Expansion and Slavery
The expansion of slavery into new territories and onto the western frontier became a major issue after the Mexican-American War. Southerners fought to assert their rights while many Northerners wished to prevent the expansion of slave labor into new states.
panic of 1857: The causes of the panic were overspeculation in railroads and lands, false banking practices, and a break in the flow of European capital to American investments as a result of the Crimean War. The South’s less industrial economy suffered less than the North, who viewed this as a proof of superiority in both Southern economy and slavery.
Wilmot Proviso: David Wilmot, a Congressman from Pennsylvania, proposed that slavery be banned in land acquired from the Mexican War. The proviso was given to Congress in August 1846. It never passed the Senate, but passed the House. It was taken out of the War Appropriations bill in order for Senate to pass the actual bill.
Barnburners: The Barnburners were a part of the Democratic party in New York. They left in 1848 to form the Free Soil Party but rejoined after the election of 1848. They believed slavery should not be extended into the newly acquired U.S. territory and were pro-Wilmot Proviso. Their party slogan was "Free Trade, Free Labor, Free Speech, Free Men."
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: This was the peace treaty between the United States and Mexico that ended the Mexican War. Through the treaty, Mexico gave Texas with Rio Grande boundary, California , and New Mexico to the United States. The U.S. assumed all claims of the American people against the Mexican government and also paid Mexico 15 million dollars. The treaty was signed on February 2, 1848. In the end, the treaty worked to expand the U.S. territory to include parts of Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada.
Free Soil Party: The Free Soil Party created by the Barnburners, Conscience Whigs, and the former Liberty party members in the election of 1844. They nominated Martin Van Buren on a platform of opposition to any kind of slavery. Although they were unable to carry any state, they had enough influence in North to convey their point.
California applies for admission as a state: Because the population grew during the gold rush and they were in need of a better government, California decided to petition to become a state in September of 1849. There was controversy on the issue of it being a free or slave state, but through the Compromise of 1850, California was admitted as a free state.
Compromise of 1850: The Compromise of 1850 was an eight part compromise devised by Henry Clay in order to settle the land disputes between the North and South. As part of the compromise, California was admitted a free state, while a stricter Fugitive Slave Law was enforced. Slave trade was abolished in the District of Columbia, while slavery itself was not abolished and sectional peace returned to the northern and southern states for a few years. The issue of slavery eventually did lead to future conflicts, though.
Omnibus bill: The omnibus bill is a term used to describe a bill that has many unrelated and separate topics within it. The bill most commonly known for being omnibus is the Compromise of 1850. Henry Clay introduced the bill as a whole, but it was later pushed through Congress as separate measures. Today, most states do nor allow omnibus bills.
Henry Clay: Henry Clay was an influential American politician who earned the title of "The Great Pacificator" with his development of three compromises. He ran, unsuccessfully, for president six times and devised the "American System" that favored a protective tariff and federal support of internal improvements.
Webster’s 7th of March speech: Webster’s speech was an eloquent one presented in favor of the Compromise of 1850. Webster argued that years of tension built up from the North’s growing power would be relieved by the compromise and that the North would make the South its equal, thus saving the Union. Despite his efforts, the speech made few converts.
John C. Calhoun: Calhoun is most known for the "nullification crisis" in 1828 between he and president Jackson over the tariff of 1828 (tariff of abominations). He supported the Compromise of 1850 on the basis of the theory of nullification. He was a senator during the debates over the compromise. Calhoun was also a war hawk.
Fugitive Slave Law: Unlike the previous 1793 slave law, the 1850 slave law was more strictly enforced. The results of the law were that the North became a hunting ground for slaves and slaves were denied a trial by jury and other protections they were entitled to. The anger of the slaves led to riots and other acts of violence.
Personal Liberty Laws: Discontent with the injustice of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, northern states passed "personal liberty laws" in order to strengthen the use of the habeas corpus writs and prohibit state officials from accepting jurisdiction under federal law. The laws included the prohibition of the use of state jails to confine alleged fugitives. Southern states objected to the laws because they violated sectional equity and reciprocal trust. Northern resistance demonstrated that the slavery issue could not be ignored.
Gadsden Purchase: The Gadsden Purchase was the 1853 treaty in which the United States bought from Mexico parts of what is now southern Arizona and southern New Mexico. Southerners wanted this land in order to build southern transcontinental railroad. The heated debate over this issue in the Senate demonstrates the prevalence of sectional disagreement.
Perry and Japan: Commodore Perry opened relations with Japan, a country closed to the rest of the world for 2 centuries, in 1853. The treaty he forged protected the rights of sailors shipwrecked in Japanese territory from inhumane treatment, permitted American ships to buy coal in Japan, opened Japanese ports of to U.S. commerce, and ended Japan’s isolation.
