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The Rise and Fall of the American Whig PartyJacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War$

Michael F. Holt

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780195161045

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195161045.001.0001

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“Scott & Scott Alone Is the Man for the Emergency”

“Scott & Scott Alone Is the Man for the Emergency”

(p.673) Chapter 19Scott & Scott Alone Is the Man for the Emergency”
The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party

Michael F. Holt

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

If 1852 inevitably resembled other presidential years, Truman Smith concluded that the Whig party confronted “exactly the same situation” as they had in 1848. Once again, Whigs required a military hero to win. Every consideration requires that they should go for Winfield Scott now. In 1848, Zachary Taylor's appeal to the vital votes by Native Americans in Pennsylvania helped him secure nomination and election; in 1852, nativists there and elsewhere vehemently opposed Scott. In 1848, most southern Whigs zealously sought, and most northern Whigs vigorously opposed, Taylor's nomination; in 1852, northern Whigs led the drive for Scott, whereas almost all Southerners tried to derail him. Suspicious of Taylor's No Party tactics, northern Whigs in 1848 demanded concrete evidence of his fidelity to Whig principles. In 1852, in contrast, Southerners insisted upon irrefutable proof from Scott that he deemed the Compromise measures a final settlement of the slavery controversy.

Keywords:   Truman Smith, Whig party, Winfield Scott, Zachary Taylor, Native Americans, Pennsylvania, nomination, election, Compromise, slavery

“THE SESSION WILL BE SPENT more in President making than anything,” Ohio's freshman Senator Ben Wade wrote home in January 1852. “Soon everything will give way to this one idea.” Newspapers also reported “positively no transaction of Congressional business” because of the obsession with “who shall be President in 1853.” As in 1840, 1844, and 1848, the gravitational forces of the political universe in 1852 pulled every public event, every policy controversy, and every personality dispute into the orbit of the impending presidential election.1

If 1852 inevitably resembled other presidential years, Truman Smith concluded that Whigs confronted “exactly the same situation” as they had in 1848. Once again, Whigs required a military hero to win. “We are a minority party and can not succeed unless we have a candidate who can command more votes than the party can give him,” he counseled a North Carolinian on May 1, 1852. “Every consideration which justified us in going for Taylor in /48 requires that we should go for Scott now.”2

Although a Whig now occupied the White House, Whigs' “situation” was strikingly akin to that four years earlier. Once again the convening of a new Congress crystallized the scramble for their nomination. Just as prosperity engendered by wartime financing and grain exports had temporarily neutralized traditional Whig economic appeals in early 1848, so a boom spawned by California gold strikes, surging foreign investment, and frenetic railroad construction appeared to eliminate economic issues in 1852. Just as sectional divisions over possible enactment of the Wilmot Proviso influenced northern and southern Whigs' respective preferences for the nominee and dictated their subsequent Janus-faced campaign in 1848, so poisonous sectional strife over the Compromise threatened to contaminate the 1852 nomination contest and to cripple Whig efforts during the following campaign. And just as defeats in the state and congressional elections of late 1847 combined with loss of the antiwar issue in March 1848 had convinced many Whigs that they needed gunpowder to capture the fortress of Loco Focoism, so northern Whigs' losses in the off-year elections of 1850 and 1851 persuaded many that they needed a famous general to maximize their vote in 1852.

(p.674) Conditions in 1852, however, formed a mirror image rather than an exact replica of those in 1848. In 1848, Taylor's appeal to the vital Native American vote in Pennsylvania helped him secure nomination and election; in 1852, nativists there and elsewhere vehemently opposed Winfield Scott. In 1848, most southern Whigs zealously sought, and most northern Whigs vigorously opposed, Taylor's nomination; in 1852, northern Whigs led the drive for Scott, whereas almost all Southerners tried to derail him. Suspicious of Taylor's No Party tactics, northern Whigs in 1848 demanded concrete evidence of his fidelity to Whig principles; his southern backers would dispense with pledges, platforms, and even a formal convention nomination. In 1852, in contrast, Southerners insisted upon irrefutable proof from Scott that he deemed the Compromise measures a final settlement of the slavery controversy.

Social, economic, and political developments between 1848 and 1852 produced these reversals. Quarrels over slavery-related issues exacerbated suspicion of individual Whig leaders, eroded intersectional comity within the party, and complicated the task of selecting a presidential nominee behind whom all Whigs would rally. In addition, Whig control of federal patronage had aggravated factional rivalries within state parties and personal animosities among leaders since 1849. Job allocation under Taylor and Fillmore vividly reminded small-fry politicos that it mattered greatly not just whether a Whig, but also which Whig, occupied the White House. Most important, however, were changes Whigs could not control. Sectional, factional, and personal disagreements had wracked the Whig party since its formation, yet the powerful glue of conflict with the Democrats had always contained those divisive forces. Competitive zeal, in turn, had always depended on the clarity of differences with Democrats over specific policy options and general principles of governance. By 1852 the deepening of sectional, factional, and personal divisions among Whigs coincided with a diminution of differences from, and a waning of policy conflict with, the Democrats. By decreasing opportunities to deflect attention to issues that united Whigs against Democrats, these developments focused Whig leaders all the more narrowly on what divided them—sectional quarrels, the identity of the nominee, and calculations about patronage. Simultaneously, the disappearance of party differences made voter apathy as formidable an obstacle as sectional anger to mobilizing voters, thereby increasing the pressure to find a candidate who might rouse enough voters to win. Apathy, moreover, easily shaded over into alienation from the major parties and their leaders precisely because those politicians seemed concerned only with the spoils of office, not with providing alternative solutions to the electorate's grievances and problems. Hence, far more Whigs than in 1848 questioned the value of maintaining allegiance to an organization they now deemed purposeless. For such skeptics, the ability to win the presidency again in 1852 became a crucial test of whether the Whig party could, would, or should survive as a political organization.


Together three developments—the 1850–51 defeats of northern Whigs, the corresponding success of southern Whigs who defended the Compromise of 1850, and the emerging power of new Union parties in the Deep South—profoundly (p.675) influenced the scramble for the Whig presidential nomination in 1852. Each different electoral trend particularly affected the prospects and calculations of one of the three chief contenders for that prize—Fillmore, Webster, and Scott.

Webster fixated on the Union party's apparent rejuvenation. Its Deep South victories combined with palpable northern Whig and Democratic divisions over the Compromise resurrected attempts in the late fall of 1851 to cobble together a national Union party for the presidential election. Anti-Compromise or Sewardite Whigs were so dominant in most northern states, argued Union party proponents like John O. Sargent, editor of the Washington Republic, and John P. Kennedy, that the National Whig minority must combine with northern pro-Compromise Democrats and then align with the southern Union parties. “Neither Whig nor Democratic conventions can make a President on old party grounds,” Kennedy wrote Winthrop in December. “Nothing can succeed with the people but a strongly compacted conservative party.”3 Prospects for a new party seemed so bright that several of Millard Fillmore's most ardent supporters envisioned Fillmore himself heading the Union ticket. “New organizations are forming in spite of leading minds of the old line,” Oran Follett told the president in late November 1851 while arguing that now was the time to build a Union party around Fillmore. “You have only to cut loose from the anti -Compromise Whigs to rally to your support Union men enough to elect you as the honored head of a great Union party,” echoed Daniel Lee, a Georgia newspaperman then working for the Patent Office in Washington.4

Nonetheless, Fillmore still spurned a new Union party. In sharp contrast, Webster, having orchestrated attempts to launch his presidential bid for a year, eagerly sought to bring it to fruition. Whig divisions and Whig defeats across the North convinced him by November 1851 that “there can be no entire Whig Ticket nominated for President & Vice President.” He therefore instructed the Boston organizers of a November mass meeting to nominate him that “the Union idea should be kept up, & strongly put forth,” and he was enormously pleased when its resolutions did so. Simultaneously, Benjamin Balche of Newburyport, Massachusetts, the self-appointed chairman of the imposingly titled but thinly manned National Union Party Organizing Committee, now broadcast Union presidential tickets pairing Webster with Georgia's Howell Cobb.5

Webster, the earliest, most avid, and most hopeless aspirant for the Whigs' 1852 nomination, turned to the Union party again in the winter of 1851–52 from a mixture of realism and desperation. The seventy-two-year-old statesman knew 1852 would be his last chance to grasp the maddeningly elusive prize and that his chances for the Whig nomination ranged from unpromising to improbable. He retained enough prestige in Massachusetts and New Hampshire to capture their delegates, but his prospects among Whigs elsewhere in the North seemed remote. He had allies but also many enemies in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maine. He might pick up a few delegates in New York City by cooperating with Sewardites against Fillmore men, but he had no strength whatsoever upstate.6 In Pennsylvania, on which he had lavished so much personal attention during 1851, his name was mud, and even James Cooper's friends, furious at the administration's cold shoulder on patronage, had abandoned him.7 Across the Midwest most Whigs execrated him. And in the South, Webster knew only too well, Whigs who had not joined the Union party palpably preferred Fillmore to himself. (p.676) Capturing an exclusive Whig nomination seemed a very long shot indeed, and given Whig losses in 1851, winning with it seemed doubtful.

In contrast, building a bipartisan Union party offered numerous possibilities. Since the powerful Union parties in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi were widely expected to preserve their independence from both major parties, they could form a separate power base from which Webster could rival Fillmore's popularity in the South, especially since the two men's sharply contrasting attitudes toward a Union party were well known. To increase support among southern Union men, Webster promised Alabama's Henry Hilliard a juicy diplomatic post if he would support his nomination, and in the winter of 1851–52 he ostentatiously befriended Mississippi's Henry S. Foote, who had already been elected the Union governor of Mississippi, whom Kennedy considered the perfect running mate for Webster on a Union ticket, and who returned to the Senate for six weeks that winter before his January inauguration.8

Not only might the three (four if South Carolina went along) Deep South state Union parties give Webster a beachhead in Dixie, but the apparent trend of events suggested that they could provide the nucleus for a national organization. Once other southern Whigs and pro-Union Democrats understood that Union men from Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi would boycott the major parties' national conventions, he calculated, they too might defect to a Union party and drag along with them pro-Compromise Northerners from both parties who found fellow party members still too anxious to propitiate antislavery elements. Webster was told in November that Missouri's new Whig Senator Henry Geyer expected the formation of a Union party in that state before the presidential election, and he knew of Kennedy's efforts to organize the party in Maryland. On the eve of the congressional session, moreover, pro-Compromise Democrats from both sections angrily stormed out of the House Democratic caucus when it tabled resolutions committing the party to the Compromise's finality, and in the Senate during December and January, Southern Rights Democrats blocked any action on Foote's finality resolutions. Frustrated and rebuffed, pro-Compromise Democrats, too, might find a Union party alluring. Then, in a widely discussed speech to the House on February 3, Florida's Whig Congressman Edward Carrington Cabell raised the possibility of a massive defection of southern Whigs to the new party. If northern Whigs continued to press for Scott's nomination, warned Cabell, he and other southern Whigs were prepared to abandon the Whig party in order to “act in harmony with the Union Constitutional party.” Immensely heartened by all of these omens, Webster in speeches in New York City in late February continued to speak of “the formation of a Union party, of which he would be the head.”9

By mid-March, however, even Webster admitted that the Union party had again aborted.10 By then, both pillars supporting his renewed hopes of a Union nomination had crumbled. First, like many others in Washington in the winter of 1851–52, Webster believed that Fillmore would stand aside, publicly announce his refusal to accept a presidential nomination, and thus leave “the coast … clear” for Webster to monopolize the pro-Compromise elements in the Whig party and drag them with him into the Union party.11 But Fillmore, after a period of waffling and mixed signals, had a change of heart. On January 22, 1852, the Washington Republic, the administration's organ, denied that Fillmore would withdraw. In the context of Whig politics that winter, not withdrawing was equivalent to tossing (p.677) Fillmore's hat into the ring. Webster's friends were furious, and Webster himself was crestfallen, for they all recognized the consequences of Fillmore's decision. As the Washington correspondent of the Philadelphia Public Ledger put it, Fillmore and Webster both “run on the same combination and merely weaken each other, while Gen. Scott comes in under a combination entirely different, being thus able to beat up Union Whigs in detail.” With Fillmore still a possibility, in short, Webster could never monopolize the backing of pro-Compromise Whigs or line up the crucial support of federal patronage holders, who now would not dare to cross the president in backing delegates to the Whig convention or, more significantly, by following Webster into a Union party that Fillmore disdained. And without solid backing from pro-Compromise Whigs, Webster's chances of persuading Union Democrats to make him the Union presidential candidate plummeted.12

At exactly the same time that Fillmore toppled one prop buttressing Webster's Union party strategy, moreover, the other—the belief that the Union parties from Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi could serve as the nucleus for a broader Union party—was also rapidly collapsing. Like many other people, Webster reckoned between November 1851 and February 1852 that the Whigs and Democrats already in those state Union parties would never return to their old parties. That was indeed the intention of Union men when the new Congress opened in December. Both former Whigs and former Democrats in Georgia's Union delegation, for example, refused to attend the major party caucuses. Contending that “the mission of the Constitutional Union party is not fulfilled yet,” Alexander Stephens contemptuously dismissed the Whig party as “dead” and condemned the Democratic caucus for embracing former Free Soilers and Southern Rights men. Stephens, indeed, worked with southern Democratic congressmen friendly toward Howell Cobb, Georgia's Union governor, to introduce finality resolutions into the Democratic caucus in order to precipitate a bolt of pro-Compromise Democrats should the caucus defeat them.13 Simultaneously, Robert Toombs urged southern Whigs to introduce finality resolutions in the Whig caucus, and Toombs fully expected that northern Whigs' refusal to pass them would provoke a bolt by Southerners and “cutt [sic] them all off from their national organization and therefore shut them out of the Whig national convention.” Mississippi's Foote returned to the Senate with precisely the same goal in mind—to force a vote on finality that could shift pro-Compromise men away from anti-Compromise colleagues in both old parties. And his successor, Walter Brooke, a one-time Whig elected by the Union majority in the Mississippi legislature, pledged that he would never support “the nominees of the next Whig Convention, because I fear the Convention will not be sound on the compromise.”14

Yet events in Washington and in the three states themselves stymied these plans and undermined the new party movement. In Washington, new congressional recruits for a Union party once again failed to materialize. Southern Whigs, though undeniably suspicious of their northern colleagues and frightened by the possibility of Scott's nomination, refused that winter to abandon their party, a fact made abundantly clear by none other than Florida's Cabell on the opening day of the House session. Foote failed to force a Senate vote on his finality resolutions, and Democrats maintained an uneasy unity. Pro-Compromise Democrats in the House were angry about their caucus' tabling of finality resolutions, (p.678) but the selection of Linn Boyd, a staunch Compromise man, as speaker appeased most of them. Most important, Democrats deemed it folly to abandon a party on the verge of winning the presidency.15

Southern Rights Democrats in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi shrewdly seized on this likelihood to shatter the bipartisan Union coalitions in those states. They demanded the immediate reorganization of the Democratic party, and by the time Congress opened, they had already called state conventions to select delegates to the Democratic national convention and invited their former colleagues in Union parties to attend them.16 Union Democrats found this pressure to return to the Democratic party nearly irresistible, for if they allowed Southern Rights men alone to reclaim the mantle of Democracy and send delegates to the party's national convention, they faced the risk of losing any claim on federal patronage should Democrats win the presidency. Thus, in January, Union Democrats in the Georgia legislature tried to commit the Union party to send its own delegation to the Democratic national convention, while in Alabama and Mississippi more and more Democrats drifted back to the old party.17

Democrats bent on redrawing old party lines also brilliantly exploited state legislative sessions that winter to disrupt Union coalitions. In Alabama, Democrats used the legislature's allotment of patronage to drive a wedge between Whigs and Democrats in the Union coalition. By January 1852, when a state convention reorganized the Democratic party, only a dozen of over thirty Union Democratic legislators continued to cooperate with Union Whigs. When Mississippi's legislature convened in January 1852, Democrats repeatedly forced roll calls on old economic questions such as banking, the disposal of state lands, and payment of the long-repudiated Planters' Bank bonds. These votes utterly fragmented the Union coalition and repolarized Whigs and Democrats against each other.18

Having previously pledged that they would never return to the Whig organization, Union Whigs in all three states frantically tried to preserve the Union coalition and to stem Democrats' defection.19 Nonetheless, their inability to retain Democrats in Deep South Union state organizations virtually doomed prospects for a Union party in 1852. Conservative Whigs' disinterest outside those states also helped abort it. Before Congress opened, for example, Samuel Eliot, the ultraconservative Websterite Whig from Boston, scoffed at attempts by John O. Sargent to recruit him. The whole idea of a Union party was ludicrous, he laughed, for by the end of 1851 no one anywhere opposed the Union. “How can a party exist without an opposition?” he pointedly asked Sargent. “And what party is going to stand permanently in opposition to the Constitution?” A Union party “cannot live alone, & it cannot find a vis-a-vis.”20

Aside from his astute understanding of what was necessary for a political party to exist—namely, conflict with a rival party—Eliot grasped a point of central importance. By the end of 1851, northern Whigs who had railed against the Compromise for eighteen months were ready to foreswear continued attacks in 1852. They signaled that resignation during the organization of the House and during the Senate debates on Foote's resolution, from which they assiduously abstained in order to avoid saying anything whatsoever about slavery or the Compromise. Again, southern Whigs never fully trusted this abjural of antislavery agitation by northern Whigs, but it robbed both them and pro-Compromise northern Whigs of any pretext for bolting the party and encouraged them instead (p.679) to battle for control of its nominee and platform. With pro-Compromise Whigs and Democrats apparently comfortable in their old parties and the existing Union parties disintegrating with each passing day, hopes for a national Union party in 1852 expired. As Webster's long-time nemesis, Boston Customs Collector Philip Greely, Jr., jeered in reference to Webster's boasts of forming a Union party with himself at its head, “Uncle Dan is a dead man, & upon a dead horse.”21


Southern Whig congressmen did not abandon the Whig party in December 1851 because of the contrast between House Whigs' initial caucus on the morning of Monday, December 1, and its Democratic counterpart the preceding Saturday night. Spurred on by Toombs, southern Whigs planned to introduce finality resolutions at the caucus and to bolt when the northern Whig majority rejected them. Webster knew and approved of this scheme, as did Silver Grays like New York's James Brooks, since they fully expected the breakup to drive pro-Compromise Whigs into the Union party.22 The surprising result of the Democratic caucus, however, abruptly altered southern Whigs' plans.

To lure Southern Rights and Free Soil Democrats back into the party fold for the presidential campaign, Democrats tabled finality resolutions sought by pro-Compromise men, arguing that the Democratic national convention, not a House caucus, should enunciate party principles. Whatever the excuse, Democrats' action suddenly raised for southern Whigs the irresistible prospect of making the 1852 presidential campaign in Dixie a replay of the 1850 and 1851 congressional races when they donned the pro-Compromise, pro-Union mantle and pilloried Democrats as soreheaded agitators and outright secessionists. To make this case, of course, southern Whigs first required the adoption of their own finality resolution by the Whig caucus, and to the astonishment of politicians in and outside Washington, the Whig caucus passed it on a voice vote with barely a murmur of dissent. Only hours later, both Brooks and Cabell taunted Democrats on the House floor that Whigs, including the majority of northern Whigs, now were clearly a safer pro-Compromise party than the Democrats.23

Exactly what occurred at the Whig caucus may never be known. Reporters were barred and no attendance was recorded, nor were votes or speeches. The best source, the angry debate on the House floor that same day, is filled with conflicting claims about its size, composition, and significance. Union and Southern Rights Whigs from Georgia and Alabama boycotted the meeting, and only a fraction of the remaining eighty-six Whigs showed up.24 How big that fraction was and how many Northerners it contained are unclear. The safest conclusion is that the caucus attracted about half of the Whig members, that few Northerners dissented openly on the voice vote, and that those who disliked the finality resolution silently allowed it to pass in order to preserve Whig unity for the impending election.25

Whatever their satisfaction with the caucus vote, southern Whigs knew that it alone could not undergird another pro-Compromise campaign in 1852. They demanded a presidential candidate openly committed to finality. “We are willing to take a northern man,” wrote Tennessee's Whig Governor William B. Campbell, (p.680) but only one “who is undoubted on the compromise.” Throughout 1851, indeed, their newspapers had repeatedly vowed that southern Whigs could support no one for president in 1852 except a forthright Union man who, according to the New Orleans Bulletin, “must avow himself boldly and openly, as have FILLMORE and WEBSTER, the friend and staunch advocate of the compromise as a final settlement of all the questions connected with slavery.” “This,” echoed the Memphis Eagle, “is a sine qua non with every man in the South.”26

By the end of 1851, Fillmore and Webster were virtually the only possibilities considered by most southern Whigs. Unlike 1848, 1844, 1839, or 1836, they lacked a slaveholding favorite son. Taught by Taylor in any event that even a slaveholder could take antisouthern stances, southern Whigs insisted on platform commitments in 1852. They gravitated to Fillmore and Webster because both personified the platform they wanted—an irrefutable commitment to enforcement of the fugitive slave law and to finality. What Southerners meant by finality was quite specific: no renewed efforts to have Congress bar slavery from any territories, prevent the admission of new slave states carved out of them, or change one word of the Fugitive Slave Act, and an insistence that further agitation of the slavery question by anyone, North or South, would not be tolerated. Almost all southern Whigs, moreover, considered Fillmore a far more reliable exemplar of these tenets than Webster.

Southern Whigs admired Webster's role in passing the Compromise in 1850 and in defending it and the Union in speech after speech thereafter. They never doubted his unshakable commitment to retention and enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act. They cheered his defiance of northern antislavery elements in the party. Nonetheless, southern Whigs never completely trusted Webster. Some recalled his flirtation with Massachusetts' Conscience Whigs in the mid -1840s, when he strongly opposed Texas' annexation and slavery extension. Others remembered his Federalist background and his lifelong devotion to Massachusetts' manufacturing and mercantile interests. Most important, Southerners cited Webster's speech in Buffalo in the summer of 1851, when he was trying to court the Sewardites and Weed men. The territorial provisions of the Compromise together with climate, he assured his Buffalo audience, guaranteed that no additional slave states would ever be added to the Union. To southern Whigs this remark rendered Webster not only unelectable but undeserving of election.27

Fillmore, in contrast, was regarded as sound. He had committed himself to finality in his annual message of December 1850 and again in December 1851. Ignoring Hamilton Fish's pleas to recommend revision of the Fugitive Slave Act, in that latter message he ringingly reaffirmed his determination to enforce it and castigated its opponents as enemies of the Constitution itself. What a North Carolinian said of Whigs in his state, therefore, applied to the entire South: “all are for Fillmore.” During the spring of 1852 Whig state conventions in Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana endorsed him, as did less official Whig assemblages in the Union states of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. And in March, Henry Clay, now mortally ill, took one final stab at his old rival Webster and urged Whigs to nominate Fillmore in a public letter to a New York newspaper.28

If southern Whigs overwhelmingly preferred Fillmore's nomination by the end of 1851, neither then nor later did Fillmore actively seek it. Since entering the presidency in 1850, he had refused even to discuss the 1852 race other than to (p.681) forbid the allotment of patronage to benefit any aspirant for the party's nomination, a policy Webster found maddeningly restrictive. When the Boston mass meeting nominated Webster in November 1851, Fillmore told Everett he did not care a whit who the Whig candidate was so long as he was devoted to the Union, and Fillmore clearly considered all the most often mentioned possibilities—Webster, Crittenden, and Scott—to be in that category. Thus he concluded that he could bow out. In November and December, Fillmore told both his cabinet and Buffalo editor Thomas Foote that he would publicly announce his withdrawal. Only pleas from Alexander H. H. Stuart that an announcement could hurt Whig chances in Virginia's December gubernatorial election prevented Fillmore from saying so in his annual message. As insiders and reporters correctly stated, he postponed his withdrawal until January.29

Meanwhile, pro-Compromise Whigs from both sections pleaded with Fillmore to remain in the race. Consciously or unwittingly, they played on Fillmore's love of the Whig party and his determination to commit it to finality. Only Fillmore could possibly carry Iowa and Indiana for the Whigs, argued correspondents from each. John Ashmead, the U.S. attorney in Philadelphia and a Native American, swore that Fillmore was the only Whig whom that third party would back and thus the only Whig who could win Pennsylvania. “The idea of Genl Scott carrying the state of Pennsylvania is preposterous,” declared Ashmead. “He cannot receive one Native American vote.”30

Putting the Whig party on proper ground, declared his petitioners, necessitated Fillmore's candidacy. If Fillmore withdrew, Alabama's Hilliard warned, the Union party would make a separate nomination that could end any hope of reunifying the party or winning the election. More than that, as Fillmore well knew, independent action by the Union party would keep Whigs from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and possibly other southern states from attending the Whigs' national convention. Without full southern participation, the chances of adopting a pro-Compromise platform were remote.31

His closest allies from New York echoed that message. Seward and the other managers of Winfield Scott's candidacy, they charged, wanted to impose an anti-Compromise platform on the party that would drive Southerners from it. According to Fillmore's friends, antislavery Whigs had given up on 1852, but they hoped to blame the defeat on southern Whigs' refusal to support the party's candidate in order to gull angry northern Whigs into joining a new, exclusively northern, antislavery party by 1856, when Seward himself expected to run. The only way to foil this scheme, Fillmore was told, was to get enough pro-Compromise delegates at the convention to adopt the right kind of platform. Yet pro-Compromise Whigs would never battle to control the district conventions that selected delegates if Fillmore withdrew, for his withdrawal would guarantee Scott's nomination and pro-Compromise Whigs' exclusion from federal jobs if he won. Only the promise of patronage down the road from a new Fillmore administration could guarantee the grass-roots effort necessary to succeed. Only a majority of delegates, in sum, could produce the kind of platform Fillmore wanted, and only the hope of making Fillmore the nominee could bring enough right-minded delegates from the North and South to secure it.32

These pleas did the job. Convinced, as he later wrote, that his withdrawal “would not only endanger the perpetuity of those measures, which I deemed so essential to the peace and welfare of the country, but would sacrifice many friends (p.682) who had stood by my Administration,” Fillmore had the Republic refute the rumors that he intended to withdraw. He would “sacrifice” his own wishes for the “cause” of committing the party to the end of sectional agitation.33 Yet behind this decision lay a more pragmatic consideration. Fillmore's correspondents flatly and repeatedly told him that Webster by himself could never stop Winfield Scott from winning the nomination. If Scott ran without a pro-Compromise platform, it would forever shatter the Whig party, since Scott, as Fillmore knew, was anathema to southern Whigs.34

Many southern Whigs revered Scott's achievements as a soldier. He was, after all, a legitimate hero of two wars, and while his partisan opponents tagged him with the sarcastic sobriquet of “Old Fuss and Feathers,” his admirers alternated between “Old Chippewa” in reference to the War of 1812 and “Old Chapultepec” in reference to his capture of Mexico City.35 It was not Scott himself, but his northern advocates, notorious opponents of the Compromise and the fugitive slave law like Seward, Johnston, and Ben Wade, whom southern Whigs feared and detested. From their point of view, Seward, author of the hateful “higher law” doctrine, had bewitched Zachary Taylor into betraying the South, and Scott, no matter how imposing physically and professionally, would simply be putty in Seward's demonic hands. “Not one Southern state would cast its vote for him,” warned the Savannah Republican. “The fact that he comes forward under the auspices of Mr. Seward of New York and Gov. Johnston of Pennsylvania … is enough to damn him to utter defeat in this section of the Confederacy.” As Tennessee's Whig Congressman Christopher H. Williams warned in January, moreover, “If Genl Scott should be the Whig nominee … the Whig party as a national party will be forever disbanded.” Scott's nomination, in short, might not only ensure Whig defeat, but it would also convert the party into an exclusively northern, antislavery party, exactly what Fillmore and his conservative New York allies had long dreaded. The need to avert that disaster and keep Southerners in the party is what ultimately persuaded Fillmore to “sacrifice” his inclinations for the good of the “cause.”36


If southern Whigs gravitated to Fillmore in order to perpetuate the platform they had ridden to victories in 1850 and 1851, most northern Whigs seized on Winfield Scott to rectify the problems that had caused their own defeats in those years. Even Whigs like Horace Greeley, who considered Scott a pompous fool, had concluded by February 1851 that “we must run Scott for President, and I hate it” because only Scott seemed capable of diverting attention from embarrassments that plagued northern Whigs in 1850 and 1851 and of bypassing still other obstacles that loomed ahead in 1852. Democrats who understood that pro-Scott Whigs wanted “to reduce the [presidential] contest to a personal struggle” between Scott and his Democratic opponent were right. Scott's proponents expected a campaign based on men, not measures, and they were convinced that “Scott & Scott alone is the man for the emergency.”37

Scott had no connection to the quarrels over patronage and the Compromise that produced earlier defeats. In addition, his presumed popularity as a military (p.683) hero could counteract the defeatism and demoralization that threatened Whig success. Reuniting the party by ignoring previous quarrels, reviving Whig spirits, energizing the rank and file, and mobilizing non-Whigs, especially in the North, were the central concerns of Scott's proponents. Only making a fresh start with a fresh face like Scott seemed to offer an antidote to past ills.

