1856 Democratic Convention - History

1856 Democratic Convention - History

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Cincinnati, Ohio

June 2 to 6, 1856

Nominated: James Buchanan, of Pennsylvania for President

Nominated: John C Breckinridge of Kentucky for Vice President

When the Democratic party met in Cincinnati in early June of 1856 the parties was torn by the issue of slavery and states rights. The convention once again passed a platform that called for non-interferance by Congress in the issue of slavery. Both President Pierce and Stephen Douglas sought their parties nomination but both had been severely tarnished by events in "Bloody Kansas" as had Lewis Cass. The only candidate not tarred by recent event was James Buchanan, who had been US Ambassador to England at the time. On the first ballot Buchanan led with 135 1/2 votes to 122 1/2 for Pierce33 for Douglas and 5 for Cass. Pierce support faded rapidly while Douglas grew and Buchanan seemed unable to reach the two thirds required to win. On the sixteenth ballot Douglas instructed that his name be removed thus allow Buchanan to receive the nomination.

  • Background
  • Proceedings
  • Presidential nomination
  • Presidential candidates
  • Vice Presidential nomination
  • Vice Presidential candidates
  • Declined
  • Aftermath
  • See also
  • References
  • Works cited
  • External links

Incumbent Democratic President Franklin Pierce's standing with the public had been badly damaged by "Bleeding Kansas," the civil strife in Kansas Territory over slavery. Many dissatisfied Democrats lined up behind Buchanan, who had served as Pierce's ambassador to Britain and thus had avoided the controversy over Bleeding Kansas, while a smaller group of Democrats supported Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. Buchanan led on the first ballot and slowly grew his support on subsequent ballots, leading Pierce to instruct his delegates to back Douglas. Douglas agreed to withdraw his name after receiving assurances that Buchanan would not seek re-election in 1860, allowing Buchanan to clinch the nomination on the seventeenth ballot. Pierce became the first and only elected president who was an active candidate for reelection to be denied his party's nomination for a second term.

Eleven candidates received votes on the first vice presidential ballot, with Congressman John A. Quitman winning a plurality of the vote. The delegates lined up unanimously behind Breckinridge on the second ballot, giving him the vice presidential nomination. The Democratic ticket went on to win the 1856 election, defeating the Republican ticket of John C. Fremont and William L. Dayton and the American Party ticket of Millard Fillmore and Andrew J. Donelson.

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General election


None of the three candidates took to the stump. Republicans opposed the extension of slavery into the territories — in fact, their slogan was "Free speech, free press, free soil, free men, Frémont and victory!" The Republicans thus crusaded against the Slave Power, warning it was destroying republican values. Democrats counter-crusaded by warning that a Republican victory would bring civil war.

The Republican platform opposed the repeal of the Missouri Compromise through the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the policy of popular sovereignty in deciding whether a state would enter the Union as a free or slave state. The Republicans also accused the Pierce administration of allowing a fraudulent territorial government to be imposed upon the citizens of the Kansas Territory, allowing the violence that had raged in Bleeding Kansas, and advocated the immediate admittance of Kansas as a free state. Along with opposing the spread of slavery into the continental territories of the United States the party also opposed the Ostend Manifesto which advocated the annexation of Cuba from Spain. In summation the campaign's true focus was against the system of slavery, which they felt was destroying the Republican values that the Union had been founded upon.

The Democratic platform supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the system of popular sovereignty established in the Western territories. The party supported the pro-slavery territorial legislature elected in Kansas, opposing the free state elements within Kansas and castigated the Topeka Constitution as an illegal document written during an illegal convention. The Democrats also supported the plan to annex Cuba, advocated in the Ostend Manifesto, which Buchanan helped devise while serving as minister to Britain. The most influential aspect of the Democratic campaign was a warning that a Republican victory would lead to the secession of numerous southern states.

The campaign had a different nature in the free states from that in the slave states. The North experienced a three-way campaign, which Fremont won with 45% of the vote to 41% for Buchanan and 13% for Fillmore. That translated into an electoral vote margin of 125-51 in favor of Fremont. In the South, however, the campaign was strictly a Buchanan vs. Fillmore race. Buchanan won there by a 55-45% margin, good for an 88-32 electoral vote margin. However, it was not enough to put Buchanan over the top, with only 139 of a required 149 electoral votes. Of the 15 slave states, the only states in which Frémont received any votes at all were Delaware (310) and Maryland (285).