Anthony Burns: Burns was an American slave who escaped in 1834. He was arrested on charges of theft and violation of the Fugitive Slave Law. During the trial, a mob of Boston abolitionists stormed into the courthouse to attempt, unsuccessfully, to rescue Burns. President Pierce sent him back to his master, but Burns was resold to friends who freed him.
Ableman v. Booth: Booth was arrested for aiding the escape of a fugitive slave in 1859. The Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a writ of habeas corpus to release him, but habeas corpus was not valid as a result of Chief Justice Taney’s decision that a court or judge has certain limits of power. In turn, the battle for federal supremacy commenced.
Prigg v. Pa., 1842: This case resulted when Pennsylvania attempted to ban the capture and return of runaway slaves within its territory, a challenge to the fugitive slave law of 1793. Because article IV, section 2 of the Constitution deems the return of fugitive slaves a federal power, the state law was declared unconstitutional.
Ostend Manifesto: American ambassadors to Great Britain, France, and Spain met in Ostend, Belgium in 1854 to issue an unofficial document that gave the United States permission to attain Cuba by any necessary means, even force, and include the island in the Union. President Pierce, however, rejected the manifesto.
Stephen A. Douglas: American politician known for his debates with Abraham Lincoln prior to the election of 1860. Douglas was an advocate of the annexation of Mexico, who aroused the question of slavery in territories with the development of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. He was also a strong supporter of the Compromise of 1850.
Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854: The Kansas-Nebraska Act ended the peace established between the North and South by the Compromise of 1850. It was proposed by Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and repealed the Missouri Compromise. The act enforced popular sovereignty upon the new territories but was opposed by Northern Democrats and Whigs. It was passed, however, because President Pierce supported it. The purpose of the bill was to facilitate the building of the transcontinental railroad on a central route.
popular sovereignty: this compromise solution was first proposed during the time of the Wilmot Proviso: the residents of each territory had the option of determining whether it would be a free or slave state; a part of the Compromise of 1850 and Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.Stephen Douglas a strong advocator.
36° 30’ line: The 36° 30’ line was established by the Missouri Compromise and drew on parts of California and New Mexico. The Wilmot Proviso sought to extend the boundary line westward, blocking slavery and territory north of that line. Polk supported the idea of expansion to end the discussion of whether the new territory acquired was slave or free.
"Bleeding Kansas" and Lawrence: Topeka and Lecompton were the two rival governments of Kansas. Each claimed to be the lawful one, thus armed themselves and commenced guerilla warfare. In 1856, Missouri "border ruffians," those who supported slavery, sacked the town of Lawrence. John Brown, an abolitionist, also led a retaliation two days later .
"Beecher’s Bibles": Because the abolitionist government in Kansas was organized in 1856, a pro-slavery posse armed with guns mobbed through the town. Ridiculing the free staters, they dubbed their guns "Beecher’s Bibles," following the advice of an antislavery minister that rifles would do no more than Bibles to enforce morality in Kansas.
Pottawatomie Massacre: John Brown led a small group of abolitionists into a pro-slavery settlement in 1856 to kill unarmed men and boys at Pottawatomie Creek in retaliation to the border ruffians’ invasion and sacking of the abolitionists’ town of Lawrence. The retaliation was preceded by a pro-slavery posse’s armed raid through Kansas.
Lecompton Constitution: This constitution was devised by the anti-slavery delegates of Congress in 1857 to protect the rights of the slaveholders in Kansas and advocate popular sovereignty. Buchanan disapproved of it, but supported it so that Kansas could be admitted as a state.
New England Emigrant Aid Company: Aiming to prevent the expansion of slavery into Kansas, Northerners sent antislavery settlers into this area in 1854, but their attempt was unsuccessful. Settlers from New England arrived slowly, though the majority of settlers originated from Missouri and the Midwest. Settlers were mixed in their views on slavery.
Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 during Illinois senatorial campaign: The Lincoln-Douglas debates were a series of seven, where Douglas argued on the basis of his opposition to the Lecompton Constitution and depicted Lincoln as a radical abolitionist. Lincoln condemned Douglas for not taking a moral stand against slavery.
Lincoln’s "house divided" speech: The "house divided" speech was a speech presented before the Republican party’s state convention in 1858 in Springfield, Illinois. It warned the people that a "house divided against itself cannot stand," referring to the slavery issue. Lincoln predicted in his speech that there would mean eventual freedom for the slaves.
Freeport Doctrine: Stephen A. Douglas’ "Freeport Doctrine" stated that exclusion of slavery in a territory could be determined by the refusal of the voters to enact any laws that would protect slave property. In 1858, southerners rejected the doctrine because it did not insure the rights of slaves, a reaction that hurt him in the election.