Truman Smith, for example, repeatedly faulted “the utter want of tact & skill displayed by our Whig statesmen when in power” for producing Whig electoral defeats, but he also cited the stigma of corruption tainting Taylor's administration. And to Whigs' horror, even Fillmore's official family became mired in muck when the details of the spurious Gardiner claim and Treasury Secretary Corwin's involvement in securing its payment were exposed in 1851.38 Given the odium of both previous Whig administrations, Smith and others believed that the party must find a presidential candidate with no official connection to either of them. Hence Smith believed that uniting behind Scott offered Whigs their only chance of victory. Scott had served as interim secretary of war under Fillmore during July and August 1850 when Fillmore could find no civilian to take that post. Unlike Webster and other cabinet members, or Fillmore himself, however, he distributed no jobs and was untarnished by scandal. His reputation rested on his triumphant military career; he was Mr. Clean.

Scott's status as outsider also might heal intraparty quarrels over the Compromise. Just as Whigs in 1848 sought a candidate with no record on the Wilmot Proviso to hold both northern and southern Whigs behind him, Scott's supporters wanted a nominee who had taken no public stance on the Compromise. Yet beyond this negative asset—no record that offended either pro-Compromise or anti-Compromise Whigs—Scott's supporters counted heavily on his personal popularity to mobilize the largest vote possible. When they declared “that the only platform we can fight upon in the North is Scott, Scott alone,” northern Whigs meant more than a rejection of southern Whigs' demand for an explicit platform commitment to finality, although they indeed meant that too. They recognized that no platform could help Whigs, for old issues seemed obsolete and emerging matters of popular concern too divisive to rouse Whig voters from their defeatism and lethargy. Had Whigs believed that they could mobilize the electorate with an issue-oriented campaign, Scott's nomination would not have seemed so vital. Only the conviction that northern Whigs lacked a decisive edge on any issue made Scott's nomination seem indispensable.39

Scott's proponents believed that the North held the key to victory in 1852. Certain southern states—Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina—seemed untakable by Whigs, they themselves hailed primarily from free states, and the North had 176 electoral votes to the South's 120. As would happen eight years later, a party could amass an electoral vote majority without a single southern elector, and some of Scott's proponents, like Boston editor William Schouler, spoke in 1851 of electing him exclusively with northern votes so that he “owed nothing to the South.” Saner advocates like Smith admitted the need for some southern support. Nonetheless, he believed that Scott, if nominated, could get 133 of the 149 electoral votes necessary to win from Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana and that he also had a good shot at carrying normally Democratic Maine, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan. In contrast, Smith argued, neither (p.684) Fillmore nor Webster, who had been millstones dragging down the northern Whig party in 1850 and 1851, could garner more than seventy-five electoral votes.40

Scott's supporters thus pinned their hopes on the region where Whigs had done worst in 1850 and 1851. Since 1848, Taylor's margins of victory in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania had been wiped out by Whig losses and Democratic gains, and Whigs had fallen even further behind the Democrats in Maine, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. To sweep most of the North, as Scott's supporters asserted that he and he alone could do, Whigs counted on remobilizing Whig voters who for one reason or another had abstained since 1848 and on adding to them to counteract Democratic gains during that interval.

To do so, most Whigs knew they could not count on the elements that had brought northern successes in 1848. In many states that year, most significantly New York, they had benefited from Free Soil incursions into the Democratic vote. By 1852, however, many of those Democratic bolters had already returned to the party fold, and Democratic leaders were frantically rounding up the remaining strays. Fillmore's friends George Babcock and Thomas Foote, for example, believed that no Whig could carry New York in 1852 because the Barnburners and Hunkers had reunited.41 In 1848 Native American voters had provided Whigs' edge in Pennsylvania, and while many of Scott's advocates did not yet believe nativists' angry vows never to support him, they knew that openly courting them in 1852, as they had in 1848, would alienate two vital constituencies. One was the regular Whigs who had rallied behind Senator James Cooper, who fumed over the patronage given nativists, and who abstained or defected in 1851 in order to defeat Johnston's reelection bid. The other was the burgeoning immigrant vote, which everyone knew would be a central factor in 1852.

Most important, Whigs realized that their northern victories in 1848 had stemmed from their ability to mobilize Whig voters disenchanted with Taylor's nomination by promising that they would pass and Taylor would sign the Wilmot Proviso and by resurrecting attacks on Democratic economic policies when the economy slumped during the fall of 1848. In 1852, however, neither of those issues was available. Imposition of the Wilmot Proviso on territories seemed a dead letter to all but fanatical antislavery men, and, for reasons to be explained below, most—though hardly all—of Scott's northern backers thought it counterproductive to agitate against the Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Act that year. As New York Governor Washington Hunt, admittedly a moderate but nonetheless a strong proponent of Scott's nomination, put it, “For one I am ready to proclaim that our action as a party has no more to do with Southern niggers than it had fifteen years ago.”42 Of greater moment here, with each passing month in 1852, more and more Whigs recognized that they could not use economic issues that year or perhaps ever again.


By 1852, diverse developments had rendered much of the Whigs' traditional economic program obsolete and blurred the distinction between them and Democrats on the few remaining economic questions requiring governmental action. Whigs (p.685) always contended that economic growth and prosperity demanded the positive governmental intervention that they alone advocated. By their logic, the atomized American economy lacked the concentration of private capital necessary to diversify and expand. Thus government must supply investment capital directly through subsidies to large projects like canal and railroad construction or else facilitate its accumulation in private hands by chartering banks and other corporations, by limiting stockholder liability to increase people's willingness to buy stock, and by encouraging investment in manufacturing and mining with protective tariffs.

To Whigs, banks and tariffs were integrally linked as the keys to prosperity, for the oil that lubricated the engine of economic growth was credit. Individuals' ability to borrow beyond their existing resources and to use those loans to transport products, start businesses, pay workers' weekly wages, buy land to farm, and earn the profits from which to repay loans generated expansion and opened opportunity for upward mobility. Banks and businesses provided the necessary credit, and since the specie resources of the United States were limited, it came primarily in the form of paper bank notes, bills of exchange secured by goods in transit, and promissory notes.

The credibility of those paper devices ultimately depended on assurance that they could, if necessary, be redeemed in specie. Thus the supply of credit and interest rates for it ultimately depended on the nation's specie reserves. That is why Whigs regarded the tariff as so crucial. To them the biggest threat to the nation's specie reserves and thus to the availability of credit was an unfavorable balance of foreign trade. If the value of imports exceeded the value of exports, Whigs believed, specie would be drained abroad, and credit, the economy's lubricant, would dry up. Hence protective tariffs did more than shelter American manufacturers, mine operators, and workers from foreign competition. By limiting imports, they also slowed the exodus of specie and preserved the credit supply that freed men to pursue their economic ambitions beyond the limits of their restricted individual financial capacities.

Most Democrats, of course, had always castigated this program as baneful and unnecessary. They viewed credit from its dark flip side, as debt, as a trap rather than a release. They denounced its public form—bonds—as a burden on taxpayers and its private forms as threats to individual autonomy, as insidious inducements to self-enslavement. They attacked banks and other corporations as privileged monsters that violated the principle of equal rights before the law. They vilified paper money as a cheat and a fraud. They dismissed protective tariffs as pandering to manufacturers, who would inevitably raise prices to unjust and unjustifiable levels if shielded from foreign competition. What is more, they denied that active government intervention into the private economic sector was necessary to achieve growth or enhance the public welfare. “There is, perhaps, no more dangerous heresy taught in our land than that the prosperity of the country is to be created by its legislation,” intoned Pennsylvania's Democratic Governor William Bigler in his inaugural message of 1852. “The people should rely on their own individual efforts, rather than the mere measures of government for success.”43

To Whigs' chagrin, by 1852 Bigler's analysis seemed correct. Since 1849 the economy had been soaring even without Whigs' governmental programs, primarily because of a huge increase in the specie supply fueled by the California (p.686) gold strikes and by truly unprecedented British investment in the American economy. Thus, while the value of imports continued to exceed that of exports, as Fillmore noted in his December 1851 annual message, the total international flow of funds favored the Americans.44 Much of the British investment, in turn, went into railroad stocks and bonds, funding a spectacular construction boom that tripled the amount of track in operation from 6,000 to 18,000 miles between 1849 and 1854. Railroad construction itself had important stimulative multiplier effects. It provided markets for and thereby revived the previously prostrate iron and coal industries. It gave jobs to at least some among the swelling tide of European immigrants. It allowed cheaper and faster movement of agricultural goods and thus increased the productive acreage and profits of farmers.

Together these and other developments undercut the rationale for Whigs' program and eliminated many of the specific issues Democrats and Whigs had fought over since 1837. The huge new supplies of specie, for example, ended all talk about the pernicious impact of the Independent Treasury system. Simultaneously, they rendered moot many of the old quarrels over banking and paper bank notes, for now there was ample specie to back notes. As a result, Democrats' traditional aversion to banking and credit softened, a fact evidenced by substantial Democratic support for free banking acts in midwestern legislatures and increased demands from Democrats for the chartering of more banks in states like Pennsylvania. To be sure, many Democratic editors and politicians such as Pennsylvania's Governor Bigler clung to the old Jacksonian faith and continued to denounce banks, paper money, and special privilege. Nonetheless, in state after state, partisan combat over old banking questions waned perceptibly, and even Whigs pooh-poohed the idea of a new national bank.45

Similarly, the railroad boom reduced old partisan disputes over the funding of internal improvements. While some of the earlier roads had been built at state expense, almost all railroads since the mid-1840s were private corporations, not public enterprises built with state funds, as canals had been. The necessity of securing charters, rights of way, and other privileges from state legislatures put railroads on the policy agendas of office-holders, but almost everywhere the competition for state favors pitted locality against locality or company against company, not party against party. Similarly, the lack of state funding did not mean that railroads relied entirely on private financing. Public support, however, usually took the form of investment by local rather than state governments, and those local bond issues or bond endorsements usually had bipartisan backing. In Congress, state legislatures, and city councils, Democrats proved just as enthusiastic about railroads as Whigs.

Prosperity also nullified Whig attacks on the low Walker Tariff. The unprecedented supplies of gold destroyed the argument that protection was necessary to secure credit supplies. Railroad construction and other business activity provided ample markets for iron manufacturers and coal miners; indeed, since the American iron industry did not yet have the rolling mill capacity to meet the demand for rails, anyone with a stake in the rapid construction of roads—and such people, ranging from stockholders to potential customers, numbered in the hundreds of thousands—had a stake in keeping the duties on foreign rails low. By the early 1850s, large textile firms also considered high duties unnecessary and counterproductive in that they only encouraged smaller, less efficient competitors to enter (p.687) the business. All in all, the Whig demand for higher tariffs had also become moot.46

In the late 1840s and early 1850s, new state constitutions further eroded partisan conflict over economic questions by restricting state indebtedness and aid to internal improvements, mandating general incorporation acts that ended conflict over special charters, encouraging legislatures to pass free banking acts that had the same effect, and substituting biannual for annual legislative sessions, thereby halving the opportunity for partisan confrontation. As a result, partisan combat over most economic questions in both Congress and state legislatures declined appreciably from the starkly polarized levels of the 1840s. This trend appeared in the Thirty-First Congress and would be even clearer in the Thirty-Second. Some economic questions in certain states, like New York's Nine Million Loan, continued to engender sharp interparty conflict, and the rate at which levels of partisan disagreement sank between 1848 and 1854 varied from state to state. Nonetheless, from Louisiana to Wisconsin, from North Carolina to Connecticut and New Hampshire, party differences on economic policies diminished.47

By early 1852 Whigs admitted that prosperity had apparently blunted the need for their programs, thereby spiking a once powerful gun for that year's presidential campaign. Even Whigs' public statements implied surrender. In his December 1851 message, Fillmore again alluded—briefly and perfunctorily—to the need for tariff revision and to the constitutionality of federal internal improvements. But he conceded that people had been blinded to the need for these policies by the plenitude of gold pouring out of California. Kentucky's Whig state platform in February, written by Henry Clay's old friend Leslie Combs, chorused Whigs' traditional refrain about protecting American labor but entirely omitted the words “tariff” and “duties.” Virginia's state Whig platform in April flatly opposed protective tariffs and condemned lavish federal internal improvements. And in June, Whigs' national platform said absolutely nothing about banking and currency, defended the constitutionality but made no case for the urgency of congressional aid to rivers and harbors improvements, and adopted a milk-and-water tariff plank that Democrats accurately hooted was now identical to their own. Absent from it was any reference to the special needs of northern manufacturers, the threat of foreign pauper labor, the desirability of specific rather than ad valorem duties, or the need to reduce imports to protect credit.48

In November 1851, Wisconsin's Nathaniel P. Tallmadge privately outlined the obviation of Whigs' economic issues with stunning acuity. Pointing, as Fillmore would, to the huge excess of imports over exports as a reason why a protective tariff would at some point again be necessary to fend off “disastrous results,” he admitted, “The famine in Ireland by reason of the demand for our breadstuffs, mitigated the evils of the tariff of 1846, and when that ceased the evil day was put off by the discovery of California gold. This, with our Government stocks, state stocks, railroad stock etc. etc. etc. which are sent abroad, may put it off still farther.” The United States had to have a much higher tariff, echoed Ohio's Ben Wade to his wife. “But this will never be done until a fatal breakdown brings men to their senses. And this would have happened long ago, except for the enormous quantities of gold from California.” Whigs and Democrats now stood so close together on the issues of tariffs and internal improvements, a New Orleans Whig told Fillmore in February 1852, that in the approaching campaign (p.688) “many of the issues that have heretofore been made will scarcely be mooted at all.”49

Other Whigs believed that prosperity permanently rendered Whigs' whole approach to governance obsolete and wiped out forever disputes that had justified the Whig and Democratic parties' existence. “The real grounds of difference upon important political questions no longer correspond with party lines,” the young Cincinnati Whig Rutherford B. Hayes wrote in his diary in September 1852. “Politics is no longer the topic of this country. … Government no longer has its ancient importance. … The people's progress, progress of every sort, no longer depends on government.” Daniel Barringer's brother, a resident of Baltimore, sounded the same note in early 1853. Bankers who were investing in railroads, he reported, “say that never before has the world been so largely and regularly supplied with gold.” Therefore, “the great dividing lines between the two old parties are fast melting away” and “issues formerly momentous are now of comparatively trifling importance.”50

Democrats also noted “the rapid approximation of Whig doctrines” to their own on economic questions. “There is now nothing but the name left to distinguish Democrats from Whigs,” New York Barnburner Jabez Hammond informed Seward in November 1851. John Van Buren, the former president's son, also predicted that the impending presidential campaign would be issueless, a “dreary waste of petty plans, personal schemes, and small dodges,” not “great questions” on which rival “parties took sides,” as in earlier elections.51

Soaring prosperity thus spiked the heaviest artillery of northern Whigs, who felt enormous pressure to bring their voters back to the polls and to mobilize new recruits to offset Democratic gains since 1848. To many, therefore, only a presidential candidate who could arouse voters on his own, without an economic platform, seemed to offer hope. New Jersey's Whigs, for example, wanted a candidate who diverted voters' attention from their bumbling inability to handle emerging state issues dealing with economic reform in 1850 and 1851. They therefore sent a solid Scott delegation to the Whigs' national convention.52

Indiana also illustrates the desperation that turned northern Whigs to Scott. In October 1852 (the date of state elections had been changed from August by the new state constitution) Indiana's Whigs had to run against popular incumbent Democratic Governor Joe Wright. Without any issues to ride, Whigs considered Wright invincible, and thus their first choice for gubernatorial candidate, Henry S. Lane, flatly spurned pleas from the state convention and the Whig legislative caucus that he run. Without issues, he repeated, the race was hopeless. Similarly, the party's preferred candidate for the state supreme court refused on the grounds that it would be “ruinous” even to enter a state ticket against a Wright-led Democratic slate. “Think of the excitement that will exist next Oct.,” he complained. “The Presidential election approaching—every bog-trolling Irishman in the land voting—the Whigs in the minority by more than 10,000. The Democrats straining every nerve to carry the State elections in order to come, like so many victorious troops, to the battle for President. … What can any Whig hope under the circumstances?” Unsurprisingly, therefore, Indiana's Whig state convention in February 1852 chose national convention delegates and a slate of presidential electors pledged to Scott, even though almost all delegates to that convention (p.689) were pro-Compromise and wanted “to quiet agitation” by “saying nothing about slavery” in their state platform.53


If proponents of Scott's nomination hoped to substitute his personal popularity for now defunct economic issues, they also sought to divert attention from troubling new social issues percolating into the public arena in the early 1850s. By far the most important was the escalating crusade against liquor. For decades temperance associations had sought to reduce the consumption of alcoholic beverages, but they had relied primarily on moral suasion to convince tipplers to renounce strong drink. When they resorted to state authority, it usually took the form of local option licensing laws to regulate the number of taverns, inns, and “groceries” that sold liquor by the drink. By taxing those who sold booze, they sought to reduce consumption by raising its cost. The passage of the famous Maine Law in 1851, however, drastically ratcheted up the use of state police power, for that statute mandated a statewide ban on the manufacture, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Maine's example inspired temperance forces elsewhere to seek similar legislation.

Agitation for state-imposed prohibition laws swept across the North by the end of 1851 and appeared in some slave states as well. Reformers flooded legislatures with demands to emulate Maine's model, interrogated candidates from all parties as to how they stood on the issue, and, ominously, vowed to vote for no one, regardless of party affiliation, who opposed passage of the law. Boasting that a petition signed by 130,000 people was forcing Indiana's legislature to consider a Maine Law, one Whig declared, “Why, many of us no more think of voting for any man, unless he be right on this question, than we would vote for a free negro.” Prohibition “bids fair to eradicate for a time all party lines,” echoed a frantic Whig from Geneva, New York, in March 1852. “The Temperance question is far more important to the people of this State than any other that agitates the public mind,” chorused another New York Whig in August. Whigs and Democrats alike would vote “for temperance men only,” regardless of “the consequences” to “the two political parties.”54

Temperance had, in fact, never been a strictly partisan issue. Both Whig and Democratic parties encompassed its proponents and opponents, and votes concerning strong drink in state legislatures prior to the 1850s were usually nonpartisan.55 Party leaders usually avoided official party stances on the divisive liquor question, and the fissures in Maine's Democratic party over that state's liquor law amply confirmed the wisdom of this hands-off posture. By 1851, however, zealous prohibitionists would no longer tolerate neutrality; they demanded open commitments from the parties and threatened to run their own independent candidates if they did not get them. Northern Whigs proved especially vulnerable to such pressure because their core electorate, the self-defined “respectable” middle classes who prided themselves on their sobriety, their female-centered home life, and their regular attendance at Protestant churches, enthusiastically took up the cry for prohibition.

(p.690) The Whig constituency, however, included a number of groups who opposed prohibition—merchants, innkeepers, and liquor dealers; farmers who sold products to breweries and distilleries or simply converted apple crops into hard cider; men from all socioeconomic classes who enjoyed a drink; and independent thinkers who believed state governments had no business telling people what they could and could not consume. If prohibition became an issue in the 1852 elections, as seemed likely at the start of the year, and if Whigs endorsed it in platforms or established a partisan record on it with their votes in legislatures, they could alienate crucial supporters from the party.56

Connecticut's spring election dramatically illustrated prohibition's perils for Whigs. Sobered by the Democratic success in blaming Whigs for enforcing unpopular local license laws in 1850, Whigs, like Democrats, tried to duck prohibition in 1851 by ignoring calls from temperance organizations to take an official stance on the liquor question. Silence did not avert another Whig defeat that year, and in 1852 Whigs decided to reverse course again. By then, Connecticut's Whigs had renounced any thought of running against the Compromise, and state economic issues were quiescent. At the close of the 1851 legislative session, however, Democratic Governor Thomas Seymour pocket-vetoed a measure to call a referendum on prohibition. With Seymour heading the Democratic ticket again in 1852 and Democrats still refusing to answer inquiries from Maine law proponents, Whigs decided openly to court dries.57

Although the Whigs' platform said nothing about the Maine Law, their gubernatorial candidate, Green Kendrick, was an ardent prohibitionist, and Whig legislators had strongly supported the referendum bill in 1851. When Whig legislative candidates in 1852 pledged to support the Maine Law, therefore, temperance groups publicly endorsed them; in response, the Democratic press came out vigorously against state-imposed prohibition. Former Senator Roger Sherman Baldwin, among other Whigs, questioned the wisdom of their party's new tack. While the influence of the new issue “baffles calculations on both sides,” he warned, “past experience has generally shown that the Whigs are the greatest losers when any new issue of this sort is brought into the election.”58

April's election results further convinced Baldwin that “the Maine law issue operated as such collateral issues generally do, very much against the Whigs.” For the first time since 1843, Democrats won the governorship with an absolute majority of the vote. Seymour's total increased by 1,600 votes (5.3 percent) between 1851 and 1852, while the Whig total dropped by 515. These shifts widened the margin Democrats had already gained over Whigs from 1,300 to 3,400 in a state Taylor had carried. Statistical analysis suggests that almost one-sixth of the 1851 Whig voters either defected to the Democrats or refused to vote when the party embraced prohibitionism. Whigs partially compensated for these losses because they outrecruited Democrats among previous nonvoters by a four-to-one margin. Nonetheless, the losses were substantial, and according to Baldwin they came not in cities, where he expected them, but from farmers who sold hard cider. That fact was reflected in the legislative races, where Democrats captured the senate and widened their house majority from four to twenty-eight seats. Whatever the sources of the shifting voters, Whigs knew that prohibitionism had been political poison. “We have been defeated” more thoroughly than “for many (p.691) years,” moaned the Hartford Courant, because of “the introduction into the canvass of a side issue—of a question that was merely moral in its bearing.”59

In early 1852, few people expected prohibition to be directly at stake in the impending presidential campaign. Regulating alcoholic consumption fell squarely within the jurisdiction of state and local governments, not national authorities. Nonetheless, voters wishing to reward or punish parties for their stands on it at the state level could influence the presidential turnout in November. Whigs' experience in Connecticut (and in New Hampshire, where Whigs also suffered losses that spring after embracing prohibition) signaled that courting dries had significant costs and that they needed a presidential candidate who could reawaken the enthusiasm of Whig voters alienated by that tactic. To many Connecticut Whigs, Scott appeared to be that man.60

Rewinning the allegiance of Whig wets offended by a pro-Maine Law stance, however, constituted far less than half of the problem posed by prohibitionism. The much graver danger, as most Whigs knew, was the political awakening of Irish and German immigrants. They might troop to the polls in unprecedented numbers in 1852 and vote Democratic in order to punish Whigs for what they regarded as intolerant and unconscionable attacks on cherished mores, as bigoted infringements on the individual liberties they had fled the Old World to secure.61

An anticipated surge in the immigrant vote loomed over all political calculations in 1852. Since 1846 almost half a million Europeans a year had entered the United States. Most were Irish or German, most were Catholic, and almost all settled in the North and border states. By 1852, those who had arrived in 1846 and 1847 could meet the five-year requirement for naturalization, and in any event, Whigs believed with some foundation, Democrats had long employed fraudulent naturalization to inflate their vote. In addition, several midwestern states like Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin allowed unnaturalized aliens to vote. For decades, most immigrants, except for British and Scots-Irish Protestants, traditionally voted Democratic when they bothered to vote at all. Despite Whig complaints during the 1840s, however, the majority of recent immigrants, whether from disinterest or ineligibility, had not participated in American elections. They were a sleeping giant waiting to be aroused.62

As astute Whigs realized, anger at holier-than-thou do-gooders trying to cut off immigrants' supplies of whisky and beer might be the prod that did so. In that event, as the results in New Hampshire and Connecticut indicated, Whigs would be the losers. Whereas opponents of prohibition abandoned the Whigs when they embraced it, dries among Democrats had shown little inclination to defect to the Whigs. That was why Baldwin warned that Whigs were always “the greatest losers” when such issues emerged. In sum, Whigs could never hope to mobilize a unified force of Maine Law advocates to counteract a surge of new immigrant voters toward the Democrats if prohibition remained an issue by the fall campaign. Far better, it seemed, to drop that hot potato and rely on their candidate's popularity.

