US Political Party Platforms

Part 1 (1840-1856)

Political party platforms define the governing political philosophies and how they are to be applied. Platforms for the Democratic party began in 1840, while the Republican party platform began in 1856. It is important that either party was entirely focused on the Constitution more so than any current platform seems to do, although Republicans are showing promise.

The very first Democrat party platform was in 1840 and it lists 9 Resolved principles of which politics form.  There is only one mention of slavery and it is number 7. It states;

7. Resolved, That congress has no power, under the constitution, to interfere with or control the domestic institutions of the several states, and that such states are the sole and proper judges of everything appertaining to their own affairs, not prohibited by the constitution; that all efforts by abolitionists or others, made to induce congress to interfere with questions of slavery, or to take incipient steps in relation thereto, are calculated to lead to the most alarming and dangerous consequences, and that all such efforts have an inevitable tendency to diminish the happiness of the people, and endanger the stability and permanency of the union, and ought not to be countenanced by any friend to our political institutions.

Line one, prior to “;” essentially says that congress should not interfere with, “domestic institutions of the several states”. Now the important part surfaces, as to what these institutions are, namely institutional slavery stating that all efforts by “abolitionists” to rid the US of slavery (one of the United States most tragic histories) was actually to reduce happiness of the people and should not be entertained by any political institution, namely congress. The federal government should not determine the outcome of slavery, inherently the Democratic party saw nothing wrong with slavery, and in fact thought it made people happy. It stays the same for the 1840, 1844 and 1848 platforms until 1852 in which several other governing principles were introduced. Number 7 specifically dealt with slavery, and had lasted since 1840, it was now not given a number and moved below that last number  of 9. Then below, there is an added portion that states;

Resolved, That the democratic party will resist all attempts at renewing, in congress or out of it, the agitation of the slavery question, under whatever shape or color the attempt may be made.

It is clear the Democrat party does not want any change in the use of slavery for America. In 1856, the Republican party is birthed and the 1856 Republican political party platform is defined! How does the Democrat party deal with such opposition to their view that slavery makes people happy? They now make a more coherent argument for slavery, as well as concluding that they are reasserting their focused energy toward that position. The whole platform becomes entrenched with defense of slavery. I will quote some of the more interesting and telling portions below, but not quoting all parts that mention the word “slavery”.

Resolved, That we reiterate with renewed energy of purpose the well considered declarations of former Conventions upon the sectional issue of Domestic slavery, and concerning the reserved rights of the States.

1. That Congress has no power under the Constitution, to interfere with or control the domestic institutions of the several States, and that such States are the sole and proper judges of everything appertaining to their own affairs, not prohibited by the Constitution; that all efforts of the abolitionists, or others, made to induce Congress to interfere with questions of slavery, or to take incipient steps in relation thereto, are calculated to lead to the most alarming and dangerous consequences; and that all such efforts have an inevitable tendency to diminish the happiness of the people and endanger the stability and permanency of the Union, and ought not to be countenanced by any friend of our political institutions.

2. That the foregoing proposition covers, and was intended to embrace the whole subject of slavery agitation in Congress; and therefore, the Democratic party of the Union, standing on this national platform, will abide by and adhere to a faithful execution of the acts known as the compromise measures, settled by the Congress of 1850; “the act for reclaiming fugitives from service or labor,” included; which act being designed to carry out an express provision of the Constitution, cannot, with fidelity thereto, be repealed, or so changed as to destroy or impair its efficiency.

3. That the Democratic party will resist all attempts at renewing, in Congress or out of it, the agitation of the slavery question under whatever shape or color the attempt may be made.

As you can see, point 1 mirrors point 7 from their historical platforms from 1844 to 1852. The great Compromise of 1850 had already finished, halting a four year confrontation between slave supporting states of the South and then non-slave states of the North or free states. This uneasy tension that culminated in 1850 followed the Mexican-American War (1846–1848). Thus in point 2, the Democratic platform was the support of the “compromise measures”, thus because of it being law, could not be agitated or repealed, etc. Point 3 is again a reiteration of what was stated in the 1852 Democrat party platform.

How did the Republican party deal with such law and entrenched interests by the Democrat party? Their 1856 party platform states the following;

This Convention of Delegates, assembled in pursuance of a call addressed to the people of the United States, without regard to past political differences or divisions, who are opposed to the repeal of the Missouri Compromise; to the policy of the present Administration; to the extension of Slavery into Free Territory; in favor of the admission of Kansas as a Free State; of restoring the action of the Federal Government to the principles of Washington and Jefferson; and for the purpose of presenting candidates for the offices of President and Vice-President, do

Resolved: That the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence, and embodied in the Federal Constitution are essential to the preservation of our Republican institutions, and that the Federal Constitution, the rights of the States, and the union of the States, must and shall be preserved.

Resolved: That, with our Republican fathers, we hold it to be a self-evident truth, that all men are endowed with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that the primary object and ulterior design of our Federal Government were to secure these rights to all persons under its exclusive jurisdiction; that, as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished Slavery in all our National Territory, ordained that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, it becomes our duty to maintain this provision of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it for the purpose of establishing Slavery in the Territories of the United States by positive legislation, prohibiting its existence or extension therein. That we deny the authority of Congress, of a Territorial Legislation, of any individual, or association of individuals, to give legal existence to Slavery in any Territory of the United States, while the present Constitution shall be maintained.

Resolved: That the Constitution confers upon Congress sovereign powers over the Territories of the United States for their government; and that in the exercise of this power, it is both the right and the imperative duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism—Polygamy, and Slavery.

The first paragraph calls for a restoration of principles to “Washington and Jefferson”. Secondly the reliance upon the Declaration of Independence as embodied within the Constitution is honored and preserved which is essentially, if arguing against slavery, liberty for all! Thirdly after paraphrasing the pertinent parts of the Declaration of Independence, the Republican duty is presented;

… to maintain this provision of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it for the purpose of establishing Slavery in the Territories of the United States by positive legislation, prohibiting its existence or extension therein.

Thus to Republicans, the Democrats are interpreting the Constitution in an incredibly racist way, not using an honest originalist perspective. If all are to have liberty and if the Constitution is the best government to facilitate and foster individual liberty and it being the supreme law of the land, to the Republicans;

it is both the right and the imperative duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism—Polygamy, and Slavery.

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