House of Representatives

The election was just as indecisive in the House as it was during the normal election. None of the candidates received the required number of votes, with Representatives splitting along party lines. Democrats and Southerners though of Fremont as a northern radical, and refused to endorse him, citing secession as the only possible resolution to his victory. At the same time, Buchanan was seen by many as a puppet of the Southerners, and were against the Democratic platform as a whole. Eventually, the Compromise of 1856 solved the issue, with Millard Fillmore being elected.

(a) The popular vote figures exclude South Carolina where the Electors were chosen by the state legislature rather than by popular vote.


The Democratic Party faced continued North-South sectional division over slavery-related issues, especially the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 and subsequent violence known as "Bleeding Kansas" from the civil strife in the Kansas Territory during its campaign for statehood. Two notable Democratic politicians, President Pierce and Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, were seen as being at the center of the controversies, which led many party members to look elsewhere for a new compromise candidate for president.

1856 Democratic Convention - History

Resolved, That the American democracy place their trust in the intelligence, the patriotism, and discriminating justice of the American people.

Resolved, That we regard this as a distinctive feature of our political creed, which we are proud to maintain before the world as a great moral element in a form of government springing from and upheld by the popular will and we contrast it with the creed and practice of federalism, under whatever name or form, which seeks to palsy the will of the constituents, and which conceives no imposture too monstrous for the popular credulity.

Resolved, therefore, That entertaining these views, the Democratic party of this Union, through their delegates, assembled in general convention, coming together in a spirit of concord, of devotion to the doctrines and faith of a free representative government, and appealing to their fellow citizens for the rectitude of their intentions, renew and reassert, before the American people, the declaration of principles avowed by them, when, on former occasions, in general convention, they have presented their candidates for the popular suffrage.

1. That the Federal government is one of limited power, derived solely from the constitution, and the grants of power made therein ought to be strictly construed by all the departments and agents of the government, and that it is inexpedient and dangerous to exercise doubtful constitutional powers.

2. That the constitution does not confer upon the general government the power to commence and carry on a general system of internal improvements.

3. That the constitution does not confer authority upon the Federal government, directly or indirectly, to assume the debts of the several states, contracted for local and internal improvements or other state purposes nor would such assumption be just or expedient.

4. That justice and sound policy forbid the Federal government to foster one branch of industry to the detriment of another, or to cherish the interests of one portion of our common country that every citizen and every section of the country has a right to demand and insist upon an equality of rights and privileges, and a complete and ample protection of persons and property from domestic violence and foreign aggression.

5. That it is the duty of every branch of the government to enforce and practice the most rigid economy in conducting our public affairs, and that no more revenue ought to be raised than is required to defray the necessary expenses of the government and gradual but certain extinction of the public debt.

6. That the proceeds of the public lands ought to be sacredly applied to the national objects specified in the constitution, and that we are opposed to any law for the distribution of such proceeds among the states, as alike inexpedient in policy and repugnant to the constitution.

7. That Congress has no power to charter a national bank that we believe such an institution one of deadly hostility to the best interests of this country, dangerous to our republican institutions and the liberties of the people, and calculated to place the business of the country within the control of a concentrated money power and above the laws and will of the people . . .

9. That we are decidedly opposed to taking from the President the qualified veto power, by which he is enabled, under restrictions and responsibilities amply sufficient to guard the public interests, to suspend the passage of a bill whose merits can not secure the approval of two-thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, until the judgment of the people can be obtained thereon, and which has saved the American people from the corrupt and tyrannical dominion of the Bank of the United States and from a corrupting system of general internal improvements.

10. That the liberal principles embodied by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, and sanctioned in the Constitution, which makes ours the land of liberty and the asylum of the oppressed of every nation, have ever been cardinal principles in the democratic faith and every attempt to abridge the privilege of becoming citizens and owners of soil among us, ought to be resisted with the same spirit which swept the alien and sedition laws from our statute books.

