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AMERICAN CIVIL WAR > 2. Military Series: BATTLE CRY... Feb. 20th ~ Feb. 26th ~~ Chapter TWO (47 - 77); No Spoilers Please

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Hello Everyone,

Welcome all to the second week of the History Book Club's brand spanking new Military Series. We at the History Book Club are pretty excited about this offering and the many more which will follow. The first offering in the new MILITARY SERIES is a wonderful group selected book: Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson.

For the week of February 20th - February 26th, we are reading Chapter TWO p. 47 - 77.

The SECOND week's reading assignment is:

Week Two - February 20th - February 26th -> Chapter TWO p. 47 - 77

We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers. We will also open up supplemental threads as we did for other books.

This book was officially kicked off on February 13th. We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell's and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, or on your Kindle. This weekly thread will be opened up either during the weekend before or on February 20th.

There is no rush and we are thrilled to have you join us. It is never too late to get started and/or to post.

Bryan Craig will be leading this discussion. Bentley will back up Bryan on this book since his family is expecting a new addition.

Welcome,

~Bentley


TO ALWAYS SEE ALL WEEKS' THREADS SELECT VIEW ALL

Battle Cry of Freedom The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson by James M. McPherson James M. McPherson

REMEMBER NO SPOILERS ON THE WEEKLY NON SPOILER THREADS

Notes:

It is always a tremendous help when you quote specifically from the book itself and reference the chapter and page numbers when responding. The text itself helps folks know what you are referencing and makes things clear.

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If an author or book is mentioned other than the book and author being discussed, citations must be included according to our guidelines. Also, when citing other sources, please provide credit where credit is due and/or the link. There is no need to re-cite the author and the book we are discussing however. For citations, add always the book cover, the author's photo when available and always the author's link.

If you need help - here is a thread called the Mechanics of the Board which will show you how:

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2...

Glossary

Remember there is a glossary thread where ancillary information is placed by the moderator. This is also a thread where additional information can be placed by the group members regarding the subject matter being discussed.

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/8...

Bibliography

There is a Bibliography where books cited in the text are posted with proper citations and reviews. We also post the books that the author may have used in his research or in his notes. Please also feel free to add to the Bibliography thread any related books, etc with proper citations or other books either non fiction or historical fiction that relate to the subject matter of the book itself. No self promotion, please.

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/8...

Battle Cry of Freedom The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson by James M. McPherson James M. McPherson


message 2: by Bryan (last edited Feb 20, 2012 07:22AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig Chapter Overview and Summary

Chapter Two: Mexico Will Poison Us


The race to war is on. President Polk added huge territorial gains that included Oregon, California, Texas, and New Mexico. Northern Whigs and Democrats were worried what the affect will be on slavery. In 1846, the Senate blocked the Wilmot Proviso (a rider on the Mexican War appropriation bill) as Southerns were outraged by the idea of banning slavery in the new territory. They used strong rhetoric against the proviso and in the defense of slavery as a system. The proviso really split Congress and the nation into sectional lines. The idea of popular sovereignty was growing, a possible solution where the territory decides for itself whether to have slavery or not.

The 1848 presidential election heightened the divisions. Martin Van Buren and his followers left the Democratic Party, and formed the Free Soil Party. Some Whigs and antislavery Liberty Party members joined the Free Soil Party after the slave owner and southerner, Zachary Taylor, won the nomination. Van Buren was the Free Soil Party candidate, but he lost to Taylor.

The territorial issues became more acute as people flooded California due to the 1849 Gold Rush. Before Polk left office, he wanted to make California and New Mexico a full-fledged territory and extend the Missouri Compromise of 36 degrees 30' line all the way to the Pacific, which added to the firestorm. Taylor considered bringing in California and New Mexico in as free states hoping to end the slavery controversy. Angry Southerners began to harden their position and scheduled a convention of slave-holding states. Henry Clay would advance a series of resolutions called the Compromise of 1850. It would be Clay's last act before he died. William Seward condemned the compromise stating that slavery is doomed and it should not continue. Congress debated the resolutions and many did not like all parts of it, endangering the compromise. Taylor died in office and the new president, Millard Fillmore, who seemed to favor the South, was willing to support a compromise that Taylor opposed. Stephen Douglas broke up the omnibus compromise, so the parts could be passed. The crisis was postponed as Congress passed the resolutions. California could enter as a free state while New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah would be organized without mention of slavery (they can vote for it themselves later), and the slave trade in D.C. was banned. In exchange for the imbalance created by California, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act.


message 3: by Bryan (last edited Feb 20, 2012 06:52AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig A quick background on President James Polk:

Under James Knox Polk, the United States grew by more than a million square miles, adding territory that now composes the states of Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Idaho, Washington, much of New Mexico, and portions of Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado. More than any other President, Polk pursued "Manifest Destiny," a phrase coined by his fellow Jacksonian Democrat, John L. O'Sullivan, to express the conviction that Providence had foreordained the United States to spread its republican institutions across North America. He accomplished every major goal that he set for himself as President and in the process successfully waged war against Mexico, obtaining for the United States most of its present boundaries as a nation.

A man of firm personal principles, he kept his word to retire after a single term, although he easily could have won reelection. Despite Polk's accomplishments, many historians today regard him not as a great president but as one who missed opportunities. He failed to understand the depth of popular emotion over the westward expansion of the South's "peculiar institution." This failure on his part left the issue of slavery unaddressed and thus unresolved at the end of his term in 1849.

