victories over larger entrenched forces, and the contest closed
with the spectacular storming of the fortified heights of Cha-
pultepec and the capture of the City of Mexico (September 15,
622. At the outbreak of the war American troops had been
dispatched to seize California and New Mexico (territory which
included, besides the modern States of those names, most of the
present Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado and
Wyoming). In the treaty of peace, after ceding Texas as far as
the Rio Grande, Mexico was forced to accept $15,000,000 for
this other territory. Members of the President's Cabinet wanted
to take all of Mexico ; Buchanan, Secretary of State, publicly
declared, " Destiny beckons us to hold and civilize Mexico " ; and
the press boasted confidently that the American flag in the City
of Mexico would never be hauled down. But Polk wisely in
sisted upon a more moderate policy, and took (and paid for)
only what he had offered to buy before he began the war.
623. A misunderstanding soon arose as to some forty-five
thousand square miles of the " Mexican cession," just south of
623] WAR WITH MEXICO 519
the Gila ; and Mexico threatened to fight again rather than
surrender her claim. Finally, in 1853, the United States secured
full title by paying ten million dollars more, through our agent,
This Gadsden Purchase was the last expansion of our territory
before the overthrow of slavery ; but it was not the last attempt
by the Slave Power. Southern politicians had long looked with
covetous desire at Cuba. Polk offered Spain a hundred million
dollars for the island, but was refused. Then, about 1854,
Southern leaders were ready for a more extreme program, and
began frankly to advocate the seizure of Cuba by force. 1 This
piratical doctrine was set forth with particular emphasis in that
year in the famous Ostend Manifesto, a document published in
Europe by a group of leading American diplomatic representa
tives there, with James Buchanan among them. When Bu
chanan became President (1857), he renewed the attempts to buy
Cuba and to secure slave territory in Central America. These
sinister efforts ceased only when the Civil War began.
1 In 1851 the Lopez "filibusters," five hundred strong, sailed from New
Orleans to invade Cuba. This, and other like attempts upon Central America,
may well be studied by individual students, and presented in special reports. It
is to be kept in mind that whatever the motives of the statesmen at Washington,
the filibusters themselves, and the Southern people back of them, were im
pelled largely by the ancient land hunger and spirit of conquest and adven
ture which had brought their ancestors to Virginia and had sent their brothers
THE STRUGGLE TO CONTROL THE NEW TERRITORY
624. Population increased in the decade 1840-1850 from sev
enteen to twenty-three millions. Immigration from Europe now
took on large proportions. Until 1845, no one year had brought
100,000 immigrants ( 486). That year brought 114,000 ; 1847
(during the Irish famine) brought 235,000; and 1849 (after
the European " year of revolution "*) brought almost 300,000.
This tremendous current, once started, continued unabated to
the Civil War. It still came almost wholly from the northern
European countries, and was composed mainly of sturdy labor
ing men, who naturally avoided the South with its slave labor.
Florida became a State in 1845 ; but Slavery's gain in the
Senate through the addition of that State and of Texas was
balanced by the admission of Iowa (1846) and Wisconsin (1848).
In the lower House of Congress the free States had nearly
a half more members than the Slave States. This situation gave
especial importance to the question whether slavery or freedom
should control the new territory acquired from Mexico. All that
territory, except Texas, had been " free " territory under Mexican
law. But in the Northwest were looming up a band of future
"free" commonwealths, from Minnesota to Oregon, while outside
this Mexican cession there was no chance for more Slave States.
625. As soon as war began, the President had asked Congress
for a grant of two million dollars to enable him to negotiate to
advantage. It was understood that this money was to be used
as a first payment in satisfying Mexico for territory to be taken
from her. To this " Two-Million-Dollar Bill " in the House of
Representatives, David Wilmot, a Pennsylvania Democrat, se-
1 Cf. Modern World, 711. The German fugitives, after the failure of their
gallant attempt at revolution, made a notable addition to the forces of Liberty
in America. Among them were Carl Schurz and Franz Sigel.
626] THE WILMOT PROVISO 521
cured an amendment providing that slavery should never exist
in any territory (outside Texas) to be so acquired. Northwestern
Democrats voted almost solidly for this Wilmot Proviso, partly
from real reluctance to see slavery extended, partly to punish
Polk and the Slave Power for " betraying " the Northwest in
the Oregon matter.
