Tension between the free states and the slave states increased throughout Franklin Pierce’s administration. Sen. Stephen A. Douglas IL introduced a bill to create new territories which would decide on their own whether or not to allow slavery. Douglas’ bill, which became known as the Kansas-Nebraska Act, represented his hope that the slavery issue would be handled locally and not on a national level. Douglas reasoned that popular sovereignty would eventually result in the eradication of slavery from the territories.
In 1854, a new Republican Party was organized in Wisconsin, composed of former Free Soilers, remnants of the northern Whigs, and antislavery Democrats. It immediately became the chief opposition party in the North.
Another new party was organized in the northeast. This new party originated in an oath-bound secret society, whose members responded that they knew nothing about it when asked. Deeply suspicious of foreigners and Catholics, the party was known officially as the American Party but informally as the Know Nothing Party. This party won scores of seats in Congress.
The Republican Party held its first national convention in Philadelphia in 1856. Each state was granted three delegates per electoral vote. Ohio’s John McLean was one of the contenders for the nomination, but the convention chose John C. Fremont instead. William L. Dayton received the VP nod over Abraham Lincoln.
The Democrats met in Cincinnati as the only national politica[More...]