Difference between revisions of "American History Lecture Five"

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("Bleeding Kansas": finished)
(Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln: Irreconcilably Different: finished - this section is fascinating)
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But the opposition didn't cease, and Lovejoy's printing press was thrown into the river three times.  The Ohio Anti-Slavery Society gave him a new printing press, and local slave owners decided to destroy it.  A mob came over from St. Louis and Lovejoy was killed trying to protect his press.  This violence shocked the North.
 
But the opposition didn't cease, and Lovejoy's printing press was thrown into the river three times.  The Ohio Anti-Slavery Society gave him a new printing press, and local slave owners decided to destroy it.  A mob came over from St. Louis and Lovejoy was killed trying to protect his press.  This violence shocked the North.
  
Lincoln and Douglas were opposites in every possible way.  Lincoln was very tall, while Douglas was very short.  Lincoln had lots of dark hair, Douglas had thinning gray hair.  Lincoln was initially a Whig, Douglas was a Democrat.  Lincoln was a wealthy attorney for the powerful Railroads.  Douglas was a government attorney for the State.  Both were extremely ambitious, constantly running for public office.  Both were smarter than most in politics, and both were good public speakers (unlike, for example, Jefferson, who avoided public speaking).  Truth be told, Douglas was really the better speakermore compelling in style, and funnier.
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From this history arose the political rivalry of Lincoln and Douglas, one of the greatest rivalries in all of American history.  Lincoln and Douglas were opposites in every possible way.  Lincoln was very tall, while Douglas was very short.  Lincoln had lots of dark hair, Douglas had thinning gray hair.  Lincoln was initially a Whig, Douglas was a Democrat.  Lincoln was a wealthy attorney for the powerful Railroads.  Douglas was a government attorney for the State.  Both were extremely ambitious, constantly running for public office.  Both were smarter than most in politics, and both were superb public speakers (unlike, for example, Jefferson, who avoided public speaking).  Truth be told, Douglas was an even better public speaker than Lincoln; Douglas was more compelling in style, and funnier.
  
Douglas quickly became leader of the Illinois Democratic Party, and he was originally inspired by President Andrew Jackson.  Douglas was elected at the young age of 22 to be the state’s top attorney. By age 28 he became an Illinois Supreme Court Justice; by age 29 he was elected to the House of Representatives in Congress.  At age 34 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, and won every reelection until he died in office.  In the U.S. Senate, he became very powerful and earned the nickname “Little Giant. His speeches would attract huge crowds in the galleries of the Senate.  Politically, he was almost unbeatable.   
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Originally inspired by President Andrew Jackson, Douglas quickly became leader of the Illinois Democratic Party.  Douglas was elected at the young age of 22 to be the state's top attorney. By age 28 he became an Illinois Supreme Court Justice; by age 29 he was elected to the House of Representatives in Congress.  At age 34 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, and won every reelection until he died in office.  In the U.S. Senate, he became very powerful and earned the nickname "Little Giant." His speeches would attract huge crowds in the galleries of the Senate.  Politically, he was virtually unbeatable.   
  
As a Jacksonian Democrat, Douglas favored “manifest destiny” and acquiring as much property westward as possible.  The Mexican War was a way to obtain more property, so he favored it in the mid-1840s.
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As a Jacksonian Democrat, Douglas favored Manifest Destiny and acquiring as much property westward as possible.  The Mexican War was a way to obtain more property, so he favored it in the mid-1840s.
  
At the same time, Abraham Lincoln was rising as a Whig in Illinois.  In contrast to Douglas, Lincoln lost virtually every election he entered.  But he kept trying, again and again.  Unlike Douglas, Lincoln opposed the Mexican War because the Whigs saw it as a way for the South to gain more slave territory.  Lincoln disputed the claim that Mexicans had shed American blood on American soil, and introduced the “Spot Resolutions” in Congress disputing where the bloodshed occurred.
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At the same time, Abraham Lincoln was rising as a Whig in Illinois.  While Douglas won virtually every election he was in, Lincoln ''lost'' virtually every election he entered.  But he kept trying, again and again.  Unlike Douglas, Lincoln opposed the Mexican War because the Whigs saw it as a way for the South to gain more slave territory.  Lincoln disputed the claim that Mexicans had shed American blood on American soil, and introduced the "Spot Resolutions" in Congress disputing where the bloodshed occurred.
  
Economic views:  Lincoln sought economic unity (remember, he represented railroads); Douglas did not care as much, but also wanted to keep the country together.
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On economic issues, Lincoln sought national unity (remember, he represented railroads)Douglas did not care much for economic issues, but also wanted to keep the nation together.
  
Which person, Lincoln or Douglas, is going to be more sympathetic to slavery?  Is either going to be entirely pro-slave or abolitionist?
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Consider for yourself which person, Lincoln or Douglas, is likely to be more sympathetic to slavery?  Is either going to be entirely pro-slave or abolitionist? No, both were in the middle on the slavery issue, neither entirely for or against slavery.
  
Both Lincoln and Douglas looked for ways to avoid the coming Civil War.  Many Americans, beginning with Jefferson, started to worry about how slavery was ripping the country apart.  Jefferson used to wake up in a cold sweat with a nightmare of where the United States was headed.
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Both Lincoln and Douglas looked for ways to avoid the coming Civil War.  Many Americans, beginning with Jefferson, started to worry about how slavery was ripping the country apart.  Jefferson used to wake up in a cold sweat after having nightmares about the tragic future that the United States faced over the issue.
  