Even if Whigs managed to shun the prohibitionist cause, however, they correctly expected an outpouring of new immigrant voters in 1852, and they knew that unless they cut into that vote, they were goners. In December 1851, indeed, something other than prohibition also aroused immigrants' political zeal, an event (p.692) that momentarily overshadowed the impending presidential campaign, only to be quickly sucked into its vortex. It altered the calculations of every Whig and Democratic presidential aspirant, illustrated the difficulty of formulating a programmatic appeal to potential new foreign-born voters without also alienating members of one's own party, aggravated sectional and factional divisions among Whigs, and ultimately forced them to seek different ways to woo newly politicized immigrants. The explosion that set off these shock waves was detonated on Saturday, December 6, when the Hungarian exile Louis (Lajos) Kossuth arrived in New York City.


Kossuth had led an attempt to win Hungarian independence from the Hapsburg Empire in Austria. When Russian troops intervened to help the Austrians crush the rebellion, Kossuth ignominiously fled to Turkey, leaving thousands of his followers to be mowed down by Austrian firing squads. In Turkey the sultan placed Kossuth's entourage under house arrest until they were “rescued” by an American naval vessel sent by order of Congress and carried to the United States. Despite Kossuth's unseemly abandonment of his troops, Americans considered him a hero, a freedom fighter, a Magyar George Washington.

Dapper and dashing, a splendid orator who dazzled crowds with his fluent English, the diminutive Kossuth ignited almost unprecedented excitement and adulation from celebrity-worshipping Americans. A Kossuth mania swept the East Coast even before he landed. Hundreds of thousands of people turned out to gawk at him in New York and other cities he visited, and they roared enthusiasm at his every word. Yet Americans expected that the grateful Kossuth, after accepting the applause of admiring crowds, would simply settle somewhere in the United States and enjoy the benefits of American liberty, as had so many other refugees from the revolutions of 1848. Kossuth instead turned out to be the most disruptive and politically embarrassing foreigner to set foot on American shores since Citizen Genet.63

Kossuth announced in his very first speeches in New York that he wanted Americans to contribute funds to reenergize the failed Hungarian revolt. More important, he demanded that the United States government recognize Hungarian independence; that it officially warn Russia not to intervene on the side of Austria when the fighting renewed or face American military intervention on the side of the Hungarians if it did; and that it send an American fleet to the eastern Mediterranean to give teeth to that ultimatum. As he had in England on the way to the United States, furthermore, Kossuth also suggested the formation of an Anglo-American alliance to help Hungary against Austria and Russia. In sum, Kossuth insisted that Americans renounce the traditions of neutrality and nonintervention in European affairs that had been the cornerstones of American foreign policy since Washington's administration, a policy that Fillmore and Webster had enforced so vigorously. What is more, by the hundreds of thousands, adoring crowds screamed their approval of everything he said.64

Even before Kossuth's arrival, Webster and other Whigs expected that Democrats would use him to revive their jingoistic program of spread-eagle expansionism (p.693) and to expose Whigs' supposed “timidity” in enforcing neutrality laws against filibusterers. In particular, they feared that Democrats' cries for intervention to help Europeans struggling for liberty against autocratic regimes would galvanize support from Irish and German immigrants. To counteract this potential Democratic appeal, Webster ordered his friends to have copies of his Hülsemann letter and a dinner speech he had given in Buffalo printed in German and distributed in the South and West. “They would suit the foreign population, I think, better than anything else,” he hoped. Yet even the bombastic Hülsemann letter paled next to the calls for direct intervention in Europe that Democratic presidential aspirants like Senators Lewis Cass and Stephen A. Douglas immediately raised after Kossuth spoke in New York. Thus the wildly enthusiastic reception Kossuth received seemed to give Democrats yet another advantage. As the pessimistic Winthrop put it, Kossuth's “advent” would “conspire with other circumstances in giving the Democracy an easy return to power.”65

Almost overnight, Kossuth threatened to inject a foreign policy question—intervention or nonintervention—into the center of the impending presidential race. According to Tennessee Whig Congressman William Cullom, a rare Southerner who advocated Scott's nomination, “This Compromise question will be a secondary element in the presidential canvass. … Other new and more immediate issues will enter the canvass such as intervention.” Kossuth seemed so popular, indeed, that Whigs could neither ignore him nor allow Democrats alone to side with him. As the Philadelphia Public Ledger put it, “Each party, each clique of each party, would appropriate the great Magyar as an electioneering machine for the next Presidency.” Kossuth, in short, did not displace the anticipated issues of the impending presidential campaign. He provided an issue; he filled a vacuum.66

Various contenders for the Whigs' nomination scrambled to align themselves with Kossuth so that Democrats alone did not bask in his reflected glory. Fillmore's supporters urged him to invite Kossuth to the White House even before the Hungarian landed in New York, and he later reluctantly did so. Webster's friends, too, wanted him to “take a strong hold of this Kossuth movement,” and Webster arranged for Foote to introduce a Senate resolution on December 7 that officially welcomed Kossuth to the United States and invited him to visit Washington.67

Webster quickly learned that Kossuth must be handled as gingerly as nitroglycerin. As secretary of state, Webster dared not endorse Kossuth's demands that Americans abandon neutrality and nonintervention. Equally important, the Senate debate provoked by Foote's resolution of welcome and roll-call votes on inviting Kossuth to address Congress starkly exposed Southerners' nearly unanimous hostility to the Magyar and his cause. Rhetorical endorsement of rebellions for liberty frightened Southerners, who worried about setting a precedent for government intervention on behalf of abolition or slave rebellion in the South. When Congress eventually arranged a public dinner for Kossuth, therefore, Southerners, led by Georgia's Stephens, engineered a counter dinner to reaffirm their commitment to Washington's doctrine of nonintervention in European affairs. Consequently, as soon as Southerners protested Foote's original motion, Webster, fearful of further alienating Southerners, had Foote withdraw it.68

Webster's temporary retreat allowed Scott's managers to cash in on the Kossuth mania. As the army's highest-ranking officer, Scott himself dared not make (p.694) any public pronouncements about American foreign policy, especially since his commander-in-chief adamantly clung to neutrality and nonintervention. Indeed, Scott's supporters wanted him to make no public statements whatsoever. His propensity for malapropisms such as “fire in my rear” and “a hasty plate of soup” was notorious. Scott's managers rather than Scott himself, in sum, had to make the case for Scott's nomination. Of these, none was so important as Seward, with whom Scott was inextricably identified.69

Seward seized Kossuth's cause with gusto. His lieutenants in New York City, Henry J. Raymond and Simeon Draper, immediately took Kossuth under their wing when he arrived there, and other followers urged him to exploit Kossuth's popularity. Always a fervent champion of human freedom who had long sought to lure immigrants to the Whig column, Seward introduced his own joint resolution welcoming Kossuth to the United States. This quickly passed both houses of Congress before Kossuth aired his demands for a change in American foreign policy, but knowledge of Kossuth's agenda failed to deter Seward. Southerners might scream and Silver Grays like James Brooks might denounce Kossuth on the House floor, but Seward saw political points to be won, both for himself in the long run and for Scott in the near term.70 To embarrass conservative intraparty rivals, moreover, in December 1851 and again in January 1852, Seward delivered powerful speeches denouncing Russia's suppression of Hungarian independence as a blow to human freedom, but he carefully refrained from threatening that the United States would use force to stop such intervention in the future. Seward's friends were delighted by these orations, and Seward immediately arranged with New York printers to publish a million copies of them for distribution in the North and West, where immigrants were concentrated.71

By the time Kossuth reached Washington in late December after another tumultuous reception in Philadelphia, Whig leaders were divided over him, and everyone recognized the implications for the impending presidential campaign. Seeing a chance to win votes in the North, especially among immigrants, northern Scott men lavishly praised Kossuth's attempt to win political freedom. Fillmore, in contrast, was incensed that Kossuth publicly challenged his administration's foreign policy, acutely solicitous about not offending Austrian or Russian ministers any further, and embarrassed that he had invited Kossuth to the White House. When Webster finally brought Kossuth to meet him on the afternoon of December 31, therefore, Fillmore bluntly declared that the United States would never abandon neutrality and nonintervention so long as he was president. Angered by this rebuff, which Fillmore made sure the press printed, Kossuth addressed the House of Representatives a week later, urging it to ignore the president and to adopt the agenda he had set forth in New York. Southerners and Silver Grays had failed to stop the invitation to Kossuth to speak on January 7 and a congressional dinner in his honor that evening. But their warnings had effect. Kossuth's speech evoked only stony silence; any prospect that Congress would recognize Hungary, threaten Russia, or officially condemn Russia's actions in 1849 was dead.72

Webster, still hoping to benefit from Kossuth's popularity, sought a position between Seward's warm embrace and Fillmore's cold shoulder. Aware that he could not renounce nonintervention but also that the pro-Hungarian speeches of Seward and of Democrats had eclipsed his earlier Hülsemann letter, Webster (p.695) sought to refurbish his reputation as a champion of republican liberty. Telling Fillmore that he must attend the congressional dinner for Kossuth to defuse Democratic charges about the administration's insulting response to the Magyar, he joined Seward and Democrats like Cass and Douglas at the gathering and toasted the prospect of Hungarian independence without committing the United States to do anything that helped achieve it. Both Whig and Democratic politicos, sneered Baltimore's indignant Kennedy after the dinner, were engaged “in a ludicrous and disgusting competition for whatever amount of popularity they may be able to get out of the great Hungarian Pretender,” who refused to accept the refusal of Congress and the president to change America's foreign policy.73

Kossuth, indeed, would not take no for an answer. If the country's political leaders rejected his demands, he would go over their heads to the people. Five days after the congressional dinner, Kossuth left Washington to make a speaking tour of the West, where he hoped not only to raise money but also to arouse so much enthusiasm for intervention that the government would be forced to change course. Such a speaking tour could benefit only Democrats politically. Conservative and southern Whigs so heartily approved of Fillmore's rebuff to Kossuth that wooing foreign voters by praising him, as even Seward and Webster now recognized, would only further divide the party for the presidential campaign. Without official responsibility for foreign policy, Democrats, in contrast, could court foreign votes by promising to change it if they won the White House.74


One response to Kossuth, however, offered Whigs a different way to seek immigrant voters. Kossuth aroused immigrants even more than native-born Americans, but he also divided foreigners against each other. Recently arrived Germans saw in Kossuth a kindred spirit, but many Irishmen were infuriated by his proposed Anglo-American alliance. More important, before Kossuth left New York City for Washington but after Seward's speech praising him, Archbishop John Hughes, the nation's leading Roman Catholic prelate, denounced him. Seward's friends at first dismissed this criticism, but they soon realized that Kossuth outraged other Catholic clergymen as well as lay Catholics. As a Maryland Whig informed Fillmore, Kossuth's “appeal is to the Protestantism of the country to interfere by arms, if necessary, for the religious as well as the civil liberty of Hungary, against the Pope and the Jesuits.” Catholics, in short, viewed Kossuth's proposed war against the Hapsburg Empire as a war against their church.75

For every German who cheered Kossuth, therefore, a Catholic Irishman booed him. “Kossuth is taking the people by storm, and no mistake,” wrote one Philadelphia Democrat. “Our German people are crazy, and Bishop Hughes' denunciation of him is widening the break between the Irish & Germans.” From St. Louis to Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York City, Brooklyn, and Boston, the refrain was the same. Germans loved Kossuth, but “the Catholics here are Anti-Kossuth, to a man.”76

A personal friend of Hughes who had long championed Catholics' rights, Seward was embarrassed by Hughes' condemnation of Kossuth. Seward therefore immediately sought to right himself with those whom a Brooklyn ally called “the (p.696) bigoted Catholics, who did not approve of your advocacy of the noble and generous Magyar” by broadening his appeal to all immigrants. He supported resolutions of sympathy for Irish exiles who had been the target of British persecution and introduced a Senate bill to force merchant ship owners to improve the sanitary conditions of immigrant passengers.77

Other Whigs, however, decided that the best tack was to forget the Germans, whom Kossuth was turning against the Whigs by denouncing Fillmore's nonintervention policy, and to concentrate on the Irish, who hated Kossuth. Lew Campbell, a Whig congressman from Dayton, Ohio, and a major player in the Scott organization, for example, chided Boston editor Schouler for his overenthusiastic praise of Kossuth. Schouler must keep his eye on the ball, Campbell warned. Their top priority was to elect Scott. To win Ohio's Catholics for Scott, Campbell announced proudly, he had voted against the House resolution welcoming Kossuth, and that vote “shall tell in the fight for Old Lundy's Lane.”78

More than Irish Catholics' anger at Kossuth made Whigs believe their votes were takable in 1852. In Massachusetts, Boston's large Irish community, a mainstay of the Democratic coalition, chafed against Democrats' alliance with Free Soilers from western Massachusetts, who were notoriously anti-Irish, strongly pushed enactment of a Maine Law, and wanted to reduce Boston's representation in the legislature. Schouler, the target of Campbell's rebuke, relished the prospect of converting them to Whiggery in order to break up the Coalition. By backing a bill in the legislature to give alien immigrants equal rights with citizens to own real estate, Whigs “are fast becoming the Liberal party,” Schouler boasted to Seward. “The Irish in & about Boston all swear by me, and I like them.”79

Prohibition was the key issue to Boston's Irish, however. In 1851, Free Soil legislative candidates had campaigned for a Maine Law, and in the 1852 legislative session they, along with most Whigs and those Democrats who sought to preserve the Coalition, passed one, to the fury of the Irish, who now seemed even more likely to defect from the Democratic column. In hopes of holding both dries and the Irish in the subsequent gubernatorial campaign, Democrats nominated a Maine Law proponent for governor and a wet for lieutenant governor. In response, Whigs ran an opponent of the Maine law for governor and a temperance man for lieutenant governor. And if that did not suffice to bring Irish into the Whig column, Boston's Whigs circulated a separate ticket devoted to repeal of the recently passed Maine Law featuring the Whigs' gubernatorial candidate and the Democrats' nominee for lieutenant governor. Proponents of the new Maine Law countered with a separate prohibition ticket headed by Horace Mann, Free Soilers' gubernatorial candidate and an ardent prohibitionist, and the Whigs' candidate for lieutenant governor.80

The relevance of this tangled maneuvering over prohibition to the presidential campaign was that Schouler and other Massachusetts proponents of Scott's nomination believed that Scott could attract the alienated Irish without taking a stand one way or the other on liquor. Scott, after all, had commanded American troops in a war against England, Irishmen's archenemy. More important, Scott was believed to have particular appeal to Catholics.

Scott's supporters among Pennsylvania Whigs certainly counted on that appeal. Catholics among Pennsylvania's Democrats were furious with their traditional party because James Campbell, the Irish Catholic from Philadelphia, was (p.697) the only Democrat on the statewide ticket who lost in 1851. Even before the Kossuth mania further outraged Catholics, in short, Pennsylvania's Irish Catholic votes appeared to be up for grabs, and as a Webster supporter from Philadelphia wrote in March, “The Scott men here count on the Roman Catholic vote.” Precisely the vows of Pennsylvania's Irish Catholics that “they will never vote the Democratic party again,” indeed, made Scott's Pennsylvania supporters so heedless of Native Americans' threats never to support Scott, for Catholic voters far outnumbered Native Americans.81

Irish Catholics' anger at the Democratic party in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and other states like Illinois, of course, did not ensure that they would vote Whig in 1852.82 That is why most northern Whigs considered the nomination of “Scott & Scott alone” absolutely critical. An Episcopalian himself, Scott educated his two daughters in convents, and one converted to the Catholic faith and joined a nunnery. Scott also took particular care during his march across Mexico to prevent his troops from desecrating Catholic churches. To be sure, this record offended anti-Catholic bigots among Whigs, one of whom fulminated against “our military, sapheaded, Roman Catholic Scott,” who had “compelled the American Armies to prostrate themselves in the mud whenever a crucifix, or an idolatrous Doll Baby passed along,” and who would therefore “get every roman catholic vote in the United States.” Yet this presumed appeal to Catholics is precisely why his advocates wanted him nominated. Aware in the winter and spring of 1852 that the immigrant vote was bound to be larger in crucial northern states, fearful that Kossuth was arousing Germans against the Whigs in every city he visited, and certain that Whigs would be crushed if all immigrants went Democratic, they saw Scott's supposed popularity among Catholic immigrants as yet another reason why he offered Whigs their only hope.83


Convinced that with Scott “we can be successful” and that “without him we will be defeated,” and dismissing Fillmore and Webster as “dead dogs” who had dragged northern Whigs down to defeat in 1850 and 1851 and would do so again in 1852 unless displaced, Scott's supporters arrived in Washington in December 1851 supremely confident that he would win the nomination. They quickly organized a Scott club under the day-to-day management of Assistant Postmaster General Fitz Henry Warren and James Pike, the Maine newspaperman once again reporting for the New York Tribune. They began to proselytize among Whig congressmen. And they had Pike prepare a campaign biography. They of course knew of southern Whigs' antipathy toward Scott, but for a variety of reasons they tended to discount it—at least initially.84

For one thing, in December and January they believed that, if necessary, they could bulldoze Scott's nomination through over southern opposition. Like others, they did not expect any delegates from South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi at the Whig convention. Their absence would reduce the vote against Scott and, more important, the number of votes Scott needed for a majority. In addition, while Sewardites from New York never believed that Fillmore would not run, other Scott supporters accepted the accuracy of the rumors about his (p.698) intentions. Fillmore's withdrawal would leave the South without its preferred candidate and reduce the race for northern delegates to Scott and Webster, and as they counted noses among Whig congressmen, they concluded that “no body” favored Webster. If Fillmore threw in the towel, in short, Scott would win in a walk.85

Most Scott men, however, wanted Southerners to support, or at least acquiesce in, Scott's nomination. Even after they learned that Fillmore was not withdrawing, they evinced confidence that they could get that backing by arguing that only Scott could win enough electoral votes, especially in the North, to bring victory. As Philip Greely of Boston put it in March, “I trust that our Southern friends will soon begin to see ‘that success is worth more than pride.’ We can succeed if they will come in cordially to support the only man who can be nominated.” Even Webster feared that southern Whigs would succumb to the argument of Scott's “availability,” and in December and January, Seward and others cheered that “the South breaks.”86

Southern Whigs insisted on more than a case of electability. They demanded that the nominee explicitly pledge himself to the Compromise's finality, and as the year opened, Scott had not done so. Seward initially hoped that Southerners would support Scott “without his giving a disclaimer that would ruin him in N.Y. & Pennsylvania.” Yet even the few southern Whigs who favored Scott, like Tennessee Senator James Jones, who angled for the vice presidential nomination on a Scott ticket, his Tennessee lieutenant Congressman William Cullom, and North Carolina's Edward Stanly insisted that Scott could never be run in the South without declaring that not a single word of the Compromise measures should be altered. Other Southerners like Humphrey Marshall of Kentucky, Florida's Cabell, John Moore of Louisiana, and Tennessee's Christopher Williams and Meredith Gentry insisted even more adamantly that Scott must make a pledge before he could be considered. Scott's northern supporters found this demand both puzzling and annoying. They knew, and they knew that southern Whig congressmen admitted, that Scott was pro-Compromise, that while serving as interim secretary of war in 1850, Scott had done everything he could to persuade congressmen to pass the Compromise measures. “Genl. Scott is as open for the Compromise as any man in Tennessee,” Cullom wrote his governor in January, and later Willie P. Mangum and Stanly publicly asserted the same to justify their support. Leading southern Whigs' personal knowledge of Scott's fidelity to the Compromise, Scott's northern managers believed, should suffice. “There must be no pledges, no resolutions, no compromise issue,” and they hoped that “the South will come to that ground.”87

But Southerners in and outside the Scott camp would not relent. Lew Campbell attributed their obstinacy to their sense of honor. Southerners, he explained, felt bound by the vows they had made when they foolishly signed the Round Robin the previous winter never to support anyone for office who was not explicitly pledged to finality. Pike came nearer the mark when he stressed that southern Whigs wanted to preserve the pro-Compromise platform on which they had won in 1850 and 1851. Ultimately, he believed, they would back Scott even without a pledge.88

Pike may have gauged pro-Scott Southerners like Jones and Mangum, who also had vice presidential ambitions, but he fundamentally misread Gentry, Cabell, (p.699) and others who hoped for a Fillmore candidacy. Rather than “let byegones be byegones,” as Pike predicted, such men were determined to compel a surrender from northern Whigs, and they threatened on the House floor to bolt the party if Scott were nominated without a finality pledge. Northern Scott men opposed a pledge, Gentry railed, because, just as in 1848, they wanted to foment “the prejudices of the North against the South.” They intended to run Scott “upon such ground that hostility to the fugitive slave law and the compromise generally, with strong denunciations of the same, and furious appeals to the prejudices against Slavery and the Slave States, can be indulged in by his Northern supporters.” Scott's northern managers, he carped, whored after “that Abolition element at the North” that “has hung like a millstone about the necks of those in the South who have for years struggled for the ascendancy of the Whig party.” Tennessee Governor William B. Campbell, the recipient of Gentry's warnings, concurred that Scott was “out of the question” because of his “equivocal position on the compromise & the warm support of such men as Seward & Greeley.” For years southern Whigs had been “growing weaker, in consequence alone of our affiliation with such men as Seward”; it was “now good time to cut loose from them.”89

However understandable their suspicions, Southerners like Gentry and Campbell misread Scott's managers' intentions, and their accusations have misled subsequent historians. In 1852 most of Scott's northern backers had no intention of continuing to agitate against slavery or the Fugitive Slave Act in order to appeal to Free Soilers and abolitionists. Southern Whigs, not Scott's northern supporters, wanted to keep the Compromise issue alive.90

Scott's strategists, in contrast, hoped to attract antislavery voters simply by avoiding a pro-Compromise pledge from Scott and a pro-Compromise platform. Much as Democrats benefited from silence on the prohibition issue when Whigs embraced it, Whigs, who correctly believed that Democrats would adopt a pro-Compromise platform, expected to pick up anti-Compromise voters by taking no position at all. They did not want to seek their vote openly by running against the Fugitive Slave Act or the Slave Power. The risks of an antislavery campaign aimed at wooing Free Soilers far exceeded its benefits. Reassuring conservative National Whigs, who had produced northern Whig losses in 1850 and 1851 by bolting or abstaining, was the central task.91

Ample evidence indicates that most of Scott's supporters had renounced all thought of campaigning against slavery, the South, or the Compromise in 1852. First, northern Whigs allowed a finality resolution to pass at the poorly attended House caucus on December 1, and during the vote for speaker of the House, when Whigs scattered their votes among twelve different men, the only clear anti-Compromise Whig in contention, Thaddeus Stevens, drew a grand total of sixteen votes.92 Second, not all of those who wanted Scott's nomination were anti-Compromise Whigs, at least not by the beginning of 1852. Delaware's John M. Clayton had initiated the Scott boom, more out of anger at his treatment by Fillmore's administration than resentment of the Compromise, and the legislative caucus of Delaware Whigs that endorsed Scott's nomination hardly wanted to denounce the Fugitive Slave Act. Rather, they believed that with Scott “we have the cards in our hands to win the game, and if we play them right Delaware will be redeemed.” The majority of the Indiana Whig state convention that sent a (p.700) solid delegation of Scott delegates to the national convention were pro-Compromise, and Indiana Whig leaders like John D. Defrees and Schuyler Colfax were anxious to appease southern Whigs as well as National Whigs in the North. Convinced that Scott was staunchly pro-Compromise, Illinois' Whigs also picked a Scott delegation. Connecticut and New Hampshire Whigs abjured antislavery agitation, as had New Jersey's by 1850.93

Individual northern Whigs tried to reassure Southerners and northern National Whigs of this fact. Explaining to William Schouler, the anti-Compromise and pro-Scott editor, why he had given a conciliatory speech in the Senate, Massachusetts' John Davis argued, “We need as a party some common & satisfactory ground to rally upon.” Therefore congressional Whigs should “rock the subject to sleep without giving or exacting pledges.” “There is not an agitator in the whole Whig party here, at the moment,” echoed Robert Winthrop from Boston, “nor one who cares to disturb anything that has been done.” Connecticut's Truman Smith repeatedly wrote Southerners that he did not want to overturn Fillmore's pro-Compromise position; he favored Scott because only Scott could win. “The North have acquiesced & will acquiesce in these measures,” he assured Southerners. Northern and southern Whigs differed on only one thing: “we of the North wish to let the whole subject drop and to sink quietly & forever into oblivion whereas some of our Southern friends (mistakenly I think) wish us to be all the while affirming & affirming that the thing is dead & shall never be revived.”94

Needlessly alienating Silver Grays or abandoning the Whig party for a new antislavery coalition with Free Soilers is precisely what Seward and other Scott managers did not want to do in 1852. To them, fabricating antislavery bona fides for Scott in order to appease fanatics seemed suicidal. The beauty of Scott was precisely that his views were unknown, that he could be all things to all people, that he had publicly said nothing that would antagonize either pro-Compromise or anti-Compromise men. And it was exactly on this point—the determination to keep Scott from publicizing his views in order to reunite Whigs in the North—that Scott's managers ran afoul of southern Whigs' demand for a written commitment to finality.

