United States presidential election, 1848

United States presidential election, 1848

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The United States presidential election of 1848 was an open race. 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....

 James K. Polk
James K. Polk
James Knox Polk was the 11th President of the United States . Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He later lived in and represented Tennessee. A Democrat, Polk served as the 17th Speaker of the House of Representatives and the 12th Governor of Tennessee...

, 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 Whigs in 1846-47 had focused all their energies on condemning Polk's war policies. They had to reverse course quickly. In February 1848 Polk surprised everyone with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is the peace treaty, largely dictated by the United States to the interim government of a militarily occupied Mexico City, that ended the Mexican-American War on February 2, 1848...

 that ended the Mexican-American War and gave the U.S. vast new territories (including California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico). The Whigs in the Senate voted 2-1 to approve the treaty. Then, in the summer, the Whigs nominated the hero of the war, 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...

. While he did promise no more future wars, he did not condemn the Mexican-American War or criticize Polk, and the Whigs had to follow his lead. They shifted their attention to the new issue of whether slavery could be banned from the new territories. The choice of Taylor was made almost out of desperation; he was not clearly committed to Whig principles, but he was popular for leading the war effort. The Democrats had a record of victory, peace, prosperity, and the acquisition of both Oregon and the Southwest. It appeared almost certain that they would win unless the Whigs picked Taylor. His victory made him one of only two Whigs to be elected President before the party ceased to exist in the 1850s; the other was William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison was the ninth President of the United States , an American military officer and politician, and the first president to die in office. He was 68 years, 23 days old when elected, the oldest president elected until Ronald Reagan in 1980, and last President to be born before the...

, who had also been a general and war hero, but died a month into office.

Whig Party nomination


Whig candidates
  • 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...

    , U.S. General from Louisiana
    Louisiana
    Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

  • 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...

    , U.S. senator from 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...

  • Winfield Scott
    Winfield Scott
    Winfield Scott was a United States Army general, and unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Whig Party in 1852....

    , U.S. General from New Jersey
    New Jersey
    New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

  • Daniel Webster
    Daniel Webster
    Daniel Webster was a leading American statesman and senator from Massachusetts during the period leading up to the Civil War. He first rose to regional prominence through his defense of New England shipping interests...

    , U.S. senator from 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...

  • John Middleton Clayton, U.S. senator from Delaware
    Delaware
    Delaware is a U.S. state located on the Atlantic Coast in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is bordered to the south and west by Maryland, and to the north by Pennsylvania...

  • John McLean
    John McLean
    John McLean was an American jurist and politician who served in the United States Congress, as U.S. Postmaster General, and as a justice on the Ohio and U.S...

    , Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 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...


Candidates gallery


Mexican-American War General 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 Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

, an attractive candidate because of his successes on the battlefield, but who had never voted in an election himself, was openly courted by both the Democratic
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....

 and Whig parties. Taylor ultimately declared himself a Whig, and easily took their nomination, receiving 171 delegate votes to defeat 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...

, Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott was a United States Army general, and unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Whig Party in 1852....

, Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster was a leading American statesman and senator from Massachusetts during the period leading up to the Civil War. He first rose to regional prominence through his defense of New England shipping interests...

 and others. After Webster turned down the vice presidential candidacy, Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore was the 13th President of the United States and the last member of the Whig Party to hold the office of president...

 received the party's nomination 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...

.
Convention Presidential vote
Ballots 1 2 3 4
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...

111 118 133 171
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...

97 86 74 32
Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott was a United States Army general, and unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Whig Party in 1852....

43 49 54 63
Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster was a leading American statesman and senator from Massachusetts during the period leading up to the Civil War. He first rose to regional prominence through his defense of New England shipping interests...

22 22 17 14
John Middleton Clayton 4 3 1 0
John McLean
John McLean
John McLean was an American jurist and politician who served in the United States Congress, as U.S. Postmaster General, and as a justice on the Ohio and U.S...

2 1 0 0

Convention Vice Presidential vote
Ballots 1 2
Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore was the 13th President of the United States and the last member of the Whig Party to hold the office of president...

115 173
Abbott Lawrence
Abbott Lawrence
Abbott Lawrence was a prominent American businessman, politician, and philanthropist...