In 1858, Lincoln and Douglas ran against one another for Senate.  Their debates that year became known as the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, and they dealt primarily with slavery.  In the end, Douglas won the race by a vote in the legislature, but Lincoln gained valuable publicity which helped him succeed later.  The presidential debates that we hold to this day were inspired by the Lincoln-Douglas debates.
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In 1858, Lincoln and Douglas ran against each another for Senate.  Their debates that year became known as the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, and they dealt primarily with slavery.  In the end, Douglas won the race by a vote in the legislature (at that time legislatures, not the public, picked the U.S. Senators).  But Lincoln gained valuable publicity which helped him succeed later.  The presidential debates that are held today were inspired by the Lincoln-Douglas debates.
  
 
==The Debate over Slavery==
 
==The Debate over Slavery==

Revision as of 21:00, 6 October 2008

Reminders on exam or homework questions:

  • Understand the question first. Students are missing points for not completely understanding the question. Pause a moment after you read a question. Read it twice. Ask yourself, what is the point of the question?
  • Skip the toughest questions and answer the other questions first. But when the answer sheet is separate from the exam, as on standardized College Board exams, be sure to leave a gap in your answer sheet for the skipped question.
  • When stuck, use a source other than the lecture. On your written homework, you may use extra resources although the answers are almost always in the lecture.

Tips in learning history:

  • Beware of over-reliance on authority. Unless we're talking about the Bible, authority is not always going to be correct. Every book contains mistakes or fails to explain a concept well, and it's beneficial to read many sources, because some authors will cover what others miss.
  • Learn history in small pieces. I cannot grade all the homework in this course at one time, or even in one day. After about an hour or two, I burn out. But by grading in 45 minute periods each day, it is very enjoyable. The material is easier to digest. Could you eat one and only one meal each day? No, we eat three meals so the food is easier to digest that way. Same with learning history. 45 minutes each day for 5 days will be much easier than over 4 hours in one day. You'll retain the material much better if you spread it out.
  • Avoid procrastination! Don't wait until the last minute to begin your homework. Set a goal for yourself, such as answering three questions each day until you are done. Answering a few questions at a time doesn't take long, but trying to finish homework in one sitting when you are tired is difficult and produces poor results.

Now consider the following riddle about history: Consider this sequence: 2, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2, 1, 1, ??, ??, ??, ??. What goes in the question marks? The answer is below.[1]

Why are there so many 1's as we approach the Civil War? Imagine riding the raging bull at the rodeo. It's hard to stay on beyond a few seconds. Before the Civil War, the United States was like the bull, and it was nearly impossible for a president to be reelected amid that turmoil. No president could ride the raging bull of a divided country for more more than one term as the Civil War approached.

Review

This week, practice memorizing all of the presidents we have learned about. Which ones have we covered so far?[2]

Last week we learned about Andrew Jackson, who represented the common man. He was a "Democrat". The masses elected their military hero. The Whig Party arose just to oppose Jackson, and before long nominated and won with war heroes of its own.

In accordance with Jackson's image as a common man, he was against a national bank. He was also cruel to the Indians.

Although Jackson was a Democrat, which was then the main party in the South, Jackson's stance toward the South opposed nullification and secession.

The "Accidental Presidency"

By 1840 the anti-Jackson Whig Party was strong, and clever. To win its first presidential election, it ran the war hero William Henry Harrison (who had defeated the Indians much earlier). The Whig Party exploited the financial panic of 1837 and some clever slogans. The Whig Party also pulled another trick: it nominated the Democrat John Tyler for Vice President. That was one of only two times that one party has nominated as its vice president a member of the other political party (the other time was when Abraham Lincoln picked Andrew Johnson as his vice president to try to avoid the Civil War). In 2008, the Republican candidate John McCain reportedly wanted to choose the former Democrat Joe Lieberman as his vice president, but choose Sarah Palin when he learned that many within the Republican Party wanted a Republican vice presidential nominee.

Historians say that the outcome in virtually every presidential election can be predicted by looking at how the economy is doing. When the economy is struggling, the incumbent loses. When the economy is thriving, the incumbent wins. Van Buren was hurt by a poor economy, with many voters out-of-work. Watch out for all those farmers and unemployed factory workers on Election Day!

William Harrison became the first Whig candidate to win the presidency. But as an arrogant man, he insisted on participating in his inauguration in frigid weather, without a coat or hat, and on speaking for over an hour to an outdoor crowd. He caught pneumonia and died a month later.

A president had never died in office before, and uncertainty arose. The Constitution states that "In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President." "Devolve" the powers did onto John Tyler, the Democrat who had long been opposed to what the Whig Party stood for. (Only with the 25th Amendment in 1967 was it fully clarified that the vice president actually became president, rather than merely exercise the powers of the presidency).

Tyler showed his true colors as a Democrat upon becoming President, and vetoed the national bank. This infuriated the Whig Party, which had been formed in order to establish a national bank after Jackson vetoed it. In fact, Tyler vetoed the entire Whig agenda. Within months the Whig Party retaliated by officially expelling him from the Whig Party, and referring to him derisively as "the man without a party" or "His Accidency." Harrison's entire Cabinet, except for Daniel Webster (who was finishing his negotiations of an important treaty with Canada), resigned. Henry Clay from Kentucky was one of those who resigned in disgust.

Tyler did not care. In 1842 he vetoed a tariff, which infuriated the Whigs further. Eventually John Quincy Adams, the former president, led an impeachment effort against Tyler based on his veto. That effort failed, but it illustrated how little some congressmen thought of him. No one had tried to impeach a president before. Congress also overrode one of Tyler's vetoes with a 2/3rd majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, which was the first time that ever happened.

Tyler lasted just one term. In fact, every president from Van Buren until the Civil War lasted only one term, as the nation became increasingly divided.

