Polk and Manifest Destiny – Justifiable Policy or National Disgrace?



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Polk and Manifest Destiny – Justifiable Policy or National Disgrace?


    • In the early 1840s, Americans experienced a phenomenon known as “manifest destiny”




    • Britain and Mexico controlled one-third of what is now the continental United States




    • With American land becoming developed and overpopulated and newer modes of transportation making possible faster travel to the west, many ministers, politicians, and common people began to proclaim that it was the manifest destiny of the American people to dominate the continent given by God for their free development




    • Democratic long-shot candidate James K. Polk used an expansionist platform justified by manifest destiny to win the election of 1844




    • Expansionists at the Democratic Convention succeeded in dumping Martin Van Buren in favor of Polk

    • Polk was a dark-horse candidate and Henry Clay seemed the certain victor

    • Clay was a well-dressed, well-spoken man who had been in politics for over thirty years and was already noted for compromise

      1. Clay’s wavering on the Texas issue cost him votes among Northerners who believed adding Texas was a plot to add slave states to the Union

      2. The anti-slavery Liberty Party nominated James G. Birney who took enough votes away from Clay in New York to give that state, and thus the election, to Polk

    • Polk won the election of 1844 because of his advocacy of manifest destiny




    • As president, Polk obtained part of the Oregon Territory peacefully although he nearly followed the Democratic platform that called for “54º40’ of Fight!”




    • Polk had called for the annexation of Texas – a task accomplished by President Tyler before Polk’s inauguration through a joint resolution (unlike a treaty required only a simple majority rather than two-thirds vote) – and promised to obtain California and the entire Southwest as well




    • Polk had considerable political experience within his home state of Tennessee. He turned out to be a skillful and effective president




    • When Mexico refused to sell the land, Polk used a small incident along the disputed Mexican-Texas border to justify his demand for a declaration of war on Mexico




    • Congress, still inspired by manifest destiny, was happy to oblige




    • Quote A

    • The war was unnecessary because Mexico was not molesting or menacing the United States

    • Lincoln believed it was unconstitutional because Polk, not Congress, waged the war




    • Quote B

    • God wants us to develop the ideas of liberty and self-government throughout the world




    • Quote C

    • The entry of Texas into the Union was part of a national course of events

    • The author views Mexicans as imbecilic and distracted




    • Quote D

    • Gallatin opposed “manifest destiny” on the grounds of natural rights

    • He believed Mexicans had rights as human beings even if they were inferior

    • Quote E

    • Whitman believed that if America expanded, human happiness and liberty would expand with it

    • He believed Americans are a noble race who should dominate the inferior Mexicans

    • Part B

    • Acquisition of Oregon, lower tariff, and an independent treasury

    • Polk was so dedicated to his program that he even dreamed about it at night

    • Like Polk, Jackson was dedicated to expansion at any cost; Jackson was also Polk’s hero

    • Polk wanted the United States to have a firm foothold on all of the Oregon Country

    • Polk’s library shows that his mind had been on war, religion, and perhaps a rationalization of the two


Arguments for American expansion to the Pacific


    • It lessened the possibility of future collisions with foreign powers

    • It permitted the United States to spread democratic ideals

    • It fulfilled the mission some felt to bring a superior civilization to superstitious and tyrannical Mexico

    • It permitted the United States to acquire the benefits of harbors on the Pacific and new trade with the Far East


Arguments against American expansion to the Pacific


    • Americans, no matter how superior they believe their civilization to be, have no right to force their institutions on Mexicans and interfere with their rights to self-determination

    • Many believed the Mexican War was fought in order to spread the institution of slavery

    • War was unnecessary because Mexico was not menacing the United States

    • The war resulted from an unconstitutional act on the part of President Polk

    • It created a lasting bitterness among Mexicans who came to view the United States as a greedy and untrustworthy bully

    • The war enlarged the national appetite for expansion and reinforced racist philosophies

Westward Expansion – A Force of Unity or Division?


