Third Party System

In the terminology of historians and political scientists, the Third Party System was a period in the history of political parties in the United States from the 1850s until the 1890s, which featured profound developments in issues of American nationalism, modernization, and race. This period, the later part of which is often termed the Gilded Age, is defined by its contrast with the eras of the Second Party System and the Fourth Party System.

Third Party System

 Second 18541894 Fourth 

United States presidential election tendencies summarized between 1856 and 1892. Blue shaded states usually voted for the Democratic Party, while red shaded states usually voted for the Republican Party. Green shaded states voted for the Populist Party in 1892.

It was dominated by the new Republican Party, which claimed success in saving the Union, abolishing slavery and enfranchising the freedmen, while adopting many Whig-style modernization programs such as national banks, railroads, high tariffs, homesteads, social spending (such as on greater Civil War veteran pension funding), and aid to land grant colleges. While most elections from 1876 through 1892 were extremely close, the opposition Democrats won only the 1884 and 1892 presidential elections (the Democrats also won the popular vote in the 1876 and 1888 presidential elections, but lost the electoral college vote), though from 1875 to 1895 the party usually controlled the United States House of Representatives and controlled the United States Senate from 1879–1881 and 1893–1895. Some scholars emphasize that the 1876 election saw a realignment and the collapse of support for Reconstruction.[1]

The northern and western states were largely Republican, except for the closely balanced New York, Indiana, New Jersey, and Connecticut. After 1876, the Democrats took control of the "Solid South".[2]


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