The Alamo

America was still expanding, and eventually this caused conflict with Mexico, which became free from Spain in 1821. Texas (an area much larger than the modern state) was Mexico's territory.

Mexico began to "steal" American citizens, by giving them land when they became Mexican citizens and encouraged their friends to do the same. Thousands of settlers from the United States became Mexican citizens.

But Mexico was quite lax in controlling its territory in Texas, and the settlers revolted in 1836. They declared that Texas was independent from Mexico and drafted their own constitution.

In the famous Battle of the Alamo, a few thousand soldiers from Mexico defeated just 165 Texans at the Alamo. This battle became famous, as did the cry "Remember the Alamo!".

Shortly thereafter, Texas wrote a formal declaration of independence. Eager to gain land and fame, many Americans moved to Texas and helped defeat the Mexicans. Thus, Texas became the independent "Lone Star Republic."

Many of the citizens in Texas wished to become part of the United States, and Andrew Jackson, who was president at the time, also supported the annexation of Texas. Nevertheless, opposition by Mexico prevented Texas from being annexed.

The Whigs did not want to annex Texas, and Jackson was afraid that if he annexed Texas, his successor, Martin Van Buren, would not be elected. Abolitionists were also upset because Texas would be another slave state - its constitution permitted slavery.

In the end, Tyler was the first president to attempt to annex Texas. Unfortunately, he ruined his chances by declaring that slavery would be good for Texas. When the treaty came to the Senate, it did not initially pass.

1840s: Social Movements, Manifest Destiny and Westward Expansion

The 1840s was a decade of expansion and social change for the growing United States. Counting California, which joined the Union in 1850, five new states were added to the United States: Florida, Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin and California. This included the two largest states in area in the continental United States (California and Texas), and what are now three of the four largest in population (California, Texas and Florida). This was the greatest addition of new states since the 1810s. The nation as we know it today was taking shape.

A widespread belief in "Manifest Destiny" was driving this growth. Manifest Destiny was the concept that westward expansion was part of God's plan for the United States to spread out over the continent, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Americans believed that exploration and expansion was a mission from God.

In 1842, the United States resolved some minor disputes with Canada (still a British colony) over the location of the U.S.-Canadian border. Known as the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, this resolved the location of the northern border of Maine, agreed on the location of the border in the Great Lakes (and shared use of those Lakes), and affirmed the use of the 49 degrees latitude as the border heading west. Daniel Webster, then the Secretary of State (who otherwise was a prominent Senator), signed the Treaty for the United States and the U.S. Senate ratified it as required by the Constitution.

At around the same time settlers began to move westward in large groups, traveling on the Oregon Trail. Beginning in 1843, Americans became fascinated with the Oregon territory, and 1000 pioneers traveled all the way from Missouri to Willamette Valley (a trip that took 4 to 6 months then). The Oregon Trail stretched for 2000 miles and many settlers spent a full six months traveling along it. Missionaries traveled in order to minister to the Indians far and wide.

Others went westward in a search for gold, and the "gold rush" that began in 1848 and hit a fever pitch in 1849, attracting many to California (the football team the "San Francisco 49ers" is named after those settlers).

Half of the Oregon territory, which included the current states of Oregon and Washington, was controlled by the British. In 1846 the Oregon Treaty settled the disputes between America and Britain, giving most of the Oregon territory to the United States.

Along with the expansion and migration came great social change in the older portions of the United States. Utopian communities thrived in the 1840s to pursue idealistic societies, often based on common religious beliefs and sharing homes and property. The homeschooling movement today could be compared with the movements in the 1840s, though homeschooling is more of a concept than a centralized community having shared property. Examples of Utopian communities in the 1840s (and earlier) were the Shakers, Brook Farm, the Rappites, and the Oneida Community:[3]

  • The Shakers, whose formal name was the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming, believed in communal living (people sharing each other's homes and property), productive labor, celibacy, pacifism, simplicity, and ritualistic dancing and shaking during services. It was founded by an Englishwoman in 1758, split off from the Quakers in 1772, and grew to 6,000 members in America before the Civil War. The Shakers rejected slavery and other aspects of American life, and had thriving communities in Enfield, Connecticut and in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Other Shaker communities existed in Kentucky, New Hampshire, New York (New Lebanon) ... and Maine (New Glochester), where Shakers survive to this day!
  • Brook Farm was a Utopian community based on "transcendentalism", which was a philosophy started by Immanuel Kant in the late 1700s that emphasized man's ability to "transcend" experience and pursue a lifestyle of simple living, self-reliance, and rejection of industrialization. This movement took inspiration from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was the leading American proponent of this philosophy (without himself living in a Utopian community), and his friend Henry David Thoreau, who did spend some time living in simplicity on "Walden's Pond," except when he went over to his friend Emerson's house to enjoy a good meal and better surroundings! (Thoreau also became famous for his book advocating "civil disobedience" to laws and authority.) Brook Farm itself was located in Suffolk County, Massachusetts and was led by a former Unitarian minister. The community provided to all members, their children and family dependents the following: housing, fuel, wages, clothing and food. It also had schools at all levels before college. This project ended in failure due to financial difficulties and even a bitter lawsuit by investors attempting to recover their money. This community never exceeded 120 persons, making it smaller than most homeschooling communities today.
  • The Rappites, also known as The Harmony Society, were founded by Johann Georg Rapp and first consisted of immigrants from Germany seeking religious freedom in America. They settled in Butler County, Pennsylvania, called Harmony, and believed that the Bible was humanity's sole authority. Similar to the Shakers, they required celibacy also led a communal life without individual possessions. Frederick Rapp, George Rapp's adopted son, transformed the economy of Harmony from subsistence agriculture to gradual diversified manufacturing, and by 1814 the Society was thriving with 700 members and a town of 130 homes and factories. The products they produced, ranging from textiles to woolens to wine and whiskey, were highly valued by other Americans for their quality. They continued to succeed economically, and repeatedly outgrew their towns, moving to Indiana (after selling their first town for $100,000 to Mennonites) and later back to Pennsylvania. They peaked in 1866 and, after several schisms, disbanded in 1905. Their sturdy buildings remain to this day.
  • The Oneida Community in Madison County, New York, was an abolitionist movement founded by the minister John Humphreys Noyes. He preached the radical view that perfection was attainable in this life, and his followers became known as "Perfectionists". Unfortunately, he also preached a concept of "complex marriage," whereby men and women married in groups such that every man in the group was married to every woman in the group, and children were raised by everyone. "Bible communism" resulted in no individual property either. A 1879 meeting of ministers in Syracuse, New York, condemned the settlement, and unrest caused Noyes to flee to Canada.

