United States Political Parties: The Liberty Party (1839-48)


Figure 1.--k

The Liberty Party emerged as an one-issue abolitionist political organization centered in upstate New York (1839). Organized abolitionism developed along several different issue lines. One of the most important focused on the constitutionality of the institution of slavery. Here William Lloyd Garrison who became the major figure in the American Anti-Slavery Society, attacked the Constitution as a "covenant with death and an agreement with hell." The Liberty Party opposed this approach to opposing slavery asaolitical dead end. The Liberty Party nominated James G. Birney in 1840. Birney was a Kentucky-born lawyer and former slaveholder who converted to the abolitionist cause. Mob violence forced him to relocated to Ohio. Birney garnered only about 7,000 votes in 1840 and was not a factor in the race. The Party for the 1844 election again nominated Birney. A rising force in the Party, Salmon P. Chase, had doubts based primarily on Birney's ability to generate popular appeal. The debate over Texas appears to generated substantial support for the Liberty Party. He had no channce of election, but hoped to affect some state races. Birney in fact won more than 60,000 votes which had a major impact on the election. It was also an indication that the abolitionists were making headway. Chase as a result was convinced that abolitionists should begin to organize an anti-slavery party with more broadbased appeal. The end result would be the Republican Party. The Liberty Party continued to be a force in some local elections during 1846. It nominated John P. Hale in 1848, but then decided to withdraw his nomination and united with anti-slavery Whigs and Democrats to form the Free-Soil Party.

Founding

Some of the non-Garrisonian abolitionists continued the initial efforts focusing on churches with the goal of reforming northern churches. Others turned to a more political approach. This strategy appeared (mid-1930s). Abolitionists began petitioning legislatures and questioning political candidates on slavery and related issues. Anolitionisdts at the time were a small minirity of the electorate, even in the North. Thus not surprisingly candidate were unwilling to openly express antislavery sentiments, even if they had them and many did not. The political response of abolitionists was commonly to generate a protest vote. They scattered their ballots among write-in candidates. This of course had no practical impact. Their peritions and lobbying efforts had no real impact on the Federal Government. Agroup of political activists formed an independent antislavery party--the Liberty Party (1840).The Liberty Party emerged as an one-issue abolitionist political organization centered in upstate New York. The goal of the Party was to pursue emancipation in the partisan political arena.

Abolitionist Differences

Organized abolitionism developed along several different issue lines. One of the most important focused on the constitutionality of the institution of slavery. Here William Lloyd Garrison who became the major figure in the American Anti-Slavery Society, attacked the Constitution as a "covenant with death and an agreement with hell." The Liberty Party opposed this approach to opposing slavery asaolitical dead end. Some Party members wanted to address ecomomic issues, but the Liberty party platforms in the 1840 and 1844 presidential elections were basically the same as that of the antislavery societies that launched the movement. They advovated immediate abolition in the South and the repeal of all racial discriminatory legislation in the North. Abolitionists in the 1840s were a small minority of the electorate and the Liberty Party could not even attract solid support of the the abolitionist community. Abolitionists were in fact divided over the new Liberty Party. The Garrisonians generally condemned political activity, claiming that it in effect legitimized slavery as a legal institution. And the Non-Garrisonian abolitionists were also reluctant to lend their support to the Liberty party because of association with the moralistic faction of the Whig party. Many northerners went anti-slavery (but not necesarily abolitionist views) gravitated to the Whig Party. There were of course many pther political issues and many with anti-slavery views did not see slavery as the most important issue or an issue which could be resolved politically. Thus the Liberty party's ethically focus on slavery and civil rights issues attracted few Whigs voters.

Election of 1840

The Liberty Party nominated James G. Birney in 1840. Birney was a Kentucky-born lawyer and former slaveholder who converted to the abolitionist cause. Mob violence forced him to relocated to Ohio. Birney garnered only about 7,000 votes in 1840 and was not a factor in the race. The Liberty Party presidential candidate James G. Birney in 1840 received a mere 7,000 votes (less than 1 percent).

Electioin of 1844

The Party for the 1844 election again nominated Birney. A rising force in the Party, Salmon P. Chase, had doubts based primarily on Birney's ability to generate popular appeal. The debate over Texas appears to generated substantial support for the Liberty Party. He had no channce of election, but hoped to affect some state races. Birney in fact won more than 60,000 votes which had a major impact on the election. It was also an indication that the abolitionists were making headway.

Subsequent Elections

It was obvious that slavery as a single issue was not a winning election strategy, feeling agaist slavery was growing in the North. Chase as a result concluded that abolitionists should begin to organize an anti-slavery party with more broadbased appeal. The end result would be the Republican Party. The Liberty Party continued to be a force in some local elections during 1846. It nominated John P. Hale in 1848, but then decided to withdraw his nomination and united with anti-slavery Whigs and Democrats to form the Free-Soil Party.







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Created: 12:07 AM 4/26/2010
Last updated: 12:07 AM 4/26/2010