote.

After 1860


The party and its purpose disappeared after 1860 as the southern states began to secede. Bell and many other Constitutional Unionists later supported the Confederacy during the Civil War, but backers of the party from north of the Carolinas tended to remain supporters of the Union. Constitutional Unionists were influential in the Wheeling Convention
Wheeling Convention
The 1861 Wheeling Convention was a series of two meetings that ultimately repealed the Ordinance of Secession passed by Virginia, thus establishing the Restored government of Virginia, which ultimately authorized the counties that organized the convention to become West Virginia. The convention was...

, which led to the creation of the Union loyalist state of West Virginia
West Virginia
West Virginia is a state in the Appalachian and Southeastern regions of the United States, bordered by Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, Ohio to the northwest, Pennsylvania to the northeast and Maryland to the east...

, as well as in the declaration of the Kentucky State Legislature for the Union and winning Congressional elections in Kentucky
Kentucky in the Civil War
Kentucky was a border state of key importance in the American Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln recognized the importance of the Commonwealth when he declared "I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky." In a September 1861 letter to Orville Browning, Lincoln wrote "I think to lose...

 and Maryland
Maryland in the Civil War
In the American Civil War, Maryland, a slave state, was one of the border states, straddling the North and South. Due to its location and a desire from both opposing factions to sway its population to their respective causes, Maryland played an important role in the American Civil War...

 in June. In Missouri, many of the party joined the new Unconditional Union Party
Unconditional Union Party
The Unconditional Union Party was a loosely organized political entity during the American Civil War and the early days of Reconstruction. First established in 1861 in Missouri, where secession talk was strong, the party fully supported the preservation of the Union at all costs...

 headed by Francis P. Blair, Jr.
Francis Preston Blair, Jr.
Francis Preston Blair, Jr. was an American politician and Union Army general during the American Civil War. He represented Missouri in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and he was the Democratic Party's nominee for Vice President in 1868.-Early life and career:Blair was born in...

 and remained active in that state's efforts to remain in the Union by overthrowing the elected government of Claiborne Jackson.

See also

  • National Union Party (United States)
    National Union Party (United States)
    The National Union Party was the name used by the Republican Party for the national ticket in the 1864 presidential election, held during the Civil War. State Republican parties did not usually change their name....

  • United States presidential election, 1860
    United States presidential election, 1860
    The United States presidential election of 1860 was a quadrennial election, held on November 6, 1860, for the office of President of the United States and the immediate impetus for the outbreak of the American Civil War. The nation had been divided throughout the 1850s on questions surrounding the...


External links