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The 1856 presidential race was the most violent peacetime election in American history. War between proslavery and antislavery settlers raged in Kansas; a congressman shot an Irish immigrant at a Washington hotel; and another congressman beat a US senator senseless on the floor of the Senate. But amid all the violence, the campaign of the new Republican Party, headed by famed explorer John C. Frémont, offered a ray of hope: a major party dedicated to limiting the spread of slavery. For the first time, women and African Americans actively engaged in a presidential contest, and the candidate's wife, Jessie Benton Frémont, played a central role in both planning and executing strategy, and was a public face of the campaign. Even enslaved blacks in the South took hope from Frémont's crusade.

About the Author

John Bicknell

John Bicknell has been a journalist for more than 30 years. He is executive editor of Watchdog.org at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, and previously was an editor for Roll Call, Congressional Quarterly and FCW. He was senior editor for the 2016 edition of "The Almanac of American Politics." He lives in Virginia with his wife, Arwen (an editor for the RAND Corporation) , son Thomas, cats Jane and Gilda, and the dog, Amy Pond.

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