1856 Republican National Convention

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1856 Republican National Convention
1856 presidential election
John Charles Fremont crop.jpg William L. Dayton.jpg
Frémont and Dayton
Date(s)June 17–19, 1856
CityPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania
VenueMusical Fund Hall
Presidential nomineeJohn C. Frémont of
Vice presidential nomineeWilliam L. Dayton of
New Jersey
1860 ›
Woodcut of crowd outside of the convention hall
First Republican National Convention Historical Marker at 810 Locust St Philadelphia PA

The 1856 Republican National Convention was a presidential nominating convention that met from June 17 to June 19 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[1] It was the first national nominating convention in the history of the Republican Party, and was held to nominate the party's candidates for president and vice president in the 1856 election. The convention selected former Senator John C. Frémont of California for president and former Senator William L. Dayton of New Jersey for vice president. The convention also appointed the members of the newly-established Republican National Committee.

The Republican Party had been organized by opponents of the expansion of slavery in the territories following the passage of the 1854 Kansas–Nebraska Act. With William Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Charles Sumner all taking their names out of consideration, Frémont entered the Republican convention as the front-runner for the presidential nomination. Frémont had previously been nominated by the North American Party, which consisted of anti-slavery members of the American Party who were unwilling to support the American Party candidate, Millard Fillmore. Though Associate Justice John McLean of Ohio had the backing of some delegates, Frémont clinched the presidential nomination on the first formal ballot of the Republican convention.

Dayton was nominated on the first formal vice presidential ballot, defeating former Congressman Abraham Lincoln of Illinois and several other candidates. The Republican ticket carried several Northern states in the general election, but the Democratic ticket of James Buchanan and John C. Breckinridge won the 1856 election.



On June 19, 1855, a small gathering of like-minded individuals met in Washington, D.C. where they passed a resolution noting the recent abrogation of "all compromises, real or imaginary" by the opening of Kansas Territory and Nebraska Territory to the possible institution of slavery.[2][3] These proclaimed themselves the "Republican Association of Washington, District of Columbia" and passed a simple four plank platform including the demand that "There should be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except for the punishment of crime, in any of the Territories of the United States."[4] A number of state organizations were soon established along similar lines and the Republican Party was effectively born.

On January 17, 1856, representatives of Republican Party organizations in Ohio, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wisconsin — all Northern states in which slavery was prohibited — issued a joint call for an "informal Convention" to be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on February 22, 1856, in order to perfect the national organization and to call a formal, properly delegated national convention to nominate candidates for President and Vice-President of the United States for the forthcoming November 1856 election.[4] The gathering elected a governing National Executive Committee and passed various resolutions calling for the repeal of laws enabling slaveholding in free territories and "resistance by Constitutional means of Slavery in any Territory," defense of anti-slavery individuals in Kansas who were coming under physical attack, and a call to "resist and overthrow the present National Administration" of Franklin Pierce, "as it is identified with the progress of the Slave power to national supremacy."[5] One speaker from Kansas was Samuel Newitt Wood who was central to all of the Bleeding Kansas events and according to The New York Times was the "lion of the evening."[6]

The 22-member Republican National Committee, which included one representative from each state attending the Pittsburgh Convention, met in plenary session on March 27, 1856, at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC, and issued a call for a formal presidential nominating convention.[7] This was slated to begin on June 17, 1856, in Philadelphia.[7] Each state organization was to be allocated six at-large delegates, plus three delegates for each congressional district.[7]

North American Party convention[edit]

The candidates to be nominated by the new Republican party were first nominated by the anti-slavery rump of the American Party.

Others from the North who were opposed to slavery formed their own party after the nomination of former President Millard Fillmore in Philadelphia. This party called for its national convention to be held in New York, New York, just before the Republican National Convention. Party leaders hoped to nominate a joint ticket with the Republicans to defeat Buchanan. The national convention was held on June 12 to 20, 1856 in New York. As John C. Frémont was the favorite to attain the Republican nomination there was a considerable desire for the North American party to nominate him, but it was feared that in doing so they may possibly injure his chances to actually become the Republican nominee. The delegates voted repeatedly on a nominee for president without a result. Nathaniel P. Banks was nominated for president on the 10th ballot over John C. Frémont and John McLean, with the understanding that he would withdraw from the race and endorse John C. Frémont once he had won the Republican nomination. The delegates, preparing to return home, unanimously nominated Frémont on the 11th ballot shortly after his nomination by the Republican Party in Philadelphia. The chairman of the convention, William F. Johnston, had been nominated to run for vice-president, but later withdrew when the North Americans and the Republicans failed to find an acceptable accommodation between him and the Republican nominee, William Dayton.[8]

