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1852 Federal Election

Date: From 1852-08-02 to 1853-11-08

Occurring two years after the Compromise of 1850, the 1852 Federal Election found the Democratic Party confident following an impressive haul of congressional seats in the 1850 federal elections, and the Whig Party convulsed with divisions, feuds, and disagreements over slavery. Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, the Democratic National Convention went back and forth between leading presidential contenders James Buchanan, Lewis Cass, Stephen A. Douglas, and William L. Marcy before settling on compromise candidate Franklin Pierce. Delegates selected William R. King as Pierce's running mate. Tainted with the rising tide of nativism, divided over slavery, and hampered by intra-party squabbles in New York, the Whig delegates at the national convention in Baltimore settled on Winfield Scott and William A. Graham for president and vice-president, respectively. The Free Soil Party nominated John P. Hale. The Democrats and Whigs both endorsed the Compromise of 1850, leaving the major combatants with few issues over which to fight. Scott's nomination over Millard Filmore prompted mass defections of Whigs in the Deep South, leaving the outcome of the election in little doubt. Pierce won the election, winning 254 electoral votes to forty-two for Scott. Pierce carried all the states except Massachusetts, Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

In the Congressional elections, the Democrats increased their majorities in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

Roy F. Nichols, "Campaign of 1852," Dictionary of American History, rev. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976), 1:420; David M. Potter and Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 141-44, 228-38; Kenneth C. Martis, The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress, 1789-1989 (New York: MacMillan, 1989), 105-7; Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 723-25.