Free Soil Party
The Free Soil Party was a short-lived political party in the United States at the end of the Second Party System. It ran presidential candidates in 1848 and 1852, and some state candidates. It was a breakaway faction of the Democratic Party and was largely absorbed by the Republican Party in 1854. Its main purpose was opposing the expansion of slavery into the territories, arguing that free men on free soil comprised a morally and economically superior system to slavery. The free soilers were against the expansion of slavery but not the idea of slavery; their goal was to gain the land to the west, and keep the land free of slaves. Slavery was seen as a social bad because it hurt free men, but (unlike the abolitionists) they did not denounce it as sinful.
Free Soil candidates ran on the platform that declared: "...we inscribe on our banner, 'Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor and Free Man,' and under it we will fight on and fight ever, until a triumphant victory shall reward our exertions."
The party also called for a homestead act and a tariff for revenue only (as opposed to a protective high tariff). The Free Soil Party attracted mainly Yankees from the Northeast and upper Midwest, especially Yankee areas of upstate New York, western Massachusetts, and northern Ohio.
In 1848, the first party convention was held in Buffalo, New York, where the party nominated former Democratic President Martin Van Buren of New York, with Charles Francis Adams of Massachusetts as vice president. The main party leaders were senators Salmon P. Chase of Ohio and John P. Hale of New Hampshire. They won no electoral votes.
Compromise of 1850
The Compromise of 1850 undercut the party's no-compromise position, and its vote fell off sharply.
The Free Soil Party was a notable third party. More successful than most, it sent two senators and fourteen representatives to the thirty-first Congress, elected in 1848. Its presidential nominee in 1848, Van Buren, received 291,616 votes against Zachary Taylor of the Whigs and Lewis Cass of the Democrats; Van Buren received no electoral votes. The Party's "spoiler" effect in 1848 may have put Taylor into office in a narrowly-contested election.
The strength of the party, however, was its representation in Congress. The sixteen elected officials' influence far exceeded its numbers. The party's most important legacy was as a route for anti-slavery Democrats to join the new Republican coalition.
Leading Free Soilers
- Charles Francis Adams, Sr., vice presidential candidate in 1848, later minister to Britain
- William Cullen Bryant, New York editor and poet
- Salmon P. Chase, senator from Ohio
- Samuel Hoar, Massachusetts politician
- Francis Kernan, New York politician
- John Letcher, Congressman from Virginia
- Charles Sumner, senator from Massachusetts
- Benjamin Tappan, Senator from Ohio
- Walt Whitman, New York editor; later a famous poet
- Henry Wilson, Massachusetts politician; later Vice President
- Frederick J. Blue; Salmon P. Chase: A Life in Politics 1987 online edition
- Frederick J. Blue. The Free Soilers: Third Party Politics, 1848-54 (1973)
- Martin Duberman; Charles Francis Adams, 1807-1886 1968.
- Eric Foner; Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War 1970 online edition
- Oliver Gromwell Gardiner. The Great Issue, Or, The Three Presidential Candidates (1848) online edition from books.google.com
- T. C. Smith, Liberty and Free Soil Parties in the Northwest (1897) online edition from books.google.com