The session expired (August, 1846) before a vote was
reached in the Senate. In the next session the Proviso again
passed the lower House, but was voted down in the Senate,
where the Slave Power had now rallied. Then (February,
1848) Calhoun presented the Southern program in a set of
resolutions affirming that, since the territories were the com
mon domain of all the States, Congress had no constitutional
power to forbid the people of any part of the Union, with their
property, from seeking homes in that domain. This meant,
of course, the right of Southerners to carry their slaves and
slave law into any " Territory." Then, said the South, when
the time for Statehood arrives, let the inhabitants of each Terri
tory decide the matter of slavery or freedom for themselves.
This was the doctrine to be known later as " squatter sove
reignty " or " popular sovereignty." It appealed shrewdly to a
liking for fair play, in claiming that the South " simply asked
not to be denied equal rights ... in the common public
domain." Even more powerfully it appealed to the democratic
instincts of the West, claiming merely to turn the whole
question over to the people most interested.
626. Some Northern congressmen now deserted the Wilmot
Proviso in favor of " non-intervention by Congress," while others
favored extending the old line of the Missouri Compromise to
the Pacific. Finally, the country went into the presidential
election of 1848 without having settled any civil government for
the vast area recently acquired.
This neglect was serious. New Mexico and California were seats of
ancient Spanish settlement at such centers as Santa Fe" and the various
Missions near San Francisco ; and the sensitive and highly civilized pop
ulation resented military government by the American conquerors.
522 . THE SLAVERY STRUGGLE [ 627
Moreover, in January, 1848, just before the cession by Mexico, gold was
discovered in California at Sutter's Fort (now Sacramento). Then fol
lowed a vast and varied immigration, which needed imperatively a
627. The Whigs, who had won their one success with Gen
eral Harrison, now repeated their tactics of 1840. They
adopted no platform whatever, and nominated Zachary Taylor,
of Louisiana, a slaveholder, a straightforward soldier, and the
hero of the war. The Democratic platform evaded all mention
of slavery and of the burning Territorial question ; but the
presidential candidate was Lewis Cass of Michigan, the origi
nator of the "popular sovereignty" plan for Territories.
The antislavery Democrats had hoped to nominate Van Buren,
who for a time had the strongest vote in the Convention. 1 An
antislavery faction of New York Democrats (" Barnburners " 2 )
finally seceded from the Convention and did place Van Buren
in nomination. A few weeks later, he was nominated also by
a new Free Soil party, which had absorbed the Liberty party.
The Free Soilers recognized frankly that Congress could not
interfere with slavery in the /States, but they insisted on its
prohibition in the Territories, with the cry, "Free Speech,
Free Labor, Free Soil, and Free Men." They cast 300,000
votes (five times as many as the Liberty party four years be
fore). In most of the country, they drew mainly from the
Whigs ; but in New York their Barnburner allies drew from Cass
just enough to give that State (and the election) to the Whigs.
628. Meantime, California, lacking even a Territorial govern
ment, grew to the stature of Statehood. Thousands of " Forty-
niners,' 7 from all quarters of the globe (but mainly from the
i Democratic National Conventions use a "two-thirds rule," in making
nominations. Other parties nominate by a majority vote.
* This name, derived from a campaign story of a Dutchman who burned
his barn to get rid of the rats, was applied in derision, because the faction
avowed a willingness to ruin its party rather than permit slavery in the
Territories. The "regular" faction of the Democratic party in New York
became known as Old Hunkers. Party epithets were growing bitter. Cass
and other Northern men who showed subserviency to the Slave Power were
coming to be derided as " Doughfaces."
629J FOR CALIFORNIA 523
Northern States of the Union), rushed to the rich gold fields
some around Cape Horn by ship ; some by way of the Isthmus j
but more by wagon train across the Plains, defying Indians
and the more terrible Desert, along trails marked chiefly by
the bleaching skeletons of their forerunners. And on the Pacific
coast itself, whenever rumor reported that some prospector had
" struck it rich," distant camps and towns were depopulated
to swell the new, roaring settlement, toward which, over
mountain paths, streamed multitudes of reckless men, laden
with spade, pickax, and camp utensils. In a few months,
the mining region contained some eighty thousand adven
turers. To maintain rude order and restrain rampant crime,
the better spirits among the settlers adopted regulations and
organized Vigilance Committees to enforce them, with power of
life and death.
