The Mexican Cession was the vast Western territory ceded to the United States by virtue of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
In the post-Mexican War period, an overarching political question was how slavery would apply to the new Mexican Cession territories.
How did moderate Southerners view the Mexican Cession territories?
Most moderate Southerners simply favored extending the Missouri Compromise line of 36°30' westward, and allowing slavery below the line.
A few "fire-eaters" (pro-slavery radicals) did propose opening the entirety of the Mexican Cession to slavery.
Free Soilers wanted to ban all blacks from the Mexican Cession. Why?
With their slogan of "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men," Free Soilers hoped to keep the Mexican Cession free of blacks so that whites could provide the labor force on small farms, known as homesteads, sold to them by the federal government.
The Free Soil Party ran former President Martin Van Buren as their candidate in the 1848 presidential election. From whom did the Free Soil Party draw its support?
Support for the Free Soil Party came from two groups:
- Conscience Whigs, so called because they believed an extension of slavery violated their conscience
- Antislavery Democrats, known as "barnburners," because it was feared that their defection from the Democratic ranks would hinder the Democratic Party's chances in the 1848 election, which it did
The Democrats ran Lewis Cass of Michigan for President in 1848. How did Cass propose that slavery be dealt with in the Mexican Cession?
In an effort to arrive at a compromise, Cass proposed popular sovereignty in states formed from the Mexican Cession, allowing the settlers themselves to decide whether or not to allow slavery.
How did the Whig Party address slavery in the Mexican Cession during the 1848 election?
They ignored the issue. A Louisiana plantation owner and hero of the Mexican War, Zachary Taylor was reputedly pro-slavery, but had never expressed himself publicly on the issue.
Allowing voters to believe what they wanted about Taylor worked, and he was elected President when Free Soilers carried enough votes from the Democrats in Pennsylvania and New York to allow him to win those states.
Why was California's request for admission to the Union as a free state in 1849 such a divisive issue?
California's admission as a free state would upset the balance of power in the Senate, which had an equal number of Senators from free states and slave states.
Matters became even more heated when President Taylor proposed admitting New Mexico as a free state at the same time.
In an effort to resolve the question of slavery in the Mexican Cession, Henry Clay proposed the Compromise of 1850. What were the key components to the Compromise?
Under the Compromise of 1850:
- California would be admitted as a free state
- Slavery would continue to be legal in Washington, D.C., but slave trading would be banned
- Texas would surrender its claims to certain parts of the New Mexico territory
- Popular sovereignty would decide the slavery issue in the Mexican Cession
- A Fugitive Slave Act would require the federal government to help return escaped slaves to their masters
Proposed by Henry Clay, himself a longstanding Senator of great repute, the Compromise of 1850 saw legendary Senators John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster give their final Congressional speeches. How did Calhoun and Webster feel about the Compromise of 1850?
John C. Calhoun, South Carolina's legendary Senator, condemned the Compromise as destroying the precious balance in the Senate and threatening the Union itself.
Daniel Webster, athough elected with the help of Massachusetts abolitionists, supported the Compromise despite its endorsement of popular sovereignty and the Fugitive Slave Act, believing the Compromise would preserve the Union.
Against the longstanding advice of his political advisor Thurlow Weed, what argument did Senator William Seward adopt in speaking against the Compromise?
Seward, who was a Whig like Henry Clay, spoke against the Compromise as being a violation of a "higher law than the Constitution." Seward argued that slavery was immoral regardless of what the Constitution said, and his speech marked him as a radical abolitionist.
What providential event ensured the passage of the Compromise of 1850?
On July 9, 1850, President Taylor, who had been opposed to the Compromise, died. Millard Fillmore, his Vice President, assumed the office, and signed each piece of the Compromise as it came before him.
According to legend, Taylor died from indigestion caused from drinking cold milk and eating cherries. Newspapers listed his cause of death as "bilious diarrhea."
What was Stephen Douglas's role in the Compromise of 1850?
With the Congress unable to agree to the Compromise as a whole, Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois engineered coalitions that passed individual parts of the Compromise, and presented them to President Fillmore for signature.
Douglas, known as the Little Giant, earned a reputation as a compromising Northerner who could find common ground with the South.
What were the key terms of the Fugitive Slave Law (1850)?
