Unionist Party (United States) | Wikipedia audio article

Unionist Party (United States) | Wikipedia audio article

The Unionist Party, later re-named Unconditional
Unionist Party, was a political party started after the Compromise of 1850 to define politicians
who supported the Compromise. Members included Southern Democrats who were
loyal to the Union as well as elements of the old Whig Party and other factions opposed
to a separate Southern Confederacy. It was used primarily as label by Southerners
who did not want to affiliate with the Republicans, or wished to win over anti-secession Democrats.==History=====
Origins===The label first appeared 1850 during the dispute
over the Compromise of 1850. Southerners who supported the Compromise (mainly
Whigs) adopted the Unionist label to win over pro-Compromise Democrats and defeat anti-Compromise
Democrats. The name change emphasized the Compromise
issue and implied that ordinary Whig political issues, such as the tariff, had been set aside. By 1860, the Whig Party was defunct. A group of former Whigs formed the Constitutional
Union Party, with John Bell as candidate for President. Also as in 1850, ex Whigs and anti-secession
Democrats combined as “Unionists” to oppose secessionists in state elections, especially
in Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri and Virginia, where the Republican Party label was still
toxic. Bell’s candidacy was ineffective, but the
state strategy proved successful as the American Civil War began in 1861.===During Civil War===
Following the splintered presidential election of 1860, it became apparent that much of the
South would not abide by the election of Abraham Lincoln. In Missouri, Francis P. Blair, Jr. began consolidating
that state’s adherents of Lincoln, John Bell and Stephen A. Douglas into a new political
party, the Unconditional Union Party, which would lay aside antebellum partisan interests
in favor of a single cause, the preservation of the Union. Blair and his supporters’ primary goal was
“to resist the intrigues of the Secessionists, by political action preferably, by force if
need were”.Another faction in Missouri also supported restoration of the Union, but with
conditions and reservations, including granting the extension of slavery westward. Others believed that once the Southern states
should be allowed to leave the Union peaceably as they would soon realize their mistake and
petition for restoration to the Union. Blair worked to form an alliance with these
so-called “Conditional Unionists” to bolster his numbers.The first formal convention of
the Missouri Unconditional Union Party was held February 28, 1861 in St. Louis, Missouri. No avowed secessionists were invited—only
those political leaders who had openly supported Bell, Lincoln or Douglas were allowed to participate. The delegates passed a series of resolutions
including formally declaring “at present there is no adequate cause to impel Missouri to
dissolve her connection with the Federal Union”, a move that swiftly was repudiated by the
pro-secession faction as having no constitutional validity. As a compromise to the Conditional Unionists,
the convention also entreated “the Federal government as the seceding States to withhold
and stay the arm of military power, and on no pretense whatever bring upon the nation
the horrors of civil war”.Missouri’s secessionists failed to garner enough statewide support
to dissolve the Union, so under the leadership of Governor Claiborne F. Jackson they broke
away and formed a separatist government and eventually took up arms against the Union
Army. Pro-Union politicians consolidated their control
over Missouri politics as the war progressed and Jackson and his pro-Confederacy Missouri
State Guard were forced out of the state. Unconditional Unionist Benjamin Franklin Loan
was elected to the 38th United States Congress.===Diffusion and decline===
A similar movement was underway in Maryland, where its leaders also advocated the immediate
emancipation of all slaves in the state without compensation to the slave owners. With the help of the Federal government and
its troops, Maryland’s secessionist voices were stilled. The party was not formalized until the summer
of 1863 when adherents worked to elect pro-Union candidates at the state and local level, particularly
in Western Maryland. Because Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation
only applied to slaves in those states in rebellion and did not include border states
such as Maryland, the party shifted its emphasis to the question of freeing slaves locally. The Conservative Union State Central Committee,
led by Thomas Swann and John P. Kennedy, met in Baltimore on December 16, 1863. It passed a resolution supporting immediate
emancipation “in the manner easiest for master and slave”. Supporters included the local military commander,
Robert C. Schenck. When the Federal government failed to respond,
the Unconditional Union policy held a second similar meeting on April 6, 1864 and again
overwhelmingly supported immediate emancipation. General Schenk’s replacement, Lew Wallace,
supported the resolution.Following the war, the radical wing of the Unconditional Union
Party remained active in pushing its agenda of not allowing former slaves or former Confederates
to vote. In their convention in Baltimore in 1866,
the radicals pledged to the maintenance of the state constitution of 1864, “which expressly
and emphatically prohibits both rebel suffrage and negro suffrage”. Henry Winter Davis, a leading voice within
the party’s radicals, was elected to the 38th United States Congress as a candidate of the
party.==Lists of Unionists==
The lists below are of Senators and Representatives elected as Unionist during the Civil War. Union Party Senators:John Snyder Carlile
Garrett Davis John Brooks Henderson
Thomas Holliday Hicks Waitman Thomas Willey
Robert Wilson Joseph Albert Wright
Union Party Representatives:Jacob B. Blair George Washington Bridges
William Gay Brown George H. Browne
Charles Benedict Calvert Samuel L. Casey
Andrew Jackson Clements John Woodland Crisfield
John Jordan Crittenden George W. Dunlap
George Purnell Fisher Benjamin Franklin Flanders
Henry Grider Michael Hahn
Aaron Harding Richard Almgill Harrison
James Streshly Jackson Cornelius Lawrence Ludlow Leary
Robert Mallory Henry May
Horace Maynard Lewis McKenzie
John William Menzies Thomas Amos Rogers Nelson
Joseph Segar Benjamin Franklin Thomas
Thomas Francis Charles Horace Upton
William H. Wadsworth Edwin Hanson Webster==
Electoral history=====
Presidential elections===^ a: Webster refused to recognize the party. He died on October 24, one week before election. ^ b: Bell was also candidate on the Constitutional
Union ticket. ^ c: Lincoln run under the National Union
ticket, comprising Republicans, War Democrats and Unionists.===Congress elections=====
See also==Anthony Kennedy, a Senator from Maryland
Southern Unionist

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