Youth and Family

Polk was born on a family farm in North Carolina. When he was ten, his family traveled by covered wagon to the frontier of Tennessee to carve a plantation out of the wilderness. The hardships of the journey damaged Polk's health for the rest of his life.

The Polk family did well financially, ultimately acquiring thousands of acres and more than fifty slaves. Polk was schooled at home and at two Presbyterian schools in Middle Tennessee. At the age of twenty, he continued his education at the University of North Carolina, graduating in 1818. He then returned home to study law under a prominent Nashville lawyer. In 1825, Polk won election to the United States House of Representatives, where he served seven terms.

Building Political Assets

Andrew Jackson enjoyed the support of Polk's father in his unsuccessful 1824 presidential campaign. When Jackson finally won the White House in 1828, Polk proved to be his closest ally in Congress. With Jackson behind him, Polk became the Speaker of the House in 1835, a position he held for four years. He so strongly supported Jackson's initiatives that his colleagues nicknamed him "Young Hickory." In 1839, he was elected governor of Tennessee.

When Polk ran for reelection in 1841, it was a bad time to be a Democrat. The country was in a severe depression, complete with bank failures and farm foreclosures, and the new Whig Party heaped blame on the party of Andrew Jackson. Polk lost the election. After a second defeat at the polls in 1843, Polk turned his attention to the family plantation.

Polk's wife, Sarah Childress, whom he married in 1824, helped him throughout his political career. A wealthy and well-educated Tennessean, she proved to be the perfect political wife of the day, entertaining and mingling easily with people—in contrast to her more reserved husband. When she settled into the life of the Polk plantation after her husband's second gubernatorial defeat, she probably had no idea that her next residence would be the White House.

Surprising Nomination and Close Election

When Democrats convened to select their presidential nominee for the election of 1844, no one expected Polk to emerge at the top of the ticket. Former President Martin Van Buren was the front-runner—but Van Buren had lost to the Whig William Henry Harrison in 1840, and many felt he was too weak a candidate. Moreover, the New Yorker had lost the support of the South due to his opposition to annexing Texas. The convention deadlocked, and prodded by Andrew Jackson, Van Buren threw his delegates behind the nation's first dark horse candidate: James Knox Polk. Opposition Whigs soon asked, "Who is James K. Polk?" In order to answer this question, Polk developed an explicit platform.

With Pennsylvania's George M. Dallas as his running mate, Polk announced his support both for the annexation of Texas and for the "reoccupation" of all of the Oregon Territory, which the United States then jointly occupied with the British between the latitudes of 42° and 54°40'. With his supporters pushing the slogan, "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight," Polk thus balanced the idea of a new slave state (Texas) with the possibility of a new free state (Oregon).

The election was vicious, with slavery and slander at its center. Both Polk and his Whig opponent, Henry Clay, owned slaves, but Clay opposed the annexation of Texas. The emergence of a third party further clouded things, and despite losing his home state of Tennessee Polk ultimately won with the thinnest margin in history.

Territory, Tariffs, and Slavery

Polk soon found himself in a crisis. After acquiring the territory containing present-day Oregon, Washington, and Idaho from the British, he turned his attention to Texas, which had been annexed by President John Tyler in his last days in office in 1845. Responding to Mexican counterclaims, Polk sent U.S. Army troops, under then-Colonel Zachary Taylor, into the disputed area on Texas's southern border. After a clash in late April 1846 between American and Mexican troops in the area, Polk requested and received a declaration of war from Congress. Within sixteen months, U.S. forces drove deep into Mexico, capturing Mexico City in September 1847. In the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the United States imposed a Rio Grande border for Texas and paid $15 million to Mexico for the territories of California and New Mexico.

Domestically, Polk wanted to stabilize the U.S. banking system and to lower tariffs. He also found himself challenged by the Wilmot Proviso, a bill that intended to ban slavery in all territories acquired from Mexico. With fierce maneuvering on all sides, and with Polk opposed to it, the Proviso passed the House repeatedly, but the Senate never concurred. The unresolved status of slavery in the new western territories outlived disputes over banking and the tariff, becoming the most contentious issue facing the United States in the years immediately following Polk's presidency.

Polk kept his promise not to run for a second term and was succeeded in office by the hero of the Mexican War, Zachary Taylor, candidate of the opposition Whig Party and a man whom Polk despised. Less than three months later, Polk was dead, possibly of cholera contracted on a long tour of the southern states. He left most of his estate to his wife, with the request that she free their slaves upon her death. Polk left behind a country that was both larger and weaker—expanded by more than a million square miles but fatally torn over the key issue these new lands had once again brought to the fore: slavery.
(source: http://millercenter.org/president/pol...)


message 4: by Bryan (last edited Feb 20, 2012 07:22AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig A little more information on the important Wilmot Proviso:

From the moment that President James K. Polk asked Congress for troops to fight Mexico in May 1846, northern Whigs charged that he intended to seize land from Mexico so that slavery could be extended into it. Since the Democrats had just annexed the new slave state of Texas to the Union over the unanimous opposition of Whigs, northern Democrats, who well knew the extent of antislavery opposition to that annexation among their northern constituents, feared that this Whig charge could be lethal in the impending 1846 congressional elections if it were not rebutted. Like their southern colleagues, they supported the war and expected to extract some of Mexico's land as a result of it, but they sought to assure the northern public that slavery would not be allowed to expand into any of the acquired territory.

