Election of 1852

Little suspense existed in the Election of 1852, regarding either the outcome or the issues. The Whigs were barely clinging to life, so a Democratic victory was assured from the start. Slavery, the only real issue of the day, was assiduously avoided by both sides.

Democratic frontrunners for the nomination included such luminaries as Lewis Cass, James Buchanan, and Stephen A. Douglas. None was able to secure the necessary two-thirds vote at the convention and the nomination eventually (on the 49th ballot) went to Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire. His support of the Compromise of 1850, and of the Fugitive Slave Act in particular, widened his appeal in the South, but not in his native New England.

The nearly moribund Whigs pinned their hopes on a military hero, General Winfield Scott, hoping that his Mexican War fame would appeal to voters.

Franklin Pierce

The Free-Soil Party appeared again, drawing off votes from the Whigs.

The campaign itself was lackluster. Neither candidate stood for much, so the predictable result was mudslinging. Pierce was the target of especially sharp barbs that pinned him with charges of military cowardice and drunkenness. Scott's military record brought him a healthy popular vote total, but the results in the electoral college were a landslide for Pierce.

The election of 1852 was the swan song for the Whigs, whose membership drifted away to the Know-Nothing Movement and the new Republican Party.

Election of 1852
Candidates

Party

Electoral Vote

Popular
Vote

Franklin Pierce (NH)
William King (AL)

Democratic

254

1,609,038

Winfield Scott (NJ)
William A. Graham (NC)

Whig

42

1,386,629

John Hale (NH)
George W. Julian (IN)

Free Soil

0

156,297


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