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Free Soil Rally Broadside, Dorchester Massachusetts, 1848. 23 x 29 Inches
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All persons opposed to the Election of Taylor or Cass to the Presidency, and to the Extension of Slavery and the Slave Power, are invited to meet at the Lyceum Hall,” July 24, 1848. …”

Inviting “All persons opposed to the Election of TAYLOR or CASS to the Presidency, and to the Extension of Slavery and the Slave Power.” The meeting would choose delegates for a state convention on July 28. Speakers included Stephen C. Phillips (1801-1857), an 1819 graduate of Harvard University and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1834 to 1838. The bottom of the broadside contains the names of 178 local voters. It is curious that the Free Soil nominee, former Democrat Martin Van Buren, is not named here. Ultimately, with the support of the convention arranged after this broadside, he received 28.6% of the state’s votes. 

[ELECTION OF 1848]. Printed Document. Broadside, July 21, 1848, Dorchester, Massachusetts. 1 p. 23 x 29 in.

Inventory #27251       Price: $11,000

Historical Background
One nearby newspaper reported that the event advertised here as “a large and enthusiastic Free Soil meeting.” A Boston paper’s correspondent - a supporter of Whig Zachary Taylor – was more critical. He noted more than usual effort to obtain signatures (the men whose names were printed on the bottom), and placarding in Dorchester, and also Roxbury and Boston. But the meeting began more than an hour late, with only 135 “men, youths and boys” attending. Phillips “spoke in his dull, prosy way—repeating himself again and again, for something over two hours,” during which time he “succeeded in reducing his audience somewhere about one half.”[1]

The 1848 Presidential Election
President James K. Polk honored his promise not to seek re-election in 1848, leaving the nomination of his party open, with a popular record of prosperity and the acquisition of the Mexican cession and part of the Oregon Country.

At the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore in May, delegates rejected former president Martin Van Buren’s bid and nominated U.S. Senator Lewis Cass of Michigan for president and former Congressman and Major General William O. Butler of Kentucky for vice president. Martin Van Buren, disappointed with his rejection by the Democrats, turned to the Free Soil Party, which opposed the extension of slavery in the U.S. territories.

Whigs had their national convention in June in Philadelphia. The primary contenders included perennial Whig standard-bearer Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, General Winfield Scott of New Jersey, and Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts. Though Zachary Taylor hadn’t publicly committed to Whig principles, on the fourth ballot, the party selected him as the only candidate likely to be able to defeat the Democrats. Former Congressman Millard Fillmore of New York was selected for Vice President after Webster declined the nomination.

At the Free Soil Convention in in Utica and Buffalo in late June, Van Buren won the nomination. Charles Francis Adams, son and grandson of former presidents, was chosen as the vice-presidential nominee.

The Native American Party, a precursor of the Know Nothings of the 1850s, had met in Philadelphia in September 1847 and nominated Zachary Taylor for president and Henry A. S. Dearborn of Massachusetts for vice president.

The election was held on November 7, 1848, for the first time on the same day in every state. Taylor won a plurality of 47.3 percent of the popular vote to Cass’s 42.5 percent and Van Buren’s 10.1 percent. Taylor won 15 states with 163 electoral votes, while Cass also won 15 states but with 127 electoral votes. Van Buren’s break with the Democrats drew off support to the Free Soil Party. He attracted more than 291,000 votes nationwide but won no electoral votes, delivering key states like New York and Massachusetts to Taylor and the Whigs.

In Massachusetts, Van Buren polled second. Taylor received 45.3 percent of the popular vote and the state’s 12 electoral votes. Van Buren received 28.6 percent, and Cass 26.2 percent. Van Buren’s only stronger state was Vermont, where he received 28.9 percent of the vote.

[1] The Norfolk Democrat (Dedham, MA), The Boston Semi-Weekly Atlas (MA), July 28, 1848, 2:4; July 29, 1848, 4:4.

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