Their opportunity to do so came in the House of Representatives in August 1846 when a freshman Democrat from Pennsylvania named David Wilmot introduced an amendment to an appropriation bill requested by Polk. Famous ever since as the Wilmot Proviso, the amendment stipulated that slavery and involuntary servitude would be barred from all lands acquired from Mexico as a result of the war. At that time and every time it was reintroduced over the next four years, the Wilmot Proviso split both Whigs and Democrats along sectional lines and polarized Northerners and Southerners against each other. It often passed the House, where Northerners who supported it outnumbered the Southerners who opposed it, only to be buried in the Senate, where the two sections had an equal number of seats. By the start of 1850, 14 of 15 northern state legislatures had instructed their states' congressmen to impose the Proviso on any territories organized in the Mexican Cession while increasing numbers of Southerners vowed to secede should Congress ever pass it into law.

Split irreparably over the Proviso itself, both Whigs and Democrats sought a different formula on the territorial/slavery extension issue on which their northern and southern members could reunite. Until the Treaty of Guadelupe-Hidalgo was ratified in March 1848, Whigs rallied behind a demand that no territory whatsoever be taken from Mexico as a result of the war. Democrats endorsed a position known as popular sovereignty which would remove the decision about slavery in the territories from Congress and leave it to the residents who settled in those territories. To preserve unity in the presidential campaign of 1848, moreover, neither Democrats nor Whigs endorsed the Proviso, causing outraged antislavery men in the North to form the new Free Soil party. Its central platform commitment was to congressional prohibition of slavery from all federal territories, a position that Lincoln and the Republican party would adopt in the 1850s.
(Source: http://dig.lib.niu.edu/message/ps-wil...)

More:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilmot_P...


Bryan Craig John Calhoun's response:

John C. Calhoun, the South Carolina statesman, responded with the Calhoun Resolutions, which said that Congress had no right to stop any citizen with slaves in their possession from taking those slaves into one of the territories. If they did so, the Fifth Amendment, which states that no person can be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” would be violated. While this was not made formal legislation either, this belief became the standard in most of the south.
(Source: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/US_Histo...)


message 6: by Bryan (last edited Feb 20, 2012 07:46AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig You truly get a feeling events moving far faster than policy makers. I don't get a sense Polk fully understood what affect bringing in vast pieces of lands would have on north and south.


message 7: by Patricrk (new)

Patricrk patrick | 435 comments Bryan wrote: "You truly get a feeling events moving far faster than policy makers. I don't get a sense Polk fully understood what affect bringing in vast pieces of lands would have on north and south."

I think that is generally true about most things. The true affects of decisions are not really thought out or turn out to be complete surprises. I am thinking here of decisions like Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and how about one Tunisian's decision to burn himself to death because the police confiscated his cart.


message 8: by Bea (last edited Feb 20, 2012 04:42PM) (new) - added it

Bea | 1830 comments I may be dense but after all the history I had in school, it was not until I read this chapter in this book that I truly understood why the territorial expansion of the United States led so directly to the Civil War.

I knew about the Missouri Compromise, etc., of course. What I really didn't "get" until now was that the slave-holding interests felt that they stood to be denied the right to move west with all the opportunities for free lands that would entail. I can now see why passions ran so high over the not so abstract division of lands.


Bryan Craig Patricrk wrote: "Bryan wrote: "You truly get a feeling events moving far faster than policy makers. I don't get a sense Polk fully understood what affect bringing in vast pieces of lands would have on north and so..."

Bea wrote: "What I really didn't "get" until now was that the slave-holding interests felt that they stood to be denied the right to move west with all the opportunities for free lands that would entail. I can now see why passions ran so high over the not so abstract division of lands."


We are really seeing polarization on the slave issue, which makes it more difficult for compromise. Polk, I think, underestimated the climate that was forming.


Bryan Craig The Founding Fathers envisioned the Senate as the "cool collected" body to counter the House where the people had more say and possibly be more volatile.

How do you see the Senate after reading this chapter? What does this say about the slavery issue in general?


message 11: by Bryan (last edited Feb 21, 2012 07:11AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig Zachary Taylor:

A Life in Brief

At the time he became President, Zachary Taylor was the most popular man in America, a hero of the Mexican-American War. However, at a time when Americans were confronting the explosive issue of slavery, he was probably not the right man for the job.

Taylor was a wealthy slave owner who held properties in the plantation states of Louisiana, Kentucky, and Mississippi. During his brief time in office—he died only sixteen months after his election—his presidency foundered over the question of whether the national government should permit the spread of slavery to the present-day states of California, New Mexico, and Utah, then newly won from Mexico. His sudden death put Vice President Millard Fillmore into the White House, and Fillmore promptly threw his support behind the Compromise of 1850, canceling out much of the impact of Taylor's presidency.

Career Soldier, "Indian Fighter," and War Hero

Zachary Taylor was born on November 24, 1784, to a landed family of planters. His family's fortunes grew, and by 1800, they owned 10,000 acres in Kentucky and a number of slaves. He knew as a child that he wanted a military career. In 1808, he received his first commission as an officer, becoming commander of the garrison at Fort Pickering, the site of modern-day Memphis. He was transferred from one frontier post to another in a career that built his professional reputation but made his personal life difficult.

In 1810, he married Margaret Mackall Smith, the daughter of a prominent Maryland family. She followed him from post to post as their four daughters were born. The family finally settled in Louisiana, where Taylor assumed command of the fort at Baton Rouge. Taylor won fame as an "Indian fighter" in the present-day states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida, and Texas. Although he frequently fought Native Americans, he also protected their lands from invading white settlers. He believed that the best solution for coexistence between settlers and Native Americans was a strong military presence to keep the two sides apart.