By publicizing his enthusiasm for the Compromise or vowing to oppose changes in the fugitive slave law, as Southerners demanded, Scott would mimic the detested Fillmore and Webster and thereby lose his chief appeal to the vast majority of northern Whigs—namely, that he was not Fillmore or Webster. The goal of Seward and other Scott men was to hold pro-and anti-Compromise Whigs together without siding with either bloc. That is why they insisted that “Scott, & Scott alone” was “the only platform we can fight upon in the North.”

To help ensure a platform-free campaign, Seward and other Scott managers purposely smothered all talk of slavery and the Compromise. They accepted the Whig caucus' action on December 1 and abstained from the Senate's debates on Foote's finality resolution because they believed that “silence is our true policy.” Although Seward made countless Senate speeches in 1852—on Kossuth and Russian aggression, on British persecution of Irish exiles, on the unsanitary conditions for immigrants on ships, on rivers and harbors improvements, on disputes over Canadian fisheries—he said nothing whatsoever about slavery or the Compromise. By June, Free Soilers like Joshua Giddings, supposedly the targeted recruits (p.701) of Scott's managers, were denouncing Seward for betraying his antislavery principles to propitiate Southerners. Similarly, for the first time in years, Sewardites in the New York legislature introduced no inflammatory antisouthern resolutions, and Fillmore's secretary, Robert Campbell, happily announced that Woollies and Silver Grays could therefore unite for the impending campaign.95

The wisdom of Sewardites' refusal to attack the Compromise or slavery in 1852 became clear during New York's spring contests to select district delegates to the Whig national convention. From Rochester, customs collector and Fillmore ally James R. Thompson complained that he could not mobilize rank-and-file Silver Grays against Scott's forces, who had muted the issue that might arouse them. “We want some issue of Compromise & anti Compromise. We cant [sic] attach Sewardism to Scott & the odds is greatly against us here.” He then added what the consequences of Scott's nomination and election would be: “a Seward triumph that grinds us to powder.” Thompson palpably referred to the patronage, not the policy, consequences of Scott's victory, a consideration that motivated many in the Scott camp. Indiana's Schuyler Colfax, for example, told Seward that he supported Scott because Scott was pro-Compromise, an utter necessity in Indiana, and because Scott, unlike Fillmore and Webster, would not proscribe from office Whigs who had formerly opposed the Compromise.96

Northern Whigs, in sum, supported Scott's nomination and opposed that of Fillmore or Webster because they hungered after victory and its spoils, not because they wanted to renew assaults on slavery, the Compromise, or the South. Free Soilers scented their retreat toward expediency even in the fall of 1851. “The Whig party is hopelessly given over to Slavery,” groused Vermont's Edward A. Stansbury. “It will, more and more, grapple the Slave Power to itself, and slough off all but the despots and the partizans [sic] of despotism.”97


Most Scott men wanted no party statement whatsoever about slavery or the Compromise in 1852, but a few recommended acceding to southern Whigs' demand that Scott issue a pledge to support finality. This split largely reflected the prospect of winning back Free Soil Whigs and the degree to which quarrels over the Compromise had divided state Whig parties. The stronger National Whigs were in a state party, and the more adamantly they had insisted earlier on explicit acceptance of finality, the more implacably anti-Compromise Whigs in those states opposed any statement by Scott. Thus Sewardites from New York, Webster's enemies like Greely and Schouler in Massachusetts, Israel Washburn of Maine, and the Ohioans Wade and Lew Campbell pleaded, exhorted, and demanded that Scott say nothing. They did count on blocking a separate Free Soil nomination so that antislavery men would have no alternative to the Whigs once Democrats endorsed finality. Everywhere their message was the same. Scott “should write no letters”; “keep pens away from him,” make “no pledges,” and the result would be certain Whig success.98 On the other side and much to Seward's dismay, both John Defrees and Schuyler Colfax of Indiana prepared letters for Scott to issue; Truman Smith favored some kind of new Allison Letter from Scott; and Clayton, working through James E. Harvey, the Washington (p.702) correspondent for the Philadelphia North American, pressed for one in order to win southern support for Scott's nomination, as did other Southerners in Scott's camp.99

During the first four months of 1852, therefore, two tests of will took place in Washington over Scott's issuing a letter: between northern and southern Whigs and between members of the Scott camp itself. On February 8, Ben Wade boasted to his wife that at that evening's meeting of the Scott club he had browbeaten potential appeasers into “a final & irrevocable decision” that Scott must say nothing. Within a week, however, Harvey assured Clayton that northern and southern Whigs were about to agree on a letter Scott could issue. On February 26, Cullom promised that a letter from Scott was imminent; eight days later, Lew Campbell asserted that Scott “remains firm” and that his northern supporters remained adamant that no statement be issued. Almost weekly, rumors floated that a letter from Scott was in press, and that possibility repeatedly forced Seward and other hard-liners to scramble to stop it. Those like Colfax, who were not privy to the arguments in Washington, argued that an ambiguous letter could forestall a platform commitment, which would be far more harmful to northern Whigs. Some Southerners, however, played a deeper game.100

Tennessee's breathtakingly ambitious James Jones, who was serving his first months in national office, whom several northern Whig newspapers mentioned as Scott's running mate, and who wangled a vice presidential endorsement from the same Tennessee Whig state convention that demanded Fillmore's presidential nomination, spotted an opportunity to leapfrog to the head of the political pecking order. As the naive Cullom wrote various Whigs in Tennessee, if Jones could entice a finality pledge from Scott, it would ruin Scott among anti-Fillmore Whigs in the North. They would then turn in gratitude to Jones, who had braved other southern Whigs' anger to support Scott, as the best man to keep Fillmore and Webster from gaining the nomination. Lean Jimmy Jones, of all people, might head the Whig ticket! Jones' game, however, was too clever by half. Once others learned of his scheming, his unpopularity among most Tennessee Whigs, and his rashness when he finally spoke in the Senate, Scott's northern managers dropped him from their list of possible running mates.101

Throughout January, February, and March the tug of war over a letter continued. Hard-liners in Scott's camp like Lew Campbell frequently voiced the hope that “the pressure of our Southern Whig friends is abating somewhat” and that “they will cave if we but hold out,” but the pressure from Southerners, especially men like Gentry, Williams, and Cabell, proved relentless.102 Tension escalated when Whigs from outside Washington pressed for a congressional Whig caucus to issue the call for the national convention. Its meeting had been delayed for months because Southerners refused to attend unless Scott first committed himself. Attendance at a caucus that called a national convention, just like attendance at the convention itself, was, by long tradition, equated with a commitment to back whomever the convention nominated, and in March, Scott still seemed the front-runner. If a caucus were called, therefore, southern Whigs might introduce a finality resolution that could provoke an explosion. Unlike the poorly attended House caucus on December 1, by the spring so much publicity had been given to Southerners' demand for a pledge from Scott that his managers believed passage of another finality resolution would doom his chances. At the same time, by (p.703) March, Southerners, who still feared they could not stop Scott at a national convention because Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina would send no delegates desperately sought a pro-Compromise commitment from Scott's northern supporters if they could not get it from Scott himself.103

Fully aware of the risk, congressional Whigs finally agreed to caucus on April 9, and Scott's camp exerted every effort to avoid an embarrassing confrontation. On April 6, North Carolina's Edward Stanly sent a public letter to the Washington Republic admitting that most southern Whigs favored Fillmore but also blasting Gentry, Williams, Cabell, and others for vowing never to support Scott unless he publicly pledged himself. Stanly knew that Scott “was as earnest, ardent, and zealous a friend of the Compromise measures as there was in the United States.” North Carolina, Stanly averred, wanted a man like Scott whose patriotism was clear, not “a man who writes letters and makes pledges just before an election.” Democrats intent on mischief, however, neutralized whatever soothing impact Stanly's letter had, for on the very day it appeared in the Republic, two Georgia Democrats forced the House to vote on a formal finality resolution. This roll call starkly revealed how deceptive the outcome of the two caucuses at the start of the session had been. Now two-thirds of the northern Democrats supported and 70 percent of the northern Whigs opposed the resolution.104

That vote confirmed southern Whigs' worst fears. An angry Virginian immediately informed Webster that southern and northern Whigs must split and make separate nominations. “That vote left to me, and to other Whigs from the slaveholding states,” Kentucky's Humphrey Marshall later protested to the House, “no evidence whatever that a faithful adherence to the compromise” or a determination to “proclaim” it “as a final settlement … would henceforth be considered as part ‘of the Whig creed.’”105

The likelihood of a rupture was so obvious when the caucus was gaveled to order by North Carolina's Mangum on the evening of Friday, April 9, that his Senate colleague George Badger immediately pressed for adjournment. Truman Smith, in response, insisted that the gathering proceed with its purported agenda: naming the site and date of the national convention. Kentucky's Marshall then tried to force a vote on the same finality resolution the Whig caucus had passed on December 1, and Gentry, David Outlaw of North Carolina, and Thomas Walsh of Maryland vowed that southern Whigs could never cooperate with Northerners who refused to swear to the permanence of the Fugitive Slave Act. Thaddeus Stevens, Truman Smith, Lew Campbell, and Samuel Parker of Indiana angrily opposed the motion. To avert further strife, a motion to adjourn and reconvene on Tuesday, April 20, was adopted. Before the attendees departed, Mangum, who automatically chaired joint caucuses because of his seniority as the Whig with the longest continuing congressional service, announced that next time he would rule Marshall's divisive motion out of order since the caucus should only call a national convention, not write the party's platform.106

Tension between northern and southern Whigs soared during the eleven-day interval. On Saturday, April 10, the New York Tribune printed a blistering report from James Pike that accused southern Whigs and Fillmore's administration of breaking the unstated but vital agreement between northern and southern Whigs to disagree on matters involving slavery, “upon which, in the very nature of things, they could in fact do no otherwise than differ.” “It is in a word,” he (p.704) steamed, “a very plain attempt to make Northern Whigs take Southern ground on the subject of Slavery. It is an attempt to destroy the old divisions, by making one side surrender to the other.” Northern Whigs, vowed Pike, would never capitulate to the extortion of “Mr. ‘KIT’ WILLIAMS, and Mr. HUMPHREY MARSHALL, and Mr. E. CARRINGTON CABELL, et id genus omnes.”107

On Wednesday, April 14, the Democratic Washington Union ran an editorial on Pike's letter entitled “The Ultimatum of the Northern Whigs” that attempted to incite southern Whigs to open revolt. Pike's main point, insisted the Union, was that there “never can be any agreement or community of opinion between Whigs of the North and Whigs of the South in relation to sectional questions.” Pike, the paper gibed, had let the cat out of the bag. Northern Whigs regarded the passage of the Compromise as an “odious” betrayal and would never submit to its finality. They intended to run Scott without any pledges in order to woo “the antislavery elements of their own section,” and even if Scott now released a letter, Pike had made it clear that it could not be trusted.108

Southern threats and Pike's reckless report further divided the Scott forces. Fulminating that a few southern “ultraists” were trying to extort “humiliating concessions” from Northerners, Henry J. Raymond's New York Times assured Southerners of northern Whigs' “acquiescence” in the “existing laws” and of their “aversion to any further agitation of Slavery and the incidental issues to which it has given rise.” On April 16, Mangum came out openly in the Senate for Scott on the grounds that he was perfectly safe on the Compromise, as had William Ward, a Kentucky Whig, earlier in the House.109 Complaining that the party was being “buffeted about by extreme men” in both sections, Truman Smith warned that unless Southerners were reconciled to Scott's candidacy, Whigs faced “overwhelming defeat” in the fall. Meanwhile the intransigent Philip Greely urged Seward from Boston not to yield an inch at the next caucus and to let Cabell, Marshall, and other southern soreheads walk out if they wished.110

The Whig caucus on April 20 thus met in an atmosphere of extraordinary tension. With Mangum publicly in Scott's camp and prepared to disallow a finality resolution, several Southerners refused to attend: Dawson and Berrien of Georgia, as well, of course, as Toombs and Stephens; John Bell of Tennessee; North Carolina's Badger; all the Maryland Whigs from the House and Senate; Alabama's two Union Whigs; and all but one Missouri Whig. Some Northerners, too, absented themselves, and Seward, the lightning rod for Southerners, remained conspicuously outside the meeting, although he was close by in an anteroom to lend direction to Scott's forces. Altogether, only 70 to 75 of the 116 congressional Whigs were present.111

When Humphrey Marshall again pressed his finality resolution at the start of the meeting, Mangum ruled it out of order. Marshall demanded a vote on the chair's ruling, and when it was upheld 46–21, Marshall angrily stalked out. Gentry then tried to amend the motion to call the national convention with a proviso that no Whigs who participated in the call would be bound to support its nominee unless the convention adopted a finality platform. When this amendment, after an angry debate, was also defeated, Gentry and Christopher Williams of Tennessee, North Carolina's Outlaw and Clingman, Florida's Cabell and Senator Jackson Morton, John Strother of Virginia, Louisiana's two Whig congressman, and Senator Walter Brooke, the Unionist from Mississippi, also departed. When the (p.705) smoke cleared, only Stanly, Alfred Dockery, James Morehead, and Mangum of North Carolina, Cullom and Jones of Tennessee, a few Kentuckians, and the lone Missouri representative remained from the slave states.

Crowing that the caucus marked “the entire disorganization of the Whig party, as a national party,” the Washington Union quoted extensively from the testy debate. The moderate Outlaw announced that to carry any slave state Southerners must have an explicit, public pledge from Scott himself, rather than private assurances from his surrogates, that “each and all” of the compromise measures was “a final adjustment of the slavery question,” a warning echoed by even the North Carolinians who remained in the caucus. To this tocsin Maine's Israel Washburn defiantly retorted that northern Scott men would “never consent that the finality of the compromise measures shall be made a part of the Whig creed; and any candidate, whether he be General Scott or any other man, who insists upon that, or who is nominated by a convention which affirms or requires it, cannot … obtain the vote of a single northern State—not one.” This blast, asserted the Union, showed that Southerners could never again trust the Whig party and that Democrats alone adhered to the Compromise.112

As if to ratify the Union's analysis, the southern bolters published a manifesto refusing to cooperate with the Whig party unless it formally embraced finality, and numerous southern Whig papers insisted that the national convention, scheduled for Baltimore on June 16, must adopt a pro-Compromise platform or Southerners would abandon its nominee. These actions panicked some of Fillmore's northern supporters. Since they were competing with Sewardites to elect delegates and could afford nothing that offended rank-and-file northern Whigs, they bitterly complained that Southerners' attempt to dictate a platform in caucus, when only the national convention could frame it, would drive infuriated Northerners toward Scott. If Southerners boycotted the convention, as the bolters threatened, moreover, they would deprive Silver Grays of necessary southern allies and thereby ensure that Seward, Johnston, and other northern Scott men wrote the platform. Fillmore himself, in contrast, viewed the bolt as a wake-up call to spur southern Whigs to attend the convention in order to obtain an appropriate platform, and he hoped “almost against hope, that in some way or other its action may be made to harmonize and give satisfaction both to the North and the South.” Aware that Scott's New York supporters were driven primarily by animosity toward him, he offered once again to withdraw his name from consideration immediately to produce a harmonious convention.113

The southern bolt also further divided Scott's backers. All along, those recommending a conciliatory letter from Scott had argued that a pro-Compromise platform, especially one adopted at the South's insistence, would do far greater harm in the North than any personal statement from Scott, for a platform would implicate as accessories northern Whig convention delegates. Simultaneously, pro-Scott southern Whigs like Stanly, who had defied their section's clear sentiment, became all the more importunate in demanding a statement from Scott that justified their action. Pressure thus increased to get Scott to say something in advance of the convention to forestall a platform. Former hard-liners like Massachusetts' Charles Hudson and Philip Greely, Jr., aware that their state's pro-Webster delegates would support a finality platform, now prepared letters that Scott could issue. So did Horace Greeley, although he and others hoped to delay (p.706) publication until after the convention so that Scott would not be seen as appeasing Southerners in order to win the nomination. Schouler and Truman Smith meanwhile escalated their private attempts to assure Southerners that Scott was a sound pro-Compromise man in order to blunt the demand for a pro-Compromise platform.114

These efforts had only minimal results. In what Greeley considered a “first-rate” public letter, Virginia's John Minor Botts asserted that he had talked to Scott and found him perfectly sound on the Compromise. Only the impropriety of appearing to seek the nomination, cooed Botts, prevented Scott from making that commitment public. Botts also promised Schouler privately that he would fight any attempt by Southerners at the national convention to force a finality platform on the party. Yet even Botts, like Stanly, expressed annoyance that the pro-Scott northern press refused to print publicly what northern Scott men freely admitted privately—that Scott was ardently pro-Compromise and wanted no change in the Fugitive Slave Act. Without a public pledge, warned Stanly, southern convention delegates would demand a pro-Compromise platform, and if Northerners refused to give them one, they would bolt the convention and the Whig party would be destroyed.115

Intransigents among Scott's supporters, in contrast, insisted that allowing Scott to make a pledge after Southerners had bolted would constitute craven capitulation to southern intimidation and ruin all chances of holding northern antislavery voters. “If we yield to the South we are gone irrevocably!” cried one. Even having Scott issue a letter after the convention, in lieu of a platform, struck Seward and some of his New York allies as humiliating. “‘Finality’ must be avoided by hook or crook,” insisted one Sewardite. “The fate of the party now & for years depends upon avoiding that obnoxious issue.” As an alternative way to avert a pro-Compromise platform and still mollify Southerners, some suggested saving Southerners' face at the convention by having Scott delegates scatter their votes for a few ballots rather than ramming through his nomination immediately. Implacable Israel Washburn was far more realistic when he admitted that nothing could now stop a platform fight. “The battle is to be lost or won at Baltimore on the question of the finality resolutions.” If all northern delegates “will only stand like a rock there will be no trouble.” By late April, however, even Scott's most sanguine supporters knew that the real question now was whether the Scott forces would have enough rock-like delegates, not just to defeat a pro-Compromise platform but to win the nomination itself.116


Despite their bravado at the beginning of the congressional session, Scott's backers knew by spring that they faced a dogfight for control of the national convention. “The greatest danger is that the South in convention will to a man go for Fillmore and that he will get scattering votes North enough to nominate,” an alarmed Lew Campbell warned in March. “We must be particular about that. We must not lose a single delegate where we can help it.” The delegate selection process had in fact been proceeding for months before the Whig caucus called a national convention, and, despite the few pro-Scott Southerners, Fillmore seemed assured (p.707) of virtually unanimous support from the southern delegates who attended except those from Delaware. To make certain that there was no wavering from Fillmore, moreover, Virginia, Kentucky, and Louisiana sent two or more delegates to represent each congressional district and insisted that those delegates, or a majority of them, concur before the district cast its vote.117

By April, when Southerners bolted the Whig caucus, the question was not whether southern delegates at Baltimore would back Fillmore. It was whether all slave states would be represented. By then the four states with Union parties—Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina—still had made no arrangements to pick delegates, and Whigs affiliated with those Union parties, like William C. Dawson of Georgia and Arthur F. Hopkins of Alabama, had told Fillmore that they had no intention of doing so.118 In addition, by April, North Carolina's Whigs, who faced a crucial gubernatorial election in August, still had held no state convention that could choose its delegates. They had not dared to call one because of continued antipathy toward the central clique and virulent regional disagreement over committing the state party to the legislature's reapportionment on the white basis as a response to incumbent Democratic Governor David Reid's anticipated use of the “free suffrage” issue.119

Alerted by April's two fractious caucuses, Fillmore and Southerners in his cabinet—Crittenden, Stuart, Charles Conrad, and William A. Graham—pressed for a full southern attendance. Even Webster, who by April knew that his only chance at the convention was to block a quick Scott victory and emerge as a compromise choice if Fillmore and Scott deadlocked, worked through Tennessee's John Bell to persuade Georgians to attend. And he personally pleaded with conservatives in South Carolina to send delegates. Working through Arthur Hopkins, Joseph Baldwin, and Henry Hilliard in Alabama, the administration succeeded in arranging a May state Whig convention to pick delegates that only Whigs who had never joined the Union party would attend, and their Alabama contacts assured them that Mississippi Whigs also would pick delegates. Graham contacted friends in North Carolina to make sure his state sent men, and they in turn also tried to induce the few Whigs in South Carolina to select a delegation. Aside from North Carolina, the machinery that picked these delegates was jerry-rigged, but by early June it was clear that the entire South would be represented at Baltimore.120

The South's full attendance and its near unanimity for Fillmore meant that Scott's forces would have to marshal 149 of the North's delegates, or 146 if they could count on Delaware's 3 votes, to obtain a convention majority.121 Despite their earlier bluster, it was unlikely that they could ram Scott's nomination through with northern votes alone. Fillmore seemed assured of Iowa's delegates, probably some of Michigan's and Wisconsin's, and undoubtedly a minority of New York's. In New England, Webster posed the biggest threat to Scott's friends. Although they were certain Scott could carry Massachusetts, they knew that the majority, if not all, of its thirteen delegates would go for Webster, as would New Hampshire's.122

Rhode Island and Connecticut picked delegates at early spring state conventions to nominate gubernatorial candidates for the April elections. Because their Whigs feared that a presidential endorsement might offend supporters of nonendorsed candidates and thus reduce the party's gubernatorial vote, both states chose (p.708) unpledged delegations, leaving both open to imprecations from Fillmore's and Webster's influential friends.123 California, which would be represented by Whigs already in the East, was also subjected to intense lobbying. The northern states where Scott's managers were determined not to “lose a single delegate where we can help it,” therefore, were Maine, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, although they, too, battled for every delegate they could get from other New England states, California, and Wisconsin.

In 1848, northern Whigs hoping to block Taylor's nomination had suffered because Southerners chose delegates at state conventions, thereby increasing the likelihood of unanimous delegations, whereas most northern states selected most delegates one by one at individual congressional district conventions, thereby increasing the likelihood of divided delegations. In 1852, therefore, Scott's forces in several states sought to discard the traditional district system and pick all the delegates at state conventions they controlled.124

Michigan's Sewardite Whigs led the way at the party's state convention in September 1851, where they chose four Scott and two Fillmore men as delegates to the national convention. Whether anger at the refusal of proadministration Whigs to support the state ticket that year or a response to pleas from Scott's managers in Washington not to lose a single vote caused the change is unclear, but when Michigan's delegation reached Baltimore it was unanimously for Scott.125

Vermont's antiadministration Whigs attempted to follow suit in October 1851. Whig members of the state legislature and other Whigs who happened to be in Montpelier pronounced themselves a state convention and picked the two at-large delegates, as well as all of the delegates representing the state's four congressional districts. “We beat the Websterites, with their allies, horse, foot, and dragoons,” one Scott man later boasted. Yet this preemptive strike was neither so draconian nor so effective as it at first seemed. Though the “convention” endorsed Scott rather than Webster, it did not pledge the delegates to Scott. Its two senatorial delegates were Justin Morrill, whom even Fillmore's friends described as a moderate, and the newspaper editor Harry Bradley, Fillmore's long-time friend, who sought a patronage post and whose “vote in Convention may be considered in the market.” Of the four delegates chosen for congressional districts, moreover, only one was a staunch Scott man; the other three were described as “out & out Compromise, Fillmore or Webster men.” The so-called state convention, moreover, blundered by naming four congressional delegates since Vermont had four seats in the Thirty-Second Congress. According to the new reapportionment that took effect in the 1852 elections and determined the number of delegates each state would have in the national convention, however, Vermont was eligible for only three district delegates. Furthermore, three of the four men chosen in October resided in the same one of the new congressional districts, while the newly drawn third district had no delegate at all. Thus the Vermont delegation could be challenged on the ground that the state “convention” was unrepresentative, that it violated party tradition by not allowing individual congressional districts to select their own delegates, and that the delegation it picked did not represent all of the new congressional districts. The attempt of Scott's friends to jump the gun had backfired.126

Elsewhere Scott's forces were equally ruthless but more effective. Regularly elected state conventions in Indiana enthusiastically, and in Illinois, after astute (p.709) tactical sleight of hand by Sewardites who boasted that “we managed it well & trapped the Silver Grays,” endorsed Scott, chose all the delegates, and imposed a unit rule on each delegation so that their pro-Scott majorities could cast all the votes. Ohio picked delegates by the traditional district system, but the Scott forces there, at Lew Campbell's urging, also imposed a unit rule. In New Jersey, Senator Jacob Miller, ex-Senator William L. Dayton, and former Congressman James King, all of whom had voted against the Compromise in 1850 and were implicitly repudiated by the state party thereafter, dominated the state Whig convention, demanded that it pick all the state's delegates, and committed them to Scott. Although the New Jersey state platform made no specific mention of the Compromise measures, it pledged the state's Whigs to oppose “all discussion on the subject of slavery or the agitation of any measures having reference thereto.” As elsewhere, in short, pro-Scott did not automatically mean antislavery.127

Scott's supporters flexed their muscle most nakedly in Pennsylvania. Several district conventions in the Philadelphia area had already picked convention delegates, at least half of whom favored Fillmore, when the Whig state convention met in Harrisburg in March. Dominated by allies of ex-Governor William Johnston, this gathering, like the 1851 state convention, endorsed Scott. It then flouted what one Webster man called “time-sanctioned custom” by naming the state's entire delegation to the national convention and replacing all but one of the Fillmore men already chosen from Philadelphia with Scott supporters. Johnston himself was named an at-large delegate. In line with the Scott camp's strategy of burying sectional issues in 1852, the state platform said nothing about the Compromise or slavery, reassured southern Whigs that Pennsylvanians had “none but the kindest feelings for their Whig brethren of the whole country,” and “earnestly appeal[ed] to them to forget past differences, forgive past grievances, and move in a solid column” against the common Democratic foe. The true temper of Pennsylvania's Scott men reappeared, however, in their defiant response to the manifesto of the eleven southern bolters from the April 20 Whig caucus. “We can elect Scott without the aid of the South,” declared a Pittsburgh paper, “and there never will be harmony and repose, in the relations of the two wings of the party until we show these disorganizers not only that we can do without them, but that we mean to carry our man in spite of them.”128

