Renewing the Sectional Struggle
I. The Popular Sovereignty Panacea
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War, butit started a
whole new debate about the extension of slavery, withNortherners rallying around the
Wilmot Proviso (which proposed that theMexican Cession lands be free soil); however,
the Southerners shot itdown.
Before, the two national parties, the Democrats and the Whigs, hadhad strong support
from all over the nation; now, that was in jeopardy.
In 1848, Polk, due to tremendous overworking and chronic diarrhea,did not seek a
second term, and the Democrats nominated General LewisCass, a veteran of the War of
1812, a senator and diplomat of wideexperience and considerable ability, and the
originator of popularsovereignty, the idea that issues should be decided upon by the
people(specifically, it applied to slavery, stating that the people in theterritories should
decide to legalize it or not).
It was good (and liked by politicians) because it was a compromisebetween
the extremes of the North and the South, and it stuck with theidea of self-determination,
but it could spread slavery.
II. Political Triumphs for General Taylor
The Whigs nominated General Zachary Taylor, the hero of Buena Vistain the Mexican
War, a man with no political experience, but popularman, and they avoided all picky
issues in his campaign.
Disgusted antislavery Northerners organized the Free Soil Party, aparty committed
against the extension of slavery in the territories andone that also advocated federal aid
for internal improvements and urgedfree government homesteads for settlers.
This party appealed to people angry over the half-acquisition ofOregon,
people who didn’t like Blacks in the new territory, aswell as “conscience Whigs” who
condemned slavery on moralgrounds.
The Free-Soilers nominated Martin Van Buren.
Neither major party talked about the slavery issue, but Taylor won narrowly.
III. “Californy Gold”
In 1848, gold was discovered in California, and thousands flooded into the state, thus
blowing the lid off of the slavery issue.
Most people didn’t “strike it rich,” but there were many lawless men and women.