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A History of the Republican Party by Platt

Birney did not desire the nomination


great leaders of the Whigs and Democrats in the North, who were aspirants to the presidency, dared not take any active stand against the growing demands of the Slave Power, and both parties bowed abjectly to the monster and passed in silence these gross violations of constitutional rights. Both parties deprecated the slavery agitation, especially the Whigs, who were highly incensed because it jeopardized their candidates more than it did those of the Democrats. The failure of the two great political parties to act led to the first political organization of the anti-slavery sentiment. At Warsaw, New York, on November 13, 1839, the Abolitionists held a convention and nominated James G. Birney, of New York, for President, and Thomas Earl, of Pennsylvania, for Vice-President. This was subsequently called the "Liberty Party," and was the first of the three anti-slavery parties to appear in national politics. Its platform demanded the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia and in the territories; stoppage of the interstate slave trade, and opposition to slavery to the fullest extent of Constitutional powers. Mr. Birney did not desire the nomination, and in the election of 1840, that resulted in the defeat of Van Buren by Harrison, the Abolitionists received only 7069 votes out of a total of two and one-half millions. The membership of the abolition societies at this time was about 200,000; the failure to show strength at the polls may be accounted for by reason of the refusal
of many to vote at any election held under the Constitution, and also that many feared the dissolution of the Union, and preferred, if they voted at all, to remain with the Democratic or Whig Parties in the hope that their party would take some decisive action on the question.

While the Slave Power in the United States was making violent efforts to perpetuate itself and stifle all opposition, all the other civilized countries of the world were abolishing slavery. Great Britain abolished it in all her colonies in the year 1833 at a cost of one hundred millions of dollars; but the United States, already showing itself to be the most progressive nation in the world, could not throw off the evil, and it remained a cause of bitter distraction until overthrown politically by the success of the Republican Party and removed by Secession, War, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the amendments to the Constitution.

Although the Abolition cause seemed hopeless after the election of 1840, they persisted in their work, and soon a series of events happened-- Texas Annexation, the Mexican War, and the Wilmot Proviso, which, independent of their efforts, brought about a direct issue between the North and South on the great question--an issue to be finally decided only by the Civil War. The work of the early Abolitionists, however, had an influence of inestimable value and weight on the immediate success of the Republican Party when it was organized.



"That, as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the Republic of Mexico by the United States, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory."

_Wilmot Proviso_, _August_ 8, 1846.

From the campaign of 1844 to the Civil War the slavery question dominated all others in politics, North and South. During this period almost every legislative question was decided with reference to its effect on slavery. Press, Pulpit and Platform felt the baleful influence of its presence, and aspirants to the presidency and to lesser political honors sacrificed principle, conscience, and the support of their friends to obtain the favor of the aggressive and dominating Slave Power. The Democratic Party during this entire period took a bold stand on the question; an anti-slavery wing of the party appeared in the North, but at no time was it successful in changing the party platforms. The Whig Party, with its strong pro-slavery wing in the South, and with its northern members desirous of party success, omitted entirely any mention of slavery in its platforms, and although the anti-slavery members of the party were outspoken in their private views of slavery, they attended the party conventions and acquiesced in the platforms until 1852, when there was a general desertion of the Whig platform and candidate. The refusal of the Whig Party to make a direct issue of the slavery question doomed it, sooner or later, to dissolution; and although the party was successful in 1840 and in 1848, its disintegration really began after the election of 1840.

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