The Opposition Party was a party identification under which Northern anti-slavery politicians, formerly members of the Democratic and the Whig Parties, briefly ran in the 1850s in response to the expansion of slavery into the new territories. It was one of the movements that arose from the political chaos in the decade before the American Civil War in the wake of the Compromise of 1850. The movement had arisen before and was quickly subsumed by the coalescence of the Republican Party in 1856.
During the fragmenting of the Second Party System of Jackson Democrats and Clay Whigs, the Democratic efforts to expand slavery into western territories, particularly Kansas, led to organized political opposition, which coalesced in Congress as the "Opposition Party." As the Whig Party disintegrated, many local and regional parties grew up, some ideological and some geographic. When they realized their numbers in Congress, they began to caucus in the same way that US political parties had arisen before the Jacksonian national party conventions. Scholars such as Kenneth C. Martis have adopted a convention to explain the congressional coordination of anti-Pierce and anti-Buchanan factions as the "Opposition Party."
In the Congressional election of 1854 for the 34th United States Congress, the new Republican Party was not fully formed, and significant numbers of politicians, mostly former Whigs, ran for office under the Opposition label. The administration of Democratic President Franklin Pierce had been marred by Bleeding Kansas. Northerners began to coalesce around resistance to Kansas entering the Union as a slave state. The ongoing violence made any election results from that territory suspect by standards of democracy.
The Opposition Party was the name adopted by several former Whig politicians in the period 1854–1858. In 1860, the party was encouraged by the remaining Whig leadership to effectively merge with the Constitutional Union Party.
It represented a brief but significant transitional period in American politics from approximately 1854 to 1858. Since independence, a major political issue had been conflict, whether open or structural, between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in the United States, fought more on the basis of regional and class affiliations than strictly along party lines. Passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act in 1854 both did major short-term political damage to Northern Democrats and fractured the Whig Party on the slavery issue, driving the formation of the anti-slavery Republican Party. During that transitional period, the Opposition Party served as a successor to, or a continuation of, the imploding Whig Party.
The party was seen as offering a compromise position between the Southern Democrats and Northern Republicans.
The Whig name had been critically weakened, but former Whigs still needed to advertise that they were opposed to the Democrats. The Know Nothings had found that their appeals to anti-immigrant prejudice were faltering and their secrecy was made suspect, so they sought more open and more inclusive appeals to broaden a candidate's chances at the polls.
The "confounding party labels among all those who opposed the Democrats" have led to scholars of U.S. political parties in Congress to adopt the convention "Opposition Party" for the 34th and 35th Congresses. This term encompasses Independent, Know Nothing, Fusion, Anti-Nebraska, Anti-Administration, Whig, Free Soil and Unionist.
Following the 1854 election, the Opposition Party actually was the largest party in the U.S. House of Representatives. In the resulting 34th United States Congress, the U.S. House's 234 Representatives were made up of 100 Oppositionists, 83 Democrats, and 51 Americans (Know Nothing).That was a very dramatic shift from the makeup of the 33rd United States Congress (157 Democrats, 71 Whigs, 4 Free Soilers, 1 Independent, 1 Independent Democrat). As a provisional coalition more united by what it opposed and not yet fully having agreed on what it stood for, being the largest party did not lead to control of Congress. The new Speaker of the House, elected by plurality, was Nathaniel Prentice Banks of Massachusetts, a former Democrat who campaigned as a Know Nothing in 1854 and as a Republican in 1856.
By the 1856 elections, the Republican Party had formally organized, while the Democrats enjoyed a fleeting political recovery from damage done by the Kansas–Nebraska Act. The 35th United States Congress comprised 132 Democrats, 90 Republicans, 14 Americans, 1 Independent Democrat.
The Whig Party was a political party that espoused traditionalist conservatism in the United States during the middle of the 19th century. Alongside the slightly larger Democratic Party, it was one of the two major parties in the United States between the late 1830s and the early 1850s as part of the Second Party System. Four presidents were affiliated with the Whig Party for at least part of their respective terms. Other influential party leaders that were members of the Whigs include Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, William Seward, John J. Crittenden, and John Quincy Adams.