And whereas, Since the foregoing declaration was uniformly adopted by our predecessors in national conventions, an adverse political and religious test has been secretly organized by a party claiming to be exclusively Americans, and it is proper that the American democracy should clearly define its relations thereto and declare its determined opposition to all secret political societies, by whatever name they may be called—

Resolved, That the foundation of this union of states having been laid in, and its prosperity, expansion, and pre-eminent example in free government built upon, entire freedom of matters of religious concernment, and no respect of persons in regard to rank or place of birth, no party can justly be deemed national, constitutional, or in accordance with American principles, which bases its exclusive organization upon religious opinions and accidental birth-place. And hence a political crusade in the nineteenth century, and in the United States of America, against Catholics and foreign-born, is neither justified by the past history or future prospects of the country, nor in unison with the spirit of toleration and enlightened freedom which peculiarly distinguishes the American system of popular government.

Resolved, That we reiterate with renewed energy of purpose the well-considered declarations of former conventions upon the sectional issue of domestic slavery, and concerning the reserved rights of the states—

1. That Congress has no power under the constitution to interfere with or control the domestic institutions of the several states, and that all such states are the sole and proper judges of everything appertaining to their own affairs not prohibited by the constitution that all efforts of the Abolitionists or others, made to induce Congress to interfere with questions of slavery, or to take incipient steps in relation thereto, are calculated to lead to the most alarming and dangerous consequences, and that all such efforts have an inevitable tendency to diminish the happiness of the people and endanger the stability and permanency of the Union, and ought not to be countenanced by any friend of our political institutions.

2. That the foregoing proposition covers and was intended to embrace the whole subject of slavery agitation in Congress, and therefore the Democratic party of the Union, standing on this national platform, will abide by and adhere to a faithful execution of the acts known as the compromise measures, settled by the Congress of 1850—"the act for reclaiming fugitives from service or labor" included which act, being designed to carry out an express provision of the constitution, can not, with fidelity thereto, be repealed, or so changed as to destroy or impair its efficiency.

3. 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.

4. That the Democratic party will faithfully abide by and uphold the principles laid down in the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions of 1792 and 1798, and in the report of Mr. Madison to the Virginia legislature in 1799 that it adopts these principles as constituting one of the main foundations of its political creed, and is resolved to carry them out in their obvious meaning and import.

And that we may more distinctly meet the issue on which a sectional party, subsisting exclusively on slavery agitation, now relies to test the fidelity of the people, north and south, to the constitution and the Union—

1. Resolved, That claiming fellowship with and desiring the cooperation of all who regard the preservation of the Union under the constitution as the paramount issue, and repudiating all sectional parties and platforms concerning domestic slavery which seek to embroil the states and incite to treason and armed resistance to law in the territories, and whose avowed purpose, if consummated, must end in civil war and dis-union, the American democracy recognize and adopt the principles contained in the organic laws establishing the territories of Nebraska and Kansas, as embodying the only sound and safe solution of the slavery question, upon which the great national idea of the people of this whole country can repose in its determined conservation of the Union, and non-interference of Congress with slavery in the territories or in the District of Columbia.

2. That this was the basis of the compromise of 1850, confirmed by both the Democratic and Whig parties in national conventions, ratified by the people in the election of 1852, and rightly applied to the organization of the territories in 1854.

3. That by the uniform application of the Democratic principle to the organization of territories and the admission of new states, with or without domestic slavery, as they may elect, the equal rights of all the states will be preserved intact, the original compacts of the constitution maintained inviolate, and the perpetuity and expansion of the Union insured to its utmost capacity of embracing, in peace and harmony, every future American state that may be constituted or annexed with a republican form of government.

Resolved, That we recognize the right of the people of all the territories, including Kansas and Nebraska, acting through the legally and fairly expressed will of the majority of the actual residents, and whenever the number of their inhabitants justifies it, to form a constitution, with or without domestic slavery, and be admitted into the Union upon terms of perfect equality with the other states.

Resolved, finally, That in view of the condition of the popular institutions in the old world (and the dangerous tendencies of sectional agitation, combined with the attempt to enforce civil and religious disabilities against the rights of acquiring and enjoying citizenship in our own land), a high and sacred duty is devolved, with increased responsibility, upon the Democratic party of this country, as the party of the Union, to uphold and maintain the rights of every state, and thereby the union of the states, and to sustain and advance among us constitutional liberty, by continuing to resist all monopolies and exclusive legislation for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many, and by a vigilant and constant adherence to those principles and compromises of the constitution which are broad enough and strong enough to embrace and uphold the Union as it was, the Union as it is, and the Union as it shall be, in the full expression of the energies and capacity of this great and progressive people.

