A. Popular Sovereignty and the election of General Taylor



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Chapter 18 class notes

The American Pageant 13th ed.

A.P. United States History



Mrs. Civitella

A. Popular Sovereignty and the election of General Taylor

  1. Republicans and Democrats each enjoyed support in both the North and the South

  2. Politicians from both parties avoided the slavery issue

  3. Election of 1848 Democrats nominated General Lewis Cass

    1. Democratic platform was silent on slavery, but Cass was vocal on the issue

    2. Cass believed in popular sovereignty- the people were given the power under the Constituton and should therefore decide the slavery issue themselves- self-determination

    3. self-determination made slavery a local issue


Popular sovereignty was popular with politicians because it was a compromise that was avoiding directly addressing the issue of slavery

  1. Whigs nominated General Zachary Taylor “Hero of Buena Vista” for election of 1848

    1. Taylor owned slaves on his Louisiana plantation, but he did not speak publicly on slavery

  2. Free Soil Party was organized by abolitionist from the North who disliked both Cass and Taylor

    1. The Free Soil Party came out for the Wilmot Proviso (against slavery in the territories)

    2. Wanted to increase spending on internal improvements

    3. Wanted free soil for settlers

    4. The Free Soil Party had support from

    5. Industrialists against reduction of the tariff

    6. Democrats who were resentful of settling for only part of Oregon

    7. Northerners who didn’t want to share the west with African Americans

    8. Whigs who were against slavery

    9. Worers who were looking for independence by owning property

    10. The Free Soil Party was the first inclusive party organized against slavery

    11. free soil, free speech, free labor, and free men”

Taylor’s popularity as a war hero led him to victory in the election of 1848
B. The California Gold Rush

  1. 1848- gold was discovered in Sutter’s Mill, CA

  2. gold fever” led to a massive movement of Americans and new immigrants to the west to get rich

  3. service industries for the miners (ie- Levi Strauss) sprung up on the west coast

  4. many of the settlers were criminals

  5. robbery, claim jumping, and murder was previlant as was “vigilante justice”

  6. 1849 California drafted a constitution (which excluded slavery) and applied for statehood


C. Slavery and abolitionism

  1. Slave states held the presidency (Zachary Taylor) and a majority in the House

  2. Slave vs. free states were equal in the Senate

  3. Admission of CA as a free state would lead to a free state majority in the Senate

  4. Southerners believed that they had sacrificed southern men in the Mexican American War and fought bitterly to stop CA admission as a free state

  5. Abolititionists demanded an end to slavery in Washington, DC (leaving a free district within two slave states)

  6. The Underground Railroad with its leader Harriet Tubman acted as a conductor to runaway slaves who stopped in safe houses on their way to freedom in free territory

  7. By 1850, 1,000 slaves/year ran away to freedom

(more blacks probably gained their freedom by self-purchase or voluntary emancipation than running away)

  1. Southerners put pressure on their politicians to enact a more stringent fugitive slave law


D. Sectional Giants

1849:

  • CA wanted admission to the union as a slave state

  • “fire-eaters” threatened secession in the South(announced convention to be held in Nashville, TN in 1850 to vote for secession if their demands were not met)

1. Henry Clay (KY)- the “Great Compromiser”

    1. Came up with the Missouri Compromise

    2. Suggested a compromise in which the North could avoid slavery in the territories by enforcing a tougher fugitive slave law


2. John C. Calhoun (SC)

  1. Dying of Tuberculosis

  2. Stringent advocate of states’ rights

  3. Believed that Clay’s compromise did not provide enough safeguards for states’ rights

  4. Wanted to leave slavery in tact

  5. Return runaway slaves

  6. Give Southern states rights as a minority and restore power

  7. Suggested electing two presidents; one from the north and one from the south


3. Daniel Webster (MA)

  1. Publicly supported Clay’s compromises in long passionate speeches in congress

  2. Urged reasonable concessions to the South

  3. Supported a stronger fugitive slave law

  4. Credited with strengthening sentiment toward preservation of the union

  5. Northern bankers and manufacturers supported Webster’s speeches because they stood to loose millions of dollars if the south seceded.

(Webster’s “Seventh of March Speech” was significant in pushing northern congressmen toward compromise. Printed copies were requested in the hundreds of thousands)
4. “Fire-eaters”- pro-slavery southerners who wanted secession more than maintaining the union

5. Young Guard- new leaders from the North who wanted to clean up the Union

  1. Strong abolitionists

  2. Against giving concessions to the South

  3. Led by William H. Seward

  4. Appealed to God’s “higher law” to forbid slavery in the territories (God’s law was higher than the Constitution)

  5. Wanted to “purge” or eliminate the south from the north to keep the union pure


E. Politics and The Compromise of 1850

    1. Zachary Taylor died of an intestinal disorder in 1850

    2. Millard Fillmore (NY) Vice President, became president

    3. Acting as president of the Senate, Fillmore had been present for the compromise debate

    4. Compromise of 1850 was signed into law (see graphic on pg. 397)

      1. CA was to be admitted to the union as a free state

      2. The remainder of the Mexican Cession area was to be formed into the territories of NM and UT with no restriction on slavery- left to self-determination (popular sovereignty)

