Constitutional Union Party (United States)

The Constitutional Union Party was a political party in the United States created in 1860 which ran against the Republicans and Democrats as a fourth party in 1860. It was made up of conservative former Whigs who wanted to avoid secession over the slavery issue. These former Whigs (some of whom had been under the banner of the Opposition Party in 1854–1858) teamed up with former Know Nothings and a few Southern Democrats who were against secession to form the Constitutional Union Party. The party's name comes from its simple platform, which consists of the resolution "to recognize no political principle other than the Constitution of the country, the Union of the states, and the Enforcement of the Laws". The party hoped that by not taking a firm stand either for or against slavery or its expansion, the issue could be pushed aside.

John J. Crittenden and other unionist Congressmen organized the 1860 Constitutional Union Convention, which met in May 1860. The convention nominated John Bell of Tennessee for President and Edward Everett of Massachusetts for Vice President. Crittenden, Sam Houston, William Alexander Graham and William Cabell Rives also received support for the party's presidential nomination at the convention. In the 1860 presidential election, Bell took 12.6% of the popular vote and won three slave states. Most of Bell's support came from former Southern Whigs or Know Nothings.

After the election, Crittenden and other Constitutional Unionists unsuccessfully sought to prevent a civil war with the Crittenden Compromise and the Peace Conference of 1861. After the onset of the American Civil War, many former party members, including Bell, supported the Confederacy whereas most border state Constitutional Unionists remained loyal to the Union. Constitutional Unionists helped organize the Wheeling Convention (which split off West Virginia from Virginia) while many in Missouri joined the Unconditional Union Party.

Constitutional Union Party
First LeaderJohn Bell
Merger ofAmerican Party
Opposition Party
Succeeded byUnionist Party
HeadquartersAtlanta, Georgia
IdeologyAmerican nationalism
Gag rule
Political positionBig tent (main aim was to preserve the Union)
Colors     Orange
John Bell and Edward Everett, Constitutional Union Party
A Constitutional Union campaign poster for the 1860 election in which are shown John Bell (left), the presidential nominee; and Edward Everett, the vice presidential nominee


A predecessor of the Constitutional Union Party, the Unionist Party, was founded in 1850 by Georgia politicians Robert Toombs, Alexander Stephens and Howell Cobb to support the Compromise of 1850 and reject the notion of Southern secession. This party united Southern Whigs and Democrats under the Georgia Platform, which affirmed Georgia's acceptance of the Compromise as a final resolution to the issue of slavery. However, the party never expanded outside of the Deep South states of Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama and dissolved by the end of 1851.[1]

The 1860 incarnation of the Constitutional Union Party united remnants of both the defunct Whig and Know Nothing parties who were unwilling to join either the Democrats or the Republicans. Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky, Henry Clay's successor in border-state Whiggery, set up a meeting among fifty conservative, pro-Compromise congressmen in December 1859, which led to a convention in Baltimore the week of May 9, 1860, one week before the Republican Party convention. The convention nominated John Bell of Tennessee for President and Edward Everett of Massachusetts for Vice President.

1860 presidential election

In the 1860 election, the Constitutional Unionists received the great majority of their votes from former southern Whigs or Know Nothings. A few of their votes were cast by former Democrats who were against secession. Although the party did not get 50% of the popular vote in any state, they won the electoral votes of three states, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, largely due to the split in Democratic votes between Stephen A. Douglas in the North and John C. Breckinridge in the South. California and Everett's home state of Massachusetts were the only non-slave states in which the party received more than 5% of the popular vote.

After 1860

The party and its purpose disappeared after 1860 as the Southern states began to secede, though the party remained active in Congress until the end of the Civil War. Bell and many other Constitutional Unionists later supported the Confederacy during the Civil War, but backers of the party from north of the Carolinas tended to remain supporters of the Union. Constitutional Unionists were influential in the Wheeling Convention, which led to the creation of the Union loyalist state of West Virginia, as well as in the declaration of the Kentucky General Assembly for the Union and winning Congressional elections in Kentucky and Maryland in June. In Missouri, many of the party joined the new Unconditional Union Party headed by Francis P. Blair, Jr. and remained active in that state's efforts to remain in the Union by overthrowing the elected government of Claiborne Jackson. Everett supported the Union and in 1863 gave a speech at Gettysburg before Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address.