    • Each American acquisition of new land created a safety valve for the discontented and opened economic opportunities for settlers willing to risk the uncertainty and dangers of the frontier




    • By the 1840s the old Puritan concept of creating “a City upon a hill” had been transformed into the idea of an American mission to spread the American experiment in freedom and liberty across the continent




    • In their enthusiasm for spreading American civilization, however, expansionists temporarily ignored problems, particularly slavery, that surfaced with the acquisition of new territories




    • Westward expansion brought increasing specialization




    • While farming was the dominant occupation in all sections of the country prior to 1860, substantial regionalization occurred as the North developed a factory system, the South relied on a plantation economy, and the West developed family farms specializing in grains for eastern markets




    • Thus each region developed a specialty as well as a dependency on other areas




    • Developments in transportation had made this regionalization possible




    • However, as canals, turnpikes, and railroads developed, they created a firmer link between the East and West

    • The South, with most of its capital invested in slaves, developed far fewer factories, railroads, and canals and thus became increasingly dependent on northern supplies




    • Political bonds accompanied economic ties




    • In time, the static South viewed the new east-west axis as a threat to its very existence




    • Even prospects of obtaining the Far West did not quiet the fears of Southern planters




    • Consequently, sectional interests that finally culminated in the Civil War took precedence over earlier nationalizing trends

Answer Sheet


    • Original United States

    • 1783

    • Britain

    • Thirteen colonies received independence and all land to the Mississippi River in the Treaty of Paris at the end of the American Revolution

    • Louisiana Purchase

    • 1803

    • France

    • United States bought this land to guarantee access to the Mississippi River for western farmers after Spain transferred control of the territory to France

    • British Cession

    • 1818

    • Britain

    • Britain and the United States agreed to make 49º the border between Canada and the United States from Lake of the Woods in Minnesota to the Rockies

    • Spanish Cession

    • 1819

    • Spain

    • United States received Florida in the Adams-Onis Treaty after the United States complained that Spain was not controlling Indian attacks on Americans just across the border

    • the United States assumed $5 million in clams American shippers had against Spain for interference with trade during the Napoleonic Wars

    • Texas Annexation

    • 1845

    • Texas claimed status as an independent republic

    • The United States annexed the Lone Star Republic despite objections of Mexico, the territory’s former owner

    • Oregon Country

    • 1846

    • Compromise with Britain over disputed territory

    • After tariff concessions to Britain, the United States arranged a compromise with Britain to divided the Oregon Country at 49º

    • Mexican Cession

    • 1848

    • Mexico

    • The United States received the land in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo after the American victory in the Mexican War

    • The United paid Mexico $15 million and assumed $3 million in American claims against Mexico

    • Gadsden Purchase

    • 1853

    • Mexico

    • The United States purchased this land for $10 million to provide a route for a transcontinental railroad across the country’s southern border


Territorial and Economic Expansion (1830-1860)

  1. The theme of America’s manifest destiny was used by a host of supporters of territorial expansion after the term was penned by O’Sullivan

  2. At first, in the 1840s and 1850s, expansionists wanted to see the United States extend westward all the way to the Pacific and southward into Mexico, Cuba, and even Central America

    1. In a later decade, the 1890s, expansionists fixed their sights on acquiring islands in the Pacific and the Caribbean

  3. The phrase manifest destiny expressed the popular belief that the United States had a divine mission to extend its power and civilization across the breadth of North America

    1. Enthusiasm for expansion reached a fever pitch in the 1840s

  4. It was driven by a number of forces:

    1. nationalism

    2. population increase

    3. rapid economic development

    4. technological advances

    5. reform ideals

  5. By no means were all Americans united behind the idea of manifest destiny and expansionism

    1. Northern cities argued vehemently that at the root of the expansionist drive was the southern ambition to spread slavery into western lands


Conflicts Over Texas, Maine, and Oregon

  1. U.S. interest in pushing its borders southward into Texas (a Mexican province) and westward into the Oregon Territory (claimed by Britain) was largely the result of American pioneers into these lands during the 1820s-1830s


Texas

  1. 1823, after having won its national independence from Spain, Mexico hoed to attract settlers – even Anglo settlers – to farm its sparsely populated northern frontier province of Texas

  2. Moses Austin, a Missouri banker, had obtained a large land grant in Texas, but died before he could carry out his plan to recruit American settlers for the land

