Identify the factors that led to the collapse of the Second Party system in the pre-Civil War period. How did sectionalism within the United States contribute to the division within the Whig party and hasten its downfall?



        I think, Mr. President, that two facts may now be regarded as established: First that in 1787 the national policy in respect to slavery was one of restriction, limitation and discouragement. Second that it was generally expected that under the action of the State Governments slavery would gradually disappear from the States. . . .

        Unhappily . . . the original policy of the Government and the original principles of the Government in respect to slavery did not permanently control its action. . . . Mr. President, I have spoken freely of slave State ascendancy in the affairs of this Government, but I desire not to be misunderstood. I take no sectional position. The supporters of slavery are the sectionalists. . . . Freedom is national; slavery only is local and sectional. . . .

        What have been the results . . . of the subversion of the original policy of slavery restriction and discouragement . . . instead of slavery being regarded as a curse, a reproach, a blight, an evil, a wrong, a sin, we are now told that it is the most stable foundation of our institutions; the happiest relation that labor can sustain to capital; a blessing to both races . . . this is a great change, and a sad change. . . .

Source:  Defining the Constitutional Limits of Slavery (1850), speech by Salmon P. Chase of Ohio.



Now, Sir, in order to a right understanding of their movements, it is necessary to state, that the “Working Men,“ when well organised, constitute a considerable portion of the political strength of the city and county of Philadelphia. They have formerly been found quite available for party porpuses [sic]. At the present moment they are not very firmly bound together, not having recently moved in unison. . . .

        . . . a question presents itself as to the best mode of operating upon them, for the advantage of the public. The knowledge of one little secret gives us a ready answer to the question. It is simply to make them of some consequence in the world― to give them an air of importance in the eyes of others. As a body, they are very ambitious to possess some weight in society. Let this feeling be gratified, and they are content. It is for these reasons that we apprehend they may some time or other, be induced to unite for evil as well as good. And in in [sic] order to prevent the former, we must endeavour to ensure the latter. As manufacturers and mechanics, in other words, as “working men, “ they have a deep interest at stake in the support of “the protective system.”

Source: A Whig Discusses How to Appeal to the Workingman (1833), a letter by John Scholefield, a carpet manufacturer, to Henry Clay. 



We have assembled in convention as a union of free men, for the sake of freedom, forgetting all past political differences, in a common resolve to maintain the rights of free labor against the aggression of the slave power, and to secure free soil to a free people; and

Whereas, The political conventions recently assembled at Baltimore and Philadelphia-the one stifling the voice of a great constituency entitled to be heard in its deliberations, and the other abandoning its distinctive principles for mere availability-have dissolved the national party organization heretofore existing, by nominating for the chief magistracy of the United States, under the slaveholding dictation, candidates neither of whom can be supported by the opponents of slavery extension without a sacrifice of consistency, duty and self-respect. . . .

2. Resolved, That slavery in the several states of this Union which recognize its existence depends upon the state laws, alone,
which cannot be repealed or modified by the federal government, and for which laws that government is not responsible. We therefore propose no interference by Congress with slavery within the limits of any state.

3. Resolved, That the proviso of Jefferson, to prohibit the existence of slavery after 1800 in all the territories of the United States, southern and northern . . . clearly show that it was the settled policy of the nation not to extend, nationalize, or encourage, but to limit, localize, and discourage slavery; and to this policy, which should never have been departed from, the government ought to return.

. . .

5. Resolved, That in the judgment of this convention Congress has no more power to make a slave than to make a king; no more power to institute or establish slavery than to institute or establish a monarchy. . . .

7. Resolved, That the true and, in the judgment of this convention, the only safe means of preventing the extension of slavery into territory now free is to prohibit its extension in all such territory by an act of Congress.

Source:  1848 Platform of the Free Soil Party, written in Buffalo, New York, August 9-10, 1848.



2. Resolved, That the Liberty party, placing itself upon this broad principle, will demand the absolute and unqualified divorce of the general government from slavery, and also the restoration of equality of rights among men in every state where the party exists or may exist. . . .

4. Resolved, That the Liberty party has not been organized merely for the overthrow of slavery: its first decided effort must, indeed, be directed against slaveholding as the grossest and most revolting manifestation of despotism, but it will also carry out the principle of equal rights into all its practical consequences and applications, and support every just measure conducive to individual and social freedom.

5. Resolved, That the Liberty party is not a sectional party, but a national party; was not originated in a desire to accomplish a single object, but in a comprehensive regard to the great interests of the whole country; is not a new party, nor a third party, but is the party of 1776, reviving the principles of that memorable era, and striving to carry them into practical application.

