1848 was filled with unrest in America.The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo initiateda new and perilous round of politicalwarfare in America – the acquisition ofvast territory raised anew the burningissue of extending slavery into theterritories ….
1. Northern anti-slavery groups rallied around the Wilmot Proviso, which flatly prohibited slavery in any territory acquired from the Mexican War. 2. Southern senators had blocked passage of the proviso, but the issue would not die. 3. The debate over slavery threatened to split national politics along North- South sectional lines.Representative David Wilmot
THE POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY PANACEAHow did each of the two great political parties (Whigs & Democrats) serve as a vitalbond of national unity?What was the political fear amongst leaders in both parties?For both parties, what proved to be the wisest political strategy?
THE ELECTION of 1848 The Democrats nominated Gen. Lewis Cass – why didn’t Polk run for re-election? Regarding slavery Cass advocated popular sovereignty – what does this mean? The Whigs nominated Zachary Taylor – why didn’t Henry Clay get the nomination? What was the Whig campaign strategy? A third-party emerged – The Free Soil party. Who was their candidate? Explain their campaign platform. The Free Soil party foreshadowed which party six years later? Lewis Cass
Taylor won by a narrow margin – what role didthe Free Soilers play in Taylor’s victory?
“CALIFORNY GOLD” The discovery of gold in California blew the cover off the slavery lid for President Taylor. Hordes of adventurers from around the world poured into “gold country.”
Cheap but effective, placer mining consisted of literally “washing” the gold out of surface deposits.No deep excavation was required. This crew of male & female miners in California in 1852 was using a“long tom” sluice that washed relatively large quantities of ore.
President TaylorAs is historically consistent, only a small number of people struck it rich in California.Explain how the in-pouring of tens of thousands of people, the subsequent outburstof crime, and President Taylor’s quiet diplomacy created violent opposition in theSouth that threatened to break the Union.
SECTIONAL BALANCE and the UNDERGROUND RAILROAD The South of 1850 was relatively well- off: Describe how. Yet the South was deeply worried – what were its sources of anger and frustration? Explain Texas’ grievance with the federal govt.
Southerners detested the Underground Railroad, consisting of an informal chain of“stations” (anti-slavery homes), through which scores of “passengers” (runaway slaves)were spirited by “conductors” (usually white & black abolitionists) from the slave states tothe free-soil sanctuary of Canada. In actuality, how damaging was this freedom trainto southern slavery?Even though the underground railroad probably rescued only 1,000 slaves a year, it caused great excitement in the nation.Abolitionists found it an active way to oppose slavery.
The most amazing of the “conductors” was anilliterate runaway slave from Maryland,Harriet Tubman.By 1850 southerners were demanding a newand more stringent fugitive-slave law. The oldone (1793) was inadequate. What angeredsoutherners most regarding the loss ofslaves to the underground railroad?Did theConstitution safeguard slavery?
TWILIGHT of the SENATORIAL GIANTSCongress was confronted with catastrophe in 1850. Free-soil California was seekingadmission and “fire-eaters” in the South were voicing ominous threats of secession. Thecrisis brought into the congressional forum the most distinguished assemblage ofstatesmen since the Constitutional Convention (1787).That “immortal trio” – Webster, Clay, and Calhoun – appeared together for the last timeon the public stage.
Henry Clay, the “Great Pacificator,”played a crucial role in engineering histhird great compromise. Clay urged thatthe North and South both makeconcessions and that the North partiallyyield by enacting a more feasible fugitive-slave law.John Calhoun, near death, championed theSouth. He approved of Clay’s intentionsbut rejected his proposals as not goingfar enough. His plea was to leave slaveryalone, return runaway slaves, give theSouth its due rights, and restore thepolitical balance.Daniel Webster argued to uphold Clay’scompromise measures. He concluded thatcompromise, concession, andreasonableness would provide the onlysolutions. His speech was crucial forpassage. He regarded slavery as evil butdisunion as worse – he despised theabolitionists.
DEADLOCK and DANGER on CAPITOL HILLThe stormy congressional debate of 1850 was not finished with the three great orators. The“Young Guard,” from the North, led by William Seward, was more interested in purging andpurifying the Union rather than patching and preserving it. William Seward
William Seward, a freshman senator from NewYork, was the spokesman for the youngernorthern radicals.A strong antislaveryite, he came out againstconcession and compromise. He appealed to aneven “higher law” than the Constitution tojustify abolition.As the great debate in Congress ran its heatedcourse, deadlock seemed certain. Pres. Taylorseemed determined to veto any congressionalcompromise and he threatened to send an armyinto Texas to crush the “traitors” – this likelywould have started the Civil War.At the height of controversy in 1850, Pres.Taylor suddenly died, thus helping the cause ofcompromise.
