The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Hunkers

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HUNKERS (supposably from Dutch honk, “post” or “station”; “stick-in-the-muds”), in American politics, at present a contemptuous nickname, like “moss-backs,” for the unprogressive elements of a party, which detest change. Originally, a name given about 1844 to the section of the New York State Democrats which opposed new issues; the points for which it then stood, however, had become party tenets from about 1835. Thence till 1840 the Hunker faction was in opposition to the Locofoco wing (q.v.) which opposed bank charters; but was obliged to yield in 1838. From 1840 to 1846 they opposed the Radicals, who wished a revised State constitution, elective judges and cessation of State canal building. Thence till 1852 they opposed the Barnburners (q.v.), who, at first separately and then in alliance with the Free-Soil party (q.v.) fought the National Democratic party for recognition of its State power. After the election of Pierce in 1852, it divided into “hards” and “softs”; the first under Daniel S. Dickinson opposed the administration, the second under William L. Marcy supported it. The former made up the bulk of the “War Democrats” after 1861. Besides those named, Horatio Seymour is the best remembered Hunker leader; while the opposition has the familiar names of Martin Van Buren, Silas Wright and John A. Dix, besides others remembered by the older generation.