The presidential election of 1856 sparked an unusually heated campaign that resulted in the victory of James Buchanan ("Old Buck"), the Democratic candidate. He warned that a Republican victory would lead to the secession of southern states and civil war, and he advocated popular sovereignty for the Western territories. John C. Frémont, the Republican candidate, crusaded against "the Slave Power" (the political power of the slaveholding class in the South) and the expansion of slavery. The American Party, or "Know-Nothings," sought to curb immigration and drafted former president Millard Fillmore as its candidate.
In this campaign ribbon, "Old Buck" seems sure to win the race. Frémont's credentials as a "national" candidate are questioned: he might capture only "One Little State," probably a reference to California, his home state. He is ridiculed for never venturing forth without carrying a derringer, an unimposing weapon. "Salt River" in mid-nineteenth-century political parlance was the path to defeat. Here, the term may have a double meaning, because an actual place, Salt River Bay, is the site off St. Croix in the Virgin Islands where in 1493 Native Americans first attempted, unsuccessfully, to repel European intruders—the same futile goal of the "Know-Nothing" Party. The Baltimore Republican was a newspaper.
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