John Bell was the first member of the Constitutional Union Party to be elected president. Bell took office after finishing last in the popular vote in the previous election and having won the runoff election in the House of Representatives. The Constitutional Union Party ran a campaign around merely upholding the Constitution, the Union of the states, and the Laws. The new president faced a contentious situation with the nation dividing over slavery and widespread violations of the Fugitive Slave Law
President Bell immediately utilized his power as president to enforce the Fugitive Slave Laws by utilizing the US Marshals Service to catch runaway slaves and to indict those who were aiding and abetting runaway slaves. However, Bell also encouraged the Congress to pass a Constitutional Amendment that would end slavery by compensated emancipation at some future date. This Amendment was eventually passed and would be ratified in 1863 as the 13th Amendment, ending slavery on September 17th, 1887, the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. All slaveowners would be compensated for their slaves on that date with $10,000 per slave. Bell had ably dealt with the issue of slavery, preventing a Civil War.