The 1856 United States presidential election was the 18th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 4, 1856. In a three-way election, Democrat James Buchanan defeated Republican nominee John C. Frémont and Know Nothing nominee and former President Millard Fillmore.
The Free Soil Party was a short-lived coalition political party in the United States active from 1848 to 1854, when it merged into the Republican Party. The party was largely focused on the single issue of opposing the expansion of slavery into the western territories of the United States.
The 1948 United States House of Representatives elections were elections for the United States House of Representatives in 1948 which coincided with President Harry S. Truman's election to a full term. Truman had campaigned against a "do-nothing"' Republican Party Congress that had opposed his initiatives and was seen as counterproductive. The Democratic Party regained control of both the House and Senate in this election. For Democrats, this was their largest gain since 1932. These were the last elections until 1980 when a member of a political party other than the Democrats, Republicans, or an independent had one or more seats in the chamber. As of 2022, this is the last time the Democrats gained more than 50 seats in an election.
The 1860 and 1861 United States House of Representatives elections were held at various dates in different states from August 1860 to October 1861.
The Anti-Nebraska movement was a political alignment in the United States formed in opposition to the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 and to its repeal of the Missouri Compromise provision forbidding slavery in U.S. territories north of latitude 36° 30' N. The Republican Party grew out of the Anti-Nebraska movement.
The 33rd United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, consisting of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, D.C. from March 4, 1853, to March 4, 1855, during the first two years of the administration of U.S. President Franklin Pierce. During this session, the Kansas–Nebraska Act was passed, an act that soon led to the creation of the Republican Party. The apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives was based on the Seventh Census of the United States in 1850. Both chambers had a Democratic majority.
The 34th United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, consisting of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, D.C., from March 4, 1855, to March 4, 1857, during the last two years of Franklin Pierce's presidency. The apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives was based on the Seventh Census of the United States in 1850. The Whig Party, one of the two major parties of the era, had largely collapsed, although many former Whigs ran as Republicans or as members of the "Opposition Party." The Senate had a Democratic majority, and the House was controlled by a coalition of Representatives led by Nathaniel P. Banks, a member of the American Party.
The 1858 and 1859 United States House of Representatives elections were held during President James Buchanan's term at various dates in different states from August 1858 to November 1859.
The 1854 and 1855 United States House of Representatives elections were held during President Franklin Pierce's term at various dates in different states from August 1854 to November 1855.
The 1856 and 1857 United States House of Representatives elections were held at various dates in different states from August 1856 to November 1857.
The Opposition Party was a third party in the South in the years just before the American Civil War.
The Know Nothing party was a nativist political party and movement in the United States in the mid-1850s. The party was officially known as the "Native American Party" prior to 1855 and thereafter, it was simply known as the "American Party".
The presidency of Franklin Pierce began on March 4, 1853, when Franklin Pierce was inaugurated as President of the United States, and ended on March 4, 1857. Pierce, a Democrat from New Hampshire, took office as the 14th United States president after routing Whig Party nominee Winfield Scott in the 1852 presidential election. Seen by fellow Democrats as pleasant and accommodating to all the party's factions, Pierce, then a little-known politician, won the presidential nomination on the 49th ballot of the 1852 Democratic National Convention. His presidency ended after losing the Democratic nomination at the 1856 Democratic National Convention.
The 1854 and 1855 United States Senate elections were elections which saw the final decline of the Whig Party and the maintained majority of the Democrats. Those Whigs in the South who were opposed to secession ran on the "Opposition Party" ticket, and were elected to a minority. Along with the Whigs, the Senate roster also included Free Soilers, Know Nothings, and a new party: the Republicans. Only five of the twenty-one senators up for election were re-elected.
The Northern Democratic Party was a leg of the Democratic Party during the 1860 presidential election, when the party split in two factions because of disagreements over slavery. They held two conventions before the election, in Charleston and Baltimore, where they established their platform. Democratic Candidate Stephen A. Douglas was the nominee and lost to Republican Candidate Abraham Lincoln, whose victory prompted the secession of 11 Southern states and the formation of the Confederate States of America.
The 1854 Massachusetts gubernatorial election was held on November 15. American Party candidate Henry J. Gardner was elected to his first term as governor, defeating incumbent Whig Governor Emory Washburn.