Designed to bring comfort to the South by placing the return of escaped slaves to their masters in the hands of the federal government, the Fugitive Slave Law:
- empowered special commissioners to detain suspected slaves
- held trials in federal -- rather than state -- court to determine the status of purported slaves
- denied juries in trials to determine slave status
In addition, those caught hiding slaves were subject to severe fines and penalties.
Harriet Beecher Stowe's book _________ is credited with bringing the attention of the North to the injustices of slavery.
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Stowe's work illustrated the cruelties of plantation life and the harsh workings of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Banned in the South, Stowe's work convinced many Northerners of slavery's intrinsic evil.
How did intellectuals in the South respond to Northern critiques of slavery?
Most Southerners argued slavery was Biblically based.
Hoping to provide further intellectual support for the Peculiar Institution, books such as Sociology of the South, written by George Fitzhugh and published in 1854, contended that slaves were better treated than laborers in Northern factories.
How did the Whigs and Democrats address slavery in the 1852 presidential election?
Neither side actively touched the issue, or any issues at all for that matter. The contest devolved into a personality contest, in which Franklin Pierce, the Democratic candidate, trounced Winfield Scott. Pierce's vice presidential nominee, William R. King, did note to followers that Pierce was a "doughface," a Northerner with Southern sympathies.
The 1852 election was the last time the Whig Party fielded a presidential candidate. By 1856, the party had been torn apart by the slavery issue.
In 1854, Stephen A. Douglas proposed a bill organizing the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. What was the ostensible purpose of Douglas' Bill?
The bill was ostensibly designed to open up the territories so that a midwestern transcontinental railroad could begin building towards California. To make the new road profitable, it needed customers along its lines. Customers meant settlers, and for settlers to own land, the territory needed to be organized.
Douglas' bill, which was passed into law as the Kansas-Nebraska Act, allowed the two new states to determine for themselves whether they would be slave states or free states.
How did Stephen Douglas propose to resolve the issue of slavery in the Kansas and Nebraska Territories?
Douglas added a popular sovereignty provision to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. He hoped that by allowing the new territories to vote themselves, he would not need to take a position on slavery and hinder his chances to become President.
What were the effects within Kansas of the popular sovereignty bill?
From Missouri and the Southern states, pro-slavery men arrived, determined to make the state a slave state. They were countered by immigrants from the North, determined to halt slavery's spread.
Organizations such as the New England Emigrant Aid Society funded anti-slavery immigration into the territory. The state quickly turned violent, earning the state the sobriquet "Bleeding Kansas."
What were the Lecompton Constitution and the Topeka Constitution?
Although anti-slavery settlers outnumbered their pro-slavery opponents, a group of pro-slavery immigrants quickly organized a state constitutional convention in Lecompton, Kansas, and drafted a Lecompton Constitution endorsing slavery. A copy was dispatched to Congress for approval.
Anti-slavery settlers did much the same thing at Topeka, but their Topeka Constitution barred slavery in the newly organized terrritory.
In October, 1856, a force of 800 pro-slavery forces attacked ________, Kansas.
Lawrence, Kansas was the headquarters of a number of anti-slavery newspapers. The attackers threw the newspaper presses into the Kansas River, and for good measure burned the local hotel.
In revenge for the pro-slavery attack on Lawrence, rabid abolitionist John Brown led an attack on pro-slavery forces located at __________ _________ .
In what became known as the Pottawatomie Massacre, John Brown's forces slaughtered 5 pro-slavery men with broad swords.
How did Franklin Pierce react to the rising tide of violence in Kansas?
Pierce did nothing, hoping that by staying on the sideline, he could secure the Democratic Party's nomination for a second term. The nomination went to James Buchanan instead of the ineffectual Pierce.
What was Representative Preston Brooks's response to Charles Sumner's speech on the floor of the Senate, "The Crimes Against Kansas."
Convinced that Sumner's anti-slavery speech impunged the honor of Brooks's uncle, South Carolina Senator Andrew Butler (who was absent), Brooks stormed the floor of the Senate and beat Sumner fiercely with a cane.
Although censured by the Congress, admirers throughout the South sent Brooks canes. Sumner never fully recovered, and many Congressmen took to carrying knives and pistols for self-protection.
