He served as a Free Soiler in the Massachusetts house of representatives from 1849 to 1853, and was speaker in 1851 and 1852; he was president of the state Constitutional Convention of 1853, and in the same year was elected to the national House of Representatives as a coalition candidate of Democrats and Free Soilers.
The "free soilers," however, succeeded in sending to the thirty-first Congress two senators and fourteen representatives, who by their ability exercised an influence out of proportion to their number.
Between 1848 and 185 2 the "Barnburners" and the "Hunkers," their opponents, became partially reunited, the former returning to the Democratic ranks, and thus greatly weakening the Free Soilers.
In 1851 control of the Massachusetts legislature was secured by the Democrats in coalition with the Free Soilers, but after filling the state offices with their own men, the Democrats refused to vote for Sumner, the Free Soilers' choice for United States senator, and urged the selection of some less radical candidate.
30, 1851) and for the long term (April 24, 1851) by a coalition of Democrats and Free Soilers and served only until February 1851.