01:512:104 Lecture Notes - Lecture 18: Free Soil Party, Lewis Cass, Fugitive Slave Laws

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Chapter 18 - Renewing the Sectional Struggle 1848-1854
The Popular Sovereignty Panacea
Each of the two great political parties was a vital bond of unity, for each enjoyed powerful support in both
North and South; therefore they agreed that it was strategy to ignore the issue of slavery.
President Polk got sick and only could serve ne term so democrats selected General Lewis Cass, a
veteran of the War of 1812, to be the new leader.
Cass supported expanding slavery and was well known as the reputed father of “popular sovereign.” The
public liked popular sovereignty not just because it had a persuasive appeal but that it accorded with the
democratic tradition of self-determination. Politicians liked it because it seemed a comfortable
compromise between the abolitionist bid for a ban on slavery in the territories and southern demands that
Congress protect slavery in the territories.
Popular sovereign had one fatal defect: it might have helped spread the disease of slavery.
Political Triumph for General Taylor
Whigs favored Zachary Taylor over Clay, due to Clay's large amount of speeches.
Whigs focused campaign on opponents flaws not real issues such as slavery in the territories
Anti-slavery men in the North, disgusted with Taylor and Cass, organized the Free Soil Party. Which
wanted no slavery in territories, advocating federal aid for improvements internal improvements and
urging free government homesteads for settlers
this new group gained support from those unhappy with Polk and northerners.
Free-soiler Van Buren diverted votes from Cass in New York caused Taylor to win election.
"Californy Gold"
The discovery of Gold in Cali in 1848 sent a high fever to go mine gold.
Only a few people struck it rich mining while most would've made more money staying at home.
People who were best off were those who businessed off of the miners to wash clothes and other
High percentage of settlers were lawless men followed by women, which caused an outburst of crime with
robbery, claim jumping, and murder
Taylor privately encouraged Cali to outlaw slavery and apply to become a state, skipping the territorial
California entered as a free state
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Sectional Balance and the Underground Railroad
The south in 1850 was relatively well off, The south had seated war hero Zachary Taylor in the white
house, planter from Louisiana. If outnumbered in the house, the south had equality in the senate, where it
could alteast neutralize northern maneuvers.
North and South believed slavery was seriously threatened where it already existed below the Mason-
Dixon line. The fifteen states could easily veto and proposed constitutional amendment.
The south was worried, there were fifteen free states as well as slave states and the admission of
California would destroy the delicate equilibrium in the Senate, slave territory under the American flag
was running short.
Texas claimed a huge area east of the Rio grande and north of forty-second parallel, embracing half of
present day New Mexico. Federal Government proposed to detach this prize, while Texans wanted to
claim what they thought was rightfully theirs.
Many southerners also complained of the nagging of the abolitionists from the north and suffered a loss of
many runaway slaves, many of whom were assisted by the underground railroad, which consisted of a
series of stops and safe houses for slaves to hide and travel to places free of slavery.
One famous "conducter" who helped runaway slaves was Harriet Tubman, she rescued more than three
hundred slaves including her aged parents, and earned the title "Moses"
By 1850 southerners were demanding a new and more stringent fugitive slave law. The old one passed in
1793 had been proven inadequate. The south estimated about 1,000 runaway slaves a yar out of its total
of 4 million
Twilight of the Senatorial Giants
Congress was confronted with catastrophe in 1850, Free sould California was banging on the door for
admission and fire eaters in the south were voicing ominous threats of secession. The crisis brought into
congressional forum teh most distinguished assemblage of statesmen since the constitutional convention
of 1787, teh old guard of the dying generation and the young gladiators of the new.
Henry Clay, 73 years old, played a crucial role. He was still eloquent , conciliatory, and captivating. He
proposed and skillfully defended a series of compromises. He was ably seconded by thirty seven year old
senator Stephen A Douglas whose role was less spectacular but even more important. Clay urged with all
his persuasiveness that the North and South both make enacting more feasible fugitive slave law.
Daniel Webster, took the senate spotlight to uphold clays compromise measures in his last great speech.
As for slavery he asked, why legislate on the subject?
Deadlock and Danger on Capitol Hill
The debate of 1850 in Congress was not yet finished for the Young Guard from the North were yet to
have their say. This group, the north, were more interested in removing and cleaning it than in patching
and protecting it.
William H. Seward was one of the main northern speakers who seemed not to realize that compromise
had brought the Union together and that when the sections could no longer compromise, they would have
to part company
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