The decline of all the Utopian communities has been attributed to increased industrialization and hostility by a broader public to the concept. Inflammatory newspaper articles played a role as the public became reliant on secular sources for information. But historians have concluded that "religious utopian colonies possessed a longer life then their secular counterparts."[3] Most of the Utopian communities have remnants that are preserved today and can be visited.

In addition to the Utopian communities, there were key social and religious movements in or around the 1840s that resulted from the culmination of the Second Great Awakening, which swept America from 1790 to 1840:

  • the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormon Church), the only major church founded in America, was established in 1830 by Joseph Smith in western New York. He then moved to Ohio, and then Nauvoo, Illinois, where it thrived so much that it became the largest town in Illinois in 1844 (even bigger than Chicago). The movement banned alcohol and emphasized hard work and entrepreneurship. But in 1844 an anti-Mormon newspaper (the "Nauvoo Expositor") began harshly criticizing the church, and city council responded by shutting down the newspaper, which in turn led to a backlash causing the imprisonment of Mayor Joseph Smith. While in jail, Joseph Smith (and his brother) was killed by a mob that was unlawfully allowed to enter the prison. Brigham Young became the next leader of this church within a few years, and led the 70,000-person Mormon community on a 1,300-mile migration to establish a new state in the west, then part of Mexico but now Utah. Today the Mormon Church is the fourth largest church denomination in the United States, after the Catholics, Baptists and Methodists.[4]
  • The Seventh Day Adventist Church began 1844, when a prediction of the end of the world based on a biblical interpretation did not happen (the so-called "Great Disappointment"). This new Christian religion emphasizes observance of the Sabbath on Saturday (hence its name), adherence to the Bible, and preparation for the second coming of Christ. The Seventh Day Adventists also developed an approach to good health that included building hospitals, such as the main hospital today in Hackettstown, New Jersey.
  • Women's rights began as a social movement in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, where the first women's rights convention was held. The assembly drafted a Declaration of Sentiments that called for granting women the right to vote, which they did not have at the time. Separately, in 1849, the English-born Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to receive a medical degree in America, which she obtained from Geneva College in New York.
  • In 1840, the first anti-slavery party (called the "Liberty Party") formed. It lasted until 1848, when it merged with opponents of slavery in the Whig and Democratic Parties in order to form another anti-slavery party, the stronger Free-Soil party.
  • In 1842, the union workers' movement obtained a key court ruling in their favor from the Massachusetts Supreme Court, in Commonwealth v. Hunt. That decision held that it was legal for workers to organize a union and to strike. Union power was greatly increased by this ability to strike (and shut down a factory) when the employer does not give into union demands. Some blame the collapse of the American automobile industry today and the current depression in Michigan on an abuse by unions of their great power.

James K. Polk and War with Mexico

The Democrats officially won back the presidency with James Polk, who was supported by the still-popular Jackson. Polk was the hardest-working president ever, and even died from exhaustion soon after leaving office after serving only one term. He was also the first "dark horse" candidate, which means that no one expected him even to win the nomination of his Democratic Party. He was nominated to run for president only after the leading contenders were all rejected by the delegates to the Democratic National Convention. In fact, Polk had gone to the convention hoping at most to be the vice presidential candidate for Martin Van Buren, but former President Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party favored Polk instead of renominating Van Buren.

Polk's opponent in the presidential race was the Whig Party leader Henry Clay, who scoffed at how little-known Polk was. Clay and his supporters began to ask rhetorically, "Who is Polk?"[5] Polk responded to the criticism by championing Manifest Destiny (and expansion of the nation's territory). He supported annexing Texas (which would be a slave state) to acquire southern support and supporting adding Oregon as a free state to gain northern votes. The issue of Texas had become so important to Americans that Polk won on a platform of annexing Texas to the United States, and more generally on his pro-expansion position.

Polk's presidency had these achievements:

  • instigated, fought and won the Mexican War (also called the Mexican-American War) (ended in 1848 with the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo)
  • annexed Texas (1845)
  • settled dispute with British (Canada) by establishing the northwest boundary in Oregon Treaty (1846)
  • reduced tariffs
  • reestablished an independent treasury (bank)
  • admitted Iowa as a free state in 1846 (under the Missouri Compromise), with Iowa having the highest percentage of farmland of any state
  • set off the gold rush by announcing there was gold in California (1849)

To Polk's credit, he really did what he said he would, unlike most politicians. He achieved the greatest territorial expansion of the United States (excluding the later acquisition of Alaska). Polk acquired the territory covered by the future states of Texas, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Washington, and Oregon, and portions of Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, and Montana.

