Election of 1856 (Divine, 2007)

Robert A. Divine, et al., The American Story 3rd ed., vol. 1 (New York:  Pearson Education, Inc., 2007), 364-365.
The Republican nominating convention revealed the strictly sectional nature of the new party. Only a handful of the delegates from the slave states attended, and all of these were from the upper South. The platform called for liberation of Kansas from the slave power and for congressional prohibition of slavery in all territories. The nominee was John C. Frémont, explorer of the West and participant in the conquest of California during the Mexican-American War.  

The Democrats nominated James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, who had a long career in public service. Their platform endorsed popular sovereignty in the territories. The American party, a Know-Nothing remnant that survived mainly as the rallying point for anti-Democratic conservatives in the border states and parts of the South, chose ex-President Millard Fillmore as its standard-bearer and received the backing of those northern Whigs who hoped to revive the tradition of sectional compromise.

The election was really two separate races – one in the North, where the main contest was between Frémont and Buchanan, and the other in the South, which pitted Fillmore against Buchanan, and the other in the South, which pitted Fillmore against Buchanan. With strong southern support and narrow victories in four crucial northern states – Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana, and Illinois – Buchanan won the election. But the Republicans did remarkably well for a party that was scarcely more than a year old. Frémont won eleven of the sixteen free states, sweeping the upper North with substantial majorities and winning a larger proportion of the northern popular vote than either of his opponents.
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