The Anti-Masonic Party was the first Third Party to emerge into the American national political field and they entered during the election of 1832. The Anti-Masons opposed the secrecy of the Masonic Order, an exclusive society in which everything was kept secret. They were also an Anti-Jackson party because he was a member of the Masonic Order. This was the first political party to add formal platforms, publicize their political positions, and to hold a nominating convention.
The party was founded in 1827-1828, after the disappearance of William Morgan, a Freemason, who was going to reveal the secrets of the Masonic order. This disappearance started a wave of anti-Masonic sentiment, and it decreased the membership of the Masons. The party was formed in 1828 after 15 of their candidates for the New York State offices were elected to the state Assembly. The party reflected the extensive hostility towards Masons holding public office. Thurlow Weed established two newspapers that led the press attack on Freemasonry and endorsed anti-Masonic candidates. They were called the Anti-Masonic Enquirer and the Albany Evening Journal, which became the chief party organ. Anti-Masonic papers rapidly spread throughout the states. In 1831 they held their first national nominating convention. Their main political force was in New York, but they spread their influence to the middle Atlantic and New England states.
The Anti-Masonic Party appealed to the long-standing American suspicions of secret societies. The secret societies were condemned as a fortress of privilege and monopoly. The reason believed that the Masons were exempt from criticism was because George Washington and other statesmen and soldiers of the Revolutionary period had been members. The Anti-Masonic members insisted that people could achieve almost any social, economic, or political goal by going to polls and voting. Many evangelical Protestant groups who were seeking to use political power to effect moral and religious reforms supported the party.
In 1831 they held their first national nominating convention, nominating William Wirt, who was a Freemason. Wirt was up against Andrew Jackson for the presidency. Amos Ellmaker was nominated for the vice presidency. In the election, Wirt only got one state, Vermont, but the effect of the third party drew support from Henry Clay and helped Jackson to win. The party did gain seats in the 23rd Congress, and an Anti-Masonic governor of Vermont, William A. Palmer.
In 1834, the party disbanded when several prominent leaders founded the Whig Party or shifted to the Democratic Party. Many of their former members who despised the secrecy of the Know-Nothings were influential in founding the Republican Party.