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A look at the first Elephant Party presidential candidate

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John C. Fremont was the first Elephant Party candidate for President. He ran in 1856 after the party was formed in 1854. Fremont won fame as “the pathfinder.” He surveyed and explored the western United States for the Army in the 1840s. He was also one of the ring leaders of the “Bear Flag Republic” rebellion which led the forming of the state of California.


Freemont was not shy about taking positions. He ended up getting court marshaled and convicted for disobeying his superiors during the California phase of the Mexican War. After going back to Washington in chains, President James Polk commuted his sentence.


After resigning from the Army Fremont promptly returned to California, struck gold and got rich. After California became a state, the legislature elected him to be one of the state’s first two senators.


Here is what might be called the Fremont landscape medal. It is a true work of numismatic art with a bronzed surface similar to the 19th century mint medals. This piece was also struck in white metal, but I think the bronze is nicer.




This second medal provides a capsule view of the Fremont’s political positions. Fremont was anti-slavery, and was probably more outspoken on the subject that the other leaders of his party. The reverse reads “free soil” (no more slave territory or states), “free speech” (no more gag orders that prevented petitions or debates in Congress on slavery), “free labor” (abolitionism ?) and “eternal progression" (no going back).




In the election, Fremont's main opponent, James Buchanan won, but the result had to be disquieting for the Donkey Party. Fremont won every northern state except New Jersey and Buchanan's home state of Pennsylvania. Buchanan won the “solid south.”


Many historians now view Buchanan to be the worst president in history. He presided over the break up of the Union and the beginning of the Civil War.


Fremont served in the Army during the Civil War, but his record was not great. He had a political tin ear on the slavery issue, which prompted Lincoln to relieve him at one point. Later Stonewall Jackson kicked his butt on the battlefields of Virginia. He also made an abortive run for the presidency in 1864, but wisely bowed out in favor of Lincoln before the election.


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Nice historical post. Those are some lovely medals. If I had more money and more time to read I would try to get more into medals. As it is, I can barely keep my head above water with federal issue U.S. coins. Oh well, maybe down the line at some point.

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