Liberty Party

The Liberty Party was the first anti-slavery/abolitionist party in the United States. The party emerged out of a split in the American Anti-Slavery Society over tactics. William Lloyd Garrison, who dominated the American Anti-Slavery Society, eschewed electoral politics, staunchly opposing the idea of a separate political party and insisting that abolition and other reforms would only come through petition drives and moral suasion. Other abolitionists disagreed, and poor results from petition drives and other Garrisonian tactics persuaded them to look for alternatives. In January 1840, a large anti-slavery convention in Arcade, New York agreed to hold a national convention at Albany, New York on April 1. The Liberty Party was born at the Albany convention, and delegates nominated James G. Birney as the party's candidate for president in the presidential election of 1840. The party's slogan was "vote as you pray and pray as you vote." Its political platform called for emancipation in the territories and the District of Columbia and the termination of the interstate slave trade. In the ensuing election, Birney only received 6,225 votes, .3% of the total votes cast. The party's following continued to grow, however, and in the presidential election of 1844, Birney received 61,999 votes, 2.3% of the total votes cast. Though gaining only a miniscule percentage of the popular vote, Birney garnered enough votes in New York to indirectly defeat Henry Clay and give the presidency to James K. Polk. In 1848, the party nominated John P. Hale for president, but he withdrew his candidacy, and the Liberty Party merged with the Free Soil Party.

Daniel Walker Howe, What God Hath Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 652, 688; Theodore W. Cousens, "Liberty Party," Dictionary of American History, rev. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976), 4:143; Reinhard O. Johnson, The Liberty Party, 1840-1848: Antislavery Third-Party Politics in the United States (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2009), 5-21, 45-46, 81-87.