    1. His son, Stephen Austin, succeeded in bringing 300 families into Texas and thereby beginning a steady migration of American settlers into the vast frontier territory

    2. By 1830, Americans (both white farmers and black slaves) outnumbered the Mexicans in Texas by three to one

  3. Friction developed between the Americans and Mexicans when, in 1829, Mexico outlawed slavery and requested all immigrants to convert to Roman Catholicism

    1. When many settlers refused to obey these laws, Mexico closed Texas to additional American immigrants

  4. Land-hungry Americans from the southern states ignored the Mexican prohibition and streamed into Texas by the thousands


Revolt and Independence

  1. A change in Mexico’s government intensified the conflict

  2. 1834, General Antonio de Santa Anna made himself dictator of Mexico and abolished the nation’s federal system of government

  3. When Santa Anna insisted on enforcing Mexico’s laws in Texas, a group of American settlers led by Sam Houston revolted and declared to be an independent republic (March 1836)

  4. A Mexican army led by Santa Anna captured the town of Goliad and attacked the Alamo in San Antonio, killing every one of its American defenders

  5. Shortly, afterward at the Battle of San Jacinto River, an army under Sam Houston caught the Mexicans by surprise and captured their general, Santa Anna

  6. Under the threat of death, the Mexican leader was forced to sign a treaty that recognized Texas’ independence and granted the new republic all territory north of the Rio Grande

  7. When the news of San Jacinto reached Mexico City, the Mexican legislature rejected the treaty and insisted that Texas was still part of Mexico


Annexation Denied

  1. As the first president of the Republic of Texas (of Lone Star Republic), Houston applied to the U.S. government for his country to be annexed, or added to, the United States as a new state

  2. Both presidents Jackson and Van Buren put off Texas’ request for annexation primarily because of:

    1. political opposition among northerners to the expansion of slavery

    2. the potential addition of up to five new slave states created out of the Texas territories

    3. The threat of a costly war with Mexico also dampened expansionist zeal

  1. The next president, John Tyler (1841-1845), was a southern Whig, who was worried about the growing influence of the British in Texas

      1. He worked to annex Texas, but the U.S. Senate rejected his treaty of annexation in 1844


Boundary Dispute with Maine

  1. Another diplomatic issue arose in the 1840s over the ill-defined boundary between Maine and the Canadian province of New Brunswick

    1. Canada was still under British rule, and many Americans regarded Britain as their country’s worst enemy – an attitude that carried over from two previous war (the Revolution and the War of 1812)

  2. A conflict between rival groups of lumbermen on the Maine-Canadian border erupted into open fighting

    1. Known as the Aroostook War, or “battle of the maps,” the conflict was soon resolved in a treaty negotiated by U.S. Secretary of State, Daniel Webster and the British ambassador, Lord Alexander Ashburton

  3. In the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, the disputed territory was split between Maine and British Canada

    1. The treaty also settled the boundary of the Minnesota territory, leaving what proved to be the iron-rich Mesabi range on the U.S. side of the border


Boundary Dispute in Oregon

  1. A far more serious British-American dispute involved Oregon, a vast territory on the Pacific Coast that originally stretched as far north as the Alaskan border

  2. At one time, this territory was claimed by four different nations: Spain, Russia, Great Britain, and the United States

    1. Spain gave up its claim to Oregon in a treaty with the United States (the Adams-Onis Treaty, 1819)

  3. Britain based its claim to Oregon on the Hudson Fur Company’s profitable fur trade with Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest

    1. By 1846, there were fewer than a thousand Brits living north of the Columbia River

  4. The United States based its claim on:

    1. the discovery of the Columbia River by Captain Robert Gray in 1792

    2. the overland expedition to the Pacific Coast by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in 1805

    3. the fur trading post and fort in Astoria, Oregon, established by John Jacob Astor in 1811

  5. Protestant missionaries and farmers from the United States settled the Willamette Valley in the 1840s

    1. Their success in farming this fertile valley caused 5,000 Americans to catch “Oregon fever” and travel 2,000 miles over the Oregon Trail to settle in the area south of the Columbia River