1. Resolved, That there are questions connected with the foreign policy of this country which are inferior to no domestic questions whatever. The time has come for the people of the United States to declare themselves in favor of free seas and progressive free trade throughout the world, and, by solemn manifestations, to place their moral influence at the side of their successful example.

2. Resolved, That our geographical and political position with reference to the other states of this continent, no less than the interest of our commerce and the development of our growing power, requires that we should hold sacred the principles involved in the Monroe doctrine. . . .

3. Resolved, That the great highway which nature, as well as the assent of states most immediately interested in its maintenance, has marked out for free communication between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, constitutes one of the most important achievements realized by the spirit of modern times . . . and that result would be secured by a timely and efficient exertion of the control which we have the right to claim over it and no power on earth should be suffered to impede or clog its progress by any interference with relations that may suit our policy to establish between our government and the governments of the states within whose dominions it lies . . .

4. Resolved, That in view of so commanding an interest, the people of the United States cannot but sympathize with the efforts which are being made by the people of Central America to regenerate that portion of the continent which covers the passage across the inter-oceanic isthmus.

5. Resolved, That the Democratic party will expect of the next administration that every proper effort be made to insure our ascendency in the Gulf of Mexico, and to maintain permanent protection to the great outlets through which are emptied into its waters the products raised out of the soil and the commodities created by the industry of the people of our western valleys and of the Union at large.

6. Resolved, That the administration of Franklin Pierce has been true to Democratic principles, and, therefore, true to the great interests of the country in the face of violent opposition, he has maintained the laws at home and vindicated the rights of American citizens abroad, and, therefore, we proclaim our unqualified admiration of his measures and policy.

[From Thomas V. Cooper, and Hector T. Fenton, American Politics from the Beginning to Date (Chicago: Charles R. Brodix, 1882), pp. 36㪿.]

. . . the Admiral requested and admonished them to keep a sharp lookout at the castle of the bow, and to look well for land, and said that he would give to him who first saw land a silk doublet, besides the other rewards which the King and Queen had promised, namely and annual pension of ten thousand maravedis to him who should see it first. Two hours after midnight, the land appeared about two leagues off. They lowered all the sails, leaving only a storm square sail, which is the mainsail without bonnets, and lay to until Friday when they reached a small island of the Lucayos, called Guanahani by the natives. They soon saw people naked, and the Admiral went on shore in the armed boat. . . . As soon as they had landed they saw trees of a brilliant green abundance of water and fruits of various kinds. The Admiral called the two captains and the rest who had come on shore . . . and he called them as witnesses to certify that he in the presence of them all, was taking, as he in fact took possession of said island for the king and Queen his masters, making the declarations that were required as they will be found more fully in the attestations then taken down in writing. Soon after a large crowd of natives congregated there. What follows are the Admiral's own words in his book on the first voyage and discovery of these Indies.

"In order to win the friendship and affection of that people, and because I am convinced that their conversion to our Holy Faith would be better promoted through love than through force I presented some of them with red caps and some strings of glass beads which they placed around their necks, and with other trifles of insignificant worth that delighted them and by which we have got a wonderful hold on their affections. They afterwards came to the boats of the vessels swimming, bringing us parrots, cotton thread in balls, and spears, and many other things which they bartered for others we gave them, as glass beads and little bells. . . . I saw but one very young girl, all the rest being very young men, none of them being over thirty years of age their forms being very well proportioned their bodies graceful and their features handsome: their hair is as course as the hair of a horse's tail and cut short: they wear their hair over their eyebrows except a little behind which they wear long, and which they never cut: some of them paint themselves black, and they are of the color of the Canary islanders, neither black nor white, and some paint themselves white, and some red, and some with whatever they find, and some paint their faces and some the whole body, and some their eyes only, and some their noses only. They do not carry arms and have no knowledge of them, for when I showed them our swords they took them by the edge, and through ignorance, cut themselves. They have no iron their spears consist of staffs without iron, some of them having a fish's tooth at the end, and others other things. As a body they are of good size, good demeanor, and well formed.

