CRISIS OF THE 1850'S
AMexico will poison us.@-Ralph Waldo Emerson
THE ROAD TO SECESSION
Once the Mexican War was concluded, the nation began to discuss the issue of slavery in the newly acquired territories. Opposition to the Mexican War had existed from the very beginning of the debate over James K. Polk=s war message. Many perceived that President Polk had provoked the war by putting American troops into the disputed land between the Nueces and Rio Grande Rivers. The Abolitionists thought the war conceived solely for the expansion of slavery, and that Polk even had considered seizing all of Mexico for that very reason. Defenders of slavery thought the Mexican War success would bring additional slave states into the Union (regardless of the fact that slavery did not exist in Mexico), thus protecting the APeculiar Institution@ from the Abolitionist Movement.
With the rapid expansion of population in California, the issue of the expansion of slavery was not going to be delayed. California was ready for inclusion into the Union as a free state and, with no slave state ready to enter the Union, the balance of free and slave states in the U.S. Senate was in jeopardy. The time for a political compromise was at hand, and Henry Clay, the AGreat Compromiser,@ sought a deal that would maintain the Union. Unfortunately for Clay and the nation, the spirit of compromise in the Congress was dying. The giant statesmen, Clay, Calhoun, and Webster were old, and no longer commanded the support of the political middle, those who wished for compromise. The middle had begun to evaporate, through both age and the efforts of the Abolitionists and the Slave Power. The extremists on both sides commanded the seats in Congress, and the spirit of compromise lost.
TERMS TO KNOW
Compromise of 1850
Kansas-Nebraska Act: 1854 legislation which organized old Louisiana Territory into two territories, Kansas and Nebraska, and opened them up to slavery on the basis of 'Popular Sovereignty' even though the the territory had previously been closed to slavery by the Missouri Compromise in 1820. Act lead to the death of the Whig Party in the northern states.
Stephen Douglas: Leading Democratic Senator (Illinois) of the 1850s,successfully steered the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act through a badly divided Congress, defeated Abraham Lincoln in 1858 Senate race, and unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1860.
Popular Sovereignty: First used by Lewis Cass, Democratic candidate for president in 1848, and later made popular by Stephen Douglas, this idea called for slavery in the territories to be determined by the citizens of the territories, rather than by the Congress or by the states.
The Death of the Whigs and the Birth of the Republican Party
Dred Scott Decision (1857)
Harper's Ferry Raid
Secession - (to withdraw formally from membership in an association, organization, or alliance) Action taken by eleven slave states, beginning with South Carolina in December, 1860, upon the election of Abraham Lincoln as president, through May of 1861 upon the Southern bombardment of Fort Sumter, South Carolina (April 12, 1861)
SAMPLE TEST QUESTIONS
What killed the Whig Party and why?
What was the Freeport Doctrine?
What politician provided the most support to the doctrine of popular sovereignty?
How much of a compromise was the Compromise of 1850?