In 1845, Texas was granted statehood. Mexico disputed lands along the new state's border, and President James Knox Polk ordered Taylor and his troops into the contested area, a deployment that ignited the Mexican-American War. After winning two decisive encounters, Taylor, facing overwhelming odds, triumphed in a battle against the Mexican General Santa Anna at Buena Vista. When the smoke cleared, Taylor's army of 6,000 had defeated a Mexican force of 20,000, and Zachary Taylor, "Old Rough and Ready," as he was known because of his willingness to share his troops' hardships, was a national hero.

The Politics of Slavery

Although Taylor had never divulged his political preferences, after his victory, clubs sprang up to support his presidential candidacy. By then, he was a wealthy slave owner, and the South hoped he would support states' rights and the expansion of slavery into the new areas won from Mexico. The North pointed to his service on the nation's behalf and hoped fervently that he was a Union man.

In fact, Taylor thought of himself as an independent. He differed with the Democrats over the concept of a strong national bank and opposed the extension of slavery into areas where neither cotton nor sugar could be grown. He also had problems with the Whigs' support of strong protective tariffs. Most importantly, he passionately opposed secession as a means of resolving the nation's problems. In the end, he announced that he was a Whig. At their 1848 nominating convention, the Whigs named Taylor for President, adding New York's Millard Fillmore to the ticket to appease those who opposed the nomination of a slave owner and doubted Taylor's commitment to the Whig Party.

On November 7, 1848, the first time the entire nation voted on the same day, Taylor and Fillmore narrowly defeated the Democratic ticket, headed by Michigan's Lewis Cass, and the ticket of the Free-Soil Party, led by former President Martin Van Buren.

Slavery had been the driving issue of the campaign, and it would be the central challenge of Taylor's brief presidency as well. The nation was polarized over the question of whether to extend the institution to the new western territories. Taylor believed that the people of California—in which he hoped to include the Mormons around Salt Lake—and New Mexico should be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not to permit slavery by writing constitutions and applying immediately for statehood. In this way, he hoped to avoid the increasingly rancorous sectional debate over congressional prohibition of slavery in any territorial governments organized in the area. Many in the South, however, feared that the addition of two free states would upset the delicate North-South balance in the Senate.

Some southern Democrats called for a secession convention, and Taylor's reaction was a bristling statement that he would hang anyone who tried to disrupt the Union by force or by conspiracy. In this heated atmosphere, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and others began to cobble together a compromise in the Senate. To placate the South, they proposed the enactment of a second Fugitive Slave Law that would mandate the return of escaped slaves apprehended anywhere in the nation. This effort would become the Compromise of 1850.

The compromise legislation did not prohibit slavery in the Mexican Cession. It admitted California as a free state, and it allowed for the organization of Utah and New Mexico as formal territories, rather than as states, without any federal restrictions on slavery. This left open the possibility that any states formed from those territories could opt for slavery, and indeed the language of the compromise explicitly committed future Congresses to admit them as slave states if they so desired. Many northerners were outraged by that concession to the South, and it intensified their opposition to any further extension of slavery. This was the issue that pushed the nation down the road to Civil War.

At a time when strong leadership and party politics were absolutely essential, Taylor probably damaged his cause by refusing to engage directly with Congress or to pull together a functional coalition. He held onto his belief that the President should stand above party politics.

On July 4, 1850, after attending celebrations in Washington, D.C., Taylor contracted a virulent stomach ailment that may have been cholera. He died on July 9, and more than 100,000 people lined the funeral route to see the hero laid to rest. He left behind a country sharply divided and a vice president, Millard Fillmore, who supported the Compromise of 1850. In the end, Taylor had limited personal impact on the presidency, and his months in office did little to slow the approach of the great national tragedy of the Civil War.
(Source: http://millercenter.org/president/tay...)

More:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zachary_...
http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presi...


Bryan Craig I enjoyed what McPherson says about Wilmot: "More lay behind this maneuver than met the eye. Antislavery conviction motivated Wilmot and his allies, but so did a desire to settle old political scores. Wilmot acted for a group of northern Democrats who were vexed with Polk and fed up with southern domination of the party." (p. 53)

This is what we usually don't hear about in our text-books.


message 13: by Rick (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rick Radinsky Bea wrote:I may be dense but after all the history I had in school, it was not until I read this chapter in this book that I truly understood why the territorial expansion of the United States led so directly to the Civil War.

It's not being dense. This author did a phenomenal job painting a very clear picture of the manner in which expansion set the stage for civil war. Even after reading "A Country of Vast Designs" (biography of Polk), it has never been more clear to me just how deadly Manifest Destiny was to everyone...natives, slaves, and every other common man (the eventual line soldier). I am really enjoying this author's ability to tie all these seemingly unrelated events together in the cauldron that was American politics pre-Civil War.


message 14: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Hi Rick - you have to do proper citations for all other books aside from Battle Cry.

So A Country of Vast Designs James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent by Robert W. Merry by Robert W. Merry (no photo)

Once you add it to your post 13, I will delete this post.


message 15: by Bryan (last edited Apr 23, 2012 06:48AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig Martin Van Buren:



When Martin Van Buren lost his 1840 bid for reelection, he never considered it the end of his political career. In fact, over the next four years he emerged as the favorite for the Democratic nomination in 1844. Van Buren, however, stumbled on his way to the nomination. Having lost the presidential election in 1840, many in his party saw him as a weak candidate.

