James K. Polk was the representative of Tennessee for fourteen years. He was a supporter of expansion in the West. Democrats wanted someone who would be in favor of expansion so they nominated Polk. In the election, he won by electoral votes but had a low popular majority of votes. When he got into office, he had his mind set on two goals: re-occupation of Oregon and re-annexation of Texas. John Tyler already won the approval for Texas so all Polk had to do was get Oregon. Oregon was British property so Polk made a compromise with them. He wanted the US-Canadian border to be moved to the 49th parallel. Finally, after rumors of war, the British government approved.
In the South, the black majority was equal to whites and so the whites feared that the blacks were planning to take over. The whites fear was coming true. During the Reconstruction from the Civil War, black regimes were being formed to fight for their rights. Whites formed secret societies to undermine the regimes using violence and intimidation. The most affective was the Ku Klux Klan who would frighten blacks mentally and physically in order to stop them from voting. The KKK was formed in 1866 and led by General Nathan Bedford Forrest. This organization was kept very secret to make it seem more terrifying. The Republican Congress started to take action by enforcing the Ku Klux Klan Act. This prohibited the states from discriminating against anyone who wants to vote, hold office, and serve on Jury based on their race. If they did not abide by this act, military force was used. Hundreds of Klan members were sent to jail. By 1872, the Klan declined.
Franklin Pierce was a laid back President that spent most of his time drunk. He was nominated by the Democratic Party. He tried to avoid the issue of slavery but never achieved at that goal. The Fugitive Slave Act created riots in the North. Southerners would go to the North to try to take fugitives back to their owners. But the North would not let them take the slaves since they were on free ground. Pierce supported the “Young America” movement. He tried to buy Cuba from Spain but this got the North upset because they did not want another slave state. His attempt to get Cuba failed. He even supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act that eventually caused riots, massacres, and turmoil in the North.
Dred Scott was a Missouri slave. His owner took Scott with him when he moved to a free state. The owner died and Scott sued his owner’s wife for his freedom. John Sanford, the owner’s wife brother, claimed ownership of Scott. He argued that Scott could not sue since he is private property and does not have the rights of citizenship. This case became known as the Dred Scott Decision and the Supreme Court decided to handle this case. Chief Justice, Roger Taney, declared that Scott had no authority to sue since he is considered private property. The Fifth Amendment prohibited Congress from taking property without “due process of law.”
The Gettysburg battle was a victory for the Union. Lee, Confederate leader, took a gamble going up North and entered Pennsylvania. The Union stayed parallel with the Confederates. The two sides meet up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with the Confederates being outnumbered. The Union leader, Meade, held his army strong on the hills of the town. Whoever has control over Little Roundtop will have control over the battle. Lee’s first charge was a failed attempt. His second charged was named, Pickett’s Charge. The Confederates ran in open Union fire across a mile of open field. Only 5,000 of the Confederate army made it to the top where they surrendered and retreated. On July 4, Lee withdrew after losing a third of his army and the surrender of Vicksburg. Withdraw from Gettysburg was one of the major turning points during the war. This defeat was the consequence of having an aggressive, condescending leader.