Free Soil Party

Free Soil Party

Overview
The Free Soil Party was a short-lived 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...

 active in the 1848 and 1852 presidential elections, and in some state elections. It was a third party
Third party (United States)
The term third party is used in the United States for any and all political parties in the United States other than one of the two major parties . The term can also refer to independent politicians not affiliated with any party at all and to write-in candidates.The United States has had a...

 and a single-issue party that largely appealed to and drew its greatest strength from New York State
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

. The party leadership consisted of former anti-slavery members of the Whig Party
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...

 and the Democratic Party
History of the United States Democratic Party
The history of the Democratic Party of the United States is an account of the oldest political party in the United States and arguably the oldest democratic party in the world....

. Its main purpose was opposing the expansion of slavery into the western territories, arguing that free men on free soil comprised a morally and economically superior system to slavery.
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Encyclopedia
The Free Soil Party was a short-lived 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...

 active in the 1848 and 1852 presidential elections, and in some state elections. It was a third party
Third party (United States)
The term third party is used in the United States for any and all political parties in the United States other than one of the two major parties . The term can also refer to independent politicians not affiliated with any party at all and to write-in candidates.The United States has had a...

 and a single-issue party that largely appealed to and drew its greatest strength from New York State
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

. The party leadership consisted of former anti-slavery members of the Whig Party
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...

 and the Democratic Party
History of the United States Democratic Party
The history of the Democratic Party of the United States is an account of the oldest political party in the United States and arguably the oldest democratic party in the world....

. Its main purpose was opposing the expansion of slavery into the western territories, arguing that free men on free soil comprised a morally and economically superior system to slavery. They opposed slavery in the new territories and sometimes worked to remove existing laws that discriminated against freed African Americans in states such as Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

.

The party membership was largely absorbed by the Republican Party
History of the United States Republican Party
The United States Republican Party is the second oldest currently existing political party in the United States after its great rival, the Democratic Party. It emerged in 1854 to combat the Kansas Nebraska Act which threatened to extend slavery into the territories, and to promote more vigorous...

 in 1854.

Positions


Free Soil candidates ran on the platform that declared: "...we inscribe on our banner, 'Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor and Free Men,' and under it we will fight on and fight ever, until a triumphant victory shall reward our exertions." The party also called for a homestead act
Homestead Act
A homestead act is one of three United States federal laws that gave an applicant freehold title to an area called a "homestead" – typically 160 acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River....

 and a tariff for revenue only. The Free Soil Party's main support came from areas of upstate New York, western Massachusetts, and Ohio, although other northern states also had representatives. The Free Soil 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.

History



In 1847 the New York State Democratic convention did not endorse the Wilmot Proviso
Wilmot Proviso
The Wilmot Proviso, one of the major events leading to the Civil War, would have banned slavery in any territory to be acquired from Mexico in the Mexican War or in the future, including the area later known as the Mexican Cession, but which some proponents construed to also include the disputed...

, 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
Lewis Cass
Lewis Cass was an American military officer and politician. During his long political career, Cass served as a governor of the Michigan Territory, an American ambassador, a U.S. Senator representing Michigan, and co-founder as well as first Masonic Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Michigan...

, the Democratic Party's 1848
United States presidential election, 1848
The United States presidential election of 1848 was an open race. President James K. Polk, having achieved all of his major objectives in one term and suffering from declining health that would take his life less than four months after leaving office, kept his promise not to seek re-election.The...

 presidential nominee, supported popular sovereignty
Popular sovereignty in the United States
The American Revolution marked a departure in the concept of popular sovereignty as it had been discussed and employed in the European historical context. With their Revolution, Americans substituted the sovereignty in the person of the English king, George III, with a collective sovereign—composed...

 for determining the status of slavery in the U.S. territories. This stance repulsed the New York State Democrats and encouraged them to join with anti-slavery Whigs and the majority of the Liberty Party
Liberty Party (1840s)
The Liberty Party was a minor political party in the United States in the 1840s . The party was an early advocate of the abolitionist cause...

 to form the Free Soil Party, which was formalized in the summer of 1848 at conventions in Utica
Utica, New York
Utica is a city in and the county seat of Oneida County, New York, United States. The population was 62,235 at the 2010 census, an increase of 2.6% from the 2000 census....

 and Buffalo, New York
Buffalo, New York
Buffalo is the second most populous city in the state of New York, after New York City. Located in Western New York on the eastern shores of Lake Erie and at the head of the Niagara River across from Fort Erie, Ontario, Buffalo is the seat of Erie County and the principal city of the...