In addition, many Democrats supported the annexation of Texas during the early 1840s, much to the chagrin of numerous fellow party members who opposed the admittance of another slave state to the Union. Looking to secure his status as the favorite for the Democratic nomination, Van Buren tried to bridge the divide in his party by stating in the spring of 1844 that while he did not support the immediate annexation of Texas, he certainly welcomed it at some future date. This was a political miscalculation. The pro-annexation strength in his party—some Democrats threatened to bolt the party if Van Buren won the nomination—was much stronger than he realized. Even some of his long-time allies, like Thomas Ritchie, head of Virginia's Democrats, left Van Buren's side after he revealed his position on Texas. The final blow came when Andrew Jackson proclaimed himself in favor of immediate annexation and suggested that Van Buren step aside.

At the 1844 Democratic national convention in Baltimore, support for Van Buren's candidacy disintegrated. Democrats instead turned to the pro-annexation James K. Polk of Tennessee, who had the blessing of former President Jackson to boot. Although disappointed at his failure to win the nomination, Van Buren vigorously supported Polk's candidacy, which helped the Democrat to victory over Whig candidate Henry Clay in 1844. This closing of party ranks, however, did not signal easy relations between Polk and Van Buren. The former President and his allies believed that Polk owed his election largely to the Van Buren's efforts—and therefore expected to receive an important post in the Polk administration. This did not occur—although Polk offered Van Buren the ministership to London, an appointment Van Buren refused—and relations between Van Buren and Polk (and their allies) soured.

Four years later, the question of new states and slavery had become even more divisive. Van Buren headed a splinter group—the Free-Soil Party—comprised of dissatisfied Democrats, Whigs who opposed their party's nominee, General Zachary Taylor, and members of the anti-slavery Liberty Party. The Free Soil Party's main issue was opposition to the extension of slavery to the new Western territories. Van Buren had little hope of victory. Taylor won the election convincingly, although the Free Soilers ran well in a number of northern states, including New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Illinois.

The 1848 election effectively marked the end of Van Buren's active political career.
(Source: http://millercenter.org/president/van...)


message 16: by Bryan (last edited Feb 22, 2012 08:13AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig Indeed it is, Jaye. As McPherson quotes the Boston Whig newspaper: "As if by magic it [Wilmot Proviso] brought to a head the great question that is about to divide the American people." (p. 54) You get a sense that each side of the slavery issue is hardening.

So, do you sense it is the various politicians who are becoming more polarized on slavery or the American people?

One can argue in today's environment that the parties are polarized while many voters are independent voters who sit more in the middle ready for compromise and settlement.


message 17: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim | 117 comments Reading this chapter, and how distant and polarized opinions are, I find myself wondering what might have happened that would have avoided the civil war. Maybe McPherson will have suggestions.

I tend to be partial to moderates, but it's very distasteful in a world in which that involves tolerating slavery. I guess the right answer isn't always adding the extremes and dividing by 2.


message 18: by Bryan (last edited Feb 23, 2012 06:37AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig Interesting idea, Jim. I keep thinking if the war was inevitable. Let's keep this in mind as we read along.

At this point, both sides would have to give up something to avoid civil war. I suppose stronger presidential leadership during this time might have steered everyone to a conclusion.

But the Wilmot Proviso really seemed to touch off a lot of southern anger. Do you think there is an increasing sense of danger or threat that the southerners are seeing now as territories are being organized?


message 19: by Bea (new) - added it

Bea | 1830 comments I think so. First, if these territories become free States the slave-holding States could become marginalized in the Congress. Second, as I said before, the Wilmot proviso would have denied slave-owners the opportunities of acquiring new lands in the territories. Finally, perhaps Southerners saw this as the first step toward abolition of slavery and the deprivation of their "property."

Personally, I think the Civil War was inevitable from the time of the Constitution. Compromise of any kind was not a sustainable answer.

I suppose the Civil War could have be avoided if the South had simply been allowed to secede. But then what would have happened to the territories?


Bryan Craig Thanks, Bea. I have to agree, I think the only way a civil war could be avoided was if the South made a major concession by giving up slavery early on in our history, or did drastic action like succession in a way the North would approve of, maybe during our colonial days. I'm not sure if both could have been done.

I also get a sense Southerns did feel threatened. It is interesting how they changed their argument as McPherson talks about: they saw slavery as a necessary evil before the 1830s, but once cotton and technology mixed together, it became a positive good. It allowed Southerners to enjoy great art and fine things, bringing up society, etc. Now you develop a much more passionate argument would you agree?


Bryan Craig California Gold Rush

The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California.[1] The first to hear confirmed information of the gold rush were the people in Oregon, the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), and Latin America, who were the first to start flocking to the state in late 1848. All in all, the news of gold brought some 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad.[2] Of the 300,000, approximately half arrived by sea and half came from the east overland on the California Trail and the Gila River trail.

The gold-seekers, called "forty-niners" (as a reference to 1849), often faced substantial hardships on the trip. While most of the newly arrived were Americans, the Gold Rush attracted tens of thousands from Latin America, Europe, Australia, and China. At first, the gold nuggets could be picked up off the ground. Later, gold was recovered from streams and riverbeds using simple techniques, such as panning. More sophisticated methods were developed and later adopted elsewhere. At its peak, technological advances reached a point where significant financing was required, increasing the proportion of gold companies to individual miners. Gold worth tens of billions of today's dollars was recovered, which led to great wealth for a few. However, many returned home with little more than they had started with.

The effects of the Gold Rush were substantial. San Francisco grew from a small settlement of about 200 residents in 1846 to a boomtown of about 36,000 by 1852. Roads, churches, schools and other towns were built throughout California. In 1849 a state constitution was written, a governor and legislature chosen and California became a state in 1850 as part of the Compromise of 1850.