109 87
Andrew Stewart
Andrew Stewart (1791-1872)
Andrew Stewart was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania.Andrew Stewart was born near Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Washington College in Washington, Pennsylvania. He was one of the founders of the Union Literary Society at Washington College...

14 0
Thomas M.T. McKennan 13 0
Abstaining 23 6

Democratic Party nomination



Democratic candidates:
  • 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...

    , U.S. senator from Michigan
    Michigan
    Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

  • Levi Woodbury
    Levi Woodbury
    Levi Woodbury was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, a U.S. Senator, Governor of New Hampshire and cabinet member in three administrations. He was the first Justice to have attended law school....

    , U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice from New Hampshire
    New Hampshire
    New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

  • James Buchanan
    James Buchanan
    James Buchanan, Jr. was the 15th President of the United States . He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor and the last to be born in the 18th century....

    , Secretary of State from Pennsylvania
    Pennsylvania
    The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

  • 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 ....

    , former President from New York
    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...

  • George M. Dallas
    George M. Dallas
    George Mifflin Dallas was a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania and the 11th Vice President of the United States , serving under James K. Polk.-Family and early life:...

    , Vice President of the United States from Pennsylvania
    Pennsylvania
    The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

  • William O. Butler, former U.S. Representative from 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...


Candidates gallery


The Democrats
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....

 countered by nominating 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...

, who had served as Governor and Senator for Michigan
Michigan
Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

, as well as Secretary of War
United States Secretary of War
The Secretary of War was a member of the United States President's Cabinet, beginning with George Washington's administration. A similar position, called either "Secretary at War" or "Secretary of War," was appointed to serve the Congress of the Confederation under the Articles of Confederation...

 under Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...

, and from 1836 to 1842 as ambassador
Ambassador
An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....

 to France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. General William Orlando Butler was nominated to join Cass on the ticket, garnering 169 delegate votes to defeat five other candidates, including future 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...

 William R. King
William R. King
William Rufus DeVane King was the 13th Vice President of the United States for about six weeks , and earlier a U.S. Representative from North Carolina, Minister to France, and a Senator from Alabama...

 and future Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 President Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Finis Davis , also known as Jeff Davis, was an American statesman and leader of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, serving as President for its entire history. He was born in Kentucky to Samuel and Jane Davis...

. The Democrats chose a platform that remained silent on slavery, and with Cass suspected of pro-slavery leanings, many anti-slavery Democrats walked out of the Baltimore convention to begin the Free Soil party.
Convention Presidential vote
Ballots 1 2 3 4
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...

125 133 156 179
Levi Woodbury
Levi Woodbury
Levi Woodbury was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, a U.S. Senator, Governor of New Hampshire and cabinet member in three administrations. He was the first Justice to have attended law school....

53 56 53 38
James Buchanan
James Buchanan
James Buchanan, Jr. was the 15th President of the United States . He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor and the last to be born in the 18th century....

55 54 39 33
John C. Calhoun
John C. Calhoun
John Caldwell Calhoun was a leading politician and political theorist from South Carolina during the first half of the 19th century. Calhoun eloquently spoke out on every issue of his day, but often changed positions. Calhoun began his political career as a nationalist, modernizer, and proponent...

9 0 0 0
William Jenkins Worth 6 6 5 1
George M. Dallas
George M. Dallas
George Mifflin Dallas was a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania and the 11th Vice President of the United States , serving under James K. Polk.-Family and early life:...

3 3 0 0
William Orlando Butler
William Orlando Butler
William Orlando Butler was a U.S. political figure and U.S. Army major general from Kentucky. He served as a Democratic congressman from Kentucky from 1839 to 1843, and was the Democratic vice-presidential nominee under Lewis Cass in 1848.-Early life:Butler was born in Jessamine County, Kentucky,...

0 0 0 4
Abstaining 39 38 37 35

Convention Vice Presidential vote
Ballots 1 2
Before shifts
2
After shifts
William Orlando Butler
William Orlando Butler
William Orlando Butler was a U.S. political figure and U.S. Army major general from Kentucky. He served as a Democratic congressman from Kentucky from 1839 to 1843, and was the Democratic vice-presidential nominee under Lewis Cass in 1848.-Early life:Butler was born in Jessamine County, Kentucky,...

