The New International Encyclopædia/Barnburners
BARN'BURN'ERS. In American political history, a faction of the Democratic party in New York State after 1844, so called (in allusion to a Dutchman who was said to have burned his barn to free it of rats) from their supposed eagerness for radical reform measures — especially for such measures as would prevent the extension of slavery in the Territories. Unable to secure satisfactory recognition in the Democratic National Convention of 1848, they joined the Free Soilers, and with them nominated Van Buren for the Presidency. Their vote, dividing the Democratic strength, secured the election of Taylor, the Whig nominee. In 1852 they reunited with their opponents, the Hunkers, though the two factions did not work together in harmony until several years later. Before this time the name ‘Softs,’ or ‘Soft-shells,’ had replaced the name ‘Barnburners.’ See Van Buren; Hunkers; Albany Regency.