The 1856 presidential election featured a contest between which three candidates?
The three candidates were:
James Buchanan, Democratic Party
John C. Fremont, Republican Party
Millard Filmore, Know-Nothing Party
Both the Know-Nothing and Republican Parties were regional parties headquartered in the North, leaving the Democratic Party as the only national party.
Who were the Know-Nothings?
With a strong presence in New York City and the Border States, the American Party, commonly known as the Know-Nothings, was a nativist party, with membership limited to Protestants of British-American ancestry. The Know-Nothings sought to bar further immigration.
The nickname "Know-Nothing" came from the party's secrecy; members were ordered to respond "I know nothing" when questioned about party activities.
Who made up the membership of the new Republican Party?
The Republican Party was a hodgepodge of antislavery Whigs seeking a political home, disaffected Democrats outraged over the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and remnants of the Free-Soil Party.
What was the Republican Party's position on slavery in the 1856 presidential election?
Although opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Fugitive Slave Act (1850), the Republicans did not seek to end slavery where it currently existed, but did seek to bar it from expanding further into the new territories.
Why did the Democratic Party nominate James Buchanan in 1856?
With both Franklin Pierce and Stephen Douglas tied to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Democrats settled on Buchanan primarily because he had been out of the country during the Kansas-Nebraska crisis, serving as the American Ambassador to Great Britain. He was one of the few major political figures not to have taken a known position on the issue, which gave him nationwide appeal.
What were the consequences of the election of 1856?
At its surface, the election of 1856 elevated James Buchanan to President.
More important, however, Fremont carried 11 of the 16 Northern states. With the North's population growth, it was becoming increasingly clear that a Republican candidate could win the Presidency without winning a single Southern state, a fact which terrified the South and signaled great concern for the 1860 election.
How did Buchanan attempt to resolve the issue of Bleeding Kansas?
Buchanan asked Congress to endorse the Lecompton Constitution, hoping his support would resolve the issue.
Stephen Douglas, leading a small group of Democrats, and Republicans turned Buchanan down. The next year, a majority of settlers voted to do away with the Lecompton Constitution entirely.
Who was Dred Scott?
Dred Scott was a slave in Missouri whose master took him to Wisconsin and then returned with him to Missouri. Contending that once he had crossed into a state where slavery was illegal he had become liberated, Scott sued for his freedom.
How did the Supreme Court resolve Dred Scott's petition for his freedom?
In Scott v. Sandford the Court held that Scott was not free, finding that:
- Scott has no standing to sue, because as a black man he was not a citizen
- Slaves being property, a citizen could not be deprived of his property without due process of law
- The Compromise of 1820 deprived citizens of their property without due process and was thus repealed
Shortly after the decision, Scott purchased freedom for himself, his wife, and daughters.
How did Republicans view the Dred Scott decision?
Not surprisingly, Republicans denounced the Dred Scott decision as the "greatest crime" in American history, for allowing slavery to expand to the Western territories.
Democrats who supported popular sovereignty had difficulty defending the Dred Scott decision. Why?
For Democrats who supported popular sovereignty, such as Douglas, the decision was difficult to defend, as the Court's decision held popular sovereignty on slavery unconstitutional. Yet, they could not repudiate the Dred Scott decision without upsetting Southern Democrats.
Who challenged Stephen Douglas in his bid for re-election to the Senate in 1858?
Abraham Lincoln, who received the nomination of Illinois' Republican Party.
Little known outside the state, Lincoln challenged Douglas to seven debates, which increasingly focused on slavery. In his famous "house divided" statement in one debate, Lincoln contended that the nation could no longer exist divided, but would either become entirely slave, or entirely free.
Lincoln challenged Douglas's position in supporting both the Dred Scott decision and the concept of popular sovereignty in the territories. How did Douglas respond?
In Freeport, Illinois, Douglas contended that while slavery might be legal in the territories pursuant to the Dred Scott decision, it would not become active in the territories unless settlers established laws codifying it.
Known as the Freeport Doctrine, Douglas's hairsplitting pleased no one, least of all Southern Democrats, who viewed him as weak on slavery.
What was the long term effect of the Lincoln-Douglas debates?
Although Douglas won reelection to the Senate, newspapers printed the debate, and Abraham Lincoln became a household name.