. . . They must be very good servants and very intelligent, because I see that they repeat very quickly what I told them, and it is my conviction that they would easily become Christians, for they seem not [to] have any sect. . . ."


The 1860 Democratic National Convention convened at South Carolina Institute Hall in Charleston, South Carolina on April 23, 1860.

The front-runner for the nomination was Douglas. Douglas was opposed by militant Southern "Fire-eaters", such as William Yancey of Alabama, because he was considered a moderate on the slavery issue. He supported the doctrine of popular sovereignty: allowing settlers in each territory to decide for themselves whether slavery would be allowed. But the Supreme Court's 1857 Dred Scott decision declared that the Constitution protected slavery in all Federal territories.

At the Charleston convention, the "fire-eaters" demanded the adoption of a pro-slavery platform. They wanted endorsement of Dred Scott, and Congressional legislation explicitly protecting slavery in the territories. Northern Democrats refused to acquiesce. Dred Scott was extremely unpopular in the North it was only by repudiating Dred Scott that Douglas had (barely) beaten back his challenger in the 1858 race in Illinois for his Senate seat (then an unknown named Abraham Lincoln) and narrowly won re-election. The minority (Northern) report on the platform was adopted on April 30 by a vote of 165 to 138. 50 Southern delegates then marched out of the convention hall in protest.

The departed delegates then gathered at Charleston's Military Hall, declared themselves the real convention, and awaited conciliatory action by the Institute Hall convention. That didn't happen. Instead, the Institute Hall convention proceeded to nominations. The dominant Douglas forces believed their path was now clear. Ώ]

Six major candidates were nominated at the convention: Douglas, former Treasury Secretary James Guthrie of Kentucky, Senator Robert M. T. Hunter of Virginia, Senator Joseph Lane of Oregon, former Senator Daniel S. Dickinson of New York, and Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee.

Douglas led on the first ballot, with 145½ of 253 votes cast. However, the Democratic convention had a rule that a nomination required a two-thirds majority. Furthermore, convention president Caleb Cushing ruled that two-thirds of the entire convention's vote was required, not just two-thirds of those actually present and voting.

Douglas thus needed 56½ more votes. The convention held 57 ballots, and though Douglas led on all of them, he never got more than 152 votes. On the 57th ballot, Douglas got 151½ votes, still 50½ votes short of the nomination, though far ahead of Guthrie, who was second with 65½. In desperation, on May 3 the delegates voted to adjourn the convention.

Candidates receiving votes for president at the Charleston convention:

A few votes went to former Senator Isaac Toucey of Connecticut, Senator James Pearce of Maryland, and Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi (the future Confederate President), who received one vote on over 50 ballots from Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts. Ironically, during the Civil War, Butler became a Union general, and Davis ordered him hanged as a criminal if ever captured.

Charleston Presidential Ballot
Ballot 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th 13th 14th 15th 16th 17th 18th 19th 20th 21st 22nd 23rd 24th 25th
Douglas 145.5 147 148.5 149 149.5 149.5 150.5 150.5 150.5 150.5 150.5 150.5 149.5 150 150 150 150 150 150 150 150.5 150.5 152.5 151.5 151.5
Guthrie 35.5 36.5 42 37.5 37.5 39.5 38.5 38.5 41 39.5 39.5 39.5 39.5 41 41.5 42 42 41.5 41.5 42 41.5 41.5 41.5 41.5 41.5
Hunter 42 41.5 36 41.5 41 41 41 40.5 39.5 39 38 38 28.5 27 26.5 26 26 26 26 26 26 26 25 25 35
Lane 6 6 6 6 6 7 6 6 6 5.5 6.5 6.5 20 20.5 20.5 20.5 20.5 20.5 20.5 20.5 20.5 20.5 19.5 19.5 9.5
Dickinson 7 6.5 6.5 5 5 3 4 4.5 1 4 4 4 1 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 1 1 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 1.5 1.5
Johnson 12 12 12 12 12 12 11 11 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12
Toucey 2.5 2.5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Davis 1.5 1 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.5 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Pearce 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Charleston Presidential Ballot
Ballot 26th 27th 28th 29th 30th 31st 32nd 33rd 34th 35th 36th 37th 38th 39th 40th 41st 42nd 43rd 44th 45th 46th 47th 48th 49th 50th
Douglas 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 152.5 152.5 152.5 152 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5
Guthrie 41.5 42.5 42 42 45 47.5 47.5 47.5 47.5 47.5 48 64.5 66 66.5 66.5 66.5 66.5 65.5 65.5 65.5 65.5 65.5 65.5 65.5 65.5
Hunter 25 25 25 25 25 32.5 22.5 22.5 22.5 22 22 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16
Lane 9 8 8 7.5 5.5 5.5 14.5 14.5 12.5 13 13 12.5 13 12.5 12.5 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 14 14
Dickinson 12 12 12.5 13 13 3 3 3 5 4.5 4.5 5.5 5.5 5.5 5.5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 4
Johnson 12 12 12 12 11 11 11 11 11 12 12 0.5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Toucey 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Davis 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1.5 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Pearce 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Charleston Presidential Ballot
Ballot 51st 52nd 53rd 54th 55th 56th 57th
Douglas 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5 151.5
Guthrie 65.5 65.5 65.5 61 65.5 65.5 65.5
Hunter 16 16 16 20.5 16 16 16
Lane 14 14 14 16 14 14 14
Dickinson 4 4 4 2 4 4 4
Johnson 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Toucey 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Davis 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Pearce 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


