Presidential Elections~1852


In the United States 2016 is a year of a presidential election, a year which promises to be contentious and politically explosive. To place this in the context of American history I begin today a series which will run throughout this year looking at several other election years: 1852, 1856 and 1860, the elections leading up to the American Civil War; the election of 1876, a decade after the War and as difficult and contentious a result as in 2000; 1892 and 1896, election years marked by labor troubles, a country which has changed dramatically in forty years and marking the close of the 19th century; and 1912, 1916 and 1920, elections tied to the broader world and the beginning of 20th century America, its participation in the Great War and the changes which came after the Great War.

As immigration will be a major issue this year, I will consider immigration in each of these election years. In the chronology of each year I will look at political issues, party ideology and political figures as well as the roles of women, workers, minorities, particularly African Americans, peace and war issues, and casual glimpses of religion in American life.


The year of 1852 opens on a Thursday. Around the world, leaders include Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, age 55, ruling since 1825; Emperor Franz Joseph I of the Austrian Empire, age 21, ruling since 1848; Sultan Abdulmecid I of the Ottoman Empire, age 28, ruling since 1839; Abbas I of Egypt, age 39, ruling since 1849; King Naser al-Din Shah Qajar of Persia, age 20, ruling since 1848; King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, age 56, ruling since1840; King Leopold I of Belgium, age 61, ruling since 1831; Queen Victoria of Great Britain, age 31, ruling since 1837, and mother of 7 children since becoming Queen; her current Prime Minister is Lord John Russell, age 59, in office since 1846 and Her Majesty’s third Prime Minister since she ascended the throne; President Louis Napoleon of France, age 43, in office since 1848, with eyes looking to return to monarchy; Queen Isabella of Spain, age 21, technically ruling since 1833 but her mother had ruled as regent for 13 years; Sultan Abd al-Rahman of Morocco, age 74, ruling since 1822; President Mariano Arista of Mexico, age 49, in office since 1851; President Millard Fillmore of the United States, age 52, member of the Whig Party, in office since President Zachary Taylor died July 9, 1850.

Religious leaders include Pope Pius IX of the Roman Catholic Church, age 59, ruling since 1846; John Sumner, Archbishop of Canterbury of the Anglican Church, age 71, in office since 1848; Nathan Marcus Adler, Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, age 49, in office since 1844; Pope Peter VII of the Coptic Orthodox Church, indeterminate age, in office since 1809; Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow of the Russian Orthodox Church, age 69, in office since 1821; Khendrup Gyatso, the 11th Dalai Lama of Tibetan Bhuddhism, age 13, in office since 1842; Philander Chase, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, age 76, in office since 1843.

The world’s major cities include London with 2.37 million people; Peking [now Beijing] with 1.65 million; Paris with 1.3 million; Canton, China with 1.24 million; Constantinople, Turkey, with 900,000; Calcutta, India with 800,000.


The population of the United States is approximately 24,911,000 of whom 19.6 million live in rural areas. Agriculture employs 4.9 million workers; 1.26 million work in manufacturing; 90,000 work in mining. Children under age 5 account for 14% of the total population while persons age 60 and over make up only 3.8% of the total population. Over 3,100,000 people live in slavery. According to the census of two years before, the largest American city is New York with 515,547 people, Baltimore is next 169,054, Boston with a population of 136,881, Philadelphia has 121,376 people and New Orleans is fifth largest with a population of 116, 375. Of other cities, Charleston, South Carolina (15th) with 42,985 people; Washington, D.C. (18th– excluding Georgetown which is 79th largest with 8,366 people) with 40,001; Chicago, Illinois (24th) at 29,963; Richmond, Virginia (26th) at 27,570 people; Detroit, Michigan (30th) with 21,019 people; Mobile, Alabama (32nd) with 20,515; Cleveland, Ohio (41st) at 17,034; Savannah, Georgia (44th) with 15,312 people; Norfolk, Virginia (47th) at population of 14, 326 and Petersburg, Virginia (50th) with 14,010 people.

The country will produce 15,700 tons of lead; 4,909 tons of bituminous coal; 1,232 tons of copper; 883 tons of pig iron; 2902 troy ounces of gold; 39 troy ounces of silver.

