When the Whig Party split over slavery in the 1850s, there was an open position for the main rival of the Democrats. The “radical” Republican Party beat out the Know Nothings to fill the void. Their mere existence led to secession and Civil War. From humble beginnings, the Republican Party became the dominant political force of the late Nineteenth Century. The “Third Party System,” ranging from 1856-1894, encompasses the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Gilded Age.


With Henry Clay’s death and General Winfield Scott’s huge loss to Franklin Pierce, the Whig party came to an end in the 1850s. Before we introduce the Grand New Party, I’d like to pause and review the “Second Party System,” or the era of the Democrats and the Whigs.