Renewing the Sectional Struggle
The Popular Sovereignty Panacea
Popular sovereignty meant that the sovereign people of a territory should determine the statues of slavery. It was popular with politicians because it was a comfortable compromise between the abolitionists and the slaver-holders.
At the Democratic National Convention at Baltimore, the Democrats chose General Lewis Cass, a veteran of the war of 1812, as their candidate for presidency. Cass supported slavery.
Political Triumphs for General Taylor
The Whigs, who met in Philadelphia, chose Zachary Taylor as their candidate for presidency. Taylor did not have an official stance on slavery, but he did own many slaves. Henry Clay had not been chosen because he had too many enemies.
The Free Soil Party emerged. It was formed by antislavery men of the North, who didn't trust Cass or Taylor. They supported federal aid for internal improvements. They argued that with slavery, wage labor would wither away and with it, the chance for the American worker to own property.
Zachary Taylor won the election of 1848 (sworn into office in 1849).
In 1848, gold was discovered in California. The rush of people in search of gold in California brought much violence and disease that the small government in California couldn't handle. Needing protection, the Californians bypassed the territorial stage of a state, drafted their own Constitution (excluding slavery) in 1849, and applied to Congress for admission into the Union.
The southerners objected to California's admission as a free state because it would be upset the balance of free and slave states in the Senate.
Sectional Balance and the Underground Railroad
Harriet Tubman- conductor of the Underground Railroad who rescued hundreds of slaves.
In 1850, southerners were demanding a new and strict fugitive-slave law. (The old fugitive-slave law passed by Congress in 1793 was very weak.) The slave owners rested their argument on the Constitution, which protected slavery.
Twilight of the Senatorial Giants
The congressional debate of 1850 was called to address the possible admission of California to the Union and threats of secession by southerners. Known as the "immortal trio," Henry Clay, John Calhoun, and Daniel Webster spoke at the forum.
Henry Clay, the "Great Pacificator," proposed a series of compromises. He suggested that the North enact a stricter fugitive-slave law.
John Calhoun, the "Great Nullifier," proposed to leave slavery alone, return runaway slaves, give the South its rights as a minority, and restore the political balance. His view was that two presidents would be elected, one from the South and one from the North, each yielding one veto.
Daniel Webster proposed that all reasonable compromises should be made with the South and that a new fugitive-slave law be formed. Although, he was against slavery and he supported Wilmot Proviso, because he felt that cotton could not grow in the territories gained from the Mexican-American War.
Deadlock and Danger on Capital Hill
William H. Seward- senator of New York; antislavery and argued that God's moral law was higher than the Constitution.
President Zachary Taylor seemed bent on vetoing any compromise between the North and South that went through Congress.
Breaking the Congressional Logjam
In 1850, President Taylor died suddenly and Vice President Millard Fillmore took the presidency. President Fillmore signed a series of compromises.
During this time period, a second Era of Good Feelings came about. Talk of succession subsided and the Northerners and Southerners were determined that the compromises would end the issue of slavery.
Balancing the Compromise Scales
Within the Compromise of 1850, California was admitted as a free state and the territories of New Mexico and Utah were open to slavery on the basis of popular sovereignty. Thus, the Senate was unbalanced in favor of the North.
The Fugitive-Slave Law of 1850, the Bloodhound Bill, said that fleeing slaves could not testify on their own behalf and they were denied a jury trial. Northerners who aided slaves trying to escape were subject to fines and jail time. This was the one Southern gain from the Compromise of 1850.
The events in the 1850s caused the Northerners to resist succession.
Defeat and Doom for the Whigs
In the Democratic Convention of 1852 in Baltimore, the Democrats chose Franklin Pierce as their candidate for presidency. He supported the finality of everything, including the Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Law.
Meeting in Baltimore, the Whigs chose Winfield Scott as their candidate for presidency. He also praised the Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Law.
The votes for the Whig party were split between Northern Whigs, who hated the party's platform but accepted the candidate, and Southern Whigs, who supported the platform but not the candidate.
Franklin Pierce won the election of 1852. The election of 1852 marked the end of the Whig party. It died on the issue of the Fugitive-Slave Law. The Whig party had upheld the ideal of the Union through their electoral strength in the South.
President Pierce the Expansionist
The victory of the Mexican War stimulated the spirit of Manifest Destiny. Americans were looking ahead to possible canal routes and to the islands near them, notably Spain's Cuba.
Americans lusted for territory after the Compromise of 1850.
William Walker installed himself as the President of Nicaragua in July 1856. He legalized slavery, but was overthrown by surrounding Central American countries and killed in 1860.
Nicaragua was the world's leading marine and commercial power. The British, fearing the Americans would monopolize the trade arteries there, secured a foothold in Greytown.
The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty said that neither America nor Britain would fortify or secure exclusive control over any isthmian waterway (waterway between two bodies of land).
In 1854, Japan was persuaded to sign a treaty that started the trade of America with Japan.
Coveted Cuba: Pearl of the Antilles
Cuba was prized by Southerners who saw it as the most desirable slave territory available. They felt future states arising from it would eventually restore the balance in the Senate.
President Polk had offered $100 million to buy from Spain, but Spain refused. In 1850-1851, two expeditions full of Southern men descended upon Cuba, with the hopes of taking it over.
Spanish officials in Cuba seized an American ship, the Black Warrior, in 1854. It was now time for President Pierce to provoke a war with Spain and take Cuba.
The secretary of state instructed the American ministers in Spain, England, and France to prepare confidential recommendations for the acquisition of Cuba. This document was known as the Ostend Manifesto. It stated that if Spain didn't allow America to buy Cuba for $120 million, then America would attack Cuba on grounds that Spain's continued ownership of Cuba endangered American interests. The document eventually leaked out and the Northerners foiled the President's slave-driven plan.
Pacific Railroad Promoters and the Gadsden Purchase
With the acquisition of California and Oregon, the transcontinental railroad was proposed. The question was where to have the railroad begin-the North or the South.
Secretary of War Jefferson Davis had James Gadsden buy an area of Mexico from Santa Anna for which the railroad would pass. Gadsden negotiated a treaty in 1853 and the Gadsden Purchase area was ceded to the United States for $10 million.
The railroad ran from California to Houston, Texas.
Douglas's Kansas-Nebraska Scheme
Stephen A. Douglas- longed to break the North-South deadlock over westward expansion; proposed the Territory of Nebraska be sliced into two territories, Kansas and Nebraska. Their status on slavery would be decided by popular sovereignty. Kansas would be presumed to be a slave state, while Nebraska would be a free state.
This Kansas-Nebraska Act ran into the problem of the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which forbade slavery in the proposed Nebraska Territory. Douglas was forced to propose the repealing of the Missouri Compromise. President Pierce fully supported the Kansas-Nebraska Bill.
Congress Legislates a Civil War
The Kansas-Nebraska act wrecked two compromises: the Compromise of 1820 which the act repealed; and the Compromise of 1850, which northern opinion repealed indirectly.
The Democratic Party was shattered by the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
The Republican Party was formed in the Mid-West and it had moral protests against the gains of slavery. It included Whigs, Democrats, Free-Soilers, Know-Nothings, and other foes of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The Southerners hated the Republican Party.