By year’s end 12,908 miles of railroad track will be in operation, of which 2,288 will be built this year. Of merchant vessels there are 643 steam powered and 3,495 sail powered, of which 194 are involved in whaling.

This year U S will export $210,000,000 of goods and raw materials while importing $213,000,000 worth, with a trade deficit of $3,000,000.

Of U S exports, raw cotton accounts for 41.9% and leaf tobacco for 4.8%. Both of these are primarily grown in the South. Major buyers of American exports include Great Britain which accounts for 38.6% of exports, France with 9.0%, Canada for 4.8%, and Cuba, Australia and the German states for 2.8% each.

The United States continues to develop as an industrial nation; however, 55.4% of imports are finished manufactured goods. Manufactured food stuffs, including beverages such as wine, account for 13.6% of imports, while sugar is 7.0% of imports, coffee 6.6% and tea 3.3%. Of all imports, 41.8% come from Great Britain, 11.7% from France, 8.5% from Cuba, 5.6% from Brazil and 5.2% from China.


The 32nd Congress of the United States is meeting in its first session. The country now includes 16 free states and 15 slave states. As the session begins, the Senate consists of 33 Democrats, 22 Whigs, 4 Free Soil Party and 3 vacancies. The House of Representatives consists of 128 Democrats, 85 Whigs and 19 from third parties. The new Speaker of the House is Linn Boyd, Democrat from Kentucky, age 51, having served in Congress since 1839. Differences about the Fugitive Slave Law are increasing tensions between North and South while the growing population of the West is concerned about access to land.

It is an election year. President Fillmore hopes to be nominated by the Whig Party but so does his Secretary of State Daniel Webster. The Democratic Party, with commanding strength in the South is looking for a Northern man with pro-slavery sentiments. As the year opens the major contenders are Lewis Cass of Michigan, James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, Stephen A Douglass of Illinois and William L Marcy of New York. In both parties none of these hopefuls will win the nomination. The Free Soil Party with its anti-slavery stand is the strongest of several small third parties. The Whig Party, founded in 1833 by Webster and Henry Clay, continues to decline as it has since the Compromise of 1850 around the question of slavery. Northern Whigs with anti-slavery convictions will become part of the formation of the Republican Party. Whigs fearing the increasing number of German and Irish immigrants will move to the Know Nothing or American Party as its members preferred to call it. The Know Nothings began as a secret society in New York state and are expressly anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic. The Democratic Party has a splinter group within it, the Southern Rights Party, formed in 1851, who favor unlimited expansion of slavery and protection of Southern interests. While most Democrats still favor the Compromise of 1850, there are some who hold the sentiments of the late Senator John C Calhoun of South Carolina (died March 31, 1850) that the South should never compromise on any aspect with the North. Levi Woodbury, a Democrat from New Hampshire who had served as governor of his state, a cabinet officer under two presidents, a U S senator and on the U S Supreme Court since September of 1845, was seen as a moderate Northern man who would be an acceptable presidential candidate to most Southern Democrats, had died on September 4, 1851, forcing his supporters to look for someone else.


The active duty personnel of the United States military consists of 11,376 in the Army, 8,805 in the Navy and 1,168 in the Marine Corps. The size of the Army is down by 76.0% of what it was in 1848 as the war with Mexico was at its height while the Navy is down by 21.6% from that time and the Marine Corps is 1/3 of its size from 1848. Veterans will receive $2,404,000 in pensions.

The federal government will issue 1,014 patents. It will take in $49,847,000 in receipts and spend $44,195,000, leaving a surplus of $5,652,000. The national debt stands at $66,199,000. Of money expended, 20.2% goes for the Navy (including the Marine Corps) and 18.6% for the Army. Approximately 9.0% of spending is for interest on the national debt.

The postal service operates 20,901 post offices which will issue 54,136 stamps. A stamp costs 3 cents. Postal revenue will reach $5,184,000; however, expenditures will amount to $7,108,000. [The 3 cent stamp would equal 96 cents in today’s dollars, using the Consumer Price Index.]

News makers this year will include Louis Napoleon, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Elisha Graves Otis, W G Fargo, Clement Studebaker, Peter Roget, Robert Schumann.

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