By Chris Calton, May 6th, 2016, LibertyConservatives.com:
In the 1856 election, the country was bitterly divided between the Democratic Party – which had dominated the office of the Presidency since Thomas Jefferson – and the new parties that came about from the destruction of the Whigs. In 1848, members of the Whig party had been branching off and forming third parties, mostly due to the contentious issue of slavery in the western territories. In 1848, former Whigs formed the Free Soil Party, the platform of which revolved around the issue of territorial slavery. In the 1850s, the anti-Irish immigrant American Party (known colloquially as the “Know Nothings”) began to flourish. The division of the Whigs seemed like good news for the Democrats.
But in 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which was an attempt at a compromise between the “Slave Power” and the Free-Soilers, created a division among the Democrats. In the same year, the Republican Party was formed. Two years later, the Republicans nominated their first presidential candidate in a three-way election. The Democrats nominated James Buchanan, the Republicans nominated John C. Fremont, and the American Party nominated former-President Millard Fillmore. As can be expected, the Democrats won the election.
The Republicans, though, referred to this election as a “victorious defeat.” Even though they lost and the Democrats retained their hold on the Presidency, the Republicans did surprisingly well in the Northern states. In 1860, their second Presidential nominee – Abraham Lincoln – would win the election.