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The National Union Party was a political party in the United Statesmarker from 1864 to 1868. It was an alliance between members of the Republican Party who backed incumbent President Abraham Lincoln and Northern Democrats (plus a few anti-Confederate Southerners such as Andrew Johnson) during and after the Civil War.


The National Union Party was created in May 1864 during the Civil War. Anti-Lincoln Radical Republicans held the belief that Lincoln was incompetent, and therefore could not be re-elected. A number of Radical Republicans formed a party called the Radical Democracy Party, and a few hundred delegates convened in Cleveland starting on May 31, 1864, eventually nominating John C. Frémont, who had also been the Republicans' first presidential standard-bearer during the 1856 U.S. presidential election.

Republicans loyal to Lincoln created a new name for their party in convention at Baltimoremarker, Marylandmarker during the first week in June 1864, in order to accommodate the War Democrats who supported the war and wished to separate themselves from the Copperheads. This is the main reason why War Democrat Andrew Johnson was selected to be the Vice Presidential nominee; then-current Vice President Hannibal Hamlin was not nominated. The National Unionists supporting the Lincoln-Johnson ticket also hoped that the new party would stress the national character of the war.

News of Lincoln's nomination at the 1864 National Union Convention elicited this famous response on June 9, 1864:

In August 1864, Lincoln wrote and signed a pledge that, if he should lose the election, he would nonetheless defeat the Confederacy by an all-out military effort before turning over the White House:

Lincoln did not show the pledge to his cabinet, but asked them to sign the sealed envelope.

The complexion of the war changed as the election approached. Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee's last victory in battle occurred June 3, 1864, at Cold Harbormarker. Union General Ulysses S. Grant's aggressive tactics began to bear fruit that summer. Admiral David Farragut successfully shut down Mobile Bay as a Confederate resource in the Battle of Mobile Bay, August 3-23, 1864. Confederate General John Bell Hood surrendered Atlanta, Georgiamarker, on September 1, 1864, to Union General William Tecumseh Sherman. The occupation of the city boosted both the Northern spirit and the Lincoln campaign.

Frémont and his fellow Republicans hated their former ally, U.S. Postmaster General Montgomery Blair. In return for a deal on Blair's future, and aware that his candidacy could result in victory for the Democrats, Frémont reconsidered his. On September 22, 1864, Republican presidential nominee Frémont dropped out of the race. On September 23, Lincoln asked for, and received, Blair's resignation. The National Union ticket went on to win handily in the election of 1864, defeating the Democratic ticket of General George B. McClellan, whom Lincoln had previously relieved of his command, and George H. Pendleton.

In the 1864 Congressional Elections, the National Union Party won 42 Senate seats, and 149 House of Representatives seats.


Upon Lincoln's death in 1865, Andrew Johnson became the only other National Union President. After the final break with the Congress over Reconstruction policies, Johnson used federal patronage to build up a party of loyalists, but it proved to be unsuccessful. The 1866 National Union Convention was held in August in Philadelphiamarker as part of his attempt at maintaining a coalition of supporters and Johnson embarked upon a speaking tour (known as the "Swing Around the Circle") before the 1866 Congressional elections to attempt to garner support for his policies, but both proved ineffective as more of his opponents were elected. Republican National Committee chairman Henry Jarvis Raymond (1864-1866) lost the regard of the Republicans for his participation in the convention. The National Union movement became little more than the Democratic Party in a new form as Republicans left the movement and returned to the old party fold by the fall.

The last congressman to represent the National Union Party ended his affiliation with the party in March 1867. Andrew Johnson was impeached by the Republican-led House of Representatives in 1868, and he was acquitted in the United States Senate by one vote. Upon the 1869 expiration of Johnson's only term as U.S. President, the National Union Party came to an end. The platform adopted at the 1868 Republican National Convention strongly repudiated President Johnson, while the platform adopted by the 1868 Democratic National Convention thanked Johnson, but did not nominate him. The Republicans used the "National Union Republican" label for their Republican National Conventions of 1868 and 1872 and regard the initial National Union coalition assembled in 1864 as part of their party lineage and heritage.

Later uses

John Anderson garnered 6.6% of the popular vote in 1980 running on the "National Unity Party" ballot line. Anderson, a former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, came in third behind Ronald Reagan and the Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter.

See also


  1. Mark Grimsley and Brooks D Simpson, eds. The Collapse of the Confederacy (2001) p 80
  2. Foner (2002).
  3. Republican Party Platform of 1868
  4. Democratic Party Platform of 1868


  • Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (2002).

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