William Fisher Packer was the last of a line of Democratic governors of Pennsylvania elected prior to the Civil War. After Packer’s term ended just as the Civil War started in 1861, it would be another twenty years before a Democrat won the governorship. And that governor, Robert Pattison, would be the only Democrat to serve until the New Deal.
Packer, like many in his party, tried to reconcile North and South as tensions over slavery and westward expansion during the 1850s tore the nation apart. He was unsuccessful because of dramatic events like “Bloody Kansas”, the war between pro-slavery emigrants and free-soilers for control of that territory, and John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. READ MORE »