In 1825 [Gideon] Welles became acquainted with John M. Niles, editor and proprietor of the Hartford Times
and Weekly Advertizer
, who espoused Andrew Jackson as the coming political figure in the nation. His opinion on states' rights, banking corporations, free trade, and hard money appealed to Welles, who joined Niles's publishing venture and soon gained a reputation for his support of Jackson and his attacks on the John Quincy Adams administration…
Under pen names Welles wrote editorials or public letters for such journals as the New York Evening Post and the antislavery National Era in Washington. An opponent of the Compromise of 1850, he denounced the Fugitive Slave Act in the compromise on constitutional, political, and moral grounds. Nevertheless, he supported Franklin Pierce, the Democratic party nominee in 1852, and hoped that Pierce, if elected, would not adhere strictly to the party platform that accepted the compromise. As president, Pierce did not oppose the expansion of slavery. When the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 threw the territories open to popular sovereignty and the Hartford Times along with the Democratic organization in the state supported that legislation, Welles and Niles broke with the party and the paper and joined the new Republican party.
To give wider currency to the new party, Welles and Niles established the Hartford Evening Press. Welles became its first editor. He also ran for governor of the state on the Republican ticket in 1856 but was defeated.