HUNKERS (IN U. S. HISTORY), a name taken originally by conservative democrats in New York state, but used occasionally also in other states.
—Although the name was not used until about 1844, the faction to which it was applied may be traced through New York history from 1835 until 1860, in opposition successively to the "loco-foco" faction, the radicals and the barnburners; and finally divided into the "hards" and the "softs." In all these divisions the hunkers represented merely the inertia of the state democratic party, and its dislike to the introduction of new questions. From 1835 until 1840 the hunkers, though not yet named, were opposed to the loco-foco war on bank charters (see LOCO-FOCO), but yielded so far as to pass a satisfactory state banking law in 1838. From 1840 until 1846 they opposed, with the same final want of success, the demand of the radicals for a revision of the state constitution, an elective judiciary, and a cessation of unprofitable canal enterprises. From 1846 until 1852 they were finally successful, though at first defeated, in opposing the maintenance of the state branch of the democratic party in antagonism to the national party. (See BARNBURNERS, FREE-SOIL PARTY.) After 1852 the Marcy portion of the hunkers, commonly called "softs," supported the Pierce administration, while the Dickinson wing, the "hards," opposed it. During the civil war the latter were generally "war democrats." During the last eight years of the period 1835-60, the division line was fainter, but in general the hunker leaders were Daniel S. Dickinson, Edwin Croswell. Wm. C. Bouck, Wm. L. Marcy, Horatio Seymour, and Samuel Beardsley; and their leading opponents were Martin Van Buren, Silas Wright, A. C. Flagg, John A. Dix, Reuben E. Fenton, Samuel Young, and Michael Hoffman. (See also ALBANY REGENCY.)