Conscience Whigs

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The "Conscience" Whigs were a faction of the Whig Party in the state of Massachusetts noted for their moral opposition to slavery. They were noted as opponents of the more conservative "Cotton" Whigs who dominated the state party, led by such figures as Edward Everett, Robert C. Winthrop, and Abbott Lawrence, whose close association with the New England textile industry led them to de-emphasize the slavery issue. Leaders of the "Conscience Whigs" included Charles Sumner, Henry Wilson, and Charles Francis Adams. The group split from the Whig party in 1848, when the national party nominated the slave-owning General Zachary Taylor for President, and played a role in the creation of the new Free Soil Party, which nominated Adams for Vice President in that year. Following the failure of the Free Soil Party in that year, however, many Conscience Whigs returned to the Whig fold, and their leaders played an important role later in the foundation of the Republican Party.

The term "Conscience Whig" is sometimes used more broadly to refer to Whigs in other states noted for their opposition to slavery.


  • "Whigs" A Dictionary of British History. Ed. John Cannon. Oxford University Press, 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Shawnee State University. 6 February 2006 <>
  • “Free-Soil Party.” Encyclopædia......
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