New methods of transportation developed as steamships came into regular service. By 1869 railroads were built across the country from California to the eastern United States. Agriculture and ranching expanded throughout the state to meet the needs of the settlers. At the beginning of the Gold Rush, there was no law regarding property rights in the goldfields and a system of "staking claims" was developed.
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Californ...)

More:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/goldrush/
http://museumca.org/goldrush/


message 22: by Bryan (last edited Feb 23, 2012 09:19AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig Jaye wrote: "From my impression of the reading, though I can't think of a good representative quote, I feel that the thoughts of the American people are largely irrelevant for McPherson...."

I suspect you are right, Jaye, I think we need to turn elsewhere for answers on what the general population was thinking, since the author, I think, doesn't focus too much on this.

Maybe Lincoln and others who made the free labor concept did think it was good for whites to find jobs, but I think you are right, the real reason to use the argument was to stop slavery. You wonder if the nativist thought, hey, let the immigrants take the menial jobs, but you know blacks were on the bottom, lower than the immigrants the nativists attacked.

Your analogy to today's Hispanic argument is a fair one. I have heard people use this argument.


Kristjan | 45 comments Bea wrote: "I think so. First, if these territories become free States the slave-holding States could become marginalized in the Congress. Second, as I said before, the Wilmot proviso would have denied slave..."

The two-chamber system in Congress was supposed to prevent more populous states from riding roughshod over the less populous ones. In 1850 (before California joined the Union), there were 15 slave states and 15 free states. This (presumably) would have left the Senate fairly evenly balanced (in that respect), but the most populous states were free states (New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio). So, the fear in the South would have been that they would have no way to resist the abolitionism if a few free states were added.

I don't have the exact numbers, but the Electoral College map of 1848 should give some idea of the proportional representation in the House.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ele...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_...


Kristjan | 45 comments I do wonder why there weren't more slaveowners moving West (California, New Mexico, Utah) in order to influence laws in the hope that these would eventually become slave states (which would strengthen the power of the slave states in the Senate).


Craig (twinstuff) Some slaveowners went West for the Gold Rush but obviously the agricultural sector in the West was totally different than the South and it simply wasn't economically feasible for them to move. I guess you could have seen some pro-slavery folks moving for the reasons Kristjan speculates, but it was a very difficult trip in those days and so I don't imagine many would have done it just for the "cause". You did obviously see some of that during the Bleeding Kansas days.


message 26: by Bryan (last edited Feb 23, 2012 01:27PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig Kristjan wrote: "I do wonder why there weren't more slaveowners moving West (California, New Mexico, Utah) in order to influence laws in the hope that these would eventually become slave states (which would strengt..."

Great question. I had to do some research.

Here is a good article dealing with why slavery did not take hold in California:

While the national issue was yet seeking clear definition the question of slavery in California settled itself with astonishing rapidity by sheer force of local conditions that were wholly without precedent. It was observed that neither the soil, nor the climate, nor the products of any portion of California were adapted to slave labor, and that property in slaves would be utterly insecure here.
(Source: http://www.sfmuseum.org/hist5/caladmi...)

I suspect slavery would not flourish in New Mexico for similar reasons. It actually would be offered slave statehood before the war, but the South turned the offer down.

Utah was still a territory (it didn't become a state until 1896), but apparently slavery was allowed but it was finally banned in 1862:
http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/3...


Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1245 comments Bryan wrote: "The Founding Fathers envisioned the Senate as the "cool collected" body to counter the House where the people had more say and possibly be more volatile.

How do you see the Senate after reading t..."


What it says more is about the nature of the Senate - with two votes per state regardless of population it was the means by which with a minority of population the South could stop legislation.

And today Iowa and Kansas (and others) have undue influence (population wise and tax paying wise)over farming legislation than they would if population alone determined representation.

As a personal comment I vote no new states with less than five million people.


Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1245 comments Bryan wrote: "Thanks, Bea. I have to agree, I think the only way a civil war could be avoided was if the South made a major concession by giving up slavery early on in our history, or did drastic action like su..."

So Bea and Bryan - what if a replacement for cotton had been found? Then slavery would have been more vunerable. If cotton had never arrived the growth of dependence on slaves might not have occured in the first hald of the 19th century.

So I think that the concept of manifest destiny was a situation that would normally have increased the number of states - and given the abolition of slavery in much of the western world already - i think that if the southern states had just stayed in the Union they would have come to a peaceful solution eventually - probably with compensation to the slave owners to free the slaves.

I think the Civil War was not inevitable.


Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1245 comments Bryan wrote: "Jaye wrote: "From my impression of the reading, though I can't think of a good representative quote, I feel that the thoughts of the American people are largely irrelevant for McPherson...."

I sus..."


I think a bit the sentiment of the general population is included by indications of how the North really opposed slavery -how the Wilmot proviso was pretty important to them.

I think this is done without personalization of the sentiment but it is covered indirectly.

I assume we will see more indirect indication of public sentiment when we see what will happen when volunteers are called for.


Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1245 comments Bryan wrote: "Zachary Taylor:

A Life in Brief

At the time he became President, Zachary Taylor was the most popular man in America, a hero of the Mexican-American War. However, at a time when Americans were con..."


So regarding military victor popularity - Taylor was the most popular man in America after the Mexican war, Grant after the Civil War, and I will bet Eisenhower after WW II.

If we had been in WW I for four years I wonder who would have emeged militarily and how that might have influenced American politics in the first half of the 20th century. Maybe no FDR?


Bryan Craig Vince wrote: "How do you see the Senate a - with two votes per state regardless of population it was the means by which with a minority of population the South could stop legislation...."