On taking office, President Taylor at once advised New
Mexico and California to organize their own State governments
and apply for admission to the Union. The Californians
acted promptly on this suggestion, and (November, 1849) a
convention unanimously adopted a " free State " constitution.
Taylor sought to keep faith, and urged Congress to admit
the new State. The Slave Power raged at seeing the richest
fruits of the Mexican War slipping from its grasp. The
country was aflame. Every Northern legislature but one
passed resolutions declaring that Congress ought to shut out
slavery from all the new territory. In the South) public meet
ings and legislatures urged secession if such action were taken.
Said Toombs of Georgia in Congress, " I . . . avow ... in
the presence of the living God, that if ... you seek to drive
us from California, ... I am for disunion."
629. Taylor died suddenly in July, 1850, to be succeeded by
Fillmore from the vice presidency. This gave a breathing
spell, and Clay came forward once more with a compromise, aim
ing to reconcile the South to the loss of California by giving
them their will on other disputed points. Proud of his title
of " the Great Pacificator," he pled for " a union of hearts "
THE SLAVERY STRUGGLE
between North and South through mutual concession: other
wise, he feared there was little chance for the survival of the
political Union which he loved.
Clay's "Omnibus" measures were supported by the new
President, and finally passed in separate bills after a strenuous
eight months' debate.
They provided for : (1) the
admission of the u free "
California ; (2) Territorial
organization of New Mex
ico and Utah on " squatter-
sovereignty " principles ;
(3) prohibition of the slave
trade in the District of
Columbia ; and (4) a new
and more effective Fugi
tive Slave Law, with all
the abominations of the
old one. This was the
"Compromise of 1850,"
the last compromise on
slavery. Many Southern
Representatives voted No,
in order that the measure,
if passed at all, should be
passed by Northern votes (Map opposite).
630. It was Webster who really secured the passage of
the compromise. He had bitterly opposed the annexation
of Texas and the war; but now he urged that the North
owed concession to the weaker South. Moreover, slave labor,
he was sure, could never be profitable in sterile New Mexico.
It was not necessary to exclude it by law of Congress : it
was already excluded " by the law of nature." He " would
not take pains to reenact the will of God."
To-day the historical student is inclined to say that this
" Seventh of March " speech was dictated by deep love for the
HENRY CLAY in old age. From a
portrait by Peale.
THE COMPROMISE OF 1850
Compromise of 185O
House of Representatives
l^ Against, 98
| \No Vote, IS
Union. Webster never had been optimistic in temperament
Now an old man, he did not venture to hope that there could
ever be a better Union, while he even began to despair of the
existing one unless the South was pacified. At the moment,
however, the antislavery men of the North felt that he played
a traitor's part to the cause of liberty, in order to secure
Southern support for the presidency.
526 THE SLAVERY STRUGGLE [ 630
The finest expression of this antislavery wrath is in the stern condem
nation of Whittier's Ichabod :
"From those great eyes
The soul has fled.
When faith is lost, when honor dies,
The man is dead.
" Then, pay the reverence of old days
To his dead fame.
Walk backward, with averted gaze,
And hide the shame."
Emerson wrote with barbed insight : "Mr. Webster, perhaps, is only
following the laws of his blood and constitution. ... He is a man
who lives by his memory : a man of the past ; not a man of faith and hope.
All the drops of his blood have eyes that look downward.''' And says
Rhodes (History, 1, 153) of Webster's advocacy of the Fugitive Slave Law :
" Webster could see ' an ordinance of nature ' and ' the will of God ' writ
ten on the mountains and plateaus of New Mexico ; but he failed to see
... the will of God implanted in the hearts of freemen."
Calhoun, dying and despairing, opposed the compromise as
insufficient. If the North wished to preserve the Union, he
urged, it must concede some kind of political equilibrium between
itself and the weaker South. His papers show that he meant
to propose an amendment to the Constitution providing for
two Presidents, one from each section, with a mutual veto.
But like his great rivals, Clay and Webster, he passed from
political life with this debate.