New York required finesse rather than brute force. Disagreement about a potential gubernatorial nominee was so divisive that Whigs wanted to put off their state convention until long after the June national convention met. Sewardites, in any event, sought reconciliation with Silver Grays, and strong-arm tactics like those of Johnston's allies in Pennsylvania would have been self-defeating. Thus supporters of the different contenders faced a district-by-district battle, and since both Fillmore and Webster had considerable support in the New York City area, Scott could never capture all the delegates. Some upstate districts quickly selected Scott men. Where Silver Grays held the patronage posts, as in Buffalo, Rochester, Oswego, Albany, and Troy, however, Fillmorites prevailed or else fractiously divided district conventions sent rival Scott and Fillmore delegates to Baltimore.129

In New York City and Brooklyn, which together picked seven delegates, the federal patronage holders, particularly Customs Collector Hugh Maxwell and Naval Officer David A. Bokee, proved far friendlier to Webster than to Fillmore. By early March, when the delegate elections were at hand, indeed, even Fillmore's closest allies like Daniel Ullmann pleaded with him, as Weed and Seward had (p.710) done for a year and a half, to sack Maxwell. Since Whig merchants who had contributed to the Union Safety Committee also preferred Webster to Fillmore, and since James Watson Webb's New York Courier and Enquirer openly endorsed Webster and savagely attacked Fillmore, Webster had significant strength in the metropolis. Recognizing that Fillmore posed a far greater threat than Webster to Scott and that they lacked the strength in “this sink of Silver Greyism” to pick straight-out Scott delegates on their own, Sewardites joined forces with the Webster men against Fillmore. The upshot was that Moses Grinnell, a Webster man, defeated a Fillmorite in one district, and Scott men carried four of the other six, although often by dubious practices that prompted challenges at the national convention.130

During late March and April, attention in New York and especially in Washington focused on the meeting of the Whig legislative caucus in Albany that traditionally chose the two at-large delegates and announced the state's Whigs' presidential preference. Silver Grays were badly outnumbered by pro-Scott men in both chambers, and in April the caucus endorsed Scott by a 50–15 vote. Nonetheless, to propitiate Silver Grays, the Sewardite majority agreed to postpone the selection of at-large delegates until a more representative body of state Whigs met. Since the regular Whig state convention would not meet until September, the decision fell to an assemblage of the previously chosen district delegates in New York City on June 11, when they were on their way to Baltimore. Dominated by Scott men, it chose J. L. Talcott, a staunch Scott man, and Simeon Draper, a Sewardite merchant who, like his close friend Grinnell, now leaned toward Webster.131

Despite nominally controlling thirty of thirty-five New York votes for Scott on the eve of the convention, Scott's friends knew that at least seven of their men would be challenged. Hence, it was far from clear that Scott had enough delegates to win the nomination, let alone block a pro-Compromise platform. As Horace Greeley alarmedly but accurately predicted in April, “Everybody in the Free States is going pell mell for Scott, and so any number of the most inveterate Hunkers are slipping into the National Convention as Scott men, to help endorse the Fugitive Slave Law and thus saddle us with a load that (with St. Paul) ‘neither we nor our fathers were able to bear.’” Greeley probably had in mind delegates from Illinois, Indiana, and New Jersey, but Maine's George Evans best exemplified such fifth columnists. Pro-Scott Whigs in no northern state went as far as those in Maine to conciliate pro-Compromise Whigs. Prior to the state convention in early June, five congressional districts chose ardent Scott men, including the abrasive James Pike, whose April 10 column had so infuriated Southerners. The state convention, where Scott's backers had a decisive majority, chose the other two district delegates as well as the at-large delegates. For those latter two slots it coupled the anti-Compromise William Pitt Fessenden with Evans. Evans swore that he would honor the state party's endorsement of Scott, but for decades no man in New England had been more loyal to Webster than he. Prior to Maine's convention, moreover, Evans had stated unequivocally that he favored a platform commitment to finality. With nominal Scott delegates like Evans and moderates from other states who favored concessions to the South, Scott's managers had every reason to doubt that they could meet Israel Washburn's test—that northern Scott delegates “stand like a rock” against a pro-Compromise platform.132

(p.711) XI

By early June no one knew who would control the convention, and supporters of all three contenders made desperate last-minute attempts to sway delegates. Long before June, Webster and his agents planned to lobby unpledged delegates from New England as well as some of the Midwesterners. In addition, Webster invited as many southern delegates as possible, especially those from South Carolina, to confer with him on their way to Baltimore. Their argument was that only Webster could carry the vital state of New York since Sewardites, who cooperated with him, would never vote for Fillmore and immigrants would never support Scott because of his previous nativist letters. Webster delegates at the convention, no matter how small their number, should therefore stick to Webster for as many ballots as it took for the Fillmore delegates to give up the ghost and throw their support to him. That strategy assumed a deadlocked convention, but it also counted on Fillmore delegates' willingness to take Webster, not Scott, as a second choice.133

Southerners seeking Fillmore's nomination and a pro-Compromise platform were equally active. By June, they had lost hope of securing any letter from Scott prior to the convention and dismissed any letter after the convention as certain to “be a shilly, shally affair.” Thus Williams and Gentry of Tennessee, Marshall, and others pressed southern delegates to hold out for an acceptable platform. The day before the convention, Florida's Cabell and Tennessee's Gentry declared once again in the House that the convention must write a pro-Compromise platform and pick a candidate who would sustain it. Pointedly attacking Scott and praising Fillmore, Cabell warned, “If Northern Whigs … are resolved to go on with the slavery agitation, and to repeal the fugitive slave law, the party ought not to be preserved.”134 Aside from publicly intimidating Scott's supporters, southern Whigs met privately in Washington and again in Baltimore on the night of June 15 and the following morning to plot strategy. They wrote a platform and apparently agreed to insist upon its adoption before any nominations were made as the price of their continued participation in the convention. Significantly, the southern Fillmore men won concurrence in this strategy from Webster's New England delegates on the night before the convention began.135

Unknown to these Southerners, on June 10 Fillmore drafted a letter of withdrawal that he entrusted to George Babcock, his floor manager at the convention. This letter, which Babcock was to give to the president of the convention, who would then read it to the delegates, rehearsed Fillmore's decision not to seek reelection upon ascending to the presidency in July 1850 and the reasons he had delayed making that announcement the previous winter. He specifically instructed Babcock to decide for himself precisely when, during the convention, the letter should be revealed, but Fillmore insisted that “you will not suffer my name to be dragged into a contest for a nomination, which I have never sought, [and] do not now seek.”136

Fillmore's withdrawal, in sum, depended upon the proceedings of the convention itself, and in delegating responsibility for announcing it to his supporters, he guaranteed that he would indeed be dragged into a contest for the nomination. By June 10, Fillmore's closest advisors were certain that together Fillmore and Webster would have a majority of delegates and that Fillmore could win. On (p.712) June 11, Nathan Hall wrote from Buffalo that Fillmore must hang on because victory was within reach. The following day, another Silver Gray brought the Iowa delegates to the White House for personal lobbying by the president. And still another supporter, John Barney, promised to attend the convention to bring Webster's delegates into Fillmore's column.137

In the final week before the convention Scott's managers were frantic. Meeting almost nightly at Seward's house or the Scott club, they argued furiously over what could be done to head off a pro-Compromise platform and secure the necessary votes to select Scott. Over Seward's protests, Pike and others promised Southerners that Scott would release a letter on the Compromise after he got the nomination if Southerners would relent on their demand for a platform. Clayton of Delaware tried a different tack by floating a Scott-Crittenden ticket in hopes of at least winning more southern votes for Scott, if not blocking a platform. Fearing “a ‘Silver Gray’ explosion of the Whig Convention,” Seward knew that the once overconfident Scott forces faced the battle of their lives.138

Democratic actions raised the stakes for all contenders and thereby demonstrated once again the inextricable relationship between the Whig and Democratic parties. On June 5, the Democratic national convention nominated Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire for president and William R. King of Alabama for vice president on a pro-Compromise platform. Though eschewing the code word “finality,” it pledged that Democrats would “abide by and adhere to a faithful execution of … the compromise measures, settled by the Congress of 1850: ‘the act for reclaiming fugitives from service or labor,’ included.” Democrats would oppose any effort to change or repeal the Fugitive Slave Act as a violation of “an express provision of the Constitution.” And they would “resist all attempts at renewing, in Congress or out of it, the agitation of the slavery question under whatever shape or color the attempt may be made.” Democrats, in sum, made it emphatically clear that they sought the pro-Compromise vote. Whigs now had to decide if they would also compete for it or seek a different constituency.139


Slightly before noon on Wednesday, June 16, the longest, most rancorous, and most debilitating Whig national convention ever to meet commenced in the grand hall of Baltimore's Maryland Institute. Presidential nominating conventions were the apogee of the party apparatus. Like meetings of Congress, only on a much larger scale, they brought together men from different regions of the country who had often never laid eyes on anyone outside their own state. They invited fractious confrontation and placed a premium on skillful management to avoid it. Averting an explosion and preserving party unity were consequently top priorities of the men who made local arrangements for the Baltimore convention.

Decorated with red, white, and blue bunting and with portraits of Washington and of the dying Henry Clay, the hall featured two huge banners on opposite walls. One quoted Webster's famous reply to Hayne: “Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable”; the other echoed across the hall: “The Union of the Whigs for the Sake of the Union.” Such platitudes and equally gaseous (p.713) rhetoric about common commitments to unity, comity, and fair play for the good of the party, however, were quickly and repeatedly punctured by the strife between anti-and pro-Scott forces over the convention officers, the composition of committees, procedural rules, delegates' credentials, and even the veracity of newspaper reports about the proceedings. With tempers shortened by Baltimore's suffocating June heat and humidity, enmities could not be concealed. Speeches were greeted with boastful cheers or derisive jeers, hisses, and angry catcalls, depending upon the identity of the speaker and auditors. So antagonistic and confused were the preliminary jousts that balloting for president did not begin until the evening of the third day's session. The convention, indeed, took an unprecedented six days to complete its work.140

Aside from naked animosity and distrust, from the din inside a hall packed by over 3,000 people, and from exhaustion attributable to the extraordinary heat, what caused and conditioned the prolonged struggle were the following facts. Scott's backers, who hoped to secure his nomination without any platform, let alone a pro-Compromise document, had failed to secure the majority they needed. Together, Webster's and Fillmore's delegates could control the convention—if and when they worked as a team. Equally important, Scott men dominated only nine state delegations—those of Maine, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. In addition, California was divided, but leaned toward Scott. With Iowa and fourteen slave states, Fillmore's forces controlled fifteen. Websterites dominated Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and together Fillmore and Webster men controlled Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Vermont. This imbalance was a crippling handicap to Scott men, for although they dominated the northern states with the largest delegations, committees traditionally consisted of one member from each state. Procedurally, that is, the number of states mattered more than the number of delegates. For example, the three pro-Scott committee members from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, who collectively represented eighty-five votes, could be outvoted by four Webster and Fillmore members from New Hampshire, Texas, Arkansas, and Florida, who collectively represented only sixteen. With Scott men outnumbered on every committee by a two-to-one margin, in sum, they were bound to lose every important committee fight—on permanent officers, on credentials, and on the platform.

The first day's session on June 16 did little more than name committees on permanent officers and credentials and in the evening session, over some Northerners' protests, install Maryland's John G. Chapman as the convention's permanent president. Opposed by outnumbered Scott men in committee, that choice was portentous, for Chapman chaired the southern caucus on June 15 and 16 that prepared a pro-Compromise platform. Particularly annoying to northern Scott delegates was the inflated size of southern delegations that had sent two or more men for each vote they had, a practice that bolstered the presence of Southerners on the convention floor and gave them an enormous advantage on voice, as opposed to roll-call, votes.141 The debate on this matter quickly revealed the reciprocal suspicions among delegates and featured at least one classic exchange. Ohio's John Sherman moved unsuccessfully to table the report recommending Chapman until the credentials committee made clear who among southern delegations had authority to vote. A Maryland delegate then objected with a point of order that (p.714) Sherman had no right to speak after a motion to table. When he insisted that “I stick to my point of order,” Sherman shot back: “Stick to your seat.”

During the evening recess, as supporters of all three contenders paraded through Baltimore's streets, serious work was done in private. Webster's delegates caucused and vowed to stick by him until Webster withdrew his name; some of Fillmore's supporters, probably led by John Barney, meanwhile spread the word that Fillmore wanted his delegates to back Webster should Fillmore withdraw. Pennsylvania's Johnston, meanwhile, huddled with John Minor Botts in an attempt to break into the Virginia delegation, and other Scott men floated rumors that Scott would send a letter on finality to the convention to reassure Southerners. Botts and Johnston both told reporters that Scott would win on the third or fourth ballot.

Ill temper increased during the second day's session. The credentials committee again failed to report, so the convention continued to quarrel over precisely who could speak or vote. After the adoption of procedural rules that allotted each state the equivalent of its electoral votes, T. B. Duncan of Louisiana introduced resolutions calling for the immediate appointment of a platform committee consisting of one man from each state, allowing each state's delegation to designate its representative, and requiring the convention to vote on the platform it reported before taking up the presidential nomination. As Duncan proudly declared, his purpose was “to know if our [Southerners'] principles are your [Northerners'] principles” and to ascertain “whether we are all of one party or not.” Recognizing this strike for what it was—an attempt to force the decision on a platform before the nomination and to ram the Southerners' prewritten platform through a committee Scott's foes would dominate—northern Scott men sought to table Duncan's resolutions or adjourn to delay a vote. Nonetheless, the first resolution passed comfortably, 199 to 97, over the opposition of Scott delegations from New York, New Jersey, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, as well as Wisconsin. The rules for this vote required each state's entire total to be recorded as its majority wished, and, ominously for Scott hard-liners who opposed any platform whatsoever, ten of the twenty-three Ohio delegates favored the resolution, while Pennsylvania and Illinois voted in favor with the Fillmore and Webster delegations.142

The convention's first roll-call vote, therefore, demonstrated that Scott men were bound to lose on the issue of whether or not to adopt any platform. To give Scott's forces a better chance than they otherwise would have to influence that platform, therefore, a Pennsylvanian named Jessup immediately introduced an explosive amendment to Duncan's second resolution, which called for each state delegation to appoint one man to the platform committee. Charging that the one-state, one-vote rule on committees was patently unfair to large states with the most delegates and electoral votes, Jessup moved to weight representation on the platform committee by allowing each member to cast his state's entire vote during committee roll calls. That way, for example, New York's member would have thirty-five votes and Florida's only three rather than being treated as equals. That way the nine members from Scott states could outvote the entire South, as outraged Southerners were quick to protest.

Not quickly enough, however, for Jessup's stunning initiative caught Fillmore and Webster men flatfooted. Demanding the previous question before Southerners (p.715) mounted a counterattack, Scott's backers forced a vote on the Jessup amendment and scored their only victory on a procedural vote during the entire convention, 149–144. On this roll call, states were not required to vote as a unit, and the results thus suggested the balance of forces within individual delegations. Every slave state except Delaware and, surprisingly, Missouri, which divided 6–2 in favor with one abstention, cast unanimous votes against Jessup's motion.143 The pattern of the free states was far more complicated.144 Vermont's delegation was in turmoil and did not vote. Maine was solidly in favor, but the other New England states, where Webster men dominated, voted against: New Hampshire 0–4; Massachusetts 3–10, Connecticut 2–4, and Rhode Island 0–4. California split 2–2, Wisconsin 1–3 against, and New York 31–4 in favor. All of the other northern states, including Iowa, voted unanimously in favor. The four Fillmore men from New York immediately protested that six Scott delegates whose credentials were being contested had voted with their state's majority and should not be counted. Despite those protests, furious complaints from Southerners that Jessup's amendment violated the equal rights of states and substituted majority tyranny for traditional Whig conservatism, and attempts to replace Duncan's motion as amended by Jessup with a less controversial substitute, Jessup's amendment stood when the convention angrily adjourned for the night, although the convention had not yet adopted the resolution to which it was attached.

As everyone was aware, the total vote for Jessup's amendment equaled the precise number of votes necessary for nomination. Victory though the vote was for Scott men, however, the total exaggerated Scott's strength. Aside from the disputed seats from New York, Missouri was instructed for Fillmore, and he seemed assured of Iowa's votes. Nonetheless, the vote on Jessup's amendment spawned frantic maneuvering during the second night's recess, especially among the Webster and Fillmore men. To the consternation of Fillmore's lieutenants, Webster's forces again vowed to stand by him rather than switch to Fillmore. This was outrageous, Barney reported to Fillmore from Baltimore. By his count, Scott would get 137 votes on the first ballot, Webster 40, and Fillmore 119. Since it took 149 to win, it would be far easier to transfer 30 of Webster's delegates to Fillmore than all but 10 of Fillmore's to Webster, especially as he knew of at least 12 votes from Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina that would go for Scott rather than Webster if Fillmore withdrew. “Prudence requires Mr. Webster's phalanx to join your Legion,” Barney told the president.145

During the same night, the cantankerous Jessup, as well as other Scott men anxious to conciliate Southerners, had second thoughts about his inflammatory amendment. The vote to adopt Duncan's first resolution revealed that a substantial number of Scott delegates would accept a platform. No matter how gratifying the vote on Jessup's amendment was to Scott men, anyone who could count realized that even under Jessup's formula Webster and Fillmore men could outvote Scott's representatives on the platform committee, for in divided states like Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, to say nothing of Missouri and Iowa, anti-Scott men would pick the committee members. Infuriating Southerners for what could only be a pyrrhic victory did not seem worth the cost.

A third crucial development also occurred that night. The credentials committee, heavily dominated by anti-Scott men, met until 1 A.M. Obviously swayed by (p.716) the vote for Jessup's amendment, they contrived to strip Scott of at least seven votes from Vermont and New York. Their report sparked a ferocious dispute the following morning.146

Friday, June 18, the convention's third and most pivotal day, proved one of the most important in the party's entire history. At the outset, Jessup moved to withdraw his controversial amendment, and, significantly, the majority that adopted it acquiesced.147 This action allowed the immediate appointment of a platform committee, each of whose members would have only one vote. It included a distinguished and diverse group: William Pitt Fessenden of Maine; Vermont's ex-Governor Carlos Coolidge; George Ashmun, Webster's loyal ally from Massachusetts; New York Sewardite A. B. Dickinson; ex-Governor Johnston from Pennsylvania; Clayton of Delaware; Louisiana's determined Duncan; Crittenden's friend Orlando Brown from Kentucky; Felix Zollicoffer of Tennessee; and Georgia's Senator William C. Dawson. As soon as the committee was named, the platform already drafted by the southern caucus was submitted to it, as were other resolutions.

The platform committee's diverse membership ensured some lively debates during its meetings, but the one-state, one-vote rule guaranteed defeat of the Scott men, at least in committee. That fact became clear when the credentials committee finally reported. Aside from admitting a nonvoting, though pro-Scott, delegation from the District of Columbia, it effectively stripped Scott of at least six and perhaps seven votes, one from Vermont and the remainder from New York. In Vermont it denied Porteas Baxter, a pro-Scott man chosen at a June district convention from the new third congressional district, which had been left unrepresented by the October state convention. Instead it admitted all six delegates chosen the previous October and left it up to them how to cast the state's five votes. Since at least four of those six were pro-Compromise, anti-Scott men, this decision left the Vermont delegation in the hands of Scott's enemies.148

Seven districts required action in New York. In one, the committee seated Grinnell, the Websterite, instead of his Fillmorite opponent. In four, it named Fillmorites rather than the Scott men who had already voted for Jessup's amendment. Its decision on the remaining two district disputes was more insidious, for it seated both the Silver Gray and his pro-Scott opponent in each and stipulated that the vote of the districts could not be cast on any roll call unless the rival delegates concurred. Since everyone at the convention realized that such agreement would never be reached, this decision effectively deprived New York of two votes while simultaneously counting those two votes in the total from which a majority had to be constructed. More precisely, Scott still needed 149, not 148 votes, and he was robbed of 6 votes from New York and 1 from Vermont that his floor managers had counted on. New Yorkers—Silver Grays and Sewardites alike—screamed in protest at this emasculation, while Southerners hooted in derision for them to shut up, especially since one of the delegates rendered a eunuch was the despised Sewardite Henry J. Raymond, editor of the New York Times.149

While New Yorkers fumed, Florida's Cabell pressed for the previous question on adoption of the committee report. This motion produced the third critical roll call at the convention and, according to Solomon G. Haven, revealed that together the Fillmore and Webster forces had a majority of forty-seven votes. While the report was adopted 164 to 117, Haven's estimate was overly optimistic. Altogether (p.717) thirteen pro-Scott delegates from Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan broke ranks and supported adoption. No votes were cast from the disputed districts in New York, which split 4–24 against, however, and only 5 of Missouri's 9 votes were cast. Scott's opponents would pick up additional votes from those states. Predictably, every southern vote cast and twenty-nine of the thirty-three New England votes outside of Maine favored adoption.

Appointment of a platform committee without Jessup's amendment and adoption of the credentials committee's report marked stinging defeats for the Scott forces. When Southerners moved to adjourn for a few hours until the platform committee reported, therefore, Ohioans attempted to salvage the chief objective of Scott men—nomination without a platform—by moving that the convention proceed immediately to presidential balloting without waiting for the platform. Surprisingly, Southerners' attempt to stop this effort by moving adjournment was initially defeated by twenty-five votes. At that point, Maine's George Evans, the Websterite in Scott clothing, declared that it was obvious that the convention would never allow a nomination until a platform was adopted, and, with the aid of a favorable ruling from Chapman on a loudly disputed voice vote, Evans won adjournment. Chapman's selection as permanent president and Maine's inclusion of Evans to appease Websterites had together produced the convention's decisive turning point. Now a pro-Compromise platform was inevitable.

George Ashmun reported the platform to the evening session. With only slight modifications, it was the same platform drafted by the southern caucus on June 15 and 16. The critical eighth plank announced that the Whig party “received and acquiesced in” the Compromise measures, “the Act known as the Fugitive Slave law, included ‖ as a settlement in principle and substance” of the matters they addressed. It pledged Whigs to “maintain them and insist upon their strict enforcement.” If “time and experience” showed the need for further legislation to guard against abuse or evasion, moreover, that new legislation must not “impair their present efficiency.” Like the Democrats, finally, the plank said that Whigs “deprecate all further agitation of the question thus settled, as dangerous to our peace; and will discountenance all efforts to continue or renew such agitation whenever, wherever, or however the attempt may be made.” Like the Democratic platform, in short, the Whigs' meant finality without using the word.150

The Compromise plank drew most of participants' attention at the convention and virtually all the attention of later historians, but two other planks proved critically important during the subsequent campaign. The third resolution endorsed the stance of Fillmore's administration and of Southern Whigs against any intervention in European affairs and thus effectively put the party on record against Kossuth. It thus lengthened the odds against cutting into the expected new German vote. As a member of Kossuth's entourage wrote Seward immediately after he read it, “What a pity that the Whig platform could not be more favorable or at least less hostile! You could have had the german vote of all the western States, which could have secured the election.”151

The fifth plank adopted word for word the Southerners' tariff resolution, which called for a revenue tariff with “a just discrimination, whereby suitable encouragement may be afforded to American industry, equally to all classes, and to all portions of the country.” This was the plank that Democrats mocked as a total (p.718) surrender of Whigs' protectionist pretensions, the plank that appeared in both Whig and Democratic newspaper versions of the Whig platform, and the plank that appears in supposedly authoritative collections of national party platforms.152 Astonishingly, however, it was not the tariff plank written by the platform comittee.

The following day William F. Johnston, Pennsylvania's member on the committee, angrily protested that the plank reported in newspaper accounts was not what the committee had adopted. He had successfully amended the Southerners' plank in committee, he insisted, by inserting a vital demand for specific rather than ad valorem duties. The plank should read, he declared and the committee chairman Ashmun concurred: “and in laying such duties sound policy requires a just discrimination and protection from fraud by specific duties whereby suitable encouragement may be afforded to American industry. …” The importance of specific duties to Whigs who wanted a protective, not just a revenue, tariff cannot be exaggerated. Nor can it be doubted that the platform committee inserted that phrase, for northern and border state Webster and Fillmore men were just as committed to specific rates as northern Scott men.153 Yet for whatever reason, while the journal of the convention recorded the plank as Johnston wrote it, the versions of the platform that went out to the public and that have come down to posterity never included the critical words about specific duties. Whatever opportunities booming economic conditions still allowed Whigs to make a case for protectionism had been closed by their own inadvertence, indifference, or sheer incompetence.

On Friday night, however, delegates focused on the controversial Compromise plank, not the truncated tariff resolution. In the hubbub that ensued after Ashmun read the platform, Webster's eminent Massachusetts ally Rufus Choate got the floor first. Intentionally and gratuitously insulting Scott's backers, he exultantly declared that the platform “affirmed the finality of the Compromise,” argued that the Democrats' platform had left the Whigs with no alternative but to do so, and praised the prescience of Webster's notorious Seventh of March speech. Then, in a direct stab at Scott's delegates, he insisted that honor required Whigs to go forth to the country with an explicit platform and a candidate committed to it rather than an uncommitted and two-faced candidate who told northern audiences “No platform—agitation forever” and southern audiences “No platform—but a letter in every man's breeches pocket.”