. There the Free Soilers nominated former Democratic President Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren was the eighth President of the United States . Before his presidency, he was the eighth Vice President and the tenth Secretary of State, under Andrew Jackson ....

 for president, along with Charles Francis Adams
Charles Francis Adams, Sr.
Charles Francis Adams, Sr. was an American lawyer, politician, diplomat and writer. He was the grandson of President John Adams and Abigail Adams and the son of President John Quincy Adams and Louisa Adams....

 for vice president, at Lafayette Square
Lafayette Square, Buffalo
Lafayette Square is a park in the center of downtown Buffalo, Erie County, New York, United States that hosts a Civil War monument. The block, which was once square, is lined by many of the city's tallest buildings...

, then known as Court House Park. The main party leaders were Salmon P. Chase
Salmon P. Chase
Salmon Portland Chase was an American politician and jurist who served as U.S. Senator from Ohio and the 23rd Governor of Ohio; as U.S. Treasury Secretary under President Abraham Lincoln; and as the sixth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.Chase was one of the most prominent members...

 of Ohio and John P. Hale
John P. Hale
John Parker Hale was an American politician and lawyer from New Hampshire. He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1843 to 1845 and in the United States Senate from 1847 to 1853 and again from 1855 to 1865. He was the first senator to make a stand against slavery...

 of New Hampshire. The Free Soil candidates won 10% of the popular vote, but no electoral votes, in part because their nomination of Van Buren discouraged many anti-slavery Whigs from supporting the Free Soil Party.

The party downplayed 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 William Lloyd Garrison
William Lloyd Garrison
William Lloyd Garrison was a prominent American abolitionist, journalist, and social reformer. He is best known as the editor of the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, and as one of the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society, he promoted "immediate emancipation" of slaves in the United...

 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, paying off the public debt, and a moderate tariffs for revenue only.

The Compromise of 1850
Compromise of 1850
The Compromise of 1850 was a package of five bills, passed in September 1850, which defused a four-year confrontation between the slave states of the South and the free states of the North regarding the status of territories acquired during the Mexican-American War...

 temporarily neutralized the issue of slavery and undercut the party's no-compromise position. Most Barnburners returned to the Democratic party, and the Free Soil Party became dominated by ardent anti-slavery leaders.

The party ran John P. Hale
John P. Hale
John Parker Hale was an American politician and lawyer from New Hampshire. He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1843 to 1845 and in the United States Senate from 1847 to 1853 and again from 1855 to 1865. He was the first senator to make a stand against slavery...

 in the 1852 presidential election
United States presidential election, 1852
The United States presidential election of 1852 bore important similarities to the election of 1844. Once again, the incumbent president was a Whig who had succeeded to the presidency upon the death of his war-hero predecessor. In this case, it was Millard Fillmore who followed General Zachary Taylor...

, but its share of the popular vote shrank to less than 5%. However, two years later, after enormous outrage over the Kansas-Nebraska Act
Kansas-Nebraska Act
The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, opening new lands for settlement, and had the effect of repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 by allowing settlers in those territories to determine through Popular Sovereignty if they would allow slavery within...

 of 1854, the remains of the Free Soil Party helped form the Republican party.

Legacy


The Free Soil Party was a notable third party. More successful than most, it sent two Senators
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 and fourteen Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 to the thirty-first Congress, which convened from March 4, 1849 to March 3, 1851. Its presidential nominee in 1848, Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren was the eighth President of the United States . Before his presidency, he was the eighth Vice President and the tenth Secretary of State, under Andrew Jackson ....

