Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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CONSTITUTIONAL UNION PARTY, The (IN U. S. HISTORY), the name adopted in 1860 by the southern remnant of the defunct whig party. The election of 1852 closed the national career of the whigs. In 1856 they endeavored to evade the slavery question by joining with the know nothings (see AMERICAN PARTY, 1.), but the result showed that this alliance had no hope of success. May 9, 1860, a convention was held at Baltimore, of whigs who had not yet drifted off, in the south, to the democratic, or, in the north, to the republican, party. Delegates' were present from 20 states, and but two ballots were needed for the choice of the leading candidate. On the first, Bell had 68½ votes, Houston 57, Crittenden 28, Everett 25, W. A. Graham 22, McLean 21, and 32½ scattering; on the second, Bell had 138, Houston 69, Graham 18, and 27 scattering. Bell was thus nominated for the presidency; and Everett was then unanimously nominated for the vice-presidency. The platform adopted consisted of a preamble denouncing platforms in general as tending to form "geographical and sectional parties," and a resolution, in part as follows: "That it is both the part of patriotism and of duty to recognize no political principle other than the constitution of the country, the union of the states, and the enforcement of the laws." The rest of the resolution merely pledged the convention to support the principles assigned. It seems to have unfortunately escaped the attention of the convention that the true interpretation of the three principles, which it announced as fixed and settled, was the question then in dispute and unsettled. The object of the resolution, however, though clumsily expressed, is sufficiently plain; it was an invitation to all patriotic voters to abandon the republican party, which attacked, and the democratic party, which defended slavery, and recur to the old whig programme of entirely ignoring slavery as a political question. Its avoidance of the word whig, and its acceptance of a new name, should have been a plain warning that its programme was also obsolete.


—In the south the Bell-Everett platform was the only medium of expression for the Union men of the section, who could not be republicans and would not be Breckinridge democrats. It carried Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia (see BORDER STATES), by pluralities over Breckinridge, and came within 722 votes of carrying Maryland. It was defeated by less than 4,000 votes in each of the states of Arkansas, Delaware, North Carolina, Florida and Louisiana, and in only two southern states, Mississippi and Texas, was defeated by more than 10,000 votes. In the north it was almost a nonentity, its votes ranging from 161 out of 152,180 in Wisconsin to 6,817 out of 118,840 in California. Its total popular vote was 589,581, and its electoral vote 39. (See ELECTORAL VOTES.)


—The Bell leaders in the south seem to have been stung by the northern indifference to their claims, and offered little effective resistance to the secession movement which followed the election. (See also ALLEGIANCE.) The first wave of civil war blotted out forever the last trace of the whig party, and its few surviving members, when they reappeared in politics, during and after reconstruction, did so as democrats. (See DEMOCRATIC PARTY, VI.)


—See 2 Coleman's Life of Crittenden; Botts' Great Rebellion; 1 Greeley's American Conflict, 319; and authorities under WHIG PARTY, III.


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