Section #14 - Anti-Slavery sentiment grows due to the Fugitive Slave Act and Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Chapter 166: Whigs Suffer Losses In Mid-Term Elections

Spring 1851

Whigs Continue To Fade As A Political Force

Millard Fillmore’s optimistic prediction about domestic tranquility comes up against contrary public opinions in the mid-term elections for the 32nd Congress.  

The results in the House show accelerating slippage for the Whigs, who give up a total of twenty-two seats – mostly to the Democrats.  

Gerrit Smith’s abolitionist Liberty Party vanishes for good, and the Free Soilers surrender five-seat.

Election Trends In The U.S. House 
Party 1844 184618481850
Free Soil94
States’ Rights3
Upcoming Congress29th30th31st32nd
President TylerPolkPolkFillmore

The most noteworthy shift occurs in the South where a new Unionist Party wins ten seats. It is formed to defend slaver-holder rights without abandoning the Union. Six of the ten seats are won in Georgia, along with three in Mississippi and one in Alabama. 

House Trends In Georgia 
Party 31st 32nd Change
States’ Rights02+2

A second southern initiative, the more strident States Rights Party, captures two seats in Georgia and one in Mississippi, the latter going to its leader, Albert Brown, who calls for the unfettered expansion of slavery, not only into the Mexican Cession lands, but also into Cuba and Central America.  

In the House, the margin enjoyed by the Free States of the North continued to edge upward.

Division Of Seats In The House 
Years Free States Slave States

As usual, the Senate races exhibit much less volatility – with the Whigs losing two seats and the  Democrats and Free Soilers adding one apiece.  

Election Trends In The U.S. Senate 
Party 1844 1846 1848 1850
Free Soil23
Upcoming Congress29th30th31st32nd
President Tyler Polk Polk Fillmore
April 1851

Abolitionists Sumner And Wade Enter Congress

The tenor of the chamber, however, is about to change with two new additions who will have a profound effect on the sectional frictions related to slavery in the years to follow. 

The first is the Free Soiler, Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, whose cutting tirades on behalf of abolition will shake the future decorum in the upper chamber and lead to physical violence on the floor.  

He is joined by Ben Wade, an Ohio Whig and former law partner of Joshua Giddings, who, along with Thad Stevens, have led the abolition forces in the House.  

With Sumner and Wade onboard, the Senate now includes a threshold of six prominent politicians ready to assert their moral opposition to slavery. 

Key Senators Opposing Slavery On Moral Grounds (1850-51) 
Dates Name State Party
1847-53 John P. Hale NH Free Soil
1848-61 Hannibal Hamlin Maine Democrat
1849-55 Salmon Chase Ohio Free Soil
1849-61 Henry Seward NY Whig/Rep
1851-69 Ben Wade Ohio Whig/Rep
1851-74 Charles Sumner Mass Dem/Rep
LEFT TO RIGHT: John P. Hale, Hannibal Hamlin, Salmon Chase
LEFT TO RIGHT: Henry Seward, Ben Wade, and Charles Sumner