  6. By the time of the election of 1844, many Americans believed it to be their country’s manifest destiny to take undisputed possession of all of Oregon and to annex the Republic of Texas

  7. Expansionists hoped to persuade Mexico to give up its province on the West Coast – the huge land of California

    1. By 1845, Mexican California had a small Spanish-Mexican population of some 7,000 along with a much larger number of Native Americans, but American emigrants were arriving in sufficient numbers “to play the Texas game”


The Election of 1844

  1. Because slavery was allowed in Texas, many northerners were opposed to its annexation

    1. Leading the northern wing of the Democratic party, former president Martin Van Buren opposed the immediate annexation

    2. Challenging him for the Democratic nomination in 1844 was the proslavery, pro-annexation southerner, John C. Calhoun

    3. The dispute between these candidates caused the Democratic convention to deadlock and, after hours of wrangling, the Democrats finally nominated a dark horse (lesser known candidate)

  2. The many they chose, James K. Polk of Tennessee, had been a protégé of Andrew Jackson

    1. Firmly committed to expansion and manifest destiny

    2. Polk favored the annexation of Texas, the “reoccupation” of all of Oregon, and the acquisition of California

  3. The Democratic slogan “Fifty-four Forty or Fight!” appealed strongly to American westerners and southerners who in 1844 were in an expansionist mood

    1. “Fifty-four forty” referred to the line of latitude that marked the border between the Oregon Territory and Russian Alaska

  4. Henry Clay of Kentucky, the Whig nominee, attempted to straddle the controversial issue of Texas annexation

    1. saying at first that he was against it and later that he was for it

    2. This strategy alienated a group of voters in New York State, who abandoned the Whig party to support the antislavery Liberty party

  5. In a close election, the Whigs’ loss of New York’s electoral votes proved decisive, and Polk, the Democratic dark horse, was the victor

    1. The Democrats interpreted the election as a mandate to add Texas to the Union


Annexing Texas and Dividing Oregon

  1. Outgoing president John Tyler took the election of Polk as a signal to push the annexation of Texas through Congress

  2. Instead of seeking Senate approval of a treaty, Tyler persuaded both houses of Congress to pass a joint resolution for annexation

    1. This procedure had the advantage of requiring only a simple majority of each house

    2. To Polk was left the problem of dealing with Mexico’s reaction to annexation

  3. On the Oregon question, Polk decided to compromise with Britain and back down from his party’s bellicose campaign slogan, “Fifty-four Forty or Fight!”

    1. Rather than fighting for all Oregon, the president was willing to settle for just the southern half of it

  4. British and American negotiators agreed to divide the Oregon territory at the 49th parallel (the parallel that had been established in 1818 for the Louisiana territory)

    1. Final settlement of the issues was delayed until the United States agreed to grant Vancouver Island to Britain and guarantee its right to navigate the Columbia River

  5. In June 1846, the treaty was submitted to the Senate for ratification

    1. Some northerners viewed the treaty as a sellout to southern interests because it removed British Columbia as a source of potential free states

    2. Nevertheless, by this time war had broken out between the United States and Mexico

    3. Not wanting to fight both Britain and Mexico, Senate opponents of the treaty reluctantly voted for the compromise settlement


War with Mexico

      1. The U.S. annexation of Texas led quickly to diplomatic trouble with Mexico

      2. Shortly after taking office in 1845, President Polk dispatched John Slidell as his special envoy to the government in Mexico City. Polk wanted Slidell to:

        1. persuade Mexico to sell the California and New Mexico territories to the United States

        2. settle a dispute concerning the Mexico-Texas border

      3. Slidell’s mission failed on both counts

      4. The Mexican government refused to sell California and insisted that Texas’ southern border was on the Nueces River

      5. Polk and Slidell asserted that the border lay further to the south, along the Rio Grande


Immediate Causes of the War

    1. While Slidell waited for Mexico City’s response to the U.S. offer, Polk ordered General Zachary Taylor to move his army toward the Rio Grande across the territory claimed by Mexico

    2. On April 24, 1846, a Mexican army crossed the Rio Grande and captured an American army patrol, killing 11

        1. Polk used the incident to send his already prepared war message to Congress

    1. Northern Whigs (among them, a freshman Illinois Congressman named Abraham Lincoln) opposed going to war over the incident and doubted that American blood had been shed on American soil, as the president claimed