Even though Texas won its own independence from Mexico in 1836, President Martin van Buren did not annex Texas to the United States because Mexico had threatened war should annexation happen. President John Tyler negotiated a Treaty of Annexation, but that caused Mexico to cut off diplomatic relations. The Senate refused to ratify this Treaty. Only after Polk won the presidential election of 1844 by promising to annex Texas was the Senate willing to ratify the Treaty, which the Senate did just prior to Polk's inauguration. Texas then joined the United States on December 29, 1845.

Mexico did not declare war as it threatened, but the relationship remained very tense and the border between Texas and Mexico was hotly disputed. Texas claimed that its state included much of (what is today) New Mexico and Colorado, and the western and southern portions of (what is today) Texas itself. Mexico claimed that Texas was much smaller, with its border on the Nueces River slightly north of the Rio Grande.

President Polk wanted all the land for the United States. In July 1845, he sent the commander of the U.S. Army in Texas, Zachary Taylor, to take his troops into the disputed land between the Nueces and Rio Grande rivers. In November, Polk sent Congressman John Slidell to Mexico in order to purchase the disputed area, and acquire (what is now) New Mexico and California. This effort, known as the Slidell mission, had failed by May 1846.

Following the failure of Slidell's mission in May 1846, Polk tried a different approach: find a reason to declare a war. Polk told Congress that Mexico had attacked Taylor's army on American (Texas) soil, shedding American blood there. Congress reacted by giving Polk the declaration of war Polk sought, on May 13, 1846. Even since it has been disputed where the American blood was actually shed. Was it on undisputed American soil, meaning that Mexico was wrong, or on Mexican soil, meaning that Americans were the aggressor? The official account of the United States Department of State blames ... the United States:[6]

The President neglected to inform Congress, however, that the Mexicans had used force only after Taylor's troops had positioned themselves on the banks of the Rio Grande River, which was effectively Mexican territory.

But that account is debatable, and may simply reflect a modern spin. President Polk was not otherwise known to be a liar. However, a congressman at the time, Abraham Lincoln, was a Whig (and thus opposed to Polk), and he also questioned whether the blood had really been shed on American soil. In December 1847, Lincoln introduced the "Spot Resolutions" into Congress to challenge the "spot" claimed by Polk to start the war. The Whigs opposed the war for its two-year duration; so did leading intellectuals in Massachusetts like Henry David Thoreau.

Mystery: Where was the American blood shed that started the Mexican War, on American or Mexican soil?

Debate: Is it ever justified for a President to lie to Congress to accomplish a goal sought by Americans?

The U.S. Army pushed into Mexico to win this war. In September 1847, the United States captured Mexico City. Then Nicholas Trist, chief clerk of the Department of State and Polk's emissary to negotiate a peace treaty, began discussions with the Mexican Government just as Slidell had done the prior year. President Polk grew angry with Trist, however, for offering terms of peace that Polk thought were too generous to Mexico. Meanwhile, Trist had became a close friend of General Winfield Scott, who was a member of the opposite Whig Party and thought to be planning to run against Polk for the presidency. Worse, the war caused the Democrats (who wanted to expand slavery) to demand for complete annexation of Mexico.

Polk essentially fired Trist in October, demanding that he return to Washington, D.C. Trist ignored this "recall order" and entered into the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, signing it with Mexico in Mexico City on February 2, 1848. This Treaty provided that:

  • the Texas-Mexico border is set at the Rio Grande River as Polk originally sought
  • Mexico granted to the United States about 525,000 square miles (55% of its prewar territory)
  • the United States would pay Mexico $15 million
  • the United States government would pay off up to $3.25 million worth of debts owed by Mexico to U.S. citizens, relieving Mexico of those obligations

Polk was unhappy with the terms of this Treaty. He wanted even more Mexican territory. But he felt he had little choice other than submit this Treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification, which it did on March 10, 1848 by a margin of 38 to 14. The 2/3rd minimum required for ratification was 2/3rd of 52, or 35. The Treaty had passed by a margin of only 4 votes.

Soon after the war began in 1846, Congressman David Wilmot introduced a rider (Aug. 1846) to an appropriations bill stipulating that "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist" in any territory acquired from this war. Southern senators (especially South Carolina Senator John Calhoun) blocked this "Wilmot Proviso," but its concept was so powerful that it captured the abolutionist sentiment all the way until (and through) the Civil War. The Wilmot Proviso had an influence on politics much as the call to stop abortion (and overturn Roe v. Wade) does today.

In addition to all of Polk's accomplishments in adding territory, he also had a habit if seeing every single visitor that came to the White House! Still a young man, Polk died shortly after leaving office of an exhaustion-induced illness.

Taylor, Fillmore and the Compromise of 1850

When 1848 rolled around, Americans were ready to elect another war hero: Zachary Taylor. The Whig Party, hurting from its defeat in 1844, figured it could win in 1848 by nominating a popular general who had fought the Mexicans. General Zachary Taylor was the man, and he won.

The Whig Party was helped in the election of 1848 by a split in the Democratic Party over the slavery issue. Voters who opposed slavery had abandoned the otherwise pro-slavery Democrats. The anti-slavery Democrats were known as the "Barnburners" (i.e., burning down their own "barn" or political party by leaving), while the loyal Democrats were known as "Hunkers" (i.e., their mindset was to "hunker down" and stay the pro-slavery course).

Zachary Taylor did not last long. He died after only one year in office. His sole contribution was to encourage New Mexico and California to apply for admission to the United States as a free (rather than slave) state. Remember that Taylor was a Whig, and the Whig Party tended to side with the northerners and against slavery.

Taylor's vice president, Millard Fillmore, succeeded him in office, the second time a vice president replaced a president due to his death. Fillmore, who was from New York, was an average American who had been born in a log cabin, and who succeeded through hard work.[7] He then played a key part in passing the Compromise of 1950, one of the most important pieces of legislation in the entire 19th century.