, received 291,616 votes against Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor was the 12th President of the United States and an American military leader. Initially uninterested in politics, Taylor nonetheless ran as a Whig in the 1848 presidential election, defeating Lewis Cass...

 of the Whigs and Lewis Cass
Lewis Cass
Lewis Cass was an American military officer and politician. During his long political career, Cass served as a governor of the Michigan Territory, an American ambassador, a U.S. Senator representing Michigan, and co-founder as well as first Masonic Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Michigan...

 of the Democrats, but Van Buren received no electoral votes. The Party's "spoiler
Spoiler effect
The spoiler effect describes the effect a minor party candidate with little chance of winning has in a close election, when that candidate's presence in the election draws votes from a major candidate similar to them, thereby causing a candidate dissimilar to them to win the election...

" effect in 1848 may have put Zachary Taylor into office in a narrowly-contested election.

The strength of the party, however, was its representation in Congress. The sixteen elected officials' influence far exceeded its numbers. The party's most important legacy was as a route for anti-slavery Democrats to join the new Republican coalition.

In Ottawa, Illinois, in August 1854, an alliance was brokered between the Free Soil Party and the Whigs (in part based on the efforts of local newspaper publisher Jonathan F. Linton) that gave rise to the Republican Party.

Presidential candidates

Year Presidential candidate Vice Presidential candidates Won/Lost
1848 Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren was the eighth President of the United States . Before his presidency, he was the eighth Vice President and the tenth Secretary of State, under Andrew Jackson ....

Charles Francis Adams
Charles Francis Adams, Sr.
Charles Francis Adams, Sr. was an American lawyer, politician, diplomat and writer. He was the grandson of President John Adams and Abigail Adams and the son of President John Quincy Adams and Louisa Adams....

Lost
1852 John P. Hale
John P. Hale
John Parker Hale was an American politician and lawyer from New Hampshire. He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1843 to 1845 and in the United States Senate from 1847 to 1853 and again from 1855 to 1865. He was the first senator to make a stand against slavery...

George W. Julian
George Washington Julian
George Washington Julian was a nineteenth century politician, lawyer and writer who served in Congress from Indiana. He was the son-in-law of Joshua Reed Giddings.-Biography:...

Lost

Other Noted Free Soilers

  • Charles Francis Adams, Sr.
    Charles Francis Adams, Sr.
    Charles Francis Adams, Sr. was an American lawyer, politician, diplomat and writer. He was the grandson of President John Adams and Abigail Adams and the son of President John Quincy Adams and Louisa Adams....

    , Party's vice presidential
    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...

     candidate in 1848
    United States presidential election, 1848
    The United States presidential election of 1848 was an open race. President James K. Polk, having achieved all of his major objectives in one term and suffering from declining health that would take his life less than four months after leaving office, kept his promise not to seek re-election.The...

  • Walter Booth
    Walter Booth
    Walter Booth was a United States Representative from Connecticut. He was born in Woodbridge, Connecticut. He attended the common schools and settled in Meriden and engaged in manufacturing....

    , U.S. Congressman from Connecticut
  • David C. Broderick
    David C. Broderick
    David Colbreth Broderick was a Democratic U.S. Senator from California. He was a first cousin of Andrew Kennedy and Case Broderick.-Early life and education:...

    , U.S. Senator from California
  • William Cullen Bryant
    William Cullen Bryant
    William Cullen Bryant was an American romantic poet, journalist, and long-time editor of the New York Evening Post.-Youth and education:...

  • Salmon P. Chase
    Salmon P. Chase
    Salmon Portland Chase was an American politician and jurist who served as U.S. Senator from Ohio and the 23rd Governor of Ohio; as U.S. Treasury Secretary under President Abraham Lincoln; and as the sixth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.Chase was one of the most prominent members...

    , U.S. Senator from Ohio
  • Oren B. Cheney
    Oren B. Cheney
    Oren Burbank Cheney was the founder of Bates College, an abolitionist, and a Free Will Baptist clergyman.-Early life:...

    , legislator from Maine, founder of Bates College
    Bates College
    Bates College is a highly selective, private liberal arts college located in Lewiston, Maine, in the United States. and was most recently ranked 21st in the nation in the 2011 US News Best Liberal Arts Colleges rankings. The college was founded in 1855 by abolitionists...