      1. Whig protests were in vain

      2. A large majority in both houses approved the war resolution


Military Campaigns

  1. Most of the war was fought in Mexican territory by relatively small armies of Americans

  2. Leading a force that never exceeded 1,500, General Stephen Kearney succeeded in taking Santa Fe, the New Mexico territory, and southern California

  3. Backed by only several dozen soldiers, a few navy officers, and American civilians who had recently settled in California, John C. Fremont quickly overthrew Mexican rule in northern California (June 1846) and proclaimed California to be an independent republic with a bear on its flag – the so-called Bear Flag Republic

  4. Zachary Taylor’s force of 6,000 men drove the Mexican army from Texas, crossed the Rio Grande into northern Mexico, and won a major victory at Buena Vista (February 1847)

  5. President Polk then selected General Winfield Scott to invade central Mexico

    1. The army of 14,000 under Scott’s command succeeded in taking the coastal city of Vera Cruz and then captured Mexico City in September 1847


Consequences of the War

  1. For Mexico, the war was a military disaster from the start, but the Mexican government was unwilling to sue for peace and concede the loss of its northern lands

  2. Finally, after the fall of Mexico City, the government had little choice but to agree to U.S. terms

  3. Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo – Mexican Cession (1848) – The treaty negotiated in Mexico by American diplomat Nicholas Trist provided for the following:

      1. Mexico would recognize the Rio Grande as the southern border of Texas

      2. The United States would take possession of the former Mexican provinces of California and New Mexico – the Mexican Cession

        1. For these territories, the United States would pay $15 million and assume the claims of American citizens against Mexico

  4. In the Senate, some Whigs opposed the treaty because they saw the war as an immoral effort to expand slavery

  5. A few southern Democrats disliked the treaty for opposite reasons:

      1. as expansionists, they wanted the United States to talk all of Mexico

  6. The treaty was finally ratified in the Senate by the required two-thirds vote


Wilmot Proviso

  1. U.S. entry into a with Mexico provoked controversy from start to finish

  2. In 1846, the first year of war, Pennsylvania Congressman David Wilmot proposed that an appropriations bill be amended to forbid slavery in any of the new territories acquired from Mexico

  3. The Wilmot Proviso passed the House twice but was defeated in the Senate


Prelude to Civil War

  1. By increasing tensions between the North and the South, did the war to acquire territories from Mexico lead inevitably to the American Civil War?

  2. Without question, the acquisition of vast western lands did renew the sectional debate over the extension of slavery

  3. Many northerners viewed the war with Mexico as part of a southern plot to extend the “slave power”

  4. Some historians see the Wilmot Proviso as the first round in an escalating political conflict the led ultimately to civil war


Manifest Destiny to the South

  1. Many southerners were dissatisfied with the territorial gains from the Mexican War

  2. In the early 1850s, they hoped to acquire new territories, especially in areas of Latin America where plantations worked by slaves were thought to be economically feasible

  3. The most tempting, eagerly sought possibility in the eyes of southern expansionists was the acquisition of Cuba


Ostend Manifesto

  1. President Polk offered to purchase Cuba from Spain for $100 million but Spain refused to sell the last major remnant of its once glorious empire

  2. Several southern adventurers led small expeditions to Cuba in an effort to take the island by force of arms

      1. These forays were easily defeated, and those who participated were executed by Spanish firing squads

  1. Elected to the presidency in 1852, Franklin Pierce adopted pro-southern policies and dispatched three American diplomats to Ostend, Belgium, where they secretly negotiated to buy Cuba from Spain

  2. The Ostend Manifesto that the diplomats drew up was leaked to the press in the United States and provoked an angry reaction from antislavery members of Congress

  3. President Pierce was forced to drop the scheme


Walker Expedition

  1. Expansionists continued to seek new empires with or without the federal government’s support

  2. Southern adventurer William Walker had tried unsuccessfully to take Baja California from Mexico in 1853

  3. Finally, leading a force mostly of southerners, he took over Nicaragua in 1855

    1. Walker’s regime even gained temporary recognition from the United States in 1856

  4. His grandiose scheme to develop a proslavery Central America empire collapsed when a coalition of Central American countries invaded and defeated him