The Democratic Party was wounded from its devastating losses in the 1854–1855 midterm elections. The party faced continued North-South sectional division over slavery-related issues, especially the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 and subsequent violence known as "Bleeding Kansas" from the civil strife in the Kansas Territory during its campaign for statehood. Two notable Democratic politicians, President Pierce and Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, were seen as being at the center of the controversies, which led many party members to look elsewhere for a new compromise candidate for president.

James Buchanan had been a candidate for president at the 1852 Democratic National Convention, and after the 1852 election he agreed to serve as Pierce's ambassador to Britain. Ώ] Buchanan's service abroad conveniently placed him outside of the country while the debate over the Kansas–Nebraska Act roiled the nation. ΐ] Powerful Senators like John Slidell, Jesse Bright, and Thomas F. Bayard lined up behind Buchanan, presenting him as an experienced leader who could appeal to the North and South. Α] While Buchanan did not overtly seek the presidency, he most deliberately chose not to discourage the movement on his behalf, something that was well within his power on many occasions. Β]

The Crofoot Building History

Built in 1830, the building known today as the Crofoot was constructed at the center of the Pontiac’s burgeoning business district (the corner of Pike and Saginaw). It was at the heart of Michigan’s first inland city, where the Saginaw Indian Trail (Woodward Avenue) crossed the Schiawassee Indian Trail (Orchard Lake Road). The Clinton River created a double peninsula where it snaked through what is now the Phoenix Center and Lot 9 (the large parking lot across from the Crofoot).

In 1882, the building was renovated by Michael E. Crofoot, a vigorous and active man whose life epitomized the development of Pontiac after its 1818 founding in the Civil War era, prior to the rapid growth from the expansion of the automobile industry.

Michael E. Crofoot was a prominent businessman, attorney, and Judge of Oakland County Probate Court from 1849 to 1856, highly involved in Oakland County, Michigan. Crofoot was also involved in national affairs, serving as a delegate to the 1856 Democratic National Convention. After the Civil War, Crofoot was selected in 1865 to represent Oakland County in raising subscriptions for the Michigan Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in downtown Detroit. He lived three blocks up the hill on Williams Street. He was also a member of the State Building Commission for the State Asylum in 1874, which was completed in Pontiac in 1878. Later, he represented a defendant in 1882 before the United States Supreme Court. That same year, Crofoot rebuilt the 1830 era building at Pontiac’s first corner in 1882 and named it the “Crofoot Block”. He practiced law on the 3rd floor, overlooking from his 10-foot by 10-foot north-facing window the rapid growth of Pontiac’s Downtown Commercial District. Pontiac’s Crofoot School was named after this prominent family.

The Crofoot Building’s street level has housed barbers, meat markets, an American Express office, saloons, lunch rooms, shoe stores and millinery shops, while the second floor has housed photographers, land developers, tailors, insurance agencies, and attorneys. The third floor (lost in a fire) once housed Judge Michael E. Crofoot’s legal offices.