The Compromise of 1950 admitted California as a state, and established that the South had the right to bring slaves into the United State's Southwest Territories. The Compromise also abolished the slave trade in D.C., although slavery itself was allowed to continue. Specifically, this Compromise enacted the following in a series of separate laws:

  • admitted California as a free state
  • the South had the right to bring slaves into the Southwest territories
  • slave trade was abolished in D.C., but slavery was not
  • enacted tougher federal fugitive slave laws and strictly enforced them (Clay pushed this through the Senate)
  • Texas received $10M to pay off its debt in return for accepting a narrower western boundary and give up claims to New Mexico and others

Senators Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and Stephen Douglas argued for this Compromise; South Carolina (and pro-slavery) John Calhoun was against it.

The Fugitive Slave Act was particularly offensive to northerners and especially outrageous to abolitionists. It amended the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 in order to appoint federal commissioners to catch slaves who fled to northern states, without giving them due process.

President Franklin Pierce and the Kansas-Nebraska Act

The slavery issue had become so divisive by the election of 1852 that it was almost impossible for a political party to nominate anyone with strong views on it. Instead, political parties turned more to "dark horse" nominees whose positions were not so clear, and thus not so objectionable to one side or the other. That enabled them to appear to be more electable without having taken a stand.

The Whig Party, with its concentration in the North, collapsed over the slavery issue, as the pro- and anti-slavery members went in different directions. The Democratic Party, which was more the party of the South, nominated the dark horse candidate Franklin Pierce in 1852. He had been quietly pro-slavery, and he won the presidential election because of the Whig Party was no longer strong enough to oppose him.

The Compromise of 1850 resulted in a brief respite from the divisive conflict. In 1853, when Pierce became president, he tried hard to prevent further conflict from breaking out, but he could not control the conflict any better than anyone else.

In 1854, Senator Stephen Douglas pushed through the Senate the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Historians consider this ill-advised law to be the greatest single step towards Civil War. It replaced Missouri Compromise with Douglas's concept of "popular sovereignty" for new territories, whereby each new region could decide for itself whether to allow slavery. This ended up causing mini-wars over the issue, especially in Kansas. This Act repealed the Missouri Compromise and reopened the question of slavery in the West, particularly Kansas.

Furious, anti-slavery activists founded the Republican Party in 1854 in order to:

  • stop the expansion of slavery
  • repeal the Kansas-Nebraska Act
  • repeal the Fugitive Slave Law
  • end slavery in D.C.

In other words, the Republican Party of today was founded in 1854 on the moral grounds of ending slavery. Early leaders of the Republican Party included the abolitionists Charles Sumner and George Julian, the Free-Soiler Salmon Chase, and conservative members of the Whig Party.

Pierce would only last one term as president. In 1854 the future President James Buchanan was working as a diplomat (which enabled him to avoid divisive domestic issues). As a diplomat Buchanan issued the Ostend Manifesto, in which he told Spain sell Cuba to the United States or lose it by force. This was a failure and caused negative feelings.

"Bleeding Kansas"

The Republican Party was founded in 1854 in a reaction and opposition to the concept of "popular sovereignty" pushed into law by Douglas in the Kansas-Nebraska Act. "Popular sovereignty" meant that each new territory should make its own decision, by popular vote, whether to allow slavery. The new Republican Party took its name from Jefferson's Republican Party because, like Jefferson, the new Republican Party opposed slavery in the new territories. The Party brought in Whigs and members of the small "Free Soil Party," which had been based on the Wilmot Proviso (which passed the House but not the Senate). The Wilmot Proviso stated that none of the territory acquired from Mexico should be opened to slavery.

Almost immediately after enactment of popular sovereignty in the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), it was put to the test in 1855 in Kansas. Civil war in Kansas broke out between free and slave forces. In early 1856, pro-slavery forces burned down the "Free State Hotel" and destroyed the offices and presses of antislavery newspapers. A man was killed.

In retaliation, the fanatical white John Brown took four of his sons and two others and went to Pottawatomie in Kansas and executed five (5) pro-slavery colonists. This event became known as the Pottawatomie Massacre. Unlike most abolitionists, Brown supported violent action against slavery. As time went on, more and more blood was shed in Kansas.

In the "Crime against Kansas" speech, an abolitionist Senator from Massachusetts Charles Sumner described the slave oligarchy and insulted and humiliated the absent and elderly Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina. In retaliation, Butler's nephew, Preston Butler, who was a congressman, went into Sumner's chambers and beat him senseless with a cane. It took Sumner many years to recover. Preston Butler immediately resigned but became such a hero to the South that he was unanimously reelected by his district.

This entire conflict in Kansas over slavery in the 1850s was called "Bleeding Kansas" because of the violence that occurred on both sides.

The Lecompton Constitution was an effort to stop the violence in Kansas. This pro-slavery document was designed as a response to the positions of the abolitionists. The Lecompton Constitution never took effect as it was first rejected by Congress and then defeated by a referendum (vote) in the state of Kansas.

By the end of his Administration, Pierce could claim "a peaceful condition of things in Kansas." But the Democrats refused to renominate him for a campaign for a second term, turning to the less controversial James Buchanan. Pierce returned to New Hampshire, leaving his successor to face the rising fury of the sectional whirlwind. He died in 1869.

Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln: Irreconcilably Different

But real leaders were arising outside of the presidency: Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. Douglas was the Jacksonian Democrat, while Lincoln was initially the anti-Jackson Whig. Everything between President Jackson (1836) and the Civil War (1861) can be understood through the eyes of Douglas and Lincoln. Both were from Illinois, a state that was ideologically in the middle between the North and the South.

