Popular sovereignty the wilmot proviso had stirred

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Popular Sovereignty The Wilmot Proviso had stirred passions on both sides in Congress. The issue of slavery’s expansion had divided the country along sectional lines, North against South. Many moderates began searching for a solution that would spare Congress from having to wrestle with the issue of slavery in the territories. Senator Lewis Cass of Michigan proposed one solution. Cass suggested that the citizens of each new territory should be allowed to decide for themselves if they wanted to permit slavery or not. This idea came to be called popular sovereignty. Popular sovereignty appealed strongly to many members of Congress because it removed the slav- ery issue from national politics. It also appeared Poster calling for antislavery meeting CHAPTER 10 Sectional Conflict Intensifies 321
democratic since the settlers themselves would make the decision. Abolitionists argued that it still denied African Americans their right not to be enslaved, but many Northerners, especially in the Midwest, supported the idea because they believed Northern settlers would occupy most of the new ter- ritory and would ban slavery from their states. The Free-Soil Party Emerges With the 1848 elec- tion approaching, the Whigs chose Zachary Taylor, hero of the war with Mexico, to run for president. The Whig Party in the North was split. Many Northern Whigs, known as Conscience Whigs, opposed slavery. They also opposed Taylor because they believed he wanted to expand slavery west- ward. Other Northern Whigs supported Taylor and voted with the Southern Whigs to nominate him. These Northern Whigs were known as Cotton Whigs because many of them were linked to Northern cloth manufacturers who needed Southern cotton. The decision to nominate Taylor convinced many Conscience Whigs to quit the party. They then joined with antislavery Democrats from New York who were frustrated that their party had nominated Lewis Cass instead of Martin Van Buren. These two groups joined with members of the abolitionist Liberty Party to form the Free-Soil Party, which opposed slavery in the “free soil” of western territories. Although some Free Soilers condemned slavery as immoral, most simply wanted to preserve the west- ern territories for white farmers. They felt that allow- ing slavery to expand would make it difficult for free men to find work. The Free-Soil Party’s slogan summed up their views: “Free soil, free speech, free labor, and free men.” The 1848 Election Candidates from three parties campaigned for the presidency in 1848. Democrat Lewis Cass of Michigan supported popular sover- eignty, although this support was not mentioned in the South. His promise to veto the Wilmot Proviso, should Congress pass it, however, was often reported. Former president Martin Van Buren led the Free-Soil Party, which took a strong position against slavery in the territories and backed the Wilmot Proviso. General Zachary Taylor, the Whig candi- date, avoided the whole issue.

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