Source:  1844 Platform of the Liberty Party, Buffalo, New York, August 30, 1843. 



This was the inheritance to which Mr. Monroe, and, in due succession, Mr. Adams succeeded. They conscientiously adhered to this truly republican, equal and beneficent system of administration. The consequence was a progressive increase in every element of national happiness. Under the working of this system the nation gradually arose to a state of unexampled vigor. The havoc of the war was slowly but surely repaired. The currency, from a state of extraordinary derangement, was brought into singular purity. Manufactures and the mechanic arts were rapidly trained from a feeble infancy to a robustness almost incredible. Commerce and navigation were increased; the war debt was paid; and that series of internal improvements begun which, however they may have involved those who constructed them in debt, are worth more to this Union than ten times the cost expended upon them. They are works from which the National Treasury should never have been withheld; they are works which now belong more to the people of the United States than to the States in whose borders they lie, and for which the People of the Union are equitably and honorably the true debtors: they are works which, by a policy as cruel as it was unstatesmanlike, were ever committed to the unassisted enterprise of the States.

This is the outline of the Whig doctrine in reference to the fundamental characteristics of our government, and also of its policy.

Source:  John Pendleton Kennedy Outlines Whig Political Philosophy, 1844  .



Greeley (on the right) : "It's of no use to talk to me, for Mr. Clay says he would rather be right than to be President, and that is the policy I am adopting now."

Brother Jonathan or Uncle Sam figure (on the left): "Do slack up a little there, Horace, till we get over a chock that some one has put before the wheel." (The "chock" that the cart has run into is a rock marked "Wilmot Proviso.")

Source:  “Whig Harmony.“ cartoon published in Harpers Weekly in 1848. 



        THE Whig party is dead, said the Democrats in 1852. We admit the fact we are dead, responded the Whigs in their despair. . . .
        Regarding whiggery in the abstract as the broad negation of Democracy; and all other points of difference as merely ephemeral auxiliaries by which the anti-democratic party seek to attain supremacy, we will give the cause of Abolition the benefit of discussion on its own merits. Abolition seems to be the stand-point. Before it all other differences sink into insignificance. The question of slavery or no-slavery, they are determined to make the really vital question, and with that question they have determined, regardless of cost or consequences, to divide this Union.
        Slavery or no slavery? That is the question at issue. . . .
The principles of Jefferson have survived those of his antagonists. The Whigs have made concession after concession and are still conceding. A merely Whig party is no longer possible. The new Whig party by whatever name it may call itself will probably be more dangerous than any yet opposed to the Democrats, because immobility being impossible, it must necessarily retrograde towards centralism that is aristocracy anti-republicanism despotism. It may be that ere long there will be a greater battle to fight than has ever yet been fought.

Source:  United States Review, December, 1854, “Whig Principles. What’s Left of Them.” 



 . . .

At the South, as well as at the North, we find Know Nothingism arrayed against the Nebraska bill. “Sam*” is eminently national in his principles, and repudiating all the sectional isms of the day, he deprecates any further useless and unprofitable agitation of the slavery question. He is willing that slavery shall remain where it is, and that the “peculiar institution” of our Southern friends shall not be interfered with: but at the same time he sets his face like flint against the extension of slavery to territory now belonging to or hereafter to come into this Union. “Sam” is just as sound on the anti-slavery question as Horace Greeley (but not quite so much of a fanatic), and has accomplished more in one year towards the overthrow of the “northern party with southern principles,” than Greeley, with his ultraism and fanaticism, could do were he to live to the age of Methuselah.

* The Know Nothings said that their founder was “Young Sam,” nephew of “Uncle Sam.”

Source:  “What are ‘Sam’s’ Principles?” December 20, 1854, editorial in a newspaper of the Know Nothing Party.



Raymond (On the far left, bottom): "You might have known them cussed weights (labeled “Free Soil” and “Abolition”) would break the rope!"

Seward (First on the rope on the right): "Thus the noble Cesar fell, and you and I & all of us fell down and bloody Locofocoism flourished over us!"

Scott (falling): "It may be the effect of my imagination, but it certainly feels as if something has given way!"

At middle left, New York "Tribune" editor Horace Greeley rides a swaybacked horse carrying a "Tariff" bundle. He shouts to Scott, "Hold on General where you are just one minute till I come to help you!"

Another man runs after Greeley crying, "Whoa! whoa! I say Greeley don't ride that poor old nag to death!"

In the right-hand corner a woman says, "Law! Mr. Cesar it seems to me dat de Gemman is gevine de wrong way.

Source:  “Experiments of on the Tight Rope” cartoon published in Harpers Weekly in 1852.