Illinois was a key state because it was just across the Mississippi river from Missouri, which was a slave state under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. There was a good deal of violence there leading up to the Civil War.

Elijah Lovejoy was a pastor in St. Louis, and in 1837, he started a newspaper called the St. Louis Observer which published articles against slavery. The opposition to his paper was so great that he had to move to Alton, Illinois. There, he kept publishing articles against slavery.

But the opposition didn't cease, and Lovejoy's printing press was thrown into the river three times. The Ohio Anti-Slavery Society gave him a new printing press, and local slave owners decided to destroy it. A mob came over from St. Louis and Lovejoy was killed trying to protect his press. This violence shocked the North.

From this history arose the political rivalry of Lincoln and Douglas, one of the greatest rivalries in all of American history. Lincoln and Douglas were opposites in every possible way. Lincoln was very tall, while Douglas was very short. Lincoln had lots of dark hair, Douglas had thinning gray hair. Lincoln was initially a Whig, Douglas was a Democrat. Lincoln was a wealthy attorney for the powerful Railroads. Douglas was a government attorney for the State. Both were extremely ambitious, constantly running for public office. Both were smarter than most in politics, and both were superb public speakers (unlike, for example, Jefferson, who avoided public speaking). Truth be told, Douglas was an even better public speaker than Lincoln; Douglas was more compelling in style, and funnier.

Originally inspired by President Andrew Jackson, Douglas quickly became leader of the Illinois Democratic Party. Douglas was elected at the young age of 22 to be the state's top attorney. By age 28 he became an Illinois Supreme Court Justice; by age 29 he was elected to the House of Representatives in Congress. At age 34 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, and won every reelection until he died in office. In the U.S. Senate, he became very powerful and earned the nickname "Little Giant." His speeches would attract huge crowds in the galleries of the Senate. Politically, he was virtually unbeatable.

As a Jacksonian Democrat, Douglas favored Manifest Destiny and acquiring as much property westward as possible. The Mexican War was a way to obtain more property, so he favored it in the mid-1840s.

At the same time, Abraham Lincoln was rising as a Whig in Illinois. While Douglas won virtually every election he was in, Lincoln lost virtually every election he entered. But he kept trying, again and again. Unlike Douglas, Lincoln opposed the Mexican War because the Whigs saw it as a way for the South to gain more slave territory. Lincoln disputed the claim that Mexicans had shed American blood on American soil, and introduced the "Spot Resolutions" in Congress disputing where the bloodshed occurred.

On economic issues, Lincoln sought national unity (remember, he represented railroads). Douglas did not care much for economic issues, but also wanted to keep the nation together.

Consider for yourself which person, Lincoln or Douglas, is likely to be more sympathetic to slavery? Is either going to be entirely pro-slave or abolitionist? No, both were in the middle on the slavery issue, neither entirely for or against slavery.

Both Lincoln and Douglas looked for ways to avoid the coming Civil War. Many Americans, beginning with Jefferson, started to worry about how slavery was ripping the country apart. Jefferson used to wake up in a cold sweat after having nightmares about the tragic future that the United States faced over the issue.

In 1858, Lincoln and Douglas ran against each another for Senate. Their debates that year became known as the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, and they dealt primarily with slavery. In the end, Douglas won the race by a vote in the legislature (at that time legislatures, not the public, picked the U.S. Senators). But Lincoln gained valuable publicity which helped him succeed later. The presidential debates that are held today were inspired by the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

The Debate over Slavery

The debate over slavery was a prolonged battle with many people involved.

In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, a novel which criticizes slavery by painting a realistic picture of life as a slave. The book had an enormous impact on public sentiment and the Civil War.

Dred Scott v. Sanford was a Supreme Court case in 1857, which ruled that blacks have no rights and cannot sue. It also established that Congress cannot free slaves ("property") from slaveowners. Through this decision, the court sought to put an end to the questions about slavery, but the exact opposite occured. The Dred Scott case greatly heightened conflict and outrage about slavery.

The Dred Scott decision played a part in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Lincoln asked Douglas if a territory could exclude slavery under the decision. Douglas said that a territory could exclude slavery if it created laws which made it impossible to enforce slavery. This was consistent with his idea of "popular sovereignty", which eventually caused South to turn against Douglas.

Others resorted to violent means to end the disagreement over slavery. In 1859, John Brown [8] led a raid on Harper's Ferry. Brown hoped that his actions would spark a slave rebellion in Virginia. But Brown was caught and tried and hanged.

This is the toughest question of the entire course: Could the Civil War have been avoided? Historians just took a poll on the biggest presidential blunders. At the top of the list is the failure of President James Buchanan for keeping the Union together just prior to the Civil War. What do you think?

The Whig Party broke up over slavery: the northern, abolitionist Whigs founded the Republican Party, and the southern, pro-slavery Whigs (such as wealthy plantation owners) joined the Democratic Party.

James Buchanan

In 1857, the new Democratic President Buchanan deferred to popular sovereignty, and tried to get Kansas admitted as a slave state. The “Dred Scott” decision was the Supreme Court’s attempt to resolve it: the Court held that African-Americans have no rights in the United States. This was an outrageous, shocking decision. Buchanan had been overseas during most of the bitter disputes over slavery. Northerners accused him of agreeing secretly with Supreme Court Justices to render a decision in favor of the South.

The Panic of 1857 caused financial panic throughout the United States when the New York City branch of Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Co. failed. It caused a sudden recession in the economy, but recovery came quickly afterward.

In 1858, Lincoln said in a speech before the Republican state convention: "a house divided against itself cannot stand," quoting the Bible. He copied the application of this concept to slavery from many others who had used it previously. Douglas, a master debater, elicited a chuckle from the crowd when he said he would speak without claiming the expertise implied by Lincoln's quotation of biblical verse.