This shaft was aimed at southern Scott backers like Botts and Jones who circulated among the delegates swearing they had letters to prove that Scott was pro-Compromise. After an Ohioan angrily urged Scott to spurn the obnoxious platform should he win the nomination, Botts tried to respond. Protesting Choate's acerbic language, he denied that Scott had written any letters to influence delegates at the convention. Then, as if not recognizing the contradiction, he pulled out of his own pocket and read a letter that Scott had written ex-Senator William Archer of Virginia on the day before the convention began. In that letter Scott said that he had decided not to write anyone at the convention itself before the nomination, but that, should he receive it, he would send a letter of acceptance that affirmed his strong approbation of the Compromise measures. Botts, in short, quoted a letter from Scott announcing to the convention that Scott was pro-Compromise in order to demonstrate that Scott had written no letters to influence (p.719) the convention. To refute Choate's charge, he had seemingly proved it, thus bringing waves of derisive laughter down on his head. Yet Botts was hardly the bumbler he seemed. He had cleverly seized an opportunity to make public for the first time a letter from Scott himself approving the Compromise and promising to make that approval much more explicit if he won the nomination.154

After this exchange the convention proceeded to vote on the platform. Since its adoption was certain, Scott's floor managers spread the word that Scott men were free to vote for it to conciliate the South. As Pike wrote Seward, arms had to be twisted to get certain men to do so, and he had promised them that a paragraph of Scott's acceptance letter would explicitly repudiate “the doctrine of making the compromise a party test.”155 Voluntarily or grudgingly, at least half of the Scott delegates supported the platform, and it carried easily 226–66. Every Southerner, including Delaware's three Scott delegates, was in the majority, and all the negative votes came from Scott men. Yet the roll call revealed where hard-liners and moderates in the Scott camp were concentrated, if not precisely who they were. Michigan was the only free state unanimously opposed. Iowa, California, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island were unanimously in favor, but so was New Jersey, a Scott state. Wisconsin split 4–1 in favor, as did Connecticut, where one delegate abstained. Maine divided 4–4, Indiana, 7–6, Illinois, 6–5, and Pennsylvania, whose heavily pro-Scott delegation was headed by William F. Johnston, gave the platform 25 of its 27 votes. Even in Ohio, eight of twenty-three delegates voted in favor. Only New York joined Michigan as a bastion of opposition. There only three delegates, who probably included the Webster-leaning Grinnell and Draper, joined the eight Fillmore men in favor, while the remaining twenty-two delegates who could vote opposed it.156

If Scott's strategists bowed to the inevitable by releasing delegates to support the platform, hard-liners still considered its adoption a decisive defeat. “The wretched platform, contrived to defeat General Scott in the nomination, or sink him in the canvass, comes to him like the order of a superior power,” Seward carped to his wife, “and he is incapable of understanding that it is not obligatory on him to execute it.” The North “as usual,” he lamented, had divided in the face of “intimidation” from a united South, “and so the platform adopted is one that deprives Scott of the vantage position he enjoyed.”157

Muzzled and voteless, Henry J. Raymond tried to salvage some benefit from this disaster. On Friday night he telegraphed a dispatch to the New York Times that appeared in the Saturday issue and that caused the convention's biggest blowup. He reported that the New York delegation was outraged by the credentials committee's action and would refuse to support the convention's nominee if it cost Scott the nomination. But he also predicted that Scott would win on the third or fourth ballot on Saturday because “Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and one or two others will give Scott the nomination. … The Northern Whigs gave way on the Platform, with this understanding. If Scott is not nominated, they will charge breach of faith on the South.”

Raymond's allusion to a quid pro quo swapping northern votes for the platform in exchange for southern votes for Scott accurately reflected the hopes of Scott's managers, but it represented wishful thinking, not hard evidence. The balloting for president began on Friday night, after the platform was adopted, but before it did, southern Scott men made one more attempt to provoke the break in anti-Scott (p.720) southern ranks that Raymond predicted. Tennessee's Lean Jimmy Jones declared that he knew from personal conversations with Scott that he would accept and endorse the pro -Compromise platform just adopted because Scott “was an ardent supporter and friend of the Compromise measures from the day they were first presented to Congress by Henry Clay and that he was opposed to touching them in any manner, shape, or form.”158

Botts and Jones barely dented southern opposition to Scott, however. On the first ballot and on five additional votes cast on Friday night, Scott's support from the South ranged between four and six votes, three from Delaware and between one and three from Virginia. Jones of Tennessee, who angrily denied that he intended to betray his state's wishes, apparently abstained rather than support Scott, for Tennessee cast only twelve of its thirteen votes. More significant was the general stability of the vote and the deadlock it signified. Nomination required 149 votes. On the first ballot that night Fillmore had 133, Scott, 131, and Webster 29. On the remaining five ballots Scott's vote fluctuated between 130 and 134, Fillmore's between 130 and 133, and Webster's surpassed 29 only once when it reached 30. Indeed, during forty ballots on Saturday, the convention's fourth long and contentious day, Scott never went lower than 131 or higher than 136, Fillmore fluctuated between 133 and 126, and Webster ranged between an irreducible 28 and his high of 32. Of the few switches that occurred, moreover, one fact was clear. Delegates swung back and forth between Scott and Webster and between Scott and Fillmore, but there was virtually no traffic in either direction between the Fillmore and Webster columns. By the end of Saturday's extraordinarily long and turbulent day of voting, the pattern stood pretty much where it had started on Friday night: Scott 134, Fillmore 127, Webster 31.

The breakdown of support can be discerned from the first ballot for which we have state-by-state data. Maine, New Jersey, Delaware, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan were unanimous for Scott. He also garnered twenty-two of Ohio's twenty-three votes, twenty-six of Pennsylvania's twenty-seven, and twenty-four of New York's thirty-three. Two men in the Connecticut, Massachusetts, and California delegations backed him, as did one from Virginia, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. Aside from a surprising three of Wisconsin's five delegates, two from New York, and one from California, Webster's strength came exclusively from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Fillmore took 115 of the 119 votes cast by Southerners, along with 7 from New York, all 4 from Iowa, and a scattering of 1 each from Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and California.

The lesson of these ballots was crystal clear. Both Scott and Fillmore were within striking distance of the nomination, and the irreducible Webster bloc of twenty-eight votes stood in each man's way. Aside from a few individuals in New Hampshire, New York, and Wisconsin who switched back and forth between Webster and Scott, Scott's managers had little hope of cutting into Webster's vote; they concentrated on prying Southerners away from Fillmore. Fillmore's managers, in turn, engaged in desperate negotiations during recesses on the 18th and 19th to bring Webster men into the Fillmore column.

The stubbornness of Webster's New England base infuriated Fillmore's Baltimore floor managers. From the moment the convention opened, operatives like Barney, Haven, and B. M. Edney, a North Carolinian employed in the Interior (p.721) Department, huddled with Massachusetts Webster delegates like Choate and William Hayden and pleaded with them to abandon Webster and support Fillmore. If Fillmore instead withdrew, they pointed out, they could not deliver all of his votes to Webster. Enough Southerners would then break to Scott to nominate him, they warned, but Webster's delegates refused to believe it. “No men ever were more mistaken,” the disgusted Haven wrote Fillmore on Friday. At daybreak that morning, Barney had traveled to Washington to plead with Webster himself to turn his delegates over to Fillmore, but Webster was as unmovable as his delegates. Aware that he had sacrificed his popularity in the North to aid the South in 1850, he believed southern Fillmore men owed him their support. “My friends will stand firm,” he telegraphed a Maryland delegate on Saturday morning. “Let the South answer for the consequences. Remember the 7th of March.”159

During the prolonged balloting on Saturday, June 19, which caused Elihu Washburne, an Illinois Scott delegate, to say “that the Whig party is about to pass through the dark valley of the shadow of death,” Fillmore's operatives grew angrier at Websterites' stubbornness as they saw Fillmore's total decline negligibly but perceptibly. After the convention adjourned Saturday night until Monday morning, Fillmore's friends doubled their efforts during the recess. At a meeting on Saturday night, they proposed that if Webster could bring forty votes from the North, Fillmore's men would break to him, but if he could not, then Webster's delegates should support Fillmore. Webster's friends shunned the deal. On Sunday morning, Edney offered a different bargain. On Monday, he proposed, 4 Webster delegates should shift to Fillmore on each ballot until he reached 145, 4 short of the necessary 149. This movement should frighten the Scott men into switching to Webster to stop Fillmore, and if Webster could get seventy-five northern votes in this fashion, Edney would deliver seventy-five southern Fillmore men to Webster. Alternatively, if Webster could not get seventy-five northern votes, then his supporters should go to Fillmore. This proposal, too, was rejected. Meanwhile, Barney and Brooklyn's David A. Bokee arranged a delegation from Baltimore to speak with Webster in Washington on Sunday. As of Sunday night, however, Webster would not budge. If he withdrew in favor of Fillmore, Webster contended, enough of his New England delegates would go to Scott to nominate him.160

The inability of the Webster and Fillmore delegations in Baltimore to unite their combined majority is puzzling, but the behavior of the principals back in Washington strikes the modern observer as positively surreal. During the entire convention week, the two men who had worked so closely together for two years never saw or spoke to each other. True, Fillmore and Webster had occasionally been at odds, especially over Fillmore's willingness to take patronage from his New York enemies while refusing to allow Webster to do the same in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. Nonetheless, they agreed with each other about so much that was at stake in Baltimore that one wonders why they simply did not meet themselves for an hour or two and resolve the deadlock. Concern about the impropriety of openly maneuvering for the presidency is an obvious answer, but newspapers were already reporting that their men in Baltimore met at every opportunity to arrange a deal.

Mutual pride and Webster's resentment may offer a better explanation. Fillmore was certainly prepared to turn his delegates over to Webster, but he had promised his friend Babcock that Babcock alone should make that decision. (p.722) Besides, as Fillmore was head of the administration, making the first overture to a subordinate would be unseemly. Webster's pride was monumental; since January, moreover, his anger that Fillmore had refused to withdraw had festered and the proceedings in Baltimore had brought it to a flash point. Webster spent most of Sunday afternoon, indeed, cursing Fillmore and his southern supporters as duplicitous ingrates. Whatever the reasons why the two men failed to communicate directly with each other, rather than through their Baltimore emissaries, that lapse almost produced a fiasco of legendary proportions.161

On Monday morning, Webster conceded the hopelessness of his situation. Early that morning he sent a note to Fillmore saying that he had informed his friends in Baltimore to throw their support to the president and that Fillmore should be nominated by one o'clock that afternoon. But Fillmore had also had enough. As he replied to Webster, he too had sent a messenger to Baltimore that morning urging his friends to withdraw his name and cast their support to Webster, “which I presume will be done unless the knowledge of your communication shall prevent it.” The possibility existed that both men's names would be withdrawn, leaving Scott alone in the field.162

That ludicrous denouement was averted. Neither the Webster nor the Fillmore men at Baltimore would obey instructions. As Francis Granger later wrote Fillmore, Babcock had acted superbly. “There was never a moment when your withdrawal would have secured Mr. Webster's nomination. There were never more than 94 of the 116 Southern votes which sustained you that could have been given to him.” By keeping Fillmore in the race, moreover, the Southerners who planned to switch to Scott if he dropped out would have to desert openly to do so and thus earn the execration they deserved. As for Webster's friends, chided Granger, “Some of them, as you know, were Scott men at heart. The rest, Choate included, seemed to me to act like a parcel of school boys, waiting for the sky to fall that they might catch larks. Such another collection of respectable out of place gentlemen was never seen.”163

Another factor stopping a simultaneous withdrawal, however, was that the convention did not immediately recommence balloting when it reconvened on Monday morning. It spent several hours instead debating a motion from a Georgian to expel Henry J. Raymond. That angry debate, during which Raymond implied that Cabell was a liar and Cabell threatened to challenge Raymond to a duel, provided sufficient time for the Fillmore and Webster managers to compare notes, decide that it would be pointless for both men to withdraw, and determine to keep both in the race on the grounds that the instructions canceled each other out.164

On the first two votes after balloting resumed, Scott gained 3 votes from Missouri to bring his total to 137. On the next, the forty-ninth, ballot, Cranston of Rhode Island abandoned Webster and joined Scott's column, a shift that caused enormous excitement in the spectator galleries.165 By the fifty-second ballot Scott's total stood at 148, 1 vote shy of nomination, Fillmore had declined to 119, and Webster was down to 26. In a normal convention there would have been a landslide in Scott's direction as everyone tried to side with the winner, but the long and acrimonious struggle had cemented most delegates to the man with whom they started. On the fifty-third and final ballot, Scott edged over the top with 157 votes, Fillmore got 114, and Webster retained only 21–4 of Wisconsin's (p.723) 5 votes, 1 from California, 1 from New York's faithful Grinnell, and the remainder from New England, including the 11 die-hards in Massachusetts who refused to back Fillmore.166

Between the first and last ballots the following shifts had occurred: Scott picked up two Fillmore and six Webster votes from New England, including those of all four New Hampshire Webster men. Very early in the balloting, New York's Simeon Draper had also moved from the Webster to the Scott column.167 Otherwise, his gains came at the expense of Fillmore: one in California, one in Pennsylvania, one in Ohio, one in Iowa, three in Missouri, three in Tennessee, and seven in Virginia.168 Although Kentucky and North Carolina had been repeatedly rumored to harbor Scott supporters, they remained solidly opposed to Scott, as did the other slave states. Still, the thirteen southern votes made the difference. Scott could have won without the eight votes he gained in New England. The thirteen southern votes, in contrast, were indispensable, and they equaled all of the gains Scott had made elsewhere.

Many of these Southerners obviously decided over the Sunday recess to switch to Scott to break the stalemate, and as if to justify the vote he had finally dared to cast, Tennessee's Jones immediately stood and read a letter from Scott, dated Sunday, June 20. One sentence long, it said: “having the honor to be a candidate of the Whig Convention, I will accept the nomination, with the platform of principles the Convention has laid down.” Whether Jones actually had a letter from Scott of that date—he had promised on Friday that Scott would accept the platform—will never be known, but hard-liners among Scott men considered any acknowledgment of the platform by Scott a blunder. “In God's name have no slip here,” Pike had written Seward. Scott's letter of acceptance must explicitly repudiate “making the compromise a party test.” Most important, “The letter of Gen. S. should be sent by the committee.” If Scott wrote what Jones read, in sum, he proved to be the loose cannon his managers had always feared.169

While Scott's northern managers would later try to repair the damage caused by Scott's convention letter in his official letter of acceptance, Jones' speech allowed southern delegates to follow customary ritual and accede to the nomination. With varying degrees of enthusiasm, speakers from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and even South Carolina announced their support for the nominee, as did a Massachusetts delegate. However sincere or hollow these pledges, everyone knew that a Southerner had to be placed on the ticket to balance Scott, and thus the convention moved to select the vice presidential nominee.

Altogether, nineteen men received votes on the first ballot for vice president, and all but one—New York's hapless Silver Gray Richardson, who got three sympathy votes for being denied a vote during the convention by being paired with Raymond—were Southerners. Three men from Kentucky, four from Tennessee, three from North Carolina, two from Maryland, two from Missouri, and one each from South Carolina, Florida, Virginia, and Alabama got votes. The leader was Missouri's Edward Bates, with ninety-seven votes, followed by William A. Graham of North Carolina with seventy-four. Crittenden of Kentucky got ten and Jones of Tennessee, once the front-runner for the slot, a meager five. Both withdrew their names after that ballot.

Aside from favorite sons like Florida's Governor Thomas Brown, the home states of serious candidates were not accidental. Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia (p.724) were the states that had put Scott over the top, and northern Scott men wanted to reward them. The front-runner Bates, for example, got only six southern votes, aside from his own state's nine, although the other contender from Missouri, John W. Crockett, got all twelve of Tennessee's votes, as well as seven from the North. All of Bates' remaining votes came from the North, and he ran especially well among Midwesterners, who considered him one of their own.170 In contrast, Kentucky, Maryland, and North Carolina, whose various contenders received a total of 143 votes, were traditional Whig states that solidly supported Fillmore and whose votes were considered vital in November. In the end, the necessity of appeasing them rather than rewarding southern bolters to Scott carried the day. Graham won on the second ballot by a vote of 232 to 52 for Bates.

Graham's nomination was perfectly logical. Unlike Mangum and Stanly, other North Carolinians who received votes, Graham had never supported Scott, and he was a member of Fillmore's official family. Unlike Crittenden of Kentucky, who was also in the cabinet, Graham's name was not withdrawn. And unlike Senator James Pearce, the leading vote getter from Maryland, Graham hailed from a state with ten, not just eight, electoral votes. Since Jones had already pledged to work as hard for the ticket as possible in Tennessee, shoring up North Carolina seemed the top priority. As soon as his nomination was announced, indeed, a North Carolina delegate pledged that the Scott-Graham ticket would carry North Carolina by at least 10,000 votes.


The ticket of Scott and Graham represented a desperate attempt to preserve the party as a bisectional organization. Although one wag immediately predicted that a ticket coupling a North Carolinian with “Old Fuss and Feathers” would be derisively labeled “Tar and Feathers,” it linked the clear favorite of most northern Whigs with a slaveholder closely associated with the runner-up and eminently acceptable to Southerners who distrusted Scott.171 Given Webster's anger that no Southerner cast a single vote for him at the convention, probably no Southerner could appease Webster loyalists, but Scott, not Graham, was expected to carry New England for the Whigs.

Nonetheless, the ticket by itself could not heal the wounds opened up at and before the convention. One reminder of those divisions came in the convention's last minutes when Pennsylvania's irascible Jessup moved that at the next national convention no state be allowed more delegates than it had votes, a slap at the overrepresentation of the South that had so infuriated northern Scott men. More important were the divergent sectional reactions to the outcome. Southern Whigs in and outside the convention cheered the adoption of the platform and Graham's nomination. Their response to Scott, in contrast, was tepid, if not downright chilly, and they always coupled promises to support the ticket with the contingent demand that he embrace the platform. Both Botts and Jones had specifically pledged that Scott's letter of acceptance would explicitly endorse the Compromise, and for Southerners much hinged on what Scott would actually say in that epistle. Many Northerners' reactions were succinctly captured by Charles Dana, the New York newspaperman: “Hurrah for the nomination & damn the platform!”172 Appalled (p.725) by the letter Jones read, Scott's managers hoped to repair the damage in the official letter of acceptance. No letter acceptable to them could possibly say everything that Southern Whigs now anticipated.

When the Whig convention finally adjourned, in sum, most northern and southern Whigs still deeply disagreed about what the thrust of the ensuing campaign should be. That chasm could not be papered over by obligatory promises to support the ticket. During the entire six days of the convention, in fact, delegates for different candidates and from different regions enthusiastically united on only two occasions. Both were commemorations of Henry Clay, the party's mortally ill founder, who had championed its cause for so many years. That Whigs were far more united when they looked to the past than when they confronted the future spoke volumes.

What Clay thought of the convention's outcome is unknown. He lay dying during its proceedings. A little after 11 A.M. on June 29, eight days after the convention adjourned, the only man on whom Whigs seemingly still could unite expired. Word of Clay's death, which Whigs had anticipated for months, went out to the nation in the next day's papers. By an eerie and ominous coincidence, the same editions of papers on June 30 that announced the doleful news also carried the acceptance letters of Winfield Scott and William A. Graham that had such grave implications for the future of the party that Clay had personified in the past.


(1.) Benjamin F. Wade to Caroline Wade, January 28, 1852, Wade MSS; Philadelphia Public Ledger, Washington Correspondence, January 14, 1852.

(2.) Truman Smith to Daniel M. Barringer, May 1, 1852, Barringer MSS; Truman Smith to William B. Campbell, May 15, 1852, CFP.

(3.) For Sargent's interest in a Union party, see James D. Ogden to John O. Sargent, September 17, 20, 1851, Samuel Eliot to Sargent, November 10, 1851, Sargent MSS; for Kennedy's continuing advocacy of the idea, see John P. Kennedy to Henry C. Carey, April 30, 1851, Kennedy to Daniel Webster, July 10, 1851, and Kennedy to Robert C. Winthrop, December 20, 1851, copies, Kennedy MSS.

(4.) Oran Follett to Millard Fillmore, November 19, 1851, Daniel Lee to Fillmore, July 27, December 4, 1851, February 13, 1852, MFP-BHS.

(5.) Daniel Webster to Franklin Haven, November 21, 28, 30, 1851, National Union Party [Benjamin Balche] to Webster, October 20, 1851, Webster MSS; Henry A. Wise to Edward Everett, November 28, 1851, Everett MSS; Benjamin Balche to Howell Cobb, January 10, 1851, in Phillips, “Correspondence of Toombs, Stephens, and Cobb,” pp. 220–21.

(6.) Aside from having a common desire with Websterites to stop Fillmore from sewing up the city's delegates to the national convention, Seward needed their help to secure the Whig gubernatorial nomination in 1852 for Moses Grinnell, a Manhattan merchant who was close to Webster's friends in the mercantile community and on the Union Safety Committee. Grinnell's nomination, Seward believed, could reunify the state Whig party without giving Silver Grays (p.1105) the governorship. See Simeon Draper to Daniel Webster, January 1852, James Watson Webb to Webster, February 8, 1852, Webster MSS; Henry J. Raymond to William H. Seward, March 15, 1851, Seward MSS (RU).

(7.) An Old Fashioned Webster Man to Webster, Philadelphia, October 28, 1851, Webster MSS; John M. Clayton to John J. Crittenden, October 27, 1851, James E. Harvey to Crittenden, October 28, 1851, Crittenden MSS (LC).

(8.) Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 14, 1852; Oran Follett to Millard Fillmore, November 19, 1851, Daniel Lee to Fillmore, December 4, 1851, Webster to Fillmore, December 20, 1851, MFP-BHS; Henry S. Foote to Millard Fillmore, December 22, 1851, MFP-O; John P. Kennedy to Robert C. Winthrop, December 20, 1851, copy, Kennedy MSS; Daniel Webster to Henry Hilliard, April 7, 1851, Edward Everett to Webster, November 22, 1851, Webster MSS; William H. Seward to Thurlow Weed, December 26, 1851, Weed MSS (RU). Foote resigned his Senate seat on January 8, 1852; his successor, Walter Brooke, a Union Whig, was sworn in on March 11, 1852.

(9.) Charles March to Daniel Webster, November 23, 1851, Webster to Franklin Haven, November 30, 1851, Webster MSS; Seward to Weed, December 26, 1851, Weed MSS (RU); William Schouler to Seward, December 20, 1851, James B. Swain to Seward, February 24, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); Cabell's speech is quoted in Cole, Whig Party in the South, pp. 230, 233n. The Democratic caucus, which met on Saturday night, November 29, 1851, will be discussed further below.

(10.) Webster to Everett, March 13, 1852, Webster MSS.

(11.) Webster to Franklin Haven, November 14, 28, 1851, Webster MSS. For other reports that Fillmore intended to announce his withdrawal from the race in December or January, see Joseph C. Kennedy to John M. Clayton, December 10, 1851, Clayton MSS; and the Washington Correspondence in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 23, 1852.

(12.) Henry A. Wise to Edward Everett, January 24, 1852, Fillmore to Everett, February 16, 1852, Everett MSS; Webster to Franklin Haven, January 22, 1852, Simeon Draper to Webster, January 1852, Webster MSS; Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 24, 1852.

(13.) Alexander Stephens to Linton Stephens, December 10, 1851, and the letters to Howell Cobb from Robert Toombs, December 2, 1851 [misdated January 2, 1851], Alexander Stephens, November 24, 26, December 5, 1851, Thomas D. Harris, November 29, 1851, and George W. Jones, December 7, 1851, all in Phillips, “Correspondence of Toombs, Stephens, and Cobb,” pp. 218–20, 264–74.

(14.) Ibid.; see also Howell Cobb to Alexander H. Stephens, December 3, 22, 1851, Stephens MSS (LC); Daniel Lee to Millard Fillmore, December 4, 1851, MFP-BHS. Brooke is quoted in Cole, Whig Party in the South, p. 218.

(15.) Andrew Jackson Donelson to Howell Cobb, October 22, 1851, George W. Jones to Cobb, December 7, 1851, January 25, 1852, John Slidell to Cobb, January 28, 1852, in Phillips, “Correspondence of Toombs, Stephens, and Cobb,” pp. 262–77. The reason southern Whigs expressed continued faith in the party will be examined below, but Cabell's December speech, in which he proclaimed the Whig party now safer on the finality of the Compromise than the Democrats, can be found in U.S. Congress, Congressional Globe, 32nd Cong., 1st Sess., pp. 8–9.

(16.) In addition to the letters to Cobb cited in previous notes, see Herridon L. Henderson to John Bragg, January 15, 1852, A. Lopez to Bragg, January 24, 1852, Bragg MSS; Cole, Whig Party in the South, pp. 212–14; Nevins, Ordeal: Fruits, pp. 377–79; Thornton, Politics and Power, pp. 195–99; and Shryock, Georgia and the Union, pp. 356–63.

(17.) In addition to the sources cited in the previous note, see Howell Cobb to Alexander H. Stephens, December 22, 1851, Stephens MSS (LC); Stephens to Cobb, November 26, 1851, in Phillips, “Correspondence of Toombs, Stephens, and Cobb,” pp. 265–67; Edward Everett to Daniel Webster, November 22, 1851, Webster MSS; Arthur F. Hopkins to Millard Fillmore, March 3, 1852, William C. Dawson to Fillmore, March 15, 1852, MFP-BHS; Thomas E. Joby to John Bragg, December 10, 1851, Herridon L. Henderson to Bragg, January 15, 1852, A. Lopez to John Bragg, January 24, 1852, Bragg MSS.

(18.) For Alabama, see Thornton, Politics and Power, pp. 195–97; for Mississippi I have relied primarily on two unpublished papers written by graduate students at the University of Virginia, (p.1106) copies of which are in my possession: Hoerl, “Land, Rails, and Gresham's Law,” and Mittendorf, “Mississippi Politics.” Both possess tables showing changes in the Rice Indexes of Cohesion over time on various issues that graphically illustrate the disunity of the Union coalition. In 1848, for example, five votes on banking produced an average Whig cohesion score of 85; on two votes on banking in 1852 the Union average was only 6.5. In 1848, the average Whig cohesion on eleven votes concerning the Planters' Bank bonds was 74.5; in 1852, the Union coalition mustered a cohesion index of only 30.9 on ten such votes. In 1848, on twenty-one votes on land policy, Whigs retained an average cohesion score of 73.6; four votes on land policy produced a Union score of only 34.7. In contrast to these votes on state economic policy, the index of Union cohesion on the vote for United States senator in 1852, when Brooke was elected, was 85.2.

(19.) Henry Hilliard to Fillmore, January 26, 1852, Arthur F. Hopkins to Fillmore, March 3, April 22, 1852, William C. Dawson to Fillmore, March 15, 1852, MFP-BHS.

(20.) Samuel Eliot to John O. Sargent, November 10, 1851, Sargent MSS.

(21.) Philip Greely, Jr., to William H. Seward, March 1, 1852, Seward MSS (RU). These contentions about northern Whigs will be documented more fully below, but see the speeches by Lewis Campbell, James Brooks, and E. C. Cabell, Congressional Globe, 32nd Cong., 1st Sess., pp. 5–9; and William H. Seward to Thurlow Weed, December 26, 1851, Weed MSS (RU).

