1856 Election

Woman making American Flag

Election day took place on Tuesday, November 4, 1856. The Democrat James Buchanan won the presidency, defeating Republican candidate James C Fremont and Whig-American candidate and former President Millard Fillmore. [The Whig-American Party was a combination of remaining Whigs with two small third parties.] There were 5,135,114 people eligible to vote, accounting for only 18.0% of the total population. Women could not vote, thus excluding almost half of the population. Male slaves and the majority of free black men were also excluded as were most all Native Americans. Many states also required a man to own property in order to register to vote. Of the men eligible to vote, about 78.9% actually did.

Fremont received 1,340,668 votes, 33.1% of those cast. He carried 11 states, including Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Fillmore received 872,703 votes, 21.5% of those cast. He carried the state of Maryland.

Buchanan received 1,835,140 votes, 45.4% of those cast. He carried the other 19 states.

1856_dayton_fremont

There were close contests in four states. In Iowa Fremont won 48.8% of the vote and carried the state because Fillmore received 10.5% of the vote which hurt Buchanan. However, Buchanan won California with 48.4% of the vote, Illinois with 44.0% of the vote, and New Jersey with 47.2% of the vote because Fillmore won 32.8% of the vote in California, 15.7% in Illinois and 24.3% in New Jersey, thus hurting Fremont in those states, proving that third parties can and do make a difference.

Real and divisive issues included the expansion of slavery, the bloodshed in Kansas, the validity of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and enforcement of the Fugitive Slave act of 1850. Democrats attacked the new Republican Party as “Black Republicans” saying they wanted to curtail or, worse yet, abolish slavery and involve free black people in American society, particularly by allowing inter-racial marriage which was a trumped-up charge. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass criticized the Republicans for failing to take a strong stand on behalf of black people. The Democratic governor of Virginia claimed that “If Fremont is elected, there will be a revolution.” Northern businessmen feared that the Republicans would have an adverse affect on the economy so they contributed large amounts of money to the Democrats.

“The Black Republicans must be, as they can be with justice, boldly assailed as disunionists, and this charge must be reiterated again and again.” ~ Democratic candidate James Buchanan

“Nothing is clearer in the history of our institutions than the design of the nation, in asserting its own independence and freedom, to avoid giving countenance to the Extension of Slavery. The influence of the small but compact and powerful class of men interested in Slavery, who command one section of the country and wield a vast political control as a consequence in the other, is now directed to turn back this impulse of the Revolution and reverse its principles.” ~ Republican candidate John C Fremont

“We Fremonters of this town have not one dollar where the Fillmoreans and Buchaneers have ten each.” ~ New York newspaper editor Horace Greeley

1856democraticposter

Based upon the states carried by each candidate, in the Electoral College Buchanan received 174 electoral votes, Fremont received 114 electoral votes, and Fillmore received 8 electoral votes. In Congressional races, the Democrats won 50 additional seats in the Hose of Representatives while the Republicans gained 7 additional seats in the Senate. This would be the last presidential election the Democrats will win until 1884.

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