The Crofoot Building is arguably the oldest commercial building in Oakland County.

As recently as 2005, the City of Pontiac condemned the Crofoot property and scheduled it for demolition. However, in 2006, the Crofoot Presents began the renovation of this important Pontiac landmark.

On Sept 6, 2007, the doors to the Crofoot Ballroom opened with weekend long festivities. Since then, the Crofoot has found its place in the metro Detroit community as a new home for music, art, and celebrations. The building features state-of-the-art production, and much of the original historical integrity remains.

The 1856 Presidential Election

The year 1856 proved to be special as the newly formed Republican Party joined the political stage in response to the events surrounding the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act. As the Republican Party gained a national foothold, the Whig Party&rsquos influence waned. With the 1856 Presidential election the nation gained an openly abolitionist-based political party, although the Republican Party did not call for an absolute abolition of slavery. Republicans opposed slavery&rsquos expansion into the western territories. Republican Party members, comprised largely of former Whigs and Democrats, claimed in their June 18, 1856 party platform,

The Republicans nominated John C. Fremont, a popular figure who gained his fame through his explorations through the far West. (Item #631) Popular culture of the period emphasized Fremont&rsquos notoriety as an explorer and claimed that this made him the right man to be President of the United States. In the nineteenth century, political arena music and songs were a popular method for reaching wider, often illiterate, audiences. A popular song. &ldquoFremont and Victory: A Rallying Song--Tune of Marseilles Hymn,&rdquo exclaimed,

Around our glorious chieftain rally,
For Kansas and for liberty!
Let him who first her wilds exploring,
Her virgin beauty gave to fame,
Now save her from the curse and shame
Which slavery o'er her soil is pouring.

Our standard bearer then,
The brave path finder be!

This tune spoke directly to the Republican Party platform, which supported the Kansas territory&rsquos decision to enter the Union as a Free State and emphasized the Republican Party&rsquos support of free-soil abolitionism.

The Democrats nominated James Buchanan for President and, predictably, devised a platform that included, &ldquothe standard party dogma on the tariff, internal improvements, banking, and the currency.&rdquo (Item #632 Niven 1990, 98) Additionally, their platform supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act and argued that,

The Democrats became the pro-slavery party of the South, while the abolitionist Republican Party came to represent the political tendencies of the majority of citizens in the North. This fact can be observed in the way the two regions voted in the 1856 presidential election. The margin of victory for the Democrats was quite narrow and &ldquoBuchanan received only a plurality of the votes cast&hellipObviously threats of secession from southern states if Fremont were elected had frightened a considerable number of conservative northern voters.&rdquo (Niven 1990, 98) The Republicans won eleven of the sixteen Free States, while in the five that went Democratic, Fremont lost by only a narrow margin. Buchanan only won the election because his electoral vote in the South was larger than Fremont&rsquos in the North. (Item #630) The election of 1856 signaled the end of an era, going forward, &ldquosectional loyalties rather than party ties would determine the fate of the Union.&rdquo (Niven 1990, 99)

In North Carolina the presence of the overtly anti-slavery Republican Party in presidential campaign of 1856 caused concern. Members of both the Democratic and dwindling Whig Party, &ldquoagreed that the election of John C. Fremont would be a blow to the southern institutions and a threat to the Union.&rdquo (Jeffrey 1989, 300) Instead of uniting together against this shared threat, each party supported a different presidential candidate. Democrats argued that Buchanan was the only candidate who truly understood their needs and the needs of the nation. Whigs denounced Buchanan as the candidate of southern extremists and instead supported the American Party candidate Millard Fillmore, who they argued represented the values of a united country. In the end Democrats celebrated the victory of their candidate in both North Carolina and the nation, however, &ldquotheir enthusiasm was dampened by the realization that Fremont had outpolled Buchanan in most of the northern states.&rdquo (Jeffrey 1989, 300) The thought of a Republican President in the White House stirred fear among all southerners and led to discussions of secession throughout the South in the event that such an outrage ever occurred. The next section of the exhibit will explore the consequences University of North Carolina professor, Benjamin Hedrick, faced for his open support of John C. Fremont.

Watch the video: 1923 Δημοκρατία Βαϊμάρης Πληθωρισμός (July 2022).


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