August 18th, 2019

The Election of 1840

by Sen. Bill Doyle


The campaign of 1840 was one of the most spectacular ever waged in Vermont. More people voted (56,117) than in any previous Vermont election. Not until 1868 would the vote be exceeded (57,978).


The 1840 Whig State Convention was held in Burlington on June 25. It was reported to be the largest ever held in New England. Attendance was estimated between 15,000 and 25,000 and placards, banners and log cabins were features of a huge parade for “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.” Tippecanoe was a famous battle won by William Henry Harrison’s troops.


On July 8 a crowd estimated at 10,000-15,000 gathered on Stratton Mountain to hear Daniel Webster speak of the need to hold the Union together by electing the Whigs.


The convention and parade were a harbinger of the election results. Vermont gave the Whigs the greatest proportionate vote in the nation. In that year the Liberty party attracted only 319 votes in Vermont and only 7,000 in the nation. One year later the Liberty party received more than 3,000 votes. This deprived the Whig candidates of a popular majority, forcing the election into the General Assembly.


Many Vermont Whigs now realized that slavery could not be ignored. Slade continued his attempts to “abolitionize the Whig party.” In 1842 he wrote the editor of the New Haven Palladium:


The great mass of abolitionists think that every just purpose of abolition may be better accomplished without, than within, a distinct political organization. They think, indeed, that so far as political action is concerned, that action may be rendered more safe and effectual by incorporating abolition… into all parties… than by a separate organization.


The Whig platform of 1842 labeled slavery as a “moral and political evil which ought to be removed by all just and proper means consistent with the Constitution.” This tactic was successful, and in 1842 the Liberty party vote dwindled.




Senator Bill Doyle serves on the Senate Education Committee and Senate Economic Affairs Committee, and is the Senate Assistant Minority Leader. He teaches government history at Johnson State College. He can be reached at 186 Murray Road, Montpelier, VT 05602; e-mail wdoyle@leg.state.vt.us; or call 223-2851.



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