Well said, Vince. I think the Senate ceased to be a counter-weight and became a hot-bed for slavery for that very reason: Southern Senators felt threatened that they would be in the minority.


Bryan Craig Vince wrote: "So Bea and Bryan - what if a replacement for cotton had been found? Then slavery would have been more vunerable. If cotton had never arrived the growth of dependence on slaves might not have occured in the first hald of the 19th century."

Interesting Vince. Cotton played an important role in solidified slavery as a need for the South. Yeah, I suppose without cotton things might have changed. Very good point. You wonder if specialization of crops did arrive, would they find something else to plant in large numbers needing slaves? Not sure wheat or other plants could bring in huge profits....


message 33: by Bea (new) - added it

Bea | 1830 comments Bryan wrote: "Vince wrote: "So Bea and Bryan - what if a replacement for cotton had been found? Then slavery would have been more vunerable. If cotton had never arrived the growth of dependence on slaves might n..."

Cotton for sure was part of the problem but the plantation owners weren't going to let go of it anytime soon. The demand for cotton in England in the textile plants that were flourishing during the start of the industrial revolution was enormous. In fact, that demand kept Southern hope alive during the Civil War, if I remember my history correctly.


message 34: by Mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark Mortensen Kristjan wrote: "I do wonder why there weren't more slaveowners moving West (California, New Mexico, Utah) in order to influence laws in the hope that these would eventually become slave states (which would strengt..."

It appears that the large slave owners in the south owned plantations with vast acres of land and were rather comfortable with life. Those packing up and heading west were more adventurous with the “Go West, young man” mentality.


Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1245 comments Bea wrote: "Bryan wrote: "Vince wrote: "So Bea and Bryan - what if a replacement for cotton had been found? Then slavery would have been more vunerable. If cotton had never arrived the growth of dependence on ..."

You are right Bea - but Polarfleece came 100 plus years too late to stop it. But if another substitute had come that might have changed the game.


message 36: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments Mark wrote: "It appears that the large slave owners in the south owned plantations with vast acres of land and were rather comfortable with life. Those packing up and heading west were more adventurous with the “Go West, young man” mentality."

A few of the large owners in the East established "branches" (of a sort) in Southern California because they wanted to make their presence known and encourage the idea of California as a slave state. There was a huge movement to split Northern and Southern California because of this.

The southwestern areas now in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Southern California had too much desert to be very accommodating to agriculture prior to the intensive irrigation we have today.

The mining industry, more prevalent in Northern California, was quite hostile to slavery as well as to any kind of Big Business. Those were serious Free Soil/ Labor people, small entrepreneurs, who felt slavery decreased the value of honest labor. These folks were not abolitionists - many were anti-Black altogether because they felt the presence of Black workers would cheapen their own value and because many were blatantly racist.


message 37: by Bea (new) - added it

Bea | 1830 comments In the modern era, California is generally the second-highest producing cotton state in the U.S., behind Texas. Warm springs, hot summers, dry falls and wet winters give the regions in California that grow cotton near-perfect weather for producing optimum quality and yield (the amount of cotton produced per acre).

Of course, California became a free state before slave labor was an option. I'm also not sure if cotton-growing in California was feasible before the diversion of Colorado River water for irrigation.

You can find out more about California cotton here: http://www.calcot.com/ourcotton.asp?p...


message 38: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments Bea wrote: "Bryan wrote: "Vince wrote: "So Bea and Bryan - what if a replacement for cotton had been found? Then slavery would have been more vunerable. If cotton had never arrived the growth of dependence on ..."

There was quite a lot of tobacco, rice and sugar cane grown with slave labor but those crops would never (ever) have reached the level of production which accompanied "King Cotton."

Non-labor intensive crops to actually replace cotton? I can't think of any. Sorghum? Rice?


Craig (twinstuff) California's first Governor, Peter Burnett, is a fascinating story that McPherson doesn't have time to discuss, unfortunately, in this book. Burnett only served as governor for two years (he resigned and I believe was the last U.S. sitting governor to resign in office until Sarah Palin did it a couple of years ago?) but had a history of trying to force blacks out of both California and his previous state, Oregon. His tale is a strong example of how the issue of whether California should be a free or slave state in 1850 was debated.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Ha...


message 40: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments Bea wrote: "In the modern era, California is generally the second-highest producing cotton state in the U.S., behind Texas. Warm springs, hot summers, dry falls and wet winters give the regions in California ..."

True enough but prior to cotton California was known for cattle, sheep, wheat and fruit. Cotton didn't much register until the early 20th century. Slavery not being an option, immigrants from Mexico, China, the Philippines, and India were used.


message 41: by Bea (new) - added it

Bea | 1830 comments Craig wrote: "California's first Governor, Peter Burnett, is a fascinating story that McPherson doesn't have time to discuss, unfortunately, in this book. Burnett only served as governor for two years (he resig..."

What a piece of work! Burnett makes Palin look like Mother Theresa.


message 42: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments Craig wrote: "California's first Governor, Peter Burnett, is a fascinating story that McPherson doesn't have time to discuss, unfortunately, in this book. Burnett only served as governor for two years (he resig..."

NOT one of our prouder moments. I didn't know (or remember) that much about him - I know the anti-Black movement was big but I didn't know the proponents were so highly placed (probably didn't remember, it's been several years since I read The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War by Leonard L. Richards (2007).