(22.) Robert Toombs to Howell Cobb, December 2, 1851 [misdated January 2, 1851], in Phillips, “Correspondence of Toombs, Stephens, and Cobb,” pp. 218–220; Webster to Franklin Haven, November 30, 1851, Webster MSS; speeches of Brooks and Cabell, December 1, 1851, Congressional Globe, 32nd Cong., 1st Sess., pp. 5–9.

(23.) Congressional Globe, 32nd Cong., 1st Sess., pp. 5–9. Brooks read the Whigs' resolution into the Congressional Record, p. 6. It said that the “adjustment measures” formed the best “system of compromise” possible “and that therefore they ought to be adhered to and carried into full execution, as a final settlement in principle and substance of the dangerous and exciting subjects which they embrace.”

(24.) Alexander, Sectional Stress, p. 18, lists ninety-two Whigs in the House for this session. To get the figure of eighty-six Whigs, I have subtracted the two Union Whigs from Alabama, the two Union Whigs from Georgia, and the two Southern Rights Whigs from Georgia. The Whig caucus in fact never nominated a candidate for speaker, and Whigs scattered their votes among several people on the House vote.

(25.) Congressional Globe, 32nd Cong., 1st Sess., pp. 5–9; George W. Jones to Howell Cobb, December 7, 1851, in Phillips, “Correspondence of Toombs, Stephens, and Cobb,” pp. 269–71; John Z. Goodrich to William Schouler, April 26, 1852, Schouler MSS. Goodrich, a Massachusetts Whig at the caucus who dissented from the finality resolution, bitterly complained in this last letter about the false portrait of northern acquiescence in finality that Brooks and Cabell presented on the House floor.

(26.) William B. Campbell to David Campbell, February 15, 1852, CFP; New Orleans Bulletin, July 11, 1851, Memphis Eagle, November 11, 1851, both quoted in Cole, Whig Party in the South, pp. 227–28. Cole, pp. 223–44, amasses irrefutable evidence that the vast majority of southern Whigs preferred Fillmore or Webster and opposed Scott as untrustworthy. See also Cooper, Politics of Slavery, pp. 322–25.

(27.) Alabama's Joseph G. Baldwin wrote Alexander H. H. Stuart, “Webster won't do. His declaration that there should be no other slave state is fel de re here.” Howell Cobb, in replying to a proposed Union party ticket of Webster and Cobb, declared that “no man—Whig or Democrat, great or small—can or ever will receive the support of the South for the presidency who advocates the doctrines avowed by Mr. Webster in his Buffalo speech.” Baldwin to Stuart, April 16, 1852, Stuart MSS (University of Virginia); Cobb to C. W. Denison, February 3, 1852, in Phillips, “Correspondence of Toombs, Stephens, and Cobb,” pp. 278–79. See also J. Muir to Thomas Corwin, March 11, 1852, Corwin MSS (LC).

(28.) Millard Fillmore to Daniel Webster, November 29, 1851, with answers on back from Webster, Crittenden, and William A. Graham urging Fillmore not to change the section of his annual message on the Fugitive Slave Act, as Fish requested, MFP-BHS; Messages and Papers of the Presidents, V, pp. 137–39; Dennis Heart to Willie P. Mangum, March 31, 1852, in The (p.1107) Mangum Papers, V, pp. 221–23; Henry A. Wise to Edward Everett, March 20, 1852, Everett MSS.

(29.) Rayback, Fillmore, pp. 333–37; Joseph C. Kennedy to John M. Clayton, December 10, 1851, Clayton MSS; Fillmore to Everett, November 28, 1851, Everett MSS; Fillmore to Whig National Convention, June 10, 1852, draft, MFP-O.

(30.) George Madeira to Fillmore, November 18, 1851, Richard W. Thompson to Fillmore, January 6, 1852, John Ashmead to Fillmore, July 12, 1851, February 27, March 25, 1852, George W. Knight to Fillmore, April 7, 1852, MFP-BHS.

(31.) Henry Hilliard to Fillmore, December 9, 1851, MFP-BHS.

(32.) Oran Follett to Fillmore, November 19, 1851, Henry Hilliard to Fillmore, December 9, 1851, George R. Babcock to Fillmore, March 8, 1852, MFP-BHS.

(33.) Fillmore to President of the Whig National Convention, June 10, 1852, draft, Fillmore to George R. Babcock, June 12, 1852, MFP-O; Fillmore to Edward Everett, February 16, 1852, Everett MSS.

(34.) William H. Garland to Fillmore, February 17, 1852, Daniel Lee to Fillmore, March 26, 1852, MFP-BHS.

(35.) See, for example, Lewis Campbell to William Schouler, January 15, 1852, Schouler MSS.

(36.) Savannah Republican, July 1, 1851, quoted in Cole, Whig Party in the South, pp. 225–26; Christopher H. Williams to William B. Campbell, January 26, 1852, CFP.

(37.) Horace Greeley to Schuyler Colfax, February 12, 1851, quoted in Nevins, Ordeal: House, p. 26; William Bigler to Franklin Pierce, June 26, 1852, Pierce MSS; Joseph C. Kennedy to John M. Clayton, December 10, 1851, Clayton MSS.

(38.) Truman Smith to John Wilson, January 5, August 16, October 14, 1851, Wilson MSS. George C. Gardiner, one-time dentist, land speculator, and spectacularly brazen bunko artist, presented a completely spurious claim to the Mexican Claims Commission created under the terms of the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo to pay off the debts the government of Mexico owed to U.S. citizens. While still in the Senate, Corwin served as Gardiner's lawyer, working on a contingency basis, before the claims commission on which his cousin, Robert C. Corwin, sat. Upon his elevation to the cabinet, Corwin sold his share to another lawyer for $81,000. Thus he netted none of the $484,000 the commission awared Gardiner. Nonetheless, the later revelation that Gardiner's claim was utterly false and the obvious fact that Corwin had been able to sell his share of the claim for so much only because of his presumed influence on his cousin created a scandal. See Summers, Plundering Generation, pp. 159–61.

(39.) James S. Pike to Thurlow Weed, January 30, 1852, Weed MSS (RU).

(40.) John O. Charles to Millard Fillmore, March 17, 1851, MFP-BHS; Charles A. Dana to James S. Pike, May 1852, Pike MSS; Truman Smith to Daniel M. Barringer, May 1, 1852, Barringer MSS.

(41.) George R. Babcock to Fillmore, March 8, 1852, Thomas Foote to Fillmore, April 19, 1852, MFP-BHS.

(42.) Washington Hunt to Hamilton Fish, April 4, 1852, Fish MSS.

(43.) Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 21, 1852. This summary of Whig and Democratic positions on economic policy recapitulates arguments I've already developed in previous chapters, and I see no need for additional documentation here.

(44.) Messages and Papers of the Presidents, V, pp. 123–24. I have documented the argument in this and subsequent paragraphs in Holt, Political Crisis, pp. 106–13, 270–71, 297–99.

(45.) On free banking acts and Democratic support for them in the Midwest, see Shade, Banks or No Banks, pp. 145–88; for Democratic demands on Pennsylvania's Bigler to sign bills chartering new banks, see the letters in the Bigler MSS dated April 10, 13, 17, 19, 1852. Letters from other Democrats dated April 20, 21, 23, 1852, however, applaud his vetoes of the same banking bills. For the diminution of legislative conflict over banking and currency, see Table 3 in Holt, Political Crisis, p. 175.

(46.) In July a Pennsylvania Democrat, after making a trip through the state's iron-making and coal-mining districts, reported: “The tariff people—especially the discontented coal and iron people are satisfied[,] for the increased demand for rail way iron has set them to work & we (p.1108) hear no more complaints.” Governor Bigler also told Franklin Pierce that the tariff issue “has lost much of its potency” in Pennsylvania. Benjamin Brewster to Edmund Burke, July 19, 1852, Burke MSS; William Bigler to Pierce, June 26, 1852, Pierce MSS.

For evidence that those involved in railroad construction wanted to keep duties on imported rails low, see Alfred Kelley to Thomas Ewing, February 11, 1851, EFP; and Isaac R. Diller to Stephen A. Douglas, February 2, 1853, Douglas MSS.

(47.) On Congress, see Alexander, Sectional Stress, pp. 77–84; and Silbey, Shrine of Party, pp. 121–36. On pp. 115–16 of Political Crisis I provide a table showing the decline of indices of disagreement in various state legislatures in the early 1850s. After I wrote that book, Marc Kruman published indices for North Carolina, while my own graduate students generated figures for Louisiana and Wisconsin and a more complete analysis of votes in Kentucky, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Ohio. The changes in the average indices of disagreement in those states on banking and currency, business incorporations and stockholder privileges, and internal improvements were as follows:









Banking and Currency



























New Hamp.

No Votes during These Years

N. Carolina











Business Incorporations and Stockholder Liability



















No Votes during These Years

New Hamp.








N. Carolina





Internal Improvements

























New Hamp.





N. Carolina













These figures can be found in Kruman, Parties and Politics, pp. 57, 72, 82–84; Volz, “Party, State, and Nation,” p. 143; Renda, “The Polity and the Party System”; Ames, “Conflict and Consensus”; Shadle, “Consensus”; Pilkington, “Louisiana House of Representatives.”

(48.) Messages and Papers of the Presidents, V, pp. 113–39; Kentucky Whig platform, enclosed with Leslie Combs to Millard Fillmore, February 26, 1852, MFP-BHS; Washington National Intelligencer, April 17, 1852; the Whig national platform is reprinted in the appendix to Van Deusen, “The Whig Party,” pp. 478–79. For Democratic jeers at the Whig retreat on the tariff and confidence that Whigs could no longer use the issue against them, see William V. Pettit to Franklin Pierce, June 5, 1852, William Bigler to Pierce, June 26, 1852, Pierce MSS; Benjamin Brewster to Edmund Burke, July 19, 1852, Burke MSS; and Holt, Forging a Majority, pp. 104–05.

(49.) Nathaniel P. Tallmadge, Jr., to Thomas Corwin, November 7, 1851, Corwin MSS (LC); (p.1109) Benjamin F. Wade to Caroline Wade, March 15, 1852, Wade MSS; W. H. Garland to Fillmore, February 17, 1852, MFP-BHS.

(50.) Entry for September 24, 1852, in Hayes Diary, pp. 421–22; Charles Barringer to Daniel M. Barringer, February 4, 1853, Barringer MSS.

(51.) William Bigler to Franklin Pierce, June 26, 1852, Pierce MSS; Jabez D. Hammond to William H. Seward, November 12, 1851, Seward MSS (RU); John Van Buren to Francis P. Blair, February 28, 1852, Blair-Lee MSS.

(52.) On New Jersey, I have used Renda, “Railroads, Revenue, and Reform,” pp. 80–86.

(53.) David McDonald to Henry S. Lane, January 17, 1852, (quotation), D. P. Holloway to Lane, February 3, 1852, Lane to Holloway, February 4, 1852, J. L. King et al. to Lane, February 10, 1852, Lane to J. L. King et al., February 15, 1852, Henry Lane MSS (IU). For the actions of the Whig state convention, see John D. Defrees to John J. Crittenden, February 28, 1852, Crittenden MSS (LC); and Schuyler Colfax to William H. Seward, March 5, 1852, Seward MSS (RU). The complaint about Irishmen referred to the provision in Indiana's new constitution that unnaturalized immigrant aliens could vote. Other Indiana Whigs, as we shall see, feared a huge new German vote even more. Whigs' eventual nominee for governor ran almost 20,000 votes behind Wright in October, winning only 43.3 percent of the vote, the Whigs' worst showing since the party's founding.

(54.) John S. Davis to David F. Caldwell, February 19, 1852, Caldwell MSS; John M. Bradford to William H. Seward, March 3, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); Alex Brooks to Benedict Lewis, August 22, 1852, Daniel Ullmann MSS. The best general accounts of the prohibition movement in these years are Tyrell, Sobering Up; and Danenbaum, Drink and Disorder.

(55.) See Table 3 of Holt, Political Crisis, p. 116.

(56.) Robert H. Morris to Hamilton Fish, February 10, 1852, Fish MSS; William J. Rogers to William L. Bigler, October 4, 1852, Bigler MSS.

(57.) The account of Connecticut in this and following paragraphs is based, in part, on Renda,“The Polity and the Party System,” pp. 180–84. Roll-call votes involving the slavery issue had produced sharp polarization in the Connecticut legislature in 1850 and would again in 1854, but no votes concerning slavery were held in 1851, 1852, or 1853. Holt, Political Crisis, p. 116.

(58.) Roger Sherman Baldwin to Emily Baldwin, March 13, 1852, Baldwin to Roger Sherman Baldwin, Jr., March 19, 1852, BFP.

(59.) Roger Sherman Baldwin to Emily Baldwin, April 10, 1852, BFP; Hartford Courant, April 10, 1852, quoted in Renda, “The Polity and the Party System,” p. 183; see also Renda's regression estimates of voter movement between 1851 and 1852, p. 213.

(60.) After the Whig national convention, where only two of Connecticut's six delegates consistently backed Scott, Baldwin complained that the other four flouted the wishes of most Connecticut Whigs, who preferred Scott. Roger Sherman Baldwin to Emily Baldwin, June 27, 1852, BFP. For the 1852 spring campaign in New Hampshire, see Renda, “Polity and the Party System,” pp. 192–96.

(61.) The evidence of immigrant opposition to prohibition is overwhelming, but for a recent examination of German attitudes, see Levine, Spirit of 1848, pp. 90, 141, 143, 245.

(62.) This assertion about low turnout rates among immigrants, which cannot be conclusively proved, rests on the following information. According to the census of 1850, which I reaggregated from manuscript schedules, there were 11,557 white males aged twenty-one or more living in Pittsburgh. Of these, only 4,137 (35.8 percent) were native born or the adult sons of native-born men living at home. Almost 65 percent of the adult male population, that is, was first-or second-generation immigrant. In the presidential election of 1848, when the estimated turnout rate for Pennsylvania as a whole was 77.5 percent, only 5,365 (46.4 percent of the 1850 total) Pittsburghers voted, and turnout was especially low in the wards with the heaviest concentrations of immigrants. Similarly, in the gubernatorial election of 1851, when statewide turnout was 70.7 percent, the total vote in Pittsburgh was only 4304 (37.2 percent of the 1850 total). That discrepancy between city and state turnout rates suggests that, for whatever reason, immigrants voted at lower levels than the native-born. The data on which these estimates are based can be found in Tables 4, 16, and 23 of Holt, Forging a Majority, pp. 319–34; and Gienapp, “‘Politics Seem to Enter Into Everything,’” pp. 18–19. (p.1110) Pittsburgh's exceedingly low turnout level is hard to square with estimates by Robert W. Fogel that during the 1840s already naturalized immigrants voted at the same rates as the total electorate. Yet Fogel's figures also show that in 1848 little more than half of the male immigrants already in the northern workforce by 1840 had even bothered to take out naturalization papers, a stunning index of immigrants' political disinterest. For the northern turnout figures, see the table in Gienapp, pp. 18–19. For Fogel's estimates, see Tables 2 and 3 in Fogel, “Modeling Complex Dynamic Interactions,” 16–17.

(63.) My account of the excitement Kossuth engendered rests primarily on Spencer, Kossuth; for contemporary descriptions of his speaking style and public persona, see John P. Kennedy to Robert C. Winthrop, December 20, 1851, copy, Kennedy MSS; Simeon Draper to William H. Seward, December 19, 1851, Seward MSS (RU).

(64.) Spencer, Kossuth, pp. 53–54.

(65.) Daniel Webster to Edward Everett, November 21, 1851, Webster to Franklin Haven, November 21, 1851, Webster to Abbott Lawrence, December 29, 1851, Edward Everett to Webster, December 9, 1851, Webster MSS; Robert C. Winthrop to John Davis, December 13, 1851, John Davis MSS; John P. Kennedy to Robert C. Winthrop, January 24, 1852, copy, Kennedy MSS.

(66.) William Cullom to William B. Campbell, January 17, 1852, CFP; Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 8, 1852; Henry A. Wise to Edward Everett, December 12, 1851, Everett MSS.

(67.) Gilbert Davis to Millard Fillmore, December 3, 1851, MFP-BHS; B. H. Cheever to Caleb Cushing, December 12, 1851, Cushing MSS; William H. Seward to Thurlow Weed, December 26, 1851, Weed MSS (RU).

(68.) Webster to Franklin Haven, December 23, 1851, Webster MSS; Ben Wade to Caroline Wade, December 10, 1851, Wade MSS; Henry A. Wise to Edward Everett, January 3, 1852, Everett MSS; Alexander Stephens to John J. Crittenden, February 17, 1852, Crittenden MSS (LC); Seward to Weed, December 26, 1851, Weed MSS; Seward to William Schouler, January 12, 1852, Schouler MSS. For southern attitudes toward Kossuth, see Spencer, Kossuth, pp. 95–106 Although a joint resolution welcoming Kossuth to the United States easily passed the House by a vote of 181–16, a later motion to allow Kossuth to address the House met stiffer opposition, 111–56, when most Southerners from both parties opposed it. See Alexander, Sectional Stress, pp. 217, 220.

(69.) Ben Wade to Caroline Wade, December 10, 1852, Wade MSS; Edwin B. Morgan to Seward, January 27, 1852, Seward MSS (RU).

(70.) Walter Cunningham to Seward, December 7, 20, 1851, Henry J. Raymond to Seward, December 8, 1851, William Schouler to Seward, December 20, 1851, Louis Kossuth to Seward, December 21, 1851, Seward MSS (RU); Seward to Weed, December 26, 1851, Weed MSS (RU); Seward to Schouler, January 12, 1852, Schouler MSS; Seward to Home, December 7, 1851, in Seward at Washington, p. 175; Henry A. Wise to Edward Everett, December 31, 1851, Everett MSS. Seward actually invited Kossuth to stay with him when Kossuth reached Washington, but Kossuth declined because his entourage was so large.

(71.) Van Deusen, Seward, pp. 139–40; Frederick Seward to Thurlow Weed, January 31, 1851, Weed MSS (RU); Richard M. Blatchford to Seward, December 13, 1851, Thomas Doremus to Seward, December 15, 1851, Simeon Draper to Seward, December 15, 26, 1851, William Schouler to Seward, January 1, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); Seward to Schouler, January 12, 1852, Lewis Campbell to Schouler, January 17, 1852, Schouler MSS.

(72.) Webster to Fillmore, December 30, 1851, N. K. Hall to Fillmore, January 13, 1852, MFP-BHS; Henry A. Wise to Edward Everett, December 31, 1851, January 2, 3, 1852, Everett MSS; John P. Kennedy to Elizabeth Kennedy, January 7, 1852, Kennedy MSS; Spencer, Kossuth, pp. 87–89.

(73.) Kennedy to Robert C. Winthrop, December 20, 1851, January 24, 1852, copies, Kennedy MSS; Webster to Fillmore, January 7, 1852, MFP-BHS; Robert Bird to John M. Clayton, January 12, 1852, Clayton MSS; Spencer, Kossuth, p. 91.

(74.) Seward to Webster, January 10, 1852, Webster MSS; Robert Bird to John M. Clayton, January 12, 1852, Clayton MSS; Isaac Jones to Fillmore, February 9, 1852, MFP-BHS.

(p.1111) (75.) Walter Cunningham to Seward, December 20, 1851, Simeon Draper to Seward, December 26, 1851, William Cooney to Seward, February 16, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); Isaac Jones to Millard Fillmore, February 9, 1852 (quotation), MFP-BHS.

(76.) G. G. Wescott to William Bigler, December 22, 1851 (quotation), James Burnside to Bigler, December 27, 1851, Bigler MSS; E. W. H. Ellis to Joseph Wright, March 19, 1852 (quotation), Wright MSS; William Cooney to Seward, February 16, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); on the division between Germans and Irish Catholics in St. Louis, see Frank Blair, Jr., to Francis P. Blair, January 31, 1852, Blair-Lee MSS; and McCormack, Koerner Memoirs, I, p. 582.

(77.) William Schouler to William H. Seward, February 14, 1852, William Cooney to Seward, February 16, March 8, 11 (quotation), 13, 1852, Charles Lee to Seward March 4, 1852, Peter Walker to Seward, March 4, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); James Shields to Charles H. Lanphier, February 6, 1852, Lanphier MSS. Significantly, Shields told Lanphier that, just like Seward, he intended his pro -Irish speeches to balance his courtship of Germans with pro-Kossuth speeches.

(78.) Lewis Campbell to Schouler, January 17, 1852, Schouler MSS.

(79.) Schouler to Seward, February 14, 1852, Seward MSS; On the nativism of Massachusetts Free Soilers, see Sweeney, “Rum, Romanism, Representation, and Reform.”

(80.) Sweeney, “Rum, Romanism, Representation, and Reform,” 129–30.

(81.) Robert L. Martin to James Watson Webb, March 12, 1852 (quotation), Webb MSS; see also George F. Lehman to James Buchanan, October 30, 1851 (quotation), Buchanan MSS (HSP); James E. Harvey to John J. Crittenden, November 5, 1851, Crittenden MSS; and James Burnside to William L. Bigler, December 27, 1851, Bigler MSS.

(82.) On the potential revolt of Catholics in Illinois, who were offended by the Democrats' gubernatorial nominee in 1852, see S. Francis to Richard Yates, May 10, 1852, Yates MSS.

(83.) S. C. Stearns to John McLean, April 9, 1852, McLean MSS (LC); for the conversion of Scott's daughter to Catholicism, I have relied on Gienapp, Origins, p. 22. Yet I dissent from Gienapp's otherwise superb account of the 1852 election in that book and in his important essay “Nomination of Winfield Scott.” Gienapp argues vigorously that Scott's strategists did not consider seeking the Catholic vote until after the Whig national convention in June; prior to the convention, they counted instead on wooing Free Soil voters in the North by preventing Scott from making any public statement on the Compromise and then running an antislavery campaign. I disagree for two reasons. First, every letter I have quoted or cited above indicating that Whigs hoped Scott would attract Irish and Catholic votes preceded the Whig convention in June. Second, as I show below, I think Gienapp exaggerates Whigs' reliance on the Free Soil vote and their anticipation of running an antislavery campaign if Scott remained silent on the Compromise. Scott's managers' top priority was to reunite northern Whigs by winning the allegiance of pro-Compromise Silver Grays, not wooing Free Soilers. Thus, while they did hope Scott could avoid a commitment on the Compromise, they had no intention of running an anti-Compromise, antislavery campaign if he won the nomination.

(84.) Miller Pennington to Samuel Galloway, January 14, 1851 (quotation), Galloway MSS; Ben Wade to Caroline Wade, February 8, 1852 (“dead dogs”), Wade MSS; Seward to Weed, December 26, 1851, William A. Sackett to Weed, January 30, 1852, James S. Pike to Weed, January 30, 1852, Weed MSS (RU).

(85.) William A. Sackett to Weed, January 30, 1852, Weed MSS (RU); on the expectation that Deep South states with Union parties would not attend the Whig national convention, see Philadelphia Public Ledger, Washington Correspondence, January 14, 1852.

(86.) Philip Greely, Jr., to Seward, March 19, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); Webster to Franklin Haven, November 28, 1851, Webster MSS; Seward to Weed, December 26, 1851, Sackett to Weed, January 30, 1852, Pike to Weed, January 30, 1852, Weed MSS (RU). For arguments to Southerners that only Scott could garner the necessary electoral votes, see Truman Smith to Daniel M. Barringer, May 1, 1852, Barringer MSS; and Smith to William B. Campbell, May 15, 1852, CFP.

(87.) Seward to Weed, December 26, 1851, Sackett to Weed, January 30, 1852, Pike to Weed, January 30, 1852, Weed MSS (RU); Cullom to William B. Campbell, December 9, 1851, January 14, 1852 (quotation), Truman Smith to Campbell, May 15, 1852, CFP; T. M. Brewer to William (p.1112) Schouler, January 11, 1852, Charles Russell to Schouler, April 16, 1852, Schouler MSS; see also Edward Stanly's public letter to the Whigs of North Carolina, Washington National Intelligencer, April 8, 1852.

(88.) Lewis Campbell to William Schouler, January 17, 1852, Schouler MSS; Pike to Weed, January 30, 1852, Weed MSS (RU). T. M. Brewer also reported that southern Whigs only asked for some “assurance” that would do northern Whigs “the least possible harm—the simplest assurance from Scott himself that he will let the compromise remain undisturbed and is opposed to the renewal of agitation.” Brewer to Schouler, January 11, 1852, Schouler MSS.

(89.) Cole, Whig Party in the South, pp. 229–34; Meredith P. Gentry to William B. Campbell, December 27, 1851, William B. Campbell to David Campbell, February 15, 1852, CFP.

(90.) In saying that the protests of southern Whigs like Gentry—and one might add as well the letters of Silver Grays—have led historians astray into thinking that northern Whigs affiliated with Scott hoped to run an antislavery campaign in 1852, I count myself among the primary offenders. See my mistaken interpretation of Gentry's letter in Political Crisis, pp. 96–97. But I have plenty of company from other able historians. In his analysis of the strategy of Scott's managers in the works cited above, for example, William E. Gienapp argues that securing Free Soil support for Scott was their primary goal, and he strongly implies that they intended to run an openly anti-Compromise., antislavery campaign to get it. See also Cooper, Politics of Slavery, pp. 322–30.

(91.) Regression analysis of New York's voting patterns suggests, for example, that in 1849 Whigs had already picked up slightly less than a fifth of the 1848 Free Soil vote, or 4 percent of the potential electorate, but that in 1851 the same percentage of 1850 Whig voters bolted to the Democrats and others abstained. Altogether in 1851, Whigs lost one-seventh of their 1850 voters or 5 percent of the potential electorate. Kirn, “Third Party System in New York State,” Tables IX, XII, pp. 40, 45.

In Ohio, in contrast, few if any Whigs defected to the Democrats after 1848, but about three-eighths of the Whigs who voted for Van Buren in 1848 were abstaining by 1850 and 1851. See Maizlish, Triumph of Sectionalism, Tables 4, 5, 6, pp. 244–46.

