Era Three Elections
1856-1892 War Ends, Northeast Takes Control,
The Gilded Age is Built on the Backs of the
 Poor, Especially Women, Immigrants, and Blacks

Other Era Elections
1792-1824   2. 1828-1852  4. 1896-1928    5. 1932-1976    6. 1980-2020 

Return to U.S. Politics 3/1220

New Era Highlights

The 1850s saw the collapse of the Whig party mainly because death depleted its leadership and a major intra-party split over slavery due to the Compromise of 1850 resulting in the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Whigs were soon replaced by the Democratic Party's as primary opposition by the new Republican Party which had rose to prominence in 1860 with the election of Abraham Lincoln.  Newly enfranchised African Americans (Freedmen) entered the Republican party.

The Republican coalition also consisted of businessmen, shop owners, skilled craftsmen, clerks and professionals who  were attracted to the party's modernization policies. Southerners (Redeemers) joined the Democratic Party which was a coalition of conservative pro-business Bourbon Democrats, traditional Democrats in the North (many of them former Copperheads), and Catholic immigrants among others.   The North and therefore the Republicans won the war.

Election Summary

Democratic Party Republican

Long-term Major Political Accomplishments/Failings

James Buchanan, an experienced politician replaced Pierce as the Democratic nominee as and the Whigs disintegrated into the Republican  (strongly against slavery's expansion) and American/Know-Nothing Party (which ignored slavery and instead emphasized anti-immigration and anti-Catholic policies) competed to replace it as the principal opposition to the Democratic Party.

J. Buchanan 1856–1860

Panic of 1857 was caused by over-consumption of goods from Europe drained. Union's specie, overbuilding by competing railroads, and rampant Western land speculation.
Covode Committee failed to impeach based on bribery charges.

Presidential election, 1860 centered on  expansion of slavery and the rights of slave owners. These issues broke the Democratic Party into Northern and Southern  and a new Constitutional Union Party appeared. The largest vote in existing history of 81% resulted in Abe getting  40% of the popular vote.

A. Lincoln 1861-1866

Origins of the Civil War
Why we fought the Civil War.
If we never fought a Civil War
Emancipation Proclamation Changed Course of Civil War

Election of 1864 was looking bad for Abe but a turn in the war and the support of the troops resulted in  Abe easily defeating peace candidate George_B._McClellan. Popular vote was 55% to 45%.


A. Johnson 1868 VP and a Southerner

Andrew Johnson a southerner replaced Lincoln and the new president favored quick restoration of the seceded states and to the Union. His plans did not give protection to the former slaves, and he came into conflict with the Republican-dominated Congress culminating in his impeachment by the House of Representatives.

Election, of 1868 was the first election in which African Americans could vote in every (Northern or Reconstructed) state (in accordance with the First Reconstruction Act). Grant won the office. Every state except Florida used a popular vote to determine Electoral College members.. The constitution had given states the right to determined their electors. U. Grant 1869–1876

Enforcement Acts of 1870-71 to protect blacks from the  Ku Klux Klan and attempts to protect Indians failed.
The Coinage Act of 1873 which decreased the money supply exacerbated the  Panic of 1873 Workers feared
cheap foreign labor. Called the Long Depression, until the 1930's when the Great Depression caused much hardship.

Election of 1876 was one of the most contentious and controversial presidential election in American history. Although there is no question that Samuel J. Tilden of New York outpolled Ohio's Rutherford B. Hayes in the popular vote but 20 electoral college votes were contested in four state. In the case of Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, each party reported its candidate had won the state. In Oregon one elector was declared illegal (as an "elected or appointed official") and replaced. An informal deal was struck to resolve the dispute as the Compromise of 1877 awarded all 20 electoral votes to Republican Hayes in return for their agreement to end ten years of Reconstruction with the withdrawal of federal troops from the South. R. Hayes 1877–1880

Reconstruction ended as he returned South to home-rule.
Specie Resumption Act of 1875, a hard money policy removed unsupported inflationary Greenbacks from circulation.
Bland Allison Act of1878, unsuccessfully vetoed by Hayes, increase money.


Presidential election of 1880 was close, 7000 votes but electoral college vote was 214  to 155. Garfield became the only man ever to be elected to the Presidency directly from the House of Representatives and was for a short period a sitting Representative, Senator-elect, and President-elect. J. Garfield 1881

Senatorial courtesy in executive appointments ignored which added to Presidential power presidential powers.


He had no Vice-President while President. C. Arthur 1881–1884

Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883 added merit to replace the spoils system in the hiring equation.
Chinese Exclusion Act lasted until 1942.

Election of 1884 was about personal character as some  letters showing that Republican Blaine had sold his Congressional influence in Congress to various businesses. One such letter ended with the phrase "burn this letter." Democrat Cleveland admitted that he had formed an "illicit connection" with the mother and that a child had been born and given the Cleveland surname.

G. Cleveland 1885–1888

Vetoed attempts by Republican Congress to use pension benefits as patronage.

Failed in his tight money attempts and thus postponement of the resolution of the free silver movement as a cure for low agriculture income and recession.

Failure to reduce protective tariffs in spite of government surplus helped industry.

Interstate Commerce Act of 1887

Scott Act continued restrictions on Chinese immigration.

Election of 1888 saw Cleveland win the popular vote as Republicans were heavily in favor of protective tariffs, turning out protectionist voters in the important industrial states of the North. Harrisons also campaigned in favor of the spoils system. B. Harrison 1889–1892

McKinley Tariff of 1890 set rates to their highest rate to date.

Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 increased the money supply.

Election of 1892 Cleveland wanted to lower  McKinley's high Tariff tariffs (the Republicans were pro-business protectionist) to lower the price of consumer goods. He opposed the Republican sponsored 1890 voting rights proposal designed to help predominately republican southern blacks vote. G. Cleveland 1893–1896

Wilson–Gorman Tariff of 1894 lowered rates slightly & created a 2% income tax.
It was an interesting response to Panic of 1893 and resulting severe depression.
Reluctantly agreed to a J.P. Morgan backed $60,000,000 bailout of the Gold Standard.