The Election of 1848


Zachary Taylor (163 Electoral Votes)
Lewis Cass 127 (Electoral Votes)
 Martin Van Buren (0 Electoral Votes)


The election of 1848 was the first of five consecutive elections dominated by sectional crisis and then Civil War.  The Whigs nominated Mexican War hero Zachary Taylor, despite the fact that most Whigs had opposed the war.  Taylor avoided addressing the issue of slavery, except to promise that he would not veto any congressional legislation dealing with slavery in the territories, cleverly placating both proslavery and antislavery factions.  He won considerable southern support on the assumption that, as a slaveholder himself, he would naturally incline toward a proslavery position.  The Democrats split over the issue of slavery in the territories: Lewis Cass of Michigan was nominated on a platform of “popular sovereignty,” leaving the decision on slavery to the voters in the territories, while a minority of northern Democrats promoted Martin Van Buren on a Free Soil platform.  Taylor won because Van Buren received enough popular votes in New York to throw the state’s 36 electoral votes to the Whigs.  He died in the midst of a political crisis over the admission of California and the organization of the new territories won by his victories in the Mexican War.  His successor, Millard Fillmore, supported the Compromise of 1850, which delayed the final crisis but left the North angry over the Fugitive Slave Law and the South resentful about the admission of California as a free state.

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