The Congressional elections of 1854-1855 were the midterm Democratic disaster of the Pierce administration. During the 15 month timespan in which the states chose U.S. Representatives, the Democratic membership was halved by an array of opposition parties. The state elections fall into three general time frames, each with different strategies of the opposition.
The first series of campaigns took place in the 8/4/1854 to 9/11/1854 time frame. These campaigns were underway when the Kansas-Nebraska Act became law on 5/30/1854. In these six states, choosing 22 members, the Democrats were challenged by the Whigs, with some Free Soil and Republican challengers. Before the election, these seats were evenly split (D-11, W-11). When the votes were counted, the Whigs ended up with 10 seats to seven Democrats and five Republicans (the latter from Maine). In four of the six states voting in this phase, there was no change in seats; that would only occur in two later states.
Twelve states elected U.S. House members in the six week period from 10/2/1854 to 11/14/1854. These states were electing 129 Representatives, 121 of which were from Free States. Before the election, these seats stood D-85, W-40, and Free Soil-4. The unpopularity of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, with the possibility that the expansion of slavery into the fertile new plains would undermine eastern farmers, resulted in a disaster for the Democratic Party. The opposition was not united, however. Whigs ran in six of thes[More...]