More significant than the attitude of these statesmen of a
passing day was the appearance of a new group of antislavery
men, led by William H. Seward of New York. Like Calhoun
Seward opposed the compromise, but for opposite reasons. He
insisted that peace between the sections could come only with
the extinction of slavery. As to the Territories, said he : " The
Constitution devotes the Domain to ... liberty. . . . But
there is a higher law than the Constitution, which devotes it to
the same noble purpose." This " Higher-Law " speech was to
exert more lasting influence in our history than the speech of
" the Seventh of March."
THE BREAKDOWN OF COMPROMISE
631. IT has been fitly said that the Union was maintained
from 1789 to 1820 by the compromises in the Constitution, and
from 1820 to 1861 by Congressional compromises. Political lead
ers and the mass of the people were desperately anxious to con
vince themselves that the Compromise of 1850 was final. Any
further discussion of slavery was severely reprobated by many
Northern men. But, exclaimed James Russell Lowell, " To
tell us that we ought not to agitate the question of slavery,
when it is that which is forever agitating us, is like telling a
man with the ague to stop shaking and he will be cured."
The Fugitive Slave Law kept men thinking about slavery. That law
was the great mistake of the Slave Power. Had the South
been content to lose a few slaves who escaped into free States, 1
the compromise might have endured years longer.
In his " Higher Law " speech, Seward had warned the South : " You
are entitled to no more stringent laws, and such laws would be useless.
The cause of the inefficiency of the present statute is not at all the leniency
of its provisions : it is the public sentiment of the North. . . . Your Con
stitution and laws convert hospitality to the refugee . . . into a crime ;
but all mankind except you esteem that hospitality a virtue." And
Emerson called the law "a law which every one of you will break on
the earliest occasion a law which no man can obey, or abet, without
loss of self-respect and forfeiture of the name of gentleman."
632. The law could be applied to Negroes who had been
living for years in the North in supposed safety since the
breakdown of the law of 1793 ( 384). Thousands abandoned
1 From 1830 to 1860 the number averaged not more than 1000 a year. A small
insurance would have protected the owners.
THE SLAVERY STRUGGLE
their homes for hurried flight to Canada; and some were
actually seized by slave hunters. More attempts to recapture
fugitive slaves took place in 1851 than in all our history before.
But now every seizure caused a tumult if not a riot. Even
PROCLAMATION ! !
THE GOOD PEOPLE OF MASSACHUSETTS!
Be it known that there are now
THREE SLAVE-HUNTERS OR KIDNAPPERS
Looking for their prey. One of them is called
He is an unusually ill-looking fellow, about five feet eight inches high,
wide-shouldered. He has a big mouth, black hair, and a good deal of dirty
bushy hair on the lower part of his face. He has a Roman nose; one of his
eyes has been knocked out. He looks like a Pirate, and knows how to be
a Stealer of Men.
The next is called
He is about five feet six inches high, thin and lank, is apparently about
thirty years old. His nose turns up a little. He has a long mouth, long
thin ears, and dark eyes. His hair is dark, and he has a bunch of fur on
his chin. . . . He wears his shirt collar turned down, and has a black
string not of hemp about his neck.
The third ruffian is named
ROBERT M. BACON, alias JOHN D. BACON.
He is about fifty years old, five feet and a half high. He has a red,
intemperate-looking face, and a retreating forehead. His hair is dark, and
a little gray. He wears a black coat, mixed pants, and a purplish vest. He
looks sleepy, and yet malicious.
Given at Boston, this 4th day of April, in the year of our Lord, 1851, and
of the Independence of the United States the eighty-fourth.
God save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts !
A HANDBILL OF 1851, GIVEN IN RHODES, I, 212.
(Notice that it parodies the form of advertisements for escaped slaves.)
" proslavery " men in the North could not stand for the hunting
of slaves at their own doors. Legislatures refused to United
States officials the use of State jails, forbade State officers to
aid in executing the law, and enacted various "personal-liberty
633] SLAVE HUNTING IN THE NORTH 529
laws" to secure to any man seized as an escaped slave those
rights of jury trial and legal privilege which the Federal law
denied him. Some of these State laws amounted to downright
Nullification. 1 The " Underground Railroad " 2 was extended.