After 1848, Massachusetts Whigs had always won a plurality of the popular vote, which would suffice in presidential but not gubernatorial elections. Thus they were confident about carrying the state for Scott if he were the nominee. When Whigs like Philip Greely spoke about attracting Free Soil votes to break up the Coalition, therefore, their eye was on the state election in 1852, not the presidential contest.

(92.) Congressional Globe, 32nd Cong., 1st Sess., p. 9.

(93.) On Delaware see John Allderdice to John M. Clayton, February 25, 1852 (quotation), Clayton MSS; on Indiana, see Schuyler Colfax to Seward, January 27, March 15, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); John D. Defrees to John J. Crittenden, February 28, 1852, Crittenden MSS (LC). The Illinois Whig convention did not officially endorse Scott, and Fillmore had numerous supporters in it. But it chose a solid pro-Scott delegation and imposed a unit rule on it in part because delegates believed Scott shared their pro-Compromise beliefs. Samuel Lisle Smith to Seward, February 4, 19, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); John Moses to Richard Yates, March 28, 1852, Moses Cassell to Yates, April 24, 1852, J. M. Ruggles to Yates, May 3, 1852, Yates MSS.

At the Whig national convention, John Minor Botts would try to convince southern Whigs that Scott favored finality by pointing to Scott's endorsement of the pro-Compromise New Jersey state platform of 1852.

(94.) John Davis to William Schouler, February 5, 1852, Schouler MSS; Winthrop to Crittenden, May 13, 1852, Crittenden MSS (LC); Truman Smith to Daniel M. Barringer, May 1, 1852, Barringer MSS; Smith to William B. Campbell, May 15, 1852, CFP. Smith sent the same assurances to John Wilson in California even before Congress assembled: “The idea is now disseminated all over the slave states that Genl. Scott is disposed to sympathize with the abolitionists or at least that he is regarded by them with favor. But this is utterly false—I speak as of my own knowledge.” Smith to Wilson, October 14, 1851, Wilson MSS.

(95.) William Schouler to Seward, December 20, 1851 (quotation), Joshua R. Giddings to Joseph A. Giddings, June 10, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); Seward to Weed, December 26, 1851, Weed MSS (RU); Robert G. Campbell to Fillmore, January 5, 1852, MFP-BHS.

(p.1113) (96.) Thompson to Fillmore, May 12, 1852, MFP-BHS; Colfax to Seward, March 15, 1852, Seward MSS (RU).

(97.) E. A. Stansbury to George W. Julian, September 7, 1851, Giddings-Julian MSS.

(98.) Anthony C. Brown to Seward, February 25, 1852, Philip Greely, Jr., to Seward, March 1, 1852, Alvah Hunt to Seward, March 17, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); Lewis Campbell to William Schouler, January 17, March 5, 1852, Schouler MSS; Ben Wade to Caroline Wade, December 10, 1851, February 8, 1852, Wade MSS.

(99.) Schuyler Colfax to Seward, January 27, March 15, April 2, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); Seward to William Schouler, January 12, 1852; Schouler MSS; William Cullom to William B. Campbell, December 9, 1851, CFP; James E. Harvey to John M. Clayton, February 15, 1852, Clayton MSS.

(100.) Ben Wade to Caroline Wade, February 8, 1852, Wade MSS; James E. Harvey to John M. Clayton, February 15, 1852, Clayton MSS; Cullom to William B. Campbell, February 26, 1852, CFP; Lew Campbell to William Schouler, March 5, 1852, Schouler MSS; Colfax to Seward, March 15, April 2, 1852, Seward MSS (RU). The text of Colfax's proposed letter for Scott accompanies his March 15 letter. It was cleverly phrased to leave open the loophole that Congress might revise the fugitive slave law.

(101.) William B. Campbell to David Campbell, February 15, 1852, Christopher H. Williams to William B. Campbell, February 19, April 27, 1852, William Cullom to Campbell, February 26, 1852, Meredith Gentry to Campbell, March 24, 1852, CFP; William Cullom to Robert L. Caruthers, March 14, 1852, Caruthers MSS; Andrew Johnson to David T. Patterson, April 4, 1852, in Johnson Papers, pp. 30–31.

(102.) Campbell to William Schouler, March 5, 1852, Schouler MSS; E. C. Cabell to Daniel M. Barringer, March 14, 1852, Barringer MSS.

(103.) Simeon Draper to Seward, March 3, 1852, Philip Greely, Jr., to Seward, March 2, 1852, James Forsyth to Seward, March 4, 1852, Washington Hunt to Seward, April 4, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); Meredith Gentry to William B. Campbell, March 24, 1852, CFP.

(104.) Washington National Intelligencer, April 8, 1852; Cole, Whig Party in the South, p. 235; Alexander, Sectional Stress, p. 218.

(105.) G. A. Tavener to Daniel Webster, April 8, 1852, Webster MSS; Marshall quoted in Cole, Whig Party in the South, p. 235.

(106.) New York Tribune, April 12, 1850; New York Times, April 12, 1852.

(107.) New York Tribune, April 10, 1852.

(108.) Washington Union, April 14, 1852. This issue of the Union for Wednesday is misdated April 10. The 10th was a Saturday.

(109.) New York Times, April 14, 20, 1852; Washington National Intelligencer, April 17, 1852; Charles Russell to William Schouler, April 16, 1852, Schouler MSS.

(110.) Greely to Seward, April 14, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); Truman Smith to John Wilson, April 12, 1852, Wilson MSS.

(111.) My account of the Whig caucus is based on the reports in the Washington Union, April 23, 1852, and the New York Times, April 22, 1852. The Union attributed its account to the report James Harvey had made to the Philadelphia North American and to other reports to the Baltimore Sun. These accounts, as usual, differed about the total number of men initially in attendance and about how many Southerners, eleven or seventeen, withdrew.

(112.) Washington Union, April 23, 1852.

(113.) Cole, Whig Party in the South, pp. 239–40; Oran Follett to Millard Fillmore, April 27, 1852, MFP-BHS; Fillmore to Oran Follett, May 3, 1852 (microfilm edition of the Fillmore Papers).

(114.) Philip Greely, Jr., to Seward, May 22, 27, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); Edward Stanly to William Schouler, May 10, 1852, John Minor Botts to Schouler, May 19, 1852, Schouler MSS; Philip Greely, Jr., to James S. Pike, May 15, 27, 1852, Horace Greeley to Pike, May 29, 1852, June 13, 1852, Pike MSS; Truman Smith to Daniel M. Barringer, May 1, 1852, Barringer MSS; Smith to William B. Campbell, May 15, 1852, CFP.

The letter Greeley ultimately prepared was enclosed with his letter to Pike on June 13 and dated June 20, so that Scott could issue it after he won the nomination. The letter itself was (p.1114) preposterously verbose and windy, worse than anything the foot-in-mouth Scott could have written.

(115.) Edward Stanly to William Schouler, May 10, 1852, John Minor Botts to Schouler, May 19, 1852, Schouler MSS; Philip Greely, Jr., to James S. Pike, May 15, 1852, Pike MSS. Botts' public letter was dated May 3, the day he said he spoke with Scott, and appeared in the Richmond Whig on May 11. Cole, Whig Party in the South, p. 243.

(116.) Philip Greely, Jr., to James S. Pike, May 3 (quotation), May 15, 1852, Charles A. Dana to Pike, May 15, 1852, Pike MSS; Seth C. Hawley to Seward, June 4, 1852 (quotation), Seward MSS (RU); Israel Washburn, Jr., to William Schouler, May 5, 1852 (quotation), John Minor Botts to Schouler, May 19, 1852, Schouler MSS; William H. Seward to Wife, June 2, 4, 1852, in Seward at Washington, pp. 183–84.

(117.) Campbell to Schouler, March 5, 1852, Schouler MSS. As in 1848, most southern states chose all the district delegates at state conventions. For the multiple representation of southern states, which in effect gave each delegate only a fraction of one vote, see the debates at the convention, New York Times, June 17–23, 1852.

(118.) William C. Dawson to Fillmore, March 15, 1852, Arthur F. Hopkins to Fillmore, March 3, 1852, MFP-BHS; Hopkins to William A. Graham, April 6, 1852, in Graham Papers, IV, pp. 283–87.

(119.) Charles C. Raboteau to David F. Caldwell, March 17, 27, 1852, Caldwell MSS; resolutions of Buncombe and Henderson County meetings, with Marcus Erwin to Thomas Clingman, April 16, 1852, Clingman-Puryear MSS; John H. Bryan to William A. Graham, April 5, 1852, in Graham Papers, IV, pp. 280–81.

(120.) William A. Graham to James W. Bryan, April 17, 1852, James W. Osborne to William A. Graham, May 26, 1852, in Graham Papers, IV, pp. 290, 302–04; Webster to?, April 13, 1852, Webster to James L. Pettigru, June 5, 1852, George Abbot to Webster, May 15, 1852, Webster MSS; Arthur F. Hopkins to Fillmore, April 22, 1852, Henry Hilliard to Fillmore, June 1, 1852, George S. Bryan to Fillmore, June 3, 1852, MFP-BHS; Joseph G. Baldwin to Alexander H. H. Stuart, April 16, 1852, Stuart MSS (LC); Cole, Whig Party in the South, p. 241.

(121.) The District of Columbia was allowed to send a delegation to the convention, but according to newspaper accounts, they did not vote in roll calls on the nominee. The total number of votes at the convention was 296, but since some southern states sent three or more men to represent each congressional district, the total number of accredited delegates was considerably larger.

(122.) S. Lisle Smith to William H. Seward, February 19, 1852, Philip Greely, Jr., to Seward, March 19, May 22, 27, 1852, D. S. Palmer to Seward, March 31, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); S. Lisle Smith to Elihu B. Washburne, February 20, 1852, Washburne MSS (LC); James Kidd to Millard Fillmore, February 27, 1852, MFP-BHS.

(123.) Daniel Webster to Franklin Haven, February 6, 1852, Charles J. Lanman to Webster, March 4, 1852, Webster MSS; John O. Charles to Fillmore, May 8, 1852, W. Channing Gibbs to Fillmore, June 4, 1852, MFP-BHS.

(124.) I have found no explicit complaints about the district system that split northern anti-Taylor Whigs in 1848, but the procedural changes that Scott majorities rammed through in several states certainly suggest that they had learned a lesson in 1848.

(125.) Jacob Howard to William H. Seward, September 17, 1851, Henry Barns to Seward, October 2, December 4, 1851, Seward MSS (RU).

(126.) D. W. C. Clarke to William Schouler, December 16, 1851 (quotation), Schouler MSS; Thomas Hale to Millard Fillmore, April 23, 1852 (quotation), MFP-BHS; Harry B. Stacy to Porteas Baxter, June 11, 1852, Justin Morrill MSS.

(127.) Samuel Lisle Smith to Seward, February 4, 19, 1852, Schuyler Colfax to Seward, March 15, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); John S. Butterfield to Fillmore, June 2, 1852, MFP-BHS; Lew Campbell to William Schouler, March 5, 1852, Schouler MSS; William Pennington to Daniel Webster, June 28, 1852, Webster MSS; New York Herald, June 3, 19, 1852.

(128.) John H. Bryant to Fillmore, March 18, 1852, P. L. Ellmaker to Fillmore, March 26, 1852, George W. Knight to Fillmore, April 7, 1852, MFP-BHS; Charles March to Webster, April 8, 1852, Webster MSS; Mueller, Whig Party in Pennsylvania, p. 194, Pittsburgh Commercial Advertiser, (p.1115) May 3, 1852, quoted in Mueller, pp. 195–96; the Whig platform can be found in the Pittsburgh Gazette, March 30, 1852.

(129.) The battles in individual congressional districts can be traced in numerous letters in the Seward and Fillmore Papers. George R. Babcock, Fillmore's ally from Buffalo, who represented the Erie County district at the national convention, promised to attend a meeting of all the state's delegates on June 11, 1852, in New York City, where disputes over seats would be addressed. But he wisely urged Fillmore to let the national convention, where Fillmore's strength would be significantly greater than in this New York meeting, decide these disputes. Babcock to Fillmore, June 3, 1852, MFP-BHS.

(130.) Daniel Ullmann to N. K. Hall, January 27, 1852, R. C. Wetmore, James Price, and Daniel Ullmann to Fillmore, March 6, 1852, Ullmann MSS; Hugh Maxwell to Fillmore, March 6, 1852, Thomas Foote to Fillmore, March 18, 1852, John O. Charles to Fillmore, May 8, 1852, MFP-BHS; James Watson Webb to Daniel Webster, February 8, 1852, Charles March to Webster, April 12, 1852, Webster MSS; Simeon Draper to Seward, March 9, 1852, James Bowen to Seward, March 11, 1852 (quotation), James Kelly to Seward, April 10, 1852, Horace Greeley to Seward April 20, 1852, C. A. Stetson to Seward, May 13, 1852, Seward MSS (RU). For the credentials fights at the national convention, see New York Times, June 19, 1852.

(131.) For the maneuvering prior to, and the decisions of, the Whig legislative caucus, see James R. Thompson to Millard Fillmore, March 29, 30, 1852, MFP-BHS; Henry J. Raymond to William H. Seward, March 15, 27, 1852, Seward MSS (RU); New York Times, April 10, 13, 1852. For reports of the meeting of delegates in New York City stating that “the feeling between the Fillmore and Scott men was very bitter,” see the New York Herald, June 12, 1852. Despite an anti-Whig bias, issues of the Herald for May and June also carry helpful accounts of battles over delegates in individual congressional districts.

(132.) Horace Greeley to Seward, April 20, 1852, Seward MSS; George Evans to William Pitt Fessenden, May 22, 1852, Fessenden MSS (WRHS); Philip Greely, Jr., to James Pike, June 4, 1852, John Otis to Pike, June 5, 1852, Pike MSS. Maine's Whig state convention met on June 3 and chose Evans and Fessenden as at-large delegates, as well as the delegates from the first and third congressional districts. The other five districts chose delegates on their own earlier; Pike represented the seventh district. New York Herald, June 4, 1852. The delegation would unanimously favor Scott, the only New England delegation to do so.

(133.) Webster to?, April 13, 1852, Webster to James L. Pettigru, June 5, 1852, Charles Morehead to Webster, June 11, 1852, Webster to Humphrey Marshall, June 15, 1852, Webster to Richard M. Blatchford, June 22, 1852, Webster MSS.

(134.) Christopher Williams to William B. Campbell, June 3, 1852, CFP; William H. Seward to Wife, June 17, 1852, in Seward at Washington, p. 186; Cabell's speech is quoted in Doherty, Whigs of Florida, p. 53.

(135.) Cole, Whig Party in the South, p. 245; New York Times, June 17, 1852; New York Herald, June 17, 1852.

(136.) Fillmore to President of the Whig National Convention, June 10, 1852, draft, Fillmore to George Babcock, June 12, 1852, copy, MFP-O.

(137.) John Barney to Fillmore, June 11, 1852, N. K. Hall to Fillmore, June 11, 1852, E. R. Jewett to Fillmore, June 12, 1852, MFP-BHS. Fillmore told Babcock to keep his letter absolutely secret, and he made no reference in the June 10 or June 12 letter to endorsing Webster. Barney, therefore, must have referred to something Fillmore said, not anything he wrote.

(138.) Barney to Fillmore, June 11, 1852, MFP-BHS; Seward to Wife, June 2, 4, 6, 10, 17, 1852, in Seward at Washington, pp. 183–86; Horace Greeley to James S. Pike, June 13, 1852, Pike MSS.

(139.) Holt, “Democratic Party,” p. 559.

(140.) Unless otherwise noted, all information on the convention proceedings is taken from the New York Times, June 17–23, 1852, and the New York Herald for the same dates. Most secondary accounts have focused primarily on the balloting for president and to a lesser extent the adoption of a platform, and they have largely ignored the three days of bickering that preceded the presentation of a platform. See, for example, Dalzell, Webster, pp. 259–77; Rayback, Fillmore, pp. 354–63; and Gienapp, “Nomination of Winfield Scott,” 408–09. For the Whig party (p.1116) as an institution, however, the first three days were as just as important as the ballots on which most historians have focused. Happily, they are treated seriously in Cole, Whig Party in the South, pp. 245–49, additional testimony to the enduring value of that now eighty-year-old work. Still, my account must give them proper due, and its length reflects the convention's lasting significance.

(141.) Virginia, for example, sent forty-five accredited delegates to cast its fifteen votes. The exception to this pattern of overrepresentation was South Carolina, which had no organized Whig party; only four men claimed the right to cast its eight votes.

(142.) Maine apparently did not vote on this resolution; at least, newspaper accounts did not record a vote by Maine.

(143.) The report in the New York Times, June 18, 1852, listed all eight of Maryland's votes against, while the report of the New York Herald for the same day said that all eight Maryland delegates voted in favor. I assume there was an error in transcription at the Herald office, for the only way to arrive at the total of 144 negative votes on which both papers agreed was to count Maryland as against.

(144.) For the North I rely on the fuller vote totals in the Herald.

(145.) John Barney to Fillmore, June 17, 1852, Solomon G. Haven to Fillmore, June 18, 1852, MFP-BHS; see also Raymond's report to the New York Times, June 18, 1852. The basis for Barney's calculations is unclear; perhaps he simply subtracted the six Missouri, four Iowa, and two other votes from the total supporting Jessup's amendment to arrive at the Scott vote. But he wrote before the critical credentials committee reported.

(146.) Despite the questionable proceedings in Pennsylvania, the credentials committee apparently considered nothing other than challenges in New York and Vermont and the propriety of admitting a nonvoting delegation from the District of Columbia.

(147.) Technically, of course, the mover of an amendment cannot withdraw it, if it has been adopted, without another vote. Jessup did not refer to the amended Duncan resolution, but rather to his motion to attach the same amendment to a substitute resolution offered by a Maryland delegate. Since that motion had not yet been voted on, he could do it alone, and the substitute motion, which provided for the one-state, one-vote formula, was adopted in place of the amended Duncan resolution. The northern majority that had adopted Jessup's amendment acquiesced, therefore, by not attempting to introduce something like Jessup's amendment themselves when he withdrew it, a fact commented on specifically by the Herald's correspondent in his report appearing in the June 19 issue.

(148.) Aside from the reports in the June 19 issues of the Herald and the Times, see New York Herald, June 4, 1852; Henry B. Stacy to Porteas Baxter, June 11, 1852, Justin Morrill MSS; Solomon G. Haven to Millard Fillmore, June 18, 1852, MFP-BHS.

(149.) The disputes over these individual districts can be followed in the reports in the New York Herald for May and June 1852. But the case involving Raymond, which ignited the convention's most vitriolic debate, requires explanation, for it involved the twenty-second congressional district from the northern part of the state bordering on Lake Ontario, while Raymond lived in New York City. Two men, a Silver Gray named Richardson and a Scott man named Bruce, claimed to represent the district after the two sides tied at the district convention. Both came to Baltimore, but Bruce became sick after the first day (probably because of too much strong drink, if the Herald's reporter can be believed), and he went home. Before he left, Bruce signed a blank proxy and told the chairman of the pro-Scott state delegation to fill in the name that would go before the credentials committee. After two New York Whigs turned down the request to substitute for Bruce, the chairman (probably Simeon Draper, although it is unclear from the reports) approached Raymond, who had come to the convention not as a delegate but to report the proceedings to his newspaper. Raymond agreed to serve, the chairman wrote in Raymond's name, and the proxy was submitted to the credentials committee along with Richardson's claim.

The soap opera did not end there. While its chairman, a Virginian named Watts, was out of the room on Thursday night, the committee agreed to seat both Richardson and Raymond. Watts found this decision so outrageous—he later said Raymond had no more right to represent the twenty-second district than he did to represent California and that neither man had proper (p.1117) credentials—that when he read the committee report on Friday morning, he apparently omitted any reference whatsoever to the disputed twenty-second district, causing both Richardson and Raymond to demand to know who had the right to speak and vote for the district. I say “apparently,” for the newspaper reports are unclear as to exactly which portions of the report Watts read, but Richardson's anger was just as evident as Raymond's. See New York Times, June 19, 22, and especially 23, 1852. On the deadlock at the convention in the twenty-second district itself, see the New York Herald, May 15, 1852.

(150.) For grammatical reasons, I have changed the participial form “impairing” in the platform to “impair.” Aside from minor changes in the prelude to the platform, the one significant change from the southern caucus' platform occurred in the Compromise plank and constituted a small concession to Northerners. The Southerners' platform singled out the Fugitive Slave Act a second time, thereby highlighting its importance. “And so far as the Fugitive Slave Law is concerned,” it read, “we will maintain the same, and insist on its strict enforcement.” The committee's platform deleted this second specific reference to the fugitive law and referred to all the Compromise measures when it said that “we shall maintain them and insist upon their enforcement.” The two documents can be found in New York Times, June 17, 19, 1852.

(151.) Francis Pulszky to Seward, June 20, 1852, Seward MSS (RU). This letter is misdated June 2 by the staff of the Rush Rhees Library, but obviously it could not have been written until after the platform was adopted.

(152.) See, for example, Johnson, National Party Platforms, p. 20.

(153.) Recall that a major Whig argument against the Walker Tariff in 1846 had been the absence of specific duties; that Webster, as Ashmun well knew, in trying to arrange a compromise to stop passage of the Walker bill in 1846, had sought above all to protect specific duties even if at lower rates; that Treasury Secretary William Meredith had stressed the need for specific rates in his widely admired report in December 1849; and that Fillmore himself had repeated that emphasis in his December 1850 annual message.

(154.) The account of Botts' speech is much fuller in the Herald than in the Times, although the Herald was especially contemptuous of Botts' supposed blunder.

(155.) James S. Pike to Seward, June 16, 1852, Seward MSS (RU). Pike referred to the letter that Horace Greeley had written on May 29 for Scott to issue after he got the nomination and that he had mailed to Pike on June 13. It contained such a paragraph, and it can be found in the Pike MSS with Greeley to Pike, June 13, 1852. Despite Pike's letter, the evidence I cited earlier clearly indicates that many Scott delegates were eager to conciliate Southerners.

(156.) Most secondary accounts list the vote as 227–66 but do not make clear the source of that total. The embarrassed New York Times, in an obvious attempt to keep from New York's Whigs the extent of northern capitulation, gave no figures at all in its issue for June 19. The New York Herald for that date lists the total as 226–66 and gives the breakdown for each state, but its figures add up only by including California's 4 votes with the majority rather than with the opposition, as the Herald lists them.

(157.) Seward to Wife, June 18, 1852, in Seward at Washington, pp. 187–88; Gienapp, “Nomination of Winfield Scott,” 408. Seward's belief that northern Scott delegates had collapsed before southern intimidation raises additional questions about Pike's assertion that they had to be forced to support the platform.

(158.) Jones' speech is quoted in the June 19 issue of the Herald and is omitted from the Times report that day.

(159.) John Barney to Millard Fillmore, June 17, 18, 19, 20, 1852, Solomon G. Haven to Fillmore, June 18, 1852, B. M. Edney to Fillmore, June 20, 1852, MFP-BHS; Webster to Daniel Jenifer, June 19, 1852, Webster MSS.

(160.) Elihu B. Washburne to Algernon Sydney Washburn, June 19, 1852, A. S. Washburn MSS; John Barney to Fillmore, June 20, 1852, B. M. Edney to Fillmore, June 20, 1852, MFP-BHS; Webster to?, June 20, 1852, Webster MSS; Dalzell, Webster, pp. 269–73.

(161.) On Webster's surly mood, see Dalzell, Webster, p. 272.

(162.) Webster to Fillmore, June 21, 1852, Fillmore to Webster, June 21, 1852, MFP-BHS.

(163.) Granger to Fillmore, June 30, 1852, MFP-BHS.

(164.) During Saturday's long session, a clerk from James Watson Webb's New York Courier (p.1118) and Enquirer had telegraphed him and Moses Grinnell that he had seen Raymond's telegraphic dispatch to the New York Times, in which Raymond charged that if Southerners did not vote for Scott after Scott men voted for the platform, it would be “a breach of faith.” This telegram fell into the hands of Southerners, who interrupted the balloting on Saturday to read it and charge that Raymond had accused Southerners on the platform committee of making a corrupt bargain to support Scott. This outrageously false accusation, charged a Georgian on Monday, justified Raymond's expulsion. Raymond demanded the floor to defend himself, and there then ensued a long but exceedingly informative debate involving Raymond, Georgians, Cabell, Grinnell, Duncan of Louisiana, who read the telegram to the convention on Saturday, the Virginia chairman of the credentials committee, and members of the platform committee that, among other things, contains the fullest account of how Raymond was named a delegate and what the credentials committee did with his case. Raymond acquitted himself well, and the convention ultimately tabled the motion to expel by voice vote. New York Times, June 22, 23, 1852.

(165.) After the convention W. Channing Gibbs wrote Fillmore that Cranston had betrayed Rhode Island's Whigs by the way he voted at Baltimore. Gibbs to Fillmore, June 30, 1852, MFP-BHS.

(166.) My state-by-state breakdown of the vote and the switches between the first and last ballots is taken from the account in the New York Times. It lists Scott's total as 158, but the individual state votes for him add up to 157.

(167.) Reports of the convention do not identify who cast individual ballots; I have inferred that Grinnell and Draper cast the two Webster votes from New York on the first ballot and that Grinnell stuck by him, as he pledged, at two caucuses of the Webster men.

(168.) With eight votes in Scott's column on the final ballot, Virginia, Scott's native state, was the only slave state aside from Delaware to give him the majority of its votes.

(169.) Pike to Seward, June 16, 1852, Seward MSS (RU).

(170.) Recall that Webster urged Fillmore to appoint Bates as secretary of war in July 1850 because Bates was considered a Westerner, not a Southerner. Bates got every vote from Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Arkansas. Massachusetts also gave all thirteen of its votes to Bates, evidence that may support the case of some contemporaries and historians that Massachusetts men really wanted Scott nominated even if they stuck with Webster. See, for example, Dalzell, Webster, pp. 274–77.

(171.) For the wonderful “Tar and Feathers” label, see John P. Kennedy to John Morris, July 4, 1852, copy, Kennedy MSS.

(172.) Charles A. Dana to James S. Pike, June 21, 1852, Pike MSS.