  5. Walker was executed by Honduran authorities in 1860

Clayton-Bulwer Treaty (1850)

  1. Another American ambition concerned the building of a canal through Central America

  2. Wanting to check each other from seizing this opportunity, Great Britain and the United States agreed to a treaty in 1850

  3. It provided that neither nation would attempt to take exclusive control of any future canal route in Central America

    1. This treaty continued in force until the end of the century

  1. A new treaty signed in 1901 (the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty) gave the United States a free hand to build a canal without British participation


Gadsden Purchase

  1. although he failed to acquire Cuba, President Pierce succeeded in adding a strip of land to the American Southwest for a railroad

  2. In 1853, Mexico agreed to sell thousands of acres of semi-desert land to the United States for $10 million

  3. Known as the Gadsden Purchase, the land forms the southern sections of present-day New Mexico and Arizona


Expansion After the Civil War

  1. From 1855 until 1870, the issue of union, slavery, civil war, and postwar reconstruction would overshadow the drive to acquire new territory

  2. Even so, manifest destiny continued to be an important force for shaping U.S. policy

    1. In 1867, Secretary of State William Seward succeeded in purchasing Alaska at a time when the nation was just recovering from the Civil War


Settlement of the Western Territories

  1. Following the peaceful acquisition of Oregon and the more violent acquisition of California, the migration of Americans into these lands began in earnest

  2. The arid area between the Mississippi Valley and the Pacific Coast was popularly known in the 1850s and 1860s as the Great American Desert

    1. Emigrants passed quickly over this vast, dry region to reach the more inviting lands on the West Coast

  3. Therefore, California and Oregon were settled several decades before people attempted to farm the Great Plains


Fur Traders’ Frontier

  1. Fur traders known as mountain men were the earliest nonnative group to open the Far West

  2. In the 1820s, they held yearly rendezvous in the Rockies with Native Americans to trade for animal skins

  3. James Beckwourth, Jim Bridger, Kit Carson, and Jedediah Smith were among the hardy band of explorers and trappers who provided much of the early information about trails and frontier conditions


Overland Trails

  1. The next and much larger group of pioneers took the hazardous journey west in hopes of clearing the forests and farming the fertile valleys of California and Oregon

  2. By 1860, hundreds of thousands had reached their westward goal by following the Oregon, California, Santa Fe, and Mormon trails

  3. The long and arduous trek usually began in St. Joseph or Independence, Missouri, or in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and followed the river valleys through the Great Plains

    1. Months later, the wagon trains would finally reach the foothills of the Rockies or face the hardships of the southwestern deserts

  1. The final life-or-death challenge was to get through the mountain passes of the Sierras and Cascades before the first heavy snow

  2. A wagon train inched westward at an average rate of only 15 miles a day

  3. Far more serious than any threat of attack by Indians were the daily experience of disease and depression from harsh conditions on the trail


Mining Frontier

  1. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 set off the first of many migrations to the mineral-rich mountains of the West

  2. The gold rush to California (1848-1850) was followed by gold or silver rushes in Colorado, Nevada, the Black Hills of the Dakotas, and other western territories

    1. The mining boom brought tens of thousands of men (and afterward women as well) into the western mountains

  1. Mining camps and towns – many of them short-lived – sprang up wherever a strike (discover) was reported

    1. Largely as a result of the gold rush, California’s population soared from a mere 14,000 in 1848 to 380,000 by 1860

  2. What is often forgotten is that the discoveries of gold and silver attracted miners from around the world

    1. By the 1860s, almost one-third of the miners in the West were Chinese


Farming Frontier

  1. Most pioneer families moved west to start homesteads and begin farming

  2. Congress’ Preemption Act of the 1830s and 1840s gave squatters the right to settle public lands and purchase them for low prices once the government put them up for sale

    1. In addition, the government made it easier for settlers by offering them parcels of land as small as 40 acres for sale

  3. The move to western lands was not for the penniless

    1. A family needed at least $200 to $300 to make the overland trip, which eliminated many of the poor and made the trek to California and Oregon largely a middle-class movement