  • Leander F. Frisby
    Leander F. Frisby
    Leander Franklin Frisby was an American Republican politician and lawyer from Wisconsin.Born in Mesopotamia Township, Trumbull County, Ohio, Frisby moved to Burlington, Wisconsin Territory, in 1846, where he taught school. In 1850, Frisby was admitted to the Wisconsin bar and moved to West Bend,...

    , Wisconsin Attorney General
  • Sidney Edgerton
    Sidney Edgerton
    Sidney Edgerton was a politician, lawyer, judge and teacher from Ohio. He served during the American Civil War, as a Squirrel Hunter. During this time, Edgerton served as a U.S. Congressman. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln appointed him the first Chief justice of the Idaho Territorial Court...

    , U.S. Congressman from Ohio, Chief justice
    Chief Justice
    The Chief Justice in many countries is the name for the presiding member of a Supreme Court in Commonwealth or other countries with an Anglo-Saxon justice system based on English common law, such as the Supreme Court of Canada, the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the Court of Final Appeal of...

     of the Idaho Territorial Supreme Court, and Territorial Governor of Montana
  • Joshua Reed Giddings
    Joshua Reed Giddings
    Joshua Reed Giddings was an American statesman and a prominent opponent of slavery. He represented Ohio in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1838-59. He was at first a member of the Whig Party and was later a Republican.-Life:He was born at Tioga Point, now Athens, Bradford County,...

    , U.S. Congressman from Ohio
  • Francis Gillette
    Francis Gillette
    Francis Gillette was a politician from Connecticut, USA. He was the father of playwright William Gillette and politician and editor Edward H. Gillette....

    , U.S. Senator from Connecticut
  • James Harlan
    James Harlan
    James Harlan may refer to:*James Harlan , Kentucky*James Harlan , Iowa*James S. Harlan , American lawyer and commerce specialist, son of John Marshall Harlan...

    , U.S. Senator from Iowa
  • Horace Mann
    Horace Mann
    Horace Mann was an American education reformer, and a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1827 to 1833. He served in the Massachusetts Senate from 1834 to 1837. In 1848, after serving as Secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education since its creation, he was...

  • Charles Sumner
    Charles Sumner
    Charles Sumner was an American politician and senator from Massachusetts. An academic lawyer and a powerful orator, Sumner was the leader of the antislavery forces in Massachusetts and a leader of the Radical Republicans in the United States Senate during the American Civil War and Reconstruction,...

    , U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
  • Walt Whitman
    Walt Whitman
    Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse...

  • John Greenleaf Whittier
    John Greenleaf Whittier
    John Greenleaf Whittier was an influential American Quaker poet and ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. He is usually listed as one of the Fireside Poets...

  • Henry Wilson
    Henry Wilson
    Henry Wilson was the 18th Vice President of the United States and a Senator from Massachusetts...

  • Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
    Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
    Richard Henry Dana Jr. was an American lawyer and politician from Massachusetts, a descendant of an eminent colonial family who gained renown as the author of the American classic, the memoir Two Years Before the Mast...


See also

  • Second Party System
    Second Party System
    The Second Party System is a term of periodization used by historians and political scientists to name the political party system existing in the United States from about 1828 to 1854...

  • Origins of the American Civil War
    Origins of the American Civil War
    The main explanation for the origins of the American Civil War is slavery, especially Southern anger at the attempts by Northern antislavery political forces to block the expansion of slavery into the western territories...

  • Appeal of the Independent Democrats
    Appeal of the Independent Democrats
    The Appeal of the Independent Democrats was a manifesto issued in January, 1854, in response to the introduction into the United States Senate of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. The Appeal was written by Senator Salmon P...


Further reading

  • Frederick J. Blue, Salmon P. Chase: A Life in Politics (1987)
  • Frederick J. Blue, The Free Soilers: Third Party Politics, 1848-54 (1973)
  • Martin Duberman, Charles Francis Adams, 1807-1886 (1968)
  • Jonathan Halperin Earle, Jacksonian Antislavery and the Politics of Free Soil, 1824–1854 (2004)
  • T. C. Smith, Liberty and Free Soil Parties in the Northwest (New York, 1897)

External links