Convention vote
Presidential Ballots 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Vice Presidential Ballot
Nathaniel P. Banks 43 48 46 47 46 45 51 50 50 53 0 William F. Johnston 59
John C. Frémont 34 36 37 37 31 29 29 27 28 18 92 Thomas Ford 16
John McLean 19 10 2 29 33 40 41 40 30 24 0 John C. Frémont 12
Robert F. Stockton 14 20 18 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Scattering 21
William F. Johnston 6 1 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scattering 5 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 0

The First Republican Convention[edit]

The first Republican National Convention was held in the Musical Fund Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 17 to 19, 1856. The convention approved an anti-slavery platform that called for congressional sovereignty in the territories, an end to polygamy in Mormon settlements, and federal assistance for a transcontinental railroad.[9] John C. Frémont, John McLean, William Seward, Salmon Chase, and Charles Sumner all were considered by those at the convention, but the latter three requested that their names be withdrawn. McLean's name was initially withdrawn by his manager Rufus Spalding, but the withdrawal was rescinded at the strong behest of the Pennsylvania delegation led by Thaddeus Stevens.[10] Frémont was nominated for president overwhelmingly on the formal ballot, and William L. Dayton was nominated for vice president over Abraham Lincoln.[11]

Candidate gallery[edit]

Convention Balloting[edit]

Convention vote
Presidential Ballots Informal 1 Formal 1 Vice Presidential Ballots Informal 1 Formal 1
John C. Frémont 359 520 William L. Dayton 253 523
John McLean 190 37 Abraham Lincoln 110 20
Charles Sumner 2 0 Nathaniel P. Banks 46 6
Nathaniel P. Banks 1 0 David Wilmot 43 0
William H. Seward 1 1 Charles Sumner 35 3
Abstaining 14 9 Jacob Collamer 15 2
John Alsop King 9 2
Samuel C. Pomeroy 8 1
Thomas H. Ford 7 5
Henry Charles Carey 3 0
Cassius Clay 3 1
Joshua Reed Giddings 2 0
Whitfield Johnson 2 1
Aaron Pennington 1 0
Henry Wilson 1 0
Abstaining 29 13

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Origins of the Republican Party". Republican Philadelphia. Philadelphia, PA: Independence Hall Association. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  2. ^ Charles W. Johnson (ed.), Proceedings of the First Three Republican National Conventions of 1856, 1860 and 1864: Including Proceedings of the Antecedent National Convention Held at Pittsburg in February, 1856, as Reported by Horace Greeley. Minneapolis, MN: Harrison and Smith, Printers, 1893; pg. 3.
  3. ^ Monroe, R.D. "The Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Rise of the Republican Party, 1854-1856." DeKalb, Illinois: Lincoln Digitization Project, Illinois University Digital Library, retrieved online February 19, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Johnson (ed.), Proceedings of the First Three Republican National Conventions of 1856, 1860 and 1864, pg. 4.
  5. ^ Johnson (ed.), Proceedings of the First Three Republican National Conventions of 1856, 1860 and 1864, pp. 10-11.
  6. ^ The New York Times, February 22, 1856, pg 4
  7. ^ a b c Johnson (ed.), Proceedings of the First Three Republican National Conventions of 1856, 1860 and 1864, pg. 14.
  8. ^ Schlesinger, Arthur M. Jr. American Presidential Elections. pp. 1022–1023.[full citation needed]
  9. ^ "1856 Republican Convention," in "Republican National Political Conventions 1856-2008," Library of Congress.
  10. ^ Roseboom, Eugene H. A History of Presidential Elections. p. 162.[full citation needed]
  11. ^ Nyce, Caroline Mimbs and Chris Bodenner. "The Day Lincoln Took the Reins of the Republican Party." Washington, D.C.: The Atlantic, May 18, 2016.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Republican National Conventions Succeeded by