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Grand Democratic Free Soil Banner, 1848

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This banner was used to promote the Free Soil Party’s candidates for President and Vice-President in the Election of 1848.
Courtesy of Library of Congress,"Grand Democratic Free Soil Banner," 1848


This banner promoted the Free Soil Party and its candidates in the 1848 presidential election. Martin Van Buren (left), who had previously been elected president as a Democrat in 1836, was the candidate for the Free Soil Party. The other man on the banner was Charles F. Adams, son of John Quincy Adams. The Free Soil Party received zero electoral votes in the election of 1848, which was won by Whig candidate General Zachary Taylor. The Free Soil Party made its main purpose to oppose the expansion of slavery into the western territories, arguing that free men on free soil constituted a morally and economically superior system to slavery.

Source-Dependent Questions

  • As you analyze this image, note the symbols the artist used to surround the main figures of Martin Van Buren and Charles F. Adams. In your opinion, what was the artist's purpose in using those symbols? Why would such symbolism make people want to vote for these candidates?
  • The Free Soil candidates, Martin Van Buren and Charles F. Adams, were a former president and the son of a former president. What advantage would a party have by recruiting candidates with name recognition? Think about recent elections. Have modern political parties used this strategy? The Free Soil Party received zero electoral votes using candidates with familiar names. How does that compare with the modern elections you looked at?
  • Based on this image, what can you infer about the Free Soil Party's stand on the issue of slavery?
  • Compare this banner with the Grand National Union Party banner. What similarities do you see in how each party promoted its cause(s) and its candidates? What differences?

Citation Information 

"Grand Democratic Free Soil Banner," 1848. Courtesy of Library of Congress