The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska
Act and the widespread violence in the Kansas Territory contributed
to the demise of the Second Party System of Whigs and Democrats that
had dominated American electoral politics for nearly two decades. Many
northern Democrats parted ways with the southern slaveholders that dominated
their party in order to oppose the extension of slavery to the West.
Some joined with anti-slavery Whigs like Abraham Lincoln to form the
new Republican Party, which organized its platform around the idea of
a West without the peculiar institution. In 1856 the new political organization
nominated its first candidate for the presidency, the famed western
explorer John C. Fremont. While Fremont only collected significant vote
totals in the northern states, his success in these populous regions
suggested that a party lacking support in the South might still fare
well in national politics.
For more information about politics in the 19th century, please look at Lincoln/Net's Getting the Message Out! National Political Campaign Materials, 1840-1860 Web site.