In October 1859, John Brown launched another anti-slavery attack, this time in Harpers Ferry, Virginia. What was Brown's plan?
Brown seized a federal armory, hoping to distribute the guns stored there to slaves and induce an uprising. The plan failed. Virginia state militia under the control of Robert E. Lee captured Brown and his followers, and they were hung after a short trial.
How did Southerners view John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry?
Although condemnation of Brown's actions appeared throughout the North, Southerners viewed John Brown's raid as the fault of abolitionists, who were bent on causing a slave revolt and destroying the South.
What was the result of the 1860 Democratic Convention, held in Charleston?
Although Stephen Douglas was the presumptive favorite for the nomination (and probably the only politician who could hold the Union together), the Convention deadlocked.
Southern Democrats, outraged over the Freeport Declaration, as well as Buchanan's remaining supporters, refused to vote for Douglas. The Convention broke up and planned to reconvene in Baltimore.
At the second Democratic Convention in 1860, Southern Democrats walked out and held a separate convention. Who did the Southern Democrats nominate for President?
While the Northern Democrats endorsed Stephen Douglas, the Southern Democrats nominated Buchanan's Vice President, John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky.
What did the Northern Democratic Party's platform endorse?
The Northern Democrats endorsed the concept of popular sovereignty and the Fugitive Slave Law.
How did the Southern Democratic Party's platform differ from the Northern Democratic Party's platform?
Although Southern Democrats supported the Fugitive Slave Law, they rejected popular sovereignty, calling for unrestricted extension of slavery into the territories. They also supported the annexation of Cuba as an additional slave state.
Knowing they would receive no support from the South, the Republican platform of 1860 was designed to appeal to as wide a group in the North and West as possible. How?
In addition to barring slavery from the territories, the Republican platform called for an increased tariff to appeal to businessmen, and free land to settlers.
Southerners were deeply concerned with the after effects of a Republican victory. In many Southern states, Lincoln didn't even appear on the ballot, and many Southerners threatened secession if Lincoln won.
Why did the Republican Party deny the 1860 nomination to William Seward, the proverbial frontrunner?
Seward was deemed too ardent against slavery and likely to alienate more moderate voters. Although Seward and his advisor Thurlow Weed thought they had the nomination secure, newspaper publisher Horace Greeley (Seward's former close friend) conducted a campaign against him.
Although a number of prominent Republicans vied for the nomination, the party eventually chose Lincoln.
A fourth political party took the field in the 1860 election. What was it?
the Constitutional Union Party
Formed by moderate Democrats and former Whigs, the Constitutional Union Party hoped to forestall secession by presenting an alternative to Abraham Lincoln. The Party nominated John Bell of Tennessee for President.
Although Lincoln failed to win the popular vote (he won 39.2%), he won a majority of the Electoral College. How did the South react?
Carrying out their threat, the states of the Deep South began to secede. South Carolina did so in December 1860, and six other states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana) followed.
In February 1861, the representatives of the seceding states met in Montgomery, Alabama, and formed the Confederate States of America.
How did the Confederate Constitution adopted at Montgomery, Alabama differ from the U.S. Constitution?
The Confederate Constitution did not differ significantly from the U.S. Constitution, a testament to the strength of the original document. Among the minor changes, the Confederate Constitution:
- limited the President to one six-year term
- gave the President a line item veto
- barred any limits on slavery's extension
- included limits on national tariffs
Who was elected as President of the Confederacy at Montgomery?
Jefferson Davis of Mississippi
Davis was a former Senator, Secretary of War, and Mexican-American War soldier. Davis did not want the job, preferring instead to lead Mississippi's militia into the combat he suspected was coming. Davis did not even attend the Montgomery Conference.
Alexander Stephens of Georgia was made the Confederate Vice President.
As a final attempt to stave off the Civil War, Senator John Crittenden authored a plan to resolve the controversy. What did he propose?
The Crittenden Compromise was a series of constitutional amendments and congressional resolutions which, among other things, would have permanently established slavery south of the Missouri Compromise line, permanently enshrined slavery in the Constitution, and would have enacted a newer, stronger Fugitive Slave Law.
Both the House and Senate rejected the Crittenden Plan and Lincoln refused to support it.