1. The Mexican Cession lands opened a "can of worms" with the question, "What should be done about slavery in these lands?"
2. Further, with this question, the political parties (Whig and Democrat) were put into a tricky position. No matter which way they answered, half of the nation would be offended.
1. Largely, the parties simply chose to side-step the slavery-expansion question (give no clear answer) so as to offend no one, hopefully.
3. In the election of 1848, Polk was ailing and would not run again.
1. The Democrats nominated Gen. Lewis Cass who'd spoken previously for popular sovereignty (the people of a territory should decide and issue for themselves).
2. The popular sovereignty position was well-liked by politicians since it enabled them to take a neutral stance and rather say, "Let the people decide." During the campaign, however, he kept rather silent on slavery.
Sectional Balance and the Underground Railroad
1. By 1850, the South and slavery was on solid ground because (a) the president (Zachary Taylor) was a Virginia slave owner born/raised in Louisiana, (b) though outnumbered in the House, the South had equality in the Senateand could therefore block any unwanted laws, and (c) the Constitution favored the South (this would later be upheld in the Dred Scott case).
2. Even though on solid ground, the South felt they were under attack or upset over the following issues…
1. The proposition of California as a free state threatened the free/slave state balance.
2. Texas had a disputed region, again, this time into the New Mexico/Colorado/Wyoming area.
3. Northerners were pushing hard to abolish slavery in Washington D.C.
4. And most bothersome to the South was the issue of runaway slaves. The Fugitive Slave Law was supposed to "round up" runaways up North and ship them back South. This was largely not being done and the South took it as a personal offense.
1. The Underground Railroad was a secret route from "station to station" that led many slaves to the North and eventually to Canada. Harriet Tubman was the most well-known "conductor" of the "railroad." She snuck back into the South 19 times and led some 300+ slaves to freedom.
3. Breaking the Congressional Logjam
1. Suddenly, Pres. Taylor died. Vice-President Millard Fillmore took over and was more open to compromise.
2. The Compromise of 1850 emerged.
1. Senate leaders Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and Stephen Douglas all urged the North to compromise.
2. Southern "fire-eaters" were still very much a against concession/compromise. Yet, calmer minds prevailed, the South went along, and the Compromise of 1850 passed.
4. Balancing the Compromise Scales This content copyright © 2010 by WikiNotes.wikidot.com
1. What the North got…
1. California admitted as a free state. This tipped the balance to the free side, permanently.
2. Texas gave up its claims to lands disputed with New Mexico.
3. The slave trade in District of Columbia was banned, but slavery was still legal. This was symbolic only. It was symbolic in that the nation’s capital “took a stance” against the trade. However, it was impractical because the trade only was illegal, not slavery, and since a person could easily buy a slave in next-door Virginia.
2. What the South got…
1. Popular sovereignty in the Mexican Cession lands. This was good for the South because prior to this, there was to be no new slave lands (the 36°30’ Missouri Compromise line had drawn that). On paper, this opened a lot of land to slavery, possibly. This was bad for the South because those lands were too dry to raise cotton anyway and therefore would never see slaves.
2. Texas was paid $10 million for the land lost to New Mexico.
3. A new, tougher Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 had read teeth in it. Details held that (a) runaway slaves weren't given "due process" rights if caught, (b) the official that handled the case received $5 for a slave's freedom but $10 for a slave's return, and (c) officials