Mr. Martindale, of Rochester, ascended the platform amid loud applause. This was a new era, he said, in the long history of political parties in this State. For a long time we had been divided into parties. Now affairs had assumed a somewhat different aspect. Instead of the old battle cry of party, we have the loud and universal cry of “Freedom!” It was not the day of sectional organizations. It was a slander on the people of this country to say that the cry of freedom over the nation was the cry of a section. In leaving the Whig party, he left it to join the National party. For himself he knew there was to be no disunion. Heaven knew that would be felt as a calamity. But a Union through cowardice and want of principle was not a Union to be desired, and its dissolution was not to be greatly lamented. The encroachments of Slavery were not longer to be borne by freemen. The spirit of the heroes of the Revolution—the spirit of Democracy—the spirit which inspired the European masses and led them to this shore—would rise in its gigantic vigor and vindicate the fame and honor of this Great Republic.

Source: Report in the New-York Daily Times of Friday, September 28, 1855 from the New York State Republican Convention.  




Mr. H.C. Miles of New-York, said that as the Convention seems disposed to fuse with Conventions other than Whig, he asked, in justice to his constituents, to be allowed to present a protest, on behalf of himself and others.

. . .

“We, the undersigned members of a Whig State Convention, elected by our constituents to make Whig nominations in a Whig State Convention, and to act as Whigs only in a Whig State Convention, hereby protest against the abandonment or destruction of the Whig party, or its fusion with any Abolition party.

The Clay, Harrison and Webster Whigs of the States have refused all coalition of action with Abolitionists for the last fifteen years, and we protest against a coalition with them now, as we have assembled to nominate a Whig ticket of well-known Whigs.

In our belief, no mere sectional party can long exist in this country, or ought to exist, and we protest, therefore, against changing the Whig party of this State into, or transferring it over to, any party which is not, or cannot from its character be a National Party. But as a majority assembled in this Convention seem desirous for an abandonment rather than for the well-being of the Whig party, we respectfully decline any further participation in the doings of this body. . . .”

[Signed by Mr. Miles and four other delegates of the Convention.]

Source:  Report in the New-York Daily Times of Friday, September 28, 1855 from the New York State Whig Convention, after the New York Whigs agreed to fuse with the Republican party.  




Document A:
, David L. America’s History, Volume: to 1887. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001.

Document B:
Carlton, David L. America’s History, Volume: to 1887. Boston:  Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001.

Document C:
Lause, Mark. “Free Soil Party 1848 Platform.” Lause’s Links.   2001. (7 Feb. 2002).

Document D:
Lause, Mark. “
Liberty Party 1844 Platform.” Lause’s Links.          2001. (7 Feb. 2002).

Document E:
Lorence, James J. Enduring Voices Document Sets: Volume
I. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

Document F:
“Whig Harmony.” Harpers Weekly . 1848  (8 Feb. 2002).

Document G:
“Whig Principles. What's Left of Them.” The
United States Democratic Review. Volume 34, Issue 6,  December 1854.

Document H:
Gretz, Katherine R., ed. Retrieving the American Past:  1810-1860.  Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2002.

Document I:
“Experiments on a Tight Rope.“ Harpers Weekly. 1852. (10 Feb 2002).

Document J:
“Republican State Convention.” New-York Daily Times 28 Sept. 1885: 7+.

Document K:
“Whig State Convention.” New-York Daily Times 29 Sept.1855: 2.



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“The Fusion at Syracuse.” New-York Daily Times 29 Sept. 1855: 4.

Gienapp, William E. The Origins of the Republican Party 1852 - 1856.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

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Holt, Michael. The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party . New York:  Oxford University Press, 1999.

Jay, William. “Judge Jay's letter. Free soil Whigs and Liberty party men, read this!” October 1849.  The Library of Congress: American Memory - Historical Collections for the National Digital Library. 1998. (11 Feb 2002).

“Managing a Candidate.” Harpers Weekly . 1852 (10 Feb. 2002).

McDuffie, Jerome, Gary Piggrem, and Stephen E. Woodworth. The Best Test Preparation for the Advanced Placement Examination in United States History. Piscataway: Research &     Education Association, 1998.

Oetting, D. L., ed. “Douglass: John C. Calhoun, ‘Slavery a Positive Good,’ 6 February 1837.”   Douglass Archives, 1996. (1 Feb. 2002).

“Republican Convention.” New-York Daily Times 29 Sept. 1855: 2.

            Roth, Mitchel. Reading the American West. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational
            Publishers Inc., 1999.

            Smith, Gerald. “Slavery is not a Sin.” Smith Web. 2002
            GovHammond.html (30 Jan. 2002).

            “State Politics.” New-York Daily Times 29 Sept. 1855: 4.

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