      3. TX received $10 million for territory to be New Mexico

      4. Fugitive Slave Law was strengthened

      5. Abolition of slave trade in Washington, DC (but not slavery)

5. Effects of the Compromise of 1850



  1. Put an end to southern extremists threat of secession as promised in Nashville, TN

  2. Initiated a temporary sense of nationalism – “Second Era of Good Feelings”

  3. The North benefited from the Compromise

  4. NM and UT were more likely to vote for admission as free states than slave

  5. Stronger Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was intended to benefit the South

  6. Slaves could not testify on their own behalf in runaway cases

  7. Citizens accused of helping runaway slaves could face fines and jail

  8. Fugitive Slave Law actually moved more northerners to abolitionism

  9. MA state law made it illegal to follow the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 in that state


As time went on, southerners felt betrayed by the new Fugitive Slave Law because it was not being enforced as much as they wanted
With the Industrial Revolution booming in the North, the north became more and more prosperous as the south became more and more dependant on slave labor for their livelihood


  1. The peace and prosperity that followed the compromise of 1850 allowed sufficient time for abolitionism and the desire for moral goodness to grow in the North.

  2. The moral justification for fighting and winning the Civil War was an outgrowth of the Compromise of 1850.

  3. The election of 1852 marked the end of the Whig Party and the advent of the Democratic and Republican parties with their sectional differences (Democrats- South, Republicans- North)

  4. Southern states tried to extend slavery to Central America and the Caribbean

  5. Northerners were outraged by President Franklin Pierce’s secret desire to buy Cuba as a new slave territory

Opposition to territorial expansion for the south ended the period of territorial expansion in the 1850s
F. Railroads and the Kansas Nebraska Act 1854

1. The Gadsden Purchase



  1. Transportation from east to west was a challenge

  2. A transcontinental railroad was needed

  3. Whichever regions and towns had the RR on their land, would reap huge profits

  4. James Gadsden negotiated with Mexico on behalf of the US to acquire land south of the New Mexico Territory into CA

  5. The land was chosen because the southern terrain was easier for construction and did not contain the Indian threat that would have existed in the northern proposed sites

  6. The Gadsden Purchase was opposed by northerners but was authorized by congress for $10 million dollars in 1853


2. Stephen A. Douglas and the Kansas Nebraska Act

  1. Stephen A. Douglas (IL) the “Little Giant” wanted to continue westward expansion

  2. Personally invested in RR stock and wanted a RR to make Chicago a transportation and commerce hub

  3. Douglas proposed the following:

    1. divide the existing Nebraska Territory into two separate territories (KS and NE)

    2. let the territories decide for themselves if they were to be free or slave

    3. (KS was expected to enter as a slave state, and NE free)

    4. This proposal would contradict the Missouri Compromise and negate the Compromise of 1850

      1. Bitter debates in congress

      2. Southerners were thrilled and quickly endorsed Douglas’ proposals

      3. Despite northern opposition, Douglas’s oratory skills were successful in obtaining passage in 1854

3. Effects of the Kansas Nebraska Act

        1. Fugitive Slave Law of 1850

        2. Infuriated the North who would now oppose any and all new demands for slave territory

        3. Led to the creation of the Republican Party- sectional political party against slavery


Review of Compromises:
1. Missouri Compromise 1820-1821

  1. Missouri’s application for statehood as a slave state would have put the balance of power of states 12:11 in favor of slave states

  2. Henry Clay “the Great Compromiser” came up with the following:

  1. Missouri could enter the union as a slave state

  2. Maine would enter at the same time as a free state (maintaining the balance at 12:12)

  3. But the remainder of the unsettled Louisiana Purchase, slavery was prohibited north of the 36°30’ line of latitude (the southern border of Missouri)


2. Compromise of 1850

    1. CA requested admission to the Union as a slave state (would have put free states in the majority)

    2. Southerners tried to block the admission of CA

    3. Henry Clay came up with another compromise

  1. CA would be admitted as a free state

  2. The remainder of the Mexican cession would be divided into two separate territories, NM and UT and these territories would decide by popular sovereignty whether to be slave-holding or free

  3. TX would cede its claim to parts of the NM Territory. In return TX would receive $10 million dollars (federal assumption of TX debt)

  4. Slave trade, but not slavery, was abolished in Washington, D.C.

  5. Congress would strengthen the Fugitive Slave Act by requiring citizens of any state, slave or free, to assist in the capture and return of runaway slaves


3. Kansas Nebraska Act 1854

    1. Proposed by Stephen A. Douglas to organize the Nebraska Territory (part of the Louisiana Purchase)

    2. Repeal of the Missouri Compromise so that no territory would be automatically designated as non-slaveholding

    3. Divided Nebraska into Nebraska and Kansas territories

    4. Issue of slavery in both territories would be decided by popular sovereignty







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