In several cases, fugitives were rescued from the officers in full
day by " mobs " of such high-minded gentlemen as Thomas
Wentworth Higginson, Samuel J. May, and Gerrit Smith.
These men sometimes avowed their deed in the public press,
and challenged prosecution ; and all attempts to punish broke
down, because no jury would convict. When a slave was re
turned, the recapture usually proved to have cost the master
more than the man could be sold for.
In February, 1851, a mob of Negroes rescued a fugitive out of the
hands of Federal officers in Boston and carried him in triumph through
applauding streets, where, fifteen years before, Garrison had been dragged
in ignominy by a White mob. And when the slave Burns was sent back
to slavery, after bloody riots, and a cost to the government of $ 100,000,
it took 1100 soldiers and a battalion of artillery to convey him through
those streets which were all draped in mourning.
633. Still, in the campaign of 1852, the platforms of both the
leading parties indorsed the " Compromise " emphatically, 3 with
express reference also to the Fugitive Slave provision; and
1 The Wisconsin legislative resolutions of 1859 used the words of the old
Kentucky Resolutions of 1799.
2 An arrangement among Abolitionists in the Border States for concealing
fugitives and forwarding them to Canada. The system had its "stations,"
"junctions," "conductors," and so on.
8 The tendency among respectable classes at the North to cling to the Com
promise was especially notable in the Eastern colleges, where there were
many students from the South. Andrew D. White says that in the Yale of the
early fifties (when he was a student there), " the great majority of older pro
fessors spoke at public meetings in favor of proslavery compromises," though,
" except for a few theological doctrinaires," their personal sympathies were
against slavery. The two great Yale professors of the day who opposed the
Fugitive Slave Law, he adds, were generally condemned for 'hurting Yale,'
and driving away Southern students. White is a distinguished scholar,
author, and diplomat, the first President of Cornell University and in later
years Minister to Russia and Ambassador to Germany and a United States
representative at the First Hague Conference.
530 SLAVERY COMPROMISE BREAKS DOWN [ 634
when Charles Sumner in the Senate moved the repeal of that
law, he found only three votes to support him. In the presi
dential election, too, the Free Soil vote ("Free Democracy,"
now) fell off a half ; and General Scott, the Whig candidate,
who was believed to be more liberal than his platform, was
easily defeated by Franklin Pierce, who gave the Compromise
his hearty support.
One feature of the election of 1852 was the prominence of a new politi
cal party which called itself the American party, but which is better
known by the appellation of Know-nothings. From the time of the
Philadelphia Convention, bitter attempts had been made now and again
to limit the political influence of foreign immigrants. To this "native"
prejudice there was added, after the Irish immigration of the late forties,
a silly fear of "Catholic" domination. The new party was a secret
society, with intricate ramifications and elaborate hierarchy. Its pur
pose was to exclude from office all but native-born and all not in sym
pathy with this program ; but members below the highest grade of officials
were pledged to passive obedience to orders, and were instructed, when
questioned as to party secrets, to reply, "I know nothing." The move
ment was bigoted in character and un-American in methods; but it
gained considerable strength in eastern and southern States, and elected
several congressmen. In part, the movement drew its strength from the
desire to ignore slavery and find new issues.
634. What slim chance there was that the North might
quiet down under the iniquity of the Fugitive Slave Law was
finally dissipated by another audacious measure in the interests
of slavery. The vast region from Missouri and Iowa to the
Rockies was known as the Platte country. Immigrants to
California were pouring across it ; and at the assembling of
Congress in December, 1853, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois,
chairman of the Senate Committee on Territories, strove to se
cure a Territorial organization for the region. But his Kansas-
Nebraska Bill proposed that two new Territories there should
be placed on the squatter-sovereignty basis as to slavery.
Douglas and President Pierce put forward the surprising
claim that the Compromise of 1850 implied this form of
organization for all Territories thereafter formed. But this
THE KANSAS-NEBRASKA BILL
532 SLAVERY COMPROMISE BREAKS DOWN [ 635
district was part of the Old Louisiana Purchase, solemnly
guaranteed to freedom by the Compromise of 1820. The Com
promise of 1850 had applied only to territory just acquired from
Mexico : no one had dreamed then that it was to repeal the
Missouri Compromise for old territory. The Southern con