See also


  1. ^ Schott, Thomas (1996). Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia: A Biography. LSU Press. pp. 129–132.


  • Blum, John M.; William S. McFeely; Edmund S. Morgan; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.; Kenneth M. Stampp; C. Vann Woodward (1985). The National Experience: A History of the United States (6th ed.). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. pp. 344–345. ISBN 0155656643.

External links

Border states (American Civil War)

In the context of the American Civil War (1861–65), the border states were slave states that did not declare a secession from the Union and did not join the Confederacy. To their north they bordered free states of the Union and to their south they bordered Confederate slave states. Of the 34 U.S. states in 1861, nineteen were free states and fifteen were slave states. Two slave states never declared a secession or adopted an ordinance: Delaware and Maryland. Four others did not declare secession until after the Battle of Fort Sumter and were briefly considered to be border states: Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia—after this, they were less frequently called "border states". Also included as a border state during the war is West Virginia, which was formed from 50 counties of Virginia and became a new state in the Union in 1863.In the border states there was widespread concern with military coercion of the Confederacy. Many, if not a majority, were definitely opposed to it. When Abraham Lincoln called for troops to march south to recapture Fort Sumter and other national possessions, southern Unionists were dismayed. Secessionists in Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia were successful in getting those states to declare their secession from the U.S. and to join the Confederate States of America.In Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri, there were both pro-Confederate and pro-Union governments. West Virginia was formed in 1862–63 after Virginia Unionists from the northwestern counties of the state, then occupied by the Union Army consisting of many newly-formed West Virginia regiments, had set up a loyalist "restored" state government of Virginia. Lincoln recognized this government and allowed them to divide the state. Kentucky and Missouri had adopted secession ordinances by their pro-Confederate governments (see Confederate government of Kentucky and Confederate government of Missouri), but they never fully were under official Confederate control, though at various points Confederate armies did enter those states and controlled certain parts of them. Though every slave state except South Carolina contributed white battalions to both the Union and Confederate armies (South Carolina Unionists fought in units from other Union states), the split was most severe in these border states. Sometimes men from the same family fought on opposite sides. About 170,000 border state men (including African Americans) fought in the Union Army and 86,000 in the Confederate Army.Besides formal combat between regular armies, the border region saw large-scale guerrilla warfare and numerous violent raids, feuds, and assassinations. Violence was especially severe in eastern Kentucky and western Missouri. The single bloodiest episode was the 1863 Lawrence Massacre in Kansas, in which at least 150 civilian men and boys were killed. It was launched in retaliation for an earlier, smaller raid into Missouri by Union men from Kansas.With geographic, social, political, and economic connections to both the North and the South, the border states were critical to the outcome of the war. They are considered still to delineate the cultural border that separates the North from the South. Reconstruction, as directed by Congress, did not apply to the border states because they never seceded from the Union. They did undergo their own process of readjustment and political realignment after passage of amendments abolishing slavery and granting citizenship and the right to vote to freedmen. After 1880 most of these jurisdictions were dominated by white Democrats, who passed laws to impose the Jim Crow system of legal segregation and second-class citizenship for blacks. However, in contrast to the Confederate States, where almost all blacks were disenfranchised during the first half to two-thirds of the twentieth century, for varying reasons blacks remained enfranchised in the border states despite movements for disfranchisement during the 1900s.Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to the border states. Of the states that were exempted from the proclamation, Maryland (1864),

Missouri (1865),

Tennessee (1865), and West Virginia (1865) abolished slavery before the war ended. However, Delaware  and Kentucky did not abolish slavery until December 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified.

Constitution Party

Constitution Party, Constitutional Party, or Constitutionalist Party may refer to one of several political parties.

Constitutional Union Party

Constitutional Union Party may refer to:

Constitutional Union Party (United States), a party that was active in the United States on a national level in 1860

Constitutional Union Party (Lebanon), a political party in Lebanon and continuation of the Constitutional Bloc

Constitutional Union (Morocco), a liberal conservative political party in Morocco

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.