It’s time to get educated for the upcoming election.

First, test your knowledge presidential election.

Who was the first Republican nominated for president of the United States? What was his connection to Minnesota.

Abraham Lincoln is the most common guess as the first presidential nominee for the Republican Party, but in fact it was John C. Fremont in 1856. In the early 1850s the Whig party was crumbling in the midst of a major debate over slavery. In 1850 many Whig politicians devised a compromise that was intended to settle the slavery debate, but it only caused the debate to reach seismic proportions. Part of that compromise was the extremely unpopular provision in the North known as the  “fugitive slave act” that allowed Southern bounty hunters to track down fugitive slaves in free northern states. Then in 1854 Democratic leaders passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act that allowed southern interests an opportunity to turn Kansas to a slave state. This led to the tragic episode known as “Bleeding Kansas” with open bloody terroristic wars exploding on the prairie as pro- and anti-slavery advocates began flooding the state.

Following the Kansas-Nebraska Act northern Whigs started openly advocating for a new political party. It was on March 20, 1854 in a schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin that this new movement first received the name of the “Republican Party”. The new party’s selection of Fremont as their first national standard-bearer seemed to be inspired. He was one of the most popular and well-known individuals in the country at the time due to his exploits as a trailblazer in the western territories. Most of the routes through the Rocky Mountains south of the Oregon Trail were discovered and mapped by expeditions led by Fremont. Books extolling his exploits in the savage wilds of the West with his trusted assistant mountain man Kit Carson were devoured by the public in that age of western expansion.

Fremont’s connection to Minnesota was significant in that he first learned his trailblazing skills here. His first military commission was to explore and map the Minnesota Territory in the 1830s with Joseph Nicollet. It was on this mapping expedition that Fremont distinguished himself and carefully learned wilderness exploration skills. It was this Minnesota expedition that launched his career leading to future exploration commissions that would make him famous.

Fremont went on to lose the 1856 presidential election, but his strong performance leading the fledgling party in its inaugural national election made it clear to southerners that the political winds were changing. Fremont’s lost was due more to the fact that it was a three-way race with the dying Whig party still having a candidate on the ballot in former president Millard Fillmore. Also the eventual winner, Democrat James Buchanan, was from Pennsylvania. In the North Fremont won the popular vote with 45.2% to Buchanan’s 41.5% and Fillmore’s 13.3%. Had Fairmont carried Buchanan’s home state of Pennsylvania and one other state he would have won the electoral votes. Amazingly, in the South Fairmont did not receive a single vote in 10 of the 14 slave states and only received 600 in the other four states.

The Republican Party leaders came to the conclusion after the 1856 election that Fremont was probably more strident anti-slavery than even the northern states could tolerate. Therefore, they sought a more moderate candidate on the issue for their next presidential election, settling on Abraham Lincoln. That selection did not appease the southern states, leading to the Civil War.

As the present day Republican Party wraps up its convention in Tampa and the Democrats start gathering in North Carolina, it is time to begin the education process regarding the candidates for the general election in November. Though Conservation Minnesota does not get involved in national politics, we strive to educate Minnesotans on the important issues in the Minnesota legislative races. Therefore, to make that education process easier for voters who place a high value on conservation issues, we have developed two tools to use to get informed on important outdoor issues.

The first is Conservation Minnesota’s webpage entitled Check My Legislator which allows you to look back at how your legislator voted in the last session on critical conservation issues in an easy-to-use electronic format. The second is a webpage to help you get educated on the important mining issue that is occurring in northern Minnesota. Northern Minnesota’s wild forests and pristine lakes are the focus for a new type of mining that could forever change the region. These new mines, much different than Minnesota’s traditional iron mines, would extract copper, nickel and other metals from sulfide ore. To learn more about this mining, go to the  Mining Truth website. Then you can ask the candidates in your area where they stand.

About John Tuma

John is a former state legislator and litigation attorney. He served in the Minnesota House of Representatives for eight years from the Northfield area, beginning in 1994. Elected as a Republican, John was known for his independent thinking and ability to work across party lines. He is well-known in Minnesota state government circles.
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