I. The Popular Sovereignty Panacea
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
, but it started a whole new
debate about the extension of slavery, with Northerners rallying around the
proposed that the
lands be free soil); however, the Southerners shot it down.
Before, the two national parties, the Democrats and the Whigs, had had 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
Gen. Lewis Cass
, a veteran of the
War of 1812
, a senator and diplomat of
wide experience and considerable ability, and the originator of
, the idea that issues
should be decided upon by the people (specifically, it applied to slavery, stating that the people in the
territories should decide to legalize it or not).
It was good (and liked by politicians) because it was a compromise between the extremes of the
North and the South, and it stuck with the idea of self-determination, but it could spread slavery.
II. Political Triumphs for General Taylor
The Whigs nominated
General Zachary Taylor
, the hero of Buena Vista in the Mexican War, a
man with no political experience, but popular man, and they avoided all picky issues in his campaign.
Disgusted antislavery Northerners organized the
Free Soil Party
, a party committed against the
extension of slavery in the territories and one that also advocated federal aid for internal improvements and
urged free government homesteads for settlers.
This party appealed to people angry over the half-acquisition of Oregon, people who didn’t like
Blacks in the new territory, as well as “conscience Whigs” who condemned slavery on moral grounds.
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.
As a result, California (privately encouraged by the president) drafted a constitution and then
applied for free statehood, thus bypassing the usual territorial stage and avoiding becoming a slave state.
IV. Sectional Balance and the Underground Railroad
In 1850, the South was very well off, with a Southerner as president (Taylor), a majority in the
cabinet and on the Supreme Court, and equality in the Senate meaning that its 15 states could block any
proposed amendment that would outlaw slavery. Still, the South was worried.