114 169 290
John A. Quitman
John A. Quitman
John Anthony Quitman was an American politician and soldier. He served as Governor of Mississippi from 1835 to 1836 as a Whig and again from 1850 to 1851 as a Democrat and one of the leading Fire-Eaters.-Early life:John A. Quitman studied Classics at Hartwick Seminary, graduating in 1816...

74 62 0
William R. King
William R. King
William Rufus DeVane King was the 13th Vice President of the United States for about six weeks , and earlier a U.S. Representative from North Carolina, Minister to France, and a Senator from Alabama...

26 8 0
John Y. Mason
John Y. Mason
John Young Mason was an American politician, diplomat, and United States federal judge.-Early life, education, and career:...

24 3 0
James Iver McKay
James Iver McKay
James Iver McKay was a Congressional Representative from North Carolina; born near Elizabethtown, North Carolina, in 1793; pursued classical studies; studied law; was admitted to the bar and practiced; appointed United States attorney for the district of North Carolina on March 6, 1817; served in...

13 11 0
Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Finis Davis , also known as Jeff Davis, was an American statesman and leader of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, serving as President for its entire history. He was born in Kentucky to Samuel and Jane Davis...

1 0 0

Free Soil Party nomination



A third party, the Free Soil Party, was organized for the 1848 election to oppose further expansion of slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 into the western territories. The party was led by 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...

 and John Parker 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...

. Former 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 ....

 defeated Hale by a 154-129 delegate count to capture the Free Soil nomination, while Charles Francis Adams, the son and grandson of two other presidents, was chosen as the vice presidential nominee.
Convention vote
Presidential vote Vice Presidential vote
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 ....

244 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....

467
John Parker Hale 183
Joshua R. Giddings 23
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....

13
Others 4

Campaign


Across the land, Whig campaigners such as Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 talked up Taylor’s “antiparty” opposition to the Jacksonian
Jacksonian democracy
Jacksonian democracy is the political movement toward greater democracy for the common man typified by American politician Andrew Jackson and his supporters. Jackson's policies followed the era of Jeffersonian democracy which dominated the previous political era. The Democratic-Republican Party of...

 commitment to the spoils system
Spoils system
In the politics of the United States, a spoil system is a practice where a political party, after winning an election, gives government jobs to its voters as a reward for working toward victory, and as an incentive to keep working for the party—as opposed to a system of awarding offices on the...

 and yellow-dog partisanship. In the South they stressed that he was a Louisiana slaveholder, while in the North they highlighted his Whiggish willingness to defer to Congress on major issues (which he subsequently did not do). Democrats repeated, as they had for many years, their opposition to a national bank, high tariffs, and federal subsidies for local improvements. The Free Soilers branded both major parties lackeys of the Slave Power
Slave power
The Slave Power was a term used in the Northern United States to characterize the political power of the slaveholding class of the South....

, arguing that the rich planters controlled the agenda of both parties, leaving the ordinary white man out of the picture. They had to work around Van Buren's well-known reputation for compromising with slavery. The Whigs had the advantage of highlighting Taylor's military glories. With Taylor remaining vague on the issues, the campaign was dominated by personalities and personal attacks, with the Democrats calling Taylor vulgar, uneducated, cruel and greedy, and the Whigs attacking Cass for graft and dishonesty. The division of the Democrats over slavery allowed Taylor to dominate the Northeast.

Results



With the exception of South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

, which left the selection of electors to its legislature, the election of 1848 marked the first time in which every state in the Union voted for President and Vice President on the same day: November 7, 1848. 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...

 won the election over 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...

, capturing 163 of the 290 electoral votes cast. However, Taylor won barely more than 47% of the popular vote, mainly because of the 10% the Free Soil Party had won.

Source (Popular Vote):
Source (Electoral Vote):
(a) The popular vote figures exclude South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

 where the Electors were chosen by the state legislature rather than by popular vote.

Electoral college selection



* 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...

 law provided that the state legislature would choose the Electors if no slate of Electors could command a majority of voters statewide. In 1848, this provision was triggered.

See also

  • American election campaigns in the 19th century
    American election campaigns in the 19th Century
    In the 19th century, a number of new methods for conducting American Election Campaigns developed in the United States. For the most part the techniques were original, not copied from Europe or anywhere else...

  • 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...

  • History of the United States (1789-1849)
  • United States House elections, 1848

External links