  4. The isolation of the frontier made life for pioneers especially difficult during the first years, but rural communities soon developed

  5. The institutions that the people established (schools, churches, clubs, and political parties) were modeled after those that they had known in the East or, for immigrants from abroad, in their native lands


Conflict Over Status of Territories

  1. The issue of slavery in the territories gained in the Mexican War became the focus of sectional differences in the late 1840s

  2. The Wilmot Proviso, which excluded slavery from the new territories would have upset the Compromise of 1820 and the delicate balance of 15 free and 15 slave states

    1. Its defeat only intensified sectional feelings

  1. On the issue of how to deal with these new western territories, there were essentially three conflicting positions


Free-Soil Movement

  1. Northern Democrats and Whigs supported the Wilmot Proviso and the position that all blacks – slave and free – should be excluded from the Mexican Cession (territory ceded to the U.S. by Mexico in 1848)

  2. In the North, antislavery forces and racists alike could find common ground in their support for the free-soil position

  3. Unlike the abolitionists, who insisted on eliminating slavery everywhere, the Free-Soilers did not demand the end of slavery

    1. They sought to keep the West a land of opportunity for whites only so that the white majority would not have to compete with the labor of slaves or free blacks

  4. In 1848. northerners favoring this approach to the territories organized the Free-Soil party, which adopted the slogan “free soil, free labor, and free men”

  5. In addition to its chief objective – preventing the extension of slavery – the new party also advocated free homesteads (public land grants to small farmers) and internal improvements


Southern Position

  1. Most southern whites viewed any attempts to restrict the expansion of slavery as a violation of their constitutional right to take and use their property as they wished

  2. They saw both the abolitionists and the Free-Soilers as intent on the ultimate destruction of slavery

  3. More moderate southerners favored extending the Missouri Compromise line of 36° 30’ westward to the Pacific Ocean and permitting territories north of that line to be non-slave


Popular Sovereignty

  1. Lewis Cass, a Democratic senator from Michigan, proposed a compromise solution that soon won considerable support from both moderate northerners and moderate southerners

  2. Instead of Congress determining whether to allow slavery in a new western territory or state, Cass suggested that the matter be determined by a vote of the people who settled the territory

  3. Cass’ approach to the problem was known as “squatter” or “popular sovereignty”


The Election of 1848

  1. In 1848, the Democrats nominated Senator Cass and adopted a platform pledged to popular sovereignty

  2. The Whigs nominated Mexican War hero General Zachary Taylor, who had never been involved in politics and took no position on slavery in the territories

  3. A third party, the Free-Soil party, nominated former president Martin Van Buren

    1. It consisted of “conscience” Whigs (who opposed slavery)

    2. Antislavery Democrats; the later group were ridiculed as “barnburners” because their defection threatened to destroy the Democratic party

  1. Taylor narrowly defeated Cass, in part because of the vote given the Free-Soil party in such key northern states as New York and Pennsylvania

The Compromise of 1850

  1. The gold rush of 1849 and the influx of about 100,000 settlers into California created the need for law and order in the West

  2. In 1849, Californians drafted a constitution for their new state – a constitution that banned slavery

    1. Even though President Taylor was a southern slaveholder himself, he supported the immediate admission of both California and New Mexico as free states

    2. At this time the Mexican population of the New Mexico territory had little interest in applying for statehood

  1. Taylor’s plan sparked talk of secession among the “fire-eaters” (radicals) in the South

    1. Some southern extremists even met in Nashville in 1850 to discuss secession

  2. The astute Henry Clay had proposed yet another compromise for solving the political crisis:

    1. Admit California to the Union as a free state

    2. Divide the remainder of the Mexican Cession into two territories – Utah and New Mexico – and allow the settlers in these territories to decide the slavery issue by majority vote, or popular sovereignty

    3. Give the land in dispute between Texas and New Mexico territory to the new territories in return for the federal government assuming Texas’ public debt of $10 million

