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An Agrarian RepublicFarming, Antislavery Politics, and Nature Parks in the Civil War Era$
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Adam Wesley Dean

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781469619910

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469619910.001.0001

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Free Soil and the Rise of the Republican Party

Free Soil and the Rise of the Republican Party

(p.40) Two Free Soil and the Rise of the Republican Party
An Agrarian Republic

Adam Wesley Dean

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter covers the rise of the Free-Soil and Republican Parties in the 1850s. While historians have given much scholarly attention to the ideology of the Republicans, citing their promotion of “free labor” and hostility toward the “slave power,” this chapter uncovers the agrarian nature of the Republican appeal. Such an understanding is critical given how popular the Republicans were with farmers. The party believed that civilization and loyalty in the West could only be secured by societies of small farmers practicing scientific land management. Yeomen farmers, Republicans argued, formed the strongest attachments to the Union. The land-use practices of slaveholders served as a foil to the northern ideal. Slave plantations exhausted the soil and caused nature to wither and decay. The slave South’s low literacy rates, barbaric habits, dirty buildings, and lack of economic opportunity reflected its poor treatment of farmland. The immense landholdings produced an aristocracy threatening to the Union. Politicians warned that if permitted in the West, large slave plantations would exhaust the soil, ruining land better utilized by small farmers.

Keywords:   Free-Soil Party, Republican Party, Republicans, small farmers, land use, slave plantations, Union

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