Two new states were added to the Union while Buchanan served as president: Minnesota was admitted in 1858, and Oregon was admitted in 1859.

The Election of 1860

Lincoln became the “Rail Candidate” for president in 1860 because he opposed slavery in the territories but accepted it (as the Constitution did) in the South. He “rode the rail” of that principle right to the White House. As a former attorney for the railroads, the image stuck to him.

In 1856, he had switched from Whig to Republican, and this may have helped him when he won the election of 1860.

Douglas lost the support of both the North and South due to his “Freeport Doctrine,” which was a position he took in a debate with Lincoln at Freeport, Illinois in their contest for U.S. Senate from Illinois (in which Lincoln won the popular vote, but Douglas was chosen by the Illinois legislature to be the Senator, as was the practice then). After the Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott decision that a slave is property who cannot be taken away from the slave owner, Lincoln asked Douglas, “Can the people of a United States Territory, in any lawful way, against the wish of any citizen of the United States, exclude slavery from its limits prior to the formation of a State Constitution?” In his answer, Douglas adopted a position in the middle between Lincoln’s view that slavery should not be allowed in territories and the Supreme Court’s view that slavery must be protected everywhere as property. Douglas said that the people in each territory can decide whether to allow slavery, and if they prohibited it then as a practical matter the slave owner could not keep a slave there. This angered the South and also further alienated Douglas from the North. Douglas could then win only one state, Missouri, in the presidential election of 1860. Lincoln coasted to victory in the presidential election.

Lincoln served for two terms and his administration was a prolonged struggle to save the Union. In 1862, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Question:Why did the South think it could win the Civil War?[9]

The North and South: Strengths and Weaknesses

The South had a feeling of invincibility from its tremendous economy, which was based on high prices for “King Cotton” and other crops, such as tobacco and sugar cane. The South also felt that the North lacked a will to fight and, if it did, Britain and France would recognize and help the South due to their dependence on its exports like cotton, tobacco, rice and sugar cane. The South also had strategic advantages: controlled the mouth of the Mississippi and need only defend rather than conquer. The South considered its men in much better condition to fight. The South had better generals, and would have done far better had its generals like Stonewall Jackson not died in battle.

But the North benefited from the railroad system, heavy immigration and a much more balanced economy. Opposition to immigration, in the 1850s had arisen in the North through the American (Know-Nothing) Party, which roused popular fears about the Irish Catholics flooding into America. But the greater numbers from immigration ended up helping the North in the war. The North also had control of the United States Navy, which proved to be useful.

What Else Happened in the 1850s?

While the conflict over slavery dominated much of American history during the 1850s, it was not all that happened. Many people, particularly in the North, went about their daily business while paying little attention to the slavery conflict. Even during the Civil War, students in colleges in the North were competing in sports like rowing as though there was not even a war going on.

In the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty in 1850, the United States agreed with Britain that neither nation would obtain exclusive control over an interoceanic canal joining the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The 1850s also brought a new type of ship called the Clipper. These ships were longer and faster than their predecessors. They greatly enhanced shipping and increased the trade in port cities.

German and Irish immigrants came in large numbers before and during the 1850s. In the 1850 census, 10% of the male population over 23 was foreign born, mostly from Germany and Ireland. The Know-Nothing Party, mentioned above was an anti-immigration, anti-Catholic organization, popular in the 1850s. This party cleverly adopted each local region's view of slavery to become popular in many states.

President Fillmore sent Matthew Perry to Japan to negotiate a treaty allowing open borders. The mission was successful.

The Ostend Manifesto of 1854 was a government plan that if Spain refused to sell Cuba, then America would take it by force.

During this period, the Transatlantic cable/telegraph was created. The first cable across the ocean was finished in 1858, but high voltage damaged it. In 1866, a better cable was completed and lasted for some time.

Antebellum (pre-Civil War) State Admissions

1-11. Colonies ratifying the Constitution before George Washington became president
12. North Carolina: November 21, 1789
13. Rhode Island: May 29, 1790
14. Vermont: March 4, 1791
15. Kentucky: June 1, 1792
16. Tennessee: June 1, 1796
17. Ohio: March 1, 1803
18. Louisiana: April 30, 1812
19. Indiana: December 11, 1816
20. Mississippi: December 10, 1817
21. Illinois: December 3, 1818
22. Alabama: December 14, 1819
23. Maine: March 15, 1820
24. Missouri: August 10, 1821
25. Arkansas: June 15, 1836
26. Michigan: Jan 26, 1837
27. Florida: March 3, 1845
28. Texas: December 29, 1845
29. Iowa: December 28, 1846
30. Wisconsin: May 29, 1848
31. California: September 9, 1850
32. Minnesota: May 11, 1858
33. Oregon: February 14, 1859
34. Kansas: January 29, 1861

References

  1. Answer: 1, 1, 1, 1 – this sequence represents the number of terms that each president (including his vice president if he died) served, starting with George Washington.
  2. George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson.
  3. 3.0 3.1 http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/amana/utopia.htm
  4. http://www.ncccusa.org/news/080215yearbook1.html
  5. http://www.americaslibrary.gov/cgi-bin/page.cgi/aa/presidents/polk/horse_1
  6. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/time/dwe/16336.htm
  7. http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/mf13.html
  8. John Brown had previously killed 5 men in Kansas, as explained in our section on "Bleeding Kansas."
  9. It assumed that Britain would come to its aid because it was an important manufacturer of cotton. But the South didn't take into account that Britain already got plenty of cotton from India, and thus could do without American cotton.