    4. Ban the slave trade in the District of Columbia but permit whites to hold slaves as before

    5. Adopt a new Fugitive Slave Law and enforce it rigorously

  3. In the ensuing Senate debate over the compromise proposal, the three congressional giants of their age – Henry Clay of Kentucky, Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina – delivered the last great speeches of their lives

    1. Born in the same year, 1782, Webster and Calhoun would also die in the same year, 1850; Clay died two years later)

    2. Webster courageously argued for compromise in order to save the Union, and in so doing alienated the Massachusetts abolitionists who had supported him

    3. Calhoun argued against compromise and insisted that the South be given equal rights in the acquired territory

  4. Northern opposition to compromise came from younger antislavery lawmakers, such as Senator William H. Seward of New York

    1. He argued that there was a higher law than the Constitution

  5. The opponents managed to prevail until the sudden death in 1850 of President Taylor, who had also opposed Clay’s plan

    1. Succeeding him was a strong supporter of compromise, Vice President Millard Fillmore

  6. Stephen A. Douglas, a politically astute young senator from Illinois, engineered different coalitions to pass each part of the compromise separately

    1. President Fillmore readily signed the bills into law

  7. The passage of the Compromise of 1850 bought time for the nation

    1. California was admitted as a free state, the compromise added to the North’s political power, and the political debate deepened the commitment of many northerners to saving the Union from secession

    2. On the other hand, parts of the compromise became sources of controversy, especially the new Fugitive Slave Law and the provision for popular sovereignty

The Compromise of 1850

  1. The gold rush of 1849 and the influx of about 100,000 settlers into California created the need for law and order in the West

  2. In 1849, Californians drafted a constitution for their new state – a constitution that banned slavery

    1. Even though President Taylor was a southern slaveholder himself, he supported the immediate admission of both California and New Mexico as free states

    2. Southerners were outraged

    3. At this time the Mexican population of the New Mexico territory had little interest in applying for statehood

  1. Taylor’s plan sparked talk of secession among the “fire-eaters” (radicals) in the South

    1. Some southern extremists even met in Nashville in 1850 to discuss secession

    2. John C. Calhoun, Jefferson Davis

  2. The astute Henry Clay had proposed yet another compromise for solving the political crisis

    1. Clay was extremely bitter about being passed over for William Henry Harrison and then Zachary Taylor

    2. Admit California to the Union as a free state

    3. Divide the remainder of the Mexican Cession into two territories – Utah and New Mexico – and allow the settlers in these territories to decide the slavery issue by majority vote, or popular sovereignty

    4. Give the land in dispute between Texas and New Mexico territory to the new territories in return for the federal government assuming Texas’ public debt of $10 million

    5. Ban the slave trade in the District of Columbia but permit whites to hold slaves as before

      1. North was angered by slaves pens and slave markets

    6. Adopt a new Fugitive Slave Law and enforce it rigorously

      1. South was angered by the Underground Railroad

  3. 8 months of heated debate ensued in the Senate

  4. In the ensuing Senate debate over the compromise proposal, the three congressional giants of their age – Henry Clay of Kentucky, Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina – delivered the last great speeches of their lives

    1. Born in the same year, 1782, Webster and Calhoun would also die in the same year, 1850; Clay died two years later

    2. Webster courageously argued for compromise in order to save the Union, and in so doing alienated the Massachusetts abolitionists who had supported him

    3. Calhoun argued against compromise and insisted that the South be given equal rights in the acquired territory

  5. Northern opposition to compromise came from younger antislavery lawmakers, such as Senator William H. Seward of New York

    1. He argued that there was a higher law than the Constitution

  6. The opponents managed to prevail until the sudden death in 1850 of President Taylor, who had also opposed Clay’s plan

    1. Succeeding him was a strong supporter of compromise, Vice President Millard Fillmore

  7. Stephen A. Douglas, a politically astute young senator from Illinois, engineered different coalitions to pass each part of the compromise separately

    1. President Fillmore readily signed the bills into law

  8. The passage of the Compromise of 1850 bought time for the nation

    1. California was admitted as a free state, the compromise added to the North’s political power, and the political debate deepened the commitment of many northerners to saving the Union from secession

    2. On the other hand, parts of the compromise became sources of controversy, especially the new Fugitive Slave Law and the provision for popular sovereignty


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