Vice President Millard Fillmore took officeand gladly signed the congressionalcompromises after 7 months of debate.
The struggle to get these compromises accepted by the country was hardly less heated than inCongress: 1. “Union-savers” (Clay & Webster) orated on behalf of compromise 2. Northerners gradually accepted the compromises but continued to flout the Fugitive Slave Law. 3. Southern “fire eaters” violently opposed concessions.Fortunately for the country in 1850 there still prevailed a desire for Union over secession, but thisdesire was fading fast. The Compromise of 1850 “bought” the North a decade to accumulate thephysical and moral strength that would provide the margin of victory.
BALANCING the COMPROMISING SCALESWho got the better deal in the Compromise of 1850? Explain why the northernconcession of popular sovereignty in the New Mexico and Utah Territories was notreally a “loss” for the North. And, explain how the apparent gains of the Southrang hollow.
DEFEAT and DOOM for the WHIGSMeeting in Baltimore, the Democratic nominating convention of 1852 nominated a politicalunknown, Franklin Pierce. Their main plank was to embrace the Compromise of 1850. The Whigs, also convening in Baltimore, missed a splendid opportunity when it nominated war hero Winfield Scott. In spite of his military achievements, why was he a poor choice? The Whig platform praised the Compromise of 1850, though less enthusiastically than the Democrats. Pierce won the election in a landslide – What allowed this “dark horse” to win so handily? Explain why the election of 1852 was fraught with frightening significance in retrospect.
PRESIDENT PIERCE the EXPANSIONISTThe people of Dixie were determined to acquire more slave territory, and the compliant Pierce wasprepared to be their willing tool. Why did southerners and the U.S. govt. covet Nicaragua?Explain the significance of the Clayton-Bulwar Treaty.
Spanish Cuba was also in southern plans as a future slave territory. What sparked theconfrontation? Why were the other European powers unable to assist Spain. And explainthe secret cloak-and- dagger Ostend Manifesto. For once, internal distresses in the U.S. prevented it from taking advantage of Europe’s distresses.
America had become a Pacific power with the acquisition of California and Oregon, bothof which faced Asia. Americans had been trading with the Chinese, and shippers wereurging Washington to establish trade with Japan. The U.S. govt. dispatched an awesomefleet of warships, commanded by Commodore Matthew Perry, to pry open the bamboogates of Japan in 1854.
PACIFIC RAILROAD PROMOTERS and the GADSDEN PURCHASEAcute transportation problems were a legacy of the Mexican War, and feasible landtransportation was imperative to tie the newly acquired lands together. Atranscontinental railroad was clearly the only real solution to the problem. What wasthe greatest obstacle? Describe the North-South rivalry in selecting a route.Why did the southern route win? James GadsdenExplain the negotiations leading to the Gadsden Purchase in 1853.
DOUGLAS’S KANSAS-NEBRASKA SCHEME In 1854, Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois delivered a counterstroke to offset the Gadsden thrust for southern expansion westward. An ardent booster for the West, he longed to break the North-South deadlock over westward expansion & stretch a line of settlements across the continent. He was determined to have Chicago become the eastern terminus of the proposed Pacific railroad. Douglas threw himself behind a legislative scheme that would enlist southern support. Explain his scheme.
The Kansas-Nebraska “scheme” entailed carving the Territory of Nebraska into 2territories, Kansas and Nebraska. Slavery status would be decided by popularsovereignty. Kansas, close to Missouri, would likely be a slave territory and Nebraska,adjacent to Iowa, would likely be free. The primary problem was the Missouri Compromiseof 1820, which forbade slavery in the Nebraska Territory. It would have to be repealed(Douglas and Pierce supported this move).
But the Missouri Compromise could not be brushed aside lightly. The North had come toregard the sectional pact as almost as sacred as the Constitution itself. Free-soilersfought back with a vengeance, with violence in the chamber nearly erupting. But Douglasand his supporters prevailed. In retrospect, describe Douglas’s political blunder.Describe the chain-reaction of events/sentiments following passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act that led to civil war.