The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War by Leonard L. Richards by Leonard L. Richards (no photo)


Bryan Craig Thanks everyone for your CA comments. Indeed, racism was alive and well on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.


message 44: by Bryan (last edited Feb 27, 2012 07:39AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig Seward's Higher Law Speech:

William Henry Seward's so-called "Higher Law" speech remains one of the most significant "maiden" speeches in the history of the Senate. Not only was it his first address to the Senate, it was also one of his two most influential orations during a twelve-year legislative career; it immediately established Seward as a major national antislavery leader.

Seward rose to political prominence in New York state in the I830's, serving in the state Senate early in the decade and as governor from 1838 to 1842. Characterized as generous, spirited, convivial, vigorously partisan, and impulsive, Seward was attracted to the Whig party from its origins in the early 1830's and advocated internal improvements, government spending to stimulate the economy, public education, and compensated voluntary emancipation of slaves. In 1848 a split in the state Democratic party and the popularity of his antislavery views enabled him to win a seat in the United States Senate. Seward was reelected in 1855 and served until March 1861 when President Abraham Lincoln appointed him secretary of state. He performed the duties of that key office with great effectiveness until the conclusion of the Andrew Johnson administration in 1869.

The dominating issue of whether to permit extension of slavery into the newly acquired western territories threatened to engulf the Senate when Congress convened in December 1849. Various legislative compromise packages, such as those of President Zachary Taylor and Whig Senator Henry Clay, competed for members' attention. Henry Clay led off the debate on February 5 and 6, 1850, followed in early March by John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster. Four days after Webster's celebrated "Constitution and the Union" address, Seward rose on the Senate floor to deliver a speech that he called "Freedom in the New Territories." The freshman senator spent several intense weeks on the preparation of his statement, realizing that it could be taken as the North's answer to Calhoun.

Southern extremists argued that the Constitution alone provided sufficient authority for the extension of slavery to the territories; the Senate need not waste its time debating new laws on the subject. Seward acknowledged that the Constitution's framers had recognized the existence of slavery and protected it where it existed, but the new territory was governed by a "higher law than the Constitution" -- a moral law established by "the Creator of the universe." The New York senator, opposing all legislative compromise as "radically wrong and essentially vicious," demanded the unconditional admission of California as a free state. He warned the South that slavery was doomed and that secession from the Union would be futile.

Seward's lack of natural oratorical talent was apparent to those who witnessed the delivery of his "Higher Law" speech. Biographer Glyndon Van Deusen notes that he had "no well-calculated gestures, his voice was husky, and he often gave the impression of communing with himself rather than addressing an audience." On March 11 he began by reading his remarks in a quiet monotone, absent-mindedly twirling his eyeglasses in his left hand while mechanically gesturing with the other. Thomas Hart Benton read a book; Webster attended to other business; Clay appeared restless. Within twenty minutes, the previously packed galleries had emptied.

The speech had a greater impact outside Congress. Seward's clear and compelling arguments, supported by such authorities as Edmund Burke, Montesquieu, and Machiavelli, made this an oration to be taken very seriously. Those favoring compromise proposals rushed to attack Seward as a reckless enemy of the Constitution, willing to subvert it for some nebulous "higher law" in the interest of political expediency. Supporters among Seward's northern Whig allies rallied to his defense. Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, observed that rather than subverting the Constitution, the "higher law" doctrine reenforced the charter with the authority of divine sanction. Greeley predicted that "Seward's speech will live longer, be read with a more hearty admiration, and exert a more potential and pervading influence on the national mind and character than any other speech of the session." Within three weeks, more than 100,000 pamphlet copies were distributed, with roughly an equal number reprinted in newspapers throughout the country. The speech hastened the Whig party's division into proslavery and antislavery factions and alienated many of Seward's natural allies. A decade later, in 1860 and 1861, as southern states began to secede, Seward became more conciliatory in his attitude toward the South, seeking peaceful methods of resolving the conflict and avoiding war.

Reprinted from Robert C. Byrd, The Senate, 1789-1989: Classic Speeches, 1830-1993. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1994.
(Source: http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/h...)

Speech:
http://history.furman.edu/~benson/doc...


message 45: by Bea (last edited Apr 22, 2012 08:03AM) (new) - added it

Bea | 1830 comments Nancy wrote: "Mexico will poison us, the poison is slavery,So much info to take in: Wilmott Proviso, Compromise 1850, pros/cons of slavery passionately defended from both North and South. Tempers flare, hostilit..."

Hi, Nancy! I hope you are enjoying the book. I found this part fascinating, especially since I was born and raised in California.

A gentle reminder that when you mention a book (other than the one under discussion in a discussion thread), you should always give it a citation. That calls participants' attention to a related book and gets the thread linked to the book through the magic of Goodreads. So at the bottom of the above post, you would put:

Team of Rivals The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin by Doris Kearns Goodwin Doris Kearns Goodwin

P.S. I'd love to read that one after this, myself.


message 46: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Bryan, message 15


David (goodreadscomdavidmab) | 9 comments The southern states know exactly what they are doing. As a group they have the held onto national power and since the Constitutional Convention of 1787 have been able to legalize and expand slavery to ensure its future security against the growing number of free states and abolitionism. Itis such a hue financial investment with hundreds of millions of capital invested into the cheapest of labor, slavery. The Mexican War is a perfect means to acquire more territory south of the Missouri Compromise line into which slavery can be expanded. The,one I read, the more connections I begin making. And by the way love Robert Merry's work on Polk. Not only the single president to fulfill aloof his promises but died doing so. He died a few short months after leaving office!


Bryan Craig The book is a great one:"


Team of Rivals The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin Doris Kearns Goodwin Doris Kearns Goodwin


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